Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 pictorial














Thank you to everyone who has stopped by Comptonia to share my first year of blogging. The stats page shows 25,058 pageviews (not counting my own) for the year...very encouraging!
A special thanks to followers, to everyone who has left a comment, and to those who have chosen to include Comptonia on the sidebar in their own blogs. Every now and then I see it somewhere, and it is always a surprise and an honor. 
Thank you so much!
Here's to a wonderful 2014,
with lots of words and pictures from all of us. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013


"Get up! A crime has been committed! Our one and only string of tiny colorful lights by the birdfeeder is gone!

Hmmm, let's take a look.
Ah. I think the culprit has returned to the scene of the crime. 

You there! Squirrel!



"Who? What? Me?"
 Yes, you. I think you chewed right through that string of lights, 
and carried the whole thing away to your nest. 

"Me? You're accusing me??"

Yes, and I'll tell you why:
I saw you holding a tiny yellow light bulb in your adorable little hands one morning, not long ago.
I thought at the time it looked rather odd.
A squirrel with a light bulb.


"But if I did take the string of lights...and I'm not saying I did, mind, but if I did...it's only because I needed some cheering up.
Your squirrel-proof birdfeeder is driving me a bit crazy.
So if I wanted some little glowing lights to brighten up my nest, well, who could blame me?" 
Okay, squirrel. I take your point. 
And if you did take the string of lights...and I'm not saying you did, mind, but if you did...how is that "brightening up the nest" plan working out for you?

"About as well as that dog's plan to catch me by barking."


Friday, December 27, 2013

we've all been there

You know how sometimes you have a project that involves installing electronic equipment.
Like an automatic garage door opener.
Or a wireless internet system.
Or a camera in your goat barn.
Or a couple of expensive cameras that took years
to design and build.

Maybe the installation site is easy to see
but hard to get to.

Maybe you need to work high up.
Like in a cherry-picker.
Or on a roof.

A extra pair of hands may be required.
Good thing you have expert assistance!

It's funny, though...no matter how big your workspace,

sometimes you still have to be careful
not to bump your partner with an elbow.

You have a long task ahead of you, but you are prepared.
You begin to connect, and disconnect, and reconnect.

Slowly, carefully.

Following step-by-step directions.

Sometimes with tech support from someone in another country, far away.

And as with any garage door opener or wireless router,
once you've opened the box there seem to be 
so many strange-looking parts floating around!

After hours and hours of careful attention,
pleased that your work is done and done well,
you smile.
You are ready to move on to the next item on your to-do list.
But first:

the glory moment!

You step outside the garage with your new remote,
or turn on your computer, click a browser,

No connection.
No connection.

And after a moment of utter disbelief,
all you can do is: 
slowly and carefully, step by step,
dismantle all the work you have just done.

You put all the parts back in their original packaging,
and hope that further analysis will 
identify and resolve the problem.


I feel so much empathy with the Russian cosmonauts Commander Oleg Kotov and Flight Engineer Sergey Ryazanskiy, who are at this moment carefully and methodically undoing all the work they have done in the past seven hours outside the International Space Station.

I also feel very sorry for the people who designed and built the two cameras as part of a commercial agreement between the Russian Space Federation and a private company in Canada. Imagine the excitement and pride shared by the employees of that Canadian company, doubtless watching the NASA livestream as the two Russian cosmonauts began to install "our cameras" this morning. And imagine the gut-wrenching dismay as Kotov and Ryazanskiy made repeated attempts to achieve a connection, before ultimately determining there was simply nothing else to try.

Doesn't this scenario have a familiar feel to it? In one way or another, we've all been there, haven't we? It's just a matter of scale. For me, most of the amazing and awe-inspiring aspects of the ISS are a matter of scale.


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

doing the math

Tsuga and Sambucus, the two young does, are temporarily bunking in the barn while Paul is visiting. Even though this means luxury accommodations, they have been very upset about the change. Goats do not like change.

Goats do, however, like treats.

"Nothing should change."
"Never, ever, ever."
"Except we should have more treats."

A few treats can be a helpful tool for a goatherd, when giving medications, training for a preferred behavior, or for general encouragement.

Some of my goats like peanuts in the shell.
Some like apple peels.
Some like banana peels.
(I know, right? Blechh. Don't ask me!)

Happily, ALL my goats LOVE carrot pennies.

