April 22, 2012

UpCountry has moved!

UpCountry Living has moved to!

Followers: Please continue following! I'm not using the Blogger platform any more, so it might not be as easy, but I would be so happy if you'd subscribe via your preferred subscription reader (I use Google Reader). You can subscribe via email on my new site.

Thanks for starting out with me on Blogger! It's time for us to move on to better pastures. :) (Yes, it's greener on the other side. Maybe.)

April 19, 2012

Planting Time Is Near

Farmers will be planting their potatoes soon. Not long from now, this field will be full of potato blossoms. 

The rows, rows, rows will be seeded as those who live in the Valley drive around the fields, eyeing them with a little bit of love and a little bit of hate. Up here, we all love our mashed potatoes, but many of us know what it's like to pick them by hand or work on a harvester. Money's good, but the work's back-breaking or limb-losing (this has happened on harvesters before).

This landscape will change so much in its color and vibrance throughout the year. Brown may be the dominant color now, but not for long. :) Summer's about to get all up in this field's face!

April 18, 2012

How To Start Those Seeds

I corralled my sister into planting seeds with me this afternoon (really, I just asked her, and she agreed to do it, but using the verb "corralled" makes me feel like ranch hand, and I've always wanted to be a ranch hand).

We'd ordered our seeds over a month ago and have spent the last month buying the necessary supplies. What are the necessary supplies? Oh, gosh. There's so few.

Seed-startin' soil
Flat Trays
Cell Trays or Biodegradable Cells (pictured below)
Gloves (you should wear gloves whenever working in soil. There's stuff in there that can get under your nails and cause infection. You'll notice my sister isn't wearing gloves. She's bad@ss like that.
A watering can (preferably one better than ours)
Identifying Tags
A Sharpie
The tips of your fingers or anything of equal value that can poke holes into dirt

Also, seeds. I'm planting:
Johnny's Selected Seeds (JSS): Hybrid Cabbage, Early Green, Gonzales F1
JSS: Hybrid Kohlrabi, White, Winner F1
JSS: Hybrid Tomato, Cherry Tall Vine, Sun Gold F1
JSS: Tomato, Heirloom Tall Vine, Moskvich

Now, necessary supplies gathered (don't forget those fingertips), go ahead and clear out a workspace for yourself. One you don't mind getting dirt all over. We chose a window seat; the planted flat trays will actually use this space later to sit in the sun and get their lives started.

Got your seed-startin' soil? Your seeds? How about a flat tray or cell tray? (Whichever is best for your particular seed; it should say on the back of the seed packet).

Let's get started! You should be as excited as I was. To put that into perspective, I dumped the pack of ID tags out on the floor and dropped my camera behind my bench. I want you so giddy about seed-planting that clumsy things happen.

We decided to plant tomatoes first. They like to start out in flat trays, so I poured soil into the tray (and, surprisingly, none outside of it). Follow the directions specified on your seed packet. 

Our seed packet didn't specify how far down we should plant the seeds, so we just poked an "arbitrary" finger in there. Don't worry, we were polite about it.

Tomato seeds are so cute! (I can't help it. There's really no other way to explain them. "Small"? That's not good enough.)

We put one seed in each hole. Very, very delicately. At one point, I whispered to my sister: "We're so quiet. It's like something sacred is happening."

She spoke (softly) back to me (above a whisper), "I'm holding my breath."

We pushed the soil over the seeded holes and evened the surface.

Tomatoes done, we moved on to the kohlrabi and cabbage. They have very similar-looking seeds, which surprised me. Little purple(ish) seeds that were fatter than the tomato seeds.

My sister corralled the photogenic hand gene from the gene pool. (Yes, those types of shenanigans happen in gene pools.)

We planted the seeds in biodegradable cells. This will save a lot of time and mess during the transplanting process. You can just break off the cell and place it in new ground. We laid the cell blocks in a flat tray to make it easier to carry them and to catch any stray dirt (yeah, a lot of stray dirt happened this time around).

We followed the directions on our seed packets and poked holes (with our handy fingertips) about 1/4-1/2" deep into the soil.

As much as I felt like I was baking with some wonderful and dense chocolate flour, I knew better than to eat it.

Little tiny seeds going into holes! The kohlrabi and cabbage were planted three or four to a cell, so there's likely a lot of seed chatter going on beneath the dirt there.

