Monday, March 30, 2015


Keep it, or throw it out?

In cleaning out the closest and drawers as winter clothing is cleaned and tucked away in storage, it's sometimes not an easy decision. Some items can be mended, but only if there is enough wear left to make it worth the time and effort.  Some items, that look like someone lost a jousting match with a paint can, are easier to toss away.

Most of us regularly go through our things, to clear space, to create room for new things, sometimes to the point it's almost an obsession.  I've met people that can not function if they don't shop almost daily, often for things they don't need, and can't afford, just because they have a psychological  need to buy something. I once was sent to a home that had belonged to a hoarder. There was barely any light but for the lamps, items piled up over window height; a gloom that  brooded over the clutter, as if angered by the light that came only with the flip of a switch. A single person lived there, with no room for family, for visitors, only for more possessions, most of which were in bags never opened.
I found that unbearably sad; even more so than the reason I was there.

Yet, in some ways, all of us are prone to gather up "things" that take up space.  I certainly have more lathe bits around than are likely allowed by law, and there are pots and pans of every conceivable size in the kitchen. There's also copies of cooking magazines, and oh, so many books. But those are things we use and re-read.

My first home on my own was a showpiece.  Three levels, four bedrooms, three bathrooms, full of beautiful new furniture, art and all the trappings of success.  I spent all of my time and money maintaining itwhich left little time or money for anything else. I liked to say I loved it, yet after another night alone in that place, but for Barkley, I had to admit to myself that there was a visceral response to the terrible loneliness of that open space, and I yearned for the lean days where life was simple and full of hope.

Giving most of it to charity; paring it down to just those things I really cherished, was the most liberating thing I've ever done.
I remember standing out that night in the woods a few weeks after I sold the house, duty having called, finding sense in the senseless, finding my purpose even as sparrows fall to earth. People watching from a distance would think me too quiet, too still, shouldn't this activity be a frenzy of lights and motion, like on TV?  But there is great activity in being the quiet observer, standing in a stillness that smells of silence,  breathing in so many scents in damp cold  air. Sweat, blood and a flower that only blooms in the dark, the wind so scant it's like breath on a mirror. Each smell blended yet distinct, always overlaid with the copper tang of life spilled. The air hums along to the nights quiet as all I see, smell and feel, forms into a substance I can almost feel on my flesh, capturing it, recording it there in the stillness. The truth is often still, inarticulate, not knowing it is the truth.
I knew then what my reality was, and it was not that house full of "things" Our reality is held only by us, not by others. They can only see the show, never really knowing what they are truly seeing.

Now my house is tiny, warm, full of the abandoned and reclaimed, almost every bit of wooden furniture rescued from a curb and restored. So much history here, so much laughter as that work was done. I look at it now, not with that quick glance that is a short day, greedily grabbed and then forgotten, but in the sustained light of memories made.

It was been a busy weekend of "spring cleaning",  an old broken washing machine left out by the trash where it soon disappeared as planned, by others that look to take what is cast off and make something worthwhile from it. There were also bags of trash and non repairable clothing and such out in the bin to be discarded. The sun was setting, the sky and the horizon welded in one bright spark, soon to be snuffed out.  Everything around me dissolved into that last bit of warmth, bags of trash, heavy in my arms, everything in them at one time, fashioned out of love, duty or desire, which all bear their own weights.
Then, with everything out to be picked up, it was time to call Dad. For Dad is the one, person, more than anyone I know, who understands the importance of letting go and holding on.

I've written of it here before, as it's a journey many a family has been on,   Seventeen years into a happy remarriage after my Mom died from cancer, my stepmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's. She had long term care insurance, something she and her late husband had policies for. It covered nursing care, but Dad steadfastly refused to put her in a home, caring for her at home, even in his own declining years.
The disease's progression was as predictable as its course was certain.  Mood swings and aggression, words that made no sense, dropping to the floor like marbles, tears as she tried to mentally gather them up, anger at the very air around her. She always was gentle with my Dad though. Only with him would she remain calm, the reasoning that was blind and deaf somehow responding to something in him that her mind could still see.

Dad cared for her at home, no matter how bad it got. We couldn't visit, for we were strangers, and she'd go into a hysterical fury if we tried to enter the home.  Dad was her calm and her constant.  We arranged for someone to come in and lend a hand a few hours a week with the cooking and housework but he refused to let anyone else care for "his girl" or to send her to skilled nursing care. When she passed, it was quite sudden, after she contracted pneumonia. From her sudden coughing to her collapse, was just days.

Sometimes when you get to the far edge, the edge just breaks away.
We laid her to rest  on tree covered hill top. We visit, we bring flowers, we hug and shed some tears, neither of us immune to having our heart broken.  Then we smile through the tears, sharing their stories as we make the long trip home to photos and a little stuffed bear wearing the colors of the flag.

