Wednesday, January 15, 2020

I Run Over A Deer

Once, along the two-lane road, I and the drivers behind me were stopped and blocked by a police car. Some vehicle had hit a fawn, injured but still standing. A policeman took his handgun and shot it in the head. It collapsed, convulsed, then died, and that was the best choice.

Who'd have picked up that fawn and driven it to the vet? Paid for its treatment and rehabilitation? What for? If permanently crippled, returned to the wild it'd be hit again, or coyote meat. Not even the oh-poor-Bambi folks would give several grand a year from their own pockets to keep it in a sanctuary. Unfortunately the increased "development" in this area is herding deer down toward the road. I see about one dead deer per week, and each dead deer might have been a dead person. You have to choose.

Yesterday, after 18 years with about four near-misses, it was my turn with a deer. On the same two-lane road about 6:00 p.m. my car's headlights illuminated a dead doe, a fresh one, lying across my lane with her back toward me, and at 50 mph it was too late for me to swerve. Thump-thump. I heard bones cracking. Sickening. The car seemed fine so I kept going.

Came home later, halted the car to hop out and pick up the mail, and saw that the back license plate looked cracked or "crazed." Poked at it. It was deer hair, sticky. Hair all over the back bumper and a spot of blood. Did not think it wise or see any point in inspecting it further, or taking a photo for you. Next morning, first thing, to the car wash, leaving a nice tip in the tip container for the nice young people about to hose God knows what from beneath the car. Later, concerned about damage, I had the oil changed and hoped they would tell me if they saw bones and meat stuck in the undercarriage.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

The Christmas Miracle

Hairy-stemmed poison ivy grew all over the garage's northern wall and wasn't visible until the foliage was gone. Ivy overgrowing a structure not only crawls all over it, but pulls with incredible strength. It can pull whole trees down or part the stones in a stone wall. It was gathering under the garage roof in a conspiracy. The ivy had to go. And nobody else was gonna cut it down, so it was on me.

Trouble was, I could barely move or think, being so burnt out from work it was too much effort to raise my arms overhead, much less pick up a cutting tool. Was limping around. Couldn't stay standing for long. Couldn't think of words, either. I had healing to do, but how? Stupid woo-woo advice from the Internet said sleep, meditation, yoga, little or no Internet (the net generates decision fatigue), and replace the Internet with books.

Okay, then: waking shockingly late, exhausted on waking, feeling corny every minute of the yoga DVD and meditation app, working as much as able (about 1/4 the normal), drinking coffee (it didn't help), and the rest of the time reading, starting with McCullough's hefty Harry Truman biography. Sprinkle in a few meetings or meals with friends and four days of cat-sitting. Three weeks and this morning I get out of bed saying, "This is the day I tape down that one carpet" and even before morning coffee it was done, and I still had energy. With temperatures in the high 50s I dressed in long sleeves and long pants and gloves, and bushwhacked behind the garage (all overgrown) to the ivy-covered garage wall and started severing the vines.

Took about an hour. It was a miracle: I still had energy. Severed some honeysuckle vines along the lane. Still had some energy. Shampooed and showered in case any poison ivy touched me. While on the bedroom floor putting on sneakers I saw some spaces all dusty and cobwebby. Dragged out the vacuum and vacuumed them up. Then -- then! -- I still had enough energy to cook a baked potato and an egg in butter. And eat them! And then write this post!

It's a miracle! Merry Christmas, happy holidays, blessed solstice.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Joys of the Fake Fireplace

Ever see a fake electric fireplace like the one my boyfriend's parents had in their basement "rec room" in the 1970s? The "flames" were a piece of paper like a piano roll with a light bulb behind them.

But now I have one and it brings me incredible joy. First, it's a rather long and large "fire"; second, I can change with the remote control the color of the "logs" and "fire" to suit myself; third, I can make the "flames" larger or have them burn low; fourth, it has built-in bluetooth speakers that really rock. It offers heat, if I want; warm air will blow out of its vent, and there's a temperature control and timer. It works and is very energy-efficient -- the problem is insufficient electrical wattage in the Divine Cabin's system, and when it's overloaded the warmth shuts off automatically. But the fake fireplace also offers fire without heat and I like it.

Look -- a fireplace. No chopping, buying, or carrying wood, no poking at it, no worries that the chimney or the house might catch fire. Everyone with a wood-burning fireplace -- although it is the most romantic of housing features -- must build and tend fires carefully, and get a chimney sweep and safety inspection, and keep the kids away when nothing attracts kids more, and even better, the fake lets no woodsmoke into the atmosphere. Around the holidays here, the usually pure air gets thick with the neighbors' woodsmoke, and very unfortunately I've grown allergic to it. (I can't even stand incense. The irony. I mean, there was a time when INCENSE was my LIFE.) When I first moved here I got an estimate to fix the awesome native stone Divine Fireplace so it would burn propane. $8K.

This will do. A friend liked mine so much she bought herself one -- not so rustic-looking, more vertical and tailored and classic. They have fake fireplaces that fit in corners now. For those who like nostalgia, today's fake "woodstoves" look and act very real.

