Monday, March 28, 2011


"DON'T. Don't touch me,"Dawn says as I hold my hands out to her as she descends the staircase.  I just wanted to show her how cold my hands were, inside gloves, working outside Sunday morning.

Lake (lousie) Louise-I saved the typo because it's apropos-is gone.  Clever Mother Nature has another distraction.  The thermometer pictured above is the morning temperature at 7:15 am.  It was 12 degrees earlier.

Clever me tries to trick Murphy and the forces of nature by filling the wood bin.  For the past two weeks I hand carry wood to the furnace in the basement.  Keeping warm on these spring nights is an arduous, hour long task starting with gathering kindling, hauling wood in the wheelbarrow, going to the barn for paper feed sacks and sorting through the back of the woodpile for something other than punk wood.

Clever me negates an attempt to distract onerous early spring weather events by putting the snow shovels in the lawn shed.

Contrast adds clarity, always.  Think you've got it bad?  There's always an article in a magazine or an online picture of someone, something that will be worse.  Today's contrast is a Yahoo picture of Superman Christopher Reeves with Lois Lane.  The caption says there's an new actress chosen for Clark Kent's attention.  Christopher Reeves is dead.  After a fall from a horse and a valiant effort to overcome paralysis, he buys the one way ticket to the other side.Get a life, Gavrillo.

Any complaint about frozen ground falls upon Gitchee Manitou's deaf  ears.  Forget planting onion sets in the third week of March, potatoes on April 1st, or corn on May 6th. This year it's  fantasy bordering upon psychosis.

Yup. That's a silver maple tree snoozing in the garden.There are eight 12X80 foot plots in the main part of the front field.  Five small herb gardens line the left side (the one with chives is closest to the foreground) and off in the far left distance is the squash garden.  Crop rotation is always a good idea to avoid soil borne pests, fungi and diseases caused by planting the same thing over and over and over.  It's hard to test frozen soil.

Somebody make a note to quit feeding that cat so many treats.
  I don't dwell on the multiplex theater of natural events.  When I'm mowing the front lawn and a tornado sends a truck cap past the library down the main street of Viola two miles away, I don't flinch until we get phone calls asking if we're all right.

Contrast, again adds clarity.  In Sedona we'd go for three months without seeing a puffy white cloud.  One day was like the next.  Our life was one Disney musical of happy tunes ( with Nico and The Velvet Underground singing "Waitin' To Die" in the background). 

I just want to get my hands in the dirt, puleeze.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Snakes In The Woodpile

Isn't he(she) something? I'm not fond of snakes.  I'm also not fond of spiders, beef liver, skunks, raccoons, loud-mouth opinionated  people, coyotes, houseflies, women with fake breasts, stupid dipsticks of all kinds and trolls. 
I'll pay the troll to cross his bridge, step lightly when I find a bull snake sunning itself on the wood steps to the lower yard, ignore loud-mouths, squash spiders if they come out of the basement where they belong, shoot a skunk if it makes a den under the rear addition, live trap raccoons out of the area, walk quickly into the house at midnight lest a coyote snatch my baby girl, chuckle at topless women on the beach near Negril who proudly wear two grapefruit as a sign of enhanced beauty and complain incessantly about dipsticks.  I have cleverly brought you to the point of my blather. Dipsticks.

I get some of my news from a weekly magazine that summarizes events and commentary from all major online and print media.  In a viewpoint segment, a woman complains about the trials and tribulations of being laid off.  Enter sub title to this post.
The same sniveling dipstick complains  "Oh, wobetide to me" the pain and agony of having to barter for essentials.  Organizing her closets, getting the dog groomed, building websites (this last one is especially onerous having spent over a month trying to get my webmaster to make basic changes to Seven Roads Gallery) is her long list.
So when you were laid off you were also struck with rheumatoid arthritis, Lyme disease and allergies to dog fur?
Of my many heroes and heroines(Jack Kerouac, Jean Shepard, Amelia Earhart, William Powers to name a few) there's an unnamed man I read about who celebrated a year when he had reduced his annual income to $750. He was able to reach this goal of non-contribution to a monetary system by barter.  I love goods.  I ran a mercantile emporium for a decade. For fun, I hung a sign on our barn that says
It confuses the heck out of visitors.
If my aging bum  wasn't so tender, I'd ride my mountain bike everywhere.  I barter for pieces of wood trim, raw milk, hot sauce, horse radish, cute blue heeler puppies(Mandy Mae cost me three fishing reels, a pole, a dipnet and an antique tackle box.) and church pews.  Sometimes I get taken advantage of in the trade off. I don't care as long as I can label it charity.  When it gets to be a pattern, an obvious scheme, I resort to horse trading.  No I don't have horses.  Horse trading is a throwback to my trading post days when everything traded was assigned a value agreed upon by both parties.  Besides having a value, both parties had to agree to a basis of barter in a form called wholesale or retail. 
People are spoiled. I'd be the first to recognize a spoiled brat, since I grew up as an only child, adored by my single parent mother who slathered me with monetary symbols of her affections, sent me to a private school from kindergarten through high school and made me who I am today.  She was and is an angel.  

