Monday, November 23, 2009

NOT FUNNY MURPHY!!!!! At least this time it didn’t cost any money.

Another critter story.

November, 23, 2009

I’ve not posted to the blog in over a week because I’ve been hitting it so hard on doing mystery shops I’ve had several very late nights that have had me collapsing into bed as late as 4:45 am then back up before 9 am. Last weekend I was so worn down I went to bed at 8:30 pm one night and slept until nearly 10 the next day. A cat playing hop on Mom finally woke me up. Something about a 20 pound cat sitting on my full bladder.

Gary has been staying home most days working hard on finishing up the utility room. It is looking so good. He has a few minor details to finish and was waiting on me to return unused materials to get enough cash back to purchase the right sized materials to finish up the trim, which I did late last week.

It was so nice to be able to just sweep and mop instead trying maneuver the vacuum around the appliances.

Over the weekend dh and ds tore out more of the dining room flooring as well as damaged sheet rock and mildewed insulation behind it.

The plan this week has been for more of the same. Gary working during the day on the dining room while I mystery shopped and Sean went to work. Which is exactly how things went today.

The plan for tomorrow is to start putting the new replacement materials in so that we can at least move the dining room table in on the subflooring for Thanksgiving then move it back out to paint and put the new flooring and hearth down if they don’t have enough time to get it all done before Thanksgiving. I’ve got to say it will not be a moment too soon to have that floor sealed up tightly. We’ve got a wee bit of a draft since all the wall and floor insulation has been removed. Plus the guys spend a lot of time covering and uncovering the floor holes to keep five cats from going exploring to find Alice in Wonderland down the opossum hole.

As I filed today’s reports we had the tv on and all five cats were remarkable still. Especially Gypsy Skeeter. I found this unusual as she is normally very hyperactive. That is when she’s not playing vampire and suckling on someone’s neck because she’s: a) scared b)hungry or c) wanting to snuggle hard—she has desertion issues I guess.

Tonight, despite her determined tormentor, Lizzie Borden, being in the room she was still and staring so hard at seemingly nothing toward the stairwell Sean more than once told me to look between her ears to see if I saw any spirits. I didn’t. Then he noticed the other four cats were also alert and looking that way as well. As we tried to figure out what was going on a coyote yodeled very near the house. So we decided that was what was disturbing the animals.

When it became Sean’s bedtime he gathered up Gypsy to take her to his room for the night—we alternate nights during the week because she plays all night and we all need some sleep. She can’t be left loose like the other cats because Lizzie is still determined to get her. As he approached the stairwell Gypsy became agitated and went right for Sean’s neck in full vampire mode, getting as high up as she could. She hadn’t done this in several days so he was surprised. “What’s the matter Gypster” he said, she glanced toward the stairs that they were about to mount and went even higher on his neck.

“Ow!, Sean said, “Easy girl!”

Sean came back down a little while later to get a glass of milk when he noticed Lizzie staring very intently at a bag of stuff he’d purchased today and set on the stairwell to take up stairs.

“What cha doing Liz?” he said.

The cat did not meow a reply like normal but stared wide eyed at the sack. Thinking that another wasp had gotten in the house he asked her “Did you find an owie bug?” Again no response, but her glorious huge amber eyes grew to an impossible size.

Sean reached down and moved the sack intending to kill the wasp so it wouldn't sting the cat, then screamed “Oh CHEEZ!!!” I swear my 5’11” son hit the 16 foot ceiling in the stairwell and at the same time leaped backwards into the sunken living room, dragging Lizzie with him.

His faded freckles of his youth now stood out from his face like a neon sign. He was ashen in color.

“What!?!” I asked.

“There’s a SNAKE on the stairwell!!!!” he blurted out and then “No Lizzie, get back here” as the cat headed toward her intended prey.

At the word snake Gary said “What type?”

“King, like the one that bit me when I was a kid.” Sean said. He was referring to a non-poisonous speckled king snake. --That's another long story for a blast from the past post at another time.

I knew Gary was asking because if it had been a poisonous one, and trust me my guys know the difference, the situation would have to be handled quite differently than what he did.

As Sean tried to get his heart back in his chest and the four adult cats from pissing the snake off Gary, who was already wearing heavy bib overalls, donned his Carhardt jacket, pulled the hood snug around his face to where it was nearly completely covered and then added leather gloves to his ensemble.

“Now what am I going to get it with” he said to no one in particular.

I replied “ NOT the shotgun, you don't need any more wall to patch! Use the cat poop scooper and a box or something.”

He left the room and came back with our aluminum can recycling trash can, which does not have a lid and the bright purple scooper pan and claw. At first his efforts were hampered by the “gonna get that invader” cats so I told Sean, from where I sat with my feet up on the coffee table—just in case—to give the cats their cookies for the night.

“Cookie, cookie, cookie he called “

The cats were thinking snake, snake, snake, COOKIES! And ran to him for their nightly treat. Gary quickly scooped the snake up, but before he could get it into the trash can it turned and struck at him. He uttered a not nice word and let the snake move away slightly so that it was facing a corner then scooped it into the trash can and snapped a piece of cardboard he’d brought for that purpose on top of the can before the confused snake could pop back out or strike again.

As he stood hand holding the cardboard firm over the thrashing snake he said “Now  that I have it, what am I going to do with it?  It’s a king snake I hate to throw it out in the cold. Sean and I both gave him the stink eye! I did my duty of having pet snakes with a variety of king snakes and one 16 foot python named Monty, when the kids were growing up. I had absolutely no plans to repeat that part of our family history.

He then said “someone get me a flashlight and my truck keys”. Since Sean was in his bathrobe I got both. Then said “I think you are going to need someone to go with you because I do NOT want that thing lose in my truck OR coming back in my house.”

