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We replaced our front door last weekend, the short, non-holiday weekend. We had planned on it taking two days because of the repairs to water-damaged wood around said entrance. It took three days – with a blanket stapled over the door opening for the two thankfully-good-weather nights we spent sans door.

Even after three days, we only had the door in place – not completely sealed, no trim, no latch and no window.

It also didn’t close really well. The upper corner on the latch side was rubbing hard, but try as we might – and judging by the hellacious arguing involved, we were trying very hard – we couldn’t get the door to sit squarely in our cobbled-together, uneven, exceedingly rough rough-opening. Go figure.

In the end, we decided that this door fit better than the previous door (which we also installed and which also stuck in the same corner. Whatever). I figured I could use a rasp to shave off some of the offending wood.

All troubles aside, after three days we were satisfied we had a real door that blocked the elements and the flies (with many thanks to the makers of plastic sheeting and duct tape for the temporary window, which wasn’t classy but was impervious to flying pests).

Over the week we got the exterior sealant, the door latch and and the window in, and we even did all this before the big storm hit with high winds and driving rain, so there was that saving grace, too. Or it was dumb luck – I’ll take it either way – but I’m still calling it grace.

This weekend, I intended to seal the space between the jamb and studs with spray foam insulation and put up the interior and exterior trim boards. Having a plan was probably ill-advised, the best laid plans being all blah blah blah and making the gods laugh and all.

Turns out I didn’t have white paint for the exterior trim. The holiday weekend prevented purchase of more and my damn guiding morals kept me from breaking into the store, but no big deal, I got the boards primed, and I could spend the rest of the allotted construction time getting the interior just right. Uh-huh. “Lol,” the gods said.

I got the wood shaved down until the door fit well enough, and figured I would finish it after we got done sealing the jamb etc. – on the off chance that things would shift around.

We applied the spray foam insulation, without a huge mess … until it swelled considerably more than we figured, thus making a mess on the pristine door and jamb, both of which would now need to be sanded down and re-primered. And as awesomely crappy as that sounds, it wasn’t as bad as the fact that the foam that squirted out into the open air dried first, creating a seal, but the stuff between the jamb and studs kept swelling just enough that the door got wedged shut.

Aaargh! Let’s just pretend that that is what I said.

So, before the foam completely cured, I used a knife and long screw driver to rip it out. More mess, yes.

However, this is where we get to a cool part of the story, an unprecedented stroke of good fortune. I ripped and tore at the foam only on the latch side until the jamb was free, and before tearing into the other side, I opened and closed the door only to find that it worked smoothly – like a door installed by someone who knows what they’re doing. That smooth.

It was a miracle, and the best kind of miracle: It didn’t come free and clear. There was work and anguish. There will be more work, probably more anguish. It all makes the door working properly seem that much sweeter.

And if “Miracle of the Single-wide Mansion” status doesn’t make you feel good, there’s an entry from the “could’ve been worse” department messaged to me by a friend whose husband manages a ranch south of our place:

“The last hired man (the one that went to jail) redid the door in the trailer they were living in here. He put the door in upside down and then spray-foamed it shut. … [He] had ‘carpenter’ on his resume.”

I still don’t have the trim boards up, but …

hell, yeah, I’ll accept “awesomer by comparison” status at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I really admire people who keep their house, shop, space of whatever kind, clean. I really do. Those people are my heroes. I wish I were more like them, but every time I think of cleaning my house I think: “Meh … what’s the point? It just gets dirty again.”

I like to think that part of my problem is that my house is old, so even when I clean it, it doesn’t really look clean because it’s so worn. Plus, it’s both little and full of the 20-plus years of accumulation from two people who are into more things than they have time for — along with books and movies. We put everything away, but the first time we take something out, the place looks unkempt again. AND we don’t have a porch, sidewalk or other non-dirt-grass-hay-gravel surface to walk on before coming in the front door, which opens directly into the living room.

I know all of those issues don’t help, but deep down I suspect that even if I had a big, beautiful, new house with a lovely tile walkway leading to front door and mud room where I can dump my cruddy shoes, I’d want a live-in maid because I’d be thinking: “Clean house? Meh … .”

So when a friend said to me about her own house yesterday: ” … not when I have a heap of dirty dishes sitting there, just one or two days’ worth … ,” I didn’t think anything of it. That line just jumped back into my consciousness today, though, and I could’ve cried over the simple, beautiful honesty of it. Of course, I laughed instead.

