Friday, January 12, 2018

A SPECIAL KIND OF CRAZY

Life off Grid

Snow Clean-up – Even in the Cold- Even with the Work Load

Copyright 2018 by Lori-Ann Willey



“Is all that work you have to do to
stay in the woods worth it Laurie?”
-Philippe Page


Paul measuring snow
the depth
Though I could answer Philippe's question with a simple, “Absolutely”. Instead, I will attempt to answer with details and explanation for a better understanding of me as a person and my mindset.

Plain and simple, living life off the grid is a lot of work. I will be the first to admit that, just as I’ll be the first to jump in and get my hands dirty and my body grubby. Simply put, what must be done, must be done. When it comes to needs, there are no ifs, and, buts, or “maybe later” comments. When it comes to wants, then, yes, such words are allowed into my vocabulary, but not until.

I am a need before wants person. It was the way I was raised. Work comes before play was the way I was raised, too. If there is play time left over, that time is cherished and appreciated that much more …a reward for all the hard work of both the body and mind, if you will. It is such a refreshing feeling of, not only satisfaction or appreciation but of a job well done, too. I do not dread the work that comes with this lifestyle because there is a great sense of willingness to do what must be done when it must be done -my mindset- it is a powerful tool. A necessary tool.

Because Philippe asked his question after a few days of winter clean-up, I’ll focus on that topic specifically. Quite honestly, I do not see winter clean up, no matter how many hours over how many days, as a chore, as a dread, or anything of the like. I see each shovelful as a challenge in how to be more efficient. To me, snow clean-up is a form of art. Or, that is how I think of it anyway.

Though my photos may seem like just a pile of snow to others, to me, it is more than that. It is warmth due to "banking" the camp. The snow becomes a platform, too. Each shovel full builds a walking snow scaffold that helps me reach more of the rooftop as the snow depth becomes deeper. With each snowfall means that I can reach more of the roof at a better angle, become more efficient with that 12-foot long roof rake.

My platform is three to ten feet wide “pathway” that serves more than one purpose. 1. A safer area to walk along the full length of the camp, that, as stated above grows in height to make roof raking easier and easier over time. 2. The snow provides “banking”, which in turn helps prevents drafts and that harsh wind from penetrating the camp walls. 3. There are times when I don’t have to use a ladder to access the roof. I use pre-carved snow-steps instead -steps that I work at making stronger with each storm. On the warmer days, dripping eaves not only help solidify those steps, but also make them quite slippery, so I must always maintain them.

Shoveling snow is quite rewarding when, with each shovelful, I know that the end result is an easier access to the roof for the next storm. It is fun to watch the snow pile, and pile, and pile to the point that I can walk right up to the roof as if a set of steps entering a home. It does not take long, no matter how wide I build the platform before the snow reaches the bottom of the camp windows. Then, it is the shoveling the snow away from them, so we can see out, let daylight in, and have each window as an escape route if need be.

Raking the camp roof is just part of the snow clean up. We have three sheds, an extra slanted roof over the coffee roasting area, a cottage, and an ice shack that must be cleared of snow, too. Allowing snow to pile up, flirts with the risk of collapsing under the weight of it all.

If we want to have a light inside the camp the solar panels need to be kept clean. We have ten of them. Two are upon the camp roof. Two are at the end of the dock. And, six are along the shoreline on a not-so-easy-to-navigate slope.  


To access the solar panels is not the easiest task with a bad back and a bum knee -that’s me. Paul, access is much more difficult due to his disabilities. On a good day, if he feels up to tackling them, I try to talk him out of it, while at the same time, I know it is good for him to get out there. I watch him closely in case he needs help along the way. On the heart and mind, it is just easier for me to "beat him" to the task. To more easily access the solar panels, the deck, stairs to the dock, the dock, and then pathways along the slope must always be cleared for walking.

To help make navigating the slope easier, I make snow steps that I diligently maintain throughout the winter. In other words, I terrace (with snow) the landscape for easier navigation. Therefore, a shovelful of snow is never mindlessly tossed anywhere here. Ever. Each toss is planned and placed so over time, navigation is easier, and access is easier, too. Easier on the body as well. Due to the winds blowing snow off the mountain and across the lake, the panels often become buried with snow. Each snowstorm, or windy day, the panels not only need cleaning off to be efficient …or work at all, the drifting snow around them must also be dug out. There is only so far you can throw snow before that snow, too causes drifting, which prompts more shoveling and in a larger area to keep the panels from becoming lost in snow drifts.  Again, snow placement is important.

Because we have the kind of composting toilet that has a holding drum under the camp, that area must be accessible throughout the winter months as well. Unfortunately, due to the landscape, that must be shoveled out even when there are only a couple inches of snow, or the dripping eaves will make navigation there impossible. Each time I clean off the steps into camp, I also shove that area free of as much snow as I can.  Lots of times, it requires a lot of chopping of ice.

As snow builds throughout the winter, our front steps disappear. Because there is a slope to the steps that can become slippery, I also terrace that area, so instead of walking on a slippery slope, we instead walk on snow steps that are wider and deeper than the buried wooden steps themselves. Right now, we are down to five of the six steps. We won’t see the bottom step until the end of April and only then if I chop the snow and ice away to expose them. Usually, by end of winter, all six steps are buried with snow and we exclusively use the snow steps I made throughout the winter months …one step at a time. Literally. (Click to enlarge photos on right.)

