Wednesday, September 19, 2018


I never understood the expression "Make hay while the sun shines" but they ain't kidding. All summer long it has been raining heavily and we have been waiting for the mysterious Mr. Burke to come hay our four acres.

So you do this cool trade, where the whole thing that's as high as an elephant's eye is suddenly mowed down, baled, stacked, and carted off, all for free. Their part is they get to go sell it. Any farmer will tell you they get the sweeter deal but if you don't have any animals to feed, not enough brawn to stack and no hay mows to fill hay is just hay, and there's a lot of it. [That's pronounced maow.]

So every day it was dry we'd hope Mr. Burke was coming, and then he never would. Finally when Ann called again she got his wife who was very very polite but assured us he would come. As in, stop calling us. 
Finally, out of the blue on the first dry morning of four days of no rain, up the driveway came a tractor with an umbrella over it!

And: 92-year old Mr. Burke!
First thing he said when I went out to meet him was: Do you want me to do this every year?
He's been mowing here for 50 years but he just wanted to check.
So he took his little tractor and cut the whole field into furrows.
And then he went away.
And the next day he showed up again with another attachment, which turns out is the bailer. This machine is all the more impressive because all around us are farms with giant attachments that bale up the hay and put plastic around it while the driver is watching TV or something. No shade to those farmers but old school doesn't even begin to describe Mr. Burke's operation.

He scoops up the hay, it turns into rectangles, the baling twine whisks around it and out comes a stack, one at a time, chug chug all day until you got many square piles of hay.
He put them into long piles...
...then ran over them with the bailer and magically, they turned into rectangles!

Shoot, I can't get it to rotate so you'll have to turn your computer... (Dana?!)
First thing I did was go check: yep, you sure can't find a needle in one of these.
Then some strong young men appeared out of nowhere and threw the bundles into piles. Turns out they were his grandsons.

I kept three of these to put around the firepit. Not too close though. 
Then two huge flatbed trailers arrived, hitched up to the trucks and then the guys stacked the bales about a story and a half high, lashing them down from the top and then they wobbled off into the sunset.
Cat with sunset and mowed field.
If you don't think that's cool well then I don't know what.

Two holes, which later spread to three. Then four.


In other news, some of you may know that yellow jackets are not bees. They're wasps. And apparently have no real value. They have had a heyday this season and everyone's complaining about them.
In more pangs of guilt I must add that they were right by the door and when we stopped to greet people or say goodbye we were right under them.

Cowboy hat, balaclava, goggles, long-sleeve shirt and pants in 85-degree heat, snow boots, and gloves.
So after much contemplation guilt, frustration and more contemplation and asking a vegetarian friend (Thanks Diane!) I decided to "eradicate" them. I bought a seriously poisonous pesticide, suited up and sprayed 'em at dusk.
The next day they were in my office. Dying. We still don't know how they got in, the window was closed. I spent the day moving slowly, especially when I got up or down, or moved my mouse. It seemed only fair. 

Don't look at the barn, look at the screen.

The thing about deciding to kill something is you think that's it. But when they don't die you have to kill them again.
And again.
And again.
I sprayed them every night for four nights. Then, in a salute to their perseverance and the fear of creating radioactive bees (I also tried peppermint and dish soap), I stopped spraying them.
They seem calmer. I prefer to think of them as deciding to share the space quietly with us but they're probably drunk or completely intellectually impaired now.

More evidence of letting things go: Ektomi (the spider) snared two bees within ten minutes. Around my Buddha statue. 

There are at least four other nests in the ground, which we have allowed to stay.
This morning we found a giant wasp hole that had been unearthed by something. I say anteater, Ann says bear. We have fun here in the country. 

New gig

This is about all I saw of them. They said nary a word the whole trip. 
I uttered a desire to help with animal rescue and suddenly found myself transporting young cats who were scheduled to be put down that day if someone didn't come get them. I love to drive, the cause was just, and it was beautiful. But it was 2.5 hours each way (look up Hagerstown, MD) so perhaps a bit of a long day. And they weren't friendly, as I learned when I absent-mindedly stuck my finger into one of the air holes like I do with Sailor.

Lessee what else... I cannot seem to get a good sunset but this is pretty good. 