When I crawled into the front seat of the truck Gary told me to push my seat way back so he could put the trash can holding the snake on the truck floor between my legs. NOT happening!!! I’m pretty easy going about critters but a gal has to draw the line somewhere!

He started arguing with me that the can was too tall for it to go into my lap and me keep the cardboard in position. I pointed out that I would have to ride bent over to keep the cardboard on and my back would not agree to that. Plus how was he going to get that sucker out of the truck without letting that snake loose between my knees! He saw my point real quick when I snapped my legs together tighter than a bear trap. That snake was NOT going there.

As he set it in my lap the snake was pounding at the can wanting out NOW!

We drove a few miles off into a wooded area away from all the neighbors’ houses and at a deep bar ditch Gary carefully dumped him out where he went down the slope away from his legs and the light of the open truck door.

As he got back in the truck the very first words out of his mouth were “ I promise the subflooring will be down tomorrow!” I just looked at him and said “it better be, I have enough critters in my house as it is. This one went too far.”

We figure when Gary lit the fireplace today it came in while he was hauling sheet rock in and out drawn by the heat of the fireplace. It was about 4 foot long, probably the one we’d been seeing near the side water faucet all summer.

You have to admit it is never a dull moment around the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch.

Jan who wants that floor in NOW! In OK

Sunday, November 15, 2009


November 15, 2009

A frequent question during the is time of year is HOW can I make the holiday meal easier so the host/hostess can enjoy the day more.  This is a post I did on one of the  yahoo lists when the annual question came up. I've added some more ideas to the regular post  I hope it helps someone.  I've also included a couple of recipes that you can do most if not all the work on ahead of time.

When we do the big family meal thing it can mean in excess of 30 people. Here’s a few things I do to prepare and make before, during and after easier.

Jan who is having a small group this year and is trying to push Murphy out of the door so the utility room and dining room will be finished in time in OK

1. Plan the menu TODAY, break it down into categories

a. Meats/meat substitutes

b. Vegetables

c. Desserts (remember to include sugar free/diabetic friendly ones

d. Beverages

e. Breads

f. Pre-dinner snacks for those early arrivers

g. Soup if desired

h. Salads/relishes

i. Paper/plastic products if using them.

2. Take that list and call each and every one that is coming and ask them which category they would most like to add a dish to. You might just be surprised. All my sil’s crew (6 of them) work for the same casino and they get FIVE turkeys at Thanksgiving and FIVE hams at Christmas for their holiday bonuses. So she supplies the turkey/ham at the big gatherings. You could cook a ham or roast for those non-turkey eaters like my dh. Don’t take “I dunno”, for an answer if someone can’t make up their mind tell them you’ll see what’s left on the menu and assign that to them. Then do it---you come you supply something! Breads, paper products and beverages should be reserved for those that travel a long distance and could stop and pick it up just before they arrive.

3. Take a look at what you are going to serve yourself and look hard at it. What could you do ahead of time and freeze?

a. Sweet potato pudding/casserole—I have a pecan topped one that freezes wonderfully.
b. If you are doing homemade dinner rolls make the dough up as far as the “roll into balls” step and then freeze the individual balls on a cookie sheet. When frozen solid bag bag them in up in a plastic freezer bag or container.  Then on THE day all you have to do is put them in  your baking pan early in the day and let them thaw and rise.

c.  If you are doing homemade bread either make it the day before or if using a bread machine. Mix up all the dry ingredients now and store until the day of and use your timed feature the bread machine if doing a recipe from one of my newest favorite cookbooks "Artisan  Breads in less than Five Minutes a Day" make up the sponge earlier in the week.

d. Make up your stuffing except for the wet ingredients (broth and eggs) and freeze.

e. Do the same thing for anything you can think of and spread the work out over the time you have left between now and the holiday.
f. Early in the week on Thanksgiving/Christmas week boil and peel your eggs for deviled eggs. Seal in a plastic bag with the air pushed out, or an airtight container.        
4. Once the menu is made and your part is decided make a detailed grocery list. Check your cupboards don’t just look in and see you have sage, check the bottle to see if you have ENOUGH sage. Check right down to the salt and pepper. Set these ingredients aside and mark them DO NOT USE so you don't accidentally use something up before the big day.

5. Fill the salt and pepper shakers you will use, fill the sugar bowls, a creamer bowl etc. days ahead of time and them set them aside so they don’t get emptied before the event. Be sure and do a set for each table you will be using.

6. If you use silver, get it out and polish it 1-2 weeks early then wrap it in Saran wrap in an airtight way. While you are at it wash the dust off the good crystal and china if you are going to use it.

7. Big group? Go with sturdy paper plates—spring for the big ones it is THANKSGIVING/CHRISTMAS you know, the better plastic silverware, cups etc. Don’t forget hot cups, napkins and table cloths. Do you have enough trash bags and containers you can line with them to encourage everyone to clear their own place?

8. Plan your cooking and serving dishes and utensils now. If you are doing individual tables instead of a buffet you will need a serving set up for each table. Do you have enough gravy boats? Should sister Sue bring hers? How about trivets/hot mats?

9. If you are doing all of the oven cooking or have a lot of “will bring but need to heat it in the oven when I get there” foods do you have enough oven space so everything will hit the table hot? Could it be done in another room other than the kitchen, kitchen space is a valuable commodity with a big group. Here’s a few things I do to help with this: JP NOTE: If heating things in small appliances in other rooms remember these appliances put heat out and take precautions that they are not where small children cannot pull them over, pets get into them or will harm the finish of the item they are setting on.  Also check that all these will not be on the same circuit and blow a breaker or fuse when in use at once--do a quick test run ahead of time.

 a. Use the toaster oven to cook/warm whatever will fit in it. That’s where my sweet potato casserole goes.

b. Make the mashed potatoes early in the day and hold them in the crockpot in another room out of the kitchen.

c. Borrow my sister in laws turkey roaster and set it up in another room to cook the turkey.

d. Veggies in crockpots of all sizes in another room.

e. Bread machine in another room

 f. Throw a sheet over the washer and dryer and all spare things like the lid off of sister Sue’s cake pan, foil to reuse, spare paper products etc. go in there to be stored.

g. If you have a woodburning stove take advantage of that spot too. Just remember to stir often.  Our Ashley has a firebox I can simmer things directly on or put the cool touch top on it to hold big pots of coffee, mulled drinks, and other things that need to be kept warm   but not boiled.

