Why we write

My friend Jen has this horror blog and we were actually talking on the phone last night, really talking like with our voices and stuff- not just commenting on each others' blogs. It was amazing.

Apparently, her blog has a huge following, even though she gets very few comments. Kudos to Jen! She's always been a living encyclopedia of film, and yet still somehow had a personality. (If her personality was a film, it would be a darkly ironic comedy, I think. Probably it would be in Italian, too. Not that she speaks Italian or is Italian, but it would be in Italian, nevertheless. With subtitles and long silences.) She says that, even though she has like a billion or so readers, she just writes for herself.

That's why I write this one, too. I just write for myself. It makes me happy to let my freak flag fly high.

So, fellow bloggers, why do you blog?

And if your personality were a film, what genre would you be found under?

(I guess I should answer the second question for myself. I would be a low budget musical with a few decorative transvestites- transvestites in non-central roles, I mean. And there would be tubas.)

The two year old view

We let Little Z try using the camera today. Here are a few of her pictures.

Norwegian Wood

Musicals are so unrealistic. When, in real life, do people just spontaneously burst into song and sing harmonies together? It has happened to me only once.

When I was seventeen and I lived in Malung, Sweden for a year, I was part of a vocal ensemble called, very descriptively, "malungs vokalensemble". We were a hodgepodge group of wacky folks, including a weird blind guy who one night grabbed me and gave me a big wet kiss on the mouth. Ew! Most of the group was women, though. There was one woman in particular I remember, a skinny lady with auburn hair who always had some sort of drama going on her life. There were twelve of us, three for each four parts, or maybe it was four for each three parts- I forget. We sang, though, and what we lacked in talent, we didn't really make up for in anything. We sang a lot of folk songs and did small performances every couple of months. We were sort of like the feel good movie of the year, with our eclectic group of people of varied singing ability, but hearts of gold (the blind guy, for instance, seemed to be completely tone deaf, but we were so lacking in men that we kept him on) but they never made a movie out of us, because we never did that great thing that would make you feel good.

I was the only native English speaker in the group. This didn't really matter, except for when we found a nice, three part (or was it four part?) arrangement of "Norwegian Wood" in English. Since everyone else was singing with a Swedish accent, I had to sing like them to blend in, "Eesent eet gud, Norveegian Wud?" This was actually a bit difficult. It's hard to do something wrong on purpose. I secretly thought our performances of that song were absolutely terrible. Because they were.

In the spring of 1992, I took a bus trip to Norway. It was a three hour drive to Oslo. As we were boarding the bus, I noticed someone from Malungs Vokalensemble loading six flower-print suitcases onto the bus. (It was going to be a four day trip.) It was none other than the auburn haired drama queen. Always very enthusiastic, she was ecstatic to see me.

A few days later, we were in Oslo, taking a guided tour of the Norwegian Parliament, Stortinget. The tour guide was pointing out all of the different types of beautiful wood used in the interior. "All of these woods," she explained, "are from Norway."

The Drama Queen and I turned to each other. Our eyes met. We each took in a deep breath, and, in spite of the ten other people on the tour and the very business oriented guide, we broke out spontaneously into two-part harmony,

"Eesent eet gud, Norveegian Wud?"

Friday Farm Functionals: National Seating High Performance Suspension Truck Seat

Now that I'm a commuter, I think I might need to upgrade my car seat. According to the Northern Tool Catalogue, "This National Seating high performance suspension truck seat is an ideal choice for OTR drivers."

Yeah. I don't know exactly what an OTR driver is, but I'm sure I am one. And it's from a catalog, so it must be really great, especially because it costs $749, and weighs 95 lbs. I might have to cut a small hole in the roof of my car for my head to fit through, but that is surely a small price to pay for the ease and comfort that this truck seat will bring me. What more could one ever ask for? I had one when I was a bus driver, and it really bounced going down those dips in the road in Pueblo West. Boingy boingy boingy. Those kids were never happy unless they hit their heads on the roof at least once on the way home.