It has occurred to me that that comment is a good standard by which people can interact with me. If that is something you might say to me, feel free to drop by any time. If not, please call ahead, preferably making an appointment for later in the week.

I don’t love people less because they’re clean; it just makes for a more relaxing time together if they’re not worried about a stack of dirty dishes crashing off the counter, and if I’m not distracted by the crunchy sound of their feet shifting across the gravel on my floor.

If yer feet ain’t stickin’, the floor don’t need cleanin’ at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

 

In an awe-inspiring display of my training acumen and current state of physical prowess, I fell off my pony this weekend. No, “pony” is not a euphemism for either the ungainly youth, or the stunningly athletic rocket launcher I have for big horses. It was the little paint pony.

In my defense, I was riding in my dressage saddle with “slick” jeans (as opposed to my breeches with grippy suede knee patches) and she’s a freakin’ pony that doesn’t have much body to wrap your legs around.

So when we were strolling on home, on a loose rein because she was being a good girl, and then she spooked at a great big nothing that she imagined from thin air that caused her to swoop abruptly sideways, I just flipped off her into the ground like someone had kicked my favorite barstool out from under my favorite butt. Splat.

In the pony’s defense, she was just as surprised as I was to find me picking myself up out of the gravel.

And on the plus side, it wasn’t very far to fall.

In unrelated news, after John and I had returned from a short walk around the property tonight, he started swiping at his waist band on his right side.

“What’s up?” I asked about his odd behavior.

“Bug,” he said.

“Oh, it’s probably not a bug,” I assured him. “It’s probably just a tick.”

Swipe.

“Great. I was under that tree,” he said. Scratch.

“Oh, ticks don’t fall off trees so much as they jump on you from tall grass,” I explained.

“We walked through all that pasture … ,” he said pulling his shirt from his waistband and rooting around for possible sources of a tickle, of a possibly creepy-crawly origin.

Hmmm. Cue the evil laugh in my head here.

Despite a bruise and scrapes, I still got it at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Fire and Ice

By Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

_______

That is one of my favorite poems since my first reading of it in college, and the poem kept coming to me this week because …

This is what happened in our neighborhood March 13:

The view of the fire from our driveway, Mar. 13, 2012.

Yes, a 10,000 to 12,000 acre wildfire that started about two miles west of us, got blown by 30-60 mph winds northeast

The view of the fire from a neighbor's house Mar. 13, 2012. Yes, I was taking a photo and not manning a shovel. Don't judge me.

away from us, then redirected by changing winds back toward us, touching back to Highway 2 just two miles east of us right up close and personal-like with the neighbor’s place, pictured on the right.

The closest it got was about 3/4 of a mile away, directly north from our house — that’s the picture to the left (and the one in the header at the time of this writing).

Then, seven days later on March 19 we got this:

Oh, look. Winter got here just in time for spring! This was a lull in the blizzard Mar. 19, 2012.

Yes, a 30-60 mph blizzard brought 10-12″ of heavy, wet snow. I left work seconds before the power went out (no paper published Monday) and got home before some roads were closed. Phones out, our power out for 12 hours and a ground covering of 3-36″ depending on the drifting.

I didn’t get much for blizzard photos. I didn’t want to stand in the doorway with the door open, letting heat out, and I kept forgetting the camera when I went out to get work done.

No. I swear I did not take this photo while driving on my way to work Mar. 20, 2012. (Or is that supposed to be, "Yes, I swear ... ." Whatever, you know I'm innocent, right?)

But as you can see, the next day was sunny and warm and we have lots of mud now.

In both tragedies, we came out pretty stinking good. Nothing of ours was burned, and 12 hours without power was nothing compared to up to 72 hours like some people had to endure.

Plus, fire danger is now low, so there’s that at pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

Last weekend we had company — which means that I spent last week avoiding housework. Instead of doing the deep cleaning my house needed, I researched Nepal, Mongolia and Tibet because, well, it wasn’t house cleaning.

Here are the highlights of my efforts:

1) According to everything I remember from high school geography, somebody moved Nepal.

2) China should have its hand slapped for erasing all the dotted lines delineating the Tibet border and confusing the geographically challenged.

