Farmhouse Fling

Can you go home again?

Christmas Eve Fun. December 28, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 1:34 pm

As I was walking into the house after the 10 pm Midnight mass (it’s a small town, we cope), the wind caught the door to the back porch. The hinge screws were pulled out of the door, and part of the door separated, making it impossible to close.  It was raining buckets, so we sent the kids on inside to put themselves to bed as we struggled with the door, trying to get it to close enough for us to go to bed.  After a half hour of Pete standing in the rain, not complaining that I should have been more careful, we finally called it a night.  We tied the door shut as best we could and went on into the house.

Where we discovered that our electrical system had had some kind of stroke.  The back porch lights worked, but kitchen lights wouldn’t come on.  I trudged back and forth far too many times, trying to figure out which combination of light switch positions was needed, before realizing that the dining room and bathroom lights weren’t working either.  The kitchen appliances were working, and everything in the computer room, but something was definitely wrong.  No boiler, and no lights in most of the house.  It was like a treasure hunt trying to figure out what we could use.  For example, the hot water heater was working, but it was moot because the well was not.  We checked the circuit breaker (the lights in the scary basement did work), and even though none were tripped, we still dutifully flipped them all off and on.  It didn’t help.

I thought briefly about calling my brother, but it seemed mean to yank him out of bed and into the horrible weather just to fix something that I’d probably screwed up.  Plus we were really really tired.  So, we headed off to bed, hoping that Santa might fix things while dropping off presents.  I did wake up at one point in the middle of the night to hear the radiators clinking, and the house got pretty toasty.  Well toasty for us, where 60 seems balmy.  But when we woke up, we were back to half-power.  Sort of.

Demonstrating that I know absolutely nothing about electricity, I could not figure out how half the house could work if none of the circuit breakers were tripped.  Or how everything could come back on, and then go back to just half of things working again.  Even after sleeping on it, I was still baffled.  I finally called my brother around 8 the next morning, and he immediately identified the problem.  The wires going into the electric meter had stretched from expansion and contraction over the year and half since they’d been redone and were too loose to hold a connection.  Twenty minutes with my brother and Dad in the freezing cold and one nasty shock later, not only were the wires tightened, restoring all our power, but the back door was also fixed.  I don’t think my brother owes me Christmas presents for the next five years.


Merry Christmas! December 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 4:58 pm

It was at this point that I officially gave up on Christmas card plans.  Fortunately, I was laughing too hard to care.


Electric Raccoon December 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 4:28 pm

One of the first really warm days last spring, thing 1 and I were sitting on the porch.  Thing 2 came bouncing up full of happiness as usual and bubbled, “That raccoon is really soft, Mommy!”  It’s one of the few times in my life that I really couldn’t get words out of my mouth.  My brain was working too fast:  A real raccoon or a stuffed one? What raccoon would let her pet it?  Does it have rabies?  Oh god, she’s got rabies!  She’s going to need to get shots!  What do I dooooo???  Finally, I managed to pull myself together enough to ask if the raccoon was sleeping.  “Oh no Mommy,”  She burbled, “It’s really really dead!”

It was then that I found myself saying something I never thought I would.  “New rule.  No petting dead things.”  Sadly, it’s not a rule that’s stuck.

I left the raccoon as it was until the kids were at school the next day.   It seemed that the raccoon had being trying to get into the quanset shed, and had gotten stuck halfway in.  I assumed it had a heart attack when it couldn’t free itself.  Although I wasn’t overly disappointed that there’d be one less raccoon vying for my sweet corn, I felt sort of bad that it’d had such a miserable death.

In trying to figure out what to do, I decided to check on the raccoon from inside the shed. Unfortunately, the huge sliding doors would only open a little bit because there was a fluffy raccoon rear end blocking the door track.  I managed to squeeze inside and found what looked like a trophy room from Elmer Fudd’s house.  There was the front end of the raccoon with his tiny paws raised in fists, and his mouth and eyes wide open.  He clearly wasn’t going to come out from this side as the largest parts of him were on the other side of the wall.  So I went back outside, and tried again to free him from the back.  Well, by “tried”  I mean that I nudged him with my foot and he didn’t fall out of the shed.   I thought I’d be a tough farm girl and handle it myself, but that lasted until I realized the damn thing was stuck and I was going to have to touch it to get it out.

So I called my brother.  After all, it was his equipment stored in the shed and if he wanted to use it, he’d have to remove the raccoon to open the door.  Unfortunately, he pointed out that he didn’t need anything from that particular shed until harvest, at least six months away.  He thought the smell of used raccoon was probably going to be a problem for me before it was a problem for him.

Grudgingly, I agreed.  I offered to pull it out and get rid of it, if he’d come and lift up the roof a little where the darn thing had gotten stuck.  He came out with a shovel and we both poked at the raccoon with it for a while before he finally used it to lift the roof.  Armed with two sets of rubber gloves, I pulled as he lifted and we got the darn thing out.  As I was packing the raccoon up for disposal, my brother noticed the bare wires just inside the hole.  That’s when we realized that through Thing 2 petting the raccoon, through me poking at it with my foot, through my brother and I poking at it with the metal shovel, through me grabbing it with my dual rubber glove system, all that time, we were messing with an electrified raccoon.


