Dog Logic And Firewood Levers: Part III

My dog convinced me that I should go ‘all in’ and cut wood from logs buried under the snow. Those logs were going to be my ‘Next Winter’ supply but it was time to use every option at my disposal. It was -16 in March and already I’d burned everything I’d intended for ‘This Winter’. If ‘This Winter’ had a car. I’d slash its tires.

Somewhere under all that snow was wood. None of it was visible. Also it was uncut, unsplit chunks. Floundering around out there with a chainsaw sounded like bad news on a cracker.

I tried to remember the precise arrangement of the jumble of buried chunks and logs. Normally this would be hopeless but my memory is unusual.

Most things normal people remember are gone from my head within minutes. I don’t remember my zip code. I rarely remember my birthday. When I remember my Anniversary it’s a victory. Names are the biggest black hole. If I met you and we shook hands and you introduced yourself I’ve already forgotten you. I’m sure you’re a fine person. You can tell me your name a second time but I’ll forget it again. If you do something memorable, like setting my pantleg on fire, I still won’t remember your name. I’ll just remember you as “the guy with matches”. This annoys some folks. I consider it simply the way the world works. The truth be told, the way the world works annoys some folks too.

On the other hand, I have an eerily accurate recall of geography. The location of Canadian fishing holes, notable greasy spoons in the Midwest, handy off road shortcuts in Utah, a scruffy restaurant that serves great steaks in Kansas, the back door to a neat tavern in Milwaukee, etc… If you want me to remember something, move it to an obscure location and leave it there. I’ll never forget.

I surveyed the drifted snow and tried to remember what it looked like last summer. I thought hard. As I slipped into revere the air shimmered.

“Isn’t this a clichéd approach to a flashback?” My dog asked.

“Complain again and I’ll adopt another cat.”

“What a brilliant method for presenting the idea of a flashback!” My dog enthused.

. . .

It was warm August evening. I had a jug of cold lemonade on the tractor’s seat. The woodsplitter and I had been tearing into wood like a tornado in a trailer park for hours. The sun slowly drifted toward the horizon…

“Beautiful flashback like that and I’m nowhere to be found?” The dog inquired.

“My dog was sniffing for squirrels amid some jackstrawed oak limbs…”

“That’s better.” The dog nodded.

I tried to remember more clearly. Yes, that’s it. I’d worked steadily all day. I rolled big cookies of wood from the Pony Trailer to the splitter. I tossed split pieces to the ATV trailer. Then I’d zip away to stack the wood. A brilliant system! Every move of weight was lateral rather than vertical. My limited machinery all fulfilling it’s best possible use. The pleasant efficiency of a job well done. I’d already stacked more than enough for winter. Now I was just racking up the score.

“Ha!” Barked the dog.

“Hey, I thought I had enough. It was a reasonable assumption.” I groused.

“Uh huh. Good luck with that Mr. Denial. Also everything worked perfectly? All day?” The dog knows when untruth is about. Dogs never lie. People lie even in their own memory.

The dog had a point. I dug deeper into my memory. A more realistic view came to mind. It was hotter than hell. The wood was heavy. My arms were sore and burning. The lemonade was actually just water and it was luke warm. I was in a hurry. I was running out of time…

. . .

I snapped back to the present. The scent of sawdust and grass was replaced by the clear relentless cold. Snow drifted over everything, including my memories.

“What?” The dog wanted to know.

“I didn’t get it all moved!” I stammered.

“So?”

“So I…” I remembered it now! “I didn’t have anyone to drive the ATV. It was getting dark. I had to chose; split wood or stack it but I couldn’t do both.”

“So?” The dog asked again.

“The point is that I was in a hurry so I stacked the wood right there!”

“That sucks.” My dog commiserated.

“Not it doesn’t. It means I’ve got a stack of split dried wood just waiting for me!”

The dog lost interest and wandered away.

“I’m getting that shit right now!” I shouted to nobody in particular.

