Saturday, February 21, 2009

It's a Dirty Job

So A. will do it.

Another forgotten photo from the vaults. This one was taken in September, after a long day of cutting trees in the woods. I remember it was unusually warm that day, which is why A. was wearing cut-off jeans and work boots.

And there's the homemade wooden livestock rack on the truck that RLS asked to see awhile ago.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have blueberry pancakes awaiting me (made by A., because he can do anything, too), so I'm out.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Drawing the Line

I get a lot of comments on this site along the lines of, "Is there anything you don't do?" Usually after I post something about shoveling the driveway by myself or butchering deer or doing our taxes myself. All things, I notice, that are traditionally a man's job. But despite the fact that A. and I have a generally old-fashioned relationship (in that he works and I don't), I do not have the luxury of refusing to do anything but "women's work." There ain't no such thing. I do what has to be done when it has to be done. I can't be sitting around, wringing my hands and waiting for A. to get home from work all the time. Not only would that be lame, it would also be totally unfair to him.

But there are some things at which I do draw the line. For instance:

1) I don't run the chainsaw. Ever. This has less to do with my hatred of machinery in general and more to do with the fact that our chainsaw is particularly big and heavy. It's professional grade, not just for homeowners. I can hold it, and it's possible I would be able to cut with it, but I just don't feel like I have the physical strength necessary to operate it safely. I'm strong for a woman, but that is most definitely a tool built for a large man. Like A. Have at them trees, babe! I'll just stand waaaay over here . . .

2) I don't cook organ meats, innards like tripe, or seafood. I don't eat any of that stuff, I don't know how to prepare it, and I don't want to deal with it. So there. This is the MiL's gig. She has no fear. One time? She made Lobster a l'Americaine? Where you have to cut up a LIVE LOBSTER with a meat cleaver? Yeah. Do not mess with the MiL, y'all. She's not afraid of ANYTHING in that kitchen.

3) I don't make hot cocoa. I'm not sure how this happened, but A. is the Official Cocoa-Maker To Blackrock. And I'm not talking dumping a package of Swiss Miss into some hot water. Ew. No, this is REAL cocoa, made on the stove. With real milk and real cocoa powder (Drost--a fancy brand that tastes WAY better than Hershey's) and lots more cocoa powder than sugar. I've gotten spoiled. I won't drink hot cocoa any other way now. And A. always has to make it. Luckily, he's usually amenable to drinking it himself, especially when he sneaks a little brandy into his cup, so he makes it without too much grumbling.

4) I don't build things. Somehow, the carpenter gene passed me by. My sister and brother are excellent carpenters. They spent a lot of time in the woodshop with my dad when we were kids. Me? Never interested. I can and will fix things, I can nail things together and jerry-rig 'em to hold up for awhile, but I will not start out with some boards (or a tree) on my own and end up with a structure. I'm just A. the Carpenter's assistant, and that role is just fine for me.

There's probably more, but not much more. I really will attempt almost anything if necessary. Is there anything you refuse to do? Kill bugs? Iron clothes? Mow the lawn? Do tell, duckies.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One of Life's Certainties

There are two things in life you can count on: death and taxes. Today, I will deal with the taxes. Death should hold off for awhile yet. Unless I stab myself through the heart with my pencil in a fit of despair at the futility of filling out tax forms. I'm not ruling it out.

I think I am possibly the only person in America under the age of 75 who still does my taxes by hand. On paper. With a pen and calculator. This gets increasingly difficult every year as our income increases and we have more investments/dividends/capital gains/things that require one more separate goddamn form to be filed. But still, I do not give in and use an accountant or one of the software programs. And why not? Because I'm stubborn and I feel a great sense of being ripped off every time I do our taxes.

Here's the thing. I don't actually mind paying the taxes (that's a lie, of course, but it's the least of the rage-inducing aspects of the whole thing). I have some problems with how my tax money is spent, and I have some REAL problems with the fact that not only is the government (federal and state) taking my money, but they expect ME to tell THEM how much I owe. AND, should I fail to navigate the labyrinthine tax code correctly and make a mistake, they will fine me more money. AND THEN I'm supposed to pony up EXTRA money to pay an accountant or buy software to do this?!

Okay. Pause. Breathe. I can feel my blood pressure increasing. So you see, I approach this whole thing with a bad attitude, which is not alleviated in the least by the fact that every single time I sit down to do the taxes, I find that there's one more form I didn't know I needed. At least this year we're online at home, so I can just print the damned things out right away instead of hauling my ass down to the library to print them.

Doing The Taxes is an American tradition. Definitely not as fun as fireworks on the Fourth of July or singing the National Anthem before baseball games, but an American tradition nonetheless. So tell me, my fellow Americans: How do you handle doing your taxes?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Wolf Den

In case you didn't know it already, dogs like to be in enclosed spaces. It makes them feel safe. This is why they can be easily crate-trained. Our dogs have a variety of places to sleep, but one of their favorites is a dog bed the MiL threw under a table in the living room.

All the dogs love this bed. Sometimes, one dog that's sleeping in front of the fire will haul herself up and stumble into the living room to crash onto the dog bed under the table, only to find it already occupied. Then the dog will stand there staring blearily at the coveted bed, perhaps thinking she can displace the other dog by sheer mind power. Or maybe she's just confused. Either way, it's really funny.

