It be a briny day for this landlubber…

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Mornin’ all.

Okay, so the madcap book writing thing is not going to plan.

“You’re procrastinating again, aren’t you, Bethie?”

No!

…well, maybe a little. I hit a sticky section. I know how I want the book to end, I know the generalities of the plot line, I even have a few distinct scenes in my head ready to flow through my fingers to enter the world. However, to get there, I need to get past one major bump in the road that feels like it’s covered in wet tar.

I think I know how. I had a burst of inspiration last night.

Unfortunately, that inspiration can’t be used yet. This is building up and it’s going to be one of those situations where my fingers feel like they’re injected with Red Bull and I’ve got the headphones on blasting my murder playlist (literary murder, folks. Jeez. What kind of idiot do you think I am? If I was actually going to murder someone in real life, I wouldn’t have a playlist called “murder”, would I?) and going to town. I need to be able to sit in the zone and just write.

I haven’t been able to do that this week, and I won’t get a chance to until at least tonight. Very soon my herd of giants will be waking up eager to get to…the Pickle Fest!

Yep, today is our little hamlet’s annual festival to celebrate what I believe is one of the tastiest methods of food preservation.

It seems like the hubbub is a little more bubby this year. This could have something to do with multiple factors. First, we live in the general area of the infamous Pumkin Fest. Remember that? It was on the news because some asshats decided to have riots there. RIOTS. At a pumpkin festival. I think people are kind of amped to see whether or not there will be trouble at our little fest.

If there is, I guarantee it won’t last long. Unlike the big city of past pumpkin shame, we’re a small town. In NH. I’ve said it before, but in case you’ve forgotten, let me refresh your memory with a simple math equation to keep in mind anytime you travel through my fair state:

small NH town = lots of guns

Hm. I suppose that’s less of an equation and more of a life lesson, huh? Here. I’ll make it more mathy so it seems important and official:

trouble making outsider + small NH town = wicked bad fahkin’ day fer that guy

Get the point?

Anyone would be beyond stupid to try and start shit here. We’re celebrating pickles today, people. Pickles. Vegetables that have been given balls and grit through copious amounts of vinegar and salt. This isn’t some bullshit fest to honor a damn hipster coffee-flavoring gourd. This is real mans’ man’s stuff. Salt to toughen you up, vinegar to give you the squint of an ornery bastard. GRRRR!

“Whoa now, Bethie. Calm down.”

*deep breath* Don’t be startin’ shit in MY fest.

There. Had to be said. Though I don’t think there will be any legitimate problems, I do think the “what if” is driving the buzz.

Another excitement factor this year is how nice our town is starting to look. There are some redone buildings downtown. An investor came in and converted a building that started out as a factory, changed to a store, housed a hardware business forever, then sat useless for a decade into a combination distillery and farmer’s market.

No, wait. I know it might sound like a silly concept to combine a produce stand with a moonshine factory. But have you been to a farmer’s market lately? The prices are getting INSANE. I think it’s brilliant to get the customers all liquored up before they pay $4.99/lb for organic roots and twigs. Takes the sting off the sticker shock.

Love or hate the concept, the building has been totally renovated and looks so awesome. There has been a massive amount of activity in and around it this week…I wonder if today will be their grand opening?

Right next to the new highbrow boozery is a karate dojo. It’s in a tall, skinny building on a corner right next to a very narrow bridge. In my lifetime, there have been perhaps two dozen different companies that tried to run a successful business in that building. All of them have failed.

Local lore is that it’s haunted.

Back in the town’s heyday, when the tannery was running full steam and the grand hotel hadn’t yet turned into a bawdy house of disrepute, the building in question housed a high end garment shop. It wasn’t a standard tailor. This shop catered to the upper echelon who would stop over for a night in the grand hotel on their train journey north to the luxury of the White Mountain resorts that were a popular summer destination for the pre-civil war elite.

At three stories tall, the building is one of the largest in town and was very hard to miss. It sat directly across from the grand hotel itself, yet another marketing coup for a small town seamstress named Annabelle Green. Getting business was never a problem for the self-professed “Lady of Lace,” and her rich clients, happy with her work, would tout her ability far and wide. At her prime, she was creating fashion for the wives and mistresses of the most powerful men in the northeast. She quickly became one of the richest and most influential people in town, in a time when “rich” and “influential” were generally not words used to describe a woman.

Lucky as she was in her career, she could not find a husband that would allow her to continue to control her own business. There are two separate engagement announcements in the old newspaper accounts for Annabelle, and two separate gossip bits about those engagements ending without marriage. Though the specifics are mere story with no actual verification, the rumor was that after the second failed engagement, Annabelle kind of went mad.

I don’t think that’s true. It’s a rumor that’s endured through the generations because after the second broken engagement, Annabelle refused to deal with men. There was a sign in her shop that forbade men from crossing the threshold. She insisted that all accounts be settled either by mail or by hand delivery from the “party serviced,” meaning the women, not their husbands. She would not speak to men on the street, and when it came time to pay her own tax bills, she’d always send one of her workers to deal with the male-centric town offices.

I think people said she went bonkers because they wanted some explanation other than “she hated that she was used and abused by men her whole life and they were assholes that deserved to be shunned.” I think in that misogynistic society, any woman who was sick of mens’ shit was just called “mad”. They couldn’t believe that THEY were the problem, NOT her.

Anyway, whether she went mad or not, that last attempt at love was a turning point. She loved her business before. After? She was a woman obsessed with it. She poured herself so completely into the shop that there is an old log in the town hall that proves she was fined for breaking the working hours ordinance no less than seven separate times because she just would not stop the machines and send her employees home by 6 pm.

The town, getting sick of her shit and sick of her attitude and just generally sick of her, had enough of the late hours right in the middle of their town and began to put the pressure on to drive her away. There are myriad ways a small town hellbent against one lone businesswoman could make her life hell and cause her business to dry up, and it seems every one of those tricks was employed.

I’d like to tell you that she bucked the system and kept on sewing. I can’t. The system beat her down, and in 1842, she had to close her doors. However, she lived on the third story, and by that time, she owned the building. They could make her close, but they couldn’t make her leave.

Annabelle would spend her days sitting in a chair on the balcony of the third floor, glaring down at the townspeople like some crazed, bitter gargoyle. They tried fining her, but there was no law against sitting on your own balcony and looking at folks. As she sat, day in and day out, her eyes passing judgment on everyone, she allowed her building to fall into disrepair. Right in the center of town and across from a grand hotel, the peeling paint and broken windows were not only an eyesore, they were a major flip of the bird to those who made her dream crumble.

They tried forcing her to keep her building neat and tidy. She never showed up to the hearing in front of the town board of selectmen, and she also never paid the resulting fine. The town took her to court. Or, tried to, anyway. She refused to leave her building to go to that court hearing, either, and a judgment was passed in her absence ordering Annabelle to either repair the building, or cede it to the town under threat of physical eviction should she not comply.

Do you think Annabelle complied?

