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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Bane of My Existence and a Song For Paco

To say that something or someone is "the bane of my existence" means
that the person or thing is a constant irritant or source of misery.
As a cliché, "bane of my existence" has lost its edge to a large
degree over the years, and today is most often applied to something
that may profoundly annoy us but is certainly bearable... "Bane of my
existence" is now almost always used in a semi-jocular, "what are you
gonna do?" sense.

But "bane" was once a very serious word. The Old English "bana" meant
literally "slayer" in the sense we now use "killer" or "murderer."
Early on, the English "bane" was also used in the more general sense
of "cause of death," and by the 14th century "bane" was used in the
specialized sense of "poison," a sense which lives on in the names of
various poisonous plants such as "henbane" and "wolfbane."

From this very literal "something that kills you" usage, "bane" by the
16th century had broadened into its modern meaning of "something that
makes life unpleasant, a curse."

Yea, verily, this is true. I have spent the last three hours digging henbane out of our "garden" (we loosely define garden here at Weed Nursery Acres as an enclosed place which starts out as mostly dirt and rocks and ends up as weeds and rocks). This henbane reared its ugly head last summer out in the then llama pasture. A little research told us it was an opium of sorts and would result in hallucinations if smoked. We refrained from smoking it, but we also refrained from doing anything else to it. My thinking (which is hazy at best) was that the henbane was the result of a very very very wet spring. Temporary. End of discussion. Enter Spring 2011. Wettest, coldest, L-O-N-G-E-S-T spring in the history of modern civilization. When spring finally arrived last WEEK for cotton pickin's sake!!!!!!!!!! the henbane had literally taken over our world!!!! I fully expected to find it growing out of Mugsy's ears!! Yesterday I put in an emergency call to the Brrrrrr Lake Weed Control Commission (whom I had heard rumored at my knitting group would prescribe treatment or better still make a house/farm call!!!). But as I am so wont to do, I got up at the crack this morning and took shovel in hand. Knowing full well that my morning's activity could very well land me in a body brace, I tackled the task nevertheless.

Yesterday I crawled over the fence into the alpaca pasture. Now, this is where the bane has pulled out ALL stops. It grows in sort of a swirl pattern--thick thick thick. But then it sends out runners (missionaries, if you will) to test the soil elsewhere--thus the garden infestation. I found one plant about the size of a fifth grader growing by the water trough. Oh, that I had a video of THAT effort...From what I could best deduce after 30 minutes of digging under the trough, the root on that BEAST is somewhere out in Bennington!!!!! I never did find it. All I could do was leave a mangled and aptly cursed fifth grader-sized plant lying on its side--root still entact. Henbane-10, Madhadder-0.
Oh, by the way Happy 13th Wedding Anniversary to Madhadder and Paco. Paco is keeping cool in Tempe's 110 HELLHOLE today writing lesson plans for pint-sized summer school captives, and I am cleaning the sty I call home and gearing up for girls' camp. Do you think they'd send me home from girls' camp if I brought along some henbane to try out???

Friday, June 10, 2011

Farm Report--April 15, 2007

A visitor yesterday reminded me of this, so I thought I'd post it for old time's sake. I should have been more diligent in keeping a chronicle of the metamorphosis out here. So much of it I wanted to forget! Oddly enough the date I wrote this appears to be my birthday! I hope some celebrating was going on as well.

