Tuesday, October 19, 2010


Before -- heater


What we found when the cover was removed -- tons of ashes and debris, part of which I'd already scooped up here.  The cover was replaced, of course, after the vent hole was covered.  Interestingly, he used his lighter to see if there was an air draft in the chimney, and it didn't budge. Something up there is stopping it up, as suspected, and caused the gas smell in here.  We stuffed some insulation up in there anyway, to be extra sure there were no drafts.

This was more of an effort than any of us thought it would be, but then, everything in this house turns out to be more than I ever think it will be.  Story of life in old houses.  They had a hard time getting the pilot lighted, and I hope it doesn't go out because I don't know if I'll ever get it re-lighted if it does.  Not going to worry about that now.  I'm not too impressed with the 'thermostat', which is just a knob with High -Lo settings and lots of gradations in between.  Not my idea of a thermostat.  But, the thing is made by Buck Stoves in South Carolina and carries a 5-year warranty, so I'm sure it'll be fine.

Before -- ceiling fan and heater


I really do like the white ceiling fan better, and I like it lower.  Eventually, I'll get a light kit for it, but that wasn't necessary right now.  I need to to move the warm air away from the ceiling, rarely use the ceiling light anyway.  And yes, I do like white and light, although this photo is a little 'whiter' than the real room. 

Since the afternoon is warm and balmy, haven't tried the heater other than long enough to know that it works.  I doubt that I'll be using it much for awhile, other than on mornings when I don't go to work, or maybe even mornings when I do go to work if it's cold enough.  But then, it's set to lowest position, so it'll come on and off when it feels like it.  I'm glad it's here.  One more bit of stress out of the way.  Odd that I don't feel any less stressed.  In time, surely. 

The kitten was righteously discombobulated by all the activity in the house, even though she was closed off in the bedroom while it was happening.  She's still stalking around uncomfortably.


Sorry, there's no do-over here, but 'oops' is the underlying concept behind a lot of my thoughts lately.  The question?  What the hell was I thinking when I bought this house? 

Oh, I know what I was thinking: housing security in retirement, a place without people on the other side of walls, with their corresponding noises and the corresponding need to be always aware of noise from my own space.  I wanted a project -- something to do, because I wasn't quite ready for the rocking chair and didn't see that happening for a long time.  Grow my own food -- fresh and healthy, always at the ready when it's time to eat.

A lot of hard truths have risen to the surface over the past 9 months:  this place is in need of more time and money and energy than I have to give it, for one.  But, there's not much I can do to change that.  Even if I could sell it in the current housing economy, I'm required to live here for 3 years because of the rebate I got from the government, such as it was.  All I can, and probably will, do is slow down, re-evaluate priorities and needs and do what I can, rather than trying to do it all.  So much is needed that it's hard to know where to cut.  The exterior certainly needs painting. The roof is OK for now, but in a year or so, who knows?  The refrigerator is on its last legs.  Some bracing is needed underneath because of the vibration from that damned washer I wish I'd never bought.  I've got that back room torn apart and need to put it back together.  I want revisions in the kitchen, a dishwasher, revisions in the bath, a carport.  And so much more.

And the garden -- I noticed last summer that I wasn't always very excited about whatever was growing out there.  The tomatoes weren't very good, the squash kept getting bugs, the eggplant was rampant, the peppers so-so, the green beans good but not very productive, and I just wasn't always interested in whatever was there.  I'm finding the same now, with the greens.  That's all that's there -- greens.  Now, when I lived in Eugene I bought large amounts of Swiss chard every week at the farmer's market, along with salad greens and other leafy greens, because I like them.  Now that I have them growing, I've quickly become less interested in them.  They still need to grow some more before they're at all prolific, so I need to be patient.  And heaven knows, there certainly isn't any source for decent fresh veggies in this town.  I stopped buying bagged lettuce and spinach because of contamination problems with so much of that kind of thing.  The local stores don't offer much and there's no farmer's market.  So -- growing food is a good thing and I enjoy it, aside from all the work I've put into it, and all the work that still needs to be done.  Here it is mid-October and I still haven't turned the compost piles this month.  I've been doing it monthly, around the first of every month, but there just hasn't been the energy or time lately.  I'm guessing it won't happen for another couple of weeks.

When I was toiling in the garden over the weekend, I found myself thinking that life would be so much easier if I did like 99% of people do and use Roundup to kill unwanted grass and weeds, but I just can't do that.  So, I do it the hard, labor-intensive way that is slow at best.  If I used bagged chemical fertilizer it'd be easier, too, but no, I can't do that either.  I'm building soil the hard way -- green manure cover crops, compost, and if I had a way to haul it, some good old horse manure, or chicken or rabbit manure.  I'm not fussy, and neither are the plants. 

