Jonathan's Digressions
Grisly lessons were learned this week in Shaker Village, and I’d like to share some important information. First, this phone number: Animal Control Officer (Paul Willard) 978-456-8291 So, here's what happened. Thursday morning, when I first woke up, Marci said that our beagle Cricket had been up since 4:00 a.m., sniffing frantically all around, as if ther... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
I’m putting a new kitchen gadget through its paces: a little Breville countertop oven. I think I like it, so far. It’s better than our other three ovens, which isn’t saying much. Pros: I think it keeps its temperature consistent and accurate, and if I shine my iPhone flashlight in the window, I can see what’s going on in there much better than I could in my other oven... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Last October I wrote about "Important Conversations" with adult children, concerning money, and concerning other issues. Since then, I've been learning about something that ties in, called The Conversation Project, which focuses on the talks we should have about end of life issues. In an ideal world, we all end our days without pain, able to talk lucidly with our lov... Read More
Retirement Your Way
It’s hard to find a discussion of retirement these days that doesn’t start out marveling at how retirement has changed. People living longer and healthier, not content to just sit in a rocker or play golf every day. True, but also not true. First of all, not everyone is living longer and healthier. By definition, half of all people die before their life... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Okay, okay, my previous post was on the disgusting side, and I apologize for that. But I’m still thinking about those same topics, and so hopefully, this follow-up will offer a bit more benefit than that curious gross-out. Here we go, honey candy:   Making honey candy is a fun diversion, especially if it's winter and you miss your bees (or if you miss bees i... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Here's something I've noticed over the years: people often make important decisions based on taxes or other regulatory factors, rather than on what's truly beneficial for themselves or their families. Of course, we all want to avoid unnecessary taxes, and the government deliberately uses the tax code to provide incentives and disincentives. So it's natural, and prope... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages, I present to you my latest accomplishment: the World's Worst Candy Canes! They would be perfect candy canes if it wasn't for their color, shape, and dreadful taste. Well, the smell isn't that great either.... Next time, maybe I should try following a RECIPE before attempting something like this? You think???
Jonathan's Digressions
Probably, nearly everyone invents this cocktail in the weeks following Thanksgiving. Or intends to invent it. It’s syrup from cranberry sauce mixed with gin. It’s not that great, but maybe it’s worth a try. I made it too sweet. And the gin is too complicated for it; I should have tried vodka instead. Now, I’ve got the cranberries and gin rolling their eyes at each oth... Read More
Retirement Your Way
My case is probably a little different from yours. A company has indicated a possible interest in purchasing my retirement software company. A few years ago I might have sent them packing – I tend to have a lot of faith (not always well placed) in the future of things I do myself . But having turned 60 this past summer, and finding myself thinking about when and how I... Read More
Retirement Your Way
A professional acquaintance of mine, Ruth Nemzoff, who teaches at Brandeis, recently sent me a copy of her new book, Don't Roll Your Eyes - Making In-Laws into Family. Though her topic is broader than just the retirement years, there is a lot of overlap, because most of the book deals with relationships between the generations - with the parents-in-law often being of ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Not long ago, I started advising a woman in her 60s who had not done any serious financial analysis of her situation for a long time, maybe not ever.  But she was thinking she might not be working full-time much longer, and she had some other ideas of things she wanted to do (hoping to get paid for some of it, but uncertain of the prospects).  She was willin... Read More
Retirement Your Way
OK, I admit it, "The Golden Girls" was a very good TV comedy that I almost never watched. Nothing against it, just never had time to get into it, along with most other good television shows. But... The Golden Girls do have a lesson for us Baby Boomers looking ahead to retirement (and for many of us already there). Four friends maybe can't live together as cheaply a... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Photo by Roseanne Saalfield It’s been SUCH a busy summer, mostly spent finishing up writing my book on project management, teaching, and on rare occasions, hacking back some of the more virulent weeds in my garden (to minimal effect). I’ve been chastised a couple times lately for not blogging. Like, someone came up to me at the dump recently and said how much she... Read More
My Real Life