I grabbed a shovel and eyed the snowfield. Perhaps 30 feet away was a dimly remembered woodpile. Today’s version of buried treasure. I attacked a shoulder high iced up snow pile; detritus from several months of snowplowing. I carved a stairway; step after step up and over the heap. More steps down the other side. On the other side I gingerly inched off my stairs; and sunk to my waist in snow. Dammit!

I was cold, stuck in the snow, and on a fools errand. I was in a Jack London story. You know what ties together all those guys who died in Jack London’s books? None were holding a long handled round pointed shovel. Losers!

I went all samurai with the shovel and chopped out big cubes of packed snow. Steady progress. My dog couldn’t follow me over my ‘stairway’ and was barking like Timmy just fell down a well.

Dead reckoning from memory I chopped more blocks. Where the hell was that pile? I probed the snow with the shovel’s handle. Soon I found it. Eureka! I’d nailed the location! I’ll take that kind of memory over a skull full of Internet passwords and phone numbers any day!

Time for a Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:

“Memory is for a purpose! If I meet you and immediately forget your name, it’s because I’m using that skull space for something more important. Possibly the location of firewood. Just accept it and we’ll both be happier.”

I levered over more snow blocks and uncovered the pile. The whole thing was an iced glob. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea? In frustration I whacked the pile with my shovel. The ice was surprisingly brittle. What looked like an impossible monolithic iced block shattered with one blow. I had a treasure trove of usable stove bolts!

Time for another Curmudgeonly Gem of Insight:

“Some problems require forethought and finesse. Others need to be walloped with a shovel. If you can’t handle ‘shovel problems’ you probably suck at ‘finesse problems’. If you’re in denial about this, you may very well be a ‘shovel problem’ yourself.”

I grabbed a stovebolt and hurled it over the ‘stairway’. It clattered on the frozen driveway. The dog stopped barking. She was either happy I wasn’t dead or decided barking at a wood chucking lunatic was unwise.

Grab, aim, toss. Lather rinse repeat. It took a while.

By sunset the living room was fully stocked with wood. The best part of engaging that last lever is the fact that you had one available.

Posted in Curmudgeonly Gems of Insight, It's just damned cold | 8 Comments

Dog Logic And Firewood Levers: Part II

I’d just used the last of my prepared firewood.

“Dog” says I, “we’re fucked.”

Dogs always listen and never lie. This is why dogs are superior to people… and cats. Cats (and most people) will tell me that I’m handsome and beautiful and spring will come tomorrow. A cat would say this while taking a dump in my shoe (and I’m not ruling out that behavior in a subset of humans either).

“Yep. Totally hosed.” The dog agreed, surveying the mostly empty woodshed.

“I’m out of options.” I whined.

“No more wood.” The dog seemed contented.

“Can’t get more either.”

“The squirrels must be cold.” The dog sniffed the ATV’s tire.

“What was that?” I asked.

“The place where squirrels live. Must be gone. You said so.” My dog likes chasing the critters attracted to my ‘firewood processing area’.

“No. There’s wood there but it’s under snow. I won’t retrieve that stuff unless I’m desperate.” I explained.

“So you’re not desperate but it’s cold and we’re going to freeze. Want to play fetch?”

“Well I guess I’m technically desperate. But there’s also my ‘lever theory’.” I mumbled.

“Leave something in reserve… for when you really need it.” The dog said it like a koan.

“Hey, you’ve been reading my blog?” I really have to stop talking to creatures.

“Of course, on the Internet nobody knows you’re a dog.”

I patted the dog while pondering my ‘lever theory’. Retrieving wood from the unprocessed, unplowed, log pile really would be deploying my very last lever. It was simply impossible to get into the forest to fell an actual tree. Buying firewood was inconceivable. Wasn’t it better to leave it in reserve? What if it got colder? What if winter lasted extra long? Shouldn’t I leave the log pile for something serious?

“It is -16 degrees.” The dog coaxed.

I sighed.

“It is March.” My dog can not only read a blog but understand calendars.

I sighed again.

“It is -16 in March and you’re standing next to a shoulder high pile of snow. From my point of view this is the firewood equivalent of the zombie apocalypse.”

