Critters in the Garage


Phoebe Chick

Phoebe Chick

A little too long ago our garage door busted.  One of the cables snapped so only one side gets pulled when it operates.  I say “a little too long ago” because we still haven’t fixed it.  We just leave it up or down for a while.  Often the car isn’t in the bay.  I also say “a little too long ago” since the door busted because it froze to the floor.  We haven’t had ice in a while.

But whatevs.  This is about critters.  The ones in the garage.  The reason they get in is because the door is open.  A squirrel managed to find a home in there.  I don’t know it is actually living in the garage, but it sure likes hanging out in there.  It has recently discovered how wonderful the garbage bags are.  “Get a load of these things,” I imagine it pondered. “They are filled with plastic packaging, some of which has slight amounts of food residue stuck to it;  I think I’ll gnaw large holes in the bag so I can lick the salsa jar lid.”  Our food waste goes into the compost so there isn’t much for a squirrel to snack upon.  But that doesn’t stop it.

Yesterday I started moving our wood from one wall to another.  This seems to bother the squirrel.  Hey, squirrel, chill.  This isn’t your wood.  Clean up the mess you made with the garbage and maybe I’ll let you hang around.  Until then, you can find a tree.  And by the way, stop licking the grill.  Just because I’m lazy doesn’t give you license to lick that either.  I think that once I move the wood, the squirrel will just move into that pile.  We need to get that door fixed.

Once spring began we also had a phoebe family move in.  It made a nest in the rafters.  This meant we had to leave the door open so it could get out.  And in.  Then it had some chicks.  The other day, the chicks fledged.  One of the chicks was hanging out on the garage floor.  It left the nest but hadn’t quite figured out how to fly yet.  It was there for a while.  After dark it was gone.  I hope it didn’t get snacked upon by some noctural predator.  Especially after leaving the door open that whole time.  It was cute, that baby bird.  I guess that made up for its parents crapping all over the cars and the lawnmower and firewood.  And the garbage bags.

The phoebes have left, now that the chicks are off to better things.  Now they hang out in the birch tree outside my son’s window, keeping him up late and waking him up early.  At least they are out of the garage.  Now I just need to convince the squirrel to take a hike.  Once I stop being lazy, and decide that paying for someone to fix the door is a priority, it will be easier to keep out the critters.  I guess I’ll have to live with the squirrel until then.  At least it isn’t in the house.  With my record of door fixing procrastination, let’s hope the front door stays intact.

A Little Sweat and a Little Work Done

Yesterday was a hot one and we didn’t linger at home.  We visited a bunch of friends on the lake, swimming and eating outside and generally making a time of it.  So I didn’t get much done on my first day off for the summer.  Today I did manage to get a bunch accomplished.  The sun shone and the day was warm.  It was a good one for getting things done.

The first thing I managed to do, after making a couple of perfect over easy eggs for my daughter, was to go for a run.  I haven’t run in far too long and I am finally sans pain.  I only put in four miles, but I felt just great.  If I can keep that up I will be golden.  I managed to sweat only lightly while on the road, but when I got back home I headed straight to the garden.  I discovered that something has been yanking up our corn again.  I thought that problem was solved but it looks like it will require some more trickery.  I also ate a few ripe strawberries.  And pulled some weeds.

I took a shower a little later but was still sweating when I was done with that small task.  So I headed to the garage to stack firewood.  We need to move what we have closer to the door to make room for the new stuff we will get later.  We need to wood that is most dry to be most available.  Plus, once it all gets consolidated there is more room for the lawnmower.  We need to be crafty to fit it all in.  I did what I could but left a bunch for later.  Then it was lunch time.

Since I had only two chocolate chip cookies and two cups of coffee (hey, it had cream in it) for breakfast, I was hungry.  We have tons for lettuce from our share at the farm so I stacked six big fat leaves of it under a veggie burger.  I also added some mayo.  That did the trick.  Oh, and pickle.  And a handful of dilly potato chips.  And another cookie.

My son and I took a trip to town for some errands.  I needed to get a few tools and supplies to get started on scraping paint from the house, and I had this lid to a compost bin that I had purchased way back in November.  It was the wrong size and I figured out I didn’t need it anyway.  So I finally brought it back.  I even managed to save the receipt the whole time so it was a quick transaction.  Then the kid wanted to play on the play structure.  I can’t blame him.  The thing is pretty impressive.  After sailing on a couple of ships, swimming in the shallow water and avoiding a bunch of sharks, I picked out a ceramic pot and we hit it.

