2016/02/05

cold mice and snow

Our recent snowfall even had the mice stuck at home.

On the morning of 21 January 2016 I found the fourth dead mouse in nine days. That was the same morning that the big snow started, and I didn't catch the fifth mouse until nine days later - once most of the snow had melted away from the house's foundation.

Today I caught mouse #8. This one, unlike the previous seven, was a deer mouse.

When I first started trapping the mice, I just tossed them onto the bank that descends behind my house. The first two were OK, they weren't more than a foot or so beyond the lawn, but the third mouse made it look like a mouse pile. I didn't like that, so I took my walking stick and tried to flip them further down the bank.

They didn't get very far, landing in a small pile of branches I had trimmed from a nearby tree last fall. At first that bothered me, but quickly I recovered and decided that a "sky burial" was appropriate. Since then I've tossed them all on that brush pile.

Our big snow stayed on the ground for a long time. First of all, there was 13" to melt away; second, it was only about 5℉ when the snow fell, and the insulating properties of fluffy snow kept the snowpack cold; and third, we don't get a full day of sun here. Mountains to the east and west, don'tcha know.

What finally did in the snow was a little over 3" of rain that melted away the final 4" of soft, icy snow that remained.

2016/01/23

it's been stormin', Norman, and I like it

Rocko and I are pleased to report over a foot of the finest snow our atmosphere has offered in a while.

I was at work when the snow started, at 1 AM on Thursday morning. By the time I went home at 6:30 AM, only the main roads had been cleared. The snow was coming down pretty heavily and the road crews were having trouble keeping up. I took my time and all was well. My car handled quite well despite not having snow tires.

All was well, that is, until I reached the halfway point of the trip. The steepest hill I need to crest is right about there, and it hadn't been plowed recently enough.

Nearing the crest, the drive wheels started to slip. The car pulled to the right. I recovered, only to have it happen several more times. Finally I gave up and (thankful for the lack of traffic) slowly backed down the hill and around a bend until I could turn around.

Thus righted, I headed back a half-mile or so to the nearest parking lot (one of our stores) to await a snowplow. I refreshed my coffee and went outside to have a smoke and wait. Before I could finish my cigarette, a plow came along, so I hopped back in the car and followed the plow the remaining nine miles to my house, where I promptly got my car stuck in the snow.

At work, there had been about three or four inches of snow. In my driveway there was nine inches, some of it rather dense from being thrown by an earlier plow.

I was stuck, and stuck good. The tail end of the car was not technically out of the roadway (as I discovered after a lot of shoveling) but it was a couple of feet outside the plowed lane. Kinda safe, but not good enough. I got Rocko out of the house, grabbed my square garden spade, and started digging.

The garden spade doesn't move a lot of snow at once, but it also doesn't grab a heavy load; I can move a surprising amount of snow fairly quickly without hurting myself.

The car, as I said, was stuck real good. I had to dig out the entire underside of the car - side to side, nose to tail, and right up tight under the tires - before I could move it. Oh, I tried to get it to shift a number of times during the digging process, you bet. But no, no, no. That snow was packed tight under the entire car and ol' Rudie couldn't go.

Finally I got it to move. Backed up a few feet (woo hoo!!) drove forward a few feet past where I had been stuck. Safely parked at last!

I texted my manager to tell him that we would have to see what the day's weather brought before I would know if I could come in that night (Friday). He said that the owner would come out to get me and that he (my manager) could bring me home in the morning. A couple of hours later, after seeing plow after plow go by my house, I took a test drive. I had to go five miles before I found a place to turn around, but the roads weren't bad.

Not bad, that is, from a Western New York perspective. The weather that so many around me see as terrible and impossible to drive in, I see from the point of view of my Western NY upbringing.

To me, this weather represents "any random day from the beginning of November to the end of April."

So, when I got home from my test drive, I texted my manager again and told him the the plows were doing a good job and nobody needed to give me any rides. I set my alarms ten minutes earlier than usual and went to bed.

The ride to work was uneventful once I got out of the driveway. It took a few attempts to get through the new snowbank that the plows had built, but after that, it was just another night driving on a long, dark, snowy but passable road. The night at work was slow, only 27 customers, and the ride home was a lot easier than the previous morning, despite the extra snow. They really didn't get all that much down the valley.

