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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Picture a Ferris Wheel

Horses love playing with their food. I feed our horses round bales of hay - if you are familiar with previous domestic episodes, you know the nature of those. Anyway, the citizens of our barn love unwrapping the hay from the bale - much like playful kittens with a toliet paper roll. Once they get it unrolled, they roll in it, pee in it, poop in it and make it inedible. I've been so thrilled at the cost difference between the round and square bales, this hasn't really bothered me until lately, when the effects of this long hot dry summer have impacted the cost of the bales negatively. Now, like all problems, there is a solution to this situation and it involves tools, a trip to the Farm/Tractor Store and lifting something awkward and heavy all by myself. It's called a round bale feeder and looks (when put together) a lot like an eight foot in diameter ferris wheel made out of 16 gauge tubular steel (about as thick as your wrist) welded together that slips over the top of the bale. The idea is that the horses will put their heads through the spaces in the feeder (where the seats would be if it were truly a ferris wheel), eat but be unable to stand on the bale and crush it, strew it and mess it up. This saves you money and hay and according to the people who make bale feeders, enough money to pay for the bale feeder in two or three bales. Oh, the other reason I didn't buy a bale feeder before was because the guy who sells me the hay said I didn't need one. Of course. 

SO last night, C. and I went to pick up the feeder which comes in three convenient (if you are 5'10" man) sections, each weighting about 80 lbs. These sections fit easily into the back of the truck and in no time we are on our way to Bob Evan's to get a nice meal. (It makes us feel good to eat there because it's the reverse of eating at Pizza Hut - instead of being the oldest we are usually the youngest in the restaurant). To C.'s credit, he did ask if I would need help getting the bale feeder out of the truck when we got home and I said, Oh, no! I don't think so! I'll just drag it out. Actually that was pretty simple. Once I drove the truck into the pasture, I was able to flip those sections right out on to the ground pretty close to where I thought the feeder would end up. 

I'm excited to notice that the feeder actually has the hardware required to put it together - 6 carriage bolts and nuts- already in the holes. All I have to do is undo them, slide the next section into place and do them back up. Easy! 

The first five go fine. They were only finger tightened. The sixth and last bolt has paint spilled on the threads and the nut is now fouled with the paint. I need a tool. 

I know everyone has a thing, a permanent short cut in their brain which causes them to make the same mistakes over and over. Mine is an infantile need to avoid using the actual tool best designed for a job and make something that is completely inappropriate work. It starts like this in my brain: "I could use a tool for this. The tools are in the tool room. All the way over there. BUT I have a high heel, a roll of duct tape, a bottle opener, a dog leash, a tire iron, a bungee cord and a burned out halogen bulb within reach. Perhaps one of those will work?" I try using the dog leash to improve my grip on the nut. I jam the bottle opener against the carriage bolt to keep it from rolling. I use a piece of duct tape on the dog leash to make it tighter around the nut. I pound the whole mess with the high heel just because I'm frustrated and can't reach the tire iron. I can't think of anything to use the halogen bulb for. Whew! The bolt and nut are finally free after 30 minutes. At least I didn't have to take five minutes and walk to the tool room for a wrench or pliers! 

Now it's time to put the feeder together. The first two sections go together easily: in fact after the first section, I'm proud of my short learning curve - I get the idea it's better to put both bolts through the holes and then tighten them, rather than one at a time.. I am so good at this! 

In fact, my brain is really cooking now. It occurs to me that if I STAND THE FEEDER UP, I WON'T HAVE TO SIT IN THE PEED IN, POOPED IN HAY TO DO THE LAST NUT!!!! It's fairly easy to rock it into position on its edge. Now it really does look like a ferris wheel! Whew! It's eight feet in diameter. I'm....five feet. The last section with the loose bolt is now three feet over my head. But, hey it's round and I can just roll it over until the section is within easy reach. I get it rolling and of course, down the hill it goes. 

It comes to rest against a tree finally, and it doesn't really look all that banged up. For some reason it doesn't roll back up the hill as easily (with the one part still not fastened) as it rolled down, so after about three tries I figure out that I better get that one last bolt done. It's the fouled bolt and there are no dog leashes, high heels, duct tape or bottle openers within reach! Heck, I can't even SEE the halogen bulb if I wanted it. I use a stick from the tree to poke out most of the paint and then manage to get the nut on the bolt, most of the way up. I roll the feeder back up the hill. 

Once in position, all I have to do is flip it back down and I'm ready to go. Now, it is an immutable law of physics that a five foot person with a reach of about five foot six inches can not get to a point on an eight foot circle where you can become a human fulcrum and pull it over. I wedge the thing against the fence, sprint for the truck for that bungee cord and before you can say "you could have had C. do this really easily last night and all it would have cost you is kissing him tenderly in appreciation" I've got it that bungee cord up and over the top. One yank and (although all 180lbs narrowly miss hitting me in the head) it's over! It's even over a pile of hay!

I let the horses out of their stalls and eagerly wait for them to see it and use it. The first four walk past it toward the field where the grass is, never even noticing the new toy. Number five, Mr. Doc-who-has-issues, braces himself against the barn wall and screams at it as if he's just seen a shark in the pasture.  After a few days, I am sure he will take right to it. 


My dogs and my grandsons have no 'disgust' discernment.  There isn't anything in any state of decay that they won't poke with a stick or drag from its resting place. 

So, one afternoon in July, I wasn't surprised when I found them hovering over a dead crow in the side yard. Eldest Grandson indeed was poking it with a stick and Youngest Grandson was wringing his hands. He's had some issues with death ever since the unfortunate "the hamster bit me and I threw him and now he won't move, woops he is still alive" fiasco. EG watches the news, he knows about West Nile virus. He knows, with the certainty of a nine year old, that something must be done with a dead bird. Youngest Grandson is convinced that if we just give it some water, it will be okay. It worked for the hamster. It takes some persuading to get him to realize that a bird doesn't just sleep in the yard with its legs up in the air. EG still wants to know what I am going to do with it.

Now, that's a problem. If I just throw it in the bushes, the dogs (who are waiting impatiently for the kids to give up the stick poking so they can commence with the dismemberment) will drag it back on the lawn. If I bury it, they probably will just dig it up. It doesn't seem right somehow to just put it in the trash. (I have no logical explanation for this conclusion in retrospect.) And yet, it is so hot I just can't think what to do. 

