Swarm!

After checking my gopher traps this morning I needed to fetch some plastic bags; I managed to trap 3 gophers in a rare trifecta.  On the way back to the house I decided to take a quick look at the bee hives to see how they were doing.  We’ve been a little worried one of them was about to swarm.  As I moved around the hives I keep looking directly at them.  There seemed to be a lot of activity of bees in the air, but the hives seemed otherwise normal.

As I moved around a pear tree that is just 10′ from the hives I suddenly noticed a lot of bees in the air.  That’s when I looked up and in front of myself to see a huge swarm ball of honey bees bivouaced just a couple of feet from my face.  Needless to say I stepped back rather abruptly.  After taking a few photos I rushed back to the house and called our bee keeping mentor, Ken.  He dropped everything and rushed over to give me a hand.

Ken helped me break into the hive I suspected these bees belonged to.  The good news was the population in that hive looked great.  So this is most likely a stray colony that decided to pay us a visit.  So we grabbed a brood frame from the hive and placed it in a nuc box we had laying around.  Once we sealed the hive back up we proceeded over to the tree and placed the box on the ground below the bee ball.

Ken took the brood frame and placed it under the bee ball.  Slowly the bees started moving down onto the frame.  It was like he was painting the frame with live bees; simply amazing to watch.  Once we had enough bees on the frame we placed it in the box below.  Ken grabbed hold of the limb above the bees as I cut it off the tree with a set of loppers.  A bunch of the bees fell directly onto the ground so Ken scooted the box a little closer to them.  I trimmed excess branches from the ball and Ken placed it over the opening of the box.  Slowly the bee ball melted into the box as the bees moved down on the the brood frame.

About that time, Eric and Janet (who have been waiting for a swarm alert) arrived.  They were very excited to get these bees for their new hive in Portland.  We transferred the brood frame to their hive boxes and are waiting for the bees to calm down.  They will be taking them to their new home in Portland later this evening.

When I woke up this morning I didn’t expect anything like this.

Bees

Burpees

So my new trainer, we can call her Naome, is a nice young lady who obviously can keep count and hold a conversation at the same time. This is a good thing when it keeps me from doing more reps of a particularly excruciating workout but, it is a bad thing because, as clever as I can be, I can’t seem to distract her enough to cut them short. So I guess I end up doing what I’m supposed to do with a distinct sense of mixed satisfaction; So be it.

Now Naome is young and fit – of course she is – about 5’ 4” – maybe – and she has a very distinct sharpness of tone in her voice; Slavic I would suspect. Despite her youth she must have studied up on back pain because she is the only trainer that has asked me the right questions and given me the right warnings before attempting a particular exercise. Don’t get me wrong, the other trainers I’ve had have been fine and asked me the pertinent questions you would find in the “Liability” sections of their training manuals but this young lady has described the actual pain I should look out for. Today we found that pain.

This has been a pretty good week for me working out because I actually worked out 4 days instead of the typical 2 or 3 days. Naome seems to be in great demand because this week the only session I could schedule was Saturday morning of Memorial Day Weekend. So we walked over to the little shop of horrors they call “Work Out Stations” and proceeded to focus on my legs. By now I’ve gotten so used to pulling myself up off the toilet in the morning it seems oddly natural to turn my legs into butter for days at a time. It’s become the way of things.

“So do you have any special plans for the weekend?” she asks me…. “My warehouse is closed for the weekend and I’m planning to putter around my place; get some things done” I said.

“What’s on your schedule?” I asked in a grunt as I ground out another leg extension, dreading the next few days of morning constitutionals. “Oh, I’ve got a few classes to finish up and then tomorrow I’m going to put on a cute little dress and go wine tasting for the first time”

There was a very distinct CLUNK as I just let my legs collapse under the weight that last statement. “Wow, the first time? – that sure sounds like fun” I muttered as I untangled myself from the seat.

“Next, for your superset”, she says as she looks at me trying to wipe the sweat off my forehead before it dripped down to pool on my belly… “Have you done burpees?” she asked. “Not without beer first” I said. She laughed and scowled “NO, so you haven’t done burpees” she said matter of factually. “No, I think I would have remembered that word for sure.” I quipped.

So she demonstrated a burpee and a light went off in my head. “Yes… we used to call those ‘up downs” in football… long, long, ago… in a galaxy far away”. She laughed a quick efficient laugh and said “Yes, well that’s the other half of your superset”

 

So I stepped out into the middle of the torture chamber, surrounded by, what seemed to be nothing but old men straining and stretching themselves into oblivion, on machines that were designed to make them look like extras in a medieval scene. A little less sunlight through the windows and some torches on the walls; I’m just sayin, it would have been complete… They gazed upon me as I stood in front of this tiny (but fit) young woman with her hands on her hips; chirping instructions in sharp, measured, instructions… telling me to get with it and do… burpees.

 

So I raised my hands into the air, noting that it’s much easier when you don’t have shoulder pads and a helmet on… and then I kicked my feet back from under myself in an attempt to fall, yes, fall into a nice neat push up position and crack out a crisp pushup for the demanding, but nice, young lady.

