Sunday, March 31, 2019

It's a Gusher!

Oh yeah…it’s been a rough winter.  I’m ready for a break.

A few days ago, I woke up to the regular howling fest at 6AM that alerts me to the beginning of the day. I made my usual trek to the basement to bring the dogs outside for their first potty break.  To my horror I stepped down into maybe an inch of water. Between the howling and the water it was a rude awakening! 

I started shrieking, waking Rainey who was here visiting with her two dogs.  I waded through the wet mess and got all the dogs out and safely kenneled. Rainey joined me after she got her own dogs outside for their first potty break. If there is a silver lining to this new minor disaster, it’s that it happened when Rainey was here. As luck would have it, Frank had left a wet/dry shop vac which sucked up 3 gallons in 17 seconds! Rainey is a lot stronger than I am, so for each of two days she carried 20 or more 3-gallon buckets up the stairs. Then the two of us schlepped the thing across the driveway and dumped the water out onto the slope into the woods.

Things seemed to be under control. The water went down and looked to be slowing down. The dog crates were dry. The furnace did sit in water for a good while, and all the rugs and carpets were wet, but nothing serious was damaged. we hefted the soggy rugs by wrapping them in heavy duty plastic (again, Thank You, Frank) and woman-handled them outside. The weather was windy and warm, so we draped the carpets over the numerous ladders (two that Frank left me, and others that I have somehow acquired) to dry.

Tired and hungry, we took a break and went to the Effie CafĂ© for breakfast. Now, Kathy (who has been an awesome advocate for me in the past) owns the restaurant. And her step-son Jeff owns the Country Service gas station/post office/convenience store/liquor store/auto repair/tree service/excavation/snow removal/supplier of pretty much all of life’s necessities except plumbing and HVAC.   I had texted him earlier for help because he was the installer of the drain tile system. That afternoon he arrived with a long ice breaker and shovel to try to dig out the end of the 300-foot pipe that brings melting ground water away from the house to drain into a gully. He couldn’t find it. It was so buried by debris, erosion, snow, and ice that it was clear the job was going to be more complicated. The daylight was fading, and Jeff was late getting to his granddaughter's birthday party so the project was put on hold until the next day.

Next morning--flooded again. We repeated our vacuuming and bucket brigade, but it was clear the water was continuing to rise.

Jeff sent a young, hardy helper who was able to locate the pipe, but it was frozen shut. Later they both arrived with a 200-foot hose to steam the clogged opening loose. It wasn’t long before the water was gushing. And my basement drained. Fans and a dehumidifier were strategically placed to facilitate more thorough drying.

I'm told this has been an unusual winter. Events layered to create the “perfect storm”. Frank had Jeff install the drain tile system so that he could remove the sump which was then capped with concrete. However, there are still 2 drains in the floor to catch overflows from cranky appliances like washers and water softeners. To make things worse, Frank had put the drain from the washer into one of those drains instead of having it hooked up properly to go to the line emptying into the septic tank. Washing clothes all winter did not help keep the drain tile pipe open. However, it also did not cause the plug-up. The pipe was buried by enough snow and ice; the weather was just warm enough during the day to melt things too fast, and the ground was cold enough at night to refreeze it all. It was just destined to be!

Nevertheless, plumbing the washer properly is on the priority list. A pipe extension, maybe a piece of metal covered with straw will be in place for next winter as well.

Just another great adventure for this old crone in the North Woods.

Did I mention that recruiting for the commune is on hold for a while?

Friday, March 29, 2019

A Morbid Tale of The Fly

Rainey and I were enjoying unseasonably warm weather at my new home in Effie, Minnesota.  Yes we had some consternation swatting flies that had collected on the inside of the windows. And more flies. And more flies. So, I got out the vacuum cleaner and sucked up the rest. For the moment. I knew from experience that just as many would appear eventually.

After watching Rainey split some wood for kindling, we decided it was so nice we should sit on my tiny little deck and enjoy drinks, but there were flies pummeling the vinyl siding like it was the Piped Piper. Rainey stepped up to another gruesome task and exhausted herself in her futile quest to eliminate my fly infestation. She also realized that she may be racking up unwanted karma with all the killing.

