Hell of a Guy
We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time. - Vince Lombardi

Thursday, July 26, 2012

My World…


My dad’s words are ringing in my ears.  I heard Dad say many times how in retirement he had so much to do he didn’t know how he ever found time to go to work.  I thought he was nuts.  The first couple of months into mine I thought I would go crazy with boredom: my, how things change.  I think retirement may kill me.

Using yesterday as an example of my world these days, I was super busy.  I awoke yesterday at 3:55 and refused to get out of bed until 5, so I laid there making a half-hearted attempt to go back to sleep as my rapidly atrophying medulla oblongata made a list of projects that included working in my garden to harvest some onions and garlic and prepare a plot for some collard greens and kale.  Then I drug out The Tank (my zero-turn mower) and cut the trails through the fields of the farm.  We have company coming the weekend and our company loves to drive the Wrangler we own over them. 

I then began to get the front porch ready for our guests.  Farm living is nice, but there are things about living on one city folk don’t have to deal with – one being dust.  This gravel driveway, especially in dry period, throws up a lot of dust when driven over, and that dust, for some reason, loves to adhere to the siding on the front porch.  The rest of the house gets hit with rain and most of the dust washes off, but not the porch, so I spent about two hours washing down the walls by hand.  I couldn’t use a hose because the water would seep through the floor boards into the basement.  It made my back ache and my muscles sore.

My lunch break lasted about fifteen minutes.  While in the house I baked two loaves of zucchini bread – we have about 40 pounds of zucchini in the fridges (one up, two down).  I have used it every way I can think of and still have zillions of them leftover.  There are now ten loaves in the freezer.  They kind of look like adobe bricks.  Now if I could only think of a use for them?  Hmmm! 

I moved next to cleaning up some fallen branches from the violent storm we had two weeks ago, it made my back ache even more.  The branches are everywhere.  I could spend a whole day just on them…and probably will later.  There is still a large tree on the ground, as well.  I am not sure when I will get it all cleaned up, or, because it is so big at the trunk, if I can.  I loaded the branches and leaf clutter onto and into my Jeep and made a couple of trips dumping it up in the woods near the house.

When I got all these chores done I had to vacuum Wrangler, and I mean vacuum.  It took me about 30 minutes to get leaves, tree bark and twigs out of it.  All that crap filled up the reservoir of the vac, so I got to empty it, and with that I ended my day.

I caught a glimpse of my reflection in a window.  It was ugly.  Sweaty and covered in dust and dirt from head to toe.  I wore a hat to keep the sun from cooking my ever growing forehead that now begins just above my eyebrows and extends over the crown of my head and down the backside of it.  My hair, or what is left it, made me looked more deranged than I usually appear.  I made my way to the shower in the basement and it felt so good, kind of rejuvenating.

This house and this property are a lot of work.  The Nancy asked me last night, as I occasionally grunted and sighed as I moved my aching body to find a comfortable position, if I was ready to move to a smaller house.  Well, I cannot say I am ready now, but a few more days like yesterday, and it appears today’s to-do list is just as long, I may begin to think about it.  For now I am quite satisfied to see how much I can abuse this aging body.

And that is all I have to say about that… 

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bye, Bye Ireland…


The Big Bird has taken flight and is carrying The Nancy and me home from our Ireland vacation..  It seems a bit humorous to me to say home in the “US,” but that is what our Irish friends say we are doing.  This week has gone by rather quickly, in fact it now seems to have flown by, but the one fact that is certain is we have enjoyed ourselves beyond measure and most surely beyond our highest expectations.

We came to Ireland as a couple of tourists wanting to experience this island country.  We had looked at a number of travel guides, websites and read much about this country and looked at hundreds of photographs in the guides that simply made Ireland look so inviting.  The country did not disappoint us, but more than seeing and enjoying the unparalleled beauty of Ireland, it was the people – the Irish people and those on the tour bus we got to know and fall in love with: the people made this trip all the better.

In our group there were but eighteen and a true Irish character of a tour guide. The more typical group, we were told, has as many as forty-eight, making this one ideal and more intimate for us.  We were a diverse group – a lady from Taiwan, one from California, couples from New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, and few singles, two from Canada.  These beautiful people became our Irish family rather quickly as we bonded over a Guinness or two. It shocks me sometimes how quickly The Nancy and I can fall in love with people, and it happened with this group.  Perhaps it was just a case of propinquity as we were almost together 100% of our waking hours.  I believe, as a small group we were even able to draw our tour director into our love circle. It was hard saying goodbye.

