Years ago, when the Judge and his family lived next door, and their well-natured alcoholic son took a shine to me, he walked over an old runner sled that had been sitting in their garage for 40+ years and offered it to us. Flattered, I assured him we’d make use of it. I put it in our garage and waited for Finn to be big enough to give it a try. In the following years, we never had enough actual snowfall to make use of it; there was one good year where we took the kids over to the school with the neighbors but I think that sled was a little too advanced for Finn’s age.
When we got the forecast for this past week, I knew I’d want to get it ready, so I pulled it down from the rafters and brought it into the basement. Years of neglect pitted the runners with rust, but after some focused effort with 60 grit sandpaper, I had them shiny and smooth again. I blew off the dust and used some cheap tealight candles to wax both rails, and she was ready.
Jen wisely pushed us out the door during lunch on Friday to take advantage of the snow we did get. Finn and I drove up to the local community college, which sits high on a hill overlooking our town, surrounded by excellently manicured sledding hills. As it was still a school day, we had the place almost to ourselves. I sat Finn down on the runner, gave her some encouragement, and watched her fly down the slope faster than greased lightning. We gave the plastic sled a few tries but it was no contest; the runner sled was ten times faster. We then got about 45 minutes in before I had to get her back for afternoon class, but every minute of weary trudging back up that slope was worth the exhilaration. Thanks, Howard!
I’m tempted to disassemble it, sandblast all the metal parts, and refinish the wood to clean it up for another 50 years. But maybe I’ll just oil the metal, tighten the rivets, and rub the wood with some teak oil. I like the look of things that have been used for a purpose, and this sled is a work of art as it is.
I’ve been keeping my eye on Craigslist for a used hitch-mast bicycle mount since I helped Karean get hers mounted on the back of the Benz. She originally had a rack mount we installed the year Rob passed but we quickly realized it was bending part of the window surround. I liked the one she got: it mounted up easily and folded below the bumper line so that the rear hatch can still open. I filed that away in the back of my head and we continued to use the spare tire mount rack I’d bought for the CR-V, but I’ve never liked having all that weight of the bikes and the tire hanging on the rear door.
This week a hitch-mast popped up in Dundalk for a fraction of the list price, so I ran across town today before too much ice collected on the ground. A nice man walked it out of his tidy house and we tested it on the CR-V before I gave him the cash: perfect. Both the Honda and the Scout have hitches, so now we’re better prepared for the summer, and I can carry bikes in the Scout when we go camping.
Update: looks like it’s a Roc 2, made about 20 years ago. It might be tricky to put my Cannondale on this (the top tube is actually 2 tubes that come to a joint at the center) but I’ll find a way to make it work. I’ve already added a hitch lock to my Amazon list.
I’m sitting on the couch in my cold-weather gear after shoveling the walk for the first time today. About 3″ of powder has fallen so it was easy to clear off the walks and driveway. They have no idea how much is going to accumulate so I’m going to keep at it until dark to stay ahead of things as much as possible. I brought in an extra load of firewood last night, and Apple is giving us free AppleTV+ until July, so we should have plenty to keep us occupied tonight.
I was pretty low this past week overall. It was hard to stay focused on work throughout the day, and I’ve been struggling to feel like I’ve accomplished anything solid for a few weeks now. The nature of my day job at this point yields no actual product, and I can’t go anywhere to produce anything in person, so I’m finding it harder and harder to validate my daily existence. (Jeez, that sounds pretty grim when I type it out). Here at the house I don’t have a lot of projects going, so huge gains like the front porch or the Chic Shack or the kitchen tile feel like years ago.
At this point I should mention that I am immensely grateful to have a full-time job that supports my family, and as jobs go it’s incredibly gratifying to know that we make an actual difference for good in the world based on science. In no way is this a complaint about my many privileges. I work with amazing people for an incredible organization. I think I’m just suffering through some of the ennui that most other people are dealing with in Month 10 of quarantine and pandemic, and even though there are signs that things are slowly getting better, there’s still a lot of confusion and unease.
We ordered a new twin mattress for Finn’s bed on Thursday to replace the one she’s been sleeping on since she was in a crib. She’s growing by feet these days, so growing pains are setting in and we have no idea how old that mattress actually is. It’s supposed to land on our doorstep sometime in the next week, and then I’ll have to find a place to store the current mattress until I can haul it down to the dump.
Looking out the window yesterday morning over coffee, I was amazed to see not one but three turkey buzzards perched on the fence overlooking the carcass while a murder of crows picked at it. One of the buzzards must have seen me because it flew up and perched on my neighbor’s garage and sat there preening. I texted him to apologize for the Wild Kingdom tableau between our yards and told him we were still waiting on Animal Services. He texted back and offered to take it to the dump in his pickup, which I hurriedly agreed to.
We wrapped it up in two layers of plastic and tied it off with some twine, then heaved it into the bed of his truck. It was beginning to get pretty ripe even though the temperature has been in the low 40s here, so I’m glad he offered. We threw a bunch of other trash on top of it and then hustled down to the dump, where they waved us in without a second look in the back.