Anyone stopping by my house recently surely realized right away they were in a weed wonderland. As in, “I wonder why she hasn’t weeded this mess?” I hate weeds as much as the next person, and try to avoid it as much as possible by laying down mulch in the spring. During May and June I’m pretty good about keeping up with the stragglers that poke through an opening in ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
The recent news that GM and Ford employees – at least the non-union ones – have been offered a buyout of their pensions (instead of getting income for life, they can take a lump sum right now, and do what they want with it) has put me to work. I won't describe the work, which would be tedious, but the concept applies to a lot of us who are retired or thinking ab... Read More
My Real Life
Last week the blistering heat and humidity sent my husband and me packing for the beach with our grandkids, who had come for a visit. I cautioned everyone to bring a sweatshirt, just in case. And sure enough, it was overcast, very cool, and windy when we got there. That didn’t keep the kids out of the water, though. They rode the waves until their lips were quite blue... Read More
My Real Life
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Retirement Your Way
Many years ago, my sister and I were talking about our lives, and I remember telling her that one thing I wanted to do when I retired, because I didn't have time for it before then, was some personal volunteering.  I had in mind something regular and face-to-face, like working in a soup kitchen. Not long after that, in an unrelated conversation with my wife Lind... Read More
My Real Life
Doctors and nutritionists tell us that being more mindful about our eating can help us keep the pounds off. They advise us to chew slowly and savor every bite. Mindful eating in a broader sense—knowing where our food comes from—may change the way we think about what we eat. Take chickens, for example. Who doesn’t love a plateful of chicken wings at a barbecue on a wa... Read More
Retirement Your Way
To marketers, especially to marketers of financial products and services (not least of all those dealing with retirement), most of us are "middle market" consumers.  We're not poor, and most of us are not wealthy or even really "affluent" -- except for those with maybe a million dollars in financial assets, or annual incomes of perhaps $200,000 a year or mor... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Here’s a good, easy recipe for cold, rainy spring days, when even though plants like rhubarb are coming up in full force, the New England weather is still miserable enough that you require the comfort of hot oatmeal for breakfast. This recipe makes just one big serving, because face it, you’re the only one you know who actually likes rhubarb anyway. ½ cup whole o... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Alpaca poop speckles my paddock, and it’s impossible not to step in it. Ah well, such is the cost of walking the talk, I suppose. My recent discovery was that alpacas like to nibble on fruit trees. That’s mostly inconvenient, as I prefer to do my own pruning, but now that my chipper is on the fritz, their chomping is ridding me of some prunings, though not the larger ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Lots of things have me thinking about widows. Am I more surrounded by widows and widowers than I used to be, or am I just more aware of it as I get older? Some of both, I suspect. I just got back a few days ago from a trip to Oregon to check out long-term care facilities for my mother-in-law, the last living grandparent of my children, and thus a widow. My uncle i... Read More
Retirement Your Way
In a post last summer, I discussed a column from the San Francisco Chronicle that listed their personal finance columnist’s nominees for the “Eight Toughest Retirement Decisions.” One of the eight is “How to Budget.” In principle, it isn’t all that hard, and not all that different from managing your expenses before you retire. You just have to know what you can aff... Read More
My Real Life
If you’re not into family research, you might not know that genealogy—the study of your family’s lineage—is one of the hottest hobbies around right now. The Internet has advanced family research by light-years, with millions of records available to the family researcher online. It is now easier than ever to connect with distant, previously unknown cousins who are rese... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Just the other day a relative mentioned to me a couple he knew who exemplified the classic retirement failure – not a financial failure, but a failure of imagination, or desire, or maybe self-knowledge. You know this story. Married couple, husband retires, wife adjusts pretty well and has an active and interesting life. Husband does a lot of goofing off, plays golf w... Read More
My Real Life
One pastime I’ve become reacquainted with since my retirement is genealogy, the study of family history. I was heavily involved in it for a long time, and then other things crowded in on my attention and time. A couple of months ago I met a woman who was deeply embroiled in family research and was making plans to have her research put into book form. That prompted me ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Of course, it really depend on who you are and what your situation is. But in general terms: If you are still working, and especially if you're young, do save, but think twice about putting all your savings into a tax advantaged retirement plan. You probably are not making big money yet, so the immediate tax advantage is relatively small. Interest rates are low an... Read More
