The yellow tile floor of the bathroom is sometimes a little obstacle course of glasses with huge roaches dying inside, stoically, just sitting there, the glasses gradually steaming up with roach-dioxide.

August 13th, 2013 § 4 Comments. Add one.


What you see here is a standard conical pint glass, about six inches high and about three inches in diameter across the mouth. It is inverted over some as-yet unidentified insect which is STANDING THE FUCK UP and RAPPING ITS ANTENNAE against the side in a plea for me to set it free. I trapped it an hour ago, and it remains on the windowsill above my bed, reminding me of its presence with its arthropodontic knocking every few minutes.

I have seen all varieties of creepy crawling fuck-all in my life. I have smashed city sewer roaches with my shoes, and swatted rainforest mosquitoes off of my Squirrel. I have watched in horror as the matted detritus of a rat gurgled up from a newly Draino-ed shower. I have spent the better part of this very summer in dire need of a windshield wiper for my laptop monitor, in order to keep it clean of mosquito guts. But I have never before trapped a clumsy, drunken, alien, thing, really so heavy and graceless it was fucking bumping INTO THE GODDAMNED WALLS, beneath one of our few nice glasses.

I owe my Native an apology for that mouse he killed in my cast-iron skillet. Mainly because I’m going to leave this nasty-assed bug here to suffocate or starve, and be really nice to the Native when he comes home from work in a few days so that he’ll dispose of it for me. Then I’m going to clean the hell out that glass and replace its contents with a very large rum and coke.

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Wood Hertz

May 13th, 2013 § 2 Comments. Add one.


Typing these words hurts me, and I’m not speaking in metaphors or about my feelings. The tips of my fingers, with every letter pressed, hurt. Ow. Hurt. Ow. I could go on, but that’d be masochism.


One winter day of my unforgiving childhood, I was asked to help my mother bring in wood for the wood stove. We lived in a climate and an era where snow was unexpected, so when a few inches were on the ground, we didn’t know how to navigate through them. So, we slid on whatever excuse we had for boots at the time, and grabbed the red wagon we always used for wood-hauling, filled it up, and on the way back to the house, my mother pulled from the front while I pushed from behind.

Little red wagons of the 1980s (yes, I’m old. Piss off.) weren’t the best tools for this job even for wagons and roads of great condition, so our well-battered box on a snowy trail was a chore, and I was really leaning on it, feeling it in the pancreas, when I looked up to see my mother’s hands bloodied from her own effort. Two revelations struck at that moment: one, she was willing to go through what at the time seemed tremendous pain to keep her clan warm. And two, I was not going to meet the same fate. I would study and perform well and become well-educated and Gatsby the fuck away from that future.

So I did. I moved to the center of the universe and attended a reputable university and got a well-paying job in a respectable industry until, at some point decided that wage slavery was worse than scratched-up hands, so I slowly began to pedal away from it until I met the Native, who convinced me to shit in a hole with him in the snowy woods.

So, ow.

I moved a year’s worth of firewood today, because it had been sitting upon a space I want excavated into a terrace for a new garden. And tomorrow begins the biennial excavator rental, which will hopefully catalyze many fine projects that lead to a resurgence of fodder for this inconsistent bit of bloggerel, and as much as I had been hoping for an alternate outcome, the wood pile did not, elas, move itself.

And so I have so many splinters in my hands at the moment that, if extracted, could probably start a woodstove fire of their own. Ow.

On the other hand, if I’m anything but steel-solid biceptually after this, I’m going back to desk jockeying.

(I’d have shared a photo of the pile, but this millipede found within is much cuter.)

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Cut off their tail with a carving knife

March 7th, 2013 § 4 Comments. Add one.


I need to talk about mice.

I know. Rodents are part of living in the woods. I get it. I’m not one of those shrieking-with-a-broomstick sort of ladies when it comes to mice. As an advocate for woodland critters generally, I can’t express too big of a problem with them. When we find nests in hollow trees or in an old boot or in our cookstove outdoors, I rally for the little bitches.

