Seasonal Recap: Summer 2012

This summer was sort of a bust, overall. I had some big plans to work and make some cash before the baby came, to do awesome things with my gardens, to produce a play by Great American Playwright Pam Mandigo…And then things fell apart. The company I do a lot of contract work for had a huge internal “reorganization” (they laid off a bunch of people), and this derailed the project I thought I’d spend the summer working on. So I had lots of time for working, but no work, and therefore no money to go have fun at the plant store, and therefore no awesome garden stuff (we live fine on one income, but “fun stuff” is mostly dependent on the extra that I pick up doing my various things). But I wouldn’t have really had much time to garden anyway because…


The sheer destruction was astounding. It was easily the most terrifying storm I’ve ever experienced. The electric fences all broke, and there were cows everywhere. My neighbor, the dairy farmer, who has lived here all his life, said that he had never seen anything at that level before. It’s the worst natural disaster his farm has ever suffered. We heard him riding around the pastures on his four-wheeler until about three o’clock in the morning. Acres of corn lay flat on the ground the next day.

We were lucky. We had just had a lot of tree work done, and so only one branch ended up falling on the house. It was hard to get down, but it didn’t damage the roof.

Our (minimally insured) truck, however, did not fare as well. Three pear trees fell on it, basically totaling it. We ended up selling it for parts. We had been discussing the possibility of going down to one car…I wish we had decided to before the storm made that decision for us!

It took a long, long time to clean up, particularly since I was already in the third trimester of my pregnancy and there’s a limit to how much chainsaw work we could do when Silas was awake. It also rained nearly every day. I love rain, but it limited the time we could spend working outside. My dad and stepmom came for a weekend and made a ton of progress, getting the downed trees cut and piled. We would still be hauling sticks without their help.

As it was, we only just finished the last of it on September second. The storm was on June 29.

Cleaning up after the storm occupied all of our available outdoor work time. We didn’t weed. We didn’t mow. We just hauled sticks. For eight weeks.

At the end of my last pregnancy, the thing that was driving me crazy was the fact that we didn’t yet have A FLOOR in the room where we were planning to deliver the baby (yes, we got it done in time). There was something completely maddening about having to accept the fact that I didn’t have the physical ability to solve this problem myself. This time, the equivalent fixation was the yard. The stick piles were everywhere, and I worried that they would attract snakes. The grass was so high that Silas refused to leave the porch. He could hardly walk. JC was working a lot, the rain tended to come in the evening just as he was getting home, and I could only really make progress one stick at a time, in between Silas’ demands for snacks and potty breaks.

I finally hired my eleven-year-old neighbor to come help. He wasn’t so great at hauling the sticks, but he loves to drive the farmer’s riding mower (which the farmer doesn’t mind lending).

Watching him cut that first swath through our jungle, I could have kissed him.

The farmer told me later that he thought I’d paid the boy too much. It was still less than

  • paying an adult to do it
  • psychotherapy
  • a divorce lawyer

so I thought it was worthwhile. I feel much, much better now.

JC and Carlos turned some of the wood into our Eeyore house, which might qualify as the one gift the derecho left us.

It was also a bad year for poultry. We had a serious raccoon problem in the area, which we think ended up costing us five hens and three ducks. The night after Silas realized the ducks were gone, he had what I think was his first serious nightmare. He woke up screaming and shaking, and wouldn’t be calmed until he had seen, not just me and JC, but also the dog and the cat.

We also lost at least three chickens to fly strike, which is where flies lay their eggs in the chickens, typically in their vent, and then the maggots eat the chickens from the inside out. It is exactly as disgusting as you might imagine. It was also pretty distressing, because we have lost many chickens to predators, but none to anything like this, more like a disease. It was hard to watch and feel helpless. Now we know what it looks like, though, and could act much earlier if it happened again.

Oh, and the play. I’ve never had a project go quite this well AND this badly, all at once. In some ways, it was a total fiasco, and in others, it was completely perfect and lovely.

Pam (on the right) is the genius-in-residence at The Great American Theater Company, which I founded with her, basically as a vanity project to produce her plays (which are quite good). She wrote Give Us Good after a conversation in which I told her I wanted her next play to be “a road trip bromance, with puppets.” As always, she delivered.

It started out pretty well. We had a good cast and were making progress. Then one of the actors (the lead) had some personal problems and was no longer able to be in the play…two weeks before we opened. Around the same time, we learned that the venue we had planned to use was not going to be available.

We didn’t have time to bring another actor up to speed on that role. So, we re-envisioned it as a hybrid concert reading (actors sitting in chairs reading from scripts), with some scenes–those that didn’t have this lead actor in them–fully staged.

We also reblocked the staged scenes to accommodate our last-minute location shift.

What we ended up with, although not what we had planned, was very, very good. The text is solid. The actors were lovely. I just wanted more.

Silas, on the other hand, had a pretty great summer. For one thing, he adores the rain (and didn’t have a to-do list ruining it for him).

He finally got some tall red boots, just like mine (and has since outgrown them…)

We spent lots of time splashing in his wading pool and going to Riven Rock.

Using the outdoors as his art studio, we were able to do some really messy projects.

Silas has done lots of painting and coloring this summer, and seems to be getting over his resistance to messy or slimy projects, like finger painting.

Completing his summer of bliss, my mom and stepdad moved much closer–they’re now about 90 minutes away, instead of over three hours. He’s seen a lot more of them this summer, and I think they are all pretty happy about that. He even had his first overnight away from us, spending a night with them, and it went really well…for everyone.

And now summer is over. We all wore sweaters this morning, until the sun burned the dew off the grass. It feels like this season can’t quite end, although I’m more than ready for it to do so. I feel like we’re in a holding pattern, like fall can’t really begin until Little Bird joins us.

So come on, baby, any time. Big Brother’s waiting.


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