When I got home I got stuck in the driveway again, this time sticking a few feet out into the road. I turned on my blinkers, got Rocko and the shovel, set the car free and parked it properly. Later I'll go out and clear around it better.

Today's snowfall measurement in my yard was 13" (about 33cm), an increase of 6" (about 15cm) over yesterday's total. The snowfall is over for now, and the sun is coming out, but it's still very cold. Time for a nap so Rocko and I can go out and play some more later.

2016/01/13

dead mouse, 8 years, and the SOTU

Last week I bought some mousetraps at the dollar store.

Being dollar-store mousetraps, not the well-known Victor traps, they weren't properly set up for a mouse. The triggers were too heavy, if you will; a mouse would not set them off. I found that out after leaving them out the first night. All of the peanut butter had been licked cleanly off yet no trap had sprung.

I knew that I would have to tweak the triggers but decided against doing so immediately. I rebaited the traps and put them back again, with the same result, a couple more times. Then I tweaked one trap's trigger with pliers, until it could just barely hold the bail open without letting go, baited it with peanut butter and returned it to its location in the cellar.

This morning I was greeted by a picture-perfect mouse-in-a-trap. Didn't take an actual picture, not sure why, but the dead SOB had not finished the bait so I tossed him over the bank and reset the trap. I don't know if I had more than one mouse running around down there (I could hear something climbing around at sunset when I tend to go to bed), but more will come.

The mole infestation in the yard was so out-of-control this year that they even dug under and through the foundation, getting into the cellar. After our last heavy rains, the mole holes had delivered some water into the cellar. Mice have been coming in through the mole holes, I suspect, since I have plugged up their other options for entry.

Gotta get a damn cat.

Well, yesterday was my 8 year sobriety anniversary. I didn't do anything special; it was cold and very windy, if sunny, and I spent most of the day indoors, except for tweaking that trap and taking one quick trip down to the store and up to the Parkway (which is finally closed for the season) just before sundown.

You know, when I was an active (very active) drinker, I rarely got ill except from hangovers. Eventually hangovers went away because I never entirely sobered up anymore. But actual illnesses were rare. I used to joke that I was "too toxic for the germs to survive," and half-believed that it was true.

However, it seems that I simply have a good immune system. I still rarely get ill. Strep throat has been going around at work and elsewhere; I had a slight sore throat for a couple of days, with one tiny white spot on a tonsil that never spread and went away after a couple of days. No fever, though I felt feverish when I had the sore throat (the thermometer denied that I was unusually warm).

It's not like I eat well. I've discussed that before. I do take a 50+ multivitamin every day, and I obviously get plenty of exercise. I use a neti pot, especially when I feel a sinus condition coming on, and I haven't needed an antibiotic for a sinus infection since I started using the neti pot (thanks for the tip, Dad). Of course I have the chronic conditions - depression, pancreatitis, and a little arthritis in one joint - but I haven't taken a sick day in the three and a half years that I've had my current job.

On to the SOTU. I will be brief.

Having no television, I listened to the State of the Union address on the radio. That is my preferred way to hear a speech, anyway, without the visual distractions of video. I started doing that under Clinton because I felt I had better comprehension that way, and under Bush I could not stand to see his mug on TV while he talked. So, I made it a rule: the SOTU address comes to me on the radio, only.

(Of course I recalled the Kennedy-Nixon debate in 1960, where those who listened on the radio thought that Nixon won, while those who watched the debate on TV thought that Kennedy won.)

This year, President Obama's final SOTU address, was (in my opinion) very good. I cannot think of anything that I disagreed with. I am proud that he has been my President and wish him well in his final year.

2015/12/16

I have to ask

Why would we need to establish a No-Fly Zone in Syria to defeat Daesh? They have no aircraft.

I ask this question aloud every time I hear somebody suggest a No-Fly Zone, and I guess I needed to ask it here too.

2015/12/12

the things you see

This morning, on my drive home from work, I saw a bald eagle perched on a utility pole next to a bridge over the East Fork of the Pigeon River here in Cruso. I was pleased.


Monty

2015/12/08

the things you(r dog) see(s)

Rocko wanted to do something yesterday afternoon, so we took a drive.

We headed down to the store, where I picked up some soft drinks and refilled my coffee cup. After leaving the store we took a side route down a 25 MPH road down by the river. When it got back to the main road, I had to wait for a few cars.

