Flak catchers beware! I found the can crusher!


Sunrise over Oroville

We had a few nice days camping before the rain came back. Check out that sunrise – and people ask me why I would want to live up there.

Back in Chico, me and the dogs are holed up in the house again. When the rain let up for an hour or so around noon, we went out to see what there was to see.  I notice the grass I’d planted outside my front door is finally coming in,  on a dead heat with the weedlings.

In this weather grass actually has a chance.


Good thing my husband hauled out the rain barrels.


My cactus garden loves this weather. 

Toward the end of Summer, when it was just DRY, my nopal cactus had started to wither, it was shocking – the leaves began to wrinkle up like raisins. As soon as the weather turned wet they started to swell up, so much a few leaves actually broke off from their own weight – see the leaf laying on the ground there next to the strawberry pot. I notice they can rip very badly if they fall off by themselves, so I’ve been watching, and when they start to sag I cut them off with the loppers. I save them in an old planter pot and plant them elsewhere when I find a spot. They last forever, just sitting there in the pot, looking sad, and then you put them in the ground and look what happens! 

No it’s not pleasant working outside in a dumper, but I got plenty of other stuff to occupy my time. Back to The Hoard. 

Last Spring we sold an old rental, and my older son, who was living in the “mother-in-law” unit with his girlfriend, had less than a week after the new place was available to  get their stuff out of the old place. They tried to save time by moving a bunch of stuff into our garage. I have to laugh – moving is so frantic – they took everything.  Once the panic had settled down, they looked at their mish mash of boxes and realized, a lot of it should go either to the thrift store or the trash. Since they both have real jobs now, I’ve finally decided to take on the job of sorting through their stuff. I found out – a lot of it belongs to my husband and I, junk we’d left behind in the garage at their apartment when we moved off the property. 

I’m always asking my husband, “what is this and is it usable?” 

Sometimes he laughs and thumbs toward the trash pile, other times he says, “wow, I forgot that…”  The other day we found my mom’s old can crusher.


My mother was a consummate hoarder, where do you think I got  half my junk? She also drank Pepsi out of the can, it was like her oxygen tank. “Where the hell is my Pepsi?!”  A child of the Great Depression, she never threw away any type of metal. She saved her Pepsi cans for the neighbors kids, and sometimes she’d even drive the whole pile of kids in my gramps’  ’66 Chevy pick-up to the scrap yard to turn the hoard into cash.

I’ll never forget how shocked the neighbors were when she died – one said, “she just took the kids to the dump last week…gave ’em all $5…”  Yep, that was my mom!

Mom’s garage would get cluttered with cans sometimes, and the neighbor kids weren’t always around to help, so her boyfriend got her a can crusher – what a romantic!  My mom loved stuff like that. Screw it to the fence, drop in the can, pull that lever and VOILA!  That’s French for “Holy Shit!”   Can comes out looking like it’s been had-over by an 18-wheeler.

They don’t call it The Crusher for nothing.

When my mother died I saved everything – including a Post It note I found on the refrigerator – “call the kids”  The can crusher went in my husband’s shop, along with  other relics – tools and farm junk. My husband is also a hoarder, that’s why it’s so tough to throw anything away around here.   I was pretty excited to find it again, because my husband has recently switched to canned beer. I like the cans better, they aren’t as heavy, they don’t break, and they don’t seem to hold as much residue – so they don’t stink as bad as bottles. And now I can crush them to roughly one-tenth their original size – they take up almost no space, and we can take them to the recycling center in old dog food bags. We don’t have to go as often either, and the trips are more lucrative.

And I can’t tell you how fun it is smacking down those cans – listen, an old bitch like me has got to let off a little steam once in a while. It’s fun imagining that I am putting one or another government flak catcher in there and SMASH! 





Rainy day is a good day to whittle down the hoard

I rolled over in bed at about 4 am and hollered, “Stop it!” I yelled so loud I woke myself up.