I tell EG we are doing nothing.

He looks me dead in the eye and says, "Nothing?"

I said, "Yes, we are doing nothing."

"Why?" he asks. A reasonable but irritating question.

"Because," I say, "Because it's hot and I can't think and I'm having a hot flash. That's why!" 

I bribe YG with unlimited hose use and he finally gives up trying to make me do something about the crow. EG has learned not to do anything past the hot flash statement.

Several days go by and I still haven't figured out what to do with the crow. I can't seem to get Charles interested in taking care of it. It's taking on mythical proportions now. It's a special bird, and needs a special ceremony. Bright light fills my head. The CHIMNEA!

I get some gloves and pick up the bird - not any better for being several days older. I walk it up to the deck and place it gently in the firebox of the chimnea. I go get some dryer lint (extremely flammable - someday I'll tell you how I learned that little bit of information. I didn't have to wax my brows for several months.) and pile it on top of the bird. I get some nice dry firewood and put that on top, too. I say a few words about what a noble bird a crow is. That I haven't really been negligent - I was just waiting for the planets to be correctly aligned, for the time to be right, for the inspiration to be present to send it out to the universe. I take the long bic lighter, light the lint and in a flash that bird is on its way to heaven. Too late I wonder whether I can die from breathing the smoke. 

All that took place on a Friday and by Monday morning, the crow is a distant memory. I have to drive Daughter In Law to the dentist with YG because he knocked his front teeth out so I'm rushing around. Before I go upstairs for a shower I notice the dogs are on the porch. They look so cute lying in the sun. I'll just leave them out there til I'm ready to go.

I take my shower and I actually have clean clothes so I'm feeling pretty spiffy. My hair got wet so I can push it into a style sort of. I like to pretend I have the kind of hair you can do that with. This only works until I look in the rear view mirror of the car, so I'm savoring these last few minutes of feeling positive about my appearance. On the way down stairs I stop in the living room to put on my cleanest shoes. The first thing I notice is that there appears to be charred meat all over the living room rug. 

I wonder, could the dogs have figured out how to get the frig open? I can see the kitchen from the living room. Everything out there seems to be fine. I lean down closer to the charred meat. It is meat and feathers...Charred meat and feathers. And bones. Yup, there are bones there too. Despite my best efforts, the dogs have resurrected that crow.

Now I know you are wondering how you get dead crow off an antique Nichols rug worth over $4000. Well, you get the kitchen trash can, a broom and a snow shovel. After you have finished heaving your guts into the trash can until you have nothing left but stomach lining, you use the broom to push the charred bits onto the snow shovel. Then you march out onto the deck where the dogs are hiding and hurl it right out on the lawn. You don't really care anymore.

Then you scrub your arms and hands with bleach and hot water, gag up some ginger ale you thought you might be able to hold down and make a few passes with the rug shampooer.

Now I'm late and it's time to go. I'm not at all surprised when I turn on the car radio and the first tune that comes up is Cheryl Crow singing "Come Again." 


Because of the no job, no money situation I'm in right now, I spend a lot of time doing nothing but feeling guilty. Especially when the rest of the world is whizzing by my front door on their way to work. Out and About. Places To Go, People To See. Me on the porch, watching.

This morning I decided that guilt about this situation is stupid and I

deserve to spend some quality time with myself on the deck. (Which I

scrubbed with bleach Tuesday afternoon to get rid of the mold - I'd also covered the summer furniture cushions, cleaned the grill, cleaned the glass on the table on both sides, scrubbed down the furniture, put out new candles, made an arrangement for the table, put new wood in the chimnea - yes, there were still feathers in it) I had a pint of strawberries and like all the women in my family, I happened to have an aerosol can of Redi Whip in the fridge.

I carried my treat out to the deck, put my feet up on the new, freshly

covered cushions, dispensed myself some cream, and started

enjoying my strawberries. I had the stereo on really loudly, because I

spent yesterday putting together a Tribute To Chuck (the Hubby) cd for his birthday party and I wanted to hear how it went together.

During a particularily mellow song, I noticed some noise, which I

thought possibly was one of the infamous BIT ERRORS my illegal downloading program is always warning me about. The song ended, and I could still hear the noise. Maybe I left the hose running? Maybe the stereo speakers were EXPLODING JUST IN TIME FOR THE FREAKING PARTY ISN'T THAT JUST MY LIFE- CRAP!

Suddenly, the Redi Whip can lifted right up off the table. Right into the

air. In front of me! Behind it was a pool of cream! It was shooting out

the side of the can, with enough force to pilot the can all over the table top, spewing dairy product. Now it was all over the newly scrubbed floor, all over the dogs (it always seems to involve dogs) all over me, all over the wall of the house. Just as suddenly, all the bees left the crabapple tree and swarmed the cream. I grabbed the can and put my mouth over the hole. Wait, that's HUFFING and dangerous! I tried putting my hand over it, but I just got a palm of sticky cream.

I hurled the can onto the lawn (not far from where I hurled the crow parts). Last time I checked it was going in circles, covered with bees.

I have decided I don't have time for a job outside the house.  Hell, it just took me four hours to clean up after I made myself a snack. 

This TIme It is Kinky

Mums! The real harbinger of fall! The geese are starting to travel, the barn swallows are gone - it's time to change the decor on the porch from summer to fall.

SO, I went up to Mrs. King's to get some mums - giant ones, she's got - 3.49 at piece, unless you get 7 in which case she gives you the 8th one free.

I get eight, load them in the truck and go in to pay. Guess who's at the checkout? C's sister Nancy. We make artificial small talk, it's painful.

When I get home I spend about an hour staring at the porch and trying to figure out the best way to get all the dead annuals out of the pots, throw out the potting soil (which is about five years old) and get the pots down the stairs. It seems easiest to empty the pot over the rail into the bed of the little trailer I can put on the back of the golf cart and then haul it to the manure pile, where it will be regenerated over the winter into GOOD potting soil.

I get potting soil all over the porch doing this, so I decide I have to wash it off with the hose. I get the new curly hose out. Not sure I like it though, it tends to kink.

