Monday, September 25, 2017

Basements and Bats and little Houses



In my adult lifetime, I have owned five houses and rented one.  That’s not too bad.  I had a close friend that has owned somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 houses.  They have moved frequently and all across the US.  She tried to assure me that moving is a normal, natural state along with being a good time to “clean things out”.  I always thought she was just nuts. 

So – house hunting. You might remember, buying a house is on the “Hate To” list.  The “Hate To” is the part about dealing with the mortgage people and trying to control the desire to reach through the phone and strangle someone who is NOT LISTENING TO WHAT I’M SAYING!  House hunting, on the other land, is – well interesting.

As we stayed in The Little House in Louisville, CO, we began to think about buying a place.  In the greater Boulder houses were snapped up within hours of being put on the market no matter the price.  New construction had a lead time of up to 2 years.  For the most part, the houses I looked at were pretty much the same with the biggest problem being that they were just very small – many less than 1000sq ft. 

1993  I had been looking for several weeks and both the realtor and I were getting desperate.  Him thinking I really wasn’t interested in buying and me thinking “this can’t be all there is!”.  Then he showed me the final house.  It was an older home – built in the 1930’s.  It was small, about 1200 sq ft. The outside was covered with asbestos siding.  Siding that someone had punched holes in, so that the outside walls were pock-marked.  OK problem there – you just don’t remove that kind of siding and pitch it in the trash.  Deep breath – maybe it will get better.  The inside was a mess.  The current renters had allowed small children to decorate all the walls with crayon murals – great.  The windows, which were few, were small so the rooms felt dark.  The first floor consisted of a living room, dining room and kitchen.  These rooms, while small, would hold my furniture which is old and large.  Wouldn’t be a lot of room for anything else but it would fit.  There was a hole under the house someone laughingly called a basement that was a rabbit warren; little bitty rooms attached to even smaller rooms attached to odd shaped hallways.  That stopped me cold as my claustrophobia kicked in saying “Go down there, in that black hole, on purpose, are you nuts!”.  All the little rooms were really dark.  My active imagination just conjured up "lions and tigers and bears oh my" at every corner.  Plus, the ceiling in the basement was very low.  I’m not very tall and I could reach up and touch the ceiling – never a good thing, my being able to touch the ceiling.  Then, some foolish person had put the laundry room down in the basement for heaven only knows why.  The realtor explained that the basement had a door (of sorts) that opened into the back yard and to the
clothesline.  Clothesline?    House wasn’t wired for a dryer.  OK.  The saving grace of this house were the wood floors and really lovely woodwork and staircase.  Of course, the staircase was narrow and made a 90-degree turn so there was some concern that I couldn’t get my furniture up the stairs.  Upstairs there were three small bedrooms and 2 very small bathrooms.  As I stood there mentally moving walls trying to figure out furniture arrangement, the current renter came up to me and introduced herself.  “By the way” says she, “Did they tell you about the bats?”  Bats?  “Oh yes”, she went on, “there are bats in the attic and they are endangered so you can’t have them exterminated.”  OK – bats.  Well.  Bats.  So, I wondered aloud, are we talking about one bat or a bunch of bats?  “Oh a bunch of bats.” she confirmed.  A little later the realtor told me “don’t worry – you can probably have them removed.”  OK.  Trying to removing bats.  This little house had a price tag of $145k.  (remember – it’s the early 1990’s and I was used to TX house prices – that price would have gotten me a large house in excellent condition) Now this seemed like a really big price tag for a really little house in such terrible shape, bats or no. 


To make things ever stranger, I was actually considering it because it was the only place I had looked at that would come close to holding my furniture.  As we left, I asked the realtor, what did he think the seller would consider as an offer?  He looked at me like I was crazy and said “Full price, as is, no repairs or changes, firm and they’ll get it.  If you don’t make an offer right now, someone else will before the end of the day.”  And someone did.  I think that was when I started thinking about moving away from Colorado.

