Saturday, September 23, 2017
2:24 pm edt
Doesn't it just figure; you go away for a week or so and return to all that had its way in your absence-like mowing the weed patch that
passes for ‘lawn.' And so it was.... Mowing is not my favorite chore under any circumstances, but it had to be done,
so I trudged down to the tractor shed, opened the hood of the New Holland and pulled up the dipstick, knowing the engine would
need to be topped off. It had been using a good bit of oil lately, but oil is cheap and labor to ‘fix' the problem is
expensive. This year had already been one big financial hemorrhage, so I dumped in enough oil to bring it up to the full mark
and backed out of the shed, ignoring the shiny black puddle left behind.
VAH-ROOOM, BIP BIP BIP went the engine
and with each BIP BIP BIP, the mower disengaged. A dreaded task just became more bothersome. Something was wrong, so I called
Tommy, my tractor guru and in a flash the young mechanical genius arrived on his ATV, made a few adjustments and said, "I'll
just mow for you." (Ah, music to my ears!) "I hate to tell you this, but that oil leak is getting worse
and you're gonna have to have a ring job pretty soon. It's gonna be expensive and you'll probably have trouble finding someone
to do it," he warned before setting off in a cloud of blue smoke.
Tommy does a good job mowing. In no time at all he finished
the ‘lawn' around the house and asked about mowing the pasture. "Sure, go ahead and do that too," I replied.
"I'll get the gate for you."
He'd only made a few passes when I heard him scream, "FIRE!" I turned around
and sure enough, orange flames were licking from under the motor. "GET OFF!' I yelled although he was already beating
feet across the pasture. I ran to get the bad asses into the barn and grabbed the fire extinguisher. Here's a tip I learned
after the fact from the fire chief: Those fire extinguishers that seem like insurance against such situations don't work after
years of languishing on the wall hanger. They need to be up-ended and banged on the floor once a year to keep the chemical
powder inside from solidifying. Such was the case with the useless red extinguisher. It was dead.
retrospect I'm not sure which of us dialed 911 as we waited for the gas tank to explode. It was pretty obvious the New Holland
was a goner. The flames were really spectacular by the time the tanker truck, the police and countless volunteer firemen arrived.
Rubber-neckers in cars slowed to watch as an impressive young woman, delicate as a butterfly dragged the heavy hose from the
tanker to the flames and with the help of a young man who appeared to be about fourteen years old aimed the foam-spewing stream
at what was once my trusty tractor. When at last the flames died down, all that remained was a blackened heap of metal that
a scrapper was happy to haul away later that week.
in less than two months I've had to call 911; first for EMS who transported me to hospital and then for the fire department.
I don't think I ever fully appreciated these life-saving services until I was on the receiving end. I will be forever grateful,
but sure hope I won't have to call on them again anytime soon!
Big Blue has been replaced by Big Orange (Husquevarna). What else can go wrong before 2017 is over?
Sunday, September 17, 2017
What could go wrong?
5:54 pm edt
Who among us hasn't said, "Oh, go to hell!" Answer:
my mother. Ever aware of her assumed role as a ‘good Lutheran,' she'd exclaim, "Oh, you can just go to Halifax!"
As if in compliance to that order from the grave, that's precisely where I found myself, but for much longer than I'd planned.
The birthday celebration trip to Nova Scotia recalled that hilarious film Trains, Planes and Automobiles, but when
you are the ‘star' it's not so funny.
thought I'd covered all bases; a good flight, car rental and hotel all paid for in advance. What could go wrong? Umm, pretty
The flight got in to Halifax at quarter after midnight. ‘Easy peasy through customs,
etc., then off to the Hertz counter to collect the rental car. So far, so good-until the agent looked at my driver's license."Sorry,
but I can't give you a car and no one else in the Province will rent a car to someone with an invalid license." What?
How did I not notice that my driver's license had expired 3 days earlier-on my birthday.
"But, but, but...,"
I stammered. ‘A grace period perhaps? No. What to do? It was raining in Halifax when I crawled into the cab and began
to weep. For a $63.00 fare the driver delivered me to the pre-booked hotel 14 miles from the airport where I was met by a
flashing NO VACANCY sign.
