More than you ever wanted to know

Birthdays, Christmases, and utter gullibility

All the motley clan, in the traditional disorganized fashion.

My antennae should have pricked when Northwood sent an email: “You’re coming up here on X weekend. I got tickets for you. Here’s the information.” It’s not usually like him to make plans without consulting me. But he didn’t.

So come Travel Day, when Mountain and Northwood picked me up, I had no suspicions. We reached his house. He was standing maybe 10 feet in front of me and, I think, had on a white t-shirt. I bent down to unlace my boots.

When I stood up, something was seriously wrong with Northwood’s face. It was too long, and his hair was the wrong color and cut… even his t-shirt was now dark. I was a good three or four breaths into a heart attack before I realized it wasn’t Northwood—it was Eldest, Bassmaster, with a smirk on his face (he’s the best at smirks).

I think I shrieked, and grabbed the nearly-middle-aged man for a hug (he gives the best hugs ever)—I hadn’t seen him in almost four years—and giggles and snickers accompanied the rest of his clan as they came out from various hideyholes. Much hugging and laughter and, on my part, tears and sniffles ensued.

Bassmaster and Mrs. Bassmaster, who always go to her family’s in South Dakota for the holidays, told me a bald-faced lie about why they were there. It amounted to “the blizzard (which really existed and was really bad) closed all the roads (I didn’t think to ask why that mattered if they’d flown), so we had to hole up here ’til things settle down. We’ll probably be leaving in the morning.” Gullible Mom (where she came from, I don’t know) swallowed it, proverbial hook, line, and sinker. Mrs. B. later said it was seriously difficult to look me in the eye and lie like that, but I don’t think it bothered Bassmaster!

They all know I go to bed at a ridiculously early hour because appallingly long sleep hygiene. But they poured me a little sample of whiskey, and in a favorite Bassmaster trick, kept refilling it while I was looking elsewhere. The annoying thing is this always seems to work, because I’m paying attention to the people, not the glass.

They kept me up, anyway, for another hour or two, when I heard a third male voice around the corner, and Snaotheus sauntered cheekily into the room. “Hi, Mom!” he said, as if this was no big deal. Predictably, I shrieked again and repeated the weepy-sniffles routine, and the rest of his clan joined us, causing yet more hugging and laughter.

This was the first time all three sons had been together with me and their families in about seven years—since Northwood’s wedding—and the first time the cousins had all been together ever, since Mountain is only three (and naturally monopolized my time—she’s too little to understand spreading one grandmother across five kids, one of whom is a newly married adult whom I didn’t get to talk to enough).

This event came about because, during the October visit to Northwood’s, he asked, “Mom, if you could have anything in the world for your birthday, what would it be?”

“To get to spend some time with you and your brothers and your families, all together,” I responded. “That would be the best gift ever.” (At my age, it could also be the last time.) Apparently he not only really heard me, but told Snaotheus, who is rather good at cat-wrangling, and back-chatter began about how to make this happen. Bassmaster was the last to be able to commit and the other two were a little concerned he might not make it, but he came through. He and Mrs. B. have recently gotten into creating utterly gorgeous charcuterie boards from spalted woods, exotic forest finds, epoxies of various colors and shimmers, and in several different shapes. Bassmaster had brought a flame maple one for me (which unfortunately will be at Northwood’s until the next time Northwood comes here, because it wasn’t going to fit easily in any plane-worthy container) and I think spalted maple for Mrs. Northwood. Gorgeous work; his grandpa would be so proud to see him doing such lovely woodworking. (Actually, their grandpa would be inordinately proud of the fine, accomplished men they’ve all become.)

Loaded spalted maple charcuterie board.
Everybody involved in making fleischkuechle and knephla for those famously rib-sticking ND foods.

Thus ensued a weekend during which we didn’t do a lot but talk and laugh and construct NoDak foods that involved everyone, a lot of dough, and a great big mess. The first evening Mountain made me read 23 books for her (her entire weekly allotment of library books plus a bunch of others). The pace didn’t slow much on other days, either. The girl loves her stories!

This may have been around book 18. Or earlier. Or later. (In the background, on the green bench, is the World’s Longest Lego Man made from all the Lego man pieces from the sons’ childhoods.)

Chilkat, Chilkoot, and Miss J spent a lot of time (with the occasional interruption—erm, contribution—from Mountain) building things with the Legos from their fathers’ childhoods—the good kind, that were intended to spur imaginative building, not the confounded kits they put out today that are basically complicated showpieces that nobody’s going to want to take apart to build something else with. One of their creations was the longest Lego man ever, constructed of all the bodies, torsos, and all the heads the brothers had collected over roughly 15 years. He filled the entire green bench to the right.

The only cousin missing is the adult Mrs. JJO
And the obligatory gingerbread house, in progress. Mountain made sure there was LOTS of glittery pink sugar on top. The others attempted more artistic approaches.

Bassmaster fired up the grill outside to fry the fleischkuechle we made (involving several slightly confused arguments about who remembered what about how they were made). We wound up with enough knephla soup to feed an army (and it was miraculously all gone by the time we left).

Fleischkuechle in all its deep-fried, seasoned-hamburger-laden glory.

Lots of beer and whiskey of many varieties was consumed, and on Sunday they went to breweries and I stayed home with the littles (read: mostly Mountain). While Mountain was napping, Miss J took the opportunity to ask me to teach her to knit; this time, rather than the yellow pencils and Kevlar cord we had to work with in Guam, we had actual needles and garden twine. It didn’t work a whole lot better, but when I see her next—hopefully soon—we will get the right tools and materials for the girl!

Chilkoot riding Mountain’s “tiny bike.” He also tried–and if he’d just pedaled one more time, would have gotten–the unicycle going. His father tried it and fell off… probably to the detriment of his bad back.

Real life intruded on Monday, when the Bassmasters had to go home; I came home Tuesday, and the Snaotheus clan headed out later on Tuesday. I’m sure the Northwoods were glad to get their gigantimous house back (it’s a miracle it held us all) and their usual routines back in place.

But ah, what a weekend. Individually, I’ve had Best Visits Ever with each of my sons over the years; this easily takes top prize as The Ultimate Top-of-the-line Best Visit Ever Involving All My Offspring and Descendants. It was fabulous. Thank you, guys and families, for taking the time and expense to come from both sides of the continent for me, and to Northwood for hosting; I love you all beyond all counting.

All the cousins and the Auld One.
Sons not cooperating with their mother–nothing new there!

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In the ‘weird dreams’ category

This week, I’ve been waking up around 4 or 5 and not returning to Morpheus’ withdrawn arms. This morning, probably around 6:30 or 7, I fell into one of those odd dreamish states where you know what’s going on and you usually kinda-sorta know it’s a dream, but it seems extremely real.

This one involved some old stuff of Mom’s that I’d found in a couple of boxes I’d never seen before. Stuff that seemed peculiar, but given that she taught home ec before it became consumer education (because heavens forfend any of us should be anything but consumers), they made sense.