 

Actually, what that first one looked like was a clumsy, bordering on geriatric – one leg back – and then the other leg back – and then – one arm down – and then the other arm down – Ok, I’m here now – Puuuush up. Then I sucked my legs back under me to stand up.

 

“Wow, that was… great!” Naome said… “Galaxy far away right?”

 

I didn’t say anything other than make a noise that involve my lips buzzing some incoherent stanzas of my “glory days”. I went down for another… “burpee”

 

But this time I was foolish enough to try and do it right. I snapped my legs back (both of them) and… Plopped down into a pushup position. BUT… this time, gravity and my belly took over and pulled my ass down to the floor. As my back hyperextended the pain that I have come to dread visited me with a vengeance. Pulsating from my lower back down my left leg like an electric shock… a bolt of lightning with no place to go but back up my spine.

 

I had to stop for a moment and gather myself. Naome immediately showed the proper concern and asked me the right questions to confirm the type of pain I felt. She pronounced “No more burpees for you” and we vectored into another series of workouts. Yes, tomorrow I’m still going to have a hard time getting up of the toilet.

 

It’s all about the core they say… and that’s true. It’s been nearly a year since my last cortisone injection in my lower spine. Before I started working out and swimming I would get them every 8-10 months. I’m not sure how much longer I can go before I need another. It’s been a little harder to “work” the pain off but I’ll do what I can. I will admit there is a part of me that is disappointed I could not do a burpee, even though, I was unfairly distracted by the thoughts of a young lady, in a cute dress, on her first wine tasting adventure… but now that I know… a burpee is an “Up Down”…

 

I’ll get over it soon.

© 2016 Darrel Boyd

Thoughts on the Swing

What’s in a name?

Uncle DarrallThis is about my uncle, Darrall.  I was named after him… sorta; my mom spelled the name incorrectly on my birth certificate so even though he is my name sake, our names are spelled differently.  Uncle Darrall never seemed to mind that; he was too busy being a character.  He lived by himself on a small cattle ranch in the hills above Toledo Oregon. He liked his privacy and to illustrate that fact, he would post “no trespassing, keep the hell out, this means you” signs on scrap metal or wood panels; and he loved spray painting the occasional daffodil florescent orange;  all of this would greet visitors along his 3 mile driveway.  He liked Jeeps and Ford Broncos; he would drive them until they died somewhere on his ranch where upon he would decorate them with flowers, antlers and animal skulls.  Even so, I remember it was a beautiful place where steep hills of fir opened into green strips of meadow grasses split by a single meandering creek that flowed lazily down to the Yaquina river a couple of miles below; and there were apple orchards all over his property; amazing old apple trees, living gnarled and wild among deer and cattle, much like my uncle.

Like my grandfather, Uncle Darrall’s speech needed a bit of an acquired skill to understand.  It had a thick swedish, song like, break and cadence to it; and the cursing was distributed generously throughout every sentence.  The family lore explained his “hermit” like existence on an altercation he had with his brother Russel.  I guess Uncle Russ and Uncle Darrall loved the same woman as young men and it was Russ who ultimately won the girl.  Even though both uncles lived in Toledo they rarely spoke of each other; at least not in kind terms. So Darrall kept to himself, saved his money and bought his ranch in the hills; away from people.  Even so, he would often visit us and show off pictures of his fishing catches.  During one such visit, Uncle Darrall was sitting on one of my grandpa’s bright red steel kitchen chairs as he described his latest adventure.  Suddenly he stood up and place his hands on his ass, startling us all… “Damn it, this f&@in chair draws like the seat in my outhouse”  he shouted.  It took several minutes for the laughter to die down.

My grandpa would often drive out to visit Uncle Darrall and check on him.  One time I remember that we gathered at his place to slaughter a cow that the family was to share. I remember watching my uncle drive slowly out to the herd in his Bronco.  He despatched the animal with a single shot; and dragged it with the Bronco on a sled to an A-frame slaughter house he had built.  It was set up so he could drive the Bronco through the structure and place the sled directly underneath some pulleys and hooks to hang the carcass.  There we sat in the round as Uncle Darrall and my Uncle Roy (Grandpa’s Son) skinned the cow.  Darrall would often step back and curse Roy for his apparent lack of butchering skills which would provide for several minutes of finger pointing and laughter. After the animal was cleaned and quartered uncle would pull the entrails and body parts out into the woods, leaving them for the coyotes and bobcats.  Many times he would revisit the site a bit later to pick off one the scavenging critters for a pelt.  This was how my uncle spent much of his time; that is when he wasn’t fishing.

