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Peace and quiet are what I yearn for,

even more so in the golden years.

Instead the phone is ringing “off the hook”

with fake people scams and phishing,

so who has time to read a book?

Yesterday FedX and UPS came twice,

and sent the dog into a fit of barking

calculated to excite.

And others came to dig a trench and add a cable

for high speed internet to bring us up-to-date

that sent the dog a-running and a-barking

and the phone kept a-ringing

so peace and quiet have to wait.

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I love Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. ‘Tis really the season for beautiful color and the clean clear beauty of nature’s reawakening. Even the deer begin boasting their new babies. And I feel happy and productive and eager to think about planting more flowers. But thinking is not doing and since I am still a slow motion walker waiting for a hip replacement I have not injected myself into the wild.

Photo taken by Daughter-in-Law, Emmy – Virginia Redbud

Spring is is also a time of imminent threat from the wild. Whether you go outside to feel your toes in the grass or not.

Three days ago I felt an itchy place on my back just below the left shoulder. A hot shower helped and I thought nothing of it.

Two days ago, the itch was back so I took a look with the help of a hand mirror and saw a red place with a slightly dark center. I asked Bill to take a look with a magnifying glass and he did. He said, there was nothing there…. maybe a little raised mole. So I put some anti-itch gel on it and went to a peaceful slumber.

Yesterday the itch was back in full force and when I looked at it with the hand mirror there was a pronounced dark center, much larger. Bill took a look too and said “it” (the dark center) was kind of hanging loose so he removed it. In my opinion it was a well fed deer tick! And I was immediately off to the doctor.

Results:

  1. It was probably a tick. An adult deer tick is the size of a poppy seed. There are no charts or photos I know of that show a well fed deer tick as opposed to a hungry one.
  2. The doctor said if you check yourself all over each day and you happen to take off a tick, no medication is necessary.
  3. Because I came in early, I only had to have two antibiotics immediately… no more.
  4. Evidently, if you have a tick bite and remove it within 34 hours, you will not need meds.

I am still confused over all of this.

Seems to me, you should report a tick bite no matter what. My niece contracted Lyme and suffered with it for many years.

Anyway, in addition to gimpy walking I now have the remains of a bite on my back. The culprit escaped a plastic bag I swear I sealed. He was a major escape artist.

The doctor’s answer for this latter issue was to put a cotton ball soaked in nail polish remover in the bag with the tick. He will then suffocate and die but his body will stay in tact for identification! More than I want to know.

I dislike ticks and other bugs, but do I hate them enough to become a wanton murderer?

‘Tis the season all right.

Spring has sprung in all its glory.

But there is a downside to living in paradise.

Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

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My father was a painting contractor in that long-ago time when houses were done with oil paint. I understand oil is still available but mostly folks use Latex now. Dad taught me to use a brush up and down with quality oil paint and then side to side to avoid visible brush marks! He had his own business, carried his ladders on a truck, and was much like the painters today in our little rural community in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I thought I knew it all about how to choose a house painter because talking to them would be like talking to Dad again. I would join the world of estimates, numbers of men on the crew, gallons of paint needed, scheduling, etc. I knew it all.

I wonder though, what Dad would say to this story of trial and error in the selection process.

We would like to get the outside of our house painted/stained ASAP so the question was, “How do we find someone to do a good job and show up when expected?” In other words, we were looking for a professional, trustworthy painter like my Dad.

First we learned over time to go to friends for shared names and experiences. I did that and got two prospect numbers from a trusted friend who had work done a few years ago.

Neither telephone number worked.

Next I went online and got a name and an immediate response! Wow! Impressive. And Wow! We had an appointment with “Ambrose” (fictitious name) to come to our house the next day.

Meanwhile I remembered a company who did some minor painting for us years ago and although the crew were the biggest scariest looking men I have ever met, they had done a stellar job. So I called that number too. Again, a quick response and an appointment for them to come out the next day.