So, we decided to make a trip into town together even though as a passenger she was risking death by shrapnel from defective airbags should we be forced to make a sudden stop. Just as we were walking to the car, my wonderful UPS lady, Sandy arrived with a couple of packages. I pointed out the flies and mentioned that I was considering getting Heidi Steffens from My Spirit Experience out here for an exorcism. She proceeded to educate us on the phenomenon of cluster flies. She also had them at her house for a few years before she figured it out. They almost drove her crazy until she started hiring an exterminator in the fall to spray the outside of the house. 

Cluster flies are similar to black flies but are in some ways both less icky, and more icky. They live in areas where there are large tracts of grassy areas (I have 30 acres of hay fields). They lay their eggs in the dirt, which hatch and find earthworms to inhabit until they grow up and start looking for food. They are attracted to garbage, feces, food compost and just about anything organic and decaying. In the fall, as it gets chilly, they congregate on houses and find cracks and crevices to infiltrate migrating to the highest part of the house, typically the attic. They are also referred to as attic flies. Once inside, there is nothing you can do about them except to swat them or vacuum them up. Apparently, the only way to control them is to fumigate the outside of the house with a permethrin cocktail. Once they’ve latched on to a house, they exude pheromones that stick to the siding and keeps generations returning to the same place year after miserable year.

Why I’ve never experienced this before in my 63 years of living on this earth is a mystery to me. While living in Nowthen, surrounded by farmland and hay fields we never had this. We had cattle, hogs, sheep, chickens, ducks, horses, dogs, and cats at various times, and never ever had something like this. Sure we had bot flies, and deer flies and horse flies, and black flies. 

I’ve been coming to the North Woods for my whole life and the worst I've been tormented by are mosquitos, deer flies, horse flies and ticks. Maybe a few black flies. Nothing like this. I am dumbfounded. Incredulous. But I have since done my research, and Sandy was not pulling my leg. Check out this entertaining article from Northern Woodlands

I really hate the idea of having to spray my house down every year with insecticide (although I used the same stuff on my horses for years).

Stay tuned, hearty souls for the dubious conclusion to this morbid tale.

P.S. Marketing for a commune is on hold until further notice.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Why I'm grateful for all the snow

As the snow starts to compress with periods of sunshine and warmer temps, I get the eerie feeling that the globs are staring back at me. Watching. Witnessing.

This has been one Helluva winter. I knew it would be challenging. Getting a divorce in November and moving into the remote North Woods outside a teeny tiny town into an old farm house with no fencing and so many unknowns is not a reassuring combination. 

I knew it would be challenging for my dogs because they are used to having a modicum of freedom of movement and regular exercise/play sessions with frisbees etc.  Now, they are relegated to life in confinement to their indoor crates unless they are led outside on leash to potty, or if the weather is warm enough to go into their cramped outdoor kennels for some fresh air. Every day I try to get all six of the dogs upstairs for one-on-one social time with me and a good rawhide to help them chew their frustrations way. Sometimes that just doesn’t work out.

First order of the day when spring finally comes is to install fencing. Move and enlarge the chain link kennels. Build insulated wooden dog houses. Throw the frisbee again. Slowly rebuild their fitness. Play!

Until then we are all going stir crazy. We all have cabin fever. I can see the muscle-wasting on my previously fit and playful pups. I can see the thickening around their bellies due to long hours of inactivity and too much food. Food is about all they have to look forward to. Eating. Chewing. Getting brushed maybe once in a while.

I’m surprised at how well-behaved they really are in spite of their isolation and confinement. They do, however, neurotically howl like clock-work early in the morning to wake me up. They bark and howl whenever I have a package delivery. They whine and bark when they hear the click of the gate at the top of the stairs because they know I’m coming downstairs. They bark at snow falling off the roof. At things seen and unseen. Heard and unheard. They are often vocal beyond my endurance.

I wish I could say that I’m as patient as a saint, but I’m not. I wish I could say that the incessant whining, barking and howling doesn’t drive me crazy sometimes. I wish I could say that I don’t loose my temper and yell sometimes. But I can’t say that.

I’m crabby. Irritated. Anticipating the next cacophony. At times furious because I’m so helpless to relieve their suffering--and mine.  I feel guilty. This is my fault. And yet, I could have done no better really--could I? It was all I could do at the time to just land here or anywhere.

