It was an interesting weekend.
I stayed home Friday, letting the chimney cleaner in, and watching Kenny who had a day off from school, and generally taking it easy after my month in Virginia. Heather had put ingredients for a sausage and pumpkin soup in the crock pot. Somewhere around 4:00 or so she called me and asked me to check on the soup. Hmm, pretty much lukewarm. I turned the crock pot up to “high”, waited about twenty minutes, checked again. Still barely warm. I dumped the soup into a stock pot and put it on the stove, but it was clear it wouldn’t be done in time for dinner. I also started making a batch of bread. I set it to rise, and Kenny and I went outside to take a walk and play some games.
Along about 6:00 I’m wondering what’s taking Heather so long to get home when I see a car coming up the driveway — but it’s not Heather; it’s our friends Pete and Julie and daughter June. Well, how nice they’re coming to visit, but this seems a bit odd: they live in Cortland. About 50 or so miles away.
There was one obvious explanation, given that it happened to be my birthday that day.
So, yes, there was a birthday party, and Heather was late because she was picking up the pizzas — fortunately, since there was no soup. Guests brought more food including a polenta decorated with slices of red pepper spelling out “HAPPY BIDET RICH”. Heather’s Aunt Marie, visiting from Holland, gave me a very large ceramic owl (a good 40 or 50 cm tall, I’d say), and her Aunt Fran, up from Onondaga Hill, gave me a very large green gourd (a good 40 or 50 cm tall, I’d say).
About three hours into it we’d eaten enough of the food that I could clear a space on the dining room table to get the bread into pans for baking. It had risen a bit.
Next day I departed at about 9:00 for Binghamton. And again at about 9:10, after I’d turned around and gone back for the bread. Arrived about two hours later. The Binghamton Morris Men and the B. F. Harridans were having our annual Harvest Home tour and dinner — an event I’d missed the previous two years. It was cold and drizzly at the first stand, the cider mill in Endicott, so we did two dances each and headed for lunch. Pizza again! Second stand was indoors at a nursing home, and the third was cancelled as drizzle had turned into full fledged rain. We had beers at the Cyber Cafe in Johnson City, then headed back to Binghamton for the dinner.
The last few HarHo dinners have been at the Davidge Mansion on Front Street, but this year the Davidge was booked and we got a good deal on the Roberson Mansion across the street — attached to the Roberson Museum where Peter and Roberta work. I’d never been inside before, and it’s stunning — how the other half lived, circa 1900. Dinner was, as usual, fabulous, and there was enough left over for another dinner. Some of us played some music for a while, and then I headed home. I don’t think I was too much impaired despite that day’s beers, and a glass of wine, and some port, oh, and tastings of a couple of single malts… anyway, I was probably more tired than alcohol impaired. Made it home anyway, before midnight. Crawled into bed.
Sunday, got up, buried three dead ducks. Over the past month, while I was away, something started killing our poultry. With early nightfall these days it’s hard to get the ducks into the shed for the night: Normally you have to cover their food until evening, then uncover it, and they’ll go in to eat — unless you don’t get home until after dark, in which case they refuse to come in off the pond. And it gets dark early nowadays. This, we figured, was why some ducks were being found dead in the morning… or not being found at all… but it didn’t account for the similar attrition among the chickens, who do go inside.
Nearly all of the birds were gone before it became clear that another part of what was happening was there are some holes in our shed, including at least one large enough for something — I’m guessing weasel family — to get in. That finally became obvious Saturday when my wife went to let out the three (out of the surviving four) ducks I’d gotten into the shed the night before, and they hadn’t come out. Having dealt with the demise of ten ducks and four chickens in four weeks, she decided she couldn’t face going into the shed, so on Sunday I did, found the bodies, and buried them. We are down to one duck — one drake, I should say, not even an egg layer — and two chickens.
I also verified the crock pot was equally demised.
Early afternoon we headed to Syracuse to join a bunch of Heather’s relatives at the nursing home where her grandfather Marty lives, to celebrate his 90th birthday. Then we all (except Marty) went over to Fran’s house for dinner. Depending on how you count, that’s either the third or the third and fourth party in three days for me. Fortunately Heather drove.
My jargon’s too jaunty, I couldn’t be hipper
Too lithe my demeanor, my chatter too chipper
I could handle another candle on the cake
My vigor’s hairtrigger, my dimples too supple
I need a few birthdays, and more than a couple
If I could only, if I could only, stay awake.
— Peter and Lou Berryman, “Spring Chicken”