Paul, when he feels up to it, keeps the camp yard plowed with “The
Beast”. That keeps the drifting down to a minimum and makes for easier walking to the sheds, and to my compost piles as well. Yesterday, I sat in the Beast with him while he finished plowing. We have large snowbanks already, but the great thing about a tracked beast is that he can push the snow as he climbs the banks and drop the snow over the top. Usually, by winters end, our snowbanks can be 15 feet tall and over 30 feet thick. Those are the snowbanks I appreciate the most because I can climb them to access pine twigs 20 feet off the ground.  I make my own sketching charcoal. When I retreat, like a child, I sit on my butt and slide down.  Those banks sure beat trying to trudge through several feet of snow to the nearest pine sapling! Works for me!

To keep the camp road to the groomed trails navigable, we like to groom the road to keep it smoothed out and useable with snowmobiles and The Beast without becoming stuck. Trust me, when I say that we’ve been stuck with both sleds and that Beast, many, many times over the years. Storm pending, type of snow, and the “feet” of snowfall determine how we manage the camp road.

Not showing where windows
are dug out for natural lighting.
Currently, due to last week’s episodes of becoming stuck twice within 50 feet in huge snowdrifts, we cannot, or have not been able to (yet) finish smoothing out the drifts in the road below us. That 1/3-mile section is our access to the lake for ice fishing. If we are to ice fish this winter, and we want to, we need to first figure out a way to smoothen out the road …and wide enough to drag our ice shack onto the lake. Right now, we cannot (or couldn’t as of a couple days ago), get to the lake if we had to.



Usually, storm pending, we like to clean snow from the truck, around it, and the snowmobile trailer, too. Due to roads into camp becoming snowmobile trails during the winter months, we must park and leave the truck and trailer eight miles away. This means, we either use The Beast or use the snowmobiles to get there. Unfortunately, though we have a plow for The Beast, we cannot travel the trails with it attached. Well, we probably could, but travel would need to be 5-mph the whole way. That 16-mile loop would take far too long to consider the task. Besides, the last mile of trail is quite narrow.  So, instead, we strap shovels and a small portable snow blower to the sleds or to The Beast and use those for snow clean up at the truck.

Depending on the storm, the amount of snow fallen and type of snow, clean-up can take anywhere from a few hours to several hours a day for several days. It can be quite challenging to “keep up with the storms” at times and that is especially so when storms are just a couple-three days apart.

We do not often have sticky snow here during the winter months. But, when we do, no matter how tired I am, my reward at the end of the day is to play in the snow. I love creating and sculpting the stuff when I can. Even when my body is spent, and it is difficult to put one foot in front of the other.  Even when I cannot pick my feet high enough to trudge through the snow without stumbling or falling often I look forward to my sticky snow play time. Often, by then, if my gloves aren’t soaked from the snow clean-up, they are wet inside from sweat, I collect and pat snow into whatever shape that comes to mind.  My fatigue is beside the point.  I can push through.  Playtime is important even to this 51-year old Grammy.

There are times when the snow is not sticky where I like to be creative, so I shovel snow into a tote and drag it to the deck and play with it there, sculpting, carving, grinning and giggling at my silly creations as they form. Fatigue plays a factor, of course. Doesn't it have to?  It seems the more tired the body, the funkier and fun the sculptures are to make. My reward at the end of a long, hard day often takes me into diminishing daylight.  I pout at the loss of it.

Once inside, if Paul is feeling well enough, he’ll have a meal all planned, if not ready to start cooking. Otherwise, I undress, hang my clothes, cool off, rehydrate, and then, prepare suppah. Usually, at the end of those days, it is a quick meal that can be ready within minutes. Other times, I catch my second, third, fourth, fifth, etc. breaths of the day and make a meal that is not so quick to cook. Often, we eat and off to bed before blackness envelops the area on non-snow clean-up days, too. That is another great reward!  Early to bed, early to rise.

Though all that may sound horrible to so many people, it isn’t. I enjoy being outside. I guess snow clean-up is the excuse that I need?  Or, is it a want?

Back to shoveling ...to me, snow clean-up really is a form of art. One that I enjoy and appreciate. Even when I must spend a few minutes brushing the snow off my body from head to toe before entering the camp. And, trust me, often, I look like a Yeti. "RARR!"

I’m not trying to minimize the workload here when it comes to winter living off the grid. Though it is hard work, my body thanks me for it. I feel it getting stronger as my stamina grows, too.  Strength and stamina help me become more efficient with each storm, and that I greatly appreciate.  Snow clean-up is a full-bodied workout and for hours at a time. I love it.

When I stop to rest, catch my breath for a couple of minutes, I often do so in place. I sit down and prop against a tree, or, if I fall, I’ll often just lay in place and rest where I lay. While I rest, I observe my surroundings, whether it be a tree that stopped me from falling further, a rock that about broke my nose, or the pile of snow staring back at me, I study whatever is around me. Whether it be snow fleas, snow texture, or critter tracks. If I happen to be staring up at the trees and sky above me, I watch the clouds, or how the branches grew where they did and why. I am "forever and a day" observing,  theorizing, learning, and appreciating everything around me.  Even the snow!

The view, especially the sunrise is something that I take the time to stop and watch. When the birds approach, I stop and talk to them, allow them to flutter around me, land on me, and talk to me from the nearest branch. I always make time for the critters. Even Bob, the Raven habitually flies over me each time I shovel or rake the roof. He usually speaks first. My reply is usually, “Hi Bob” or “Mawnin’, Bob!” To that, he muffles back at me as he continues onward. Sometimes, he’ll fly in a low circle over me first. Like with the birds and critters, when I stop to rest, I call out to them and see who will visit me first. Bob and the chickadees are usually first, but not always.

