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On sharing

I don’t remember the period of my life when my mother was trying to teach me how to share.  Perhaps it is just as well.   From what I have observed, little children have a strong concept of “MINE” and there is a certain amount of angst in the process of learning to let go of something you perceive as your own and letting someone else use it for a while.

This can be a very dangerous thing, you know.   Sometimes you share a favorite toy and the person you let use it breaks it.  I have seen this happen, the sorrow and tears are very real.   The trauma…  hopefully not life-long.

Sharing can be as simple as letting another child use your toy, or it can be a political-social arrangement like communal living, or it can mean commingling your assets when you marry.

I know of more than one couple who have tried married life without commingling their assets.   There are a lot of studies on this subject.   It is illuminating to read the lawyer’s view on property sharing in a marriage, and then go to the sites run by relationship counsellors and read their take on the matter.   The New York Times put a very cogent article out about this subject not that long ago.

That goes right in line with an article I read several years ago written by a prominent relationship counsellor.  He said that in his experience, 100% of the marriages that he knows about that began with a prenup wound up in divorce.   His stated position was that if you wanted your relationship to work, you had to be all in.   You cannot be successful in a relationship if your bags are packed; a prenup is basically your bags packed and waiting by the door.

Jim and I have always shared.   As soon as we started living together, and before we even got married, we opened a joint bank account.   Both of us put all our money into that account.   When we got married, we also opened a joint savings account so that we could make far-reaching plans.  We have always filed our taxes jointly, even though towards the beginning we performed the exercise of comparing joint filing to filing separately to see which would be more beneficial in terms of refunds.   After a while, the effort of comparing just seemed to be too much, and we stopped.   It never made that big a difference, anyway.

Recently Jim and I were discussing this aspect of our relationship, and his comment was “I looked at it as a vote of confidence.”  We know about couples who not only did not commingle their assets, they actively worked to keep everything separately.  Some of them did this to the extent that their spouses did not even know how much their income was.   How is it possible to be so distrustful and secretive and call yourselves married?   I don’t know.   

But this distrust of people’s motives comes up in other aspects of life as well.   I have known groups of people who began their lives as idealistic hippies wanting to live together in peaceful communes.   They had much the same experience that the settlers at Plymouth Colony had with their communal living arrangement.   There were people who drew from the communal supplies but never contributed anything to the gardening, cooking, cleaning or building.  

The experience of living with such people have made the survivors very cynical.   I recall being instructed by one such person many years ago that they did not want to do favors for people.   Because what if they never did any for you?   How would that be fair?   This person could not understand how I might want to do her a favor just because I cared about her, that there was no quid pro quo implied by my actions.   

And even if their was a quid pro quo, would it be so terrible to be asked to help me out sometime in the future if I needed help?   If Jim died, would this person tell me to contact social services for help, to go to a professional counsellor for my grief rather than listen to me and hug me while I cried?   Is this person really a friend?   How do we define friends anyway?

I could go on and on, but I guess I’ll just say that when we decided to share our bank accounts, and when we decided to have one shared email account, that did not mean we were idiots.  It meant we loved and trusted each other, and have no reason to keep secrets.  

When we do favors for people, we do it because we love and care for them, not because we are going to present a “bill” in the future in the form of a demand for a favor in return.  We are not the Mafia.

People who don’t understand these things I just feel sorry for.

 

Bonfires

Flaming is a hostile and insulting interaction between Internet users, often involving the use of profanity.

Flaming usually occurs in the social context of an Internet forum, Internet Relay Chat (IRC), Usenet, by e-mail, game servers such as Xbox Live or PlayStation Network, and on video-sharing websites. It is frequently the result of the discussion of heated real-world issues such as politics, religion, and philosophy, or of issues that polarize sub-populations, but can also be provoked by seemingly trivial differences.

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Of course, the above definition does not point out that often the “seemingly trivial differences” are never trivial in the eyes of the flamer.

You might wonder why I would mention flaming, and the reason, of course, is that I have been flamed recently.    I think anyone who uses the internet either has been flamed or will be sometime in the future.   The person who flamed me has done so before, and even before the internet was prevalent or we had a vernacular name for this sort of personal and vindictive attack.

