Smoke Makes for a Rude Awakening

4:30 AM: we are awakened by the shrill, asynchronous, electronic screams of our smoke alarms calling for us to “Get out! Get out! Get out!”

smoke alarmI hop out of bed, wind my way through the herd of large dogs dashing about in confusion over the painful assault on their ears. I check the house. It’s a small house: it does not take long to find that there is no fire, no smoldering appliance, indeed, no visible smoke. I grab a magazine off the kitchen island and wave it at the alarm nearest the kitchen.  It’s all I can think of to do at the moment: fanning the hallway alarm silences them when I’ve been making toast. I’m not good at toast.

Amazingly (or perhaps coincidentally) that works: the alarms fall silent.

Blondie and Tinker stride to the door, “We’re outta here, that’s just RUDE.”  I don’t blame them and wonder what set the alarms off. Continue reading “Smoke Makes for a Rude Awakening”

The Visitor

I am not fond of snakes. Snakes are, at best, creepy and, at worst, deadly. So I avoid them. This, however, has not always been my opinion.

As a youngster I found grass snakes and garter snakes fascinating and often made (temporary) pets of them. Much to my mother’s chagrin.

In one elementary school science class it was a special privilege afforded only to the top students to “wear” the class boa constrictor for a portion of each class period. I kept my grades up more for this badge of honor than for academics sake.

Snakes were fascinating.

coral snakeMy mind may have started to change the day some school chums and I found a pretty, brightly colored snake on the playground. We teased it and prodded it with a stick until recess was almost over. When we failed to arrive at a consensus as to who was to be the first to take it home, one fellow stated that we should just cut it up and each take a piece. For some, now unfathomable, reason that horrific solution satisfied each of us and one boy used a pocket knife to carry out the sentence.

When we got into class, we were each secretly toying with our snake bit. The teacher caught one of us and demanded to see what he had that was so interesting that he could not pay attention to the lesson. When he showed her, she blanched. You could actually see the color drain right out of her face.

To her credit, she remained calm as she demanded that we each surrender the various pieces. I imagine she as looking for the toothy bit.

Then her lesson plan changed. Whatever we were studying got shelved and she launched into a lesson on herpetology: focusing on identifying locally indigenous snakes. She stated that although some snakes are harmless, they are still living creatures and should not be harassed. This particular snake was a coral snake – a venomous snake. Had it bitten one (or more) of us, it was likely that we would not have lived long enough to be taken to a hospital for treatment. Coral snakes use a neurotoxin that paralyzes the heart and lungs. It’s a terrible way to die, and it happens quickly.

Since then I have encountered other venomous snakes –and have avoided being bitten myself. But have seen first hand the agony that such a bite brings.

Not all snakes are dangerous. Most are actually beneficial in that they rid us of mice, rats, moles and such. Some non-venomous snakes even eat the venomous snakes. Killing every snake encountered on sight just because it is a snake is not rational.

But it is tempting.

The other day I was working on a construction project in my garden. I happened to look over onto a garden box and noticed, with a start, that I had an unexpected audience.

grass snakeThis visitor was sunning itself about 5 feet from where I was digging. At first the alarms went off, “SNAKE”. But I quelled those when I recognized it as a common grass snake, something I should welcome in my garden because of its dietary preferences. I was tempted to chase it off (it was creeping me out) but that seldom works. Snakes of all stripes become defensively aggressive when challenged. They rarely just run away from a threat. I don’t have a snake pole, and I wasn’t of a mind to grab it and carry it out, so I decided to just leave it alone.

I took a landscape timber up to the workshop to cut it to length.

visitor-goneWhen I came back, my visitor was gone from its sunning spot. It probably didn’t care for my watching it any more than I cared for it watching me. But instead of relief, I felt apprehension: where did it go? Would I find it under the plastic sheeting I was working with? I shuddered.

But, no … more likely it crawled into the deep shelter of the sweet potato vines that overflowed the garden box next to the one it was sunning in. Maybe it lived there. If so, it will probably stay in there, safely hidden from the monstrous creature wielding a pick axe just outside.

In time I finished my work for the day, packed up my tools and went inside.

dsc04918Early the next morning I came out to plan the continuance of my work and again encountered my visitor. This time, quite lifeless. It was not torn up or chewed, but dead just the same. I can only speculate what happened to it. My best guess would be that it was out foraging this morning (or more likely late yesterday evening — it’s chilly in the mornings) and one of the dogs (probably Blondie: she has a history) spotted it and flapped it to death.

I fetched the poop-bucket and clam-shell grabber I use to clean up the play yard and removed the limp remains before someone decided to make a meal or a toy of it.

I am not fond of snakes. But as I disposed of this one, I did not feel elation or vindication, but sadness. Perhaps I should have captured the thing and relocated it outside of the fenced play yard.

Perhaps.

If snakes could read I’d post stumpy little signs warning them of the danger in trespassing on the dogs play yard. But they can’t, so they follow their tongues to where they think they’ll find food. Sometimes that works out well for them. Sometimes … not so much.

The Baldface Encounter

home of baldface hornetsI killed a big Baldface hornet’s nest Wednesday evening.  It was just inches outside our play yard fence in a forsythia bush and was hidden from view until I trimmed the branches out of the fencing.  I deliberated on this killing.  I don’t kill just to kill.  They’d been there a while and have not been an issue … except once that I know of. Continue reading “The Baldface Encounter”

Squirrel Revenge

squirrel crime scene
Scene of the crime

Marie and I were sitting on the front steps this afternoon watching the birds at the bird feeder. Marie commented that she put some gourmet bird food (includes nuts) in the feeder, she was surprised a squirrel hadn’t camped out on the thing.