One was an oddly constructed dress, on a slightly rusted wire hanger, that sported a first-prize sticker from a state fair. It looked like an ordinary blue cotton dress, but had been constructed in a deliberately difficult manner. It was roughly the size I might have worn at fourish, but I had no memory of it. It contained three white zippers with decorative pulls, placed about one inch apart, that zipped just to left of center up the back to about the lower end of the scapula, then curved a bit more to the left until they reached the shoulder seam.

Another was much larger and also had a first-prize sticker on it. Only folded—no hanger—this one was green, not sure what kind of fabric, and also designed to show off construction skills. It had box pleats in the skirt and I think the insides of the pleats were a different pattern, but I don’t remember for sure. If they were, it was a subtle difference, not like black outside with neon-pink polka dots inside.

A couple of other garments were in the box; I didn’t look at them too closely. Underneath them were a bunch of very large (like 18″x24″) black-and-white photographs on a kind of photo paper I haven’t seen since about 1960 (but was probably discontinued many years before that). Some had a little writing on the front (I didn’t recognize the handwriting, but somehow knew it was Cousin Laura’s [not sure of the name, but that’s who she was in the dream]—an older woman, Mom’s first cousin, who lived… I think down the road a ways from where Mom grew up, but I was only at her house once or twice so can’t be sure. She was quite an expert on our family history, though.

Each of the photos had fairly extensive explanatory information on the back in Laura’s handwriting. It looked as if they’d been done in grease pencil (do those still exist?!), and not very sharp ones, so were grainy and hard to read. The top photo was of quite a handsome young African-American man, dressed to the nines and with his hair carefully arranged so a few curly tendrils fell down his forehead, while the sides were quite a bit shorter. His name was Edward Drummond Jr. (not a name I know from any of our family history on either side). If there was info on how or whether he was related, I don’t recall that; I just remember being both surprised and not surprised that some DNA of African descent was mixed in with all that Irish. (According to, completely untrue; I’m the whitest old white woman in the Western Hemisphere, and it really annoys me. I’d rather have some interesting old family members other than pirates, Bart.s, and nefarious monsters.)

Other photos showed dignified, portly white gentlemen with moustaches the size of Pennsylvania; women with bonnets that, filled with helium, could have floated them to the moon; and various other things I’d expect to find in boxes of old family photos. Each one had equally detailed info on the subject/s and I intended to get this transcribed ASAP (I was aware enough to know it would disappear, at least).

I made the mistake of trying to adjust a pillow at this point, which derailed the whole thing beyond retrieval.

What knocked me back was that I’d had no previous knowledge of any of this. Once I realized it was a dream, of course, this made sense; but not until then. And that made me a little sad, because I don’t have tons of stuff that was my mom’s. Three vases from the 1930s and 40s; a Pakistani enameled brass tray; a little of her “good” silverware; and a couple of pieces of Nambé ware, one of which is a bowl that announces her Teacher of the Year award in its, well, bowl. I don’t really know what to do with any of them. (Nambé ware used to be a super high-quality, high-dollar item produced in northern New Mexico; it didn’t rust or tarnish and was really lightweight, freezer-to-oven style stuff. Unconventionally shaped, it screamed “way beyond classy” during my childhood. I went hunting for it not long ago and found it’s been bought by some gharstly forn outfit and debased into a bare shadow of its former glory.)

Anyway, that ruined that one and I had to stagger out of bed and greet (for once!!) the sunshine.

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Technology adventures, v78.8.3.4

Lowe’s called, told me my order was here and I should pop down to pick it up via their curbside service. This has been nearly two weeks in the waiting, what with fires interfering with transport and all. So I climbed into New Car and went.

Pulled into the parking space (felt proud I’d found the right spot). Took out my phone (felt proud I’d remembered to bring it and it had a charge). Called the number on the sign. While the phone was ringing, I worried a little about the phone volume, which isn’t very good. The … robust … background noise makes it worse.

“HELLO?” boomed a voice that shook the car… but the voice was not in my phone.

When I returned to the seat after an involuntary vault to the roof, I felt a bit like Elijah, who didn’t hear the Voice where he expected it, either. But this voice was neither still nor small; it burst forth from the car speakers at a volume of 37, as the little dashboard information panel kindly showed me (normally, I keep it at 8 or 10. Not even 11).

I said into the phone, “Um, I’m here to pick up an order? In parking space 1?”

“OK,” the voice shouted, quaking the car again. “SOMEBODY WILL BE RIGHT OUT. WHAT’S YOUR NAME?”

I told her. “Can you hear me?” I asked, utterly baffled. I was still talking into the phone, although I was beginning to suspect this was both futile and unnecessary.

“I CAN HEAR YOU FINE,” she blasted. I finally overcame the overwhelmed overstartle, found the volume control, and turned it down. “What’s your order number?” the voice continued. Ah! Success!

I gave her that, waited, and the already-dead phone… went deader.

What in the name of all that’s holy just happened? I thought. Why was that person’s voice coming out of the car speakers? And at maximum volume? What—

Then I remembered… when KrisDi and Snaotheus handed over the car, they’d taken a few minutes to do some arcane magic, probably black, with my phone. I recalled them mumbling at each other and KrisDi punching several buttons and conversing with the car. They called it “pairing your phone with Bluetooth.”

“What’s Bluetooth?” I’d asked. They explained, I’m sure quite clearly, but given that I have nothing else other than brush and floss (that I know of) that relates to teeth of any color, it’s been a couple of months since the car arrived, it’s only been on the road two or three times since then, and this was the first time I’d made a phone call while sitting in it… well, I’d had at the time very little idea and, now, even less recollection of what they were talking about.

The Bluetooth thingie was doing what it was supposed to, I finally worked out—letting me make hands-free calls through its in-car system. Eureka!

After the delivery person left, I remembered that KrisDi had done something with phone numbers and a voice thingie. So, since the phone stuff was still on the little info screen, I said, “Call Snaotheus.” Just to see what would happen, y’know? While preparing to leap out if flames should erupt from the dash?

Lo, as they say, and behold! His phone number popped up, a friendly voice (KrisDi’s) said, “Calling Snaotheus,” and pretty soon, he answered.

Poor dear probably thought (not for the first or even thousandth time) that his ma had gone ’round the twist, because I burst into storms and gales and veritable hurricanes of uncontrollable laughter. He patiently waited for the storms to abate, we had a little bit of explanatory conversation, and he condescended, “I’m glad it’s working for you, Mom.”

After a little back-and-forth about what the steering-wheel buttons that looked like phone bits might do, during which he mostly repeated, “I don’t know. I can’t see them,” I pushed the one that looked a likely candidate for “hang up the phone.” It did! Eureka!

Watch for more Tech Adventures when I do finally enter the 21st century. I’m sure they’re lurking, just waiting for me.

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For Northwood

and the rest of you,
Part 5

I have not answered All the Questions, and never will. I came late to this stage; I have many more questions than when I was taught Certainty. I’m OK with that. I don’t have to know All the Answers. I know and trust the One who does know them.

Is the Bible literally true? No. I never did believe that. It wasn’t intended to be an accurate history or science book. It’s all about metaphor and poetry and story, the ways we as a species communicate deeper truths. That’s what enables it to be interpreted for the needs of each age (since Christianity has what’s called a closed canon, that’s problematic; but that’s a different rant).

