About Shoes and Ships and Ceiling Wax, and Cabbages and Lesbians

Professor Batty's recent posts about lesbians sparked a memory I hadn't thought about in years.

In another life, (as Professor Batty would say), I worked at a college book store for $5.10 an hour. The book store had two categories of employees: staff and work experience students. I was in the work experience category.

My fellow work experience students were all friendly towards me. Most of them were driving to work, but I bicycled and so did one other girl, Dena. Dena and I talked about bicycling a lot while we shelved textbooks, and eventually, we decided to go on a two day bike trip together. We worked it all out at work: we would bike out 25 miles into the country, camp at a camp ground for the night, and then bike home.

My other coworkers immediately seemed agitated in a way I couldn't quite place. As soon as Dena left for the day, one of them, Tyson, took me aside,

"You know she's a lesbian, right?" he asked.

"Oh, no. I didn't know."



"You're going camping with her... and she might... you know..."

"Oh. Okay. Thanks." Thanks for letting me know you are paranoid!

Around the same time, there was this other coworker, Rad. I usually change people's names in this blog, but really, how can you change a name like Rad? The same person who told me that Dena was a lesbian told me that Rad had "Sex Parties" and then described some of the strange things that went on at the sex parties. At this time, I had just come back from Sweden, and I believed all sexual rumours to be big fat lies. Because, actually, believe it or not, sex is not just like a handshake in the country of Sweden, but anyway, back to the story-

There were all of these rumours flying around about Rad and his parties, which I initially did not believe, but then he actually invited me to one of the parties, so I started to believe it, but only a little bit. Rad invited everyone at work to the sex party, but the only person who actually went was Dena.

Meanwhile, the warnings from my coworkers about Dena started getting more intense. Well meaning book store employees pulling me aside regularly and say,

"You know, Dena's a lesbian, and she goes to Rad's sex parties. Are you sure you want to camp with her?"

Holy cow did I want to camp with her! Clearly, anything could happen. This was going to be an amazing camping trip.

And then day of our long bicycle journey arrived. I was nervous because I had never ridden longer than 25 kilometers, and I didn't know how many miles that was, but not very many, I figured. I warned her that I was slow. Dena was quite lean and fit looking, but she turned out to ride about as fast as I did. We were pedalling along quite pleasantly, sleeping bags attached to our ten speeds, when she broke the ice,

"So I guess they told you I'm a lesbian?"

"Yes, many times!"

"And that I go to Rad's parties?"

"Yeah. I guess he invited me, but I didn't go."

"It's really kind of boring, you know, because there weren't many girls at the last one, and the ones that did come were all straight, so I was like, 'there's not much here for me,' you know?"

"Oh, yeah." Like I knew! Not. (That's what people said then. They said something and then said, "not".)

Dena was soon talking about sex the way that dentists talk about a root canal. She was entirely clinical. Over the next twenty-five miles, she described in all kinds of detail the things that go on at an orgy full of really (I realized when she described them) geeky nineteen and twenty year olds. I was innocent of all of the procedures mentioned, and for the most part, I still am. As we gaily pedalled through the beautiful prairies and vineyards of Sonoma County, California, Dena gave me the group sex vocabulary upon which I still rely to understand the jokes on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart. In general, about half of the insults I read on the internet, I would never understand had I not gone on that ride with Dena. So I owe her one, I guess.

We camped on picnic tables, under the open stars. I was surprised she hadn't brought a tent. I hadn't either. I had a preconceived notion of camping, though, and it involved a tent.

The next day, we rode home on a slightly different route. She had planned on us stopping at Rad's house on the way back, to snack and use the bathroom. I wasn't entirely comfortable with that, but I really had to use the bathroom.