Finally, my son did a little digging and came up with another name we shall call “John”, who was just as responsive as the first two! And we had another appointment for the day after the first day of appointments.

None of this is very scientific but what the hay, this is country living right? They say three is a crowd but in the case of obtaining bids, I figured three was a reasonable number.

APPOINTMENT DAY

Ambrose showed up and was great to talk to and not only said he did painting but he also does handyman work! We were excited. He went around the house, took pictures and measurements and then said he would get an estimate back to us in a week. That was Monday. Bill liked Ambrose. We were both leaning toward Ambrose but needed to see the other two.

John (another fictitious name) was supposed to come Tuesday but arrived on Monday so he was eager. He is a friendly extroverted talker who quickly convinced us he knows what he is doing, but we were still leaning toward Ambrose. Nevertheless, John produced a detailed estimate by email on the same day. We are definitely not used to this level of professionalism in this heavenly place my Mom called “No Man’s Land.”

Finally, the big big guys who had once done some work for us came out and remembered us and our place. We were hopeful and were leaning toward them since we already had a record of their great work in our house. These fine fellows are what people around here call “locals” and of course they, in private, call the rest of us “foreigners” since we were not born here. True locals have a Virginia dialect that is sometimes difficult for us foreigners to understand but we all managed to communicate and they promised to produce an estimate next day.

This they did.

But their quote was twice as high as John’s. Their quote was very very high.

Nix the Big Guys because they were just too expensive.

Ambrose waited a whole week to contact us again. He did call in precisely seven days to let us know he had not done an estimate and to announce that he was too booked up to take on this project. Huh?

Nix Ambrose because he said he was not available.

And so we are now committed/contracted to have our house painted in late May by John.

We trust John,

we think.

I will keep you posted on this yet-to-be-begun project but at least you know some dubious steps to find a house painter :

  • Call friends.
  • Look online.
  • Remember good workers from the past.
  • Enlist family members to help.
  • Or you may have figured out that if you live in No Man’s Land, it will be just plain luck if you find a painter as good as my Dad. On the other hand, you may not want to paint your house with oil paint either.

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Bill and I live on top of a hill with a grand view of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. It is a steep 15 acre slope down which I call The South 40. The South 40 requires “bush hogging.” And when I began to see the forest primeval slowly encroaching I realized we were facing an upkeep challenge.

In the beginning we had two horses (Lucy and Martini). There was also Martini’s friend, Rossi, but he was too wild for us equestrian novices. We were told grazing horses would take care of keeping the grass/weeds down but that was “fake news.”

The horses did love grazing but the grass grew faster than they could chew and soon everything became weeds and trees in an overgrown pasture.

We decided to hire a bush hogger person to keep things trim. That was only successful off and on since not too many people have their own equipment who are willing to risk life and limb to clear our formidable hillside.

Finally Bill bought a John Deere – a big but not the biggest John Deere – so he could mow the slope himself. He had to go straight down to the bottom and then straight back up (no sideways trimming due to the danger of tipping over).

I had visions of Bill lying on the slope with the bush hogger machine on top! Twice a year Bill would do the slope and it would take him four or five days each time to complete the job and that long for me to worriedly chew my nails down too.

Note of interest: Bill was halfway up/down the slope when I ran out to tell him about the 9-11 Disaster. This should give you an idea of how long he has been dedicated to bushhogging our slope.

As Bill grew older – and older, and less interested in risking his own life and limb, a Miracle Man arrived. Dennis came from Texas and said he noticed many folks around here have steep slopes that need trimming. He then bought a special mower that allows him to mow across slopes instead of up and down.

Dennis named his new company Slope Goat!

Dennis the Slope Goat finishes mowing our South 40 in three to four hours instead of days. Now we are duly impressed and looking forward to retiring the big John Deere.

