Tripping off to Mexico Mañana

Me on Bob's fiddle
Me on Bob’s fiddle. Mom always said to clean behind your ears. I see why now.

Today is Laura and Barry’s wedding day. We’ve been hanging around Portal waiting for this day since the bridge was finished. An event well worth waiting for but, my, there’s not much going on when we’re not working or super hiking. I practiced some of my new Irish tunes this week. I read a book. Burt and I visited centenarian Bob again. A bear attacked the gNash. I saw a couple more tarantulas. We took a hike. A mouse landed on my shoulder.

Yesterday Mimi was dropped off at Dodie’s for her extended kitty B&B stay. I left Dodie with Mimi’s bed, food, snacks, bowls, litter box, litter, blankie, and more food. Mimi’s luggage weighs more than mine. We also left Dodie with our minds at ease because we know she won’t mind having an elderly stink ball as a companion. Mimi isn’t so sure what to do with all the floor space. When I left she was completing her 53rd circumnavigation of the living area. The gNash is soulless without our feline companion.

Two nights ago was the incident of the bear under the gNash. Just after 11:00 I was woken by two quick Olive barks. Olive has a sophisticated system of barks. These two barks were ‘I hear something’ and ‘GoAwayBear!’ I woke up and, with Ollie ears in tune new we were under assault. Olive was quiet and there was a dragging/grating sound emanating from just outside the window on Burt’s side of the bed. I leaned over and peered out blindly but thought I saw a very large and dark hump moving. I said, “There’s a bear” as I shook Burt. Like all husbands roused from sleep he yelled, “There is NO bear.” Insert murderer, robber, thief, rapist for bear and you have all men waking up to wife saying: There’s a …. Is this in their DNA or are they taught by their fathers or is it learned after millions of false alarms?

Clearly Burt hadn’t fully assessed the situation. Nor was he awake. Still I thought, maybe he’s right. It’s probably a mouse. Suddenly more dragging noises and I hit Burt again and I said, “There’s a bear.” This time he bolted straight up and yelled, “There’s A bear.” This was the first time in history that I feel Burt actually met or exceeded my level of concern for our physical safety. Wide awake he knew instantly what I did not. Burt knew the bear had found a stash of food under our trailer (Hellooo, Hell, no…) and now the bear knew our trailer was a flimsy tin can of filled with delightful food. Burt closed his window and the window over the dinette. I left mine open. Menopause, bear or no bear. Our noise making scared the bear enough so that noises stopped and we couldn’t see it. Not much sleep was had as we both envisioned the bear ripping off our grey water tank or stretching a paw in to find the dog food. The next morning the bear was still on the pile of dry beans (my zombie apocalypse supply) when Burt went out to check the damages. He chased bruno away. Our storage cooler had sustained minor bite damages and the rice and beans were spread all around. I presume that bear got a mean tummy ache from eating dry beans. Burt cleaned up the mess as best he could. We seal up the windows whenever we leave now but if a bear wants into a trailer it can make it happen. Today we are moving to a new location. Hopefully the bear doesn’t follow.

Also this week we played music for Bob. It was a kind of practice session. Whiel visiting Burt asked Bob if he had any of his instruments still. Bob still had his fiddle which he had inherited from his father. He showed it to us. I got it in tune and played some tunes on it that Bob’s dad might have played. Bob practically seized the thing from me and gave it a go himself. Despite his torn rotator cuff, deafness, long finger nails, and lack of practice the phrase of a tune came out. Bob commented that he liked my bow. You can see the video on Facebook. This private session was further rewarded when Bob left his house and came to our concert the next day. He doesn’t get around like he used to. He and his gal friend Gloria were all the audience we needed to make our day special. We made plans to have another jam session between our Mexico and Galapagos trips.

Another recent wildlife encounter happened when I decided to clean out a bird nesting box on the old adobe stage building where we are parked. I lifted the front of the box and it was packed full of bedding. Fearing biting bugs and the mites I’ve found in other nests I grabbed a stick to clean the place out. As I dug in a very alarmed mouse jumped out and landed on my shoulder. I screamed. She screamed. Then she ran down my chest, jumped to my knee, and then the ground. I stopped cleaning for fear of finding babies. The birds will have to battle it out come spring.