My policy previously has been informed by my dear spouse, who has advised me that this person gets furious, vents, fumes, sulks (sometimes for years) and then eventually lets go of the issue and everyone can move on.   The best thing to do, he has told me, is to do nothing and not worry about the situation, which will eventually resolve.

This has indeed been the case in the past times.   The problem is, when one has been viciously attacked, even when the attacker has let it all go, it is hard to forget the previous attacks.  One tends to be on guard, and careful.   The explosion is never pleasant.

I let my guard down recently, and the inevitable attack occurred, via an email that was a huge “FUCK YOU” written with a pen dipped in poison, expressing feelings engendered by misinterpretation. It was painted in terms that were insulting and mean, and contained assumptions, inaccuracies, slurs, innuendos, and character assassination.

I have refused to respond.   And I will not.   Nothing is accomplished by flaming except the wonderful power of being able to hurt people by doing so.

Of course I was hurt, deeply, but mostly I have recovered.   At present I have found deep compassion for this person.  While my compassion is there, I have learned my lesson, finally.   I have no need to ever see this person again, or to exchange any words, nor will I.  This means that I will not have to suffer another flaming episode, as I will know not to read any further correspondence from that quarter.

I read my Tarot cards about the situation, doing a four card layout I like, called “clarification of a situation or emotional condition.”  After you select the cards, they wind up in a square layout.  The card in the North is the actual theme which is really of concern at the moment.   The West card shows what you are receptive and open to.  The South card shows what you are expressing and showing of yourself outwardly.  East is the key; pointing a way in which to overcome the problem actively.

This was the layout I got:

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Honestly, I really was not expecting such a group of positive cards.  The theme card, 10 of Cups (Satiety), indicates that I should let things develop by themselves, and that everything comes to me at the right moment.   What I am open to is the 3 of Cups (Love), and indicates that I have something especially valuable to share.  I must be open for the people who can share these feelings.  They are a gift and I don’t need to look for them.  What I am expressing, Prince of Wands, indicates intensity, blossoming love, intuitive creativity, and moving out of the darkness into the light.   The key, the way to overcome the problem, is 9 of Wands (Strength).  I am advised to use the power gained through unifying conscious and unconscious energies, and demonstrate wholeness.

Nice to know that I am surrounded by love and am coming into my true power.  I certainly know I have something valuable to share!  I feel this truth more and more in my professional life.  Last week, two different people called me a miracle worker because of the effect my body work had on their health and pain levels.

A beloved, powerful, miracle worker:   I can live with that.

 

Another year has passed in the vineyard.   We are in the crush, which of course is not nearly as intense here as it is in Bordeaux or Napa County.   It hardly seems fair to compare our 64 vine vineyard to the thousands of acres that exist in the major wine producing areas of the world.

Still, we get an inkling of the size of the job by doing our little wine production here.   

We have already picked the Marechal foch and Baco noir rows.  This morning we picked the Chambourcin and the Concord grapes.   We have only two vines of Concords.  The last row left is the Cynthiana, also referred to as Norton.   They are not quite ready yet.

Below is the page that Jim has been keeping to record grape production in the vineyard.

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When we first started making wine, we meticulously kept the varieties separated, which became a huge pain in the neck when it was time to rack and press.   Rarely did we get amounts of juice and wine that were easily divisible by 5 gallons, which is the size of the carboys we age our wine in.   So we wound up with say, 10 gallons of Marechal foch, 5 gallons of Marechal foch/Baco noir mix, 5 gallons of Baco noir, 5 gallons of Baco noir/Chambourcin mix, etc.   It did not take us long to decide that this was not worth the trouble, so now we just mix all the grapes together and produce what we call “The House Blend”.   Of course it is different every year, because every year we get different quantities of each variety of grape. 

We are not trying to win any contests or sell our wine, so we don’t really care that it is not reproducible.  It winds up being quite drinkable, and that is really what matters to us.

Anyway, the numbers tell the tale every year.   The Chambourcin grapes are not worth the row space.   

It isn’t just the numbers, though.   The health of the vines is another issue. 

Compare these two shots:    Marechal foch row is first, Chambourcin row is second.

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Here’s a closer comparison.   This is one vine.   Marechal foch first, Chambourcin second.

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Now look at the individual bunches.   Again, Marechal foch first, Chambourcin second.   