When I get finished washing off the porch, I move to the front steps. Now in order to do this the easiest way, I pull the golf cart and trailer ALL THE WAY UP the path in front of the steps. I realize too late that this may mean I have to back the trailer up - something I am not good at. I defer that decision until I am finished. 

It's dark when I finally get all the mums planted, all the pots emptied and the path washed off with the curly hose. I'm still not nuts about the curly hose - as I said, it kinks. I'm ready to move that trailer now. I think it will probably be easier if I pull it forward even through some bushes, than it would be too back it down the little hill, possibly jack knifing it.

All seems to be going well. As I pull around the front, I show off by picking up the trash can from the front yard - like a rodeo princess - without even stopping the cart. No one is watching, but I feel good about it.

Turning right around the house, I notice the golf cart is slowing down and the trailer isn't rolling right. Even if I PUSH THE GAS IN ALL THE WAY, the damn thing is slowing down. The cart is cocked at a funny angle. I take my foot off the gas and the golf cart actually goes BACKWARDS about fifteen feet. Completely on its own! Weird!

I think to myself, I better get off and see what the deal is. In the dark I notice something light green and thin protruding from behind the rear left wheel. In the dark, I run my hand under the wheel. The first thing I feel is the nozzle to the hose snug up against the axle. The next thing I feel is the hose - completely tensed, now about 1/4 of an inch in diameter, ready to recoil the minute the tension is relieved. My new curly hose is stretched twice it's original length, tight.

Of course, the water is still on, adding to the drama.

I try to back the trailer up to loosen the situation up. The trailer jackknifes. The hose doesn't come off.

I unscrew the nozzle, turn the water off. Try to lift the cart. Nothing. The hose is jammed up between the axle and the wheel. In fact, it's wrapped around twice. 

I figure out the best thing to do is detach the hose from the faucet and drive the golf cart forward dragging the hose with it, around the house to where there was more light. I figure when I release the tension on the hose, it will spring back to it's convenient curly shape. No, it doesn't. I now have a 25 dollar, 1/4 inch diameter perfectly straight hose that leaks attached to my trailer. Much like the others that I was trying to replace. Except it doesn't seem to kink anymore.

When C. got home he was able to get the hose out from around the axle. But it still leaks and no longer curls up.  The mums look good though. 

Hay La Lu Ya

I've been having trouble getting in touch with our hay guy. I was over there a couple of times, called a couple of times, and he just doesn't seem to be around. Because I watch too much Court TV, this morning around 7:30am I checked his barn and the outs for signs that something horrible had happened, but nothing. I actually thought I shouldn't be leaving fingerprints when I helpfully latched the banging screen door to the porch. Spent a few minutes thinking about that scene in "In Cold Blood".  Anyway, since I couldn't find him (and for those of you who would know - this is the famous brawny, handsome Mennonite Guy) I realized I had to find some other source for my immediate needs.

Since my life is complicated by my penchant for saying yes to everything my family needs, I had to rush home so I could watch Youngest Grandson while his mother got her hair done. (Something I don't have time for because I'm too busy saying yes to ...you get the idea) I figured YG could come with me on the great Hay Hunt. 

YG and I took off down the road, playing follow the dots with farms that had hay signs out but nobody home. Maybe there was a Hay Guy Convention some place, rife with John Deere Shirts and net backed baseball caps. Driving down 322 I am talking to YG about all the things he can see from his car seat in the truck - stop signs, trucks, what's going on in other people's back seats, 24 horses grazing peacefully in the parking lot of the truck repair place, pumpkins in a .....WAIT JUST A MINUTE!!!!

Do you remember that game "One Of These Things Doesn't Belong Here?" I was never very good at it because it made sense to me that an ice cream cone would be inside a mirror, just take a look at my house or my desk top. So it took me a few seconds to really understand that the horses didn't belong in the parking lot. I turned the truck around and screeched to a halt just as Ms Alpha Mare decided the pasture was greener on the other side of the road. Cars, trucks etc all were skidding to a stop - I parked my truck with the four ways right across the highway and jumped out to...I didn't know what the heck I was going to do.

I waved my arms around for a few seconds and persuaded Ms Alpha Mare to take her herd back across the road to the parking lot. Some of these horses were wearing coats, all of them had halters, there were ponies and thoroughbreds and paints and drafts - the only thing missing was zebras! By the time she gets them back across the road, several other women have jumped out of their cars and are shouting WHAT SHOULD WE DO TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR HORSES at me. I explain that THIS TIME THEY AREN'T MINE!!! At that very moment, the whole herd takes off across the back of the parking lot, fortunately in the opposite direction of the highway. I jump back into the truck where YG has been waiting patiently and take off down the road. I can see the horses through the trees and behind the houses, tails high, Arabs prancing, thoroughbreds strutting, ponies scurrying to keep up, they remind me of colorful litter being blown before the wind. Suddenly, I loose them behind a small hill, and the other cars that have been giving chase stop suddenly and empty out. 

One woman who swears she has no horse experience but has a carload of toddlers says, I'll watch your kids while you go help! Another woman in business dress and I go over the hill and find them grazing in a small field and off in the distance I see a thin man and a tiny woman holding buckets and leads. 

The woman in business dress (here after known as WIBD) gets Mz Alpha Mare and another horse by the halter and starts leading them toward the tiny figures in the distance. I take out a dollar bill and crinkle it at a grazing horse nearby. Many people don't know this, but it's a great way to get a horse's attention. They think you are rattling a candy wrapper and might share. This pretty thoroughbred lets me grab her halter and off we go, a handful of ponies in tow.

We catch up with the thin man with the bucket who is apologizing to every one. He has a pile of leads and we are hooking everyone up. With about 19 of them under control, the tiny woman who has now arrived thanks us all, but definitely wants us to go so she can fall apart.

On the way back to our cars (where WIBD and I realize we have left our children with a total stranger) WIBD and I chat about horses. She says she has two, and I say right now I have five and we nod at each other knowingly. There will be no judgement from us about horses getting out! Fortunately, the kids are safe - the woman with the toddlers is running back and forth from car to truck saying Your Nanna Is Coming! Your Mommy is Coming! 

