Monday, January 16, 2017

Healed

Barnhart and son Alan got it worked out. I didn't understand a word they said. They got here late morning and got out before the snow set in hard. After they leave I send the accumulated paragraphs, and Barnhart fixed my AOL toolbar, so I can work the way I have for years. Sort through e-mails, delete everything. They brought food too, so I eat ham salad (a favorite) and cheese on crackers for the rest of the day, and a lot of olives. Took a break and went outside to sweep the back porch, three inches and falling still for eight more hours. Thank god they brought me whiskey. The mice are getting bold now, and I set all the traps. I hate to kill them, but they're a mess and certainly not sanitary. Temps drop all day, then dip even more as night falls. All sound is muffled. I stay up reading so I can stoke the stove one last time, then curl up in my mummy bag and sleep a few hours, warm and fetal. Ten degrees just before dawn and I'm in full survival mode, which means doing nothing but staying wrapped up, every few hours put another log on the fire. Cold enough inside that it's difficult to roll a decent smoke, but I can't see my breath and that's a good sign. I built this place for 25 thousand dollars, all the money I had, and I actually needed another 10, to finish and weatherize everything properly. Result being that I can be comfortable down to twenty degrees, slightly uncomfortable below that, and zero is a pain in the ass. Design temperature is an important factor when you build a house. It doesn't matter quite so much if you have central heat, you just pay more in winter and listen to the furnace all the time. Building houses off the grid has always been interesting to me, so many cards to shuffle, the logistics involved. Rural life is different. It's not the same set of configurations. I hear it snowing, I crawl in my sleeping bag and take a nap. Exhausted, and I haven't even done anything, I'd like to hibernate. I do, actually, for six hours and miss my wake-up call, which is based on drinking a glass of water before I go to sleep. The house is cold, but my feet are warm, but eventually I get up, put on my bathrobe over my clothes, get my great Montana house slippers, and make a cup of coffee. Build another fossil-fuel fire, spreading my footprint, and settle into reading mode until the house can heat up a bit. Then I need to eat, so I think about that, settling on hash and eggs, then realize I need to water-proof my work boots so I can get out to the woodshed. Listening to Science Friday on the radio I laughed out loud, when some guest said that Tweets were now the chicken entrails of the past. Ironic or sarcastic but it was a genuine laugh, and since I hadn't made a sound in many hours I found it interesting. Snowed-in and completely isolated. When I go out for an armload of wood I'm extremely careful. Still, I'm not sure I can do this anymore. I wouldn't mind having a bathroom with hot running water, instead of an outhouse and a kettle on the wood stove. And I've already proved I can split wood. A small house on the outskirts of a small town in the panhandle of Florida, with a propane furnace and a flush toilet would be very nice. Going outside with a headlamp and a walking stick when it's five degrees doesn't seem right. The hand you draw. I need to start carrying in frozen wood tomorrow, to get it thawed and dry, but otherwise I just settle in my nest with a mug of tea. Like Badger, I intend to eat, then nap through the day. I spend a fair amount of time reading about off-beat building techniques, it's an interesting subject. Bamboo, mud, cow-dung, tusks, bent sticks, ice-blocks, dirt, various skins, the list goes on and on because habitation is necessary. For the true hermit, a hole in the ground or a cave is fine. In Utah I found a couple places in old ruins that looked quite comfortable, a place to sleep, a place to cook, a place to shit; a night-time fire to keep the predators at bay, a bear skin to sleep under and you were good to go. I've spent a few nights in these places and it's not that bad, as long as you don't have to get up and go to a job. Melt some ice, make a cup of tea, eat a military surplus meal, and get on with the day. Gather enough wood for the next night. Keep them fucking wolves away. Bloody cold outside, near zero and six inches of new snow. I sit back with another mug of tea and design a snug little cabin in my mind, something 16 by 20 feet with just a couple of windows and a door built like a bank vault. I do the math on the footage necessary for bookcases. I'm