I've even seen the cat there on occasion. It's dark, soft, and out of the way of foot traffic. What's not to like? And it's awfully cute to see them peeking out from under there.

I interrupted nap time just for this photo. Mia was not amused.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Weather Report

Have I ever mentioned that A. doesn't approve of personal questions or conversations with people he doesn't know well? Or even people he DOES know well, for that matter. In his opinion, the weather is the only really appropriate and polite topic of conversation for acquaintances and strangers. This would be pretty boring in a place like Tucson ("Well, sunny again today, huh?" "Yup, sunny again." silence). Luckily for him and his conversational fodder, we HAVE a lot of weather to talk about.

ANYWAY, I was thinking about this because someone in Australia asked what our weather is like here. And this is something A. always wants to know when we visit places. How cold does it get? How hot? How much rain? How much snow? Is it sunny all the time, or is it mostly cloudy? He has this endless fascination with All Things Weather. So it should really be him answering these questions for you (and he could! even though he doesn't know you! because it's weather!), but he's at work and here I am, so I'll just have to do my best.

So, what's our weather like here?* I'm not going to get very specific about where "here" is, but I will say we live in central New York. On a lake. The lake has a big effect on our weather. We don't really get lake effect snowstorms, like the ones that regularly slam Buffalo and Syracuse (these are big cities in New York State, for those of you that might not know). In our case, the lake has a buffering effect. Due to some kind of freak placement on the lake and the way the clouds move or something (yeah, I'm SO TECHNICAL), this means that this square mile of shoreline where we live is usually about five degrees warmer than the surrounding area and gets less snow. And rain. So in the winter, it's possible to be driving home with four inches of snow on the ground, and then you get near our house and . . . nothing.

Except this winter, when we've gotten a lot of snow. We're on track to have one of the snowiest winters in history. But our snow tends not to stick all winter long, so we don't have a huge build-up. There will generally be some thawing periods, even in January, that will get rid of the snow. It rarely gets below zero at our house (I speak of Fahrenheit, of course, because I'm American). This time of year, the average high is in the 30s. It gets to the teens at night. We will generally have at least one stretch of cold weather in the winter when it won't get above freezing during the day and gets near zero at night. This year, that stretch was pretty much all of January.

In the summer, it gets a lot hotter than you would think would be fair. I mean, we suck it up through this cold winter, we should be rewarded with nothing but about 80 degrees in the summer, right? Wrong. It routinely gets into the 90s with stifling humidity, mostly in July and August. It's very, very unpleasant. I hate the humidity. And we have no air conditioning, anywhere, in any room. Also, we tend not to get a lot of rain, because of that same confluence of factors that results in less snow for us in the winter. This does not make it any less humid, however. A "dry" summer will still be hot and humid, we just won't have the moisture falling from clouds.

One interesting point to note is that this area is one of the cloudiest places in the country. Portland and Seattle get all the press about not having any sun, but we're right there with 'em. It makes for a very cheery winter, as you might imagine.

So, to sum up: Cold and snowy in winter, hot and humid in summer. And cloudy. Wow, doesn't that sound pleasant?

So, who wants to visit?

* For those of you from different countries who really have NO IDEA what the weather in ANY part of the U.S. might be like (and why should you? I mean, I have no idea what the weather is like anywhere in Australia), I should mention that there is INCREDIBLE diversity in the weather between different areas of the country. There are deserts and mountains and swamps and plains and EVERYTHING across this country, so this information I'm giving you is really specific to where we live. If you asked someone in California, they would have a totally different answer.

Monday, February 16, 2009

This Day and Age

We take a lot of things for granted in this modern, privileged world of ours. Indoor plumbing, for instance. Can you imagine the wretchedness of hauling in all the water for cooking, washing, cleaning, etc.? To say nothing of hauling yourself outside to use the privy when it's 20 degrees with a stiff wind. That had to contribute to constipation.

Or what about electric lights? I don't even want to try to imagine a long, dark winter with only candles and lamps for illumination. Romantic lighting, my ass. When it gets dark at 4:30 in the afternoon, I want bright, twinkly lights, and lots of 'em. Gloom-induced depression is not romantic.

Or even something as small and easily forgotten as the tampon? Because you know what the alternative was--the equivalent of a diaper. Forget the discomfort aspect of wearing something like that strapped around your nether regions for a week every month and just consider the laundering of such items. By hand, of course, because washing machines are also a modern invention. Ew.

Which leads us, inevitably, to the question of the day: What is your favorite modern invention? Aluminum foil? Vacuums? Cars? What could you not imagine living without?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sound the Trumpets

The first green growing things (besides weeds) have been spotted in the gardens!

In the vegetable garden, the brave little garlic shoots have poked their heads above ground already. They'll have some harsh weather to endure before they can really start to grow, but then they'll take off and before you know it, I'll have a year's supply of garlic scapes again. Wheee!

In the flower gardens, A. spotted the first tiny snowdrops. They're just waiting for the first day with relatively warm sunshine to open up their wee white flowers.

They may have to wait awhile for that, though. Our forecast is looking distinctly more Winter than Spring. We have another load of firewood coming today, because we already burned through all the wood we bought in the fall, plus all the wood that A. cut himself, but we've still got at least two more months of woodstove weather to get through.

But we, like the garlic, will endure the last months of wintery weather, secure in the knowledge that it will end sometime, the flowers will bloom, the garden will grow, and life will be warm and green once again. Amen.