Wednesday, August 31, 2011
AUGUST 31, 2011
5:47 pm edt
Happy birthday to me,
Happy birthday to me,
The wood pile is all stacked,
birthday to me!
Yes, today is my birthday. Although I still feel like I'm thirty, a quick look in the mirror reminds me that I most
definitely am not! I remember when birthdays took such a long time to roll around, especially that twenty-first one,
but now it seems that I blink and suddenly I'm another year older. Oh well, I'm happy, healthy and independent. Who
could ask for anything more?
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
12:25 pm edt
"If you need pallets, just stop by the shop. There are some by the dumpster," said Super Sue. So I stopped
by yesterday and was greeted by the pint-sized dynamo. She was green from head to toe. Her hair, face and glasses
were speckled with grass clippings because she'd been "weed whipping." In addition to tending three acres
of their home gardens, she also tends the grounds around their business.
She helped load the pallets into my truck
and said she might stop by later. "I'll help," she said as I was leaving. Back home I got to work leveling
the ground, putting the pallets in place and stacking the cordwood. I was also making tomato sauce and working in the
gardens, but by the time my energy had run out I felt that I'd at least made a dent in the huge pile of wood. That's
when the red SUV pulled in. It was Sue (minus the green accoutrements) and she was ready to stack firewood.
a fool turns down volunteer help and I'm no fool! We stacked until we ran out of space. I suggested we sit on the porch
and relax, but Sue had other ideas.
"How's that pond looking?" she wondered. At this point the pond is just a small green puddle in the
midst of thigh high weeds. We stood looking at the disappointing "water feature" and I guess I really shouldn't
have been surprised when the tireless creature said, "I've got my weed whip in the car...."
fired it up and set about "whipping" a path down to the water thinking maybe I could get the tractor down the steep
bank. I did, but it was dicey! We only made a dent in clearing some of the weedy pit and of course nothing will
be gained from our labor regarding the leak, but just being in the presence of such boundless energy as Sue's is invigorating.
I was so tired by the time I dragged in from evening barn chores I thought I might drop, but I'll bet Sue went home and worked
in her perfect gardens or maybe built a garage or something. Does she ever sleep???
(Note to self: Find out what kind
of coffee this woman drinks!!!)
Monday, August 29, 2011
HALF WAY THERE--ALMOST...
8:56 pm edt
I've set September 1 as my goal
to have the wood pile stacked and garden work finished so I can concentrate on the writing assignments piling up on my desk.
I think I'm almost half way there. Writing is easy. Stacking firewood is hard work. Too pooped to write
Sunday, August 28, 2011
NO ORDINARY DAYS!
2:11 pm edt
Goethe wrote, "A man can stand anything except a succession of
I'm in total agreement with Goethe, but thankfully there is no such thing as an ordinary day here. Take yesterday for
example: I went to the flea market with friend Rose, then came home to find a message on the answering machine
from my arborist friend Dick, "I'm about a half hour from your place and I've got something for you...." No
sooner had I finished listening to the message when a red dump truck loaded with seasoned, split cordwood pulled into the
Certainly my German upbringing which epitomized frugality and preparing for rainy days has influenced my adult life, so not
surprisingly I've been thinking about winter (my favorite season) and the need to get some more firewood. Considering the
outrageously-fluctuating price of heating oil I expect to rely more heavily on the wood stoves in the basement and the living
room for warmth this year. Now, thanks to this friend I'm all set.
The location of the pile of dumped cordwood
created a logistical problem requiring plenty of heavy labor, but I'd been promising myself to to get in better shape anyway,
so "weight training" would no longer be an option; it would be a daily activity--starting immediately.
First that jungle of tall ragweed had to go, so I began that project yesterday just to create a work space. The raised
bed frame that I had so proudly built in the spring had to be dismantled and the soil redistributed in order to access the
proposed expanded wood storage area behind the tractor shed.
I did that today. Then there
was the huge pile of 4' logs that neighbor Butch dumped here several weeks ago. The original plan was for T. to cut
them into stove-size pieces, bring the splitter over here and split them to add to the measley stack of cordwood left from
last year. No need to do that now, but the pile had to go. It was in the way of everything else.
this might sound like an easily-solved problem, it wasn't. There was no way to get a truck or even a wheelbarrow anywhere
close. In order to rid myself of the unwanted logs I had to create a pathway wide enough for a wheelbarrow so I could
transport the logs to my truck. AAUUGGHH!!! It took hours, but that's done too.
