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?

Life off the grid is always full of surprises!
AUTHOR PAGE  - My Books!
LIFE OFF THE GRID PAGE - Daily lifestyle updates off the grid.

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.  

Friday, May 26, 2017

Don’t Lean over the Coffee Pot


Don’t Lean over the Coffee Pot
Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

Do not lean over the coffee pot with long hair! Did I get your attention? In a reassurance, gentle, Mr. Rogers-like voice, I say, "I knew it would".

I do not hide the fact that Ima Compost-Maker-Aholic. It is one of my all-time favorite things to do. So, as our dedicated followers of Willey’s Dam Camp already know, I continue to use the "coffee pot" (AKA piss pot - a 5-gallon pail with a screw on lid) during the nonwinter months, too. Urine is great for the compost and many nitrogen-loving plants, as well. 

Paul continues to use the composting toilet now that the weather is warm and that "line" won't freeze. I know! I know! Some of you are scrunching up your noses. It is not your forte or wanted lifestyle, but it is mine. I get that, but do you 'get' me? Some will say yes. Some will say no. 

There is no soil here, per se, so I must make it to garden. The act of making nutrient-filled soil is called composting. Composting is nothing more than a mixture of decayed or decaying organic matter used to fertilize the soil. 

During the non-winter months, I have two 5-gal pails that I pee in. One sits by my garden and one that is inside but set in the wood crib that is next to the bathroom. Which one I use depends if I am inside or outside. Ok, so this time of year, it also depends on the blackflies and mosquitoes, too, because I do not spray there

Every day, I lug the pails to one of my numerous compost piles, make a hole with a designated stick, (and hope that I grab the right end), and then, "water" my piles. Like a good "kitty", I even cover it up afterward. 

Usually, during the summer months, my long hair is braided so it stays out of the way while I work outside. Hell, even while inside, too. Yesterday, I hadn't yet braided it yet when I felt the need to “make my bladdah-gladdah”.

After I jokingly announced to Paul, “I’m stepping out to pee”, I stepped into the wood crib and closed the door behind me. The process is usually the same. I put the toilet paper roll on top of the chest freezer (propane), unscrewed the lid on the pail, set it on the floor, set the comfy rubber seat in its place, and then, sit. When I used the word “usually”, I meant it. As sometimes, I simply just squat over the pail. I can be lazy like that.


When finished, I role-reversed the process. The problem came when I bent over to pick the cover off the floor. My hair, and not seductively so, went full speed ahead ...as in downward. There, thanks to momentum, it didn't just dangle all still-like, but instead swayed. 

I dared not continue my bend-over. I could not reach the cover either. Trying to counter-act or defy quantum mechanics was useless. Slowly, I stood to calm the sway without touching the inside of the pail. I was thankful that my hair is not long enough to reach the bottom of the pail ...not even with 4-5 inches of leaf litter in the bottom of it. 

Why leaves? Why not. Lots of dead leaves on the ground here. They offer lots of carbon ...my pee, lots of nitrogen. Why not start the composting process in the pot for 24 hours before adding it to a compost pile? Works for me, but you bet your sweet patoot that from now onward, I'll set the lid away from the pail, but not too far away that I'll have to tip the pot to reach it when done. I'm not into teeter-totters these days. 

My hair is braided for the summer so I can avoid the Plop and Flop Dance. Goes to show that one is not too old to learn new tricks. In more than one way, I'll "put a lid on it". A new meaning to "Stifle it, Edith" (my sister calls me Edith). "Over and out!", too! I no longer lean over the coffee pot!

PS.  It is Memorial Day weekend.  A lot of you will be camping.  Some of you will return with your own drop'em and go stories.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Do or Die Concept



The Do or Die Concept

Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

I come from a long line of hard workers, but there comes a time when I start to realize why the comments I get, even from Paul. Of course, at the time, I didn't understand from where they stem, even when my body is too tired to take the next step.
Last spring, starting in March, my problematic back became a very big problem once again. The outdoors is a constant lure for me. It always has been. All my life, I said I’d love to live in a glass house so I could “be” outside even when I’m not. Instead, it is more reasonable to have a lot of windows. If it weren’t for the winter months and cold winds forcing their way inside, I wouldn’t even have blinds or curtains.