Legend has it that the scene was a great, riotous affair on the day the police went to forcibly evict Annabelle. Gossip accounts of the time make it seem like there were hundreds of people gathered to witness the event, with folks squaring off on either side of the debate. The “let an old woman live in peace!” do gooders against the “make that bitch pay for ruining our town!” contingent.

Personally, I doubt the veracity of that part of the story. I’ve lived in this town almost my whole life, and while some things change about a small community over the years, the basic ethos will always remain. Though we do like a good spectacle, I think to get teeming masses involved, there would have to be some free beer or snacks.

Now, don’t get me wrong…I’m not saying there wasn’t drama on the fateful day. Though not the riotous affair the rumor mill created, it was one of our town’s most infamous events.

As the police forced their way into the building to apprehend the once powerful Annabelle, she gave the town her one last “SCREW YOU!” and dove off her balcony to her death. She landed right in front of the building, her neck twisted and blood staining the sidewalks in the very center of town just as a coach of wealthy travelers, some no doubt her former clients, pulled to a stop at the grand hotel right across the street.

Since that day, every business that has tried to make a go of it in Annabelle’s building has failed, some of them only a few months after opening their doors.

When I was a kid, the trend was to try to make it a little restaurant. Former tenants claimed that they’ve come in in the morning to find rows of glasses shattered, or the refrigerator with all the prep food for the next day unplugged and thousands of dollars worth of groceries spoiled. Things placed in the attic will be mysteriously shredded. Odd music will play when the owners are there alone at night. You know, standard haunting type stories.

However, even the folks who claim not to believe in ghosts have left the building in a hurry after more nefarious happenings. There are dozens of reports of people being pushed or tripped on the stairs. Reasonable men and women have fled in a panic after feeling as if they’ve been punched or slapped if they dare enter the third story, what was once Annabelle’s private quarters. Two people have been driven to insanity by the relentless torture, and one sadly died the same way as the seamstress herself.

No business lasts there, people. Why? Because Annabelle won’t let it.

…nah. Just kidding. Gosh you’re gullible today! The building never housed a high priced seamstress shop. I’m pretty sure it was the opposite of a grand hotel *nudge**nudge* *wink**wink* if you catch my drift. A saloon on the bottom floor, and bottoms on the top. I bet people did die there, but it was probably from gonorrhea or a heart attack. Maybe cheatin’ at cards like a yellow-bellied varmint.

It’s true that no business has lasted in that space, but the reason for that is quite simple and, frankly, boring. The building is in a horrible location. It’s right by the first of two intersections in town (yes, two WHOLE intersections), with a narrow bridge on one side and just awful parking, to boot. Any business like a shop or a restaurant, where people know they are only going to be there a short while, will not do well. It’s such a hassle to back out of the parking right into the intersection that people decide it’s not worth it to come back.

A dojo, though…now there’s a winning idea. Why? Because parents can drop their kids off and then park anywhere downtown. They’ve got at least an hour to wait while the kids are in class, so there’s no hurry, no rush. All the downtown parking is free, and if you’re not in a time crunch, the dojo is definitely within easy walking distance. Hell, a lot of the folks are probably going to head on over to do their laundry while they wait anyway. A dojo might work there, it just might.

Even if the dojo doesn’t last, the owners of the building have decided to spiff it up, too. They redid it to look like a cross between the old saloon it most likely was and a modern building with a bank of large windows on the entire second story. It looks classy, that’s what I’m saying, especially right next to the farmer’s mar*hic*ket.

Aw shit. I just put it together. The drunk-ket is in cahoots with the dojo. The folks who drop their kids off to kick ass in karate can then go drink some expensive liquor and buy kale while they wait. Brilliant.

We’ve also got a new candle shop in town. Yep, candles.

All of this together gives us fancy roots and organic twigs, craft liquors to make people forget they are going to eat said roots and twigs, a dojo where the folks who are going to buy the liquor and roots and twigs can send their kids while they do it, and a fancy candle to take home as a New Englandy memento.

Oooh lah lah. Lookit us all high and uppity over here. Bring on the snotty cheese-eaters!

…but remember, we still have guns. Lots of them. And even though a vast majority of the gun-toters will be watching a cow take a shit in the field to see if they struck it rich, I guarantee they’re all good enough shots to take down any rioters from that distance.

You know what we call that ’round here?

052

Thus concludes a briny Musing for Saturday, Pickle Fest Day, 2015. I’m off to buy a jar of half sours so I can pre-game.

“Uh, Bethie?”

Huh?

“Are you going to explain the cow shit comment?”

Well now, I don’t think I will. Mystery is the spice of life.

Embrace it.

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The trees aren’t the only ones confused this morning…

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Mornin’ all.

Welp, things are a’changin’ in the House of Bethie. The man did so well at his job they up and promoted him. I warned him that would happen if he was competent, but did he listen? Noooo.

Good thing he didn’t, because now I get to be really proud of him and make him blush. He’s a wizened old geezer, so the opportunities to make him blush are few and far between.

The new position means a new schedule, perhaps the one drawback in our plan to take over the world. We had really gotten used to the wee early morning routine. Now we have a slightly less-early routine that will then stretch later in the day and include a random night shift once a week. I wouldn’t be surprised if some evening musings popped in here once in awhile, though we probably shouldn’t be drinking coffee and eating day-old pastries together while we chatted at night. Too much caffeine. We need a different plan, you and I.

I’m not to sure what people do in the evening, since I’m usually sleeping at that time. Should we have a…cocktail? Would cocktails be an evening thing? I always thought they were before dinner, though. Hm. Nightcap?

Definitely NOT a nightcap. There’s an expectation after a nightcap, isn’t there? I’m not down for that.

I mean, no offense man, I like you. But I don’t like you like you. We don’t have that kind of relationship, and I think you can only drink nightcaps together if you do.

I suppose we could tip back a highball. It probably wouldn’t be effective, though, because I don’t have raw meat to gnaw on or hot asses we could slap, and I definitely don’t know any bawdy jokes that we can make about our secretaries while we lounge together in a man cave.

I will *not* drink beers with you. I will not drink beers with ANYONE. Blech. I honestly to my core have no idea how in the hell that drink has endured so long. I get that folks didn’t have better options available in the ancient times, and beer was a slightly better choice than getting dysentery from the water. But now? Now there is no excuse, folks. We have so many options. There are beverages out there that actually taste GOOD.

No beer. Beer bad. Bad, beer. Bad.

Maybe we shouldn’t drink. What do people who aren’t big drinkers drink in the evening? I usually have seltzer water and watch a bit of tv before heading upstairs to read for an hour or so.

Shit. I really AM one cardigan away from being Old Lady Bethie, aren’t I? One cardigan away from that, and one little glitter-crusted raccoon hat away from being Crazy Old Lady Bethie. Never forget how small that line is or how easy it is to cross, kiddies.

I think out of all the choices, cocktails sound the best. We can chat over cocktails and eat…uh…fondue? Is that how most grown ups spend their evenings, or is fondue actually a myth, like I’ve secretly believed all my life?

We are creatures of habit around here and this change is going to take some real getting used to.

I think it actually helps that the season has finally decided to change, too. It’s a chilly morning, and maybe that’ll help us transition better. An “out with the old, in with the new” kinda deal.

