Sunday, October 31, 2010

Yodelling Raccoons

I'm stalling. Waiting out the cold weather.

I wake up at the designated time expecting to feel a slurpy dog tongue lapping at my face. She jumped on the bed sometime during the night. She'd still be asleep, if I had not lured her outside at 6 am.

At six in the morning the sky behind the eastern hills is outlined with soft light. I hesitate in letting the cat outside, since it's peak time for night critters to head for home after nocturnal prowling. My cat's no match for an angry coon or hungry coyote. I rationalize that Mandy Mae will chase off intruders with her deep throat, angry growls, therefore, I let the raccoon tailed cat out the back door.

I'm wearing the fleece robe Dawn made for me years ago and nothing else. There's no wind, but 24 degrees isn't comfortable on bare legs. The cat follows the dog everywhere. First, Mandy runs out to the gravel driveway/road and stares down the lane at the woods near the river. I walk down the sidewalk in front of the kitchen window and Mandy follows. The cat sits at the junction of the sidewalk which continues to the wraparound deck while Mandy runs across the white frosted grass leaving a trail of paw prints. I hear a high trilling sound coming from the floodplain near the river. I can't determine if it's the sound I've heard raccoons make when in distress, coyotes or a laughing deer. My chainsaw damaged ears ain't that good anymore. I grab the Pooch. Mandy follows me into the house.

Inside I boot up the triplex of spotlights over the deck and front yard. Mandy jumps on the couch for a dog nap. My usual morning routine is to dump fresh grounds in the Krups coffee machine and feed the kids. I cut up fresh frozen chicken liver and slice off some raw ham steak for the cat. Nine seconds in the microwave heats it to perfection. I slide it next to his dry food and a water bowl. He scarfs up the liver and raw pork.

Mandy Mae gets the remainder of the ham steak, browned in Crisco. The cat being a rescued stray prefers raw meat. Mice are hors d'oeuvres. My neighbor tells me that in the months the Pooch lived under his front porch, he'd find the cat walking the rafters of the barn looking for venison hanging there. In the dark days of February when night time temperatures plunged to -10, the Pooch wandered over to our place. A warm bed and regular meal have kept him here. Dry dog food and scrounged venison weren't much of an attraction. He returns the favor of Purina One, organic chicken livers and cat treats with a never ending supply of head butts and leg grazing. Our house has been mouse proofed. The yard, once overridden by rabbits, is clear of the pests. Mandy helps to ensure we have no trespassers other than the itinerant kind going to the swamp and woods.

We have a clump of silver maples behind the house. Lazy old folks who resided here before us let saplings grow into clumps. On the left side is one tree with three branching main trunks . On the right side is a single silver maple. At the base of this tree the bark is peeled and the bare wood exposed. In the picture, you can see an art deco cross with a gargoyle guardian I planted between the two maples. Over the years I've worried about that maple decaying and falling, God help us, on the house. In wind storms like one last week with gusts over 50 mph, the yard is littered with limbs. I hire two tree trimmers with a bucket truck to take down the tree.

For a reasonable fee they top it and drop the main trunk between two Norway pines toward the west. Dawn and I spend most of Saturday cutting and cleaning up the mess. Phase two, cutting the massive trunk with my big Stihl and storing the maple for next year's firewood will consume a week on and off. There were a few surprises. On the outside the only discernible damage to the tree was the bark at the base. I guessed that sometime in the past, someone had run into the trunk with a car, truck of tractor. As I cut the bigger logs into pieces, I jump back when the 150 pound chunks split in half to reveal a rotted core. One log splits in half and the brown insect ridden core has kernels of corn stored there. If the log chunk hadn't broken in two with the impact of the monster chainsaw dropping it on the ground, one would have only noticed a brown streak across the face of the chunk. I swear there was no entrance where a squirrel or mouse could have gotten into the core of the tree. Dawn and the tree trimmers scoff at my notion that black carpenter ants dragged the corn from the field behind us. Even I can't imagine that an insect could perform such a feat.

I have stalled enough. Mandy will spend another day stealing twigs while the cat will steer clear of the whining din of the chain saws . By late afternoon, I'll collapse into my recliner for 30 minutes of rest and relaxation before I tackle installing a window frame for the second floor bedroom.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Bits of unrelated information.