well over 200 linear feet here, but I could do that, in a cabin, if I isolated a sleeping nook with bookcases. It's so cold the mice are going crazy, snapping traps is the story of my life. The crows, I think, will be happy. Toasted cheese and tomato soup, a dram of single-malt, later, I can hardly roll a smoke, my fingers aren't working properly, and I look forward to just climbing under several blankets. It's supposed to be a bit warmer tomorrow. Crash early and sleep long, very cold temps are exhausting. At zero degrees you can burn a great deal of firewood. Just caught the fire about four, stoked, had a smoke and a wee dram until I could damp the stove, wrapped back up and went over to sleep on the sofa. After some time I do a body check: feet are warm, legs are warm, butt is fine, torso is warm, and finally drift off. The progress of the world, let's call it that, is not based on Mad Tom's examination of his body, but rather on hot running water and a thermostat. You can shave, you can bathe. My main interest is whether or not my toes are frost-bitten. My schedule is skewed. I was rereading Guy Davenport's essay about Olson's The Kingfishers, pretty much in a trance. I made a mushroom hash that was quite good, with an egg on toast, a brown butter sauce. The sink drain is frozen, so I can't wash the dishes, but the temps are rising, and I think I can solve that problem with some hot pasta water tomorrow. I use cheap bulk paper plates (they're quite sterile) for chopping and eating when it gets cold, because I can burn them, and I don't generate much trash. Anything organic is eaten, anything that will burn is burned, still, I produce trash, and it bothers me. Glossy paper, auto auctions and the like, are so full of filler (clay) that they don't burn, and I hate burning plastic, so there's a certain amount of trash. Everest is strewn with debris, there's a collection of crap in the Pacific larger than Connecticut. Plastic bottles and tennis balls. This whole consumer economy is a dead end. I have a large supply of relishes and chutneys, right now, so I cook a pot of rice, and fry some salt-pork. I might get to town, do some laundry, go to the library. But this time of year I can't depend on getting anywhere. I don't have to get out, I have plenty of rice and beans, and a great deal of canned fish products, salmon, tuna, sardines, shrimp, eel, anchovies, all of which I enjoy on rice with various sauces. The onions have sprouted, but I have plenty of dried flakes, on to dried or canned potatoes. I still have a few winter squash, from the last raid on Tim Horton's fall display. Acorn squash that I'll stuff with sausage and cornbread, dessert squash, stuffed with raspberries. I had forgotten how good roasted acorn squash was with raspberries. Like applesauce and polenta. The wind is a full gale, it'd better go. A brief window before days of rain, so I make a quick trip to town. The driveway is a bit slick, going down, and I know it'll be dicey getting back up. Groceries, drinking water, whiskey and tobacco, a quick beer at the pub. The rain starts before I get home, stop at the mailbox and get a bag of mail and New Yorkers, a couple of books, then turn in the driveway and stop, put it in four-wheel low. A little slippage near the top, but I make it back home and breathe a sigh of relief. Re-provisioned. I puts oats on to cook, in the baby crock pot, because I want oats and fruit tomorrow. Power went out at 1:30 AM and I went into headlamp mode and read a Thomas Perry novel. I light a candle over on the stone kitchen counter, so I can see my way around. The wind is howling, shaking the house, it's dramatic. Hard blowing rain, branches flying, the trees shrieking. Too warm for a fire, so I eat a can of cold beans. Cold beans and crackers, to which I have a long affinity based on fishing with Dad, in a boat or on a jetty somewhere, often in lousy weather, because we'd heard the mullet were running, or the perch were bedding, or the bass were spawning. This all comes back to me, years later, fishing for native trout, high in the western Rockies. I carried a milk-crate, with food and supplies, in the back of the truck, a baby-food jar of pork fat, some rice, and a few cans of beans. I usually have a lemon, because there is no better dressing for a cut-throat trout at breakfast, and lemons keep very well, mid-summer in Utah. The wind dies down, the rain slackens, at 4:30 the power comes back on. I remember thinking I was on the main track here, not the false assumption that anything actually made sense. But that I was well and truly