I used the pot to repot a plant.  Duh.  We got this plant almost seven years ago.  It was in a plastic pot inside a wicker basket.  It looked good for a while, but we overfilled the pot so many times that the basket was wet all the time.  Eventually the bottom rotted out.  Since the plastic pot just fit inside the basket, I had a bumbling time extracting it.  The extraction involved flying dirt, rotted basket smear on the white T-shirt, and a pinched finger.  After the struggle, however, the new pot served its purpose.  The plant is still a little hurting, but I am hoping it will recover with the fresh dirt and some room to grow.

I managed to get a few other random tasks accomplished as well (cleaned those seedling pots finally) and made up a good dinner.  The dinner used up a good pile of produce from the farm–bok choy, kale, mini turnips–and some other veggies.  All that spiced and flavored with vinegar over brown rice–it was a winner.  My daughter even ate it, although my son pointed to the steaming bowl of vegetables and declared “I don’t like that” as soon as he sat down.  At least he ate the rice.

More projects tomorrow.  And maybe some reading.  I need to yank some weeds from the garden, and maybe plant another round of greens.  If it’s hot, however, swimming (somewhere) will be in order.  We’ll see about the weather.

Firewood on the Deck

We have a pile of firewood on the deck.  That isn’t where we keep the firewood, mind you, but there it is.  It came from under the big old spruce tree.  That isn’t where we keep it either.  It migrated to its spot under the tree from the pile next to the garage.  We usually keep the firewood in the garage, not next to it.  The pile is smaller than it was a while ago.

We got a load of firewood delivered last summer.  We let it sit in a pile, near the garage but not right next to it, for several months.  Once it was clear that winter would not hold off any longer, I moved it into its neat stacks in the garage.  I ran into a problem, of course.  The logs that were against the ground were muddy, gunked up with our clay soil.  So I took those pieces and made a smaller pile as I worked.  I ended up with a pile of muddy chunks.

I left the mud encrusted heating fuel there all winter.  I thought I might move it once it got dry enough to move under cover.  But it never got dry enough.  Then the logs got frozen.  And it snowed.  And I left them there.  When spring arrived and the children started to muck about outside without snow, they decided that firewood makes excellent building material for houses and other imaginary buildings.

That is how the wood found its way to the spruce tree.  New construction, using recycled materials, were used for the new building on the deck.  It was not as practical a building as they might have built, but I was proud of my children for their sustainable building practices.  The building has fallen out of use, and its remains were piled up.  I am waiting for the clean up crew to manage the debris.

The muddy wood pile is now fairly dry.  The mud has fallen off.  I need to move that pile out from the flower bed.  Leaving it there could become a problem soon.  The children will need to find other sustainable building materials.  I am going to burn these.

Fire in the Stove

When I was growing up we had a wood stove to heat our house.  Mostly, this was an economical choice.  It was a lot less expensive to burn wood than oil, especially in our old house with its old furnace.  It got me hooked, however, not just for its penny-wise benefits, but for the heat it produces and the process it requires.

Back in the day we would get a truck load of logs delivered to the house and prep it all summer.  A full-sized logging truck would back down the driveway and unload with the claw.  I remember raising the power line to the house with a long board (safety first!) so the truck would fit under it.  Then we had a pile of logs to cut.

At first my dad did it all, but then I was allowed to help out.  I used the chain saw at some point and I definitely helped split once we had stove length pieces.  We borrowed a homemade log splitter from John Coile, one the tallest men I have ever met, and spent days busting them into logs that would fit into the stove.

We then, of course, had to stack it in the wood shed, rotating through the dry stuff from the previous year.  It was, indeed, a lot of work.  And we still had to start and maintain the fire once winter came.  It saved us money, sure, but I enjoyed all that work.  I learned to love to split wood.  And I learned how to start a fire and keep one going.  Now, married and with my own children, we have a stove and we keep it fired up.

It does save money.  We might get a tank refill of propane that costs us as much as a cord of wood.  We save hundreds of dollars each winter.  I like that the resource is both local and renewable as well.  It produces more greenhouse gases from our house, but probably fewer if you account for extraction and transportation of fossil fuels.  What I really love, however, is the ritual if it all.