The Christmas excesses continued on with my children.  When the youngest stood near a pile of presents and said,"Is that all?"  I knew I was being taught an important lesson.  The private school gave me a life long aversion to people of wealth and privilege. I knew that she showed her affection in material ways and never faulted her for the fact that hugs were as scarce as hens teeth.  It was what she learned from a stubborn and opinionated father.
Her affection for me took unusual turns when she temporarily ( 12 years) boarded me with a second generation Polish, blue collar foster family who gave me some real lessons in life.  It wasn't abandonment, either.  Visits were weekly and room and board payments to the family were monthly.  I had the best of two worlds.  Two mothers, a true role model for a father(I never knew my real father) who gave me a life long love of woods, fields, the outdoors and a love of cooking. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Gee Whiz

Cripes, krikey, gol durnit, and my old stand by fudge.  If I misspell the address for my blog at wordpress one more time, I'm going to jump out a window. Let's try it again,  . So if anyone out there tried the link in a previous post and got something weird, I apologize.

A few years ago, I was selling a house in the city and wanted to check out their web site.  I can't remember what address I entered(I wish I could) but instead of descriptions of places as "fixer uppers" or places where I could gets tons of "sweat equity", I got a saucy web site of two women with a catchy title.

Mandy's waiting for a fresh grilled beef bone.  The Pooch is perched on the roof of the doghouse out of reach of of sheepherder Mandy.  Sandhill cranes are squawking down at the river while geese on honking arrival notices as they fly into the wetlands down at the river. Sun's coming out and I gotta go.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Still Not Here

The roof's on, but the structure remains primitive. I'm talking about

I've been a bit distracted lately by a thing called Life.  It's raining today.  The Pooch complained loudly when I let him in this morning.  Full moon and open curtains in the living room are an invitation to roam all night and pester the lumps of warmth under the blankets.  I let him outside when Mandy jumps on the bed and the two begin gnawing on each other. Mandy goes out and returns to the house quickly. The cat has to punch his watchman's time card at specific sites around the place.  I'm too tired to wait for him to come back inside the house.  On most occasions , he'll race to the house for breakfast.  Then he'll beg to be let outside.

 Seven am and I fall asleep in my recliner while Mandy snoozes in her easy chair.  An hour later I remember, "Oh shoot. I let the cat out."  He's got a dry spot under the rear addition roof where he likes to hang out.  I'm calling for him on the opposite side of the house.  I can hear him complaining about the dipstick who makes him run through pouring rain to get to the back door.  Once inside, I dry him off  and he lets me know he's miffed by biting my knuckle.

Both animals are asleep at present.  Mandy-still in the easy chair.  The Pooch retires to a bed in the quiet basement after a round or two of dog chasing and hiding in a paper grocery sack.

The river is at flood stage.  In the past two days, run-off and a mild rain brought the water level up to the top of the bank.  Low spots become lakes for geese to dip and feed.  The heavy rains today will bring it up over the banks.  We keep a wary eye on the thing.  The header picture was taken a couple years ago.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Where? There!

I'm not here. I'm over there.

I'm doing a parody of my wife when we're on a road trip.

She'll say,"Look at that." (insert unusual item such as dog walking on hind legs down the street with master attached to a leash).

I'll ask, "Where?"

She'll reply,  "There."

Me again, "Where's there?"

Then she'll point as if I blind, as well as stupid, "There."

By this time the dog, wild beast, cloud that looks like a hammer or deep hole in the ground will be gone, long gone.

