Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Stuff about stuff

It is allegedly spring here in the heartland. Spring has been a long time coming and I’m not  sure it’s really here or that it intends to stay. Given that we had shirtsleeve weather on Saturday, followed by snow on Monday, damned if I’m putting away my snow shovel. That’s just asking for trouble. It’s still sitting outside the back door. The cats find it amusing to hide behind it, then pounce at Phoenix when he’s not looking.

Signs of spring on the farm include the hydrant at the barn finally thawing out after being frozen since the first Polar Vortex in January. Subsequent Polar Vortices (that’s a world I really did not need to learn) ensured that it stayed frozen a good long time, which in turn ensured that the Farmer had to carry water in buckets from the pump house for the cows he brought into the barn to calve. That would be 60 cows, rotating through a bovine maternity ward. That would be a lot of water.

The “outdoor” cows were fine, since the water lines to the automatic, heated waterers in the cow yard and steer yards did not freeze. But the pump on the well did freeze, which meant from time to time nobody had water. It froze so many times the Farmer got really good at thawing it out with a space heater he borrowed from me. I got tired of borrowing the space heater back to thaw frozen water lines in the house and told him to go buy his own. He did. And then some time between Polar Vortices 1 and 5 (you think I'm kidding. I'm not.) we got smart and wrapped the water lines in the house with heat tape and insulating foam, which pretty much fixed the “turn on the kitchen tap and say bad words when no water comes out” problem.

Yeah. That’s how we spent our winter. Thawing out plumbing. Or not.

And now our toilet has issues. We are under a self-imposed flush restriction until further notice. Apparently the septic tank needs pumped out. Folks who live in metropolitan areas with city sewer lines can go through life in happy oblivion. You flush the toilet. Whatever you put in it goes away. Occasionally there may be a blockage in the line but if you can keep your toddler from flushing dog toys you’ll probably be okay.

Not so for country folk. Watching things come swirling back up toward you instead of disappearing is enough to make me want to go outside and build a little house with a half-moon in the door. Things you put in there do not come back for review.

We’ve lived in our house for 23 years. We’ve had the pit pumped once. I guess we’re due. After an amusing post-breakfast interlude during which I could hear the Farmer in the bathroom, applying the plunger with a great deal of vigor and creative language, he announced he would call a septic service. Is it really cursing to yell "Shit!" when plunging a toilet? Or just an observation on the state of things?

Of course, that means he has to dig up the pit first. But there is still frost in the ground, which makes it unsure if that goal can be achieved.

Seriously. It’s the middle of April and the ground is still frozen in places. We had frost depth of 27” in March. I don’t know if that’s a record or not but it’s got to be close.

There’s nothing like having questionable indoor plumbing to make you appreciate indoor plumbing. As a camping enthusiast, I’ve encountered a lot of outdoor plumbing. Some of it was more outdoors than others. After several rounds of battling our uncooperative toilet, I’m thinking it might be easier to grab a roll of TP and head outdoors to answer the call of nature . . . in nature. One really should not have to invoke a deity upon flushing.

In other news on the farm, Phoenix play-bowed to Bonus Cat the other day. Phoenix's play-bows are not for the faint of heart, as they come complete with the Crazy Eye and a full dentition display. Poor Bonus was so taken aback by being invited to play malinois games that for a moment I thought he might spontaneously combust. Phoenix did not seem to be unduly disappointed when his invitation was rejected. At least Bonus quit rubbing on him, which I suspect was his plan in the first place.

The Adorables (Siren, Gryphon, Weezel) have celebrated their first birthday. I watched them chasing a squirrel around in a tree the other day. All three kittens and one agitated squirrel were racing through the branches in a demonstration of aerial acrobatics that would rival Cirque Du Solei. The squirrel did not appear to be in a great deal of danger. Phoenix ran around the base of the tree, figuring something was eventually going to fall out.

Phoenix’s obedience career continues to resemble the kittens chasing the squirrel - enthusiasm, effort, poor decisions, breathtaking leaps of understanding, distraction, woulda-coulda-shoulda moments, damn fine work, WTF moments, balance, strategy and faith, all while I try to keep us from falling out of the tree.

Yes, I am getting a puppy. Yes, the litter has been bred. No, I am not going to say anything more about it until the litter is on the ground. Then I probably won’t shut up. You have been warned.


  1. Will you at least say what breed???

  2. Haha Phoenix's obedience career sounds like Swyatt's flyball career…moments of glory followed by moments of intense spazz. Looking forward to hearing about your new pup!

  3. Oh I feel for you on all fronts. Our barn hydrant froze in January, so horses and poultry had water hauled daily from either the house or the far hydrant. Thawed out 3 weeks ago.
    Dog-yeap, been there done that this past weekend when the blue dog couldn't remember his name on the recall--though I was told I used the "wrong" name to call him.
    Then there's the septic-pumped out 3 times because during vortex #2 our line from the tank to the junction box by the field froze. Last Friday friends of the bestest kind came over and helped us hydrojet the line...3 hours later and I can now flush without worry, run the washer and take a nice long hot shower. Camping-not sure if I'm into that anymore!
    Can't wait to hear more about the new arrival!

  4. I'll cross my fingers for your litter if you cross yours for mine :) breeding will be hopefully next month. I have first pick after the breeder and am starting to panic. Slightly. Or more.

  5. We can't wait!

    Siberians are GREAT khat 'herders' ;-)