fresh from the garden

fresh from the garden


Welcome to the ramblings of a fifty-something suburban "farmer"

Hoping that if you should stumble upon this blog my daily musings might bring a little smile to your day.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I know it seems like forever since my last post (primarily because it has been forever) but I'm going to try to be more regular in my postings again. Why is it so hard to keep up a good habit and so easy to start a bad one ( actually which category does this one fall under?)? This summer has been quite an adventure . The garden is still producing quite well (of course now it's under a greenhouse), Jackie actually got into a plane after twenty two years, Suburban Artisan maple syrup is now Suburban Artisan farm and so much more.
We've taken quite a few baby steps on our path to sustainability this year from growing our own produce to baking our own bread (with local organic flour, milk ,and honey) and today I will be making our first batch of homemade soap. Early this fall I built a greenhouse around the summers garden in an effort to get closer to year round production of organic nutrient dense food . Since I have a few irons in the fire (OK quite a few irons in the fire ) it has been a slow pace but it's withstood four inches of rain in five hours and forty five mile an hour winds (now let's see how it will handle snow and sleet).
My journey with time banking has connected me with Pam and Dave at Golden Oak farm. They are really nice folks that have shared with me the joys of organic practices as well as sending chickens and a pig to freezer camp ( a cow will join them in a month or so).Because of them I now have a freezer full of organically raised veal (it wasn't intended that way but the calf had an injury that was life threatening so he had to go to freezer camp way before his time ).He was a really beautiful calf and now he's really tender roast. I hope to be raising turkey chickens ,pigs and maybe a cow or two in the spring.
The decision to become Suburban Artisan seemed like a natural progression as we (OK , I) dabble in new directions of sustainability .Did I mention it's getting kind of chilly around here lately?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

just another day in paradise

I woke up this morning to the natural symphony of the woods . Squirrels and birds and chipmunks oh my. That's what I love about where we live ,even though we live in the heart of suburbia we have woods around us (granted I had to remove some of them for next years garden,let's not go there). I'm really starting to feel like an earthy crunchy.My day began with green tea and kefir with fresh fruit , then on to making a new batch of kefir along with separating kefir whey to make cheese, followed by soaking some new sprout mix and making sourdough bread from my own starter (was that Gerry Garcia that just walked by?).
It's interesting how Jackie is slowly warming to some of my new dietary choices (notice I said slowly and some). She actually tried raw milk and raw cream ice cream and didn't throw up. While I don't expect her to jump on the nutrient dense foods bandwagon there's more than enough room for everyone.
The bounty of the harvest from the garden is overflowing our need at the moment so I've been sharing with the neighbors and while visiting with one of them it hit me " You can't get any more local than this!!" .I think that will be the catch phrase for my market garden . Suburban Artisan farm ,you can't get any more local than this!! Because I will only have a small operation I think I can sell what I have available directly to my immediate neighbors thereby totally eliminating transportation costs to market from the equation . No transpo means no oil ,smaller footprint and no industrial pesticides or fertilizers means even smaller footprint. This will also mean the absolute freshest products available using only heirloom seeds and organic principles with no GMO. This could actually be a good side effect of living in suburbia. Maybe I could even get to know some of my neighbors (we've only been living here for nineteen years).I was also thinking that I could actually find out what types of products my "market" would like to have available so that I may be able to tailor my layout to provide just what they require. If anyone is reading this please let me know what you think . Did I mention that there's still a whole lotta wood to split?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What a long strange trip it's been

I'm finally home !! As I sit here eating my homemade raw milk kefir with organic granola and fresh fruit and drinking my green tea with raw honey (I told you it was strange)I get to reflect on a rather full and really excellent week. Just before Marc and I left for VT last week I got a call from NOFA to tell me that a spot had opened up in the work exchange program .While it shuffled up the plans a bit it saved me two hundred dollars (always a good thing). The trip up to VT was fairly uneventful for the first two hours or so until we hit a closed bridge up by Stratton ,VT .Of course there were no detour signs so we ending up adding "a few" extra miles to the trip.We did finally arrive at Grout pond after about 4 hours of travel . The place is so far out we actually passed East Podunk rd (really). When we arrived we were greeted by a message board with the rules and large signs welcoming us to "BEAR COUNTRY" . I know Marc can take on insurgents so I asked him if he had any anti- bear training. His response was " Oh yeah ,I can run faster than you" so heart warming . We decided that we would take on the wilderness anyways and unloaded the boat . As we rowed out in search of a campsite we were both awed at just how beautiful this place is .We were surrounded the mountains' majesty ,God's handywork at it's best. From the plumes of wispy clouds on a powder blue background to the rows of neatly grown pine trees the beauty was everywhere. There are only eleven campsites on the pond and of course we got the last one , so we would be the appetizers if the "bear Patrol" decided to go out for people food. Oh well it would add to the experience. We were able to get set up just before dark . A funny thing happened as we were cooking our dinner ,I was going to put on some music but I stopped because I didn't want to disturb the pristine setting . We hiked for about seven hours the next day and encountered one of the most ironic things. In the middle of nowhere we found two of the big "recovery putting people back to work" signs that the Fed wasted two hundred million dollars on to let us know they were on the ball .It was on a foot path that was probably traveled by fifty people a year. Who needs a bridge to nowhere! Did I mention there were no mosquitos?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

and away we go

Well Marc and I are off to the mountains today. It will be great to spend some "quality "time with him. It's been quite a while in fact way too long. Life is so busy,but sometimes you have to adjustments when things come up.Luckily I so much free time it's easy (choke ,choke).But I'm sure it will be worth the sacrifice. I have finalized the plans for the Valley time trade info meeting August 17th at 6 pm at the Wilbraham Public Library.Hope to see all of you there (OK both of you).
We were able to get most of the brush cleared from the trees that we took down recently. What a massive pile ,it's amazing that when it goes through the chipper it will only be a few feet high.We were joking about "boy a pyromaniac would sure come in handy about now". It would make a SERIOUS bonfire for about a minute and a half . My goal is to get all of this cleared so that I can get the bobcat guy here early Sept. I can see next years fields coming together .It's pretty exciting, Suburban Artisan farm is starting to be more than just an idea.Hopefully chickens in Sept.Maybe. Did i mention that enough twigs carried together are still pretty heavy?

