Sunday, August 23, 2015

Capacity Building Through $%^&# Gas-powered Machines and Herbs

Today was the day - string trimming day. I hadn't done it all year. We hadn't had the capacity, but it was time. I can feel it in my wrists 8 hours later.

I stopped only because I heard Jared's voice over the din and through my hearing protection. "Huh-uhhhhhh!" I heard." I shut off the machine and was too tired to walk it back to the shed. "Maybe I'll get back it later." "Lu-unch!" Jared called again. Oh, lunch.

"It's 12:30," I said. "You were trimming for hours," said Jared. "Nachos are ready and perfectly heated now," he added. "I'm really sweaty, and no doubt some juicy bits of poison ivy got me," I said.

Many year ago, I gave myself a tattoo on my wrists, forearms, and biceps with poison ivy juices that splattered my body during one work-related string trimming experience. Chopped bits of Toxicodendron radicans hit my exposed skin at high velocity. Not even 100% humidity will prevent me from leather gloves, long sleeves, pants, and a bandanna (to protect my neck) anytime I pick up a trimmer.

No two-cycle engine work (chainsaw or trimmer) is completely free of operator error. I removed the tri-blade and put on the grass trimming blade by carefully following the scant directions and confusing diagram.

I fueled the tank, spilling gas on my hand. The kitchen sink was full, I mean overflowing, with dirty dishes. I emptied it and washed my hands three times.

Back at the shed, I remembered my other promise - always wear chemical-resistant gloves when pouring gas.

The trimmer started on the second try. Not bad, not bad at all for a machine that hasn't been used for a couple weeks. I noticed the trimmer head rotated quickly but with an occasional slowing. When up against grass, it would not cut.

Off with the trimmer head. I reassembled it, this time leaving off two of the parts that seemed not to be included in the assembly directions. The head spun freely. Uh oh, I remember this happening once before. I hadn't included the part that allows blockage of the shaft and removal of the trimmer head. Luckily, I hadn't really tightened it and was able to remove it.

I reread the directions, including the ones about mounting a metal cutting assembly. I figured out the parts I needed. All went back together fine.

I began cutting, but got little done. The trimming line wasn't feeding. I shut off the trimmer again.

I was about as hot and ineffective as the engine I attempted to wield. As I tromped by, Beren asked if I'd play with him. "I have to fix the trimmer," I said.

I considered You Tube, but found another set of directions, these for the trimmer head itself. I took a dropperful of Mad Dog Skullcap.

I disassembled the trimmer head. Last time I refilled the line feeder, I'd sloppily wound the line. I rewound the tangled part, and it worked.

The line stopped feeding again, but this time I was patient enough to show Beren what was wrong with the machine and how to fix it. I think the skullcap works really well for me.

Now, I have to do some horrible paperwork for our business. Night, night.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Summer odors, not good ones

The odor of the liquefying beast lodged somewhere under our side porch and the foundation has reached its 18th permutation. 

The smell is strongest in the basement on the south side of the house, right by the dehumidifier which I empty two or three times a day. 

The odor was noted the day prior to us leaving for vacation earlier in August. I had just finished typing a note to our house sitter. The text detailed our requests, including emptying the dehumidifier. 

I announced the breaking news to Jared, making sure to not alert the smaller member of our household. I wondered if the smallest member of the family, the cat, was to blame. I then panicked and researched how to remove such smells. Would our house sitter be unable to occupy our morgue?

In the evening, the smell abated. I was relieved and reported the news to Jared. 

The following morning, the sun rose, passing over the black cherry and the box elder until it shined on the house. The smell returned. Slow roasting corpse.

I went into our two hundred year old basement, and aimed a flashlight into the cavern between the old wooden floor beams, cobwebs, and electrical wires. Nothing observed. Just the smell.

"Can't find it," I told Jared. "I'm just going to forget about it." 

"OK, good," Jared answered. 

"But, I smell it everytime I go down there. Hope it doesn't get worse," I added. No comment from Jared. Case closed as far as he, the guy who said he'd help me with the dehumidifier emptying chore, was concerned. He, the guy, who emptied it a few times and told me we should hook it up to a hose so it can drain outside. 