Was Christ divine, the actual Son of God? I tend to think he didn’t see himself that way. Based on current understanding, I think divinity was accreted to him by later followers because of their post-crucifixion experience of him and how they began to see themselves in relation to him. But I don’t know.

Is there an actual, physical heaven? I don’t know. Maybe; maybe not. Jesus repeatedly says, “The Kingdom of God is within you.” That indicates to me that we experience it here and now, that it’s internal, not an external governmental system.

What happens after death? I don’t know. I’m pretty sure that whatever happens, it will be quite different from what any of us imagines.

Hell? I doubt it, but I don’t know.

What happens to people who do monumentally evil things? I don’t know.

Why do bad things happen to good people? Some claim to have answers for that, but I don’t buy their glib solutions. I don’t know. I tend to think it’s because we’re all part of Life, and what we call bad things are part of Life, too.

Will the apocalypse come, after which God will run the world? I’ve got a firm “no” on that one. The book of Revelation, on which this view is based (and which view, if memory serves, didn’t exist ’til sometime in the mid- to late 1800s) is highly symbolic poetry. Since it was written, any number of “apocalypses” have occurred: The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and its Temple, the heartbeat of Jewish religious life. German barbarians in turn tore apart the Roman Empire. Any number of apocalypses came before those: Egypt, Macedonia, Persia; and after: Carolingian, Angevin, British, Austria/Germany; Eastern and African empires about which we in the West are never taught.

All of them fell, destroying the worlds their people knew. All were apocalypses for the people involved, and as long as humans continue to govern based on greed and exploitation, the cycle will continue.

Now we have our own U.S. Empire, which is, I believe, in the apocalyptic stage of our process.

Enough. I could go on, but I’m sure you’re long since tired of the whole tale. Suffice it to say I made you go to church because that was where Mystery found me, and at the time that was the only pathway I knew. I hoped that you three would find the Companionship there that I’ve had for so many years, that has led me through good times and despair, that has never, ever failed me.

Now I understand there are as many pathways to Mystery as there are people. I believe you already know Mystery; you may experience it in an alpine flower, a sea turtle, the beauty of math, in whatever moves you to awe and wonder. It’s up to you whether you recognize and welcome it. Whatever your decisions, early on, now, or tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, I always hold you in my heart… and so, I believe, does that Mystery.

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Still mechanically declined after all these years

My work here is done: A second generation of the North— clan is convinced I’m mechanically declined (and probably a little dim). I am once again an Object of Amusement, if not quite yet Amused Contempt.

I drive KrisDi’s car maybe two or three times a year and never remember anything about how it works. It is, compared to my wee steed, a massive monster of steel and growl, with lots of flash-bang buttons and levers and Features. It has edges, I know it does, but I can’t tell where they are. It’s like driving an oil tanker. KrisDi is out of town, and I am pressed into limited grandmotherly service, so I must drive her car.

So I was driving Chilkat to her piano lesson yesterday. Her bus was late; we’d had to grab snacks for her and go, and even then I feared Traffic might make us late (it’s not far physically, but it is in rush-hour-freeway-miles time). She was pretty hungry and chowed down on peanuts while telling me about the ducks and geese she and her friend L had seen at school, and wondering why the boy ducks were following the girl ducks everywhere.

Finally she finished the peanuts. “I’m still hungry.”

“Daddy’s going to meet us there with Chilkoot. He said he’d bring Lunchables for everybody.”

“Even you?”

“Yes, for me and for himself, too.”

“But you don’t even know what a Lunchable is.”

“I do, too. It’s lunch stuff all in a little package—some meat, some crackers, a bit of dessert—”

I got a little monologue on the subtle variations within the Lunchable universe that I couldn’t possibly understand, given my obvious limitations. “Huh,” humphed Chilkat in conclusion.

“Is that the parking lot?” I asked her.

“Yes! Pull in there, pull in there!”

I pulled into the parking lot, found a spot, and commenced the Turning Off Of The Car Routine. (Cf above: This car has many features mine does not.) I turned off the key and (after remembering an automatic had to be in Park for this) pulled it out. The radio stayed on. I started looking for the button to turn off the radio.

“What are you doing?” Chilkat asked.

“Looking for the button to turn off the radio.”

“It’ll turn off when you open your door,” she said.

So I opened my door. The radio went off. Success, peaches!

However, her car door was locked. I tugged upon it mightily with superhero strength, and forsooth, it remainéd lock’d. I opened my door again and started looking for the magic “unlocks all the doors” button. Couldn’t find it. (In retrospect, I could’ve unlocked it with the keyfob, but that hammer didn’t drop ’til about 7 this morning.)

“How do I get the door unlocked?” I asked Chilkat. She mumbled something about a silver button, which I could not find, and there was some mumbling back and forth with neither of us, probably, understanding a word the other said. Then I pulled her car-door handle again. And it opened.  I had not done one other thing that might have caused this.

Obviously, my lifelong personal electromagnetic field (PEMF™) nemesis had returned at yet another inopportune moment. Fussing and fuming about a bottle of testosterone spray were not on my list at present—I had to get this child out and into the building for piano lessons.

I started undoing the 750 intertwined and multidimensional buckles that make up the restraint systems in today’s car seats. Chilkat still couldn’t move. “You have to loosen the strap,” she said, ve-r-r-ry patiently. Oh, the strap! The thing I often forget about. Once you have the child in the seat, you have to give a mighty yank or six, with said superhero strength, on this tensioning strap to make sure the whole assembly is tight enough to actually restrain the child. Sometimes this is for the child’s protection. Sometimes it’s for yours.

I pulled out on the strap. “No, not like that!” Chilkat said, starting to sound a little impatient with Incompetent Grandma. “There’s a thing under here you have to push.”

“A thing?”

“A thing! I can’t reach it and I don’t know what it looks like.” She strained fiercely against the restraint to point to the thing‘s hiding place. I reached in and found the button; pushed. She shot forward as though from a slingshot. But hey, she was loose.

We got out of the car, high-fived, raced hand in hand around the building, defying a biting, mean-spirited wind trying to grab us by the throat, and found Daddy and Chilkoot, complete with Lunchables and iPad, inside. Success, peaches! And early to boot!

When we left (after rousing sessions of Minecraft world-building and rock-paper-scissors-Pluto), I had Chilkoot and Chilkat both in the car. I knew I needed a left turn onto the main road going back to the freeway, but went right thinking that would be less fret-making and I could make a U-turn down at the light. Almost immediately, my phone rang.

“I know,” I answered it. “I went the wrong way on purpose.” Snaotheus was, indeed, on the line to tell me I was going the wrong way.

Getting turned around was indeed less fret-making, but it took longer, and involved a foray down the left-hand turn at the light, which wound up in a side street where I could turn around.

“Grandma, are you lost?” asked Chilkoot, in a voice holding far too much suspicion for a 4-year-old.

“Nope,” I said. “I just wanted a quiet place to turn around.”

I was met by skeptical silence, which remained skeptical ’til we were back on the road he expected to see.

The same thing happened, door-wise-speaking, when we got home: Chilkat’s would not open. Chilkoot and she both hollered at me to pull the silver bar (I presume the door handle, which I’d already pulled since I was out of the car and I couldn’t find another silver bar anywhere in reach). Eventually, Snaotheus came out.