Retirement Your Way
I recently met a woman who is doing what I would call “extreme volunteering,” and even wrote a book about it (Barbara M. Traynor, Second Career Volunteer, available at www.thetroybookmakers.com). Barbara is a single grandmother who, since she retired, has pursued a series of out-of-state volunteer jobs – including one as far away as Alaska – where she gets room and b... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
One might argue that an inappropriate amount of thought, time, and effort went into making the candle on the left. The wax itself came from my backyard, where about 30,000 or so bees worked tirelessly to create the comb that it came from. This was my first year hosting a friend's hive, and I’m still a bit in my beekeeping honeymoon. No stings yet, and I’ve got a small... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Two weeks ago I wrote about financial loans and gifts to family, especially children. But there’s a bigger gift than money, and that’s letting your adult child move back in with you. Actually, a grown child moving back in with you might be a favor for him/her, or it might be a favor to you, depending who’s in need. Either way it raises important questions, such as:... Read More
My Real Life
A favorite saying of mine is from John Lennon’s song “Beautiful Boy”—“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” In my life, today, that usually means Booker. Booker is a mixed-breed dog we got last year from the Sterling Animal Shelter, after a number of years of having no dogs. My husband swore we were done with dogs, while I was never quite... Read More
Retirement Your Way
There are lots reasons to be a lender or giver. First, you probably want to help out a child, a parent, or perhaps another relative, if you can. Second, lending is a form of investment (you and, say, a child can both come out ahead if you have savings that earn a low rate of return, and the child has credit card debt at a high rate, so the child borrows from you at a ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
This is not always an easy question to answer. Probably, a majority of people do not need new life insurance as they head into retirement, but some do, and others may benefit from keeping insurance they already have. The most common reason for owning life insurance is to make up for your lost income if you die prematurely, so your family will not be thrown into pove... Read More
Retirement Your Way
I always (well, almost always) post my retirement blog entries on Thursdays, and since this Thursday is Thanksgiving, it’s a good time to talk about the importance of gratitude in retirement. Of course, gratitude is a virtue any day, and in any time of life. It undoubtedly reflects my own bias that I think of it primarily in terms of retirement. But I do think of r... Read More
Retirement Your Way
It might be you, it might be a parent, or it might be someone else you care about or feel responsible for. The time comes when living alone at home just doesn’t work any more. Maybe it was a long time coming, and some incident makes it clear that this is no longer sustainable. Or maybe it’s a stroke, or a fall, or some other health problem that comes out of the blue... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
This one’s delicious. And necessary. It’s the Harvard General Store’s new private label wine: a full flavored Italian red Bonarda, which I think is the same as a Croatina, much like a Dolcetto, from Piedmont, by the tiny winery Martilde. Black cherries, maybe? Tannins? Chocolate? I’m not great at the flavor decomposition game. It’s a beautiful inky color, and ju... Read More
My Real Life
I think I must be on the mailing list of every catalogue known to man—despite having tried to get off all the “junk mail” lists. A few years ago I realized how addicted I was to reading through most of them—and how prone I was to ordering from them. So I decided to implement a hard-and-fast throwaway rule: when catalogues arrive in the mail, just pitch them into the r... Read More
Retirement Your Way
The “Social Portfolio” is a simple but excellent idea concocted by the late Gene Cohen, who was a gerontologist at George Washington University. He was thinking about how people spend their time in their older years, and in particular how, as we get older and older, we often become more isolated and have less and less to do. He attributes this to two typical realiti... Read More
Retirement Your Way
If you are retired, or retiring soon, you may be approached by someone offering you the opportunity to buy an annuity. This might or might not be a good idea for you, but frankly, it’s hard to know for sure. Annuities have some important advantages, and some important disadvantages. First, what is an annuity? In simplest terms, it’s the guarantee of a regular paym... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