My Uncle Darrall was quite likely the best fisherman I have ever witnessed.  One time he took my Uncle Roy and I up the Siletz River during a beautiful sunny day that followed a few days of rain the week before; so the river was up but it was clearing with plenty of treats flowing downstream to waiting fish; I was raised fishing this river and on this day, I was about 15, I think.  Uncle Darrall tried to show me how he kept his finger on the line so he could feel when a trout bumped it.  No matter how much I tried I could not match his skills and tenacity.  As I stood and fished the same hole right next to him along with Uncle Roy; he limited out (10 fish) while I sloppily caught two; Uncle Roy pulled in three.  But that was not all; we move up the river a ways where he hooked into a steelhead.  By this time I just dropped my pole and watched this crazy old fart who was my uncle.  I remember how this shortish old guy with a beard, ran up and down that river, cursing and caressing the swift currents as the fish worked them to snag the line on one of countless boulders protruding in all angles above and below the surface.  From time to time you could see it’s beautiful white belly flash in the sunlit waters as it slowly wore itself down; a test of wills pulling and slacking on the thin line that connected them.  The fight lasted for some 45 minutes, finally ending with Uncle Darrall’s finger in the steelhead’s gill as he lifted it in triumphant display;  It was impressive; uncle caught a 25 lbs steelhead using a light fishing rod with 8 lbs test line in a fast moving river.  That was the last time I got to fish with him.

These days, the farmstead of my uncle is gone; it was replaced just a few short years after that fishing trip, by a fish hatchery on the little creek that ran through his property.  The meadows and orchards have slowly been swallowed up by alder and fir trees.  All the signs and Bronco monuments were cleaned up; the fluorescent orange daffodils have long since faded.

Uncle Darrall preferred to be alone up there on that hill all those years with his signs, daffodils, orchards, cattle, guns and fishing poles; and I believe for the most part he was happy.  But the night he realized he was dying he wrote a note that my grandpa later read to us.  I don’t remember it word for word but I do recall how it ended.

 “…The hills are quiet tonight.  I can hear the frogs and cattle down by the creek as the light fades.  I wish I had someone to talk to.”

What’s in a name?  A lot more than one would think.

For Uncle

Darrall Johnson  1911-1976

© 2016 Darrel Boyd

Thoughts on the Swing

Planting Day 2016

We had a very nice turn out for this year’s planting day.  The entire garden was completed in just a matter of a couple hours.  All the water bucket (120+) were put out in the orchard and a good deal of fruit thinning was done.  Thanks to our wonderful Co-op friends.  You guys rock.

Garden, Orchard, Planting

Planting Day is Near!

20160402_112056Hello friends and family of the Boyd Farm!

We are drenched in rain, but looking forward to the warm sunny days of May and planting day.  Yes, I’m a bit delusional about the sunny days – but I can hope!   We will start early May 7th8am, and hope to get the big garden planted by lunch time.

We have a few other tasks including setting out all the watering buckets in the orchard, and hanging moth traps.   Bring a pot luck dish if you’d like to join us for lunch.  I’ll make sure there is a cooler full of water, and hot coffee.

The bees are in their boxes, and it has been quite fascinating watching them.  From a distance…  We do get up close and personal to feed them, and a new box on top is in order soon.  More stories to come, I’m sure.

20160402_110648

Please feel free to invite a friend who might be interested in our co-op.  There is room to join!

Thanks for your enthusiasm and support as we try to grow things!

Suzannamaria and Dario

Garden, Planting

Paying the Band

419487_10150649483444260_344821124259_9156897_565672185_nI recently realized, the first time I was ever complimented as a “writer” from someone I respected as a writer, was in fact, my mother in-law.  She was reading a character study I pulled together for an assignment in a script writing class at Oregon State.  Florence did not like to be called by her real name so somewhere, somehow, she ended up with the nickname of Fluffy.  So “Fluffy” read through my assignment… with that “look” on her face, as I sat somewhat nervously nearby in her living room.  I figure she was about halfway through when she looked up and said… “I didn’t know you could write!”.  In those days there was a lot she didn’t know about me and I certainly did not know as much about her as I thought I did; I lacked the life experiences that would eventually, inform me just how tough and loving this woman really was.   

When I first met my wife we were just kids struggling to adjust to life as teens;  I just turned 17 and Suzanne was about to turn 16.  We were both from broken families trying to make sense of the life lessons forced upon us from an adult world we did not remotely understand; but we were so desperately trying to.  My mom Thelma, was a strong lady in her own right, who made tough decisions and brought her children to Lebanon Oregon and a new life; but my mom’s toughness was quiet, soft, and steady.  Fluffy brought her family to Lebanon too –but there was nothing quiet about her, or her little family, and there was no doubt she was sincere; and she would have her way.  There were many near disastrous dating events in our young lives that would have ended most fledgling relationships but as it turned out, Fluffy’s mission was not about ending our relationship inasmuch as it was about finding out how tough I was, and teaching her oldest daughter to be less sweet, and more demanding…  Fluffy would often say “If you’re gonna dance you gotta pay the band”.  This phrase was usually uttered in the context of “sex and pregnancy”.   After raising two daughters, I most certainly get that now.