It’s been an odd end of summer here. All of September so far has been exceedingly warm. In fact, when we went to shop for some fancier work duds, the wind was carrying in the cooler air of autumn Nature had been waiting to embrace. Because it was so breezy, the leaves were falling off the trees, as they will. The weird thing, though, was that they were still green. The confusion of the trees was palpable. I think the conversation around the forest probably went something like this:

“Yo, Birch?”

“Yeah?”

“I think we’re supposed to be dropping leaves.”

“Nah. We can’t yet. It’s not cold. Hell, mine are still green.”

“I’m lookin’ on the calendar, and I really think we’ve got to drop them. See for yourself.”

“*sound of pages madly flipping* Shit. You’re right. But don’t we have to dye them first?”

“I don’t know. I’m so confused! Let’s get another opinion.”

“Good idea. Who should we ask?”

“The Larch.”

*MONTY PYTHON FIST BUMP* *OH YEAH*

The larch must have agreed, because we drove through showers of still-green leaves the whole trip. I tell you what, if this keeps up, the leaf peepers we get up from Connecticut and New Jersey will be highly disappointed. I don’t think they came to watch the shedding tears of confused trees.

It’s cold right now, though, so it may not be an issue. The cold is what signals the trees to shun their leaves and retain the life giving sap, thus eliminating the leaves’ ability to photosynthesize.

Science Monday.

Hopefully it’s not too little too late. We’ve got the annual Pickle Fest coming up at the end of the week, and it would be glorious to have another bright sunshiny day that thrums with the vibrancy of electric colored leaves, the mood highlighted by the briny scent of pickles wafting in the crisp, cool air. *pleasant sigh*

So I was picking the youngest cub up from school the other day. The school pick-up procedure goes like this:

You drive up and park and wait for your kid.

It’s not a complicated process, even though we got a three page pamphlet home on the first day of school explaining it. No joke. It’s just your basic after school pick-up. Simple, easy, the way kids have been picked up for years.

However, there is a growing trend at our little school, and I’m wondering if anyone else has this problem. Several parents who get out of their cars to wait for the younger students bring their dogs. They wait on the lawn starting about ten to fifteen minutes before the end of school, and have their dogs right where the kiddies are going to come running out.

On Friday, someone brought a big and hyper dog. I believe it had some husky in it, because the markings looked very huskyesque, but it was taller than I picture huskies. Admittedly, my knowledge of dog breeds is fairly basic, so that’s the best description you’re going to get. Sorry, dog lovers.

This dog, it was crazy untrained. It was on a leash, but it was like…it was like those fireworks you pin to a tree branch or a freshly painted backyard bridge (DAD. Jeez.) that are on a string and whiz-whiz-whiz-zip-twirl when you light them.

Of course he was a barker, too. He was barking so loud that the teacher in the classroom next to the walkway shut all of the class windows. You’d think the owner of the dog would get the message.

…and if you thought that, you’d be silly. Why would she suddenly have consideration for her fellow man when she hadn’t shown a lick of it before that point? She let the dog keep barking. She let the dog start barking at other dogs. She stood there ignoring the fact that her arm was one wrong move away from being torn out of its socket because talking on her cell phone was far more important than controlling her spastic dog at a school.

The dog got the four other dogs in the pick-up area all riled. Only one of the dogs had a muzzle. The others started to hop and yip and pull and generally act how dogs will act in a chaotic situation.

And then the kids came out in a flood, as kids do at the end of the day. A rush of small children running past already amped up animals.

The husky-like dog lunged at kids. He didn’t get any of them, but that was only because the little children were smarter than the dog owner and changed course to veer away from the dog in time. Once again, the dog -the hyper, barking, jumping jack- was in the main path the kids walk down when they leave the school.

Now, I’m not saying that all of the dog owners that bring their dogs to the school are irresponsible. There is one that always, ALWAYS has a muzzle on the dog, even though I have never once seen that dog be anything but a nice, mellow animal. It sits there and looks happily around with its tongue lolling out the side of the muzzle and thumps its tail when its kids come out of the school. That is a responsible dog owner.

There’s another one that brings the dogs for a run around the large field every afternoon, then puts them securely in the car before the kids come out. Now, I know for a fact she doesn’t clean up their dog poop, but at least the dogs aren’t a danger to the kids.

That’s what we’re talking about here. A legitimate, real danger to the kids that the irresponsible dog owners create. The majority of the owners that bring their dogs to school do not seem to realize that putting their family pet in a high activity situation with a bunch of strange, hyper children is potentially very dangerous, especially when there are OTHER overly stimulated dogs there, too.

Why don’t these dog owners understand that?

Right now, I know that some of you have an argument for me. Right now, there are some dog lovers reading this thinking I’m attacking dogs. I’m not. I like dogs well enough. The dogs aren’t the ones who drove to the school, are they? I’m not even saying anything bad about the ill-trained maybe-husky. It’s just a dog being a dog. It’s an animal, and it was behaving as such. Nothing more, nothing less…nothing to get angry at the dog about.

It’s the owners here. The owners are the problem.

And before I get an email about the responsible owners I mentioned, let me just point out one thing that is impossible to argue:

This is a SCHOOL we are talking about.

This is a school, where kids of all kinds, shapes, sizes, and temperaments go to learn. Not to hear dogs barking. Not to have to veer this way or that to safety. Not to have to step in dog shit when they’re playing in the field (that’s riling me up, now that I’m thinking about it).

Why are people trying to make the school a dog park?

Thus concludes a Musing for Monday, September 21, 2015. I’m going to probably take this week and next off from Musing to wrap up a book and get into the swing of the new schedule. I’ll come back with either coffee and pastries one morning, or cocktails and the ever elusive fondue one evening, and we’ll have chat and laughs. Enjoy the beginning of autumn, even if you have to peep green leaves!

Is a stolen quince still fancy, or can I eat it with my pinkie down?

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Mornin’ all.

Kitty did something new this morning. Normally if she wants me to get up, she bursts into my room like a furry dust devil, dons lead boots, and pounces on my chest. While I struggle and gasp, trying to get both my breath and my bearings, she whips off the lead boots and becomes my tiny cat again before rushing to give nose bumps and purrs as if nothing nefarious just happened.

That’s not the best way to wake up, but at least I get nose bumps. And I’ve grown accustom. It’s pretty much the status quo.

This morning, though, she bucked the system. Instead of jumping on my chest with her leaden Feet ‘O Doom, she got on my chest without me even noticing. She must have just tiptoed up on me, because I never even noticed that.

No, it was the repeated soft paw slapping across the face that woke me up.

*Bap*. *Bapbap*… …*BAPBAPBAPBAPBAPBAP*

Still got the nose bumps and purrs, but damn was that disorienting. I wasn’t sure if I was waking up in my own bed or if shit went down in the night and someone was trying to bring me ’round to rally and lead my people to victory.

I suppose if that were the case, it probably wouldn’t have been a cat waking me, huh? Or, at least, I hope not. If shit gets so desperate that a CAT has to be waking me up, I’m fairly certain all hope already jumped ship.