And I'm so cold!  This house just doesn't warm up easily, which is nice in the summer, but not so nice in the winter.  Doesn't help that I don't have a real heat source right now, although that should be corrected today.

Right now, that rocking chair sounds pretty good.  Whine.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Little Progress

Here it is near noon on Saturday and I've managed to run my errands (including buying a new ceiling fan for this room) and put the first coat of primer on the raw window areas.  Pretty sloppy job, but once this coat dries I'll follow up with some caulk (the white paint really shows areas that need it) and some filler here and there, before putting the second coat on.  Gotta start somewhere!  Then I hit the garden.

The result of two hours work, prepping for sowing the cover crop that'll go in this area.  It wouldn't have been so difficult except that I'd let the edges go all summer (not enough time and energy!) and tendrils of Bermuda grass had grown over the plastic, and holes in the plastic caused by James' weedeater had let light through and the invasive pest of a plant  had taken hold, although not as strongly as before.

All the edges were like this, and some still are.  It's a pretty good-sized space.  I had to cut the grass with scissors (who can afford tools!), then once the plastic was gone, use my hand fork to get any stray runners up and out of the way.  There was, however, a very large, very satisfying amount of DEAD Bermuda grass underneath that plastic. 

This was after the first hour.  Getting the plastic up between the beds was easy enough -- little or no runners or anything green in that area.  I did have to rough up the dead grass and get it out, but that was easy enough.  I should be able to finish this back portion tomorrow, get it seeded.  I haven't figured out yet what to do about the area around the bed that's producing greens, since I'll need to walk all around that for quite awhile.  Some paver steps would be nice, but like everything else, it comes down to money, or lack thereof.  Still, it was a satisfying day's work and now I feel no guilt whatsoever about doing no more the rest of this day.

It was cold out this last night and this morning and will be again tonight.  Sure wish I had that heater ready to use!  The house starts to warm up when the sun comes out, and I was a bit too warm out in the sun doing my garden work in sweat pants, but I love that sunshine and make no complaints.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Third Annual Veterans Memorial Service at Van Wert Church

It was quite an occasion, all in all.  I'd never been to a Confederacy memorial service before, or been to any of the battle re-enactments, but The Sons of Confederate Veterans did a great job setting up, hosting and bringing a good air of the era into the world of 2010.

Loved this old cannon, with all the attention to detail in the ropes, gloves and leather satchel.

The people in costume were marvelous, although no doubt sweltering in all those clothes in the warm sun.
This fella was like a statue -- stayed in place the entire time I was there. He was way, back at the far end of the cemetery on the hillside.

The Eighth Regiment Band of Rome, Georgia, conducted by Mr. John  Carruth, did a fine job as did a bagpiper whose photo I never managed to get. This is a really big deal band -- one of the top bands of its kind in the world.  All of their instruments are authentic to the era, their music is authentic to the era.  They have 3 cd's out and sell them in Europe and other parts of the world.  A couple of days after this event I met one of the band members who told me so much that impressed me.  They are booked 40-50 weeks per year for the next five years, in places like Ft. Sumter,  Antietam, Gettysburg, Europe, DC.  They've been in a couple of movies.  The big drum is, if I remember correctly, from a Maine regiment, but I wouldn't swear to my memory on that one.

Maybe the best moment, for those of us who know Greg and his wife, Brenda, was the presentation of a plaque that will hang in the church in recognition of their efforts to restore this church and cemetery.  I haven't known them for long, but their dedication to this as well as our Cemetery Preservation Committee is more than clear.  And they are super people, to boot. I wasn't at such a great location for this photo, wish I could have shown their fronts instead of their rears, but I'm sure they will forgive me.

Once the speeches began my interest waned and since I really had a lot to do, I headed on home.  I think the 'good old singing in the church' that was to follow the speeches might have been fun, but....

If you'll recall, I mentioned that I'd put Krazy Kitten out on the porch with all hopes of leaving her there permanently earlier this morning.  When I left to run my errands, she'd gotten up on her high perch and I couldn't get her to hop onto the cushion that allows me to get her down, so I just shrugged my shoulders and went on my way.  By the time I got home, she was much more amenable to the cushion. She even seems to be trying to behave herself.  Most of the time.

