Monthly Archives: October 2011


The purlins are painted,
the ground posts are in,
we have to buy plastic,
and then work again.

Farewell to our weekend!
we even skipped lunch
to build up this hoop house.
It cost us a bunch.

But lo, the next year
will carry such bounty
they’ll be talking about it
in Washington county.

But ‘tween now and then,
I’ll tend to the kale,
harvest broccoli and turnips
on such a large scale

I’ll have to leave some
for the hens and for Clyde,
who, after our harvest,
will hunker inside,

for the winter wind blows
mighty cold through their coop.
(It’d be wrong to offer them
warm chicken soup.)

As for this project,
we’ll party when done,
for no matter how simple
it seems when begun,

one finds soon enough
the work’s NO LONGER FUN.

phase one - hoops up, doors framed, purlins in, painted

Which is Harder: Warrior Dash or the Carving of the Pumpkins?

This is a long one, folks. I’m trying to catch up before we start a big project tomorrow.

Way back on October 15 Greg and I ran Warrior Dash.

We were totally going to train together and everything, but unfortunately Greg started fighting tendinitis right out of the gate, so he just up and quit on me.

So the day before I was feeling like a Grade A, Number One, U.S. Choice asshole because I fully intended to leave him behind as I went dashing through the course. That wasn’t what a wife was supposed to do. Was I really going to leave my husband behind in battle? Gasp!

Then I thought about it for about five minutes and decided that I wasn’t the asshole. I’d trained! He was the one who breached our contract! So there!

In his defense, he was in a lot of pain and I understand pain, seeing as how I can’t stop injuring myself seriously enough for Urgent Care about once per year. I’m just thankful to have avoided hospital admittance.


So we decided to camp and run Warrior Dash, and we did. 3.17 miles of trail running over supremely rutted fields, field stubble, downed logs, and obstacles.

Oh, did I mention we managed to lock our keys in the truck right before the race? WE SURE DID! It was totally awesome, we got to find a locksmith in Troy, MO, who would come and help us. Fortunately, he charged a pittance compared to our experience near Mt. Rushmore ($50, about a third of what it costs up there in the Dakotas), so if anybody needs a locksmith, let us know. We’re experts!

So anyway, we managed to make our wave, and away we went. Honestly, the obstacles were the easy part for me. It was the trail running that nearly murdered me. I was so worried about hitting one of those ruts wrong and going down. At that point I’d probably have just asked to be put out of my  misery, like a horse.

But lo, I made it to the end. I even passed a bunch of buff fellas in kilts along the way. Those boys were struggling, let me tell you, and it must have been a little humiliating to see an old woman go chugging by like a steam engine. Honestly, taking them down a few notches helped keep me going. I finished with a time right around 46:05, which makes me proud, especially considering the copious amounts of beer and candy corn I ingested the night before even though I knew better. We were at the back of our wave, so we got off to a slow start and I was trapped behind people in front of me who were walking long before I was ready to walk…I was frustrated and probably would have shaved 4 minutes or so off my time if it weren’t for that, but I still hold my head high.

Here’s the aftermath:

warrior dash

Oh, yeah. One of the obstacles was a mud pit, if you couldn’t tell. Another was jumping over flame, which consisted of Duraflame logs. If you’ve ever used Duraflame (I haven’t), it turns out they produce lots and lots of black smoke which feels absolutely divine in your lungs when you jump them while sucking wind like John Henry’s hammer. I think I’m still coughing up straight creosote from that little incident.

And after it was all done, we went back to camp and washed it off in the showers (sorry, State of Missouri, I cleaned up after myself as best I could).


I’m not sure that even Warrior Dash can hold up to the ordeal that is carving pumpkins.

I haven’t liked carving pumpkins since I was a kid and my pumpkins always SUCKED SUCKED SUCKED and NEVER looked like the COOL pumpkins in the magazines (because that’s right, youngsters, we didn’t have the internet then). We carved our pumpkins with a butcher knife. Just like the guy in Psycho. And Michael Myers. Take THAT, kids! We were hardcore au-then-tic!

But now, technology reigns, and we have these little hand saw kits that you can buy for, like, three bucks and change at Walmart. Or maybe more. Inflation and all.