There’s still a track of dried fluid running down the driveway and tufts of long hair floating around the yard, but it’s nice to have that gone for good. Meanwhile, the Christmas tree continues to sit on our front walk waiting for its date with the chipper.
Day 3, and the deer carcass is still on our driveway. Well, it’s sort of off the driveway now; the critters have been actively gnawing on it for the past two days, and they have been moving it as they pick at it. First, our local fox started chewing on the hindquarters, and by yesterday morning the entire rear end was opened up. Then the crows started circling. At 3:30, there was a giant turkey buzzard hopping around and chewing on the neck where I’d separated the head. There are now several perched atop the church across the street, looking like the Horsemen of the Apocalypse.
Great tufts of hair are floating around the driveway and blowing up against the house, and there was a bit of a smell on the breeze when we took the dog for a walk this morning. People walking past the house stop and peer down the driveway, wondering if what they’re seeing is, in fact, a dead animal and not a butchered human corpse. There has been no sign of Animal Services either by text or in person, so now we’ve got a dried-out tree and a deer carcass out in front of the house. If I add a couch, some cinderblocks, and a couple of spare tires on the lawn, we’ll have the full Redneck Experience covered. Or, I could just pull the Scout out of the garage…
We overheard Finley gleefully mentioning both the dead deer and the fact that I’d chopped the head off to her entire class this morning. I’m sure her teacher has put us on a list of some kind, and Child Welfare is gonna be knocking on our door shortly.
I’m waiting on a third set of weatherproof boots to arrive. The first boots were too small; the second pair were too big (both made by Sperry—I followed Zappos’ sizing recommendations, so something is seriously fucked with their QA process). I punted and followed a sale LL Bean is currently running, opting for a set of 8″ Bean boots with Thinsulate and hoping they actually fucking fit. Bean’s sizing information is less than helpful; I’m just throwing darts at the wall to see if the size is correct. At this rate, I’ll have a set of waterproof boots just in time for summer vacation.
So we had two different options lined up for someone to come and haul the deer away, dress it, and butcher it for meat, but they both fell through. The County Animal Services folks say it’ll be somewhere between 1-3 days before they can get someone out here to haul it away, and they’d only do that if it was easily accessible—which meant it needed to be in the driveway or out by the curb. I decided our neighbors probably wouldn’t appreciate a rotting deer carcass sitting next to the sidewalk. I looked up How to Drag a Deer Out of the Woods on YouTube last night and a nice man showed me how to loop a rope around the rack and tie that to a stick, and I was able to get it moved around the house to the driveway behind our cars much quicker than I’d thought. Last night, our local fox found the corpse and started picking at it, driving Hazel into fits of panic.
It’s a rare occurrence for us to see a deer, let alone have a buck with points die in our yard, so I figured I’d take the head, cut it down, and boil the skull clean to mount it. I had about 10 free minutes between meetings this morning, so I put the axe on the bench grinder to sharpen the blade, then went out and gave the neck about five good whacks before it separated cleanly.
I was expecting Kurosawa amounts of spurting blood but overnight coagulation in the driveway meant everything was still and mostly solid. The head is now sitting under a rubbermaid bin weighted with a cinderblock behind the greenhouse. My next YouTube search is How to Clean a Deer Head, which, frankly, looks pretty gruesome. Hopefully I can get to it in the next couple of days before it really starts breaking down. Temperatures are in the low 40’s for the next couple of days, so I should be able to get a couple of hours on Saturday morning to get my hands dirty (we are currently preparing for one of our yearly Big Events this week).
This beautiful young buck was hit by a car out in front of our house this morning. I was at my desk working and heard a dull, loud thud as a rust-colored Jeep slammed into his flank; I looked up to see him scramble to his feet and run back into our yard and behind the house. I ran to the windows to see if I could see him, then outside to check the yard. He was laying on his side behind the Chic Shack with a stunned look in his eyes, drawing labored breaths and bleeding from his mouth.
I ran to check on the driver, who had pulled over to the side of the road. She was OK so I told her I was available if she needed me for the insurance claim and went back to look at the buck. In that short interval he had died; there was a pile of dark red blood and tissue around his mouth that he’d aspirated before the end. I don’t know why it hit me so hard, but I felt so bad for this guy, cut down in the prime of his youth, just trying to get the fuck out of the suburbs and back into the woods where he belonged.
Over at Kottke.org, Tim Carmody writes about two perspectives on COVID-19, Rachel Maddow’s experience caring for her partner, who has the virus, and Farhad Manjoo’s article in the New York Times about doing the calculations around whether he should go to visit his family for Thanksgiving or not based on his contact bubble. He does an excellent job of summing up both perspectives, so just hop over there to read it—it’s worth the time.
