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March 27, 2007

It has mercifully cooled back down to reasonable temperatures. Today was 78 degrees. I just do not function when the mercury rises into the 90s. I am a long way from being acclimated to that kind of heat. I am accustomed to it being in the 20s this time of year.

I worked on tearing down the barn today. I've stayed away from the barn the last few days. It's work that requires long pants due to being in such close quarters with the briars, rusty nails, ragged tin and possibility of poisonous snakes. There's no way in hell I'm wearing jeans when it's 90 degrees.

 

I did spend a little time cleaning out grandma's old house and burning more trash and rotten wood. This is the current status of the building:

It is surprisingly sturdier than it looks. I'll leave the back half of the house standing and use it as a chicken coop and storage. I don't know if I'll tear down any more of the roof before autumn. Despite appearances, it's not falling in  anytime soon and I have so many other things to do. Besides, soon there will be many wasp nests in that roof.

If you look to the left of the photo, you can see a folding chair set up in what was once my grandma's living room. That's where I go to get out of the sun, prop my feet up on the windowsill and have a cigarette. Yesterday, I was taking a break there when I saw two wasps building two separate nests just above my head.

         

Wasps are building nests every place they can. Every time I pick up a board, I have to check it for wasp nests.

I picked up an old hubcap I used to keep a few paper scraps from blowing away and found another nest that had been started.

 

I went to check the level on the propane tank and found another damned nest underneath the dome. I cannot kill these evil bastards fast enough.

 

The monstrously huge bumblebees are currently mating. In case you're unaware, they copulate while in flight. Just one of them hurtling through the air at you is startling enough. But when the bumblebee with two backs comes at you, it sends  you diving for cover.

 

I candled the chicken eggs again last night. See the shadow in the egg? That's one of my chickens-to-be. When you hold the eggs up to the light, you can see them move around. In addition to being able to see veins in the egg, you can also see veins in my thumb.

 

 

 

 

March 24, 2007

Yikes! I look like a damned hippie!

Holy God! It was 80 degrees by 9:30 this morning. It is currently 90 degrees and I finally had to come inside to get out of the blazing sun. It's 82 degrees inside but,  with two fans going, it's not so bad. I can't believe this is March.

Wasps are everywhere. I killed one this morning that had started to make a nest between the front and screen doors. Another one was building a nest in the porch light.

I went to work at the old house today and there are wasps all over the place. I just know they're building nests in every nook and cranny. I was burning a bunch of trash and rotten boards (yes, I had a bonfire in the 90-degree heat). I flipped one old board over and found another wasp starting a nest. This nest already had five  chambers - each with an egg. Or were they larvae? All I know is they were five potential wasps so they went into the fire.

 

I hate wasps. They scare me shitless. And I am out-numbered by a million to one.

So many bugs. I feel like a meth-head - always feeling bugs crawling on me. But, in my case, the bugs are real. Red ones, yellow ones, black ones, brown ones, iridescent green ones. Even the bumblebees here are intimidating. They're twice the size of Alaskan bumblebees and they fly ten times as fast. They come right at you at top speed, veering off at the last moment. And they're SO loud.

About the only creepy crawlies I like are the lizards (green anoles, to be exact). I find them absolutely adorable. It helps that they don't bite or sting or make loud buzzing noises. Sometimes they puff their little red chin pouches out at me - a territorial display meant to scare me off. Much to their dismay, I think it's cute.

 

 

March 21, 2007

Bugs! Bugs! Bugs! The creepy crawlies are everywhere!

Unlike in Alaska, window screens are a MUST in Alabama.

 

This spider didn't even use a web to catch this fly. After feeding, it dropped the fly and scurried away.

I don't even know what the hell this is.

 

Angela had an equinox party at Rancho Spenardo this week.  Since I obviously couldn't be there, I did the next best thing: I called on the phone. For an hour, the phone was passed around so I could talk to everybody. God, I miss my tribe.

I talked to BMac last weekend. He's going to be in New Orleans for over a month building stages for JazzFest. He said he can get me tickets. The Big Easy is only 7 hours away - no worse than driving to Fairbanks. I think a road trip is in order. There's a lot of acts I'd like to see, but I'm going to shoot for Van Morrison on April 27th.

Besides, my parents are coming back in April (don't ask - I don't even want to think about it) so I will relish a chance to break away and hang out with a fellow Alaskan.

 

Went to visit one of the locals this week - the same guy I sold the forge equipment to. He sent me home with all sorts of fruit trees: crabapple, peach, plum and even pomegranate. He also gave me grape vines and blackberry shoots. And two kinds of homemade wine: crabapple and muscadine. He even showed up the next day with mulch for the newly planted trees.

