Garden pictures

In spite of the unusually warm weather we had most of the last week, the garden is still only just getting started. Places with more sun sprang into bloom some time ago, but our back yard still thinks (correctly) that it's March.

Here are what I think are going to be daffodils:

[daffodil buds]
Daffodil Buds, March 22, 2010

And here's a crocus bud that pushed its way through a tough oak leaf:

[crocus and oak leaf]
Crocus Bud and Oak Leaf, March 22, 2010

Unwithered Sedge

[sedge]
Sedge is looking healthy

I've been meaning to take a picture of the sedge for you, but we've had snow cover since mid-December. Yesterday there was heavy rain as well as warm temperatures, so it's possible to take the sedge's picture. As you can see, it isn't withered this year, either.

The consistent snow cover is easier on plants than our usual freeze-thaw-freeze-thaw cycle, so the woodruff and the wild onions aren't withered either.

Getting ready for winter

We've been having mild, September-like October weather, but the last couple of days have been the dank, November-like October.

So last night, with threats of snow in the forecast, I brought in the plants from the fire escape, and this morning I filled the humidifier.

I thought you'd like to see some of the plants.

The basil is from a branch from the farm share that grew roots before I could use it, so I planted it in the windowbox.

[basil in bloom]

The rosemary I just bought at the store, but it's done well in the windowbox. I hope it likes being indoors until Spring.

[rosemary]

Some winters here are mild enough that rosemary survives outside, but of course then it isn't as easy to go pick a sprig.

I haven't turned the heat on yet, so it's a little early for the humidifier, but even if I don't turn my heat on, the neighbors might turn theirs on and make the air drier.

Forsythia wreath in October

No, this is the Northern Hemisphere. Sunny and I walk by a house that has a forsythia wreath on its door, right now.

[forsythia wreath]

For some reason, I find this a lot more jarring than the people who leave their Christmas decorations up until Spring.

In New England, forsythia is one of those pledges that Spring is about to arrive. Everything's grey and brown and muddy, and hardly any green has gotten going yet, and suddenly there are bright yellow flowers.

If you're getting tired of the grey and brown, you can bring some branches in and force them even while there's still snow, and get the bright yellow in your home even before it gets going outside.

In October, there are trees blazing orange and yellow and red, and still lots of green grass, especially in a rainy year like this.

So my guess is that the person with the forsythia on their front door isn't much of a botanist or seasonal decorator.

Farm Share for One

I went to visit my family yesterday, and I think my sister was a little disappointed that all I brought them were two melons and a bunch of collard greens.

I got the share on the assumption that I wouldn't cook that much, but there wouldn't be any trouble giving some away to people who would, and it isn't so expensive that if a few things end up in the compost bin it isn't a tragedy.

In general, it has been working out that way. The melons are a problem because I don't like them at all, and apparently neither do some of the people I give things to. This week I had an unusually large number of events to cook for, which accounts for not having brought lettuce or beans to the family.

I did dither about what to do with the excess zucchini long enough that they developed unsightly spots, so I think I'll put them in the compost bin, although probably the starving children in India would be glad to have them.

If they eat zucchini in India. If they don't, the children would probably insist on starving even if someone gave them lots of zucchini. My Polish relatives tell the story of some well-intentioned food-relief efforts from the US after World War II, where anyone in Poland could get all the peanut butter they could eat, and it sat there in the warehouse while starving people who'd never touched peanut butter in their lives and weren't going to start now died in the streets.

In any case, my zucchini would have worse than unsightly spots by the time it got to India, even if it weren't more efficient to send money to OXFAM or somewhere than to mail zucchini to India. And I haven't put very much stuff in the compost bin.

I chopped down a cherry tree

I was late with my post yesterday because I spent the morning in Fall River. I usually go there to see my mother and sister for dinner, but there are things you don't feel like doing after dinner, so I spent the night and in the morning helped with the tree and practiced some of the music Judy and I will be playing on September 21 at the Fall River Arts Around the Block festival.