There are times when I step (or fall) and sink into the unpacked chest-deep in the snow and am seemingly stuck forever and ever, Amen. So, I consider that act an opportunity to rest a bit. Before I attempt to remove myself from a deep snow imprisonment, I think: 1. How to get unstuck? 2. Scrutinize the workload yet to come, where I need to shovel more snow here, or there, etc. I am always planning -Plan A, B, C, and will figure out D after Plans A, B, and C fail. Where there is a will, there is a way.  Sometimes, it just takes a bit longer to figure things out is all.

I might seem like a crazy person to some, but if I am, I’m crazy enough to love it …knowing better or not. Maybe it takes a special kind of crazy?   In all honesty, what is not to love, cherish and appreciate? Even in the cold? Is all this work worth it? Philippe, with a big grin from me to you, I say, "Yes, to me, it is absolutely worth it."



Monday, October 23, 2017

IMA WOMAN HUNTAH

Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

HUNTERS - There are "Hunters", "Heater Hunters", "PETA Hunters", and then, there are "Anti-Hunters". I hadn't heard the phrase "heater hunter" in many years until the other day, I think it was my sister, Lora-Jean, that used the phrase. 

Heater Hunters are those hunters who drive/ride around for countless hours on end in hopes that their target animal just happens to be upon the road the same time they are. If they are lucky, they see them close enough, so they can jump from their vehicle and blast away.

Mind you, there are a lot of heater hunters that don't step off the road, or are not too awfully concerned if another vehicle is approaching, or if they are shooting in someone's yard, or property, which was the case the other day when a friend told me about such a heater hunter that she encountered on the way to supper. Opportunistic, as long as one can sit upon their patoot and burn gallons of gas that put harmful emissions into the air?

I guess I can proudly boast that I'm not a Heater Hunter, because I enjoy walking through the woods while I hunt, but that is my personal preference. Before one scowls at a Heater Hunter, look for a handicap placard or license plate! They are "Heater Hunters" by no choice of their own. 

I am a Hunter and I was taught to learn the land, the proper habitat, how to observe, and think like the critter I want to harvest. Most of all, I was taught how to painfully sit still for hours upon hours on end. In a way, hunting also means to stealth-fully stalk the prey. That is not easy. They are smarter than we are, I promise you that. 

Then, there are the PETA Hunters. They seem to enjoy the thought of hunting, wear the appropriate coloration as insisted upon by the law, wield the weaponry and have every intent on pulling the trigger ...until the critter stands before them. I cannot fault the PETA hunters. It is quite difficult at times to pull the trigger and end the life of an innocent critter trying to survive in the wild. That is why some people, who did not grow up in the hunting culture, cannot understand how anyone can do such a thing. 

I am a hunter that comes from a hunting family. Do I enjoy hunting? Honestly, I enjoy the outdoors, trekking through the woods, sitting endless hours listening and observing nature around me. I also do that without any sort of weapon in hand. When it comes time to "take" a critter, I can say in all honesty, that I do not enjoy that. However, I do greatly appreciate a single well-placed shot for an instant kill. Then, I enjoy feasting upon the meat for a meal or for many meals to come. 

Most hunters, if you were to sit down and talk with them, do not enjoy the actual kill. The pride comes in a quick death, the reward of their efforts, the skill required to learn the habitat of the critter is paid off with future meals and/or providing for not only yourself but your family, too. It is not for the trophy mount upon the wall somewhere ...but to some, it is just that and only that …the meat is often donated. To each is his or her own. Hunting is not only permitted because it is part of our culture, but it is helpful to the health and well-being of the wild critters. I know some of you just rolled your eyes, but it is true. If wild critters were not harvested within a set of strict guidelines, disease and starvation would take many animals at a much slower pace. Maybe, that thought is justifiable. To some, maybe it isn’t. Nonetheless, that statement is factual, too. 

The “Anti-hunter”. There are some "hunters" that are a disgrace and should never be allowed to hunt ...ever, but I assure you, most of us are very ethical in both the hunt and the harvest. I am a woman hunter who knows a lot of tactics but only use legal tactics that were not only taught to me by others but learned on my own, and I will continue to hunt with a sound mind and a caring heart. 

To the “Anti-Hunters-No-Matter-The-Reason”, to understand a better perspective, ask yourself these questions: Do I eat meat? Do I “hire” a cattle rancher to kill the animal for me, so I can then purchase it in a store all wrapped in a neat little package? Do I wear leather? Do I wear makeup? DO I wear fur? Do I eat plants? I bet that last question raised your eyebrows, didn’t it? Did you know that plants also feel pain? That you harm grass as you walk across it? Then, you CUT millions of them every time you mow? That they have their own language that you do not understand or cannot hear? Yep! That every time you mow, you have their plant “blood” all over your mower …and body parts upon your blades? So, now what do you eat? Rocks? 

That is something to think about before you scream at a hunter who may harvest a single beast once a year versus how many times a year do you mow your grass and how many “beasts” are you harvesting to let lay there in waste? To rot?

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Thursday, July 20, 2017

“Uh-Oh! I know!”

“Uh-Oh!  I know!”
Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

Despite owning a few dogs and cats over the years, Paul and I never had a flea problem. Well, that isn’t necessarily the full truth. Sometimes, a pet owner  visits with their dog and leave a few fleas behind, but we always nipped them quickly. Sometimes, just to be precautionary, we’d even pre-treat the cat before another dog arrives. Our cat, AhChoo isn’t an outside cat, so we’ve been able to avoid fleas up until a few days ago when I felt a flea jump onto my arm shortly after crawling out of bed. Huh? We had last treated AhChoo about a month prior, so we were due again, apparently.