Dawn leaves for work with a "sampler pack" of potatoes in a cardboard box. My auto mechanic-it's nice to be able to have a personal mechanic you can trust-fixed a tire for me last week. Johann comes over and points to the right rear tire on the Prism. "You gotta flat," he says. Luckily, Johann has an air tank in the back of his Nissan truck. He fills it with enough air to get me to the filling station. At the Kwik Stop, I connect the air hose and gauge. It registers less than 10 lbs of pressure. When my mechanic checks the tire, he can't find anything wrong with the tire. Curious?

Then, yesterday I walk out to the mailbox. Opening the lid, I find a bank statement ripped open. Calls to Dawn and the postmaster follow. Dawn alerts the bank. I ask a neighbor if they got a piece of our mail by mistake. Another dead end. The statement is dated last Wednesday. Mailed Thursday, we should have received it Friday or Saturday. If another neighbor got it by mistake, they held onto it. Anyone coming down our road would be spotted immediately by our viscous ( not a typo) dog. Curious. And why was it ripped open?

At the end of each episode of Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre, the creator of the series writes a short blurb. To read the fine print, I zoom the DVD player and push "pause". I'm surprised by the frequency of posts he writes about the censorship of certain episodes. After this post I'm going to Chuck Lorre dot com.

Lee Valley is a company that sells quality tools. At Christmas they issue a gift catalog with interesting, new inventions for specific uses and old timey things like clothespins. The invention that catches my attention is a clip that screws onto a two liter plastic pop bottle. When the bottle is filled with sand or water, the bottles act as weights for tarps. I scoff at clothespins offered for sale. Some of their items are a bit pricey, for example, the apple peelers we bought when we first moved here sell in the Lee Valley catalog for $29.95. That's much more than we paid even accounting for increases over the years. I read the excerpt for wooden clothespins. I'm hooked. The ones we have come apart and the springs fall out. I'll hand the clothespin basket to Dawn and ask her to assemble all the ones lying in the bottom. Lee Valley's clothespins have a stronger spring. They claim they don't spring apart and have grooves at the ends of the pins fora better grip. (I get no commission for this).

Today's featured pumpkin weighed in at 46 pounds. I am systematically, carving and saving seeds from this years crop. I selected the largest and nicest jack o' lanterns. Initially, I intended to put up signs at the entrance of our road. I repainted the chalkboard and made several new smaller boards. With the rush to put in the windows on the house, the signs never made it to the highway. I have 40 smaller pumpkins that'll go to the compost heap in the low spot at the far end of the front field. If we get another flood like the one in 2008, there'll be pumpkins growing in all the cornfields around our place. The crop of long necked squash dumped in 2007 produced a nice crop the following year a half mile from our place. Several of this years pumpkins exhibited strains of bumpiness which indicates cross breeding with rough necks or crook necks. We grew no crook necked squash this year. ???

The Pooch comes inside for the fifth time since breakfast. Wild winds after a night of rain discourage him from sitting in one place for any length of time watching mice movements. Mandy's enjoying an after breakfast fondle of her blankie. Breakfast is chicken shreds and dry dog food. Today will be a day to putter or install a french door between Dawn's studio and the living room.

In late summer I sent a response to an e-mail from a friend. Before I go into the details of the e-mail, I should explain that one of the blogs I follow dissects, enlightens and explains the vagaries of the English language. I have an interest in the workings of language and the blog writer is a professional. Today's post in Throw Grammar From The Train discusses the debate over I could care less AND I couldn't care less. Curiously, the writer also goes into detail about the definition of insanity. Doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. I wonder if there is a connection between the insanity definition and the debate over I could and I couldn't.

In my e-mail response, I mention a dilemma in replying to her e-mail. Should I write, "Thanks for the information," and just let it pass into cyberspace? Or, should I comment and risk censure. I chose comment. In this case I responded to the friend's description of her daughter's new roommate. By way of analogy I related that my neighbor's daughter is attending college for the first time. She finds her roommate to be a "holy roller" ( not my description but the neighbor's). I suggest that they cut to the chase and find a new roommate instead of a year of Life In Hell ( one former friend once told myself and several friends that we'd be cast into a pit if we didn't cow-tow to his bible thumping ways).