I know you're wondering about Bodie so here's a pic. No, he's not dead, just rolling in the grass after taking an illicit mudbath. 

Found us a bbq place. Ann ate all of this and some of mine... Another Appalachian said, Now that's how you make beans! (boiled within an inch of their life in bacon grease).

The Pride

Nope, it's not a GLBT thing, it's what they call the WVU Marching Band, of which Ann was a proud member while a student there. She was first trumpet. So we just had to watch them practice.

Happy girl 
Okay, thanks for reading all the way through. I know I was a bit chatty. Hope you enjoyed it, and keep them emails coming!
The Sullicakes

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Love and Happiness*

So, I have so much to say but as with most writing, I have been paralyzed at trying to figure out what the angle is. It's about happiness...

 I've just assumed that if everyone could come live with us and in this way we are living they would all be happy. And we've both been wondering how in the heck we could be so rewarded with such a smooth move, such a great house, such amazing timing, healthy pets. etc. Most of it is answered prayers in whatever way you want to think of that, but also, and this is what took me awhile, much of it is because we wanted to live the way we are living. And not everyone does. We wanted what we have now, and we weren't getting it and we just figured you don't get what you want.
We spent a lot of time bemoaning the changes in Seattle and I now realize it was because I was getting up the courage to say:

I need....
I need...
I need:
Here is what I really, really need. And that means I'm going to have to lose my proximity to friends and neighbors. I'm going to lose community. I'm going to lose familiarity. But finally, there was a tipping point and it was... I gotta, because I am really stuck and I am not happy and I'm tired of being mad at too many people and cars and whatever is toxic to me, and so, I am going to have to Move. Jump. Do.
Up until that moment I guess I told myself I didn't need it that much.
All's to say, I have been hesitant to write because not only do I want everyone to be happy, but I want that to be easy for them. And so I will stop telling everyone to move here but instead say, I hope you can get what you really really need.
For Ann and me it was exactly what we wanted, to live out in the country, to be in a place that does not put tech over people, that does not have a lot of rules, that says live and let live and that includes a confederate flag in a few windows and broken-down people with parts missing due to sawmills and mining but always kind and almost always interesting and just so committed to that kindness and freedom that even as a big ol' queer I feel safe.
We also live in the richest part of a very poor state.
Yes there are trailers parked on lawns but there are also mansions; there are Dollar Generals and Auto Zones everywhere but there are also Krogers and the Walmart has high-end gluten free stuff and some of the best Pinot Noir I've ever tasted.
Ann always told me all about this and god knows it's in her beautiful stories, but to really feel it, the broken down and the beautiful, is exactly what makes me feel safe. You, there, with the spikey hair and the tattoos, you are welcome. Even if you do talk funny.

All this time I was a good middle-class person being told over and over again, it's my own mind that is making me stressed, it is my own mind that makes my reality, it is...
But it wasn't all that. For me, it was the culture. And now I seem not to worry about what I look like much anymore, or to make a smart remark about something "inefficient," or to blame myself for being anxious, but rather, to do the best of what I learned in the city, which is to do what I know calms down my mind, but also to just go sit on the porch and listen to the birds and watch the fireflies and somehow, mysteriously, my monkey mind is gone.
I just wanted to share that with you.

Enough lecture, how about some updates

So in my last post, we learned that Ann had heroically saved Bodie from the creek and came home and scrubbed off her whole body vigorously. All fine. Right when I left town the 7-10 day reaction window proved true and she erupted into horrible pustules and weeping sores. It became systemic, meaning even where she hadn't touched the plants she was covered in rash. She would not let me take a picture to her later regret, so I was gonna tell you "Google worst poison ivy ever" but decided to myself, and here you go, this is what it looked like.


In patches all. Over. Her. Body.

She used every known thing under the sun and finally, on a visit back to her hometown in Romney to see friends, her best friend's husband Frankie brought out this miracle stuff.

A bit late in the excruciation but helpful nonetheless. Almost completely healed now. Whew.