 We covered them up and labeled them. We wanted to plant the beet seeds into a barrel, but couldn't understand the sowing instructions. I'll clarify with Mr. UpCountry this evening about what the archaic jargon means (he's planted his own veggie garden before, but is letting me take the reins on this one).

Once he's let me in on the secret beet code, I'll be planting them into barrels (along with cucumbers).

All is said and done. We cleaned up our minimal mess and placed the trays in my sunny windows. I watered the plants with my new watering can (which turned out to be horrible and almost drowned the poor things).

Now the waiting begins... Anticipation could increase my giddiness, but I'm sick of cleaning up after myself, so I'm going to chill out and let nature takes it course.

I'll be covering their lives from here on out. For now, I'll let them sleep and dream about what life is like.

April 17, 2012

Seven Reasons Why I Love Construction

1. The hole in the top of the ladder that holds your drill for you.

2. Weird little things you can't explain but you know there's some handy use for them. There has to be.

3. Chop saws. Or miter saws. Or whatever cool name they have to describe whirling teeth discs that eat wood for breakfast.

4. Mr. UpCountry's ability to build things. He never ceases to amaze me. Google taught him everything!

5. Ladders. Apparently. Because this is the third picture of a ladder and I'm well aware that there's another one on the way.

6. Big rolls of plastic.

7. And... another ladder. I like climbing on ladders. I'm not afraid of heights and it makes me feel so much more powerful. At 5'3", I don't feel vertically awesome very often.

My parents oversaw the building of our house when I was a pre-teen, so I'm no stranger to construction. Only in the last year or so, however, have I really been turned on to it. I'm so proud of us, that we're able to piece together the things that we need (what am I saying... Mr. UpCountry does it all... I just hold things up and fit into small spaces when needed).

We have a lot of projects to do around the house this summer and I'm looking forward to watching the place grow and be polished around us.

Ugly Andy and A Case for Every Family Getting A Moose Of Their Very Own Which They Can Train Or Ride Or Whatever.

You can lead a moose to water...

Or you can stand on the side of the road with Mr. UpCountry and your sister and watch a moose approach a puddle all on its own. (Which is what I did.)

My sister and Mr. UpCountry named him Ugly Andy. He's the first moose of the season, so they wanted to start off the naming with one that starts with 'A' (like they do with hurricanes). Mr. UpCountry suggested Andy (which, incidentally, is the name of our pet gecko) and my sister said, as a means of clarifying between gecko and moose, that we should call him Ugly Andy.

Because that right there is one mangy, ugly moose. He's not very old and his antlers are just little nubs near his ears. He's losing his winter coat, so it makes him look scruffy.

He was hanging around all day yesterday and so far we've spotted him twice today. We've had a couple game wardens in the area too, so we don't know if they're trying to tranquilize him and get him away from "civilization" or or whether they're here for some totally unrelated reason. We all have our theories about the motives behind game wardens' actions (along with everyone else poking around our hill).

I hope Ugly Andy finds another place to frequent, because he could get hit by a car here. We told him, but he seemed preoccupied with the puddle.

A Case For Every Family Getting A Moose Of Their Own

I live in the Aroostook County, the largest county in the US east of the Mississippi (it's larger than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined). Among Mainers, the Aroostook County is known simply as "the County." I am across-the-board labeled as a County girl, no matter where I go in the state.

The County's population is almost 72,000 (over an expanse of 6600 square miles). Pretty sparse, but it leaves a lot of room for nature to thrive. The County's known for its dense population of moose, deer, bear, and other wild game. Turkeys weren't on the list until the last couple of years, but they seem to be migrating upstate. Good for us!

The state of Maine's moose population is approximately 29,000 and most of these live in the County (the farther south you go, the greater the human population, and the less natural, comfortable environment for moose to live in).

I'm thinking: at 29,000 moose in the state, and almost 72,000 people in the County, that equates to one moose for every 2.5 people (which, in my mind, constitutes a family). By eliminating the large elderly population we have up here (who are probably not very interested in this endeavor), I'm thinking there are more than enough moose in the County for every family to be able to claim one as their own.

If I had a moose, I would train it as a draft horse. I'd have him haul wood around the lot or eating the weeds out of my garden. I'd ride him to town. Moose have a reputation for being stupid (mostly because they refuse to move out of the road). I think, with a little time and patience, we could turn that smudge on their characters around and give them a fresh, new face!

Animals, working with humans, in harmony! Doesn't it sound marvelous?
(Would a horse saddle double as a moose saddle?)

