Monday, August 03, 2015 1 comment

Home Sweet Hole

It was too much to ask, vacation going on forever. Every time we head home, it seems like there’s some “reason” to get there in a mad rush. This time, it was Fizzle needing to pick up his kids for back to school shopping.

I did get to see Dad one more time Friday morning, and that was fruitful. I realized, from the things he talks about, that he’ll remember something that makes an impression on him. Like the old lady on his floor that came walking into his room and tried to make herself at home. “This is my space,” he said, circling a hand around the room. “She thought she could just come in here. Well, I showed her the door.” Then there was the nurse who woke him up one morning and got him down to breakfast: “She seems to think she knows everything, but she doesn’t.” He also remembered her as… oh, rather hefty. So chances are if you rile him up, he’ll remember that!

Now that we’re back to the manor, it’s about time to start school. Michigan has a much more reasonable schedule, letting people have their summer so they don’t have to rush vacation and lose all of August. Here on Planet Georgia, Daughter Dearest is already going in to prep and socialize with her co-workers; Mason starts kindergarten on Friday.

As for me, it’s back to work. I weeded my email from home yesterday afternoon, leaving only things I needed to take action on today and the rest of the week. At least we have another week off in September.

Thursday, July 30, 2015 3 comments

Escape from FAR Manor: Family

For pix of the beach trip, scroll down or jump to the previous post

These trips north give us all a chance to escape the free-range insane asylum, and gives me a chance to see my family. Dad has Alzheimer’s these days, which makes it difficult for him. He’s in a facility where they can keep him comfortable, and I suppose that’s the best that can be said. Other Brother and his family lives nearby, so he at least gets regular visits.


Despite the issues, he’s still Dad. He reads quite a bit. Remembering how to work a TV remote is a little beyond him, so one of the staff turns it on for him and he just unplugs it when he’s ready for some quiet. He does retain some of what he reads; he could tell me a little about the book he was reading when we came in. I think I should send him a monthly letter with pictures; maybe it will help.

He has a rather odd narrative of how he ended up here: he was at an assisted living joint for a while, and liked it there. He says two guys from the place invited him out for a walk, then abandoned him; he got cold-cocked and woke up in this place. What actually happened was that he got an infection in a leg muscle that got to the point of blood poisoning; between that and the Alzheimer’s, he doesn’t remember the hospital stay or the transfer.

Some of my other uncles are not doing so great, so we’re planning to see one or two tomorrow. We’ll hit a winery while we’re out. Combining trips is important when you have to leave Friday for the old grind…

Sunday, July 26, 2015 2 comments

Escape from FAR Manor: Reaching the Beach

In an attempt to stretch vacation, I took Thursday and Friday off as well as the entire week. We made the hotel reservations, and only afterwards found out DD’s fiance was coming with.

BTW, I have the fiance’s blog-name: Fizzle. (Future Son In Law → FSIL → Fizzle) This name will last unto the wedding, at which point I’ll come up with another one.

There was no problem at neither the hotel we spent the night at along the way, nor the one we have set up camp in. We couldn’t get two rooms at the Ramada like we did last year, which was bad because that pool has a waterslide and good because their wi-fi sucks so hard, so we ended up a couple miles farther out at Crowne Plaza. We arrived Friday evening, unpacked, got food, and crashed. Saturday we mostly dinked around. We went to a local park so Mason could hit the playground, but that was about it.

But Sunday… ah, Sunday. We loaded up and headed to Saugatuck. We went to the beach there many times in my youth, climbing Mt. Baldy and running full-tilt-boogie down the other side. The “in my youth” part is significant here. They replaced the uphill slog with steps:

Stairway to Heaven?
Wife took one look and said, “nope.” DD echoed the sentiment. To my surprise, so did Fizzle. Mason wanted to do it, and I would have been OK with it, except I knew my knee would start screaming well before the day was over.

So we piled in the car and took the less up-and-over route to Oval Beach. Being a summer weekend in Michigan, with temps in the mid-80s (F), we were far from the only people going to the beach. There was a rather long line of cars waiting to pay the $8 and get through. When they got to us, they said, “you’re the second to last car.” Yipe!

We found a spot, a rather decent location in fact, and hucked our chairs, cooler, and bags to the sand. It was rather crowded, as you can see here.