To be fair, it is the busy season. I did come up with the idea of a winter task list, which we agreed was a good idea. If I'd taken the time to start that list, the dehumidifier would be on that list.

Tomorrow when I empty the dehumidifier, the beast will have come closer to becoming soil. It's been about three weeks. 

In an internet forum, I found a brief comment by one person who had a raccoon die under their porch. Took two weeks for the odor to go away. That seems a bit like wishful thinking. Still, I appreciate the image.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Goodnight Tea

I lean over and kiss Beren. "What does that kiss mean?" he asks. "It means I love you," I say.

"That kiss means it's time for you to make your bedtime tea," Beren says.

And with that, I kiss him again and come downstairs.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Ups and Downs

 Beren and Mountain were lounging peacefully until I took out my camera.

After what seemed an impossible week, we made it through. Anything, anything, anything that could have been done to push parental buttons was done. And as the red, fiery, angry poison ivy rash faded, so did the red, fiery, angry attitude.

Sometimes, it seems as though my child is pushing me away with red, fiery, angry button-pushing behavior. And I guess sometimes he is, and after all, he's a person. In the meantime, I'm getting burned, so I might be backing away. Everybody needs to brood alone. We give our child space when needed. 

Sometimes, I hold tight to that whirling, fiery tiger until he quiets. "I love you no matter what," I say. I once was told that sometimes we need to hold a child through a storm of tears or rage. I read elsewhere that you can say, "You're out of control, and I'm going to hold you until you feel better." 

I was a little surprised. I turned the thoughts around in my head. Before hearing these perspectives, I might have tried this, but given up too soon. Just as likely, or maybe more likely, I'd get upset or angry at the small fireball before me. From my mouth would spill, "STOP!" or maybe I'd walk away. 

And hey, I still might. I'm a person, too. But there's something good and kind about holding a little kicking and crying person who really needs help. Saying GET A HOLD OF YOURSELF doesn't demonstrate how to get a hold of yourself. 

And because we're in a relationship, the mother child relationship, holding that little fireball close physically or emotionally, gives us both a chance to CALM THE H*LL DOWN. 

I'm so glad the poison ivy rash has passed. Was it the root of our rough week? It didn't seem directly related. It didn't seem to bother him that much. "Did Adam and I ever have bad weeks?" I asked my Mom. "Well, yes, but you not some much, but sometimes," she answered. Maybe Beren was teething Jared and I agreed and laughed. Teething, now that was a rough time.

During fireball week, Beren declared, "Spruce Run is not as fun as other beaches." I'd taken him there last week, and we had a great time, or so I thought. "What beaches are better?" I asked trying to mask  disappointment in my voice. "I dooooon't knoooowwww," Beren whined. "OK," I sighed. "Other beaches might seem like more fun. I do like going to Spruce Run with you though."

"We should tell Papa to come to the beach with us," Beren said. Papa? You mean the dude who's Crocs you kicked dusty gravel into while we stood in the parking lot? That guy who you shrieked at repeatedly this week? And, alternately asked him play with you? And then, shrieked at for some minor play-related infraction. Papa? The guy who made you palascinta (Hungarian crepes) and then got lip from you about them not enough jam inside? Not that I'm counting or holding a grudge for my husband.

"Yes, I like when Papa comes to the beach, too," I said. Jared doesn't love roasting on the beach like I do, so beach days happen when Jared has long days away.
 
In the midst of it all, I picked up Beren from camp one afternoon. I waited in the vestibule with another mother. Our boys happen to like each other. "So, has your son ever said he's really tired and doesn't want to come to camp?"

For weeks, Beren's complained, "I'm tiiiiiii-urrrrrrrd." Fair enough, camp is new, lots of play, and time away. "Oh yeah, this is his first time, right? Sure, my son was exhausted, and then his behavior was awful, especially in the afternoon. He's also been really tired this week."

