It's an arch in the stupa style, but when I was choosing among various design drawings, I judged by holding them up under my nose to see which was the most badass.

The creator of our awesome deck moustache

It started with the idea that we were going to sell our house. We put together a formidable list of things we had to do in order to get the house sold – things like fixing the tiling by the fireplace, putting cabinet doors in the kitchen where we took out the microwave, and especially clearing the brush coming up the driveway. We had a jungle of blackberries that obscured the view of the creek and made getting around the side of the house impossible, and the trees were overgrown and threatening to fall over.

We had a guy come in and clear the brush. He did a spectacular job, and although we thought he was done, he didn’t. He decided that we needed a nice path leading from the stairs that came off the deck around to the front of the house. I had thought the same thing, but our ideas were a little different. I thought I’d put a nice border of river rock and pour some gravel. He thought he would put in 2-foot high walls, clad them in river rock, and then lay flagstone in the path. He won.

We have a nice, clear view, we have a lovely path leading from the back to the front of the house…and now I wanted an archway that would frame the view from the deck! This is Big Rob, and although the arch isn’t quite finished, you can see how lovely it’s going to be, framing our view of the creek. When the constellation Sam Elliott comes out, I want this to be his moustache, framed against the night sky. It’ll be spectacular.

Stomach Upset

This is my dog Esme. She’s one of two rat terriers at our house, the other one being Dagmar. Esme is the one that everyone seems to respond to. She’s delicate-boned, beautifully colored, and mostly bald. Sadly, Esme has color dilution alopecia. It’s a hereditary condition that means that she has no hair and a host of other health problems.

The thing I want you to pay attention to is not the sight of my dog eating a bully stick. It’s the sound of my dog’s nonstop gutteral growl as she macks down on the thing. Picture this (or just watch the video): a dog only slightly larger than a chihuahua, a dog who is pink over most of her body, gnawing on a hank of skin and growling like an upset stomach.

Seriously, if it weren’t so weird, I might be a little embarrassed by it.

The days are getting colder. Cold enough that the Pirate turned on the heat. Cold enough that we realized with horror that the entire summer is gone and we’d forgotten to order firewood early enough to get a really good price for it. (Darn!) Cold enough that I’ve gotten my bin of gloves and hats out from under the bed and moved it to a shelf by the bedroom door where they’re reachable on my way out.

One of the main challenges of Day Without Electricity is keeping warm when the weather turns chilly. It’s a constant issue, but one we feel we’re doing okay with. Really, it comes down to stuffing the woodstove full of burning wood, and wearing enough socks. So, you can imagine our dismay when we realized that there was a creature in the chimney.

Our beloved wood stove, and its surrounding mess

How We Keep Warm

When there are no other buzzing, humming, beeping noises to distract you from the blissful silence of the woods, the sound of a something banging against the metal stovepipe are not just ominous – they’re really loud. All night, the clicking sound of sharp little claws on metal. The rasp of fur against metal. The dull, hollow thump of a nose looking for a way out. And, of course, the near-rabid barking of the little doggies, who wanted nothing better than to rocket themselves up that chimney and rid us of whatever chimney monsters we might have. And they could do it, too, I have no doubt, if only the chimney were conveniently horizontal. But that’s the trick, isn’t it? Sadly for both us and the creature, the chimney is mostly vertical, narrow, and only an exit if you’re made of smoke.

Of course, the first thing I did was to call the company that normally does our chimney cleaning. They always send an enterprising, engaging and completely filthy man out to our place when the chimney gets its regular spring clean, and we know from experience that he’s not the type of guy to let a dead creature in the chimney phase him in the least. I figured that he could open the chimney and let the creature out, the doggies could dispatch it, and we’d be home free.

Except that they didn’t get back to me. By mid-afternoon, I couldn’t take it anymore. I was thinking to myself that if they didn’t hurry, we wouldn’t have to worry about getting a live creature out of the chimney. By mid-afternoon, the Pirate and I decided to take matters into our own hands and take apart the chimney ourselves. Like a lot of homeowners, I was a little freaked out about taking apart a thing upon which we depend, but I was more freaked out about the thing in the chimney.

The trick was taking apart the chimney. It’s airtight, and it has a kink in it. We took all the screws out and couldn’t budge the thing. It’s possible that the chimney was the most solidly-built part of the whole house (ask me about our exciting wiring sometime!). Here’s the hot tip: the places where the chimney angles up toward the ceiling swivel. After careful jiggling and some knocking with fists (the cure for many mechanical ills), we managed to get the chimney loose. I was fully prepared for a small raccoon or a large rat to fall out, but…

…nothing.

We looked up inside, and still nothing.

Turns out, whatever horrible creature is driving our dogs crazy, it’s actually nesting in the attic. Aaaaaaarrrrrrgh! For this, I am NOT taking the DIY route. There are professionals who do this sort of thing for a living, and they’re not me.

On the bright side, I’ve now dispatched my fear of the fireplace. If anything in the future goes wrong with our chimney, our flue, the firebox, etc., I know exactly how to deal with it. It’s *almost* worth it.

KoolAid Honey

A couple of days ago, I noticed a couple of bees hanging around the hummingbird feeder. I wondered why they were all over the feeder rather than the impatiens or fuschias planted right underneath the feeders, but if you’ve ever tried to question an animal about its motives, you’ll know that they can bee pretty tight-lipped. Because they don’t have lips.

Yesterday, there were a few more bees. Four or five, buzzing around the part of the feeder where the hummingbirds stick their big ol’ snouts. I thought it was weird and I took a snap with my cell phone and did a Twitter post about it. Today, I got home and found that, not only had the bees half-emptied the hummingbird feeder in a single day, but as I stood there watching, the feeder did that bubbly thing that water coolers do when you draw a glass of water. I went out to look, and more than a dozen bees crowded around the opening of the feeder. As they drank, they would become so laden with the nectar that they would drop off the cluster and fall into space until they could catch themselves and fly back. I looked online and found out why bees need to top up on sugar right before winter. I’m excited because the Pirate and I are looking at starting beekeeping soon, and knowing that we already have a thriving, growing hive, and that we’re already doing all the right things to keep that hive healthy feels really good.

Bees are cool.