10. Plan your tables and seating out now. Buffet style we have them come in one door of the room and out another to the seating area, it avoids confusion and accidental spills.  We often will use two sturdy saw horses and a piece of plywood for a buffet style serving table. A flat king size sheet will work as a table cloth. Dh rounds the corners with a saw to avoid boo-boos. No saw? Pad the corners with something like a folded wash cloth taped to the board. Either use a ¾ inch piece of plywood or put some middle supports (more saw horses) under an 8 foot piece. You don’t want the turkey sagging to the middle of the board. When looking at seating, consider seating AND eating. Buffet style works great for large groups for serving, but remember how hard it is to balance a full plate and a cup in your lap. Granny will have an especially hard time doing it. Bring in the picnic table from the yard if you need to, borrow tv trays, clean off end tables, set up bridge tables, we once used a ping pong table.  Everyone needs a sturdy surface to hold their plate that can be set up and taken down out of the way quickly.  Good weather?  Covered porch and a space heater, even if you have to hang tarps down the sides of the covered porch, provide everyone plenty of elbow room.

11. Plan it for a mid afternoon. Seriously noon is too early supper is too late. We do 2:00 pm around here. That lets me do all the last minute stuff without being up all night or up at the crack of dawn and gives others plenty of time to do their morning chores and travel while little ones sleep in the car (read no cranky babies).

12. Plan a thought provoking theme for people to do while waiting for the meal. One suggestion I read said to make simple leaves out of colored paper (kids can help cut these out for you). On a large piece of poster board draw a tree, it doesn’t have to be fancy, again let the kids do it. When the guests arrive you ask each one to fill out leaves with what they are most Thankful for this year. They can do more than one leaf if they like. Then they tape the leaves on the tree. It has great eye appeal when everyone sees how much you all have to be thankful for.—We did a verbal version of this at my son’s ground breaking party for his house and it was fun that turned hilarious. With every "thankful" ds had to turn a shovel full of dirt.  He got to say his thankful last--He was thankful all that digging was over--it was a big group.

13. Give kids age appropriate things to do to help. Let them know ahead of time if possible their job. Little guys can set the table, fill candy and nut dishes, fold napkins etc. Put some of the older ones in charge of “entertainment” games, a puppet show or play to perform for the adults, story time for the littler guys etc. Trust me things go a lot smoother if little kids aren’t bored. Plan both indoor and outdoor activities because Mother Nature is unpredictable.

14. Work out ahead of time where all those coats are going to go and where sister Sue can easily change nephew Johnny’s diaper, or nurse him in peace and quiet. If you have a lot of nap time kiddos coming, plan for a safe quiet nap spot for them too.

15. Start your cleaning now. Wash up the table cloths and napkins then place on a hanger and hang out of the way. Clean as you work. Scour the bathrooms a week before, they won't need more than a quick swipe on the day of then. 

16. Plan out a REALISTIC schedule for the day of, keep that day as simple and carefree as possible. You WILL be interrupted.

17. Pamper yourself the night before, schedule some serious ME time for that day. Go to bed early.

18. Dress comfortably for as long as you can on Thanksgiving. Donna Reed might have been able to cook all day in heels and looked perfectly comfortable but I certainly can’t.

19. Think about each individual that is coming. Is there something they will need? Do you have enough ashtrays for smokers and where can they smoke I don’t allow it in my home but several of the family do smoke. So we put up a covered area outside for them to be comfortable in while they smoke. Table, chairs and a heater provided. Can Grandma get up the front steps or would the back ones be better? Does Uncle Charlie need a ramp for his wheel chair and can it get into the rooms it needs to? Do you have a  safe play area for the youngsters?

20. Plan out the adult entertainment too. I know football is on, but not all of us like football—most of our group does not. So we put on videos of all the family when growing up on the tv (ask everyone to bring their videos of the entire family) , and soft music in the background. Do you have a box of old photos with no names on them? This is a great time to get those out and have everyone go through them to see if they know who the person is. The stories will flow. Much more fun than football (put a tv in the corner for Uncle Joe who MUST see the game). Tape or video record those stories if at all possible, these people may not be with you next year.

21. Set your table the day before and cover with a table cloth or sheet.

22. Plan ahead for sending leftovers home.  I lay in a supply of the heavy duty Chinet PLATTERS and then hand them out as guests are leaving telling them to fill up with what they want.  These will fit most microwaves and when covered with plastic wrap can go right in. They will also fit safely in a Wal-Mart sack long wise (we use two bags, one from each end) to carry them home in.

23. Do NOT turn down help with clean-up.  Even if it means having people fill their take home platters early. even if it's just gathering up paper plates and taking out the trash for you it's helpful.

I could go on, but others have some great (probably better) ideas too.

Now for the make ahead recipes I mentioned:


3 C. Mashed cooked sweet potatoes 1/2 C. milk

1 C. sugar 1 t.vanilla

1/2 t. salt 2 eggs

1/2 stick margarine

1 C. brown sugar 1/3 C. flour

1 C. chopped pecans 1/2 stick butter

Mix ingredients together and pour into a buttered baking dish. Mix

topping ingredients together and sprinkle on top. Bake in 350* oven

for 35 min. May be frozen and baked later.  Place in the refrigerator the day before to thaw. 