engaged in the moment, whatever it was. I know a lot about forks, but I try to not let it show, everyone hates a smart ass. Later I was considering the relative valence of conjunctions and commas. Every drop of rain is completely random. A percussive event. Don't get me started. The noise was extreme. I could hear hard waves of rain coming through the leaf-litter before they slammed into the house, the violence was startling. I was reading about a set of bronze doors in Florence. They weighed ten tons and I wanted to know how they had installed them. You have to carry that load, and it has to rotate. There has to be a lubricated joint in there somewhere. Probably not a gasket, because you'd have to lift a five ton door to replace it. Now you'd probably do this with a very hard ceramic material, lubricated with space-age bacon fat. I was interested in the way that very heavy stone caskets were slid into place. Small marbles, arrow shafts, and bacon. This got me thinking about tolerances. Thinking about tension and compression, the outward expansion of materials under load. The snap of a mouse trap brings me back into focus, food for crows dear Percy. Another morning of mist and clouds. I can't see across the hollow, steady drip of rain. A mug of coffee, and a bowl of gruel (cornmeal, oats, sliced bananas) staring out at a very bleak landscape. Before I can start a pot of beans I have to wash some dishes, deal with compost and ashes; then make cracklings, caramelize onions and peppers, take my usual reading breaks, and carry in some wood. That would be my day. I can't imagine I'd get all that done, but it's good to have a plan. Above freezing, so the house is easy to heat and I putter around, in bathrobe and slippers. Making cracklings always puts a smile on my face, remembering Mississippi. We'd kill a hog at Roy's, butcher it, salt down belly fat, and bury the hams and bacon in the first stage of cure. Then we'd make lard, rendering skin and scraps, dipping out the cracklings with a slotted spoon. Anyone who dropped by would stay, to eat cracklings and drink home-brew. No TV, no attention to outside news, just telling stories, comfortable around a pit fire. Once or twice a year Roy and I would kill a large hog just to make sausage (we had a back-list of orders) and we'd skin that hog, so there'd be a surplus of cracklings. Roy had a permit to set up his grill on Saturday, down town Duck Hill, and he'd cook to order for people and also sell ribs and chicken, and great sandwiches with his special sauce. Crackling sandwiches were in much demand. These were served as a fold-over in soft white bread. Folded-over white bread was the tortilla of the deep south. I've had turnip greens and fried salt-pork with mayo, crawdads with cocktail sauce, and many kinds of beans served that way. Roy's big seller was a ham steak sandwich, between two pieces of bread, overhanging on all sides and dripping with sauce. Bone-in, because everyone wanted that little morsel of marrow. I started helping on Saturdays, after an article came out about him in the Memphis newspaper, and we became fast friends. We shared an interest in fried fish and hush puppies; he raised world-class coon-hounds. Red-Bones and Blue-Ticks, beautiful dogs, with great deep voices. We had some wonderful times, sitting on my front porch, drinking shine, listening to his dogs run the bottoms. When the rain finally stopped, I got outside, but it was so dreary, I went back inside and read about Brunelleschi's dome, not the dome itself, which is a marvel, but transporting the materials, then hoisting them into place. The dome itself is estimated to weigh 37,000 tons, which is a lot of outward thrust, and difficult to deal with without buttresses. The problem is always the same, to carry the load down to a firm footing. There's dead load, the weight of the materials, and there's live load, three feet of heavy late winter snow, and everything needs to be factored. Decades of working with engineers and building inspectors and the occasional architect taught me to just over-build everything, I liked seeing the structural members. I've always used natural sticks, tree trunks, wherever I could, in construction. They're beautiful, and it's always interesting working with components that aren't straight. It's a look I prefer, and I wanted to build this house without any right angles, which I could do, but I was limited by time and money. It's faster and easier to frame a place conventionally, and I needed a place to live. Read more...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Garbage