    If there’s a delicious romance to be found in life off the grid, it’s eluded me this time around.  The freak snowstorm has been horrific, where warm snow stuck to leafy trees and caused utter devastation. I don’t believe it’s only Wednesday. The primary tragedy here was that my entire flock of chickens was murdered by a mink, the night it snowed. My... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Traditionally, “legacies” have been financial: a bequest, usually at death, to families, churches, charities, and sometimes others. Most of us are pretty limited in what we can bequeath in this fashion, though. In fact, many of us will have little or nothing financial to leave behind. But even so, we still have a legacy, often an important one. We leave the impres... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
We’re saddened tonight by the passing of our favorite chicken, Josephine, who was killed by a hawk. She was a bantam cochin, with feathery feet. Her eggs were distinguishable by being the smallest, as she was our only bantam, but she was a reliable layer, and if I've ever given you a dozen eggs, you've probably had one of hers. Beyond such professional accomplishment... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Antique conservators sometimes bemoan the over-reliance on epoxy by relatively inexperienced woodworkers. I can see the allure of these products, though, after fixing a door that I thought was something of a lost cause. The corner of our old wooden screen door had crumbled off due to internal rot. A hinge was on the loose piece, so this was a structural problem as wel... Read More
Retirement Your Way
And if you’re getting them for free, beware even more. Until about ten years ago, you couldn’t find a serious financial model to show you what might happen to you in your retrirement years. Now there are quite a few of them, but you might have actually been better off in the old days. The question most of these models is trying to answer is: how much money should yo... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Fundamentally, retirement is about two things: bringing to fruition what we’ve learned and done earlier in our lives, and preparing ourselves to wrap up our own story, preferably on a positive note. Relationships – whether intimate relationships, family connections, or friendships – are central to these purposes. We all can name old folks we have known who ended up ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
  Manufacturers recommend that you replace your smoke detectors every ten years, which is recent news to me. This came up because one of mine started chirping, which is a sign that it's on the fritz. I tried web-surfing for a model that was compatible, and couldn't find one, so I called the company who bought the company that manufactured mine. They said that no... Read More
Retirement Your Way
There is plenty of data, but no reliable data, about what percentage of Baby Boomers are in for retirement on a shoestring. My own rough guess is that about a third are pretty well off, either because they are affluent, or because they are not affluent but live within their means and have some savings and/or a decent pension plan. And that about a third are very bad... Read More
My Real Life
I would have thought that, three months into retirement, I’d have made a big dent in my to-do list by now. But it seems my time has been divided between the garden and the kitchen, with kitchen time growing as summer has waned. My time has been spent “putting food by,” and I’ve done more canning, dehydrating, and freezing than I’ve ever done in my life. My pantry is f... Read More
Retirement Your Way
I have to admit that Fred Thompson never appealed to me a lot, either as an actor or a politician. I always had the impression that what he was saying was not necessarily connected to what he was really feeling. Maybe that was just me, though. Still, when I started seeing his pitch for “reverse mortgages” on television commercials recently, I wondered whether his e... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
My grandiose springtime schemes regarding intense and methodical orchard spraying barely manifested as multiple squirts. So much for idle boasting. Well, even though I wrought a mere fraction of my intended insecticidal and fungicidal mayhem, I did have the best year growing apples I’ve ever had. Which isn’t saying much! But I have some edible fruit from multiple tree... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Experts in retirement are all over the map on whether you should work after you retire from your career. Ernie Zelinski, who wrote one of my favorite retirement books (How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free, although his take on retirement finances is, to put it mildly, optimistic), says, in effect, that you retire to have a great time and be free of all the unpleasantn... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
It’s been nine days since I wrote the following post, and already the grapes are passing. I hope it’s not too late. But getting the @!!*& photo of the grapes out of my camera took me a while, for some reason. Too busy with a cool new project at work, which maybe I’ll tell you about sometime. But to cast my mind back to September 10, here’s a quick summary of s... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Why are light fixtures so awful? It’s astonishing how much horrific lighting is out there. Tons and tons and tons of ersatz crapola, laughably grotesque and cheap imitations of the inane concepts from yesteryear, often marketed as “traditional.” Well, hawking crappy, awful products are indeed a tradition. Here’s today’s problem: a flush-mount ceiling fixture in a hig... Read More