Right now, Kitty’s currently sitting on the back of my chair, purring, yet flicking me in the face with her tail. I guess it’s just going to be one of those kitty days. Lemme just go move all the breakables to lower shelves.

Who am I kidding? I’ve got 3 teenagers and a 9 year old I’m convinced is part firecracker. All my breakable stuff broke YEARS ago. Do your worst, Kitty.

Driving the youngest to school the other morning, I noticed that one of the houses near the school appears to be completely abandoned. The yard has really grown up, the dirt drive is mostly weeds, no lights, no cars. Unfortunately, that’s nothing new. I’m guessing it might be a foreclosure…there certainly are many of those around town, even on that particular street. That is the Desirable Neighborhood.

I don’t know how things work where you live, but around these parts, we don’t have sales tax or state income tax. To make up for this deficit in budgeting, we have inSANE property tax. The tax rate is set by the town, and assessors come ’round once in awhile to check the property and make sure that either your hunk of shit is still a steaming pile, or your epic mansion is still quality enough to put dollar signs in the budget committee’s eyes.

I personally live in a section of houses that used to be factory homes. For a lot of years, there was a huge leather tannery right down the way that employed a lot of folks and wanted to keep those folks beholden to the company (translation: they employed immigrants fresh off the boat and took advantage). Many companies did this before the government and unions said, “Uh, you can’t force folks who work for you to turn around and give you their entire paychecks. Pretty sure that’s called slavery, and fairly certain we don’t want that happening.”

If you go into any older town in New England and head toward the local river, you’ll find remains of an old factory or mill that’s either gone to Nature or has been turned into a quaint little antique shop. In the direct vicinity of the defunct factory or mill, you’ll also see a neighborhood of older looking, similarly styled, not-at-all fancy homes with small front yards and an overall utilitarian appearance.

And you thought suburbia was a new concept!

Anyway, we live in one of those old factory houses. It’s probably around a hundred and fifty years old…somewhere in there. Since these homes were built to hold as many poor people as possible, they were not maintained very well. Turns out, poor immigrants who worked their fingers to the bone and breathed in the combo of rotting animal carcasses and harsh tanning chemicals all day didn’t really have that Martha Stewart urge once they clocked out. These homes weren’t built to look nice. Or, really, to last. It’s why ours has a half-assed foundation that needs frequent attention to keep the whole house of cards from collapsing.

My neighbor’s house is quite similar. All the houses around are quite similar. We’re directly on the main road, because that would have made it very easy for the Polish immigrant employees to find their way to work every morning, and also close enough to the factory for the land we’re on to be considered crappy.

In a nutshell, I most certainly do NOT live in a Desirable Neighborhood.

Even though we’re pretty much the Clampetts before they struck black gold…

*classic TV fist bump, y’all*

…the landlords still pay a mint in taxes. The yearly property tax on this rundown joint comes to around $2500. That’s every single year.

In fairness, it’s a duplex, so the assessed value is higher than it really should be. It’s considered an “income property”. If it was just a one family, it would be a tad lower. Maybe around $2,000. Still, a lotta money every single year for a rundown row house.

Now, to give you an idea of just how unfair property assessment is, the Desirable Neighborhood is made up of two blocks in one straight strip. The first block is made up of factory housing. About a half mile away from the factory, it would have been for higher level employees. Managers, overseers, that sort. Folks who had earned the right to live far enough away from the factory to get clean air in their lungs at night.

But not too far. Gotta get to work at sunup, ya know.

The second half of the street is comprised of Fancy Homes. It’s been years since I’ve studied the survey maps the Historical Society keeps, but if I remember correctly, the Fancy Homes belonged to the town business owners. You can tell, too. They’re Victorian in style, have large yards with statement piece trees. Though still too shabby to belong in Beverly Hills by any stretch of the imagination, they truly are some of the best homes in town.

They’re right near a school. They’re across the street from the town’s community center. The police/fire station combo sits at the beginning of the street and there’s even a classic old white church that plays bells every evening at 5.

Majestic.

All of these things mean that the assessed value of ANY of the homes on that street is way higher than the assessed value of the same style of property anywhere else in town, even for the row houses that are boring with no front yard and, at best, statement shrubs, not trees.

To give you an idea, if the house we lived in were picked up and moved to the Desirable Neighborhood, our taxes would go from $2500/year to around $5000/year.

We looked into a couple properties on that street because nearly all of them are on the market at the moment. The one we were interested in had a smaller lawn, less overall property, same square footage in the home, same level of run-down-ness…and the house was valued so high that the tax would have been $5,300. Once again, that would be essentially the same thing we’ve got now (minus the duplex “income property” designation) not even a mile away.

Is it any wonder more than half the damn street is for sale right now? It’s insane.

So, seeing a house for sale, or even abandoned, on that road is nothing new. However, what struck me about this particular house wasn’t the home so much as what was in the yard.

Several years ago, the property was purchased and the owners had a dream of making it into some niche orchard. They planted and maintained a few apple, quince, and peach trees. They planted berry bushes and built an impressive box garden. They shipped in bees so they could produce honey and it looked to me as if they were in the process of turning their barn into one of those quaint “New Englandy” shops that pull in all the snotty cheese eaters who can’t wait to see the foliage every year.

Not knocking snotty cheese eaters. We NEED snotty cheese eaters. It keeps the owners of our New Englandy shops in business.

It was clear that someone was trying something new in this town.

The first thing that happened was “concern” being raised by the folks about the bees being so close to the school. As human nature has proven time and again, science and fact were no match for het up rhetoric in that debate. It wasn’t more than a year before I think the owners just got sick of the hostility and the idiots, and took down the cute “Fresh Pressed Honey” sign.

No more bees.

But, they still had the fruits. I talk like it’s an orchard. It’s not. It’s only six trees. However, what those folks managed to cram into the small space was amazing. They also chose their trees carefully. These trees are epic producers. It’s a veritable bounty, folks.

Maybe the taxes got to be too much. Maybe the townspeople got to be too much. Maybe the dream they clearly had wasn’t worth the battle it took to realize. They left. Someone else moved in, someone who did not have the same dream, someone who did not care about peaches and apples and quince.

And now it appears as if even that someone is gone.

The trees are heavy with fruit. They are sitting there, loaded. Kids walk by those trees every day, some of them hungry, some of them itchy to have a juicy bite of the dream that’s been abandoned.

I’ve had my share of apples this year. I can’t even LOOK at those. But the two quince trees…that’s a different story. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking of stepping slightly off the public sidewalk and nipping a stray quince of two.

They aren’t wanted. They’ve been abandoned. Beautiful, top shelf quality food sits on forgotten branches to rot. No one wants them. The custodians of the property, probably some vague yet menacing secret foreclosure society, have ignored the very existence of the bounty. The fruits sit there, alone, unwanted, destined to never live out their purpose in life.

When viewed in that light, I’d be doing the world a favor by taking some of the fruit. It’s noble, really, sacrificing my morals to lift up another life form, to give meaning to the hollowness of their current existence, to make their hard work and devotion COUNT in this crazy, mixed up world, to…

“Bethie.”

…what?

“Do not steal the fruit.”

But…

“.no.”