But of course, it’s winter. They’re cold and hungry and can squish down to the size of the wiring holes in a house, and come in and rest under the fire and snack on the crumbs left on my countertops, which, I imagine, is much cozier than an old boots we have piled outside.

For a while, one particular bugger was coming in every night; we could hear him in on the countertop having his way with the dregs of whatever we’d dredged up for dinner while the dog and cat, once mighty mousers, scratched their asses and didn’t deign to lift their salty old cataract-crusted peepers.

And so one of these nights, I was in bed in yet another failed attempt to get our dear Squirrel to sleep, when I received a text message from my Native downstairs. Yes, judge away, we sometimes send texts from within the same structure. If you knew our Squirrel and her sleeping habits, you wouldn’t want to disturb her either.

The text message said:

Fucking mouse is on the stove.
In the skillet.

And then, after some healthy back-and-forth about methods of demise:


Again, I’m all for the survival of the mouse species in the harsh months, but a mouse so hubristic as to drink from my sink a couple of feet from a Native is a mouse who needs to go. And so a text was received that a trap was being set, and I forgot about it.

Until the next morning, when I went downstairs to make eggs and found a mouse trapped and freshly flattened in my cast-iron skillet. Just lying there, neck snapped, tongue outreached toward a crumb of the previous day’s toast*.

Digital voyeurs of Cooter Hollow, there were no eggs that morning, I assure you. And for a while, I was convinced there would be no eggs ever again, not in that pan. Even when my Native came downstairs, scoffed, emptied and washed the pan, and presented it, I thought: I have integrity! I cannot eat from such a vessel!

This lasted all of two days. Because I really don’t have integrity, or just because I needed the eggs.

*Okay, maybe hyperbolic. A little.

** Yes, that is a beautiful photo of our cabin in the middle of summer, and not a dead mouse in a pan, for reasons which should be obvious, sicko.

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All the Whey Home

January 3rd, 2013 § 1 Comment. Add one.


Two days before closing camp for our big winter trip, I was bestowed an early Christmas gift in the form of a quart of whey, leftover from a cheese-making adventure. My friend said it was tasty when drunk straight-up with a little maple syrup, and I don’t know about you, but the mere thought of downing a quart of whey in two days, no matter how sugared, was met with the gastronomic equivalent of yelling fire in a theatre. Figuratively, anyway.

But the thought of wasting food is even worse, so I phoned my local resource for turning festering muck into products of some culinary merit, who pulled out the nearest reference book.

“Whey lemonade?” she suggested.

Lemonade? Lemonade? I prefer limes to lemon, and don’t know of any recipe for whey tequila. I had her read on.

“There is a whey cheese that seems easy enough. Gee jee toast? I’ve never heard if it.”

Gjetost. Gjetost! Do you know this stuff? We call it Candy Cheese around these parts, softish and a cool brown color and priced roughly at $750 an ounce, give or take a few hundred bucks. Gjetost? Suddenly the whey is a Christmas miracle.

I asked my favorite cheese maker, Google, for more information, and came across a few recipes that looked promising. With the gist of things in mind, I dumped the whey in a sauce pot and got started, and with a nice puck of the good stuff in front of me, I present

The Mostly Unabridged Guide to Gjetost-Making, or, What To Do With All This Whey

1. Dump the whey in a saucepan and get it boiling.
2. Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Leave uncovered. Or, cover it, then uncover it when it boiled out all over the place, if you need an excuse to clean your stove.
3. Nurse your baby Squirrel, wash the dishes, make raspberries at your Squirrel, do the crossword, and cut your fingernails, all the while stirring your whey every half hour or so. My one quart took about 6 hours to really caramelize.
4. When it starts to thicken up, grab a whisk and give it hell. This is where other recipes call for food processors and warn of crystallization, but I just kept it steadily whisking, and all was okay. Plus, a whisk is easier to lick and clean than your food processor.
5. People eat the stuff at many viscosities, from that of a pasta sauce to that of a hard cheese. So do what you will. I whisked mine until it took 10 seconds or more for the whisk’s trails to disappear, which, when cool, hardened to the semi-hard (think Swiss cheese) consistency I find in stores.
6. Cool it quickly! Really. Stop reading and cool it. You should have read this in advance anyway– you had hours! I poured mine into a mold then plunged in an icy water bath, and it set up perfectly. But I’ve read horror stories suggesting that things get tricky if you move too slowly here.
7. Never again wonder what to do when someone plies you with such a lovely gift.
8. Try not to get too fat.