Rain has aborted
redistributing the remaining soil from the dismantled raised bed (thank goodness! I'm pooped!) Once everything
is leveled I'll pick up some pallets from the hardware and begin stacking the mountain of wood that will keep this old house
toasty when winter winds blow. I actually look forward to this part of the job. Stacking firewood is a good time for
reflection. I'm grateful for my friends, a strong healthy body and that my life is not "a succession of ordinary
Saturday, August 27, 2011
LIFE IS A SONG.
3:30 pm edt
The hens and chicks
have been moved from the ‘nursery' and now have access to the outside transitional pen, so I headed up toward the barn
to check on them. That's when I heard a robust male voice singing at full volume. My first thought was that it
must be a radio, but the sound grew closer and the dogs raced to the fence to investigate. A shirtless young man, probably
in his late teens was walking up the road, obviously unaware that he was not alone. The tune wasn't familiar, but he had a
very good voice! At that point I was hidden from his view, but the dogs followed him on their side of the fence as if
he were a pied piper. When he saw his appreciative canine audience he stopped and turned to face them, threw his arms
into the air and cried, "I love you!" and then proceeded to sing his way up the road. How beautiful to be
so utterly uninhibited, I thought.
The day was perfect; breezy and sunny, so maybe that's what inspired the stranger's song and it occurred to me that too much
time had passed since the dogs and I had gone for a long walk, so rather than work in my office I grabbed their leashes. They
were jubilant as we set off on our trek! It felt good to be moving along at a brisk clip although Ernie seemed to have
forgotten his manners and tugged ahead of the pack until he felt the half-halt reprimand. By the time we approached
Ranger Rick's woods the trio had fallen into their old orderly formation.
Nothing smells like a deciduous forest
in late summer. Each season has its own special ambiance and each time the smells of the seasons change I think, this
one is my favorite. Walnuts, hickory nuts and acorns have started to fall and the trail was littered with mast.
Fresh deer tracks told me the big buck had recently passed by and the dogs nervously sniffed coyote scat before racing on
ahead. It was good to be back in that peaceful place.
I hesitated when we reached the path that led to old Kenny's field, but the dogs were already leaping through the waist-high
Queen Anne's Lace, ironweed and just-blossoming goldenrod. Except for Julie who is still a bean pole, they looked like
fat gazelles bounding through the wildflowers. It's hard to believe it's been more than twenty years that I've known
the seasonal beauty of old Kenny's meadow.
Even when Farmer Chuck cleared some hedgerows and planted corn, then soybeans in the vast south field it was still beautiful.
Now the field is ablaze in late summer wildflowers. I stood at the edge looking at the familiar acres and then I saw
the flags. Not just the pink ribbons that dot the entire township, visible confirmation that the landowner has signed
a fracking agreement, but bright orange ribbons as well. The song in my heart expired as we trudged toward the north
end of the pasture.
There should have been cattle there. I expected to see Cow, the old Hereford, the liberated bull and maybe even this
year's calf, but the field was empty. Worse still, the single hot wire was down. I didn't want to think about
where the cattle had gone. Kenny has never in all of his ninety years been without cows, but now it seems they've been
replaced by ribbons marking sites for explosives and seismic monitors. Out of state trucks race along these country
roads from early morning until dusk and beyond. The crews from Texas, Louisiana and New York are already drilling in
the soybean field across from S's dairy barn. Neighbor Sandy says she heard that blasting will begin before month's
Old Kenny seems to be slowly abandoning his lifelong commitment to responsible land stewardship. Until he leased his
fields to Farmer Chuck, his farm hadn't known commercial, petro-based fertilizers. Manure and rotating fallow sections
worked well enough for him. Granted, Kenny probably never knew harvests like Chuck's, but he stayed true to his respect
for the land and that meant more than money to Kenny.
Now that the cows appear to be gone (I cling to a hope that they were all inside the barn) and the fields are peppered with
fluorescent ribbons it seems to me that Kenny is getting ready to leave the life he's loved for almost a century. He
won't live long without cattle and I imagine that the dogs and I will not have access to our beloved fields much longer either.
It seems as if Kenny is committing a slow suicide and no one can stop him.
Friday, August 26, 2011
YOU WON'T HAVE NIXON TO KICK AROUND ANYMORE.
1:23 pm edt
His face was distinctive
as mouse faces go. He looked just like Richard Nixon, but alas, just like the former president he's now gone.
The cats won't have him to "kick around anymore."
I'd actually grown rather fond of the kitchen mouse. How could you not admire his chutzpah; the way he peeked from safety,
then bravely raced from one refuge to another. He took tremendous chances. Sometimes as many as three cats would
be stationed lying in wait for him to make a mistake. Their kitty eyebrows would be knitted in concentration as sensitive
paws blindly fished around under the bin or cupboard. I'd get down on my hands and knees and shine the flashlight into
the dark recess to find him safely huddled in a rear corner. The frustrated cats would finally tire of the game, then Nixon
would vanish. He was darned cute.