My husband rolled over to answer, “It’s not me, it’s the rain gutter…”

We realized, when we cleaned our gutters, we forgot to put the board back. There’s a downspout that takes run-off from a big section of roof, and when the rain really gets going, the stream hits the gutter below like a hammer. It’s right out side my son’s bedroom, so he noticed it the first rainstorm. He and his dad climbed up on a ladder and fitted a piece of scrap wood into the gutter, and that seemed to be the ticket. It dulled the persistent wham! wham! wham! to a livable thumpthumpthumpthump.

So today we’re going to get up there and take care of that – it’s one of those things you can’t ignore, sounds like somebody’s trying to tear the house down.

In the meantime, I couldn’t sleep anymore, having woke up enough to feel all the aches and pains, I had to get up. I stumbled into the kitchen, led by the glow of the little light on my coffee pot. Badges follows me out every morning, bumping at my elbow with his nose – he likes me to move his bed to the spot next to my computer chair when I get up, so he can lay next to me while I clatter at the keys.

On a day like today, I have to sit in the dark and think, “What day is it? Am I supposed to be dragging my garbage cans out to the curb?”   No, which is always a relief.  But this morning I realized, it’s Monday, and Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. My son is coming home for an extended weekend, and I have to clean out his room. We have a really bad habit of putting stuff in there.

For example, two old people don’t need six dining chairs, so there they go into the boy’s room. And so on. The bed is covered with boxes of junk I been sorting to throw out or whatever. The shelves are all disheveled from my attempts at reorganizing. Opening the door is always a shock – I don’t go in there too often. I thought I would make my “office” in there, but found, it’s kind of a sad room without a boy living in it. 

I’ll tell you what else – having an empty room in your house makes it way too easy to HOARD!  Too easy to put off throwing stuff away – hide it in there, decide later…

There’s a difference between storing something you have regular but not constant use for – like dining chairs – and stuff you just can’t throw away, “because it’s still perfectly good…” even though you have no use for it, now or in the foreseeable future.  I know – take it to Good Will!

Would you believe, the thrift stores in our town suffer periods of glut? Especially at the end of the school year, when college students vacate our town by the carload. My husband and I tried to take in a load of stuff in July, and were turned away from two stores. Salvation Army no longer takes donations at their stores located around town, we are expected to drive to their facility at the airport. 

I’ll tell you the truth – half of it went into the garbage can when we came home. I took a hard look at it – old linens, old clothes – who wants those? Those went into the trash.  I looked again – a lot of stuff we’ve been left with by tenants who never came back to get it. A perfectly good cast iron pan with lid – I already have the identical pan. Kitchen gadgets. A stack of paperback books. 

Today I will stack it in the garage, and this week I will load it into the  car. I find the holidays are a good time to take stuff to the thrift stores.  It will feel good, it always feels good. Probably not for the reasons it should feel good, but it will feel good. 



Gotta keep those good vibrations happenin’ babeee!

Those old sayings, always so true – “Time flies…” 

I spent the weekend with my husband and our friend, working on our new “outhouse”.  Having a second person who knows what they’re doing is incredible – things happen fast! It took my husband a couple of weeks to lay the foundation. First he built retaining walls to keep the dirt solid underneath, then set the cement piers in the ground.  Now all the sudden there’s a 10 x 12 shack standing on top of them.

The old outhouse is only about 8 x 5, if that,  and it’s too far from the septic tank, the pipe freezes quick when the temps drop. And, there’s a rocky, bumpy stretch of path between our sleeping shack and the old outhouse, pretty sketchy when you have to make that trip (ha, ha, “trip”) in the wee dark hours of the morning. 

The new outhouse will also have room for our kitchen stuff, so we won’t have to rearrange the furniture every time we want to make a meal inside. We’ll be able to have some food storage – right now, our pantry is an 18″ shelf. 

So I watched in fascination as my “retirement” plans unfolded before my eyes. We might really do this! 

I shouldn’t be so surprised, when my husband says he’s going to do something, he’s going to do it.

I’ve known all along, I’m going to have to simplify and downsize, and that means getting rid of, okay, I’ll say it – JUNK!  Turning in my chair my eyes fall upon my “zoological” collection – about a dozen old canning jars full of dead insects, dried flowers, acorns, bits of bird’s nests, paper wasp nests, even a mud dauber nest. I have what I call “vacations in jars” – sea shells and other beach trash from our long-ago trips to Fort Bragg with the kids. 