A link to make you feel better

I had a dream once that had a message, sort of like a fable. The message was: Don't despair. There's always someone worse than you.

A variation on this message might be: Don't despair. There's always someone who's got it worse than you.

The people who received this letter definitely had it worse than I.

Our Kitchen- but with underwear!

To those of you who ever visited us and sat in our kitchen in Pueblo, isn't this uncanny?

To the rest of you: this looks exactly like our old kitchen in Pueblo, Colorado. We actually looked up the listing, because we were certain that it was just someone selling our old house in Pueblo- very poorly, with underwear. I expected to see Mr. Kitty walking through the doorway. The floor is the same, the cabinets, same sink, the doorway there, the window behind the doorway, barely visible- our stove had clock. That's the only thing. Our stove had a clock.

It was very odd indeed to click on the old Lovely Listing and feel that I had come home again, and someone was drying his underwear in my kitchen. Then also very odd to think that someone else is now living with the same exact underwear- I mean, kitchen. Kitchen. Same exact kitchen.

If you've ever been to Pittsburgh....

My dad sent me this link about driving in Pittsburgh. It would be funny if it weren't 100% true!

Well, it's still pretty funny.

Friday Farm Functionals: Geothermal Heat, Part II

Yay! We have heat! As of last night. Yep. Last night.

Original estimated time to get geothermal up and running: 2-3 days, total.
Actual time: 15 days.

In addition to hitting massive amounts of rock (they actually thought there might have been the foundation of an old house right where they decided to drill) and getting a giant drill stuck in our yard, the geothermal tubes then sprung a leak when they filled them with water. Here's a picture of them going around the yard, trying to find the leak (Note that this part of the yard was not drilled up like the rest until then!):

They actually found the leak pretty quickly. What really held things up with the well company was that they just left us for a week and went and drilled other people's wells. This I never heard of. How do you start something and not finish it?

What the?

Meanwhile, we had thirty-seven gallons of heating oil left, and one can, they say, burn up to a gallon an hour when the heater is on. The smallest quantity of heating oil you can order is 150 gallons. So, we conserved. If we hadn't have conserved, and we had bought 150 gallons, we would possibly have had to dispose of 147 gallons the next day. All of this would have been extremely expensive. So, we made fires (in the fireplace). We bundled up the toddler and piled blankets on her at night. Luckily, the weather was on our side this year. When they finally did take the old heater out, we still had thirty gallons left- although we did not know that, because this old furnace had no monitor. In order to figure out how much oil you had, you had to call the coop. Crazy!

Anyway, where was I?

They found the leak, and the heating guy came two days after that, with his team. They were really swell. I liked them. But still- the new furnace they tried to install did not work! So, a night without any heater at all for us, and then the next day, another heater installed and- wow! It works! They couldn't get the old oil tank out, either. It's laying on its side in the basement right now. The heater guy, Tracy, asked if the ground here were cursed in some way,

"You sure this isn't an indian burial ground or somethin'?"

Well, who knows. I've always felt lucky.

I do know one thing: Central heating is wonderful! I've never appreciated it so much in all my life!

Other People's Stories, Part 7 of ?: The Great Earthquake

This is a picture of Corbett Ave, San Francisco, 1923:

My Grandma Amy was not a great talker. In fact, although I spent loads and loads of quantity time with her over the course of twenty-eight years, I think she only told me about five stories, total. And most of them only once. Each of them lasted less than five minutes. (Grandma Amy was married to Grandpa Alvin, and he talked a lot.) This is a combination of two of Amy's stories, one of which was an "other people's stories" for her, too. She might have called them, "My Childhood on Twin Peaks," and "The Great Earthquake of 1906".

Grandma Amy grew up on Corbett Avenue, Twin Peaks, San Francisco. When she was a child, Twin Peaks was not the posh neighborhood it is today. No one wanted to walk up that hill to get home, and according to my second cousin Marsha, "No one ever looked at the view." It was a little like living in the country, but still a short walk to the city. The house was on top of a steep, grassy hill, and little Amy would slide down the hill on a sled sometimes when the dew collected on the long grass, which was often. The hill was foggy. Whenever the sun came out, Amy's mother would quickly start washing clothes, singing out, "It's a good drying day!"

