Thursday, February 13, 2014


I know it's a retro concept, but I have my reasons for keeping a landline telephone in the house. I consider my main phone to be the mobile that I carry with me most of the time. And while it's not a State Secret or anything, only a rare few people have or even want that landline phone number. I do get some interesting calls on the landline sometimes, even if I listen to most of them on the answering machine. 

Usually they're solicitations of some sort or another. Sometimes it's someone looking for the last person who had that number, which was, criminy, at least five years ago. I have learned from all those wrong-number calls that she was a pharmacist, she was active in a singles group at a local church (and they miss her very much and want her to come back), she had a car wreck (two different insurance companies calling to settle the matter), she lived with her sister, and she owed someone money. 

Getting those wrong-number calls really put me off answering the landline phone. In hopes of sending the wrong-number callers along, I created a long outgoing message on the answering machine to let people know that "this is the phone number for our household, and if you're looking for someone with any other last name, you have the wrong number." It seems to have helped, in that respect, maybe, because I haven't had a call for that gal in a while.

Now it's mostly automated callers, political polls, and bizarre survey and marketing callers. Well, and occasionally one of my close friends who have that number, who weren't able to raise me on my cell.

Since probably nine hundred and ninety nine out of a thousand calls to the landline are bogus, I almost never answer it if I don't recognize the number. Occasionally, though, I'm up for a little jousting.

Apparently autodialers are in heavy use these days. Many, many junk callers use them now. My friend Kent said that when he gets a call from a number he doesn't recognize, sometimes he'll pick the line up but not speak right away - an autodialer, being a machine, doesn't know what to do if the line is live, but quiet. Humans, on the other hand, tend to become uneasy in silence and will usually start talking at some point if they've heard the line go live, but you haven't actually spoken to them yet. This sounded like something worth trying.

So the phone rings. I pick it up and push the speaker button, but don't talk. If it's a machine calling, pretty soon I get that screeching sound, like when your phone's off the hook too long. If it's a live human, though, I can hear them breathing on the other end of the line, and they can hear my household noises: Annie's tags rattling, the television in the other room, me clinking dishes in the sink, or clattering about on the keyboard. Sometimes they hang up, but usually they speak. I have found that if I just hang up on them first, they are likely to call back, so if they speak, I may respond. 

Another practice I observe is never say the word "yes" to an unsolicited caller. They've been known to do things that you won't like and that may cost you money, and when you protest, they have your own voice saying 'yes' (even though the tape is quite possibly doctored to their ends) so be very careful in how you answer people you don't know, even if they seem likable.

I got  to try out my new routine this very evening.

Phone rang. Caller ID said it was an out of state number. I picked up the handset and pushed the speaker button and went about my business. Pretty soon I heard, "Hello? Hello?"

"Hello," I answered.

The caller had a heavy accent from the other side of the planet. He tried to make small talk, gave the name of a company for whom he was making the call. Said his name was Michael Smith. Now, I wouldn't come right out and call him a liar, but I'll just tell you, I didn't believe him. Think about it -  anyone in that part of the world being named Smith, or naming their child Michael? Didn't make a lick of sense. I mean, I suppose it's possible - I could be mistaken about that, but I simply didn't believe him.  

Credibility blown right out of the box, he jabbered on about some survey he's conducting, with very little response from me one way or the other, and immediately asks me a very personal question.  His question irritated me, to say the least. I don't care who it is, and even if I believe they are who they claim to be, what he asked me is certainly none of his durn beezwax. At this point I was done talkin' to this guy, so I pushed the Off button and hung up on him. I guess he thought we accidentally got disconnected, because he called right back, and I mean right back. 

This time when I picked up the phone, I did speak first, and here's what I said: "That's creepy, dude. Don't call me again [Click]."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Black Ice

What, exactly, is the definition of "black ice?"

Yesterday it warmed to enough above freezing to dry my front porch off, so I was surprised, this morning, to see that it was wet. Got ready, then, to go run some errands in town, and started across the porch and found myself on the ground before I even knew I was falling. I did that in Cooperstown a couple times, and it's an odd sensation - you're walking along, and then you're on the ground, your things scattered around you. What th- how did this happen? No time to try to catch yourself, no time to fear, nothing to dread, which is nice in a way, because the dread always makes it feel like forever - just BOOM, on the ground, just like that. Sore elbow, sore knee. Sore hip.

