Saturday, January 31, 2009
Richard wondered if we could wait a week? Absolutely not, I said. I pointed out that if the storm came as predicted, we might not be able to get up to the church to use the bathroom.
He called another company. They said "We'll be there in an hour." And they were.
The man came. He pumped. We flushed. It went down. Hallelujah!
It's a dirty job. I did not watch the process - and I am sure everyone is very thankful that I did not take pictures of it either - but I could certainly smell it. Someone has to do it, and they get paid well for it too. I stuck my head out the back door and saw the huge tank truck sitting there -- bigger even than the propane truck -- and flashed back to the scene in the movie Woodstock where the guy shows up to clean out the portable toilets they had set up. He was so happy and cheerful. The guy that came to our place was also cheerful, and good looking to boot.
Several posts I read regularly have talked about the need to keep back at least $1,000 for emergencies. Very good advice. We have been able to accumulate an emergency fund, fortunately.
He charged $240 to clean out the septic tank and haul it off. I wonder what we would have done if we had not had money put back for such an emergency? Dig a hole?
And then the ice/snow storm hit. And Tuesday morning when we woke up, there was no Internet. And coincidentally with that, the router broke. This is the piece of equipment we need to hook the DSL to our computer and split it to all the computers on the network, and then we also use it for our computer network. At first, we didn't realize the router had broken, we thought it was the phone company that had the problem. Then the network went wonky, and on Thursday, Richard made some telephone calls and realized that the Internet was working, but that now we had a problem. He bypassed the router and ran the DSL straight into his computer.
He ordered the part and had it shipped overnight, and the computer guy came out Friday afternoon and got us hooked up to DSL and back on-line.
And that cost another $100 we weren't expecting.
Moral of the story: An emergency fund is a very good thing.
What was most revealing about the week, I think, was "blog withdrawal." Although I had access to my business e-mail and the FTP sites I access to download work through his computer, I lost 4 days of blogging. Suddenly I was cut off from reading about the adventures of the Country Doctor's Wife and April Showers and the Wild Woman (hey, a squirrley cat with cabin fever is just as bad as JRT), and the two women in Africa whose blogs I read, and the women in Australia, and the 10 blogs or so from United Kingdom I read regularly and....
Monday, January 26, 2009
We may not always be able to use the church bathroom, so we have had discussion about buying a "porta-potty." There used to be an outhouse not too far from the back door that fell over a few years after we moved here, but Richard building one of those? Not in this lifetime.
We hope the septic man will come out today with his big tank trunk and pump the tank.
We were going to leave early this morning, stop by the dentist to pick up my mouth guard, and then head west to Springfield. However, a winter storm (freezing rain etc) is in the forecast for Springfield, which will gradually move in our direction, so there would be no escaping it if we went. Plus, Richard needs to stay home and wait for the septic man. I will go by myself to get the mouth guard -- no more clenching my jaw while I work. Richard was laughing last night as he got out the roll of duct tape and began taping up splits in the rim of a plastic trash can where the handles are. "We're spending $300 on a mouth guard, but are too cheap to spend $10 on a new trash can." Yep, you got it.
In a recent post, Weaver of Grass wrote about books she would choose to take on a desert island; actually, I hope she meant "deserted island." She might not survive on a desert island long enough to do much reading. But I digress. And she mentioned Travels With Charlie as one of them. I had to go dig that book out and brush the dust off. I have written about that book before on this post. In the meantime, I have gotten to know a standard poodle that belongs to a friend. What a great dog he is. He is not a foo-foo dog with a ridiculous hair cut like one sees on the poodles on televised dog shows, and nothing at all like the yappy little toy poodles I have met in the past.
I think I'll just take my mind off the plumbing problems and the weather and travel away with Charlie...
Friday, January 23, 2009
And that hope lasted all of two days.
Perhaps I can be forgiven a bit for wallowing in nostalgia in the last few posts. Sometimes it is easier to retreat into the past as a way of medicating the disappointments and sadness of the present.
I used to visit an old woman once a week. She had given birth to 5 children and had buried 3 of them. One had died as a 2-year-old some 65 years earlier, and the other 2 were adults when they passed. She had kept every knick knack and every present the older ones had given her over the years, and they filled every nook and cranny of her apartment. And as she approached 90, and the clock of her life began winding down, she spent hour after hour just sitting in her chair looking at these things and remembering her children.
I tend to want to do that with our son. But, I realize that other people can only look at so many pictures of a cute little kid before getting rather bored with it.
