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Saturday, September 23, 2017



photos/ebayfeb326.jpgDoesn'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. 


In 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.


Twice 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!

PS: Big Blue has been replaced by Big Orange (Husquevarna). What else can go wrong before 2017 is over? 



2:24 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 17, 2017

What could go wrong?


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. 

I thought I'd covered all bases; a good flight, car rental and hotel all paid for in advance. What could go wrong? Umm, pretty much everything....

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....


5:54 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Up, up and away.


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.

1:50 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, August 6, 2017

The year so far...

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:

A 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 my identity.

 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.


 That 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.

I 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.

There 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....


And 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!





5:05 pm edt          Comments

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Penning Porn for Profit--or not...


photos/22516.jpgI'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.

I'd 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.

Penning 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 hoped for.

photos/ebayfeb068.jpgThank goodness for dogs.


5:41 pm est          Comments


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