Bob on Bob's fiddle. Originally his father's fiddle.
Bob on Bob’s fiddle. Originally his father’s fiddle.
Barfoot view
Barfoot view
View of Barfoot lookout.
View of Barfoot lookout.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
Bear destroys but does not eat dried beans.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
We had almost an inch of rain in under an hour. Bear tracks in the mud.
Bob and Gloria made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
Bob and Gloria (front, far left) made it to our show among many notable Portal residents.
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Traveling to the next job

Yuppers. Cold and smokey.
Yuppers. Cold and smokey.

We’re living with a tyrant. She demands a sample of all food stuff, walks all over us and our belongings, bosses the dogs, and shows not one bit of appreciation. I’m talking Mimi. Recent near death experiences for her were met by hand feeding by us. Now, despite appearing fine, she demands food be brought to her. And not just any food. She’ll have what we’re having. Just yesterday she swatted a filet of rock fish out of Burt’s hand as he dredged it in egg. Fresh fish. Now. No please or thank you. She’s taken on a more thuggish appearance, too. Scraggly unkempt hair, jutting bones, cigarette hanging from her lips. Last week she had a seizure and ripped out a claw from the root. She never noticed the blood on her foot and she hasn’t cleaned it up. Add a bloody stump to her ensemble and you can see why we give her whatever she demands.

California coast and smoke.
California coast and smoke.
Mimi has become aggressive.
Mimi has become aggressive.
Dashboard clan.
Dashboard clan.
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In Helena, MT

The studio
The studio

I saw my doctor today. Blood was drawn for the hemochromatosis check and we scheduled a barium upper GI lookey loo for Friday. Meanwhile I am to continue taking prilosec. No news to report. I did re-throw out my back again this morning playing tennis. What a nuisance.

Mimi, after a few days of hand feeding chicken and canned cat food in bed, has rallied again. She even got a little feisty this morning. We had a tummy rub wrestling match. As usual, Mimi was victorious.

Our agenda for the remainder of the building season is quite diverse both geographically and project type. After the family, friend, medical visits here we will head back to Alpine, OR for the eclipse and some more decking. Then to Templeton, CA for a house remodel. Eventually we head to Portal, Mexico, and the Galapagos. Time is flying.

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This is what it looks like

Who is the real blogger?
Who is the real blogger?

It’s been three weeks and I am still not caught up on this blog. The European trip takes so much time for just a little bit of research. Meanwhile my knee hurts and so does my hip. We averaged more than 8 miles a day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to rest the legs and, still, I cannot catch up to present life.

We already worked in Alpine, OR. Currently we are working for Baja friends in Seattle. Burt is working. I am typing. I help some. Seattle is nice and cool. We’ve played some Bridge and some music. My mandolin went in for much needed maintenance and it is way more fun to play. The dogs have a good yard to visit. There is also a dog park 10 minutes away. Elvis thinks he is the doorman. Nobody can enter without a thorough nose frisking.

Mimi wasn’t eating when we got back from Europe. It was also in the high 90s. She has resumed eating but is noticeably odd and smelly. I wonder how many years she can hang on as odd and smelly. I remember that tune from the TV show Friends, Smelly Cat. It might be time to learn it. HERE it is. According to the song it’s all my fault.

When we finish this artist’s studio here we will return to Oregon. We have more work in Alpine and Oakridge.

Back to European vacay mañana.

