Monday, June 9, 2008

Wrong Place at the Wrong Time



“Weeeeeeeee!” I heard my own voice in my head as I coasted down the dirt road. It was fun. I felt 5 instead of 40 with the constant roar of the wind filling my ears and air washing over me. It was blissful until…
Brion (my neighbor) was driving out the driveway as I was coming in. There was just not enough room for both of us and his car was bigger than my bike.
Well, I didn’t want to collide into him, so I applied my breaks. Instead of colliding with him, I landed on my bike in a ditch and had an amazingly difficult time standing back up again. Light-headed, embarrassed, and in pain, I struggled to stand and then pushed my damaged bicycle up the hill to my house mumbling to myself, Ouch. That was bad. I am in pain. That was bad. Ow. How did that happen? That was bad. And I cursed a lot, but I shouldn’t curse in this blog, so I’ll simply assure you that I cursed a lot. I might get into trouble with the blog police, so I’ll simply assure you that I cursed a lot. I am fine. I told myself. It is “Step-up Day” at school so I have to go. Stand up and go… “Step-Up.”
“Step-Up Day” is a special day where all the kids go to the next grade to get to know their teacher and classroom in preparation for the next school year. I would have a new group of kids in my room, and so I had to meet them. I didn’t think it would be fair to them if there was a substitute there instead of me so I hobbled my way around the house, got ready and went to work- until lunch- when I called my step-father and got a ride to the hospital to double-check that nothing was broken.
A trip to the hospital and three X-rays later, I was told I had a HEMOTOMA. That sounds way more serious than what it really is… it is basically just a giant bruise which will hurt desperately for about a week until it breaks up and reabsorbs into my 40-year-old body. Nothing broken… amazing. But I have to take the next two days off from work and rest. I can’t wash dishes, cook food, or clean toilets or do anything remotely connected to moving my body. I must sit down, apply ice, and rest.
“I have to rest for a few days.” I told my husband.
“You are lucky.”
“I know. It could have been worse.”
“No, I mean you are lucky because you have license to sit around for the next few days.”
“That is your dream, isn’t it?’ I asked him.
“Well, yeah. But not the pain part.”
“Tell me about it.”
The right side of my body is sore because I think I landed mostly on that side. I feel like an idiot even though I know it was just an accident and I know it was nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Or was I?
I have given it some thought (Since I have all this time to sit around and rest) and I think I was actually in the right place at the right time.
What?
It could have been one of my kids that were hurt instead of me, any of the above listed horrible things could have happened to one of my boys.
Or, it could have been my husband.
But it wasn’t anyone else who crashed on their bike.
It happened to me.
And now it is me who has to sit and rest.
Sitting is hard. Resting is hard. I am not into “resting” because when I am sitting, I am usually sewing or reading or writing. I don’t like to sit and rest.
But that is exactly what my body needs. My body needs rest.
So I am going to go to sleep and write some more later.
No… I’m not. I’ll make a BLAG instead. (see picture)

Okay. Twenty-four hours later, I am perched on my couch and completely tired of day-time television. I have made some very clear distinctions about day-time television. Do you want to know what they are?
Okay, here goes: DURING THE DAY,
1. Sick people watch tv. (like me… people who are resting and are taking medication) and
2. Old (retired) people watch tv.
Here is how I figured this out. I watched the TODAY show. The hosts on the show told me what shoes to wear, movies to see and what to cook for dinner if I wanted to be like the rest of America. But then in between the hosts on the show telling me how to live my life, there were lots of commercials. Lots. Lots and lots and lots of commercials. There were more ads than actual show time, and ALL of the ads were for medication. There were ads for depression, bi-polar disorder, problems with your bladder, problems with your colon and so on. It was incredible. And after they showed the miracle cure (which always had a catchy name like “colon-prob-be-gone”) they would list the side-effects. Some creepy voice would talk really quickly.