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As you can see, the Chambourcin bunches are quite a bit longer, but not so full of grapes.  They also are quite irregular in terms of production. The one on the left in the shot has been culled all year because this variety is very susceptible to black rot.  The main way you control this fungus in the organic vineyard is to check the rows every few days and remove any grapes that are showing signs of infection.

This is tedious and time consuming, and results in bunches like you see above.

Another problem with the Chambourcin is those very long bunches.   The stems wind themselves around the paddles of the stemmer/crusher and jam it.  They also lay themselves out along the screen and prevent the grapes from dropping through into the hopper, which makes processing them messy and frustrating.

One last shot, showing the black rot fungus infecting the Chambourcin leaf.   The first image is a Marechal foch leaf.

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The upshot of all this is a decision to remove the Chambourcin vines and replace them with Marechal foch.   We have done a lot of studying on the subject and have decided that what we are going to do is cut off the vines we are removing, leaving the root stock behind.   Then we will graft Marechal foch canes to the root stock.   Since the roots are old and strong, we will get quick vine growth and be able to anticipate full production of Marechal foch in about two years, rather than the four years it would take if we started with new vines.   

This is according to the experts…. wish us luck

Meanwhile, we have a fermentation vat with about 37.5 gallons of must bubbling away in the dining room.  It smells like a winery  in here!

I have been meaning to get a post up for several weeks now, but events keep intervening.

The main event has been a series of trips to visit my Primary Care Physician for what amounts to upkeep and maintenance.   All the usual tests have been run, I’ve been poked and mashed and sampled.   

Since I am an official Cholesterol Unbeliever, I really don’t care what my numbers are.   Unfortunately, my PCP is not so enlightened.  I am not obese, I am not sedentary, I don’t smoke, I don’t drink to excess, I don’t eat a lot of processed foods and the only time I feel a lot of stress is when my doctor is telling me I’m going to have a stroke if I don’t take the liver killing drugs being flacked by the pharmaceutical industry.   

So I was not particularly amused by her telling me that “at least” I wasn’t diabetic.   My response was “Of course I am not diabetic.”   Oh, and my bone density is above normal.   What a  big surprise (not).   I need a different PCP, one who doesn’t treat me like a moron just because I bother to do some research.

What was accomplished was a diagnosis of a UTI, which I was pretty sure I had one of.  So I took the recommended antibiotic and promptly got a vaginal bacterial infection since the antibiotic killed all the good bacteria in there and allowed the other residents to take over.   When that is treated, I intend to utilize a bunch of yogurt to repopulate the area and hopefully all this BS will be over.

Meanwhile, my beautiful dog Ruby went out and stuck her head in a bunch of poison ivy, which I did not know until I petted her assiduously and then worked hard, got hot, swept the sweaty hair out of my eyes and then transferred urushiol to my pillow.   So I have a poison ivy outbreak that includes most of my forehead, the area to the left of my mouth, several patches in various and sundry spots including the back of my right shoulder and under my left breast.   

Ruby was not happy to have her whole body shampooed including her ears and face.   I have washed just about everything in my bed and most of my clothing and it seems that perhaps the outbreak has stopped spreading.   

My dear husband’s soothing comment was “It’s a good thing you aren’t trying to get a date for the prom right now.”

I refrained from murdering him.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we have put 30 pints of beef broth into the food room.   Since the freezers are almost full of meat, fruit, veggies and sundry other items amongst which are the hickory blanks from which chair spindles are carved, we decided to can the broth.   

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We’ve been picking vegetables on a daily basis.  This is a representative sampling.   

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Sometimes there are more beans, sometimes less cucumbers.   Sometimes we find a giant cucumber that was growing in the alternate universe and got heavy enough to drop back into this dimension.

At any rate, the other day we had 36 pints of tomato puree to can, and right now we have another 7 gallons of tomato simmering down on the stove, which will end up making another 30 pints of puree (approximately).  The food room is almost as full as our freezers.

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The labyrinth has been a joy to me in the midst of all this craziness and hard work.   I had a couple of people come to walk it a week ago.  What a nice interlude, to show them the labyrinth, walk it, talk to them, show them The Havens and receive all their admiration.   

It was looking quite spiffy for them, as the Naked Ladies I planted out there a couple of years ago have decided that conditions are good.