Friday, August 6, 2010

What a difference a week makes

Maybe it's been a couple of weeks. Time flies when you are having fun or going senile (you choose). My last post was a bit out of date as I tried to be cool and write it on my new old laptop as I was traveling to NYC on Amtrak. It was really nice to have time to think and rethink as I was writing ,hence the looong post. The problem was that my new old laptop didn't want to play nice with the household wireless connection . So the post was stuck in digital limbo until I got around to hooking a cat 5 cable.

So much has changed since the last post. The deck is up ,the trees are down, my corn can hear (shows how much of a greenhorn I am) I made another cake (a horse's head sans the bed and blood) and Jackie Becca and myself are now movies stars (autographs only nineteen ninety nine,please send cash only self addressed stamped envelope, please allow ten years for delivery).I got a call last Friday night for the three of us to be extras in the making of American was something Jackie said she wanted to do so we went down to Bristol Ct and got to sit on a bus going around the block ten times while they filmed the star of the movie sitting next to me with a thirty pound brass lion (you'll have to see it to figure out what I'm talking about )<<<<<shameless plug!!!!!

Marc is home on leave which is great but there is a down side that I can't discuss (national security and all)if I told you I'd have to kill you. Of course I have no idea if anyone besides my wife is reading this . we are planning a trip to the green mountain national forest next week .Hope I survive.

The date has been set for the introductory meeting for the Valley Time Trade at the Wilbraham public Library. It will be held on Tuesday aug seventeenth at six pm. All are welcome to learn about the idea of time banking and what the VTT has to offer. I was able to trade some of my time that I earned working on Golden oak farm for s deep tissue massage for Jackie,I thought that was pretty cool. Well off to pick up my new log splitter.Is that like the huband who buys his wife a vacuum cleaner for her birthday?

Actually I really like it and it will save me so much work.Did I mention that logs are really really heavy?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Times They Are A Changin

As we come up on the mid- point of the summer there is so much going on it's hard to figure out what to write about. The race is on to get the projects done before the snow flies (that's right, snow). As fast as this July has gone by it will be December before you know it. The deck is almost done (thanks Rick), and the tree guys will have the area for next year's garden cleared in the next few days. Next will be having the bobcat guy here to level out the land a bit and setup the footings for the greenhouse and oven. A little guilt has surfaced about taking down the trees, mind you only a little. As my wife so eloquently put it "And you call yourself an earthy crunchy". Some solace can be found in the fact that I do plan to replant trees there next spring (dwarf peach and cherry trees) as well as creating a permaculture forest garden in the area.

I caught some crap for not recycling some paper, oh well I guess I'm not perfect on this front either. Almost fifty three years of life won't be changed in a few weeks, but I'm doing better than I did a month ago. This Hopefully I'll be able to say the same thing next month. Why is it so hard to break a bad habit and so tough to keep doing a good new one. This transition has been an interesting although not an easy one, the patterns formed over the decades are not easily changed , so many things are done on auto-pilot. At least I've become more concious of the repercusions of the lifestyle I live and am willing to change some of the things that are really part of the problem. I don't know if it will change the world but I think it will change my world. While I don't see myself becoming a democrat anytime soon I do feel like being more involved because I feel both parties have let us down.

The garden is growing really well except for a few kind of strange things going on. My radishes never made radishes just lots o leaves and my corn is deaf ,beautiful stalks and tassles but no ears. We've been eating lettuce, cukes ,wax beans ,a few snow peas and raspberries and the grape tomatoes are starting to come in now . The first bite of a crisp cucumber or the pungent pop of a grape tomato reminds me of why I want to do this, vegetables actually are supposed to taste like something .Someday maybe we'll be able to eat mostly from our own land. Did I mention it's really sunny in tha backyard with those trees down?

Monday, July 19, 2010

Where's my rut

Well vacation time is over and it's time for back to work.This is a more difficult task for me because I work from home and at best have an unorganized routine (hence the intermittent postings) .Knowing what you have to do is sometimes much easier when someone else is directing you (IE a "real" job).Looking around I can see what needs to be done it's just that they are all calling my name like students in a contest to win that get out of homework for a month pass. So wish me luck as I jump back into the fray.
Vacation was really quite nice this year.A new place (Ocean City NJ) was a pleasant surprise.The drive was rather uneventful ( a good thing) The hotel was clean (it even had thick walls ,You couldn't hear the kids screaming in the adjacent rooms, Thank You God )the boardwalk was interesting and also really clean considering the crowds . The ocean had a nice beach with warm (OK warmish ,anything is warmer than Hampton Beach)water with great waves . The only minus was the food .It wasn't bad, but it wasn't WOW either .We got to experience the full spectrum of travel on this trip .In the morning we rented a surrey which is basically a pedal powered car that we traveled the boardwalk with .People don't drive them any better than they drive cars on the highway. Even had a problem with someone on a cell phone (surprise ,surprise). In the afternoon we went on a speedboat that skimmed the water at fifty five mph. It seemed like we were flying .
I was greeted by a whole new crop of weeds when we returned . They had grown almost as much as my "good" plants in the garden . My tomatoes have become a large clump of plants with tomatoes everywhere .I brought in our first wax beans ,cukes, and lettuce and two raspberries ( not two pints ,not two pounds ,two berries, hey you gotta start somewhere.
) Well the students are starting to scream it's time to get to work.
Did I mention That there sure is a lot to get done?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

a pleasant surprise

We arrived at Ocean City Monday afternoon after about three hundred and ten miles of pretty easy highway driving .Only a few minor scares on the way. We had been going to Hampton Beach NH for the last twelve years .Since the fire this winter wiped out a good portion of the limited amount of attractions they had Jackie picked a new place for this years trip. Actually this wasn't a new place but one we were supposed to to before my bout with coronary troubles. Always sceptical of new spots we arrived in a nice community with clean streets and nice houses only three minutes from the beach. This is quite a bit different from what we are used to ,there is an eight mile long boardwalk ,almost warm water (Jackie was amazed that she could still feel her feet after fifteen minutes in the water). There are NO cars on the boardwalk although bikes and surreys are allowed. Here funnel cakes ,gelato and pizza reign supreme, not a single Maine lobster to be found. We even got to see the Little River Band in a concert on Monday night, they did a great job .Did I mention it's nice to get away?