Take care
p

Sunday, September 24, 2017

moving, part two .......



And so it continues.  Everything in my home in Houston had been gone through, marked for storage or packing and taking or relocated.

1992      Then came the big day.  The movers arrived and started the packing process.  I’ll tell you what, those guys are efficient.  Four of them managed, in a single day, to wrap, pack and box everything in that house and then get it loaded onto the truck.  They left to go wherever it is big trucks go for the night.  They would meet us in Colorado in 4 days.  The next day MHN and I rented a small U-haul truck, packed it with a few things I would not trust to the movers, a few things that had been forgotten, and all my plants (which were legion) plus the big dog and two cats.  We also were towing my car.  We set off heading north and west.


It’s a two day drive to Boulder – most of it through Texas!  We went up through the panhandle, crossed that little piece of Oklahoma and stopped for the night in the southeast corner of Colorado.  That night the temperatures dropped below freezing – a large number of my plants froze.  Not a good omen.

As we approached Boulder, the snow started to fall and by the time we got to our rent house, we were having a full white-out blizzard.  Really not a good omen.  At the house, MHN unloaded my car.  Then we both unloaded the U-haul.  He was in a rush because, he had to catch a plane and return to Houston for 6 weeks.  As I watched him drive off in that snow, I think the screams were close to the surface.

The moving truck arrived early the next morning.  OK, so here’s the thing.  When you move many boxes whether you do it yourself or the movers do it for you, all the boxes are numbered so you can check them off as they come into the house.  That way you know all the boxes are there, everything is put in the right room, and nothing is lost.  Sounds good – right?  Well, it doesn’t work that way.  There were 3 guys unloading that truck, for heavens sake, and they unloaded it at a dead run!  Nothing got put into the room it was marked for.  Boxes got put any and everywhere.  They were stacked as high as the ceiling!  They just about couldn’t get the furniture in because of all the boxes!  And, we couldn’t put anything outside because it was still snowing!  Then, just to make things really annoying, we discovered the movers couldn’t get the box springs for the bed up the staircase because it was really narrow and the ceiling was really low.  This did not thrill me. 

Finally the movers came up to me with the final bill of lading and said – “Is everything here?  You need to sign this saying everything is here and in good shape so we can leave.”  Now why do they do things like that?  I couldn’t have told them or anyone else if everything was there, much less the shape anything was in.  Every answer I could come up with started with a really bad word.  I just signed the paper and sent them away. 

Then came the unpacking, which I got to do alone.  I carried, shoved, pushed boxes and furniture all over that house, up and down the narrow staircase and down the ladder that led to the black hole under the house, otherwise known as the basement but was really was not.  One good thing happened – the garbage man told me that he’d take all the boxes if I’d stack them by the street – I didn’t have to break them down or do the recycle thing.  After about 4 weeks of trying to get everything unpacked AND work at my new office, I called MHN and in a moderately hysterical state told him that he had better finish up and get to CO very soon – tomorrow would be good – I was tired of of working all day most of the night and really tired of sleeping on the floor!  He arrived shortly after that conversation.

I hate to move.  And I did it three more times.

Take care.
p


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Moving from here to there without running screaming ..........



So, as I sit here in Wharton, I am giving serious thought to moving away – as in moving to another city all together.  It’s something I have to think about long and hard because I really don’t like to move. 

DEFINATION:  MOVING  (mo͞o′vÄ­ng) – The process wherein you pack up all your toys in boxes, trust them to a mysterious stranger, and move from the known universe to a place fraught with new and different and unusual people, rules and sights. 

OK on my “HATE TO” list, add moving.  It’s up close to the top of the list, along with mowing and vacuuming and, oh yeah, buying a house and well, maybe buying a car.  All of those things raise my stress level to saturation. Where moving is concerned, I become overwhelmed standing in my home and thinking about having to take every single thing and prepare it for a box. 

