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 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 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".