Retirement Your Way
In surveys, many older people say they are more afraid of ending up needing care for a long period of time than anything else in retirement, including death. The fear applies to both physical and mental infirmity. With physical infirmity, the main worries are loss of ability to do the things one likes or needs to do and, as a result, being dependent on others (especi... Read More
My Real Life
I didn’t finish laying mulch around my garden in the spring, and I’m paying for it now. The hot, humid weather in mid-summer kept me away from the garden for too long, and now, in addition to late-season tomatoes, beets, carrots, and potatoes, the garden is now filled with a healthy crop of weeds. I find that weeding can actually be a very relaxing, soothing activity... Read More
Retirement Your Way
You’ve probably heard about (or maybe even experienced) the classic retirement problem that many couples have. A spouse (let’s say the husband) who has been working outside the home retires and is suddenly home all day, while the wife who has had complete charge of the house during workdays and, with the children grown and gone, pretty complete freedom over her own r... Read More
My Real Life
This is an insanely busy time of year for me. Tomatoes are weighing heavy on the vine, farmers’ markets and farm stands are flush with fresh produce, and it’s nearly time to start putting the garden to bed. The biggest thing that occupies my time as the harvest comes in is canning, and now, because I’m retired, I can do more of it! Yay! My son is apt to look at thing... Read More
Retirement Your Way
For a lot of us, by the time we retire, our 401(k) or other plan is our biggest asset - or for some people, second only to the equity in their home. But how much do most of us know about what to do with it?  Here are a few basics: While you are still working It’s smart for most people to contribute to such plans, especially if it’s an employer-sponsored p... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Once again, I’m getting better tomatoes than I deserve. I don’t water and don’t weed, and my garden is a jungle eight feet high. A disgrace, really. But I grow enough tomatoes from seedlings that despite the fact that half are rotten and some of the plants are so choked they don’t give me anything at all, we can have tomatoes for two meals a day for weeks on end until... Read More
Retirement Your Way
In this blog I like to emphasize how, in our retirement years, all our decisions should hang together, because everything naturally interconnects. Financial decisions connect with one another, non-financial decisions connect with one another, and financial decisions connect with non-financial ones. When divorce arises (and especially when it SURPrises), all of this ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
If you have done a lot of investing, or been in the market for a long time (for example, in a 401(k) plan), you have probably had some successes, and periods of time when it seemed like the stock market was a breeze. But if you have been in the market during the past few years, or even in the past few weeks, it’s likely you took a big hit. And while the stock market ... Read More
My Real Life
Six years ago you never would have pegged me as a chicken owner—and neither would I. But five years ago I learned there are a lot of good reasons to become more self-sufficient when it comes to sourcing your own food, and I eventually decided that a flock of chickens could be one small step toward food security. Five years ago I learned about the forecasted peak in w... Read More
Retirement Your Way
When you reach the age of retirement, you also reach what we might call the “age of aging.” Of course, we age from the moment we are conceived. But during childhood and on into our twenties, aging is mostly a process in which our capabilities are expanding. Even in our thirties and forties, while we begin to show and feel modest declines in our physical selves, our ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
When you mow, how far do you go?   Obviously, this depends on many factors. The larger your mower’s deck, the fewer passes mowing your yard will require, and so the shorter the linear distance you will have to travel.  If you mulch instead of gather, you don’t have to go back and forth to your compost pile.  Depending on how much overlap between mowing ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
In last week’s Retirement Your Way blog, “where to live” was listed as #3 in Mark Cussen’s list of eight difficult retirement decisions. Let’s think about that one a bit. For a lot of people, this is not a difficult decision at all – at least it doesn’t appear to be. They like where they live, they might have even chosen it with the intention of living out their li... Read More
My Real Life