We were in the parking lot of a supermarket in Key West after a particularly grueling flight with all four teenage children. We'd rented a car in Miami.  They automatically upgraded us to a Lincoln Towncar.  Nobody wants a Lincoln Towncar in Florida because you look like a drug runner. We're  hungry.  A car pulls up next to us. A woman gets out accompanied by an elderly man.  She begins walking toward the store entrance.  Elderly man looks around, lost.  "Over here, stupid," she says.  We stifle laughs at the same time feeling sorry for the elderly man with the impatient wife.

Often, I'll think of the Key West supermarket when Dawn says ,"Look, over there."  and I see nothing.

So I'm not here. I'm over there.  


Over there.

It's nicer over there.

Join me.

Monday, March 14, 2011

What Time Is It?

"What's the real time?" I ask Dawn. Every year I go through a period of confusion, not unlike old folks at the retirement home.  I show up at my Amish friends and they answer the door in their pajamas.  Have you ever seen Amish pajamas?  Sunday I call Buster, my former next door neighbor in Arizona.  He tells me it's still Saturday out there.

We have a simple dinner and watch the second episode of Wallander.  The clock says it's too early to go to bed.  The choice is to watch A Good Year for the 46th time or go to bed and read. The Pooch and Mandy climb in bed.  The cat mumbles his erps and grunts, rolls on his back, licks Mandy's face and jumps off the bed.  He's not sleepy.  Mandy doesn't care what time it is, as long as she's within sight of me.

In previous years, I complain about the manipulation of time.  Last year I kept the kitchen clock at regular time. I grow a beard but shave my mustache to look more like the Amish.  If I'm dealing with the Amish  Bent and Dent grocery store out on the highway, I ask if the hours on the door are "slow" or "fast" time, in an attempt to be hip Amish.

Breakfast this morning is another time irritation. I sit down to buttermilk pancakes and I'm struck blind.  Because of the angle of the morning sun through the east kitchen window, the white paper of the English novel on the table temporarily causes snow blindness. I reach for my slit type Eskimo glasses.  Our classic American country curtain fabric with the stars and stripes pattern is from China.  The handmade curtains are finished in front but the back part toward the window is rough threads which catch on the hook holding them back.  For the next 157 days I spend 25 minutes daily untangling the threads that catch on the hold-back hook.

When I actually fell asleep last night it was March 13th.  I toss and turn because Dawn takes me to a car dealership to look at race cars.  Salespeople with huge Afros wait in a hallway ready to prey upon the next sucker.  Race car?  "What d'we need a race car for?" I ask. "I thought you said to stop in for a race car," she says.  Another side journey into husband and wife communication dilemmas exacerbated by a Gemini?Capricorn difference in our natal Zodiac.

When I awaken, it's December.  The upstairs north windows have been painted by Jack Frost.  The grass is white with frost and the snow hasn't melted. The clock says 7:21 am. Sonny and Cher are singing, "I Got You Babe" on the radio.  Wait. I thought  Phil already saw his shadow. 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Before breakfast I let the dog and cat out, started a fire in the wood furnace, added another load in the washer, went to the woodshed in my carpet slippers for small pieces of maple while fending off a wild dog who thought we were going for a walk, crushed a half dozen Japanese beetles walking the window sill and hauled more wood in the basement. 

At breakfast Dawn told me she reset all the clocks.  Daylight saving time, again? 

On a lark yesterday, I went with Jorge to the big city.  My wallet is thin from all my truck trouble-two towing bills @ $80 a pop, but he said the magic word, "free".  Not that he would charge for going along with him to Lacrosse.  I can't resist anything free.  In the deepest recesses of my mind I'm thinking he's up to something.  Jorge is generous to a fault. Imagine this.

A couple of years ago we took a trip for supplies. He wasn't feeling well and wanted to get out of the house.  It's 90 degrees and I need to go in the big box store for caulk.  He sits outside (in the heat) on a bench.That is very weird.  At the employee owned grocery store he says he'll wait for me in the front entrance.  Jorge's decision to forgo  a chance to ogle Darcy, his favorite checker, spells trouble.   He reclines on the wooden bench in the entryway next to the free newspapers and gumball machines.  Several people come out and ask him if he's OK.  Mind you, they're not sure if the black man lying on the bench is drunk and homeless or just one of those group home people who sit in the front of stores nursing a cup of coffee, watching the world go by.