Hot Roll Mix
5# or 20 C all purpose flour OR 9 C whole wheat/rye/other specialty grains + 8 C all purpose flour
1 1/4 c sugar ( you can substitute some honey if desired on baking day)OR 1 c packed brown sugar
4 tsp salt
1 cup powdered milk (or approx 1/2 c dry non milk substitute-rice, soy potato etc)

Mix all ingredients well together well, I use a wire whisk.  Store in an airtight container, label and date. Best if used in 6-8 months.  Makes 20-22 c mix. 

I have a large group of recipes that include breads, English Muffins, sweet rolls, herb or squash rolls and more I use this master mix for that I will post as time goes on.  For the dinner rolls for the holidays I make it one of two ways.
Clover leaf or Pan Rolls
1 tbl, active dry yeast OR 1 (1/4 oz) pkg.
1 1/2 c warm water
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c vegetable oil OR olive oil, OR melted butter
5-6 cups Hot Roll Mix

In a large bowl disolve the yeast in the warm water.  Blend in eggs and oil/butter. Add roughly 5 cups of the mix.  Blend well.  If dough is sticky add more mix. Knead for about 5 minutes.  Place in a buttered or oiled bowl, turn the ball of dough over once so all sides are coated.  Cover bowl with a warm damp cloth and set in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Punch down dough and let it rest for 10 minutes.  Now make the dough into small balls, about walnut sized.

TO FREEZE: if you are going to freeze the dough this is when you do it.  Once the dough is in balls place them on a wax paper lined cookie sheet spaced to where they are not touching.  Freeze until hard then transfer to a freezer bag, vacuum bag or freezer container.  These will vacuum seal and keep a long time.

To use the same day as making: Either place them in a greased 9 x 3 baking pan or three small balls in greased/sprayed muffin tins.for clover leaf rolls. Cover with a warm damp towl again and let rise until doubled roughly 45-60 minutes again.  Bake in a preheated oven at 400F for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

IF USING FROZEN DOUGH BALLS: place in the choosen baking pan/tin early enough in the day in a warm spot (roughly 4-6 hours) or overnight in a cooler area to do the final rise)

Same ingredients as above PLUS 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Follow the recipe above up to and including the 10 minute rest period. 

Here's the difference. 

On  a lightly floured surface row 1/2 of the dough out into a 12 inch circle.  Brush the circle with 1 tablespoon of melted butter. 

Cut circle into 16 pieces.  Now roll the created wedges up wide end to narrow point.  Placing with the pointed side down on a greased cookie sheet curve the roll to a crescent shape as you do so.  Repeat with second half of the dough. 

From here on follow the instructions as above


13 c  bread flour OR 8 C bread flour and 5 C whole wheat/rye flour
2 Tbl salt
1/2 C sugar (if honey is preferred add on baking day)
1/2 c powdered milk OR 1/4 c dried milk substitute (rice/soy/potato)

Mix ingredients well store in a labled airtight container in a cool dark place.

for a small loaf

1/2 tsp yeast
2 1/4 c master mix
1 tbl butter or oil
3/4 C warm water

for a large loaf
2 tsp yeast
3 1/3 mix
1 1/2 tbl butter or oil
1 1/4 warm water

Place in the order bread machine recommends and bake on a medium or white bread setting.

JP NOTE: I have other variations I post at another time to use this master mix up.

Grandma Zell's Stuffing
Sorry, no true measurements here, this is the way I got it from dh's grandmother.

1 recipe cornbread ( I use roughly 1/2 of an 8x8 pan of it) crumbled fine
1 recipe biscuits (I use roughly 8 or so large biscuits, I've substituted other breads as well)crumbled fine
2 stalks celery diced
1/2-1 onion diced
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp each thyme and sage

Mix well--this is where I freeze it in a large ziploc or ziploc bowl.
When ready to bake add:
2 large eggs beaten
enough chicken or turkey broth to make the mixture "soupy" when added to the dry ingredients

Place in a greased/sprayed 9 X 13 pan and bake at 350 F for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until set firm and starting to brown around the edges.

JP NOTE:  I often make up a BIG batch of the dry part and store it in the freezer in airtight containers for quick to grab Homemade Stovetop Stuffing mix and use it not only for stuffing but to use as a coating mix for chicken, pork chops, fish, sliced/cubed veggies etc in. Simply dip the choosen meat or veggie in first a beaten egg and milk mixture OR spread with mayonnaise or Miracle Whip and then into the crumbled mixture.  Bake as you would shake and bake.


Warning, I do not use measurements for Deviled eggs, but here’s what I use.

Two eggs for each person (that makes four ½’s each)

Boil the eggs to the hard stage.

Drain the boiling water and put cold water on them immediately (this helps make them peel easier). Peel (you can hold them at this point for a couple of days in a ziploc you have squeezed all the air out of—I do this at the holidays to help cut down the last minute rush for the big meal)

Cut in half long ways and plop the yolks out. The whites go on a plate the yolks go in a bowl. Mash the yolks with a fork.

Now add the following to taste and creaminess preference:

Miracle whip or mayonnaise (your preference—I use MW)

A tiny amount of prepared mustard (dh is not big on mustard)

A small amount of garlic salt

A couple of dashes (more or less) of Worchestershire sauce

Mix well. Spoon or pipe into the whites and sprinkle with paprika—unless you are my son who likes spicy and uses a small amount of cayenne pepper to top.

Jan who has planned reunions with over 400 family members in the past and still has a lot to learn in OK

THE HAUNTED SUMMER--a blast from the past story

On one of the numerous yahoogroups lists I'm one we've been discussing ghosts and other things that go bump in the night.  That reminded me of the summer of 1973 when I stayed in a haunted house for a short while.  Here is the true story of all that happened.  Jan who says believe it or not in OK


Summer 1973

First of all let me say this was not like the Haunting of Hill house, no evil snarling ghosts jumping out and making me wet my pants. But an evil presence for certain.