I didn't mention in the e-mail repeated offensive comments over the course of the summer in previous e-mails. I did point out the inadequacy of e-mail as a means of good communication.

In response to my post about research to find a ground cover to cut down on the hours I spend on a riding mower, she threatens me with her daughter's ire over contemplating planting an invasive species not banned by the state. She followed that up with forwarding my post to the daughter who is studying prairie ecology in her first year at college and goes on to explain how the ground cover "burns" her earth connection. Wow.

An e-mail from me after hernia surgery complains about the medical profession and the tendency to omit unpleasant and undesirable side effects of treatment. Her response, "You sound like you were high." I tell her there's no high to Tylenol-3. She once sent me one of those popular and useless memes and later a funny forward, yet the daughter makes fun of low brow computer users who find fun in noxious forwards as their daily musings like the one I received from a former colleague of Dawn who warns of the dangers of overheating water in a Pyrex cup.
At the busiest part of the summer, Dawn and I hustle to send a personalized graduation gift to the daughter. I later write and ask if the box was delivered. The daughter never writes a thank you.


In the absence of face to face communication a phone call is better than an e-mail. With the advent of unlimited minutes or at least huge banks of minutes, a phone call is a better substitute, albeit somewhat impersonal, than six lines of brief comment. The-I'm so busy e-mails, Facebook one liners, tweets about a new sushi bar, are in my estimation another sign in the demise of the written word.

I'm Roger Gavrillo and I approve this post. Neener, neener.

Monday, October 25, 2010


I've another lesson on English etymology. You can fast forward to the end or do what Mandy is doing right now. Lying on her side next to me groaning. She knows we're gonna leave in a minute for milk from the Amish. The cat is outside, feet curled around his body on a rug I washed last week. He's lord of Kickapoo Center mouse land. The rug is gracefully aging on a deck railing in the rain until I find a spot out of the elements for it to dry. I wouldn't have washed it if the cat hadn't barfed multi-colored cat food over one corner. Yes, I have digressed.

Eccentric: not concentric, not central or referring to a centre (my spell checker dislikes that word). If you make further excursions down usage lane, it means irregular or odd. Specifically persons.

What makes one person eccentric, another odd and a third psych-neurotic and crazy is a matter of opinion. It's also opinion as to what the world calls normal.

I'm sitting on the stairs to the second floor. Mandy will sit behind me on a higher step. Often she'll stick her tongue in my ear. Sometimes it's referred to as a "wet Louie" such as when I was in high school back before the telephone and invention of the gramophone. Except we didn't stick our tongues in another's ears. We'd wet our pointy finger and insert it into a victim's ear. Oh, I have digressed.

Sean Connery plays an agoraphobic author in Finding Forrester. In one scene, the young kid he's mentoring, Jamal Wallace, asks why Connery is putting his socks on inside out. Connery explains, "The seams are on the inside. It's more comfortable wearing them inside out. " Eccentric? No. I tried the technique when I put on my Red Wings boots this morning. Much better.

Eccentric would be the neighbor from Cuba who raises Elk. Disregard that he's heavy into Vodka, it's a matter of dispute on the sense and sensibility of raising elk here in Southwest Wisconsin. I won't get into the donkey, llamas, pot bellied pigs and other assorted critters grazing on the hills behind his place. You can't sell elk meat. The fences around his place have to be specially made so that deer can't get into the elk herd and intermingle. CWD plays a big factor in this law.

My dog is eccentric. I mentioned the tongue in the ear thing. If you ask her for a kiss, she'll get her face right close. Then she'll lap her tongue across your mouth. Usually it's a version of a French kiss. No, I didn't teach her this. Then I'd be more than eccentric. They lock people up for doing things like that. Despite the claims that a dog's mouth is cleaner than our own, I avoid dog kisses. Chicken feet, rooster heads, old dog bones buried for weeks, ratty pieces of rawhide, discoloured, brown and slimy have passed those lips that shall not touch mine. The scientific explanation for her dog behavior is simple. She likes the smell of my breakfast breath, despite strong coffee fumes. Breakfast sausage and pancakes are her favorite. A lingering waft, a special froozy fume of food on the humans breath is manna for the pup.