Hello Friends,
Many of you have written with inquiries about our farm. In the interest of saving time, I'm sending out a "report". Almost ten months ago Jerry and I signed papers on an 8 acre farm about four miles south of where I teach school in Montpelier, Idaho. One would think our combined intelligence would have stopped us, but nevertheless we went willy nilly forward! My worst case scenario was that the remodeling (kitchen, family room, master suite, library, powder room) efforts would be completed by Halloween, and now my best case scenario is perhaps the 4th of July!!! Finding workmen has taken effort, and the ones we've found have had a decided Green Acres/Petticoat Junction flair! Our first carpenter fizzled out once hunting season opened. When he Would show up, we followed him around admiringly like intoxicated puppies just Pleased that he was here! He made some ghastly errors in judgment for which we have had to pay, but who can expect a guy to keep his mind on work when the hills are alive with elk?? At Christmas (during a blizzard) we made the move over from Paris where we'd been "camping" for 18 months, The outlook on daily living here has been grim. We're sleeping in the old part of the 1924 farmhouse, and because we're also storing everything in the house we only have a narrow walkway. Nowhere really to sit except the bed. We've been eating in our bathroom. Eating isn't exactly a correct term either because we haven't had a stove or refrigerator for 4 months. We've pieced, as my mother would say. Meanwhile the winter has raged outside and then petered out into spring and vast mountains of mud and construction debris! Giant piles of old cupboards, sheetrock scraps, nails, old wallpaper,lath and plaster, all mixed in with mud! Once the snow melted, the sewage system ceased working and we had a real down-and-dirty week of absolutely no water--which meant, of course, running a quarter mile down to the neighbor's to use the bathroom, showering (I used two buckets and Jerry went down the road to the neighbor's house), and brushing our teeth out on the lawn under the moonlight (which was actually the highlight of the week! It's pitch black out here. No streetlights for several miles). We went the entire month of February with absolutely no one (except the electrician who has showed up nearly every day for nearly nine months--more on him later) appearing to do anything. Now at long last we are ready to paint. The painter we were recommended is an alcoholic--great painter but he doesn't want anyone around, AND he wants to be paid up front. Huh??? And he'll do WHAT with the money?? Meanwhile Jerry has become Mr. GreenJeans! I can barely pry him off the tractor! Who'd have ever thunk that????!!! He moves stuff and digs and is really quite content. Cathartic I guess. Everyone who visits us walks away murmuring "Hail Mary's" under their breath! I'm not sure if they're praying in our behalf or giving thanks that they're not in our boots! If there were a "White Trash Report" column in the local paper, they'd want us to write it. As I mentioned we've had quite a cast of characters show up for work here. Lots of them were students of mine that I couldn't pound English into no matter how hard I tried. I remember one of them handed me back the copy of Fahrenheit 451 I'd given him to read and said, "I'd rather not." So now he's hammering out in our addition and I'm still teaching English! Art the plumber/handyman is a character straight out of Red Duke and really worth the trip here to experience. But without a doubt, the "star" of the show has been Rodney the electrician. I go way back with him to my teen years as the babysitter of his five kids. Rodney had a brush with death a while ago. The good news is that he has incredible zest for living now, but the bad news is his memory was impaired and I think he doesn't honestly know what he's done around here! We've not received his bill yet because he's undergoing colonic treatments over in Preston which are supposedly going to improve his memory!!!! So there you go. No bill because of a big intestinal CLOG! I guess he and We are hoping it will all come "out in the end!" In the meantime we get a daily update on his progress on the cleansing!! Mugsy thinks Rodney is one of the family. I only hope we're paying by the job and not the hour. That's about it. Writing about this has made me feel a little better. If you have suggestions or comments send them along. We here at the Funny Farm are looking towards the green grasses of summer. Maybe a few chickens will ease the winter memories. Perhaps the llamas everyone wants to give us will salve our weary hearts. So if you come to visit and you find us sitting in the bathroom, respectively on the tub and john, chowing down some canned spaghetti RIGHT OUT OF THE CAN, try to be gentle. We're fragile here at Happy Acres. Love, Marilyn

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Something Awesome and a Quiz

1. What did Madhadder pass in the canyon on the way to Logan this morning? a. a moose b. a hitchhiker with a dog c. the snowplow d. a policeman giving a ticket.

2. Which primal urge did Madhadder give into today? a. the Beatles on her car cd player b. an audio of Charlotte's web c. sushi d. complete silence.

3. What did Madhadder eat today that was completely hollow? a. licorice b. a Bugle c. a soft ice cream cone d. a canolli

4. What did a complete stranger give Madhadder in the Deseret Industries today? a. $3 b. a dirty look from a woman when Madhadder hit her cart with hers c. his history of a recent car accident d. a request to watch her baby for a minute.

5. What did Madhadder buy 94 of at a cost of 8 cents apiece? a. used soccer socks for puppet making b. red 1/2" binders that say "Vitals" on the front c. National Geographic magazines d. knitting needles.

6. What movie did Paco watch with his Teach For America compadres as they ate pizza last night? a. Lean on Me b. Waiting For Superman c. Stand and Deliver d. Dead Poets' Society

7. Who ran through puddles with reckless abandon this morning? a. the mailman b. Madhadder c. Mugsy d. No one. There are no puddles.

8. What does Madhadder miss most? a. Paris b. London c. Paco d. 7th graders e. all of the above.

This quiz contest ends on Sunday evening at 9 P.M. The first one who guesses the most correct questions will receive some French perfume available only at the perfume factory in Paris!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Parisian in Us All...

I found myself subconsciously singing this gorgeous Judy Collins song as I tripped my way through this exquisite city. Enjoy this from the Smothers Brothers Show, no less.

There's a magic tile in the sidewalk situated in front of Notre Dame Cathedral. My first time there we were instructed by Denis (pronounced DEN-EEE), our courier, to twirl on the tile which would ensure our return another time to Paris. This was my FIFTH trip to Paris! Am I a BELIEVER??? OUI..oh, so very oui. This city is beautiful beyond description. Magic and breath-takingly beautiful.

