Tuesday, March 22, 2005


A few weeks ago, we decided to burn an old granary on our homesite. It was falling down and we needed to remove all of the old buildings before we can finish our occupancy permits anyway. So we lit it up. The only problem was that the wind shifted and caught the old barn on fire. Granted, the barn needed to go, too, and we were mostly done cleaning it out for demolition, but we definitely weren't planning on burning it that night. My sister-in-law and I watched as one single ember from the granary floated up high in the night air and drifted lazily over to the barn roof. The old dry shingle didn't put up much resistance, and soon the roof was ablaze. I was in charge of making sure the three toddlers on the scene stayed away from the fire, so I stood back and panicked as my husband and others ran in and out of the burning barn rescuing the few final items that they wanted to keep. The fire was pretty impressive, as you can see from the picture.

Seeing the old barn go was sad, even though it needed to happen. It was built in the early 1900s, and my husband played in and around it as a child. He probably sulked in it as a teen. My daughter and nephews found a huge number of little green plastic army guys in there during the cleanup process. Some were stuffed in knotholes and under stall partitions, and quite a few were still lined up near the hayloft rail, where my husband must have lined them up for battle 20 years ago.

Thanks to the fires, and a weekend of cutting trees, the home site looks a lot different now. I spent the weekend hauling tree limbs after my husband cut the trees down. I swear, trees grow extra limbs during the felling process. I hauled about 850 million tons of tree limbs and stacked them in artistic burn pile formations. By the end of the day I was exhausted and pissed at the trees of the world for having so damn many branches. One tree must have heard the curses I was muttering under my breath because it managed to smack me in the ass as I tossed it onto the burn pile. Then, as I kicked it and cursed at it, this time not under my breath, it landed a sucker punch on my head. Stupid tree. I'm lighting that burn pile on my own so I can have the last laugh. Bye-bye, ass-kicking tree!

I asked my husband what kind of tree he was cutting at one point. He said it was "just an old piss-elm." WTF? A piss-elm? Gee, I wonder why that variety never sold well at the local garden center. I think he makes this stuff up sometimes.

After all of the tree-hauling and barn-burning, I'm one tired girl. My muscles hurt and I have cuts all over my hands and I've broken almost all of my nails. I'm cool with the aches and pains and exhaustion, though, because it reminds me that we're so much closer to moving into our new house. We should be able to dig the basement soon, so long as we don't get a lot of rain. I think I'd haul whole trees off the land by myself if it meant we could move in faster. Just call me Tree-Ra!

Friday, March 18, 2005

Laughter and Tears

Someone posted this website on one of the forums I frequent - www.overheardinnewyork.com. It's a blog-style collection of conversation snippets heard in New York City. If you're looking for a few juvenile giggles, and let's face it, if you're a friend of mine, you probably are, this site is worth a few moments of your time. My favorite conversation so far:

Guy: I saw that movie Hide and Seek. It sucked.
Girl: I don't know that one. Who's in it?
Guy: Ummm...that guy from Meet the Fockers.
Girl: ...Ben Stiller?
Guy: Who?
Girl: Are you talking about Ben Stiller?
Guy: No, no, the old guy.
Girl: Robert DeNiro?!
Guy: Yeah, him.
Girl: You call Robert DeNiro "that guy from Meet the Fockers"?!
Heard on -- 1 train

Now on to my play for sympathy this evening. I burned my hand. I really, really burned my hand. And the truly unfortunate thing about the burnt appendage is that I don't even get a cool story out of it. Could I have maimed myself last week when we accidentally burned down a barn? Yes, I could have, but instead, I waited until this week, when I maimed myself by daring to take a ham out of the oven. At least it was a damn tasty ham. So, now my hand is the color of ketchup and I can't bend my swollen fingers. Let this be a warning to those of you who may plan on making a ham in the near future. Look out for the steam. It hurts like a sonofabitch.

And finally, a moment of praise. Received in the mail today: the title deed for our home site. We now own 6.25 acres free and clear. Excuse me while I indulge in a nice glass of chablis for celebratory purposes. As a bonus, the alcohol may temporarily dull the pain in my hand. Yeowch.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Inspiration from Unlikely Sources

Seen on local fire department sign yesterday: PHISH PHRY PHRIDAY. Hee! Phabulous!

I've decided that it's been too long since I indulged my creative side. Yeah, I know, technically writing is a creative thing, but I crave more than that. At one time I dreamed of being a photojournalist. I spent hours behind the lens of my trusty camera and even longer hours in the darkroom slaving over the perfect print. My camera now rests on the top shelf of my closet, where it has been for the past two and a half years. It's easily accessible, and every once in a while I catch a glimpse of it and feel a pang of guilt. It begs to be taken out of its case and out into the glorious springtime sun. I'm not sure what's stopping me at this point. Maybe it's the fact that if I switch back to my beloved film-eating SLR, I'll have to leave the developing and printing to someone else, since I'm sans darkroom these days. Handing over that much control isn't in my nature.