Monday, July 12, 2010

let it rain

A gentle tapping slowly gains momentum building to a crescendo of patters as the welcome rain began falling on the roof of the Antique tobacco shed where the NOFA backyard chicken seminar was held this Saturday. It was a scene from another era of simpler but by no means easier times.Our hosts Pam and David have a few chickens (alright seventy two chickens) as well as six cows,two pigs and four cats(I'm guessing the cats must be for the Chinese dishes).They are a part of a growing trend to organic self sufficient living.We're not talking about little house on the prairie here, just using time tested healthy growing methods as well as modern organic developments to produce the most nutritious food possible. I thank them for all of the information they so graciously shared with us .
Jackie and I arrived at around nine along with around a dozen other folks to learn about the process as well as the virtues and pitfalls associated with raising chickens. Our group had a wide swath of the areas culture. I guess we held up the right wing and things moved to the left from there. Everyone was nice and the tires on my car stayed in tact. During the three or so hours we were there Pam and David took us on a walking tour of their farm explaining many details of the day to day care of chickens. I look forward the next seminars held by NOFA.
I got a rush birthday cake order on Wednesday .A friend wanted an over the hill cake for Friday. I think it came out pretty well and my speed is definately improving .You can see the cake on my photobucket page and soon on the slideshow here.Did I mention it's sunny?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

off we go

This morning Jackie and I are off to a seminar on backyard chickens .I'm really quite surprised that she changed her mind so readily. I don't think I gave her much manure about it.I'm just glad she likes fresh eggs. This is another small step to Independence and self sustainability. Until a few weeks ago I hadn't even heard of permaculture or transition towns ,but I've a concern about the ways things are going in our world.Between the oil mess and the food situation I was thinking there has to be a better way.Low and behold I find permaculture. I'm not saying that this is the be all end all it just makes sense (does a carrot traveling eighteen hundred miles to show up on your table make sense?). I'll be writing more but we gotta run .Don't want to keep the chickens waiting.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

I'm ALIVE!!!!

Well today is day three of the raw milk diet. It's not really a diet per say as the only change is drinking some raw milk each day but it is a change. I'm not dead yet. Actually I'm really no different although I believe that this decision is a healthy one. So if I owe you money or something forget about it I'm still here.
Tuesday was a rather interesting day (besides the fact that i was sweating like I was back in Honduras), I got to use one of my "time dollars" for a haircut. Since most of the people in the Valley time trade time bank are in the Northampton area at the moment I tried to conserve gas and plan a few service calls in the same day .First I would receive a service ie. my haircut then I would travel to Pam And David's farm to earn more time dollars working there. This is the time banking principal in a nutshell. I think that it's really cool (that's right I said "cool " man). Arriving at Betty W's house in Florence I felt a little out of place as there were PEACE flags adorning multiple houses . Not that I'm against peace mind you but my bumper stickers are a little to the right. Betty my "barber " cheerfully greeted me at the door and welcomed me into her home. They are in the middle of a cleanse and Betty was busy making a raw veg juice blend .She offered some of this reddish purple fluid and it turned out to be quite tasty. While getting my haircut Betty and I discussed many different ideas and ideals ,some were polar opposites and others were perfectly parallel. I found it very interesting how even though there exists a deep chasm in our political leanings we have many of the same core values. Jackie is concerned that I might become a liberal .I tried to allay her fears then she retorted "well I never thought you'd like country music either". Point taken.
While I doubt that I will ever become a liberal, the experience so far with the Valley time trade has been an excellent investment of my time. Not only have I gotten a "free" haircut but I've been able to meet people that I'm certain I wouldn't normally come in contact with and share a sense of community ,exchange information and ideas and to help someone in need . I also found out that Betty is a potter (one of the things I 'm looking for from the time bank is pottery lessons). Did I mention that it's hot?

Friday, July 2, 2010

change of season

I guess since we haven't had a snow flake in over 3 months it's time for a new picture. The garden is really coming along well . I have over fifty tomatoes on the vine, some cukes, peppers ,pea pods ,as well as a bumper crop of slugs (they say they taste like chicken). We (that's right I said WE)are going to a seminar on backyard chickens next weekend it should be pretty informative. Also plan on trying raw milk and grain fed organic beef next week so if I owe you money you'd better collect quick. It's been really amazing how the garden has grown so far this year .If the critters don't get it we should do alright. It must be tough being a real farmer , I see that there are weather issues possible and get all nervous . I'd hate to see all of these beautiful plants get damaged .Setting up a drip irrigation system (alright attempting to set up a drip irrigation system) ,there sure are lots of parts. Did I mention that it's absolutely gorgeous outside .

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

busy busy busy

Yesterday was the first of hopefully many service visits for me with the Valley time trade timebank. Drove out to Hatfield to work at a sustainable organic farm . There were cows and pigs and chickens (oh my). I put in my three hours and earned three time dollars that i will be able to "spend" on services from other members . I'm hoping to get a haircut and a couple hours of help splitting firewood or some help with carpentry . While the trading of my time for someones Else's seems worthwhile in itself ,there are other things that I think will make this an even more rewarding endeavor. I got to meet some nice folks that I'm pretty sure I would have never crossed paths with (got to know more about them than i know about some of my neighbors of 18 years). They were quite willing to share what they had learned in their twenty or so years of farming ( I got to meet their chickens and learned about freezer camp).It's also very nice to be able to help someone in need. Recent illnesses have made some of the farm work a bit more difficult for them and at least today not a problem for me. After three hours of weeding in Hatfield I came home only to find out that the weeds in my garden hadn't gone anywhere and still needed to be pulled .Luckily I was in prime weed pulling shape so they were no match for my nimble (that's right I said nimble) fingers. Needless to say I slept pretty well last night.

