Work Update

Double vanity with carpenter.
Double vanity with carpenter.

The truck has been at the mechanic’s for over a week. Rumors of a reunion trickle in. Maybe we’ll see it again early next week. Other rumors of her possible demise were premature. She was leaking oil like a broken pipeline but it turned out to be a connector deep in the engine. So we hear. These last ten days Burt and I and the Olvis have been sharing our 24 year old Subaru and getting things done. Actually, it’s Jen’s Subaru. It was mine from 1998 until 2009. I gave it to Jen when we hit the road. Lucky for us it is a spare car in her corral now and we could borrow it for the summer. It has made for a much more interesting summer for me since I was more mobile than usual.

The job moves along and as usual for us, hitch itch is making us cranky. Some more than others. The kitchen is nearly complete. The backsplash was grouted today. The stove can be moved in now. The dishwasher and a faucet need to be installed. The faucet is electronic. You wave at it and wash your hands just like at Coscto. New skill set coming up.

Installing the tile backsplash.
Installing the tile backsplash.
More flooring
More flooring
Tub and magic wand.
Tub and magic wand.
Vanity.
Vanity. That drawer front was damaged. A new one is on the way.
Shower
Shower
Burt gets a little edgy at the end of the job.
Burt gets a little edgy at the end of the job.
Detail on backsplash.
Detail on backsplash.
I am tired but I am also sneaking up on it.
I am tired but I am also sneaking up on it. Sorting the lengths in advance makes the work go quicker.
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Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT?

Roz Chast's memoir
Roz Chast’s memoir

Have you read a graphic novel? How about a memoir? Roz Chast, the New Yorker cartoonist, captured the last years of her parent’s lives in her book Can’t we talk about something more PLEASANT? I read this book a little while ago when I checked it out of the library. This month, thanks to the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lewis and Clark Library is giving this book away and sponsoring a month’s worth of events on aging and dying. Roz Chast herself will be here to discuss this book. I picked up our free copy today.  Our society’s refusal to face the facts of life must change. Where all headed down the same road. Let’s stop pretending. The book comes with a calendar of events and they all look interesting.  Burt and I plan on attending several. Firstly there’s Roz’s meet and greet. Then there’s a talk on home funerals and green burials. And finally we hope to make it to the death cafe, a tea and cake event where we gather with strangers to talk about the one thing we all have in common: Death. There are also talks on hospice and Alzheimer’s disease and fitness events. We’re gonna skip the work outs. Laying flooring and setting tile on top of fishing and tennis has us whipped into shape this summer.

Check it out at The Big Read.

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Lamb Jam

A chef prepares the judges' plates.
A chef prepares the judges’ plates.

Yesterday we were guests at Montana’s first Lamb Jam. The Lamb Jam is not a gross aspic of pulverized lamb, nor is it a christian music festival (Lamb of God), but it is a competitive, improvisational jam for chefs sponsored by the sheep industry to promote the eating of lamb meat. These foodie events happen across the west and Montana was finally having her first event. I already knew I was not a fan of lamb but Burt is and so are our friends so I played along. Within minutes of taking our seats I knew we were in for a looooong afternoon. All signs pointed to no food delivery efficiency. I predict our young 4H servers will be scared for life.

Our table went rogue with smuggled alcohol and soon we were ignoring social strictures.  As this was the first year I’ll refrain from ranting about the logistical difficulties that caused suffering on all sides. I worried about the child labor but I also felt sorry for cooking teams trying to time their food preparation. Suffice it to say traffic jam was more fitting descriptor than jamming as in riffing on a theme. Our table used our loss of inhibition to cut the line and also pressure organizers to acquiesce to our demands. I don’t drink much but how can anybody expect a din filled room of adults to spend 4 hours waiting for trickles of food without imbibing? Add in a speaker from a family known to drone on without a point and they were lucky there wasn’t a riot.

On the upside: The food was great. Kudos to the food prep teams. Our table was filled with smart amiable people. We had a lot of laughs.  Everyone was full of helpful ideas on how to thwart our passive waiting for food. I still don’t like lamb. The sliders, which were heavily seasoned, were very yummy. Anything that tasted like lamb was not for me. Burt lucked out because he got my refusals. I won the table’s party favor. I knit handbag resembling a lamb. We filled it with pilfered butter, leftover rolls, and lemon bars and then we ran for home.

One final note: https://www.facebook.com/pg/LambJamFestival/posts/ Check out  this musical Lamb Jam.

Lamb themed goody.
Lamb themed goody.
IMG_4084
Judge’s plate.
Burt and Jay are thrilled not to win the lamb.
Burt and Jay are thrilled not to win the lamb.
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Bath Tub

Space for the tub
Space for the tub.

Measuring, to me, seems to be the most basic skill of carpentry. You can’t do anything without measuring. This bathroom formerly had a jetted tub fit into this nook. The remodel would have a stand alone tub in the vacant space left when the old tub was removed. Our trusty carpenter Burt would have to help the client pick out a tub that fit nicely in the space and then without actually having the tub he’d have to make sure water and drains were in the right place. It’s no fun when the spigot doesn’t reach the tub. Messy, too. I am happy to say everything was just where it was supposed to be.