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The hand of the Man

 

The man and his hand
The man and his hand

I’ll admit it I got a little tipsy last night. It wasn’t on purpose. We went out for a pizza and a movie and the margartita was enormous and strong. I don’t normally enjoy the sensation of intoxication but it felt right in the moment and I’m fine today. A little tired and still sad but okay. Mimi had a seizure this morning on top of it all. She started having seizures about three years ago. They were rare until this month. So rare that we only observed three in three years. But this month we’ve seen three in a bout 5 weeks. There’s no telling how many we are missing when we are away. After a few minutes of convulsions and drooling she regains her composure and appears normal. La-di-dah, I guess I’ll go eat, I feel fine now that’s over. At 18 years of age it’s hard to take these as a crisis. I presume one day she might give it up mid seizure. She’s had a long and pampered life. She has been a bonny road warrior. It would be a fine and dramatic end to the creature I’ve spent more years living with than any other in the world. But also an enormously sad end. Of course I was relieved she came out of it today. It’s not that I’m ready, it’s that she’s so old I’m trying to accept it as imminent.  Yesterday when I was messily bawling she rolled over and over and rubbed on me trying to cheer me up. The dogs ignored me. People that say cats aren’t connected are idiots.

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Day by Day

Interrupted bath
Interrupted bath

No promises. We’re taking it one day at a time here. I wanted to convey to you something from yesterday’s music/English class. I took a video. The video can be seen on Facebook. It’s public so any one can watch it. You do not have to join Facebook to watch it.

I remember boys from my childhood as terrorizing. So powerful and uninhibited. They were constantly pulverizing things (me, included). My brother had a never ending supply of hitting, kicking, running, jumping, climbing. This movement was occasionally directed at inappropriate targets. Frogs, furniture, sister, little brother. Occasionally might be too nice a word. My husband has a bit of the Bam Bam in him, too. He’s pretty constructively aimed at nails, tennis balls, waves, food. I keep him busy. He keeps himself busy.

The four of us that teach at the music/english class were commenting on the stark difference between our two sections. The classes were unintentionally split by gender. Boys had started sooner and had a head start. All my neighborhood girls got to start fresh at their own level when I brought them over. The boys were studying about three months before the girls. It just happened. The profound difference between teaching the girls group and the boys group is messing with my head. I’m all for gender equality and mixing it up and not stereotyping based on traditional gender roles, but as Burt says, “These boys need a job.” They cannot hold still. But hold still is an understatement. They are very dynamic molecules throwing off electrons of energy everywhere they go. Static electricity needing to discharge. They are a danger to themselves and me.

Yesterday I had the brilliant idea of reining them in with a dance contest on video while singing in English. The dancing allows energy to dissipate. The video corrals them into a limited space and fluffs their egos. They each get a star turn. As the dance progressed one boy found a boulder attached to a string and  dragged it through the dancers. Back and forth he went with a twenty pound rock on a piece of twine through the boy’s feet. One boy was barefoot. No matter. They all kept dancing. After growing up with my brother I think this is normal. Suddenly, while I’m directing singers and star turns, I shout out, “no more rock!” My inner mother finally noticed the string has become a tripping hazard. I keep filming. The rock dragger starts pulling on the other end of the string. The dancers weave in and out as I am calling them to dance solo one by one. Then I see the string is attached to a cinder block above their heads. The rock dragger is now nearly pulling a cinder block off a wall over all their heads. The guitar continues. You can see my hand waving in fear in front of the camera. No no no no is heard in the background. I am still filming. With a last desperate shout of, “Peligro!” the camera goes black. I nearly have a heart attack. The boys pause for a moment. They survey the situation. They agree that the situation was dangerous. In a breath they start back with some new mass chaos as if it never happened.

Meanwhile the girls class goes something like this: What shall we do today? Ok, that’s a nice idea, let’s do that. We all calmly and politely sing a song. We take turns. Nobody hits anyone. No screaming, no dancing unless I cajole them. It’s sweet. They are all so earnest and really want to do well. Sometimes I have to get Burt to pay attention. He is the main disrupter.

How can I bring some of each type of energy from one to the other? Should I? Go check out my Facebook page and see Carlos’s dance moves.

Gray thrasher
Gray thrasher
Jolly, old, Mimi
Jolly, old, Mimi, playing tennis.
Two kinds if orioles?
Two kinds if orioles?
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Pictures?

Trying, again. Whew…that finally uploaded.