Monday, June 21, 2010

This and that

Things have really picked up around here lately .Many different projects going at once (what a surprise)so let's get a quick run update .The garden is really coming along, most everything is really popping ,even the flowers are looking pretty good .It's funny how parental I get with my green "children".Things like "stop crowding your brother ",why won't you stand up straight?", "hey Mr. slug leave the kids alone" seem to flow from my lips all too easily .Guess it could be worse I could talk to Maple trees.Wait a minute I did that too.Oh well blame it on the seventies.I spent a bit of last week playing with mud.Not just any mud but the mud that will be used to build my oven ,hopefully in the next few weeks. It's pretty cool (and actually fun )to be able to settle out the impurities and have workable clay .I've been able to purify over twenty gallons of clay already only twenty more to go. Tomorrow will be my first service for the "time bank". I will be weeding on a farm for three hours to earn three "Time Dollars" that will be spent for a haircut and to get two hours of help with my firewood.We'll see how it goes. I have a cake for royal family kids camp going out on Tuesday ,should be interesting.Did I mention that I got some really cool supplies for the chickens?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Time banking 101

In an effort to learn as much as i can about these many different aspects of sustaining an agricultural interdependance in my life I am spending lots of time reading. Yes that's right I actually am reading 3 different books at once. A new way that I've found to learn about these things is hands on from people that are already doing it. Time banking has afforded me a direct connection to folks that are way ahead of the curve.What's nice about it is that while they share knowledge with me I am doing work for them and getting time dollars to boot.I have my first appointment to do a service for time dollars on tuesday working on a farm and possibly doing house cleaning. I plan to use some of my time dollars earned to get a massage for my wife , a haircut and some help splitting firewood.This is a pretty good test of the whole concept .If all goes well I think I'll be quite encouraged

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Time banking

On Sunday Jackie handed me an interesting article from the paper .It talked something called a time bank.No this isn't something from a cheesy 70' s TV show ,this is a different twist on the barter system. If you are a member of a particular time bank you can "volunteer" your time and talent in exchange for "Time Dollars".One hour equals one "time Dollar".You can take this Time dollar and exchange it for an hour of a service another member has available .They can in turn use the "time dollar "they get from you to do the same and so on. One of the things I like the best about this is that your time is worth the same as anyone else's . You can check it out at .These are all over the world .There might even be one in your neighborhood. If not they have a program that helps you set one up . It's a great way to help others or to get help and not feel like you are asking for a handout. In these economic times it's nice to be able to have options . Let's just hope the government doesn't find out ,they'll probably want to "help "with it . Look how good they are doing with everything else.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It's Magic

It's amazing how just a few degrees makes such a difference .The warmer nights and the recent rain have brought an explosion of growth in the garden (unfortunately it's not just the plants I want to grow but the weeds have joined in the fun as well). The sticks that I planted in April are actually starting to fill out and at least slightly resemble the high production blueberry factories I envisioned them to be. I had the difficult task of removing blueberry buds as the appeared last week . I am trusting that the Ma blueberry growers association isn't trying to deny me my rewards by saying that I have to remove the first years fruit so that future crops will be much better. If I check next year and it says that I have to remove the second years fruit there will be hell to pay.The amount of buds I had to remove was quite heartening though ,the early blooming berries had a good amount of berry clusters .Having the gradual harvesting times I think will show even more clusters to be removed as time passes.
Man plans, God laughs. Originally the clearing of some of our land for next years market garden was going to be an ongoing project that I would like to have finished by the fall. How things change. A friend had his heirloom tomato and chili farm pulled out from under him and now has hundreds of beautiful heirloom tomato plant orphans needing a home .So it seems we'll be clearing a little faster than planned. Was that a spotted salamander that just ran across the back yard?

Monday, May 31, 2010

One more time

Realizing that so many of you have lost sleep and had anxiety attacks because of the absence of postings on this all important blog I have decided to resume posting to save the universe from complete collapse. Looking around maybe I'm too late. Oh well, maybe next time. Any ways here goes. Upon my return from Honduras I began my new trek towards self sufficiency. It's going pretty well and I figure I can be completely self sufficient by 2065. Of course I'll be worm food by then but I'll be self sufficient worm food. I have spent quite a bit of time creating a raised bed garden and we should even be able to have lettuce for our salad by next week.
I started Clearing some trees from my back lot to make a market garden for next year .We had four down when one of my neighbors came over and starting grilling me about my decision to remove some of her woods. In as polite a tone as I could muster I explained that these were my woods and maybe she should go find some other trees to hug (hope she gets a splinter). Ironically looking at her property I see lots of lawn and only a couple of trees ,HHMMMM. I figure that there will probably be a national geographics team here soon to report about the slash and farm methods of suburban land barons . Was that a horned owl in the tree?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Time difference hmmm

There is a two hour time difference between here and Honduras , but that's not the only one I notice. I think their seconds are longer as it seems that the day's got more time in it. Or maybe they're just bigger so that time doesn't slip away as easily. So many distractions make it tough to get the things I need accomplished. I did manage to get the blueberries in and the fence up. Two down a million to go. At least I can feel my fingers again .It's felt like the Arctic here this week after being in the tropics.This temperature swing has made me question why people go on vacation to Florida in the winter. While it's nice to bask in the warm sun ,it just magnifies how bleeping cold it is. Luckily for me it's supposed to be eighty something this weekend. Go figure. Gotta love New England.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

back in the saddle again

Woke up this morning with a little nip in the air and dogs sleeping on my legs .It's good to be home. It's great to see everything here turning emerald green.As I settle in my mind drifts through the last week and a half coming upon highlights kind of like finding rare mushrooms in the forest. Time had softened my resolve to serve God through missions trips .The further away I got ,the more blurred it became .This trip has brought it back into crisp focus.The fresh memories of the faces and smiles have renewed me and helped remind me me that I am making a difference for eternity .While I really enjoyed the trip I have so much to do I can't let it overwhelm me.I'm going to have to start by prioritizing life and death things first (for the plants not me). If I don't get the rest of the blueberry plants in today they'll probably die so I'll tackle that first .then I must transplant the leeks and plant another round of cukes and peas . I have to get the fence up around the blueberries so that I'm not putting the rabbits on the "Wanted dead or alive" posters.Then on to the raised beds so they will be ready for the new plants . Gotta clear up the back yard and start on the mud oven. I've been offered some blackberries just gotta dig them up (plenty of time no problem).I finally got to talk to Eric and the guitar cake was a big hit. There are pix in the slide show at the bottom.I'm sure in the future it won't take fourteen hours. I told him when he makes the bigs I'm his "cake boss". There's a fifty to sixty degree difference from Honduras to here .Did I mention it's kind of chilly?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

home again home again clickety click click

Well after almost twenty seven hours of layovers and traveling I 'm finally home. Pastor Ken asked us to leave it all in Honduras so I guess mission accomplished.I am totally spent. It was an awesome trip. Don't know if we'll ever see these folks again this side of heaven but I hope so. They are truly great people and provide further proof that materialism isn't a guarantee for happiness (thank you English spell check). Most of them make less than fifty dollars a week but would gladly give you the shirt off of their back literally. I will have pix later in the week.
Tomorrow back to the hustle and bustle of life in the USA .Funny thing my list of things to do didn't get nay shorter

Did I mention it was HOT?