About 10" in front of the wall cupboard there is one very ancient mouse hole in the old wood floor, it's edges worn smooth
and thin from nearly 200 years of rodent retreats. The hole offered a safe exit to the cellar bunker. Maybe Nixon
was taking advantage of it, but I'd never actually seen him use it. In fact I had seen no cat/mouse pursuit for the
past several days, but this morning the bottom ‘rag drawer' was pulled open and the cupboard doors under the sink were
also ajar, the trash bin knocked askew. I should have guessed something had happened, but I just closed things up without
giving it a second thought.
Then I found Nixon's head. No sign of the rest of him; just that dear little face I'd grown to know. To the best
of my knowledge he leaves no surviving family members. The smug look on Tiny's face suggests she may have played a role in
his savage execution.
Thursday, August 25, 2011
LIFE AT MY NOT-SO-PEACEABLE KINGDOM.
10:31 am edt
I'd spent Tuesday cleaning, angst-ridden about hosting overnight guests who didn't know me, then determined that fretting
over the fact that my home is not as fancy or as amenity-equipped as places I have stayed was just plain crazy! This
is my home and I have always taken a certain pride in its simplicity. So, why was I fretting!
a Bed & Breakfast never struck me as a fun idea. I live alone because I like my solitude. And since I'm admittedly
a snob I only invite people here whom I like and respect (well, for the most part anyway...). Considering these facts,
a small single bathroom is quite adequate. I don't mind the limited heat or the lack of AC. My vegetarian lifestyle
is healthy and I'm a good cook, so I make no apologies for the fare. As for the animals, I love them and life without critters
would be no life for me, so that's just the way things are.
I think people feel comfortable here. At least I hope they do. I've been in homes (?) where I've felt the eyes
of the hostess boring into me lest I sit a cup or glass down without a coaster, move an uncomfortably-placed pillow or disturb
the display of magazines she has fanned out on the coffee table like those in a waiting room. To me, that is not a gracious
home. My only request is that visitors don't spill or break things. They can set things down wherever they want
to. I do. And I'm not going to feign shock if a cat jumps onto the table. I'll just shoo it away, just as
I would if no one were here.
So, by the time my guests arrived I had adopted the attitude, "What's the worst that can happen? They won't like
my accommodations or will be offended by the animals that live here? So what?"
The pleasant couple arrived around 9:30
pm. We chatted a bit, but they had to catch an early flight yesterday morning. "Can you wake us up at 3:15?"
they asked. That was 3:15 AM!!! I woke them, fixed them tea (they declined breakfast, thank goodness) and they
were gone by 4:00 Am. I had not slept at all and simply felt fried, so wearily I climbed the stairs, plopped into bed
and promptly fell into a deep sleep. Four lovely hours of rest was all I was to enjoy before the phone began ringing.
The last call was from my daughter.
Her pain-choked voice told me she was having a kidney stone attack. It was deja vu from two years earlier. I threw on
clothes and sped to her stable to find her flat on her back, gray-faced and writhing in pain. One of her capable friends
was already on the scene taking care of the horses. We had to get Jill up, but one of her Cane Corso (Italian Mastiff)
dogs had stationed herself as guard over her mistress. The plan was to put the dogs into a stall, but pulling Jill upright
while a 130 pound dog "protected" her was a bit dicey. The other Corso was terrified and sat growling and
barking in Jill's truck. Neither the friend nor I thought it a good idea to grab the dog's collar. We left that
dog in the truckand concentrated on Jill.
After getting her into a vertical position she thought she felt well enough to drive herself home although I was skeptical.
With no medical insurance and having just paid off the bill from the other kidney stone incident, her reluctance to go to
hospital was understandable. She still had pain medication from that 5 day ordeal, so I acquiesced. Jill
went to her home and I returned to mine, still feeling the effects of not enough sleep. The day dragged groggily on
until Jill called again. This time the situation was not debatable. She had to go to hospital!
water on my face, called neighbor Sandy to ask her to check on my animals if I were not home by 9:00 PM and then sped up to
my daughter's house to find her supine on her bathroom floor. We spent the next 5 ½ hours in the Emergency Room.
The good news is that she passed the kidney stone. I got home at 11:30 PM which is why there was no blog post yesterday.
No excuses, just an explanation.
I'm hopeful that life here at the not-so Peaceable Kingdom will soon return to normal.