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My good blog friend Daisyfae has a daughter who lives in Turkey.   When she mentioned that this young lady was coming home for a visit, I made so bold as to ask if it was possible for her to bring me a rock from that country.  The answer was a resounding YES, and so this rather fine specimen of dolomitic limestone from the Bornova Flysch Zone, which is where Izmir lies geologically.

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It arrived accompanied by a box of fine dried Turkish figs, which are all gone now and were much enjoyed.

It is so nice to have international friends!

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We picked grapes too, the Marechal foch row was ready first

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It had a lot of really nice bunches on it.

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Then a few days ago the Baco noir grapes joined their friends in the fermentation vat.   It’s about time to pick the Chamborcin as well.

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I have to leave you here….   a client awaits my attentions.

 

Every once in a while the phrase “It’s like Grand Central Station around here” passes my lips.  There was a while, back when the economy crashed, when it was more like a crossroads in  the middle of nowhere, but those times have passed.

Last week really seemed to epitomize the sort of busy-ness that brings that  feeling to the fore.   As fearless readers of this blog are aware, we are in the midst of getting our place prepared for installation of a solar array.   There is a seemingly infinite regression in jobs like this.   The very first thing we had to do was move the big rocks out of the terraces on the root cellar.   That was so we could have the mountain range dirt pile placed on it.    Before the dirt could be moved, we had to buy and install landscape retaining bricks so the dirt would stay where we wanted it to.   And so forth and so on.

The next part of the job is to get Jim’s shop arranged in such a way that the inverters (and ultimately our back-up batteries) will have a safe, secure and weather proof spot to live.    Over the years, the barn has begun to severely show its age, and Jim’s shop was far from being any of those things.   In point of fact, last year the door of the shop devolved into such decrepitude that it could not even be closed, much less bear any resemblance to an actual door.  At any rate, we have people working to remedy the situation.

The shop has been radically changed.    This is how it looked before Jim started cleaning it out.

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Outside the barn, once the clearing up was begun, looked like this.  Notice the “door”.

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After all the gear and detritus was cleared out, the workers came it and removed the sheetrock and 1/2″ styrofoam board insulation from the outside walls and ceiling.   At that point it became obvious that the previous owners’ idea that cardboard and 1/2″ masonite would be adequate barriers to keep varmints out of the space between the floor of the barn loft and the ceiling of the shop area was ridiculous.   As our poor workmen began to tear down the interior, they were showered with sticks, nuts, sunflower seeds, straw, and sundry bird and rodent leavings.   The squirrels and starlings and rats and who knows what else had found that six inch space to be a delightful place to live.

At any rate, after deconstruction and cleaning, the space looks like this.

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Outside, the barn looks like this now.

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Right now we are waiting for the electrician to come and do his magic.   When he is done, there will be proper wiring in the shop, including 220V and several circuits WITH circuit breakers.   Additionally, the origin of the  electrical service to the barn out by the meter pole will also have a circuit breaker box and a couple of proper outlets so we can run our pool and concrete mixer in more safety.   Granted, that box “does” have fuses, but we would like something more updated.  After the electrician, the insulation contractor will do his thing.   Then the actual windows, doors and sheetrock can be installed.

So, in addition to having workers in and out of the yard and barn, we have electricians and insulation contractors knocking at the front door so they can make their measurements and estimates.   Of course, my regular procession of clients proceeds through as well.

Did I mention that we have a young man working for us two days a week?   We do.   He is the epitome of youthful strength and enthusiasm, and was instrumental in the moving of rocks listed above.   He has also helped us split wood, move dirt, build rock wall, and I don’t know what all else.   Observe the transformation in the back area of the property.

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To add to the list of jobs going on, our lovely tenant was taking his wife and family to Walmart when his spouse informed him that she had forgotten her list and they needed to go back and get it.   For some reason, this infuriated him; not that Walmart is that far from here (less than 2 miles), and not that they had gotten that far (to the end of the block).   He drove around the block and pulled into their carport, yelling and carrying on.    She hopped out of their van and ran into the house to get her list while he sat impatiently in the van with his foot on the brake, muttering imprecations.  She got back in the vehicle, at which point, still yelling at her, he stepped on the gas and promptly drove the van into the side of the house, since he had neglected to put the thing in park while he waited and had forgotten he was in “Drive” rather than “Reverse”.