Eccentric? Take my wife, please. Pah dum duh drumroll. This is a tough one. She monitors my blog. It's a way to glean info that our early morning fast and furious routine doesn't allow. Mention Johann is back with his old girlfriend and her ear is to the ground for details. I'll take the safer way and avoid the dramatic, the sensational, the weird. Remember, she's a kickboxing champion. At night Dawn has to have a robe, small coverlet, some remnant of blanket or afghan over her on top of an already mountainous pile of covers. She says, "I like the weight," as a matter of fact. The really eccentric part. Usually her feet stick out from under the covers. Oh the burden I endure.

On to the Amish for the morning news.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

For three weeks I'm suspicious that we're living in Arizona not the Midwest. The dearth of rain makes my five acres of lawn mowing a simple and easy task. The carpet of crispy multi-colored leaves are easily mulched. I use the Cub Cadet which is old and slow to make a long windrow and then vacuum up the fine mulch to dump in the corn patch. Clouds of dust billow when I take the riding mower over bare patches of dirt. Farmers harvesting corn and soybeans around us leave tell- tale clouds of airborne topsoil.

Warm days are followed by nights thirty degrees cooler. The coldest of which is 26 degrees. Again, typical of a desert climate. Used to variable skies filled with menacing weather, there are no clouds-just endless blue filled with dispersing vapor jet trails. The drought ends on a Friday night. In the morning I open the breezeway door for Mandy. She looks at the wet sidewalk and turns back to the warm and dry house. The cat is undisturbed by the wet and fine mist. He walks the perimeter of buildings where overhangs offer cover. As I walk to the steel shed where I'd parked the truck filled with another load of firewood, he scampers behind me. Good dog.

When my youngest daughter asks about the picture of Arb Yardly I put up at Facebook, I tell her it's a representation of my current disguise. The full white bearded gnomes that Dawn creates from bottle gourds we've grown decorate high shelves around this old schoolhouse. I've been working on this beard nearly a year now. As Dawn and I sit at the China Inn waiting for takeout, she comments that with my Best fertilizer hat pulled down low, I look like a farmer.

My day started early Saturday. The phone rings. ___ the caller asks. My ears dulled from chain saws hears "Rob". "Yeah," I answer looking at the local phone number on the screen. "You think you can come up with that money you owe me?" the caller asks. "Uh, I think you have the wrong number," I tell him. I repeat my full first name. When he asks about ___, I realize he's looking for a local scofflaw, deer poacher, trouble maker, bon vivant. "Never heard of him," I reply. Ten minutes later the phone rings again. "You wouldn't happen to know____'s cell phone number? He doesn't answer his phone. "No," I answer curtly. It's about full moon time and I'm thinking the zombies are coming out of the woodwork. Since he may have my cell phone number written down by mistake, I don't answer with what I am really thinking. " Are you really that stupid, you'd depend upon this dickweed for payment and then ask me to volunteer as a phone directory?

The night before the Amish Patriarch ca
lls me on our land line asking for dimensions of a window frame he's putting together for our new upstairs thermopane windows. He neglects to tell me he's calling from a neighbor's home phone. I ask to call him back after I take measurements. That's when another full moon inspired comedy exchange begins.

I hit the number of the neighbor's cell phone on my speed dial. The wife answers. "Can I speak to ____?" I ask. "He's not here," she says. Before I can explain, she adds,"He's Amish. The Amish don't have telephones." Confused because I usually picture her husband sitting next to the Amish Patriarch in their kitchen while Dad makes a number of business calls. I ask for her husband. "He's not here. He's in Illinois," she barks. "I'm watching a movie," she says with menace. Disgusted with her snotty temperament, I ask for the home phone number. I mention the witchy behavior to the Patriarch. Dawn offers that she's a FIB. "They're from Chicago," she says.

Looking back to when I first met the woman, like a bad odor, her opinionated, brassy demeanor permeated the house. She's in a wheelchair. Surprised to find her in a wheelchair, I ask if she had an accident. Rather than explain in a normal, simple way, she lifts her nightgown exposing a maimed stump on one of her legs. Momentarily taken aback by her gross display, I quickly put together the facts. She walks with a limp due to an artificial leg. Both she and her husband are overweight. He's missing teeth and smokes. The house is a mess. The garage smells of cat urine. Since these people are the closest neighbors to my Amish friends they overlook horribly offensive behavior to Amish principles for the convenience of using their phone. Hmm.