Let time pass without strain. The rush of wind through stick trees. I lack the words for that sense of being well and truly in the moment. It's probably an illusion, after all, or at least elusive. Beautiful deep blue day so I take a little walk before things can change, dropping temps and snow this afternoon, then much colder. Barnhart called and the modem was in but it was too late to come out, he'll try tomorrow morning, if there isn't too much snow, and I asked him to bring a bottle of whiskey, so I wouldn't have to go to town for a few days. I do have to get to town, to do what I think of as the winter laundry, all the socks, underwear, and both changes of long underwear. Joel was giving me some grief about being an idiot, which is certainly true. I am slow when it comes to the ways of the world, on the other hand I eat more pate than anyone I know. I can date this passion pretty precisely, I was in Utah, finishing a house, living bare-bones, but once a week I'd go into Moab and eat at a nice place that served mushroom pate as an appetizer. I met the chef, got in the kitchen and watched. Simple. Mushrooms, shallots, butter and a shot of brandy. Gotta go Barnhart is here. Read more...

Day Two

More mist, thicker overcast, but warmer, so I heat some water and take a sponge bath. It starts to rain and I'm struck with the amount of moisture there is just hanging around. I had some ground pork in the freezer. I buy it in pound packages, on sale, in the varietal meat frozen-food case, so I can make chorizo mid-winter. I like to fry this, broken apart, with a diced potato, then scramble in a couple of eggs, a small can of chilies. It's always at least a meal for two and the leftovers are a good breakfast rolled in a tortilla. The mist hangs around all day, there's no place for the moisture to go. Several cups of tea while I finish with a couple of books, then put away a few because the piles were getting dangerous. Little Dell is very quiet, about on a par with a Servel gas refrigerator, like a sleeping dog breathing. It's so quiet, that I sense a car on the driveway, before I actually hear it, a vibration. Oh fuck, I say out loud, first thing I've uttered in days, and it's a former cast member from a play I directed, with a friend. They bear a bottle of decent single-malt and I knew my day had slipped away. The day, at any rate, that I had nominally planned. There were some essays I wanted to read, and before I put on clean socks I wanted to trim my toenails; it doesn't sound like much, but it was a plan. The friend was interested in building and he was impressed with my knowledge of loading, we talked about deflection and dead weight. He was surprised to find me here, knowing what I did, collecting oak galls. I made them crab meat omelets, with toast and marmalade. Then made them coffee. They finally left so they could get down the driveway in the light. It takes me an hour to still my thoughts. When I go to town, I have the drive home to settle down; when I'm on the ridge, the interruption, especially unannounced, seems so total, that it takes me a while to remember what I was thinking about. Sometimes I never do find the thread. I don't write at the pub, or anywhere, other than a few extremely cryptic notes that later make no sense, because I can only build paragraphs looking at them, for long periods of time, without interruption. Even when I cook, when I'm by myself, it's the same monolog going on. My pork fat and your chicken fat going to set the world on fire. Doctor John. I may have confused the lyrics. After dark, it's rain in waves, this could have been several feet of snow, and it is supposed to change over, but not until tomorrow night, which might provide Barnhart with a window to get out with the modem. I read a Tony Hillerman novel, because I know the country he talks about, and he's one of the only writers that seriously talks about water use and that strange sense of Navaho time. The wind is a small roaring, not yet a train in Kentucky, but a noticeable sound. That clicking is just the stove cooling off. Don't pay it any mind. Read more...

First Light

Just a slight breeze, but enough to set the last leaves chattering. Some left-over cornbread with maple syrup. Haul water, split wood. D calls and a deer had smashed through the patio glass and out through Gwen's window. A mess, as you might expect. Read more...

Dead Modem

Blackout, then a power surge. This is the sixth modem in recent memory. I don't know what to do, so I settle in my nest and read for a couple of days. It was a holiday, as usual, and a long weekend before I could make any calls. I tried everything, but I know nothing about computers. The old modems (I had several) couldn't talk to Little Dell. The secondary problem was that my AOL toolbar was covered by a display error notice, so I couldn't write. Failure abides. Finally realized that I still should be able to access my writing program, within AOL, though I couldn't send anything, because I was not connected. And I was able to, after a few false starts. Several pages of notes, but I do love working in real time. Snow in the forecast and I hope to get out before then, try and arrange TR or Barnhart to get me a modem off E-Bay. No computer store sells them anymore. I need a few things at Kroger. I rely on canned, sliced, white potatoes for winter hash-browns. When I grew them, I always had a root-cellar, now, it's easier and cheaper to buy them in the can. I made a version of the cornbread dressing for the holiday, with the tail-end of pate on toast, listened to some Bach. My sister called, my older daughter called. I was talked out, so I unplugged the phone. I'm so disconnected it's appalling, I had a couple of oak galls I wanted to dissect. You have no idea how many small wasps infect the universe. Supposed to have a warmer break in the weather, so I can make up for the trip to town I missed following the death of my modem. I knew it was going to be a pain in the ass. Like most mammals, I seek to curl-up in a corner when things don't go to suit me. Rain, too warm to snow, and it's a lovely sound in the dark. Buck deer season opened, the main season, and the woods will be alive with hunters, so I wear blaze orange even on my short walks, and make a lot of noise. Read more...