One such date, that could have ended with my body in a gunnysack bobbing down the Santiam River was the date we infamously call, Middle Ridge.  Suzanne and I decided, as many teenage couples still do, that we were smarter than our parents.  We set up a date that we presented to our parents as “Attending the high school basketball game followed by a quick stop at the A&W” for one particular evening.  What we actually did was take my Mustang up to Middle Ridge and park, and we did what many, many, many, teen couples did there.  We made out while listening to the game on the radio so we would know when to start back home; and know what the score was.  There was a lot of talking and soul searching too but, well, I’ll spare the details.  We were sure it was a solid plan and when the game ended I started the car and put it in gear to take Suzanne home.  Little did I know, the particular spot I chose to park, combined with the particular type of car I was driving, and the very particular fact I burned off tread almost every day on the speedbumps at the high school parking lot; these things conspired to end my life that night.  My rear tires just spun and the rear end of the car slid sideways into a small, but very muddy slick, ditch.  We were stuck!

After spending a good deal of time trying to wedge sticks and rocks under the tire we decided we had to find a phone; It was dark!  We started down a dark gravel road in search of a driveway.  As we stumbled down the road there were several panicked glances back and forth between Suzanne and I but we kept the fear at bay by making very desperate, very marginal, alternate plans.  She also kept asking me “…why don’t you have a flashlight?”  Eventually we came to a mailbox at the end of a loosely graveled driveway; we looked down it to see the dark shadow of a home against a murky backdrop of storm clouds.  As we slowly approached the home we heard a sound… the unmistakable sound of a very large dog… a very imposing dog with a menacing deep growl; it was approaching from within the darkness.  We froze and waited for what seemed like hours.  Finally, the dog came right up to us and began barking and growling… but he did not attack.  Considering the predicament I was in there was a brief moment that I thought… “just offer the big dog your throat”   After a moment or two of the dog not attacking, we decided it was OK to knock on the door.  A moment later a light popped on and a nice old gentleman cautiously opened the door; seeing how young and frightened we were he kindly invited us in, to use the phone.

There were to be two phone calls… the first was my call to… Jeff… S**T; NOT! the first friend I would normally call but he was the only one who would come to Middle Ridge to pull me out of a ditch; and he had a pickup.  Jeff also had a big mouth and I knew that within minutes of arriving at school the next day, he will have told the story so loudly, so many times, and with so much glee, that the only thing capable of spreading the word faster would be Principal Page including it in the morning announcements on the high school public address system.  

After I asked him not to say anything to anyone one all I heard was laughter on the other end of the line.

The second call was Suzanne’s call to home; Bud answered the phone.  This was somewhat fortunate because Bud didn’t ask lots of questions.  He had already raised a pack of kids in his first marriage and he was very familiar with these late night calls.  “Do you need me to come get you?”… I clearly heard him ask, but Suzanne quickly came back with “We’re alright, we just got stuck and we’ve got help coming”…  “Oh – Ok” said Bud…  “I’ll tell your mother”.  

Let me make something very clear.  Bud was an imposing figure to a young man like me but by this time I was well aware that he was not the parent I should be most worried about.  I realized I didn’t need to worry about Jeff and his big mouth; the words “I’ll tell your mother” clearly indicated that I would probably be dead before the next school day.

When Jeff finally showed up with his truck, we were already 2 hours late.  He got out and started laughing so hard I thought he was going to fall into the very ditch my car was in.  It only took about 10 minutes; the sad fact was that my car needed only a 6 inch nudge to break free of the little ditch I was in.  But there was a much bigger ditch that I had dug, waiting in a dark kitchen now, just minutes away… it was nearly 2am and finally, I am taking Suzanne home.  

When we pulled into the driveway, the light at the door was still on, but the rest of the house was dark; visions of an ambush came to me.  As we opened the door we bumped a box of mason jars that were placed within the door swing; strategically.  The rattle they made was distinct and loud.  Still we couldn’t see anything as the jars continue their death toll chiming.  Remember the big dog that approached us in the dark, with a big growl… and it was dark… and the growling approached… and it was dark.  That was nothing compared to this.  “What in the hell has been going on?”… Fluffy sneered.  Suzanne said “we got stuck”… and Fluffy replied in a tone that nearly made me pee my pants… “Stuck, where the hell could you be stuck at a basketball game?”.  Suzanne abruptly turned to me and said “You better go now”.  She pushed me back out the door as I stuttered something like “but don’t you want me to?”… “No!” she snapped, and the door slammed shut; I turned around and hauled ass to my car.  All the way home that night I thought about what might happen.  Will Suzanne be grounded until she graduates?; and will I be threatened with bodily harm if I ever show my face within a half mile radius of Suzanne?;  how will I protect Suzanne’s honor at school?.  Will I be responsible for wrecking Suzanne’s super clean, super sweet reputation?… and for the love of God, how will we handle all that “pointing and laughing”.  What was that saying again about dancing and bands?