My parents bred, raised, and trained higher end beagles, both for rabbit hunting and for trials, so I know what a flea looks like. I also know their bite. If they must bite a human, they tend to like their feet or ankles. One night, I woke to a couple itchy spots on my ankles. My first thought? Fleas, but upon asking Paul the next morning if he was bitten, he said no. As a result, and not convinced, I blamed the mosquitoes, though there were no signs of them inside the camp. 
  

This year, for the first time since the 1990’s, my body is not so tolerant of mosquito bites. Many years ago, a single mosquito bite sent me to the hospital with anaphylactic shock. After four days in the hospital, I was released with a stern warning from the doctor to avoid mosquitoes for the rest of my life, because that episode may be my one and only warning. 

So, given that I’m 51, my body is changing whether I like it or not! Like it or not, too, I’ve been forced to stay inside far more than I’d like during “mosquito season”. Unfortunately, we’ve had a lot of rain in our area of the state this spring/summer, so that not only increased the mosquito population, but it extended it, too. Man! Are they hungry this year! Yesterday, in 80-degree temperatures during the heat of the day with bright sun, sweat dripping off my nose, the mosquitoes were relentless when normally, they’d be in “hiding” until the evening hours. Each “bite” fire-like! I assumed they only felt that way because my aging body is hypersensitive to them this year. Logical thought, right?

Paul and I treated the cat after I saw a flea jump onto my arm. Honestly, though somewhat befuddled, I was thankful it was a flea and not a mosquito. Although the cat doesn’t think so, we dread the process as much as he does. The treatment comes in a small liquid-filled tube that is rubbed onto the back of the neck. My job is to hold the cat while Paul applies the treatment. Problem solved. Or, so we thought.

If the weather isn’t rainy, or the biting insects intolerable, my morning routine is typically the same. I roll out of bed, make my bladdah-gladdah, make coffee, check for messages, and then, bring my coffee outside to enjoy the sunrise, fresh air, and beauty that appears in the cove before me. At the far end of that labyrinth sits beautiful Mount Katahdin -Maine’s tallest peak. If I could have any part of the day to call my own, I would select the time frame between pre-dawn to the first hour after sunrise. 

It usually isn’t long before our resident chippies and red squirrels visit me in hopes for snacks. Sometimes, they are often scurrying about the deck before I crawl out of bed, so it isn’t long before they are at my feet the second I step outside. Routine tells them to be patient until I get situated. To them, my “Wait!”, “No!”, “Careful, this coffee is hot!” are phrases they know well. For many years, I’ve allowed them to crawl all over me, even atop my head and tunnel throughout my hair if they want. Even if it means that from time to time, I untangle a Chippy paw from my hair. The red squirrels don’t tunnel much, but they do like to do a balancing act atop my head. Oftentimes, they are not there for very long as my slippery hair does not make for very secure footing.

It had only been a couple of days since we treated the cat when I felt another flea jump onto my arm. I was quite perplexed! How? Then, it dawned on me! "Uh-Oh!  I know!"  The fleas must be jumping onto my hair during my playtime with the critters. I busted a gut and told Paul, “I gave the cat fleas!” Not once have I ever noticed a flea on any of the critters. Rarely any ticks either, but they are the only possible explanation. Do you have another?

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017

"Kabooms", Coffee, and Poop!


"Kabooms", Coffee, and Poop!

Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

I’m a disgruntled shopper, so it doesn’t’ take much to frustrate me in a store …any store. 

Today, for the first time, ever, I stepped foot into a Lowe's store. I will be honest and not only recognize but own the fact that I am a pessimistic shopper. Always, I want in and out, so always leave Dilly and Dally at camp. My sister suggested that I buy some Kow Manure for a couple problematic veggie plants, so taking up the suggestion, I thought maybe that while Paul has his next IVIG, I'd "visit" the Lowe's across the road. Today, was that day.

Things started going wrong at Walmart about 30 minutes prior, when, once at the register, I scanned the shopping list on my phone. “CRAP! I forgot the coffee!” We normally roast our own blend, but we’ve been busy or Paul hasn’t been able, so we literally ran out of coffee this morning. As I stood with a cart load of goods, I weighed my options. Coffee or no coffee? Because we were in the Bangor area for Paul’s IVIG infusion treatment, we couldn’t roast coffee, so luckily, we had some day-old coffee to sip. Paul needs a few days of rest after each treatment or he risks complications, encephalitis is one that we watch for closely, kidney issues, is another. He’s run into complications a few times before, so we take extra precaution these days. After I run that through my head, it could be a few days before we could roast another batch of coffee.

So, with those thoughts, I excused myself from the line and back-tracked throughout the store. It had been so long since we purchased coffee that I hadn’t a clue which aisle to find it. I asked two customers and they didn’t know either, so I wove up and down about 10 aisles until I finally found the coffee section. Then, the dilema -which kind? We know how coffee is stored and distributed. We also know how to tell if coffee is old or fresh just by looking at the type of bag or container it is in. Buying pre-ground is always a NO-NO and a huge one. That Walmart only carries one kind of coffee bean, the rest were pre-ground. Yes, I did the squeeze test on every bag hoping there was another brand of bean there somewhere.  UGH! Knowing we don’t care for that coffee, I had no choice. We’ll be drinking that for a few mornings and then, appreciate our own fresh roast again. Even if our green beans are aged, it is still far better. It is time for us to restock on some green coffee for winter roasting!