*sigh* Fine. I’ll leave the fruit. It can rot. Go to seed. Fall to the ground in a poetic allegory that the majority of folks who walk by won’t stop to ponder. I won’t steal the fruit. I promise.

But you have to admit, I almost swayed you, didn’t I?

Thus concludes a disappointingly quinceless Musing for Saturday, September 12, 2015. I mentioned last time that I’m gearing up for writing. I’m not sure if that’ll be this week or next. If you don’t hear from me for a bit, that’s what I’m up to. And if you DO hear from me, you know I’m procrastinating and you should yell at me to put away my toys and get to work. I’d do the same for you.

The spooky twang of a theremin can mean only one thing…

Standard

Mornin’ all.

“Uh, you feeling okay, Bethie?”

Yeah.

“You sure?”

…yeeeaaah. I’m fine. Why?

Wait. Do you know something I don’t know? Should I be feeling *not* okay?!? Now that you mention it, I am getting a bit sweaty. And one eyelid seems a bit poofier than the other. *gulp* Oh no. Oh m’gawd. I think my throat is feeling itchy and tickly. Yes, yes it’s definitely starting to feel itchy. It’s getting harder to breathe.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN!?? TELL ME WHAT YOU KNOW RIGHT NOW.

“…whoa. I was just wondering why you’re sitting down for another chit chat. This will be the third this week.”

*gulp* You mean I don’t have parvo?

“I don’t even think people can get parvo.”

Holy crap, dude. Don’t scare me like that! Gah. Now I’ve got heart palpitations!

*deep breath* *muttering mantra* *ironic sip of turbo caffeinated coffee*

I’m writing so much now for a few reasons, and none of them have anything to do with disease. The kiddies are back at school. This leaves me bored and lonely. My two best emotions for getting shit done happen to be boredom and loneliness.

The weather’s finally getting cooler. I’m a biggun. Bigguns don’t do well in the heat. I used to tell people I deep fried from the inside out, but to be honest, no one really thought it was funny but me. They’d get horrified looks on their faces and back away slowly. I suppose that’s why I babble on the internet instead of perform gigs in comedy clubs.

And the last reason I keep harassing you is that I’ve got a new keyboard. Remember that keyboard frying incident? Oh, you know. A few weeks back I gave my keyboard a coffee bath. You might think a coffee bath for a keyboard would give similar results to a milk bath for beautiful skin. You’d be wrong. Electronics don’t seem to appreciate moisturization.

Now, for about 20 years, I’ve exclusively used a split keyboard, where half of the letters are over this way, and the other over that. However, we couldn’t find a damn split keyboard anywhere locally and didn’t want to wait for the shipping. We decided to pick up a cheap interim keyboard, but the man went and got all fancy, so now the interim has a permanent position. Er, at least until I host another electronics spa day.

Anyway, the new keyboard is still technically an ergonomic one, but the keys wave instead of split. The only way I’m going to retrain my muscle memory is to keep hunting and pecking and hitting “k” every damn time I want to hit “j” until my fingers get it.

I’m getting much, much better. It still feels like I’m a little kid walking around in my mum’s high heels, but at least I can make it to the other side of the metaphorical room without landing on my face.

I need to hone my skills on this peripheral. The cooler weather and quieter abode is making me itch to wrap up the loose ends of a few books I’ve got percolating, one of which I honestly intended to be out in late spring.

So, in a nutshell, I’m bugging you constantly right now because I’m bored, lonely, and need practice.

“Gee, thanks.”

Aw, don’t be like that! Consider it payback for you trying to convince me I had parvo.

Now, I need to type. You need to have coffee and be entertained. I have the news pages open, and I think I hear the band tuning their theremins. The go-go dancers put on some ballet shoes, though everyone knows you should *tap* to theremin music, but who am I to tell them how to do their craft? Anyway, what I’m getting at is that I think we all need a little….

*** HEADLINE ROUNDUP!!! ***

*eerie theme music* *poignant echappe* *extra vibrato on the finish*

Wow. I stand corrected. *wipes tear* I had no idea the Roundup into could be so moving. Brava ladies, brava.

Now that we’ve been invigorated with the passion of art, let’s begin. For those who might be Roundup novices, here’s the deal. Sometimes a headline catches my eye. It may be poorly worded, misleading, or just generally imagination-inducing. I gather them up and share them with you…with comments. Every headline is 100% legitimate. I just supply the graceful flourish after. Here we go.

– Clintons Paid Man for Server Work

Heh heh. Chumps. Who pays for tech support anymore?

– Annual Pillow Fight Turns Bloody

“Oh…oh, were we not supposed to put bricks in the pillow cases? My bad.”

– Teen Trapped in School Safe Saved

Then it is a very aptly named piece of equipment. Good thing he didn’t get trapped in the school peril.

– R-Patz: It’s The “Worst Insult” to Mistake Me for an American

America’s not that crazy about it either, you sparkly asshole.

– Weekend Legal Setback for Cosby

Easy way to avoid that, Bill. Stop raping people.

– How We Eat Bacon Around the World

*raised eyebrow*…orally, I hope.

– Apostolic Church Fuels Clerk’s Gay Marriage Fight

Oh. I had no idea she worked for a church. I’m not sure she’s clear on the finer points of her employers, either.

-KY Clerk’s Attorney: Marriage Licenses for Gays are Void

Aw, no fair! Why does a lawyer get to void marriages at a whim but I wasn’t allowed to void my parking ticket? If he gets to arbitrarily change laws, I wanna do it, too!

– GOP Candidates Rush to Support KY Clerk

You know, with the huge pile of candidates to sort through this election cycle, it’s good that we’ve got instances like this to help clearly define the riffraff.

– KY Clerk Refuses to Back Down, No Resolution in Sight

…okay, look. The coverage of this is getting out of control. The clerk broke the law. You cannot work for the GOVERNMENT and use your RELIGION to decide how you serve the PUBLIC. Period. Our entire country was founded on that one principle. It’s law, plain and simple. Don’t want to follow the law? That’s up to you. But YOU do not get to decide MY rights because of YOUR religion. Period. End of discussion.

– Hope for Equality Crusaders in KY as…
I SAID END OF FUCKING DISCUSSION.

– Why is McDonald’s Finally Offering All-day Breakfast?

Better question: why are people so obsessed with all-day breakfast? And why do all-day breakfasters always feel the need to tell you they enjoy pancakes in the afternoon? Why do I need to know this? Things to ponder, folks.

– 43% of US Homes at High Risk from Natural Disasters

What a bizarre statistic.

– Massive Rock Threatening to Crash into Base of Arizona Dam

“Oh. I see you’ve got a nice dam going on here. Looks like it’s doing what? Holding millions of gallons of water back from drowning small towns, is it? Hm. We seem to find ourselves in an interesting situation then. I want to escape the quarry, you’ve got a beautiful, shiny dam… It’s such a nice dam. It would be a shame if something happened to it.”

– Oregon Judge Refuses to Perform Same-sex Marriages

Don’t you start with that shit, too, Oregon! I thought we had something special…?