As it turned out, Suzanne was grounded for about a month.  I was not forbidden to see her but I did have to sit through a lecture about being responsible… and there was that phrase about dancing and the band tossed into it here and there.  I was also told to tell my own mother what had happened.  All in all it could have been a lot worse.  Both mom’s called me a “dumb ass”… but used many, many more words to get that point across.  As for school the next day I was mostly right about Jeff… and for a little while it was humiliating, and through it all, I felt particularly bad for Suzanne.  But one thing about teenagers is that memory is short term.  The hormone laden crowd at LUHS was ready for the next big scandal just a few short days later.  Suzanne and Darrel on Middle Ridge became old news fast.  Before too long it was relegated to a family legend that we still tell, very loudly and with much laughter from time to time.  

Over the years I’ve learned that Fluffy was not really very scary at all.  She was always loud and opinionated but if you held your ground with a good solid argument, she would come to respect you.  For many years she was the epitome of the “Mother In-Law” stereotype.  But that was in appearance only because when times got hard, I often would turn to see her in my corner barking out advice; whether I wanted it or not.  But make no mistake, her feelings ran deeply and her advice was usually good.  This became apparent to me just a few years ago when she came bursting through my front door in her own typical fashion.  I was by myself at the house that day, so we sat in my kitchen and chatted.  I offered her some coffee and turned to get the pot.  As I turned back to her she was looking at me in a way I had never seen before.  Her eyes started to tear up and she said “I have to talk to you about your mom”…  Her voice was shaking as she reached out to me.  “You need to go see your mom…” she said as tears now starting to flow…  “I’m afraid she’s giving up”… I hugged her and we both cried for a moment.  

Fluffy and my mom had become very good friends; she collected friends much the same way as she collected things at garage sales.  She loved the colorful, the rugged, the reliable and the odd balls.  My mom was all of these, even long into her illness with Parkinson’s.  Fluffy would ride her little motorcycle out to my mom’s often to check on her and chat.  But mom was finally into the final stages of Parkinson’s and was transitioning from her relentless drive for activity, to wheelchairs and beds.  This broke my mother’s heart; which in turn broke Fluffy’s heart… and so we stood there and we cried in each other’s arms, in my kitchen.  This is significant because in all of the nearly 40 years I had known Fluffy; all the weddings, family tragedies, and funerals… I had never once saw Fluffy break down and cry.  Until now, I never told anyone about this except Suzanne…  I suspect, if Fluffy were alive today she would point out that there were no other witnesses.

On Saint Patrick’s Day, 2015 this tough lady of Irish, Italian descent suddenly became very ill and tried to drive herself to the hospital.  We don’t know if she knew she was having a heart attack.  All we know is that she never made it.  Her car smashed through a power pole and came to rest against a tree in someone’s front yard.  The owner of the home came out and held her hand as she took her final breaths.  We are glad that she was not alone and so thankful that no one else was hurt in the accident.  The suddenness of all of this has been very hard.  

As of this writing I am hauling limbs she helped to prune, from my orchard down to the burn pile; she loved the burn pile.  Fluffy was going strong right up to the end, which is most likely the way she wanted it; she wouldn’t have liked to linger.  She leaves the legacy of a strong family, and friends who will miss her “straight forward” approach to life.  I for one, will miss the way she barged through my front door for a “Boyd Breakfast” (she always requested my omelettes) and the way my grandchildren would yell out “GG”.  I will miss how she engaged my son Chris and my daughter Tracey in conversation; she was always interested and always encouraging.  I will miss the messages for Suzanne on the answering machine “this is your mother… call me… why aren’t you home?”.  I will miss her enthusiasm over the Halloween party and how much she loved to hear my band, and my daughter Jessica sing.  And I will miss the matriarch and Master Gardener of our orchard and garden co-op; no one worked harder than Fluffy.  If I devoted pages to it, I can only make a small scratch in the significant surface of things I will miss about her.   

There is a manuscript about the family that she worked on for years; I was only able to read glimpses of it when she would forget and leave it sitting out.  What little I have read seems very good.  My understanding is she tried to submit it but, it was never published.  So it rests somewhere in a secure place within her home.  Having now re-discovered the rewards of writing myself, I now understand the legacy writing one’s thoughts can leave behind.  I now understand the value it will have for my family.  I would love to read it someday… I am sure some of the passages will have me looking up and shaking my head in disbelief but I would like to read it anyway.

As I hauled the last load of limbs to the burn pile today that phrase came back to me; “if you’re gonna dance, you gotta pay the band”.  When I first heard it I thought it was merely about about sex and pregnancy; and at the time it was.  But now that I look back on her life I realized the phrase applies to much more.  That is why her straightforward approach worked so well for her.  Too often, apologies are a thin veal used to minimize the consequences of one’s actions.  In Fluffy’s book, if you’re not willing to “pay the band”, she didn’t have much use for you.  Apologies without atonement are empty payments that rang hollow in her book.  And her expectations were not limited to those on earth.  Fluffy believed in God and went to church nearly every Sunday; but she was never one to shirk from criticizing the length or quality of mass; she never hesitated to indicate when she was “mad” at God.  If something didn’t make sense to her she fully expected an explanation… That being said I think heaven is a very interesting place now.  