Saturday, April 24, 2010

On the road again

Well today brings to a close the Honduran chapter for missions trips ,at least for this year .It will be a whirlwind of transfers as we go from Honduras to el Salvador and then to an eight hour layover in Wa before finally getting to bradley about noon tomorrow. This may be our last trip here only God knows for sure ,I hope not as the people here are wonderful (and they have the best filet mignon in the world).Did I mention that it is HOT?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

It is finished

We got back a little while ago from our last day of work at the school . This week has flown by(except at the restraunts) it seems like we just got here. The only ways I can tell that we been here a bit is the color of my skin and that fact that my muscles are more buff and sore . Did I mention that it's hot? I got to help cook lunch today with the ladies from the church (which was good because I had muscle spasms in my back from shoveling last night) We are going to the church tonight for our dinner. I bet they won't take two hours. Off to the beach in the morning. Did I mention that it's hot?.

And then there were none

Sorry about not posting the last few days I don't think it had enough strength to push down the keys. Did I mention it's HOT? It has been between ninety two and ninety eight IN THE SHADE.We have worked hard (that's what we came to do) .The resteraunts ( I know it's wrong but after working in them for thirty years I still can't seem to spell it right) would make chef Ramsey cry . They have added an additional meaning to having reservations.The food has been ok but the service ,oh my gosh .Two hours to get our food . I felt like sleeping at the table. Last night we worked until seven thirty (after dark) . Today is our last work day, it goes by so fast .Tomorrow we go to the beach and home on Saturday. Even though my back is killing me and I've got a little sunburn it's great to be back .Did I mention it's really hot?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

a hard days night

Sitting here in the cyber cafe at the hotel and they are playing the Beatles so I figured the hard day part fit . Yesterday was a pretty tough day.IT WAS HOT. I made three batches of cement on the ground as well as shoveling rocks and dirt and bucket brigaded concrete to fill in some bond beams.Pastor Ken and Brad led teams to finish the blockwork on the second floor . I had my first real conversation with a national in my ten missions trips.The principal of the school knows less English than I know Spanish but it was a good conversation. We talked about family. Did I mention it was HOT?By the end of the day I looked like I worked hard, I think there was more concrete showing than skin. We got the shower fixed yesterday ,I wasn't really liking the the whole" try taking a shower maybe get a shock" thing .I like a hot shower but not that much. I was talking about cooking with Gladys ( the principal and Mario's wife) and I might get a shot at making tortillas on Monday. should be interesting. We have Church this morning.It's really different from at home ,even though it's not in English you can really feel God's presence it's alive!!!Wondering if my guitar cake made it to the party and if they liked it. Did I mention that it's Hot?

Friday, April 16, 2010

one down

Well we survived the first day. It's really amazing how far the school has come in the last three years. it is already ready fully functional with a computer lab ,kitchen and even snack bar all for a lot less than the seventy four million dollars they are putting up for a new minnechaug high school (Actually around one half of one percent).I'll bet the kids will probably learn more also. Bear with me as far as spelling goes. Spellcheck tries to check my spell in Spanish making every word except "a" incorrect. I know that my spelling may leave a little to be desired but come on every wurd (jk). It wasn't warm today, it was hot. I paced myself and even took a nap in the afternoon. Don't worry everyone is keeping an eye on me,no over doing it this year . If it kills me I promise not to come back. Did I mention it was hot? As we approached the school today we were greeted by most of the student body. They lined both sides of the road as we walked in .It was like the superbowl. The school has grown to over four hundred students .It definately reaffirmed why we keep coming back.The ladies from the school made us a fine lunch as usual . It's difficult remembering that today is Friday. it seems so much like Monday .Did I mention it was hot?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

miss me yet ?

Well we made it . After the last few days it was kind of nice to just let go and have a reasonably sane pace to things. Iwasn't able to plant all of the blueberries .I hope they survive til I get back. The easy guitar cake took almost fourteen hours but it was worth the time. When I delivered it I got lots of "how'd you do that ?" I hope Eric likes it. If not I'll cheerfully refund his purchase price. Oh wait he didn't pay for it since it's a surprise. Arrived in sunny and warm Honduras at about 4:30 which is 6:30 eastern time. Did I mention it's warm? Well it is. Doesn't look like much has changed .It's hard to believe that it's been three years and two heart attacks since my last visit. Did I mention it's warm? The trip was uneventful, two layovers on four hours at Dulles (awesome breakfast burrito at the chipotle grill) .Last leg of the trip was fifty minutes in a prop job over the mountains of El Salvador. I guess that was a test of our faith. Customs in Honduras tried to get me for smuggling ( some of the wonderful cookies ,thanks gifts and good taste) but I was able to escape the federales. Gotta run, time for dinner at Power chicken. If you read this Jackie,I'll be reading my jtrenzul email.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

and they're off

Just sitting here waiting to be picked up to go to the airport. If my thoughts seem disjointed it's probably the ambien that I took at 10:30 last night since it is still last night. So I guess this could actually be me sleep blogging. Probably will make about as much sense as the rest. Looking forward to this trip should be interesting as there are more new faces than veterans. gotta run either my ride is here or I'm just waking up. Why does this water taste like salt?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Tic tic tic