Perhaps the meteor showers, another celestial event I heard about after the fact, got us. Who knows. Teething? It must have been something because even the vanilla ice cream we made together this week was not quite right, though it came out the way it always had - delicious. Too soft, doesn't taste good Beren declared and dumped it back into the mixing bowl tearfully.

As fireball week came to an end, I planned another trip to Spruce Run. Jared was headed out for a long day of consulting. He and I packed lunches side by side while Beren slept on. I was ready before Beren woke, and when he did wake, he was on a tear. "When are you coming back tonight?" I asked Jared. "After bedtime," he said. "Oh."

Once breakfast was on the table, we cheered up. We all went outside to see Jared out. As I opened the gate for Jared, he said, "Now take care of Momma today, and Momma, you take care of Beren. Do lots of good work." Beren was already digging into the leaf compost with toy trucks. "I'll take care of Momma, and Momma will take care of me!" Beren said.

Today might just be ok, I thought. It was. From then proceeded one of those lovely days. Just perfect. The weather. The flow of activities and snacks. We played around the farm. We worked around the farm. We laid out a picnic blanket and snacked on the picnic lunch meant for Spruce Run. We watched the clouds and saw shapes. We watched the planes, and the birds flying to a from the black cherry tree.

"I've always wanted a black cherry tree," I said. "These trees must have been here for years and years to get so big," Beren replied.

We used our cups to amplify our voices and shout at the clouds and planes. "STOP THAT CLOUD! GIVE THAT CLOUD A TICKET!" We saw an eagle and a red-tailed hawk, a pileated woodpecker, robins, jays, finches, and turkey vultures that like to cruise low over our mountain.

Laying and watching and talking and laughing seems so simple, but I was giddy. Really? It seemed a dream to lay and relax with my son. Had we ever done this before? Actually stopped moving while outside? Anytime I felt like getting up, I let the spell hold me close until Beren broke from our magic web and sought out his toys. I slowly walked to the potting table and got back to work.

Which way's the beach? The fun one? 

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Ready, Set, Stink

 Playing

One of the teachers at Beren's future school asked if he was right or left handed. Neither of us really knew, but we both leaned towards righty. He uses both, but tends towards right. She said we could roll a ball towards his feet and see which foot he chose most frequently. From that, we could see which was his dominant side. "Good idea," I thought. "That sounds fun and interesting."

A couple evenings later we explored whether our child was right or left hand dominant. Here's how it happened:

Mountain Kitten peed on his bed while we were in the Catskills. Our house-sitter kindly washed it, but in a note to us she also said that she could still smell cat pee. We re-assembled the bed, and he peed on it again.

We tossed the bed out into the lawn. It laid out there for a week. The rain didn't help.

In July, Beren, Jared and I went to a local music fair. We brought our plants to sell. Our neighboring vendors were a jewelry maker and an artist. Across the path, a local bank had a tent and table set up with piles of plastic giveaways.

Beren and I ambled over, and I encouraged Beren to spin the bank's game-of-chance wheel. He was unaware that there was a purpose to the wheel other than spinning it and listening to the clicking sound it made. I watched. The bank representative told him to give it one hard spin.

He won a fanny pack. He declined his prize and was handed the blue frisbee instead. He took it.

At home, Beren became quickly discouraged by the frisbee, so its final toss wedged it between a purple flowering raspberry and the deer fence. Weeks passed and the grass grew over it.

One evening the three of us checked on the greenhouses. I'd fertilized the plants earlier in the day. "The smell never used to bother me," Jared said. In previous years, I had let Jared apply the fertilizer, an organic, blood and bone meal mix that nauseated me.

The greenhouses represent the only flat and open outdoor space on our property. Their aisles make  great raceways. "Let's race," Beren said. "OK," agreed Jared. "READY! SET! STINK!" And off they went again and again.

After awhile, we drifted downhill towards the house. Beren rediscovered his frisbee. I searched for his purple ball from Shop-Rite. I found it, hidden in tall grasses and ever more bespeckled by the black spots that grow on plastic things left in the elements.

