Monday, May 29, 2006

You don't want to know me...

I'm a toad-cuddling tissue composter.

Seriously - I've been mega sick recently, which has manifested in terrible allergy-like symptoms and insomnia. Suffice it to say, I've been using a surprising number of tissues, even for me. This, coupled with my new desire to seek out fodder for my compost bins has led to the latter practice (the first is innate).

Well, tissues are cellulose, right? Worms will very happily bed in shredded newspaper or cardboard (though they need food - like regular compostables), so why not my snotty tissues? Most of the time, I use recycled, unbleached ones, but as my illness marches on, so does my need for high-tech, mainstream equipment: Puffs, Extra-strength Puffs, Extra-strength Puffs with Lotion...By fall they'll be fertilizing the Crab Apple.

In other news, after three years of tending, the lawn is finally starting to look like a lawn. And it's a toad lawn, after all - they're everywhere! It's been a moist spring, and yesterday I flushed five of them (from 3/4" to 2 3/4" long) while mowing the grass (don't worry, the blade is set very high - I mowed over a baseball and didn't know it - unless they jump directly into it, they'll be fine. Plus, I swoosh a rake through the whole thing before I start.)

The principle toad threats are our basement window wells...even through they're covered, toads frequently are trapped in them. We have to go on regular hunts to fish them out - we need some sort of toad ramp. I love, love, love toads. Love. Them.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The problem with cats

Is that they are both razor-sharp hunters, and they love you. And sometimes, the way they choose to show their love involves a small, quiet bunny, its fur mussed by saliva and the morning rain.


The compost bins were a little stinky when I turned them this spring. Though I got two lovely barrows full of black, rich leavings (worm poop) that I spread around the front roses and the French pear tree, I was not happy with the quality of the rest of the compost. More worms, I thought. More Worms!

After an exciting, informative 45-minute conversation with the folks at (luckily in Kalamazoo), I ordered a pound of red wigglers. They came early the next day (I was still in my nightgown) in a damp, crooked box marked:

If you order worms in the mail (which I highly recommend), it is v. funny. They come - get this - free and loose in their box. No bag, no liner, not even a wax coating.

They crawl all around the box - find their ways into the corregations and under the flaps. In the end, I just took off the tape and put the whole box in the pile...

Now, as I weed and poke in other parts of the lawn, I'm always keeping an eye out for particularly large and healthy worms. I gently coax them from their worm holes and carry them carefully to the back. Composting is like having a garden and a zoo - there's always something growing and wriggling.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The unfunniest season

Spring isn't funny.

Spring hits me hard and deep, it's a time when the world opens and becomes fertile to change and possibilities are endless. I find this overwhelming. The suffocating cloak of winter falls, leaving us laid bare - no excuses, no tunnel-vision. Spring reminds me every year that it's all us. What we want, who we want to be is in our control. It's like holding handfuls of rich soil, it's everything we need - what will we do with it?

This time of year I take lots of hot baths and listen to the same one or two songs over and over - slow, poignant songs that remind me of the paradoxical magnitude of our tiny little lives, the beauty of our awkward and ignorant journey, the way that deep sorrow and deep joy feel exactly the same in my heart and eyes. It's not funny. It doesn't feel funny, anyway. Though I know I'll read this in a month, laugh at the idiocy of my blather and spit summer beer all over the keyboard.

It's coming, after all...SHANUKAH is coming. Saturday, June 17th. Driveway...Lobsters...You.

This year, featuring much less vomit! (And I am bound and determined to finish up with Hobbit breakfast at Pickerel lake.)

Thursday, May 18, 2006

DIY - Extreme!

It was Karma. Well, not really Karma, but at least a wake-up, a cosmic 2x4...Earlier that week, we had been tying ribbons to balloons for UofM graduation. (Every year, I work a few days to help organize the catering orders, pack and carry like I used to, and get paid in ZingDollars. Many, many ZingDollars. It's cheaper for them and tastier for me. This is why, when I arrive at dad's door on Sunday, I will be toting a full Reuben meal - including chopped liver, half-sours, and Cel-Ray soda.) We were tying blue and maize balloons, and after the eighth time I cautioned Alexis to make sure to tie the ribbon on tightly, so the balloon wouldn't float away, (I was terrified it would choke a manatee, okay? Think of the manatees!) she stopped, looked at me, and said: "I can tie the knot. I tie knots all the time...IN PEOPLE'S BODIES. Like, around blood vessels that CAN NOT open." "Oh, right," I said, "nevermind." She was right, when I cut open my arm, the knots she tied in my flesh did not come out...not until she snipped them out.

