Monthly Archives: October 2010

Mr. Pink

As I was leaving to head into Columbia last night I found Mr. Pink on the side of the road near the driveway.  He’d been hit and killed probably hours earlier.  He looked as though he’d died immediately, or at least that’s what I’d like to believe.

Pink was the only animal I’d had since it was a baby, and I loved him more than I thought it was possible for me to love an animal.  He was my friend, a fuzzy, cuddly, sassy, little friend.  The world and especially this coming winter seem a lot more lonely and bleak.  He was the only cat I’d ever had that would meow at me not because he was hungry, thirsty, or cold, but because he just wanted my attention, to be picked up like a baby and have his whiskers rubbed.  I think that’s what I’m going to miss most about the little turd, the way he’d take me out of whatever work I was doing and make me feel loved even just for a few minutes.

He led a good life, one any cat would envy, even some people.  He was born in Berlin, El Salvador on July 1, 2005.  His favorite past time in his early years was eating cockroaches, which would have gone mostly undetected if it weren’t for his distaste for their antennae which I would find scattered around the hacienda.

When I came back to the U.S. there were more than a few Salvadorans jealous of Pink’s new found citizenship.  Delta had informed that I didn’t need any paperwork for him, because cats don’t need paperwork to my disbelief.  I then verified that cats are essentially the only animal that do not need paperwork to enter the United States and only have to “appear healthy”, whatever that means.

At the airport in El Salvador I was asked for his paperwork, and when I told them I had none and didn’t need any I was informed I was wrong.  At one point the woman running security told me to just let him go out in the parking lot.  That probably gives you an idea of how animals are thought of in many third-world countries.  After hours of arguing and almost missing my flight they allowed me to leave their country with him.  Thinking the worst was over I was dismayed when the large black woman at the U.S. customs asked for his papers and when I told her I didn’t need them she responded “uh uh honey, every animal needs papers”.  I then asked for a supervisor and watched as half a dozen customs employees gathered around a computer terminal to look up the same information on the state department website.  Twenty minutes later I was told that I could go without so much as an apology, I suppose they were embarrassed that they didn’t know such a basic aspect of their job.

The ordeal did not end their, as up to that point Pink had dealt with the flights and cage-time stoically, but when the plane from Atlanta to Jackson was delayed over 4 hours he began to reach his limits.  As he began to yowl on the flight full of already severely annoyed passengers I reached my hand through a small zipper in his cage to calm him, which worked until the flight attendant angrily told me I couldn’t open my dog’s cage.  After informing her that it was a cat and it was the only way I could keep him quiet, she told me that she didn’t care if it was a baby.  And that’s how Mr. Pink came to America.

It was clear he was an outdoor cat, but still spent a year in Baltimore shredding carpets and otherwise letting me know he wasn’t pleased with his limited quarters.  A year after that he finally got his breathing room and got to his first taste of outdoor living in Virginia.  I was terrified he’d be hit by a car on the suburban road or mauled by a dog or any other catastrophe, but I knew I had to let him do his thing if he was going to be happy.

When we came out to the land I’d been mostly worried about wild animals and dogs getting him, but he always seemed to find his way home.  He was a very brave cat when it came to dogs, and more often than not would hold his grown rather than run.  I once saw him run up and growl at someone coming through my neighbor’s porch door in Baltimore.  He seemed to have abnormally long claws, which he kept finely honed by scratching on logs or my couch cushions, whichever was more readily available.  I think it was those traits that helped him be successful out in the wilderness.  It was only earlier this year that I was told he was actually a Norwegian Forest cat, which makes me think he had an actual genetic predisposition to this type of landscape.

The idea that he would be hit by a car actually never factored in to my thinking since only 20 or 30 cars pass by the road along the property every day.  I knew he liked to prowl in the field across the road sometimes and yesterday morning was extremely cold compared to what it had been.  My thinking is that his reflexes just weren’t as fast as he’d been used to and couldn’t get across the road or out of the way as quickly as he expected.  Either way I’ve tried to reign in my emotions from angrily blaming the driver, my mind wants to think the person was recklessly speeding or sadistically even trying to hit him, but nothing good comes from that way of thinking.  He’s gone and there’s nothing I could say or do that’s going to bring the little fluffwad back.