I sighed a third time.

“If you do not retrieve the wood now, what further bad news would convince you to do it?”

My dog is smarter than me. I decided to deploy my ‘last lever’ firewood.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Dog Logic And Firewood Levers: Part I

Winter is trying to kill me. It might be trying to kill you too? That’s none of my business. This blog is all about me and narcissistic or not, I have no doubt that winter is definitely, unquestionably, and specifically kicking my ass.

I’m not surprised. I live in the north and plan accordingly. Three pieces of machinery to move snow. Three bottles of Ibuprofen for when the machinery croaks. Two is one and one is none… so I have three. My snowblower died around Christmas. Man down! It knew the risks. The remaining equipment soldiers on. So do I.

This year the snow has been deep but it’s the cold that landed the most punches. Holy leaping wombats has it been friggin cold! Relentless too. I can live with -30 degrees in week long bouts but months at a time is a game changer.

I have three redundant sources of heat. I use them in whatever proportion seems best. (Adaptive folk like options!) When it’s bitter cold, firewood is king. It’s cheap and nobody ever settled down to sip whiskey and read a book by the inviting glow of a furnace vent. When spring comes the equation changes. When it’s nippy but not arctic the furnace is superior to inconvenient wood heat. When I switch to the furnace and ignore my woodstove, robins aren’t far behind.

The relentless cold has done in my firewood supply. My goal is to keep the fire going until “the light at the end of the tunnel”. Normally I’d have already (or nearly) crossed the finish line. This year? Not so much.

I started winter with plenty of firewood for a normal winter. If you see “normal winter” tell him I miss him and wish his asshole cousin “second standard deviation winter” would bugger off. By mid-January it was clear that my woodpile was losing a war of attrition against “snowmageddon” / “polar vortex” / “winter storm ‘Putin’” or whatever buzzword the talking heads were repeating. There was no avoiding it. The woodpile was going to run out.

Doom!

I was pondering the grim situation while tossing chunks of wood into my ATV wagon. My dog was sniffing around the ragged edges of my once mighty and now depleted supply. After this week’s “wood run” my woodshed would be as empty as a politician’s promise.

Let me interrupt a minute and explain that firewood is a game of logistics. A household will burn tons of wood (literally… many… tons). There are a several steps between a standing tree and heat in the living room. Folks who warm their house with money might not understand the complexity involved. When you make your own heat, the entire industrial supply chain, which delivers strawberries on Christmas and will move an iDevice from China to your mailbox, must be replicated by you and you alone. It’s all on your shoulders Bubba!

It’s not all brawn. If I relied solely on studliness to fell, buck, cut, split, stack, haul, and move everything I’d have arms like Popeye right up until they buried my exhausted body in a plastic coffin because I’d burned the wood one. I’m just one man with limited time and equipment. Of necessity I treat processing wood like a chess game.

The opening gambit starts with trees in the forest. If you fell the trees without killing yourself the game pieces are now in play. I’d say that anybody can get this far but YouTube has videos of trees falling on trucks, porches, houses, and BBQ grills that prove me wrong.

The middle game is my “firewood processing area”. (Mrs Curmudgeon would look at it and call it “the mess my husband makes out of the backyard”.) It’s a delightful maze of logs, sizable tree limbs, big chunks of unsplit wood, stored chains in buckets, and a garbage can full of empty beer bottles. It’s arranged in a way that makes perfect sense to me and looks like chaos to everyone else.

The log pile sits around housing squirrels and gathering weeds most days. In summer I periodically dive in to cut and split as much as I can manage during the time I have available. The squirrels disapprove. When it snows, the whole area gets buried and forgotten.

The end game starts the second after the splitter (usually parked near the log pile) does its magic. It’s not enough to make a mighty pile of stove bolts, one must place them strategically or all is lost. I use the Pony trailer and my tractor (when it runs) to drive the fruits of my labor closer to the house. I build several piles (and fill a small shed). The piles look haphazard but they’re cunningly situated to be easily reachable after snowplows surround my house with packed ice. The end game is where you win or lose.