Amy's mother, herself, grew up on Twin Peaks, and she remembered the 1906 Earthquake. The earthquake itself was not so memorable. It was early in the morning. Their house on Corbett was not damaged significantly. As the day wore on, though, people started trickling up the hill. The city became more and more dangerous, because people were panicking, buildings were collapsing, and worst of all, everything was catching fire. As people came up the hill and sat to rest, my great-great grandmother made them tea and gave them food to eat. By evening, a small crowd of tired, bewildered people were resting on the hill. They sat there, on future Grandma Amy's sledding hill, late into the night, drinking my great-great grandmother's tea, and they watched the city burn.

Friday Farm Functionals: Unloading the Town House

I know we need to sell the town house. I just have questions about the methodology. Specifically, I wonder, do you think one needs to rent a few choice pieces of nice furniture and tasteful artwork to "stage" a house for sale? I know that, five years ago, the answer would have been, "Hell, no! Just vacuum real well and put a sign out front." The times, though, they are a changin'.

We've hired this real estate agent. She's really hard core. She does everything in the world to make a sale. Also, I like her. That goes a ways, too, I think.

So, she suggested this "stager".

"You don't have to go with her, necessarily, but I think it would be in your best interest to at least have her go in and take a look, see what suggestions she might have." Well, okay.

We met at the house this morning. Oh my god. I have the worst taste in the world, I've found. At least, I have the least generic taste possible. Non-salable taste in home furnishings. That's me. About halfway through our hour and a half walk through our home, as The Stager was giving more hints and tips, I just wanted to crawl into a little ball and rock a bit, you know? Or maybe deal with thirty or so really belligerent teens or participate in a car wreck or, you know, something more pleasant that discussing drape colors. The thing that really blew my mind was that, somehow, at some point in time, I just became so completely out of it. Apparently, for instance, wallpaper went out of fashion when I was still in college.

Anyway, this lady, "The Stager," doesn't do the remodeling work herself, but she has a son-in-law who does. And, also, she rents out the furniture and tasteful art, buys the paint colors oh-so-carefully, etc. And our wonderful real estate agent thinks The Stager is a miracle worker.

The Miracle Worker and the Wonderful Real Estate Agent left me in front of the house with a list of twenty or more things, feeling terribly overwhelmed.

I don't like the Miracle Worker. It's probably just my "shoot the messenger" instinct, but I don't like her. She wears so much make-up. I'm suspicious of women who wear too much make-up (but not men who do). What are they trying to hide? (Men who wear too much make-up are clearly hiding that they are men, right? So I can trust them.)

So, I went to my dear friend and neighbor who, conveniently, loves to remodel. (Dear Friend does not wear make-up, but he should! He would look so hot.) I vented a little, I asked him to help me, and he said,

"I could be a stager. I should be a stager." Truthfully, I had only called on him to beg him to remodel my kitchen. Yet I was intrigued.

"Okay. Let's go over and tell me what you would do."

He then walked through our house and, amazingly, said pretty much all of the exact same twenty odd things- the painting, the new light fixtures, the cabinets, that wall that nobody can stand- that the Miracle Worker had said, and then he added a few. But then, here's the kicker: he offered to do all of the work himself for an absurdly low price. I've seen his work, and he is every bit as good as a professional, and best of all, he apparently has taste that's really in style right now. He knew all about the horrors of wallpaper, for instance.

Wow. Friends are great, aren't they? We've hired Dear Friend to do the "updates" as people so fashionably call them in the twenty-first century. (I live in the nineteenth century, I think. You can tell from my blog.)