My parents worked, but I think they put more work in at home than at a money paying job. Always they were busy, and as a result, my sisters and I were always busy, too. Of course, we had lots of play time, but we had our chores …and not like the chores kids today have.

Chores consisted of tending our large gardens, hauling water, pulling weeds, picking rocks, throwing and stacking wood. That included learning how to use an ax and a splitting maul the second I was strong enough to swing an ax …and I think I had that strength at the time of birth (said with a chuckle, of course). Other chores were yard work, gathering of wild fruits and edible weeds. Come hunting season, we helped package and freeze what plopped on the table.

We ate “off the land” when we could. Raised some meats, caught our fish, and hunted for our other meats. The only time I had meat that wasn’t wild game was at school or at a friend’s house. To eat from a box was something that other people did and I didn’t like those kinds of foods. They lacked that homemade taste (AKA – Flavor). We did have Campbell’s Tomato Soup quite often …and boxed cereal, but the cereal was a treat, more than a staple. Breakfasts consisted of oatmeal, homemade apple sauce or bread with homemade jelly.

My mom loved her Euell Gibbon’s edible plants book. I can’t remember from whom she got it from, or maybe she bought it. But, that book was used A LOT …and that was on top of already knowing a lot. As mom learned, so did us girls. To this day, a lot of my knowledge stems from my childhood days. And, get this, I still enjoy foraging for wild edibles and putting them to use. However, there are a few edibles that I’d just as soon not eat again. There is so much that grows around us as weeds that are delicious and very nutritional.

Getting back to the subject of this blog entry -hard work. As I stated above, last March (2016), my back decided to pitch a hissy fit. It became difficult to walk, sit or even lay down, but being active, was better, despite my right leg not lifting more than four inches from the ground. To walk up our six steps into the camp meant literally picking up my right leg. Getting into the truck was torture as was every waking minute. 



Despite the pain, and it was excruciating, I pushed myself to do the things I wanted to do. I was determined, or as my mom used to say, “hell bent” to get things done. I built six raised beds, some of them quite large, and shoveled loam for hours on end to fill them all. Because I used pressure treated wood in one bed, that meant that I also had to line it with plastic. I think that task was the most torturous of all. 



I continued to make compost, walking through the woods collecting nature’s debris and toting it back to camp. That process seemed like it took forever and I became quite frustrated. Love the woods or not, I could not step over fallen trees, or step upon shallow humps or step in shallow depressions. It seems like I had to walk around everything. Picking up the leg and plopping it over was attempted more times than I could count, but I’d end up yelping in pain or falling to the ground. After a while, even this stubborn old coot learned it was just easier and safer to take the couple dozen extra steps, excruciating or not.  That was especially so while carrying a hatchet and/or a machete.  I had a couple "almosts" that I never let Paul know about.  Shhh! I smartened up before I drew blood.


Honestly, there were times where I would sit upon the ground because I was in too much pain to move. At times, I literally crawled or scooted on my butt, as that was easier than trying to stand. There were a couple of times that I belly-crawled. Now, if you can picture a 50-year-old woman doing that all for the sake of being outside, then you can chuckle with me, but it was something that I didn’t think twice about. Crawling isn't easy with big boobs, either!  Yet, I did this routine day in and day out, 10-12 hours a day.

To make some of my garden beds, I used logs and cut pieces of wood anywhere from 2-6-foot-long and 17 inches in diameter, to 8 feet long to 12” thick. What I couldn’t roll up and down a hill, I flipped end over end. At the time, I thought nothing of it. I knew what I wanted to accomplish and I would stop at nothing fulfilling my plan.

Finally, come June, I caved. I was due for my annual mammogram, pap smear, and general check-up. I waited until then to have my back checked out. I was sent for an MRI and to a neuro-surgeon. He sent me for X-rays and manipulation therapy. After that, I went through several PT sessions. Slowly, and come Sept/Oct. I was walking better, feeling better, doing better. I hadn’t realized how limited I was, or how much pain I was really in until I started getting my mobility back and the pain lessen.

