Saturday, June 30, 2018

These Rocks Speak Dust

This is what 1000 pounds  or $130 worth of gravel looks like after I made a path to the road. The planned task is not complete but a spare $130 it will bring it closer to finishing.

Wore a breathing mask when I poured this last 360 lbs. Hosed the rocks to keep the dust down. Still inhaled some gravel dust, but less than before, and this time was further educated when I saw the coating of gravel dust over the car. The whole car, back to front, a thin even coating. I understood the nature of this dust now. These rocks speak dust. And feeling gritty all over meant I should shower it off right away and wash the clothes.

This project hallowed this June that slipped away so quickly, and will recall this hallowed month whenever I look at it.

Friday, June 29, 2018


June thunderstorms with clouds like slate rolling pins and booming noise shook up our area three times this past week. First time, electricity was off for six hours. Second time, a heavy tree branch fell and broke my rain gauge. We were lucky that the eye of each storm just missed us and did nothing but dump needed rain for a while, I'm guessing about an inch each time, not enough to flood. The third storm was last evening. Gully-washer. Toad-strangler. Perfectly seasonable. After poking at us just to let us know who is boss, the storm turned deeply serious as it chugged eastward. Photo was taken facing east, and you can see the dark clouds at the bottom while our area was filling with eerie yellow-orange light.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

360 Pounds Later, With No Lipstick

I forgot when buying 12 more 30-pound bags of Viagra stone this morning -- loading them onto the orange Home Depot cart myself -- that I'd woken with the dryest throat and realized only then I had, yesterday, while restoring the Divine gravel apron, inhaled invisible gravel dust, and only after I'd lifted, dumped and combed 12 more bags of the apron-to be did I recall that I ought to be wearing a breathing mask.

Yet I had fun sailing out early this morning until I realized I forgot lipstick. When no men offered to help me load and push the cart, in itself hefty, with 360 pounds of stone on it, I remembered that without lipstick and with short hair, wearing shorts and tee (but the tee was bright pink!) I am, in the eyes of the people out here, probably a man-hating feminist bulldagger who'd sneer at their offer of help. Well, f---, then I'd do it alone, and I pushed it as far as the checkout. I asked there for help loading the car and a teenager materialized,and said "Ma'am"; he filled the Honda's trunk and I stuck a wad of cash into his Home Depot apron pocket.

Was it the lack of lipstick or -- and I so regret this, want to weep -- that on my way in, in the parking lot a woman much older than I was slowly pushing a shopping cart holding among other things a huge bag of potting soil, but I did not stop and say "Can I help you get that into your car? I know I would need help." Now I'm crying. How wrong of me. Karma.

Wearing my neoprene lower-back belt, I bravely unloaded at home and made visible progress, but now, coughing and hawking and with pounding in my head, decided this was plenty for today, and thunder and changing winds made decision final. Here's a photo. Note how far I've come and how far I have yet to go to restore the apron.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

I Travel for Gravel

240 pounds later
The gravel apron in front of the Divine Cabin over the years has been scraped and washed away and grass grows there now hiding ticks and chiggers that bite me, and for four years we have asked the landlord for fresh gravel, because the road needs some too, but it never came. In despair I phoned the gravel mine and they'd deliver a cubic yard for $215, $75 of that delivery charge, and dump-truck the gravel in a pile as tall as I and I'd have to hire someone with a spreader or spend years spreading it shovelful by shovelful, alone.

So every summer more bugs bit me and I didn't even have to go into the woods but simply step outside. Mowing helped, but now I haven't a mower and have asked the landlord to supply one as the lease requires. They don't want to. Phoning mowing professionals got me estimates I felt ashamed I could not pay.

It occurred to me, in my misery, to buy and spread my own gravel and choke off the grass, solving at once the chigger and the mowing and the apron problem, and went to Home Depot, a 30-mile round trip, because they would load my car for me, and bought 8 bags of 30 lbs. each for a total of $31. I thought it was named "Viagra stone" (a dirty mind is a perennial resource). Said nothing of this to the teenager dragging the 240-lb. cart out to my car and loading it, as I could not. As an employee he may not take a tip. But I said, "You're not taking it; I'm giving it," and dropped money in his apron pocket.
Doesn't it look like Viagra stone?