Upon entering Rad's house, it became apparent that

A. Rad lived with his mom, who called him "Raddy" and
B. Rad and Dena were actually really good friends.

We stayed and visited for awhile, and the whole time, I couldn't get over the fact that he lived with his mother. It wasn't that I thought that there was anything wrong with that- most of the book store students lived with their parents- but I just couldn't figure out how his mom fit into this whole orgy situation. Did she lock herself in her room for the evening? Did she travel a lot? Did she participate?

Also, it was awkward talking with Rad, whom I didn't know too well, because Dena had just told me all about Rad, if you know what I mean.

I just knew then that I had reached my limit. I didn't want to know any more!

And then I went back to work on Monday, and everyone asked me if Dena had tried to seduce me. As if.

Cluttered #2 or The Value of Summer Boredom

The creative process for my daughter:

1. Get bored.

2. Complain a lot about being bored.

3. Read books.

4. Attempt to re-create something seen in a book.

5. Usually, she's completely happy with the result, no matter how messed up it appears to an adult.

Afterwards, I don't know what to do with all of this stuff! [If you receive some of it in the mail, it's because I have too much.] But I think there is great value to summer boredom. You can almost see her brain growing as she tries to figure out the best way to create something beautiful.



I wonder where that Vitamin B2 came from?


At Mary's house.

Looking through the window in the door, you can see the Fortune Teller with her crystal ball. The Fortune Teller is a toy lady who came from Dig N' Save, Madison's cheapest, dirtiest thrift store, which sells toys by the pound. I believe Mary said she paid 30 cents for the fortune teller, who began speaking to a shocked Mary on the car ride home. The Fortune Teller answers yes or no questions about the future, but she has many, many ways of saying yes or no. Little Z asked Fortune Teller if I was beautiful, and Fortune Teller said,

"I wouldn't count on it."

"Clearly, she lies," I said. (Parenting advice: Always call yourself beautiful in front of your daughter.)

Then we asked Fortune Teller if my friend Heather was coming to the party. Fortune Teller said,

"Don't hold your breath." [Heather never showed.]

We asked if Fortune Teller liked Mary's house, and she said,

"I cannot be certain."

I'll forgive the Fortune Teller for her poor taste... this time.

Ten Minutes From Home

Drive for ten minutes in any direction from my home, and you will find a red barn. Along the way, you may also see some red barns. I like to admire red barns. *This one is quite tidy, with good details- what do you call that little house on top of the roof? I love those things.

Our own barn is white. That's okay. I've always been a nonconformist.

* I have a feeling I may have photographed this barn before, from a different angle.

A Room

Guests of this blog stay in the Prestigious Virtual Bedroom:

New Theme for September?

Doing the August Photo Challenge has kept me blogging, albeit mostly with pictures instead of words. Still, I like having a topic on which to focus for each day.

I looked up some "September Photo Challenge" things, and they were all really dumb. What you wore today, what you ate, blah blah blah. And I guess what I really want is something to write about each day. Then I saw this:

I have so much to say about so many of these topics! Sometimes, I wonder what's wrong with me. And now, I know. I'm possessed by demons.

I can't help but wonder if whoever wrote this A.is serious? B. has something against words of Spanish origin, like "marijuana"? and C. has ever been to Sebastopol, California?


These little roosters are slow growers.

This is the inside of the coop made of trash.


When we moved from Colorado to Wisconsin, I put my favorite ring in a special place, so I wouldn't lose it during the move. Then I forgot where the special place was.
Three years later, I was looking through some old photos, and I found a little wooden box. Inside the little wooden box was something wrapped in a tissue. Inside the tissue was my favorite ring, still in its special place where I had carefully hidden it three years earlier.


*This is me, doing my first 50K.

*This is not actually me, doing my first 50K. This is just one of the 57,843 people who rode their bikes through our winding, treacherous neighborhood today, bless all of their dear hearts.


I learned on Facebook that if you put a wooden spoon over the top of a pot like this, it won't boil over:

That was supposed to be the end of this post, but then the pot boiled over! Of course, I didn't expect it, so I didn't get a picture. Curse you, Facebook, you've fooled me for the last time!