“What’s going on?” he asked. “That should open without any problem. Why won’t it open?”

“I don’t know! It’s not my car!”

Thus, for once, was I vindicated—the door would not open and he saw that it would not open. His mere presence, of course, dispersed the PEMF, and all the chaos was magically restored to order.

I still say bottled testosterone spray would be an instant-hit product.


Mechanically declined Grandma, happy to serve as a source of amusement, who once again does not disappoint. 😉

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Needle ice

One of the most interesting things that happens to water around here is called needle ice. Needle ice is kind of like mini frost heaves. This happens when the ground is soggy and we get exactly right freezing conditions, with the right temperatures in the right places in the right order. It has to do with water freezing around curved surfaces, if I recall correctly from the book Ice I read a couple of years ago. It’s not rare, but it’s not an everyday sight, either.

Yesterday, I got home to discover needle ice all over the yard, in sturdy little columns about 4″ high, pushing leaves and bits of cedar tree up into the air, so I took a few photos of it. It’s pretty difficult to get a good shot of something that close to the ground and it was cold, so I didn’t mess with setting up the equipment to do it properly. These aren’t great, but they show what it’s like, at least. Well. I’m going to be displeased if they show up as small as they do on my preview screen, because I made them pretty big.



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Snaotheus and kids are coming up! Yay!

I love my daughters-in-law dearly; they are wonderful women and I enjoy spending time with them. There is also something extremely special about spending time with just your body-borne, grown-up child and/or any attached littles, and I have that rare treat coming today since KrisDi is off training for something. Snaotheus, Chilkoot, and Chilkat are on their way up. happy dance, Kermit flail, happy dance!

I’m thinking of tying string to their ankles, handing them some cuttings, and letting them crawl down Horrible Hill and jam them into the ground. If the cuttings grow, yay! If not, no harm, no foul.

(I suspect dad and kids will all veto this plan. 🙂 )

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The Horrible Hill Project

Since my neighbor weed-whacked stuff on my side of the property line last summer, I’ve been rushing madly about trying to determine how to keep what remains of my clifflet where it belongs. He exposed quite a lot of unprotected area, and with as much rain as we get, that’s not a good thing. As mentioned previously, I lucked into the last slot in a County Extension class on landscaping with native plants, which included a section on erosion control. It was pretty extensive (six hours a day, two days a week, three or four weeks) and I learned a lot. Of course, “a lot” in a massively large knowledge bucket still leaves a whole lot of ignorant, so I didn’t exactly feel like an expert going in.

But yesterday, I got all of The Horrible Hill Project done that I can do this year. Probably. I might be able to stick another bush or two into the ground but… I got no reachable place to put ’em and haven’t yet figured out how to reach the unreachable, so I’m calling it good for now. Probably for the entire winter. Maybe.

I hauled myself outside at 9 a.m., dressed stylishly (oh, yes!) in three layers of tops and two of bottoms, plus the bright yellow rain pants ($15! On clearance at Hardware Sales! With a jacket and hat, too! So I can plant in the rain! But wait! I don’t have to, because it’s all done!!!), clambered down the hill in best sloth fashion, and started Looking for Places to Put Boards.

This is a daunting task. From the bottom, that clifflet looks so big and so steep, and I really, really, really didn’t want to have to do this stuff. Still, there wasn’t anybody else and I can’t throw money at it, so what’s the option? Floating downstream in a matchbox? D’oh.

I’d decided on a couple of places when my friend and neighbor Linda–the one with the problem-solving superpowers and suicidal desire to help people–showed up.  Linda spotted all the essential areas in about 30 seconds, while I’d decided on two in about 15 minutes. (“You overthink everything!” she likes to tell me.) We clambered back up, tossed four boards (salvaged from tearing down the raised bed, at Linda’s suggestion–remember superpowers?) down to roughly where we wanted them (they bounced. Who thought they’d bounce?) and proceeded to wrangle them into place, though two of them expressed reluctance by refusing to fit neatly where we wanted them to go. I’d already plopped a few big rocks and some large-ish bits of dead tree in a couple of other places, so we wound up with about six tiny retainers poised to arrest and jail any soil attempting to run away without permission.

After that, we got four or five bushes planted, mostly on the lower slopes. This required a lot of up-and-down activity by me (Linda has Owies that make it hard for her to play mountain goat, so I really, really appreciate her willingness to bop down there with me). We hauled everything back up and I started working on that actively eroding corner; it now has the fern (planted a couple weeks ago) and a snowberry (actually on my neighbor’s side of the line) along with one of the reclaimed Trex boards. And some clayey dirt packed into the eroded voids and a gob of hog fuel on top of that. By the time we finished, it was noon and Linda had reached her limit. She went home and I went back to work planting the scavenged and purchased ferns along the top of the hill, per Slope Guy’s instructions.

I went up and down that hill at least 38 times, hauling stuff, hauling other stuff I hadn’t had enough arms for, and reasons. I planted nine ferns of varying sizes, five bushes, two groundcover plants (they’ll spread!! Yay for spreading!) and five (or was it seven? I think it was seven) potted sticks that are going to turn into bushes (one will turn into a huge one, if all goes well). I shoveled half a yard of hog fuel onto everything (that makes a yard and a half in less than a week). But let’s take the trip in pictures, shall we?

Looking down from the top, you can see four of the five gray boards we put in place. The red blobs show three of the bushes (you can tell by the white-ish wood rectangles near them, put there to kinda-sorta help temporarily shelter the disturbed soil). There’s too much background detail to see the other two. I did  mark the bushes with paint, but you can’t see it from the top.

Another three hours got me the ferns planted at the top of the hill, on the left side…

… and on the right side. This does not show the Dramatic Surprise, which involves the gravel walkway slanting very slightly downhill so when you think you’re balanced, you suddenly discover you’re not. At one point, the bucket I was using to carry the hog fuel decided it wasn’t happy, and it leaped up and over the edge at the very steepest spot–that part that’s a foot or more deeper than the rest, that The Brothers were using last summer as a path when they were doing Jobs for Mom–and bounced merrily a-a-all-l-l the way down to the very… very… bottom. sigh

Here’s the corner where the dirt is (one hopes “was,” now) washing away (out of focus; sorry). I put a board in place there along with the fern and snowberry, both of which have good roots and will hold the soil in place nicely after a couple of years. Okay, maybe five. This part is actually not my property—the 4×4 marks the property line—but my neighbor said he isn’t going to do anything much about it, and I figure it’s better to do some work and plant a couple of things on his side than have what tiny yard I have fall down the coulee (followed by the house). He said he didn’t mind (of course).

The last bit of this part doesn’t show: At bottom right of the corner is one of the seven cuttings I took from my upstairs neighbor’s Big Honkin’ Bush. The rest I stuck in the flat (i.e., disturbed and damaged, therefore more runaway prone) places I’d been using as “steps” all day. All but one going down toward the bottom of the clifflet. So more climbing. I recently discovered that a cutting I’d plopped in the ground a couple of years ago and completely ignored had managed to root and grow five or six inches, so I’m thinkin’ this might be a decent bush to take care of those spots.