We have reached the beach!
The gatehouse to the parking lot had info posted, including the water temperature: 65F. eep But the air was warm, the sand was downright hot, and there were people in the water. As it turned out, the water was cold, but it didn’t feel all that cold. Fizzle and Mason were gung-ho to get in, DD skeptical, and I took my sweet time but joined them.

Did I mention the sand was hot? Yup. In one of those “reality is stranger than fiction” things, the sand was actually hotter than the pavement on our tender bare feet. If you were standing in one place on the sand, you could dig under the top inch or so to a more comfortable layer.

The wife stayed with our stuff, high up on the beach, while the rest of us gamboled in Lake Michigan. She took plenty of pictures, including this one of the four of us:

Me, DD, Fizzle, and Mason
She took many other shots, but there was this one woman who seemed to like to photobomb us a lot. Or maybe she knew I’d appreciate it…

DOUBLE photobomb!
She got right in the way of DD and Fizzle’s happy embrace. Jeez.

After a few hours, we were all ready to move on. After a late lunch at a local bowling alley/restaurant, Fizzle and I ended up at the Saugatuck Brewery for a taste of local craft beer.

Bottoms up!
The Beer of the Day was a dopple-bock that was very good, even if it had a tarragon note. The Singapore IPA is a middle-of-the-road IPA, nothing weird. I was less impressed with the Oval Beach Blonde, even if we had just come from its namesake. I got a variety 12-pack to take back to Planet Georgia.

So, a toast to vacation—may it go on much longer!

Monday, July 20, 2015 5 comments

Send in the Crowd

So over the weekend, Daughter Dearest drafted me to help her fiance move… to FAR Manor. With The Boy moving his stuff back to Newnan, the other upstairs bedroom is open and so there’s room.

This IS my happy face. Especially at 6am.
Just what I always wanted: get dragged out of bed at 6am on a Saturday. She also recruited BrandX to help as well. He drove the truck (pulling a trailer), and we took the minivan (with the center and back seats removed to make room for Stuff.

Oh, did I mention he has joint custody of three boys from a previous marriage? Only one of which is his? So it wasn’t just his stuff, it was his and the boys’. At least he had coffee and biscuits waiting for us. I drank four cups of coffee to get functional for the day, and that was about as much as the Jitter Control Module could take.

In the end, we got everything packed. With no room to spare anywhere. We had some issues with mattresses wanting to escape the trailer, and finally found a long extension cord in the truck to tie them down better.

Back at the manor, we had enough energy left to unload the trailer and the bed of the truck. There was a bunch of small stuff behind the seats in the truck (an extended-cab Tacoma) that didn’t get removed… and then The Boy took off with the truck. Daughter Dearest was rather furious.

So expect some more really weird reality in the coming months. I have to come up with blog names for the new players.

Friday, July 17, 2015 9 comments

Cornered (#FridayFlash)

This is set in the same world as The Last Lightkeeper… which could be Termag, if the Dawn Greeters’ creation myth is to be believed. It’s darker fantasy than I usually write. I got the idea after reading Catherine Russell’s Caveat last week.



Image source: openclipart.org
Riata rounded the rocky corner, gasping for breath. She dodged around a pile of brush, and barely avoided slamming head-on into the end of the canyon.

“No, no,” she panted. Had she miscounted? Four passages then right, three then left… and she had counted three and four. Of course she had miscounted.

Trapped. No way out. A vicious chuckle echoed down the canyon walls. The minions of the Dark were coming. Their thoughts rang in her head: The Light has forsaken us. The Lightkeepers have fled. We are alone, alone with the Dark. She sat down, her back against the wall. Something dug into her backside, but that was no longer important. The Dark closed in, taking their time, savoring her terror and despair.

For some, there is a place beyond terror, beyond despair. In the slow minutes before certain death, Riata found that place—not rage, not a desire to betray her soul for a few more years of life, but a calm certainty: I will die with meaning. She pushed the thoughts of the Dark from her mind, though they echoed all around, then reached around to see what poked her sitting place…

“Ah. That.” A small copper canister of fat. A little rancid, but it could yet serve. Her wagon had an axle that tended to bind in its bearings, and Riata had not yet found a way to adjust it. She was always greasing that Light-forsaken thing, and she was doing it yet again when the minions of the Dark had come upon her. She must have slipped the canister into a pocket when she fled. Her flint was always with her… and a brush pile lay between her and the Dark.