Even so, I hate carving my pumpkin because – guess what? – it still doesn’t look cool. Greg couldn’t even recognize mine. Grrr. Photo later.

Ethan, he’s a whiz kid about this kind of thing I guess, because I turned him loose with his pumpkin and away he went, studiously avoiding the protective newspaper spread all over the living room floor.

carving - with ultimate concentration

Laurel, too, though she bitched about the saw and pumpkin until Ethan told her it was just operator error and I told her to just can it and have a good time, goddammit, it’s not like we’re professional pumpkin carvers and we were going to chuck them off the deck in about 3 days anyway.

hehe. Kidding, Laurel. Kinda. You know how it went down.

barefoot hippie

As you can see, Laurel has an A+ in Avoiding the Protective Newspaper.

But in the end, we ended up with three Very Fine Pumpkins, if I do say so myself, and I damn well DO say so myself because hi, it took a full 3 hours to complete them all, and longer than that to clean up. We are very intense that way.

So! Here are our pumpkins. Laurel’s, on the left, is a freehand Frankenstein. She started with a pattern that included bats but got so frustrated she turned it into Frankenstein and did a damn good job. Amazing, really. I’d have just given up. She should go into business fixing people’s drunken tattoo mistakes.

Ethan’s is in the middle. I have to take a minute to tell you about Ethan’s. The only work I did was cutting the lid out. He cleaned it all himself and did all the cutting completely by himself. Yes, I helped him punch out one eye and the freehand nose he added because they were stuck in the pumpkin, but that was after he cut them on his own. That kid is destined to build great things, the way he uses tools at 6.

And my pumpkin is on the right. See if you know what it is. Ethan thinks Greg is mentally incapacitated for failing to recognize it.

Laurel, Ethan, Michelle


It’s one of the Angry Birds, yo! This is the first time I’ve tried the whole ‘carving just a little bit without cutting all the way through and making a simple jack-o’-lantern into a froufrou 3-hour ordeal’ method.

So there you have it. It’s almost Halloween, and that’s just the very beginning of the holiday season.


(P.S., I should mention we also went camping with very awesome friends last weekend. Greg even got into trouble for violating quiet hours. It was awesome. Shout-outs to Paul, Cynthia, and Madison, who are partying in Orlando this weekend!)

Twice. In One Day.

5:30 a.m.:   Flat tire!1

6:30 a.m.:   Donut tire.2

11:30 a.m.:   Fixed tire!

2:30 p.m.:   Flat tire!3

2:45 p.m.:  Donut tire.4

Stay tuned. The saga continues. And I should probably mention that so far I have only tied – and have not broken – my record for number of flats in one day.


1. According to Laurel, Ethan told her a tire was hissing on the car Friday afternoon. She told him she was sure it was nothing. This morning, I got all geared up to go to the gym, started driving up the road, and got no more than 10 feet before I knew something was wrong.

2. Thanks to Greg, who woke up early to change it while I went on to the gym.

3. Yes, the same tire. The store told me they had ‘fixed’ a ‘rim leak.’ I think they only thing they fixed were drinks for themselves and everyone else in the full 30 minutes it took them to perform this task.

4. I probably would have been quicker about changing it if I hadn’t called Greg to notify the school I’d be late to get Laurel, and if the friendly neighborhood weirdo hadn’t found me. Okay, maybe that isn’t very nice, but a lady came wandering around the corner, purse in hand, to ask if I needed her to call someone (no, thank you). Meanwhile, I’ve got my nose in a crappy slow factory jack and am clearly a good third of the way through doing it myself. She couldn’t stop talking, though she was pleasant enough – even offering to give me a ride to pick up Laurel (no, thank you). I found out she has a daughter who works in the ER at St. Luke’s; that she herself lives in Festus; that her daughter’s boyfriend is laid off; that she doesn’t like to go anywhere that isn’t part of her daily plan; and that now she plans to show up unannounced for visits. Lucky day! To her credit, she made an otherwise onerous chore into a good story I’ll laugh about for some time to come. That laugh is sorely needed, by the way, because I’m pretty ticked at the store that ‘fixed’ that tire. The only thing that would’ve been better would have been if she’d knocked the car off the jack because she was leaning against it the whole time I was working.