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
YOUR ROOM AWAITS.
11:50 am edt
As per previous gripes,
I'm having a tough time catching up on all that awaited my post-holiday attention and rather than making progress, I seem
to be falling further and further behind. Yesterday I learned that I'll be hosting overnight guests this evening.
of the "advantages" (???) of getting older is the privilege of joining something called the Evergreen Travel Club,
an unofficial Bed & Breakfast of sorts. In all seriousness, it's a terrific opportunity. For just $15.00 members
can stay at the homes of other global members. The price includes, what else--a bed and breakfast! I have personally
enjoyed Evergreen lodgings in several states and in Canada. My hosts have all been gracious and my accommodations have
been very nice.
As an Evergreen member one is required to make his/her home also available to travelers. Tonight my first ever Evergreen
guests are arriving!!! Panic! I have advised them that accommodations here are Spartan, animals live here (both
inside and outside) and that breakfast will be vegetarian fare. They're coming anyway.
hosted many guests from all over the world, these have all been people who knew me. They weren't terribly surprised
or disappointed at the unconventional lodgings, but based upon my own Evergreen experiences which have all included private
bathrooms, I fear tonight's guests may be stunned.
There is only a single small bathroom in this house. And while their room is clean and the bed is very comfortable,
to reach it they must pass directly through my own bedroom. Oh, and did I mention the low clearance? The room
with the double bed is a former attic. One must either be very short or walk with heads cocked to the side. Tall
folks might have to crawl.
Oh dear, I hope they won't be too disappointed!
Sunday, August 21, 2011
WHERE WILL THIS YEAR TAKE ME?
12:15 pm edt
birthday is fast approaching. My daughter gave me an early present; a new laptop computer and I'm delighted with
it, but just as I do each August I find myself consumed not with thoughts of gifts or celebrations, but with thoughts about
how I will use the upcoming year. Will it only be spent seeking security and physical comfort? Or, will it be
spent taking a more active stance for things I believe in?
A couple of years ago an unwarranted ambush of our township police chief threw me into a public fight for justice.
The attack launched by two sleazy goons provoked a fury I hadn't felt since marching for civil rights or protesting the Viet
Nam war. Justice ultimately prevailed. The creeps who had choreographed the effort to unseat a respected public
servant slunk away like scum down a drain. The year-long battle was invigorating and rewarding, but it was exhausting.
These days there are so many things that are unjust, exploitive or simply wrong that it's hard to know where to put one's
energy. Consequently we risk becoming apathetic. But as I look at my rural community littered with pink flags indicating
the successful efforts of the oil and gas "representatives," part of me feels compelled to loudly and publicly voice
my opposition to the fracking frenzy. The issue has been polarizing and mine is certainly a minority voice in this township.
A lot of people have chosen to dismiss scientific facts, hoping to get rich quick. http://www.xtranormal.com/watch/8268337/a-natural-gas-fracking-land-lease-tale
However, another part of me, the part that acknowledges my vulnerability as a minority feels fearful. Violence is an
all-too-accepted part of life these days, even in rural America. I don't wish to become a victim, nor do I wish to fire
my revolver at anyone. I don't like any of these feelings.
This inner conflict stings more than the nettles I got into on Saturday. I refuse to ever join that segment of society
too busy or indifferent to care about the world beyond my own little existence. I don't crave status symbols or wealth
or fame. But I do crave the company of others who decry deceit, exploitation and corruption. Where are the passionate
kindred souls of the past? There used to be a lot of us.
There's a protest against the proposed
tar sand oil pipeline underway in Washington. Even knowing that a sit-in won't have any real effect against the oil and gas
industry or the spineless politicians, I'd like to go and drink in the passion of those brave enough to risk arrest for demanding
justice and environmental responsibility. http://vimeo.com/27902739
Logic says I can't afford to go. Money is tight right now. I have several fast-approaching writing deadlines.
I have animal expenses that can't be deferred. I have garden produce that must be harvested and preserved for the upcoming
winter. I have responsibilities. I have all kinds of excuses, hence I have inner conflict. My small country
life is not peaceful right now.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
WOE IS ME.
11:01 pm edt
My original plan for the day
was to relax; just lie on the porch and read the New Yorker, but it was impossible. The overgrown grass derailed my
plan. Instead of reading (after bathing all three dogs), I got on the tractor and confronted my most-hated task.
All went as well as could be expected until, while mowing an area I consider a ‘short cut' from the south to the west
yard. For no apparent reason, whilst in the midst of a dense jungle of stinging nettle, the damned mower just quit.