This year marked my fourth summer of hosting “Camp Grandma.” A woman I know does something similar each year, but her name for it is much more creative—“Camp Runamok.” (And her name for it is probably more appropriate.) I took on the camp challenge four years ago as if it were a “real” camp. I set up a spreadsheet and created a schedule day by day, hour by hour. As I... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Passing by the now-shuttered JP O’Hanlon’s pub today, I had a very fleeting fantasy about owning a pub like that—a fantasy that I will never realize, because my list of more realistic “someday/maybes” is far too vast. I don’t really want to run a pub. If only a friend would open one and ask me for my advice at every decision point. I’d like to participate in the desig... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Ten days ago, the San Francisco Chronicle printed a column by Mark P. Cussen titled “8 Toughest Retirement Decisions.” His list is a pretty good one and, omitting the explanations he gave for each of them (you can read the full text at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2011/07/18/investopedia54813.DTL), here it is: When to retire. When to be... Read More
Retirement Your Way
A study that came out last year reported that nearly 50% of everyone eligible to start taking Social Security at age 62 does so. This is sad news since, for most people, this is not the wise decision. Yes, it’s hard to resist. You’ve paid into the system for as long as you can remember, and now you can start collecting a check for the rest of your life just by aski... Read More
My Real Life
This may be the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, but with the heat wave we’ve had, I’d dub it Year of the Snake. Snakes love hot weather. They love to lie around in the driveway and warm up, and when they get too warm, they retreat to the cool shade of the lawn. I’ve seen several this summer. And have I mentioned that I HATE snakes? I do. I really hate them. Just thinking... Read More
My Real Life
I’ve been gardening just about all my adult life. Each year I get a little better at it. And in addition to what I’ve learned about growing things, I’ve discovered that some things will grow in my yard in spite of me, not because of me. Over the years I’ve had a number of “volunteers” spring up in my yard, plants that just decided they wanted to grow here (with a litt... Read More
Retirement Your Way
A recent chat with Debra Hickok, a certified and highly experienced personal and professional coach here in Harvard, got me thinking about “passion and purpose,” especially for people already in the second half of life. If our lives are well in tune, the goals and passions that energize our lives reflect the deepest parts of our selves: our beliefs, life histories, p... Read More
My Real Life
Retirement—it’s finally here. For years I’ve told people that work just gets in the way of my real life. Although for many people work is their real life, not so for me. As much as I appreciate the many jobs and careers I’ve had and how they’ve helped me change and grow (and pay the bills!), I always longed to be home, pursuing my heart’s desires. And now, here I am. ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Let me tell you about two conversations I had in the past year or so with different experts in retirement planning. The earlier one, which took place last year, was with the syndicated columnist Humberto Cruz, whose articles appear in over 100 newspapers across the country, including the Boston Globe. We were talking on the phone, and he said he had gotten a letter ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Wild raspberries (aka “blackcaps”) are my favorite weed, and they are just fruiting now. If you have never tried my wild raspberry liqueur, you might insult them as aggressive and invasive. Many products even boast that they will eradicate them. But I like them so much, I’m more inclined to relocate them than murder them. I’ve created two enormous wild raspberry hed... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Another of my horrible woodworking creations has cycled into daily use, and as always, the process has sent me into a period of actively pondering the question, “Am I the world’s worst woodworker?” This recent project was a mineral feeder for my alpacas. Basically, it’s a wooden double-dish where their vitamins and salt are served. Here it is: It sports one of my ... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Ask yourself, and ask some friends your own age, this question: If you could know when you were going to die, would you want to? Most people answer No to this question. The uncertainty of not knowing, uncomfortable as it is, is more bearable – and perhaps a lot less spooky – than the certainty of knowing that it will all end at a stated time, and that there is nothin... Read More
Retirement Your Way
Two older people, each of whom I know well, take radically different views of what life offers.  One is in her seventies, but suffers from a disease that increasingly disables her.  Her life is already limited enough that most of what she used to enjoy is no longer possible, and she reacts with dread to the idea of having to live more than another year or so... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Alpacas and flypaper don’t mix. Just ask King George, who just had to jump up and see what it was all about, and then it got all matted in his hair. Getting it out was a trick. While alpacas look huggable, because they are so fluffy, they are actually relatively aloof, and certainly prefer sporting flypaper sticking out of their dreadlocks to being fussed over. They a... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
This was my yummy birthday treat from the Harvard General Store. It is my birthday, and I am a grown-up. I can have whatever I want for breakfast.....