The Day of the Dead figure, you ask? Diego Rivera, two time husband to Frida Kahlo pictured the women of Paris as empty skeletons when the famous pair visited the City of Love. Dressed impeccably in stylish rags, the statue graces a dresser in an upstairs bedroom. I guess one would call them airheads in our time. The contrast is curious. Showing a symbolic reverence for ancestors on All Saints Day coupled with a political statement of the European women of a bygone era.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


For a moment this morning, I experience a deja vu. The Pooch stands on the sidewalk opposite the kitchen window, looking up at me making chilaques for my breakfast. I'm standing at the kitchen sink and motion to him with a sweeping right arm toward the deck door. He considers the movement and turns around for the steps and the deck door. He scoots in quickly. Outside the temperature is a brisk 30 degrees. I'm a bit surprised that the cat follows arm movements which the dog, in a show of smarts, has learned quickly. I mention a blog by an animal behaviorist at UW-Madison to Johann. Patricia McConnell writes an excerpt about dogs, hand signals and the inability of chimps and another animal which I can't recall, to follow basic hand signals. But the cat? It's why we call him the Pooch.

Anyway, back to deja vu. The dog's on the couch, paw draped over a small cushion watching me. The cat winds in and out my legs waiting for some raw ground pork. Earlier, as we head down the stairs for the first time out in the morning he has a coughing spell. That means Hairball. The package of hairball control treats we purchase for the Pooch are doled out according to the directions on the package, however, I hesitate to give him repeated amounts of 10 pieces because he'll barf up the protein rich morsels. The formula on the back of the package indicates that a 400mg treat contains 31 mg of petrolatum. Usually the hairball control formula treats are all the boy needs to keep from getting hairball plugged as opposed to our last kitty who needed the full dose of hairball med from the tube Dawn would get from a vet.

I reason that a little Amish butter on his ground pork will help speed a hairball on it's exit out the back door. With coffee perking in our Krups machine and both animals waiting patiently for food, I think back to the time when the kids were little and single parent Dad would be fixin' breakfast for the urchins. Twenty years later, it feels much the same.

Fine fall weather has me bustling to get work completed before the howling winds of winter lash at the place. Cleaning leaves from the gutters, I make a mental note to check flashing over the rear entryway. Dawn decides to clean the second floor windows without me. When I remind her that the job requires two people to get the outsides of the inside windows sparkling clean, she points out a large hole in the sill of the double hung window. This explains an occasional puddle of water on the hardwood floor in the living room near the rear addition. I call in the expert. Johann points out gaps in the flashing between the roof of the rear addition and the original sidewall of the house. This will require a trip to Irish Ridge and the Amish window dealer.

Checking my invoice from the previous window we purchased, I note that the brick molding for the outside trim of the new window is included in the price. Since I took the car up to Whispering Pines Sales, Titus and I struggle to get the 33X47 inch window in the back seat because the latch of the trunk will damage the new window even by lashing it securely with bungees. In the commotion which includes yet another ploy by the young Amish man for me to trade Mandy for one of his pug puppies, we forget the brick mold.

Johann and I wander through the pole barn looking for the right size windows to replace the old double hung. There's a couple with a Volkswagen camper struggling to get a door with an ugly leaded glass insert window in the van. In a little while a local Amish elder walks in with two women wearing the cowl headgear who cast their eyes downward when I glance at them. An older fellow in an old fedora ala Indiana Jones comes in looking lost. We find two thermopane windows at a good price, pick up some special silicone that Johann says is half the price of the same stuff in the hardware store in town, load our forgotten brick mold, add more mahogany brick mold for the new windows, some pine laminate trim molding for the inside of the entryway windows and a half gallon of lavender scented laundry detergent. Yes, laundry detergent Dawn. The label proclaims the stuff is especially formulated without certain noxious chemicals found in regular detergents, making it an eco-friendly product. The septic system in our front yard and eventually the ground water will appreciate the extra expense, but I'm wary of it's cleaning power. Today will be the test.