As I approach the registers again, I noticed lots of people near the front of the store. I figured the lines would be full, but thankfully, they weren’t. A travel/tour bus had pulled up while I was doing the whole coffee search and debate thing. The people were of the non-Maine kind. I was glad that I was getting out of there while I could. Thankful, too, that the cashier also knew how to bag my goods. That made it so much easier to unpack and fill the coolers in the bed of the truck. 

Off to Lowes for my cow poop. My sister told me they keep some outside and some inside. She said to look for the yellow bags. After I parked, I noticed the several stacks of bags, but being that I had to go inside a hospital afterward, I figured that I’d avoid the dirty bags and go through the main doors to search for the clean ones. Before me, there were two women. One had a service dog with her, and being a dog lover, my attention went straight to the dog, when “Kapow!” A loud clang. I half expected the dog to flinch at the noise more than I did, but that didn’t happen. I was extremely impressed …at the dog, not myself. The women tried desperately to separate two carts that stuck together. Then, again, “Kaboom”! Another customer behind me tried to do the same with two more carts. I didn’t flinch that time, but I did turn to see if the dog did.

By then, I made my own, “Kaboom!” I stepped aside and again, “Kaboom!” Two more carts were stuck together. As two men approached, I told him, “All those carts are stuck together”. He went to another row and “Kaboom”! Those too were stuck. Finally, I pulled a set of three carts from the row. Because of all the “Kabooms” around me, I had lost track of how many times I tried to pull different carts apart, but I think it was my fourth attempt, the man’s second, the women’s third or fourth, and there were people behind us all trying to separate those carts …the ones that failed for me and the people around me. I felt as I was in a train wreck with all the noisy carts banging around. Several clusters of two carts were scattered about behind me. It was awful! I applaud the dog greatly for his tolerance of it all, too. He was more composed than the shoppers at that point.

Happy to finally roll a cart away from the “wreck”, I wove around the garden aisles looking for yellow bags, or what I thought to be yellow bags, as I have a yellow/orange color deficiency. That means, I read the label of each yellowish / orange-ish bag I saw. When I could not find any upon the shelves inside, I sighed. My last resort was to step into the outside garden area. There, I found the bags. They were wet and heavy. If I had a sense of smell, I probably would know they stunk, too. The bags vented a bit through the small factory punched holes. Those were wet. The bags were wet all over. They looked dirty, but I can read and it clearly said Kow Manure, so as much as I wanted to convince myself that was dirt, I knew it wasn’t. “Really?” I mumbled to myself, “If I had known, I wouldn’t have fought with the carts for as long as I did!”

Trying to be mindful that I still had to go into a hospital, I almost walked away. There was no way to stay clean. The bags were wet, “dirty” and heavy. I was not wearing work clothes, either. Again, I almost walked away. Then, I said, “Frig it!” The man beside me stopped and wiped his hands clean, too. He grabbed another type of soil. His was dirt, but he had the same issue as I did. We just looked at each other with locked-in understanding, then continued to load our carts. Neither was impressed. He dressed nicely, so apparently, he didn’t expect a mess either. Suddenly, I didn’t feel quite so singled out.

My cart didn’t take so well to my navigational commands as I pushed it loaded with four large, heavy bags of poop to the register. To top it off, isn’t a store employee supposed to yield to the customer and not make a customer stop for them? Customers should always have the RIGHT OF WAY to the employee, but I seem to have that issue no matter the store I shop. I used to work at a store and I always gave way to the customer. That’s just the way it should be! 

At the register, the older cashier welcomed me. I smiled and said, “I have four bags of poop.” She chuckled as her fingers worked the register.  With a smirk, she mumbled, “Four bags of poop”. That seemed to make everything all better. Sometimes, you just need a friendly face belonging to someone with a sense of humor that melts away frustrations. 

I have my poop on the back of the truck still, but I’ll wait until I have my junk clothes on, or maybe, it’ll just be better to unload it in the nude and then jump into the lake afterwards poop and all! “I’ve gotta clean that shit up”. 


Monday, July 17, 2017

"I Broke Your Toilet"

“I Broke Your Toilet”

Copyright 2017 by Paul Willey

Some of you know this story from May, 2013, but I’ve never told the story in full detail at once because I was too tired to write it at the time, and I have I have some new insight that may explain why some things happened the way they did.  I just put the pieces together yesterday when retelling a short version of the story to my cousin. It's a rather "simple" explanation that gave me some new insight.
 
It was only about 4 months after my worst MS flare ever and I needed a Snowmobile Ambulance rescue from camp because I was completely immobile.  It was a long-planned trip around the country to see our son, family, friends, sightseeing, and the last thing I wanted to do was cancel this trip.  I got the medical OK from a new Neurologist.  We had a new accessible van as well to make the trip easier.   We were on day 49 of the 9,700-mile road trip.  I was completely exhausted.

We'd hit the road early that day and our hotel room still wasn't ready even though I called ahead early.  To kill time, we went to a small diner style restaurant chain across the street.  I had to go to the bathroom, and it was down a narrow hallway past the same exit the wait staff used to exit the open diner style counter area.   I got to the single toilet bathroom and it didn't meet ADA guidelines.

