Sunday, April 29, 2012

Good Smells and Bad Smells

The laundry room smells like cows. Kelly has been meeting at a local dairy farm a couple of times a week to practice for a Future Farmers of America cow judging competition. She’s been learning what constitutes good cow conformation and the difference between a Jersey cow and a Holstein. The Jerseys have feminine heads. That’s what she told me. They must be the ones I see in the children’s books with the long eyelashes and cow bells around their necks. They are usually named Elsie.

Kelly wears big rubber boots when she goes to these meetings at the dairy farms and when she comes home, she is reeking. I don’t know what they do over there—roll around in the stuff? As soon as I walked into the laundry room last night, I said, “Oh, Kelly is back.” Even though she was nowhere in sight.

It would be hard to live near a dairy farm. They really stink. One time I was on line behind a lady in Shop-Rite and I knew she lived on a dairy farm because I could smell her. I wonder if they notice it, living right there? Still, I’d rather live next to a dairy farm than where I grew up in Jersey City where the air was thick with exhaust and the sickeningly sweet smell of the purple dye factory on the highway. Or by the fish factory in Port Monmouth. But I didn’t mind living near IFF (International Flavors and Fragrances) in Union Beach. When they’re running, the air smells like perfume. When I was a bartender at the Cambridge, the guys would come in and give me samples of White Diamonds and Polo in small, unmarked bottles with black plastic caps. Everybody smells good in Union Beach.

I purposely put my manure pile behind the barn so it wouldn’t bother the neighbors across the street. I don’t think they can smell it. I’ve already got someone coming to take it for his garden. I’m talking about a big garden. He’s a farmer. He came three times already and we use the tractor to scoop up the manure and dump it into the bed of his truck. It falls with a plop and overflows. If he hits a bump when he leaves, balls of manure bounce out and land in the driveway.

Someday I want to have a big garden. I’m curious to see how I do in New Jersey since the neighbors in Virginia were amazed at the bounty I had, being someone who comes from Jersey City where the exhaust is thick and the only yard was the patch of grass between the sidewalk and the street. One time someone planted pansies in the grass. There were little popsicle sticks in the ground that said pansies in black Magic Marker; that’s how I knew what they were.

It wasn’t my mother. My mother couldn’t keep a philodendron going. You’d give her an Easter plant and she’d leave it in the purple foil on the windowsill until it died. Mrs. Pontius on the first floor must have planted them. She wore a dress like the nuns wore only it was a color and it had a pattern on it like checks or flowers, and an apron and clunky shoes. I’d go to the store for her. I’d knock on her door and say, “Mrs. Pontius, do you need anything from the store?” She’d give me a quarter for going. I’d always refuse it but she’d insist I take it, sometimes grabbing me and shoving it into my pocket herself and then slamming the door. Secretly, I was hoping she’d make me take it.

The rich people who lived in the single families up the street had pussywillows in their yards behind wrought-iron fences. They also had statues of the Virgin Mary under cement domes painted blue and white and stone birdbaths. I’d like to get some pussywillows someday. I also like hydrangeas. And geraniums. If it’s an old timey thing, I like it. Lilacs are my favorite. But they don’t make ‘em like they used to. When we had to tear out the old lilac bushes at the Jackson house because it was the only spot to put in the new septic tank, it broke my heart and Kurt went out and got me some new lilac bushes. But they weren’t the same. They were scrubby and there was no smell.

I was surprised there were no lilac bushes here at the yellow house because it’s an old farmhouse and that’s what those ladies planted back then. Actually, I was pretty disappointed. But I was wrong. There are two of them. The other day I saw the first purple flower. At first I thought it was a bird but when I looked closer, I saw tiny clusters of lilac cones! One is in the front yard and the other is right outside the kitchen window. I imagine what it will be like soon when all the flowers are blooming and I open that window!

It’s going to smell wonderful! It’s going to smell much better around here than how the laundry room smells now.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Hurry Up and Ride

I’m on a real time crunch because I’ve set myself the goal of riding by April. Actually April 1, but I’m not going to get specific because I’ve blown right by my target date. Let’s just say April.