I've sanded and applied Citristrip to the window framing and hope I can soon have that ready for painting.  I can't paint the outside of the lower sash yet because the putty I used to seal off one edge of the glass still has not dried.  The 'helpful' man at HD told me that product should dry quickly and be ready to paint fast.  Well, a couple of days ago when I realized it was still soft, I put my specs on and read the fine print: 7 to 14 days to cure.  At least there is plenty to do on the frame.

And -- since the day was wonderfully warm -- I decided to open up the other, newly installed, window.  It would not budge!  I'd had it locked, and it looked as if the paint from the two sashes had almost fused together where the lock had pressed them together.  Talk about a moment of fear!  I struggled with it, eventually got both the top and bottom sashes to move, and don't think I'm going to lock them again until that paint has a chance to mellow out a bit more.

And then.....off to the garden, where I planted a bunch of tulip bulbs and edged the herb garden to free it of bermuda grass runners.  Picked a few collard leaves (the most plentiful thing I've got) for dinner, and pretty soon I'm gonna chill out for the rest of this day.  Would you believe it's 84 degrees here right now, at 4:30pm?  Folks, that's what I like about the south! Even if it is unseasonably warm.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fresh Greens and a Walk Down Memory Lane

This seemed like a photo-worthy occasion to me:  my first mess of greens from my garden!  All kinds -- I just grazed through the bed and pulled off larger leaves of everything: lettuce, chard, spinach, beet tops (which are actually chard), then turned it into this:

A quick stir-fry with coconut oil and lots of fresh garlic, add a little sliced leftover steak, and you've got dinner.  Yum. Not a terribly appetizing photo, but it tasted great.

Other than that, I've been working every day this week and that's a real drag when it's not something you're used to doing.  We've actually had fun with the boss gone, but I'm missing my time to work here at home, and I'm running out of time to get all this pre-winter stuff done.  Fortunately, we're back to Indian summer today for a few days -- sunny, temps in the mid-80's, just lovely.  No ice on my window this morning (unlike yesterday morning).

Remember that old principle that goes something like "anything that can go wrong will go wrong"?  Well -- the saga of my insulation continues.  I called Lowes yesterday to check and see if the delivery date of 10/10 was still good, and learned that the vendor had changed that to 10/21.  Well, that's a little too late.  So I talked to the folks at my local Lowe's, and since I don't carry the checkbook or debit card from my Oregon bank with me, had them set aside 8 bales of what they have in stock, and went back today with the checkbook, canceled the original order and bought stuff from stock.  Another $109 out of my pocketbook, but in the end it'll only cost $50 more because I'll get a larger rebate.  We'll pick it up Monday and get it home, hopefully it'll be installed on Tuesday.

Today was my follow-up visit with the cardiologist on my EKG, and things tried to go wrong there, too.  My doctor's office said they'd faxed the report to the cardiologist, but they didn't have it.  Fortunately, having lived long enough to learn from experience, I had my copy with me and gave that to them.  The doc said he wasn't terribly impressed with the EKG -- said it looked pretty normal to him but had red-flagged because it appears to show evidence of a prior heart attack (and if I ever had one, I sure didn't know about it), so he's ordered an echocardiogram.  I haven't had one of those in many years anyway, so it's probably time.  All in all, the 'abnormal' EKG doesn't appear to be anything to worry about, which is good news, of course.

In the small world category, I asked the doc (wonderful person, apparently the top cardiac doc in the area) if there was or had ever been a John Garner in the administration of that clinic, and he said yes, but that he wasn't living in the area now.  I worked with John when I first moved to Atlanta in 1986 for awhile, and we stayed friends for years.  His wife was a top cardiac surgical nurse and he'd been in cardiac clinic administration for years.  One of his cardiologist buddies from California came to Rome to open a new cardiac clinic and John moved there to work with him.  I didn't remember the name of the clinic, but I don't think there's more than one large cardiac clinic in that small city.  We had a nice chat about John and his wife (who had been this doc's nurse while they lived in Rome).