Some years ago I became friends with a woman in Germany, Elli, who did translation work for our mail order business. She loves wolves and has made many trips to Yellowstone to observe them since they were reintroduced into the park.
She sent me an e-mail yesterday...
I'm leaving for wolf watching in Yellowstone tomorrow, so I do have a lot of packing and organizing to do....
Congratulations for your new president. I watched all day long, the election and the inauguration. So much hope for everybody. But there is still hard work ahead.
I'll howl to the wolves for you :-))
Elli, tell you what. I think I just may do some howling myself
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
I'd do the dishes....
And he would help. In this case, there had been a horrible disaster with the blender or the other food processor, and food was splattered everywhere. It didn't matter that he was making a terrific mess because there was already a major mess to clean up.
He was a very big help. See mom? All clean now....
Anybody remember glass soda bottles? Well 30 years ago in Oregon, a deposit was charged on every bottle and can of soda, you got money back when you returned them. And some enterprising people would scour the highways and byways and find discarded bottles and clean them up and turn them in.
And when we drove down to Los Angeles to see grandma and grandpa...
He would help Grandpa too.
But then something happens. Just about the time that they really could be a tremendous help in the kitchen or doing other household chores, they loose all interest. They tend to disappear when it comes time for housework or they want to be bribed with an allowance.
About the time that Nathaniel was 11 or 12, a woman I went to church with had two boys that were slightly older than he was. She wanted to know if I would be interested in bartering for their good clothes they had grown out of in exchange for help cleaning her house.
Both she and her husband worked full time. I had a few jobs cleaning houses and some businesses in town to earn extra money, so I said sure.
I went to her house to see what she wanted done, and I was shocked to the core when I walked in. There sat these two able-bodied teenaged boys on the couch watching TV in the midst of a totally trashed house. Several days' worth of unwashed dishes covered the kitchen counters. Laundry was piled up in front of the washing machine. Trash was oveflowing. Stuff was strewn everywhere in the living room..
I looked at the mess, I looked at their stressed-out mother.
I looked at the mess, I looked at the boys again.
I thought to myself.... well....never mind what I thought, but I vowed right then that our boy was not going to grow up to be a lazy lump.
We agreed how much time I would spend cleaning her house for some really nice jeans and shirts, and then I returned home fired up. I made him do dishes once a day. I taught him how to run the washing machine and the dryer. I showed him how to operate the vacuum.
Every other week I cleaned a house that was a very big job, and so I started taking him with me and he helped. I could do this because I taught him at home, so we logged in a couple of hours of "education in the domestic arts" on those days.
He became trained to help out around the house - not for money, but just because he lived there and needed to contribute.
And he still does...
Monday, January 19, 2009
So Richard bought me the frog.
And it came home to live with the rest of the fake frogs who have taken up residence in our house (one winter we had a real live frog living in our bathroom, but that's a story for another time).
One takes the stick and runs it up the ridges on the back and then taps the nose, and it makes a croaking sound.
Last summer there was a frog or toad croaking in one of the oak trees by the back door, and I took Wood Frog out and ran the stick up over the ridges in its back to see if the real frog would answer me, but it didn't.
In the last day or two, I have read about half of the book Life's Too Short to Fold Your Underwear, and she has already covered "Life's Too Short to Collect Stuff,." which has given me pause for thought about the wisdom of investing money in -- or asking someone to buy me -- stuff that sits on a shelf. Oh dear. But that too is a topic for another day.
In any event, my sister and her girls went to Palm Springs for a little weekend get-away before school started in the Fall, and she found a wood frog just like mine - well, almost like mine - which she bought for our father as a present.
Now, Dad and Mom have this phone plan where they pay a flat amount every month for long distance calling and then don't get charged any more, so they call me every Saturday. And now often the first thing I hear when I answer the phone is his croaking frog, so of course, my frog must croak back.
And then we laugh and get on with the joking around and sharing the week's news.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Back in the foggy mists of time, we raised ducks. The ducks got all of our kitchen scraps, and so whenever I went outside they showed up to see if I had any handouts.
Thus, when we out to take a picture with the birthday cake (there are 6 candles in the cake, so duhhh... I guess he was 6 years old that year), this duck thought we might have something for her to eat. We both thought she was going to fly up and help herself.
Geese have down. So do ducks, so I got the idea to make a down-filled comforter for our son. Every time I killed a duck to eat, I plucked the down and the smaller softer feathers and kept it in a big bag.