Excuse me; I have to go clean my stove.


The animal pen on the right (orange netting), which is full of tiny roosters, was made almost entirely out of trash. I only bought the screws to put it together. (I apologize for the poor angle. It's impossible to take a decent picture of it.)

Sweet Success

37 1/2

pints of honey! And we have our kitchen back. Mostly. I'm still working on cleaning the wax- thus the big pot on the stove.

This is our kitchen. I just want to put in a pitch here for not remodeling your kitchen. This kitchen is still good, still pleasant, still functional, and what's more, the cabinets match the honey! Yes, it has wallpaper. It has cheap countertops. It has dark wood cupboards. And it's really cool, actually. At least, I think so. This house was featured in a 1970's issue of Wisconsin Trails- or so I hear. I've never tracked down the issue.


Yesterday, we harvested honey.

How to harvest honey:

1. Place a bee trap between the boxes you want to take and the boxes you want to leave, so that the bees are trapped in the bottom boxes, and you can steal the top boxes later in the day.

2. Make sure that, when you are placing the bee boxes, you don't wear very good gloves, and you take too long with whatever you are messing with, and then make the bees very angry to the point that they sting you in the hands, and your husband starts screaming, "RUN! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!" This way, your six year old daughter who is watching from the truck (with the windows rolled up) will have a good story to tell, later.

3. Several hours later, go back and steal the boxes full of honey. Make sure and take several hundred bees with them. This will make things more interesting, back at the house, later.

4. Carefully cut the honeycomb out of the frame and place into a clean container. Make sure that you don't actually have enough containers, because again, this will make it more interesting. Run in and out of the house a few times to fetch things. Completely saturate doorknobs with honey. Honey makes doorknobs work better.

5. Strain the honey out of the honeycomb by cutting the tops off of the sealed honeycomb and set it over cheese cloth. Under the cheese cloth, place a colender, and under the colender, place a bowl to catch the honey. Put it all in the oven with the light on over an hour or two.

6. Pour honey into jars. This can be done poorly by a small child who is covered in honey.

7. Put lids on the jars.

8. Boil the jars for half an hour, to pasteurize. (Like when you make jam. Or don't make jam. I imagine you probably don't make jam.)

9. Go around the house and catch all of the bees with a butterfly net. Release them.

10. Repeat until you are out of honeycomb.

Note: As of right now, we have 20+ pints of honey, and we are definitely not out of honeycomb. Also, as of now, I am sticky. And sweet.

BAH went to work today so he could get some rest, he said.

I Love Doing This!

Reading, building things out of wood, finding cool lamps at thrift stores.


1. Wonder Niece left us a beautiful letter about all of the things she learned in her stay with us. One of the things she learned was, "less is more". This puzzles me and BAH both. I thought our lifestyle to be fairly lavish while she was visiting. I wonder if it's just about food? I encouraged her to order less at restaurants. That was just because it's so expensive.

2. Magical Mother-in-Law is coming! Magical Mother-in-Law is coming! Magical Mother-in-Law is coming for an extended stay!

3. I lost the onions. This is something I had never considered possible. The onions were ripening, so I weeded and mulched around them. Onions, I discovered, lose their stems when they are ripe. Then the chickens walked around and kicked the mulch all over them. Then someone in our farm co-op ordered onions, and it took me twenty minutes with a pitch fork to find them- sort of. I only found a pound. I don't know where the rest went.

4. Little Z cried terribly today because a chicken ate the only tomato on her tomato plants.

5. Kids. I mean, give me a break! It's a TOMATO! She said, "It isn't just a tomato!" and I said, "Yes, it is! It's just a tomato!" and that shockingly did not make her feel better.