Lest I sound too cynical about our steep incline/decline, the slope has some desirable attributes:

  • There is an old forest and a gurgling stream at the bottom. This is great for horses since they must go down to the bottom to drink and come back up for food (lots of great exercise). The problem is, we outlived our horses who were 28 and 32 and had become longtime lawn ornaments grazing on our parklike slope. Our urge to ride slowly receded when it was too hot, too cold, too buggy or we didn’t feel quite like it.
  • The horses did look beautiful grazing though and our three grandgirls loved pony rides.
  • I used to take walks down to the bottom of the slope (but not for long since it’s a killer huffing and puffing back up).
  • When Elsa-the-dog was new and we turned her loose for the first time, she ran down to the bottom, back up, and down and up again. That was the first and last time she ever tried to make a break for it.

And here we sit, atop our hill. It is 30+ years later as we admire the ever-changing mountain view. But if we look down for a moment at the land, we can see all the way to where we know the stream is. And though we may be a bit too rickety to make our way down there nowadays, the memory is fond.

We smile because we are so happy to have found Slope Goat and hope that Dennis keeps at it through 2021.

Blue Ridge Beautiful

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July 4, 2020 – Elsa-the-Dog reduced to shaking and shivering due to distant fireworks.

July 5, 2020 – More shaking and shivering due to close-up thunder storms

July 7, 2020 – Hysterical barking at 2:30AM.

Yes, I was awakened at 2:30AM by Elsa-the-Dog’s loud screaming/barking.  She NEVER does that.  She is a sound and happy sleeper and only sends the alarm bark during daytime hours when the UPS man emerges.

Since it was a hysterical bark

there had to be something amiss.

Elsa and I began a flashlight search of the house.  It was a full moon and we could see silver images through the windows so we were checking the outside too.  Bill was blissfully sound asleep.

Was it the bear visiting again and

rustling around somewhere near?

I thought maybe it could even be human

and what would I do then?

Was someone trying to get in?

After a room by room search Elsa and I went back to bed.  We just got comfortably tucked in when she began the hysterical barking again.  This was definitely her alarm bark to signal intruders!

Another search ensued to no avail and we finally gave up at 4:30 AM.  But I kept thinking and thinking while Elsa and Bill were then fast asleep.

A sunny day today and this morning I peeked into our attached garage from the relative safety of the mudroom/laundry.  The garage was the one place we missed in our moonlight search.

Whoa!  There was the answer to Elsa’s warnings.  There were torn pieces of something white and a hunk of the drywall ripped out.  Some critter was trying hard to create an exit.

Still no idea what it was but it must have got in when the automatic door stayed open as Bill went to get the mail yesterday.  That gave the Crazie Critter time and  opportunity to explore.

“Hey – this looks like a grand place to raise a family!”

“On the other hand, maybe not.”

“Now how did I get in here in the first place?”

“Wasn’t that big door open a minute ago?”

“I’ll just sit here quietly until dark

and then find my way out.”

“Lemme Out!  Lemme Out! Lemme Out!”

Elsa heard it all and warned her human pack that something was amiss.  She just wasn’t sure where.

I will never doubt her warning barks again.  She knows what she’s talking about and she is now my Super Hero.

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assemble challenge combine creativity

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You can only watch so much television when sheltering in place, right?  And how many jigsaw puzzles can you do without getting a headache?  I even find myself reading two books at a time!

But, even though our world started to open up again to allow for haircuts and dining in restaurants, the Corona Virus is angrily re-emerging and forcing us aging vulnerables into continued self isolation.

When I started blogging I had no idea the end result would be the addition of people I not only enjoy learning about, but that many have actually become  friends.

And through all the challenges of self isolation, and through the long months of solitude, as if to prove the value of our relationships, my blogger friends continued to create incredible connections.  You offer your experiences, your humor, your photographs, your ways of coping, your thoughts, and mostly your love.

But for quite a while I was reading your experiences and not sharing mine.  I was absent from the blogging world in a writing dry spell I thought would never end, when suddenly I realized that reading your posts was helping me get through the Covid-19 Pandemic lock-down.