Whenever I fall, I pause, sort of take stock of the situation. How bad is it? Can I get up? Do I need help? Can I GET help?  Today I was able to sort of roll over and pull myself up. It didn't even look like ice at all - no glaze whatsoever - it just looked wet. I thought, maybe I'd better go get my walking stick, help me stay upright if I encounter any more ice.

I came back in the house and got my walking stick and tried again. Sticking close to the house, where there was a margin of dry porch, I moved cautiously out toward the car. But at about the place I'd fallen, even the rubber tip on my cane couldn't get a firm hold on the pavement. I don't bounce like I did when I was five or six. I could see this was just too slippery and I came back in the house.

Looks like it might creep just above freezing about mid-afternoon for a couple hours. Now I'm weighing how much I need to go to town against personal safety. Hm, personal safety is winning right now.

Ah, Life is what happens when you've made other plans.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Old Organic Hippie Earth Mother

I have an annual contract with a pest control company for an annual termite-monitoring service. I don't relish the thought that we've had to have poison pumped into the foundation, but it's fairly important, given that so much of my house is wood, and we certainly have seen termites around here in the past.

So the other day, my phone rang. I didn't recognize the number, but it was a local number, and I thought it might be someone I know, so I answered the call. Turns out it was a man calling from a lawn-treating company. (Notice how carefully I'm not giving the names of the companies?)

He said something like, "This is So-and-So with X-Y-Z Lawn Treating Company, and bla bla bla in your area and bla bla bla pre-emergent. Bla bla bla pre-emergent, and since you are a customer of Bla-Bla Pest Control Service, we can make you such a deal..."

To which I replied, "Well, I appreciate you thinkin' about me, but I live on an acreage out here, and I'm sort of an old organic hippie Earth Mother... "

Didn't even get to finish my sentence, but I had gotten that much out, and as soon as he heard that, I heard him saying, "Okay, thank you for your time [click]."

I'm guessing he must've talked to old organic hippie Earth Mothers before. I don't know if he wanted to avoid a lecture, or if he just didn't feel like trying to talk me into something I wasn't going to do anyway. My friend Kent pointed out that the guy probably thought he was talking to the owner of one of those huge three-quarter-million-dollar homes-on-two-acres that are sprouting up all around me. They tend to be more the Perfect-Lawn types. 

No, fella, I'm a bigger acreage, smaller house. Being on well water here, I am poignantly aware of the concept of, "You dump it, you drink it," so, no, I am not interested in bringing more poison onto the place. An Old Organic Hippie Earth Mother, I am.

Astonishingly effective, that phrase, "Old Organic Hippie Earth Mother." I may have to try it in other situations.

Saturday, December 21, 2013


Well, I guess it's never really a good time to have an ice storm. 

The mystery to me is, if the air temperature is at or below freezing, why in the world doesn't it just snow instead? But no, It's got to be freezing rain, which then turns into ice. 

There was a pretty dramatic ice storm here some years ago, before we moved to Cooperstown. The ice was so thick on just everything, that the weight of it on the lines pulled the poles down. It was an odd thing to see, the lines still running from pole to pole, but the poles hanging at sharp angles or laying on the ground for as far as you could see up and down the road. Breaking trees sounded like dozens of guns going off, one after the other, followed by branches, small, medium, and large, crashing to the ground. You certainly did not want to be anywhere near under a tree then, and we have lots of trees here.

Fence picket with a cloche of ice

Here are some images from the current ice storm. The ice on the grass is just as thick as it is on everything else, which makes walking, even on the grass, a big be-careful. 

I took my walking-stick/cane with me when I went out to tend the chickens, and I'm sure glad I did, because I'm pretty sure I would have ended up on the ground if I hadn't.  

Here are some other things I learned:
  • Ice on grass is doable, just pay attention and be careful.
  • Ice on accumulated leaves is much trickier than you'd think, probably because of a combination of the ice, and the fact that the leaves will move around when you step on them.Try to avoid walking on iced leaves if you can.
Interesting configuration

  •  The trees creak and crackle in the slightest breeze. That's both interesting and creepy.
  •  It's well-nigh impossible to get from the house to the chicken house without walking under a tree somewhere along the way.
  • Flat ground is way better to try to walk on than even the slightest incline. 

    Half-inch of ice on everything. 

  • It's astonishing how freakin' slippery the ground is, even though you'd think the grass would provide suitable traction.
Unless another wave of precip comes along, it looks like we're close to done getting it, at least at my house. 