I'm seriously worried.  I ask, "Should we got to Gunderson Lutheran?"   "No," is his emphatic reply.   When we get back to his place, he gets out of the car and walks to the pole barn.  He comes back out with a new cardboard box containing a gas camping stove, hands it to me without a word and walks into the house.  Two days later he's in Milwaukee for an operation to relieve swelling in the lining of his heart. That camping stove took on a different light after that. 

My free trip costs $140 for groceries, caulk, a bathroom rug and 4 paint rollers.  The groceries are all basic needs-no processed food.  Pork loin ends have dropped 40 cents per pound. I buy 30 lbs.  It's a key ingredient in my sausage.  Decent 85/90 ground beef is only $2.50/lb.  I stock up on butter, whole wheat pasta, fresh vegetables like cabbage(St. Patty's Day), asparagus and broccoli.  Prices are considerably lower than in our area where the stores and Wal-Mart prey on consumers because of the lack of competition.

On the way back we get to see an eagle's nest along the highway while the mom (or pop) soars the field adjacent to the highway. Mandy acts like I've been gone a week. I tell Dawn we'll fixing the Canadian Walleye for dinner.It's a splurge item because of the cost.  Then again, the breaded fish in the end cap at Wal-Mart is cheap Pollack, Swai ( Siamese Shark) is a new seafood item here. I learn that US catfish farmers lobby to disallow Vietnamese to use the title catfish, which Swai is similar.  Tilapia I'm told is a fish grown in fish farms after the bass are removed from the pond to clean up the bottoms.

The walleye, fresh asparagus and sweet potatoes were delicious.

The ham steak and bacon I've been curing have gone through the equilibrium process and ready for the smoker.  I find a recipe for country sausage and will begin a new batch of my own recipe breakfast sausage.  I've got to make time for a walk with my girl.  I need that hour back today. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011


String cheese and hot dogs save the day.  I hand feed Mandy and the cat bits of string cheese to keep the medication from irritating her stomach and "tossing her cookies".  Jorge drives a package of hot dogs over the ridge.  One dose of antibiotic at 7 am and another at 10:30 yields startlingly quick results.  The vet tech told me early this morning if you can keep the medication down, it works very quickly.  After noon today Mandy has her appetite back, gnawing on a beef bone I baked last night.. I tell her how thankful I am she's feeling better and is able to walk.  On a brief sortie outside on this sunny morning, Mandy hobbles along in the snow on three legs, sniffing the breeze with her sensitive nose. Her look says, "I'm feeling better . A few kind words from Jean Calomeni out there at Snoring Dog Studio on Word Press certainly helped.  Mandy says thanks.. Check out to see her illustration and watercolors.

Pooch discovers the heating pad under Mandy's blanket
  I'm mulling over the thought of writing at Word Press.  One aspect of Blogspot that bothers me is the notion of "followers". Sure it allows one to keep in touch with like minded individuals, yet I feel that like Facebook, the idea isn't to share ideas, but collect followers ( one of our kids has 354 friends on Facebook). To the lunatic fringe out there whose main purpose is nastiness, criticism, egocentric meanderings, put downs, one upsmanship and all that tripe, I might add that were all slogging through it a day at a time.  Why not do it in a way that brings people together. There's more than one person out there who believes like me if we don't' affect change, they'll be writing in history books of the fall of the American Empire instead of  the Roman Empire

As a teacher in the inner city, I was an idealist and a realist. Sure, it was a hellhole, but the things I did as a teacher made a difference in children's lives.  It took me almost ten years to figure that out after I left teaching discouraged with the violence and brutality, lived in a tent in Trempeleau County Wisconsin at the end of a dead end road for a year, went back to teaching with the idea that I could nuture instead of stifling learning.

My Girl

In keeping with yesterday's post I'll try to avoid lapsing into maudlin, morose descriptions of how much this dog means to me, I'll stick with the facts.  I can't be on the computer very long because previous to getting sick, this animal went everywhere with me.  She's now lying on the couch, eyes wide, with that "don't leave me" look.

Mandy has Lyme disease.  A blood test Wednesday came up positive.  The explanation : a disease carrying tick chewed on her before dying from Frontline which I apply regularly. My truck mechanic says he pulled a tick off himself when he was hunting turkeys recently. The ground is frozen and snow covered.  The little bastards are out there. Mandy's favorite thing is running hard and fast.  Leaping through tick laden high grass on the south fence line in an ear flapping, tongue lolling romp in warmer weather.