I had two ferns left over—the kind that had to be soaked, coaxed, pulled, tugged, and mangled to get their roots out of the pot shape rather than the kind dug up at someone’s house—so one of them went beside my stairs, where there’s nearly a vertical drop, and the other (not shown; the photo imps were on break) up top, next to the disused sidewalk.

After that, I put hog fuel (remember hog fuel?!) on and around everything, and used up about half the cubic yard.

The remainder of the hog fuel with the Big Blue Tarp, and the upturned no-handle pot I was reduced to carrying the hog fuel in after the bucket headed south. Erm, east. Fortunately, I remembered to sloth-run the traverse (SO not a picnic!) and grab it when I went down to shove the cuttings in.

It couldn’t get away that easily! Naughty bucket!

After six hours sloth-ing up and down the hill, I’d shed a layer or two, soaked through the rest, and tried to take a picture of my stylish outfit. That was an epic fail, but… I was definitely hot and sweaty. Eww!

By this time, I’d also hauled the ladder downstairs and brought out the three different gutter covers I’d gotten for a ‘Speriment in the one gutter that gets horribly clogged. My quantum-mechanics friend was coming over, and she was going to spot for me… but she was way late, and by then, I realized how very tired my legs were, so I brought the ladder and covers inside. The front end of my house looks like a hardware store in progress.

So I peeled off The Filthy Outside Layer of Things…

… and took a long, hot shower. And called it good.


Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Happy birthday to me!

Now I am Officially Old. (Never mind that I felt that way quite a few years back.)

I spent the weekend with the Snaotheus clan, whose adorable children entertained me adorably, and they took me to see “Disney on Ice” for the second year. I fear this may be becoming a tradition. This year’s seemed more interesting than last year’s, though the skating is always good. This year I was captivated by the costuming and the way they were able to translate fabric, plastic sticks, and a few other things into props that evoked a surprising number of backgrounds and effects.

This was my birthday cake, baked by the redoubtable KrisDi. I shared it with my knitting group, who all thought it was fantastic (they know a good thing when they taste it), and ate the rest myself.

Amazing apple-caramel birthday cake. Yummmm! It’s healthful… apples, and nuts, and eggs, and milk, and cinnamon, and… and… other healthful things.

Chilkoot gave me, among about six equally adorable little-boy presents, this one, which is (though he doesn’t know it) the topic of a running gag on one of my knitting forums:

We’ve all gone Quackers!

At one point, Chilkat was playing “pet store” with approximately 6,000 of her favorite stuffed animals on the floor. I told her I wanted to buy the dragon. Her dad said he bet it would be delicious. She became quite displeased when he and I began discussing which animals would be most delicious, and he told her she needed to have a “No Eating Agreement.”

She flounced off to get pen and paper, and promptly drew up a legal paper, which contains a word she didn’t know. She spelled it “ugrimint.” (It’s hard to tell because I had bad shakiness that day and I got bad focus.) Pronounce it phonetically, accent on the second syllable. I love it!

No Eating Agreement

And Snaotheus bought me new windshield washers, and installed them, and a new pair of earphones, too. It was a good birthday weekend.



Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

The no-choice, suck-it-upCurse of Competence Project

 (Warning: If you are a member of my family, this is Required Reading. Get a cup of coffee and settle in or I’ll cut you out of the will. Be grateful for the pictures. If you aren’t family, get an excuse from your doctor. You get points if you wade through it.)

Part I

Among the many, many, many things the <numerous expletives deleted> developer did criminally incorrectly when my poor sad house was put in place was, I am far beyond positive, putting perforated drainage pipe around the house, dropping it a foot or two down the hill, and leaving it there so all the roof and garage run-off could eat the hill from the inside out. Which it has done.

The first thing Wonderful Slope Guy did when he came by and gave me a free consultation (blessed be he forever) on the recommendation of my landscaping-with-native-plants teacher was write me a list of things to do to stabilize the clifflet and prevent as much additional erosion as possible. Number one on that list, in Large Bold Letters, was know where your run-off goes and control it.

Well, I knew where my run-off went. Down the gutters, swooshing through the downspouts, and into the (cheap-@$$, 18-year-old, most-likely-broken-and-crumbled since its useful life is 10 years) buried corrugated piping ubiquitous around here, and thence into the ground, probably under my house and down said clifflet, happily destabilizing everything that needs to be stable.

So I Made A Plan. (I don’t make plans. I am no good at plans. I hate plans. Plans always go awry. It’s a rule.) I hauled out the longest measuring tape I have (30′) and started measuring how much corrugated pipe I’d need to replace the old, broken stuff with new but malignant, possessed-by-devils stuff. This was entertaining, given that I had no helper and the tape wouldn’t stay where I hooked it. Many unplanned (see?) whacks on the knuckle by unexpectedly and rapidly retracting tape occurred. Much swearing and stomping of feet nevertheless, repeated often enough, tamed the tape, and eventually I determined how much hose and what kinds of fittings I needed (connectors, adapters. Ts, Ys). I was going to run the two garage downspouts into one hose, the two south-end-of-house ones into another, and the same on the north side, with the drainage hoses going all the way down the hill this time, to drain safely away from my poor beleaguered cliff.

My friend and neighbor Linda got roped into this by virtue of a) the Curse of Competence, b) previous evidence of ingenious problem solving, and c) an apparently suicidal desire to be helpful. I showed her my plans, and she immediately consolidated the garage hose with the south-end hose, lopping about 100′ of piping (and $60) off my bill. She even went shopping with me, and that turned into An Adventure.

Lowe’s didn’t have anything I needed but caps for the hoses I was going to cut off and seal. We went to Hardware Sales. They had everything (of course!!! They’re Hardware Sales!), bless them, and cheaper than Lowe’s, so I wound up with two 100′ rolls of hose, a couple of Ys, a T, blah blah, that added up to about $270, which was more than I was willing to invest in this d@mn place, but what can you do? All it has to do is last another 10 years or so, ’til I croak. After that, I don’t care.

Hardware Sales (which still sells screws and nails by the each or pound, for those of you unfamiliar with its wondrousness) keeps all its drainage-hose stuff outside, stuffed under a steep roof and behind a long bank of shelf units perpendicular to the deep, dark cubbyholes in which reside all the fittings. Linda, who … let’s just say dislikes mice and such … commented to that effect, then courageously reached into one of the deep, dark cubbies, at which point the nice man who was helping us leaped at her and growled, causing her to jump, shriek, have a small, quick heart attack, and smack the guy on the noggin.

This is how things go with Linda.

She had driven on this outing, since she has a rather large car (compared to my wee Ladybug) and we figured the hose etc. could go in her trunk no problem. Oops… problem. Even one 100′ roll of corrugated hose wouldn’t fit in her trunk or in the back seat, and we had two rolls plus a big box of fittings. So the nice man tied one roll onto her roof. We trucked it home and unloaded it, whereupon I walked it down the stairs.

We discovered that Linda had lost her wallet. Naturally, great angst ensued and phone calls were made to Lowe’s, where we quickly headed and which we quickly scoured, to no avail, for her missing property. Next had to be Hardware Sales, ’cause we didn’t go anywhere else, did we?

She wandered off one way, I another (I took the deep, dark cubbyholes). We met in front of the cubbies.