If Fluffy’s life can be likened to a dance it would be tempting to describe it as  the proverbial “bull in a china shop”, complete with all the random crashing and chaos the phrase implies.  But, that would be way too simple.  Fluffy’s dance was purposeful, direct and efficient.  The beauty of her steps were revealed in the wake of her sudden departure.  The hours of volunteer work, her devotion to church, the great number of friends she impacted, the “no nonsense”  joy and comfort she inspired with family, and the way she would just go about taking care of anyone she thought needed it…  At the end of her dance, the band slowly put down their instruments with that final note singing softly into the infinite halls of the heavens… Everyone looked up with recollections as Fluffy flipped a coin into the band’s can; the ring it made as it struck the inside was solid, full and authentic.  There is no question in our minds as she stepped away, leaving us laughing and weeping on the dance floor.

Godspeed mom.

 

© 2015,2016 Darrel Boyd

Thoughts on the Swing

What’s that sound?

I must admit, I do like to embellish stories.  It’s better for everybody because I have not lead a particularly adventurous life.  But the story I’m about to tell you, in honor of the new year, 2016 – um, well it is absolutely true… 99% with just a dash of embellishment.  

This particular story happened a while ago; my son Chris, who just turned 28, was about 14 when this happened.  We lived in a nice little suburb on Cooper Mountain near Beaverton Oregon.  The house was a seventies vintage split level nestled in a grove of very tall Douglas fir trees. The top level was bedrooms of course and the mid level encompassed the kitchen, dining and living room; but the bottom level well, that was my den… AKA, the family room, but with a wet bar, fireplace, computer desk and a very impressive “audiofile” stereo system; if I do say so myself. It is safe to say I spent a majority of my waking hours in that room.

Another part of this story that needs to be understood is that my lovely wife Suzanne, was and is, a nurse… and at the time of this story she happened to be working night shifts, which meant she was asleep in our bedroom at the top level of our home.  Let me just say right now that it was very important, very very important, not to wake her unless there was a full blown, fire breathing emergency that involves a complete and total threat to life and property.  So right about now you may have some small idea of what it is like to sleep with the person I sleep with… any given night we retire together, there is a point of no return when she is not to be disturbed, until the morning breaks anew; which also explains why I get the elbow for snoring and not her.  Ok, I’m most likely in more trouble than I’ve ever been (up to this point) so just remember how good this story was as you weep over my unfortunate demise.

But back to the story.  So even though this story happens during a cool, sunny day in March, it comes to mind each holiday because of a tradition I have.  Every Christmas I make a point of watching the movie, Christmas Vacation.  I simply think it is one of the funniest movies that was ever made and it speaks to me in ways that my wife will never understand; but many times she watches it with me; and she laughs while questioning why.  This makes me happy; year in, and year out.

But again, back to the story.  So it was a cool sunny day in March.  Suzanne was sleeping upstairs as I plinked away at my computer in my den below.  Chris was upstairs somewhere, but we’re both being respectfully quiet for mom, who needs her sleep.  As I said, I was plinking away at my computer… I think I was trying to write lyrics to a song I was working on, but that’s not really important.  It was a gorgeous day and I was plinking away…  at some point the clicking of my keyboard was interrupted by the sound of something from coming from the fireplace (it wasn’t burning).  It sounded like debris… things… falling into my fireplace.  By the time I turned my head to look there was nothing to be seen or heard.  So I actually thought to myself “what’s that sound?”.  I turned back the brand new blinds my wife had just installed and looked up through the window to the tree tops above; was there some wind I was not aware of?  As I looked up at the trees I could see no movement; just the tree tops motionless against the backdrop of a beautiful blue sky.  I looked back at the fireplace… nothing… so I turned back to my computer and began plinking away again.

Also sleeping that afternoon were our two tabby cats and our miniature dachshund, Tazzy. The cats were happily lounging on the back edge of a futon couch right next to the fireplace and Tazzy was most likely curled up over the heat register in the entryway upstairs.  Suddenly that sound happened again in the fireplace.  I remember staring at it for a moment and then looking for the cats to react; but apparently the cats had a long night too, because they didn’t move a single muscle.  I went over to the fireplace and looked up the flue… and then down at the log grate.  It seemed really odd but there was no obvious clues… I went over to the window and looked up threw the brand new blinds, at the treetops again.

It was a “scratch your head” moment so that’s exactly what I did… I scratched my head, looked back at the fireplace and then went back to plinking at my computer again.  Not a minute went by when it happened again; the sound of debris falling into the fireplace; but this time there was a lot more debris… this time there was no time for a head scratch.  This time I looked over at the fireplace and I saw it. Debris coming down my chimney into the fireplace.  For some unexplained reason I looked back up through the window at the treetops, thinking something must be different… but the rain of noise in the fireplace pulled my head back… soon the sparse debris thickened into a pungent grey cloud that bellowed forth through the fireplace screen.  I nearly hurt my neck as I swiveled my chair into a defensive position… it was fight or flight time.