The only real difference between Dear Friend's ideas and Miracle Worker's ideas is that Dear Friend does not at all believe in putting pretty furniture and drapes, etc. into the house. He thinks you should leave it empty (but beautiful) and the buyers can then picture their belongings in the house easier. (I should note here that Dear Friend does have a little experience in selling homes, though not a lot.) The Miracle Worker, on the other hand, believes people can't picture themselves living there without a few "hints," as she calls them: art, furniture, flowers, drapes, etc. She offers these things for rent. She also charges for other services, which I can't quite figure out- because she seems to have given us all of her advice for free. What else is there? She charges for a written estimate, but I'm not sure what she's estimating ... it's awkward, this money issue with the Miracle Worker.

Dear readers, who is correct? Is a house better empty or a little bit full? Is the Miracle Worker just trying to rent out furniture, or is it really necessary? Is Dear Friend just being "a guy," as they say, and casting away flowers because they are flowers? I just don't know. I just don't know. Help!

Save the Turtles! Save the Frogs!

I like to keep an open mind- supposedly- but some things still just blow my mind. Like turtle and frog season.

Look at Wisconsin's Department of Natural Resources web site and you shall find this:

Frogs: Open frog season runs from the Saturday nearest May 1 through December 31. There is no open season for bullfrogs, Rana catesbeiana, in Jefferson County.

Turtles: Open turtle season runs from July 15 through November 30. Turtles or turtle eggs may not be taken during the closed season.

Is this for collection as pets or for eating or for frog licking or for... what? I don't understand. Apparently, it's important to regulate. Frogs. And turtles.

I may just be a lay person, a mere mindless minion, but I say, Leave them alone, for the love of god!

They're just frogs and turtles, going about their sweet little lives.


I found this in my car today. It's mostly empty.

I really had no idea it was there.

It's a good thing I didn't get pulled over.

Officer, I have no idea where that came from. Really. But, hey- could I keep that? I mean, we don't have a drop of gin in the house- it's not much, but it will help... you know how it is, officer... officer? Hey, isn't that an overreaction? I was merely suggesting... hey, why are you pouring that out? That was good gin!... Well, yeah, that's my daughter in back... She's two... I should be ashamed? Ashamed of what? I merely requested you... Oh, never mind. Thank you, officer. Yes, I will stop driving for all of eternity. So sorry. Good day.

Geothermal Heat: A Landscaper's Nightmare

Our back stoop, cast aside!

This is the view from our back door today. Don't step out!

Yep, That's my dad!

I just discovered the web site for my Dad's current band The Burnside Scramblers. Go ahead and click on their name and then watch their video and you'll find they're pretty good! But that's not surprising. Click on the link for Bobby Lee, you also get a little synopsis which includes this sentence:

"Inspired by the steel guitar styles of Jerry Garcia (with The Grateful Dead) and Don Helms (with Hank Williams), Bobby Lee took up the steel guitar in 1972."

Yeah, that's him, Jerry Garcia meets Don Helms.

Now, I can't resist ripping off a blog I truly love. Just looking at this publicity photo for The Burnside Scramblers,

who do you think the band leader is? Base your answer solely on the photo, not on any prior knowledge you might have.

Grandma Moses Farm

This farm always reminds me of a Grandma Moses painting. Unfortunately, there weren't a lot of cows out on the day I took the picture, because the more cows, the more silly it looks. The pasture is so steep, it's almost a cliff, so that the cows all look to be about the same distance from the road, like a painting with limited perspective.

The shiny, pretty thing and Names

This is the new heater, not connected yet. I think that, if it were smaller, TLBP and I would fight over who gets to put it in their pocket and call it "My Precioussssss".

"Precious", by the way, is a red flag name for substitute teachers. When I see Precious on a class list, I am always wary. There are certain names to be wary of, and I think Precious is the worst. I've never met a well-behaved little girl named "Precious".

I don't know of any names that are always associated with good children. "Zelma", maybe. Yeah, that's the best kid name. I'm completely unbiased.

While I'm rambling on unrelated themes: There seem to be a lot of men around here named, "Tracy". I've never in my life met a male named "Tracy", until we moved here, and now there are two of them- one who is installing the heater, and another whom I've only heard tell of- a mechanic. Both are in very manly professions. I wonder if, when you have a not-so-manly name, you automatically go with a really manly profession? How many male hairdressers are there named Tracy?