Jonathan's Digressions
Happy Waste Energy Day, June 1, when instead of taking buses, Harvard’s school children get driven to a couple of dropoff locations. (It's also called "Walk to School Day.") They can then pretend to walk to school, thus joining together in a mass delusion that the town is saving resources when in fact we are squandering them. Each bus will be replaced by dozens of car... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Before I tell you about my new alpacas, I should probably help you out of your rhubarb emergency. If your rhubarb is anything like mine, you have to act now, before it takes over the planet! This is actually the first year that I could really harvest my rhubarb (year 3). You’re probably an old hand at it, and don’t need my advice. But just to tell you, here are a few... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Say you work at a FedEx package processing facility, and notice that there’s a wild alligator running around. What do you do? You could try calling local animal control, but they mostly work with stray dogs, crabby raccoons, and such, and aren’t particularly accustomed to the nuances of alligator wrestling. So, who does Animal Control call? Animal Adventures! The st... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
The very first thing that happened to me when I moved to Massachusetts, back in 1986, was that I got stung by a bee. My hand was closing the car door, and the little bastard got me, right when I got out. Probably, it was a yellow jacket. Bees aren’t as likely to sting, so far away from their hives, but yellow jackets will gladly attack you wherever you happen to piss ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
If your duck’s eyes are all crusted over and you don’t want the poor girl to die, one thing you might try is to soak some cotton balls in saline solution. Then, after wrapping a towel around her wings to minimize flapping, hold the soaked cotton on the duck’s head for say 15 minutes to soften the crud. Dab it gently with a soft, dry napkin to absorb some gunk.  ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
The melting snow is revealing a winter’s worth of litter. This marks the official opening of the Litter Game season, a battle of gladiators representing the forces of good and evil, as played out in people going for walks and picking up litter versus the litterbugs. Walkers are champions the places they walk, and of civilization. Litterbugs are the places’ enemies, an... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
When mice force you to clean something or throw it away, they get a point. If you catch a mouse, you get a point. If they manage to burn your house down or send your car/lawnmower to the shop, they win, for the whole year. You can never win. That’s the game. Though I’m far behind, I might be finally making a little progress, now that I’m better armed. My new Victor e... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
I’ve had rough snowblower karma, this winter. First, my old and somewhat tired Toro seemed to be pooping out, getting constantly clogged in the deep snow, and finally, it wouldn't throw any snow at all. This seemed likely due to worn belts—an expected and routine issue, particularly for a 20-year-old machine, and it’s fair for such a machine to occasionally ask for n... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
It’s a relief that the temperature has finally made it to the mid thirties. My chicken's water bowl actually wasn't frozen solid, yesterday evening. Generally speaking, though, we’re in the most miserable time of year. Everyone seems crabby, and eager to spread the dark word. We’re weary from clearing snow, which is often more dingy and gray than picturesque, and sti... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
I’ve been roasting chickens, lately. If you roast a chicken, you might as well also make chicken stock and chicken pot pie. My detractors might snip that you should use only fresh chicken for either of these. They are right that anything is better with fresh ingredients, but “the better is the enemy of the good,” and recycled roast chicken will work just fine, here. ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