Woman with Toddlers, WIBD and I laugh like old friends, joke about all being in this place where we are needed and the unpredictable way a morning can change. We laugh about the story we will all tell at dinner. We climb into our cars and trucks and...

Of course my truck won't start. Of course it doesn't start. YOU KNEW IT WOULDN'T START!

I try over and over. YG helpfully tells me to give it some gas. Then asks if the horses broke the truck. If his dad can fix it. Woman with toddler has noticed that I'm not moving and climbs out of her car.

First thing she says is Praise Jesus. That sort of takes me back. Then she starts pushing on the front of the truck. We manage to get the truck pushed into a driveway.

Have you ever noticed that whenever you have a car problem a guy appears? Now this man somehow missed 2 dozen horses running through his yard, but the sound of the truck misfiring has brought him out of his house. He bangs on the hood and I open it and he says, You have some kind of fuel problem.

I know a little about cars. I already KNEW I had a fuel problem. YG knew I had a fuel problem. The gas gauge says 3/4 full, but it won't fire up. The car guy ( he admits that he sort of likes to fiddle with cars, part time gosh golly) is also dressed almost identically to me, which is unnerving. I am wearing a hooded sweatshirt, sweat pants and a flannel barn coat sort of thing. He believes it's a fuel filter and he wants to know when truck had a tune up. I explain that is not my job so I don't know. He looks disgustedly at the corrosion on the battery terminals. "These are bad," he says, "but I don't think they are the problem." Before he can pull out the dipstick and check the oil I thank him SO much for his help, and ask the Woman with Toddler to go to a very near service station and ask them to send a tow truck. She says, I'd hate to have them tow you for no reason. She doesn't understand that I would write a check right now for $500 if this nightmare would end. I say, No really you've been such a help, could you please just send a tow truck? She praises Jesus again, says she will, and Car Repair Guy asks me if there is anything else he can do for me. (?) I thank him again and apologize for clogging his driveway. He says it's not a problem, he has no where to go. Imagine my surprise.

I know you are wondering when this is going to end. Soon, really soon.

While we are sitting there, Mr. YG is asking questions. What is this? What is that? on the dashboard of the truck. He gets around to the fuel tank selector switch. You see, the truck has TWO fuel tanks, I explain. He says, Well, why don't you try the other one?

Why, indeed?

I switch the switch. I turn the ignition. It fires right up.

I hightail it out of there to the service station and tell them to cancel the tow truck. I meet up with Woman With Toddler and, bless her, she was heading back to me with bottles of water and lollipops. We joke some more and she assures me that Jesus is my Saviour, and I agree with her. 

I finally do get some hay, and I get it for a bargain price. When asked by his mother what happened on our hay hunting he says Well, we got hay. That's all that he thought was unusual. What have I done to this child?

Snow,Golf, Insomnia and Dog Poo

Insomnia is one of the things I enjoy most about menopause. When I fly at night across country, I always look down at those twinkling lights and think, "Hey, look at all those women watching Court Tv!" Last night Court TV was a rerun and I had memorized all the forensics 

already (it's sort of like a correspondence course) so I was surfing 

through the channels. 

Did you know that there is actually a whole channel on cable devoted to sports? Apparently there must be men who are up all night (though I don't know any) who watch sports. Any sport. Also, apparently, these same men LISTEN to other men talk about sports. I know - think about it! Men LISTENING for hours! Oh well, next life I'll get me one of these.

A guy wearing a Hawaiian shirt was interviewing Tiger Woods. I may 

live in Honey Brook, but Honey Brook is not under a rock, so I know 

Tiger Woods is a great golfer. He was also wearing a Hawaiian shirt and he has perfect teeth. I haven't the foggiest notion what they were 

talking about but the image of golf just seems to have stuck in my head.

It's been very very cold here on the farm and we've had record amounts of lingering snow. For weeks it seems that the ground has been covered with what started out as lovely drifts of pristine white which aged into lumpy masses of grey sludge and ice dotted with gravel, branches and unfortunately, dog poo. I don't care too much about the gravel and the branches, but as it got warmer and the snow melted more and more, it was all too clear that my dogs had been taking less and less time to find a private place away from the house and were just rushing out, going, and rushing back to the warmth. My front lawn looked like someone was lobbing in poopy with a trebuchet. C, the long suffering husband who barely tolerates dogs, came home during daylight one afternoon and said, well, he said a lot of things, the gist of which was that the four hundred pounds of recycled kibble on the lawn had to disappear or else.

As is my habit when faced with a task, I gather the right tools and 

systematically attack. Okay.  I don't do that, but I like to think I have my own effective process.  I did go out on the lawn to ponder the 

properties of what I needed to remove. Some were pretty close to their original consistency, some had deteriorated to beigey fibrous matter, and unfortunately some reminded me dogs derive no nutritional value from popcorn. 

I kicked some with my toe and it rolled nicely, free of the frozen 

grass and entirely removable. I had a plan. I would get the snow shovel, the broom, push the poo onto the snow shovel with the broom, and fling it over the fence into the pasture.

Didn't work. In the simplest terms, whatever rolled on to the snow 

shovel when pushed with the broom rolled right off when you moved the shovel to the next pile. Okay. I started to sweep the poo from all 

over the lawn to the sidewalk where I figured I could scoop it up all 

at once, once I had it in a pile. I found I could actually get some 

loft on the poo with the broom, and I started thinking about golf 

again, and then I remembered that I had a set of golf clubs in the 

barn, and the rest is history.

I primarily used a Hogan Plus with Bounce Shoe. A nine iron. The 

angle of the head seemed to be most appropriate for the different 

sizes, shapes and weights of the material being moved. I found if I 

got low in the hips, sighted along the shaft and concentrated on my 

wrists, bring the club high and wide over my shoulders on the upswing, I got poopy right over the fence. A warning, though. I recommend you only do this when temperatures have remained below freezing for about a week. You'd have to experiment with different clubs for other weather conditions.

Wet Feathers

What was I thinking?

