And Now, Comes the Giant

I don’t usually rant, but here comes one.

I live in a small border town with a population of about 1300, a wonderful community filled with good, tough, honest people. We choose to live here even though we frequently lose power, even though the roads are treacherous in the winter, even though we have to commute hours to our jobs, because we love this land.

Kinder Morgan is about to stomp all over us.

This commercial natural gas pipeline will hurt me personally, but it won’t kill me. We have savings, we can walk away, and we probably will. Others aren’t so lucky. They’re seeing their financial security ripped from beneath them.

We stand to lose between $50,000 and $80,000 in property value – maybe more, maybe less, but substantial. Kinder Morgan likes to show us property value studies done in Texas, where the fossil fuel industry is much more accepted, because hey – it puts food on the table.

Here, not so much. Most people prefer not to live on a pipeline unless they can get the property at a substantial discount. Most people move to New Hampshire because we love nature and peace and quiet and an improved quality of life. Cleaner air. An ecology less ruined by industry.

So, this is for all of you in New Hampshire who think this pipeline is a good thing. You aren’t the ones having your community torn up. You aren’t the ones losing your open spaces to a 100-acre (or larger) parcel, taken by eminent domain at a price far below fair market value, housing an 80,000 HP compressor station. You aren’t the ones who will have to live with the pollution this creates – 24/7 light, noise, and chemical. You aren’t the ones who will have to deal with the health issues this causes. You aren’t the ones who will see your lifetime investment and hope for retirement devalued.

If you think this is such a good thing, then how ’bout you set up a fund to compensate us for our losses? How ’bout you do your share? Or do you think it is just and fair that we bear the entire burden so you can have access to what you believe will be cheaper electricity?

You do realize that most of this natural gas is for export, and your electric company will be paying world market prices, right? You do realize that exporting our limited fossil fuels will result in a future shortfall, weakening our nation by increasing its reliance on foreign sources? You do realize that there are two other proposals on the table that would meet New England’s energy needs, using existing right-of-ways and upgrading existing pipelines?

You do realize that the purpose of this pipeline is to line Kinder Morgan’s pockets?

This is the picture of the compressor station Kinder Morgan brings to its public meet & greets, where they pat our heads and sell us their version of what to expect. This station is located on 11.6 acres in Pelham and houses one 6,130 HP compressor. It’s not much bigger than cousin Billy Bob’s luxury outhouse.

compressor station

So, I’m supposed to look at this station and feel all warm and fuzzy? Even though ours will be 80,000 HP and require 100 acres? Even though it will be one of the largest in the nation?

Here’s a link to audio and video of a 16,000 HP compressor station located in Eastern Ohio. It’s still nowhere near the 80,000 HP we’ll be lucky enough to have forced upon us. I think anyone of average intelligence can appreciate the difference.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJXj9Y-XinQ

Apple, meet orange. If Kinder Morgan is so convinced that our way of life will remain unchanged, (You’ll hardly know we’re here!) then why the obfuscation? Why do they refuse to hold an informational meeting in my town?

The answer is simple: because we are the town most adversely affected, and they know that no amount of sugar coating will make their lies easier to swallow.

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Adventures in Home Repair, Part 1

It started in July.

Normally, I’m a massage therapist by day and a writer by night. But for the last several months, I’ve been a carpenter’s assistant by day, massage therapist nights and weekends, and a writer hardly at all.

It’s time to rectify this situation, so everyone’s invited to follow me through this adventure in home repair. It’s fun! Well, it’s fun for me, anyway, but we all know I’m kinda weird.

The house hadn’t been painted in a while, so there was peeling and flaking, and there were wasp nests and hornet nests. We didn’t own an extension ladder, and the power washer was leaking. So, after a bit of discussion, Jim and I decided that we must buy ourselves a good ladder and a decent power washer, and I’d get off my butt and paint the house in my copious free time.

Only problem—I’m scared shitless of hornets, and I’m deathly afraid of heights.

I was willing to suck it up, though, face my fears, risk being attacked by hornets and hurling myself backwards off the ladder. Besides, I could start low and work my way up, right?

It wasn’t long before most of the house looked like this. Low parts painted, high parts, not so much. I loved the color, and I was feeling pretty darn pleased with myself. Life was good.

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Then my trusty power washer blew through the corner of the house.

SAM_1877Seems there’s been a problem with the downspout, and, well, the house suffered a bit of rot. Okay—quite a bit of rot. This is the corner of the main house where it meets the sun room addition.

Isn’t the corner supposed to hold the house up?

Fortunately, I know a guy who can fix just about anything. He wasn’t available until fall but, by Mid-September, he introduced me to the fine art of demolition. 😀

SAM_1909I’ll let you in on a secret. I like tearing things apart. No one was as surprised to find this out as I was.