No sooner were those words out of her mouth than a squirrel came hopping along the ground through the trees. He hopped up and climbed the metal pole the bird feeder hangs from and began to chow down. I went out and chased him off.

Marie said, “I should put some cooking oil on the pole.” Continue reading “Squirrel Revenge”

Power Outages Are Just Part of Rural Life

Power outages
Photo credit: Granby Police Department Blog

Power outages are nothing new to rural residents. But new technologies have helped reduce the number of outages and reduce the length of those that can not be prevented.

Is There a Good Time for Power Outages?

You would think the least problematic time for a power outage would be in the middle of the night; no lights are on, no one is watching TV or listening to a radio or using a computer – everyone is sleeping. In fact you’d think that a power outage at night would go completely unnoticed. Not so. The small soft noises that a home makes get so ingrained in our subconscious that when they suddenly go away, it tends to wake us up.

Power outages in the evenings are inconvenient; this is when we are likely using computers, listening to the radio, lights are on and needed. Maybe we’re fixing the evening meal in our all-electric kitchen. This turned into a good thing once. Continue reading “Power Outages Are Just Part of Rural Life”

I’m Just Chicken About Chickens

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who is not raising chickens. Everywhere I look are articles about raising chickens, plans for chicken coops, chicken tractors, chicken feeders, pictures of chickens, and people talking about how wonderful it is to have really fresh eggs.

chickensThat last part is what comes closest to hooking me. I love eggs. We eat eggs for breakfast twice a week, and use them in cooking. We’d eat them more often if they weren’t getting so expensive. I read that the commercial egg farms have been hit hard by avian diseases that required them to kill off significant amounts of their flocks. That kind of thing will drive the price up, and when this sort of thing happens, the prices generally do not come back down. It’s like the delivery services adding fuel surcharges because fuel was so expensive, but when fuel costs came back down the surcharges stayed in place. We will just be eating fewer eggs in our house now. Unless I raise chickens.

I’ve given it some thought too. Read More …

Howling in the Night

“Ticky-tack, ticky-tack, ticky-tack”.

The sound alerted that small portion of my brain that remains on-duty while the rest of me sleeps, “Strange sound! What is that?” Sentry queries Main Brain.

Memories are searched, the reply comes back, “Small-dog claws clattering on the granite-like tiles of the hallway. Someone is up. Must be Kathy.”

“Is that of concern?”

Main Brain, groggy with slumber considers this: Kathy rarely gets up at night. Cochise does, but Cochise’s 90 pound frame sounds very different from 20 pound Kathy as they traverse the short hallway leading to the kitchen for a drink.  Kathy often gets up when I do, but almost never before I do.  “Yes: this is an alert.” Main Brain swims up through the levels of unconsciousness. Continue reading “Howling in the Night”

Running Water: An Oft-overlooked Convenience

It is often the little things in life, the things we tend to take for granted, that will make you sit up and take notice when they are no longer there. We flip a switch and a room lights up, we turn a knob and water flows, we twist a key and transportation is available to go most anywhere we desire.

But when the engine doesn’t start, or no water flows, or the room remains dark, is when we realize how much we have come to depend on these little “conveniences”.  Not all at once though … a brief power outage is a mere inconvenience, but extended power loss will teach you how much you rely on electricity.

waterWhen my wife and I got up on Thursday morning, we found we were without water: most likely the bitter cold had frozen a line somewhere. I found I had no water in the workshop either, and Mom was waterless as well. There is a point where the water line comes up out of the ground under the workshop to connect to the pressure tank that feeds well-water to all three buildings. I considered this to be the most likely freeze-point that would affect all three buildings. There is no heat tape on this because it is a strange, Rube Goldberg-like assemblage of assorted plumbing. I reasoned that if I were to inject heat into that area, the pipes may thaw out. A light bulb might do.

I went looking for some sort of portable lamp that had an incandescent bulb in it. It was a longer search than one would think because nearly all of my lights have been converted to CFL bulbs: those give off no heat and would be useless for this task. Finally, in the back of a closet in the workshop, I found a pair on small interior spotlights that Marie had bought at a garage sale some years ago. They were intended to provide illumination above the desk in my office but were never installed. One had a spotlight in it. Would it work? I plugged it into an outlet and pinched the roller switch: it lit up! I grabbed a 50-foot extension cord and headed outside.

150221 Shop Hatch

There is a hatch in the skirting under the mobile home that serves as my workshop that gives easy access to the plumbing in question. This is good, for “things” live down there: the dogs hear them scurrying about and are fascinated. I know the shop has a problem with mice, I keep D-Con packs in strategic places to deal with them. Once in a while I am in the yard and hear a “thump” as something bangs into the metal skirting from inside. I imagine a pair of young possum wrestling down there, but I have no way of knowing for sure. I have caught Copperheads crawling out from under there as well.  All manner of things *could* be down there and the last thing I want is to crawl in there and slither about in that tight, dark cavern.  Reaching in through a hatch is much more to my liking.

The story continues

Routine

calendar, planning, routineThey say that human beings (most living things really) are creatures of habit. I know a few people who claim they hate being locked into a routine and would much prefer to live spontaneous and free. Perhaps they’re exceptions to the rule; perhaps they’re only fooling themselves regarding the construction of their lives. As for me: I like routine. An established routine is like a warm blanket that gives me security by knowing where I will be and what I will be doing. Normally. Life is never quite that simple. Perhaps if I were an inmate in a prison, but in life as a free citizen: stuff happens.   Continue reading “Routine”