Johan and I drive off, not before Harvey comes out with my laundry detergent in hand that I spaced out. Mandy waits patiently in the cab of the truck. I can't let her out because I have no idea if the pug mother with the drooping huge teats is friendly. On the way back through the largest Amish settlement in the state, we slow several times for horse drawn wagons and black buggies as well as herds of well dressed kids on their way to school. Johann drapes his arm around Mandy who's the model of decorum, "Gee you're one nice dog, " he says.

The row cover over lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale and radishes has protected my late fall crop of greens from continual hard frosts. The radishes are sweet and the butter-crunch lettuce makes a tasty salami sandwich for my carpenter and I. Perhaps today as he works on the upstairs windows, I'll make a lunch salad extraordinaire.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mountain Man

No time to compose. Grammar and punctuation may suffer.Tough. We survived two important fall markers. The first was the arrival of 10/10/10. My computer didn't freeze and the world didn't end. The second startled me. Under the kitchen window in the leaves and debris of the yet unfinished patio, two juncos search for seeds. I am not ready for winter.

I take a moment to check on the kids. The cat is perched on my car, already marked with muddy footprints. Mandy hides a piece of salty ham she scrounged from the outside of the live trap. I imagine that's like pork jerky to her. She gnaws at the leathery piece of home cured ham reject. At sixteen months she's come into her own as a working dog. Over the weekend she alerts me to yet another intruder. This time it's the neighbor's horses who have been grazing on our lush lawn. Somehow they found a break in a barb wire fence. On a pee break Mandy goes into full alert barking and growling. I see the fresh horse manure and hear hoof beats as the horses trot off to safety in the margin between cornfield and empty lane where soybeans were harvested.

Later the next day, a red truck pulls up and parks at the entrance to our road. I don't see the truck which belongs to a farmer who cuts hay off the police chief's place. Johann and I are eating lunch after a morning of intense bottling frenzy. Then I hear Mandy's gruff barking. I walk out the back door and see a bearded overall clad man walking down the road. As he approaches Mandy goes from watch dog to harmless pet, wagging her tail in anticipation of a new person to smell. The farmer's truck broke down just before he can turn onto the side road for another load of hay.

Johann and I listen to the farmer's life story, his attempts to reach his son-a mechanic in town and finally his wife. I inwardly grin when he signs off a telephone conversation to "the wife" with a "love ya". The farmer and Johann speak the same mechanic language, 3/8ths versus 7/16ths and twelve sided box wrenches, the evils of metrics yadda, yadda, yadda. They head off and I can get back to wusrt making.

The morning bottling activity included grape and raspberry wine. I work up a quick label for Johann's raspberry wine, calling it Mountain Man Vineyard 2010 Raspberry. The picture of Johann is the central feature of the label. As I suspected, we edge further into dark caves of wine making ordering plastic carboys made of PET, a specialized food grade plastic. The wine supplies company screws up the order sending the wrong size carboy which sets off a comedy of errors in which we hear the voice of God telling us, "Make your own beer!" when they inadvertently ship a complete supply of craft beer brew ingredients intended for someone in Virginia. The error is rectified. The correct carboys delivered and FedEx contacted with return authorizations for two unwanted boxes.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Unh Hunh

A good friend, the 88 year old santero in Arizona would utter unh hunh frequently in any conversation. It would speed things up and save a bit of side commentary. Pretend you're the santero and just do the unh hunh for the rest of this. I gotta get my ass in gear.

The last of five Boston Butt roasts is hiding in the back of the ice box. On Friday I went on a spending spree. I'd hoped that taking the kid along would keep me from power shopping, but in this case my list was short and sweet. The Village Market features a one day meat sale. Friday only. It's part of the culture at this time of year in the country. Called stocking up, it's a reaction to the economy but mostly a time honored tradition in poor, rural areas. Apples, grapes, cider, hickory nuts, walnuts, elderberries, mulberries, wild turkey, venison(if you're a bow hunter), squash, pumpkins, and the beginnings of the fall butchering season.