I'm USUALLY a hell of a driver with my wheelchair.  Especially with the front wheel drive chair. Pin-point control.  I wasn't that day though, I'd already run over Lori-Ann's foot with my wheel chair.  I was stuck earlier because I drove one wheel over the edge of the van's wheel chair ramp and Lori-Ann was fighting to get me rolling again. She was not happy when I ran over her foot after fighting to get me off the edge of the ramp.  (The wheelchair weighs nearly 600 lbs with me in it and it does not technically include a winch; as of this moment I plead the 5th.)   

Back to the bathroom; as I backed in next to the toilet so I can at least close the door. I heard a loud snap and a splash.  Water was almost instantly traveled past my wheelchair and down the floor drain.  I looked and the toilet was twisted off its base and the bolts are broken.  I thought for a moment, "No biggy, I can hide this, and swing the toilet back into place." 
  
I didn't wonder why water was still gushing by me at first.  Then, I looked up at the tank.  I hit the toilet hard enough so that it twisted and the tank broke as an edge hit the wall.   The tank looked like someone split it with a splitting maul right down the middle, a perfect V open about six inches at the top with both sides still on the base of the toilet.  Water was  still ran past me like crazy before it ran into the floor drain. For a few moments I was pondering how to get out of there without having to mutter the words, "I broke the toilet."

I looked down at the water flowing the full width of the floor.  I was already in the stream of water and had to drive through it to get to the door. I could visualize a trail of water with my all 4 of my tires going right by the counter exit area so I knew there was no escape.  I drove out and stopped a waitress by the counter exit. I told her, "I broke your toilet." The expression on her face was priceless.   She looked very confused for what seemed like an eternity. Then I realized she didn't make the wheelchair connection and then I told her I hit it with my wheelchair trying to back up. Then she understood.  I can only imagine the thoughts going through her mind at first.  

Then I proceeded to go back to the table with Lori-Ann and I tried to tell her what happened.  That is when I got the "MS giggles". I COULD NOT tell her or hardly speak a word. I was using hand gestures and trying to talk that way. Then, I tried to draw an invisible picture on the place mat.  Finally, after I don't know how long it was, before I searched for a drawing app. on my phone.   I had to draw what the toilet looked like before Lori-Ann was able to understand what I was talking about.  It took at least 15 minutes.

Towards the end of the meal, I felt a hand ever so gently placed on the shoulder opposite of where I was looking.  I turned to look and it was the manager. She had already squatted down next to the table.  She told me not to worry about it, and it's OK with a real sympathetic look on her face. I thought, and always thought all these years it was kind of strange because I'd been laughing the entire meal and feeling guilty about my behavior with the, "MS giggles".  If I was a manager, and I saw this guy laughing, even if it was an accident in a small bathroom, I’d be thinking, “What an Ass!”

It took me over four years to realize how the restaurant staff must've seen me.  I'd been bowing my head down and turned away, with occasional sheepish looks, putting my hand on the back of my head like I was shy and bashful, and trying not to let them see I was laughing, but my entire body was shaking and they may have thought I was crying.   I realized they probably thought I was "special" because I was also using a lot of hand gestures trying to talk to Lori-Ann. They saw me using my phone to draw on an attempt to communicate because I was having trouble talking at times. We were both showing each other comments from our road trip through our FaceBook group via our phones. To top that off, I wore pajama bottoms most of that trip because I had a lot of pain in my legs and they were very comfortable.  I don't think I was wearing my "Superman" T-Shirt that day though.  Then, of course, there is the Wheel Chair factor as well.

They must think the world of Lori-Ann as a Social Worker because she was taking me outside to a restaurant.  She let me try to go to the bathroom on my own, too.  She let me order my own food, and she even let me pay the check and leave a tip.   Of course, they don’t know where we normally live.   

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

FUN WITH A STALKER

FUN WITH A STALKER
Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey


Living a public life off the grid via Facebook and other social media outlets is fun and educational, too.  Hubby and I love our lifestyle.  It is unique with unique circumstances.  We are a privately owned camp, as in we do not have rental units, but on social media avenues like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. we are quite public.  I am to blame for that, as hubby posts very little. People say we are an inspiration to all walks of life.  I don't know that to be true, but who am I to argue.  Tee Hee

However, being so public about our lifestyle and our doings, etc. we've had a few issues.  Some openly show their envy, while all others are quite respectful and appreciative of us and our ways.  However, every once in a while, we'll have a bit of an issue with a stalker.  I use the term quite loosely because I do know that we, er, I, somewhat set ourselves up for such a thing by being so public on Facebook, especially.  


With that being said, some people display creepiness.  To follow everything that is posted and show appreciation of the postings is one thing.  I mean, I do put stuff "out there" to be seen by anyone who wishes to see/read such things.  I get that.  What I do not get ...and this is where the creepies come into play is when someone creates a Facebook account and copies a lot of what I post. Sometimes it is almost word for word.  It is especially creepy when that person doesn't live off the grid as they claim.  So, now, we are getting into a red flag zone as far as character goes.


When the person copies my writing style, types of photos, and posts the same immediately after I post, those red flags are easily noticed.  If they weren't sitting somewhere ON THE GRID while pretending to the world they live off the grid and/or actually doing, seeing what they portray, I could be a bit more tolerant and my patience a lot more.  However, when not living off the grid, but posting as they are and copying my posts, that is when I wonder if they have serious issues, are stalkers, are living out a fantasy life online, or are doing nothing more than mocking my lifestyle. Honestly, sometimes, I think it is all of those and quite obviously so.  Last I knew, I wasn't a paranoid person, so I don't think I'm being hyper-sensitive.