Investigating the cause was not an option unless I had masochistic tendencies (which I do not). I had no choice but
to push the tractor out of its tangle of misery into the open. This was not an easy thing to do, but alas I prevailed
and told myself that the exertion more than compensated for the Reese's cup I had eaten for lunch.
The tractor finally
sat in a clearing. Even knowing my lack of mechanical prowess I got down on hands and knees to investigate only to find
myself kneeling next to a big pile of dog poo. I really tried to keep my composure as once again I set about pushing
the heavy beast clear of the unpleasant deposit. At last, it was in a safe zone. I checked all those confusing
belts and all seemed in place, yet the tractor refused to move. I was left with no option other than confessing the
latest mowing predicament to T. who has promised to fix it tomorrow. Have I ever mentioned how much I hate mowing? I
hate it even more now.
As compensation, we went to see Midnight in Paris, a wonderful Woody Allen flick. I will not think about the immovable
tractor until tomorrow.
Friday, August 19, 2011
A GLIMPSE OF SUE'S GARDEN.
11:27 am edt
I've always believed
that if acted-upon convictions impact just one other person it's possible to change the world. Sometimes I'm surprised
by how this theory is exemplified. For example, I started this silly blog as a writing discipline just for myself. I
was amazed that anyone else found my ramblings interesting, but though the blog I have encountered many wonderful people,
some of whom have become friends.
Meeting Sue and Bud who transformed my terrace into a thing of beauty and who certainly influenced the way I now look at and
approach projects changed my own life. When Sue and Bud were adopted by a feral cat that they were reluctant to accept
I introduced them to my daughter Jill who operates Cripple Creek Ferals and Friends (http://www.petfinder.com/shelters/OH915.html ), a cat rescue charity. With Jill's help their feral cat was trapped, vetted, named Pywacket and is now a part of
Sue and Bud's family. Thus, they too became involved in confronting the problem of abandoned animals by adopting one
and by educating others.
When Sue conducted a tour for Town and Country Garden Club this week, she presented her visitors with fliers about Jill's
cat rescue organization and the Alliance garden enthusiasts graciously sent a donation to Cripple Creek which in turn will
help with the expense of vetting eight kittens that were recently dumped in a corn field.
I think this illustrates the adage that
for every action there is a reaction. In a world of so much pain, destruction and ugliness, just when things seem so hopeless,
it's encouraging to realize that even the simplest act can have far-reaching positive effects. Nothing is inconsequential.
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
BAD ASS INVASION.
1:25 pm edt
Recently I shared a photo and my delight over the lush volunteer garden that had erupted inside the chicken pen. There
were pumpkin and squash vines, corn and robust tomato plants all thriving in the small enclosure that serves as a safe transition
space for hens with chicks. I was ever so pleased because the dense vegetation would provide plenty of shade, food and
cover for them and anticipated moving the new families out there within the next couple of weeks. But now thanks to
one especially-bad ass nearly all of that protective vegetation is gone.
I'm still not feeling well, but animals
must be fed and watered, so I dragged myself out the back door hoping to get by doing just the most basic chores. I
didn't expect to see a donkey standing inside the chicken pen as if he'd been dropped there from the sky. The pen gate
was still closed and latched, but there stood Corky amidst the ruin, blinking his long-lashed doe eyes at me and feigning
Having discovered the ‘all-you-can-eat-salad-bar-if -you-can-just-pull-off-a few- boards' he had done that very thing.
I wanted to cry! I'd already harvested some of the corn, but there was more (until Corky's rampage). He'd eaten
all of the tomatoes, leaves included. Nothing remained but trampled little stumps. The pumpkin and squash vines were
untouched. ‘No fun messing with those until just before they are ‘ready' to pick. That's when they
become donkey toys.
Clever fellow that he is, Corky had not gone about his work on the south side of the pen where I might possibly have seen
and aborted his demolition project. Working on the north side he was safely hidden from sight by the formerly-healthy
garden. As I entered the barnyard the little gray terrorist shot from the wreckage as if he'd been fired from a cannon.
Not such a bad idea, I thought.
I have to keep reminding myself how lovable he is most of the time, but not today!
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I am extremely ill today (flu?) and will hopefully have a blog post tomorrow.
For now, it's back to my sick bed.
6:40 pm edt
Monday, August 15, 2011
8:03 pm edt
The farm was not
stagnant while I was away. Things happened and upon my return I was welcomed by more than the usual menagerie of dogs,
cats, donkeys and chickens. There were newcomers; some welcome, some not so welcome.