The inspiration was there “in plain sight.”  Writing and sharing were the blessed remedies for coping with odd downturns like lockdowns and forced isolation.

Many of your posts made me think of what I would do in similar circumstances.  And my own responses could certainly have been crafted into blog posts.  But, instead of following the urge to write, I sent comments instead.  It was writing in a way, but mostly done to thank you, my blogging friends, for your words, your time  and your continued contributions.  You kept me sane in the insane world of Covid-19!

I am posting things again but the dry spell threatens to return.

I recognize it looming overhead.

Then, as if it was meant to be, a Virginia Black Bear wandered into our yard today and has inspired me to create another post.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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neon signage

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I like to say I am growing old instead of already old.  It gives me a better feel for how to feel when the most vulnerable population to the Covid-19 virus is touted as 60+ or 80+ or somewhere inbetween.

In any case, there always seem to be new rules about coping with this virus.  I know you are dying to hear them…. forgive the pun.  The world is coping but there are consistently more confusing theories about how the virus is spread and regulations regulating how we should lead our lives in the midst of what I call Viral Confusion.

For instance:

When I was a kid, you did not go to a doctor unless you were sick – maybe even really sick.  That seems to be the case now too.

2020 Pandemic Rules

Do not go to a doctor unless you feel sick.  And even then, call first to see if he/she will let you in.  Will this eventually even lead to doctors making house calls again?  When our son developed a very high fever, panic set in and we called the doctor who came to our house in 20 minutes, but by that time, the fever was gone.  And I don’t think the doc even charged for the visit!

Ah for the good old days.

Do not go to a dentist unless you have a bad toothache.   Dentists are just now reopening in my neck of the woods and I think they can be called for more mundance things like cleaning.  Check to be sure where you live.

But in the good old days, Mom would give me a clove to suck on or an ice cube – anything but the dentist – to cope with pain.  She was deathly afraid of dentists but finally when I was 14 and had a bad toothache, she made an appointment.  The dentist found one cavity for every year I had lived and I spent the next 14 weeks getting cavities filled (minus Novocaine!).  In those days you raised your hand if the pain was too bad.

Did I say I was growing old or already old?  Is pre-Novocaine ancient or what?

Ah for the good old days.

The new scary deadly virus has made me re-evaluate the wonders of staying home.  But what about positive changes?  Take clearer water.  They say you can see the fish in Venice canals now. I would love to take a gondola ride again but this time in clear water.

And now that there is more testing going on, some say if you are blood type O, you have a better chance of not catching the virus or maybe even surviving it.  Maybe I can go out sans mask and celebrate shoulder to shoulder in a crowd since I am in the O category.

Or if your ring finger is shorter or longer than the rest, you may or may not be in trouble re the virus.  I keep forgetting to size my ring finger.

And how about the urge to flush the toilet without putting the lid down?  Do you know how volatile the spray can be as you flush?!

Screaming spreads more virus than talking.  Talking may be the New Nasty Culprit that spreads the damned thing.

Disinfecting every surface on earth is no longer advised but don’t stop washing your hands.  You may have touched something evil.

All this speculation makes me wonder what people did in the real good old days of The Plague and Cholera.  The more I hear or read, the more I ponder this pandemic and all its pros and cons.

Stay Safe is the new Farewell, especially in our emerging “New Normal.”

Stay Safe my friends.

Stay Safe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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macro photography of black sunglasses on sand

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Although we have had a few tooth-chattering days here in Camelot, it still somehow feels like summer.  I have almost forgotten that Virginia has a temperate climate but still boasts the four seasons.

But here it comes January and I never finished retrieving winter clothes and never packed away bathing suit or shorts.  First of all, it stayed warm enough for cooler garb than sweaters.