Hot Springs, AR 1973 summertime

My dh, Gary, had only worked for a short while for a local architectural drafting firm and had not earned any vacation time. So when his company won a contract in Hot Springs, AR his boss rented a wonderful two story house right on the lake. It was with the lake side of the house being all glass, so you could look out over the water at any time. The styling was very modern in architecture. There was a small mother in law/guest house on the property as well.

Bill, the boss, made an offer to Gary that we felt we couldn't refuse. "If Jan will cook for all of us she and the baby can come and stay. You three can have the guest house and full use of all the facilities and the pontoon boat." We jumped on it! I mean wouldn't you? You have to cook anyway, what's a few more men to feed.

So we packed our summer wardrobe tightly and strapped the duffle bag and suit cases to the luggage rack of the car, then off we went.

The trip went quickly and we were in high spirits until...we arrived. One look at the house and my radar went up. No it wasn't a gothic looking typical spooky mansion, it was thoroughly modern, and beautiful. But my senses were doing a heebee jeebee dance.

For those of you who don't know, ole CJ here, that's what I call myself, is one of those folks that kind of knows when things are going to happen. Nothing I can control, sometimes the radar is off. More often than not, though, it is dead on. I've been so dead on so many times that friends and relatives take heed when I warn them not to travel or go certain places. That is why my son was in OK and not NY on 9/11 I talked him out of moving there in June because of a feeling. Nuff said.

Gary immediately noticed a change in my buoyant mood to a pensive one. "What's wrong?"

"It's a man's house and it's not happy."

"Should we leave?" "No, I think we can handle it, it's aware I know though."

I chose to go through the back/kitchen door into the main house while we were there, not once did I go through the front door. It felt too ominous to get near that front door. I found out months later that Bill's mother-in-law had refused to even go in the house because of the tree to the right and next to the front door. She said it was a bad luck omen and she wouldn't enter the house at all. Bill had blown it off as a Hawaiian, which she was, superstition.

The house was a man's house in every sense of the word, you could feel it in every pore of its being. Just looking at the layout inside was a big clue too. For all those cooks out there let me describe the kitchen I was to work in.

You brought the groceries in through a little hallway, after a few feet there was a small doorless room to your right. This is where the freezer and the storage racks for breads and such were. You continued on down the hall to the kitchen area. A kitchen that was laid out so nonsensical you needed roller skates to cook and clean in it. It was huge, with no rhyme or reason to its layout. Dishwasher several feet from any cabinets to put dishes in, sink about 20 steps from the dishwasher, water cooler for drinking/cooking water all the way at the opposite end of the kitchen stove top and one end, oven at the other, trash compactor in another room. You get the idea. I again remarked about the house being a man's house.

Bill thought I meant a man designed the kitchen and he said, "Yes, but he was told to do it that way." By whom?” I ask. Bill didn't know. Later on I think I figured out it was the not so benevolent ghost.

Small things began to happen right away, IT was not happy I was there. Things disappeared, only to show up in places I hadn't been. Okay, maybe it's an ornery poltergeist, I can deal with this. It wasn't just me, Bill, Gary and the other workers all had things "walk off". Bill and Mike stayed in the house full time, Gary, Sammi and I slept in the guest house. Something that may have been what kept us from getting the brunt of it. Bill and Mike weren't so lucky.

From the very first it was nothing to find dead birds every morning laying all around the glass front of the house. We figured they just flew into the glass and broke their necks, except Bill said he hadn't noticed it happening before we got there. As you all know I love birds of all sorts. So was it a freak of nature, or...?

The big living area where they had all the drafting boards set up faced the lake. This is where we all spent most of our time in the beginning. Often in the evenings we would hear speed boats racing very close to the shore, but when we looked out we saw nothing, no boat lights nothing. The sounds of the boats disappeared as quickly as they developed. We decided it was a trick of sound over the water.

The home had a lovely library, fully stocked including ALL of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries Did I mention Bill had rented this place fully furnished? I think I know why...

It had two walls of shelves, a wall of windows and a fireplace set in a beautiful paneled wall. I decided while there I would re read all the Nancy Drews and Hardy Boys just for fun. I had been taking them out to the guest house and reading out there, but one night we decided to read in the library instead. It was late when we went to bed. I kept feeling like something was watching us. Gary said I'd read too many mysteries.

The next day Bill asked me what we had done in the library. When I said just read he replied "Oh really". Gary and I went back to the library to find a mess and all sorts of hidden panels around the fireplace standing wide open. I cleaned up the mess and said nothing. I was really getting a bad feeling and after that never took the baby into the library again. I would go in and get books, and leave immediately.

Other than cooking and cleaning up afterwards I took to staying in the guest house. Then the smell started, and it grew, and grew. The smell of death, at first we thought a dead mouse, then a stray kitten, a cat, and the smell grew. The guys started pulling up floor boards nothing. The stench was horrible, we moved into the main house.

In the upstairs bedroom I slept fitfully, waking to the sounds of hoof beats coming up the driveway, no down the driveway. I woke Gary, he heard it too. We both went to the window to look, nothing. This happened for a couple more nights, no explanation. Other nights we thought we heard a car wreck. Again, nothing.

One afternoon I was bathing Sam in the upstairs tub and I felt IT. IT was standing behind me. The air had turned very cold. I knew that cold, I knew it from being visited by friends and relatives who had passed on and had came to say good bye. I refused to look at it. No it wasn't the air conditioner, there was no vent in that tiny attic bathroom. Sam and I were not alone.

Trying to be as calm as possible, as to not scare the baby I quickly rinsed her off and wrapped her in a towel. Then I turned to face the empty cold. There was no shape, no vision, just the cold of the long dead. He was between me and the door. I told it to step aside please and I would take my baby and not invade his space any longer if he would. The cold moved to behind me.