The next story is: Never doubt how fast you can run - uphill - while not in the best of shape - when you are in danger or pain or both.
A few days ago I was weedwhacking and suddenly felt a sharp burning on my leg and saw it was a  yellow jacket. No problem, I moved away only to realize that there was another on my finger, and on my neck, and under my shirt. And then I realized, more than 2 bees is probably a swarm and
But that didn't work! They followed me! I threw down the whacker and ran up the hill. Still they stung and I spun around and ran up some more hills and it was like they were glued on! One was stuck under my shirt and the buzzing was so freakin loud I began to panic, that a whole swarm was on me and would be forever. Finally it dawned on me to turn the garden hose on myself and that stopped all but the stuck one, which Ann calmly plucked off when she and Bodie returned from their walk.
Never saw you move so fast, babe. 
Figured it was a bee.

Thanks, babe. I kept waiting for terrible things to happen but the places just hurt for a few days. But one place, the first the bee had stung, was hugely swollen and kept burning so I feared an allergy. Today I finally saw why:
In that one spot there were seven stings! Bringing the grand total up to 10.
Left ankle

Can you imagine how brave those little souls were to take on a weedwhacker and its handler? So brave!

More: Here is the view from the throne:

Here is the view from the hammock:

Here's some neighbors checking out the yard:
Wild turkeys

Here's gathering the best water in the world from the spring:
Damn that is some white hair...
Here's what  my girl got me for my birthday!

WV cookbook and a bamboo book holder, plus maple syrup. 
Just discovered a peach tree in the yard...

Just yer average view:

Loving you all makes me so happy. Even if I miss you like a burning bee sting in my heart.Thanks for writing your encouragement at these silly posts. I think about what I'll write you so often, it actually helps me understand the experiences!
Come visit, y'all!

* You know, by my man Al

Monday, June 25, 2018

Pampered Pets in Peril!

In this week's news, it rained more than it does in 6 months in Seattle, thunderstormed in great, rolling boomingness, Ann mowed more grass than exists in Seattle and can be heard muttering about slopes and ditches, and Caitlin installed two air conditioners that look like shit but work great.
Plus cordless blinds. Oh how I heart cordless blinds! Who knew?!

In addition, the pets proved that they are city-born and raised and are going to have to do a little learnin' to survive around here. (I'm well aware that I will regret that flippancy if anything happens to them.)

So we heard a caterwauling that roused us all from our various spots to find that a local brute whose balls are so big he waddles, had pinned Sailor to the ground without even touching him. Most cat owners know that if you just approach another cat it runs but this one looked at me, like, hey, whaddya doin in my space, I'm beatin up a cat here! (in my account he's from New Jersey).
I got closer and closer and still he just looked at me and I picked up a stick and then all of a sudden thought, geezuz if you're such a communicator, why don't you try that before whacking the shit out of a fellow animal?
So I started talking in my head and out loud saying something to the effect of, go ahead, walk away, nobody will come after you, not even my silly barking dog, and I saw his eyes flinch a little and look away, like cats do when searching for a way out, and I squatted down lower and blinked my eyes slowly and dropped the stick and kept crooning. Then I made the mistake of looking over at Sailor:  his claws were completely gripped into the earth and he was actually shaking. Which prompted, I'm ashamed to say, the impulse to annihilate BigNuts as Ann dubbed him, with my sheer ferocity and will.
But I kept talking and he took a step away and I moved in closer to Sailor in case he got any ideas about chasing and finally BN strolled away, one stiff-legged step at a time, so beautiful and dignified, if waddling. Sailor, unlike any other cat I've know, came right to me and let me pick him up and then curled into my neck as I carried him away from the scene. While I'm glad he's not torn to pieces he's got to learn to at least spray all around the property...
Because I have no pictures of this here is one where Sailor has just eaten most of a squirrel he caught earlier in the week: Note the bulging belly.