Work is wrapping up. We’ve got maybe half the square footage of flooring installed. The bathroom is just waiting for the toilet and shower door. Doors need painting. A kitchen back splash remains to be tiled and then it’s time to reinstall trim and do touch ups. There is light ahead.

Considering the install
Considering the install.
The drain has to line up. Feet must be adjusted.
The drain has to line up. Feet must be adjusted.
It's tight under there.
It’s tight under there.
It's in!
It’s in!
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Annual Dearborn Picnic

Mouth guard fine tuning
Mouth guard fine tuning
My teeth
My teeth

Burt and I had to sneak into Helena for a day so I could get my night guard followup checkup. Back in May dentist convinced me it was time to protect the many thousands of dollars investment I had made in my mouth. Gold crowns that I’ve had for twenty-five years are still secure but my subconscious habit of gnashing my teeth all night long (and some days, too) had made some serious grooves. Dr. K said it was only a matter of time before I broke something. I agreed to have a custom guard made and I’ve been using it for about a month. The guard slips right in and I fall asleep fine. I even imagine it has helped me relax my throat muscles and made singing and swallowing easier. My jaw muscles aren’t as tired as they used to be but sdon’t expect me to turn into a Chatty Cathy.

After the dentist we took a beating in Bridge and then headed up to the annual Dearborn Picnic picking party. I’ve written about this destination many times in previous posts. This year we enjoyed moderate temperatures, a remodeled stream bed, and the usual fine mix of friends and music. The children of the founders and their friends now greatly out number the older generation but the music moves perpetually with the people. We can go to bed early knowing the ‘kids’ will take the all night shift and sing to the gods of the dark.

Stickerville
Stickerville. We were among the first to arrive.
Rainbows for breakfast and lunch.
Rainbows for breakfast and lunch.
Burt and me
Burt and me
Music
Music
More music
More music
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First day of school

The gang of Pescadero Heights.
The gang of Pescadero Heights. Yeraska, Frixcia, Lluvia, Paola, Vince, Janexci, Ilithia, and Andrea. Spelling errors may apply.

And this just in: It’s a new school year in Pescadero. Here’s the neighbors in their spiffy new uniforms. Burt and I miss them so much. It’s not the same without our gang of minions. We’ve been mostly working and playing some music. The last two weekends we camped out with musician friends and got some hiking and fishing in with the tunes.

My mind is moving towards Mexico. I’m wondering what type of things to bring back for the kids. I’ll have to hit the back to school sales here and collect some fun supplies. Anything pink will be popular.

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Gun Safety

Unattended firearm at Stillwater Golf in Columbus, Montana. Semi-automatic .22 with banana clip.
Unattended firearm at Stillwater Golf in Columbus, Montana. Semi-automatic .22 with banana clip.

Guns are a hot topic. I used to be of the mind that regulating them would be ineffective. I own a shotgun. Burt has several shotguns and a rifle. We have no hand guns. Hand guns are for killing people. I think they are too dangerous to have in my home. But time and experience have caused a shift in my thinking. I now favor tight regulation with registration, education, and insurance requirements just like we have for motor vehicles. The incidents of mass shootings in the United States is one reason I favor these changes to our laws, another is the lack of care I’ve seen in managing guns by owners. Add in our Stand Your Ground Laws and it’s just way to easy to shoot somebody for no good reason. You can get away with murder just by claiming you were scared for your life.

Here’s the scenario that I keep reflecting on: Burt and I have had more than one client that left loaded handguns out on tables in their homes at all times so they were ready. Ready to defend themselves with deadly force at (supposedly) all times. First, I’ve got to say, why would anyone chose to live in a state of constant readiness to kill? If you’re so scared you need therapy or you need to move. Fear is a horrible life companion. Secondly, a gun in the open can be mishandled by anyone in the home. Say your friendly carpenter just happens to pick it up and accidentally shoot themselves or you? Kids come by for a surprise visit? And, P.S., a gun on the table when you are taking a shower or dump will do you no good if somebody breaks in and gets to it first. You need a holster for constant readiness. A gun on a table is a constant threat to its owner and their friends and neighbors and trusty carpenters. We do not work for people make a habit of leaving loaded weapons on their kitchen tables. I do not take it as a sign that you trust me. I read it as a sign you are willing to shoot first and ask questions later which leads me to Stand Your Ground.

Too many people are being killed by scared persons for no good reason. The numbers for Montana are sickening. It seems juries here are willing to believe it’s okay to shoot a fleeing robber in the back when the purported robber is in the front yard. How do we even know the ‘robber’ was even a robber? I quake at the thought of a disgruntled client refusing to pay us and the ensuing altercation as we approach their home seeking payment. A raised voice and suddenly we are assailants and the shooter was afraid we meant them harm. (Just a side note: we’ve never had anyone refuse to pay us).