"Sorry, no room for you," said the bored desk clerk who remained unmoved when I
flashed my printed confirmation. "You should have reserved it for yesterday," he said. Clearly this man did not
understand the difference between AM and PM, an issue I had emphasized upon booking the room that he was now telling me did
not exist. Not even a chair to sit upon in the cluttered office, but then, appearing like a bespectacled angel from a dark
adjoining room a tiny woman informed me that she had located a room at another hotel and would even drive me there. The room
was more than twice the price of the room that I'd booked, but at least I'd sleep in a bed instead of under a bridge and could
deal with the unfolding dilemma in the morning.
When I called my friend who was expecting me at her farm around noon and explained the situation,
she advised getting myself to the bus station which would drop me in a city not too far from her place and she would be there
to collect me. I breathed a sigh of relief, opened the draperies and looked out upon a beautiful sunny Nova Scotia morning.
After a lovely breakfast and another costly cab ride I purchased a $51.00 bus ticket and climbed aboard with a handful of
others including ‘Mary' who was apparently a regular rider.
Poor Mary was not young. She weighed about
90 pounds and sported just a few teeth, none of them in good shape. Her skin tight jeans and a fringed leather jacket enhanced
her performance as she danced madly and hopped about the terminal and onto the bus like a jitterbug, clearly hyped up on more
than just coffee. Other than Mary, who quickly ran out of steam, the long ride was silent. At last the bus hissed to a stop
and there was my friend. Surely she would know how to ‘fix' my predicament, right? Not quite....
I had so looked forward to visiting another friend, hiking in the Cape Breton Highlands,
spending long hours alone walking the beach and to recharging my mental and physical energies, but that was not to be. While
her farm is lovely, it is essentially where I spent the entire trip with only a few respites. Even so, the change of scene
was nice as was catching up on events since last years visit. I read a couple of good books and cataloged some projects I'd
implement when I returned home.
At last I pulled into my own driveway, happy to finally be alone with my animals and to sleep
in my own bed. All was well-until the fire....
Sunday, September 3, 2017
Up, up and away.
1:50 pm edt
Another birthday has come and gone (thank goodness) and so to ‘celebrate'
this landmark I decided to spend time at one of my favorite places-Nova Scotia. In a few hours I'll be soaring through troubled
skies toward a peaceful sanctuary in the Maritimes. The purpose of this trip is to hopefully restore tranquility and
to revive creative inspiration. Keep fingers crossed.
Sunday, August 6, 2017
The year so far...
5:05 pm edt
As Lemony Snicket might note, 2017 has been a series of unfortunate events.
I think/hope that these are now over, but it has not been a good year. Here is a brief summary of the most notable mishaps:
resurgence of a disease that had been in remission since 1981 was literally life-changing. Thanks to the wonderful Cleveland
Clinic, I am now well, but until quite recently the effects of the illness and the side-effects of the miracle drugs put all
writing and most everything else on hold. Not writing was about more than a loss of income for me. It was a loss of identity
and that was much worse. Now that this unpleasant stagnating chapter is behind me I look forward to resuming my work and reclaiming
Of all the things I've loved about this old farm, the huge Norway maple
tree just outside the kitchen window was perhaps the most cherished. The massive tree sheltered and cooled the house, provided
lodging for countless critters and was a favorite gathering spot when I hosted music parties. Musician friends would make
a circle of chairs under the big tree and their songs mingled with the birds and all seemed well in my little world. Now the
tree, like some of those dear friends is but a memory, but one that will keep this old house warm for many winters to come.
What sounded like rapid rifle fire was actually a large section of the tree splitting and falling
onto my truck. The insurance company deemed the truck ‘totaled,' but ultimately agreed to have the damage repaired.
After more than three weeks in the body shop, the truck is like brand new, but the tree still loomed as a dangerous threat.
incident happened the same week the well at the barn went bad. The words of the water experts were prophetic; "It don't
look good, honey." Indeed. There were a few options, but the most logical one was to tap into the well at the house.
This required a crew of professionals with big equipment who trenched a new 200' water line to the barn where they installed
a standing hydrant. Imagine, after decades of braving all kinds of weather as I pumped two five gallon buckets by hand and
lugged them to the barn each day, I now need only to step outside the door, lift a handle and in a matter of seconds the buckets
are filled. It feels as if I've died and gone to heaven! Such a luxury, but an expensive one.
procrastinated, but the tree could not be ignored, so after consulting a few arborists it became clear that it had to come
down. The rot was extensive and damage was irreversible. The decision was devastating. I engaged Lucky Tree Company to do
the job and it was a ‘lucky' choice. Oh sure, I could have hired a couple of bubbas with a truck and chain saw for less
money, but the Lucky crew was outstanding! They worked like a team of heart surgeons and when the job was finished I was left
with only a memory and cordwood for years to come! The last log was split and stacked today, but plenty of work remains. A
friend with a Bobcat will come on Tuesday to re-contour what now looks like a moonscape.