There were a couple of big black cattle eating grass in the field next to us. Along with them was one young and energetic brown calf; it kept running around the field, jumping, twisting and generally having fun.

Rocko thought that was pretty cool. He watched that calf for a long time, whimpering a little bit. I allowed several opportunities to move on to pass so that he could enjoy the spectacle, but eventually we headed back up the river and up to the Parkway. On our way up there the sun began to set.

We headed south on the Parkway (which, here, is actually west) for a few miles, stopping at a few overlooks to watch the sunset play off the clouds and the stars come out. I could see civilization along the horizon in Transylvania County.

On our way back toward home, there was no automotive traffic, but we did get behind a coyote for a while.

Rocko, who rides with his head out the driver's side of the car, noticed the coyote at the same time I did. I slowed the car so we wouldn't pass or hit the beast. This coyote ran down the road for a hundred yards or so, until an overlook appeared on the right. The coyote pulled off into the overlook and we kept going.

Rocko really liked that coyote, and so did I. And, if he hadn't talked me into getting out of the house, we wouldn't have seen it.

2015/12/01

killers for Christ

Ted Cruz claims that there is no real danger of terrorism from Christians.

He is oh-so-very wrong.

I haven't been writing about the lunacy happening around the world and within our own nation very much lately. Plenty of others are speaking more eloquently than I might do, and I have been communing with nature to keep myself sane in these trying times. And so, I provide the link above, to an article at PERRspectives. I suggest that you read it.

2015/11/15

reflections

Since the attacks in France last Friday, Presidents Obama and Hollande have both said things that reminded me of a post I wrote last January, entitled "observations".

In that post, I opined that the ongoing struggle against Islamic extremists "is starting to look like another World War", and both Obama and Hollande have made statements that tend to support that theory.

Sometimes being right isn't all that fun after all.

2015/10/27

the smell of hunting season

Occasionally, while hiking around the local mountains, I will smell something growing that evokes memories.

Last week or so, Rocko and I were hiking somewhere near here when I smelled Hunting Season. Probably pheasant season.

Yesterday I figured out what that smell was: it is a plant. The ones I found were shrublike but they look like they could be trees when they get older. I brought a couple of leaves home to make sure that they were what I smelled, and they still smell like hunting season to me.

I don't know yet what exactly the plant is, but here is a picture of one of the leaves:

This leaf smells like hunting season. It was growing at Graveyard Fields.
We were hiking at Graveyard Fields, the most heavily visited site on our section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The cloud cover was low, below 5,000 feet, and we were above that elevation. We were not only hiking in the rain; we were hiking within the raincloud.

Nobody else was on the trail, at least none that we encountered. There were only about four cars in the parking area. A couple of days ago, the parking area was filled to overflowing, but it was sunny.

We got soaked but we had a good time. It really is a pretty place but, as I often say, it is usually too crowded for my taste.

2015/10/12

opening day

Black bear hunting season opened today in Western North Carolina, and there should be a number of successful hunters near the Château this year.

At all significant access point to the Shining Rock Wilderness and adjacent public lands, there have been signs up for months now: "No Camping in the Graveyard Fields area", "all campers must store their food in approved bear-proof canisters" and variations on the theme, "keep yer eyes peeled fer bears, brother!"

Rocko and I haven't seen any bears this year, but we didn't do much hiking this summer. And, with bear season open, we need to be careful where we do hike for a while.

Rocko is a good sized dog, about 75 or 80 pounds, and black. All of my favorite jackets, sweatshirts and coats are black. And so, when it is black bear hunting season, I try to stay out of the deep woods. We might look like a mama bear and her cub to a sufficiently nearsighted and/or drunken hunter.

The barking hound who lives down by the creek next door finally had a chance to get out today. How he could be in shape to run after bears all day, after spending a year in an 8' by 12' cage, I don't know; but I am glad he was able to get out and run in the woods for a change.

Yeah, they hunt big game with dogs around here. I don't approve, but it's not my decision to make.

2015/10/11

the kayakers are back

And the kayakers are happy. Lots of cars with kayaks on their roofs have been going past my house lately.