The first big move I experienced was in the early 1990’s when the powers-that-were within the company where I worked, decided all internal support personnel would be moved from the field office to corporate headquarters, which were in a whole other state.          
 Here are my notes from my first move …..

1992      OK, I’m a native Houstonian and a Texan of many generations.  Moving out of Texas for the first time ever, is kinda scary.  Plus we will be moving to a really different place – Boulder, CO.  I know – “just how different could it be.”  Well, for instance …  Houston is on the gulf coast – it’s serious flat-lander country.  Boulder is in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains - everything there is up.  Houston is almost a tropical climate.  It’s cold in Boulder, all the damn time, except for about 3 weeks in the summer when it is hotter than bloody-blue-hell and, oh yes, there’s no AC there.  Houston is a huge cosmopolitan city.  Boulder, not so much.  Houston has housing available out the whazoo and there were no houses for sale in Boulder – at least none that normal people can afford.  In Houston, commuting was a way of life – most people don’t think anything about a 45 minute commute to work.  In Boulder, people reconsidered jobs if they had to drive further than 15 minutes.  I’d always had access to the outside world via the Gulf of Mexico and now was going to be in a land-locked state.  That fanned up all my claustrophobia (yeah, yeah, sounds strange but it did.) And so on …...

I’ve lived in my house a really long time – had 2500 sq. ft packed full of stuff in addition to a floored attic, packed full of stuff, a garage, packed full of stuff, a greenhouse packed full of stuff, etc. etc..  .

Now, you know there is a whole lot more to moving than packing boxes and hiring a moving company.  And, for that portion of the move, things were pretty easy.  This was a company paid move – the movers were to arrive on a certain day, pack everything up, load it into a truck and drive off into the sunset or whatever. 

The real problem with this move was the prep work and the house we rented there was tiny and Michael would be dropping me at the rent house and flying back to Texas for another 6 weeks to finish a job.  The house had a large fenced yard and the owner would allow the animals.  Good, since we had a big dog and 3 cats.  There were a few problems, most notable, no heat on the second floor.  “Oh”, says the owner, “it’s no problem – heat rises – the heat from downstairs will keep the upstairs nice and warm.”  Lie, lie, lie, lie, lie.  Heat may rise, but I’m here to tell you it does not rise enough to keep a 2nd floor much above freezing.  Also, there were no closets - none - nada - zero.

Back in Houston, I started the very painful process of going through stuff – trying to decide what was going to go with us, what was going to go into storage, what was going to be sold, what was going to foisted off on one daughter or the other, what would be trashed.  I probably would have just taken everything except I felt sure that little rent house would explode or, more likely, we wouldn’t be able to get inside

So, I went through things and managed, after much effort and pain, to accumulate a small pile of “things to get rid of”.  I was proud of myself.  Then my oldest daughter came over.  She was not impressed. She decided we would clean out the attic together.  It was just awful.  If I couldn’t identify what was in a closed box and when I had last looked at whatever it was, then, it was trash.  I am just positive many treasures were lost that day.  But, we did get the attic pretty much cleaned out and a stack of “trash” by the curb that probably gave the garbage collectors nightmares.
  
We had the prerequisite “GARAGE SALE” extravaganza.  Once again – this was not a pleasant experience and I’m positive people left with things that I never wanted to sell.  But, all done, we were left with a somewhat manageable amount of stuff to move.
  
Tomorrow, Part Two of the move to another part of the Universe as I knew it.

Take care
p


Friday, September 22, 2017

Basil - Did You Know .......




Something else I like to do is genealogy.  It’s an interesting, frustrating, exciting, and annoying hobby.  Over the years, however, I’ve been able to trace various branches of the Abbott/Bace family back to their very early days.

 
One thing I’ve discovered is, that except for a few, most of the great, great’s were farmers. Now, I mentioned that I’m a gardener and like to grow herbs.  I like herbs because they have many uses other than culinary, they’re pretty, they bloom, they attract beneficial bugs (bees and butterflies) and I can grow them successfully.  However, growing tomatoes or onions or carrots or eggplants, I am much less successful.  Therefore, I’ve decided the “farmer” gene jumped right over me and landed elsewhere in the family.