If you've been reading this blog for any length of time you may have noticed my obsession with time. It seems as though there just aren't enough hours in the the day to get everything done. I realize that i 'm probably alone in feeling like this and everyone else feels like they have plenty of time for everything so bear with me in my struggle. Less than sixty hours until we leave for Honduras ,plenty of time if I could only not have to sleep ,eat ,shower (ok ,maybe that one's optional from a distance)etc. I went to pick up the blueberry bushes today and my imagination started going wild ," I could get raspberries and asparagus next, then strawberries and......".Luckily my wife has some common sense (one of us has to) and has made me put on the brakes.No more until I get my "short" list of projects caught up.I did take down the sugar shack last Friday.It's funny how it takes four or five days to put up and only one day to take down. Gravity is a wonderful thing sometimes. I start on the guitar in the morning ,it should be a piece of cake. If you check out the slide show at the bottom of the page I've managed to get pix of my work so far. Have to transplant tomato seedlings in the morning and plant the blueberries. I'll be posting from Honduras later in the week if I have enough energy so check back and see how we're doing.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

one week and counting

Has anyone seen my time ? I seem to have lost a bunch of it.It seems like just yesterday I had plenty of time to get everything done before we left for Honduras next Thursday. Someone must have made off with a day or two somewhere. If that's you please return it as it looks like I'll need every minute before we leave. Good news , Becca has her first interview for a modeling job.That will only add about twenty hours into the next week .That's what we do for our kids though . I really hope she gets the job. A funny thing happened last night at her models meeting (seems like a lot of funny things happen in life).I was sitting there minding my own business waiting for Becca and a woman came up and asked"are you a model?" I looked around thinking someone was behind me or something then replied "you talkin to me?" She actually was . Hmmm. It turns out they were doing an open casting call and were looking for a fifty something frumpy looking dad type ,who'd a thunk it? Actually they were looking for all types of people for a sci fi fashion show for movies directors and producers this summer. They liked my scars .Maybe I can recoup some of the hundred thousand dollars they charged for my open heart surgery. Don't know if anything will come of it, but hey you can't win if you don't play.
Got the cake gallery up I think ,waiting for the puggle pix and start on the guitar cake on Monday. Who needs to sleep.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

one down one to go

What do you get when you combine sixteen pounds of icing forty five pounds of chocolate chocolate chip cake and a piece of plywood? No not a life size statue of Obama. Besides a REALLY big mess, you get a puggle cake. after almost ten hours of work yesterday Jackie and I managed to load the puggle cake into the back of the van for delivery. It's funny how you never notice that there are that many bumps in the road until you are delivering nitro- glycerin or a sixty five pound cake that you spent all day putting together. It is really something to hear "Dad that looks like a shoe" transform to "Ohh, now I get it .That's really cool". I think I have unlocked a hidden blessing , I can see the finished product as I go through each step (kind of exciting ) .Now I know how Michael Angelo and the great sculptors felt as they created their masterpieces (OK maybe not but it sounds pretty good).Well I guess it's back to work for today's birthday cake .Now where is that kitchen sink?

Thursday, April 1, 2010

heee'sss baaacckkk

Contrary to popular belief I did not fall off the face of the earth. It was kind of disheartening that the year I decide to give maple sugarin a try just so happens to be the worst season in recent memory.My apologies to all of the other sugarin folks in the area. Next year I'll tell the trees it's for someone else. Due to the fact that there really won't be a heck of a lot of stuff for me to write about pertaining to maple syrup for the next nine to ten months I'll be blabbing on about the many other fascinating things going on in my life. The Ipod cake for Becca turned out really well .As soon as i can figure out a gallery I'll post the pictures.Two more cakes are going out the door this weekend if all goes according to plan.I'm going to make a puggle cake (not puddle cake) and a birthday cake. My passport finally came in ,only two more weeks until Honduras .I hope they believe it's me since I cut my hair and shaved my beard AFTER the picture was taken.So if my posts come from club Guitmo you'll know I should have cut my hair first. Getting ready to take down the sugar shack and move it to a more permanent location . my neighbors are gonna love this .

Thursday, March 11, 2010

darn weatherman

I just finished boiling what could very well be the last batch of maple syrup for the year. It was only a half gallon but if the weather man is right (and of course this will be one of the rare times he is )we won't see freezing temps again until the fall.Such high hopes ,I was shooting for ten to fifteen gallons of syrup and wound up with two and a half. So much for our pancake breakfast.I guess we'll end up using Mrs. Butterworth's .The general rule is one quart for every tap .I had seventy two taps times one quart should have been eighteen gallons.I figured ten was being conservative .Ended up more conservative than my political views .Oh well ,man plans God laughs.The good news is I ordered my blueberry bushes so I'll have something new to blog about as I venture into suburban farming. Had my "final" for cake class last night .Everything was going along smoothly , got my roses on the cake, made and froze the additional flowers, this was going to be very niiice.I got the border on and proceeded to place the best frozen flowers in their appropriate spots on the edge .I got this no problem. Final step ,put the center in each flower.As I spin the cake around I put a bright pink center in each fire red flower .Suddenly as I make my way around the cake I notice that all of the borders are smeared and the flowers are toast. The girl across from me put her pastry tube on my side of the table so it made a nice squeegee and flattened the bottom edge of my cake .So niiice(not my actual thoughts but this is not an adult only blog)!!!! Fortunately the teacher saw the cake before because I had no more frosting to pull off the repair. Guess we'll have to eat the accident ,Darn.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Some guys have all the luck.

It seems that we are in the middle of a sap drought here this year . The weather, while good for our heating bills ,hasn't been condusive to maple syrup production. It seems I picked a not so good time to begin my new hobby.I posted a request for sap on (that's the forum I belong to )and people are telling me that many are in the same boat. I guess I should feel lucky that I get to boil another twenty or so gallons of sap tomorrow before the real warm weather arrives.It could be worse .

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

It's all in how you look at it.

Perception is an interesting thing. In the beginning I was so excited to get four and a half gallons of sap ,getting to boil it to a whopping fourteen ounces of maple syrup. A few weeks later I get to boil thirty two gallons of sap down to one hundred and eight ounces of golden goodness and it's not enough. I WANT MORE!!!! I want to tinker with the process ,I want to make gallons and gallons and gallons. If there was actually enough sap to feed this new addiction maybe that would be enough. Although I don't think they sell sap on the street corners in Springfield. I can see it now "Hey man I got some really fine four percent Sugar maple ,I can give you a sweet deal." What am I supposed to do for the forty something weeks between sugar seasons? I guess I 'll just have to write this blog.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Has anybody see my day

It's amazing how fast 24 hours go by sometimes.Sorry about missing a post please forgive .I'm too tired today for humor (just started filtering the eighty or so ounces of syrup I boiled today).I can't figure this sap thing out Last night was supposed to be the textbook maple sap situation twenties at night fifties in the day.Only got about nine gallons .From seventy two taps that sucks .Oh well such is life .Better post tomorrow I promise.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A funny thing happened on the way to the .......