Clutching my naked baby I went directly downstairs and out to the suddenly odorless guest house. I told the others what had happened when they came to see why I had left the house so quickly. They retrieved our belongings from the upstairs room. We left the next day, I feared for my baby. I told the others that the spirit did not want them there and they too should leave. They laughed.

On the way home the spirit got one last laugh in on us, as we traveled in the dark we lost one and only one suitcase off of the top of the car. My complete wardrobe for the summer months. Gary and a friend drove nearly all the way back to Hot Springs and never found one sign of it. We filed a report with the highway patrol and they never found it either.

The story doesn't end there, Mike and Bill continued to stay there and the following is what happened to them. I have death premonitions, I can't prevent them, and sometimes I misread them. I did in this case. Shortly after we returned home I was showering and suddenly the shower stall was full of white doves. Not literally, but I generally see or dream white doves and a name and that person passes within two weeks. I heard the name Michael, over and over. My best friend was expecting her first child any minute and she had said if it was a boy she was going to name it Michael. I called Kathy immediately because I knew she had been having some troubles in her pregnancy. Without telling her why I told her that at her check up that afternoon to ask the doctor to be extra thorough. I didn't want to alarm her.

Several days later the phone rang, it was Bill, Mike's wife had found Mike dead of a cerebral hemorrhage in the same upstairs room where I had made the deal with IT. Bill sounded strange, not like Bill at all. He said he was fine and I told him to get out of that house! NOW! He said he had no where to go his wife of nearly 30 years had told him he had changed suddenly and she was afraid of him now. She had filed for divorce. Their only child had started suffering seizures. I again told Bill to get OUT of the house, he said no. Then I called Mike's wife and told her to get out of it too and why. She managed to get Bill out.

Over the next several weeks Bill did research on the house. Mike was not it's first victim. A fact I had already known. All of the victims had been men and all had died suddenly. The first was when the place had been an old farm house. A runaway carriage ride, down the drive way in the middle of the night, hooves pounding on the drive straight into the large oak tree at the end of the drive. Ended the life of what believe was the first gentleman. My hoof beats.

One had lost his life in a speedboat crash at night, right in front of the house… the boat sounds.

The third had died in a horrific car crash, just past the end of the drive. The wreck noises.

Bill later told us he had heard the hoofbeats and car crash noises himself when he and Mike were there alone and they had laughed them off. He also said that after Mike died he had found himself setting up in bed talking to someone at 2:00 every morning, after awhile he realized it was Mike he was talking to. Only Mike was dead, he had died, per the coroner, at 2:00am.

Bill and Mike's wife never went back to the house. They had their things sent to them, afraid of further recriminations from IT. Bankruptcy soon followed for Bill and of course that impacted us with the bouncing of two of our paychecks and the non arrival of the last two.

Slowly, slowly life got back to normal. Bill's life started to turn around almost immediately once he was clear of the house. His finances improved, for which we were grateful and he repaid us in full with a bonus he says I saved his life. His wife and he got back together and their daughter’s seizures disappeared as quickly as they had come. No reason for them was ever found.

Some will say it was all coincidence, and they may be right. But I know several people in this world that will NOT ever go anywhere near that house again. God rest your soul Mike.

Monday, November 9, 2009


Part 3 of the Hot water Tank Saga

A pattern continued throughout the week. Sean would go to work, I’d go mystery shop and run errands and Gary would stay home laboring on the “weekend” job. Stopping the poor connection leak and removing the pan he had placed under it earlier in the week. During the evenings Sean and I would cook dinner, do the farm chores and help Gary.

Slowly progress was made. I love the wallpaper border that is in this room so I wanted to keep it. That meant it had to be blue taped off, so did all the dark woodwork.

While we were waiting for the floor to finish drying I decided it was a good time to take advantage of super easy access to all four cupboards in the room and dumped them all out. Remarkably I put back everything we were keeping and I did so in a totally organized, INVENTORIED fashion. Ahh the Princess Plan rears its head.

Unfortunately it also meant more going into the living room, bedroom, kitchen and utility room, plus now things were starting to move to the stair well to make the trek upstairs.

I found things we’d been looking for and had given up on finding, (isn’t that always the story?) things I didn’t even know we had ( a huge roll of paper I can use for rubber stamping and to make patterns out of) things to discard totally and things to sell.

I also found I was out of certain things I thought were in that cupboard, so the “to buy” list grew. One of which was the Murphy’s Oil Soap I use to wash woodwork down with. I picked that up just yesterday while out doing yet another mystery shop. The woodwork still needs a good scrubbing.

By Saturday the walls were finally all taped off, this room has LOTS of angles—the whole house does, and that is one of the reasons I love it so much. Parts of the room are 8 ft tall, others are 9 ft and the wall paper border follows all the turns and angles of the room. So it was a whole lot of blue tape.

Once the tape was finally up the painting went amazingly fast. I had chosen a light spring green to match a color in the rooster border. It was so light as it was going on it was actually kind of hard to tell where we had painted and where we hadn’t until the natural darkening set in.

Of course Murphy had to make tracks through the paint and the original off white color popped up in places after the paint dried. Quick touch ups solved that problem.

He also made tracks in the wood putty we had filled the knot holes on the subflooring with and the white Kilz primer we’d put on the now well deodorized and sanitized no-no kitty and mildew spots in the form of foot prints from one of the four adult cats.

Luckily the paint and putty were dry enough they didn’t track it to other parts of the house. So no real harm was done, Murphy just got to smile as we added more putty to fill in the dents made by the fat cat.

Rather than sit and watch the paint dry, which we were so tired we could have easily done, we pulled the blue tape off then retired to the over-crowded living room for a little tv time last night.