Thus, my home is the sun to a solar system of slowly orbiting Stonehenge-like arrangements that last from one to many years. You know you’re from the North when you think like that.

Checkmate is the cusp of spring. All winter long I make weekly “wood runs” to the handiest Stonehenge. If my Stonehenges outlast Al Gore’s winter, I win.

All of my Stonehenges, I reflected… were gone. Game over. I suck.

Posted in Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Finally a Cat Update

Mrs. Curmudgeon here. For those of you who have not been following the saga of The Cats at Curmudgeon Compound – catch the hell up! Cat Mafia, I Have Defeated the Cat Mafia, Chipmunk Wars 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, Chipmunk Wars: Useless Cat Update, Best Sales Pitch Ever, and Cat Update.

The two cute kittens from the Cat Mafia article are no longer around. Why? well, the first one, after leaving several accidents around the house, one of which I stepped in with my bare feet, decided she was ready to be evicted. She stared me straight in the eye while scratching in a freshly cleaned litterbox, hung her ass over the side, still staring me defiantly in the eye, and pissed directly on the floor. Hell No! Welcome to life as an outdoor cat. P.S. the current outdoor cats are going to see you as an interloper and beat your ass! You deserve it. Epitaph – disappeared two weeks after eviction. Packed up and left after outdoor cats explained territorial boundaries or eaten by coyotes – you decide.

Kitten number two was the useless indoor cat from the Chipmunk Wars. She stayed on until the vicious killer cat from hell came to Curmudgeon Compound as a result of the best sales pitch ever. Killer cat lived up to her reputation by trying to kill everything under 4 feet tall. We found mouse parts, bagel parts, a half-starved demoted auxiliary back-up cat, pieces of MRE, and a lot of garlic powder. She was a complete destructive force that also sat on your lap and purred, however, she was not content with a domestic domain. She ran out of things to kill too quickly, she got bored and started wreaking havoc – stealing food, breaking dishes, killing furniture, having outrageous beer parties with biker gangs whenever we weren’t at home. Something had to be done!

Meanwhile we had recently lost an outdoor cat, Short Ears (ears lost to frostbite) aka Pirate Cat (eye lost to coyote attack) aka Zombie Cat (eye creepily regenerated, but that’s another story) to ahh…natural causes. I am absolutely sure it had a heart attack and fell right in those tire tracks. The weather was getting warmer and Curmudgeon’s temper was getting shorter. Killer cat became an outdoor cat because of her bad girl attitude and the useless auxiliary back-up cat soon followed and immediately disappeared under suspicious circumstances. Killer cat showed great prowess for running the farm. Three steps out the door she took on our large grey tom that is built like a prize fighter, thumped him good, chased him up a tree and then took a nap under said tree trapping him there for a good long while. She had a penchant for chasing the chickens, but if she ever killed any she did not leave any evidence. One night when the kid was feeding the chickens he could not get killer cat to leave the coop. He decided to lock her in with the chickens for the night. I believe this offended the cat because in the morning she sauntered out of the chicken coop, gave a disdainful hate-filled stare to one and all, and left the premises never to be seen again. Apparently we were not worthy.

As winter started to approach this year and the mice started moving in from the fields we decided to get a new lap sitting cat. We found a kitten in the early fall that has worked out quite well. She defecates in the correct place, she sits on your lap and purrs when she feels like it, and she actually catches mice. In fact she must have sensed her job performance was under review because while I was writing this post she has brought me no less than eight mice, five dead and three mortally wounded. Good Kitty!

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Curmudgeon Haiku

Mrs. Curmudgeon here. A.C. is in an undisclosed location at present. No! He is NOT in jail – Jeez you guys! Where your minds automatically go… it’s training of some kind for the day job, I think. He doesn’t always give me all the details – need to know and all that – or I don’t listen, or both.

This morning he sent me these haikus that I just had to share. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a  husband who likes to communicate his morning displeasure in an arcane Japanese poetic form. Being adaptive he has changed the form to suit his purposes or he forgot the middle line is supposed to be 17 syllables – you pick.