I gave our two dogs an old feather comforter to lie on in the basement. One day, they ripped it to shreds. Of course. Clouds of feathers drifted into the corners, stuck to the windows, the water heater and the dehumidifier. As episodes go, this one was at least fluffy and sort of funny, but I was in my January hibernation mode and thought I would postpone sucking them up with the vacuum until I had nothing else to do. In this kind of mood, I would postpone breathing until a more convenient time. 

On a day that was unseasonably warm and sunny, I crawled out of my cave, scratched my back on a tree and decided now was the time. C was nagging at me to get it done and it might even be fun!

A trickle of water snaked out from under the outside basement door toward my feet the minute I opened it. It was dragging a feather. And another. And another. I stared while the feathers pooled around my feet. I tried to push the door open but I could only budge it a couple of inches. It was like there was something behind it. Through the window I saw that something. Feathers. Wet feathers.

The floor was covered with pools of water and pools of feathers. A breeze from the open door blew some of the dry ones on to the wet ones. They became wet ones, loosing their fluffy white purity to become menacing and grey.

I had to wade through piles and piles of dirty wet feathers and gallons of muddy water to get to the shop vac. It was parked next to the laundry tub, which was overflowing. This tub collects water from the washer on the third floor of the house and directs it out into the back yard and occasionally clogs up with lint. Once I found a drown rat head down in the drain. Another story for another day. Today there was no rat, just the dread of finding one.

Just from wading across the floor I was looking tarred and feathered. Each time I moved, drifts of feathers stirred, and lemming like, jumped to join their buddies in the puddles. Too late, just as I plugged in the vac, I realized I was standing in a puddle - waiting to be fried like Wiley Coyote.

I directed the nozzle at the biggest lump of wet feathers and it sucked for about thirty seconds before it clogged. I got a thin piece of PVC from the corner and shoved it down inside the hose. Scrunching the hose up like an accordion, I managed to push out a seven inch wad of wet feathers and mud. Did I mention our basement floor is dirt?

This is where the snow shovel comes in. See, snow is sometimes soggy and heavy, and sometimes dry and fluffy. Just like the feathers! I did use the vac on the dry feathers. The occasional piece of gravel sucked up actually made the dry feathers move through the hose better. They sounded kind of cheerful rattling up the hose. Twigs and small pieces of paper caused even the dry feathers to clog the hose. I'm only relating this because I have a naive notion that someday this will happen to someone else. 

I have a vacuum canister full of feathers and I am going to have to ask C. to help me empty it.  It weighs somewhere around a thousand pounds. This is going to lead to some nasty man/woman discussions involving antique plumbing woes, the behavior of my dogs and the way women solve problems. I also have three trash bags full of wet feathers. 

I am so glad we tip our garbage men.

Geriatric Lesbian Sex On A Ladder

Geriatric Lesbian Sex on an Extension Ladder

I am a Realtor - which means I go to a lot of parties with a lot of other Realtors in houses that we can't afford and will never sell. These parties are given by builders who have to spend great amounts of money on entertainment for business in order to get tax deductions and keep their trophy (second) wives busy while they consider whether to have an affair with a tennis pro or start a catering business.

I was on my way to one of these parties when I encountered one of our older agents wandering around the parking lot. I said, Doreen - come with me to this stupid party! She said, I can't - I locked my keys in my car! Come help me get them out! She hands me a wire coat hanger and I twist it into my best abortionist-hook-format and start trying to fish it through her volvo wagon's sadistically designed windows. 

No luck. I say, well, I'll drive you to your house and you can get your spare set. She says, My house is locked! I said, did you hide some keys in your garden or something? She says, No. I'm feeling bad for her now, but I bet that tomorrow when this is all just an unpleasant memory she will be burying a tuna can in the side yard with every key to every locked thing she owns.

We decide she has the following options: Break a window in her car, break a window in her house, call a locksmith for her house or call a locksmith for her car.....

We opt to break a window at her house, climb in my car and head off.

When we get there, we realize that she has storms and regular windows on the ground floor - all closed. We would have to break TWO windows. I notice that on the second floor, she has a window open, with only a screen. I point it out and Doreen says, I have a ladder!! 

We get the extension ladder off her fence and haul it over to the wall of the house. We heft it up and I'm thinking, this is pretty cool for two old women like us! With great humility, I confess to Doreen that I have tremendous upper body strength from all the crap I do at the farm. I show her my muscle. I admire my muscle - bulging as it does through the sleeve of my brand new Talbot's shantung silk wrap top in Sage Green (Ripper Gurl is going to want to borrow this - it goes great with my new bling I got off the dead lady - another story for another time)

The thing is though - it is time to climb that ladder. I tell Doreen she is on her own. There are many things I can do with aplomb but I can not climb into high heel shoes without getting vertigo. She says that she used to mountain climb in Europe every summer when she was kept (yes, kept) by a Junior Ambassador to some country that doesn't exist anymore. I say, Have at it! and start to admire my muscle again.

I am pretty much concentrating on something that might be skin cancer on my upper arm when I hear a rustle and I turn around and Doreen is standing at the bottom of the extension ladder in nothing but her bra and panty hose.


My first thought is that this has all been an elaborate ruse to get me over to her house so she can seduce me into some weird geriatric lesbian sex orgy that involves an extension ladder. She sees my bewildered look and before I can say, I want to be friends and I'm not even remotely bi-curious she says, I don't want to rip this suit - it's a Worth from Paris.

OH! well, that makes sense.

I'm still digesting this when she starts climbing the ladder and I find I am staring at parts of her that I haven't seen on my mother. I think, This could make me BLIND! but it's lilke a car wreck and I can't stop looking.

She climbs up and up and then, using the pen knife that I carry because I am always needing one to cut duct tape or pry open clam shells. She slits the screen and with amazing agility for a woman her age in control tops, slithers over the sill like a baby seal and falls with a soft thunk on the floor of her upstairs bathroom.

I don't know what I was thinking, but I assumed she would put some clothes on before she came out, but NO she comes down stairs, lets her dogs out and stands in front of me pointing out the varietal digitalis (foxglove plants) that are springing up in her garden path. Just as she bends over to pull a weed, I say Doreen! we should be going, and she pulls on her clothes. 

Later, at the stir fry bar (the newest wrinkle in local extreme catering) I find myself telling this story to a woman I don't know. Fortunately she was drunk on tax deduction open bar box wine, so I know she won't remember, the next time we are wrangling over a radon inspection for some town house. 