December 9, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 1:41 pm

It’s 53 freaking degrees in this house right now.  Sure it could be icy and yucky and we could have 17 feet of snow, but still.  I had the thermostat set at 65, and the best the boiler could do was 53. 

The cold is bad, but it’s the wind that’s killing me.  There’s a wind advisory, and we’ve already had gusts of 55 mph.  The walk in garage door has already been entirely blown off the garage, not just off its hinges.  In fact, the hinges and the door frame they were attached to are also sitting in the yard.  I’m not surprised, I’m just thrilled nothing hit the car. 

It’s so windy that the warm gets sucked right out of the house.  The constant window rattling is starting to get on my nerves a little too.  We did more winterizing this year than last, but I think we could stand to do quite a bit more.

I’ve cranked up the thermostat to 80, we’ll see if that can make the temperature in here break 60.  In the meantime, I’ve set up the portable hearter, but I can just about see the money flying out the window when I run it for very long.  I’ve got on wool socks and a wool sweater, to the heck with allergies.  At this point, if I could find woolen dainties, I’d give them a try too.  I think it’s time to run the oven self cleaner.  That ought to heat things up too.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to be here.  I know things could be a lot worse.  Still.  5 months to April.


Last December. December 8, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 1:10 pm

We learned a lot last winter.  Things like:  There is no LP fairy that comes to refill the tank when it runs low.  It’s really a guy named Tom, and it’s a good idea to call him before the tank runs dry.  Otherwise, you’ll feel pretty stupid for complaining about how the pilot light in the boiler doesn’t work right.  Again.

We also learned that just because we had two houses twenty miles apart, there was no guarantee we’d have power at either.  Two days after we got an offer on the old house, there was a huge ice storm.  At the old house a large branch fell across the power lines, ripping them and quite a bit of siding off the house.  At this house, the power was on and off for days as crews worked to repair miles of lines.

Another fun fact: No power equals no heat and no oven.  I was under the very mistaken impression that if you have a gas boiler and a gas stove that it doesn’t matter if you don’t have power, you’ll still have heat and the ability to cook.  I now have a greater understanding of the phrase “electronic ignition”.

We learned that if you only have a cell phone for communication, and it only works because you have a booster thingy hooked up to the computer, it’s not going to work when the power is out.  And that makes it especially difficult to call the power company to ask them to pretty please come fix the lines.

I also learned that no power equals no water.  It turns out our well has an electric pump, which means not just no hot water, but no water period.  As in “Whatever you do, don’t flush!!”

Still, it was pretty:

Every blade of grass was covered with ice.

As was every branch of every tree.

On a small scale it was very pretty.

But that much ice can cause a lot of damage.

Everything had a coat of ice.  Everything.

I had lots of fun with the camera, but I was oh-so-happy when all the ice was gone, and the roads were mostly clear.  It turns out that cabin fever sets in a whole lot faster than you expect when there’s no power, no heat, no water, no phone, no tv, no computer,  and the biggest back-to-the-little-house-on-the-prairie horror, no internet.


Buster December 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — diskam @ 4:20 pm

One of the big selling points of this house was that we’d have room for a dog.  A big dog.  A really big dog.  So after we moved, and got settled in, and the kids started school, I finally got moving on finding one.

I spent a lot of time over the summer browsing.  I knew we wanted a large used dog with low mileage.  Over and over I kept coming back to one dog on Petfinder.  He was an hour and half away, which didn’t seem like too far, and it sounded like the lady that had him knew him well.  Unfortunately, when I called, she said the dog had disappeared ‘last week’.

I was very disappointed, but started the search over.  Then I noticed a dog listed at the shelter near where my first pick had gone missing.  Although it was the same mix, I didn’t think it was the same dog as the picture was blurry, and the listing was for a female.  I decided to go look anyway, hoping it would be similar in temperment to what we wanted.

Once I saw Buster, I knew without a doubt this was the dog from the first listing.  He has a very distinctive face, and up close it was very clear I’d found my first pick.  It was lucky that I happened to go that weekend.  It turned out he had been at the shelter for almost 2 months, and was due to wear out his welcome in just a few days.


Part Australian Shepherd, part Labrador, wired completely incorrectly.  He’s a great dog, but something clearly doesn’t work quite right in his brain.  Not in a ‘he’s going to snap and eat the children’ kind of way.  More in a ‘he has no taste in people whatsoever’ way.  My father, who visits fairly often since he has equipment stored here, is treated very warily.  He always has a treat for Buster, but if I’m not there, Buster won’t have any part of it.  On the other hand, Buster would have gone home with the creepy insurance sales guy.  For some reason, he just seemed like a lot of fun.

The kids love him, and he’s turned out to be a very good dog.  Puppies are awfully cute, and I won’t deny that I would have like one.  But now I can’t imagine getting anything but a shelter dog.