The Bridge

The new bridge was open. There must have been a penalty clause because they've still working on the approaches, but they are letting traffic through. The Jeep started fine, and the tire pressures were all good. The Buckeye Diary Bar was still open, it closes for a few months in winter, so I stopped for a milk-shake and a footer. No one playing putt-putt on the Buckeye Course and the fountain is turned off, but it's lovely, the mist rising off the river. It's raining again. An off-beat rhythm. No luck on the modem front. Back-up items, mostly, shopping yesterday. I spent some time re-organizing the pantry shelves and making a list of things I had over-looked: and extra tube of toothpaste, a battery for the headlamp, another pair of work gloves. A foodstuff list too, which can be forever tweaked. I need another back-up black pepper, because I'm soon to break into the back-up; more of the anchovies rolled around capers, another wheel of cheese that could last a few months. I need some jerky and dried fruit, but I'm good to go. Beans, rice, a few things I know to gather. I cultivate a few herbs, grow some sprouts, drink cranberry juice against scurvy. I don't know what the impetuous is to live on the edge, a certain satisfaction, maybe, my smoked mullet is better than your smoked mullet, but I do love waking to an actual day. The new bridge is not bad, given the parameters, it can carry the load of a logging truck and still appear polite. They've saved most of the slightly dressed stone from the old abutments, and several edge pieces intact (which must have been moved by the crane that set the girders) and I suspect they are to become a stone wall somewhere that money is not an object. The bridge cost 2.1 million dollars, and I argue that I could have built it for half of that, or even less, with two phones and a decent crew. Read more...

Off Kilter

A page out of the play book. I felt awful, nose dripping into my stomach and retching, so I fetched a pot and retired to my nest. Put on the kettle and made tea, heated some chicken broth. It's difficult to settle things completely but by mid-afternoon I'm onto a lime grog, thinking I might be able to eat a bowl of plain rice. Reread Isak Dinesen's Babette's Feast, a wonderfully told tale, then some other food writing, that famous meal in Joyce's The Dead. Sorting foodstuffs I came across a can of crab meat past its date, so I made a very nice crab omelet with a butter sauce, toasted cornbread with marmalade. I hadn't eaten in a while and it tasted wonderful. I'd made a small crock pot of grits overnight (god bless John Thorne) and formed polenta into a tube, the basis for several meals. Anything is good on fried polenta. Mid-winter, even Kroger brand salsa is pretty good. Hormel, to their credit, still sells pickled pig's feet in odd-sized glass jars. You must be alone to eat these, there must be a stream nearby, someplace you can wash your hands and face. Mom and Dad took over running the fish-camp we frequented (when Dad could get a tour of duty in Jacksonville Florida) for a week every summer, so that the owners could go fish someplace else. Fish-camps are squalid and wonderful places, usually a shack on pilings and a crude boat-launch, a deck, with a fish-cleaning table at the end, out over the water. There were alligators and huge moccasins, otters and manatees. The shack would be crowded with supplies: fishing line, bait, Vienna sausages, crackers, and there was a counter, with a couple of stools. At one end of the counter was a gallon jar of pickled eggs, at the other end was a gallon jar of pickled pig's feet. I'd often take one of the feet out to the end of the dock and gnaw it down to bare bone. From a pound of foot I might get an ounce of meat, but the huge and ancient gar would come to eat the knuckles.