I get up in the middle of the night to check on my girl.  When I went to bed, she wanted to sleep in her faux sheepskin bed in the unheated breezeway. Strange. Now at 2:30 am she's looking up at me from the landing in the front entranceway.  Warmer, but not much.  I carry her inside.We both sleep fretfully while the cat curls up next to me to keep warm, offering cat comfort in the form of loud grumbling which is his signature purr. 

At first light, I sit on the sofa chair and softly tell her she'll be all right.  If I knew then, what I learn an hour later, that the disease has progressed and rendered her lame, I wouldn't have been so convincing.  Her legs slide out from her on the bare wood floor.She isn't able to stand up.  I carry her outside to pee. She squats helplessly.  I bring her back in and work on getting some fluids into her. Dawn comes downstairs and heats up some skim milk.  The Doxycycline tablets prescribed by the vet made her throw up yesterday.  I wrap one in a peanut butter lump and she swallows it.  By dribbling water down my fingers into a bowl, she first licks my fingers then slurps up water from the dish scattering it across the couch.  I'm hoping the medicine will stay down long enough to do some good.  Unfortunately, Doxycycline tends to irritate a dog's stomach.  I'll split the doses into one morning, one evening.

In the middle of writing this post she strolls into my office.  I want to jump for joy and call Dawn to tell her Mandy's better, but relativity sets in.  The stairs to outside cause Mandy trouble.  I pick up this 37 lb. lump and carry her to the sidewalk.  She limps to the gravel driveway to pee.  Then I carry her back inside the house.

Darn,  Mandy.You can't die on me. Mandy's my constant companion, a pain in the ass troublemaker, full of surprises and too smart for her own good. Like the cat who appeared late one below zero February night, she is an unplanned addition to our family. My self absorbed daughter who dislikes dogs mocks me, pointing to Mandy when condescendingly speaking to the granddaughter saying, "  Look Sophia, there's your sister."

Next to my wife she's the most important thing in my life.   


Wednesday, March 9, 2011

When I pulled back the heavy drapes in the bedroom this morning, this is what I saw.  Mandy started out the morning drooling. When I took her out, she threw up yellow bile.  Now lying beside me she's quiet, occasionally shivering.  I call the vet. There's a light schedule because of a snowstorm. I'll have to wrestle Mandy into the vet's office.  She has a memory like a trap. 

An American Indian Elder once advised me to avoid negativity because the mere mention draws more into your sphere.  William Trogdon says simply, avoid irritation.  He adds, "look for the opening".  
I'll be doing both. Out of respect for Murphy and his laws I avoid lengthy descriptions of irritations and blocked openings.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hobbles, Trousers, Laxatives and Stove Lids

I take the direct route to my office. I do not stop for that last sip of strong coffee with steamed skim milk.  I shield my eyes from  front page online news with stories of a serial rapist out East who's finally nailed on DNA evidence, more Charlie Sheen and Governor Scott "Skippy" Walker antics, a cute video of a cat walking a tightrope (my cat can leap tall buildings in a single bound) and run for your lives there's a weather comin' stories. 

To get online I have to wait for 653 other poverty stricken bloggers who are on dial-up like me.  When I left the kitchen table with backpack, hiking boots, extra polish sausage and a map, I had the title for this post and nothing more.

The river rats in the book I'm reading are dead in the water deep in Montana.  First they run out of gas, get more and lastly, the motor quits. It's after midnight.  They dock their craft and set out into deep dookie ( a rancher is grazing cows in a wilderness area).  Later they learn they walked nine miles to get to their original destination, a short jaunt by boat.  The B&B is a former mercantile, hence the pilot goes in the basement after some sleep and finds the auto fuse he needs for the boat motor.

The phone rings.  In  terminal ineptness, I screw up the answer mode  to vibrate and tone.  So what I hear is bzz,bzz, and the ringtone of a 1946 black, Bakelite rotary phone (whenever a phone rings in an old movie I ask Dawn ,"Is that my phone").I don't recognize the number. A phone call from your accountant at sevenish in the morning is disturbing. I preface my remarks with, "I'm not awake yet." in case he asks me something requiring half a brain.  We exchange a few pieces of information and I go back to my hash browns and English muffin toast with fresh bluebery jam.