So, this morning, I decided to have fun with it all.  That's all I can do at this point because social media is just that.  People can pretend to be anyone they want. Who's to know?  To me, it is quite obvious ...to others as well. But, whatever makes those people happy ...I guess.  Who's to say anything about that?  People can live their OWN lives and this is my exact point.  Character "theft" is not illegal, but it is immoral ...to me anyway.  People have their little games that they play.  To each is his/her own, but I wished they felt more comfortable in their own skin to be themselves instead of trying to be someone else.  Would be nice if they were honest about who they really are without pretending to be someone else, too.  Some people are dramatics.  I think honesty is the best approach to everything in life, but that could just be me and how I was raised.

As a result of the above, I took the lyrics from "It's Hard to be Humble" song and twisted it in a fun egotistical way of a mockery of my own.  For, if one cannot laugh at themselves, they cannot laugh at anyone.  Right?  Might be easier to listen to the actual song to get the rhythm of the stanzas below, 'cause my poetry is not very desirable.  In this case, it's the fun that counts!  Have fun and laugh with/at me!

Original song with lyrics -  HERE

My Version (below)

Oh Man, it’s hard to stay humble
When you have as many Followers as me.
Each morning I can’t wait to get on Facebook
To see how many people love me.

To follow me is to love me
I must be a hell of a saint.
Oh Man, it’s hard to stay humble
But I get along the best that I can!

I used to have a boyfriend,
But, I guess he just couldn’t keep up.
With all of the  love-starved men
That no longer love their sheep.
  
I guess I could find another,
But I think they are all afraid of me.
Who cares? I never get lonesome
‘Cause I have all these critters at my feet.

Oh Man, it’s hard to stay humble
When I have dirts upon my feet.
I can’t wait to look at Facebook
‘Cause I get more Followers off the streets.

To know me is to love me
I must be a hell of gal.
Oh Man!  It’s hard to stay humble
While sitting upon this (coffee) Pot seat.

I guess you could say I'm a hermit
A woman, big, tough, and the best.
I have lots of people who love me
Because I put life and critters through a test.

Some folks say that I'm egotist
But first I’d have to know what that means
I guess it must have something to do
With my skimpy tops that bulge at the seams (I gleam).

My boobs they are big ones
But aren’t they all in all the same?
When I bend to tend the garden
I must first play their gravitational game.
 
Oh Man!  It’s hard to stay humble
When women want my fame.
They like how I get my hands dirty
Just don’t ask them to do the same.

Some think I’m a disgrace to my gender
While they sit all tidy and clean.
From their sofa of plush comfort
They want to be just like me.
 
So, they create a Facebook profile
And pretend they are another Me.
They want all of my Followers
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Oh Man!  It’s hard to stay humble
When one wants to be just like me.
Daily, she can’t wait to see my postings
So she can sneak in and be a faux me.
 
My stalker wants contact from a TV show
So the world will be in awe of her.
But first you must live the life you claim.
To be faux means you are just like them.

You  need to get off your butt
And realize what’s the real deal
My advice to such people…
Get off Facebook and become something that’s real!

Monday, June 5, 2017

SEED – THE “TIME TRAVELER” – A Pondering

Seed – The “Time Traveler” – A Pondering

Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

As a child, I used to dig for fishing worms for what seemed like hours on end.  A pointed “spade” was always nearby.  My sisters and I were not shy in grabbing it and start digging away.  Were we going fishing?  Maybe, at some point, yes, but one can never have enough worms ready and waiting.  Most fishermen know that.

The other day, I chatted with a friend about worms.  I know. Probably not the most interesting topic for some, but he and I both agreed that “worm hunting” was something that we could do for hours on end. If it was a rainy night, as kids, we’d often be outside with flashlights and a pail.  We called it, “Jackin’ for crawlers”. 

What does the title have to do with worms?  Not much yet, but it is where it all starts for me.  I always loved digging in the dirt. It fascinated me.  I didn’t mind finding the creepy crawlies. Hell, they went into the pail, too!  Fish just don’t eat worms, you know.  If the fish aren’t biting, then they don’t want the bait you offer.  Plain and simple.  You've gottah change it up. 

I learned at an early age that once the soil is disturbed, you can expect surprises to grow in amongst the grasses.   There was a spot where we always dug worms, as they seemed more plentiful there than other spots in the yard.  My father would do most of the labor work.  He’d stick the shovel to the ground, stomp on it and pull it back to lift the soil.  Then, he’d flop it over, grass side down.  Most of the worms hid in the root system of the grass.  The job of plucking worms fell onto my sisters and me.  I don’t think either of us minded the task. 

After the soil was turned over, often, my father would leave us girls to pick through the soil, shake the sod pieces and see how many worms we could find.   Often, too, he’d leave the shovel so we could shovel through the loose soil. After we plucked all the worms we could find, creepy-crawlies, too, our job was to backfill the area with the loose soil, laying the sod on top. 

My twin, Lora-Jean, and two friends, Little Ronnie and Billi-Jo
Sometimes, one of us girls would try to dig the untouched ground. Sometimes we succeeded.  Sometimes, we didn’t.  I remember once I tried to dig as my father had.  I was just a little thing, but I stomped on the shovel to no avail.  I did more of a balancing act than digging by far. Then, I decided that I needed to jump on it with two feet instead of just the one.  Well, I wasn’t tall enough to do that either!  My mouth came down upon the shovel handle something wicked!  I busted my lip.  I cried. I bled.  I probably ran to my parents, but I don’t remember.  What I do remember is after that, next time, I was more careful.  Those who know me know that I probably didn’t ever get my lip again, but where there is Lori-Ann, there is a way to get hurt.  Avoiding the repeat hit in the lip, I’ve jumped on the shovel many times and my foot or feet would slip.  I’d end up with some nice cuts and scrapes on my legs.  Such things didn’t’ stop me much as a child …or even today at 50, for that matter.

