Portents in the Sky

I noticed an unusual cloud formation yesterday afternoon. The weather nerds had been claiming basketball sized hail, biblical rains and tornadic winds, like they always do, and as it almost always does, the sure to cause damage to life and limb weather missed us by a country mile. I wandered out to get a better look at the clouds and brought my camera, ‘cause if you don’t have pictures, it didn’t happen. Pro Tip garnered from numerous internet forums.

We have a whole passel of buzzards that like to hang around our place, and this year a breeding pair of Red Tailed Hawks has set up shop somewhere in our forest. That’s what the 1st Realtors claimed our place had. A forest. Only trees in the whole area, the one realtor chick claimed. The way they talked, I was wondering if I could maybe interest one of them big companies that clear-cut entire mountains to make a bid on our “forest” and we could skip the whole selling the place and live in high style with the…

Yeah, maybe not. Which is what I told them when they came back and wanted to list our place.

So, I was wandering down the driveway, looking at this cloud and next thing I know, I’ve got 7 buzzards floating directly over my head at a somewhat alarmingly low altitude, with the Red Tail Hawk just above them, screeching “Hey Dude!” For a moment there, I was wondering if the wife was going to collect that hefty chunk of life insurance I had taken out for moments very similar to this. Nope, turns out, the buzzards along with their new little buddy, “Gilligan” the hawk, were out for their usual afternoon patrol. They had launched off our silo and hadn’t quite hit a thermal to lift them high in the sky. Or, they were just being neighborly and saying “Howdy” before heading out for a snack.

I’m not quite sure how the hawk fits in with these guys. They eat old dead stuff and he likes live things that he has processed himself. None of them would sit still enough for a decent photo. I don’t really blame them, as I find it hard to sit still when I’m hungry too.

Gonna miss the friendly neighbors when we move. No, not enough to stay, well maybe if the Weyerhaeuser Company comes through with the big timber contract, but probably not. We don’t have chiggers in Minnesota and the catfish that everybody raves about down here, gets buried in the garden up there, where it belongs.

T Minus 2 Weeks and Holding

Houston, we may have a problem…

A slight hitch in our giddy up with the house this week. While I was rolling last week, I built a new back door to replace the 1910 version that had been beat like a rented mule and had seen better days probably about 3 decades ago. The bottom panels, which had both split, were about a quarter inch in width and tended to let more in than they kept out. I think all the doors in the stone part of the house had been store bought and purchased at the same time. Every one of them are much thinner that you would think for that time period and they all had chatter marks in the wood from a dull wood planer blade. I suppose, like everything else, they were offered a choice between good, better and best for doors and other household things. The homeowners here either were very frugal or didn’t have much for walking around money. It was about 25 or 30 years since the house had been built and it was time for a little remodeling. 100 years later, we show up and think the same thing. I am sure the 1910 owners would be surprised to see not much had changed since their time, about as surprised as we were at least.

And since I go by the old Red Green saying “If the ladies don’t find ya handsome, they should at least find ya handy” this house was dang near full time employment for a guy that couldn’t afford a better door, but could dang sure build one. The Mrs and I dropped by one of the big box stores, ok, drove 32 miles ‘cause we live way out in the sticks, and picked out 3 of the straightest 2×6’s, came home and started making sawdust. Made a decision early on to go old school with the bottom panel. The old door had raised panels that were embedded in the door and a bitch to fix when they crack and they always crack. Instead, I milled up some moldings from barn wood to capture a 3/4 inch plywood panel I used. That baby ain’t gonna split and you’ll break your foot trying to kick it in. I got bonus Gaia love points for reusing glass from an old window that we had replaced in the bedroom. Painted her brown like the old one and stuck it in the hole, and if one door is good, 2 doors are gooder, I built a screen door to go with it. The material came from a door of a greenhouse that I had built on the South side of the house 3 or 4 winters ago. It needed just a few tweaks and bingo, now it’s a brown screen door.

So the mudroom exterior doors are finished and next up was tile around the brick wall for the wood stove. The living room floor kinda rolls around a bit, as does the ceiling, so installing the cement board was interesting, but nothing new. They didn’t worry too much about level, square or plumb back when they built the place, and I just followed the curves and hummed really loud. Something must have took umbrage with the lack of plumbness or my humming, ‘cause the next day my back had filed a hostile workplace grievance and we were not on speaking terms for a good couple three days. About the same time, my faithful Dodge truck, which has moved us to and fro for the past 2 decades, came down with a bad case of the rats. As in rats chewing wiring, again, and causing my cruise control and overdrive mysteriously to cost me more money. Into this life, a little rain must fall. My Dad was not a mechanic, so I never learned the mysterious art of making broken vehicles work, but he wasn’t much of a carpenter either, so I musta got that from my Mom.