The early morning phone call reminds me that a call to the youngest in Arizona will be a short chat with Google answering services.  What's that?  Is there no place that is beyond the reach of Google?  I tell her via voice mail that a three sentence e-mail asking me 'how I've been' and telling me 'she's really busy' is lame.  Mimicking Garrison Keillor on  A Prairie Home Companion talking to Mom, I parody the Mother's irritating nasal twang.

I truly dislike e-mail for all the nuances, the tone, that you miss. I tell the youngest that Seven Roads To Home will tell you all you need or want to know.  I suggest she give me a call, like her brother does every weekend.

The talk of the town is of a snowstorm bearing down on us.  I mentally try to avoid getting into a funk or to begin storing up nuts for the long siege. The woodbin is empty because I've been painting the floor and waterproofing the walls.  I ask Dawn's advice about putting in a subfloor in the wood bin.  Crazy Angie or some other previous owner erected a stud wall with no floor anchors.  When the bin is full, the wall bulges at the base like a fat cow. I need 2X4's.  The battery on the truck is dead.  Jorge lends me his battery charger. After 24 hours on the life support machine, the dial on the charger says the battery is 100% charged.  I drive to the Amish, Jorge's place, take the long way home and waste enough gas to drive my 35 mpg passenger car from here to Madison. After a spell in the garage, I jump in to test the truck. Nothing. The six year old battery doesn't hold a charge That means a trip to town to get a new battery.  There goes the morning. Durn.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Official Mandy Mae Portrait

In river travel floaters are a constant threat to a boat.  Anywhere else, they're just short bits of flotsam that pass by in life.

A post I worked on yesterday is destined for the trash.  The long narrative could be broken down into several sentences.  When doing research, how reliable is your source?  The post described the future owner of a house I put on the market who went next door to my house before he made an offer to purchase.  An MD, he talked to the owners about the neighborhood.  The next door neighbors were a quarreling couple, he a philanderer and she a housebound shrew.

A nice couple in our present area comes over to swap info about gardening.  Specifically, they want to know the details concerning row covers.  I explain the pros and cons and the little tidbits I found out from the school of gardening by experience. We have an enjoyable morning swapping stories.

In the course of several cups of coffee I spout off about the environment. "If you want to know just how bad the state of the environment is, take a trip down a river."  Then I read them a passage from  River Horse by William Least Heat Moon. In this excerpt one of the crew runs into a person running for political office who disagreed with every statement the crew member made about his concern for the environment. The Republican politician says bluntly that Nature has to give when people won't. 

At breakfast the crew and a Game and Fish man deride the politician.  A crew member says he'll go down to the river and tell it to "shape up and flow right."  The Game and Fish man says tongue in cheek that the plovers on the river need to "learn how to nest in trees."  Then, another crew member remarks that 80% of the population favors strong environmental protections but Republican politicians typically oppose them.  "Why?" 

"The 80% isn't paying for their campaigns."

We stop by the couple's 120 farm on the way to a Chinese lunch just down the road a piece to drop off a bottle of wine and some breakfast sausage I'd made recently. I've already learned to tread lightly when spouting off.  I criticize a local Chinese buffet for poor sanitary practices and find it's a favored place.

Inside their restored 150 year old log house, we're flipping through a scrapbook documenting the restoration.  One picture shows the husband standing proudly in front of the birthplace of the Republican party in Ripon, Wis.  Oh shoot.  There goes another wonderful possible connection down the outhouse of politcs.

The local school district begins the process of laying off 38 teachers.  The news is full of Skippy Walker's antics.  Michael Moore addresses a Madison crowd of 30,000 and 40,000 ending his speech with the Wisconsin Fight song title On Wisconsin, saying we're not broke, we're not broke, the money's in the wrong hands.While the government bails out the banks the rest of us have to worry about how were going to afford the cost of gas if indeed it reaches $5 a gallon. 

Look At The Size of Those Whiskers
And why pray tell do the stats for this blog indicate that I have more pageviews from Iran and The United Arb Emirates than from the United States. Oh cripes.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Clustered Coincidences

In the journey across America by river book I'm reading, bad situations are resolved by a series of good luck encounters.  "Clustered coincidences" is the term for the narrow escapes from disaster.  I can't remember a cluster of coincidences here to remind me of the "opening ahead".