6. I took Wonder Niece and Little Z to the top of the Sears Tower on Monday and I got really freaked out. My brain kept telling me terrible things about being responsible for these two kids of varying ages at the top of the world. Mostly, though, I think the height was getting to me. I was also worried we were never going to get the trampoline, because it was Little Z's birthday, and we were supposed to go to Illinois to get her a trampoline. I called BAH from the top and I couldn't hear what he was saying. I'm really glad I couldn't, because I asked him after we got home (10 PM) and he said, "I asked you if you got the trampoline!" which of course we hadn't yet, and the people weren't answering their phone in spite of multiple calls. But we got the trampoline, finally, at 8 PM. Little Z had wanted one for a couple of years. She used to call it a "bounce-a-leen". We've been bouncing.

It all worked out. It always does.

I was so freaked out at the top of that tower.

They made us even watch a movie about how great it was, and about how some British shmucks rented out all the floors and renamed it "Willis Tower". I mean, really.

7. I used to work for Sears.

8. The new sheep fence is STILL NOT DONE!

9. Little Z learned how to swim this week. It was like, last week, she couldn't swim, and this week, she could. Except that the way she swims is terrifying. She swims under water for a long time, and then, when she can't hold her breath any longer, she comes up for air and looks for all the world like she's drowning, and then down she goes again to swim under water. So now she just jumps into the deep end without a care in the world. I was so freaked out at that swimming pool.

Little Z says, "I can understand how you would be scared, but I'm not ascared [sic], because I already did it once."

The picture shows her swimming with a responsible adult, but later on she only had me.

10. For the Rule of Threes, I should really think of something else that freaked me out this week, but I can't think of anything.


The duck pool:

Butterfly flies over:

Butterfly stops for a drink in the mud:

2 O'Clock

At two o'clock, I was here:

A little while before that, I stopped the car because four dinosaurs (cranes? egrets?) walked in front of my car, and then wandered into a nearby office park:


Goodbye Wonder Niece and Fare Thee Well

Wonder Niece is now on a jet plane home. I like to think she is sitting on the plane, eating the sandwiches I made her (Nutella, peanut butter, and homemade wild raspberry jam on whole wheat) and contemplating what a wonderful aunt I am.

I hope she is not lost in the Minneapolis airport. She has a tight connection to make, and it's a huge airport.

She says she'll really miss the chickens.

This Means a Lot to Me

The Death Star

Now that the party is over, the pinata no longer resembles Sputnik, but more the *Death Star, post destruction.

It never did get painted.

We went through three bats: a plastic bat, a wooden stick, and a regular wooden baseball bat. It finally broke after 60+ wacks. My advice to future pinata makers: be careful not to make it too well. The upside, though, was that all of the children got many opportunities to pummel it, so they really had a lot of fun.

After the candy came out, Little Z started crying. I had given everyone a bag to put their candy in, except for the birthday girl! And now the candy was all gone. But, of course, her friends (ages 4-6) are kind and generous folk, and they all gathered around and gave her some of their candy, until she had the most candy of all. They didn't even have to be persuaded. It was sweet. (In more than one way.)

*Correction: Under construction Death Star, not destroyed, because after they destroyed it, there was nothing left. Thanks, Beer and Burritos.


This poor honey bee was out in the rain. The early bee gets the pollen?


This picture was taken at the air show today in Oshkosh. This is something I never would have attended had not my aeronaut Wonder Niece come to visit, but she did, and we went, and a truly good time was had by all. They re-enacted Pearl Harbor. It was quite the spectacle. I loved it.


The pinata for Little Z's birthday party. She wants it to be blue and yellow, but that may or may not happen. As with most of her projects, she comes up with the design and then begins, excitedly, then loses steam, and I hash out the details and finish.

I'm not sure what she thinks of it as. Is it representational art, or abstract? I think it looks like a satellite. I call it, "Sputnik".

The party is Sunday.

Places to Go, People to See

Wonder Niece has a favourite chicken:

We always call this one and her sister, "The Foofy Haired Ones".

She was really in a hurry to get somewhere.

Something Beginning with N