We didn't really chop down the whole tree, but we ended up cutting off a lot more of it than I would have expected. The problem was that Comcast wouldn't install cable television (which they need because with the new, improved digital broadcast TV they can't get a lot of stations they used to get) unless they trimmed the branches that were in the way of where lines come into the house. It needed to be trimmed in any case, because it was quite likely that if a storm moved the branches violently enough, they would stop having telephone service.

There was really only one branch that needed to go away, but the ladder we were using wasn't high enough to reach that branch just before it started trying to grab the phone line. So we had to saw it off close to the trunk of the tree, and to get to that, we had to saw a lot of other branches. To get the ladder to where we could saw those branches, we had to saw some more branches.

So the upshot was there was a fairly big pile of cherry branches, some of which will make firewood for next winter. They're choke cherries, so the birds will be upset, but it won't affect the Conrad family food supply any.

And the flower bed on that side of the house will get a lot more sun now. It's a southern exposure, so you tend to think of it as full sun, but of course the part that was under this tree wasn't.

News from the Farm Share

It looks like I can get an extra half-bushel of cucumbers just by asking for it. I've really enjoyed the ones I've been getting the last two weeks, and had no trouble using up the two I got two weeks ago, and have only 2 left from the 6 I got last week, but I'm not sure what I'd do with a half-bushel.

So I've emailed all the people I see regularly to see if they want to help out, and I'm planning to look up pickle recipes. I always assumed that I'd end up doing some pickling if I were getting a box of vegetables every week during the summer. I only have one refrigerator, so it isn't that much different from people who lived before refrigeration getting fruits and vegetables all summer and needing to can and pickle to have any at all in the winter.

The bad news is that the Late Blight has started to hit the tomatoes on the farm, so there will be no tomatoes and fewer (or smaller) potatoes than expected. With the potatoes, they kill the vines and harvest what's underground. So they would have expected them to continue growing all through August and into September and maybe even October, but what's there now is what there's going to be.

One of my mother's cookbooks (maybe the Settlement Cook Book?) had a recipe for Green Tomato Mincemeat that I always wanted to try. Maybe I can get free green tomatoes and make up jars of that and have free pies for Thanksgiving?

Using a scythe

The Homegrown Evolution blog pointed me to Scythesupply.com. I might not have told you about it, except that there was a really obnoxious riding mower mowing the lawn in the park across the street as I was thinking about what to write about today.

The descriptions in the ScytheSupply.com of how obnoxious powered mowers and weedwhackers are are spot on, but I think their description of what using a scythe is like may be a bit less detailed than this, from Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina:

Once in a previous year he had gone to look at the mowing, and being made very angry by the bailiff he had recourse to his favorite means for regaining his temper,-- he took a scythe from a peasant and began mowing.

He liked the work so much that he had several times tried his hand at mowing since. He had cut the whole of the meadow in front of his house, and this year ever since the early spring he had cherished a plan for mowing for whole days together with the peasants. Ever since his brother's arrival, he had been in doubt whether to mow or not. He was loath to leave his brother alone all day long, and he was afraid his brother would laugh at him about it. But as he drove into the meadow, and recalled the sensations of mowing, he came near deciding that he would go mowing. After the irritating discussion with his brother, he pondered over this intention again.

"I must have physical exercise, or my temper'll certainly be ruined," he thought, and he determined he would go mowing, however awkward he might feel about it with his brother or the peasants.

Towards evening Konstantin Levin went to his counting house, gave directions as to the work to be done, and sent about the village to summon the mowers for the morrow, to cut the hay in Kalinov meadow, the largest and best of his grass lands.

"And send my scythe, please, to Tit, for him to set it, and bring it round tomorrow. I shall maybe do some mowing myself too," he said, trying not to be embarrassed.

The bailiff smiled and said: "Yes, sir."

At tea the same evening Levin said to his brother:

"I fancy the fine weather will last. Tomorrow I shall start mowing."

"I'm so fond of that form of field labor," said Sergey Ivanovitch.

"I'm awfully fond of it. I sometimes mow myself with the peasants, and tomorrow I want to try mowing the whole day."

Sergey Ivanovitch lifted his head, and looked with interest at his brother.