“THIS MEDICATION MAY CAUSE SIDE-EFFECTS SUCH AS:
ITCHY SKIN
PARANOIA
VOICES IN YOUR HEAD
CONSTIPATION
RACING THOUGHTS
SEIZURE
SLEEPLESSNESS
SLEEPINESS
AND
OCCASIONALLY… DEATH”
Sometimes it is hard to tell the poison from the cure, you know?
So this is my conclusion: People who watch daytime tv would be better off if they turned it (the tv) off and listened to music on the radio or better yet, an ipod. Because by the end of the day, I heard about these horrible diseases so much I felt like I had depression, bi-polar disorder, and problems with my bladder and my colon because they told me about it so many times. I feel very badly for the people (sick and retired) who are sucked into daytime-tv-land. They are probably sick only because they have been told over and over and over and over that they are sick.
Which for me is a major motivator to heal.
I am actually looking forward to going back to work on Monday. I don’t think my body can take anymore rest. I might get sick.

Chicken Coop


Behind our house is a wooden slab. Before it was a wooden slab, it was the floor to a metal shed, and when we bought the house it (the metal shed) had a collapsed roof. I mentioned it is behind our house (which is the Northern side of our house), and in Vermont, people ignore the North sides of their homes –
Generally.
Our house (see picture) has many windows, but there are only two windows on the Northern side. As a result of having just two windows on that side, we have not thought about the (the lack of) activities going on in the back of our house. It took about two years before we took the shed apart to reveal the wooden slab. We got rid of the metal and set up a little spot to have a cup of coffee and sit with the kids to have a snack. When the weather was perfect and there were no mosquitoes (4 days in the past three years) that spot was perfect for us to sit, have a special moment, and enjoy the surrounding forest and quiet hillside. It is a great spot.
I have emerged this spring a new woman. I have decided to make myself develop a green thumb and focus my energy on the outside of our home. Things really want to grow, so I figure it just takes a little work and some determination to make our yard become a garden that should be on the cover of Yankee Magazine or Country Living. How hard can it be? When the kids were younger, I spent every waking moment following behind them and making sure they didn’t choke on rocks, eat something poisonous, or hurt themselves somehow, but that isn’t the case anymore. I don’t have to stare at them and act like a “baby bodyguard” anymore. I can actually take my eyes off of my two boys and pull weeds; perhaps now I can actually ask them to help me dig holes or plant seeds. Our yard is really coming alive (in more ways than just dandelions and grass) and it has been a fun journey. A fan of perennials, I want to grow plants that return every year after all the Vermont snow has gone away. My favorite decorative aspect of our yard so far is the antique metal baby crib that is filled with purple bee balm, climbing vines and daffodils. It is a “flower bed”… get it… “flower bed”… ha ha ha… Our front yard is lovely… even pleasant. I feel proud.
However, behind the house, that isn’t the case, and I won’t stand for that now that I feel like I have time to develop my green thumb. We cannot have just a wooden slab. I have a vision. I see chickens… I see eggs… I see chores for my two young sons. I see this simple little slab becoming an addition to our landscape. I see a chicken coop… made entirely out of materials that we have already in our possession.
Can’t you see it too?
No? I’ll take you on the journey so you can see it too.
I spent most of one day one day gathering scraps of wood and old windows from our shed and basement. We also had a rather large piece of linoleum that could be attached to the current wooden slab to act as a floor that could be easily cleaned. We happened to have four large posts to act as the corners of the building and the base for a frame and other pieces to act as walls. I laid the supplies in the area where they would eventually become part of a building as if it were a big puzzle and proceeded to get bit by mosquitoes.
“That’s okay.” I told myself. “Chickens eat mosquitoes.”
I continued.
I am visual. I can already picture the building before it has become a building. Can’t you?
No? My husband cannot either. He is a good sport and he goes along with things. He is supportive because it is just easier to jump on and go along for the ride than it is to talk me out of it.
“You are going to love how you can feed the chickens all the compost.”
“Yeah, I will.” He smiled.
“You are going to love all the fresh eggs.”
“Yes, I will.” Again, he smiled.
“You will love how we can build the chicken coop entirely out of materials that we have lying around here.”
“Yep. I hope we will.”