The cat pesters me to let him out.  He passes by a breakfast of cooked ground beef and the bottom of the raw chicken liver barrel.  When I glance out the window at the foot of the stairs toward a flooded backyard, I see him up at the neighbor's horse corral.  "Can't be him."  I know he's fast, but...  I watch the animal walk around a muddy access road which my neighbor uses to haul big rolls of hay from a field behind his barn. This animal looks bigger than the Pooch.  "Could it be one of their dogs?"  Not possible.  I grab the field glasses from the living room.  Darn, he's moved off to the brush on the south fence line.  Then, I spot the Pooch walking toward a woodpile near our flooded white steel lawn-shed.

I call to Mandy while I race to the back door for my muck boots and jacket.  I need to intervene if the animal is another feral cat.  I cannot afford a vet bill to sew up my runty kitty, although he's held his ground in previous encounters with wild cats.  Once he treed a raccoon.

Mandy races toward the woodpile where my cat is perched.  She doesn't stop to harass the Pooch, but continues into the brush toward the spot I first viewed the "varmint".  Her hackles are raised.  Hot on a trail she rushes toward the horse corral and barks once, scattering the horses to the end of the corral. She's seriously tracking a wild animal scent.

I work my way back to the wood pile.  My cat doesn't budge.  I let Mandy work the area and see her flush a hen pheasant from the scotch pines on the west edge of our property.  Given that the animal I saw is bigger than a cat and stalking that pheasant, I quickly decide the thing must be a bobcat or something similar.

I call to Mandy, whistle once or twice. She comes running at warp speed throwing up wet snow all around her.  She races by me, nipping at my hand in greeting.  "Good girl."  The three of us walk into the back entrance of the house. The cat decides to eat the crud I put out for him.  He promptly throws it up.  I make a note to have more faith in my cat's ability to decide if food is fit to eat when I'm scraping the bottom of the chicken liver tub.

I rub Mandy down with a terry cloth towel before she can jump up on the newly laundered cover on the couch and chew on a rawhide stick.

Today I'll be looking for those coincidences instead of complaining when the dryer vent gets plugged, pissing and moaning when I knock over a water bowl on the carpet in the entryway,  grousing when I discover a live flea on the cat prompting me to spend my morning washing all furniture covers, assorted throws and blankets.

In Dawn's studio, I activate a flea bomb purchased from the vet a month earlier, unused because I'm hesitant about poisoning the air in the rear addition and thank my lucky stars that I have to leave the house for 3 hours to work at the library. I've already doused both animals with Frontline at $13 a pop, try a vet alternative called Revolution at $21 per dose, sprayed the perimeter of the first floor and all furniture cushions with an expensive prescribed flea spray that makes me allergic.  Of course, I forgot about a chair in Dawn's studio the cat loves to snuggle on in the evenings which is probably loaded with latent flea eggs.

At the end of the day Dawn and I discuss our dealing with members of the Geritol generation.  She tells me of a resident that requires written notes to remind her to go back to her room to put her feet up.  The resident loses the note Dawn writes and comes back to ask what she should be doing.  On a visit to the clinic, the doctor asks the resident, " How are ya feelin' today Maude?"  "Oh just fine Dr. Smith," she replies.  Dawn intervenes with, "Maude tell the doctor about the dizzy spells you've been having."  The most frustrating part of Dawn's job is having resident's children complain that their parents aren't receiving proper care. "Mother said she hasn't been fed for three days."  Dawn will remind the son or daughter that the parent suffers from advanced dementia and forgets what she's eaten almost immediately.

Head Butting
The process of culling old books from the library is an easy task with clear guidelines.  The library director complicates the procedure by requiring that she personally handle each and every book.  At 17,000 books in the library, I blanch at the prospect.  I ask to the director in training to suggest that the 80+ year old director work on two carts piled high with books that need a label replaced, a bar code removed or worst case scenario, a wiping with some spray goop that makes a clouded book jacket look "almost new" despite a thirty year snooze on the shelf.. Instead, I watch her examine a new book, one recently purchased with a brand new jacket, nice label and in fine condition, going on a long tangential discourse, "Oh I remember buying that one..." extolling the virtues of this and that, causing me to look upward to the white bearded guy in the sky and ask "why me" Lord?  I surreptitiously slip another book I'd already examined back on the shelf while she's off in the nether lands humming and prattling on.  In two and a half hours we sort through two measly bookshelves.  Twenty two effing shelves in fiction alone remain. Arggh.  If Crazy Frank gets elected as Village President the task is moot.  Quoting the stuttering old fart, "What dye' we need all those dusty books for, anyway?"