Mine didn’t get too dark in color– maybe because it was cow’s milk, or a couple of days old? The flavor was exactly right, and I don’t get hung up on looks.

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It’s Raining Men

November 29th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.

The first year we were here, early in winter, I lost my phone. We’d just returned home for the evening that night and I, certain that I’d dropped it on the mile-long trail between camp and the Jeep, took My Native’s phone and a headlight, and traced and retraced my steps while calling and re-calling the phone with an ear to the wind.

I gave it up for lost, bought a new phone, and forgot about it. Then, that spring, while the snow was melting, My Native went outside to empty the ash bucket from the woodstove, where he noticed the unmistakable glint of an iphone screen. I had lost it while squatting to relieve my bladder, where it had fallen from the back pocket of my jeans.

It had — incredibly — worked when we plugged it in. It was a little warped, and the battery didn’t hold up so well, but after a winter covered in snow, urine, and ash, it worked. There are some powerful product testaments, but I don’t know that Apple Computer is ready for “I pissed on my phone all winter and it still worked!”

It should suffice to say that I’ve been assiduous about checking my pockets from there on, and between squatting in the woods and general city dwelling, am generally rigorous about phone and wallet.

Until a few days ago, when I discovered my wallet missing. I’d recalled using it that day and hadn’t left the house other than to walk the trail down the hill to visit a neighbor, so I once again assumed it was lost on the trail, which is now pervaded by leaves and a dusting of snow. The wallet, of course, is a perfect camouflage against the ground, and the snow has been falling, not much, but enough every day, so after a few treks, I’d considered it a lost cause.

Then I looked down when squatting for a pee this afternoon.

Fortunately, if my olfactories are to be trusted, it has been out of the direct stream. Meanwhile, it’s time to wear jeans with zippable pockets. It could be worse, I suppose. It could have landed in the outhouse.

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Double Vegetation

November 16th, 2012 § 1 Comment. Add one.

Last year at this time, when we were just getting used to the idea of having a Squirrel of our own, I was cleaning up the garden and saw a little kale that I hadn’t remembered planting, just starting to take off. I decided to leave it there, or more accurately, I forgot all about it, instead adopting the pregnancy diet of milkshakes and girlscout cookies, neither of which was a successful crop last year.

This spring, with Squirrel approximately eighty months in utero, the rampant kale returned just long enough to sprout millions (give or take) of little seed pods. I left this, too, to see what would happen. Or, again, in the name of accuracy, I neglected it to go eat cookies and milk and eagerly anticipate the eighty-first month.

And guess what’s there now? Thousands (give or take a few) of perfect and delicate little wild kale plants, looking gestationally ready-to-eat. Which makes me wonder why I don’t try harder to be negligent.

I remember watching these Ruth Stout videos and thinking she had the right approach. Now, looking at this kale, I think I might have to garden naked and care-free for the rest of my days. I will never, though, not ever, smash a saloon.

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There Was No Potato Famine

September 28th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.

Despite the fact that this year’s garden looked like its boyfriend just broke up with it and it got a bad haircut the day after it failed the chemistry midterm, and despite the fact that it suffered further abuse at the hands of the chainsaw for the sake of our firewood, and despite even the fact that all my actions these days are either performed one-handed or with a 12-pound squirrel attached to my chest, there was still a modicum of a harvest.

Putting the word “hands” so close to “chainsaw” feels like tempting the gods, somehow. Please, users of chainsaws the world over, mind your bodyparts.

As for the blackberries and ferns that have taken over the rest of it, it’s the blowtorch for you. Good thing you’re not literate; there’s no one to warn you. Suckers.

