Saturday, May 4, 2013

Old-Fashioned Redux

Apart from what books and school have taught me about hard living with few or no conveniences, a lifestyle that our forefathers experienced way back when, my own life has never included the chores of living in the wide open spaces or along country backroads where nature is more than a view out the living room window. With the move to south Oak Hill, onto an acre of land situated on a dirt road where the house is surrounded by old oak trees large enough to crush a house, where critters of every kind prowl the yard and where everything green grows quickly, Saturday started with a pioneer bang.

Bed came relatively early on Friday night and I was out like a light, sleeping through the night without awareness of what went on beyond the bedroom. I was up early enough to see the light come seeping greenly through the trees, pleased that the rain of Friday had passed on. At one point during Friday’s hard rain a part of my front yard began to look like a swimming pool, but when I looked out the window this morning the water was gone and the ground appeared dry. I jumped into a pair of shorts and boots and walked out to the back yard, the early light washing over the scene in half shimmer, half shadow. It took but a minute to realize that a good part of the yard was littered with fallen limbs from the many oak trees, too many to leave where they had dropped. Here was a chore all new to me, and with mosquitoes worrying my naked legs I began to gather up the limbs and carrying them to an old walled compost. Could be a mistake, but for the time being a better place didn’t come to mind. Forty-five minutes later I tossed the last of them on the pile, scratching mozzie bites and wiping sweat off my face. The work at least brought me up close to many of the handsome air plants that root themselves to the oaks. Tillandsia is one of the numerous species of flowering epiphytes native to the southern US and new to this southern boy.

Thought I’d better have a look at the well to see how the salt pellets were holding up, and danged if the reservoir wasn't close to empty. That meant emptying another two forty-pound bags of salt into the barrel. The purpose is to soften the water, an aim I’m not sure I like since I prefer hard water to soft, but I am trying to follow instructions. Still, wrestling the heavy bags from utility room to well and emptying them into the snake-scary well house—right after picking up a hundred fallen limbs—left me begging for a shower, some coffee and a quiet, peaceful sit down. But not before cleaning up most of the mud smears left on the side of the house from the cable installation on Friday. It had to be buried against the side of the house.

Hanging the wash was next. I have a perfectly good clothes dryer in my utility room, but sunshine smells so much better. My problem was working with the wooden clothespins, a type quite different from the bilious blue or pink plastic kind I used for years in Japan and which adapted to their duty with ease. The old-fashioned, but aesthetically nicer wooden ones don’t catch the line and clothes in a quick, solid grip and I kept dropping them, or the clothes fell loose. I might register for a clothespin class at the Oak Hill community center.

Waiting for birds in my rocker

An hour later, clean and cool and refreshed by a plate of melon, toast and coffee, I relaxed in a rocker on the back porch to watch the birds discover the feeder hanging from the camphor tree, overflowing with a southern mix of best bird eats. I waited and waited, finally deciding that word of beak had not yet spread around the forest community. But the waiting was relieved by the appearance of a squirrel who rummaged the ground under the feeder never once looking up, only spying the feeder after climbing a neighboring tree and looking across to the red hanging feeder at eye level. He made his way over quickly and spent ten minutes trying to figure out a way down the thin rope to the treasure house waiting for his hungry jaws. Once he got onto the feeder and down to the slots with all the seed he munched away until I called a time limit and clapped my hands loudly. He scampered, but was back in five and at it again. With his stomach starting to swell and his teeth working double-time, I called time again and shooed him off. Afraid there would be nothing left for the birds, I temporarily wrapped a towel around the feeder and clamped it tight with clips. Ten minutes later he had managed to wiggle inside the towel, squeezing his way to the bounty. That’s when I got the idea of a BB gun to pepper his greedy butt after eating a fair share. For the time being I outfoxed him with a gooey slather of Vaseline on the rope leading from limb to feeder. That put him off, banishing him to the spill of seeds on the ground beneath the feeder.


  1. I am laughing my head off at this point because we have gone through exactly what you are going through with the squirrels getting to the bird feeders. I hope the oil on the lie will fix the problem but they also know how to jump to the feeder. If you don't take it in at night, the raccoons will take everything in it. Also it doesn't sound like you are getting any rest at all to combat that cold that was coming on you on Wednesday. It's really interesting to hear of your country activities.

  2. When discussing your move and enjoyment of your new environs, my wife mentioned the other day that as far as she knew this was your first experience of living in the country. Yes, besides grass-cutting there will always be limbs to pick up and yard chores to handle, but I think you will find the quiet more than conducive to reading and writing and, like the beach, the life around you will give you a taste of the natural order of things.


About Me

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America