This year, I want some fricken’ apples from my trees. Not to whine, but I Deserve them. It’s been eight years since I planted my first set of fruit trees, and only my namesake Jonathan gives me any fruit. And it only gives me about eight apples' worth. The rest of my trees give me nothing but agita, as they say in the old country (i.e., New York). There are a number ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
There are over 6,000 cultivated varieties of tomatoes, according to a New York Magazine article, and my garden isn’t big enough for all of them. Last year’s tomato crop was problematic. When I was planning it, my cheapskates were on thin ice, and I decided to reuse extra seeds that had accumulated over the past few years rather than buy new ones. We had a lot of old ... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
A new duck has joined my flock: a fawn and white runner. All my other ducks are pure white, but racial issues don’t seem to be getting in their way, and they are getting along fine. Apparently, introducing new ducks (particularly females) to an established flock is easier than introducing new chickens to a flock. With chickens, a common strategy is to sneak the newcom... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
It’s the week of my office’s Yankee Swap, and for many years, I’ve been honing my strategy regarding the gift that I will contribute. To refresh you on the rules of Yankee swaps, everyone puts a wrapped gift on the table and picks a number out of a hat/bowl/whatever. My office’s stated gift cost range is $10 to $15. In the order of the numbers selected, participants t... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
The Bull Run, in Shirley, MA, turns out to be really good! My two boys and I just went for lunch. I’ve been wanting to go in there for years. Built in 1740, it's been a tavern ever since, and has, obviously a long, storied history, enthusiastically and unashamedly embellished on their entertaining Web site. My lunch was French onion soup and a blackened chicken/spi... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
My friends Sue and Stephen Lindsay have released their second CD, From the Blue to the Green, and it’s just gorgeous. This husband and wife duo performs in Irish acoustic/folk music tradition. Stephen is a rare sort of performer that simply lights up the room. When he starts singing, you don’t want him to ever stop. Whenever he sings a lyric referencing Ireland, you j... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
It’s time to make our Thanksgiving entry in our “Aunt Myrna Book.” We do a similar post-mortem after every significant feast, party, or other major entertainment event. The idea is to write up a fairly detailed analysis of how the preparation measured up to the reality. My aunt Myrna has hosted countless enormous holiday gatherings, which always come across as being m... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
This year’s mad dash towards Thanksgiving is in full swing. We've already done our major Idylwilde run, and perhaps moreso than in other years, I’m learning some new tricks. Here is a brief summary of my pre-TG thoughts. First off, I have a new favorite cookbook: Around My French Table, by Dorie Greenspan, who has a great blog, too. This is essentially a collec... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Happy birthday to Cricket, who turns four years old today. Cricket is a lovely little girl beagle, despite her tendencies towards doing some of the most disgusting and destructive things I’ve ever known anyone to do. She’s very short for a beagle. I’d say “small,” but in truth, her tendency to rob kibble from our other beagle Lily has led to something of a weight issu... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Sunday, 11/19 at 4:00 PM, the S.N.O.B. film festival in Concord NH will be premiering a film by Christopher Maloney about the Shakers, including some footage of Harvard Shaker Village, and apparently some footage of me hopefully not giving too much misinformation about this topic. Follow this link, for more info.  The director's description: Several weeks... Read More
Jonathan's Digressions
Before I tell you all about this new blog, I think you should fix yourself a nice hot toddy. I’ll give you my precise recipe, honed over countless scientifically conducted iterations, in my laboratory/test kitchen. Ready? Let’s try it like this: Jonathan’s Hot Toddy Boil some water. While the water cooks, add together in a mug (say, 8 oz. mug, or Irish coff... Read More

 

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