I love to rise early on a cold morning, the house chilly, the clouds low, and crank up a fire.  I love to sit next to the stove with a book.  I love to feed the stove, carry in wood, split logs into kindling.  It is more work than turning the thermostat dial, but not all good things come easy.  I have no expectations that heating with wood is simple or takes little labor.  It is a task.  I emptied the ash bucket for the first time this winter, for example.  I had forgotten about that task.  Even that, however, helps us build compost when I dump the ashes on the compost pile.

We have a fire in the stove right now and I sit next to it as I write.  We have enough kindling and firewood indoors to start a fire tomorrow.  We will be warm when we head to bed and the house will cool as we sleep.  When we are gone during the day tomorrow, the propane will kick in.  I can live with that.  When I get home after a day of work away, I will pile up some wood and take a match to it.  Then I will warm my back and know that we will stay toasty, even in the worst of weather.

Tractor Chores

I managed to get out on the tractor early this morning and get the field mowed. Well, not all of the field, but most of it. I managed to get stuck twice and had to use the bucket to pull myself out of the mud. Maybe 15% of the ten acres is not cut–too wet and mucky for this tractor.

My little boy came with me while I was out there. He wanted to come along so he sat on my lap. The tractor was at the edge of the field, close to the house, and needed to be filled with gas. I decided to drive it around to the garage, where the 5-gallon talk sat. Five gallons of diesel isn’t easy to lug too far. So he sat on my lap and steered us over there.

I was impressed with his steering ability. Maybe all that ride-on car/truck riding really has paid some dividends. He got us around the house without running into the clothesline or the wood pile or the car. I had to guide him a couple of times but really, only a couple of times. If he could reach the peddles he could almost do it himself.

I also turned the compost pile again and we hauled the old fence posts away. We took down a rotting fence this spring and all the posts were hiding, rotting, in the tall grass. We loaded the bucket and I drove them to the far edge of the field. I stacked them in hopes that some birds or other critters will shack out there while they take a few years to crumble. Maybe that is a bad idea and we will attract foxes who will eat our future chickens, but we have no real plans to get chickens so we are safe for now.

I am thinking we can get one more job in before we give the machine back. We have some dents in our driveway that could use some filling; fill them, smooth them, pack them and maybe we will not have to bump our way down the driveway so much. It shouldn’t take long.

I need to get the wood in still and I need to get cracking on making that pie. I should have enough time this afternoon to get to the latter. Maybe I can do some stacking while the pie bakes. But only if I get to it.

Getting Stuff Done on a Saturday

I felt like I didn’t get enough done today but I did get something done.  Here is a list:

  1. I gathered the trash and recycling and took it to the dump, including the vinyl inflatable pool that has been sitting outside the garage for a year now, deflated and filled with sand;  yeah, that was good purchase.
  2. I took my son to the dump and convinced him to be happy about not taking the always-offered lollipop because he had had so much Halloween candy lately.  That may have been the biggest accomplishment of the day.
  3. I purchased some snow stakes to line the driveway.  Our old fiberglass stakes are pretty shredded and are nasty splinterizers.  We need to get the new ones in as the ground has been considering freezing lately.  At least I got the first part of that one done.
  4. I rolled about on the floor with my kids and laughed quite a bit.
  5. I made lunch for my son while my wife and daughter were out for a hike–he even ate most of it, including a large peeled carrot.
  6. I hung laundry on the clothesline and then folded a huge pile of it in the late afternoon.
  7. I washed a whole mess of dishes.
  8. I took out and stirred the compost, although I was sad to see it is not cooking as much as it had been in the warmer weather.
  9. I brushogged for two hours.  Last night my brother-in-law dropped off his tractor and I had a grand time mowing the field.  I got only part of it done (it will take 8-10 hours to get to it all) but the kids each rode for a while (I also purchased an additional set of ear protectors at the hardware store) and they had fun bouncing about on my lap.  I only got stuck once but got out with the bucket in but a minute.

Tomorrow I will get out on the tractor some more, hopefully make some banana bread, and start stacking the firewood.  We may get the snow stakes in as well but that may have to wait until we get the tractor out of here.  Oh, and I was hoping to go for a run.  If only I got more done today, I would have less to do tomorrow.  But here we are.  I’ll just have another piece of candy and everything will be fine.