Skip Fox's new book was in the mail. He's one of the two or three finest writers I've ever known. His language is always exciting, and his frame of reference is vast. I take a deep breath and read slowly, each page three or four times. The best writing, which this book is, require close reading. My attention extended all night, the first night with it, now I just keep it within an arm's reach, and reread a few pages a day. Almost out of animal fat, so I made cracklings, which I hope to use with a pot of beans tomorrow, and caramelized a skillet of onions that I just left on the stove. Put the beans on to soak, and it's in the bag, Mix this together, cook it a few hours, make a pot of rice, and read fucking Proust again, if that's what you want to do. I like taking a bowl of this, a turned walnut burl of a bowl, that is incredibly beautiful, and eat it with a handmade spoon that twists logic. Dead and gone to heaven. What could possibly be an alternative? I don't care if the Patriots make it to the Super Bowl.


Also, I might add, he flinched, which I think is a full point.
Read more...

A Break

Walked out to where I saw three deer this morning, to see what they'd been grazing. Ferns and other green stuff buried in leaves. The leaves are so deep, there's quite an array of plants, I use a salad fork (a great tool) to clear a square yard and study the plants. Several of them are quite sweet. Made a small batch of red onion jam served on fried polenta. I spoil myself, throwing care to the wind, and read another O'Brian. Chill morning but the house is warm enough, so I let the fire go out to clean ashes, then start another. Split a little kindling and stack it on the warming rack above the stove. Vow to vacuum some cobwebs tomorrow morning, when the slanted light makes them visible. Fog rising out of the hollow that wisps away into the air. Heat death right there in front of you. All the water there ever was. I ate the last of the polenta with Spanish sardines and salsa. I don't have to go out and long-line for cod, shingle a roof mid-winter, or work in an office. If I just eat rice and beans, and don't go off the ridge, I don't have to answer to anyone. The inevitable first winter storm is forecast for Thursday so I make a final list, I have three days to get to town, and I'm sure I can do that, it's only a couple hours out of my 168. A week is a week. This is when the driveway starts getting bad, ice, with frozen leaves, and snow on top. Rain now, a run to the woodshed, take in a reef. A well-run ship barely a word needs exchanged. I'm good at coiling ropes, tying knots, I cook a mean fish stew. Read more...

Laid-By

Gray day but no rain early so I make the trip to town. Stopped at the pub for a fortifying pint, then took my list to Kroger. Picked up another smoked jowl and a few more canned goods, a large jar of salsa, too many grape tomatoes and another jar of great blue-cheese dressing, which, together, I eat at almost every meal, with a spoon, a back-up box of dried salted cod. Rain has started again, I fill my rain-water pot, from the buckets on the deck, because I need to wash some dishes, then retire to my nest and read. The Nature Conservancy calls and they want to come up and park, so they can walk the State Forest clear-cuts, looking for invasive plants. I'm not paranoid and I'm currently not breaking many laws, but why is the NC doing field-work for the state forest? I know they want a corridor opened between two state forests: the Black Bear, extending its range. I was thinking about this and dealing with some punctuation that wasn't quite right when a white pick-up hove into view, Chet, from the NC, looking to see where to park. He comes inside for a cup of coffee, so that I can explain driveway protocol, and he's completely flabbergasted by all the books. He has a master's degree in forestry and we talked a bit about trees. He agrees with B that Mackletree Road is probably named for the Sycamore, which was commonly called the Mackletree just a generation ago. We actually had a conversation about oak-galls. He asked me why I read so much, and I explained that there was a public library between our house and the public swimming pool when I was a kid, I think in Norfork, Virginia. Later, I think it is interesting, why I turned to books. First, because it is my universe, private and inviolate. A place to go, when things became confusing. Second, to focus on a specific thing, a particular play of light, what a pause might mean, that specific hole in a leaf. Read more...