Today marks one week since our arrival in El Pescadero. Things are going well. Our tarp blew out on day two. I can’t overstate how important the shade tarp on the trailer is to our general comfort. Shading the trailer on all sides makes it livable and it allows the propane fridge to keep working. We were using a massive but sun-degraded tarp left behind by Robin and Jen. It lacked integrity. The first mild breeze ripped the grommets and brought it down onto the trailer. Instead of shade we had a blanket. So we decided to run to Cabo ASAP to find a replacement. While we were at it, why not buy a bed? Our mattress was 11 years old. The peso is weak. WEAK. Really, really weak. 17.5 pesos to the dollar. It was 11.5 five years ago. In the last five years more luxury goods are also available. I presume it’s a post-crash investments by beach hungry gringos.

So, we decided to look for a bed. A run to Cabo, while much easier than it was a couple of years ago due to improved roads, requires many calls to neighbors to see if they need anything. In ten minutes I had a list of cat food, asiago cheese, and toilet paper added to our mattress and tarps. Three out of four calls yielded results. Our first stop was the bed shop. Mattress dealers the world over are notorious for the obscurity of their pricing. Mexico outdid the US. No mattress in the store had a price. When I asked how much a particular bed was I got a fleet of answers: Mexican Queen? U.S. Queen? Cama Matrimonial? Every number had a better number than the first number. This was the standard response: This bed is 17,000 pesos. Pause. But really it is 13,000 pesos. Pause.

This kind of haggling makes me crazy. Burt and I finally found a rather firm Simmons Beautyrest we liked. Have you shopped for mattresses recently? They are really thick. In a trailer every inch counts. We pondered the extra height. Would Burt hit his head during certain maneuvers? Could Mimi the cat make the leap with the added altitude? Having no alternative to the super padded slabs we decided we’d just have to take a chance. We settled on a price of $730 US. My mattress from 11 years ago was $1200. I felt like we’d made a good deal.

Humans are notoriously ill prepared to make decisions in the short term and understand the long term ramifications. I like to pretend I am exempt from this general flaw in humanity. I can defer short term enjoyment for long term benefits pretty well. Clearly mattress buying is my Achilles’s tendon. Burt and I told the guy we’d be back in an hour and a half to pick up our new American Queen sized mattress. Adding to our human nature for short term gratification is a thing called decision fatigue. Watch what happens. We left the mattress store and headed to Home Depot.

This excursion took place during a Mexican national holiday. The Home Depot was jammed. Una carambola. People everywhere. We just wanted a tarp. What is the word for tarp? It’s not what my handy phone dictionary gave me. SpanishDict dicked me over and gave me the word for tent. We persevered and found the tarps. We had to buy three tarps to match the size of the previously installed shade. Done. Now to Costco.

Costco was also overrun. We picked up asiago cheese and some groceries and dog food for us. We left to pick up our mattress. As we arrived at the mattress store we realized we failed to buy toilet paper and cat food. At the mattress store the salesperson said. I have your Queen ready but it’s 84″ long. Burt asked me what I though. I (will regret these words for a long time) said,”I guess that’s the standard length. What else could it be?” We paid for the mattress and packed it on top of the truck. We headed to Home Depot (oops, I forgot more rope) and Costco. Tequila was added to the toilet paper and cat food. Isn’t that a shopping cart for the ages? 36 rolls of toilet paper, 40 pounds of cat food, and a supersized bottle of tequila.

We made it home before dark feeling pretty good with our accomplishments. The next morning I went to yoga. Burt repaired the shade system. I walked up the hill from Prissy’s house ready to help Burt wrangle the new mattress into the gNash. I recalled the original mattress went it with much difficulty. Burt was 10 years younger and we had a big young guy helping (John Dendy). It was the proverbial hog wrastle. Burt and I are 10 years smarter if not as strong as we once were. And we have spent many years moving heavy things together. I was optimistic we could do this. I was right. The old mattress slipped out. The smart move was key. We screwed down the pneumatic lid to the under mattress storage area. Without the lid in the way everything was manageable. Barely, but we succeeded.

The old mattress was carried to the rumpus room for our daring, amiable, flexible, guests to use. The new mattress was hauled in. I took the low end and pushed while Burt steered and pulled. Mimi ignored the entire thing from her bedside nook. It all went so easily. And then we realized our great mistake. The altitude of the mattress was going to take some adjustment but the big problem we had just lost 4″ of our 22′ of living space. Gnashing of teeth in the gNash. There’s a mattress as big as a life raft in our tiny home. OMG. The sales guy tried to warn us and we didn’t get the hint. Ack ack ack.