The odd thing is that we've been together so long that I forget sometimes that this partner of mine is a real doctor. Like , REAL doctor, with degrees and licensure and about to graduate from a prestigious residency and board certify in a prestigious field (June 11th, it'll be over at 5pm and I'll have a real-live "attending physician" to stuff with prime rib - and will I ever!), I have a hard time rectifying this identity with the person I know. This is the Alexis I bring coffee to on cool, damp mornings, the Alexis who used to steal daffodils from the campus gardens for my Easter basket, the Alexis who only wore BDUs for six years of her life, and who still wears specialty combat boots under her tailored wool slacks...I have trouble remembering this is a doctor. I've never known a doctor before.

And this particular doctor has amassed everything needed to take care of me when I hurt myself - lidocaine, betadine, needles and sutures in various sizes, any bandage you could hope for, and bags of sterile saline along with the wide-bore syringes needed to fully irrigate dirty little lacs. All filched neatly along with white pocket-fulls of peanut butter packets and tuna fish sandwiches from the Emergency Department. Shhhh...


Ah, metal lath. One quick, expressive gesture, and your arm's ripped in two.

Well, almost in two...

This was on a Sunday, and guess whose insurance ran out the previous Friday? No biggie, I thought...though a bacon band-aid would come in handy.

No such luck. When I ripped myself, I ripped a full skin thickness - you could see strings of adipose tissue in my chubby little forearm!
Note to self: don't let Alexis near cuts...her medical training has told her to poke, prod and stretch wounds, or even (gasp) debride them. Everyone knows the best way to deal with a boo-boo is to either (A) clutch the affected part with one hand and go on talking excitedly as blood wells from between your grasping fingers, or (B) sit right down and cry real tears and then demand lime popsicles.

Alexis leafs frantically through a booklet - what could it be?

Sterile saline, shot at high-speed into my mangled flesh. The white, raised edges of the wound were pumped full of lidocaine.


Blood+Betadine = Shroud of Tearin'.
(Elbow tearin' that is, I didn't cry a single drop.)

Monday, May 15, 2006

Dogs like...

...the Sisyphusian cycle of construction/destruction/construction.
(They enjoy the irony.)

...under-sink leaks - rusted through since before the Nixon Administration.

(Seriously...this wadded up newspaper was under the 6" rusty hole in the base of our sink cabinet. The faucet had been leaking since, oh, say, the Fifties?)

...minor car damage.
(Who knew it would roll?)

...massive attack.

(I bet mine can beat up yours.)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Things I've learned:

1. Taking down plaster is much like riding a bike. It's not rocket science, but you're likely to get hurt. The plaster walls in our kitchen are about 100 years younger than the original walls of the house - instead of wooden lath strips, the 1/2" of cement (otherwise known as the "scratch coat") is attached to metal lath, which is the sharpest substance known to man.

We've now taken out four walls - only sad 2X4s remain.

2. Asbestos rash gets worse the second day. We finally got a second particulate filter mask, so our lungs are relatively unscathed (this time - we've been poking around this carcinogenic house for years without protection, so we've already been exposed many times). The cancer associated with Asbestos is vanishingly rare (so sayeth the doctor), and would not appear for a good thirty years or so, by which time I expect that medical science will have cured cancer, or our society will have broken down so completely as to make medical care totally unavailable.

3. Smashing things is both exhilarating and exhausting. Actually, I knew this already, but this experience was much improved by the two nice tools that appeared at our house recently. They were carefully labled in Sharpie over duct tape, but have been so well loved that the name has worn off both of them. We haven't the faintest idea how to return them, so I guess they're ours. Wait, I hear squawking from the West...