April 15, 2012

My Theory on Takes

I had one of those a-ha! moments in the shower today. I always feel like quite the grown-up when this happens, like maybe this is what they call wisdom just settlin' down on me.

I thought: I bet the term "takes" (as in movie takes) is actually short for "mistakes (mis-takes)". Maybe everybody but me has already figured this out, but that's not the cool part.

What if the movie industry didn't shorten "mistakes" to "takes" because dropping a syllable makes for quicker communication but because they didn't like the negative connotation of the prefix "mis-"? This condescending prefix means "wrong." And, in the movie industry, they know they're working with humans (and sometimes animals) and that it's nearly impossible to get a scene right the first time.

No harm, no foul. They don't mind doing it a few times to get it just right (I'm sure they get quite irritated after 20 or so takes, but who wouldn't.) And, the thing is, we as the viewers don't have to watch all of the takes unless we want to. Often times they add them as bonus material with the purchase of the movie and you can sit around and laugh at the cast flubbin' it up all over the place.

We laugh at them because they're getting it wrong. Just like we get things wrong all the time. Us humans. We're all so similar about some things. But we don't judge them for those takes. We know they gave us a good movie in the end. It's all part of the process, right?

Yet, when it comes to us normal, non-famous people, efforts and attempts in our lives often come out looking like mistakes, like bad things to frown over. We feel shame for them. A lot of times, people don't laugh about it. Or they'll say "You'll laugh about this someday."

I'm thinking I'm just going to go studio-production-style on this failure business and say that I will not add a negative tone to my personal actions in the past. They were takes, people. This is a work in progress.

Take #__: Giving up on a hobby that you used to enjoy. But really, discovering others that light you up anyway.

Photo taken by my father, c. 1987 (?)
Take #__: Failing to yield to an SUV. Still not my fault. Grrr... But I learned a serious lesson about defensive driving that day.

c. 2005
Take #__: Yeah. This happened. And then un-happened, if you know what I mean. 2005 was a year with a lot of takes. Again, wouldn't know what this was like unless I'd done it.

Photo taken by Carolyn, a family friend. c. 2005
Take #__: Not standing up for what I wanted. Not caring enough about something going away until it was already gone and (of course) I suddenly missed it. Now I know to love the things I have when I have them and refuse to let them go (please ignore the picture right above). (Multiple takes are allowed, remember?).

c. 1998
Thank you, shower, for somehow revealing that I'm not the only one living a life. We're all doing it, we're all making it interesting in our own ways, and it's not supposed to be right all the time.

PS: Australian shepherds are awesome. So is dog sledding. And being a bride. But not getting in a car accident. Ever. (I know, I've been in three).

April 14, 2012

Listen Here: Spring 2012: Volume I

Photo by Kyle Foster, one of my closest friends
Music means a lot to me, so periodically I will be providing recommendations of musicians and bands that I think need to be checked out by readers, especially readers that have exactly the same taste in music as I do. I don't link to YouTube videos on UpCountry, because I don't want to step on any toes (especially that guy Copyright Infringement).

Instead, I'll just give you their names! And guess what! (What?) The name is a link to their website!
[Phew. So excited about this.]

If you want to hear something new and you have a few extra moments to do the research, then here are some suggestions. I'd make it easier on you, but that would make me a responsible party. I fling culpability away from me! Ack!

So, for Spring 2012: Volume I, we have:

Jacob Augustine
This guy blew my mind. At the least, a serious peak of endorphins likely altered my brain's chemistry forever. I'd never heard of him before last fall, but upon hearing his song "High Water," I made an effort to go see him at the Port City Music Hall in Portland, ME. I was stunned. I don't understand how this man doesn't have white peacocks in his yard and too many cars already.

A.A. Bondy
A.A. Bondy doesn't seem to be doing too much touring right now, but that doesn't mean you can't check out his studio releases. I would recommend (at the least) the song "How Will You Meet Your End?" on the album American Hearts. The mp3 is available here. I am not an affiliate of Amazon, so I don't make any money off of your sale.

Tumbleweed Company
I saw Tumbleweed Company at Guthrie's in Lewiston, ME this past winter. I love the organ. There can never be enough organ!  I suggest you listen to "Lay Down My Worries" to hear what I'm talking about.

So there you have it, San Francisco! (and, ugh, other places...) (I don't know why I said that. It sounded like such a classy sign-off.)

If you take the time to check them out, please leave a comment to let me know what you thought and also, leave a comment on their sites or pages to keep encouraging them to make music!

Many thanks!