"How do you mean? Just like one of the peasants, all day long?"

"Yes, it's very pleasant," said Levin.

"It's splendid as exercise, only you'll hardly be able to stand it," said Sergey Ivanovitch, without a shade of irony.

"I've tried it. It's hard work at first, but you get into it. I dare say I shall manage to keep it up..."

"Really! what an idea! But tell me, how do the peasants look at it? I suppose they laugh in their sleeves at their master's being such a queer fish?"

"No, I don't think so; but it's so delightful, and at the same time such hard work, that one has no time to think about it."

"But how will you do about dining with them? To send you a bottle of Lafitte and roast turkey out there would be a little awkward."

"No, I'll simply come home at the time of their noonday rest."

Next morning Konstantin Levin got up earlier than usual, but he was detained giving directions on the farm, and when he reached the mowing grass the mowers were already at their second row.

From the uplands he could get a view of the shaded cut part of the meadow below, with its grayish ridges of cut grass, and the black heaps of coats, taken off by the mowers at the place from which they had started cutting.

Gradually, as he rode towards the meadow, the peasants came into sight, some in coats, some in their shirts mowing, one behind another in a long string, swinging their scythes differently. He counted forty-two of them.

They were mowing slowly over the uneven, low-lying parts of the meadow, where there had been an old dam. Levin recognized some of his own men. Here was old Yermil in a very long white smock, bending forward to swing a scythe; there was a young fellow, Vaska, who had been a coachman of Levin's, taking every row with a wide sweep. Here, too, was Tit, Levin's preceptor in the art of mowing, a thin little peasant. He was in front of all, and cut his wide row without bending, as though playing with the scythe.

Levin got off his mare, and fastening her up by the roadside went to meet Tit, who took a second scythe out of a bush and gave it to him.

"It's ready, sir; it's like a razor, cuts of itself," said Tit, taking off his cap with a smile and giving him the scythe.

Levin took the scythe, and began trying it. As they finished their rows, the mowers, hot and good-humored, came out into the road one after another, and, laughing a little, greeted the master. They all stared at him, but no one made any remark, till a tall old man, with a wrinkled, beardless face, wearing a short sheepskin jacket, came out into the road and accosted him.

"Look'ee now, master, once take hold of the rope there's no letting it go!" he said, and Levin heard smothered laughter among the mowers.

"I'll try not to let it go," he said, taking his stand behind Tit, and waiting for the time to begin.

"Mind'ee," repeated the old man.

Tit made room, and Levin started behind him. The grass was short close to the road, and Levin, who had not done any mowing for a long while, and was disconcerted by the eyes fastened upon him, cut badly for the first moments, though he swung his scythe vigorously. Behind him he heard voices:

"It's not set right; handle's too high; see how he has to stoop to it," said one.

"Press more on the heel," said another.

"Never mind, he'll get on all right," the old man resumed.

"He's made a start.... You swing it too wide, you'll tire yourself out.... The master, sure, does his best for himself! But see the grass missed out! For such work us fellows would catch it!"

The grass became softer, and Levin, listening without answering, followed Tit, trying to do the best he could. They moved a hundred paces. Tit kept moving on, without stopping, not showing the slightest weariness, but Levin was already beginning to be afraid he would not be able to keep it up: he was so tired.

He felt as he swung his scythe that he was at the very end of his strength, and was making up his mind to ask Tit to stop. But at that very moment Tit stopped of his own accord, and stooping down picked up some grass, rubbed his scythe, and began whetting it. Levin straightened himself, and drawing a deep breath looked round. Behind him came a peasant, and he too was evidently tired, for he stopped at once without waiting to mow up to Levin, and began whetting his scythe. Tit sharpened his scythe and Levin's, and they went on. The next time it was just the same. Tit moved on with sweep after sweep of his scythe, not stopping nor showing signs of weariness. Levin followed him, trying not to get left behind, and he found it harder and harder: the moment came when he felt he had no strength left, but at that very moment Tit stopped and whetted the scythes.