During one break Sean decided to go ahead and feed the dogs for the night and bring in the meat to thaw for Sunday’s dinner. He turned on the overhead light and suddenly it went out along with every outlet on the outer walls in the sunroom!

For the next three hours the two men armed with volt meters, and other tools threw breakers, checked voltage and much more to try to figure out why we had no power in that room or any outside wall of the house, except the one the camper was plugged in to—which we KNOW is on the same breaker. They never did.

My freezer and spare refrigerator are on the outside walls. So out, with only a nearly dead flashlight, because all but one of the porch lights didn’t work as well (why did that one work?—Murphy was playing games of course). Gary and Sean went to the camper and garage and drug in heavy duty extension cords for a temporary fix.

The brooder full of the three day old ducklings was also now without warmth, so another extension cord was put into play there.

Problem solved on a very temporary basis we all collapsed into our chairs again, but were too tired to watch more than 30 minutes. Sean said good night, retrieved his kitten from my room and went to bed.

Gary and I were following suit when I noticed a puddle of water on our now dry floor just under the wall that had JUST been painted. Okay Murphy, ENOUGH!

After a bit of discussion Gary mentioned how Sean had told him that he thought he might have a leak under his bathroom sink which is directly above that wall. Depression was creeping up on me when I noticed the cold water hook up for the washer was slowly drip, drip, dripping. Now it has a plastic catch basin so Gary had ruled that out as the source. He even said if it was going to leak, it would have done so before he cleaned the lint off of it earlier that day. I looked, Jackpot! A small hairline crack. The faucet would not turn all the way off, so we wedged a plastic cup under the drip and went to bed.

This morning I awoke to the roosters having a crowing battle that sounded remarkable loud until I remembered we have been blessed with very warm weather and were sleeping with the windows open.

As I mentioned this house is all angles, there are no straight shots through any two rooms to a third. Today we were going to lay down the linoleum and move the washer and dryer back in. I was so excited. I NEEDED to do laundry so bad.

Last night Murphy had whispered in my ear ”How are you going to get a 12’ X 9’6” piece of linoleum in to the utility room and cut it right without damaging it?

“Go away Murphy!” I moaned.

Our back deck, the one just outside my bedroom is in BAD shape, It was scheduled for replacement this last summer, but money and time had been tight so it wasn’t done. It’s bad enough I worry about the birds and dogs getting on it. But the only way to get that linoleum into the house easily was through that bedroom door.

Next thought was where in the world were we going to cut all those angles to make the linoleum fit. The bedroom floor was the only space that was near big enough. Only we had been filling that already cluttered room up all week. GROAN!

First thing this morning, while Sean slept—he was nearly out of inhaler, his “overnight” shipment ordered a week before still had not arrived, and the dust we were stirring up was giving him some problems. So we told him to sleep in and keep his kitten up there with him so we could have the bedroom open to “empty the bedroom—Gary did morning chores and I started emptying the sitting area in the bedroom into the living room and kitchen.

As I went I actually “cleaned and decluttered” filling one feed sack with odds and ends that had gathered here and there. Mercilessly boxing up magazines and books I had decided to cull from the shelves and were stacked here, there, and everywhere.

Gypsy wouldn’t let Sean sleep very long, so he soon joined us. He handed her off to me to hold while he got breakfast for him and her because. Lizzie is till determined this kitten is NOT staying the other three totally ignore Gypsy Skeeter now. Mama Amy has even gone so far as to play with her and groom her some, but we can’t let Lizzie near her. The fur flies when she does and Gypsy is terrified of her.

Sean brought Gypsy’s food in through the living room and placed it where he’s been feeding her safety zone in my bathroom. Before I could stop her she jumped down and headed for her chow. Lizzie was on her before any of us could stop her. Only this time Gypsy didn’t run. Oh the fur flew, but when it was all said and done, it was dilute calico fur, not the darker grey of the younger dilute calico that lay on the floor. It was also the bigger cat who had a new “beauty mark” on her nose.

Just as I had predicted the kitten had her fill of being attacked. Even more amazing, Sean’s cowardly cat Murray Mugillacuty ran in to protect his baby sister. Him with no front claws. Jellybean set and watched and Amy went to protect her new “baby”. While I grabbed the water bottle to squirt Lizzie for being a bad girl.

Lizzie’s nose was out of joint all day. It was late evening before she came to me wanting petted. She stalked the bedroom and bathroom doors where the kitten was locked up all day—we have no delusions the war is over—but her pride was definitely hurt today.

Soon afterwards furniture was moved to the living room and the far side of the bed. My huge plant was moved to the porch, the vacuum was ran and the plywood sheets from the living room floor were moved to the bedroom to use as “cutting mats” to protect the carpet. We didn’t trust Murphy, so we took precautions.

Using the old saying, “measure twice, cut once,” the guys set to work marking the linoleum to cut it. Because I tend to be over cautious and sometimes tick the guys off during such projects I left the room and went to the kitchen to see if I could perhaps figure out a way to cook a meal despite the mess in there. I also worked hard all day on cleaning and sorting, after all I was suppose to be able to start putting things back later on today.

On and off all day I cleaned and cooked, between kitten sitting and helping where I was needed. By the end of the day we had roasted chicken, stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, iced tea, Caramel Fudge Swirled brownies, and Cherry Mash Candy (recipes will be posted as the final post on this saga . I had culled more stuff from the house, burned trash, and had done a bunch of dishes.

The “quick” installation of the linoleum of course didn’t go quick.

My guys are both draftsmen, when they build something it’s square. Even if it has angles those angles are “square”. A room is the total same width at one end as it is at the other. They expect other people to build the same way.

We already knew that the people who built this home didn’t own a level. We now know they didn’t own a straight edge or a t-square either. We discovered this AFTER the linoleum was cut.