What a start to the day today.In getting ready to make the Tic-tac cake last night I found that my wife ate the walnuts .Oops ,now had to wait til this morning. So first thing I headed to BigY for walnuts and I thought I would be nice and get my wife more French vanilla coffee since she had run out and hates my blend.Seemed harmless enough ,Looking around I found the coffee ,picked up the bag and gave it a little squeeze to make sure the vacuum was still intact (honest it was only a little squeeze).Bad move.The bottom of the bag blew out and there I stood covered from knee to navel in French Vanilla shrapnel.Of course the Store Manager happened to be discussing something with the dairy person about ten feet from me. The popping sound from the bag caught her attention only to have her see this crazy looking guy clutching a severely leaking bag of new England's own and wearing a pretty good amount of it.She held her composure and calmly asked if I needed a hand ."DUH, I tink so" I muttered.She cleaned up my mess while I rescued the remainder of the coffee.She quipped "at least it wasn't the mayo or Italian dressing". Got the walnuts without any further casualties .Went home and got the cake going before Scott from bark busters came over to assess our whacked out cockapoo Blackjack.You have to understand that Blackjack is a great dog as long as you live in this house .Other than that not so much.We tried obedience school and If I had the video of he and my wife I'm SURE we would be ten thousand dollars richer.I'll save the rest of that story for another day.I saw the ad for barkbusters at the vet and laughingly said maybe I'd call them.
My wife agreed that we might at least hear them out ,so we set up an appointment for this morning figuring even the dog whisperer couldn't do anything with our whackjob.We were amazed within one minute he showed us how to change his attitude .He's a different dog. We figure he must have drugged him when we weren't looking.We'll see how long it lasts.The tic-tac cake took over fours hours ,I'll post more on it on the sugar arts page with photos tomorrow.Oh yeah And by the way I collected twenty four gallons of sap toady (the most in one day so far) Go figure.

Friday, March 5, 2010

water ,water everywhere but not a drop of sap

Legend has it that the native Americans stumbled upon maple syrup by accident (kind of the same deal as Good year and vulcanizing rubber).I wonder if they had a sap dance for when there was a dry spell. Maybe they could have turned on Donnie Osmond (or some equally sappy tunes ) and danced around hoping the spirits would give them sap just to shut it off. Things could be worse ,I could actually be trying to make a living with this .Empty mason jars just don't seem to have that appeal .Well maybe a hope jar of syrup to come (if you will it they will come) might take the place of pet rocks. There are really only a couple of minor problems with no sap .The first annual Suburban artisan pancake breakfast may end up using Mrs. Butterworth's and I was actually hoping to use some of this sweet nectar to bribe donations for my upcoming missions trip to Honduras in April .Right about now feeling a bit like Noah (although God didn't tell me to build a maple sugar evaporator)but still all dressed up with nowhere to go.I guess it's all for the best as I'm going to devote most of the next 2 days to the tic tac cake.Here goes nothing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

ho hum

Are we there yet? It seems that the corner has not been turned as previously thought . The maples are being very possessive of their precious sap. It's not like they need it more than I do. I feel like a dairy farmer trying to coax his prize Holsteins for the morning milk. You know you're in trouble when you are out in the woods talking to the trees (If a crazy man talks to trees out in the woods and no one else hears him does it really make a sound?)What's worse is I start off with words of encouragement and positive reinforcement but by the tenth tree I'm threatening the chainsaw if we don't see some effort. They say there will be a time when I won't be able to keep up with the sap .What do they know, just because some of them have been doing this for generations ,this is my first year I don't have patience for that someday. I want it now!!Of course when it comes I'll probably complain and whine "when will it stop?".
In the meantime I'll turn to my other new hobby, cake decorating. Did my second cake project for class last night .hopefully photos below.It's very interesting the reaction people have to clowns.The full spectrum including the extremes .My daughter absolutely HATES clowns ,she didn't even want me to bring the clowns home. Others think clowns are the next best thing to sliced white bread. It's amazing how time flies on class day ,I was only able to make white frosting and had to color it on the fly during class .I am going to attempt a box of tic-tacs cake for the girl next doors birthday on Saturday .I'm going to try and do a Youtube video of it .Hopefully I'll be able to show step by step.We'll see.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

An almost perfect morning

As I looked out of my kitchen window this morning a fresh batch of snow is falling .It sure is beautiful as it covers all of the gray and mud of late winter /early spring. I sit here listening to a smooth jazz station and enjoying a plate of steaming hot crispy edged french toast glistening with MY pure maple syrup.How sweet it is!!!! I can't help but notice how peaceful and serene I feel at this moment. Or maybe the Ambien hasn't worn off yet.It would be nice to share this with my wife but alas she's off to work. Some improvements were completed at the sugar shelter yesterday .A state of the art retractable roof was added .Alright it's a tarp that I roll up when not in use. But doesn't the retractable roof sound better? Also put a cap on the stack (number ten pasta sauce can slit down the side) as it is now too tall to just sling a five gallon pail over at the end of the day.Even finally got the handle on my custom stainless sap scoop (No more burnt fingers,at least from the part of the process).I did have pix of all of theses marvels but unfortunately my stone age digital camera didn't want to part with them for some reason. Another time . No sap today ,Such is the life of a sugarin' man.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The one gallon club

I'm not sure if there was such a thing as the one gallon club but there is now. All you need to be a member in good standing is to be able to say TRUTHFULLY that you've made at least one gallon of your own maple syrup.While this is not all that exclusive of a club here in New England , I'll bet that some of you don't even know someone who knows someone that makes their own. So now I will walk with my suburban nose in the air, pounding my chest of my great superiority .OK maybe not ,but it still feels kind of neat. After finally gathering enough sap (28 gallons )to make it at least a little more worthwhile I was able round up my maple sugarin stuff and work my way to the sugar shelter.Of course I had a few last minute improvements to tinker with . The countdown to ignition began at 4:30 .10...9...8... not as exciting as a shuttle launch but a lot cheaper. The fire got cranking and I was off , mission 003 " journey to the bottom of the sap bucket" was underway to boldly go where no other man has gone (at least since last time). Watching paint dry has nothing on actually just sitting and watching sap boil in the beginning .Except for maybe being warmer, sunnier, and usually not including large amounts of smoke and steam. Then it happens as the sap starts to reduce , a little at first ,then growing like the unraked leave pile ,the air gets a hint of the sweetness that's about to come and it starts to tint light amber. Although I really don't get much time to actually sit and watch the sap boil as I've got to manually add sap to my tank ,make sure the flow into the preheater is slow enough to keep it hot (oops don't forget it and have it overflow some of that precious sap) and stoke the fire .Hey I'm outdoors actually enjoying myself and getting a Vermont steambath in my own backyard. After three and a half hours I strut towards the house ,"mission accomplished" almost three quarts of hot sweet amber goodness. Life is good.