I taped down an orange runner rug right in front of it to "extend" the fire.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Making the Cut

I used to spend hours and days outside with these tools saving the property from invasive cedars and Japanese honeysuckle vines, and after about seven years the clippers and weed whip, dulled and unusable, sat in the garage until I realized a while ago, "I can now pay to sharpen these," and, to be honest with you, also thought, "When the apocalypse comes, any day now, I will wish I had sharpened these tools" to cut a clearing in the underbrush and clip and trim branches to build my lean-to, and so on.

Nobody else, I was sure, ever let their tools get so dull. Embarrassed to bring them to the sharpener, I prepared a fib -- "I bought these at a garage sale" -- in case the sharpener said, "Whee doggie. I've never in my life seen garden tools in such a deplorable condition." I wasn't sure whether the weed whip, my favorite, with its double-edged and serrated blade, could even be honed. I never knew anyone who cleaned or sharpened garden tools; Demetrius left his crusted with clay and soil. Also needing treatment were two lopping shears and a very old pair of hedge shears with wooden handles. The hedge shears were already here, rusted stiff, blades blackened with time and handles sticky with dust, when I moved in long ago. I wondered whether they could be salvaged. In the garage when I moved here was also a scythe, an actual scythe, but I think it's gone.

The sharpener sharpened and spiffed up all four and covered the freshly honed edges with paper, a courtesy unexpected and appreciated. Here they are back home, and out I go because I like cold weather for doing the heavy work of cutting.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Country Caulking

On a chilly night the new acrylic indoor storm windows leaked cold, so feeling around the single-pane window frame and catching breezes, I looked carefully and saw all three layers of the window frame needed caulking, right now, in the ever-narrower space in Missouri between hot summer and cold winter, neither of those good for caulking.

In September I spent three days caulking a historic single-pane window real nice (with "antique white"), but this one is 1969 in an aluminum frame and it rained yesterday and it'll rain tomorrow so instead of having fun I got the stepladder and drop cloths, plastic bags, nitrile gloves, wet rags and caulking gun and worked quick and dirty. Nearly every inch of this 85-year-old house needs caulking. Aproned and teetering and reaching overhead and messing up, I do it about every 10 years. This time I noticed caulk technology has changed; now soap and water will get it out of your hair and off your gloves and pants.

Inner critic: Your caulking stinks.
Me: Shut up. It's better than yours.
Inner critic: Should have cut the the tube a narrower tip --
Me: I didn't see you lending a hand.
Inner critic: Slow and steady. Don't smooth beads with your finger; use a craft stick! What a mess! Don't you have a sponge? Don't poke at that, it's almost dry! Now it's worse!
Me: The caulk didn't fill it up the first time.
Inner critic: It would have, if you'd been patient --
Me: Cram it.

The photo is AFTER I caulked and while it's curing. Yes, it's hoosier, but it looks a lot like the art downtown at the Pulitzer. In the right light.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Muscling Up

"You start losing muscle mass in your 30s," the senior-yoga-class instructor told our class, "and lose 10 percent more every year." I called out, "That's not fair."

The instructor ignored me and advised us all to work with weights and to up the poundage every time we got good at it. Don't get old, get strong.

She's right, but strength, I secretly think, is secondary. Priority goes to keeping a somewhat youthful shape, and especially knees not draped with crepe-y flesh. So, telling myself it's about knee strength, I started with the "quad" weight machine and related exercises. The "quads" are the long, tough vertical muscles in front of the thighs.

Two weeks, three weeks: The crepe went away! Now that's motivation!

Coincidentally, this is the season the quite common and ordinary Russula mushrooms, such as the one pictured (about 3" in diameter),  muscle their way out of the soil, displacing it if they have to. It takes Russulas about two days to fight their way to standing and you can watch their progress. They lift with their stems and caps more earth than I can with a shovel from this tough, packed, weed-choked soil. They get scarred. They don't quit. What inspires them? Maybe they wanted to be up in time for the autumn equinox. Happy equinox today!

Sunday, September 22, 2019

Elegy for a Shagbark Hickory

Missouri's eastern forests are oak-hickory forests and the trees on occasion die and fall, or get struck by lightning (you'll know that from the charred pieces left). The Divine Yard's mature oaks and hickories are slowly losing their juice and often, during storms, with earth-shaking thumps throwing whole limbs to earth or clubbing my roof. Stripped of all that was graceful about it, once in a while a very dead tree will lose its grip and plunge face first onto the lane -- wham! -- blocking entry and exit until we get it sawn apart.

But ye know not the day and hour a tree will fall. I have learned that trees groan and whine before falling -- the way metal whines when it's fatigued and set to give way. If in the woods if I hear that, I make myself scarce because to be killed in the woods by a falling tree is just too ironic, although Demetrius liked to stand there hoping to see the spectacle.

The shagbark hickory pictured, as long as I've known it, gradually offered up all its limbs to storms and winds. Its indwelling tree nymph moved out, and now the tree is really, really dead. Plenty of dead trees are standing on the property waiting to keel over, but only this shagbark hickory, should it fall, threatens the dwelling. Having its carcass cut down will cost less than being forced to move should the tree -- northwest of the house, where the winter storms come from -- tip over and crush the roof. Arrangements have been made. I took its photo and informed the tree nymph, who has since found a new place.

I hope and believe that the earthly body of this tree will one day sprout delicious mushrooms. Amen.