“No luck,” she said. “God, I hate this.”

“None for me, either,” I said. “You wanna go look back there?”


“Well, wait a second,” I said, and went back in there again, this time looking all along the floor and under the cubbies’ lips (cavities, ha ha ha) instead of in the cubbies… and there was her wallet. On the ground, tucked a bit out of sight. Calloo, callay! O frabjous day! So we found Nice Scary Man, who loaded up the second roll of hose like a little car-sized top hat, and we drove it home.

We had quite a time attaching and screwing together All The Things. I’m not going to go into the Keystone Kops routines we did with our various and intermingled tools, or the three trips Linda sent me on to her house to retrieve tools I didn’t have but that we needed rather desperately. Suffice it to say that eventually, all the tools were in the same big black trash can and were being used with great regularity.

Between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., we had first connected the two garage downspouts (rather tidily, if I do say so, with sheet-metal screws which I later wrapped with specially made tape).

Step one: Attaching the garage downspouts. Eureka!












The rest of the garage connection. Double Eureka!












Then we tackled the downspout closest to the door on the south side. This required removing three of the deck boards so we could see and (we hoped) easily get beneath the downspout, where we intended to connect the new hose after dragging it by  main force under the deck. Then we intended to run it down the side of the house. However, this is what we found.

Lots of short, angle-y 2x6s and many-lots of spider webs, along with a quite large spider that Linda was positive was out to get her. That’s Linda in the corner, glaring at the uncooperative substructure. The spider wound up a blotch on the ground.













Just getting to that was A Major Ordeal involving the unintended stripping of four screws (ones with those square holes in them–honestly, whoever invented the square holes, the star-shaped ones, and anything but flat and Phillips ought to be keel-hauled, tarred and feathered, and tossed out of town with the glass recycling). After we got them out (by virtue of channel locks and elbow grease), I crawled partly under the deck (I’m too old and creaky to get all the way under. Three more days and I’m Officially Old). It didn’t look any more promising from that perspective, and it looked a whole lot more spidery. We looked at each other and said, “Well-l-l-l-l-l, I think we’ll just bypass that. We can always raise the gutter so the water goes to the other end.”

On to greater things. After the T joint and woman-handling the hose under the deck, hooking up an in-line connector was a breeze, and then, like magic, we were at the far end, where we hooked up a Y. I threw the remainder of the hose down the cliff, then scrambled, slipped, slid, and not-fell (mirabile dictu!) down the cliff, where I had to stake the end of the hose to make it stay in place. But yay! That end was done!

Y connector on the south side of the house. Nice job, us!









And yippeeee! Down the hill it went.















And evening and morning were the first day.

Part II

There was still plenty to do, and the next day I got to do it by myself. Namely, digging a trench in the gravel walkway in which to bury the hose, running it under the 6×6 edging, connecting it to the Y assembly, taping all the joints, and letting it bop down the hill.

This did not go, shall we say, smoothly. Oh, digging the trench wasn’t too bad, once I got past the fact that you can’t dig out sharp gravel with a shovel and discovered that the hand mattock was da bunnies. But digging it deep enough, under the 6×6… yeah, that was a whole ‘nother story. ‘Cause right there, about 2.75″ under the 6×6? Where I needed a tish over 3″ of clearance to get the hose in? Yeah, right there was a boulder about the size of Vermont. Plan awry! I could not budge it, no matter how much I muttered, swore, and banged on it with implements that should have been harder than the boulder. So I stalked into the house, muttering and snarling, grabbed my pry bar, stomped back outside, put the pry bar under the 6×6, and stood on the pry bar, using the bloody boulder itself to lever up the 6×6 enough to quick, shove the hose under. Connecting it, screwing it together, and taping All The Joints was a snap after that. (Comparatively. This does not equate to “easy.”)

Then there was the matter of keeping the hose from crumbling when people (hah! who am I kidding? I. When I, ’cause I’m the only person who’s ever here) walk over it. I had a fortuitously sized length of rigid plastic pipe. I measured and hand-sawed off the appropriate length to cover the hose. I got out my little saber saw, which has served me so very well so many times in the past, and cut the pipe piece in half longitudinally… and discovered that a power saw generates enough heat to let the plastic pipe seal itself behind the saw. So I had to hand-saw both sides of that little mother, too. More awry. Everywhere you look, awry.

This did not make me a very happy camper. In fact, it escalated the grumpiness from the digging/boulder fiasco. I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but it’s true. I was ticked off.

The half-pipe, though, went down perfectly over the corrugated hose. I shoveled the gravel over it, stomped on all of it as hard as I could, and called it good. I hope to heck it doesn’t let that particular subset of All the Dirt Around My Sad House go floating down the coulee.

The Y-joint, corrugated hose, and sawn half-pipe in the trench. Go, me!












The Y-joint/hose, all covered up and stomped into place.












The pipe emerging from beneath the 6×6 and heading off downhill to find mischief to get into. Yes, I need to adjust the slope so it will all drain downhill. One step at a time, OK?

















The grand 66.6% finale! And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Part III

The third day, last chance to finish before a big rainstorm moved in, Linda and I were confident. We’d done the hard parts. We figured we could knock this last, north-end bit out of the park in an hour or two.

At first, things went smoothly. If you discount the fact that she broke my tiny drill bit, then lost the fragment we could still use, and then found a nail-screw hybrid on the ground and stuck that into her drill chuck!

First connection on the northwest corner: easy-peasy.

But the Project Gods had other ideas.

Rather than the Y connector I’d gotten for the northeast corner of the house, Linda determined an elbow (which I had) and a T (which I didn’t) would work better. I’m still not convinced of that, and I may yet, some day when I’m feeling both lucky and risky, go back and re-do it.

But that necessitated a trip to Hardware Sales–an essential part of any project, though we had fewer Trips Back to the Store than most people–to buy the T. I had clippered my hair to the crew cut the night before, and on the way out of the store, out of the blue, Linda pops up: “Do you suppose people think we’re a lesbian couple? You have a crew cut and we’re not wearing rings!”

I really did nearly rupture my diaphragm laughing. “If they do,” I gasped, “I hope it contributes to a rich fantasy life!”

So. We had the northwest drainspout hooked up and going east around the corner. We hooked up the hose, the elbow, and the T, and hooked them up to the downspout. Among other adventures, we managed to avoid Linda tumbling over backwards down the hill when she tried to sit on the stepstool while it tilted backwards. “You don’t wanna do th–” I started, then grabbed her arm as she shrieked and started to flip over. Save!

Down the north side of the house, west to east. One. More. Set. Of. Joints.

Then came the last hookup: the hose to the T, and then down that side of the hill.

The problem was that the 75′ of remaining hose was rolled up. Despite being labeled “flexible,” this corrugated stuff is so not flexible. It is, as I may have mentioned, infested with evil wights that cause it to flop around in unimaginable directions and configurations. Linda Blair  had it easy.

There we were, mooshed up against the back side of the house with about a two-foot area between wall, us, and dropping to the center of the earth. And 75′ of unpredictable and surprisingly heavy drain pipe. Linda insisted moving it this way would let it unroll easily; I pointed out that doing so would turn it into a knot. We argued and futzed with it ’til I finally went around the house, onto the deck, and tried to pull it out straight across the deck and the south end of the gravel walk.