I will talk about herbs, from to time.  Some you may recognize as an herb, some you may think of as a flowering pretty thing.  And what is an herb exactly?

An herb is any plant, annual or perennial, shrub, flower, tree, vine, or weed, any plant that has properties used for culinary, medical, aromatherapy, or spiritual needs. 

But today, I’ll talk about one you recognize – BASIL.  So, DID YOU KNOW ……

Basil is a heat-loving, aromatic annual and there are somewhere between 50-100 different types.  It is a member of the mint family and some basil varieties have been cultivated for more than 5,000 years.  It grows well in the garden and equally well as a potted plant. 

So, if you are going to use it with foods – put it in salads, use it with tomatoes, peas, squash, lamb, fish, eggs, cheese, potatoes, pasta, breads, garlic, and olives.  For the most intense flavor, basil should be added at the end of the cooking process. Prolonged cooking (like stews or soups) will cause the oils to dissipate.

Basil has medical uses also.  In past times it was used to treat alcoholism, boredom, childbirth recovery, cholera, colds, constipation, convulsions, cough, cramps, croup, deafness, delirium, depression, diarrea, dropsy (congestive heart failure) and dysentery.  Today, some herbalists recommend it for use as a natural anti-inflammatory, to help with colds and coughs, relieve indigestion, use as a facial steam for headaches (bonus – it helps smooth wrinkles), and relief for stings and bites. It has high antioxidant properties and is a good source of Vitamin A, magnesium, potassium, iron, and calcium.

It’s a good companion plant, so put it with the asparagus, beans, beets, cabbage, chili and bell peppers, eggplant, oregano, potatoes and tomatoes in your garden.  Growing Basil with any of those vegetables is said to make each taste better.

Now, here are some facts about the use of Basil that you probably haven’t tried but you just never
know – might work, won’t hurt.  Ancient Romans thought eating Basil would protect them from fire breathing dragons. It is also used to keep goats away from your property, that’s a concern for you.  Basil is referred to as The Money Plant - it brings wealth to those who carry it in their pockets and is used to attract customers to a place of business by placing some in the cash register or on the doorsill.  Small amounts placed in each room of your house brings protection. 

I’ve grown about 10 different types – all are very fragrant and the flowers attract bees.  These days I only grow Sweet Basil and can harvest enough during it’s growing season (May – first freeze) to dry or freeze in ice cubes for use throughout the rest of the year.  And, surprisingly, my Basil did very well during the GREAT FLOOD OF 2017.  I cut it back pretty hard and it’s coming back with all sorts of new growth.


Take care

p

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Oh, What Can I Eat in the Wild Wilderness?????



I’ve been reading S.M. Stirling’s trilogy, The Change – Emberverse.  The story is about our world which is hit by some unknown change that causes electricity, high gas pressures, and fast combustion (like cars and guns and gunpowder) to stop working.  The world as we know it, dies.  People are hard put to find food, safety, shelter, security. The books follow some of the survivors and shows how these groups adapt to the new world. The cause of The Change is pretty much unknown (maybe Alien Space Bats, maybe something else). It’s a good series and I’m on book #2 right now.
 
Which made me think of all the edibles that grow in the outside.  However, there are just as many poisons that grow out there so, you have to be careful. Therefore, just in case, (1) you are lost in the wilderness or (2) the alien space bats show up for real, I thought I’d share some information about determining what’s edible and what’s not.

Well, I'm going to start with the easy one.  (2) Alien Space Bats.  Good luck and may the gods protect you.  Next .....

Ok – (1) you’re stranded in the wilderness. You’ve eaten your last granola bar and now you’re feeling hungry. Civilization is still many long days away, and you need to keep up your strength.  The greenery all around you is looking more and more appetizing – oh, what to do!!

Some plants will keep you alive and are chock full of essential vitamins and minerals, while others can make you violently ill or even kill you. So, you can perform the Universal Edibility Test.

First of all, you should fast for eight hours to ensure that test results are accurate and any reaction comes from the plant ingested rather than an unknown source. You can skip this step and I’d assume if you’re at the “greenery around you looking good” stage, you will.  Separate the plant into its various parts—roots, stems, leaves, buds, and flowers. Focus on only one part of the plant at a time. And, if you have any reaction – burning, itching, numbness, a rash - during any part of this test, that plant is not safe to eat.

Alright, now, smell the plant part – an unpleasant odor is usually bad.  Discard it. Place the plant part against your wrist or inner elbow. Wait fifteen minutes to see if you react. If there is no stinging or burning, place it against your lips. Wait. No reaction? Now, against your tongue, do not chew or swallow. Wait fifteen minutes to see if you react. Place a small amount in your mouth and chew, be sure you do not swallow at this time. Wait 15 minutes and no reaction, swallow. Wait 8 hours.  If you experience any reaction, induce vomiting.  Now, prepare ¼ cup and eat it.  Wait 8 hours more. If you have no reaction, this one part of the plant has passed the edibility test. And, you can go onto the next part of the plant. Do not think that because one plant part has passed the test, that the next part of the same plant will pass.

I really am not making light of this process, it’s important to remember it’s not always good to eat something you think “maybe, possibly could be, probably won’t kill me” ok. For example hemlock (which is fatal), looks like wild carrot or Queen Anne’s Lace both of which are edible.  Wild garlic resemble wild daffodil, which is fatal to eat.  Horse nettle can produce a fruit like tomatoes but there are no wild tomatoes and horse nettle can cause respiratory failure.  So, think about what you’re eating as you hike along whatever path.  Don't just start popping leaves or berries into your mouth. 

 
Take care.
 p


Monday, September 18, 2017

I Hate to Mow!



Good Morning –

I decided early this morning I would go outside and maybe mow.  I hate to mow.  My electric mower sat under 2ft of water for 2 days, so I had some concerns that it wouldn’t even work.  Today is Sept. 18 and while it’s still summer here, the past several days we started having cool evenings/mornings and low-ish humidity.  I walked out a little after 7am and WHAP!, I was hit in the face with a hot, wet, blanket of humidity.  Hmmm – 89 degrees, 95% humidity, 7am - Nope – not mowing.  Which is fine – I hate to mow.  I am not fond of grass.  And I have a push mower because I can control it, mostly.  My one and only experience with a riding mower … well, it wasn’t good….. 

2011        My husband had a gasoline powered, zero turn radius riding mower.  What I discovered was you really have to think about what you're doing with that damn thing.  It's "go forward, stop, go back" functions are in the handles that curve over your lap.  Plus, the wheels are attached to those handles and if you push the left side a little further than the right, you go all catawampus.  There are two speeds - turtle and rabbit.  (I drove baby turtle with a death grip on the steering handles.)  A friend of mine came over and gave me driving lessons on the mower-from-hell and, here are a few observations:

1.  Mowing is boring.  Really boring.   I started off going back and forth, back and forth (sort of straight lines, sort of).  Got bored with that and started going in a big circle. Booorrring.  Then I just ran over big clumps of grass.  Mostly, it all got knocked down.

2.  It's loud.  I can't imagine how you'd listen to music or anything else in that noise. My friend gave me a pair of ear protectors to wear.  Even with those, it's loud.

3.  You not only have to watch the ground to make sure you mow acceptable things (grass/weeds - yes; tree limbs - pretty much a no), you have to watch where you are too.  Tree branches will smooth knock you off the mower if you don't pay attention. 

4.  Yards are really bumpy.  You bounce all over the place on that mower (hence the "death grip" on the handles).  I don't like roller coasters at the best of times, much less one that has a huge knife attached to the bottom.  I'd say it needed a seat belt but I suspect it's better to be thrown off than trapped under.

5.  Women have to wear a bra.  Bumpty, bump, bump, bump - the whole time.

6.  You cannot take your hands off the steering handles - ever -  while it's in forward gear!  The damn thing veers off into whatever is close by (flowerbed, fence, tree, AC unit). 

7.  I found it was really easy to run into flowerbeds, fences, and trees all by myself with both hand on the steering handles.  The mower was fairly forgiving and didn’t chew up the fence or trees but played havoc with my flower beds.  Also, you have to remember that the silly thing is wide in the middle and just because the front will get through a tight place, the middle may not.  Getting stuck is very annoying.

8.  You need goggles.  I mean that thing throws up dirt, sticks, and chewed up weeds and grass like crazy AAANNNDDD you cannot take your hands off the steering handles to rub something out of your eye or off your face.

9.  If you mow through an ant bed or a place where the grass is sparse and the dirt is much, it's like driving through a dust storm, or in the case of the ant bed - a dust storm with pissed off bugs that bite.

10.  Reverse is a pain in the patootie.  There's no rear-view mirror on the thing.  My brain would think "go straight back".  My hands would gently pull the steering handles toward me and the damn thing would go in a circle in reverse.  I obviously am "back-up" challenged.

So, now I have the little mower.  Easily controlled.  A lot of work.  I really hate to mow.

Take care
p

Sunday, September 17, 2017

THE GREAT FLOOD OF 2017!



OK – I’ve been bad.  I know I said I’d try writing daily or at least regularly and haven’t but there have been extenuating circumstances …….. THE GREAT FLOOD OF 2017!.

So, I did have some flooding, not from Hurricane Harvey, but from the Colorado River.  For a time or two I thought the water would rise up and come into the house BUT, it did not.  I did have about 2ft of water in the garage, the back shed, front yard and back yard, which was plenty, thank you very much.  And, I did have help with the clean up in the garage and shed.  Yards took longer and I still haven’t cleaned up the far side yard because it got to be summer again.  I refuse to work outside when it’s 90+ degrees. 

I have one loud complaint, whine, statement to make concerning the flooding around my house.  My neighborhood it high – it just doesn’t flood – as in water-threatening-to-come into-my-house-which-is-3ft-above-mean-flood-level.  In the past few years, when the Colorado has threatened to go over its banks, the street will flood.  The empty lot across the street will flood.  My yard does not flood.  And, the reason the street, etc will flood is, as we were told by a city worker, that the city closes the sewer lines that carries rain water to the river in an effort to not add fuel to the fire, so to say.  OK.  This time, however, the sewers were not closed.  The river backed up.  Water gushed out of the sewer grates and geysered a foot into the air from the manholes.  It was very annoying, alarming, unsetting to watch and devastating to some homes – my neighbor next door had about 4ft of water inside the house. 

Explanations would be nice to have like, We Let You Flood So………

1.    There might be less flooding down river     or
2.    Nobody thought about closing the lines      or
3.    Close the sewer lines, are you kidding, we can’t do that   or
4.    Oopsie – sorry     or, or, or.

Of course, I don’t expect any response – I live in Wharton, you know.

And, one other thing.  While I am grateful the National Guard came out to help with the rescue efforts, if, gods forbid, we ever have anything similar, I hope somebody will tell the children driving the mega huge trucks to NOT drive 40 mph through 4ft of water.  Because ….. it sends a tidal wave that causes havoc and destruction.  Plus, it makes the homeowner (me) say many really bad words.

OK – Next time I’m gonna talk about yard work!

Take care.
p

ps  I’ve put up a few pictures – not too many because to be honest, when the water was coming up, up, up, the last thing I thought about was the camera.


The water starting it's creep up the front steps.  It was like this for most of a day and then in an hour rose to the 3rd step.


Only about 6 inches in the garage here.  Then, same as above, rose to 2 feet in less than an hour.


 Water front property - ultimately it got as high as the bench.