One of those photos is one of she and  Dad on their first date, and you could see something in their smiles that would be lost on so many people. Not many people could have cared for her by themselves as my Dad did, for so long.  But I understand.  Love is a story that tells itself.

On my couch is a the form of a black dog. Dumped during the holidaysheartworm positive at a high kill shelter. She responds with great plaintive urgency to the sound of small children laughing as well as men walking while smoking a cigarette.  The first time I witnessed it, I cried. Apparently she was with a family, with a smokermoney for cigarettes but not for the medicine that would have kept her safe.

Rescued, and recovering from a sometimes brutal treatment for the disease; we adopted her.  What was one person's decision to be rid of a burden was a saving grace in a house that had a gaping hole in it.
What we hold on to and what we let go, is as telling as the words we say. It took me years to understand it, but the words of Henry David Thoreau make perfect sense to me now.

"The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it".

I realized that there were certain things, and in the past, even certain people, that simply violated my sense of thrift, exacting things out of me well beyond their worth. That concept was  lost to me when I was young, but as I got older, with truth stripped of its clock of immortality, it was clear.
As I take out some things to be dropped off at Goodwill, I look around me. Shadows move like ghosts over the sun, deepening the grass to the color of jewels. The last bit of snow has melted, the dark earth trembling to release spring's flowers.  At the side of a house an old trellis that needs to be repaired before new life grabs onto it yet again.  I gather it close to my chest to take it inside to be mended, rather than tossed away.  This is my home I think, as I bend my face down to it, breathing in the scent of old wood, holding the weight securely as I move inside.  I could bury my face in it, this small thing to be salvaged from this place that I had always been seeking..

Home and love, love and desire, can be what propels us silently onward.  Hope and love,  love and desire, can also be merely sounds, that people who have never hoped or loved or desired have for what they never possessed, and will not until such time as they forget the words. 
 - Brigid

Sunday, March 29, 2015

There's No Place Like Home on the Range

The kitchen floor is finally finished.  The kitchen is small and very odd shaped, with several little cubbyholes, and places for shelves, so designing  the tile layout so its not too busy, or too boring, when everything is reinstalled was a bit of a challenge.

But I am SO happy to be rid of the 1930's red floor from hell.
I got the easy part--color and flooring selection and design, and Partner and Grime got the hard part - ripping it all out (asbestos backing so the room was a sealed off science lab for a few days), building a new sub floor and gluing down all the tiles. I showed back up when it was half done. And we finished it up this weekend, a little time together before I pop out and see my Dad again.

And it matches the stained glass window that replaced the big ugly window on the right hand side wall, where the farmhouse sink will go.
The cabinets and counter  (to be installed after a major basement plumping task) will look like this, except the sink will actually be a antique white farmhouse sink on the right wall where the portable little "island" is now.  The section under the window will be continuous countertop, so I have a large work area. Then a fresh coat of light yellow paint and a collection of antique plates that match the colors to go on the wall with some other retro stuff.

So to celebrate having a functional kitchen again - I fed my husband very well.


Mongolian Beef
Yes, that's a leaf made out of a carrot.  Never underestimate the bored.

And Beefy Enchilada Casserole with a spicy and garlicky homemade enchilada sauce.
Recipe for the enchilada casserole (tonight's experiment) is up at

Enjoy your evening - hopefully with all the chores done and a little time to wander down the hall

and write.


Friday, March 27, 2015

TBOB - Portland Book Review Featured Book

The Book of Barkley by L. B. Johnson

BookofBarkleyIt’s A Doggone Life

There are many good books about the dogs we let into our lives. The Book of Barkley, a memoir-like novel by L.B. Johnson, is up there with the best and is reminiscent of Marley and Me. In this debut novel, Johnson weaves together the stories of two lives, her own and Barkley’s. We follow their two lives, from bringing the roly-poly black Labrador retriever pup home, through all the usual doggie events – nurturing, playing, traveling in the car and, not least, reacting to strange places and loud noises. The latter is described with high humor. “Suddenly there came this enormous BOOM of noise from a distance,” and Barkley was out the door like a shot, running for his life, while the narrator is shouting “Barkley, come back!” Seemingly, to no avail. Dog owners know the drill; after a while both Barkley and owner calm down and life goes on.
Using Barkley as the thread tying it together, the narrator tells her story, starting out as a sing le working woman living in the American Midwest. After acquiring Barkley she reminisces about daily life with a dog. At the same time, she dips deeply into her past life and childhood, all about growing up in Middle America. She also changes jobs and locations, moves houses, and before it’s over she falls in love with a dog-loving guy and gets married. All the while, Barkley is her anchor and the book’s focal point.
The Book of Barkley is well written, as these few snippets demonstrate. For example, th e author says that nothing “has taught me more than a dog… how to look carefully and inquisitively at everything, how to look deeply, without restraint or judgment or expectation… how to be happy with what you have today, here, now.” Near the end, after Barkley has gone off into the afterlife, she writes, “He was a dog, but he was much more than a dog. He was love that crept in on four paws and rem ains, as long as memory lasts.”
If you like dogs and dog-inspired human interest stories, chances are you’ll like this one.
Reviewed by Don Messerschmidt

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ships Passing in the Night.

Duty called and I'll try and stop back in on Saturday with a post.  Be safe out there.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

We Were Wolves - a Word from Abby the Lab

We were wolves once.
Wild and wary.
Stealth and cunning.

Then we noticed you had couches.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Winchester Model 1894 - My Cowboy Action Hero

I grew up watching old Westerns. Most weren't original, having been out for years, and seen in reruns, though I always remember Gunsmoke from when I was little. I loved Rifleman, Wanted Dead or Alive, Palladin, anything with John Wayne. The good guys were known, the bad guys obvious. The heroes rode a landscape of the lever action, the name of their firearm more than a forgotten name, their duty and honor more than a shout of defiance but an honor scratched into every weapon they held. The weapons would show the marks of their courage, etched into the very wood and steel of what they carried, not casually, but with the hurt and pride and grief with which men long since unremembered had died for.

Even as a kid playing cowboy and Indian (I was never anything but a cowboy, let the little sissy girl next door play the schoolmarm). I envisioned myself on a horse, lever action in one hand, reins in the other.

Needless to say, the first time I shot one, the thought that ran through my head was, "gee,  cowboys like John Wayne never yelled "*#($%!" and rubbed his shoulder after (though the Duke usually carried a model '92)

That first one I shot had some kick to it, with a butt plate that was pretty thin. But it was love at first shot. Sure, one could put a nice recoil pad on it, but did John Wayne have a recoil pad?

All I knew was I wanted one. It's hard to go wrong when designed by John Moses Browning.

The Winchester Model 1894 (also known as Winchester .30-30 rifle, Winchester 94, Win 94, .30-30 Winchester, or simply .30-30) is one of the most famous and most popular hunting rifles made, selling over 7 MILLION rifles. 1894 marks the year of its design the name from the manufacturer , the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. In 1980 it was picked up by U.S. Repeating Arms under the Winchester brand.

The original Model 1894 was produced in .32-40 Winchester, .38-55 Winchester, .25-35 Winchester, .3o-.30 Winchester and the .32 Winchester Special. It was the first hunting rifle chambered for the then-new smokeless powder cartridge. The .30-.30 Winchester, for me anyway, is the cartridge that is synonymous with the Model 1894 Rifle.

Variants of the Model 94, over its long history, also included the Winchester Model 55, produced from 1924 through 1932 in a 24-inch barrel, and the Winchester Model 64, produced from 1933 through 1957 in 20, 24, and 26-inch barrel lengths. A little bit of history from Wilkipedia - the model number 55 was used twice by Winchester, first as a Model 94 variant introduced in 1924, and, later, as a short-lived single-shot/semi-automatic hybrid .22-caliber rifle that self-cocked the hammer each time it was fired.)

So what's the difference between the 1892 and the 1894?
The Winchester 1894 was designed to permit the cycling of longer cartridges than the Winchester 1892 carbines could permit. When the lever is pulled down, it brings the bottom of the receiver with it. That opens up more space and allows a longer cartridge to feed without making the receiver longer, keeping the firearm tidy and size. The mechanism is complex but very reliable. Stripping the action is something that requites multiple stages, a slight bit of swearing and some practice, but it's not impossible for a beginner. Fortunately, from what I have read, it is rare that you have to completely strip the action.

Minuses: If you compare it to its competitors such as the Marlin Model 226.7 and the Marline Model 1894, a "minus" for some would be that Pre '64 Model 94s eject fired cases up and over the shooter's shoulder when the lever is operated rapidly. This precludes a scope mounted to the top of the receiver and comprises the greatest negative of the Model 94 design compared to the solid top Marlin 336, which ejects to the side and which has solid top receivers.

You could do a side mount or scout type, but most simply go for no scope. I have a scope on my Marlin and it was used on last years deer hunt with Og, Mycroft Holmes and Rangebuddy, to great success. But I am undecided as to actually calling this a "minus". Leaving the scope off reduces the weight of the gun as far as hauling it around in the field and it can allow the shooter to sight in more quickly, close or with moving game. Some folks don't want to mount a scope on anything that is going to ideally shoot within 200 yards anyway. Open sights work nicely if you have your sights adjusted and you know your point of impact.

After the early 80's, Winchester modified the firearm so that it would eject the empty shells out at an angle between the original Winchester design and the Marlin design. This made it possible to put scopes in a more normal position, on the top of the receiver. I'm not sure about the change. It was sort of the way I felt when McDonalds changed the Filet o Fish briefly back in the 80's, adding a big designer artisan bun. Better perhaps, but I missed my old, slightly squashed, non yuppified fish sandwich and was happy when they changed it back.

The mid 1990s brought a change from the long-used half-cock notch safety to a cross-bolt safety like the aforementioned Marlins. Yes, they lawyered it up. I'm glad the one I can shoot is an older one. Somethings just don't need "improving.The last ones leaving the factory in New Haven in 2006 before production ceased had tang mounted safeties. In what I'm familiar with, a half-cocked hammer notch serves as a safety. But owning a number of striker fired weapons, I'll say it again. The best safety is between the shooters ears.Pluses -You can talk about looks and feed and usability and all of that, but call me a romantic, sometimes you just look at something touch something and you know you love it. You don't need to add up "selling points" You are already smitten.

The 1894 is much this way.

It's easy to pack, tote and will hold its own wet, sandy or dusty. It's pretty darn hard to get a failure to feed with a lever action even in the worst of conditions. The ejection is position, the feel, nimble and quick.

This gun is like that date you bring home that all of your brothers and even your Dad will actually like. It's a gun that makes friends easily. It's a powerful gun that fire's a nicely sized 30 caliber bullet. It can take down a deer with range and power limitations of it's cartridge. It can, if you are as quick as it is, and stealthy, take down bigger game.

For it IS fast. A bit more so than the Marlin 336 and even more so than the Henry and Uberti. Very nice, fast handling rifles themselves, but not as fast as the Winchester 94. The reason is simple, they weigh a lot more and are balanced further forward, which although steadying the swing, slows it.

The range was tested out to about 200 yards. The .30 - .30 cartridge is a good all around cartridge capable of getting that bigger game as well as game at a longer range when fed high performance ammunition like the Hornady LeverEvolution, Cor-Bon DPX Hunter, and Winchester Supreme loads.
Some online reviews have complained about its accuracy. Will you shoot a 1" group with open sights? No, not for this shooter anyway. But it's as accurate as I need it to be for what I intend to do with it, as reliable as any good hunting rifle, IF you treat it properly. Lever action rifles in general need to be stroked like you've done it before. No simpering virginal handling of the thing. Fire the darn thing and enjoy it.

For this "no strong bear paws" shooter, it was a bear to load, but oh boy is it is a pleasure to handle. Clean lines, slender receiver, blued steel and lustrous walnut, perfection of line and balance that you'd expect from JMB. If you can get a hold of a pre-64 94 Carbine, don't let it go. They're more expensive but worth it. But even with the later models, there is a reason it's the best selling sport rifle in history. It earned it.

If you get a chance to fire one, do. If you get a chance to buy one, definitely. There are a LOT of good rifles out there, but this will always be what I picture in my hand when I still have those dreams of riding the range in the wee hours of the night with John Wayne, gun by my side, the feel of justice where strove and sounded the law of the land, for which freedom and safety were the end, and the firearm, the tool.

Though just maybe in my dreams I'll have a recoil pad on it.

It's a bear to load, it hurts to shoot and oh boy is it FUN!!!!!

Other Specs:

Magazine capacity - 6 cartridges
Barrel length - 20" (round)
Twist - 1 in 12"
Sights - Post front, adjustable semi-buckhorn rear; drilled and tapped for receiver sights
Length of pull - 13 3/16"
Length overall - 37 7/8"
Weight - 6 1/2 pounds (7.5 pounds if you add a scope and mount)

Monday, March 23, 2015

Snow - The Final Frontier

We got five inches of fluffy white "Spring" this morning.  Fortunately this was my three day weekend, and I got to wave at Partner as he made his Escape.

The neighborhood as we walk on toward the train station is quiet, hushed.  A good day for photos.
So for today, just some photos of Miss Abby enjoying the snow set to some Star Trek Movie Quotes - because it's Monday - and I'm a Geek.
“For everything, there is a first time.”

"Let's see what's out there"
“Everyone remember where we parked.
"It is very cold — in space.”
“So much for the little training cruise.”
“…Warp speed.”

"I need warp speed in three minutes or we're all dead!"
This… is Ceti Alpha Five.”
“This isn’t reality. This — is fantasy.”
“Admiral! There be whales here!”
"Now, we have minutes instead of hours.”
“Time’s up — Admiral.” 
“You cheated.”
“I changed the conditions of the test. I don’t like to lose.”
“I havebeen — and always shall be — your friend."
"Second star to the right — and straight on 'til morning."