How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine, known elsewhere as Spring Break.  Some people travel, others enjoy local sites.  But we opted for something else altogether.  A “staycation” Dole House Style. 

So strap on that respirator — Ain’t no party like a DOLE HOUSE PAR-TAY!

Continue reading “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?”

Vacation Week

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming.  The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm.  I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink.  The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief.  But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.

Highlights of Hell included:

Cleaning out the basement.  Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster.  It arrived Friday afternoon.

Let the Vacation begin!  Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement.  As you can see here:

All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere.  Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material.  Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy.  The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.

It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster.  And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable.  Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death.  There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person.  Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.

In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house!  When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had.  Like red squirrels!

OOOooOOOh!  Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE.  My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel.  I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long.  After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.

So, where was that squirrel hiding?!  Remember all that wood in the photo above?  Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves.  These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is.  Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible.  50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood.  These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff.  Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them.  As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc.  Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.

But the nature discovery didn’t end there.  Oh, no.  With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.

When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front?  About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.

I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.

Ughhh.  Yes, it is UGLY.  Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue.  How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?!  And so, we got to work.  Once again.  We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action.  I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs.  We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex.  I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away.  OH NO.  Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch.  2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin.  But hopefully it’s on its way to health.  Time will tell.

The icing on the cake came at the least expected time.  I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.

No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?!  When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign?  Sigh..

When a vacation isn’t really a vacation at all.

Last week was “Vacation Week” here in Maine.  Vacation Week is when all the schools close.  HOORAY! say the kids.  YIPPEE! say the teachers.  ARGGH! go the parents.  Vacation Week translates to 7 days of overcrowded conditions at every kid-friendly venue w/in driving distance.  We never had this sort of thing in Philly.  No way.  It must be exclusively New England.  I found out that Boston schools also had the week off.  So I’d imagine New Hampshire, maybe even Vermont also participate.  If you are rich, you can have the nanny take the kids someplace.  Heck- if you are rich, you can fly somewhere for the duration and let the nanny deal with them at home.  But for those of us living in the real world, Vacation Week is a 7-day test of wills.

My vacation week was spent mostly refereeing between my daughters.  My younger one has developed an acute sensitivity to all sounds made by her older sister.  So much of the week was filled with variations of the following scenario:

YOUNGER DAUGHTER:  (Expressing extreme exasperation) UUUUGH!!  Madison – STOP IT!  Mommmm, Maddie’s making SUCKY NOISES!

OLDER DAUGHTER:  I am NOT.  She’s touching me!!  Quit touching me!!  MOMMMMMMM!!  Make her stop!!!

By Monday, I was ready for a real vacation.  Which of course meant I was sh!t outta luck, since I cannot fly and we don’t have a nanny.  So what did we do?  We went to the movies.  The girls wanted to see Planet 51, but it wasn’t playing anywhere.  I wanted to see Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it wasn’t playing anywhere.  I suggested Percy Jackson – which sounds like a Greek Harry Potter, but the girls said No.  So we wound up at The Tooth Fairy.  Did I mention we got there just as the movie was starting, and since it was Vacation Week & everyone else was also there, we had to sit in the 2nd row?

Tuesday.  The girls had two of their best friends over, who also happen to be 2 sisters.  Normally they get along really well, but for vacation week the 5 hour play date was more like boot camp.  For some reason, the girls kept pairing off and picking fights w/ each other.  The fact that our very large dog, Max, viewed the whole thing as a novelty to be impinged upon didn’t help matters.  At one point, Max knocked over the smaller of the 2 sisters and attempted to mate with her back.  Funny?  NOT FUNNY AT ALL.  Did I mention she was outside, it was snowing and the ground was covered in mud?  And she was wearing her brand new jeans she’d gotten the day before?

Wednesday.  We’d been planning on going to Vermont for the weekend, so I had a bazillion errands to run.  To the vet to buy Sir Humps Alot more food.  To the thrift shop.  The Library.  The Grocery Store.  The Other Pet Shoppe.  You name it.  The 2 sisters called to invite the girls over for a sleepover.  I was there in 20 minutes w/ a dozen Dunkin Donuts.   AHHH.  Vacation Week.

Thursday.  Friends from Philly stopped by in the morning, on their way to Northern Maine.  The girls returned from the sleepover.  We went out to lunch at Indian Buffet.  We left Indian Buffet and I was immediately informed my daughters were hungry.  We decided against going to Vermont, since it was cold & snowy there, and in Portland it was gorgeous, sunshiny and 40 degrees.  I put away our snowshoes and we went to the beach.  The girls fought in the car, on the beach and everywhere in between.

Friday.  We went to Boston.  Ignorant of the fact Boston’s children were also on Vacation Week, we made our way to the Children’s Museum.  Aka, GROUND ZERO.  The entrance line trailed nearly out the door.  Every single stroller in Bean Town appeared to be in tow.  The place was so damn packed I gave up trying to do anything but stand someplace, anyplace out of the way.  Note to self: If I should ever have another child, teach them to walk IMMEDIATELY.

Saturday.  We went to the community center to go swimming.  My first time.  Since my hair is longer than shoulder length, I was required to wear a swim cap.. which I didn’t have.  So I had to borrow one from the LOST & FOUND.  Since they were fresh out of circa 2010 cloth caps, I was forced to wear the one grandma bequeathed the pool in 1960.  The ear flaps were an added bonus.

Sunday.  The highlight of Vacation Week comes on its last day.  We drove north to Popham Beach State Park.  Miles of wide coast, sand bars, and rocky isles.  The day was beautiful.  The kids barely fought.  Even the dog was on his best behavior.  Almost made me wish for another week of vacation..  NOT.