Closed Door

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Part 18

Dear Diary, 

I am soooo irritated.  I spilled bleach on this journal. I was able to save most of it but the last three months of entries are just completely gone.  All of that writing I did on all of the repairs and home improvement projects I’ve been working on just gone like they never existed.  All the nights I spilled my guts trying to understand my life.  All the tears I shed.   Grrrr.  If it isn’t one thing it is another.  It is like the whole world is conspiring against me. 

But I’m not going to repeat all of the complaints that got bleached away.  Maybe this is God’s way of telling me that what is in the past stays in the past and I don’t need to repeat it or dig it back up; that it is just dead bones and I need to learn to let them lie.  So let’s focus on the positive. 

Today I u-picked strawberries again.  The kitchen is full of strawberries, overflowing with strawberries, is flooded with big, bright red, delicious strawberries.  I’ll be capping and canning and drying strawberries for at least three or four days.  I love it.  I better love it, strawberries might be the only thing we’ll have to eat in a few months.   

I still can’t find a job.  The garden pretty much futzed out.  I put it in in a rush and the only thing that made were the collards and turnips … thank goodness I’m not picky but man did it give me gas to have to eat so much of them.   

A freeze killed two of my orange trees.  The porch leaks.  One of the barn doors has fallen off the hinges and I can’t even lift the stupid thing to try and fix it.   

Wait … I said I would focus on the positive.  

Not finding a job has allowed me to stay home with Feena and spend all the time with her that I missed when we were both in the hospital.  I carry her in a sling everywhere I go, even here at the house.  It saves on the heating bill since I haven’t been able to get the propane tank refilled since the new “environmentally safe” tank is on backorder.  If I worked Feena would have to be in daycare and we’d both be miserable. 

The chemicals they treated the yard with pretty much killed all the beneficial stuff in the ground and the nematodes moved in.  But I figured out what went wrong and I’ve put black plastic over the garden area and I’m going to solarize it all summer long so that when it is time to plant this fall, the ground will be healthy and nematode free.  For now I’m growing things in pots in the patio area.  It means a lot of extra watering but I set up these little drip hoses like my grandfather used to and put the hose on a timer so I’m not constantly having to worry that I’m forgetting something.  The iron in the water stains everything and the sulfur makes it stink but at least the house has a water treatment system on it and I have a huge supply of salt and chlorinator tablets thanks to a former tenant that left pallets of the stuff in the barn.  The salt takes out the iron, the chlorinator takes care of disinfecting and the sulfur smell in the house.  Win-win and it hasn’t cost me a penny yet except for some new drip irrigation pipes and fittings that I picked up at the handy dandy hardware store where they now know me on a first name basis. 

I did lose two of the oldest orange trees but they were reaching the end of their lifespan anyway.  I have since replaced them with several fruit trees that I found on sale at the hardware store.  Now in addition to citrus trees and Florida pears I have some Anna apples and a couple of peach trees.  I was able to prune my mother’s Santa Rosa and Natal plums and the Turkey fig trees and they look much healthier than they did when I first moved back home. 

Cal came by one weekend and helped me to prune all of the dead wood out of the grape arbor.  He ran off several snakes but I told him not to run them off too far because they keep the river rats down to a minimum and keep the field mice out of the house. 

I trimmed back all of the dead banana tree leaves and found I had several bunches of both bananas and plantains that hadn’t been attacked by the possums.  Lucky me.  Lucky Feena … she loves rice cereal with a little bit of banana mashed into it.  She’s not a picky eater thank goodness since she can only have formula, rice cereal, and bananas right now but she does have her favorites and mashed up banana ranks really high on her very short list.   

I canned banana pulp so that I can afford to give it to her all year.  The price of bananas at the store had me worried I’d only be able to buy one or two for special occasions.  I wasn’t turning my nose up at fried plantains either; breakfast, dinner, or dessert … it doesn’t matter to me, I love ‘em anyway I can get them. 

The Barbados, Surinam, and Grumichama cherries all are coming back after a good pruning as well.  Momma used to make preserves out of them that were absolutely beyond better than anything you could ever get at a high end gourmet shop.  She used to make a little money selling the pretty little jars at the flea market until they got so sticky about having a license from the health department. 

Speaking of the flea market, there’s a nice little old man that has told me to come by his produce stand Sunday after church and he’ll sell me as much as I can buy of the fruits and vegetables that won’t hold over until his next day open.  I take him up on it every Sunday and he’s never failed to send me home with a trunkful.  I’m grateful for the largesse and he’s grateful to make something on the stuff rather than just throw it in the dumpster.  He said it used to be he could give it to the homeless shelters and food banks but their insurance doesn’t allow it anymore.  That’s crazy I told him.  That’s the government he told me. 

So maybe I was feeling sorry for myself and exaggerated and Feena and I won’t starve.  As a matter of fact I had to convert one of the upstairs bedrooms to a pantry and it is a pain hauling things up and down the back stairs but I’m worried about the floor in the pantry off the kitchen.  The floor in there really squeaks and I think one of the floor joists has rotted through.  I’ve got it jacked up right now with a car jack I bought at the flea market but I know I need to get it fixed … and sooner rather than later.  I just have no idea how much it is going to cost. 

But enough of the scary stuff.  Let’s get back to happy stuff.   