I’m harried, trying to get as much of this house fixed up as possible before I start riding because once I start riding, I’ll be lucky if I have time to throw in a load of wash, never mind painting rooms, spackling holes in sheetrock, scraping, gutting, washing, and the endless opening up of boxes to look for things I suddenly remember I’m missing.

I don’t want to stop now. I’m on a roll. I got all the grout and the paint splatters scrubbed off the bathroom floor and now all we have to do in there is grout the tile around the tub. There are no curtains but there are no curtains on any of the windows except for Kelly’s room. Luckily the bathroom upstairs is windowless otherwise the neighbors would be getting an eyeful. This is where we’ll go if there’s a tornado. They say you should take cover in a room with no windows. I’ve never had a house that had a room with no windows. I was always worried about that. It used to make me mad when the guy on TV advised everyone to go into a windowless room or down into the basement. What if you didn’t have a basement or a windowless room? I’m glad I finally have one so I can comply with the news guy’s instructions. Of course there’s no room in there for people to hide. I don’t even have a place to put an extra roll of toilet paper. We’ll have to sit on each other’s laps. The Big Stupid, aka Motley the dog, will have to get in the shower. He’ll do it. He’s game for anything. And cats are willowy. They can squeeze in anywhere.

Anyway, ordinarily there would be no rush. Riding that is. Not fixing the house. I can’t stand living in a house that’s not fixed up. I’m not saying that it has to be all done. But it has to be painted and broken windows need to be fixed and it’s got to be clean. Especially the floors. Not just because we’re in the flooring business. In fact, being in the flooring business causes me to suffer with crappy floors even longer that I would have because the same thing is in effect that causes the shoemaker’s kids to have no shoes. I’m not sure what it is but the shoemaker’s kids run around barefoot and one time I lived with stick-on tiles that were supposed to look like black marble and were peeling up in the corners for a whole year.

One thing is Kurt won’t put down junk. He’s gotten good taste from installing so many nice floors over the years—wool carpet, solid hardwood, rugs that look like sisal but feel like cotton—that he won’t settle for less even though it means we could afford it sooner. But if there is someone’s else’s carpet in the house, that I don’t know where it’s been puked on, and it has been puked on because the chances are good that the people who lived in it prior had animals, especially if it’s a farmhouse like I usually buy, especially if you see the telltale signs of claw marks on the doors, I want it out ASAP. Even if it looks clean.

But now I feel rushed about riding too. Like riding is a quart of milk that’s going to expire if I don’t get out there soon and do it. Even though I still think of him as a colt, Harley just turned fifteen this year! He certainly doesn’t look or act like fifteen but let’s face it, he’s not a young whippersnapper anymore and neither am I. There are lots of people who ride into their sixties, seventies, even eighties. There are even senior citizens who barrel race. But I’ve had so many breaks from riding due to all the moving that it’s like I never rode at all and who starts barrel racing when she’s fifty-something? I’m not talking about trail riding here. Does one start running marathons when she’s fifty-something especially if she’s never even taken a walk before? I know it can be done. But it wouldn’t be easy.

Plus, after losing my mother I learned that you can lose anything in the blink of an eye. My horse. My health. The farm. Who knows? I have to get going while the going’s good. And so I’m on a painting frenzy. There’s no time to even wash out the brushes because maybe I’ll get fifteen minutes to paint again and so I stick them in a plastic bag sealed with a rubber band so I can grab them at any time and continue. If there’s only ten minutes, I hurry and get a hammer and nail and hang up a picture. If there’s only five minutes, I carry a box up to the attic bedroom. Hurry, hurry, hurry.

I know that you’re never done with your house. There’s always something to clean, beds to be made, dishes to be put away, laundry to be folded. But I hope, soon, that all the stuff we are doing because of just moving here will be done and I can just go out and live life like everyone else. Ride my horse. Run a set of barrels. At the least, I hope I have those nasty rugs out.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Decorating on a Dime

We did this with no money. Fixing, cleaning, decorating. I’m not saying that I picked things out of the garbage. Wait. That’s a lie. Yes, I did. Every time I go to the dump, I come back with something good. I’m kind of on the barter system down at the dump. I bring some garbage, I come back with a milk-glass hobnail vase. I bring some garbage, I come back with a glass candle holder. I bring some garbage, I come back with decorating magazines still in their plastic covers.