I candled the eggs again this evening. Pulled out five that didn't seem to be developing, but the other 26 are coming along quite nicely.

 

The Capt. Douchebag saga continues. I've spent the last six weeks brooding about all of the newly uncovered lies. It's just so fucking depressing to think about. It's downright humiliating.

I tried to warn him. I told him what I was going to do. Either he didn't read the email or he didn't think I'd really do it. But I did it. I sent an email to the president of the company he works for. I thought she should know how he conducts himself while out of town on business.

I told her how he presented himself as divorced and available. I told her how he passed himself off as a retired Marine officer. I told her how he used the company credit card to pay for our dates and company vehicles to take me on vacations. I even told her how he got the company to pay for the love nest apartment. And, of course, I gave her a link to the website I created to warn other women about him.

Judging by the number of hits the website got from the company ISP (in four different states!), she got the message.

Sigh...this really isn't how I wanted it to play out. There are no winners in this situation. Only losers.

 

 

 

March 18, 2007

I saw the first signs of life in my chicken eggs this evening. I candled the eggs (basically held them up to a bright light) and saw veins beginning to form. This actually made me smile. Took me by surprise - it's been a while since a grin has spontaneously spread across this face.

So far, the veins are only visible in the lightest colored eggs. Can't see anything but shadows yet through the dark brown shells. The olive-colored eggshells are just impossible to see through.

The reason for candling is to see which eggs are developing embryos and which aren't. If an embryo doesn't develop, the egg won't hatch. Worse than that, if bacteria starts growing inside, a bad egg can explode. The eggs are being kept in a humid, 100-degree box. Imagine the stench if one or more explodes after a couple weeks.

I tried to get a photo of the veins, but they're hard to see. I mucked about with the brightness and contrast to make them more visible.

 

 

March 14, 2007

The weather has been beautiful the last few days so I've been focusing on the garden. Planted spinach, dill, corn, strawberries, pumpkins and Concord grapes so far. I also still have lots of seedlings in the house that I started last month.

There's also some trees that my father bought: four apple, two fig and one pecan. I was not thrilled with the pecan tree. Not that I don't like pecans, but I had to dig a four-foot-deep hole for the damned thing. Not an easy task in the 80-degree heat. Dug the hole over the course of two days.

I'll be missing these 80-degree days when the mercury rises to 100. At least I got a good tan going. My uniform mainly consists of a tank top, shorts and lots of sunscreen.  A couple days ago, I was slathering sunscreen on my upper arms when I was momentarily confused by how lumpy they felt. Then I realized those lumps were muscles!

I amazed myself today by hauling a bucket of cast iron stuff from the barn up to the house. A few months ago, I wouldn't have even tried to carry all that iron up a hill. Or I would've at least had to stop halfway for a cigarette. But today, it was no problem. In fact, after I got to the house, I even did a couple reps with the bucket before putting it down. Just showing off to myself, I guess.

 

Tomorrow, weather permitting, I'll be planting blueberries. One of the locals gave me a bunch of shoots from his bushes. I went over to his place today to pick them up. He also gave me a couple dozen fertile chicken eggs (three different kinds)  and lent me his incubator.

The incubator is currently set up in my kitchen, which is fitting since that's where some of the chickens will likely end up. I should have baby chicks a couple days before Easter - and BBQ chicken in time for my birthday!

He also invited me to visit his church. Everybody here goes to church and wants to know "Have you found a church yet?" This town has as many churches as Spenard has bars. He has been very kind and helpful to me so I will most likely attend a single service. Besides, I'm a little intrigued. His wife is the pastor. A female pastor seems awfully progressive for this area. Of course, I would be even more interested in attending services at one of those snake handling churches (yes, they're around) or one that has Sacred Harp singing.

There is one particular church I'll be visiting soon, but not to attend services (though I'm sure I'll get invited). Like many churches around here, this one has a small cemetery next to it. My grandma and much of her immediate family are buried there. But the graves I'm really interested in are across the street. I made a short visit out there this week.

You can see a fire ant mound half-covering Martha's gravestone in the center.

These are the graves of George & Martha Smith and their son, Henry. They were members of this church but, because they were black, could not be buried in the all-white cemetery. The landowner across the street donated the land so they could be buried near the church.

George & Martha were born into slavery. I'm 99% sure they were my family's slaves. The evidence is circumstantial - but overwhelming.