So they mowed the first row. And this long row seemed particularly hard work to Levin; but when the end was reached and Tit, shouldering his scythe, began with deliberate stride returning on the tracks left by his heels in the cut grass, and Levin walked back in the same way over the space he had cut, in spite of the sweat that ran in streams over his face and fell in drops down his nose, and drenched his back as though he had been soaked in water, he felt very happy. What delighted him particularly was that now he knew he would be able to hold out.

His pleasure was only disturbed by his row not being well cut. "I will swing less with my arm and more with my whole body," he thought, comparing Tit's row, which looked as if it had been cut with a line, with his own unevenly and irregularly lying grass.

The first row, as Levin noticed, Tit had mowed specially quickly, probably wishing to put his master to the test, and the row happened to be a long one. The next rows were easier, but still Levin had to strain every nerve not to drop behind the peasants.

He thought of nothing, wished for nothing, but not to be left behind the peasants, and to do his work as well as possible. He heard nothing but the swish of scythes, and saw before him Tit's upright figure mowing away, the crescent-shaped curve of the cut grass, the grass and flower heads slowly and rhythmically falling before the blade of his scythe, and ahead of him the end of the row, where would come the rest.

Suddenly, in the midst of his toil, without understanding what it was or whence it came, he felt a pleasant sensation of chill on his hot, moist shoulders. He glanced at the sky in the interval for whetting the scythes. A heavy, lowering storm cloud had blown up, and big raindrops were falling. Some of the peasants went to their coats and put them on; others--just like Levin himself--merely shrugged their shoulders, enjoying the pleasant coolness of it.

Another row, and yet another row, followed--long rows and short rows, with good grass and with poor grass. Levin lost all sense of time, and could not have told whether it was late or early now. A change began to come over his work, which gave him immense satisfaction. In the midst of his toil there were moments during which he forgot what he was doing, and it came all easy to him, and at those same moments his row was almost as smooth and well cut as Tit's. But so soon as he recollected what he was doing, and began trying to do better, he was at once conscious of all the difficulty of his task, and the row was badly mown.

On finishing yet another row he would have gone back to the top of the meadow again to begin the next, but Tit stopped, and going up to the old man said something in a low voice to him. They both looked at the sun. "What are they talking about, and why doesn't he go back?" thought Levin, not guessing that the peasants had been mowing no less than four hours without stopping, and it was time for their lunch.

"Lunch, sir," said the old man.

"Is it really time? That's right; lunch, then."

Levin gave his scythe to Tit, and together with the peasants, who were crossing the long stretch of mown grass, slightly sprinkled with rain, to get their bread from the heap of coats, he went towards his house. Only then he suddenly awoke to the fact that he had been wrong about the weather and the rain was drenching his hay.

"The hay will be spoiled," he said.

"Not a bit of it, sir; mow in the rain, and you'll rake in fine weather!" said the old man.

Levin untied his horse and rode home to his coffee. Sergey Ivanovitch was only just getting up. When he had drunk his coffee, Levin rode back again to the mowing before Sergey Ivanovitch had had time to dress and come down to the dining room.

After lunch Levin was not in the same place in the string of mowers as before, but stood between the old man who had accosted him jocosely, and now invited him to be his neighbor, and a young peasant, who had only been married in the autumn, and who was mowing this summer for the first time.

The old man, holding himself erect, moved in front, with his feet turned out, taking long, regular strides, and with a precise and regular action which seemed to cost him no more effort than swinging one's arms in walking, as though it were in play, he laid down the high, even row of grass. It was as though it were not he but the sharp scythe of itself swishing through the juicy grass.

Behind Levin came the lad Mishka. His pretty, boyish face, with a twist of fresh grass bound round his hair, was all working with effort; but whenever anyone looked at him he smiled. He would clearly have died sooner than own it was hard work for him.

Levin kept between them. In the very heat of the day the mowing did not seem such hard work to him. The perspiration with which he was drenched cooled him, while the sun, that burned his back, his head, and his arms, bare to the elbow, gave a vigor and dogged energy to his labor; and more and more often now came those moments of unconsciousness, when it was possible not to think what one was doing. The scythe cut of itself. These were happy moments. Still more delightful were the moments when they reached the stream where the rows ended, and the old man rubbed his scythe with the wet, thick grass, rinsed its blade in the fresh water of the stream, ladled out a little in a tin dipper, and offered Levin a drink.