I lack the gene that other women seem to have for creating beautiful quit tops -- meaning I can't draw a straight line with a ruler, I have difficulty cutting a straight line that someone else has drawn, and I have trouble sewing an even seam. I am not really very artistic. I used to clean house for Vimala McClure the woman who made this quilt and this qult, and others that were so amazingly beautiful they are impossible to describe. They weren't really quilts, more like fabric paintings. Being in her quilt studio was like being in the Louvre. But I digress.
At any rate, I decided to make something that I could manage -- a crazy quilt. None of the pieces in one of these has to be a perfect geometric shape for the pattern to turn out, and the colors don't have to be coordinated. I checked out a book from the library on embroidery and knew I could manage the simple embroidery stitch for the seams. I began collecting men's ties from junk stores, used clothing stores, and yard sales. All sorts of fabric: velvet, satin, silk.
I made individual 12-inch blocks out of the pieces of ties. I did a simple embroidery stitch over the top.
Some of them I sent off to relatives to embroider their names on.
Our son loved trains -- still does in fact-- and he had a collection of train patches.
So I added some of his train patches as well.
And it looks like I didn't quite finish the over stitching on this one. Wonder how come I didn't notice that 20 years ago!
For the back, I cut large 12-inch blocks of fabric from old clothes and sewed them to the top blocks to make the pouches. I filled them with down, which was sort of like being in a pillow fight, and then sewed them all together.
I dug it out a few nights ago from where I had stored it. Some of the squares have not held up too well. Some of the fabric in the ties was too delicate for what I put it through, and some of the fabric on the back was too old and it rotted. Some of the down has escaped, but it is still plenty warm.
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
As the story progresses, they and their other companions, Toad and Badger--but especially Toad--end up having quite an adventure indeed.
The story climaxes with Rat organizing an attack on the weasels and ferrets that have taken over Toad Hall.
I love Water Rat, and the Rats of NIMH, and Remy in Ratatouille. I even liked Pinkerton in Charlotte's Web. I had a pet rat when I was a kid.
I would like to like the rats that live here. But I don't. We are at war with these rats--everybody refers to them as "pack rats", for obvious reasons, but they are probably really the Eastern Wood Rat. These rats are not like the scruffy brown Norway rats that live in the big cities. These are actually rather attractive animals (except for the tail), with smooth, soft light brown fur and a creamy underside.
They are everywhere here. Everybody has a rat story. Their huge mounds of sticks and leaves can be seen here and there outside, usually at the base of trees. They collect food and store it in these mounds. The fox Richard photographed last year was digging around such a nest. It's a good defense: by the time the animal digs through the debris, the rat is gone.
But bad things happen -- very bad things happen -- when these rats decide to get up close and personal with the humans they coexist with....
- We had to junk a car because before we could get it towed for repairs, rats got into the engine and chewed the wiring so bad that was not really possible to fix it.
- We lost our phone connection one day because the rats chewed through the lines.
- Rats chewed the wire leading from the garbage disposer under the sink, which caused a sparking short. If I had not heard it while I was doing dishes, we could have lost the house. Most of our electrical wiring is now in metal conduit.
Once we gave up our permanent flock of hens and ducks, we raised broilers in the chicken coop and used the barn to store stuff. Although we started moving most of the stuff out (or throwing it away) when the roof started leaking, there is still some stuff out there. I went out there the other day to look for something and the rats have moved in.
This huge nest is sitting on what once upon a time was a redwood hot tub.
And then out in the chicken coop...
which has also been abandoned...
there is another nest.
The last time we sat traps for the rats, we managed to kill two wrens. I am not sure what we will do about these guys. Something.
And in the mean time, I need to get a life. I had a dream about Pioneer Woman last night.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Monday, January 12, 2009
And the seasons go round and round, and the painted ponies go up and down....
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came...
So the years spin by and now the boy is...*
A man who goes off each morning to a job, thank the Lord for small mercies, and exactly month from today he will be 32 years old.
At Christmas, one of the machines at the mill broke and they couldn't get the part--or a repairman to fix it--for several days, and so our son was off work longer than he expected and was sort of climbing the walls with boredom.
So I handed him the lopping shears and asked him to please cut a path out to the pond. And it took him hardly any time at all to blaze a trail through the forest of cedars. I asked him to take me on the path he had cut.
And a few more bare limbs need to be removed.
Back when he was a little kid and Big Kitty was still alive, on sunny winter days, we would bundle up and grab a handful of small rocks from the driveway and walk out to the pond. The cat always came with us. And we would skid the rocks across the ice and Big Kitty would chase them and bat them with her paws, and arch her back and go nuts. It was hilarious.