Epic fail. I wound up dancing with the darn stuff, as every time I straightened out a coil, two others locked into place between me and Linda. She was, I think, getting pinched rather nastily by the stuff, but she didn’t wail.

Eventually, I got it straightened out and lopped off about 25′, thinking that would leave more than enough to go down the hill and bypass it entirely before water came out.


That long a chunk of hose (about 45-50′) weighs a really whole big lot. I’m not strong enough to throw it from the deck down the hill and have it fall neatly into the place I wanted it to be. I tried two or three times before admitting defeat, though I refused to cry.

“Here, tie a rock to it,” Linda said.

“How’s that gonna make it less heavy to throw?”


“I’m gonna have to go down there. I don’t see any other way to get it where it should be.”

Down I went. Now, when I went down there last summer, it was dry and easy to walk on. After several rains, there’s actual standing water, and you cannot tell how deep it (and the mud beneath) is because the autumn leaves have stained the water a dark coffee color. So I was climbing, creeping across, balancing on, and clinging to all manner of boulders, fallen and mossy nurse logs, and I think even swinging from tree to tree, at about the top speed of a three-toed sloth. So like three or four centimeters per minute, tops.

I could get within about 8″ of reaching the pipe. I stretched. I held on  to a semi-stable cut tree limb and stretched farther. I picked up a hook-shaped limb and tried to snag it. All to no, as they say, avail.

Moving at slow-sloth speed, I inched forward on a mossy boulder, hooked my arm around its edge, and le-e-a-a-aned forward. At the ultimate stretch… I got it! I grabbed that pipe, yanked on it, and didn’t let go.

Unfortunately, the wights were still in there and having a party. I was able to get the curly pipe into place, but it wouldn’t lay flat. It insisted on springing straight up in the air, no matter how I shook it or waggled it. It was way too excited about this whole thing.

“Hey,” I hollered the 30′ or so up to where Linda was laughing. “Can you th’ow me that brick?”

“Sure,” she said. “Stand behind that tree.”

The only tree within an hour’s sloth race stood about 6″ in diameter. “That tree’s too little,” I pointed out. “You’ll hit me.”

“Sissy,” she said, and tossed it.

The brick landed about six feet away from me, miraculously not in either one of the dark unplumbable bottomless voids or in the equally deep (I was certain) mud. I picked it up, slithered over to the end of the hose, wrestled it onto the ground, and plopped the brick on top of it.

Hah. Opposable thumbs win again!

This is going off the gravely part and down into the jungle, where…

… this does not give you a sense of scale. It’s about 40′ straight down, maybe more, and that cedar tree it snakes around is about 18″ in diameter. It is most definitely not a sapling. That tree covering up part of  the hose at the bottom of the shot is a big-leaf maple, one of two that will have to come out soon so they don’t grow overnight to 250′.

After Linda gave out and went home, another hour or so taping all the joints (which was much more difficult than anticipated because of the tight T-joint clearance, which is why I think I may need to go back and put in the Y), I gathered up tools, hauled tools and spare parts inside ’cause it was gonna rain, and got ready for the neighborhood Halloween potluck. (I went as a psychopath: They look just like everybody else, so the costume is easy-peasy.)

And the evening and the morning made the third day.


Today, it’s rained. Despite having nightmares that it’s all going to melt or be dragged away by ravens or eaten by bears, the hoses still seem to be in place.

I hope to all that’s holy that they stay that way, and that the dirt underneath (especially that very narrow spot at the northeast corner) doesn’t decide to get miffed about the whole thing and head for Idaho.

The bad thing about having done this: The Curse of Competence will apply. That means the next time I need Son Assistance, I’ll get told, “Ma, you did all that drain stuff by yourself (not true! I had Linda the Clever!). You don’t need my/our/his help!”

No matter what, an old lady can’t win. And don’t forget: As of Sunday, I am officially an Old Lady.
























Posted by wordsmith in Family, 3 comments


One of the joys of being nouveau pauvre is that you get to learn exciting new things… whether you like it or not. Because you can’t throw money at them.

Add that fact to autumn in the Pacific Northwet (sic) and my phobia about anything higher than the third rung of a ladder, and you’re looking at wheeeeeee!!! territory.

Today, those things collided.

It was a nice day (read: no rain, flash of odd yellow in the sky) and one does not waste this hereabouts. I was too tired of doing diggy things to start digging holes for sword ferns or trying to shove the eroded dirt on my clifflet back into place and find a way to keep it there, so I decided I’d take the cheap-@$$ leaf blower onto the roof and blow off the thick layer of deposited-in-the-weekend-storm cedar droppings (every fall, yellow and gold chunks of … I don’t have a word for it other than “cedar leaves” … blow off during the first several big windstorms. Since I have a number of huge western cedars and one gigantic hemlock tree very near the house, I get enormous quantities of this crap on everything. The whole lot, house and all, is blanketed with non-negotiable gold).

Last summer (2016), I installed with a neighbor’s help some netting stuff on the gutters that promised–promised!–to keep out everything from squirrels to radiation dust. I knew from halting at the top of my stairs and looking a couple days ago that it lied… because gold crap quilted my roof. I couldn’t even see the gutter netting.

I finished three hours of dirt shuffling and dismantling the raised bed on the clifflet lip, ate lunch, went upstairs to get the ladder, brought it downstairs, and took a half hour or so to reacquaint myself with how to make it the size and shape I wanted (haven’t used it for a couple of years. A person forgets). I tried the ever-popular upside-down V. That didn’t work. Went to the straight variety. That just looked scary, but I couldn’t find a configuration or destructions for “lifting magically onto roof.” I had to go with what I had.

I put up there the leaf blower and a couple of extension cords, plus a leftover roll of the dishonest gutter netting, took a deep breath, huffed it out, closed my eyes… opened my eyes,  realizing that trying to climb a ladder blind would be counterproductive… and headed up.

Yes, I’d called my spotter but she hadn’t answered her phone. I didn’t have a pocket for my own phone. I figured at least when she got messages it would occur to someone to check to see if I was a) alive, and b) unbroken.

Astonishingly, I did get onto the roof. Not without a fair bit of gasping, eye-closing, eye-rolling, false starts, face-squinching, jaw-clenching, ladder-gripping, self-encouragement, and various other ploys of similar ilk… but I did it.

The leaf blower? Brilliant. It blew the cedar crap way the he!! off the roof (although it blew a good portion of the crap from the west side onto the east side of the roof, so it might’ve been a wash). But my extension cord was only 25′ long.

My house is about 48′ long.

Fair bit of discrepancy there (dare I say “discrapency”?)

After I blew off what I could, I crawled around on the roof brushing the cedar crap and hemlock cones off the roof… with my unclad fingers. Especially the large piles of yuck in the joint of that pointy bit that’s supposed to be Front of House but is actually Back of House given that my house was plopped in place so The View is out the “front” windows, which are actually the back windows, and if you’ve followed that you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.