So while the youngsters are feeling unsettled, I give them a few carrot pennies, by hand, when I go out to do chores.

One carrot's worth of pennies, doled out individually.
One for Bui,
one for Tsuga.

Tonight, Piper came to the barn with me.
Piper also loves carrot pennies.

So I doled them out carefully...

one for Bui,

one for Tsuga,

one for Piper.

Two goats, one dog.

Don't ever let anyone tell you a dog can't count.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

today: walking in space

The first of three scheduled spacewalks is underway today, as US astronauts Rick Mastracchio and Mike Hopkins begin external repairs on the International Space Station.

Outside the space station.

260 miles above the Earth.

NASA TV streams live online, with the view alternating between various ISS cameras, the ground control center, and

the astronauts' helmet cameras.

Today's walk began shortly after 7AM Eastern Standard Time, and is expected to go on for about 6 hours so, depending on where you are in the world, there may be plenty of time to tune in and watch the livestream for a bit if you are so inclined. As "night" becomes "day" becomes "night" again...the ISS orbits the Earth about 16 times in 24 hours.

I find it mesmerizing.


Tuesday, December 17, 2013


That's how many unread blog posts are waiting for me, 
now that I've got the laptop back!

My non-audio books are going back onto shelves and under plant pots, where they belong.

Lady Without A Laptop.
Add some (many) years and pounds, and this portrait looks amazingly like me. Including the crazy hairline.

Darn it.

Dear blog readers, thank you so much for checking in and leaving comments and sending messages during the Horrible Laptop Collapse of 2013. I've missed you and your blogs!!

The ancient Emergency Thinkpad allowed me to briefly check email and twitter, but at less than dial-up speed. And if I dared try to open tabs in a browser (which of course I did roughly 400 times), the OS would hold its breath til it turned purple, then shut down completely.

Good times.

But now I'm getting back to normal, and hardly know where to begin. Maybe just a few notes and snaps?

There's been some of this, and there's more falling right now:


It's been bitterly, truly, too-soon-for-this-cold.

Which has resulted in not only homemade stew, 
but homemade stew eaten in bed.

Apparently, when early February lands with a thud in mid-December, I become a wimp.
And I think maybe I'm okay with that.

When morning chores are done and Piper has been toweled off and all my work clothes are hanging by the heater to dry again, I sometimes turn on the oven and bake something - anything! - to make the house feel a bit cozier. Roasted chicken, turnip and cream casserole, baked sweet potato slices...whatever is on hand.

This morning it was baked eggs with gruyere cheese and portabello mushrooms:

Full disclosure: this dish was not as tasty as it looks.
Rather dry and bland, I'm sorry to say.
Seemed so promising...
I'll try to work on it.

Meanwhile, the snow has been coming down all day and it's time for another coffee-and-cocoa delivery to the goats.

It's not really coffee or cocoa.
It's just warm water. 
But if you don't tell them, they'll never know.
It was 2 degrees F this morning, and they had warm water and carrot pennies for a little "hey-look-we-all-survived-another-night-in-the-Yukon!" treat.

Really, they are fine and dandy.
Perhaps a bit bored with the snow, but after their breakfast buckets of grub they have an endless supply of nice hay and they all go back and forth between the shelters, in ones and twos and threes, bumping each other off the decks and checking to be sure no one else has:

better hay

or more hay

or different hay.

Goats are funny.

Oh, and we have a visitor:

Meet Paul.

I'm glad I took a picture before the first snow.
It's challenging to photograph solid black;
even more so when it's surrounded by solid white.
There may not be any Paul updates for quite a while.

Time to suit up again, whistle for Piper, and try to get us both out the door without Piper bumping into either me or the water buckets.
Somehow, the splashes only seem to land on one of us, and it's never, ever, Piper.

I'll be gradually catching up on blog-reading over the next few days, so I'll see you soon!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

technical difficulties

Dear blogfriends,

dropping in (via an ancient creaky Thinkpad) to report a total laptop implosion.

hope to repair laptop, retrieve contents, and be back to blogging soon!


Thursday, November 28, 2013

thankful thursday

My world.
It's filled with things that make me feel thankful.
I tend to notice many of these things, daily.
Maybe it's years of practice.
Maybe I'm just lucky that way.

With the theme of thanksgiving so prevalent today,
I thought I'd share a few of the things that came to mind.