Seems the sill on that sun room had also rotted. Oh joy! More demolition!

SAM_1908We jacked that puppy up and replaced it, easy peasy. Since we couldn’t very well assume the rest of the house was okay, we decided to strip all the siding and inspect the plywood and the frame and make sure we had a nice, sound structure.SAM_1915 SAM_1949Like any good repair project, this one snowballed. The genius who installed the storm windows added trim, but failed to extend the flashing over the trim. The result was leaking windows and rot beneath them. So . . . in addition to repairing the frame, we decided to replace the windows.

SAM_1972Are we having fun yet?

And so began our adventures in home repair. It’s mid-December now, and we’re still at it. All will be well. Eventually. The house is already stronger than it was when it was first built, almost certainly by a well-meaning but none-too-bright uncle with no clue and too much beer.

Stay tuned. 🙂

 

Winning Ticket!

I hear Jim cheering from the sun room. Then he says, “Remember when I had that winning ticket earlier this week?”

I don’t, but I say, “Yes!” anyway.

“I won $2, so I kept $1 and used the other for a new ticket. And I just won another $2!”

“Yay!” (Wives should be supportive.)

“And if I keep this up, I can make $2 per week!”

“Awesome,” I tell him. “Just like being an author.”

He’s silent for maybe 3 seconds. But now laughter has him darn near collapsed on the floor. I think I should go and get his inhaler.

Gracie Won!

Yesterday was one of those days—the sort of day in which I realize the book I’m working on will never be everything I once hoped it would be. It was the sort of day when sometimes I wonder if my writing time might be better spent cleaning the bedrooms, or painting the living room, or weeding and mulching the gardens before winter.

I wasn’t thinking of giving up writing—I don’t think that’s possible. But I thought it might be a good idea to dial it back a bit, think of it as a hobby rather than as a future career. Maybe I should back off and allow more time for all the things I’ve been ignoring.

And then, this happened. 2014-ContestWINNER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saving Gracie won the 2014 Mystery/Thriller Award from The Kindle Book Review!

The timing of this contest win couldn’t have been more perfect. It delivered a much-needed boost and a swift kick, just when I needed it most. So I’ll be leaving those bedrooms dirty and the gardens filled with weeds, and I’ll get back to work on my new book, The Girl with Green Hair, and it will be the best darn thing I’ve ever written.

So there. 😀

Thank you, thank you, thank you to The Kindle Book Review and Digital Book Today!

Danger! Or Not.

Earlier today, I walk out into the yard, and I hear this hissing sound. Immediately, my mind jumps back to the day the power line rubbed itself raw on the branch of a cherry tree, and there was arcing and smoldering and lots of hissing and crackling and DANGER, WILL ROBINSON!

We had the Fire Chief and the power company and neighbors with marshmallows and graham crackers and chocolate bars. Not a whole lot happens here in Mason, and this is about as good as it gets. I probably ought to get hot dogs out of the freezer, but first I have to confirm that we do, in fact, have a repeat of the burning tree.

So, here I am, in a low stance (like that’s gonna save me), creeping toward the hissing sound, trying to get a visual on what’s causing it, sure I’ll be fried by electricity any. moment. now. And I realize the sound is coming from the big lilac bush.

The lilac bush?

So I creep closer and closer, straining my eyes, ready to run, until I see – what the heck? – water running down the leaves from about halfway up the bush, dripping to the ground. I look above the bush, fully expecting to see Joe Btfsplk’s perpetual rain cloud. But the sun’s out.

For a moment, I wonder if the water line to the barn could have blown, but no – that’s nowhere near the lilac bush.

That’s when the obvious dawns. Someone who shall remain nameless (Jim) left the water on when he cleaned the gutters yesterday. The hose, buried in the un-mown lawn, finally sprung a leak, and the leak is right up against the trunk of the lilac, so I can’t see the water going up – just coming down.

The truly amazing part of this – the well did not run dry. Life is good.

Reclaiming the Tractor

As many people know, I’ve been nigh useless with Lyme disease for many years. As a result, my yard and the exterior of my house have gone to ruin. Seriously. The weeds are higher than the corn down the road apiece, and the bittersweet, normally a hundred yards from the house, has choked two fruit trees and a magnolia and is now making a bid for the sun room.

Now that I’m better, I’ve been reclaiming my yard and my house. Today (drum roll) I reclaim my tractor.

SAM_1652Bear in mind, this orange monster was old and rusty when we bought it twelve years ago. It plows the driveway all winter and moves stumps in the summer, and somehow it manages to thrive on neglect. That is, until a few months ago when it started leaking hydraulic fluid from the hoses, from the tank, and from one of the pistons. I did what any clueless person would do; I parked it and ignored it and used the wheelbarrow in its place, hoping time might heal all wounds.

It didn’t.