So the other day when we came across an unattended weapon in the back of a golf club’s maintenance vehicle all of these thoughts were churning in my head. This was the Stillwater Golf club in Columbus, Montana. Here was a person that most likely was thinking about something else and forgot there was a firearm in the vehicle. Maybe it’s always there and it sort of feels like any other tool of the job. Gophers tearing up the golf course are managed with a quick shot from the .22. Upon first seeing the firearm I was shocked. Then I was scared. I was scared because I didn’t know what to do. There was a loaded weapon without a human sitting in the bed of a golf cart at a campground adjacent to a golf club. Children play nearby. Vagrants frequent the free camping areas. Joe Schmos like us walk by.  We did not see the driver of the cart. Should we wait for the person to return? Would they be amenable to our feedback? Would the situation escalate? I took a picture because I knew I wanted to report the situation to the club’s manager.  I was too frightened to do the confrontation in person with the gun there. Then we left as quickly as we could. Cue the music of bad decision making. Something in a minor key.  This I have decided was not the right thing to do.

A while later I realized we had become complicit. We had abandoned a loaded firearm in public. By leaving this gun in public the owner made us responsible for anything that might have happened in between our seeing it and their return to take control of it. What if it had been picked up by a kid in that gap of time? In hind sight Burt and I realized we should have waited with the gun until its owner returned. In addition, we probably should have called the police. I guess. Then I started thinking what if the owner felt like we were threatening their job by confronting them about the lapse in judgement? What if they were carrying a sidearm and caught us trying to secure the gun? What if the police arrived after the gun’s owner had returned? Burt suggested we could have waited a safe distance away to make surethe guy came back. But what then? A safe distance away means we wouldn’t be able to stop a child from picking up the gun before we got to it. The moral ramifications of what might have happened are astounding.

What would you do? I’m making this public because we need a real change in how we think about guns in this country. Look how we all can become complicit in a situation when they aren’t handled properly.

My efforts to hear how the situation was managed by the club were unsatisfactory. I had to post to social media before they responded to my notifications. They only said, “This is unacceptable and it will be addressed.” I presume they meant the abandoned firearm and not my complaints.

 

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Beartooth Pass

A herd of goats takes in the sights.
A herd of goats takes in the sights.

This year’s Musician’s Rendezvous in Columbus coincided with a spike in the local temperature. Sitting under the cottonwood trees while playing tunes with your buddies is a great way to spend a summer day. The campground where we all gather is on the Yellowstone River. If you want to cool off you can take a dip in its chilly waters. The Gypsy Carpenters had been looking forward to this weekend since last winter. Sad to say gNash life and an erratic heart and temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit do not mix. So Burt and I came up with a mix of music and alternate cool activities for the weekend.

Day one we arrived at Itch-Kep-Pe park and found a spot with some shade. It was Wednesday and all of the really deep shade was already occupied in anticipation of the weekend’s activities. Musicians come from all over Montana and the best spots fill early. Burt and I played a few tunes with each other and went to bed when the bugs started biting. The next morning we took a walk and did some birding before the day warmed. We found the nest of a Cooper’s hawk and watched the recently fledged youngster fly all about and beg food from a parent. We also found an unattended firearm in the bed of a maintenance cart for the nearby golf club. I sent a few emails and posts around about the gun safety problem. Burt and I thought in hindsight we probably should have called the authorities instead of walking away from a loaded gun. Ethical dilemma. Personally I was afraid to confront the owner face to face. Stand Your Ground is a bad law. My fear of being shot for having harsh words with someone overrode my desire to stay and make sure the gun was properly handled.

After our walk we did what all smart people looking to avoid a hot day do…we drove to Billings and played Bridge. An air conditioned day of cards. What could be better? That evening we headed back to our superheated trailer and pondered the next day’s survival plan. We debated simply leaving and heading to the high country but the lure of tunes was strong. People we only see once or twice a year were on hand and eager to play. Luckily, Montana still cools off over night. We decided to play music until noon then get in our truck and head for the hills for the late afternoon and evening, come back after dark, sleep, wake up and play more morning music. It worked out perfectly.

Friday we played tunes in the morning and then drove an hour and a half to the Beartooth Plateau. We looked for the black rosy finch, a high altitude bird, but only found white-crowned sparrows, solitaires, and gray jays. The altitude (10,000′ or so) was easier to take than the heat. Burt and I and the pooped poopies returned to the gNash at 9:30. Things were just starting to cool down. Burt took a dip in the Yellowstone while I lay on an ice pack.

The next day we decided to head to electricity so we could run our air conditioner for the 104 degree spike. So after a few hours of fiddling with Barb and Zondra we pulled up and headed to Emigrant to do some maintenance on the client’s property we built 6 years ago. We arrived safe and sound but we have also learned our truck has sprung an oil leak. We fear it’s the end. She’s got a gusher.

This one is still leaving last year's coat behind.
This one is still leaving last year’s coat behind.
Baby goats on th erun.
Baby goats on the run.

A great place to cool off.

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