Hope did not banish fear, nor did she expect to walk away from this canyon—but now, she knew she could fight. The Dark might take her in this hour, but their victory would come with a price. In the eternal twilight, she keened a song of mourning, but broke branches from longer sticks and piled dry leaves around her open canister. The minions of the Dark, hearing only her despair, gave her all the time she needed.

As the Dark approached, vicious and confident, Riata began striking her flint over the canister. Clack. Clack. Sparks fell into the fat, and the leaves she had rubbed in the fat… and a spark stayed. Riata blew gently, continuing to strike her flint. More sparks alit and glowed under her breath as the Dark closed in. A tongue of flame arose.

Fwoomp

Caught in a trap of their own making, the minions of the Dark howled in pain and rage at the flare of Light blooming from the brush pile. Some fell, others charged, as spears of fire rained upon them and Riata’s dirge became a battle song.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015 3 comments

Brown Hawk Down

There’s an open field between FAR Manor and the in-laws place, with a utility line crossing the road and the field. A hawk has been perching on that line, and I’ve been trying to get a decent picture of it for a long time. Good light and a few seconds is all I need, but mostly I’ve had one or the other.

On Friday, I was heading down to the in-laws after work, and saw the hawk jumping and tumbling on the road. I hit the brakes, and he got off the road and laid in the grass. This was not the way I wanted to get a picture.

Approach with much caution
He was still breathing, so I knew “no touchy” was the way to go. I told the wife about it, and she said, “Mason saw him on the fence post yesterday, and I slowed down. Then he flew in front of me. If I hadn’t slowed down, I would have hit him then.” So I expect someone else must not have missed. She advised me to get the guy who has been helping with the farm work, which was a good idea since he’s had to handle raptors before.

He put on gloves, got in behind, and made the grab on the second attempt. I drove the cart back, with him holding the hawk. As for the hawk, he was in “chomp anything that gets close enough” mode for a minute, but settled down when we didn’t do anything. We popped him into a cage, and it was obvious he had a broken wing.

Take this broken wing, AND this cage…

The farm guy called the DNR to get a rehab specialist to pick him up the next day. That meant he wouldn’t be released back into the wild, but would spend his life making the rounds of state parks and educating people about raptors native to the region.

Unfortunately, he didn’t even get that far, and died overnight. Whoever clobbered him must have left him with internal injuries. Bummer.

The odd thing is, he could have seen the in-laws’ chickens from that perch on the utility line. I always wondered why he didn’t go nail a few of them… maybe he thought chickens were too evil to eat.

Wednesday, July 08, 2015 2 comments

Foraging the Harvest

As yummy as they are big!
Last month saw a return to the typical summer weather we get in Sector 706—we had more 90°F days in June than we did all last summer. Combine the heat with lots of rain, and it made for a few oddities. Usually, the wild blueberries growing around the manor peak around the first week of June, and the blackberries a month later. This year, the blueberries were late and the blackberries were early, so we had lots of both all at once.

And dang, some of them are big! We usually get a few nice plump ones along with the not so plump, but this is the first year I’ve seen them get as big as the domesticated blackberries you get in the store.

Pick, eat, repeat
The weird thing is, in early June, the berries looked pretty small overall. We had a dry (and cool) May here, during the time the vines were setting fruit. So I figured they wouldn’t get much better. Fortunately, I was wrong.

This is Mason’s favorite time of year, because he can go outside and get himself a snack. He loves blackberries, even the tart ones, and it’s a hand-to-mouth situation for him.

One notion I need to disabuse him of: he likes to say, “you pick, I’ll eat.” WRONG. I do tend to pick into a container, while he just eats everything he picks… and then wanders over to snag a few out of the container. (And yes, I’ve been known to pick myself a little snack as well. But the vast majority of them go in the container for later.)

Another one of his oddities is that he’ll move on to the next vine and insist that I should be over there with him—even when I have a ton more berries on the vines that he can’t reach.

Small but sweet
The blueberries always run small (the wife insists they’re actually huckleberries, and I have no reason to doubt her). But, they’re a lot more plentiful than they’ve been in most years. The wife thinks the birds will clean them off immediately, but I’ve not found that to be a problem. We’ve been picking for nearly a month, and getting small handfuls. The good thing is, they’re easily as sweet as commercial ones.

But I think after this week, the berries will pretty much be done. Just in time for the garden to start producing. I leave you with a line from a UNIX fortune cookie:

Faith is what lets you eat blackberry jam on a picnic, without looking to see if the seeds are moving.

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