– Bears Spotted in and Around Denver Searching for Food

They nudged the Broncos out of the way, who were also spotted in and around Denver searching for a win.

…sorry, Colorado. I could not pass it up this close to football season. You understand.

– Elusive Fla. Cobra Ignites Social Media as Search Continues

His latest Tweet said: “I was RIGHT over your head, @flstatetroopers. You’re not even making this hard!! #nowondercriminalsgetaway #suckit #nevergonnafindme”

– Soulless Banker in Topless Spar

I didn’t bother reading the article because I want to keep my belief that old, pasty bankers with no rhythm threw down over the last free lollipop. It makes me happy to believe that actually happened.

– Wildfires Take Toll on Hunting Season

Probably the absolute LEAST important impact of a massive wildfire.

– Black Bear “Army Unit” Surrounds Russian Town

Admit it. I am not the only one right now who thinks there’s a better than fair chance that Putin has actually weaponized bears.

– Amazon Hiring for New Restaurant Division in Seattle, NYC

“Your search for: egg yolk ravioli found 23 new and 52 used offers from 75 sellers. Refine your search?”

– Amazon Hiring for New Restaurant Division in Seattle, NYC

Do you think they’ll deliver food with drones, too? Literal cloudy with a chance of meatballs.

…I couldn’t decide which one to go with, so you got a bonus.

– Arab World’s Richest Nations Offer Little Help

I want to say something about the governments…but then you’ll take it to be about the everyday folks because I KNOW how the internet works…and I’ll get email…and stumble and try to explain, but it’ll be too late because, DUH, INTERNET…and then there will be a cloud hanging over us… Let’s just leave any wise cracks about the governments of the Arab nations in question unspoken.

– Migrants Stream into Austria, Swept West by Overwhelmed Hungary

I’m dying to share puns, but that would probably be misconstrued, too. You’re killin’ me here, MSN. You really are.

– As Officers are Gunned Down, Police Feel Under Attack

Huh. What an odd reaction to being shot at. Can you say persecution complex? Yikes.

– Crowded House! International Crew Arrives at Space Station

Ain’t no party like an international space station party cuz and international space station party don’t stop…unless an outside catalyst applies enough force upon the international space station to overcome the effect of it’s current momentum.

Put that to a beat and you’ve got a hit.

– See What the Oldest Surviving Kodak Camera Looks Like Today

Frankly- and this might be a bit of a spoiler, so consider yourself warned- I think he’s really let himself go. Botox isn’t just for women, you know. But that’s just my opinion.

– 3D Printed Tiny Fish Could Be Used for Drug Delivery

WTF? Wall Street Journal, are you high?

– Feds Using “Stingrays” to Spy on Cell Phones?

Why not? Russia’s using bears to invade villages.

– What the Evolution of Fire Can Teach us About Climate Change

Fire does not evolve. It is the same now as it was a million years ago. I hate bullshit “science” that is done by hipsters who want to sound like they know what they’re talking about in their desperate attempt to justify fake glasses and ironic pocket protectors. You’re not fooling anyone, hipsters. Back away from science and go sip your Pabst in the corner before you break something.

– Baby Delivered in Uber Car By Lincoln Tunnel

That’s a very talented tunnel.

– The Strange Practice of “Gnoming”

I don’t want to know. You don’t want to know. I guarantee our lives are better if we remain in the dark on this one.

– Man Escapes Fire, Talks About Saving his BBQ Ribs

Oh, ‘Merica.

– In the Future, Your Hot Dogs Might Be Made of Trees

You ate the brownies at the Wall Street Journal party, didn’t you, Newsweek?

– Cops Fire 84 Shots at Robbery Suspect, Hit Him Once

That’s some Grand Theft Auto bullshit right there.

– Biden’s Wife May Share His Misgivings About Another Race

I really feel like the editor should have added “For Office” at the end. Just to clarify things.

– Gov. Brown Prohibits Ban on Artificial Lawns as Voter Turnout Bill Advances

I feel like this news site just took to random, vaguely political topics and mashed them together. What in the hell does astroturf have to do with voter turnout?

– Campaign Manager Doesn’t Even Try to Manage Trump

The No Shit Gazette is back in full swing.

– New Hampshire Town Celebrates Notable ’65 UFO Citing

Bahaha! What idiots! A UFO celebration in New…

Oh… That said New Hampshire? I thought it said New JERSEY. Heh heh. *gulp*

Well. This got awkward.

Thus concludes a Roundup for Saturday, September 5, 2015. Today is Teen Prime’s b-day. Alas, he is spending the day with his dad’s fam. *sniff* I did not get to make my baby a b-day breakfast. I’ll just have to be doubly annoying when I see him tomorrow!

I’ve locked the door and armed myself with a peeler. Let’s hope it’s enough.

Standard

Mornin’ all.

The apples. Oh, the APPLES.

Now, I’m not first world probleming, here, so don’t get me wrong. I’m not complaining about them. I love all this free food! But my word, I’ve never in my life had to deal with so many at once. In fact, if you added up all the apples I’ve EVER eaten, 37 years of apple lovin’, I’m not sure that it would match how many I have on the ground, in pots and pans waiting to be processed, in the coolers, and buckets, and baskets right this very moment.

They seem to be multiplying, too. I swear there weren’t as many last night.

And the most unnerving thing is that I think…I think they’re moving.

I came down this morning to get coffee and right there in front of the coffee maker was a huge stock pot of apples. How did it get there? I didn’t put it there.

“Yeah, right, Bethie.”

Think about it. Would I let anything get in the way of me and my morning cup of joe?

“Hm. You make a good point…”

They were waiting there for me, folks, I know they were. I’m not quite sure why. Were they trying to send a message? Make my mind think back on the silent screams of the dozens I’d already peeled and cored?

“What are you going to do, Bethie?” their shiny-skinned gaze seemed to say. “What’s it going to be for us? Are you going to skin us alive or boil us whole?”

Apples have completely taken over. They’ve turned the tables. THEY are the ones trying to hunt ME.

They came from 30 feet above…

Just when you thought it was safe to go into the orchard…

An apple a day lets the boogeyman out to play…

Way up high in the apple tree, two little apples smiled at me…oh, how they smiled *evil cackle*…

…can you get high on apple butter fumes?

I compost the cores and peels. For the first few days of dealing with the apple onslaught, the woodland creatures seemed to appreciate the heap in the compost. I’d get up in the mornings to find the pile nibbled down to almost nothing by the raccoons and bunnies and skunks and woodchucks.

Even Nature has become sick of apples, though. I found a few Yelp reviews of my compost pile that are less than flattering.

“I used to find great eats here, but now it’s like the chef has just given up. 2 stars.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I like apples. But when did egg shells and carrot peelings become passe? Not so sure I can get on board with one-ingredient menu. Decor was nice, though. 3 stars.”

“Ugh, another fru fru chef who thinks they found the next big thing. News flash: you aren’t as cool or hip as you think you are. And your parking is a joke. 1 star.”

Ouch. I’m not going to lie. That last one stung.

I think today will be the last big push on apple processing, which will no doubt be a relief for my kids. They’ve GOT to be jonesin’ for an orange right about now. I’ll get the rest of the apple crop done and the last apple cake baked for awhile and then move on.