Records on them are hard to come by. It doesn't help that the county courthouse has burned down twice - once in the Civil War and once around 1940. I've located them on a number of censuses and heard a couple stories from people who knew them. But I've never asked the church if they have any records on them. I'll be doing that real soon.

 

I also recently learned that the site of the old Meacham Farm (the 19th-century pioneer homestead I discovered in 2005) holds two cemeteries - not just one. Six weeks ago I learned of a slave cemetery on the property.

Until six weeks ago, I wasn't sure if this branch of my family owned slaves. I'd found nothing to prove or disprove it. But the idea of a slave cemetery on the property had crossed my mind before. In fact, I gave it enough thought back in 2005 that I already know where to look for it.

Now I just have to track down the current owner, inform them of all the dead people buried in their woods and get permission to do a more thorough search of the property.

 

 

 

March 10, 2007

Lots of visitors this week. I think it's because I've been working outside on the front of grandma's house. I'm now visible from the road. People are driving by and seeing  me tearing the old place down. Wanna know what I'm up to.

Some want to know if there's anything I want to sell. One guy wanted the tin from the barn roof to repair hail damage on his own barn's roof. I had to turn him down because I already have plans for the tin.

One old man asked permission to go "treasure hunting" around the old house with his metal detector. Again, I said no because I'm saving fun like that for me.

Another guy stopped by and offered cash for some of the cast iron forge equipment (2 blowers and 4 pairs of pliers). I said yes because I had no immediate plans for it. I know I sold it for less than it's worth, but it's not exactly something I can sell as easy as other items found on the property. All I would've done is scatter it around the yard because it looks cool. He also gave me four beers out of his truck, some cigarettes and a huge gourd.

When I told my dad what I'd done, you'd think I'd sold the whole damn farm for a handful of magic beans. This coming from the guy who wanted to bulldoze everything to the fucking ground and cart it all to a landfill.

I tried explaining to my dad that this guy was coming back to buy more of grandma's stuff, even crap that wasn't worth anything - like the dozens of one-gallon Ocean Spray cranberry juice glass containers from the mid-80s. In addition to promising me a gallon of homemade wine, this guy was willing to cart shit like this off the property. When our business was done, I would come out even, if not ahead.

 

Some of the people who stop by have memories of the old house and just want one last look. I show 'em around and listen to their stories. Moments like that remind me why I wanted to come here in the first place. I've been researching the history of this tiny town for years now and I love talking to the old timers about old times.

 

Not everyone who has stopped by has had such...uh...wholesome intentions. The other morning I was in front of the old house, pulling tools out of my car,getting  ready to start my day when a silver car pulled into the driveway. Another of grandma's cousins come by to see the old place, I thought.

I walked up to the car and saw the driver was Hispanic. He asked in a thick Mexican accent if I needed any help. Ah, a day-laborer looking for work. I told him I was doing okay, but thanks anyway. 

He started asking me questions that every other cracker visitor asks: 'Married? Got a boyfriend?"

These are standard questions here. Normally, I just feel super spinsterly when I admit to never being married. My big-city weirdo radar has been turned off long enough that I found myself telling this guy that I was not only single, but living all alone on this big hill.

"Are you looking for a boyfriend?"

 

Oh, Christ! I was not expecting this. Not here. Not in Bumfuck, Alabama. I guess I must've looked quite fetching in my glasses,  dirty jeans and tattoo shop T-shirt adorned with a flaming skull. Perhaps it was the leather workgloves and the  bandana tied around my head with the flair of an eastern European peasant woman.

 

No, I'm not looking for a boyfriend.

"I've been looking for a lady friend."

Well, I'm not looking for a boyfriend.

"So you don't want to have sex?"

No.

"I could pay you."

 

I rolled my eyes, said a terse goodbye and walked away. As he drove away, I got so angry that I wanted to call him back just so I could tell him to fuck off.  I wanted to tell him this ain't Spenard.

If it were Spenard, I would've just said "Ain't working" and continued walking. But this is Highway 64 in Bumfuck, Alabama, and I am now completely creeped out by the idea of this fucker knowing I live alone on the top of this hill without so much as a "Beware of dog" sign.

 

 

I had to make a run for the border yesterday - the Georgia border that is. Fifty miles  roundtrip to get my brand of cigarettes. It's only 2 miles to get Marlboros or Camels, but you gotta go to Roopville, Georgia, for American Spirits.

Georgia's also the nearest place to buy beer. Again, only 2 miles for Bud or Miller but if you want anything better, it's an hour round-trip. So far, the only liquor store I know of that has a selection equal to what I'm accustomed to is an hour and a half round-trip.