Karen worked at the Emory Clinic cardiac unit in Atlanta when we all lived there and worked crazy hours -- lots of nights, weekends and holidays.  John would get bored, so sometimes he and I would go out for a drink or find something to do. I have several specific memories of John, but some of the more special are:  bringing a copy of Little Shop of Horrors to the office and sitting me down to watch it in the conference room; convincing me to bring an amazing amount of utensils and food to his house one evening when I was going to make some fresh lasagne for a potluck, so he could see how I made it.  This included the cuisinart to make the pasta dough, the pasta machine for rolling it, plus the ingredients and such.  I remember making two batches -- a small one for us to eat, and the larger one to take to my potluck; John talking his way past the guards at the federal prison in Atlanta when it was under siege by the inmates, and getting inside the prison (you'd have to know John to realize that this is true -- he told me about it in detail the next day and I know he wasn't lying and I know he doesn't drink or do drugs); a wine-tasting party at his house when Karen was working and I had a bit too much wine, got sick, crashed on their sofa.  I don't think Karen was amused when she got home that night; one Christmas eve when Karen was working and John and I hit the movie theaters -- an Eddie Murphy movie at the first theater, then on to a second theater to see Dirty Dancing.  But the best memory of all is when I turned 50 and was feeling pretty traumatized by it all.  My boss at the time had promised to buy me a drink, but on the day he had to cancel because of obligations at home (my birthday is, after all 3 days before Christmas). Right after he'd told me this the phone range and it was John, asking if I had somebody to buy me a drink on my birthday.  I was almost in tears, and said 'no', and he said, "well, you do now".  He drove all the way to Atlanta from Rome, about a two hour drive, bought me a drink and a light dinner, then turned around and drove back to Rome.  I'll never forget that one.  The doc said he hadn't heard from him in years, thought he was in California.  Sure wish I'd stayed in touch with him.

I don't usually put names of people in this blog, but John, if somehow this finds its way to you, give me a holler, and Mike said if I ever heard from you to tell you to call him.  

So, that's my day.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

A Window At Last -- and a Little Neighborhood Excitement

At last, I have a window!  It fits, it goes up and down from the top and bottom, and it locks.  Guess that's about all you can ask of it.  I never thought to paint the little strip of wood at the top, so that will have to be done, and there'll be a little more touch-up once the stop trim goes in, so I'll do it all at once. But, this is certainly going to keep the cold air out.  The side pieces are odd -- they were hard to 'snap' into place on the brackets, and at least one of them keeps popping off.  I'm going to call the Jeld-Wen customer service tomorrow to ask about that.  The top sash is a little hard for me to move, but doable, certainly, and I won't need to worry about that until next summer anyway.  I've peeled the film and stickers off the inside, but will have to wait to do the outside until the storm window comes off, which should be next week.  They didn't have time to deal with it today, and it wasn't crucial.  They got the window in and the heater lighted, and those were the main things.

See, it works!

While we were in the back room working on the window, another drama was unfolding in front of my house.  As we went back into the living room I looked out and saw this big coach stopped.  Apparently, they'd tried to turn this behemoth into the little street that intersects my street, and it wouldn't make the turn.  Duh!  I don't think it would have taken a rocket scientist to figure that out!  As we watched, they started it up and carefully back-tracked the way they'd come, and our attention went to my heater. Then -- one of the handymen went outside and saw that this thing had apparently bottomed out in a driveway down at the other end of the street and was stuck.  I'm not sure what driveway it was, probably that patch of concrete to the right of the coach.  We couldn't figure out why he'd tried to pull into that narrow driveway anyway.  Clearly, he wanted to turn around, but there's a small shopping center with a big parking lot just another driveway down from where he'd pulled in.

I didn't have the camera outside at first, but what they did was hook a chain or something to the back of this pickup and the back of the coach, and between the pickup pulling and the coach presumably in reverse, they got it unstuck and into the position shown in the first photo.  Eventually, they backed it all the way out into the main drag, with someone flagging traffic, and it went on its merry way.  What we couldn't figure out is what this thing was doing in this neighborhood in the first place.  That coach cost more than any four or five houses around here put together. Wonder if it was a case of GPS run amok?  I've heard tales of people ending up in very strange places while following GPS.  We all felt sorry for the people who owned it -- although we certainly didn't mind giggling and offering up opinions.  Half the neighborhood was out watching -- the last thing this interesting that came down this street was the moving van that moved me in.  All the little Mexican kids were fascinated by that, too. Not a lot ever happens around here, which is a good thing.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


When I was a child, very young, I watched many a small parade pass down this street, standing in front of my grandfather's barber shop about as excited as a kid could get.  It was always a highlight of a Friday afternoon for me.  I don't know how often the parades actually happened, but it seemed to me it was every week.  I expect that during football season that might have been the case.  I no doubt saw more when I last lived here around 1953, but today was the first since that long ago time, and it really took me back to those days.

How many high school marching bands are led by two young women in black formal gowns, I wonder?