I walk out of the grocery store $100 poorer. The pork roasts I trim for the meat and grind for sausage. All weigh over 6 lbs so I reserve one for roasts in the future. A case of ground turkey, some premium beef re-cut into steaks that'll be slivered for stir fries and fajitas, a beef roast that I'll turn into jerky or slow cooked, cod loins, pork steak and to top it off fresh crullers.

I'm on a tight budget for time. Off to the cut stock sawmill for a load of cut off timbers. All around the white metal building which rumbles in its bowels from a Cummings diesel engine running all the pulleys and sawblades are pallets of 4X4's cut in eight foot lengths. The trimmed rough parts are sent by conveyor to a converted manure spreader on the shaded side of the building. It takes me the better part of an hour to hand toss oak, walnut and poplar blocks into the pick-up while Mandy sits patiently on the front seat watching two Amish five year-olds haul corn shocks with a buggy frame.

I cast a crooked eye at my tires under the weight of the load and hope I make it home before the state patrol spots me hauling over a half ton of wood with $75 plates for recreational trucking. On the back road to home the dog keep a keen eye on oncoming traffic while I marvel at the fall colors which are muted but still outstanding. I pull the truck into the wood shed and unload for 15 minutes. Then it's off to Muscoda for cheese with the Amish Patriarch.

I owed him big time for working on the chimney at our place and frequent little beggars items like birch molding, free pies and watermelon. Before we take the 40 minute drive to this town on the Wisconsin River, we stop off at Bent and Dent to deliver fresh pressed apple cider. The Mrs. and the youngest daughter are operating a gasoline engine powered crusher that feeds directly into a wooden hand operated press. They already been up since dawn butchering some of their chickens. "Some" can be anywhere from 50 to 85 fryers.

The cheese selection, that is the "cheap" cheese, is limited since a local business makes an agreement to buy all their cut ends and irregulars and markets them for a higher price outside the area. The Patriarch calls on my mobile phone to alert the cheese store of our arrival as we pull out of the heating contractor where I buy my yearly specialized, high efficiency furnace filter. The price has inched up another buck.

The parking lot for the cheese store in the industrail park of town has a truck and a Toyota hybrid with out-of-state plates. The counter person brings out two cases of five pound slabs of salsa cheese. 16 blocks cost just under $100. The Coleman cooler is jammed tight with cheese. There's no room for my homemade soda bottle ice. When we load the cheese in the truck, the Patriarch notes Mississippi plates on the car that pulls up next to us. "I don't think they have cows in Mississippi," he chortles. I chime in with experience that Wisconsin cheese is hard to get when you live in far away. Cows in Phoenix under triple digit summer temperatures don't milk the same.

The ride down County Road O will take us to the stockyard and auction barn. My Amish passenger notes the large scale farming along the way. Instead of the state highway we travel the back roads past postcard picture farms in rolling southwestern Wisconsin.

The auction barn parking lot is empty. "I guess I got my days wrong," my passenger says. Taking advantage of the Wal-Mart across the street, we stop for bleach and dog food. After a $4.65 lunch at the China Inn we start for home. Saturday is another institution in the country-Fall Clean-up. I need to unload the truck of firewood, to fill it with junk saved over the course of six months. Mandy's been penned up in her new improved dog kennel. The Pooch and her are good buddies, but she still greets me like I've been gone for months. The Pooch is small enough to fit between the four inch squares of hog panel to come and go as he pleases. No doubt it pisses the dog off. To add insult to injury he frequently will sit on the roof of the dog house out of reach of a slobbering dog.
Tossing drawers from an old dresser that was converted into a cold frame last April, I rehearse my lines for arrival at the dump. All the town officials as well as the regular dump employee, whose new Golden Retriever puppy is tied up in the shed and yipping at people pulling up with truck loads of construction debris, rusted metal and old lawn chairs. The new town chairman greets me cordially and I ask him, "Where do you want Grandma?" He gives me a puzzled look as I continue. " I've got Grandma in back. You know, lots of drawers and no chest." He chuckles as his Dad, a former town supervisor, says, "I gotta remember that one."