And for a true weather guage there is always my curly-er and frizzy-er hair which usually only happens during the muggy days of summer.  I suppose winter frizz  is due to a mountain version of seaside dampness.  Who knew?

And those lazy hazy days are here again and I am sweating (not whistling) while I work.

This sleeping beauty is also doing a bit more tossing and turning on over heated body-warmed sheets.

This morning there was a summer-like drizzly rain with no coat necessary – just short sleeves for dog walking.

The stink bugs are happy and back in plague mode too, accompanied by a competitive lady bug infestation.

I am confused.  Should I switch the heatpump to “cool”?  Should we re-open the outdoor pool?

Feeling a chill where you are?  Virginia may be just the place to go for the excitement of an off-season-summer.

 

 

 

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bright burn burnt candle

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We are on a mission to add a “Whole House Emergency Generator” to our whole house where we have survived for 30 years without one.

One of the great challenges in country living is to remain alive and functioning during power outages.  A severe thunder storm will trigger an outage here – or a slight breeze will do it too.

Living in an all electric house means when there is no power there is a total blackout.

No flushing toilets

or taking showers

or cooking (Hurrah!),

or seeing at night without flashlights and candles.

And we cannot do laundry or watch television or

charge our cell phones.

We are cold (shivering) in winter and hot (overheated) in summer.

And the silence is deafening.

But in the beginning it was an adventure!

Being cold in winter and hot in summer was a satisfying challenge.  The woodstove had to be watched and logs added and added again and again  A big storm once arrived in a summer heatwave.  It was called a “Derecho” and we lost power for five days.

Ah, the ultimate dream!  Automatic power!

Yes, Bill and I have made a grand decision to take advantage of modern progress and add an emergency Whole House Generator to our whole house.  Still, having made that decision we are now faced with numerous other decisions in order to move forward.

  1. Where should we put the ugly duckling?  The propane tank is big, ugly, and by Virginia law has to placed ten feet from any building.
  2. And  where should we put the actual generator?  It is not particularly ugly nor huge but evidently (by Virginia law) has to be five feet from any window opening.

These are only the first two questions and the more we talk and the more we investigate, the more questions arise.  Rent or buy the propane tank?  How big a tank?  How big a generator?  Where to buy?  What electric company to use for installation?    How to disguise the ugly duckling(s)?  And how much will all this cost?

The dream of automatically reinstated home comfort is the inspiration to keep asking questions and moving forward but stay tuned for any end result.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elsa Desk 2.jpg

We are still trying to figure out how to make Elsa-the-Rescue-Dog happy.  Mostly she is tough, strong and independent.

Unless there is a mysterious noise.

Like thunder of course.

Or fire crackers.

A backfire from a distant Virginia highway.

Or just any unidentifiable noise that indicates the sky might fall.

Lately we are having regular afternoon thunder storms at the time she has her dinner and most especially when she needs to go out.  And of course Independence Day was yesterday so right after the storm there were far off cracks and pops in the neighborhood.  That was enough to start her shaking shivering and pacing in a mad search for safety almost all day yesterday.

Go out?  Wanna go out? Ha!

Eat her dinner?  Ha!

Well, she can afford to lose a few pounds.

Elsa has a “Thunder Shirt” which wraps snugly around the middle to combat anxiety. Trouble is, it doesn’t fit.  We feed her well and Elsa has outgrown her Thunder Shirt!  It will not wrap around her anymore.

Elsa has anxiety.  Me too.

We both worry about everything.

We both worry about the sky falling.

The Thunder Shirt will not fit me either.

Lately, Elsa’s safe place to hide out and shiver is in the foot well of my desk.  She is still worrying about the thunder storm from yesterday and is now under there.  What a sweet blogging companion, except when the shivers hit or when the thunder claps and we both want to run for our lives.

It is all quiet now, but the prediction is for thundder storms this afternoon.

Elsa has taught me one important thing.

There is no point in worrying about the weather.

But if I could get under my desk with her,

I would be there too.

 

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