At the barn the
two diligent hens that have wasted their summer setting on non-viable eggs finally hatched some chicks. My conscientious
critter sitter set up a maternity ward in the extra stall, but the two old girls bicker constantly, each worried that the
other one might steal her baby. Of course the peeps are adorable.
There's a new resident at the house too,
but this one will be relocating as soon as possible! While the crazed cats are set on exterminating all moles within
a five acre radius, they have chosen to ignore the mouse who has taken up a comfortable residence in the kitchen. They
act as if the rodent is part of the family.
As a couple friends and I sat at the kitchen table on Saturday I noticed Tiny peering under the wall cupboard.
The flashlight beam shined under the cupboard revealed an array of aluminum foil balls, wine bottle corks, catnip mice, small
bells and several other kitty toys, but also one very alive real mouse who nonchalantly sat amidst all the stuff.
only been home for a few hours I was too tired to deal with the squatter at that moment. I'd set the multi-mouse tumble
gym later, I thought. Suddenly friend R. squealed and her hands flew to her face. Since she was facing the window
toward the road I thought something awful had happened outside, but no. As Buddy (cat) and Poppy (also a cat) snoozed
on the table and chair, Mister (or Ms.) Mouse was casually running by the stove. As a precaution I've cleaned the cupboards
and put sheets of Bounce in the drawers ( a very effective deterrent) until I trap the freeloader, after which he/she will
move to the barn where Little Ivy will probably catch and murder the poor creature.
Weeds overtook the gardens, but in spite
of the competition plants are producing bumper crops, especially the tomatoes. A huge cauldron of sauce is simmering
on the stove as I type. Although dealing with such abundance is a task (but isn't that what we hope for when we plant
our gardens???), it will be wonderful to have a freezer full of marinara and pesto when the winter winds blow.
pink plastic tape is everywhere. It looks as if a township-wide party is about to happen. The pink ribbons hang from
sticks, twigs, on branches and even on corn stalks to mark the places explosive charges will be set off or monitors will be
placed. Neighbor Sandy says they will detonate all at the same time, but no one knows when this disruption to our relative
peace will happen. I can't imagine what this will be like. Today I watched a doe and her spotted fawn cross the road
and naively slip into brush that was marked with a pink ribbon. I'm worried about the wildlife.
bad asses are very busy these days "working" in the garden. I caught Corky picking and eating a tomato he had snagged
from under the fence. Yes, those boys are naughty, but I was happy to see them anyway.
There is so much to do I wonder if I'll
ever catch up.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
OLD FRIENDS ARE THE BEST FRIENDS.
5:46 pm edt
Lake Ainslie is said to be the largest fresh water lake in Nova Scotia. Its shoreline is dotted with old farms and more
recently, modest holiday homes. It's a lovely area, but it's also the target of the oil and gas companies who are scouting
Cape Breton just as they are scouting Ohio. They've already violated First Nation laws and have attempted to impose
their dirty business without notifying the native population which is 100% opposed to having their lands further desecrated
My friend says that while the local opposition may prevail, if the provincial government decides otherwise, it could
all be for naught. I'm keeping a close watch on this fight for landowner rights. I pass this lake en route to
It had been many years since I'd visited my friend and trying to remember how to find his place wasn't easy, but after hours
of wandering endless logging roads I found it. A tractor sat in the yard and a ginger-colored dog laid by the back door.
I tooted the Kia's horn and waited. Nothing moved, including the dog whose expression remained blank. I've known
dogs with such faces that disguise temperaments that might be friendly, but might also be vicious and protective.
I opened the door and called. No answer. No one home.
After so much trouble finding the place I decided to get a book from my back pack that was in the trunk and wait, hoping L.
would return before too long. As I got to the driver's
door I saw that Kujo was no longer guarding the back door, but was lying beside the car. Still no wagging tail and no
change in expression. While it would have been nice to walk around the place leaving the safety of the Kia just didn't
seem prudent, even for a dog person like myself. Instead I read, waited and watched the late afternoon clouds drift
over the surrounding mountains.
L. is thin as a coat hanger and just as wiry. His sparse hair is long and his clothes are functional, but were never
fashionable. He rolls his own cigarettes, smokes them down to tiny roaches and lives in the remote mountaintop home which
he constructed with his own hands. L. is an authentic and unpretentious man with a brilliant mind and I'm honored
to have him for a friend. Sitting in the Kia, looking at the hundred acres he calls home it occurred to me that he has
accomplished more than a lot of people could ever hope to, not just the physical structures he's made, but more importantly,
the peace and independence that he enjoys.
His power is generated by an efficient wind turbine and augmented with solar panels. He dug his pond by hand and his
heat comes from wood he cuts from his own woodlot. Heaps of un-split logs surrounded a wall of neatly stacked cordwood.