But it was his summation of the whole thing that stuck with me; he’s a much better writer than I will ever be and this final thought sums up how I’ve been feeling this whole time:
We do not know who to trust. We have no money, no help, and no plan but to wait. We have no sense of what rules our friends and neighbors, colleagues and workers, are following when they’re not in our sight; we don’t even know what practices they would even admit to embracing. We have no money; we have no help. We are left on our own, adrift in deep space, scribbling maps and adding sums on the back of a napkin. We are all in this together, yet we are completely alone.
I haven’t really had much to write about around here other than small updates on lots of little projects.
- I’ve been working nonstop this week on a report at work that will be released both as a print and digital product; the process demands a completely new workflow which has been an uphill climb to learn and a series of trial-and-error attempts to get things right. When it’s done it will be an exciting launch, but it’s taken a lot of late nights to get this far.
- We’re still waiting on grout for the kitchen tile. I bought some “white” grout at the Home Depot and tried it on a test sample, and it dried more gray than white. There’s another color, called “avalanche” which looks whiter than white that I’d like to try next.
- I cleaned out the greenhouse last weekend, pulling all of the rest of the tomato plants out and consolidating the tubs. All of the yard furniture went inside with the last rain barrel, and I reinstalled the panel on the back wall. I’m sad to see it all buttoned up for the winter, but I’m already thinking ahead to next spring.
- Walking the dog last week, I passed by a house that’s been on the market for several weeks and noticed the owners were moving a bunch of stuff out to the curb under giant FREE signs. Always interested in FREE stuff, I bypassed a charcoal grill, several shelves, old office chairs, water jugs and other assorted stuff and focused in on a Dewalt tool case containing a corded drill in excellent shape; I then juggled that, my coffee, and the dog all the way home. I headed back in the Scout to see if I could score one of the shelves to use in the greenhouse. While I was loading that into the truck, the owner asked me if I was interested in a ladder. Sure, I said, immediately thinking of Glenn, who could use a ladder of his own. He showed me to a 20′ aluminum ladder in excellent shape, so I threw it in the truck and texted Glenn. He’d borrowed one of my ladders to pull his shutters off before having their house painted, so we swapped ladders later that day. I’m always looking out for stuff like that, and when I can find things for family, it’s that much better.
- We had an electrician come in and hook up the heater in the new bathroom, after a year of waiting in vain for my neighbor to come back over and finish it. That job went pretty quickly and as a result I had him come back out to put a switch and mount in for a ceiling fan in on the porch. He was smart and jumped a wire from the lighted doctor sign on the front of the house; it took a little longer than he was expecting but it’s all ready for a fan we haven’t bought yet. I’ve got a bunch of patching I need to do on the drywall out there because he had to cut a hole around the switch and up at the top of the wall to get through the sill plate.
- After several months of back-and-forth with Warby Parker, I’ve got new glasses on the way. I was trying to avoid going for an eye exam in person to avoid COVID, and they have an app that roughly tests for prescription changes that I tried, but I was told—after the test—that it didn’t apply to my prescription. After the in-person test I was told two things I already knew: my distance prescription hasn’t changed, and that I need readers. They made the case for a set of bifocals but I think I’m going to just find a cheap pair of readers at Target for now.
I feel like there is so much going on and I don’t know what I can do about any of it. I’m overwhelmed with information. I found a list of 75 Things White People Can Do for Racial Justice here, and I feel like this is a place I can start.
You can reach out and say, “Hey, I can’t imagine what you’re going through, I’m here if you need it.” Because instead what often we get is this emotional outreach of, “I’m so sad, I’ve been crying all day, I’m really struggling.” And it becomes this really selfish thing where it’s like, wow, if you, a white person, are sad and scared, ask how a black person feels.
Also tangentially related: Your Phone Is a Goldmine of Hidden Data for Cops. Here’s How to Fight Back
The frequency of my posts here have dropped off in recent weeks. For some reason I’m in a fallow period for the blog, and I’m spending too much free time just aimlessly looking at the internet for tiny dopamine hits. Weekends are different because I can get out from behind the desk and accomplish large visible things that have a tangible result, which I’m leaning on heavily for motivation. As my job-related output gets increasingly intangible it’s hard to feel a sense of accomplishment when my output for the day is a list of items crossed off on a list in a notebook.
This is not a complaint. I’m happy—and lucky—to have a job in the current climate. Some weeks it’s just more difficult to shift my mindset to the new normal.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are beginning to perk up. After several weeks of apathy, they’ve noticed the change in temperature and are beginning to pick up their growth. When I look at my Flickr feed from last year the store-bought plants are a full month ahead of where I am this year, but I’m taking a much more careful approach to how I’m letting these grow. Being home every day means I can keep a closer eye on them—pruning back the suckers and extra branches to keep the main stem strong and healthy every day. From what I’m seeing online I need to be much more ruthless about pruning back extra branches that have set flowers, as they take the energy and growth away from fruit on the main section of the plant. But with the additional plants I’m growing, we’ll hopefully have a lot more production overall.