As the ash cloud wafted from the fireplace I saw something… like a shadow… free falling into the wood grate like a skydiver who’s parachute was left somewhere other than where it was needed most.  A split second later his head and body appeared at the top of the fireplace screen… he looked left, and then right, and then we locked gaze; we both had no idea what the hell just happened… but now we were going to be forced to deal with it. He was a very large grey squirrel and he was about to be totally fucking freaked out in my personal den.

I looked over at our pretty sizeable two cats who were just inches away from something that should have struck them as a good sized meal… they seemed annoyed by the ash cloud but they weren’t moving… dam’it I hate cats… pretty much always.  In the meantime there is this moment when you know something crazy just happened; but the next moments are going to be off the friggen charts; I realize now that I underestimated the whole situation in those few seconds.  I should have just burst out the door, fleeing and screaming down the street but no… I proceeded to try… try and figure out how to herd a squirrel out of my den; without waking the dog, who would go crazy barking, waking my wife, and god forbid the cats.  And just a side note; if Tazzy had got involved, there would have been barking, chasing, fleeing, barking, chasing, fleeing, and more barking until Suzanne came downstairs; which would have caused me to burst out the door, fleeing and screaming down the street…

So in my loudest and most gentle voice, I hollered, whispered  “Chris?”  I heard his door open above and his footsteps as he angled down the stairway to the lower level.  By this time the squirrel has started to bolt around the room in vectors only impeded by my frantic presence… we were squaring off big time and no good could come from it.  Chris had the total, appropriate response to what he saw when he entered the room.  “Shit!”  I totally understood and I didn’t make a big deal of his choice of words because let’s face it… that’s exactly what I was thinking at the time.  

Being the adult in the room I shouted “whispered” to Chris, “…get the dog and the cats into a room and shut the door”.  Why the hell I was worried about the cats still baffles me to this day but that’s pretty much what I said.  Chris took care of the pets and then rejoined me in the den.  I had managed to keep the rodent (yes, by now, in my mind, he was a rodent) in the den but he was in the process of… well how do I explain this… he was desperately, violently, trying to escape, over the top of my stereo, my computer and to space between the window and those brand new blinds that my wife had just installed.  The sound as he flailed against each blade of the blinds, to the very top of the window frame caused Chris to ask me… “Isn’t that mom’s new blinds?”  I just shook my head… “Well son, if you want to go grab that buck toothed animal by the back of the neck and tell him ‘bad boy’… be my guest”.  So we just watched him.

Eventually he came back down and, again, crossed my computer and stereo to get to the floor.  Chris and I tried to make a “man wall” which is a little like a moving gingerbread man thing that kids cut out of paper and then move side to side in front of you like some crazy wall, full of obvious holes.  But for some reason it kind of worked because the little rodent bolted for the sliding glass door (yes I forgot to mention there was a sliding glass door to a patio and my hot tub; God I loved that room)… yes he bolted, at top speed, because he could see freedom… freedom just beyond the room… the patio… and the hot tub.  But Boom!  He hit the sliding glass door so hard, his ass nearly was the last thing that went through his mind.  The poor thing (rodent) looked at us… and then it started to flow.  He now had a bloody nose.

Now if I had the forethought and the chance, I would have made sure the sliding door was open for that little “rodent” before he made his dash but that just didn’t happen.  So he proceeded to revisit his earlier course of running over my stereo, my computer and my wife’s brand new blinds… This time with blood flowing… like everywhere and on everything.  As I looked in horror at my stereo and my computer, Chris looked at that animal flailing again up the space between the window and the blinds… “Crap, that’s mom’s new blinds” he said.  I crept over to the sliding glass door and opened it up.

After much flailing and blood spray the poor frightened “rodent” finally came back down from the window and proceeded to be-smerch my electronics as he made his way to the floor again.  Chris and I made the same gingerbread man wall again but this time it took significantly more effort as the “rodent” had clearly learned a thing or two in his utter panic… He looked at the two of us, shifting back and forth, like we might be actually plugging the 99% air space we were offering him… but he saw freedom once again… beyond the room… the patio… and the hot tub.  He bolted for it; but just as he got to the threshold he stopped.. looked very hard left and right… and then proceeded slowly through the door to freedom.  

Chris and I looked at each other and laughed in relief.  I closed the sliding glass door and he let the pets back out.  Suzanne still lay in a sleepy slumber upstairs and would not know of the story until the next day.

So everytime I watch Christmas Vacation I laugh in a crazy maniacal way when I hear the line “What’s that sound?”

And by the way; It took two hours to clean up all the blood.