‘Twasn’t long before I’d sanded all my fingerprints off on the new-last-spring shingles. And been not impressed with the amount of sandy stuff that had washed off the new shingles into the crack between the pointy bit and the rest and the supposedly protected gutters. The netting had become a nice social gathering point for all the cedar droppings, which had congregated on the part just under the roof overhang and become so familiar with its various parts that it had coalesced into double-fist-sized gobbets of decomposing yellow matter. Still, I persevered.

I pulled the useless netting out of the gutters on the east side and began scooting across the roof, scooping out the gunk in the gutter with one hand and tossing it down onto the areas I’m shortly gonna have to put sword ferns in. It was kind of gross. No, it was really gross. Though I reclaimed probably five pounds of roofing nails. And the “filters” that the last gutter cleaners had “installed” at the downspouts turned out to be … are you ready? … little twists of the same failed gutter-netting junk I’d just pulled out and tossed overboard!

Just as I finished pulling crap out of one section of the gutter, my spotter showed up and started to give me grief. I didn’t care.

She had a 50′ extension cord, and went to get it, bless her heart. She made me promise to sit on the ridgeline ’til she got back.

I tried. I really tried. But I had to not waste the nice day, so I pulled out and pitched the gutter netting on the other side and checked the no-longer-in-place downspout filters, noted as per above.

She scolded me when she returned. “You just can’t do anything you’re told, can you?” Caught me red-handed… well, brown-handed, covered elbow high in dirt, muck, deliquescent cedar crap, bits of pine cone, and general misery, but still caught.

She passed up the 50′ cord. I stopped sweeping. Oh, yeah. At some point, I’d decided sanding my fingerprints off was a stupid way to avoid a trip down and up the ladder, gotten down (no broken bones!), grabbed a broom, and gone back up (no broken bones!).

She laughed at me. “You know this isn’t enough junk on your roof to get excited about, right?” she said.

“Don’t care,” I grumbled. “If I leave it, it’ll wash down into the gutters.”

I could hear her eyes roll from where I … well, not exactly stood. Crouched is more like it, kind of a half squat, given that I’m not good at standing on unlevel surfaces.

Turning on the leaf blower, I waved it across the roof. Magic! Cedar crap flew off the ends, into the air, off the sides, into the gutters…

“Why not?” I thought, and crouched over to the gutter edge. I aimed the leaf blower into one end of the gutter and turned it on.

Half-rotted cedar crap, teeny pine cones, new-shingle sand, general dirt and disorder, it all rocketed into the air, over the side, onto the ground, the roof, me… “Whoa!” I heard myself say… to myself, given the leaf blower’s decibel level. “This is seriously cool.

I went to the other side and blew out the gutter crap there. This was awesome. I felt like a little boy who’s just discovered he can pee his name in the snow.

Within a short time, I’d blown crap out of all the gutters. I could feel my fingerprints starting to grow back. I turned to Spotter Linda and grinned three feet wide, blobs of black dirt all over my face, arms, and shirt. “Awesome!” I crowed. “It gets the crap out of the gutters!!!”

“You look way too happy,” she replied. “You shoulda started at this end and gone the other way. Now you’ve got gunk all over the deck.”

“I don’t care!” I cackled. “It blows! It totally blows! Everything!”

I finished up, handed her all the stuff, and carefully crawled down the ladder for the third time in one day. Then we went to Lowe’s to look for better gutter screens.

“Your gutters are clean,” said Linda. “Now is when you put better screens on. You don’t wait for the next storm, dummy, or you’ll have to do this all over again.”

“And that would be bad… how?” I snickered.

We had teeny DQ Blizzards before we came home. On me.

It was good. It was very good.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 3 comments

If it’s not one thing, it’s five others

It’s not bad enough that Lake Shitticaca shows up on my driveway every time it rains, reminding me of the Upcoming Great Retaining Wall Explosion Get Your Own Now Only $75,000 event, but we had quite a downpour yesterday and I could see just how quickly the bare ground, exposed by my overenthusiastic neighbor when he weed-whacked my blackberries (without asking), is going to wash away. Scary.

So I got a hook thingie and using all the muscle I’ve built this year pulled out from the trailing-blackberry cover the spring’s clematis prunings, which are conveniently wrapped up in bird netting, hauled the whole mess over to the naked area and plopped it over the worst part, hoping it will provide at least partial protection until I can get with a neighbor who has a pickup and go get 10 or 12 bags of mulch to cover it, and some jute cloth (ideally, but it seems to be hard to find locally) or more bird netting to anchor it to the ground. That ought to work, except that it looks as if one of the drainage channels is going to go from neighbor’s side of the property to mine, and I don’t want that At All. I may do some judicious dirt rearranging to make sure that doesn’t happen. His foundation goes down to bedrock, so his house won’t be floating down the ravine if all that dirt goes away; mine, as far as I know, has no footings at all. Of course. Having that shored up would probably be another $75,000 project. I don’t even want to know.

Neither of these has been good for the Anxiety Monster, who’s been feeding on them very happily and making my life a living hell. Acupuncture this a.m. helped a lot, but the effect starts to wear off after seven or eight hours, which is frustrating.

Good news is that I went to a readers’ theater group today and we ran through two old radio-show scripts from “Suspense,” and it was a lot of fun. And they let me in and were nice to the new kid and everything.

The “landscaping for erosion control using native plants” class I’m taking is going to be much more comprehensive than I really want, but I learned a lot in Monday’s class and the teacher said we’re starting on erosion control tomorrow. I’m surprised that the five-hour-per-day class exhausts me, but it does. Monday’s included about two hours in a local nature reserve that has about 100 native plant species. I discovered that I have a few red elderberries along with the sword ferns (which I will protect with my life, since they do extremely well with soil retention), a bunch of not-terribly-helpful bracken ferns, enough trailing blackberries to stock a nursery (which I’m sure everybody else has, too), and of course the big, non-native, invasive Himalayan blackberries (the huge, bushy ones that cities have to cut back every year and have thorns the size of a football field) that I have learned do a very poor job with soil retention. It’s not going to be pleasant trying to figure out how to get those things out (if I do) and put other, more suitable things in, and even less pleasant actually doing it.

So there’s my current life: one fresh hell after another.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, Gardening, 0 comments

Ugly fire season

This was my sky about 2 p.m., complete with headaches every time I went outside. I suppose it’s from the Cle Elum fire (Jolly Mountain) on the east side, which caused emergency evacuations. We’re supposed to get rain (on our side) Thursday, but who knows? It’s a bad season. Normally, rain over Labor Day weekend is as reliable as, well, Labor Day weekend, but this year it’s been the hottest part of the summer.

Smoky sky with half-hidden sun

Why is this showing up tiny and smooshing the sub-info next to it? Why is everything new a fresh hell to navigate?





Posted by wordsmith, 10 comments

… and now for the railings …

One of the things I couldn’t get to because of the Chilkoot Back Injury. They’re just gross, and it’s taking about an hour per section to get them clean. Plus now that I’ve migrated my site, WordPress seems to have updated automatically and a LOT of things have changed. The CSS still doesn’t display properly for the main page, but it does on the individual posts. I have absolutely no idea why.

Here we have got-to-clean-it-tomorrow railing followed by cleaned-today railing.

I’m completely lost with this new dashboard thing. Sheesh.



Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

One small win

Finished sealing the deck, so it rained last night. But it’s a win.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments