May 2014: Mud harvesters eat dirt cheap

If you’re gonna play in Texas, ya gotta have a fiddle in the band.

If you’re gonna play in our neck of the woods, you better like woodland creatures and mud. ‘Cause we’ve got lots of both.

Take our neighbors, for example. They own two large, black dogs, who pretend to be the local terrors…from inside their fence. They howl along with the musical siren of the Sherriff’s department vehicles that sometimes cruise our two-lane tunnel through the woods at upwards of 80mph. Our neighbors also have turkeys, who came over recently to visit and sample our weeds. They were easily led home by the sound of their food canister, and I was amazed at how similar they looked to those gangs of undersized, menacing meat-eating dinosaurs you see in the movies. Maybe I should watch different movies.

We had our own food-as-bait story going on for a week or two. A raccoon kept eating our cat’s food from our second story deck. Oh, sure, he ran for the woods if I came out, and of course our cat laid there, watching it all. He catches a bird or mouse once a year, and spends all the rest of his time sleeping, eating, and rubbing his hairy self against us unexpectedly. I knew I couldn’t depend on him to discourage the free-loading coon, who decided to hang out after eating the cheap, crunchy cat food, and left multiple piles of poop on an otherwise excrement-free deck. So he had to go.

I baited my trap with cat food…and the next morning, I found that the coon had dug under the edge of the metal cage like a medieval army to collapse the wall, and had made off with all the cat food. So I reenforced my cage trap, and next morning, I had it caught. Now for the execution…hm. Bullets are expensive, so we hooked up a chain, dragged the varmint to our pond, and threw it in to drown it. I felt pretty swaggery as I hauled up the chain that Sunday morning…until I looked down at my church clothes covered in mud from the chain. Dang.

I would have buried the thing, but rain interrupted. No, not right then for a few minutes. Rain came on Sunday night, and stayed through Wednesday morning, then came back on Friday and Saturday afternoon. Apparently, monsoon season is an Oklahoma phenomenon, too, even while the sun is shining. You can’t help having mud under these conditions. Since I have young children, I also had muddy children under these conditions. Tell me if you’ve had this conversation:

“Daddy, can we go outside to play?”

“No, it’s wet and you’ll get muddy.” Blank looks from children, as if to say, ‘Yeah, Dad, that was kinda the idea.’

(Sigh) “Okay, you can go out, but not in your good clothes, and only on the deck, and don’t push each other, and for heaven’s sake don’t even think about getting in any holes, or I’ll spank you and plant you there and harvest your earlobes!” More blank looks.

“Okay, Dad.” Within minutes, all children are totally covered in what used to be harmless yard dirt, but when combined with water, it becomes Mutant Muck and begins to emit an odor that will keep all civilized creatures at bay for hours. It will now permanently darken the shade of their clothes, hair, and skin. But they stay out in it for hours, losing all their clothes in the process, so I don’t find this out until I mow the yard later and shred them all, which is just as well since I can’t clean them anyway.

But the fun part is cleaning the naked, black clay-encrusted creatures that come to the door when their hunger becomes too great to ignore. If I can catch them before they get in the door, I can do the cleaning there instead of the bathroom, where they go to wash up if they can sneak in unnoticed. Either way, the floor will need sweeping and mopping afterwards, and there will be no clean or dry pieces of cloth in the house for the rest of the day. And there will be several extra loads of laundry waiting in the bathroom, the bedroom, and by the door for the cleaning fairies, who have fainted or called their union reps when they see the work awaiting them.

No, I don’t have any fairy traps. No, I wouldn’t drown them if I caught one. I would enslave it, of course.

I’m finally getting a screen door installed for Mothers’ Day. No, for this year’s Mothers’ Day. After gluing all the joints for added stability, I was about to paint it when I noticed mold growing where the rain had sogged it. So I set it out in the sun for a day, and as soon as I began to paint, it rained again. I just had time to get it indoors with my son’s help. I feel I should cover it with plastic wrap or a tarp before I install it, but I haven’t found a color that goes with our house. Sheesh.

This afternoon, I trimmed it some more, painted some more, fitted some more, trimmed some more, paintedsomemoreandfittedsomemore…(gasp) I’ll have to mount the hardware later. There’s an epidemic of mud. But at least the door is painted mud brown.

Frankenstein’s Mower has begun reproducing: I now have Frankenstein’s Mower and the Son of Frankenstein’s Mower. Both my riding mower and push mower are out of commission, despite new air filters, fuel stabilizer, fresh oil, good spark plugs, and the finest 3-year neglect I could give. I rigged an adjustable choke/throttle for my push mower, but I can’t reach it fast enough after pull-starting the mower. Imagine a child reaching into the ocean as the waves recede, only to jump back, startled and desperate, as the waves come crashing in, and then diving desperately forward again to grasp at the waves that never stay close enough to actually grab. This is me trying to start my push mower.

Imagine a hospice for appliances, where you start them up and just wait for them to die inexplicably only seconds after roaring to life like they will recover. This is me on my riding mower. (Sigh) I am enlisting help today. I sure hope it works. My yard is tall enough to hide small animals or camouflaged muddy children in.

My father-in-law came to my rescue again, and took me deeper into the intricate world of combustion engine mechanics. He’s a genius. I discovered I will need a new ignition coil for my push mower, but everything else is fine. I even got to use Frankenstein on my yard before it rained again today. It felt so good to see the lawn trimmed…I realized my feelings had become dependent on the reliability of my mower – not the smartest arrangement, so I will be learning how to let go of a perfect lawn and be okay anyway. My Mom always said I was entitled to have any complexes I wanted, so I guess this is mine. Currently. God has a way of using life to reveal our weaknesses, and using our weaknesses to reveal His strength. Isn’t He so good?

The increased water reminded me of the status of our house’s flood insurance. We have a strange house, especially for an insurance form to comprehend. We live in two of our three stories, but it’s not a two story dwelling. We have a basement, but it’s not underground…at all. We want to finish out part of the basement to make it like part of a house, but only part of the basement. Every time we try to give the insurance company this information, they keep finding another form for us to fill out. Dear Insurance Company Form: I don’t think you will ever understand our kind of house. Please give up and just insure us at a lower price. Then come play in the mud. We have plenty.

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