We found this puppeteer on a Seine bridge behind Notre Dame. His marrionette was made from a bicycle tire!

These guys were a bachelor party! I smelled them from afar--not booze surprisingly, but just plain musky body odor! That indicated the longevity of their party! We also saw a wedding party at the base of the Eiffel Tower as the tour bus breezed by--one groom and TWO brides! A nice Utah touch...ha ha.

A pleasant park beneath the apartment where Victor Hugo gave us Les Miserables.

Yes, this is a mole emerging from a mound of dirt! Art? Oh, YES!!

We watched a priest play with these children just outside of Sacre Coeur where we listened to mass. They were playing "BACON!"!!!! I play that game all the time with my students, and my daughter-in-law and I have designs on marketing the thing!

Andrea and I arose early one morning to walk to this cemetery just minutes from our hotel at Montparnasse.

The windmill at the Moulin Rouge on a walking tour we took. From here we walked through the most extensive and exotic "Red Light District", I'm sorry to report.

I wanted to pack this carousel home as well as the fresh orange juice machine in our hotel!

Highlights of Paris: perfume factory tour, authentic crepes wrapped around a raw egg, the 4 minutes of twinkly lights they've added to the Eiffel Tower which come on on the hour after dark, a very very informative guide at Versailles, the newly-redone Orangerie which houses Monet's water lilies and a plethora of other impressionists, people watching on the Champs Elysses, Rodin's The Thinker and ice cream in that museum's spectacular garden, and as usual, the French children. Unfortunately I had a Paco-sized hole I carried around the whole time. Not only did I miss Paco my best friend and romantic partner and Paco the Speaker of French, but I completely mourned for Paco the Travel Maximizer. No one does it like he one.
And now for the wrap-up and a couple of observations: Traveling around is an art and not a science. A trip takes you. No matter how much you plan and prepare, traveling is still one of the last great frontier adventures! One's paradigms are challenged, and our ego and ethnocentricities get a good rattling. I love to watch the people and imagine their lives in great detail--even people in the subways. I can quickly craft a whole persona and world for people at a glance. Great fun. London repeatedly gets called the World's Greatest City. I've always held out that New York is, but this time I think I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Paris, on the other hand, is just the essential embodiment of mankind's best efforts to live beautifully--the food, the way people dress, how they greet each other, the art, the fountains, the statuary, the language, the lights, the parks, the churches, and the ambience. Say what you will about the French, their culture is exquisite. I may feel like a water buffalo dressed in gunny sacks when I visit, but I am not baffoon enough to not recognize a truly artistic way of life. Chapeaus off to them.
And a personal note: where do you want to go? Let's figure out a way for you to get there. I twirled on that tile on behalf of everyone I know...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

On Holiday

"Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat where have you been?"
"I've been to London to visit the queen."

"Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat what did you there?"
"I frightened a little mouse under her chair!"

We knocked and knocked on the gate at Buckingham Palace, but her Majesty apparently wasn't expecting us. Hoping to get an invite to one of her two summer garden teas. With 4,000 invitations going out to each tea, chances are good wouldn't you say?

We came across this bra-ed all male biking group at the Tower of London. No questions asked, but I'm guessing the equivalent of a cancer walk? Or maybe just touring offbeats.

No visit to England is complete without the changing of the guard at Windsor Castle with all its pomp and pageantry. This royal band assembled as part of that. I was expecting full British formality to burst forth in music. You can imagine my utter surprise when they broke out into.....wait for it......wait for it.....a medley of Glee songs!!!!

This is a pleasant little garden at the base of Windsor Castle where the queen and her family spend weekends. The last time I was at Windsor a fire had prevented tourists from any viewing, but this time we got to romp through several of the state rooms as well as see the dollhouses! I know I was royalty in another life because it feels so at home when I am allowed a glimpse into opulence. Commoner? I think not.

Fish and chips and mmmmmmmm...the green stuff was "mashed peas". That tradition must date back to medieval torture days.
Highlights: 3 West End plays (Wicked, Dreamboats and Petticoats, and Wizard of Oz!); 3 Wallace and Gromit finds at Hamley's; Wallace and Gromit Christmas stamps at the Post; Italian Renaissance art at the National Gallery; Cadbury chocolates; and just a titch of English rain!
Tomorrow, a little splash of Paris, observations and conclusions, and the wrap-up.

Favorite books

  • Me 'n Steve
  • Thundering Sneakers
  • James Herriott's vet books
  • The Count of Monte Cristo
  • Travels with Charley
  • A Walk in the Woods
  • Peace Like a River
  • The Egg and I
  • Mary Poppins
  • Extremly Loud Incredibly Close
  • How Green Was my Valley