"What do you say to my home-brew, eh? Good, eh?" said he, winking.

And truly Levin had never drunk any liquor so good as this warm water with green bits floating in it, and a taste of rust from the tin dipper. And immediately after this came the delicious, slow saunter, with his hand on the scythe, during which he could wipe away the streaming sweat, take deep breaths of air, and look about at the long string of mowers and at what was happening around in the forest and the country.

The longer Levin mowed, the oftener he felt the moments of unconsciousness in which it seemed not his hands that swung the scythe, but the scythe mowing of itself, a body full of life and consciousness of its own, and as though by magic, without thinking of it, the work turned out regular and well-finished of itself. These were the most blissful moments.

It was only hard work when he had to break off the motion, which had become unconscious, and to think; when he had to mow round a hillock or a tuft of sorrel. The old man did this easily. When a hillock came he changed his action, and at one time with the heel, and at another with the tip of his scythe, clipped the hillock round both sides with short strokes. And while he did this he kept looking about and watching what came into his view: at one moment he picked a wild berry and ate it or offered it to Levin, then he flung away a twig with the blade of the scythe, then he looked at a quail's nest, from which the bird flew just under the scythe, or caught a snake that crossed his path, and lifting it on the scythe as though on a fork showed it to Levin and threw it away.

For both Levin and the young peasant behind him, such changes of position were difficult. Both of them, repeating over and over again the same strained movement, were in a perfect frenzy of toil, and were incapable of shifting their position and at the same time watching what was before them.

Levin did not notice how time was passing. If he had been asked how long he had been working he would have said half an hour-- and it was getting on for dinner time. As they were walking back over the cut grass, the old man called Levin's attention to the little girls and boys who were coming from different directions, hardly visible through the long grass, and along the road towards the mowers, carrying sacks of bread dragging at their little hands and pitchers of the sour rye-beer, with cloths wrapped round them.

"Look'ee, the little emmets crawling!" he said, pointing to them, and he shaded his eyes with his hand to look at the sun. They mowed two more rows; the old man stopped.

"Come, master, dinner time!" he said briskly. And on reaching the stream the mowers moved off across the lines of cut grass towards their pile of coats, where the children who had brought their dinners were sitting waiting for them. The peasants gathered into groups--those further away under a cart, those nearer under a willow bush.

Levin sat down by them; he felt disinclined to go away.

All constraint with the master had disappeared long ago. The peasants got ready for dinner. Some washed, the young lads bathed in the stream, others made a place comfortable for a rest, untied their sacks of bread, and uncovered the pitchers of rye-beer. The old man crumbled up some bread in a cup, stirred it with the handle of a spoon, poured water on it from the dipper, broke up some more bread, and having seasoned it with salt, he turned to the east to say his prayer.

"Come, master, taste my sop," said he, kneeling down before the cup.

The sop was so good that Levin gave up the idea of going home. He dined with the old man, and talked to him about his family affairs, taking the keenest interest in them, and told him about his own affairs and all the circumstances that could be of interest to the old man. He felt much nearer to him than to his brother, and could not help smiling at the affection he felt for this man. When the old man got up again, said his prayer, and lay down under a bush, putting some grass under his head for a pillow, Levin did the same, and in spite of the clinging flies that were so persistent in the sunshine, and the midges that tickled his hot face and body, he fell asleep at once and only waked when the sun had passed to the other side of the bush and reached him. The old man had been awake a long while, and was sitting up whetting the scythes of the younger lads.

Levin looked about him and hardly recognized the place, everything was so changed. The immense stretch of meadow had been mown and was sparkling with a peculiar fresh brilliance, with its lines of already sweet-smelling grass in the slanting rays of the evening sun. And the bushes about the river had been cut down, and the river itself, not visible before, now gleaming like steel in its bends, and the moving, ascending, peasants, and the sharp wall of grass of the unmown part of the meadow, and the hawks hovering over the stripped meadow--all was perfectly new. Raising himself, Levin began considering how much had been cut and how much more could still be done that day.