With my own labor I could buy five more such loads before hitting $215. Hefting each bag I dropped them at strategic intervals on the apron, slit the bags, dumped and raked a while and was pleased as heck with my result but there was much more apron to cover.

Now I had big plans. About to return to Home Depot to reload I thought to try the nearby Walmart. An elderly employee said to go to the checkout if I wanted their bags of gravel, but the garden area checkout, at 8 p.m., was closed, and the young employee said he did not work in this section and could not cashier, so I just went home.

I thought it would amuse me to shop at every gravel-selling retail around here and score them on how well I was served. My work on the apron is satisfying as a long-lasting solution to a frustrating, expensive problem.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Problem We Do Not Have

Used to live exactly one block from here, for four years, and before that two blocks from here, for six years, for a total of ten, among many poor folks trying to make a dollar. The rapper Nelly grew up on my street while I lived there. Look, rent was $255 a month and my income was $500 a month and stayed that way for two years, and my landlord (owned both buildings) never ever raised my rent from the starting rent because he wanted to keep a tenant whose checks did not bounce.

I laugh sometimes at life in those close-set apartment buildings. Cats sang in chorus in the back alley and woke us all, and tenants on the second and third floors raised their windows, screamed swearwords, and pelted the cats with shoes. Summer barbecues smoked on every fire escape and the party hosts gave away their ages by the music they were blasting. Once a crew removed my fire escape (I guess to replace it) while I was at work and it was the only way to enter my apartment because I had police-locked and chained the other door. The workers still there put a ladder up to the second story and told me to climb it. I was wearing a skirt but also pettipants, and blessed myself for wearing pettipants and being fit. I was in my late 30s then.

I got very good at -- right in this spot in this photo -- darting at top speed through an alley in order to cut five minutes from my walk home. Then I moved to the Divine Property. These days the old neighborhood has been upscaled and landscaped and at night the alley is floodlit. They've even put benches along that walkway to make it seem parklike, and plants in planters to make it pretty. But apparently people want plants badly enough to steal them. I now live where there are plants galore and we worry they'll be eaten by deer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Anti-Squirrel Strategy #4,381

The squirrel-proof seed feeder is suspended on a wire between two trees quite a distance apart, but squirrels have learned to leap from one tree or the other onto the feeder's roof so that seed mix flies from the "squirrel-proof" feeder, hits the ground, and is eaten not by birds but by horrid little rodents. I have tried many ways to combat this. "Grease the top." "Put mousetrap sticky-paper on top." "Put baffles." (Baffles made of wire, paper, etc. were all ineffective; I've been at this now for 17 years. They don't crawl over the wire. They fly from the tree directly to the feeder.) "Put a nice deep tub (like a trash can) full of water underneath." "Shoot them." (I wish!). Today while picking up branches broken by the storm, I had this camouflage-type idea. I am hoping that it seems to the squirrels impossible to gauge a perfect landing on the feeder's roof. And that if they try, a whole bunch of sticks will rain down on them.

It's been working for the past 45 minutes! But you know what? If they don't get the seed they eat the suet. If there's no suet they drop onto my roof and, hanging upside down, suck nectar from the dangling hummingbird feeders. Eight ounces of nectar doesn't last the day.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hummingbirds Can Drown

Out of electrical power for six hours as a huge gigantic terrific thunderstorm seized the world  Thursday night about 6 p.m., turning the sky as dark as 9 p.m., ripping down tree limbs and pouring rain, with nothing else to do I watched as a hummingbird clung, its bill raised and vertical the whole time, to the feeder for half an hour as the feeder swung in the pummeling wind. It did not sip. It did not flinch.