When the property management team was cleaning out the house we discovered that the attic had never been emptied.  Most of it was junk from my grandparents’ day and before but some of it was abandoned property from various tenants that just stuck stuff up there and then forgot it – probably kinda sorta on purpose – when they moved out.  There was like a gazillion and two jars up there and I splurged and bought these reusable lids I saw in a magazine called Tattlers.  My grandmother and mother would have loved them.  I still have the old style lids and rings too but the other ones are kinda cool beans and make me feel like I’m advancing our quality of life for the better. 

Emptying that attic of all the flotsam of by gone days … and getting rid of what wasn’t useful like rotted carpets and shattered silks … gave me a place to store all the stuff from Tampa.  I still haven’t been able to bring myself to go through Daniel’s stuff, except very cursorily, and it was a relief just to put it in plastic tubs so I wouldn’t have to worry about it for a while.  I made myself put away the shoe boxes of photographs and arrange the photo CDs and memory sticks but as soon as I did I shut the door on the glass built in cabinet and haven’t touched them since.  For now my yesterday needs to stay shut away so that I can find the energy for our today.   

As time and money permits I have been changing out fixtures and replacing the cheap plastic things put in by the management team over the years with the antique ones from the bungalow and with those I found in the attic.  It’s a good thing that Papa and my father insisted I learn how to do simple repairs around the house or I’d be paying through the nose for some help or being forced to wait for Cal or one of his friends to lend me a hand when they come out for a day of fishing on the river.  Cal now has his boat docked here and comes out two or three times a month with friends … but Lily is never with them.  I pray for them every night.  I just don’t understand how something that seemed so good has gone the way it seems to be going. 

Cal and Lily are still in counseling but that’s a good thing at this juncture.  I think things are going better but Cal doesn’t talk about it much to me and I haven’t seen or talked to Lily at all even though I’ve called her and left loads of messages.  I hear about it all from Trish who I talk to once or twice a week.  She’s really serious about us staying a family.  I haven’t seen her in a while either though, gas has gotten crazy expensive again and if Cal hadn’t told me to buy a bunch of gas cans and keep them filled I might have been stuck a few times.  I don’t travel any more than I have to, but it’s nice to know I can if I need to. 

Oh, and I have a couple of goats.  I have absolutely no idea where they came from.  I just woke up one morning and there they were on the back porch eating my potted geraniums.  Dude, when they say goats will eat practically anything they weren’t kidding.  I finally had to get really long dog chains to keep them from eating everything in my garden – not that by that time they could really do all that much damage – but you don’t even want me repeating all the damage they did do.  I finally stopped putting signs up asking for someone to come claim them.  Mr. Escudero – the little old man from the produce stand – said that someone probably dumped them figuring that they’d be able to live in the pine groves and palmettoes. 

Different people have had different reactions to the goats.  My neighbors – all of them affluent and slightly worried that I was going to bring down property values yet afraid to quite say it since I’d done so much improving to the property to make it look better than it had in years – just asked me to keep the goats’ poop scooped so it wouldn’t stink things up.  I nearly laughed in their faces.  Goats are not dogs and you do not scoop their poop.  Papa had goats, ornery little goats, and they pooped anywhere they wanted to and Papa was happy to have it that way so so am I.  If they don’t like it too bad.  My family has owned this land a heck of a lot longer than any of them have even been around.  I’m not going to be intimidated by some nouveau riche newcomers.  Ooops, now I sound like Papa and Daddy. 

The local humane society offered to give me a heads up if they got any more goats.  I think they were just looking for a sucker to take what they consider an exotic animal off their hands so they wouldn’t have to kennel them for any length of time.  I have to be careful about going there again though.  That’s how I got suckered into giving a home to a one footed goose and a pig who promptly delivered a litter of seven adorable piglets within days of decorating the pen I built for her with her first wallow.  I’ll never tell that lady at the humane society but at least a couple of those piggies are going to make some mighty fine pulled pork come this winter.  I think they are all religiously vegan and would be horrified at my carnivorous appetites. 

Trish and Amaris both had a few things to say about my new menagerie but it was Cal that made me laugh the hardest. 

“I said their names are Buffy, Willow, and Xander.” 

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”  Cal gave a stupefied look at the beasties that had just tried to eat the seat out of his swimming trunks … with him still in them.   

One of his friends chortled and said, “The way Cal is giving them the eye you might want to rename them rare, medium, and well done.” 

I gave Cal a forbidding look and he held up his hands in surrender.  “You’re going to go broke feeding this zoo.” 

“Nope; at least not the goats.  They seem to really like the brambles and palmetto thickets.  They’ve cleared almost another acre of that mess and now I can mow it with the riding lawn mower instead of with Papa’s old DR.” 

“You stay out of there, it’s full of snakes,” Cal ordered, acting all grumpy and grandfatherly. 

“Stop worrying so much.  The goats drive the snakes deeper into the woodlot.  They’re actually doing me a favor clearing that land; less chance of finding another rattler in the well house.” 

Cal and his friend Josh both grimaced comically.  I didn’t blame them since they’d been the ones to find the rattler.  But I don’t understand why Josh got all wiggy when I offered to cook it since they’d killed it.  Papa and Daddy had taught me how good rattler is so long as you know how to get the spine out without leaving all the little bones in there … about like fish if you think about it. 

And the skins are really pretty nailed to the boards of the old barn too.

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