Before I go, I’m going to share a recipe with you. Yes, it involves mashed apple carcasses. However, since the odds are good that you aren’t being haunted by the torturous memories of skinning thousands of the little buggers, I think it’s a recipe you’ll actually really like. It doesn’t have many ingredients, and comes out great every time.

Very Easy Apple Cake

…oh, and did I mention how easy it is to make?

20 oz. unsweetened applesauce (homemade or canned, either works. And that’s 2-1/2 liquid cups.)

2 cups flour

1 cup white sugar (or, for a deeper flavor, 1/2 c white and 1/2 c brown sugars)

1 T corn starch

2 tsps baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

3 T cocoa powder (optional, but gives a much better flavor if you use it)

1 tsp salt

1 T apple pie spices of your choosing (more on that below)

Optional: up to 1 cup add-ins of your choice (also more below)

1. Preheat oven to 325.

2. Grease and flour a bundt pan, tube pan, two loaf pans, or a 9×13 cake pan.

3. Mix together all dry ingredients with a spoon. No mixer needed for this recipe! For the spices, you could buy a can of “pumpkin pie spice”, or you could create your own blend with your favorite ground spices from this list: cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves. I generally tend to do about 2 tsps cinnamon, then make up the rest with small amounts of nutmeg, allspice, and ginger, because that’s what I personally like. Customize it how you will. Just remember, cloves pack a real punch, and ground ginger powder tends to get bitter as it ages. I’d go easy on the clove, and if you haven’t used that ginger powder that’s been sitting in the back of your cupboard all year, I’d consider ditching it and picking up a new can.

4. Add the applesauce. Stir. At first, you’ll notice it takes a bit of effort to get it to come together, but give it a few good turns with the spoon and it’ll magically turn into thick cake batter.

5. Now is the time to put in any add-ins you want and give them a stir just until they are evenly mixed throughout the batter. What do I mean by add-ins? Well, this recipe is a fantastic base that can be easily altered through the addition of things like: raisins, dried cranberries, chocolate chips, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, crumbled cookies, sprinkles… If it’s dry and you think it would taste good in a cake, give it a go. However, you don’t need to put anything extra in at all. I usually make this without anything added, and it comes out tasting like a dark spice cake. Yum.

6. Bake for an amount of time that’s determined by your pan size. Larger, flatter pans will take about 40 minutes or so. Pans that are smaller, and therefore have a thicker layer of batter will take longer, 60 minutes. It’s like a banana or zucchini bread in that respect. To tell if the cake is done, a toothpick isn’t the best method for something like this. Instead, look at the cake edges around the pan. They should be slightly domed and just starting to pull away from the walls of the pan. Let the cake cool for ten minutes, then tip it out onto a plate or platter and let it cool completely. You can ice it however you choose, or not at all. It’s a moist cake that is actually good without heavy icing.

If you’d like to honor the apple tradition, here’s a quick and easy little caramel-ish glaze:

1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 T water

1. Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan.

2. Cook over medium heat until the sugar crystals have dissolved, stirring constantly. This will happen quicker than you think, about 2-3 minutes, and it’ll burn if you aren’t paying attention! You can also do this step in a microwave. Microwave for 30 seconds in a microwave safe bowl. Stir, and pop it back in for 30 more seconds, repeating until it’s ready. It takes about 2 minutes to get a smooth glaze with no crystals, or about the same time it takes on the stove. In this instance, the microwave won’t really speed the process up.

3. When it’s very hot, the glaze will be super runny. As it cools, it thickens. When in this process you want to glaze your cake is up to you. I often will pour half over the top of the cake immediately, to allow some of the glaze to be absorbed into the cake, then pour the other half when things have cooled and thickened a bit. However, if you’re doing a bundt or tube cake, the glaze will run down the middle and collect in the well before seeping into the bottom. I personally like a moist bottom.

“Bethie!”

CAKE. I like my CAKE to have a moist bottom. Get your mind out of the gutter, perv.

Anyway, how you glaze is your call. I’ve done all I can to inform you of your choices. Go forth and make me proud.

Now, I know that was a lot of writing for what I claimed was a wicked easy cake. It is, because I’m wordy and want to make sure that the first time you make this recipe, you know what you’re doing. But, break it down. Applesauce, flour, leavening, and spices. That’s it. All in one bowl, stirred by hand, dumped with little care and baked until it’s done. No pressure. No stress. Probably the easiest cake recipe I’ve ever come across. If it takes you more than three minutes to get this thrown together and into the oven, you’re doing it wrong.

And, did you notice what it does NOT have in it? No eggs, meaning no cholesterol for those who care about that. No oil or margarine or butter, so no added fat.

Hey, stop with the look of dubiousness! Just because it’s healthier than most cake recipes doesn’t mean it can’t get a stamp of approval. I’m a cake lover. I wouldn’t give you a healthy recipe unless it was also a legitimately TASTY recipe. Give it a try. You’ll be surprised by how good it really is.

I stand behind this cake 100%.

…or at least I will in a month or two when the judgmental, accusatory stares from all those I am about to slice and score and smash are but a distant memory.

Thus concludes a quick Appling for Appleday, Appletember 3, 2015. I’m going to break up the apple processing monotony with laundry and cupboard reorganizing. Did I say I was going to whoop it up once the kiddies went back to school or what. Oh baby. This party cannot be contained.

Renaissance Cavewoman

Standard

Mornin’ all.

You want some applesauce?

My apples are coming in. BOY are they coming in. I haven’t even really had to set up a contraption to harvest them yet, though my guy and a buddy of his had some great redneck fun climbing up there and shake shake shaking the branches. They climbed just high enough to scare me, but still in a range where a fall would most likely be survivable. I’m not going to lie and call that a sober endeavor, though I really feel like that goes without saying.

Between the drunk apes and good old fashioned gravity, I’ve gotten enough apples so far to make three batches of apple crisp, two apple cakes, and four gallons of applesauce.

Four. GALLONS.

Three of the gallons are divided and ziploc-ed in the freezer. I always use ziploc bags for freezing stuff like that. Once you fill the bag, squeeze the air out, and zip it closed, you can lay it on the counter for a bit and it’ll get very flat, making it good for storage.

Admittedly, it feels very, very odd to have a sac of warm applesauce in your hands. It’s like some bizarre boob implant gone awry.

“Bethie, I’m offended by the word boob.”

Of course you are.

Once you get the edible implants flat and stacked, they fit very nicely in our small freezer. It’s times like these that I wish I had a chest freezer. Though I guess if you look at it the right way, now I do.

BUH DUM DUM CHING

I’d guess a good two thirds of this year’s apple crop is still up in the tree branches. I’m going to make some apple butter and jar it, so I can store that in the cupboards. And I’ll keep cranking out apple cakes and crisps and crumbles and buckles until the kids can’t stand the smell of apples and cinnamon.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right?

“Yes, but they don’t mean you should cram the whole year’s worth in at once.”

Eh, semantics.

