Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Dispatch from the Barn

Whatcha writin'?

I don't know exactly when the swallows return to Capistrano, but they have returned to the barn at Bywater Farm. I'm convinced that it's the same Sam and Sally Swallow who took up residence here last spring. In fact, they've set up housekeeping in the same nest they built last year on a rafter over the barn aisle. They are not at all bothered by our presence. They circle and swoop and flit over our heads as if they own the place.

They're sprucing up the nest. When you've been gone from your summer place all winter, I guess things get a bit untidy. They've been shopping for building material - just as they did last year - in the hay stall. They do a lot of chattering to each other. I chat with them and their twittering responses sound sensible enough - even if they are speaking a different language.

I'm writing this in my barn "office." It's nothing fancy - just Jerry's old red desk chair and an old folding table in front of the window in the tack room. If the furniture is old and outdated, my writing equipment is the latest thing. I'm typing on my nifty Apple wireless keyboard and watching the text appear on my iPad in the "Pages" app.

The tack room window is open and there's a nice little breeze. The horses are grazing just outside the window. In fact, Rocky has already visited me by sticking his nose through the open window. He's not fooling me though. His visit is not as much affection for me as it is curiosity about what's going on in the tack room which happens to be where his feed is kept. Tesoro stopped by, too - and when Fay came, she lingered long enough for me to take her picture.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nautical Notes

We sold our party barge yesterday, ending a very brief nautical adventure. I have a vivid imagination, and sometimes it gets me in trouble. I imagined that having a party barge would be great fun since Bayou Plaquemine runs right behind our house. So we bought a used party barge, complete with a trailer and an aging motor.  We had the motor tuned up.  The seats were in terrible condition. We ordered new seats and had some custom upholstery done. We put new carpet on the floor. I say "we," but it was Jerry who did all the renovating work. I was chief cheerleader, gopher, and bill payer.

When it was finished, I thought it was a thing of beauty. And I loved cruising the bayou on it. I hate a little boat that requires you to sit still to keep from tipping it over. A pontoon barge is stable, allowing you to get up and walk around on it. We have a dock on the bayou, and I thought we would be able to keep the barge in the water, next to the dock. It would be really handy to jump in and go cruising on the spur of the moment.

Now I'll get to the reality part of this story. Outboard motors don't get very good gas mileage. Gasoline almost reached $4.00 a gallon the first summer we used the barge. It seemed like every little outing we took up or down the bayou - barely out of sight of the house - cost us at least $25.00.

Then we started to realize that this nautical toy wasn't going to be a thing of beauty long if it stayed in the water. Pretty soon the new white vinyl seats were beginning to grow greenish mold. The pontoons collected some kind of scummy film. So we took it out of the water. But we could see that it wasn't going to fare much better sitting on the trailer in the yard. If the trees weren't raining leaves down on it, the sun was baking it. We decided the barge would just have to be kept in the barn - not so handy for spur of the moment trips.

Even in the barn with plastic sheets covering it, the darn thing wouldn't stay clean. A barn is built for horses and people, not boats. In the summer the barn doors have to be open for ventilation so - like most barns - our barn is a dusty place. And the barge seemed to be a dust magnet.

We had to admit we were in a nautical nightmare when we woke up one day and realized that we were paying someone to maintain a barge that we weren't using. Why weren't we using it? Because - since it wasn't in the water - it couldn't be taken out on the "spur of the moment." Driving to the nearest boat landing and getting it launched was a project that we never seemed to have time for. Maybe we would have had time if we had sold the horses, given up all our other hobbies, and devoted ourselves to the party barge.

Trying to keep the barge was a nightmare, but getting rid of it wasn't a piece of cake either. It took us a year to sell it. I hate having something for sale. You spend a lot of time answering phone calls and waiting for people who say they're coming and often never show up. If the item doesn't get sold right away, all your friends start offering their opinions as to why it's not selling. I heard a lot about how old and outdated the motor on the party barge was - something about two strokes vs. four strokes - or was it one stroke vs. three?   Even though the motor worked, some of our friends couldn't believe that anybody would ever buy the barge with that motor on it. I thought the renovated barge and trailer - without the motor - were worth what we were asking, which wasn't much.

The party barge is gone now, and I was never so glad to see something go. We didn't make a profit. In fact, I'm not sure we broke even.  Jerry certainly didn't get any compensation for all his hard work. I think the people who bought it got a good deal. I hope they enjoy it. And I hope it's their only hobby.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

This and That

The words "cold" and "spring" are seldom spoken in the same sentence in Louisiana.  Our springs usually start warm and end in blazing heat.  But this morning the temperature was 47 degrees, and I couldn't resist firing up the gas logs in the kitchen. 

I got a notice from the post office today informing me that my post office box rent is about to go up.  As far as I'm concerned, I'm already paying far too much for an unfurnished box with no curtains, carpet, or furniture to make my letters and post cards comfortable while they wait for me to pick them up. 

I'll never understand why the post office will deliver letters to the box on the road in front of my house for nothing, but they charge me an arm and leg if I go to the post office and pick up my own mail.   Oh well, since when can you expect logic from a government agency? 

A little research on the postal service website showed me that I can rent a post office box in the neighboring village for a third of the cost of the one I'm renting in my home town.  It would be interesting to know what twisted logic accounts for this diffence in box rent, but I'm not even going to ask about it.  Whenever I ask a question at the post office, the answer usually gives me a headache.  Anyway - since I pass through the neighboring village often on my way to Baton Rouge, I decided to drive there this morning and rent one of their inexpensive boxes.  The amenities are all the same.  If you'd like to be part of the box-warming, drop me a line at P. O. Box 836, Addis, LA 70710.

I groomed the horses yesterday.  I especially enjoy spring grooming when they're losing all the winter hair.  They like being groomed.  I guess it feels good to have all the loose hair roll off in big wads.  Right now they have that mangy-dog-look because in some places the winter hair is still hanging on while it has come completely off in other places.  I guess that's why some people keep the winter hair shaved off.  But then if the weather gets too cold, you have to keep a blanket on the horse.  All that sounds like a lot of trouble, not to mention expense - horse blankets aren't cheap.  So we let nature take its course around here.  In another week or two the winter hair will be all gone and they'll have their satiny summer coats.

Yesterday I spent a ridiculous amount of time on the telephone, making arrangements for my second knee surgery.  It's scheduled for the end of this month.  Since the knee surgery I had last August was a roaring success, I'm not too apprehensive about this surgery.  Still, I'm glad I'm not a centipede with multiple knees.

A few weeks ago I bought a Kindle.  This is a big step for a book lover.  Wonder how long I'll feel like a traitor?  Did our ancestors feel like traitors when they switched from scroll to codex?  I don't know.  What I do know is that - sooner or later - space becomes an issue for most book lovers.  It has certainly become an issue at my abode.  That's what makes the Kindle so attractive.  It will hold about 3,500 books!  It's less tiring in your hands than a big thick book.  With a few finger taps you can make the font as big as you'd like.  You can highlight passages and make notes right there on the Kindle.  And you can read outdoors without any annoying glare.  What's not to love? 

I learned to be an afternoon napper when I was a piano teacher.  I always napped from about 2:00 to 3:00 so that I'd be rested when my first student arrived at 3:30.  Since I retired I've continued the afternoon siesta, but it's not as satisfying as it used to be.  I wonder why?  These days I usually get up from a nap feeling worse, not better.  Jerry says it's because an hour nap is too long.  He's a 20 minute power napper.  Maybe I'll give power napping a try.