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Wednesday, April 29, 2015



It was chilly this morning when I donned my yellow turtleneck, but by lunchtime, as I sat on the porch with a sandwich and Olive Kittridge (an excellent book), the sun was beating down and that turtleneck was suffocating, so I pulled it over my head, tossed it on the table and continued reading.  I didn't give it a second thought.  Who would see me?  No one but the birds and my dogs and cats and none of them were shocked or impressed. 

Across the road is a corn stubble field.  To the south is my pond and woods and to the east, nothing but more trees.  What an incredible luxury to sit alone in nature soaking up the warm spring sunshine.  I couldn't imagine living in a city.

So many people say they wish they could find a place like this, so when I discovered the gem in the rough that is currently up for sale at what seems like a give-away price I called a few of those people.  The property is only a couple of miles due east of here. A sprawling brick ranch house is nestled in nearly five acres of mature trees offering complete privacy!  The real estate posting clearly states that the place needs a lot of cleaning and renovation, but what a jewel it could be. None of the folks I notified were interested for various reasons.  What a shame. 

 There are several new arrivals here.  In the chicken coop, tucked up in the eaves a nest of squawking starlings are demanding food from dawn til dusk.  I wonder if my chickens mind the noisy intruders.  At the pond Mr. & Mrs. M'lard have arrived as they do each spring about this time.  They drift across the water ignoring the shoreline commotion.  Here they are sitting on a rock pondering whether they should set up housekeeping on this pond or look for someplace quieter.  They usually stay for several weeks, but then decide on the latter.  I suspect this pair of mallards is the same pair that was here last year for they aren't at all bothered by the dogs or cats that prowl the shoreline pestering frogs.

Baltimore orioles were spotted yesterday and I hope they will build another of their intricate basket nests in the big cherry tree again this year.  I also caught just a fleeting glimpse of a half-grown cat hopping like a rabbit across the barnyard just at dawn.  It's that time of year when dumped kittens and puppies pop up like mushrooms, dumped by irresponsible lugs too stupid or cheap to have their animals spayed or neutered.  I have no tolerance for such low-life humans.  All of the seven cats in residence here came from such origins.

So, while the avian newcomers are welcome, I admit that if yesterday's cat ( a no-show today) decided to move up the road I won't be upset. I'm expecting a call from neighbor Sandy anytime now telling me about her ‘new' kitty.  It's springtime in the country.



2:05 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, April 23, 2015



Lying awake in the cold dark of my bedroom my eyes slowly adjust to the black night in the familiar space.  I think about how many others have lain awake or asleep or have died in this very place.  It doesn't make me at all uncomfortable. Rather, I marvel that I'm not quite sleeping in a room that has existed for almost two centuries.  Reaching behind the bed my hand can touch the rough-hewn timber of the post and beam bones of the house that John Graugh or John Grog, (depending on the document consulted) built in 1821. 

It's quiet as a tomb most of the time.  Maybe a fox yips or a distant coyote howls.  My dogs pay no attention. Their snuffles and snores are as regular as a ticking clock.  They never seem to have trouble sleeping.

Outside the wind picks up and disturbs the wind chime hanging under the pergola.  When it's not so cold I open the windows and let the crisp night air into the room and it's accompanied by spring peepers down at the pond; my favorite sound.  Finally I fall asleep, grateful that this old house is still standing


5:55 pm edt          Comments

Monday, April 20, 2015



When I decided to sell my skull collection on Craigslist several paranoid friends advised against the venue.  "You never know what kind of pervert will show up at your house," they all warned in varying degrees of trepidation.  I listed the collection anyway.

Over the years I've bought and sold items through Craigslist and with the exception of a couple of annoying losers who responded to sale items they had no intention of buying I've met some very nice people.  And so it was on Saturday when Joan showed up to purchase the box of skulls which ranged from mice to bovine and just about everything in between.

Occasionally you click with some people and Joan was such a person; a teacher who planned to use the collection for a classroom presentation to show the difference between omnivore and herbivore teeth, but she was also a vet tech which is how she came to help me shave and bathe Rattycat.  'One more example that nice people really do still exist in this nasty world, even on Craigslist.

Rattycat had a vet appointment scheduled for this morning to be sedated and shaved as his matting condition was far worse than all previous years.  The poor guy is FIV positive and suffers serious health setbacks periodically.  The vet says he doubts there will be many more remissions for the old cat and predicted impending doom.  RC's life is simple.  He has no interest in personal grooming.  He just eats and sleeps and doesn't appear to be in pain other than that caused by his incredibly matted rear section that surely hurt when he moved about.  He looked terrible and although I'd been snipping clumps daily, his hind quarters were simply impenetrable.  They were clearly caused him a lot of discomfort, but I couldn't hold him and clip all by myself and his patience was limited.

As my skull collection customer and I chatted about animals the conversation came round to RC's sorry condition.  The day was warm and sunny and perfect for Ratty boy's extreme makeover and Joan was happy to help.  While I restrained the big cat she  worked calmly and expertly with the clippers.  We allowed him to rest at intervals, but after a couple of hours he was free of the worst of the pain-causing mats.  He'd never had a bath before Saturday, but he seemed to really enjoy the warm water, the sudsy massage and the Loreal cream rinse and protested not at all.