And then there’s my rock collection, which starts fist-size in window sills around the house and ends up all over the yard with gutbusters as big as a small tv.

I tried to move one of my big rocks the other day, with a furniture dolly, and I just about threw out my back. 

And, OMG! The garage, and an entire shelf unit in my husband’s shop, are filled with “heirlooms” from two families. From fancy dishes to prune boxes, we got it all.

My son and his girlfriend moved out of our rental when we sold it, and only had about a week to move their entire hoard out of the old shop.  They started early by moving a lot of their stuff here. It’s funny how you forget stuff when it’s not right in front of you – now when they come over and look at that pile, they feel overwhelmed. They pick at it here and there – they’ve taken all of their garden stuff out of the driveway, thank goodness – but my son’s comic book collection? His childhood art projects and toys?  That kind of stuff sits in an improvised shelf unit in the middle of my garage, keeping me from being able to open my car door completely. 

I started realizing we need to get rid of stuff a couple of years ago, I’ve tried to make it a priority, but it’s been hit and miss. I actually sold an old trunk on Craigslist, and I was happy with that. I learned a trick from Pawn Stars – ask more than you want, then people feel like they got a deal. I thought $85 was a good price so I asked $100. I tried not to smile when the man asked, “will you take $85?” 

We had an old fireplace insert we’d received in lieu of rent from one of our tenants. We thought we had use for it, but the old fireplace chimney wasn’t safe, so the insert sat in our shop for about 15 years, until we recently sold that house. We’d forgotten about it, really. It had never been used, and the newer models are selling for over $2500, so I dusted it off and hauled out the paperwork and took some pictures. I posted it on Craigslist in last July or early August, and I reposted it and reposted it for over a month. 

Never give up.

As soon as the temperatures dipped a couple of weeks ago, we got three responses in one morning. The first man wanted to drive down from Quincy that day, and had no problem with the price of $350.  He and his wife were in our driveway by noon, and off they went with the insert. I couldn’t believe it – staring at the empty space it left in our garage was very gratifying, and we needed the dough to pay our kid’s rent at college. 

Every little bit, ya know what I mean? So today I’ll be poking around in my garage, looking for some old crap to put on Craigslist.  One bright point is I found the record player my kids bought me and my husband hooked it up down there so I can listen to my Beach Boys records while I’m digging.







Time for Fruhlingputz


Well, no howling wind, just that steady drip-drip. Tonight the howling is supposed to take up again – whatever, I’ve lost  track of the days. Weatherman  says we have a dry spell coming next week, I’m looking forward to it. 

For now we still follow our dam-ned routine – clean, bake, scrub, take the dogs for a walk. When the rain let up yesterday we went out and picked up storm debris – another sycamore branch  came crashing down on the fence yesterday – at least this time, no fence boards were lost! We loaded up two wheel barrows full of sticks and junk and got back to the house just in time, as heavy rain drops starting peppering the black plastic sheets across my lawn.

This is  the time of year for Fruhlingputz – that’s German for “Spring Cleaning.” We do it inside and out, depending on the weather.

Inside, I like to start in one corner of my house and work my way  around in some sort of organized fashion. The smallest room in my house is the bathroom. I always think I keep my bathroom clean until I turn on it with my Landlady eye, and decide I would charge myself a handsome chunk of dough to make that pigpen suitable for rental.

Sheesh that Landlady is a Bitch!  But I love her, cause she keeps me on my toes! 

The first thing I noticed with my Landlady eye was a huge spiderweb stretched across the ceiling of the shower. Spider had abandoned ship, leaving nothing but dust. I realize, I’m not really awake in there,  and when I do finally wake up, I’m freezing cold and I’m out of there so fast – when does anybody really  take a good look  at the ceiling in their shower? 

Time to wash the bathroom  ceiling.  I use one of those flat floor mops with the sponge head and removable dust cover. The  dust cover is a good scrubber but replacements are kind of expensive so for most jobs I cover the head of the mop with one of those microfiber rags. I get those really cheap by the bag  at Home Depot or wherever. 