Good News

I called B, to tell him that the Nature people would be in his backyard. He was as perplexed as me that they wanted to park at my place (which makes no sense). The good news was that he now had high-speed Internet at his house for $75 a month, and it worked wonderfully well and fast. I'm currently paying more than that for a system that doesn't function. I'll need to modify the way I work, but I can learn new tricks. Chet asked me how I had come to books and I gave a flip reply, but later I was thinking about that. Mom and Dad had both graduated high school, and there was a book case at the end of the hall, two shelves, three feet tall and four feet wide. My precious encyclopedia (American Heritage, as I remember) on the bottom shelf, a scattering of Reader's Digest, and a couple of other books. One of them was a non-fiction account of 84 or 42 days on a life-raft in the Pacific. I read that one about fifty times. Achieving a natural voice is a difficult thing. Simply telling stories. Dad was stationed in Norfork, Virginia, and there was a public pool in walking distance of our house and a public library between. The librarian told me to bring my Mom and an electric bill and she'd give me a card and explain the rules. After that I got my ten books a week on Saturday, when Sis and I went to the pool, got them on the way home (and stop for a coke at the bookie-joint soda fountain) and then, as now, I'd just read. I played baseball until high school, I debated, I was in school plays, gregarious and well-adjusted, but all the rest of the time I was reading. High school, I had some good teachers, one of them gave me my first collected Shakespeare and another gave me Whitman. I was coddled by English teachers and librarians because I read, then I ran into some serious readers, and I read more. Now, I pretty much read all the time, the actual world is so dreary. Read more...

Invasive Species

Tumbleweed, Cheat-Grass, Foxtail, a litany. Not to mention rabbits or pigs, that snake in Guam. The global economy spreads disease (that might not be the correct word) like rats in the stowage. Got all the wash water inside (below twenty tonight) and winterized a few places that won't be open again until March, insulated and covered the AC unit. Weather-stripping is a great thing. Vacuumed some corners and spider-webs. Made a pot of pea soup which won't be very good until tomorrow. Still, I had some, with a toasted cheese sandwich, and it was immensely satisfying. There's a lot to be said for warm soup. I added a layer of clothes today, but still no long underwear. Wearing my JC sweater, and feeling almost pampered, the house, even with falling temps, is actually warmer. If I knew what a jig was, I'd dance one. What floats. It's a great relief, having my water stowed away, a pot of food for tomorrow. That way I can get up and finish this biography of T. H. White that JC sent, I've read so many British authors and biographies, that I've started to think with an accent. I heard it start to snow, just before daylight. A very subtle sound, something about snow falling on the leaves on the deck is actually audible, Barely audible. I rolled up in my mummy-bag and went back to sleep. Flurries all day, so beautiful. I finished the biography, then the Dante book, spent a few hours reading myself closely. Change a few things, argue some punctuation. Just before dark I go out for an armload of wood, cold, blowing snow. Stack the wood, 2 by 2, near the stove. Jerome called, from Oregon, wondering if I was alive. I tend to get these calls when my modem crashes and I'm more or less completely isolated. Who would know if I were alive or not? A wink and a nod, I don't even know. I assume I'm alive because I feel the cold, surely the afterlife would have a thermostat. I've been caught, a number of places, by weather usually, tornadoes and hurricanes, a sudden cold; dance around the fire, sleep with the sheep. Read more...

Leaf Forms

Spaced out, staring off into the middle-distance. Snowflakes drifting in a light breeze, and the occasional leaf falling. Some leaves fall straight down, some float, some drift to the side. I'm don't draw any conclusions from several hours of watching individual leaves fall except that there are issues of conformation and attitude of presentation. Most of the snow is gone, sublimated, with temps below freezing, but more coming after a few hours of sunlight. My time-scale is distorted. I always carry a rigid foam pad, in the small pack I carry outside, so that I can stop at any stump, keep my ass dry, and consider the size of snowflakes. Completely sidetracked, I put a pane of glass in the freezer (this morphs quickly to two panes of glass) so I can sit on the back porch and catch snowflakes. Blink of an eye. Still ephemeral, but there's a second or two to view the crystalline structure. The fractal patterns are infinite. A wonderful conversation with JC, there is actually a world out there. I lose track. A Tom Waits cover. I'd left the radio on and fell asleep, woke up confused about exactly where I was. Edgar Meyer playing Bach. I don't trust my footing so I pee in the chamber pot, wander around, make a cup of herbal tea. The silence is almost oppressive. The blues start knocking at my door. Breathe slow and deep. Just another country song, either your dog or your pick-up is broke down, The best dog I ever had was a castrated goat, Clyde, who raised my daughters and I must admit, I occasionally went to sleep with my head on his belly. Warm and soft. Read more...