Their lives are so short compared to ours. They wait and wait for us like worshippers. And we brush them off. We are too busy. We are too distracted. I marvel at my own ability to simultaneously love them immeasurably and to also want to strangle them. Thankfully, when I want to lash out, I always have snow to shovel.

So actually all this snow has been for our own good. Shoveling snow burns up energy and directs my focus away from the frustration with my dogs. They are entertained by watching me sweat and struggle so frequently. One could say, in fact, that the snow has been our saving grace!

OK. I am grateful for the snow. But now it’s time for it to go away. 

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Be Careful What You Ask For…!

On Saturday March 2nd, the SquatchHERS held our signature “Squatch Chat” at the Neighborhood Tavern in Effie, Minnesota. The event was to be for the duration of two hours between 5pm and 7pm. By the time I arrived at the bar my cohorts were already setting up the table with photos and tee-shirts. There was already one man eagerly sharing his own experiences with what is popularly called Bigfoot or Sasquatch.

The SquatchHers are a women-led cryptid research team. We explore wherever leads take us, but mostly stick to Minnesota. There have been detours in different states en route to various “Cons” which feature Bigfoot or other cryptids. But Bigfoot is our focus. I initially learned of the group because Heidi Stephens, from My Spirit Experience was a member. I have known Heidi for a few years now. She is also the leader of MPRS(Minnesota Paranormal Research Society) a coalition of individuals and paranormal research groups who meet monthly to share information and experiences.

I had been talking about getting Up North for quite a long time and this promised me the opportunity to do so in the companionship of other women. Less than 6 months after camping at Scenic State Park near Bigfork in May of 2018, I found myself living right in the middle of Bigfoot Country.

The evening was by any standards a huge success. The bar was packed soon after 5pm and stayed packed until after 7pm. Heidi Gustafson, the owner of the Tavern is also a Bigfoot enthusiast and was happy to host the event. We were thrilled to hear so many locals’ stories of first-hand experiences ranging from sightings to unexplained sounds. Since many of our group are also paranormal investigators and/or sensitives, we were also interested in the cross-over aspects of people’s experiences.  We had a few experienced researchers from farther-flung locales also join us and share.

The thing about Bigfoot is that it’s a male-dominated field. It’s mostly men who are exploring remote areas and determined to be the first to bring in the “proof” of Bigfoot’s existence. While not all are Hell-bent on bringing in a body, most are not opposed to the idea. There are a couple problems with this. If it turns out that Bigfoot is more or less human, then killing one is morally anathema (for some anyway). If Bigfoot is determined to be an animal (and nothing more) then the rationale is that we can now designate it as an endangered species and legally protect it. I’m not sure I’m confident in that one. Endangered species are being removed from the list and are routinely dispatched based on the political/profit climate at any given time. Being endangered is no guaranty of protection.

I think it’s the challenge of the hunt that motivates the men. And, the possibility of fame and fortune. For some, it may personal and spiritual. But that is not the overwhelming sense I get. Just look at how many TV shows have popped up in the past few years.

What motivates the women of the SquatchHERS? First of all, the love of the woods. Curiosity. Respect. Wonder. The desire to connect with Mystery. The quest for the unknown is insatiable. Once you have had some kind of experience with it, be it paranormal, or simply a mystery, it’s easy to become hooked. We, as SquatchHERS are not interested in bringing in a body. We are not interested in disclosing locations so that others can go in with guns and kill them. We are simply interested in knowing for ourselves. We want others to know that we believe them. We are part of a loose network that extends all over the world. We wonder what we might learn from Sasquatch. As paranormal researchers and enthusiasts, we contemplate the possibility that Bigfoot may be interdimensional, or alien, or something else. Inquiring minds want to know!

Yes, there is competition and drama among groups for fame and fortune. There is conflict over strategies for finding proof. The fundamental dispute is whether Bigfoot is mere fantasy, hoax, or a real animal. It's especially pertinent when you live right in the middle of territory reputed to be home to the creature. Do I really want to know if Sasquatch lives in my own back yard? Knowing for sure will only happen if I have a first-hand experience. If I never do have one, I will always wonder. And sometimes wondering is more appealing than knowing. It’s the Journey that counts, not necessarily the Destination.