Thoughts on the Swing

Thank You

Gratitude and big thank yous to all who showed up for the “garden to bed” day on Saturday!  Our deep regards to John, Connie, Doug, Kate, Ray, Misha and Conrad for their intrepid gardening talents in the pouring rain and cold!  Also thanks to Becki, who brought company and  a wonderful waldorf salad for our post-rain drenched lunch of stew and homemade bread (yum!). And also to Tracey, who brought baby Sutter, just for their company and love!  (Too rainy for a baby in a pouch!)     Misha even went back out with us after lunch and worked for 2 more hours!  She’s a gardening machine.  Conrad truly pulled a GIANT pile of weeds! Pretty tough dude for 5 J

Dario and I will spread the mulch, and then let her rest for the winter.  I’ll let you all know when we plan to turn the earth next spring, and anyone interested is welcome to join us once again.

Please let us know if you have suggestions; we would love to improve our little farm.

Next spring and summer:   There will be BEES!  We went to our first class.  Wow.  “How do we bring the bees home?” I asked.    “in the back of your car,” says the teacher with all confidence!  BZZ BZZ BZZ

All our best to you,

Suzannamaria

Garden

Hello from the “Farm in the Fog!”

It is that time of year; the garden has gone to nap in a haze of drizzle and fog.  Except for the very last few very hardy tomatoes I picked a couple of days ago (why do we still have tomatoes?) and some parsley, the garden is sagging into the earth, brown and droopy.  Some of you expressed an interest in helping when we tuck her in, so if you have time come join us Saturday, November 7 for a few hours.  We’ll start around 9am and quit by 3:30 pm.  Why are we finishing at3:30??  Because Dario and I are going to our first BEE CLASS and hive purchasing after the cleanup. Wahoo!  I’m so excited – next year the garden and orchard will have their own Langstroth hive of honey bees!  This could be quite an adventure for our little farm…and oh, the honey we’ll have to share!  So come on over and ponder with us where a hive might best serve us and our neighbors.

I’ll have a pot of something steamy and soupy to share.  If you’d like to bring an accompaniment, we will share a meal at noon.

Happy Fall to All,

Suzannamaria & Dario

Garden, Harvest

Superman

Finally got back to the gym after another “doctor” induced week off;  I’m telling you these doc’s are making it difficult for me to stay in shape.  This time I had to have a couple of basal cell spots removed from my arm which means I’m not only getting a bill, the doc now has his pound of flesh from me too…  I know, I’m sorry but it’s all good.  My tests came back from the “pound of flesh” and it appears they got it all.  It’s just that it left me with two nasty looking stitched wounds that make it look like my arm was sewed back on Frankenstein like.  Not something you can get right back into the pool with much less exercise.

But I really needed to get back into the program; so I explained to my trainer that I’ve been off for yet, another week and that I really needed to do exercises that avoid pain and/or tearing my stitches loose.  To which Kay said “Wow, no wonder you missed last week, that’s nasty looking”.  She paused for a moment and then smirked “Good thing it’s Halloween”.  So we proceeded to do a number of torchercises that focused on my back; nothing to really complain about until we got to the last one; the Superman!  Laying on my belly on the floor, she had me arch my back, extend my feet and arms out and up, “hold it” she commanded – So there I was, looking like a lowly, stitched up “Superman” trying to fly, on the floor.  I was beginning to feel a bit conspicuous as she had me repeat this goofy little exercise over and over again.  “Superman?” I said as Kay giggled… “well then we need the theme song don’t we?”… she giggled some more and then commanded “again!”.  So this time I arched my back, stuck my feet up, and flung my hands forward as I sang loudly – the theme from Superman. “Na na naaaa, na na na na naaaaaa!…”  Now people had something to really look at.  One lady started laughing so hard she had to stop her workout and walk away from her trainer, leaving him standing there with his hands on his hips, staring at me.  Kay laughed at first but started looking a bit uncomfortable when I wouldn’t stop…  “again!” she blurted… So, I did it again – “Na na Naaaaaaa, na na na na Naaaaa!”, and with that Kay crossed her arms and said “Ok, I think we’re done here… we’ll see you next week”.

Everyone slowly went back to what they were doing as I got up from the floor with a smile on my face.  I was looking forward to spending some quiet time in the sauna before showering and heading off to work.  As I laid my head back to take in the heat, the door swung open and sweaty young man in shorts, shoes and a tatt that looked like a shirt, clunked into the room with exercise bands and started working out… right there in the sauna.  Of course, he had ear buds with music blaring; so he loudly grunted and groaned each time he did an arm curl.  He just kept exercising, grunting, drinking water and sweating; not more than 3 feet between him and my astonished face.  He was so self-absorbed that he didn’t look to see the stink-eye I was giving him.  I started wondering what the hell it was about this sauna? …or have they all evolved to this?  Used to be you could sit and talk quietly about this or that, get up a good sweat and generally relax.  Now it seems as though it’s one more stop on the exercise app; where you can have what should be a “private” phone conversation; or practice yoga to your favorite music; all under the false cover of “ear bud” headphones.  After the 3rd time “sweaty young man” guzzled down his water with a loud “glug, glug, glug” and walked out the door (letting the heat out) to cool down, I began to wonder how I might STOP the insanity…  I began to wonder if there was enough space to get down on my belly…  This may be a job for Superman!  “Na na Naaaaaaaaaa…”.

Thoughts on the Swing