Class started. Not me.
The coffee is consumed?!
I had none. Bull shit!

Twenty minutes later this one appeared:

Starbucks saved my ass.
Don’t ask the price. Just pay.
Everything is awesome
.

Yeah, I am pretty sure he stole the last line from The Lego Movie too, but let’s give him a break. It is hard to think uncaffeinated. It made me laugh out loud this morning and almost shoot my own coffee straight out my nose. Hey – since Curmudgeon is busy elsewhere I am going to give you that cat update – shhh! Our secret, right? But not now. My boss just went by again. Stay tuned :)

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The Foxinator: Part III

“So I shot it and I was so proud I took a thousand pictures.” She continued.

I agreed. “That’s totally fine. Good shot. Dead fox. Well done.” She deserved lots of pictures.

The Foxinator

The Foxinator

“But I’ve got to dispose this dead fox…” She began.

“Whoa there now. You don’t have a dead fox. You’ve got an asset!” Who lets a dead fox go to waste?

(Maybe I should have been born during the great depression?)

“What? You think I’m gonna’ make a coat? Maybe mittens? A hat? ” She had legitimate questions.

Actually I was drawing a blank. I, like most Americans, do not know how to transition from dead arrogant chicken eating furred cretin, to expensive fur coat that’ll piss off PETA. I assumed it was possible. If a dead tree is God’s firewood supply then surely a dead fox is… something…

Given our skill sets, how could this be an asset?

“Nail it to a fencepost as a warning to other foxes?” I suggested.

“It’s a woodland creature, not a pirate.” She countered.

Good point.

How does one make a jacket? Um… like you ‘stretch’. Stretch what? The err… ‘pelt’. Yeah that’s it you stretch the pelt and then you um…’tan’? Yeah, you ‘tan’ it. My mental gears were slowly starting to turn.

“Ohhh I’ve got it!” She exploded in excitement.

I had taken too long.

“I’m gonna’ ‘skin’ it!” She shouted.

Oh yeah. ‘Skin’.  That’s the word. You ‘skin’ the carcass to get a ‘pelt’ to ‘stretch’ and ‘tan’. Damn pioneer skills are such a pain in the ass.

“I’m going to skin the pelt off.” I could hear her smile through the phone. “…and throw the carcass to the chickens!”

Ohhh! Violent retribution followed by vindictive ironic symbolic torture. It was the most beautiful thought ever.

“Chickens will eat anything.” She was saying. “They’ll eat the fox and grow strong!”

Yes! I liked this plan.

This will train them to be super killer fox eating monster chickens!

There are times when I am in the presence of greatness. When a bartender makes a mixed drink with sixteen ingredients. When a redneck with a welder builds a truck more powerful than a smallish European nation. When a heavy metal band strikes a power chord that echoes to Ragnarök.

Our friend, having defeating a sworn enemy in battle, was proposing the unthinkable. She was the Oppenheimer of chicken owners.

Greatness! You can’t define it, but you know it when you see it.

“That’s beautiful!” I chuckled. “Can you do one thing now? Just for the heck of it can I hear a mad scientist laugh?”

“My chickens will rule the world! Mwah ha ha ha ha!” She hammed it up.

I paused.

“What do you think?” She asked?

“I think I need to put this on my blog.” I smiled.

“Of course you do.” She wasn’t surprised by this. “Everything cool on your blog comes from me.”

She had a point. Without her influence I sure as hell wouldn’t have conceived of My Little Pony conventions. Nor would I have encountered a cat which was clearly one of the horsemen of the apocalypse. (Two of my more popular stories.)

“I don’t use names on my blog.” I began.

“‘Cause you’re paranoid.” She interrupted.

“So I shall call you…” I paused. Then it hit me. The perfect name. “The FOXINATOR.”

“OK.” She chuckled.

“Skin the fox carefully.” My brain was still six steps behind the conversation. “I had a guy tan a deer hide a few years ago. He did a great job. I’ll text you his number. You should make a hat or something fun.”