I also spent many a long Saturday afternoon right here -- watching westerns and musicals and cartoons and whatever else might have been showing.  Ten cents admission and we could -- and did -- stay all day.  We didn't care if we got in at the middle of something and had to wait through a second feature to get back to 'where we came in'.  We would be there anyway.  Haven't been back inside yet -- no matinees, unfortunately.

This fella was a one-man show right next to our cemetery committee BBQ booth.  He had a little karaoke set-up for music, but he did his own singing and he sang the entire time I was there.  Good, old music that I loved -- lots of old real country-western music, some 50's pop music, but all good.

This fella seemed to be having more fun than anybody!  He bopped up and down the street dancing along the way, bringing smiles to faces.

A parade in this part of the country wouldn't be a parade without the Shriners -- there were several interesting cars, but I found this double-ended Ford to be the most intriguing.  Two drivers, presumably two motors, this thing slithered all over the street looking for all the world like it was out of control.  Fun.

Main Street has just undergone a major remodeling, with all these lovely lamp posts, brick pavers, nice wrought iron benches, and new trees. The city is trying hard to bring/keep life in the downtown area, but it's a struggle.  Hopefully now, with all the construction over, more people will visit the businesses that are already here, and hopefully more will flourish.  Lots of empty buildings.

I didn't really stay too long -- they had lots of help at the booth and didn't need me.  I dropped off my cookies, sat for an hour or two, then bought a plate of BBQ from them and came on home to eat it.  I'm tired today, as already stated.  I've spend most of the afternoon reading, although I did go outside and dig in the dirt a little bit.  Was going to plant the garlic, had the manure added and turned under, then saw that the directions that came with it said to plant in November in the south, October in the north.  So, I wait another month.  The bed is ready, at least.  And my greens are growing well -- I also added a good bit of manure around all of those plants while I was out there.  The clover I planted last week has sprouted thickly, but isn't very large yet.  There's no rush -- it's going to stay there all winter, after all.

I miss my doctor in Eugene

One of the negative states about living in such a small town -- or perhaps, any town in this part of the country -- is the lack of doctors who care about or are capable of interpreting blood test results in any meaningful way, or in following up to find out what's happening with abnormal test results.  To be fair, even my naturopath in Eugene wasn't terribly interested in trying to solve my 'mild anemia' symptoms.  He did, however respond quickly to the low white blood count I had last December.  I managed to get this back up through eating lots of shiitake mushrooms and garlic, but now it's back down again.  The local doc looked at all these tests and concluded that they were normal, even though many state on the form that they are either high or low, and some call out for further investigation.  But where do I go for this?

Granted, there is a naturopath in Atlanta I could go and see, but I don't even want to think what that might cost me, in terms of the office visit as well as additional blood tests that wouldn't be covered by Medicare because they're ordered by a naturopath.  They do cover chiropractors, and many chiropractors these days are deep into natural medicine, but I'd probably have to go to Atlanta to find one.  I'd like to go to Nashville, to Dr. Asa's Center for Natural Medicine, but that would be costly, too, plus several hours of driving.  His book has a great chart to help interpret blood test results and point to probable root causes, but that doesn't help solve anything. I'm not sure he's all he's cracked up to be anyway, although I do think he knows nutrition.

I also had an 'abnormal' EKG, which is probably normal for me.  But, my doc wanted a cardiologist to review and interpret it, so I'm seeing one on Thursday.  I'm unlikely to proceed further with anything other than possibly a change in my meds, if I can get something benign and inexpensive, but it's good to at least know what's going on.

Stress is the culprit, in so many ways.  Much of the issues I have are stress-related, as is the increase in cardiac issues.  That's always worsened in times of high stress, and I've made a concerted effort to keep stress out of my life to the extent possible. I don't feel stressed so much, but if I take a realistic look, I am clearly stressed 'underneath' by the everyday forces and issues that revolve around trying to live on such a low income, while trying to renovate this house.  I'm rethinking the need for all the stuff that 'needs' be done here.  I've ordered the insulation for the floor, and that's a necessity, but much of the rest of it is 'wants' more than 'needs'.  It would be hard to find a rental for the amount of my mortgage, without going into another of those low-income senior apartments, which I didn't like very well.  I'd still probably pay more, although probably not as much as the mortgage plus what I spend on renovation, maintenance, and yard work, including the garden.  I can't sell this place anyway, so it's a moot point.  But it would be good for me to lower stress, and lower the level of physical exertion that work around here sometimes requires.

So, I'm just musing aloud here on this cold Saturday morning. I'm tired (anemia and low thyroid function, probably) and sleepy.  Will spend the day downtown at the annual Fall Festival, which should be fun.