This is a simple job, but Arthur hates it – you have to look up, hold your arms up – this morning I’ll admit I’m real stiff, but that ceiling looks very nice. The proof was in the wash water, which had started  out clear and smelling like lemons  and ended up brown and brackish.

Of course I didn’t stop at the ceiling, it’s just a tiny room, so I washed down the walls, Arthur begging for mercy. Bathroom walls get, what’s the word…yechhhy… Another wash tub of brackish water, and the whole room begins to shine.

Arthur had to admit, sometimes you have to suffer to have a beautiful bathroom.

 So we moved into the shower, where we have a ginchee window, and I scrubbed the hell out of that window while Arthur cursed at the storm. Window tracts get moldy this time of year, from dust that builds up naturally, and moisture that is being pounded in by one storm after another. My husband showed me how to clear out the “weep” holes that let out the rain, keep it from coming in the house. One little piece of dead bug or stick or leaf and that water backs up, causes problems. I tried to clean them with a toothpick, but that was tedious and non-productive. So, I took a spray bottle with a weak mixture of bleach and water and sprayed those holes until clear water came out the other side and ran off the window sill into the storm.  

My husband  did that shower in big tiles, it’s easy to take a plastic scrub  brush and a mixture of Murphy’s Oil  soap or dish soap and baking soda.  The soap and soda makes a paste that sticks to the walls, soaks up all that soap scum, breaks it down quicker than Earl Scruggs and Lester Flatt. 


Sorry for that aside, but every time I use the word “breakdown” or “foggy” or “mountain” I think of Scruggs and Flatt, it’s in my DNA somewhere.

Once the soap scum was gone, I noticed the tiles had taken on a new color, looked shinier, and I realized I need to get in there more often. Oh well, that’s what I always say.  I guess it’s better to let things get a little frowsy,  so you can really appreciate them when they are clean! 

With that room under my belt, I will work my way around the rest of the apartment through the course of the next storm, howling in tonight. By the time the storm is over, I’ll have the windows all washed from the inside anyway,  and Spring will  look a little closer!



It’s just that time of year for poor air quality, bad smells, flies, and other pests – and I’m not even talking about the election!

This morning as we were opening windows around the apartment, my close friend and constant companion Arthur Itis complained we’d just be shutting them in a couple of hours, why bother?

He’s probably right. The air quality index is laying somewhere  between zero and negative seven. There are wildfires burning all over California, a couple in Nevada.  And then there’s car pollution – Chico is a traffic mess, especially now that school is back in session.

But the apartment gets soooo stuffy, and there’s a couple of hours in the early morning, before the sun comes up, when the air is sweet and cool, gets the garbage-and-farts smell out of the house.

I don’t remember any Summer my dogs have been in the house so much. As soon as the red stuff hits about 99, we bring them in. I don’t remember the last Summer we’ve had so many days over 100, with lows in the high 60’s. Biscuit is a pretty tough old dog, but if we’re in here under the vents, why should she be out there in the heat? Besides, if we don’t bring her in, she hits the door real hard with her paw, she’s scratched the paint off in that corner. At the turn of the latch she noses that door in and flops down in the corner right behind it. She’ll lay there for hours, playing dead if anybody wants to come in or out, but perking up quickly at the mention of “ball” or “kibble”.

Badges is a wheedler. He comes in and lays down in the doorway, but within minutes you hear that tag jingling as he sneaks his way up the stairs, one by one. If he hears me approaching he immediately lays down on a stair, lays his chin on folded paws and pretends to be asleep. A couple of minutes later he’s nudging at my elbow for petting. “Go lay down, hair bomb.  What have you been rolling in, there’s stickers in your collar!” I have to wash my hands after patting him on the head, he’s so dirty. About every other day I run the vacuum around the house and dump out enough hair to make another little dog.

Yesterday I sprinkled baking soda on the stairs carpet and worked it in a little with a dry scrub brush. I let it sit for about 20 minutes, and then I went after the stairs with the shop vac. That is Arthur’s favorite job, he uses language from another planet. But, even  Arthur had to admit, the stairs smelled a lot better. So  then we put a big dollop of soda in some warm water and washed the vinyl entry way, door, walls, etc. Had to employ the elbow grease just inside the door where Biscuit rubs against the wall coming in, making a big brown dirt streak.  It all smelled better, and the walls are positively shiny.