I never realized cats who are allowed outside went for walks with their slaves. Squeaker happened to be outside, and so came with us--of course--and is walking along the edge of the water on the left. At this time of year, the pond is a sorry site. It looks lifeless, but the view is made even more dismal by the fact that the fence builders, who made a mistake about where the fence line was, cut down the fringe of sugar maples on the south rim. I am a little angry about that, but there is not much I can do about it now.
Squeaker does not understand the chase-rocks-on-the-ice game, and besides, the ice was very thin because it has not been that cold and there were no more trees on the south side to keep it in the shade.
It warmed up to almost 70 degrees not too long after I took this picture, and I am almost sure I heard one of the little frogs that lives here peeping that night. Before too long, it will be Spring and the pond will come alive with frogs and dragonflies and...life
*Copyright © Siquomb Publishing Company
Saturday, January 10, 2009
The water isn't totally going to waste. The gray water from the house flows down a large pipe and into the channel where the wet weather spring flows. During our "back to the land," phase we rigged up a barrel to collect the water from the sinks, the bathtub and the washing machine and pumped it from there into a series of pipes that we used to water the garden.
Periodically I stick a pitcher underneath the drip to catch water for house plants and for rinsing the dishes.
The place where he bought the faucet stopped carrying the parts to fix Price Pfister Pfaucets, and it didn't occur to him -- or me either -- to go on-line to find out if he could get the parts directly from the manufacturer. The day after Christmas, we went to the big box hardware store in town and looked at faucets. The faucets in one display ranged in price from "a couple hundred" to more than $800. There are a few Rumpies (the "rural version" of Yuppies) in town, and well-off retired people who have moved here in recent flush with cash from selling their homes in urban areas, but I can't help but wonder how many people in this small town would really plunk down $800 for a kitchen faucet. No matter...
We found one that looked like it would be OK, and a couple of days ago, he went to town to buy the faucet. I wasn't too worried that he would come home with the $800 one. And he didn't.
This may be a fine faucet, but it cost a third of what the broken one cost. I wonder if it is cheap. I wonder how long it will last. I am going to suggest we save all the bits and pieces of the faucet that is dripping now and maybe try to find the replacement parts. Just in case.
Now, I need to work on the other plumbing problem... you know, ladies (and some gentlemen too), that other annoying drip? Like when you have coughing fit or...
Thursday, January 08, 2009
But once in a while, one is compelled to sit up and take notice.
At the beginning of the week, we were driving home from the dentist and were within about 5 miles of the house. I was looking down because I was reading to Richard while he drove, and suddenly he says:
Wow!!! Look at that!! That’s an eagle!!!
Huh? What? What?!! AN EAGLE!!! Where!!!
I look up and catch a fleeting glimpse of a large, dark shape passing overhead, and now it is behind the car, and so I turn around and lean over and sure enough, I see the classic white head and...
Woah! It was an eagle all right.
Yesterday morning I was driving home from town after my aerobics class and the trip to the post office to get the mail, and as I turned down the frontage road to home, about a half-mile from the house, I saw flying toward me, at about tree-top level, a large dark bird with a white head, and my heart began to beat just a little bit faster and as it got closer it turned and flew over the trees. And I stopped and watched it until it flew out of sight.
This was probably the same bird we saw earlier in the week. Eagles do winter over in this area -- in fact, I went on an Eagle Watching expedition with the local Audubon Society many years ago -- but seeing one this close to town is not that common.
Very exciting indeed.
Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I love Aunt Elner because she reminds me of....
The narrator describes Aunt Elner's house:
Aunt Elner's house was a disaster, with pictures hung all over the wall helter-skelter, in no particular order, and her front porch was a mess. She had all kinds of things strewn everywhere: rocks, pinecones, shells, birds' nests, wooden chickens, old plants...
I too have pictures hung helter-skelter and the same things as Aunt Elner strewn everywhere (except in the house, not on the front porch). My stuff is on the sashes of the windows and on shelves throughout the house. About the only thing currently missing from the list are the baby pinecones I gathered from the pine trees we planted years earlier. A year or so ago, the cat deliberately knocked them off the shelf with her kitty paw and then batted them around the floor until they vanished (probably under the refrigerator).
I was going to start taking pictures of the cast-iron chicken and the rocks and the birds' nests, but everything is garlanded with cobwebs and dust, and I decided it would be better not to show the whole world what a terrible housekeeper I am. (The voice of reason says: "Why don't you go ahead and sweep down the cobwebs and dust, it wouldn't hurt.)