He's been resting in his kitty bed since the weather turned so chilly, but when things warm up, grooming will resume.  There remains much snipping, clipping and brushing to be done, but the cat that looked like he was at deaths door now has a new lease on life. And to think, it's all because of Craigslist.

5:40 pm edt          Comments

Thursday, April 16, 2015



Anyone who knows me knows that I am an enthusiastic advocate of the barter system.  Some of my more notable trades have included bricks to floor my porch in trade for taking the former brick owner shopping, eggs for cashmere sweaters, garden produce for fresh walleye fillets and more.  So when a friend offered to swap donkey poo (I have plenty and two bad asses whose production of this commodity is prodigious) for some bamboo plants, I jumped at the trade.

The woods south of the pond are ruined due to flooding caused by a change in the elevation and angle of the roadway. This transformed the once-lovely maple and beech habitat into what looks like a mangrove swamp.  According to the township road department, the situation can't be corrected.  Faced with a 'forest' of vertical and horizontal corpses I've planted willow switches, hemlock and red cedars. I've also scattered assorted seeds that I hoped would thrive and create a lush habitat for wildlife while also creating a visual screen for me.  I liked the idea of a forest of invasive, fast-growing bamboo even if it is non-native.  It seemed like a perfect solution to my denuded area and so the deal was sealed.

Rain was forecast, so it seemed prudent to load the truck yesterday with bagged poo although it won't be delivered until Sunday.  This is how I came to wreck my new truck.  Once again, the bad asses are indirectly to blame, or so I want to think although I know I really have no one to blame but myself.

The gate to the barnyard is 10' wide which is adequate in itself, but due to the narrow roadway it's necessary to jockey the truck into just the right position to make the turn.  It's not possible to just make a 90 degree turn from the road.  The donkeys were in the lower pasture when I embarked on this memorable (in a bad way) maneuver.  I didn't think they noticed that something was happening on the north side of the barn, but alas, I was wrong.

With the gate secured wide open I rushed to get the truck inside the barnyard before my ‘helpers' noticed as I knew they would make a break for one of their long-overdue walkabouts.  In my haste I miscalculated the position of the truck just as the two came into view.  That's when a sickening thud followed by a nauseating dull dragging sound told me I had hit the fence.  No time for bemoaning the dilemma.  I leapt from the stuck truck, released the gate so that it swung against the front bumper thus closing off any escape route and then ran to see the damage I'd inflicted.

The handsome red truck that has only been mine for five short weeks had three deep grooves in the passenger side.  Staring at the wreckage I wanted to cry.  Instead, I locked the donkeys in their stall, backed the truck out, straightened it and pulled into the barnyard. Physical exertion is good in times of trouble, so in record time I loaded the bed with a generous supply of manure.

When the job was finished I inspected the damage more closely and found that the paint was only scuffed. Any minor scratches would easily buff out.  How difficult could it be to fix the smashed area, I naively wondered?  I drove to the body shop fully expecting that the dents could just be ‘popped out.' Wrong again! The perfectionist body shop owner said that I must "do it right or don't do it at all..."  Mumbling and copying figures from his computer screen he finally hit ‘print' and presented me with a repair estimate of $1,200.00!!! 

Given his ultimatum of doing it right or not doing it at all, I'm afraid I must opt for the latter at this point. 

I won't even allow myself to guess how much bamboo could be purchased at a local nursery for $1,200.00.  I fear that this is one barter deal that will not go down as such a good swap, but I have no one to blame but myself.  Hopefully the yet-to-be-acquired bamboo will thrive and create a lush green screen that will quickly isolate me from everything south of this property.  Hope springs eternal....

7:16 pm edt          Comments

Saturday, April 4, 2015



I believe it was the late Barbara Woodhouse that proclaimed there were "no bad dogs...."  I beg to differ with the expert dog trainer.  She never met Tess.

I returned from Nebraska late last Thursday, looking forward to relaxing at home after a busy trip and a long day of travel, but that was not to be. The smell that greeted me when I opened the door was enough to knock my socks off. If a skunk had greeted me in person rather than three happy dogs things could not have been more malodorous.

"Oh, after a few days you hardly notice it," said my critter sitter.  Apparently Tess' encounter had happened the second day I was gone and she had gotten the full blast on her face.  Being Tess, she did not alter her behavior and continued to sleep on the sofas upstairs and down, roll around on all of the rugs and managed to stink up every inch of the house.  I wanted to cry, but was too tired to do anything about it that night, but sleep was elusive due to the headache-provoking smell.

The next two days were spent scrubbing (dog included), spritzing rugs with Febreeze and trying to lessen the unwelcome aroma.  Maybe the critter sitter was right.  After a few days I almost didn't notice it or maybe my olfactory system was out of order.  I actually thought I was making some progress-until yesterday when Tess had another encounter with her perfume producer.  We were back to square #1.

It was a busy day with several visitors. I issued apologies for the smell and failed to notice that Tess wasn't downstairs pestering my guests and being obnoxious as she usually is.  She had work to do upstairs.

Sweet Julie who never does anything bad adored her dog bed (each dog has its own), but Tess dragged Julie's into the center of the bedroom and redesigned it, creating a pocket of sorts, like a cocoon in which to stuff her fat stinky self.


If only Ms. Woodhouse could have met Tess.


9:55 am edt          Comments

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