The work done was exceptionally much for forty-two men. They had cut the whole of the big meadow, which had, in the years of serf labor, taken thirty scythes two days to mow. Only the corners remained to do, where the rows were short. But Levin felt a longing to get as much mowing done that day as possible, and was vexed with the sun sinking so quickly in the sky. He felt no weariness; all he wanted was to get his work done more and more quickly and as much done as possible.

"Could you cut Mashkin Upland too?--what do you think?" he said to the old man.

"As God wills, the sun's not high. A little vodka for the lads?"

At the afternoon rest, when they were sitting down again, and those who smoked had lighted their pipes, the old man told the men that "Mashkin Upland's to be cut--there'll be some vodka."

"Why not cut it? Come on, Tit! We'll look sharp! We can eat at night. Come on!" cried voices, and eating up their bread, the mowers went back to work.

"Come, lads, keep it up!" said Tit, and ran on ahead almost at a trot.

"Get along, get along!" said the old man, hurrying after him and easily overtaking him, "I'll mow you down, look out!"

And young and old mowed away, as though they were racing with one another. But however fast they worked, they did not spoil the grass, and the rows were laid just as neatly and exactly. The little piece left uncut in the corner was mown in five minutes. The last of the mowers were just ending their rows while the foremost snatched up their coats onto their shoulders, and crossed the road towards Mashkin Upland.

The sun was already sinking into the trees when they went with their jingling dippers into the wooded ravine of Mashkin Upland. The grass was up to their waists in the middle of the hollow, soft, tender, and feathery, spotted here and there among the trees with wild heart's-ease.

After a brief consultation--whether to take the rows lengthwise or diagonally--Prohor Yermilin, also a renowned mower, a huge, black-haired peasant, went on ahead. He went up to the top, turned back again and started mowing, and they all proceeded to form in line behind him, going downhill through the hollow and uphill right up to the edge of the forest. The sun sank behind the forest. The dew was falling by now; the mowers were in the sun only on the hillside, but below, where a mist was rising, and on the opposite side, they mowed into the fresh, dewy shade. The work went rapidly. The grass cut with a juicy sound, and was at once laid in high, fragrant rows. The mowers from all sides, brought closer together in the short row, kept urging one another on to the sound of jingling dippers and clanging scythes, and the hiss of the whetstones sharpening them, and good-humored shouts.

Levin still kept between the young peasant and the old man. The old man, who had put on his short sheepskin jacket, was just as good-humored, jocose, and free in his movements. Among the trees they were continually cutting with their scythes the so-called "birch mushrooms," swollen fat in the succulent grass. But the old man bent down every time he came across a mushroom, picked it up and put it in his bosom. "Another present for my old woman," he said as he did so.

Easy as it was to mow the wet, soft grass, it was hard work going up and down the steep sides of the ravine. But this did not trouble the old man. Swinging his scythe just as ever, and moving his feet in their big, plaited shoes with firm, little steps, he climbed slowly up the steep place, and though his breeches hanging out below his smock, and his whole frame trembled with effort, he did not miss one blade of grass or one mushroom on his way, and kept making jokes with the peasants and Levin. Levin walked after him and often thought he must fall, as he climbed with a scythe up a steep cliff where it would have been hard work to clamber without anything. But he climbed up and did what he had to do. He felt as though some external force were moving him.

Potato Blight hits New England

The email from my farm share this morning includes a warning that there have been early signs in New England of a disease called "Late Blight", which is what caused the Irish Potato Famine. It includes information about what to do if you notice things wrong with your potatoes and tomatoes. You can read the whole article at The University of Vermont Extension Site.

The symptoms that develop on tomato leaves, stems and fruit are quite dramatic, and are very obvious to the naked eye. The infected areas on leaves appear to be water-soaked, varying in size from a nickel up to a quarter, often beginning at leaf tips or edges. They proliferate when the foliage has been exposed to watering, rainfall, or heavy overnight dews. If these infected areas dry out quickly, they may appear lime-green or beige in color.