So we have had the insurance people ringing the doorbell and the phone, as well as the contractor who repaired the damage:   one exterior door and 7 studs in the wall with all the associated  demolition to siding and interior that that entails.

Are you surprised to know that on Saturday morning, when things were all quiet, I was not all that polite to the hapless Jehovah’s Witness who rang my doorbell, disturbing my peace?

However, things are getting along.   The wood fired oven platform/barbecue pit area is now walled.   We finished that yesterday, except for the coping stones around the top.   I think it looks rather splendid, actually.   When there is actually an oven it will be really cool.

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For the first time in years, the path along the back of the house is a path, rather than a repository for rock designated for the wall.

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Lest you think all is perfection here, there is a project at the end of the path that has been put on indeterminate hold.   The sewer line at that corner was dug up and then promptly reburied when winter arrived.   There is a need for the entire line along the back of the house to be dug and replaced without the dip in the middle and with a proper drop so that the drains will remain clear.   I have no idea when that will get done.

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We have a couple of other projects going on.   The fence line marking the north border of the Stroll Garden will be changed.    We are rotating it 90 degrees to extend towards the vegetable garden.   That will make the pond area part of the Stroll Garden.  Tomorrow, our worker will dig the post holes for the new line, and the fence will be built shortly thereafter.

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Just to the north of that is the garden fence, with the raspberry bed in front of it.   In short order, I am going to dig out a path next to that raspberry bed, and then Jim is going to build a bird cage over the raspberry patch.   At the far end I will install a small blueberry patch.    The cage will also keep out the rabbits and the squirrels and the groundhogs, so I believe that we will be the benefactors of the berry bushes rather than all the wildlife.

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Another project that will be completed PDQ is the pouring of a concrete slab on which to keep the compost piles.   Here again you can see a transformation in the area.

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It was while I was trying to find a good picture of the mess sort of indicated in the first picture above that I discovered how very very good I am at framing photographs in such a way the big messy areas of the yard do not show up!

Meanwhile, the Petite Prairie is absolutely beautiful.   The culmination of the Stroll Garden proves how very worth while all the improvements around here really are.

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For those of you who have been following the saga of the mouse in the house, I can report that all the attempts Impy was making to catch that mouse that fell from the attic were unfruitful.   She, however, was.   And so now we have her and her litter of progeny disporting themselves about the house.   The young mice are about an inch long and very very cute.   Also, they are very very fast and very very light, so the cats are not catching them and neither are the mouse traps.

Now.   I have a few hours before my first client, so I intend to go work on the rain garden, which needs some severe curbing on its enthusiasm.

And rain.   We need rain.

Talk to you later.

 

Baby rabbits

I have never made any pretence of particularly loving rabbits.   They can be a nuisance, one which we went to quite a bit of trouble to fence out of the vegetable garden.  They serve their place in the world, though.   The fact that we have a healthy population of them at The Havens accounts for the presence of Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls.   I’m sure the black snakes are happy to find a tiny tender tidbit upon occasion.

I was out watering my potted plants this morning during the break I had between a couple of clients.   As is my custom, I was gazing about the place, admiring the view while I was waiting for the right amount of water to flow into the whiskey barrels full of beans and morning glories.  I am very pleased with them.

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The Petite Prairie is looking pretty good right now, despite the dry weather we have been having.

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The silky dogwood was looking a little peaked, so when I was done with the pots I made my way over there to give it a drink.    Of course, the hose had to kink during the trip across the lawn, so when I turned the spray nozzle on, nothing happened.   I laid it down and attended to the kink.    The water began to gush out of the nozzle, and very soon afterwards I heard a vociferous complaint from the bed just below the dogwood.    It was a very loud complaint indeed, and obviously was coming from an infant.

I investigated, and this is what I found to be the source of the racket.

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Honestly, this little baby bunny seems way too small to be able to make such a very loud noise.

After I photographed the Small One, I placed him carefully back in the nest with his siblings.    Of course, I had to document it all.

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My client had arrived, so I carefully put the grassy cover back over the babies, and went in to do her massage.    She admired the baby pictures.   Although we both  agreed about rabbits in general, we also both agreed that when they are so very small they are very cute.  No way could I exterminate them, even if they will probably be chewing through my iris stems when they get older.   I just found a Naked Lady stem that was full of buds that some rabbit decided looked edible.    I guess it wasn’t that edible, because it only chewed through the stem, it didn’t bother to actually eat the buds.   I have to admit I was perturbed.