When I was nine, we moved from our 13-room house in Pittsfield, to a 4-room house at the end of a dead-end road that the Town of Palmyra wouldn’t even maintain.  There, we had no running water, and our lifestyle was quite different.  I loved playing in the fields, climbing the trees and taking my pony for a run through the woods.  Woo wee, do I have some stories to tell about doing that!  I must’ve watched too many cowboys and Indian shows!  Looking back, I’m shocked I’m still alive!

Like when we lived in Pittsfield, in Palmyra, we had a favorite spot where we dug for worms, too. Then, I was old enough to use a pointy shovel (what I called a spade, then and now).  If the mood struck, and it always did when I saw the spade, I’d dig for worms.  This was especially so in the springtime.  I knew that summer meant doing a lot of brook fishing for trout, so that meant we’d need a lot of worms. I was always up for the task.  Again, then, and now.

It was in Palmyra that I’d dig through the soil just to see the colorful layers below the surface. I knew I dug too deep to find worms, but as I dug, I no longer looked for them, but instead, I dug to see the different layers and how they changed, their colors and what lived “there”.   I’m like a toddler that goes through the “why” staged.  That stage never left me.  I always wonder why. Lots of times, I’d dig until the hole was too deep to dig any further. Doing this, I learned that worms don’t like the gray areas (clay), the brownish red layers, or much deeper than 18”. Most worms found were within the first foot.  I knew what clay looked like, but the reddish layers confused me a bit.  When I asked my father, he said it was iron.  That confused me even more because all I knew of iron was used in industries. Clearly, that soil was not the same.

Those layers were the start of my love and fascination for “dirt”. Toward the end of the summer, and well after we stopped digging for worms, my father noticed some wild ground cherries growing in the same area we dug for worms.  They were native, but we had never seen them before. Not there. Not anywhere within walking distance either.  We were told to leave them alone to see what would become of them. Every day, I checked the plants, studied their leaves, the blossoms, and how the flowers turned into fruit. Fascinated, I was!

My father said that the seeds must’ve been brought to the surface from digging for worms, and then, back-filling the holes kept them closer to the surface.  Hearing that sent my mind thinking.  I was 10 years old by then, but after that, I remember always being on the lookout for plants growing individually from others.  I knew that birds ate seeds, berries, etc. then pooped them out as they flew.  So, that accounted for some of the “pop ups”.  Animals are “guilty” of such things, too. 

However, it taught me to be very vigilant about nature.   Having my parents’ curiosities by nature and of nature, I always studied things in the wild.  I still do.  “Why is that here?”  I always scratched the soil and looked at its color.  The trees and plant life around them.  In the sun or shade?  Near water?  Dry? Wet?  Always questions I had to answer and I answered each by observing or digging the soil. 

People say that I’m a Naturalist and that I missed my “calling”.  I should laugh.  I call it curious observances with the patience, the want, and the ability to connect the dots to formulate theories.  Nature is a love. I don’t doubt that. I embrace it, even.

Last fall, my sister posted a picture of a plant that she called wild sauerkraut.  I had seen it before, but I didn’t have a name for it.  She is quite knowledgeable when it comes to plants.  We share our knowledge with each other, teach each other, hypothesize and ponder together.  Learning.  We’re always learning.  If we don’t know, we research, learn, and then, share with the other.  Maybe, it was the way we were raised. Maybe it is just how we learn best …hands on, trial and error, problem-solving.  Not so ironically, we both live off the grid.

About three summers ago, I had a bunch of loam dumped in the camp yard.  With it, I shoveled and wheelbarrowed it many countless hours on end to fill depressions, make garden beds, etc. I am still moving that loam with my 3rd “spade”.

It was late summer when I saw a new plant spring from the edge of the pile.  It was a plant that I had not seen for many years and never up this way. So, when my sister posted a photo of her wild sauerkraut, I had to go examine my plant a bit closer. I hadn’t taken the time to do so until then, but every day, I paid it a visit.  As suspected, it is what she called sauerkraut.  It grew in the same type of soil as her plant …the same proximity of the water, too.  I tasted it.  It was tart …lemon-like.  I researched further.  It is sheep sorrel. I’ve eaten “sour clover” (wood sorrel) all my life, but never sheep sorrel.  I liked it, but I much more prefer the “sour clover”.  I even let the sour clover grow in my garden for snacks and use some in cooking, too.

So, like the wild ground cherry in my childhood, it is hard telling how long that sheep sorrel seed laid dormant in the ground, just to be exposed to the right conditions for germination.  When the guy dumped it, he said, “It’s from the bottom.”   Some seeds can lay dormant for many decades.  In some cases, many centuries …even up to 2,000 years!  So, when I hear of a plant “gone extinct”.  I smile.  I know there is hope for their return still. The current conditions just may no longer be adequate for them in our changing world.  In the now, if you will.  I’m all for hope.

Even at 50, I still turn up the soil and let it be.  I still watch for what will grow, if anything different.  I still dig to see those layers of soil.  I think.  I ponder.  The deeper you dig, the further back in history you “go”. How is that thought alone not fun?  The seed – a “time traveler” of the natural world kind.