We had use of a standing freezer at one time. It was great. My mum got it for a song from the junk shop across the way, and we muscled it into her garage when she lived next door. It gave us a few good years, then shit the bed. We used it for storage of woodworking materials and hand tools after it would no longer chill our grub.

You all know how much I love having a new thing to fill with all my junk, so it wasn’t really a heartbreaking day when the freezing element conked out. But having the ability to hoard food is something I miss.

I was thinking about hoarding the other day while combing through the tall grass for apples, my shirt full because I didn’t have the forethought to bring the cooler over to the other side of the tree. Had I been a chipmunk, I would have started cramming my cheeks full.

You’re welcome for that mental image.

I bent over to pick up another apple and the makeshift “pouch” of my tee shirt bottom gave way and a few apples fell out. I’m not going to lie. It gave me a moment of panic. It truly, honestly did.

“Uh, Bethie…”

Yeah yeah yeah, I know. Just bend down and pick them back up. I get it. But in that moment, all I could think was, “Shit, I just lost them! Hurry and get them back right now or the kids will starve this winter!”

Here’s a theory, folks. I don’t think my hoarding is a dysfunction. Instead, I propose that the hoarding “illness” is actually a recessive genetic trait carried from our hunter/gatherer cave-cestors.

Now wait. I’m not justifying any of the alarming or truly damaging aspects of hoarding. There is no reason to get so much junk that you can’t tell when you’ve got flattened, mummified cats at the bottom of the heap. There is absolutely no survival benefit to owning mummified cats.

But if you were to come into my house right now and look at things through the eyes of a caveman or cavewoman, you’d not only be impressed, but you’d put down your rock and club in concession to my obvious superiority and crown me Queen of the Caves.

…”*dubious eyebrow lift*”…

…okay, well you’d at least whistle and waggle your bushy cave brows and thump my man on the back while saying, “mmghfm, brah,” which I don’t even think needs translating.

I’m saying that while I may fail at being a modern chick in many ways, I’d friggin’ rock the hell out of cave life.

*sidenote: The misogynistic OpenOffice spellchecker approves of “caveman” but not “cavewoman.” Someone start an online petition toot sweet.

**sidenote p.s.: Also not allowed are “spellchecker” and “sidenote,” though I doubt this will raise enough ire to warrant a petition. Still, worth mentioning. Tighten it up, OpenOffice.

Cheekiness aside, I do think I might be on to something here. I wasn’t kidding when I said the apples falling out of my shirt caused a moment of panic. That’s what actually gave me pause and sparked what might be the first epiphany of the school year. With the kids gone during the day, I can actually think.

Look, I’m not at all unaware of my stupidly obsessive thoughts. I know it was utterly ridiculous to feel fear at the potential loss of three apples, especially given the circumstances. They didn’t actually “go” anywhere. They were still there in front of me, cushioned in the grass, waiting for me to bend down and pick them back up.

Right now, in modern life, I didn’t have to worry at all. I didn’t lose them.

And even if I had, even if they had tumbled down the little hill into the drainage creek to be swept out to the Ashuelot river, there were plenty more apples for me and my family. Too many, actually. I don’t have a freezer. I can’t possibly use all the apples Nature has provided this year. I honestly did not need those three apples.

But cavewoman Bethie could have. Cavewoman Bethie probably would have. Every single scrap of food was necessary. It makes sense to have a mini panic attack when you think about it from that standpoint. I might live in modern times, but I’m still an animal. At heart, we all are. And what more animalistic endeavor could there be than gathering food for a family? Not shopping. Not opening a can. Real, honest, raw gathering. Out there, barefoot in the morning dew, eyes carefully scanning the tall grasses for the bright red that signals another step towards full bellies and healthy cubs.

Instinct. In that respect, hoarding food is simple, pure instinct. Grab as much as you can and then protect it, because those three apples could mean the difference between life and death.

On the “stuff” side of hoarding, as the gatherer half of this h/g team, my ability to scavenge and save and stockpile would have been a massive advantage. My little clan would have had things to trade, more possibilities for tool crafting, greater comforts than other groups. Those things would have given us status.

I would have OWNED caveman life.

Modernity hasn’t negated the inborn need humans have to amass huge quantities of things. I hoard stuff. Junk, if you’re going to insist on cold, hard truth. I love the things I gather. To me and my little clan, it’s useful, even if others don’t see the glorious piles in a twinkling, rainbowy light. However, while others are shaking their heads, the vast majority of the tsk-tsking naysayers are also hoarders. They just hoard money. Or shoes. Or nice furniture instead of curbside freebies.

Think I’m off base? Then explain storage units to me.

We humans have created a multi-billion dollar industry that exists for the sole purpose of storing all our extra crap. If you’ve got a storage unit that holds all your extra stuff, then you’re actually pretty much just like me. The ONLY difference between the two of us is that I refuse to pay someone $300/month to keep all my extra shit. I don’t tuck my hoarding away and pretend the urges aren’t there. I face it and live with it every single day.

“Bethie, we need storage units. What about when people move? They need a place to keep their stuff for awhile.”

Yep. But that’s not how it plays out, is it?

My uncle had a storage unit. He got it when he downsized after his divorce (lawyer speak for “he had to sell the house and give the ex the money”). When he started out, he *intended* for his storage unit to be temporary, as most folks do.

But once he got into the apartment, he realized how empty it felt. So, he started to buy new stuff. Why not? His house stuff was really for a house, after all. He needed apartment stuff.

When he died, we had the job of sorting out his storage unit. What did we find? Copies of the stuff he had in his apartment. Another couch, another stereo, an outdated computer. At that point, he had been divorced for nearly two decades, and had been shifting that crap from storage facility to storage facility as he moved. He paid every single month to house his “house” stuff for decades.

You’re laughing, but his story is not at all uncommon. In fact, most people who rent a storage unit end up paying to keep it for years. Some people have multiple storage units.

How is that NOT hoarding? It is hoarding. It’s just socially acceptable hoarding. That’s the only difference between the average Joe with a storage unit and myself. Society okays one and pretends the other is different. We are alike, though. We’ve all got that little side to us.

It’s a compulsion that’s been in our genes since before we were humans. It’s an ancient survival instinct that happens to be more prevalent in some people than others. I’m simply more in touch with my ancestral heritage than most.

I’m not a hoarder. I’m a Renaissance cavewoman.

Wait…why are you groaning and rolling your eyes?

“Because it just dawned on me what you’re doing.”

Uh, what do you mean? I’m proposing a very important biological, sociological, and anthropological theory here.

“No, you’re trying to justify ignoring the housework for another day.”

Whaaaa? Meeee???

“That’s what this entire post has been about, isn’t it?”

*whistles* *picks lint off bathrobe* *develops a sudden deep interest in the position of the stapler on the desk*

“Bethie.”

…yeah?

“Go clean your room.”

*grumble* *glare* Fine. See if I try to enlighten you again. *mutter* *shuffles off to get the broom*

“Don’t forget the trash bags.”

Tyrant.

Thus concludes the Morning Musing for Tuesday, September 1, 2015. I guess I’ll go clean my stupid room now and conform to your modern oppression. But you have to admit, excuses and stalling and epic procrastination technique aside, I might just have a point.