I'm not sure how the cat bed came into play, either Jared or Beren grabbed it. Jared started kicking it into the air, while shouting "READY, SET, STINK!" Beren found that the frisbee and ball fit into the bed perfectly. We ran around taking turns launching the ball, the bed, and the frisbee into the air.

"READY, SET, STINK!" yelled Jared we all laughed. The cat bed was on Beren's head at times. We played tug o' war with the cat bed - I held Beren under my arm while he and Jared tugged back and forth on the squishy bed. "READY, SET, STINK!" Jared shouted again and again.

I think we confirmed he's a righty.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Is the Easter Bunny real? Who left the basket next to the mailbox on Easter?

"Who's egg did you hatch from, Momma? Who hatched Papa?"

Saturday, July 25, 2015

My Right Toe

The photo looks crooked, but we live on a many angled slope. I tried to 'fix' the photo. When I adjusted the angle down to the right, the u-posts and mullein were then crooked.

***
Is it really July 25? It can't be.
***


The week began with taking Monday off to visit my in-laws. Good fun was had until I dropped the metal, weighted base of an outdoor umbrella on my right foot's big toe. The nail turned blue immediately. Blood oozed from beneath the nail. Funny, I had thought to myself that I ought to put some shoes on before moving the umbrella.

I held my act together until my sister-in-law asked me if I was ok and would I like her to bandage it. My face crumpled and tears rolled. I nodded.

She returned with gauze and tape and wrapped my bloody foot. "I'm ok with other people's blood, but my own..." she said. I was surprised and how gently but confidently she worked.

I hobbled. I stumped up and down our steps. The toe throbbed, but fear of stubbing it was even worse. That night, I rummaged in the cluttered fridge. It was packed with garden vegetables and leftovers from guests. The cheese drawer had broken eariler in the day, making the jam up even worse. Suddenly, a jar of homemade pickles fell out of the fridge and smashed. Jared was putting Beren to bed. "AH!" "Are you ok, Rachel?" "Yes," I said sullenly.

On Tuesday, Mountain Kitten joined me as I weeded a garden. He attacked my leg and threw himself down at my feet, as is his routine. This is an annoying game, and on this day he landed on my right toe. "ARGH!" I came inside to brood. I grumpily put food away. A piece of corn rolled out of the impossibly packed fridge. Guess what toe it hit.

"ARGH! OH MY WORD!"

"WHAT?!?" Beren exclaimed and ran to my side.

"Nothing. The corn hit my toe," I said. I wanted to be alone.

"Can I get you a pair of shoes?" asked Jared

"No, I just want my toe in the open!" I said.

I stubbornly went to Kung fu class later in the day. "You're late!" My classmates exclaimed. "Look at how I'm walking!" I avoided the jumping and hopping warm ups. I did everything else. Excepting a 180 degree heel kick maneuver, I was ok. Participating in class was easier than walking.  

Three days later I was rummaging through a pile of nursery supplies buried in weeds. I felt a sharp stab in the back of my left calf. "AH!" My Mom, who was working with me, and Beren came running. "Are you ok?" she exclaimed. "I got stung."

I'd been stung the month prior, and every little stab or pinch I'd felt while outside had me paranoid. A couple remedies and a Benadryl later, I was ok, but a little brooding.

In the evening, I convinced Beren and Jared to race me to the bathtub. "Last one in the tub is a spotted egg!" I shouted. "You're a spotted egg!" Beren shouted back. He ran up the steps and banged the bathroom door shut. As Jared approached, Beren giggled frantically and hopped up and down. I knew what was going to happen. He landed on my right toe.

***
Today it seemed I spent the whole morning and into the afternoon rendering 10 apples and two massive yellow squashes no one wanted to eat into something edible. Was it worth it? 

The squash chocolate chip cookies are good, we all agree. The applesauce is just ok. The dried apple slices are good. And the squash bread tastes fine. 

Now, I have to figure out what to do with the 6 massive cucumbers, provided they're not bitter. I  watched kids race decorated zucchinis on wheels at the Zucchini 500 today at the Easton Farmer's Market. Perhaps wheels can be mounted to cucumbers, too.

***