I Went In Seeking Clarity

You can't keep us apart. Our love will endure!

Please avoid being in this river. For one thing, it’s December in North America and you’re a mammal. For another, your submarine is backordered and prone to grounding in the shallow spots. Years ago, the river used to freeze solid and we joked that between semesters, math professors would throw themselves off this bridge and get stuck in the mud instead of drowning. After the county dredged a few times, nobody makes that joke anymore. We just hope math professors pre-ordered their submarines.

Looking Over the Edge

For over a year and probably more like two, the blog’s hosting service has sent me odd letters and charged me for disk space overages. At least a couple of times, Siobhan and I tried to figure out what the hell the hosting service was on about, but we didn’t get anywhere. Eventually, the fees started to get weird. It wasn’t a lot of money, but the letters made it sound like deleting sections of the blog was my only hope. I didn’t write a word or post many pictures, and I moped about it. Yesterday, I called up the service and asked the representative to explain it to me using very tiny words.

Permanently mothproofed!

Unlike me, some things ain’t never coming back.

Eventually, I understood that 14 years of blogging takes up 537 mb (or MB, ya got me there) of space in an account budgeted for 500. I asked for the next size up and the hosting service gave me 2000. To celebrate, here is another picture.

Such festive. So crap.

Festive crap.

So I’m back now. Took two classes this fall at the unnamed university where I’ve worked for 33 years. Last Sunday, I turned in my last assignments and now I want to do nothing but sit under a pile of cats and sip an adult beverage through a swirly straw. And blog. I’m gonna blog.

To Lose These Walking Blues

And now, an interesting travelogue, if you don’t mind.

Not a great car seat.

Yesterday, Andie took Chicken Chicken, the artist formerly known as both Cat the Chicken and Other Chicken, on a pest control field trip. In other words, Andie took Chicken Chicken out to lunch and said, “No thanks. I’m good.”

Eyeing the menu.

Years ago, I read that the ancient Chinese battled swarms of locusts armies of hungry ducks and chickens and I told this story to Andie.

Turns out, this practice has carried on into the present day.

This is like chicken paradise.

Andie watched Chicken Chicken chase bugs around a garden for a couple of hours and brought her home, stuffed and happy.

Go ahead: google “locusts chicken army” or “locusts duck army.” Nobody can resist an awful pun. Pesticides are nasty shit. If you have bugs, what you need are chickens or ducks.

Imagine how scary this must be for the bugs.

I’m thinking of going into business in my retirement as the lady who brings goats to your overgrown yard for a constructive nibble, but now I visualize a side gig where I bring chickens to gobble Japanese beetles. I’ll be rich!

Okay, maybe not rich, but not at all bored. Some vineyards deploy ducks to tackle pest problems. I can see myself rolling up to a winery with my team of hungry chickens help them solve their unpleasant problem. In fact, I’m picturing a bottle of gratitude now.

I’ve Created A Devastating Masterpiece

Why don't flowers come in olive and black?

These flowers are not my pink flowers. I am not a pink&purple girl. A little girl living on the other side of the house brought home a doomed begonia, which I replaced with these flowers because pink is her favorite color. Am I pink-complicit?

I came home from work with plans for my garden. My niece knocked on a window and I let her in. She collected two containers of compost and went through the basement to the backyard, where she added new material to the composter, spun it and added composted material to the solarizing bed.

In the kitchen, Pete said, “It’s going to rain in a few minutes.” He’s not a prophet. He’s weather-obsessed and seldom puts down his phone. I looked at him and looked at the sky above the tiny backyard. I went out into the yard and observed my beautiful and sweaty niece stabbing soil in the solarizing bed with a pitchfork.

“Pumpkin?” I asked.

“Yes?” she said.

“It’s going to rain in a few minutes. Can you wrap this up?”

“Yep,” she said. I went inside. She did wrap things up and was gone for no more than a minute when the pre-storm wind roared about the house. Pete and I wondered if our hanging plants would survive the maelstrom. Poor Topaz, terrified of thunder and lightning, cowered under my legs for an hour before the storm abated

Tonight, the air is fresh and cool. Pollen has been everywhere and overwhelming for a week, but tonight, feels more manageable. When I left work this afternoon, the air was summer-warm for the first time this spring.

I am ready for summer.

Hours in an Offhand Way

My raised garden bed has not been a source of unmitigated good news. Because it is four feet wide and I am a very small large mammal, reaching into the middle of a bed I can’t step on is a dicey proposition. More than a few backaches dampened my enthusiasm as recently as last weekend, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Two weeks ago, Central New Jersey had a crushing snowstorm that took down trees everywhere. I had an idea. It was a very old idea I’d come to on my own. It’s called hugelkultur, and the principle is to use what is on hand to solve problems.

Sunday, I dragged my little red wagon to the corner and turned left. Between two birch trees, I found a metric buttload of small branches. My neighbors watched from behind curtains as I filled and overfilled the wagon with branches and sticks. Don’t worry. When I see them do sketchy shit, I don’t make eye contact either.

Debris is your friend.

The raised bed, viewed with my back to the house, in the first stage of reshaping the surface.

Pete and I drove out to the feed store, where baby chicks distracted me from my worries and I spent a zany amount of dosh on seeds. Note to self: YOU ARE DONE WITH THAT. Anyhoo: we were driving around and broken branches everywhere frustrated me because I can’t operate a chainsaw and Pete says I’d be a total menace with a Sawzall. Which is true, and mostly to myself. Maybe. But Pete also said that right in front of our house, down a cross street, a fallen tree I’d reported to police might solve problems, but first, we both needed sandwiches and a time out because we were both grrr grrr bad kids.

This may be a thing where you live or not, but maybe where you live, jerks call the cops on Black teens who take pictures on their way home from high school. That’s happening in my tiny town. There’s no excuse for it. In fact, cops should call themselves on kids¬†not taking pictures of every little thing and give themselves a stern talking-to about being the goddamn adults. Since I am what passes for an adult, I ate a sandwich and walked my red wagon down to the fallen tree with my pruning shears. I filled and overfilled the little red wagon with branches and sticks. Twice, I walked down my street three or four houses and filled the wagon again. All of this debris was collected within 100 feet of my house. The last time I went out, I saw a man in a car spy me from a distance and slow down, because no one expects to find a grandmother with a red wagon and pruning shears on his front lawn. He drew closer, then darted down the driveway I was not blocking, and stole into his own house. After that, I waited for the police, who did not, somehow, come.

The first step of hugelkultur is to create a spine of logs, branches and sticks. This is the first step of the first step. As soon as the snowpocalypse we expect tonight and tomorrow thaw and fade from memory, I will collect more branches and sticks to build this spine higher and wider. This is going to give me a backache. I should stock up on Aleve.

Seriously, I don't have the teeth for this.

The same garden bed viewed from the opposite corner. Not pictured: beavers. Not at all.

After I collect more branches and sticks, the next step is to cover it liberally with rich organic soil. It’s going to compact as the branches decay and enrich the soil. If I play my cards right, I will gain two square feet of planting space the length of my raised bed. The trick is to at this point make the spine high enough to prevent future backaches.

Note to self: buy a lot of Aleve.

 

My Armor Is Destroyed

Deep breaths...deep breaths...

This week, I went to training seminar so difficult and upsetting the trainer switched to pictures of an adorable puppy when trainees got pissed off. Punchline: I was not invited to this seminar or sent there. I crashed this party. And good thing I did, because if I didn’t know what was coming and six weeks from now this bullshit came as an awful surprise, I’d be in handcuffs in short order. So this was a good thing. What the fuck is wrong with me?