Korea, Random Rambles, USA
Comments 21

The Modestly Sized Five-O

Life is funny, eh? I’ve been reviewing and (groan) re-editing some of my photos from my two years in Korea. And inevitably recalling my time there: the odd adventure, spells of solace among flowers and insects or half-starved dogs, but mostly the grinding monotony of much of each workday, the unspeakable (though I do speak about it a lot) horror of the Korean middle-school classroom, the tired-out or just-plain-wrung-dry landscapes, domino rows of identical apartment blocks, the mess and trash and tormented waterways — and my two birthdays there.

I really needed each to be magical, a day of self-belief and strength. I worked hard at them. #48 was a making-the-best-of-things mini-escapade, a hike up a local mountain on which I swayed on a cliff edge to the Stones before laying out my bedroll and watching the yellow neon of Jangyu from my sleeping bag.

#49 was miserable, a pre-dawn walk to the local rice paddies where I trudged in a bleak rain, finally abandoning all hope of epiphany and slumping to a chain-bakery for a bad coffee and mysterious pastries — a dubious substitute when epiphanies are thin on the ground.

And now here I am several lightyears away in Upstate New York…


We have a fire several nights a week — the fire pit overlooks the squash & melon patch and our mini-cornfield.

..pretty damned satisfied with my lot, despite a fog of uncertainty (legalities etc) and a mountain of expense (airfares, and living here on tourist visas, so no job).

And I’m happy to report that #50 was suitably great.

Kate’s big on birthdays and holidays. Arguably she was more excited about my 50th than I was — hard to be too thrilled, in theory, about reaching a half-century, though it sure beats the alternative.

Summer here has been a blast. Almost as hot, some days, as back home, though not as humid and there’s a weird chill in the mornings and early evenings when I do my garden rounds. This was before the current thunderstorm season kicked off, and my birthday Monday morning began with sunshine, birdsong, and breakfast at a downtown diner, followed by a trip to a local plant nursery I hadn’t visited before:


Gentleman, start your wagon.

This is probably my favourite nursery. We picked out a Radio Flyer and commenced shopping, stepping over the watch-cat…


..to stock up on $1 vegetable seedlings plus some herbs and perennials:



Home for some lunch and some serious planting. The backyard fills my days — I’ve basically built a very large garden over the last two and a half months — and Kate and I thoroughly enjoy our time in it or overlooking it while we eat. We spend most dinners on the deck and now that Kate is off school for the Summer, lunches take place there as well.

The girls got home from school (which finished for the season soon afterwards) and we took them downtown for some frozen yoghurt…


Main Street, Summer, Saratoga Springs.

..and a quick walk in the park:


Congress Park.


I endured several frostbitten excursions here in Winter. This is the park’s balmier side.


No more solitary birthdays, damn it.


One of the many mineral springs that give the town its name.

A brief spell of homesickness as we encountered a local taking his four pythons for a walk in the park…


..and then home for dinner and some evening marshmallow toasting:


Most Sunday evenings are get-togethers for Kate’s wider family at her parents’ place. But the one following my 50th was our chance to show off the (still far from completed) garden, and also bust out the gas grill we had finally rescued from the little blue backyard shed where years of junk had ended up in a ramshackle, rodent-infested pile.

I took it apart and cleaned it up. We hauled it up onto the deck. I’d never grilled — supposedly it’s second nature for we Australians — but barbecuing is as normal here in Summer as driving a tank down the highway and calling it a truck.

It was a nice little gathering, mostly Kate’s family and some friends. I didn’t embarrass myself with the grill…


..and the kids enjoyed the fire:


I think it was the next day that I shaved off the other project that’s kept me absorbed this year, the increasingly grey beard that somehow kept me feeling like a hiker though I haven’t walked a trail all Summer:


Beardless barbecue — typical dinner scene lately.

It was surprisingly painless. I was going to start immediately on its replacement, but right now I’m enjoying looking a little less venerable.

So, 50. Another 50 to go before the telegram from the Queen — no doubt she’ll still be around to dictate it. The great news is that I feel stronger overall than I did at half this age, even with the two injured wrists and strained left elbow, plus the poison-ivy rashes and other aches, pains and ailments this garden project has cost me.