You’d think that as someone concerned with the visual internetted proximity of the linguistic symbols representing human appendages and tools capable of cutting them off, I’d be less-than-willing to entertain the idea of blowtorching-while-babywearing. Internet Child Protective Services Agents, take note. It’s a metaphor! I think. We’ll just use gasoline and a match. She doesn’t have much hair yet, anyway.

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How much did you kill? An Exchange.

August 15th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.


I guess this takes care of my garden neglect guilt.

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Daddy, why are there worms biting my feet?

August 6th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.


Imagine you’re eleventy months pregnant when planting the year’s garden. If you can’t imagine yourself at such an unimaginable gestational length of time, I’ll disclose that gardening in such a condition entails rolling between rows on your own girth, or a general butt-scooting amid the feeling that one’s entire viscera are about to bow down to gravity. The resulting plot of fecundity is admittedly just a tad disjointed, with a few random sprigs of dill in your potato patch and a singular as-yet-unidentified member of the squash family claiming squatter’s rights in your spinach. If nothing else, the place isn’t lacking in character.

Then imagine that it’s a couple of months later, and after having successfully survived both the state of being eleventy months pregnant and the inevitable harvesting and immediate aftermath of your own overripe fruit, you suddenly remember your big neglected project. I was half-expecting to walk into some neat secret-garden-world. Instead, with tomatoes vining on the ground and peas drying on the vines, the place looks like a decoy crop for an amateur marijuana farmer long taken over by cinematic woodland trolls from the nineteen eighties.

But the place has not devolved into total disrepair. We recently welcomed our first out-of-town guests with the de-luxe accommodations of a tent platform almost as big as our cabin and probably, at this point, on more level ground:

Should you have the desire to visit, now’s the time, so long as you don’t mind performing a little requisite garden restoration and baby-cooing. A visit here is sure to include a head full of staples (me) and marveling of the local wildlife (our seven-year-old friend, whose curious mind, pre leech-plucking, inspired the title of today’s post).  It’s the cheapest holiday you’ll take, with free flesh-stapling and bloodletting to boot!

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Project Status Update

July 4th, 2012 § 2 Comments. Add one.

It’s been a while.  We’ve been a little busy…

Project Cabin is not far from finished, but we had quickly outgrown the “bed” in the Cramper, a bed which earns its quotational glyphs by being, fundamentally, a thirty-year-old piece of foam. Like just about everything in the Cramper, it was designed to be towed to the State Park and used a couple of weekends a year, not continually abused for three years. Especially when the abuse had grown proportionally with the weight of one occupant during the last eight months of those years. And so, the cabin may be unfinished, but the upstairs was in good enough shape, and we were sleep-deprived enough, to break it in by dragging a mattress and bedding to the upstairs floor.

In anticipation of our first night in this, the place we’d built ourselves, we also brought the grill and some freshly picked fiddleheads with the intent of a nice romantic rustic dinner to go with our dormroom-bedding arrangement. Of course, we didn’t learn until later, when we were up all night taking turns running outside to expel noxious bodily waste in whatever way we could, that fiddleheads are not meant to be grilled, but boiled or steamed to release their toxins. And so was the first night in our new place.

It’s a couple of months since, and we’ve recovered well. We’ve also completed the relocation, including a modest kitchen allowing us to prepare foods in ways to minimize the chances of poisoning ourselves.

The other big project we’ve been working on has also seen progress. Introducing Our Squirrel.

She fits in perfectly here even with these abnormally long toes, and as far as we can tell, is a perfectly functional small human creature, in spite of the fact that I incurred the following mishaps during her long gestation (list is abridged):

– slipped on a sheet of ice and fell hard the day after receiving a Big Scary Needle Test (a test that comes with a sheet of paper instructing those to whom it is administered to “take it easy” for the few days after)
– slid 50 feet down the mountain, also icy, when the snowshoes didn’t cinch, stopping hard and fast with a snowshoed foot to a tree.
landed a snowmobile – hard – into a ditch
– tripped and fell backwards on top of a tile saw while trying to help haul the oven into the cabin, followed by the oven, which landed on top of me
– nearly poisoned myself by eating undercooked foraged food.

Poison Control’s number is now in my phone. I’m not sure how much that will help.

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