He has faith because he has known me a long time. He knows that I am (after all) Pennsylvania Dutch and know how to make something out of nothing. When other people look at a piece of old rain spot, they see a piece of old rain spout… I see a trough for chickens to drink from. When there is a door that is leaning up against someone’s house and they have offered it to me for free, I say “ABSOLUTELY!” because the door happens to have a glass pane on the side and chickens need light in order to lay eggs. Why throw things away if they can be repurposed? That hefty door can be part of a wall. I am the queen of finding other purposes for things. I once lived in a barn and stored my clothes in an oven (no, it wasn’t hooked up).
Actually, is that a topic for another blog?
But I digress. Back to our yard…
I went to a garden stand and bought some starter plants for our garden in the front yard. I chatted with the proprietor of the stand as our boys (she has twins) ran around and played “Monster.” We (the other mother and I) talked about plants and then of course the conversation led to chickens.
“I’ll be putting in a chick order in July. Do you want to join me?” She asked.
I hardly knew her, but I heard myself answer. “Yes.”
“Great. I usually order a lot. Like 30 chicks. How many do you want?”
“Uh- me? Uh- well, not 30. Um, I was thinking more like 8 chicks. Is that possible?”
“Yes.” I know of a great place to get them. Reliable.”
So, that’s it. It has been established we will be ordering “reliable” chicks in July.
Ordering chicks?
What is a chick order?
And what actually comes first… do they come as chicks or eggs? I would imagines that shipping eggs would be a lot easier than shipping live chicks, right? Does the UPS man show up in his little brown shorts and hand me a box that says FRAGILE and THIS END UP? Will the contents in the box peep or crack?
I am imagining a chicken order is when you get together with some other people and share the shipping cost, although I am not sure. I imagine we purchase baby chicks and they somehow (I can’t wait to find out) are shipped to Vermont from God only knows where. Perhaps I should find out a little bit more information before I agree to these things. Me and my big mouth.
And so now, I actually have to follow through with this plan to build a hen house while getting bit my mosquitoes.
We talked further.
“Tell me about your hen house.”
“Well, my first hen house was simple. It was cute. I went to the Bowl Mill and got wood from their free pile and put clapboards on the outside. Then I painted it. It looked nice.”
Bingo. Free wood. Free clapboards. It will look great. I can see it already. Can’t you?
We discussed other details about hen houses and using the chicken “poop” from the chicken coop to help our plants grow as I began to love this whole idea more and more.
“We can use the chicken poop for fertilizer.” I told my husband.
“Yes. I know.” He smiled again.
So, now I had to call the Bowl Mill to arrange for free clapboards. I know the family who owns the place so I figured I could arrange to pick through their reject pile. At The Bowl Mill, they make gorgeous wooden salad bowls ($150.00 a bowl) and expensive wooden clapboards ($3.00 a foot); they have been in operation for over 150 years, and are known the world over. The bowls are cut right out of chunks of maple logs and what remains is the perfect shape for a chicken to lay an egg. If I were a chicken, I would want to lay my egg in a Bowl Mill Bowl remnant.
My friend Kristi answered the phone. I told her what I needed and we decided to meet after 5:00 so I could get my free wood.
“Chickens?” She sounded upset.
“Uh-huh.” I said softly into the phone.
“My mother says chickens and children are the meanest creatures on the face of the planet. But then again, you deal with children all day, so you will be fine.”
“You don’t like chickens?’ I asked weakly.
“Well, I am a bigger fan of dogs, let’s put it that way.”
“But they don’t lay eggs.”
“And chickens don’t sit and give you their paw.”
I visited the Hancock Building Supply to talk to my friend Ryan, who works there. Now, it is important for you to understand that I have a reputation at the Building Supply. They know me there as the woman who comes in for advice on crazy projects. I have made treasure chests, matchbox car ramps, an upside-down woman costume, and so on. But I think their favorite one was when I chopped a bed frame in half just to get it upstairs and then bought the supplies necessary to put it together again once I got it in the guest room. Should I mention at this point that our staircase was too small for a king size bed?
But that is a topic for another blog isn’t it?