Beal Street

Electric blues after midnight. I got up to stoke the stove and I was hungry. Turned on the radio, silky, hot blues from Memphis. Made a great cheese toast topped with a perfect egg, salsa, half an avocado, and electric guitar played very loud. It's snowing again, I can hear the flakes almost sizzle against the ground. All winter I keep three gallons of wash water on the stove. There's a stone side counter, where I set it when I'm cooking, but usually it's on the stove, I can dip out hot water as I need it. I'm so careful with water it's ridiculous, but it's not a carbon footprint thing, it's just that water is heavy. Right now I have about twenty gallons of wash water, three gallons of filtered drinking water, five liters of enhanced (B vitamins) water, and several half-gallons of juice, when there's snow, I melt a gallon of water a day. That's ten or twelve gallons of snow. It's a messy system, using a specific dust-pan for shoveling the snow, stamping off my boots, but the house needs the moisture, so I don't mind making a mess. Carrying in an armload of wood every day adds to the amount of crap. I keep after this, like an old cripple, sweeping up little piles of bark and feeding them to the stove. Reading about Dante, the eternal exile, already writing on paper, 1310, earlier than I had thought. Dipping a quill into ink (oak-gall and soot) and drawing squiggly lines. What signifies. The modern world is born in the High Middle Ages. Language is codified. I always forget how the first skiffs of snow reveal old logging roads and the contour of ground. An ephemeral smear on the landscape (depending on how you define ephemeral in terms of time) that provides access from here to there. All us animals use them because it's less of a hassle. Joel called, wondering if I was dead. I hadn't posted and he wondered what that was about, he (and several other people) thought I needed to go with the satellite option. I do miss not being connected. On my terms, I don't want to be interrupted. God knows I don't need TV, unmediated reality is more than I can stand. I barely have time to read a few hundred pages before I have to get up and eat. Then it's stoke the stove, dump the piss-pot, pretend you remembered someone's name. There's a place between Monticello and Moab, way off the beaten trail where I'd found a little spring. Read more...

Pay For View

Composting has become a source of entertainment. I don't need the compost because I only grow a couple of heirloom tomatoes and a few specimen plants, to keep the seeds viable, but recycling organic stuff is always a good idea. I've done this, religiously, for forty years, but here, on the ridge, it's just a game I play with the animals. I pile it up, and they spread it out. A couple of feral dogs tonight, playing king-of-the-hill with a bob-cat. At its best, radio evokes a visual, and this is true radio drama: snarling dogs, screaming cat. I don't turn on any lights, I don't intercede, I just listen. I don't feed hummingbirds anymore, they're so fucking violent, and I do, occasionally, disperse the entire playing field with a few marbles from my slingshot. Sometimes it's just too much bullshit. Everything was frozen this morning, the leaves, crunching with hoar frost. I'd walked down to the print shop, having a smoke on the porch, when the Nature guys pulled in. They joked about my outfit and I joked about theirs. I felt like I was in a Carhartt commercial. Fortunately the conversation turned to botanicals. These guys are good, they know their twigs. I tell them to get off the ridge if it starts snowing, or to stop over for a drink when they get done. They stop over. A lively conversation. We talked about any number of things; the price of smoked tea in China, the single-malts being produced in Japan. We agree about everything, in the tangible world, this is Sumac, this is Red Maple, you can't control the flow of water. In almost every other way I disagree with them. They all voted for Trump. I'm not shocked as much as dismayed. When they leave I retire with a wee dram of whiskey, to try and make sense, but none is forthcoming. Because the oven is hot, I make a small meatloaf, boil some new potatoes; lumpy smashed new potatoes, with butter and black pepper are a wonderful thing. A small meatloaf, glazed with enchilada sauce, can be a transport of joy. With a slice of raw onion, it makes perhaps the greatest sandwich ever discovered. Read more...