I buried him in the garden between a couple of grape bushes.  I wanted to do it right away because I couldn’t stand to see him like that.  I sobbed, screamed, and cussed at everything and nothing and put my little buddy to rest.  I can’t describe how much I miss him already.  He can never be replaced and I just wanted to write down a little about his life and what he meant to me.  I was hoping it would be cathartic, but now I’m just weeping and missing him more than ever.  Give your loved furballs a rub for me.

Rocketing into Fall

It’s hard to believe that the building season is already coming to an end.  The house isn’t as far as I’d hoped, but I’ve begun to get used to that.  As long as the progress is tangible it’s hard to get too depressed.  Watching the granite footing go up with Emily’s hard work has been exciting and has turned the house into a work of art.  The loft and interior wall studs in conjuction with the first half of the base layer of earthen floor have added a new dimension to the interior and although it’s still probably a whole building season from being done the finish line is in sight.

With the first light frost of the year and the leaves changing and finding their way to the forest floor where they’ll keep the tree roots well-mulched and cozy I’m reminded of my own winter preparations.  It would be easy to get stressed about all of the work still to be done over the next couple months, but I know I’ll get it done. Just knowing that I won’t have to spend the winter cramped in my tin can of a camper again is enough to keep my spirits high.

My most pressing project is getting the rocket stove done.  A rocket stove is a type of wood-burning stove similar to a masonry stove in that rather than the heat going straight up and out of a normal chimney, the flue runs horizontally through a bench made up of really heavy materials like rocks, bricks, and clay so that the heat is absorbed inside the house before the stove gases exit.  This means that the temperature of the air leaving through the flue is only a hundred degrees or so, even though the stove burns cleanly and efficiently at over a thousand degrees.  After setting up a mock-up of the heat riser guts of the stove at the last work party there are at least 3 new stoves in the planning stages by impressed observers.  I foresee many winter nights and days spent on the thermal mass bench in the future.

The earthen floor base layer is only a little over half done.  I held off doing the whole base layer because I wanted to bury the rocket stove in the floor so that the floor will also hold the heat.  I was more than ready to be done with the tedious work of mixing and leveling the floor.  Each batch of mix only created a couple square feet of floor space, so it would easily take 300 batches to do the whole layer.  Even after 3 weeks of running a couple of fans to dry it out it’s just now really begun to dry out.  There are two more layers, which involve a lot less material, and thus less mixing and work.  Any more work on the floor is going to have to wait until next year so I’ll have a half-gravel floor for the winter.  No big deal.

The solar power system has gotten a significant upgrade.  We’ve now got 400 watts of panel on the roof and new MPPT charge controller which is significantly more efficient at charging the batteries with those panels.  I’ve cut a couple trees down that were blocking significant sunshine and I’ll have to cut down several more before it’s all said and done unfortunately.  I also need to get some more battery capacity since we’re making way more power than we can hold when it’s sunny, but it only lasts a couple days with regular usage.

My first attempt at a brewing beer since I stopped about 5 years ago was a resounding success.  I’ve been doing a lot of reading on brewing beer with more raw materials so I can lower the price and have more control over it.  I’ve also got my first batch of wine brewing and plan on doing a lot more brewing and experimenting this winter as my pet project.  I’d like to have a lot of beverages tucked away for next year.  We go through a lot of beer and wine, and I figure this will cut down a lot on our recycling and expenses.

Emily finished the solar dehydrator that she’d taken on as her own pet project.  We’ve tried bananas, apples, persimmons, tomatoes, acorns, and herbs and they’ve all been delicious.  I’m especially fond of the fruits when they’re only partially dry and chewy.  It’s going to be a lot less depressing not seeing tomatoes and other veggies going bad because we don’t eat them or give them away fast enough.

Dakota headed out in September, and Emily has just headed back early to Ohio.  She’d expected to stay through Thanksgiving, but her father’s health has taken a turn for the worse and she’s gone back to spend some time with him.  Both her and Dakota were really crucial in getting as far as we did this year, not to mention just being good company.  Hopefully I won’t be too lonely this winter though, Justin is putting the finishing touches on his tipi cover and is planning on having a tipi-raising party in the next week or two.