His cooking is done on a big black ‘modern' wood-fueled stove, which also heats his water. In the summer
a two burner propane camp stove is adequate. There's no shortage of clean fresh water for the kitchen and bathroom.
That's delivered by a gravity-fed system L. designed. A big scarecrow protects a huge garden which produces the food
L. will preserve for the long Cape Breton winters. If he wants meat he'll shoot a deer.
Piles of books
are heaped everywhere and when he isn't gardening, preserving, hunting or cutting fire wood L. reads and paints. He
and his dog live a sustainable existence and they are happy.
The day was getting late and finding my
way out of this no man's land could be tricky in the dark, so I wrote a note announcing my visit and intention to return the
next day, placed it in a plastic bag I found in the glove box and weighted it down with stones in the driveway. The dog had
returned to the house and watched from its station by the back door.
The following day I returned. It's
good that I didn't wait for L. He had been helping a friend with haying and didn't get home until late. Boo, the dog
and I became instant friends while L. and I caught up on all that had transpired in the years since our last visit.
He showed me his latest paintings which were quite good. We discussed books, politics and life and had a fine reunion.
There was a time when I thought L.'s lifestyle was a bit over the top, but considering all that is happening in the world
today; things that threaten the lifestyle I and others have long taken for granted, I have an increased respect for L.'s independence.
The time spent with this old friend was the best part of my trip.
Saturday, August 13, 2011
THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME!
5:36 pm edt
I returned to my little sanctuary
around midnight, happy to be back from ten days in Nova Scotia where it rained every day except the day I departed.
The inclement weather put the kibosh on most of my holiday plans, but for anyone who has never visited this maritime province,
I recommend going. It's uniquely beautiful and the natives are friendly. The food is delicious and with nearly
4,800 miles of coastline, vast provincial parks and wildlife aplenty, it's a great place for those who love the outdoors.
Never mind that the mosquitoes are the size of cats.... I'm happy to be home, but this vacation presented an epiphany
I didn't know I needed.
Not belonging to a place provides a freedom to "see" beyond the obvious and never before did I appreciate this truth
more. For several years I've thought Nova Scotia would be my Utopia if only I could move there. I mourned the
fact that immigration restrictions meant this would never be, but no more mourning. My love affair with this
part of Canada is over and that's okay. The trip was fraught with issues, but along the way I met some interesting individuals
and renewed a valued friendship. Some encounters provided fodder for magazine articles and others provided invaluable
character studies for future short stories. I began the trip with great expectations, but alas those expectations were
dashed with almost daily regularity. I'll share just a few.
It was late afternoon when I pulled into the drive of my Cape Breton Bed & Breakfast. The startlingly-white
house sat at the very top of (appropriately-named) Hilltop Road. The meticulous farm overlooked lush valleys and endless
forested mountains. Since the rain had ceased for the time being and I was anxious to get some exercise an unused logging
road that cut through the property beckoned me to explore.
I set off minus appropriate footwear, but armed with a heavy walking stick as per the advice of Park Rangers to ward
off aggressive coyotes. I hadn't gone far when it dawned on me that dusk is about the time that wildlife also ventures
forth. Bear and moose were abundant in the area. Seeing the foolishness of my venture I decided instead to drive my
little rental car up the logging road hoping to catch a glimpse of Smokey or Bullwinkle. I've no one but myself
to blame for what happened next.
Kathy, the hostess said the road was very narrow and rough, but I assured her I'd already been on some pretty rugged byways
and against her warning I revved up the little Kia and set off toward trouble. I didn't think about the fact that I'd
have to back my way down the road, nor did I worry about not being equipped with as much as even a flashlight. Instead
I pushed the little two-wheel drive compact rental deeper and deeper into the vegetation that was slashing at its sides.
When it bottomed out on the center hump of the increasingly-rough not-quite-a-road I was forced to admit that what I was doing
was simply stupid! The smart thing would have been to throw the Kia into reverse instead of attempting to straddle the
hump. The sickening THUNK of the Kia as it fell into a knee-deep ditch in the near darkness was a sound I won't soon
forget. The Kia sat pitched at a 45 degree angle on the right side of the road. It wasn't going forward nor backward
and no one was just going to happen by to rescue me from my foolhardy predicament. I had two choices; sleep in the car
instead of in the comfortable B&B, or hoof it through the darkness back to the house. The choice was clear.
flimsy sandals and armed with only the car key I raced down the logging road in the fading light of day toward the house.
No one was more surprised than I that I could run so fast!