My original motto for happiness on the road was, “you get what you get and you don’t get upset.” Once again we quickly looked on the bright side. Mimi has a shorter jump!!! Olive’s bed is nearly invisible under the massive overhang!!! The shoes are well hidden, too!!! I LIVE in the bed. I have more space!!!

Through massive effort and my carpentry skills I was able to force a deep-pocketed regular queen onto this boat of a bed. I got on Amazon and ordered two new fitted sheets and sent them to friends coming in two weeks. We will adapt. The height thing has proven to be more annoying than the length. Instruments stored besides the bed are very hard to reach. Mimi’s nook requires her to belly crawl for access. Burt’s positional needs require his head to be in the window recess. I took bearings so I know where to be so his head has clearance to do what we both want him to do.

Last night we slept pretty well. The bed is more comfortable. Mimi was oddly restless and she walked all over us all night long. We think she was just getting the lay of the land.

Life on the road continues…all is well.

Our cacti and succulents sis very well.
Our cacti and succulents sis very well.
Water system and hot water heater.
Water system and hot water heater.
Rumpus Room ready for music.
Rumpus Room ready for music.
Rumpus room (now with bed) door from porch.
Rumpus room (now with bed) door from porch.

Our corner overlooking the mountains.

Burt rocking the old gringo look.
Burt rocking the old gringo look.
A few things to play with.
A few things to play with.
This tarp's grommets blew out. We went to Cabo the same day and bought new tarps and beds.
This tarp’s grommets blew out. We went to Cabo the same day and bought new tarps and beds.
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Portal We’re Here and Back at Work Already

Cholla in bloom.
Cholla in bloom.

Here we and our fleas are back in the USA. First day here I was enjoying some basic pleasures I am denied in Mexico: drinking dark beer and doing my own laundry. Re-entry into the states also has a skin crawling tradition every year, the flea eradication program. Despite the application of all conventional and even some unconventional weaponry we cannot completely eliminate the fleas in Mexico. The fleas live all around and jump from dog to dog all day long. Olive’s brand of flea seems immune to all drops, dips, baths, sprays and mechanical devices. It’s not really that Olive has so many (which she does) it’s that she can’t stand the bite of a single flea and so chews herself raw unless we have complete control. Lucky for her we live in flea free zones in the US and we just have to kill the ones we have living in the gNash and on her and her companions. Another stroke of luck is that she doesn’t have allergic dermatitis (yet) but the lesser hypersensitivity to the bite. Elvis and Mimi are quite blase about their own populations of fleas. A little scratch here and there is all they do.

Every winter starts out with me faithfully applying flea repellant to the dogs and cat. Every winter it seems that the Advantix, Revolution, baths or combs or whatever else we try is working. And every winter a few months in the fleas start getting the upper hand. They find a nook to hide in or they evolve a resistance to the pesticide of choice. Or they just out number us. No amount of cleaning and laundry helps for more than a day or two. I think our sandy lot is harboring millions of fleas just waiting for a dog or cat to walk by. Around March I give up. I look at Olive and say, “Sorry, kid, you’re on your own.”

So we cross the border every April carrying a full load of gross and head to a laundromat and pet supply store and start over again. This year we’re using the new ‘miracle’ flea collars. For $41 plus tax each of our pets is sporting a new Seresto 8-month flea collar. All rugs and bedding have been washed on hot. New dog beds were purchased and the old beds sent to the landfill. I spent hours yesterday using a flea comb and mechanically removing the dead and dying fleas from their coats. I hope it’s enough. The only redeeming fact is that the fleas rarely come near me or Burt. They still prefer their natural hosts. In fact they probably are cat fleas and prefer cats. Combing Mimi revealed a greater density of fleas (despite less itching) than the dogs. I have this theory that the fleas are going to adapt to feeding on humans if we keep up the chemical assault. I hope I am wrong.

