Flak catchers beware! I found the can crusher!

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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.

Score!

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! 

 

 

 

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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. 

 

 

Even the most wonderful stories can have a sad ending

I’ve always loved watching bugs, ever since I was a kid. One day in third grade, while my  teacher was going on at length about contractions, I was watching a new butterfly break it’s way out of a chrysalis on the outside sill of the classroom window. 

So I was pretty excited when I met my insect neighbor, Mrs. Mantis, and she didn’t seem to have any problem with my presence, even crawling up onto the water spigot while I was using it, waving her little forearm as if in greeting. I watched her gorge herself on meat bees that would otherwise have been mobbing my dogs, and I enjoyed watching as she daintily cleaned her face and hands after every meal. 

I worried as I watched her struggle to lay her eggs, the weather turned mean almost overnight, and she couldn’t crawl up the slippery cement siding on our shack. So she laid her eggs at the bottom of the door. I’d seen them in stranger places, and I was glad she didn’t set her case in the door frame where it would get squashed.

And every time I approached our little shack, I’d look for that egg case. 

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And one morning it was gone.

Life is full of trials and tribulations, it’s funny which ones will set you off. This made me very sad. 

And as I was wondering what might have happened, I noticed a little pile of mouse turds and some ground up junk.

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All that remained of Mrs. Mantis’ little family.

Mice are something we’ve had to deal with ever since we bought this place. The trailer that was set up on the property seemed full of them, we’d clean it out and next time we’d come they’d be in it again. They loved the oven, which they stuffed with fiberglass insulation from the walls, a big pink nest.

Finally we sold that little trailer to an aficionado who tore it apart and restored it. We bought a newer trailer that had been properly maintained. The mice worked furiously to get in that trailer too, and when I found turds in the kitchen cabinets we realized – trailers are a sitting duck for mice.

So we sold that trailer and began work on our our shacks – the first was a tiny shed for the toilet, then a 10 x 12 for sleeping and cooking. It’s been easier to keep the mice out, but they’re always there, waiting. Whenever we aren’t there for more than a few days, somebody sets up housekeeping on the threshold of the cabin door, I always find a pile of turds there. 

So I shouldn’t have been shocked – nature is so violent! Mice have to eat. I don’t know why I don’t feel the same empathy for the mice or the meat bees – maybe because they’ve been a nuisance.  We’ve trapped mice and thrown them in the garbage without  a whimper, and I have stood over the dog dishes with a flyswatter and racked up meat bees like trophies. 

 

But sometimes you meet a bug or an animal or a human that seems to look right into your mind and touch something familiar. I’ll keep looking for that. 

 

Small comforts

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Hello Sun

This morning I woke up to shirt-sleeve weather.  I wandered out to the deck to catch the sun rising over Oroville, Sawmill Peak bathed in red.

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The long knee shaped ridge in the middle is Sawmill Peak

You know what I’ve said about the weather here – a drop in temps and a rainstorm prompted me to get out our Winter underwear and put flannels on the bed. But this past week we’ve had a streak in the low 90’s.

How soon we forget – Weatherman has been complaining about the heat! Shut Up!

Busy, busy, busy – we have to get things “buttoned up ” here for Winter. My husband and our friend worked hard to get the new shack sided and roofed, windows and doors installed, to keep out the weather.  Now my husband and I, with the help of our kids, are left to paint the outside, and then plumb, wire and wall the inside. That shouldn’t be too hard, it’s only 10 x 12.

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It looks huge from this angle.

But it’s a palace compared to the old outhouse, which is only about 5 x 8, and so far from the septic tank the pipe freezes whenever the temps go below 30.

For now we sleep, cook, and eat in our old 10 x 12, which was always fine for me until I realized – when the weather gets really hopping up here – you know, sideways rain – I can sleep in the same shack as my toilet. The new shack will be big enough to have a separate room for a kitchen, with enough space for our old fold-out bed. I have to admit, that sounds pretty exciting, since I’ve become accustomed to picking my way across the yard in the middle of the night.