See those exclamation points? I’m trying to recapture my youth.

Remember how when you were little, each holiday held a particular fascination? Halloween was all about the pumpkins, costumes, and candy. Easter was all about colored eggs and the Easter Bunny. Valentine’s Day had those terrible conversation hearts and little Valentine cards and Valentine boxes made from shoeboxes. Christmas, well, we won’t even go there.

Some adults are able to maintain that sense of excitement for every holiday for the rest of their lives, whether you like it or not. I haven’t completely lost it, but it’s hard to get excited about traipsing around the pumpkin patch looking for The Perfect Pumpkin. I should clarify – I get excited about the prospect, about the Brady Bunch family-ishness of it all, but actually DOING it is kind of bleh.


At least one of our children loves it. The other one, I don’t know, it’s hard to tell about her. She, I think, was embarrassed to be seen with us because she walked as far as she could from the wagon to find her pumpkin. That, naturally, worked out poorly because when she found her pumpkin she had to carry it greater distances to deposit in the wagon. But no matter. Natural consequences.

pumpkin field

This was last Sunday. Last Sunday it was hot. As in 80-85 degrees. I know that’s not hot by summer standards, but geez, it’s October, and we’re trying to get pumpkins, and there is supposed to be a chill in the air, dammit. Maybe that had something to do with my inability to get rooty-tooty-fresh-n-fruity excited about the pumpkin patch.

Ethan's pumpkin

I did, however, allow Greg to talk me into getting a pumpkin for myself this year. I don’t really like carving pumpkins. I like the looks of them, I’ll sometimes roast the pumpkin seeds, but I just don’t like carving them anymore, if I ever really did. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because they never turn out the way I’d like. Greg and I are slackers, so we picked ours from those inside that had already been plucked from the field.

more pumpkins

But if you think that I’ve completely lost all excitement for such outings, fear not! As soon as we were finished plundering the pumpkins, I wandered over to the Kettle Korn tent and got the biggest damn bag of Kettle Korn you ever saw. One that was gone within about two days. Now that was exciting!!!!

So I guess it’s not so much that I’m not stoked for the holidays themselves – maybe it’s just that the parts of the holidays that appeal to me have changed over the years. And it is awfully fun to watch the kids’ eyes light up. Good enough for me.


Yesterday morning we filled the area near our home with a six-year-old boy’s squeals of delight as he launched model rockets into the Sunday morning air.

Sorry, neighbors. Here’s hoping you rise early.

But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about the time we spent after we came home, digging our sweet potatoes out of the garden.

I didn’t plant a big patch of sweet potatoes. I only planted the bare patch you see here:

Post harvest

And a close-up:


All summer I watched those vines spiral out of control without any clue as to what was going on beneath them. Would we have any potatoes? Would there be but a few scrawny excuses for tubers?

In the last few weeks the deer had found the vines, they had started to yellow, and finally the night before last we had a light frost.

It was time to dig.

I had every intention of digging those sweet potatoes myself, but Greg can’t stand to see me using a shovel. I think he would like to pretend it’s because he’s so chivalrous, but the more likely reason for his labor is that I’m so clumsy with a shovel he can’t bear to watch me more than five minutes without stepping in to do it the ‘right’ way.

As it turns out, It’s a bully good thing (for me) that he did. He dug the potatoes, I hoisted them from the soil and put them in Ethan’s toy dump truck, and the kids were forced under threat of banishment to line them all up along the wall. There are still a sad few there that haven’t fit into the crates:


Ethan and I counted up the spuds. All 85 of them. Eighty-five! From that little patch of soil. Several of them put this one to shame. I don’t know how many pounds were harvested  – we were too sick of it by the time we were done to weigh them  – but they’re sitting contentedly in crates in the bunker, covered with wet towels, curing.

curing tower

You may be wondering what the hell I plan to do with 85 sweet potatoes.

Beats the hell out of me, but after a very disappointing year where tomatoes and green beans were concerned, this was a nice surprise.

And also one more testament to raised garden beds.