After that one (the bed sawing and fixing), I always see them nudging each other when I pull in the driveway of Building Supply.
I can just imagine what they are saying to each other as I am crossing the driveway: “Here she comes.” or “What do you think she is up to this time?” or “Let’s see if we can sell her another gallon of mis-tinted paint.”
But seriously, the guys at Hancock Building Supply are great. They give advice for free and will also make cuts in pieces of wood for me on their table saw, though it is very annoying for them and time consuming. But as I leave, they say to me, “Have a good afternoon.” Which in Vermont I think means, “Okay. I have had enough of you. Please leave now so I can get back to my happy place.” If we were better friends, Ryan would probably buy me a table saw for a gift so I didn’t have to make him do all my “cuts” for me.
On this particular day, when I arrived at Building Supply, I brought a picture of my dream chicken house. I found a dream chicken house floor plan on the internet. What a fabulous resource for chicken house plans and ideas the internet is. I could hardly wait to get started. The three men who work there, gathered around me like employees at a water cooler in an office in New York City trying to get in on what was going on, but after a moment, Ryan was the only one who remained.
“Do you have to make it that fancy?” Ryan asked. “It is just a chicken house.”
“Well, yes. I am pretty committed to making it like this.” I held up the picture again. (see http://www.thefarm.org/charities/i4at/surv/poultry.htm)
“Okay then. Well, what do you need?” He asked politely.
“Air vents.” I said. “And advice on where to start.”
We talked about prices and made sure they had lots of chicken wire.
“Should I take the chicken wire today?” I asked.
“No. It’ll be here.”
“But there is only one 50 foot roll left.” I said desperately.
“You are not at that point in your project. Trust me…” He said calmly. “It’ll be here.”
He is good at keeping me on track.
Let’s go back to the part where I told my husband that we would be making this coop out of supplies that we had lying around. Just so you know, I wasn’t LYING. My husband and I agreed to purchasing chicken wire.
We passed a pile of wood.
“How much for that piece of plywood?” I love plywood.
“Eight-fifty.” Ryan said.
“That’s a good price.” I heard myself say.
Uh-oh… I am leaving my intended path and moving rapidly into dangerous ground. I am at Hancock Building Supply and making plans for a chicken house with Ryan. Stop me. Stop me now.
I have a “tab” at Hancock Building Supply. They write me a slip and I leave- I AM ABLE TO PAY THE BILL LATER… (that is dangerous ground)… (very dangerous ground).
In his defense, Ryan tried to steer me away from the chicken coop plans I was carrying, “Why can’t you simply make a box with wire and attach it to a coupl’a 2 x 4’s and set it on a few cinder blocks? That would last about 30 years if you used pressure treated wood. You probably have some of that lying around.”
I stared at him flatly.
He got the point. He is getting to know me better every time I come in and knows not to try to talk me out of things when I am carrying a vision I found on the internet.
We started my new tab:
2 end caps to rain gutter (to make a water trough)
2 hooks to hook the rain gutter to the wall
Silicone to seal the rain gutter so it can hold water
A box of screws
A bag of concrete to put into the ground to hold the posts

Which brings me to the end of this particular blog.
What I have right now in my scenic garden paradise is a pile of scrap wood, some Bowl Mill scrap clapboards, a few old doors, a piece of rain gutter, the top to an old table, some excess chicken wire, four posts and a box containing 2 end caps to a rain gutter, 2 rain gutter hooks, silicone seal, a box of screws and no concrete! I have still not put the plants in the ground that I bought the other day, and I don’t know where to start.
I am pretty sure I have to start with the posts.
And I can’t start because I left Hancock Building Supply without my bag of concrete.
I was in such a hurry to go get my free clapboards from The Bowl Mill.
I’ll keep you posted on my progress, and the answer to one of my earlier questions: Which comes first, the chick or the eggs?
Right now, I still have NO IDEA because I haven’t made anything for them to live in yet! I still have a ton of work to do. Or should I say “we” have a ton of work to do because I am pretty sure my husband agreed to this. I’ll keep you posted on OUR progress and how much we add to our tab at Hancock Building Supply.