My birds' nest collection has dwindled some over the years as I found ones in better condition and began running out of room. Even so, in the late fall, once I know nesting season is finished, if I happen to spot a nest that is in reasonable shape and within reach, I will add it to my collection. So the other day when our son was out walking he spotted a nest and asked if I wanted to see it.
Yes, I did.
But this was not an ordinary bird nest abandoned at the end of summer. In fact, it wasn't a bird's nest at all. It was a mouse's nest. He reached up and touched the top of the nest, and they leaped out of the little hole, which was surrounded by fuzzy stuff, and scurried off in the brush.
I was not aware that mice made nests in trees and bushes. But they do. And as part of my Google search for information about mouse nests, I ended up at the The Mouse's Nest, a blog by a woman who has a young son who shares problems similar with our son. Something of a coincidence I think.
He thought I should cut it out of the tree and bring it back to the house. I got to thinking about the Robert Burns poem to the mouse where the farmer laments that he has destroyed the mouse's house. It looked to me like it was going to be hard to cut out and that would totally fall apart if I tried, so I left it be.
Monday, January 05, 2009
Gradually the level of the oil dropped in the bottle that came with the set and it wasn't covering the reeds very well. I went to the thrift store and found an old saltshaker that was much narrower to use instead, and the fluid remained fairly high on the reeds.
And it continued to diffuse a pleasant vanilla-plus-something-else scent, and the level dropped even further. So I tipped the saltshaker on its side and propped it up against the candle so the oil would still cover the reeds.
And it continued to diffuse, and it is almost gone.
My sister gave me a new oil diffuser for my birthday, and as soon as that last little bit of vanilla-plus-something-else is gone, I will be setting it up.
Ruby Guava. It's a lovely refreshing scent, a blend of grapefruit, passion fruit, and guava melon.
There is a bit of an interesting memory sparked by her choice of scent.. Our grandpa had a guava tree in his backyard (at least I am almost sure it was a guava, I'm checking with a cousin who would know for sure), and I can remember eating the fruit off the tree when we were kids.
Friday, January 02, 2009
A woman I have known for oh, 40 years or so, sent me e-mail yesterday. I am supposed to forward this to 10 friends.
I don't do that. Ever.
However, I really like what this e-mail says, and so in case you are someone who did not get this e-mail... you have the choice to read it or not...
Children grow up.
Jobs come and go.
Love waxes and wanes.
Men don't do what they're supposed to do.
Colleagues forget favors.
Sisters are there,
no matter how much time...
and how many miles are between you.
A girl friend is never farther away than needing her can reach.
When you have to walk that lonesome valley by yourself,
the women in your life will be on the valley's rim...
cheering you on...
praying for you...
pulling for you...
intervening on your behalf, and
waiting with open arms at the valley's end.
Sometimes, they will even break the rules
and walk beside you...
Or come in and carry you out.
Girlfriends, daughters, granddaughters,
daughters-in-law, sisters, sisters-in-law,
mothers, grandmothers, aunties, nieces, cousins,
and extended family, all bless our life!
The world wouldn't be the same without women, and..
neither would I.
When we began this adventure called womanhood,
we had no idea of the incredible joys or
sorrows that lay ahead.
Nor did we know how much
we would need each other.
Every day, we need each other still.
The poem ties right in with something I read not too long ago..
We need seasoned women in our lives. Women who've coped with love and loss and survived life's disappointments and ironies. It's the support and empathy of our peers we need more than we need our children. They're another generation with hectic lives. They see us from their childhood perspectives. They can't imagine that we might still have hopes or dreams or longings...."
The Ladies of Covington Send Their Love, Joyce Medlicott
I'm very thankful for the seasoned women in my life. I just hope I can keep my own seasoning sharp and fresh and true. As the Scriptures says... "what good is salt if it has lost its flavor." I hope that perhaps I can be that seasoned woman for someone else.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
I know what I will not be doing today:
I will not be watching the Rose Parade. When I was a kid, we went to Pasadena a day or two after the parade to look at the floats. What I mainly remember from that event was how horrible they smelled.
And I will not be watching hour after hour of football. In the past few days I have watched hour after hour of a CSI (Las Vegas) marathon, and I am sick of TV. Sick, I tell you.
I failed so miserably in keeping the resolution I made this time last year. So, this year I have made one specific resolution: Clean up after myself in the kitchen so Richard doesn't have to do it.
And the general resolution is to deliberately look for joy in my day-to-day life and try to share it. And perhaps that will balance out the other.