The Worst Domestic Episode Of All Time July 2004


Time is of the essense. It says that right in an agreement of sale, if you are a realtor. I am always at the beck and call of others and they dictate how I spend my time.

In addition to my professional duties, I try to burden myself with gratuitious pointless civic duties and fractious domestic ones. One particular day this summer I was juggling a family reunion for fifty, a pitched battle over zoning at the township level and FINALLY getting my dining room set back up after a pipe had burst the previous February.

Rippergurl (my beloved daughter in law) had kindly offered to lend her considerable decorating talents to the dining room job and I had exactly five hours to shop for new cushions for my patio set, buy some sundries for the reunion and get the dining room ready for company (the ceiling had fallen down).

Time line: 930am

Rippergurl shows up in the driveway and convinces me that the only place to get these cushions is FORTY FIVE MINUTES DRIVE away but guaranteed to have the lowest prices on cushions. It is a bastion of Amish/Menonite textile arts. AND the place is going out of business. There is a HUGE SIGN that says so! We choose to take my car, because it is an old Camry and we can whip in and out of small spaces in it. I'm driving - I took a performance driving course with Bob Bondurant that, although it doesn't help me drive in bad weather, gives me the confidence to swerve in and out of buggies on local highways. They may be quaint to tourists, but to me, they are just moving orange cones.

Time line: 1000am

We shaved fifteen or twenty minutes off the drive to the store and arrived just as the big tent in the parking lot was filling up with geriatric Winnebago driving bargain hunters. Collassal GOING OUT OF BUSINESS signs wafted in the air. Rippergurl was feeling up the bathmats and drooling over the litttle girl baby dresses but I was sadly disappointed when I found NO CUSHIONS. Not one. Not even something gingham. I consoled myself with buying a bunch of crap I didn't know I needed until I saw it. I couldn't tell you right now what even one item was but it later added up to over a hundred bucks. 

Timeline: 1030am

Now it's time to head into the buildling where Rippergurl is convinced the 'good stuff is hiding." I'm not sure, but I figure with her help I am going to breeze through fixing up the dining room way in time to get to the critical township meeting (the fate of the free world hangs on this). We go in, put more forgettable crap in the cart and make light of the fact that Rippergurl's skirt is probably the shortest garment that has ever quaked the hallowed halls of this establishment. Did I mention that all the clerks are Menonite, which is to say, like Amish, but out in the world and judgmental? 

Timeline 1100am

The cart is now stacked high with empty plastic containers that the inner voice of Rippergurl's OCD has convinced her she will fill with useful labeled items. (This voice LIES) I have collected even more forgettable consumer goods. 

Feeling like we have spent entirely too much time making fun of the tasteless decore of the store, and always aware that time was awasting, we decide to check out.

1105 am

We find ourselves in a check out line behind an Amish woman who appears to only be purchasing large white cotton underpants, hairpins and dozens of cans of spray paint. This Amish woman looks manly even for an old Amish woman, and we can't figure out what she must be doing with this collection of items. Then, it occurs to me, and I pantomime to Rippergurl with effective gestures and facial grimacing, that she probably pins the big white cotton underpants on her head and huffs the spray paint. The clerk is a young florid menonite girl dressed in an ugly dress the color of self loathing with black ankle socks and addidas sneakers. She has stashed the roller blades she uses to get to work under the counter. Her name badge identifies her as EDNA. Remember this. Remember her name. Suddenly, in the middle of ringing the Amish huffer's order, Edna STOPS. Leaves the counter and answers the phone. For no reason. There are piles of people in the store, but our Edna feels compelled to stop waiting on her customers (A H - amish huffer) and Rippergurl and I. She answers this phone at the next counter over, speaking in hushed tones and covering the receiver with her hand. She is turning very red, but we can't hear a word she is saying. She hangs up and when she gets back to the counter, she puts all the AH's items in a big bag, thanks her and sends her on her way.


Edna is now checking out Rippergurl's stuff.  There are many many plastic containers, jeans for her husband, a baby girl dress for a niece and other crappdedoodle. Edna totals Rippergurl's order and Rippergurl starts rummaging through her purse to find her debit card. She can't find it. She blames my son!!! As if I raised my baby boy to go in his wife's purse and steal her debit card. Like he would continually demagnatize his and steal hers. Anyway, this is what she wants me to believe has happened, and I offer to put her purchase on MY debit card, not out of guilt for what she alleges my son has done for the fiftieth time, but because I am the best mother in law in the world. I tell Edna to just add my stuff - my nameless, forgettable, items to hers and we will get out of this god forsaken place. Soon, Edna finishes ringing all our crap up and hands me the little slip from the register to sign, and I sign.

We bundle up our many bags and head for the car.

1210 pm

We are buzzing down the highway on the way home and feeling pretty good for spending a morning buying stuff we didn't need and getting home to get the job done in plenty of time for me to get to the township meeting where I will secure the futures of all. We are brainstorming about what we are going to do to my dining room to really impress all the cousins at the reunion. Suddenly a look comes over Rippergurl's face. She seems.....for a moment... as though she is listening to a voice from far far away. It is her inner OCD. She says - Show me the slip for this stuff we just bought.

I fish it out of my wallet (while swerving in and out of buggies) and she says HOLY MOTHER OF GOD! EDNA CHARGED US FOR THOSE FREAKING UNDERPANTS!!!!


I hang a power U Turn in the middle of a three lane highway (in PA we have these to accomodate people who want to pass the buggies) and starting incinerating the road back to the store. I keep thinking, I don't have time for this - I am scheduled to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT at a township meeting at 300 - the sneaking bastards who run my township are trying to pull something and they have scheduled an unusual, off site meeting in a futile attempt to keep me from attending and causing a public display. But, I can not also allow Self Loathing Edna to be co-dependent with her Paint huffing Grandma. In milliseconds, in Rippergurl's mind, this has gone from a simple mistake to a FELONY. Have I mentioned that she is Cherokee/Italian? Do YOU want to be the unfortunate clerk who screws with her? She has the pent up barely contained rage of the Native American mixed with the pathology of a Northern Jersey Mobster. As I screech to a halt in front of the store, she grabs the receipt and says, I will take care of this!!! She jumps out of the car, exposing enough leg to cause her to be tarred and feathered, and stalks into the store.