Waterline on hair
In a far more serious incident, Bodie the stubborn Chow, who used to be afraid of water, almost drowned in his enthusiasm to get into a deep creek. (I know there are many of you who don't find it fun to hear suspenseful stories that involve animals so I'm telling you up front all is fine.) He has learned that if hot he can get his feet wet, then goes into joyful dancing at the relief. But now that he has a long coat he wants more water so he keeps jumping into shallow creeks, complete with mud, and probably giardia and leeches and slimy things best not discovered. So Ann was walking him, heard the familiar plop of him going in, and then, that tone that every mother fears, a sharp yip of fear. Bodie never expresses anything like that so she rushed to the scene and found him in over his head and trapped behind a kind of under-cut part of the bank and a big root mass. He stared at her with huge eyes and was shaking. She jumped in and turns out the water was up to her neck and she grabbed him but he chose to climb UP her body to the bank.
Which was not the final bank at all so she had to then pick his 53-pound self and lift him up to another bank, then scramble out herself through poison ivy and mucky ickiness and then yes, praise the baby J,  lift him one more time to the final bank. He walked for about five minutes glued to her side but then commenced with pulling on the leash all like, look! A creek! I can jump into it! isn't that cool?
Bodie's launch pad

Ann's electronic keys and wallet took only a few days to dry out...
We have also attended a goat gallop fundraiser,
found someone to hay our vast field (even trade), bought more shit at stores than we have in a lifetime, and are loving loving loving life on our little farm that is only a farm cuz it has a barn.

Also, to brag a little about how much unpacking there was and where we are now:

Thanks so much for the cards and phone calls, we are slowly making some acquaintances but miss our friends friends friends!


Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Greeeeeeeeeeeeen Acres

Hello, folks,
Thanks for all the feedback on my last post. Seems y'all like pictures of the country.
So in this week's news, we got through a ton of boxes but anyone who has moved may know this particular phenomenon: You find the soap but not the dish, the coffee but not the scooper, the incense holder but not the incense. WTF?
Can you spot Ann here?

We have had our brains scrambled for so long that this threw us for a bit until we realized that the secret powers of West Virginia have been healing us when we sleep. We don't fall asleep so much as pass out, then rise to the sound of a rooster, a gazillion different birds and um, this character.
Click the link for approximate sound...

Yep, sometimes three in the morning. it always seems to crack us up.

So I had never seen lightning bugs in my whole life except one time in Germany when I was 16.
Here, they are all over our yard every night, especially when it's warm. After a few nights sleeping downstairs in what we thought would be our room we took the mattress upstairs and lo and behold, the window filled with the white oak, full of ... magical lights! If we wake in the middle of the night we can see the whole tree winking. This is roughly what it looks like, I cannot capture them on my phone.

We had been trying to figure out if we should have bottled water carted in or get a filter on the sink. Given WV's history with mines figured it was prudent.
Then the previous owners, whom we love, let us know about a fresh water spring. We found it and filled up several jugs with water! Incredibly fresh. Woohoo!
Yesterday we had to fire up the riding mower as the grass was getting too long. Turns out there's a starter problem - "Oh, you just jump it from your car," says previous owner.
In the best of circumstances I hate using jumper cables and this was a car battery to a lawn mower battery, the usual dangers amplified by the risk of blowing up the smaller one.
Ann and I stood over the mower with cables in hands, going over the mantra. Connect last cable, pull down choke, turn key, step on brake, hope it turns over. A 3D version of rub your belly and pat your head. I don't know how to do this.... we each muttered at various times. But we persisted...
Three times and it caught!
Here's where I threw the jumper cables cuz they were getting hot.

Ann taking off 

Never saw her again. 

I got very excited that the garbage truck would pick up any number of bags, unlike Seattle, in any number of receptacles, unlike Seattle.
Early on Monday morning I saw the truck stop, lights blinking, and then go on down the road. No pickup!
Turns out we had not paid our bill of $19.95/month in advance. Must be buried in this box somewhere...

With the jumper cable incident I was struck with how we were ready to call some guy or the previous owners, but when you're in the country you need to depend on yourself more. Ann already knew this of course but I was always ready to call someone. I was very proud of us for persevering. And of course it poured hard that night so now the pets tracks in huge clumps of cut grass into the house.

Find the cat in this picture.
The pets are deliriously happy. Watching Sailor track every little bug and whiffle in the grass is an argument for taking the risk of liberating a cat. He has a million hiding places and always comes back when I call him. Strange cat. There are more animals than we would have thought including toads and bunnies. He is killing but not eating moles. Ann says they must taste like dirt.
Sometimes it feels like we've stepped into some kind of English countryside.

Thanks so much for the cards in our mailbox! So nice to hear from you! More soon, let me know what you want pictures of, unless it's less of Ann and the pets, in which case you cannot change my mind....
Love from P Road!