The week of the
tree-truck incident and the well collapse was also the week I lopped off the end of my ring finger. The good ER doctor stitched
it back into place and aside from a slight numbness that will probably be permanent, that injury was no big deal.
have been other events that might have once been blog-worthy, like Baby the trophy-hunter cat who decided to share her snake-hunting
prowess by bringing them into the living room; eight altogether. Being met by a serpent in the middle of the room at 6:00
AM is not a good way to start any day. The clever girl was bringing her prey through the kitty door in the basement, pushing
the cellar door open and depositing her slithery gifts for me to find when least expected. Locking the upstairs door to the
basement stopped that fun, but this week she caught the bat that had been zooming around my bedroom and delivered it's bleeding
body to me. Thankfully I was asleep, but knew from the bloody spots discovered on my clean sheets the next morning what had
happened. By the time I found the corpse it had been moved to the guest room. Such a busy helper....
so, for those who have kindly inquired why I'd abandoned this blog and seemed to have taken on a hermitic way of life, I hope
this explanation will suffice. Here's to better days ahead!
Sunday, February 26, 2017
Penning Porn for Profit--or not...
5:41 pm est
I've been very fortunate in my writing career. Over the years I've met some fascinating people and have been paid nicely for
my stories, but sometimes I and other writers I know reach a point where we feel stuck and uninspired. That's not good.
No writing = no income.
been at that stuck station for quite a while. The very thought of writing one more piece about pastured pigs or imperiled
pollinators left me nearly comatose, but what to do...? Maybe all I needed was a simple change of subject matter.
Leafing through Writer's Market for the most lucrative genres
I found them to be religion and porn. That first genre was out of the question since I am a pantheist and everything about
pantheism has already been written by thinkers far more profound than I could ever hope to be. That left porn as the
other profitable option, so I decided to give it a go, but I would tell no one.
How difficult could it be anyway? I'd read Fifty Shades of Gray and found
the writing tiresome at best (all that lower lip biting...). My own effort would be more subtle; suggestive rather than overt
and I would debut ‘Just Another Dick' (under a pen name of course). The protagonist's victim was named Richard, AKA
Dick, but the double entendre was intentional.
it was fun, but even more fun was my secret writing life. Those who know me would be shocked to think their aging, turtleneck
and sneaker-clad friend, the one with dog, cat and donkey hairs stuck all over her sweaters would even think about
writing such rubbish. If they only knew.... Tapping away at the computer made me smile just imagining their reactions.
And then it happened; the computer
crashed. Backing stuff up (even if it's trash) is important, but alas I hadn't done so. And I was just getting to the good
part too. Before it was completed, it was gone. My venture into the seedy world of porn ended before it ever really began-an
omen perhaps. And no, I've no plans to start over.
I've returned to writing about critters and oddball people, but it's different now. A black cloud of divisiveness
hangs over everything, including subjects that used to be as innocuous as, well, pastured pigs. I think of this period as
transitional, but I don't know what it's transitioning to.
I'd also decided
to abandon this blog as finding the joy and inspiration that was so abundant when old Kenny was alive is gone: When a trip
down his rutted lane meant escape from all the cares of the world. When Kitty and Mister Stinky the skunk hurried to greet
my truck. When the old man in the over-heated house teetered out to the kitchen to see what I'd brought for his dinner. When
the vulgar incompetent creature that now sits in the White House was not yet a reality. When I was naively content....
I was in England when Kenny's farm
sold and was glad to have missed the auction. It would have been painful to see the gavel fall, but a part of me hoped that
the new owner might be someone who shared my respect for the 1857 farm: someone who would restore the old house, someone who
would grow organic crops and who would understand the difference between ‘need' and ‘want.' Someone like Kenny.
When the political sign sprouted at the end of that familiar lane, I knew that hope had been in vain.
So, now the siding is being stripped from the house and the inside
is gutted right down to the sturdy bones that kept it sound for 160 years. One building has been burned to the ground and
there's no hint of the sanctuary that once existed. I've met the new owner and he is everything I expected, but not what I'd
Thank goodness for dogs.