So anyway, a little while ago, having finished the massage and my lunch, I thought I’d go back out there and see if I couldn’t get a better shot of them in their nest.

I was interested to discover that in the intervening three hours, Mama Rabbit had been around to tend to her youngsters.   The grass and twig cap on the nest had been seriously beefed up.   And if you take a close look at this next picture you will notice that there has been a further change.

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Apparently she had not quite finished furnishing the nest when I took the first picture.   Now there is a beautiful soft layer of rabbit fur encasing the babies.

I covered them up again.

They really are very cute.

We live in an older home, and are aware that it is certainly not mouse-proof.

Every once in a while a pioneering mouse finds its way inside.  Sometimes it goes back outside and invites its relatives to join it in colonizing the place.  This seems to have been the case this summer.

Jim opened up the liquor closet a few weeks ago and surprised a mouse  squatting in the middle of the shelf.   What it thought it was going to do with all that scotch, gin, bourbon and assorted liqueurs is beyond me.   Maybe there was going to be a big party upstairs.

That particular mouse did not get to attend the putative festivities, since Jim immediately set one of the mouse traps, baiting it with some fine cheddar cheese.   The mouse departed this mortal plane later that night.   It was evident that there was probably another mouse in the house though, as the remainder of the cheese was gone when we checked the trap in the morning.

We re-set the trap and waited.   Apparently eating the remainder of the cheese with its dead relative close by was creepy enough that the mouse that did the deed was not anxious to return to the scene.   At any rate, the cheese got stale and no further mice were caught.  Hopeful, we decided that maybe we were wrong, and there weren’t any more mice.  Or that they had left for more salubrious climates.

Alas, it was not so.  A few days later, Jim opened one of the cooking utensil drawers and surprised another mouse, who squatted amidst the barbecue skewers, sieves, and steamer baskets looking up at Jim in great consternation.   Jim was startled as well, and slammed  the drawer closed.  The mouse departed, posthaste.

Mallory and Impy were of the opinion that it had taken up residence under the stove and the adjacent cabinet, and kept that area of the house staked out on a regular basis.  The mouse was cagey.

The other night, though, it was thirsty.   It takes a pretty bold mouse to use the cat’s water dish as its source of water, but this mouse was desperate.   We had gone to bed and things were more or less quiet.  The mouse was creeping across the dining room on its way to procure a drink when Jim felt a similar need.  He turned on the light, catching the mouse in the dead middle of the room.    Quickly, it darted under the couch.   We rounded up the cats and set them on the scent, but once again the mouse had managed to escape.  It did not stop once it was safe under the couch, but continued out the other side.  Apparently it found the baseboard heating unit to be a convenient refuge.

Things didn’t progress much on the mouse front for the next few days.   We were not so sanguine as to think it had moved on, though.

Last night it was wandering around up in the attic.    Suddenly, it made a misstep, and fell down inside the framework that supports the whole house fan.   Under the fan is a set of aluminum louvers that is about 30″ square.  When you turn on the giant fan that is in the attic, the suction is such that it pulls the louvers open.   We had been awakened by the thump and subsequent scrambling about of the mouse, arose from our bed and were standing under the fan and pondering what to do.   Mallory was fascinated, as she is fascinated by all the odd things that her people choose to do.

Jim poked the switch, the fan began to turn, and the louvers opened.  The mouse fell through the fan opening and landed on the carpet about six inches in front of Mallory.

Since she is blind, it took her a few seconds to get the scent of mouse and realize what had happened.  The mouse was squatting on the carpet, stunned by its fall from the attic.   I think it hoped that if it just stayed very still maybe no one would notice its dark grey mouse form on the white carpet.

“Ha!”  Mallory finally said, once the musky mouse scent reached her. “It’s raining mice!  What will they think of next?”

Unfortunately, the mouse was faster than she was, and escaped into the back bedroom.   We apprised Impy of the situation.  Once again, a baseboard heater provided refuge.  For the rest of the night Impy had the mouse pinned down.  Every once in a while we would hear the cat crashing into the metal base board heater when the mouse stuck its head out from its refuge, hoping that the coast was clear.

It is unknown at this point whether Impy succeeded in catching the mouse.   Stay tuned for further developments….

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