3) Mongolian horses are veeery short, and the people do a type of throat signing that sounds like a didgeridoo mating with a whistle.

I also learned that Hungarians compete in the most awesome horseback archery matches (jump forward to about 3:50). I’m totally asking for a compound re-curve bow for Christmas now.

The only deep cleaning I really got done was to get down on my hands and knees to scrub, with a brush, the wooden floors in my kitchen and bathroom, rather than just wiping them down with a rag.

The things I learned are thus:

1) Even if your feet aren’t sticking to the floor, that doesn’t mean it’s clean enough.

2) I sincerely wish to take back those few times in the past couple months that I snatched a fallen food item off the kitchen floor, declared the three-second rule in effect and popped said food item into my mouth.

Is there a mouthwash that works retroactively? at pam(at)viewfromthenorth40.com

Where our motto is: If we can imagine it dead, we can make it dead.

Three mice and counting since last night. I might’ve felt some measure of guilt over the demise of a living creature. I really might’ve. A twinge anyway. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my brain. If, just prior to finding the initial deceased, I hadn’t discovered mouse droppings on top of the dresser where I had been planning to stack the freshly cleaned bedding and towels.

This would be the part of the dresser where I keep the bedding we regularly use on our bed because the linen closet is so full. And, yes, this meant that I had even more bedding to wash. And, yes, I was swearing. And, yes, too, I discovered the mouse carcass precisely because I purposefully looked to see if I had created a death. I had. No guilt feelings washed over me.

I think the dresser thing caused an aneurysm or a miniature stroke in my prefrontal cortex, and it hampered normal guilt feelings. Plus, it made me admit out loud that I’m going to have to clean all the kitchen cupboards. Again this year.

And then it occurred to me that I should check inside the dresser. That’s when my left posterior superior temporal sulcus, another guilt producing factory in the brain, went on strike. All the neurons working there just threw down their tools, shut down the guilt machinery, and walked out the door. They’re in a pub somewhere talking trash about the administrative part of my brain that makes the rest of me continue living here at mouse central. Yes, the mice had been in all four drawers of the dresser, doing you know what and gods know what else on what was otherwise clean clothing. If not for the rodent filth and all.

When I got up this morning and found the second mouse carcass, I smiled. And I had a good day.

This third one is going to guarantee a good night’s sleep at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

is brought to you by Mickey Mouse and Stewart Little, co-founders of Mouse Crap, Inc., whose motto is: We’re proving that real life is a lot more not-so-cute-as-Hollywood one disgusting pile at a time.

The sewer project is not quite wrapped up as we wait for things to air and dry and to leak test before re-battening the hatches. In the meantime, because I didn’t have enough to do with construction, winterization and the general chores of life, I have to empty and clean the contents of two closets.

Mickey and Stewart were frolicking about the living room Friday just prior to getting into trouble — and none of that is meant as a euphemism or an exaggeration.

While kicked back in my recliner, taking a work break to lay on a couple ice packs (yes, I’m that pitiful), I heard miniature chaos breaking out in the coat closet and pretty soon two little rodents spilled out from under the door and romped around the floor. Not 15 feet from me. Bold as can be. Two mice frickin’ playing in my living room.

I didn’t have anything at hand to throw at them, so I got up and checked/reset all the traps.

And caught nothing.

I checked the trap line Saturday morning, and it didn’t look like the mice had even run past the traps to smell them. Well, I hoped, maybe I scared them off. Later, I went back into the linen closet, where the trap at the back of the house is set, and found mouse droppings on the towels. You know, the towels we rub all over our bodies. Some, too, on the sheets formerly known as clean. All new disgustingness since 6 a.m. when I had checked the trap on the floor of that very closet. So I checked the coat closet. Didn’t find any droppings in plain sight, but it smells. I’m imagining a nest in the crate full of mittens and gloves, or a stash of dog food and poo in the pockets or linings of a few coats. I’m thinking I’ll be cleaning out the kitchen cupboards for the third time this year.

I’m imagining the death of these mice until my trap line makes them so.

I went to town for more bleach yesterday, but couldn’t bring myself to start the clean up. I wanted dead rodents to prove that if I go through with this cleaning ordeal, I won’t have to turn around and do it again right away. Still nothing this morning. I’ve always vowed I wouldn’t use Decon or other poisons because I didn’t want to risk a stray cat getting into it or have a mouse die in a wall somewhere.