But I had to have beer this weekend. See, my parents finally left for Michigan. I am celebrating. Last night, for the first time in almost 3 months, I got to spend a quiet evening at home - alone.

 

I've made quite a lot of progress on grandma's old house. The front is almost completely gone. Termites had feasted on so much of the wood that I was able to tear it down using nothing but a hammer, a rope and my bare hands.

 

The back half of the house is still very sturdy. I'm going to leave it standing and use half of it for my chicken coop. I was going to use the kitchen as a storage unit. A couple days after sharing these plans with my father, he turned around and ordered a 645-square-foot metal storage shed. Sigh....that's even larger than the little cabin I dreamed of building.

He keeps buying shit like that and then complains about how much money he's spending. I tell him to stop spending money but he doesn't listen. I hate to sound like such a whiny, ungrateful cunt but he's driving me crazy.

But I don't want to think about that right now. I am trying to enjoy my new found solitude. I will save parental rants for another day.

 

I've been finding even more signs of the critters who've called the old house home.

 

There was the tiny mouse skeleton I found in one of the walls.

I first spied its skull - which I mistook for an old chrysalis. When I reached out to touch it, it came loose and dropped to the ground. At that same moment I noticed the rest of the skeleton in the wall.

Looks like the poor guy got his head stuck beneath a screw.

 

 

 

 

I found a small pile of rodent skeletons at the base of the chimney. Now, I'm no expert, but these yellowed bones looked much older than those of the previous mouse. The fireplace was boarded up decades ago - at least in the '60s, possibly the '50s.

 

I have a feeling this bunch o'bones had something to do with the shedded snake skins found within the same wall.

 

 

There was also the shit-covered lightbulb hanging from the ceiling that has been doing double-duty as a bird perch.

And last, but by no means least, was the organ pipe mud dauber nests. I scraped a dozen of their old nests off the walls inside the house. I attempted to preserve the largest ones, which are about the size of my hand. The nests are made entirely of dried mud so they are very fragile.

Looking at the back of the nests, you can see the separate chambers. Some  chambers were for raising the baby wasps. Other chambers were for storing food - primarily paralyzed spiders which were kept alive until mealtime. A number of the nests still held remains of imprisoned spiders.

 

 

 

March 2, 2007

Howling winds gusting around to least 50 mph. Rain coming down sideways. Thunder & lightning. Power flickering on and off. Must be tornado season. Ah....springtime in Alabama.

Yesterday was a day for staying indoors. I did made a quick trip to the post office  to send off that book I sold on eBay. Got $301 for it. I loved that book - sad to part with it. At prices like that, it's highly unlikely I'll ever own another copy.

I've sold a couple pieces of the pottery too - made $75 so far. The pottery has turned out to be pretty popular. I've already had two people who saw the eBay auctions come out to the house to look at the pieces in person. I just got an email from a third who may want to come by too.

Add that to the $15 of change I found in a jar in the shed and I've got my basic expenses covered for March.

I don't think I've posted a photo of the shed yet. This is where I've found the pottery, about 200 glass bottles, cast iron forge equipment, old army stuff (including an intact WWII duffel bag & a McCarthy-era list of groups considered "subversive") as well as a lot of junk.

You can see a bunch of the glass bottles to the left of the shed. There's still a lot more inside. It's amazing how much stuff was crammed into this tiny shack.

If you look in the background , you can see a little white building. That's where people around here go to vote.

Seriously. This is where I'll be casting my ballot next election day.

 

While working inside Grandma's old house, I pulled layers of vinyl flooring up off the kitchen floor. The bottom layer had been there so long that it had been imprinted with the pattern of the wood beneath it.

 

V

 

Once I pulled up the last of the vinyl flooring, a  beautiful hardwood floor made of pine emerged. It's just such a shame that much of the rest of the house is so decrepit.

The first thing I thought upon seeing the floor was "I wish Jim Dault was here to see this."

 

 

 

 

 

I've finally made enough progress with the barn that I can actually get inside of it. Many of the rafters have collapsed and the tin roof is mostly held up by one wall that remains solid.

I'm gonna flip that baby on it's side and call it a deck!

 

Lots of cool stuff in the barn. Mostly cast iron farm tools. A few more old bottles. Also found the hubs to four wagon wheels.

There's two more still in the barn.

 

As the temperatures keep getting warmer, more and more bugs are appearing. And they are BIG. At least compared to bugs in Alaska.

 

 

 

 

Comments? Questions? Spare change? 

Send it to Jackie @ RanchoSpenardo.com

 

 

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