1240 pm

Four way flashers on, I am sitting at the curb waiting for Rippergurl to emerge triumphant, credit in hand. Each flash of the fourways matches the march of the numbers on the car clock. TICK TOCK TICK TOCK. What could be taking her so long? I can see her, through the window, in heated discussion with two different women. Is it possible she has forgotten our problem was with EDNA? I decide to commit to a parking spot and go in.

1245 pm

I park - it seems miles - from the store, in a line of campers and suv's. I grab my purse and hike in, enter the store just in time to hear Rippergurl say, oh, here's my mother in law now.....I belly up to the counter where REBECCA is asking the following questions into a phone:

1 - Is EDNA there?

2. Your neighbor - Edna - is she there? (see, Menonites don't often have their own phones - they aren't adverse to using yours, even giving out your phone number to friends and relatives, but they won't have this particular devil machine in their own kitchen) 

the questioning continues...

3. Can you get her? At this point, Rebecca covers the phone with her hand and mouths to us - Edna is out in the pick your own field!

I am wondering how this got out of control. Rebecca, I say, Rebecca, we don't really need Edna - you just need to get these big white cotton underpants, hair pins and spray paint off my credit card.

Rebecca then makes a fatal mistake. Her eyes narrow, giving her a cunning, feral look. She says, "Well, I know you SAY you didn't buy these underpants, but how do I know that? I have to talk to Edna."

I say, "You really don't have to talk to Edna - just look at the receipt. I didn't buy this stuff, but it's rung up on my bill."


She takes the receipt and says, "How do I know you didn't buy this stuff?" 

I say, "Look at my daughter in law. Does she look like she wears underpants that size? Does it look like she would know what to use a HAIR PIN FOR? Do WE look like We would ever use SPRAY PAINT???"

REBECCA looks shocked. I know she is still bothering God about us. She gathers herself and says, "I'll need to see your purchases."

I am in disbelief. I say, "You want me to go out to the car and get my bags?"  We are talking a shitload of stuff. RIppergurl is undergoing some weird morphing thing. I hike out to my car and drag all those freaking plastic containers and jeans and baby dresses and all the other crapdedoodle that I will never use back into the store. It occurs to me that if I had stolen those underpants and paint and hairpins, I could just leave them in my car. Apparently that did not occur to Rebecca. She did give up on trying to get Edna to put down her pumpkins and come to the phone. Once all our purchases are out on the counter, Rebecca needs to get MILDRED - a manager- to come and weigh in on the matter. 

Satisfied for the moment that we didn't steal the huff stuff, they decide that the best thing to do is to re-ring our stuff. I say, "why don't you issue me a credit for the underpants, etc?" Mildred says no, they have to rering the whole order. I can FEEL those damn Township Supervisors yucking it up that I will not get to the meeting on time. I know that in some weird dutch way they have put a hex on me - they are all related you know. So we start to re-ring each item, price checking as we go. I have to admire the process - these two women have driven passive aggressive behavior to a level seldom seen outside of a Kebucki theatre. Ah, but they haven't dealt with me before. Finished, they hand me the slip and ask me to sign it. Like that is going to happen before I get my credit!!

Rippergurl lets out a snort as I declare I will not be signing it any time soon, and they better get their act together and give me the credit. Grudging, foot dragging and furitive glances aside, they produce a credit. I sign the receipt. Rippergurl and I gather up our bags for the second time, leave the store. There is no Have a Nice Day. NO one asks us to come back. Rebecca and Mildred join hands and bother God over our souls. Edna is, I guess, still rolling around in the pumpkin patch with her cousin/boyfriend....


Loaded up and pissed as hell, we are tearing through the parking lot and out the back way....suddenly out of nowhere, a black sedan with no chrome pulls in front of us and stops. JUST STOPS in the parking lot. The man inside is having an animated conversation with the woman in the passenger seat. I beep politely. They ignore me. I tap my horn again. They continue to talk. I have no enamel left on my teeth. The veins in my neck are throbbing. Rippergurl is going through her purse looking for a weapon. I REALLY LAY on the horn. The driver's side window on the car in front of us goes down. A black clad arm and a whisp of a beard appear. The hand goes up and yes yes yes, HE FLIPS ME THE BIRD!

To top off my day, I have just been flipped the bird by an ancient menonite!

Eventually he moves and we get out on the roadway; we get home and have one half hour to put the dining room together. Rippergurl performs miracles with my stuff. When she's done she suggests that we put all of the stuff we just got out away and get out MORE stuff and put that out. Point taken. I have a lot of stuff. But, I would expect more respect from her - after all, as far as I know, I have no other daughter in laws who will inherit my 75 champagne glasses.

In the midst of some grunting and groaning as we move a sofa into place, the phone rings. I leave Rippergurl to balance the sofa and answer. 

A soft dutchy voice says, "May I please speak to Mrs. Van Scoyk?"

I say, "This is she." The voice says, "My name is Rebecca and I am with Good's Store in Intercourse." (okay okay, you've all heard about the weird names we give towns in PA -- stop sniggering)

I say, "Yes." (I am thinking this is going to be my apology)

Rebecca says, "Were you in our store this afternoon? We think you may have stolen some large white cotton underpants..."

I worked in a store for a very long time. I KNOW how a customer should be treated. Rebecca finally had hit my last retail nerve. I flayed her alive. I read her the retail riot act. I ended with a scathing "AND NO ONE WISHED ME A GOOD DAY". That set HER right, let me tell you.

I made it to the township meeting weighted for bear. I picked fights with everyone. I lost, but they won't soon forget me. Which is unfortunate because my son recently needed to get a permit ...oh well.

Rippergurl and I said we ought to go back to the store - the Going out of Business thing was just a clever ruse to trick us into shopping there - and mess with their UPC codes. Amazing what a sharpie can do.....

Another Story From the Wedding May 2005

 it’s about dogs, again.