Back sucks, truck’s broke and the work is waiting. Finally could bend a bit on Saturday and popped in the majority of the tiles. The Mrs helped with the laying part, which is nice so I didn’t have the danger of possibly going blind by going lone-layer. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ I had been a flooring contractor way back when and had done this kind of thing, oh, about 25 years ago, but it’s like falling off a bike. You never forget how. I had a friend ask me how my knees are doing compared to 25 years ago. I didn’t really think about it, when I have to get on my knees to do something, I get on my knees. They are holding up quite a bit better than my back, which tends towards high maintenance when it’s not feeling the love. A neurosurgeon that had looked at the problem a while back had stated that I appeared to have been stupid most of my life. “No,” I said, “just blue collar.” I think he might have mumbled, “same thing.” I was quite late on paying his bill.

Next up is the mudroom floor, *sad oboe*. It also looks rode hard and put away wet and we were advised to maybe spruce it up a bit. Our new realtor loved everything else, but was hatin on the mudroom floor. I flat out forgot where I put my dynamite, so I’ll resort to putting some floor leveler on it and maybe a garage floor top coat. We’ll see. More lipstick for the pig.

Locals

I grew up with an interest in nature. I think most kids from my childhood did, and I credit my Mom for telling me to get my hinder outside and don’t come in until supper. Just you, a couple of your besties from the neighborhood and the great outdoors. Mandated by our Mothers, we were forced into freedom to be kids and it was glorious. However, for every freedom given, there’s a bit of penance due. When it was supper time, I trudged into the house, muddy and quite often bleeding, but smiling all the same. A vigorous wash up was inflicted upon me, and the family sat down to supper, which mostly consisted of a hamburger something and canned vegetables. I didn’t mind so much the beef component, but mushy canned veggies were no bueno in my book and I spent some long, lonely hours at the table, sullenly staring at the hideous things until my dear old Dad would tell Mom to give it a rest and let the boy just go to bed. My dear Mother, being 102 pounds of rompin stompin German, did not always relent with demure grace.

Kinda got side-tracked a bit there. Let’s see, nature, meaning bugs and furry/feathered/scaly things. I like ‘em. So does the Mrs. She’s the only woman I know that likes spiders and snakes. I’ve brought, more than once, so called deadly serpents into the house to show her, and she just about gave me that “come hither look.” The flip side of that is that I’ve had grown men visibly quail at the mere mention of snakes and I’ve been forced to take a notch out of their Man card because of their Nancy boy ways. I have a feeling that those dudes might have liked canned vegetables a little bit too much in their youth.

Living in an old house, out on the wild Kansas prairie, requires lots of work. If you’re lucky, sometimes you’ll get a local or two showing up to help out and that’s much appreciated. We just put new windows in the stone part of the house and these modern things only have half a screen that likes to hang tough on the bottom half of the window. I like half screens because I quite often am taking pictures of some cool thing through the window and glass is a whole lot more transparent than a screen plus glass. The down side to that is when the screen is in the upright and locked position of the upper half, it leaves a small gap between the 2 window panes, where enterprising bugs can wiggle through. And lately that’s been fire flies. We get fire flies in the kitchen when I get up at some ungodly hour and next thing you know, they are blinking right in my face, which is sorta cool, but not when you get a half dozen of them hanging around waiting for dark and looking a lot like cockroaches. (Editor’s note: fire flies are what some of us call lightning bugs.) (Author’s note: people who like to pretend that they’ve been magically born and raised in the South and/or like to use Southern euphemisms to put on aires, are kinda silly.)

Anyhow, I was working myself up to a “final solution” when a cute little hunting spider crawled through the bug gap and proceeded to dine on excess blinky bugs. You can’t turn down help like that and he was invited to stay. Now and then, he would tend to wander, but a little judicious spider wrangling was employed and now he lives in the North kitchen window and handles all our minor bug problems.

The outside of the house had a volunteer, in fact 2 of them. Our South side door has an old wooden deck that hides lots of crawly things that just love to sneak in the house. Sweet Pea would take an interest, now and then, but lately, it’s been too hot and he just lays around all wilted from the heat. I stepped outside the other day and just about stepped on our 1st helper, a collared lizard. These guys drive the dog crazy, but they must have some German in them, as they are still hanging around, looking surly. Since this big and truculent looking bad boy showed up, the amount of buggage that has tried to enter the house has dropped to only wasps and hornets. I don’t mind them, cause it’s lots of fun running though the house, swinging at whatever flying menace has dared to enter the zone of doom. Bugs may fly in, but they get carried out, most often in kleenex.