So, for the time being, I've made a deal with myself to keep my digi cam well charged and ready to go. I'm going to document spring and possibly summer in my part of the world and see what happens. I'm going beyond the standard pics of my daughter and pets. Not that I don't love taking pictures of my daughter. The three CDs from her first year alone would tell the truth on that one. I want to capture the spirit of southeast Kansas, or at least try to show a piece of this country that so many people never see. Pasture fires (no, not ones that I have personally set, tyvm Lushes), corn so tall you can hide behind it, my nephews joyfully reeling in catfish from our lake, the perfect golden color of wheat just before harvest, traveling harvest crews, maybe even (but hopefully not) the look on a farmer's face in August when it's 103 and the pivots just pumped the last drops of water from the lake onto a soon-to-be-wilted field of soybeans. Maybe, if I get brave enough to jump headfirst back into the world of photography, I'll steal a corner of our new shop building and invest in the equipment for a darkroom. Then I'd have no excuse but to free my favorite old camera and lenses from their padded prisons. Watch out world, I'm re-armed and dangerous!

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Take Me Home Tonight

I've recently returned from a week-long trip to the east coast. I spent the first few days in Reston, VA in meetings that were productive, but so boring that I even risked IMing my friend Mary Alice in the middle of one just to keep from drifting off to sleep. I had to cut that convo short when, as always, MA started to make me laugh and I was afraid I'd be unable to stifle the giggles. In Reston, I also had a chance to catch up with Lyn, an online pal whose sense of humor is just as natural and perfect in real life as it is via the net.

The second stop on the east coast tour was NYC. Despite that fact that the city is about a bazillion times bigger and scarier than the town we currently live in, I had a great time. Thankfully, the meetings in the Big Apple were more exciting and inspiring than those in DC. I stayed at the Waldorf, which turned out to be a good thing, because I felt like I was experiencing a part of NYC without ever leaving the hotel. I could have lived without the exorbitant minibar prices, though. I spent $11.95 on two cans of Diet Coke before my friend Emily rescued me from financial doom and took me to a deli for more reasonably priced beverages.

Em is a fantastic NYC tour guide, by the way. Not only did she drive to Times Square on Saturday night to pick me up, she took me on an impromptu tour of several Manhattan neighborhoods that I hadn't seen yet, providing interesting commentary along the way in her fabulous British/Brooklyn accent. Em can call me daaahling anytime. We stopped for drinks on the Lower West Side (I think) and later ate "Sex and the City" cupcakes that were so good they should be illegal.

Sunday morning I awoke early, remembering why I had previously called for a self-imposed ban on all tequila products. Next time if someone could please remind me that it would be cheaper and faster to give myself a headache by running into a wall, that would be great. That route isn't as tasty, I suppose. My hours in NYC were running short, so I made my way to Park Ave. and located a cab that would take me to the Empire State Building. The line for the elevators stretched around the block when I arrived at the ESB, so I decided I'd have to take in the sights from the upper deck another time. I did some shopping, picking up souvenirs for my daughter, nieces and nephews. After that, it was time to head back to the hotel and catch the shuttle to LaGuardia. The shuttle driver took a different route than what I saw on the way in, which was a pleasant surprise. I got to see the Queensboro Bridge, which was far prettier and more interesting than the Triboro Bridge that I came in on. The driver also treated his passengers to a quick tour of Queens, but I think I was the only one who appreciated seeing something other than Midtown, based on the grumblings from the backseat.

Before long, I was on the runway at LaGuardia, ready to go home. I have to say, though, that landing and taking off from LaGuardia is one of my favorite travel experiences. I was on a small regional jet, which sucked until I realized that it gave me a fabulous view of the water at the end of the runway.

My daughter and husband met me at the airport in Kansas City. I think they had a fun, relaxed time together while I was gone, as evidenced by the fact that my daughter was wearing her bathing suit under her winter coat for the trip to the airport. It didn't take long to get back into the swing of things in southeast Kansas. Spring truly arrived in the week that I was gone. Tractors are working the fields and bulbs are bringing color to flower beds in every yard.

While I wish I could have had a few extra days in the big city to see the sights, I have to say that it's a nice feeling to be home. And I guess, even with all of the complaining I do about this backwoods rural town, I do feel at home here now. As I was driving the 20 miles into town for groceries yesterday, I sang along to my favorite Violent Femmes tape just a little louder, appreciated the wide open spaces just a little more and breathed the fresh, spring air a little deeper. I love the city, but it's good to be home.