Finally, with the help of friends, I located a tractor repairman. 😀 The tractor was scheduled for a Monday morning pickup, and I’d promised to charge the battery and start it up and look for wasp and hornet nests.

At 2 am, I remembered my promise.

I ran outside in the dark in my underwear and yanked up the hood, inadvertently locating one small white-faced hornet nest.

SAM_1657A can of hornet spray later, the white faces were no more, and I was able to hook up the charger. Then I looked all over that tractor with an admittedly dim flashlight and eyes that were largely incapable of focusing, and I declared it hornet free.

Awesome!

This morning, I looked again for nests. Then I started the tractor up, found I had enough hydraulic fluid to lift the bucket (yay!), and I drove it a short distance so it wouldn’t look quite so pathetic sitting amongst the weeds.

Still no hornets. I danced a jig.

Then, concerned that the tractor might not start without a charger, and because I can never leave well enough alone, I hopped up on the seat and headed down the driveway. I figured I ought to park the tractor next to the barn, near the road and close to electricity so we could jumpstart it if necessary.

So far, so good. I put the tractor in first gear and drove slowly down the driveway, watching dragonflies and hummingbirds buzzing past, and feeling like a farm girl. It was a perfect morning with bright sunshine and cornflower blue sky, mare’s tails, birds singing. I almost didn’t notice the hornets massing along the tractor’s arm about a foot from my left hand.

Because I am so very brave where stinging insects are concerned, and because I can’t be bothered with seat belts, I leaped right out of my seat and over the right wheel, leaving the tractor rolling down the driveway alone. About the moment I hit the pavement, I realized the flaw in my plan. An unmanned tractor can do a lot of damage in a hurry.

On the other hand, the last time I was stung was three years ago, on my pinkie toe. I swelled all the way to my hip. I really didn’t want to find out what might happen if I were to be stung somewhere more important.

So I ran alongside the tractor, trying to reach the shut-off lever while flinging my hands at every dragonfly and every hummingbird and every mosquito. I’m just glad I didn’t knock some poor hummer right out of the sky what with all the flailing and screeching and general ninny-ass-ed-ness.

Thankfully, I grabbed the lever before anything got run over, which would have been a relief to my neighbors, had they suspected they were in my path. Then I ran like heck back to the house, rummaged under the sink for the new can of hornet spray guaranteed to shoot twenty-seven feet and, armed and dangerous, I sprinted back.

No hornets.

Once again, I crawled all around that tractor. Same as last time, I found no nests. There was no way I was starting up the orange monster again without knowing where those hornets came from.

They were not in my head. I was sure of this. Even sleep-deprived, I don’t hallucinate hornets, not anymore, not since I got the Lyme treated and under control. So there.

That’s when I noticed the tractor’s arms are hollow.

SAM_1653I sprayed into the left one.

Instantly wasps came boiling out. A few flew away, but most died in a matter of seconds. The right tractor arm had a similar opening, so I sprayed that one, too, and sure enough, more wasps came bubbling out.

I found a few more little holes farther down the arms and sprayed those as well.

SAM_1655More wasps. Then I ran back to the house and got ant spray – the kind that mists rather than shoots. I sprayed a fine ant-killing drizzle all over the tractor, under the hood, and all through the undercarriage.

Then I held my breath, climbed up onto the seat, and started that sucker up. I let it idle in neutral while I flung myself to the ground, dashed fifty yards, and watched from a safe distance.

No hornets.

Being a self-proclaimed chicken, I ran back to the house one more time and grabbed Benadryl and water. I wasn’t taking chances. Then, more scared than I care to admit, I climbed aboard, two pink pills clutched in my fist, and I drove to the barn. Got buzzed by a few yellow jackets, but they tend to nest below ground and not in tractors, so they were likely just out foraging. I parked the orange monster, shut it off, climbed down with surprising decorum, and ran away.

About five minutes ago, the tractor left on a flatbed trailer, and it appeared to be hornet free. Fingers crossed it returns that way.

Hornets!

My homemade hummingbird feeders have one drawback: The straws I used were big enough to allow hornets to walk right through them. So today, I added bee guards.

SAM_1554

 

I used a little piece of tulle cloth, a felt target, and a smaller straw (one small enough to fit inside the original straw).

 

 

 

SAM_1560

 

I couldn’t make my camera focus on this, but it’s just tulle wrapped around the end of the straw.

 

 

SAM_1565

 

Add the target.

 

 

 

SAM_1566

 

 

 

Glue in place.

 

SAM_1569

 

 

Trim the tulle. Trim off excess straw, and add glue to the back.

 

SAM_1570

 

 

 

 

Before the glue sets, push the straw into the larger straw.SAM_1571

 

 

 

And voila! A bee guard. 😀

 

 

Now your hummingbirds are less likely to have to deal with this. Hummingbird vs Hornet