There's probably a hairdressing co-op here with a male hairdresser named Tracy, and a troll out front.

Warm Day Today

Sometimes, it's hard to dislike global warming.


Does someone live there? Is it possible? Perhaps it's a summer cabin.

Friday Farm Functionals: Geothermal Heat

Long time readers know that I am a big fan of geothermal heat. It's cheap, efficient heat from the center of the Earth- bah ha ha ha ha! (I don't know what just happened...)

Anyway, we've already pretty much decided to get it. In fact, we've already got them drilling outside. I don't want to bore you with the details, but it has been so complicated. We ended up working with two different companies: one that drills wells, for the drilling, and one that does heating, for the inside of the house stuff. Oh, my. Anywho, after a month of us calling around and getting estimates and figuring things out, they're doing it. Now.

Tuesday: 6 AM, some dude with a fancy truck is putting out flags where power lines are underground and spraying and all sorts of stuff. I can't help wonder, why so early?

Wednesday: At a decent hour, the drillers come to drill. (I keep thinking of that crazy dumb movie with Bruce Willis and Ben the Afflicted, about the drillers who have to drill to the center of the comet. What the heck is that?) Yay! They come to drill, and drill all morning. Then, around nap time, as I am walking back from the Organic Machine House, one of the guys asks me if I have any more hose on hand because it's such a bitch to open one of those giant spools and things are NOT going well and... no, I don't have any more hose to lend. Sorry. A few minutes later, from way across the field, I hear the "F" word used in ways I have never dreamed possible. It is a verb. It is an adjective, it is a noun, it is a preposition... it's South Park out there. Apparently, they've hit ROCK!

Thursday: Drilling again, all morning. After nap time, Little Z and I wander down to the swing set (acquired via the yahoo group "freecycle"- highly recommended) and, on the way, one of the guys informs us, once again, that things are NOT GOING WELL! The drill (which is the size of a tractor) is STUCK! So, as Z and I pretend to be playing- but really we're just gawking- they hook up this giant truck- (think dump truck size truck-) to the giant drill, completely blocking the road, and they turn on the truck and they pull. And four of the trucks wheels go off the ground and the drill doesn't budge. And they do it again. And again. And again. And it comes out, finally, and the wheels go down one by one- it's sort of like how we got the mattress up the stairs-- with a lot of effort and very slow progress. Luckily, our road has very little traffic, and no one gets miffed by the road being blocked for fifteen minutes.

Friday: Oh, my.

Nan, Katie's mom, from up the road

When I woke up this morning, it was still dark. I walked down the hall and nearly fell over a dark lump which turned out to be a person. She introduced herself,

"Hi! I'm Nan, Katie's mom, from up the road? I watch TV here at night."

As we went downstairs together, I started wondering just how she watched TV here at night, since we don't actually have a TV. Then I saw that someone had moved the old TV from my childhood into my new livingroom. There was also a small, kitchen style TV sitting right next to it. Both of them were turned on with the volume low and set to different stations.

We sat in the kitchen to chat. She seemed a very gregarious character, although it was odd how she had been crouched in my hallway, just outside the bedroom door.

"I guess I don't understand," I began, "why you don't just watch TV at your house?"

"It's what I do," she said with a smile, "I watch TV here at night." Was this one of those grandfathered in things, like the corn that was already planted in the field? Then I noticed here eyes,

"Are those contact lenses with spiders on them?" I asked her. Just where her irises should have been sat two non-identical spiders, one on each eye. It was disturbing that they didn't match.

"I don't know what you're talking about," answered Nan. As she spoke, the two spiders crawled up into her eyelids. For a moment, she had no irises at all, just pale blue marbles staring up at me from her chair, with that silly smile on her face. Then, she blinked, and her eyes were so normal that I wondered if I had imagined the whole thing. It was pretty early in the morning.

My husband came downstairs, asking what in the world was going on.

Then I woke up, for real this time. Maybe. One never knows.

I was hesitant to walk down the hall, but when I finally did, there was no one there.