fun and games (as in, not all)

It’s not all fun and games at my cabin. For example, take my overnight trip last weekend that almost didn’t happen and maybe shouldn’t have.

I had taken off work on Thursday because my wife needed to be at the airport in the middle of the day to catch her flight to Portland to visit baby Ela. The drive each way takes the better part of an hour, and I couldn’t see fitting it in to my lunch hour in part because I only get a half hour and in part because I never leave my desk — I just eat my apple and keep working. So a day off. And then it seemed awkward to come back to work on a Friday, so I took that day off too. My plan was to dart out to the cabin with the dogs on Friday morning, just as soon as the trash trucks came and I could put the bins back in my garage before leaving. (See this post for more about the bins.) My wife, who is usually home on Friday mornings, told me that they trash is collected in plenty of time for her to leave for work at around 9:00. Thus I could get the truck loaded, get the dogs excited, and get going early enuf to get to the cabin well before lunch time.

The trash truck was apparently running late last Friday. I dithered. I looked out the window too many times. I decided to take the dogs to the park for a walk, to mow the lawn. And as each minute passed, I was growing more discouraged about leaving. By the time the truck came, it was 2:30 in the afternoon. I could have left then and gotten to the cabin in time to begin building the one-match fire to cook my dinner, but my plans of getting all kinds of chores done were shot, so I gave it up.

Instead, I would go out Saturday morning (after a visit to the bagelry) and return on Sunday. (I had hoped to have Sunday to knock around the house as my last day before returning to work, but the trash truck had decided otherwise.) So I worked my new plan, getting to my cabin mid-morning on Saturday, only to find this:

You’ll recall the phoebe nest built on the front of the cabin under the porch roof. Well, two of the eggs had hatched, apparently that very morning. My coming and going on the porch sent mama phoebe flying, leaving her hatchlings unprotected and unfed. Normally I would sit in a chair on the porch and gaze at the (still full) lake below, thinking deep thoughts, but I didn’t dare do that and keep the phoebe away from her nest. So I had two choices. I could sit inside the cabin with the door closed (but the windows open) and do my brooding there, or I could occupy myself somewhere outside of the cabin, not within view of the porch so the phoebe would return. It was already a hot day, and I didn’t think the newly emerged chicks needed to be kept warm, but one time when I passed the nest, I saw a handful of flies buzzing over it. If mama were there that wouldn’t have happened.

So after brooding as long as I could stand it, I exited the cabin quickly and went over to where I am slowly extending a retaining wall beside the gravelly area where the fire ring is. The phoebe could still see me, but she apparently had other things to do. A third egg had hatched, and the babies were chirping to be fed. (I suppose by now the fourth has as well.) So she was flitting to and fro, apparently with insects for her babies.

My work on the wall was unenthused. I added a few blocks to the base and then their corresponding blocks above them, and I backfilled with gravel from my shrinking pile as well as from what seemed like a basement full of rocks and sea shells my kids had collected and forgotten. I did about as much work as I could stand and then sat in the chair before the fire ring and brooded some more. Eventually I began collecting the wood for my dinner fire/campfire, and I realized that for all of the work I had done on Saturday, I could have come down on Friday afternoon and been as productive. Sunset was still hours away, it was too soon to eat my dinner, the dogs needed out of the cabin. And that presented a new problem.

The ticks are thick this year. Apparently the conditions through the fall and winter were ideal for them. My larger dog, Flike, (in the top photo) is heedless of such things and dives into the deep brush. His black fur hides any ticks on him, and I only really know about them at around 2:00 in the morning when he is scratching incessantly, beside me in bed. The other dog, Queequeg, is a Pomeranian who thinks he is big, but his preferred activity is to hide under my truck, in the grass growing thickly there. His brown fur is more revealing of ticks, but his fur is dense, so it’s still harder to find them and even harder to extract them. So my wife had extracted a promise from me that I not let the dogs get covered with ticks. That meant limiting their outside time and restricting it as much as possible to the gravel. Not much fun if you’re a dog in a forest. This meant any long hikes were out of the question, and even the trimming I did with the grass whip here and there, exposed the dogs. So soon they were back in the cabin.

I did take a short hike down one of the washed-out spillways (the man who said he would repair it still hasn’t) and came upon the Prickly Pear in bloom:

We’ve known about a few patches of Prickly Pear in our woods, but in all of the years we have been coming here, we’ve never seen it in bloom. This time I did, but I paid a price for it. Not only did I nearly fall into the great gouge that was once my spillway when the gravel beneath my feet crumbled, but my route back to the cabin, up an old, unused and overgrown road, left my legs covered with ticks that I duly brushed and picked off (though I didn’t find all of them — nuff sed).

Eventually, I started my evening fire (one match!) and let the coals grow so I could cook my Salisbury steak. I drank a few beers, brooded more, and waited for the call of the whippoorwill, which still haunts me. I was rewarded. At first I heard them far away, across the ridge. But their calls grew closer, and eventually I heard one in a tree not thirty feet away. The owls were not as vocal on this night, and I didn’t hear any coyotes howling or yipping, but I got my campfire experience, and I retired to bed.

On Sunday morning I rose when the dogs woke me and we ventured outside into the cool air. I knew Sunday would be a repeat of Saturday only with no food aside from some nectarines, so I decided to pack up and head home, leaving the phoebe uninterrupted time in her home.

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One Comment on “fun and games (as in, not all)”

  1. Ticks are the great dog/human fun killer. I’m forbidden to take the dogs into the woods. Meh. Nothing like a good dog walk after a good brooding.

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