In looking back at my garden, yard work, and compost-making photos to remind myself of my spring/summer 2017 plans, I became amazed as to how much I could do in such pain and very limited mobility. I was dumb-founded and commented to Paul, “I can’t believe how much I did while in such pain”. He looked at me as if I had horns growing from my head. I knew I had done a lot. I also knew that my pace was so slow, my steps so deliberate that, to me, at the time, I wasn’t working fast enough or hard enough. My mindset, “It should’ve been done in half the time!” And normally, it would’ve been. 

Paul spoke, “Honey, you were working 10-12 hours a day out there! I couldn’t get you to stop!” I remember replying something like, ‘If I stopped, the pain was worse. I had to keep moving.' 

I have not looked at my accomplishments from last summer since and I don’t think I want to for a while. I know I am a stubborn woman and “hell bent” on getting stuff done, but I remember well the torture, and that is a perfect word to use. It bothers me to remind myself how much I put my body through. There were days when I’d come in from outside and I’d head straight to the bedroom and sleep off my fatigue for 2-4 hours. Pain is exhausting. I would rather run a marathon and sleep for a week than the pain I was in with my back and how the sciatica tortured me something awful.

Now, don’t go thinking that this is all about “look what I can do”. This entry is not about that. But, in a way, I guess it is, because when having the work ethics I grew up with, that doesn’t just leave once I turn 18 and am on my own. Where there is a WILL there is a WAY! Determination, a way of life I enjoy and intentionally choose to live. Though, that concept is one that boggles many minds.

Life does not stop because we have an owie.  Life stops when we stop wanting, planning, doing. I push myself too hard. I know I do, but that is just the way I am. I should be a “skinny-mini”, but it is OK that I’m not, because, honestly, if I were that “mini”, I don’t think we could live at camp 365 days a year. Not with a disabled husband, especially. 

Why do we live here under such conditions? I say, ‘Why not? Hard work doesn’t stop me. I enjoy the physical labor’. However, don’t look too closely at the scars upon my body or the fingernails that fall off from time to time. I have one that fell off in January that tries to grow back but can’t. I may have to have that corrected by a doctor.  Meanwhile, I try to figure it out.  I’ll deal with that AFTER the summer months, then, mention it to my doctor at my next annual physical ...if at all.

I am NOT unique in my way of thinking. I have disabled friends who scoot along on their butts to get things done. I have seen Paul scoot more times than I can count, too. Again, there is a certain level of “fight” within ourselves. We can give in and give up. Or, you can make the most of life …no matter the one dealt. You’ve heard me say or type this before. It all comes down to “How much do you want it?”

I don’t expect a whole lot of people to understand what I’ve written, as so many cannot grasp the concept, but it is merely because they have not been into a situation or situations where that deep-down drive is pushed to the surface. To have that “do or die” mindset. Sitting in a cozy house and fussing about a bent fingernail is traumatic to some people. Life is relative. What is life-stopping for some, is not life-stopping for others. It all depends on our experiences since birth. No matter what …life IS what you make of it. Who can say one lifestyle is wrong over another? No one, but there are a whole lot of people who try.

"Do or Die" some of you may know that as "Digging Deep".






Thursday, March 16, 2017

Intuition Grabs at My Gut

Intuition Grabs at My Gut
Copyright 2017 by Lori-Ann Willey

Living with a disabled husband for as long as I have, you learn to pick up even the most subtlest hints of others who are disabled, too.  Just because someone doesn't use a wheelchair or a cane, doesn't mean someone is not disabled in another way ...a bad way. There are so many medical issues out there that are not obvious.  Often, their "issues" go unnoticed, and one would "never know" unless they were told.  Some of them escape me, too.  

This afternoon, Paul and I did the 16-mile loop to shovel off and around the truck and trailer.  Soon after our arrival, a man pulled his snowmobile to the back of his trailer, stopped and turned off the ignition. My initial thought was, "I bet he's done that a million times". After throwing a few shovels of snow, I saw the man manually shimmy the back end of his sled to line it up. A few more shovels of snow and I started to wonder what might be the problem that he didn't just drive the machine onto the trailer.  I stopped and gave a closer look.  