The bird's endurance was so remarkable I even took video that included the thunder, lightning, and slashing rain (and accidentally deleted the video) but fortunately also took still photographs as best I could. Even when drenched and ragged, the hummingbird clung, face to the sky as if in defiance, and only near the end of the half-hour did it waver a little before buzzing away. Hummingbirds come from hurricane country so they know how to adapt their flight patterns but this was the first time I saw this happening: It faced upward so its nostrils wouldn't fill with rainwater and drown it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Janitor of Eden

After two weeks away, the first thing to do is empty the mousetraps. Very fortunately there was only one mouse cadaver, fresh thank God, because had it been two weeks old it'd be stuck to the floor. I'd left May 20, just when there's so much to do to ensure a good summer here. Like:
  • repair the porch screen. My sworn enemies, the squirrels, chewed through it and gnawed the plastic gasket from the metal step-can I store those delicious sunflower seeds in -- but failed to get to the seeds. Nyah, nyah.
  • buy basil and dill plants and soil for repotting into the pots they'll occupy all summer, pots carried into full sun every morning and sheltered next to the house at nightfall, because otherwise the squirrels overturn and uproot them out of pure spite.
  • clean and refill hummingbird feeders. I almost didn't want to leave for two weeks because the empty feeders would disappoint the hummingbirds, but I'm hoping my extra-sweet nectar recipe will persuade them to return and trust me; I don't intend to leave them again.
  • retrieve the seed feeder from the underbrush where raccoons had dragged and left it; soap and rinse it, dry it in the sun. Acquire a poison-ivy hickey on my left leg.
  • greet new young turtles and rabbits who have no idea I live here too.
  • witness a high-speed chase: Miss Turkey in hot pursuit of a hefty blacksnake sidewinding itself across the grass at top speed and beneath the propane tank, thus winning that round.
  • pull and dry the spring onions before they form heads.
  • refill those clever little outdoor mouse-poison dispensers with green-turquoise blocks of mouse poison. They work; they've cut the indoor mouse war by 75 percent.
  • approach the bluebird box to clean it. Yes, one must clean one's bluebird box. I didn't want to. Last time I looked, the nest held three baby chickadees and a baby bluebird. This is unusual. I feared finding the nest holding one or more dead. With gloved hands I unhooked the box and pulled out the nest. It was empty. Everyone had fledged! I was overjoyed.
  • inspect the forest floor where the summer mushrooms grow. Despite an inch of rain, found nothing. It's still quite early in the season. On the way, saw butterflies enjoying the blossoming milkweed.
  • check blackberry brambles for incipient blackberries, due in about three weeks. There are indeed little blackberry bullets. Last year's drought meant we had no crop. This year I hope for better.
  • buy at the fruit and vegetable stand every sort of fresh tasty thing: beets, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, berries, mushrooms, red onion, bananas, peppers, grapefruit, romaine -- to refill the fridge and to purify myself after two weeks away. And oh, yes, buy a bottle of wine, a rose, but I won't admit to that.
  • clean the picnic table; apply a tablecloth.
All this activity was joyful. Give me a new computer stand and I'm in Eden! I'm so glad to be home, among the plants and creatures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Little Bodies of the Pears

Uncared-for, unpruned pear tree in the yard that by all odds should not be thriving is doing fine, thanks, and for a few days in June I get to see its pears, growing butt-side upward, or twinned, shapely but always bite-sized, and just as they blush yellow and need one more day to look edible I wake up to find every one of them gone. As if I had dreamed them! Not a core left beneath the tree -- not a clue as to which species ate all the pears, or when. So this year after admiring them I took some pictures and then picked a few, that I might prove I did not dream them, because by all rights, on top of a cliff with one inch of soil and six inches of clay on top of sandstone, a pear tree should not be growing here. But it doesn't care if it should or not.

Neither should prickly pears, as in prickly-pear cactus, be growing a mere 15 feet away in a tiny, stony south-facing, two-foot-square micro-climate next to the pumphouse, but so it is, and when it's time it has those spiny crimson pears with little puckers growing whisker-like thorns. Given the right micro-climate, like hot sandstone, cactus in the Ozarks isn't unusual.

Yet two kinds of pears -- almost within arms' length of each other? That proves they're divine. Surely I live on the border of the imaginary and the real. On top of that, I can never forget what a man said to me one day, "Pears are sexy."