As for next year in Mexico I have some new ideas. First, I’m bringing down some beneficial nematodes to apply to our soil. These nematode-y things eat fleas and flea larva in soil. Second, I’m hoping the collars work as advertised. Third, no dogs in the trailer. Elvis has already volunteered to spend his nights outside so we just have to convince Olive it’s the place for her, too.

Here are some desert flora for your enjoyment:

Cactus star
Cactus star
Baby barrel cactus view of the world.
Baby barrel cactus view of the world.
Cholla. Elvis got some in his foot which I then transferred to my hand.
Cholla. Elvis got some in his foot which I then transferred to my hand.
Pretty desert beetle.
Pretty desert beetle.
Unknown flower.
Unknown flower.
Spreading, creeping mat of flowers.
Spreading, creeping mat of flowers.
A ball of flowers.
A ball of flowers.
The desert near Santa Inez.
The desert near Santa Inez.
Here's the bit that was in Elvis's foot now in my hand.
Here’s the bit that was in Elvis’s foot now in my hand.
Ocatillo and shadow.
Ocatillo and shadow.
Pitaya
Pitaya
Rust never sleeps.
Rust never sleeps.

 

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No April Fools Here…yet

The flea riddled night walker.
The flea riddled night walker.

Mimi occasionally appears to have kitty dementia. Two nights ago she was a restless and shared her feelings with everyone by mewing and pacing across our bodies. Relentlessly. A younger cat might be gently flung off the bed in this situation and after a few or 40 flings a younger cat might get the idea that nobody wants to hear about its problems. Mimi is a rickety bag of bones with bad balance and poor eyesight. Mimi must be handled with care. If she shakes her head too hard she falls over. There is no moving Mimi in a manner to express displeasure. In fact I can’t think of a safe way to express my disinterest or displeasure. I could gently move Mimi off my head one hundred times and she would come back for one hundred and one. She makes it seem like she doesn’t even remember the previous five score times I removed her from my head.

Mimi once was a cat that slept apart and only showed interest when there was food or a small bird available for killing. A mild scolding would send her into hiding for hours. After spending one third of her life in the trailer she is now very cozy, maybe needy. She wants full body contact at all times. She begs relentlessly. She tells the dogs what to do. She dominates us. Now she is perambulating on our bodies and singing while we try to sleep. Somebody suggested Rescue Remedy when I said I was considering extreme measures. I cleaned out her litter box instead. I regularly clean her box. Living in a trailer requires vigilance but I’d forgotten for a day and it was a little overfull. Mimi seemed satisfied and last night passed peacefully until she started begging for breakfast. Not her breakfast but mine. I’ve created a monster.

Below are pictures of the school my Spanish teacher Ivonne owns. Ivonne runs her own private bilingual school for kids with a staff of teachers and she teaches Spanish to adults. She is also a single mom and working on her first book. My hat is tipped to her and her hard work and great teaching.

Phases of the moon in Spanish
Phases of the moon in Spanish
Mermaids are popular these days.
Mermaids are popular these days.
Undersea mural in the little kids room.
Undersea mural in the little kids room.
Ivonne, my teacher and head mistress of this school.
Ivonne, my teacher and head mistress of this school.
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Handed over my keys and credentials

My 1st EPA ID photo
My 1st EPA ID photo

I’m officially out.  No longer a public servant.  I’m taking care of boring but important things to make life on the road easier: setting up full electronic banking, mail forwarding, financial management ideas, TRAINING the cat Mimi to wear her harness…

It looks like our first destination is Ione, Oregon.  Lucky for us a Helena client has family in Ione that own a large patch of ground they’ve offered to let us bird hunt.  It looks as though we might even get to play a community gig.  No details are available (even to us) but we hear the people of Ione are eagerly anticipating our arrival.  Based on our experience in rural communities in Montana, it could be the biggest crowd we’ve ever played. 

After Ione we’ll hear west to the Portland area.  Burt’s guitar got us an invitation to a party the first Saturday in Oregon.  Coincidentally the guitar’s maker, Dan Roberts, will also be at the party.  Plans are shaping up and about as specific as we want them.

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