Monday, March 1, 2010

what a drip

Sorry about the late post but i just got finished filtering the days syrup.More on that tomorrow.If you are unhappy about my tardiness I'll be glad to refund the full purchase price that you paid me for reading this blog.Oh wait a minute it 's free so I guess I can double it. To some folks the pitter patter of little feet is a joy to their heart.For me not so much,but the pitter patter of little drops of sap hitting the bucket is music to my ears. The more and the faster the better .Finally the sap has started to flow .I collected almost twenty gallons of sap in the twenty four hour period from Sunday morning to Monday morning. that's more than the last five days combined.Maybe we've turned a corner. It just goes to show you that a single drop can make a difference when they combine with other drops. They can be poured together and boiled over a very hot fire for hours .Well alright that's not the real message with the drop thing but it could be.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Enter the twilight zone

Since things were slow down on the farm yesterday we all decided (actually I decided and everyone else just came along)to go to the CT cake competition in Hartford.Cake art is another of my interests so I thought it would be fun. Wanting to broaden my abilities I signed up for a cake sculpting class .Since this is a rather new area of exploration I had no idea what to expect.
Wow!! This was not a very large show (less than 60 cakes ) but nonetheless some of this stuff was amazing.Every piece of every cake had to be edible. Every flower,leaf ,bug,tree,waterfall,shoe,toy ,face,picture,everything. I really should have taken pictures (next time, I promise). It was like an art gallery with direct interpretation , minimalist, abstract ,classic, modern, etc. The attention to detail was meticulous from the veining on the oak leaves to the life like texture of the scarlet roses.
We ran into one of my decorating teachers who was there with her niece,they both had entries that were very impressive.
Now the real fun begins. About half an hour before my class with Carol Murdock (food network competitor oooh!!) I decide it's time to round up my box o goodies for this class.No problem it's a five minute walk to the garage ,the car is parked in 3E , five minutes back no prob.Yeah right....
Getting to the garage I immediately start through the labyrinth for 3E which has got me thinking "where's the cheese?"I find 3E after 15 turns ,6 levels and about 10 minutes.NO CAR!!! It's got to be here somewhere ,continuing to look I go down to 2E ,up to 4E, NO CAR!!!!Now I start getting a bit nervous so I call my wife "3E right?" She assures me that's it. Time is quickly getting away and I'm starting to panic a little .All of my decorating stuff is in the trunk(we were thinking about a new car anyways).It's funny how my mind works sometimes. By this time I am now late for my class ,out of breath from going up and down and around and I still haven't found the car or the cheese*.Suddenly from between the pillars I see our car jeering at me "haha I 'm here and you can't get me!"Logic momentarily left as I thought about jumping over the fence and through the pillars (watching too many 24 episodes and I'm not Jack).Looking down rapidly brought me to my senses as it was about 40 feet down if I miscalculated.Viewing my options it didn't seem that I "coold get theya from heah".calculating that i had to go down 2 floors then come up I was finally reunited with my required material for my class and only 45 minutes later.
All hot and sweaty with my blood pressure through the roof I finally get to my class 20 minutes late . We made a cake sculpted smart car. pretty cool I must say .
*cheese reference "mouse in maze".

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Many Blessings

While some of the rewards of making maple syrup are quite obvious (mmm... yummy pancakes)others are more subtle but just as important to me. While collecting the little amount of sap available this morning I was able to marvel at God's creation . The woods were beautifully frosted with a blanket of fresh snow. It appeared that each branch tip and pine needle had beeen individually painted by His hand and topped with a sparkling dust. Greeting me also was one of the neighborhood bunnies (this time of year there is a truce but when my garden comes in watch out).Crispness in the air seems to make the early bird calls more crystal clear and alert.So even if it wasn't a great haul for sap this morning it's still worth the trek(exept for the glom of snow down the back of my hoodie).

Friday, February 26, 2010

the jinx is on

Well ,I'm not a superstitious person but it seems that as soon as I started writing this blog about my adventure in maple syrup everything stops.Hmmm??? I wonder if I started blogging about government spending or reality TV shows it would do the same thing? Well at least it's stopped raining (now it's snow).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

rain rain go away

Remembering when ..... the sun was shining, the sap was flowing, life was good ,such a long time ago. Alright maybe it was only Monday.It seems like a long time ago. Feeling like maybe instead of a sugar shack I might have built an Arc instead.
I was cruising along full steam ahead, The evaporator was boiling sap and the amounts collected were growing exponentially .Expectations were on the rise ,then boom ,nothing but rain. Can I boil that?Hmmmm.
It's funny how in such a short time I can go from not even thinking about maple syrup except will I have it on french toast or waffles to Jonesing for the smell of wood smoke and maple steam. Must remember this is only a's only a hobby ,it's only a hobby, it's onl................

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

here goes nothing

I've never written a blog before but this seems like a good way to chronolog my adventure in maple sugarin.It's funny because 6 weeks ago I knew I liked maple syrup and had been to a sugar house in my youth (thought it was pretty cool) and that was about it. How things change. I now know how it's made and have actually succeeded in producing almost half a gallon of this golden brown nectar to the astonishment of my wife and daughter .my neighbors have allowed me to "Cullen" their maples and I have quite a few on my own property. We even have a sugar shelter in the backyard (not quite a sugar shack ,no roof yet). I've been able to Macgiver all this together for around $100 and put to use many of the items that I always said I would use "someday".I'll be adding some photos in the near future.