No strawberries in my garden this year,
but many in my freezer. 
Sweet-smelling reminders of hot summer days.
Today, this little bowl took the edge off a day so cold
the gate latches were all frozen shut.

And this bird?
It may not realize by what amazing luck
I was able to (somewhat) repair this feeder,
previously dismantled by several bears.
But I'm confident this bird is 
pleased with the outcome.
Which makes me very glad I decided to try.

And do you remember 
a couple of months ago,
when Lily was suddenly dead lame?

This morning, like most mornings,
when I hung up Lily's feedbucket 
I gave her a pat and told her how glad I am that she healed so quickly and so well.

A happy outcome with any animal, and any injury,
but this was a little special.
Because this was Lily's first year as a mamagoat,
and she is a natural.
With a good, sound attitude.
She has a lot of promise.

So every day that she was on three legs
gave me cause to feel anxious.
Likewise, every day since
has given me cause to feel joyous.
And I do.

I hope everyone who celebrates Thanksgiving Day - today or any other day - has a lovely one! And I hope all your days are filled with things that make you feel thankful.
It's a nice feeling.

Monday, November 25, 2013

monday note

It was a bit cold when I woke this morning.
Fortunately, by the time I went outside to feed,
the temperature had risen.

After chores, I lit the first fire of the season.

November is often a mishmash of weathers, and I won't be at all surprised if we see a return to warm - or even downright balmy - days before the Real Cold settles in.

But this Autumn day was a Winter day.

Thursday, November 21, 2013


Miss Ruth Kellogg demonstrating correct postures for various forms of housework. 1921-26.
Source: Div. Rare & MS Collections, Cornell U. Library

Since my first trip to the orchard, I've been doing a little bit of this nearly every day. Peeling and slicing a few apples.

Some of the slices have been going directly into the freezer, lined up neatly on a tray. The following day, those individually-frozen slices are popped into a labelled bag, and the tray is used to freeze the next batch.

Can you see traces of pink?
These are Macintosh.

Come Winter, I hope to do some very nice baking with these beautiful frozen apples. Won't that make Winter a warmer, friendlier place to be?

Well, that's my plan. Here's hoping.
I'll let you know.


Meanwhile, there's been some Autumn baking with fresh apples. Mostly, I've been tinkering with one simple recipe, changing up and experimenting. Remember the accidental apple-cranberry bisconey?

Last week I tried making it again: with apples, no cranberries, less sugar, and lots of cinnamon:

It came out with a dense, moist texture.
Not bad.

And yesterday, I tried another riff: making the batter a bit richer and more cake-like, mixing a whole cup of cranberries into the batter, and then adding sliced apples to the top.

Again, quite different in texture and flavor. Again, not bad.
Very surprising the way some of the cranberries migrated to the surface, right over the apple slices.
How did they do that?


For a person who doesn't really cook much, I am having a lot of fun in the kitchen lately. And it's all because of this:

A small, nearby orchard with a wonderful array of apple varieties. Such fun choosing! Hmmmm...certainly the old familiar Macs I grew up with, but also, well, I'll try a few of these Spitzenburgs (could Thomas Jefferson be wrong? about apples???) and I'll add a few Winesaps, and some Rhode Island Greenings, and oh, I almost missed the Golden Russets, and...excuse me for a second, I'll just carry these out to the car and then I'll be back in for the cider.

Oh. The. Cider.

The gloriously fragrant, snappy-sweet cider.

In the past two weeks, I have never been far from a glass of cider. I think this pressing may be the very best fresh cider I have ever tasted in my entire cider-loving life.

I wish I could pour you a glass right now.
Come on over.


I'll be going back to the orchard in a day or two, because I am out of apples (!) and about to open my last gallon of cider (!!). I'm waiting for a day that's warm enough to take Piper with me, for a walk along the stone walls.

It's a pretty place, this old orchard, where hard work - so often the backstory to "pretty" in a human-altered landscape - is evident everywhere you look.

The view also offers a nifty example of relativity!
I mean, look here:

Trees, right? An orchard full of big, fruitful trees.

But then you put those very trees next to a forest: 

Whoa! Quite a shift in perspective, no?

And then, you put that forest into a forested landscape as far as the eye can see:

Relativity: just something to think about while you're peeling Autumn apples and keeping an eye on Winter.