The edge of the water-soaked area, either on the top or bottom of the leaf surface, will be covered with white fungal growth (mycelium) that contains the spore inoculum (visible with a hand lens). Spores are easily blown to surrounding areas and infect plants and even weed species, in the plant family Solanaceae (the black nightshade family).

Brown to almost black lesions appear on infected stems, and the same lesions will develop on fruit, either directly on the infected plants, or a few days after they are sitting on your kitchen counters.

Please inspect your tomato and potato plants on a daily basis! If Late Blight symptoms are already appearing on plants in your garden, these plants should be removed immediately and put in a plastic bag for disposal. Don't just put the removed plants in a compost pile as spores will still spread from this debris. Your neighbors, not to mention commercial growers, will appreciate your taking this action immediately.

One third down

I started this project of posting something to my blog every day on February 25, four months ago. So if it ends up being a one-year project, it's one third done.

I have been successful at making a post every day. The only one that was a real "I can't post today" post was last Saturday. And I really was over half way done with a fairly long and difficult post which I really did post the next day. John Scalzi, one of my role models for doing this, is known for posting a picture of his cat when he doesn't feel like writing, but he's also done, "I don't feel like writing today" posts.

You as readers can tell better than I can how well it's worked for entertaining the readers, but there do seem to be some readers. I started keeping track of how many hits things have gotten in April sometime. And it looks like even the most inconsequential posts get a couple of dozen readers, and the ones that get hit by a search, or have been pointed to in a large mailing list, get hundreds.

Speaking as a writer, it has done some of what I wanted it to -- I now know a lot more than I did a few months ago how to pick a subject I can write about in less than an hour, and how to polish the 20-30 minutes of writing into coherence and then stop and publish.

I was thinking it would be possible to see what the blogging has done for my writing by reading the blogs from the Boston Early Music Festival two years ago and this year. Actually, there wasn't as much difference in quality of writing as I'd hoped for. The editing was definitely better this year, and I think I'm more comfortable letting my personality come out now. The quantity was definitely more two years ago, but I remember that quantity as being very difficult. This year I just decided it wasn't possible to blog and do 11 PM concerts and do morning concerts, so I just didn't do anything in the morning.

One disappointment about the blog as a way to connect with people is that there really isn't as much feedback as with the other kinds of internet writing I do. If you post to a mailing list or email a friend, it immediately becomes obvious if you haven't made your point. If you write a post on your blog, it's quite likely that you won't get any comments at all. But it looks like my audience has doubled in the last four months, so maybe if I keep going I'll eventually get an audience that comments.

In terms of using the numbers of readers as a guide to what to post about, it's pretty inconclusive. It looks like of the easy categories, the ones about food are read more than the ones about the garden. The ones about using technology are also read pretty often, probably because it's something that people are used to using google as a way to find answers for.

Another thing I hoped to accomplish was writing about my experiences being involved in Bonnie's death. That has certainly happened more than it would have otherwise, but less than I expected. This is partly because I still don't have the knack of breaking that subject up into small enough topics that I can make those posts easy ones. Maybe I'll get better at it. Or maybe I'll clear more time for hard posts, but that doesn't sound very likely. I'm still in the throes of the Serpent Publications websiteredesign, and when that's done, I'll have to move on to redesigning this site.

The posts about books and movies are usually pretty easy, and seem to get read fairly often. For the most read one, about Little Dorrit, I took the precaution of taking brief notes over the week or so I was reading the book, so I ended up with several interesting things already written. I should try to be more organized about doing that.

One surprising thing is that none of the people who actually know me personally seems to read the blog regularly. This actually makes it easier -- I don't use anyone's actual name when I write about them, but I certainly sometimes say enough to make it clear to someone who knows my friends who I'm talking about.

So, Gentle Reader, do let me know what you think. If there's a topic you'd like more (or fewer) posts about, let me know. If you'd rather have pictures of Sunny or the garden than "I can't post today" posts, let me know. If I'm being completely incomprehensible about something, tell me and I'll try to clarify.