But they probably won't be running this stretch of the Pigeon River's West Fork:

Garden of the Gods, Haywood County, North Carolina
It is called the Garden of the Gods, at least by kayakers, and only a select few have even attempted it. There is a video on Vimeo, made a few years ago, featuring a couple of guys who dragged their kayaks up through the rhododendron and/or mountain laurel thickets and rode back down. They survived with smiles on their faces and, I imagine, a lot of adrenaline pumping. (After watching that video again, I notice that the water wasn't as high when they made that run as it was last week, when I took the picture above.)

2015/10/09

some thoughts about the House Freedom Caucus

Here in Western North Carolina, we have the dubious distinction of having the Right Reprehensible Mark Meadows (R-Anarchy) as our House member.

Meadows is a pivotal member of the House Freedom Caucus, which has some interesting ideas.

Interesting, that is, if you are an academic whose field of study encompasses the way political parties can fall apart. For the rest of us, this is a terrifying exercise in reality, brought to us by a caucus that denies reality.

The Freedom Caucus is free, all right. Free from wisdom, free from the understanding of history, free from the desire to govern effectively, free from worries about the majority of Americans.

They are also largely free from accountability thanks to a synergistic stew of GOP-engineered gerrymandering and the Citizens United decision.

On one subject, I do agree with that odious Caucus: John Boehner had to go.

I suspect we disagree again once the prospect of filling the Speakership role is addressed. I would like to see Nancy Pelosi holding the gavel again, but the Freedom Caucus surely disagrees.

Pelosi, after all, is sane, and sanity just doesn't fly in the Freedom Caucus.

Paul Ryan has denied three times that he will accept the job (Biblical foreshadowing?), saying that he does not want to spend as much time away from his young family as would be required if he became Speaker. That I can accept and respect. On the other hand, also he says that he likes his job on the House Ways and Means Committee and believes that he is doing good there. I really don't think he's been doing very well heading the Ways and Means Committee; his budgets always suck (I think that's the technical term), and whether or not he likes the job, it may not be the one he should have.

[Ed. note: I corrected the name of Paul Ryan's committee on 2015-10-10.]

2015/10/03

after a very dry summer, we're getting wet

Until last Thursday, 24 September 2015, I had received only 0.35" of rain since the month began. By the end of the month, that total was 7.00".

And the rain continues: 3.02" so far in October and they are predicting a lot more for this weekend. In fact, 0.21" of that total has fallen over the past hour.

The Shining Rock Riverfest was postponed again, this time until next spring, they say. So I have a couple more paid days off, and that's nice. I needed a vacation and a piecemeal one works almost better than a continuous one.

Earlier this week my vacation began with a train ride. Dad and Velma took Karl and me on the Smoky Mountain Express, a day trip through the Nantahala National Forest. It was a rainy day, of course, but it was nice to get away with the family for a change.

That was on Tuesday, which is part of my usual weekend. I went back to work for two nights and then I had requested two nights off so that I could attend the Riverfest, which has been canceled due to potential flooding (it is right on the Pigeon River, and this end of the county is supposed to get heavy rains). But it's OK that I have nothing to do today.

Although, I was looking forward to seeing some live music and I had asked my nice lady to come along. I guess I don't need to deep-clean the house now.

2015/09/23

four years ago today, Lisa and I arrived in Haywood County together

And we quickly knew that we would soon be living here full-time.

Two and a half months later, we had rented the house that we soon named Château Cruso.

And here at le Château, Rocko and I remain. Some of Lisa's ashes were sprinkled in important places around the property, most were cast from the peak of the Devil's Courthouse. Some still remain here in a little bottle on my bookshelf.

I see no reason that I would ever leave this area, at least not yet. And if I did leave, I would miss it terribly.

2015/09/17

Jeb's quote would be funny if it weren't so terribly, tragically wrong

I didn't listen to the Republican debates, but I did hear about them on NPR today.

The one quote that stands out was from J.E. "Jeb" Bush.

"One thing I know about my brother," Bush said, referring to former president George W. Bush, "he kept us safe!"

I don't agree with that, not at all. The largest terrorist attack in our nation's history took place on George W. Bush's inattentive watch, killing thousands of people and causing billions of dollars in physical and economic damage. A month before that attack, W casually dismissed a report ominously (and, it turns out, accurately) titled, "Al-Qaeda determined to strike in U.S." with an easy, "OK, you've covered your ass now."

W was warned by the Clinton administration about the threat posed by al-Qaeda. The Bush administration erroneously believed that they, the neo-cons, were "the grown-ups" and America suffered mightily for their hubris.