It’s been worth it, never more so than when Kate enjoys my work. As a single mother she was barely able to keep up with the lawn-mowing. She knew the potential — the previous owner got things started, but on his death the yard took on a life of its own. You’ll see what I mean in future posts.

Early morning is my favourite time in the backyard. I come down to put the coffee on, then stroll the yard and enjoy the cool and the green after a restless night with two fans whirring:


The corn patch.


Canna lily rhizomes were a gift from Kate’s sister Kristen. They’ll have to be dug up and stored before the snow.

I spend much of each day alone out there, but I do have occasional company, whether invertebrate…


I was overjoyed when the first dragonflies turned up, and they can only multiply in number.



Moe takes in the dusk.

..or humanoid:


Ella enjoys some flowering Swiss chard.

At last we’re getting some tangible rewards:


My first summer squash. True love, but fleeting — we grilled it the next day.

Kate loves cooking. The journey from organic garden bed to table is just a few steps:


Ravioli with home-made pesto from the garden basil.

We have blue-, black- and raspberries. The latter just gave us a great little crop in return for doing nothing but splashing on some occasional water:


A bounty of black-cap raspberries, a native berry growing semi-wild in the garden.

And that’s what I’ve been doing during my recent silence on the cyber-waves. A simple life, but bursting with daily joys:


The twins waiting for their bus to summer kindergarten camp. It was emotional for all of us.

Looking forward to #51!


R.I.P Tommy Ramone, last of the original Brothers Ramone, responsible for a look, a sound, an attitude, an ethos, a whole genre of great music and at least three of the greatest albums in punk rock.

~ And that’s all the Goat wrote



  1. Darius Russell says

    Superb & wonderful, Goat!!

    What a way to spend a summer!!!

    “Punch’in the clock” 9 to 5 at an “honest job” can ALWAYS be pushed back a little longer (Three Cheers for “Red Tape” & work/tourist visa issues–I hope they continue!!!)

    The garden is expert & I’m sure so calming and rewarding! (Once you do start “work’in for ‘The Man’ again you are really gonna miss these gardening days.

    Happy Summer to you & The Beauty & The Three Princesses of Happy Frolic and Joy (they always seem so zest-filled with Life (don’t kids just warm the heart with innocence & sunny energy!)) & a faithful cat named Moe!

    **Always find your descriptions of your Korean middle school classrooms moments riotously funny!!

    • Hey Darius, sorry again about the late reply…all is well, zest a-plenty, just the usual distractions that come with all that good-life stuff, plus the odd long-distance flight. Homeward bound in the morning, I’ll catch up soon!

  2. Wonderful. My five-o is just around the corner, I hope it’s half as much fun as yours. I’m looking forward to learning more about your garden.

    • I see that I’m going to be firing off a litany of apologies this evening… Thanks as usual, Rachael, sorry about the delay in responding. All good, excited about heading back to NY in the morning (well, the arriving there part, not all the unpleasant stuff before it). Hope and trust your 50th rocks!

    • Yikes, I even forgot to reply to YOU and I was just in your house!

      Thanks for the sleeping bag, Jackie, and the chance to photograph your cobbling workshop. The pictures look great even pre-edit. Stay tuned…

  3. “A simple life, but bursting with daily joys.” How more perfect can you sum it up. Looks like 50 has toasted you quite well. What a picturesque snapshot. Thanks Goat. And Cheers to a great summer ahead!

    • Great to hear form you as ever, Peekie. I’m just concluding a touch of (rather mild, admittedly) Winter in the Subtropics. Back home tomorrow, looking forward to Autumn before not too long…

    • But late response to nice comment is bad. VERY BAD. Apologies. Etc. Looking forward to resuming my position at the grill in a day and a bit!

  4. Are you sure you reached your 50th? Looks like you’re in heaven to me.

    It’s great to see people one knows (“even” if it’s “only” through blogging) fall on their feet.

    50 aint that bad. Celebrated it 6 years ago.

    • Thanks, Dominic. Yet another apology for my tardiness in replying — today was literally the first day in more than a month that I tuned in here. Intending to get back on the blogging treadmill today — a lot has changed and heaven seems even more remote right now, but I’ll keep treading in that vague direction…

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