There was something subtle about him that caught my attention.  His walk was normal, but still, there was something minute that stuck out and I couldn't quite pinpoint it without making it look like I was staring at the stranger from about 75 yards away.  I shoveled a few more times and then glanced back again.  "Yep", I thought to myself, "he's gonna need some help."   He shimmied the sled again.  That time, I started walking his way. When I closed in half the distance, he glanced my way but kept doing his thing.  I spoke loudly, "You all set?  I can help."  The man smiled and gave me a wave that indicated he didn't need any help.  I turned and walked back to the trailer.  A few seconds later, he called, "Thank you!".  I tossed my hand in the air without looking back and yelled, "Yup, sure thing."
  
It bugged me. Something in my gut told me to keep glancing at the man.   I knew myself well enough that if I saw him struggling, I'd go over and insist that I help, because I am forever and a day declining help, too.  At the same time, I didn't want to barge into his space either, because stubbornness and that independence thing is something that I understand, as well.  

The way the man walked was normal, but still, something in my gut told me to stay vigil.  I figured I'd throw a few more shovels of snow and if his sled wasn't on the trailer by then,  I'd just go help no matter.  After four shovel throws (I was going to the count of five before I approached the man again.), I heard a winch start.  I grinned bigly and stopped to watch across the distance.  I love when people find ways to make things work for themselves!   Without a doubt, I knew the man wasn't being lazy, but instead playing it smart.  My curiosity bugged me. There was a reason!  My gut is very rarely wrong.

Paul was at The Beast and emptying the bed full of snow when he saw me walking with a shovel in hand. He looked kinda confused until I pointed at the lone sledder.  As I approached the man, I made light conversation about the winch while the sled slowly and effortlessly slid onto the trailer.  The man spoke mentioning something about it being a new winch because the other one stopped working on him and indicated that he was still pretty much in trial and error mode with this one.

After he put the cables away, he asked if that (The Beast) was our rig.  I told him that it was.  He went on to say that he just purchased one similar to ours, but smaller.  He asked how we liked it and asked questions about the entire set up. After a couple short minutes, I told him that we lived off the grid and that Paul is disabled, so although using one of those is expensive, it is easier for Paul rather than a sled.  The man understood without question.  As we started walking toward Paul, the man confirmed my gut instinct when he said, "I'm disabled, too".   For years, I've been so in tune with Paul's medical issues that subtleties catch my attention ...preemptive red flags, if you will.  

The longer we talked with the man, the more admiration I had for him. He was inspiring! When he said that he just moved to Maine and is new to the area, that he takes daily walks with his dog and enjoys fishing for trout through the ice, my heart warmed.  I thought, "How great is that!  An outtah-statah, disabled at that, moved to Maine and is doing the things he wants to do. Disabled or not, I like that mindset!"  That is such a huge feat in my book! That not only takes a lot of courage, he is not allowing his medical issues stop him from living!

Just because someone is disabled does not mean life stops!  I applauded this man. When he listed his illnesses, I recognized only two of them, Chrone's and Dementia. The protective mommy side of me spoke out, "You be careful out there on those trails!  Don't get turned around"  It was then, he said that he usually has his dog ride with him, but not today.  

The man, Paul and I chatted for a long while, but both men were tired.  Their stance needed help. They both leaned for added support.  I reached for the man's hand and shook it, "You keep doing what you are doing!  Keep getting out there!"  He grinned and said, "I will.  Thank you".

I know a lot of disabled people.  Some have unseen illnesses. Some, are quite obviously physically disabled.  I was in awe of this man.  Part of me wanted to be protective. Another part of me wanted to kick his patoot, while the biggest part of me wanted to encourage him to never-ever give up enjoying life.  We are all thrown curves.  Some are harder to hurdle than others, but it's the mentality, the drive, the courage to continue doing things in life that make us feel as whole as possible.  

Some of the most impressive people are disabled, but their minds are as sharp as their tongues at times and they make me laugh in appreciation.  They not only kick their own patoot, they kick and encourage others to push onward, too.   It REALLY IS a mindset ...I've written about that very same topic before, but it really, really is just that.  Where there is a will, there IS a way.  The question one should ask themselves is, "How bad do you really want it?"

"Live" while you can, people.  Stop making excuses!  DO!  So what if you need to alter how you do something.  Figure it out!