Today after a run to the big city for more supplies, I'll be finishing the day making Italian sausage. The kitchen floor is still sticky from the wine bottle of corked cider that blew across the ceiling and the front of all the cabinets. Johann is busy with last minute home repairs and painting jobs that people put off in the high heat and rainy summer. He barely has time to find a home for the new baby chicks that arrived by mail on Saturday. Even Mandy is into the fervor of the fall season getting ready for the winter season. She's been busy stock piling bones in the rocks of the silver maples out near the road. Nights I have to accompany her outside for her late night potty break as the wild animal population is busy, too. After a quick pee she'll race to the fence barking in her "this is my place" growl at whatever varmint is passing through. One night she gets kicked out to her dog pen for restlessness. Dawn brings her in after fifteen minutes of barking at an intruder just beyond her fence line. In the morning, I find a small feral cat caught in the live trap. The Pooch watches in amusement as I open the cage door and the cat streaks off for cover in the weeds by the east fence line.

Mandy watches birds flying overhead as the Pooch head off down the lane.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Pooch the cat comes into the office right on schedule. I've been fartin' around online for the better part of an hour. The apple sauce is turning to apple butter on the stove. I haven't stirred it since I finished breakfast and headed into the orifice to surf. I cringe thinking of the caramelized apple do on the bottom of my stainless steel cooker. Oh well, there's always the wire brush attachment on my DeWalt hand drill.

The cat stretches on my exposed leg sinking his claws into tender flesh, jumps on the counter and tries his cat dance across the keyboard. I pat my lap and he settles in for some rolling thunder purring as I scratch his jowls and neck. I'm backed up with work(again). The sky's clear blue and the sun shining. I wasn't going to putter in the blog garden, since I can't cram enough hours into the days as it is. Then, I check a blog singled out as noteworthy. A gal from St.Louis writes "Everything I like Causes Cancer". That piques my attention. She's witty, sarcastic and obviously very computer literate. The blog design is eye catching. I notice a blog on her blog list with the word Home brew in its title. More pique.

I'm having trouble with my hard cider. While the pear/apple brew is bubbling away and the concord grape wine is happily gurgling, the 9 gallons of fresh, unpasteurized apple cider has a long face. In the evening I consult with Number One son who's an advanced chemist and home brewer. He gives me a few tips noting that he's learned enough about home brew to create his own recipes. Wow. The island in our newly remodeled kitchen looks like science class in high school on the third floor of the old Englemann building.

I copy the blog address of the home brewing page and paste it into my "Blogs I follow" list. Scrolling through various posts about brew, the author tells about fixing a batch of beer. He says he has a mark on the carboy that indicates five gallons. Pouring the freshly cooked beer tea into his carboy, he notices the level in the bottle is beyond the five gallon mark. Puzzled, he tries to figure out how he started with five gallons and magically created more. I know the feeling. It's a WTF? situation.

Then, he realizes, duh, he forgot to dump out the sanitizing solution. I don't feel so bad for screwing up and adding yeast to my mix right after throwing in a crushed Campden tablet. The Campden tablet works to kill wild strains of yeast and other contaminates. It will also kill (duh) your newly added Pasteur Champagne yeast. Then there's the person who wrote in to the wine supplies company. She (it sounds like a 'she') asks the webmaster who maintains a FAQ's, questions and answers portion of the site , "How do I remove labels from bottles? I don't want to give friends brew with old labels." Yes, that would be home brew class 1A right after What i s your name and do you know where you live?

Dawn pounds the Pampered Chef vegetable chopper handle most of the afternoon fine chopping sweet green peppers and Jalapenos. Thanks to the NWS 's widespread frost warning Saturday and Sunday night, we have a bushel of peppers to process. On Sunday morning I pick some basil branches that miraculously made it through predicted 30 degree lows. The pepper plants-untouched. For no rhyme or reason only one vine of gourd plants appear to be killed by frost. It wasn't in a low spot. Nothing near the gourd vines was affected. Now I've got an eighty foot row cover over my tender lettuce and radishes wondering what to to with the row cover. Late Saturday Dawn and I stretch the white fabric over thirty or so metal hoops creating a miniature cold frame or greenhouse tunnel. The wind whipped the thing around as we looped it over the frames and then quietly retreated to bother other people stretching 80 foot long ten foot wide fabric. The quickest way to anchor the fabric is a shovelful of dry dirt. 160 shovel fulls later, the row cover is secure, but I need to water my late season garden. I'd better get moving.