We got some new neighbors, and as friendly as they are, they have brought chickens on the property again. It’s been the same as before, when the previous neighbor had chickens.  About a week after the girls’ first appearance, the flies started to pick up.  Michelle, a nice but stupid lady, does not clean the coop, she just throws down straw every now and then, creating a perfect incubator for flies, all that urine soaked straw and poop. Keeps the ground a perfect temperature to hatch out the little eggs and then there’s all that food for the maggots.

Like our previous neighbor, Richard, Michelle got really offended when we tried to talk to her about natural pest control – we got a pamphlet from our vet and gave it to her.  “We don’t have flies,” she insisted. We didn’t want to waste anymore time trying to reason with her, so just went out and got fly traps. These are cellophane bags with a plastic neck that allows flies in but not out. They are loaded with a smelly powder – just add water and they stink like a dead horse. We hang them just out of our own radius, and they attract Michelle’s flies away from our living area. We get them for about $3.50 at Lowe’s, they last about a month before they are so full of dead flies they don’t work anymore. It’s worth the money, frankly, to keep the swarms off the dogs and to not have to deal with idiot neighbors. 

Of course, garbage cans can work like big fly traps.  If you don’t wrap your trash well, you could actually be breeding flies. According to Orkin, a fly egg develops into an adult fly within six days – well within the weekly trash pick-up schedule. Furthermore, maggots can attach themselves to a surface, such as the inside of a garbage can, while they develop into adult flies. These are brown and blend in easily to a dirty surface.

Excuse me for knowing so much about flies, but living next to back yard chicken farmers has forced me to become somewhat of an expert because these people never seem to be very knowledgeable or cooperative. Trying to be a considerate neighbor myself, I’ve always wrapped the heck out of our household trash, especially meat scraps.  We also save really messy meat scraps or containers of grease in our freezer until trash day, so they aren’t sitting out there stinking all week. And, every few weeks, as soon as they start to stink at all, I take the trash and recycling cans in on collection day and give them a good going over with Comet scrubbing powder and an old scrubber brush, inside and out. 

And here’s a trick we learned from friends who live in bear country – tape a dryer softener sheet to the underside of the can lid.  I don’t care for those myself, I can see where flies and other pests- let’s not forget the meat bees! – would steer clear of them. I tried making my own repellent from essential oils but nothing is quite as obnoxious as those dryer softener sheets.

Something I’m always on my tenants about is overloading garbage cans, leaving that lid propped open. That’s an invitation to not only flies and bees but rats and other varmints.  Ever stare down an adult raccoon in your driveway in the wee hours of the night?  They make their rounds, they seem to know when the trash cans are out in various neighborhoods.  Even a pile of old cardboard boxes will attract these type of pests, who carry diseases that you or your pets can catch.  If your household can’t fit your weekly refuse into a 96 gal trash can, you might want to take a good hard look at your lifestyle, something might need to give. You may just have to pay for another can. 

Now’s the time to look for everybody’s favorite house guests – ants. After they raided us good a  few years ago, we learned to keep a good margin of space clean around our house, keep leaves from piling up, etc. Every now and then I move the container plants on the patio to look for ants’ nests. I read online that they like to nest under stuff like that, so I went right outside that minute and moved a big container next to our front gate to find a very lively nest. The little bee-atches were moving right up the plumbing in the corner of the house, to my kitchen upstairs. As soon as I sprayed that nest, they were gone and I haven’t had a problem inside the house again. 

The trees are shedding and leaves are piling up all around our house. Once we found a nest in our tenant’s rain gutter, they were doing a fast conga across the carport roof and into the wall. She was going nuts cleaning her apartment, but they just kept coming.  As soon as we cleaned the leaves out of the rain gutter and sprayed the nest, they were gone and she never had a problem again.

This is the time of year for smells and flies and ants. Pretty soon the wind will change and we’ll get some relief.