I’ve been trying out glass globes. The only thing that broke during all the moving was a glass globe that sat on the top part of my red antique lamp. It’s an odd size. Every time I go to the dump, I fling a couple of Hefty bags filled with kitty litter and coffee grounds, then I rifle through the pile of things the dump man put aside because he thought something was too good for the garbage and someone else might be able to use it. I find a glass globe that might work, take it home, try it, and when it doesn’t, I bring it back and trade it out for another one. One of these days I’m going to hit on the right one.

The dump man is cranky. Someone gave me a heads-up about that. He takes his job very seriously and you’re in big trouble if you try to sneak a Betty Crocker cake box into the regular garbage instead of putting it in the cardboard recyclables bin and he catches you. But that doesn’t worry me. I look at it as a challenge. Not just the recycling but the relationship. I get along great with grumpy old guys. Especially if they’re anal. Because let’s face it, I’m a little anal. I admire it that the dump man is out there with his broom directing people to the green glass bin and the brown glass bin and watching that someone doesn’t get his tin cans mixed up with his aluminum. Because if you’re not going to do a job right, why do it at all? And recycling is no joke. You should see those bins filled with the colored glass like boxes of jewels glimmering in the sunshine. It would be a shame if that was just thrown into the landfill with all the diapers and chicken bones instead of melted down and turned into new Mountain Dew bottles.

So I don’t mind him. I go out of my way to be friendly to him. We talk trash, him in his orange vest with the yellow tape on it, leaning on a broom, me all dolled up now because you can’t go anywhere in New Jersey unless you have makeup on, even the dump, leaning on my truck door. We discuss the characteristics of the globes I take home and the likelihood of the newest one fitting. We complain about taxes and the people who run the town who won’t let you put fluorescent bulbs into the dump. He tells me that I can sneak some of the wood that I’ve been cleaning up from my property into the regular garbage if he doesn’t see me, wink, wink. I think, someday I’m going to bring him cookies. You might call that a bribe. I call it a thank you. A bribe would be something you give to someone before the fact. That would be like if I gave him some cookies and then he looked the other way when I came with my truck filled to the brim with items on the violation list. But that’s not the way it went down.

It wasn’t only garbage that I availed myself of to get this place shaped up. I also charged a few things. I splurged and bought vintage wallpaper for the kitchen. It’s just the thing to bring back some of that old fashioned look someone stripped the place of back in the 70s when they thought replacing doors that had crystal knobs and porcelain sinks on legs was an improvement.

The olive green countertops had to go. Kurt is making a new counter out of sheets of laminate. He is actually fabricating the counter; not just buying a stock counter and cutting and installing it, which would be hard enough. He is going to glue sheets of laminate onto the old frame and make it himself. When Lowe’s refused to order the counter we wanted unless we paid them two hundred dollars for them to come out and measure, even though we assured them that Kurt measures for a living and even though we humored them by going home and measuring again because they insisted that Kurt’s measurements were wrong, and even though we agreed that we would be responsible and not Lowe’s if we made a mistake, they still wouldn’t let us order the counter unless we paid them to come out and measure. So we got our asses up. Now we’re making it ourselves. Visions of that show Renovation Disasters going through my head but screw them. We can do it! Thanks to them trying to squeeze another two hundred dollars out of us, we’re saving thousands of dollars.

We also got paint. We got spackle. We got faucets, door locks, weather stripping, fencing, gates, and new fluorescent bulbs. But we didn’t get a mortgage so if we’re maxed out on a credit card, we’re still ahead of the game.

I also got gifts. My girlfriends brought me things. This is the beauty of having good girlfriends. They know you and your quirky tastes. Micaela gave me this funky lamp.

Monica gave me this rooster.

I got this crystal candy dish from Jenise.

I have good friends, good family (a special thank you to my sister who went above and beyond the call of duty to help me with this place), and I didn’t even have to give them any cookies.