Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mason's Kin Come Calling

When you think Flat Top, you think: Beer. Bonfires. Feasts. Political discussions. And a good dose of nature.  Well, you can now add toddlers to that mix. Wait, WHAT?

Yes, Flat Top experienced a full-on family vacation last week, and Mason and Nan lived to tell the tale. (But note that it took us a week to recover and tell you about it.)

Meet Sawyer, age 18 months.

Jackson, 4.
(And that's Matt on shoe duty.)

And Emery, just about to turn 8.
Throwing rocks into the lake was a big hit.

These are three of Mason's seven grandchildren. They came with their adventurous parents, Matt and Joanna, who like camping and foolishly thought: How much harder could a few days on Flat Top be? (Smartly, Matt chose not to tell his wife that we don't have air-conditioning until the day before the trip.)

Luckily Grandma Cook (aka Karen, The Keeper) was smart enough to send along a blow-up pool to help entertain and cool the kids. The hammock was also fodder for great entertainment. I set up our new croquet set, which was entertaining for awhile, but in the end, it was a rope hanging from a tree in the front yard that kept Emery and Jack entertained for hours. Seriously, hours! Digging up potatoes and picking tomatoes in the garden also were big draws.

Walking back from the lake.
Who wasn't happy? Nick the Dog. He was banished to Grandma Williams' for the duration. Nick + one kid, manageable; Nick + three kids = Not good. But on the bright side, Nick got to lounge in icy cold air-conditioning while we sweated in 90-degree heat that dripped with humidity. Hmm, maybe he WAS happy.

Sooo, people, who's next to visit? (Tip: You may want to wait till September. This summer's heat has been brutal.)

Saturday, July 18, 2015


We pitched the tent where the bunkhouse is scheduled to be built.
 Soon. As long as the stock market cooperates.

Yes, that's right, we've fooled more people into visiting us! This time it's family. Mason's son Matt and his wife and three kids are clearly a bit crazy, because they're coming tomorrow. And it's stinking hot. Low 90s, with humidity in the low 90 percent range. It's Africa hot, for my Matthew Broderick fans.

We've tackled a few jobs before their arrival. Ever since August heat arrived in June, we've talked about installing a ceiling fan in the loft. We don't have electricity to burn, but on sunny summer days, we can at least afford to run a ceiling fan for at least a few hours at night. And because we're going to give the visitors the house to sleep in, the fan became a top priority for Mason. Last night was the first night we needed it, and trust me, it's heaven sent.

We'll be sleeping in the tent for the next couple of nights. When Mason bought that damn condominium of a tent when we lived in Minnesota, I just shook my head. Now? Heaven sent! Camping ain't camping when you can stand upright in your tent, even if you're Mason. Throw in the double-high queen blow-up mattress, and it's really not even roughing it. OK, it's not home sweet home, but it ain't bad.

The tomatoes are out of control! These got blanched,
peeled and turned into a tasty tomato sauce.
Now if only I can convince our guests to eat nothing but cucumbers and tomatoes while they're here. ... But Mason makes the call on the menu for his family, and the call is for steak. And shrimp. And chicken. And twice-baked potatoes. (OH, and I made some homemade banana/salted caramel ice cream that's TO DIE FOR!)

So, are there any tomato- and cucumber-lovers out there who like to sweat all day but get free food? You can have the cabin to yourselves if you just help devour the harvest!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

What's Blooming

Gotta love zinnias; unfortunately so do baby Japanese beetles.
(We don't water the lawns; so far, the rain has cooperated.)

Summer days on Flat Top just kind of unfold. Like today: I didn't plan to have a bonfire on an 84-degree, 95-percent-humidity kind of day. But after we finished our Sunday waffles and walked Nick, I headed to the veggie garden with my clippers and a colander. After snipping a few tomatoes, I noticed flies, which are one of the few kinds of bugs not common here. Then I noticed the stink.

Apparently a two-foot-long black snake (that's non-poisonous, Michiela!) got himself entangled in a pile of plastic netting I have left sitting outside the garden when we started to put up the new permanent fencing. (Thank goodness we don't have dolphins here!) Not sure how long the snake had been there, but long enough to stink, and be rotting from the flies and ants.

So we started a bonfire and got rid of him. And once I had a roaring fire going, there was no more ignoring that box of old receipts Mom gave me to burn. Receipts from as far back as 1990. From Sears. For things like T-shirts. OY.

It started to thunder, then rain, but I just kept on burning. No shortage of downed limbs and such to burn along with the paper.

And so goes a Sunday on Flat Top. (Mason, you ask? He brewed beer, of course.)

Mandevilla, a rare annual for me. I'm too poor for annuals these days!

Chicago Apache daylilies.

Love this mix of foliage.

My Quick Fire Hydrangea tree.

Mason's gladiolas, which desperately need dividing this fall.

Two of my nine apples!! 

My friend Terry gave me these happy lilies!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Friday, July 3, 2015

Blood, Sweat and Beers

Shelling peas in the heat of the day, with NPR on the radio.
I don't know about wherever you live, but June on Flat Top Mountain was stinking hot. The first few weeks of my summer vacation flew by with serious garden puttering, sweating and digging in the dirt. Then there were a few lazy afternoons spent shelling peas on the porch. And a loyal nightly 7:10 appointment with a homebrew.

And as soon as the June heat broke, July ushered in monsoons. The rain gauge clocked 4.5 inches in the past 24 hours. And that's on top of at least 3 more inches in the past week. What's good for the plants is good for Flat Top, so I can't complain. But I want to.

In between those two weather extremes, we were treated to a vacation from our summer vacation: a 4-day trip down to Beaufort, S.C., to spend several nights with friends on their fabulous 52-foot power boat. We left Nick with Mom (the first time he's been without us since February 2006), and played tourists with dinners out, beach time, a kayak adventure and a boat ride up the Intracoastal Waterway. It was all seriously lovely.

Spanish moss in full glory, in South Carolina's Port Royal/Beaufort area.

These past two months have also featured a whole lot of car repairs. As I type, Mason's got the innards of the Jeep driver-side door splayed over our kitchen island. Today, amid errands in the monsoons, the window got stuck down. Meanwhile the Honda is up on blocks for repairs to its suspension. Anyone who has driven our road would understand.

And the truck? Driveshaft fell out coming up the mountain hauling a trailer full of gravel. It still runs, but only in four-wheel-drive low -- kind of like an old person on a Rascal -- so it's restricted to mountain work only. No more jaunts into town. May she rest in peace.