“Awesome.” She enthused.

Awesome indeed.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

The Foxinator: Part II

Mrs. Curmudgeon handed me the phone. I recognized the voice. The woman on the line was indeed in an excellent mood. She was talking quickly. I interrupted mid sentence.

“Before you say anything further, I want to point out that the soil is frozen, the NSA bugs phones, and I don’t know who the hell you are.”

“…I was thinking about taxidermy, do you think that is over the top?”

Aack!

For about five seconds my brain shut down. Then my skull did a reboot. I was surely imagining something more interesting than reality.

Time to verify.

“Um… this thing which you shot. Has it been assigned a social security number?”

“Calm down you freak. It was a fox.”

“Ahhh… yeah, sure. I was expecting a fox. Don’t know what other thing I could possibly have imagined.”

“It was the one that’s been raiding my chickens all summer, remember?” Immediately she launched into the story. Once I knew it was a chicken raiding fox I was happy to listen.

“First ‘Toasty’, then ‘Fluffy’, then ‘Grandma’.”

Is it a bad sign that I recognized some of the names of her chickens? I don’t remember the names of people. Sometimes fine people. Upstanding, considerate, fully realized human beings with whom I’ve worked and socialized for years and I’ll forget their name. It’s not that I dislike them. I just…. well I’ve got no excuse.

On the other hand if that bastard killed Toasty then he got what he deserved!

“…so all of your ideas hadn’t worked. Hey are you listening?”

I hadn’t been listening. Time to tune in again.

“Of course I was listening. Did you say that evil creature killed Toasty?! I liked Toasty.”

“Yeah.”

I’d given some advice about what to do when a fox starts attacking the henhouse. Even offered to loan some leghold traps. Some of my advice might be a little out there but…

“…and what the hell were you thinking telling me to get a ‘claymore’. I had to look that up you know. First of all you can’t just go to the hardware store for a land mine.” She was continuing. I was out of beer.

“…and what kind of freak suggests military arms against a fox?”

“But it was after Toasty.” I rationalized. Besides, it was a joke. Mostly…

“So I’ve been gunning for the fox all this time. It’s hard.”

She had my sympathies. A lot of people don’t realize the advantage a predator has over a person. If a fox had to commute to work for a day job maybe things would be fairer.

“About an hour ago I got a good look at him. He had a chicken in his mouth, just trotting across the lawn. I was in the kitchen.”

Instantly I visualized the layout of her kitchen, the orientation of the windows, position of the chicken coop. Angles, vectors, sight lines… It’s uncanny. I can’t remember my zip code but I recall the angle between her kitchen and the old birch tree near her chicken coop. The mind is a wondrous thing…

“…are you listening?” She paused.

I hadn’t been listening.

“Of course I’m listening. It was near the birch tree?”

“Exactly!” She continued “so I dropped my cereal, grabbed the rifle, spilled .22 ammo everywhere, went running out the door, lost a slipper…”

Oh man! What a story. I’ve been there. Shit always goes down wrong. I never get out the door in time for a clean shot. She’d been lucky.

“I didn’t get out of the door in time for a clean shot.” She continued.

Damn it! I could see the whole story in my mind. I felt a strange urge to bolt for the door and check my chicken coop.

“So I went tearing after it.” She was talking excitedly again.

“Into the woods? Without a slipper?” I was talking excitedly too.

“Yeah! I’d had it with that little bugger.”

Ohhh… violent retribution! My favorite! “So you tracked it?” I had to know.

“No, it just trotted like 50 feet out of view. Then it sat there. Like it didn’t have a care in the world.”

Why that arrogant little chicken slaying cretin!

“So I popped my head over the rise and he wasn’t running. I took careful aim.”

I held the phone closer. Stopped breathing. I’m pretty sure I even stopped thinking about sex and bacon. I was that focused!

“Got him right between the eyes!”

Hooray! Yes! I pumped my fist in the air and did a Curmudgeonly end zone dance.

“But now I’ve got to figure out what to do with it.” She continued…

Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments