Meg Tilley Anderson BLOG

      "We've gotta laugh. We swapped immortality for accessories."
      -- meg tilley anderson

Sunday, May 24, 2009

You just never know what dogs are going to bark at. Part 1

Yesterday Pieface repeated his "Whoop!" bark for about five minutes.  Last time I heard it he was following the progress of an old chicken snake as it moseyed under the dog house and out under the fence, finally into the woods.

I figured I'd better check it out.  This time he didn't seem to be traveling, just nosing the ground by a sweetgum tree, jumping back and whooping three times,.  He'd cornered the biggest copperhead I've ever seen.  That's what I assumed from the eight inch loop I could see sticking out from under the leaves.  It must've been 2 1/2 or 3 inches thick with that beautiful dumbell pattern shaded from pinkish light tan to black.  I know better than to pester a poisonous snake, and don't have any trouble identifying a copperhead. 

This was #5 in the 30 years we've lived here. 

#1 was about 8 inches long.  It scooted out of the tall grass I'd just mowed, threw up a mouse and stayed put while I raked up the hay.  I made Erin keep a eye on it from a safe distance (not far enough according to Erin who wanted to go back to the house) while I worked.  We left it there when I finished.

  #2 waited in the carport while I went inside to get a clear plastic box to drop over it.  I called Roy Cannington to come get it.  He kept the poor thing in a terrarium for about a year before it died. 

I stepped on #3 who nipped me in the heel which generated a $24,000 hospital bill.  I don't walk and talk facing behind me anymore.  Our neighbor killed that one so it could follow me  to the hospital, for identification.  You wouldn't want to spend that kind of money if it isn't a poisonous snake.  The bill for the anti-venom was $19,000.

#4 was laying low under a woodpile in the yard with Minnie Minster going postal as G.G. and Bart stood by looking worried. I dragged them into the house and called Stephen, who was working at Sound Play.  It took him awhile to get over here as he had to make the snake handling sticks first.  We searched the yard for forty five minutes to no avail.  Just in case it came back while we were on vacation the next week, I made Stephen walk the dogs  when he fed them and lock them inside.  Never could have done that with Pieface.  

I don't think I should count the cast off skin I found in the workshop, fifteen feet from where I found #2.  It was probably his, and increased the irony over #3 because I had been watching for snakes IN the house that spring.

Back to #5.  Last evening   I just pulled Pieface into the house and hollered to Bond who came outside with his shotgun loaded  in less than 2 minutes. You guessed it, the snake had disappeared.  We asked Pie to show us where it was again.  His nose told him it had gone under the fence into a bed of variegated vinca.  We couldn't see it and didn't want to cause a confrontation that might harm the dog so we gave up. 

I kept Pieface in my office for about an hour.  When I left the room to freshen my drink he was up to his old tricks.  He ate my crackers and tagged two spots.  I was more than delighted to put him out again.  He checked and the snake had moved on.

We were relieved because it was a challenge to our philosophy that all creatures have a purpose and reason to live.  Killing snakes, even poisonous ones, is not on our agenda unless it is a direct threat to our family.  (Remember, I love ALL living things.)  Civic duty also played a part in our attempt to slay #5.  Bond would have shot him if he'd seen him.

Perhaps it helps to know the statistics.   On the average 4,000 to 7,000 poisonous snake bites a year  are reported in North America and on the average fewer than four  fatalities.  Diseases transmitted by rats and mice (the primary food of snakes) kill many more people than snakes.  The majority of the bites are to people who handle snakes for religious or other reasons. Compare this to  37,248 FATAL car accidents in 2007.  Basically, I'm 9,000 times more likely to die in a car accident than to die from a snake bite.  

In either case I'm not worried.  I am cautious.  I am a defensive driver.  I also keep on the look out for snakes.  Pieface can't be all over the yard all the time. 

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Speed Bumps in Our Whirlpool Bath

For months now, we are installing a whirlpool tub in our master bedroom suite.

Promised we'd do it when the electric water heater died. Replace it with a tankless heater leaving room for the tub. We'd been expecting it for some time because the heater was put in in 1976 when my father, Lew Tilley first designed and built Huckaby House, in stage 1 (of 8) he called "The Cricket." At last! this January, there was so much lime in the bottom we couldn't turn the burned out element to remove it. We jumped right in and ordered the tub, heater and propane tank.

I must admit that we have a second water heater attached to the fourth bathroom at the other end of the house (stage 7). We were not desperate.

Having a tub in a box in the middle of the room is only one of the many speed bumps we've had to work our way around to move beyond hot water in the shower and an unfinished tub room. I hit my limit this week when Abby learned how to climb the 2x4 wall studs.
I was amazed, and she was triumphant for good reason. When we met her, as a kitten, last September, she had three broken abscessed legs and was almost starved to death. How she found her way to our cat patio we'll never know. During her month long stay at Dr. Lee's I visited her daily to hold her and listen to her purr - as her purr was what saved her. When I first picked up this stranger, she purred. Could have been a fear purr, but it showed me (and the vet) she had a will to live. That was more to the point when deciding what to do; not Dr. Lee's unfair question "Do you love this cat?" Unfair because I can honestly say I love every living thing, even mosquitos. (That doesn't mean I have a no kill policy. After all, I eat. I practice self defense e.g. swat mosquitos, and sometimes an animal is better off dead.) I committed a considerable amount of time, and effort to meeting this bent-legged animal's will to live.
She'll never be able to leave the house.
She was a wild animal and still goes into panic mode.
We will always have a lot to adjust to and to learn from each other.

So, the first time I found her walking on the top of the stud wall I gently took her down (after taking her picture).

The second time she was stepping from the stud wall onto the plate rail. I was in a hurry to get her down and not so gentle. I even squirted water at her. That'll teach her to stay down!

Immediately she climbed back up, and before I could move the ladder she ran to the next plate rail to jump THUMP! onto my side of the water bed. That sassy cat!

I thought I'd blocked her way up or I wouldn't have let her stay in the bedroom the next night. Around midnight I heard her scramble up the wall. I sprang out of bed as the huge 45 year old carved gourd from Nigeria hit the floor and broke. I grabbed a ladder, then Abby, before she could continue her path of destruction. I scooted her out the door. I was madder at me than at her.

Until the tub is in and the wall covered, I won't have the luxury of midnight snuggles with Abby. The only way to keep her down is to shut her out. I'm certain she'll find a way around my barricade. Eventually I may have to install plexiglas in front of the whole plate rail. It runs around all 8 sides of the central room.

SO! Yesterday my first waking thought was, " We need to unblock the energy in this room by fixing the door so it will open all the way." I'd been watching one of those TV Feng Shui shows last week. It had entered my subconscious.

The floor is rough brick and has a high spot in the doorway. Every time we opened the door it'd hit the bricks - scronk . Over time the door sagged until we couldn't open it more than about 70 degrees. It happened so slowly we hadn't noticed we could no longer lift it over the hump.

Our first attempt to fix it only answered the question, "Can we smooth out the floor with a terrazzo machine?" Yes. The bricks we ground were solid inside; but too bumped up for hand grinding to finish the job.

Finally we drew a line on the door with a pen held flat on the floor. It took both of us to move the solid wood door to the saw horses on the porch to cut off a wedge about 1/2 inch wide at the corner.

We didn't have to believe in Feng Shui to feel relieved when we opened the door all the way. Who knows, maybe that small irritation every time we opened the door (20 times a day?) compounded our renovation frustration. I'll let you know if the tub project moves any faster.