I think I have mentioned that Rippergurl and My Dear Son got married in a fever, hotter than a pepper sprout - to quote those poster children for marital bliss, the Cash’s. I was in yet another unfortunate period of unemployment, so a lot of the mundane tasks we were too broke to pass off on someone else ended up being done by me, in front of the tv. AND those were the days when Court TV was just a wet smear in the nether regions of self agrandizing trial lawyers, so tv was pretty bad.

One of those mundane tasks was making the favors for the guests. No one else was coming up with ideas, the Princess Bride and Groom-zilla were all about where are we going to live and what are we going to do for work and making nasty comments about how no one was helping them and there wasn’t anything for dinner and all we do is write checks and we don’t even know what for. The dinner comment caused me to throw a can of creamed corn across the kitchen toward Groomzilla’s head, but I didn’t actually hit him. I coulda, make no mistake about it, but at the last second while I was taking aim, I spotted a Hershey’s Kiss on the shelf and something about it struck me (it being shiny in addition to being made of chocolate and all) and the can veered off just before it would have caused him to have a nasty wound to explain to his support group. Hershey’s kiss....they make something called Hugs, too. Hugs and Kisses.....we could be wishing our guests hugs and kisses. Give them hugs and kisses in little squares of net, tied with a silver ribbon. EUREKA!!

So, the next day I spent four hours cutting white net into little squares (circles being difficult and wasteful) and putting one Kiss and one Hug in the middle of each square, tying it off with a piece of decorative silver ribbon and a little tag that said HUGS AND KISSES FROM Groomzilla and The Princess Bride. The dogs sat at my feet and watched each chocolate morsel go into the net, transparent threads of drool extending from their mouths to the freshly cleaned carpet. Dogs should not have chocolate. I know this. Well, at least I have heard this. It either kills them instantly or runs up a huge vet bill. I wasn’t interested in either option. So, I was being vigilant and making sure that not one hug or kiss landed anywhere near them. The phone rang about halfway through this task and it was the sister who talks too much and an hour later, I went back to my project and found Big Black Dog standing over an empty five pound Hershey Kiss bag.

I gave a long hard look and called the vet. He laid down and rolled on his side. The vet seemed to take forever to answer - we live in the country and when you call the vet, they either answer or their lackey answers, but there are no receptionists. When someone finally did, it was the vet, Penny. I said, “OH MY GOD, Penny, Big Black Dog ate five pounds of Hershey Kisses! “ She said, “Go out to the barn and get the hydrogen peroxide!” (We keep a gallon of it out there for horse catastrophes) When you get it, pour it down his throat til he throws up. I will be there as soon as I get my arm out of this cow.”

Without skipping a beat, I rushed out to the barn, grabbed the peroxide and sprinted back to the house where Big Black Dog was starting to lose consciousness. (In retrospect, I realize he was just doing what he did every day at that time - fall into a peaceful sleep in the sunspot on the rug, but at the time - in fact all the time - it looks like he is comatose). I grabbed him by the head, wrenched it backwards to give me a clear path and poured the peroxide down his throat. Just in time I thought - hey, I don’t want five pounds of half digested chocolate and tin foil on my rug, so I dragged him out on the lawn. Have I mentioned that Big Black Dog is a 120lb rotteweiler? A most passive and essentially sweet dog with the ability to become a ton of dead weight when he doesn’t want to do what you want him to do. I dragged him by the collar outside and poured the rest of the peroxide in and around his mouth. He rolled his eyes. He was now foaming at the mouth. Nothing was coming up.

I hear the phone ringing, sprint inside and it’s the vet again. Apparently her arm and a calf are stuck up this cow and it’s going to be longer than she thought. How’s he doing? I say, nothing is coming up. She says, It will! Find more peroxide! I hang up, run up the stairs to the bathroom and get the smaller jug, bring that down stairs and out on to the lawn where Big Black Dog is lying in the sun, foaming at the mouth, but not throwing up. He looks at me with sadness in his eyes and I wrench his head back again and pour the last dregs of the peroxide in. I wait. He waits. He looks miserable. No throw up. Lots of foam.

After about fifteen minutes and he’s still not throwing up, a car pulls in the driveway. It’s Princess Bride's Mom. At this point in time, we are not getting along. She is not wild about this wedding. She is not wild about me. It’s known in the neighborhood she thinks I am a flake. Just because of the tipi and the ceremonies in the woods she has heard the gossip about. This, the arrival of our joint grandson years before the wedding and Groomzilla’s opinionated and direct personality have put her off. In retrospect, I guess she had her reasons. 

She stalks right past the foaming rotteweiler on the lawn and hands me a bunch of papers. “These are the seating charts.” Gets back in her car. Burns rubber out of the drive. In case you are wondering, we get along fine now - she lost some of her religion and I proved to be a better grandmother than she dreamed. Also, we both love her daughter and my son is now her favorite son-in-law ( he punched out a badly behaving one at a family wedding, earning her respect forever). 

Ten minutes later, there is still no throw up. I call the vet. She’s on her way. She has an alternate therapy, I sure hope so. I know it’s going to cost a fortune but she will save my dog. When the vet arrives, Big Black Dog and I are still on the lawn. The foam is receding. 

Penny says, “I have this tiny pill. We have to put it under his eyelid. Can you hold him?”

Can I hold him? He weighs 120lbs and I have been pouring bubbling crap down his throat for 3/4 of an hour. Actually, holding him did prove to be problematic, so I ended up lying on top of him in the driveway while she pried his eye open and shoved the pill under the lid. We waited. Nothing happened.

Penny says, “I have to get back to that cow. If nothing happens soon, I don’t know what to do but wait.” Well, there is some comfort in feeling you have exhausted all possible remedies, so Big Black Dog and I sit under the tree and watch her leave, waiting.

An hour later, still nothing. He seems to be sleeping peacefully, so I go in to see what I can do to salvage my project. I pick up the empty bag and put it in the dog proof trash can in the kitchen. I pull the full bag of candy off the top of the fridge where I put it, to keep it out of harms way. That’s two bags. Ten pounds. Roughly 150 pieces. I have 75 little bags done. One full bag. One empty bag. Damn.

That dog didn’t eat anything. Someone told me that most dogs will forgive you anything, if you are kind forever after. I guess I will let him sleep on the sofa from now on.