Happy Trails, and thanks for reading!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Ordinary World

As we crowd and overtake midnight on this fourth day of November, I'm thinking this is probably why I don't blog every day - I want everything I write to be meaningful and touching, moving, impressive, stunning...I want every piece to be spectacular, but sometimes the best I can come up with is ordinary.  I'm afraid this is one of those ordinary days.

I have a certain circle of friends with whom I converse on a fairly regular basis, and some of us have had a similar conversation, where somebody wants spectacular, but gets ordinary. I say welcome to life, Darling. Most of life is ordinary. Don't discount the importance of ordinary, I tell them. Most of what happens, happens in the ordinary world, on an ordinary day, to ordinary people. We can have spectacular moments (even spectacular days), but it is unreasonable to expect every moment of every day to be spectacular. Ordinary is the Dark Matter of life - there is so much more of it than there is Spectacular. It's always so interesting to me to find myself In a position to have to heed my own advice.

So here I am, experiencing an ordinary day, wishing like everything that I had something blindingly poignant to write in today's blog post. Oh, well, as someone dear to me has been known to say, "You pays your money and you takes your chances." 

Good Evening, Dear Readers :)


Art Happens!

Anyone remember back when those "Shit Happens" bumper stickers were all the rage?  You saw 'em all over the place, although we did observe you were more likely to see one on a raggedy old beat up car  and less likely to see one on, say, a new Lexus. But they were quite a thing for a while, probably twenty, twenty five years ago. My friend Roger observed that "Shit doesn't just happen, there are active (you-know-whats) out there!"

It was also along about that time, I was a practicing artist. Oh, I still had a day job, and stuff like that, but I lived in a little house where I'd made one of the bedrooms into a studio. I had a nice sturdy easel and always had several paintings going. That's how I do it - get one started, and while it's "cooking," start another one, and so on. 

I started out with watercolor, then learned how to draw (a little backward, but that's just me) then moved on into pastel, and then oils. I was active in a couple of art societies and one of the old Artisan 9 galleries, and was easing my way into festival type shows and whatnot.Oh, my goodness, how I loved making art, and I got pretty good at it.

But something switched off when I moved out of my little studio-house. I still had all my gear, still looked at everything with the artist's eye. I still always thought about what would that look like in a painting, but did precious little actual artwork after the end of 1995. Got to be embarrassing when I'd run into an old friend I hadn't seen in a while, one who'd known me as an artist when they'd ask me what I was painting these days. I'd have to drop my head and tell them it'd been a while since I'd picked up a brush.

I guess I "took my art supplies on vacation to Cooperstown," which is a good thing, because that means I didn't get rid of my supplies. I still have them. Still have that big wonderful easel, and the paints and brushes. 

So I had a little time this weekend to do a little straightening in the garage/shop/barn, and rediscovered that easel. Had a brief conference with the Universe and said, yes, I believe I will, and carried that easel out to free air, blew the dust off with the air compressor, wiped the rest of the dust off with a damp rag, and brought it in the house. 

Got a couple of canvases (because, you know, I like to have more than one at a time going) and drew some images on them Saturday night. Sunday morning I applied broad acrylic color washes for underpainting, and in the afternoon began applying oil paint to one of the canvasses. Sure feels good to be back in the saddle, yes it does.

Back in the day I used to say, "Art Happens!" 
Now my thinking is more that "Art doesn't just happen - there are active artists out there!"

Saturday, November 2, 2013

National Blog Posting Month?


 I've been infatuated with the concept of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, since I first heard about it some years ago.  The object of NaNoWriMo is to get 50,000 words of fiction down in the thirty days of November. 

There's a whole culture around the process. 50,000 words in 30 days breaks down to about 1667 words a day. Certainly not impossible for a serious writer, but a pretty serious writing assignment, sure enough. So far, it's always felt like it would take more time and dedication than I've had available or would be willing to give to a project for thirty consecutive days. Cares of the world, and all that. One of these days I do intend to participate in a NaNoWriMo - but, once again, not this year.

Meanwhile, in response to NaNoWriMo, another writer has fired off a concept called National Blog Posting Month, or NaBloPoMo. This is way more my speed. So, beginning on day two, here we go! NaBloPoMo! 

My co-workers may be relieved that I have another outlet for my verbosity so that maybe they won't have to read long chatty emails from me every day...and I've just had an epiphany - maybe this is what I should have been doing all along!