I’ll keep you posted.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Way up here, they got a name, for rain and wind, and FIRE!

Ha ha – what a woos I am!  “Rain puts a kink in outdoor living…”

How about FIRE!

The other day we were headed up the hill, car loaded full of cement and dogs, when we spotted a little whippet of black smoke on the horizon.

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My husband has a good sense of direction and distance – I thought this fire was closer to Mount Lassen!

My husband drove Hwy 32 for his job, for years, he knows the country better than I do. He knew the fire was along the road somewhere, and we started to worry about our place.  We have friends who were burned out of Concow, their places left like moonscapes. 

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Just above the Peregrine Point disc golf course we could see the fire was right along the highway.

At this point we felt safe the fire was not on our side of the road, but thought it must have caught the little housing subdivision above Fourteen Mile House, the smoke was so black.

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As we got closer we wondered if the road would be passable.

At this point we had not seen any emergency vehicles, and wondered if we might make it through before they had to shut down the road for a staging area.

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I wondered if these people were worried about their home, or just gawkers.

Traffic ahead of us kept moving, so we followed along. Then we came to the road block.

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Up ahead, we see a couple of fire trucks have arrived. At least it’s not the subdivision, but the smoke told us the fire was trying to get across the road.

We thought we’d made it when we passed the firetrucks, but around the corner we were turned back by a very annoyed CHP officer, along with about half dozen other folks.  

I thought we’d done all that packing up for nothing, but my husband was unperturbed – back in Chico, we swung around on Skyway and took a sweet tour of Paradise, before we headed back down Powellton, up Doe Mill, across Butte Creek and up Garner, which catches Hwy 32 up past the store.  It took about 45 minutes from the road block, and we got some pretty damn good tacos at the truck there on Skyway. 

This was another wake-up call. What if we were at the shack and fire came up that canyon? 

What puts a kink in outdoor living? Rain!

We were tucked into our snuggy loft bed this morning, when my husband jolted up – Rain! The patio chairs! The hammock! We just hung the hammock in a new spot, and I was really enjoying it.

The clock showed 4 am, and outside we could hear the patter picking up. We jumped out of the bed and down the ladder and out we went to gather up.  

I usually have to hit the outhouse by that time, anyway, but I have to admit – as much as I’ve reminded myself, wet weather is coming, I wasn’t ready for a run to the outhouse in the rain, right through the construction site.

My husband is building a new outhouse, and of course, the ground is torn up, and now muddy, where he’s been digging for the piers.

So, this changes things. In past, we stayed away during wet weather because, well, there’s nowhere to go except our tiny shack or our outhouse. When we have the patio furniture shoved in, we have to move stuff just to make our way from the table to the door. It’s cozy, but we’re not old enough to sit all day yet. 

We had to tear down the outhouse that came with the place, it was 30 years old, a tree branch had set it a little askew, and the rats and squirrels would not be kept out. We had another sturdier shed, so we just ran the plumbing over and fixed up a toilet and sink and that’s had to suffice for the last few years. It’s too far from the tank, and the line isn’t deep enough, so it has  frozen on occasion – a late freeze last Spring actually broke the toilet.  We’ve been wanting to set the whole operation back in place but haven’t had the extra money until now.

So, we’re building another 10 x 10 for a new bathroom, with space for a kitchen, since all the plumbing is there at the septic tank already. Right now I carry the dirty dishes all the way across the yard, to what I’ve been calling, “the interim bathroom”, and accidents happen.

Accidents can also happen when you’re hop-skip-jumping through a muddy mess in the dark, too! 

And thank goodness for the Enterprise Record Sunday edition somebody lobbed into our driveway last week – we lay those on the floor to catch muddy foot prints.  We always pick up a few copies of the News and Review when they flop a new edition.

I knew Winter was going to be a challenge to our plans to move up here, we’ll have to see how the next few weeks pan out. I’ll keep you posted!