I don’t care anymore. Dead is dead. I’ll make it so a cat can’t get into the Decon and if I have to cut a hole in a wall to get to a rotting mouse carcass, so be it. I don’t even need a trophy mount or a line of mouse skins stretched and tacked to the barn wall. I just want them dead. I’ve offered my dog a bounty to turn his awesome rabbit and bird hunting skills to more helpful prey: house mouses.

Also, I can’t tolerate the soiled things in the closets another day, so I’ve started washing. Everything. And will be stacking the stuff on my dressers and desk and any other handy surface not related to a closet in my house until the rodents are vanquished. Again. Buy stock in bleach companies.

I’m not as enraged as I might otherwise be, my back is feeling better. I took an early morning walk, saw two muley does grazing the field and a couple magpies heading north to the highway for breakfast in the pre-dawn light, watched Coop work and flush a covey of Huns and stood at the top of a hill, sucking in cold, crisp air, watching the morning sun rise in a cloudless sky with a three-quarter moon dropping to the western horizon at my back.

It ain’t all bad at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I’ve been fencing, and fencing, and fencing, and all the other shinola required to facilitate fencing, and even pulling down some old fencing … and not one whit or a jot of this has dinky-do to do with utilizing my epee (what? doesn’t everybody own an epee?).

Tiger salamander in search of a pond.

But this morning I headed out to tackle a few more posts only to discover this little guy. A tiger salamander. He was in pretty rough shape and out of his normal element, but I think I pieced together enough evidence to figure out his story. I bet he went walkabout Thursday or Friday, when it was raining here, but took a tumble into one of the fence post holes, then I inadvertently shoveled him out today and unceremoniously dumped him into a heap of dirt.

He crawled out of the dirt pile, but I don’t think he had much more effort in him than that. His skin was dry and peeling, he was covered in dirt (even his little protruding eyeballs), and he was listless. Fortunately, I had some water and a bucket with me so I scooped him up with the shovel, eased him into the bucket and gave him a shallow layer of water.

I took him to the house to show John and grab the camera (hoping the little guy would rally — I really didn’t want to photograph a salamander carcass). He freshened up pretty quickly so I took him back to the place I found him, for a second shot at freedom and a short photo shoot.

This is his pouty look. We tried both cute and sexy, but the light wasn’t right and the mood was all wrong, understandable considering the time of day and his recent brush with death and all.

I hope he gets cleaned up before he gets home. He troops into the house like that and his wife’s gonna beat him, fo’ sho’.

I told him to clean his whole self up, but look at him with his dirty head and grit still sticking around his eyeballs. I bet he didn’t bother to wash behind his ears either.

Can’t learn that boy nothin’ at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Flies: Learn from the untimely demise of your little blue-black friend today. You will live longer if you stay away from my chocolate.

Self: Listen to husband occasionally — especially when he points out that the difference in cost between buying the treated corner posts that I can drive into the ground and using the railroad ties I have, that require I dig more of this cement-hard ground = the price of a chiropractor’s appointment.

Self: Stop at the local Big R Store and buy yourself and your new fence line something pretty tomorrow. (Five treated posts, $57.50. One chiropractic visit, $55. Days that would be lost to miserable me, countless. Having a clever husband, priceless.)

Tazz, in no-big-deal mode during a training session

Tazz, the terrible 2-year-old horse: Just because the 280′ of twine strung between two corner posts is pretty thin and doesn’t bite like barbed or electric wire, doesn’t mean you should attempt to walk through it repeatedly — while I’m pulling on it, flapping my arms at you and cussing. Its use as a straight line is negated when you deliberately march straight into it and bow it east by 40′.

Self: Looks like the 2-year-old is going to be the curious, ears forward, unflappable horse you were hoping for. Don’t kill him for being what you want. No matter how many times he gets into things he’s not supposed to.

Universe: Ever notice how the traits that make people, animals, assorted things of the world, totally awesome are often the same traits that make them exasperating too.

Think about it at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I’ve been digging and pounding on things again. My hands and forearms are so exhausted that they don’t work right tonight. They’ve stopped tremoring every time I try to operate a pen or an eating utensil, but they’re still weak enough that my handwriting looks even more like that of a serial killer and I may not have the strength remaining to overeat my way to a happier me in this crisis.

Oh, the horror at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com