Thursday, March 3, 2011


The image on the masthead was taken a few years ago.  Right now it looks the same except that there are brown patches of gravel road peeking through.  The forecast today calls for a snow/rain mix.  Hence I'll be outside covering a wood pile and cleaning up things I don't want covered with ice..

In previous years I've planted my onion sets at or around the third week in March.  Right now that seems almost impossible.  Onions are responsive to the amount of available daylight.  That means they form nice round globes when there's more than 12 hours of sunlight. The usual instructions for planting sets is to get them in the ground as early as the soil can be worked.  In our part of the state I've had onions peeking out of the ground after a late spring snowfall.  Last average frost is May 10th which means that we'll have a frost more oft than not after that date.  My onions are hardy lot.

My target date of the third week in March allows that by June I'll have nice sturdy onion stalks which go to work setting bulbs in the time up to the solstice.  By July 2nd, which is the date on this picture, they'll be near harvest. After pulling them, laying them out for a day to dry out any clinging soil, nipping the tops and sorting by kind to dry on screens under a covered canopy, I'll have a year's supply ready by Labor Day to store in a covered, cool space in our summer kitchen.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

In a minor epiphany this morning I realize I'm deep into escapism.

At lunch, before dinner and for as long as I can stay awake in bed, I'm  reading River Horse by William Least Heat Moon . It's the story of traversing the country by river.  In Blue Highways, the same author describes America by car.  Before River Horse, I read several accounts of walking across America.  A pile of dog stories-Merle, Lou, Marley, Pukka-detective novels set in Key West, an English travel guide by Bill Bryson and William Powers' book of a return to a simpler life in Twelve By Twelve soothe my savage travel beast.

"There's a pattern here," I tell myself.

In 2004 we crossed the US twice. The first trip was to drive two-26 foot Penske trucks from Arizona to Wisconsin.  The second to drive my Ford truck hitched to a trailer with the remaining accumulated junk that we acquired in 5 years living at 4500 feet between Phoenix and Flagstaff.  The "check engine" light comes on just after Albuquerque.  A Ford dealer fleeces us of $400 in unnecessary repairs in the flat-lands beyond ABQ and a kid in another Ford dealership in Amarillo clips a leaking air pollution control hose for free. 

In the twelve years between quitting my job as an elementary school teacher and the move to Arizona, when Dawn and I weren't working 7 days a week, she as a gruntled postal worker and me as a peddler, we'd travel for business.  The journey to Arizona from Wisconsin could be fodder for a travel story.

Stuck for three days in Elk City, Oklahoma because of heavy panhandle snow, we get back on the interstate and find traffic stopped dead for as far as the eye can see, both front and rear windows.  In another first time ever award to myself, I read pulp fiction on an overpass outside Amarillo. Interstate 17 from Flagstaff to Phoenix is closed at the Sedona exit because a truck overturns with 1,000,000 pounds of newspaper.  Dawn pulls up to a Stuckeys mear Grants, New Mexico and her 26 foot Penske will only go in reverse.  A tow truck takes our precious junk from Grants to Sedona.

And so it went.

We were travel pros. We didn't batt an eye when three men in front of us in a long line to security in the PHX airport, guns on their hips and shiny police badges in their hands, trade quips.  We learn to beat the beeping machine in the security checkpoint by removing  all metal, nail clippers, hair dryers etc., but forget that Dawn's shoes have a metal support in them.  She's taken into custody and beaten senseless for hours under a hot light ( I"m kidding).

I'm so far removed from that scene that on a recent third Tuesday, in the middle of hog butchering, I get stressed over traveling to Cashton 30 minutes away because Mountain Man Johann isn't waiting at the entrance to his half mile long driveway at the preordained time. They're out of onions by the time we get there.

Mandy's a veteran traveler which is quite an accomplishment for an Amish dog.  She learns to always pee before getting in the car because, as I tell her," You never know how long it'll be to the next rest stop."  Traveling for Pooch, the cat, is solely riding on top of a stationary vehicle in the driveway. Thus, we're limited to trips that take no longer than the amount of food and water will last in ceramic bowls on the kitchen floor. My guilt about shutting in a wandering pussy limits us to two days and one overnight.

Our Netflix queue says that we watched 109 movies from September 22 to February 28th.  In the early morning light, fur-balls, dust and detritus are back lit by sunlight intensified by winter snow.  I retreat to a west facing room for self therapy by keyboard.