The second guy that showed up to help (this is almost getting like a Home Depot parking lot) was something that most of you will loose your sh*t over, but you needn’t be so silly. He was on the path from the house to the parking area. A path created mostly by my wife, because she is convinced that chiggers, the bane of our rural existence, are in all the grass and hence she walks this path enough to practically make it dirt. So, this guy was in the path when she went out to get the mail. She ran back in and said come out quickly to see this, and I did. A beauty of a gopher snake was placidly sunning himself and I asked if he was from around these parts. He didn’t say much, just stuck his black forked tongue out a few time and I took that for a yup. Since I had him in a chatty mood, I mentioned that we happen have lots of mice and rats that needed killin. Again with the tongue. These boys are not noted conversationalists, but we struck a deal and that is good, cause my truck is in the shop again for something chewing on wires, and that is starting to rile me some. These snakes are the most common in Kansas and eat lots of mice and rats and many other pest-like things. Probably the most beneficial animal on the whole property, not counting my wife of course. You take your help where you can find them and be dang thankful that these guys are local and you don’t have to worry about them getting weirdo ideas like trying to change our home and ways to their home and ways, which they left. You may be thinking Californians and they’re a problem, but home grown, no matter how goofy. We’re moving to Minnesota and nobody wants to talk about the elephant or camel in the land of 10,000 lakes. Oops, did that slip out? I thought I was talking to myself again. Gonna be an interesting move.

I’ll leave you with more info on this cool snake. Try to not act like you’re 3 again and monsters are going to eat you. You’ll have a lot less stress in your life. You’re welcome ;~)

The Gopher Snake, also known as the Bullsnake, is harmless. It is the largest snake in Kansas, growing up to 8 feet in length. It has keeled scales; a pattern of 33–73 large brown or black blotches on a brownish yellow body. Tail with alternating yellow and black bands. Belly yellowish with variable black mottling. Young same as adults. Lives in open grasslands as well as open woodland and woodland edge; common in cultivated fields where there is an abundance of rodents. Active from April to November; generally diurnal, basking in the sun or foraging for food, but becomes nocturnal during hot summer months. Number of eggs per clutch ranges from 3-22. Constrictor. It is the most economically beneficial snake in Kansas, consuming large quantities of rodents and saving farmers from much grain loss; also eats pocket gophers, rabbits, ground squirrels, birds and bird eggs. Emits a loud “hiss” when disturbed or frightened.

T minus 3 weeks and counting

This is it, the final offensive. The push to break our enemy, to drive him before us, and to hear the lamentations of his women, or just get the damn house finished, sold and move North. We called a local Realtor, one that had a pretty good rep for selling country property. Both the Mrs and I have been Realtors in a past life. We’re not talking reincarnation or anything hand wavy like that. Our time in Missouri, or Misery as I like to call it, was not built on the sound foundation of happy memories. Being a Realtor can do that to a guy. The people in the business had a saying, “Buyers are liars” to which I added, after having some experience in the field, “As are sellers and Brokers and so on…” Sure, it’s all supposed to be on the up and up, but so is the Government. You get my drift.

Anyway, our Realtors said they would be out in a week to see the place. Hmm. A week. Could it be these guys are so busy that it would take that long to come see the place and get a contract. Or maybe, they weren’t all that hepped up to come out and see another old house. Everybody knows everybody in these parts, and sure as heck these guys knew this place and had already formed an opinion from seeing it when the last people lived here. You can put lipstick on a pig, but it’s still a pig.

We let it ride and see what would come of it. 3 of them showed up, late, and did a brief tour of the place, didn’t ask many questions and didn’t really look the place over much. Said they would crunch some numbers and get back to us as to what the place was worth. A week later, a single Realtor showed up and told us what they thought the value of the property was, and that value was something just a bit North of what we paid for the place, 10 years ago. The Mrs glanced at me and I saw her tense up a bit. Back when we had horses, we mostly dealt with Arabs and Saddlebreds. Never had much truck with Quarter Horses but lots of people like ‘em. Arabs will let you know, early, if you and he are gonna have a problem. Like sometimes before you got out to the barn. Saddlebreds were pretty easy going, they had their moments sure, but tended to calm down quickly and not hold a grudge. In Kansas, we got our first Quarter Horse. I had always heard that you could never tell with them, until the last damn second when all hell broke loose, if you and him were gonna butt heads. Turns out to be true. Our Quarter Horse was Mr Congenial until he wasn’t. I’ve been told I’m a pretty laid back kinda guy, until I’m not. The Realtor found out I more resemble a Quarter Horse when push comes to shove. She left with us promising to talk about things and maybe call her, sometime.

We had a pow wow and decided to quit messin’ with the local yokels. The next day, Mrs Former Realtor called somebody in Wichita and he showed up the following day. He gets out of the car, Sweet Pea cuddles up to him and we spent maybe 15 minutes chatting, acting like we’re old friends, out in the front yard. He loved the place, took notes, admired my drones, talked about guns and hunting, and then we sat down to brass tacks. What do I have to do to make you happy, he asked and I told him. Mamma always said, if you get a chance to go, go big and so I told him what I wanted. He didn’t say no, just that it would take some time. I know we are not going to get what I want for the place, but given the time, I think this old boy might just get us what we need. I told him I needed about 3 weeks to tie up loose ends. He called today to ask how things are going. I told him I was in the process of breaking my enemy and hope to soon drive him before me. “So, right on schedule, then?” Yup, I said. He laughed and told me to keep him in the loop.