And then there were the natives.  The Irish suck you in with their love of life and an open, utterly sincere admiration of the American tourist.  I don’t recall any Irish native being anything but kind and helpful.  The Nancy and I bellied up to the bar in a couple of pubs (the reason I so wanted to come to Ireland) and were thoroughly entertained by the humorous stories and jokes of the guys we met.  We met one named Eddie in Kilkenny at Kytler’s Tavern, and so enjoyed his jokes and stories The Nancy wrote him a personal note so he could prove to his wife that people really enjoyed his sense of humor.  She apparently didn’t believe he had one.

We stayed in four different hotels in four different cities.  We were feed, we were entertained.  We stretched our days as much as we could and we saw things (Sheep dogs in action was my favorite) I may never experience again.  And then there was the Irish countryside that was lush, bucolic, vividly green in some areas and starkly vacant in others.  We saw 800’ cliffs, vast valleys, granite mountains, ancient ruins and more sheep than I could have ever counted without falling asleep.  We even viewed the Atlantic Ocean from a new angle, that being looking westerly.

I highly recommend an Irish vacation for everyone.  I do not recommend attempting to drive Irish roads.  They are narrow, very narrow, and believe me it is rather disconcerting to see vehicles approaching you at high speed on a narrow road on the opposite side of where you are used to seeing them.  Scary!

Before I end this diatribe I must clear up a couple of misconceptions.  The first is that the Irish might be offended if you offer them tips.  In the words of our Irish tour manager, Noel Harte, that is “bullshit.”  No one gave me any of the money I left on the tables and bars back, and we left every server with a smile on their beautiful Irish faces.

The other thing we have all heard about the Irish is they drink “warm beer.”  Using Noel Harte’s expression once again, this, too, is utter bullshit.  We visited the Guinness Brewery and had a pint there with three thousand – at least it seemed like that many – thirsty tourists and locals.  The Guinness there was served chilled and it was sooo good – smooth, creamy and reported to have just 80 calories a pint.  Let’s see, one week, one hundred pints – that is only 8000 calories.  No problem.  Every other pint we had in Ireland was chilled and just as good as the first, and, yes, so much better than the Guinness we get in the US.

Our journey is about over but will never be forgotten.  All I can say now is “Éirinn go brách.”
Agus is é sin go léir caithfidh mé a rá faoi sin (And that is all I have to say about that)…

Sunday, July 01, 2012

The Storm…


Actually written Saturday morning but our internet was out all day and I could not access this site…enjoy.

As if The Nancy and I don’t have enough to this next week just to ready ourselves for our Ireland vacation, the storm hit.  Last night it hit hard, and it was a frog choker.  In the seven years we have lived in this house we have never heard wind and rain hit the western side of our house as we did last night.  It was scary.

The weather service said this area was under a tornado warning, and if the color of the sky was any indication of that possibility we were ready and more than willing to scramble to the basement in a hurry.  It was very ugly…very, very ugly.  And just about the time lightning lit up that ugly sky we caught a glimpse of it, and then the heavens opened up and the wind and rain drove us back into the house in about two seconds.  We turned on the TV and tuned it to the Weather Channel, and just about at that time the lights began to flicker and shortly thereafter our power went out.  The rain lasted for about an hour and a half, and as it was tapering off, having sat in the dark for all that time, we decided the best thing to do was to go to bed. 

I awoke this morning at 5:30.  I took a look outside and immediately saw a flower box blown over and emptied its flowering contents on the walkway, and I thought if this is all we have in the way of damage we then made out like bandits.  Not so fast, Zoo Breath; I did not look far enough.

Across from our house is a field I mow and take care of, and at the bottom is a row of walnut trees the biggest of which was lying over on its side.  Bummer!  Bad news: the tree is down.  Good news: I have a good and adequate supply of firewood forever and ever, Amen!


I grabbed my car keys to check out our half-mile long, tree-lined driveway, only to find a huge tree leaning very low across it about halfway to the road with no way to get around it.  Thankfully, I own a chain saw.  Unthankfully, tree removal is a hard, nasty job.  It took me about an hour to cut a makeshift tunnel under the tree so at least we can get in and out until we get back from Ireland so I can do a proper cleanup.

Considering all of these events I could not help but wonder what it might be like to live in a nice condo complex where someone else cleans up blown down trees and mows the grass and all does all other kinds of yard work.  I even wondered what it might be like to have a smaller house on a small lot to mow with no trees.  Then reality set in…I own an old house on four acres a half mile off a paved road seven miles outside of Beautiful Downtown Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, and today I have a huge mess to clean up, but minor compared to some of the devastation I have seen on the news today. 

I guess I am pretty damn lucky.

And that is all I have to say about that…