"Oh, you should have gone to the left side of the road, but don't worry. We'll just get Sheldon to come
up with the tractor in the morning," said Kathy, but I could tell from the look on her face that she was sorry she'd
ever said she had a vacancy. I worried about how much damage the Kia had suffered, but as promised Sheldon arrived the
next morning on a big tractor with a front end loader. The host of the B&B went along to assist him and in about
an hour the mud-covered Kia was back in the driveway. Amazingly, dirt was the only evidence of the mishap.
money into Sheldon's reluctant hand (Cape Bretoners are very kind people) and reminded myself that a Kia is not a truck!
Monday, August 1, 2011
HAPPY TALES, SAD TAILS.
6:54 pm edt
As I sat in traffic
impatiently waiting for the roadblock to open up I noticed a sturdy older woman pushing a baby stroller through town. She
was clad in men's short black socks, canvas shoes, a Tasha Tudor sort of dress and a floppy sun hat. My first thought was,
‘oh, Granny must be babysitting,' but I was wrong. Peeking out of the net-enclosed stroller was a black and white
cat. The passenger looked happy and relaxed, as if a cat going for daily walk in a stroller was perfectly normal. The
sight made me smile.
I think my own felines live very happy (normal) lives. All seven of them can go in and out at will. Outside they
climb trees, leap around on the hay bales in the barn, chase the chickens and one another. They kill untold numbers
of rodents (poor little critters...) and they sleep anywhere and anytime they like. Inside they eat very well and do
little else other than demand attention and kitty cookies. It costs more to feed them than the dogs, the donkeys or even myself.
They have a good life, but under no circumstances will any of them be going for a walk in a baby stroller. These happy
pet stories contrast greatly to something that occurred over the weekend.
According to neighbor Sandy, the dairy
farmer discovered the two old dogs when he went to feed his heifers early Saturday morning. The fat old lab laid dead
in the ditch, the victim of a heartless hit and run driver. The surviving dog stood barking pitifully, protectively
guarding his lifeless friend. Several people tried in vain to approach the bewildered animal until at last one patient
woman got a lead on the dog. He didn't want to leave his dead companion, but she took it to her home where she already had
seven dogs of her own.
I saw the dead black lab this morning. He must have been hit very hard only about a hundred feet from the stop sign,
and then left to die. His poor body had skidded on the roadway. Clumps of hair were missing and there were great purple
bruises. He looked well-fed and to be at least ten years old. Of course, there was no collar. I'm haunted
by the abandonment of these two dogs; one who suffered the greatest misfortune, the other one only slightly luckier.
What kind of person loads trusting animals into a car, drives to a rural area and then shoves them out? I know someone
who did such a thing.
H. was an antique dealer with a hugely-exaggerated ego and greatly-undeserved self esteem. I regarded H. as a mildly-entertaining
drama queen until his elaborate revelation one afternoon many years ago. The antique shop buzzed with customers that day as
H. related to anyone who would listen how a stray dog had taken up residence at home, lavishing him with great affection and
being very protective. "He was a really nice dog...," H. beamed. H. accepted the dogs love and trust for several
weeks until one day the dog growled at the postman. Paranoid H. decided at that moment the dog could prove to be a liability.
"I could have gotten sued...," he declared as if we should all empathize.
I shall never forget his animated account
of how that very evening he loaded the dog into his car and drove into the countryside. He actually thought the story
was funny, telling stunned customers how the animal had stiffened his legs and looked over its shoulder with questioning brown
eyes and resisted being shoved out the door to fend for itself as ugly H. sped away. He laughed as he told how the dog
stood in the middle of the road watching as the car vanished around a curve.
I didn't mince words that day expressing
my disgust at his despicable act and I never spoke to H. again, but have told every prospective customer what he did.
What a hateful creature! Who knows what happened to the abandoned dog? It probably met a fate like the one lying
in the ditch down the road, but karma is a bear! Not long after the event I heard that H.'s house was been broken into and
robbed. The burglary was followed by a series of major health issues that will follow H. to the grave.
no doubt that the knuckle-dragger who abandoned the two dogs this weekend will also meet karma and this is satisfying to me,
but my heart still aches for the suffering of the helpless animals. I hope the surviving dog ultimately finds a permanent
new home with someone like Granny. Were I not going away I would consider it myself.
But, at 7:30 AM I will be on a plane en
route to my favorite place; Nova Scotia. Posting on this blog may not be possible or at best will be spotty. I
don't own a laptop, so computer access will be limited to libraries, but I shall return on the 12th, armed with
photos and stories much happier than this one. Ta ta, for now.