Sean later said we should have made a cardboard pattern, but of course Murphy blocked that intelligent thought from happening before they cut the linoleum. So there was a little piecing that had to happen. Murphy giggled.

Luckily Gary is GOOD at matching up patterns, and it was a simple pattern (rectangles) to match. The piecing is totally unnoticeable and it behind the washer and dryer, and in a small niche at the far end of the room. So no traffic on either area.

The type of linoleum we are putting down is the type you tape. The roll of tape said it was enough to do the utility room and the bathroom. It LIED.

We had no plans to do the bathroom today, we had the simple plan of getting the linoleum in the utility room down and the washer and dryer back in. Then tomorrow Gary would work on the bathroom, where the carpet is still down. Followed by the two steps, down into the kitchen, which also still have carpet on them as well.

There was just enough tape to put down from the back wall to just past the washer and dryer. So that’s what he and Sean did. Next was to put the mop boards back on—NO finishing nails, Murphy stole them I’m certain.

They tried taping the boards up, nope. Sean made an executive decision. It was after 10:00pm and he had to get up early because he has to work tomorrow and they are starting road construction on highway 75 in the morning, so he needs to leave early to take an alternative route.

He said “Let’s set the machines, I need work clothes for tomorrow.” Then once we have finishing nails we’ll move them out from the wall, put the boards up and put them back.”

So that’s what they did, once again using the shoulder dollies—we really love those things.

Gary and I have stayed up late to do Sean’s laundry and a load for Gary while I typed this.

We still have to clear a path to and off the bed. Gypsy is sleeping in our room tonight because she won’t let Sean sleep. He had taken her up with him, but she was so keyed up with all today’s activities she wouldn’t settle down so he asked us to baby sit her for the night. He’s really not feeling well without his meds if they don’t come tomorrow he’ll call his doctor and get a one time RX so he can breath.

Luckily the shops I had scheduled for tomorrow are flexible days, so I can possibly sleep late and do them on Tuesday and Wednesday , if Gypsy will let us.

Gary just came in from feeding the dogs and accidentally discovered all the electric is back on out there. Funny Murphy, real funny. Now I’m worried about an electrical short!

Our plan for tomorrow. Get the finishing nails and tape we need, check under Sean’s bathroom sink for a possible leak—just in case, do laundry, finish the utility room, check the outlets and such again—we have to find the source of the problem and then move on to the steps and bathroom.

Jan who steals a quote from Red Skelton when she says “Good Night and may God bless.” In OK

Sunday, November 8, 2009


Part 2 of the hot water tank saga.

November 8, 2009

It’s now 8 days later and visits from Murphy keep popping up, bless his little pea pickin’ heart.

Prior to the discovery of the wet carpet I had been working my way back into my Princess Plan. For those of you who aren’t on de-cluttering lists with me I’ll give you a quick explanation of the Princes Plan.

It’s a system I’m developing to help people come from being paupers enslaved by clutter and debt in their all aspects of their life to being the royalty they truly are. I plan on finally being the princess my Papa always called me.

I had started the plan on January 1, 2009 and was doing pretty good on it with the help of Dave Ramsey and with working out a system that was greatly improving the look and feel of my home and ranch.

Then the surprise unemployment hit and I hit the road, things not only backslid as far as the clutter department went they had worsened. Only our basic finances had continued to improve, albeit slowly and not the gazelle intense like I had planned, but we were current on all our bills and had even paid off four small ones in the last eight months.

Then this series of Murphy’s visits started hitting and things went from bad to worse real quick.

When last I left you it was Halloween and the day after. We were starting to empty the utility room. Now what comes out of a room in any home has to go into another one somewhere in the house.

Remember the “Uninvited Guest” story, well we still have all the dining room stuff in the living room. Now the utility room items needed a place to park. Some went to the overstuffed sunroom, more went to the living room and some went to my bedroom. The clutter was deepening. Small paths were starting to form through the lower level.

My kitchen cabinets are now covered in small appliances, which in turn makes it FUN to try and cook in there.

So let’s flash back to last Saturday.

As soon as he could Gary turned off the hot water tank because the leaking was pretty bad. Not only was it making a mess it was the hot water that was leaking so the electric meter was doing a boogie dance on the back porch while the water meter readers were rubbing their hands together with glee as the meter spun gallon by gallon.

This meant no hot water in the house until the floor dried. You know the one that was absolutely sodden. As Gary labored to get the tank drained I continued to fold the laundry I had done earlier that day.

Sean has a lot of allergies, dust and mold being two biggies so pulling up wet starting to mildew carpet was something he could not do without risking a severe asthma attack, so he took over farm chores when it came to that job and Gary pulled the carpet up by himself Sean helped drag the dripping carpet and pad to the “non-burn” area for things that will go to the dump on the next run there. He of course started wheezing.

While they did this I cooked dinner.

This brought up a slight problem. Dishes, no hot water—oops! Gary cheerfully loaded the dishes in the dishwasher and assured me by the next afternoon the hot water would be back on and we’d be fine. Does that man live here? Has anything ever gone as planned on this ranch?

The next morning I went to the camper and brought in a large supply of paper plates, plastic cups and silverware. I am the more realistic of the two of us on things like this. I KNOW how things happen around here. It’s called life and it happens to everyone.

We seldom use paper and plastic when camping so this was an unusual thing for the guys and I so we periodically forgot and still grabbed dishes out of the cupboards and drawers out of habit. So we added a Murphy expense by using paper and plastic instead of the usual wash and reuse.

All day Sunday Gary and Sean worked on getting the floor dried out, while I ran and did a single mystery shop and picked up more supplies for the project.

When I got back home I discovered the two of them had used every single towel in the house trying to soak up water so the floor would dry quicker. EVERY single one, including my cream colored ones!!! I was not amused, but hollering would not have solved anything. They were trying to fix the problem. They had drug the dripping towels across the carpet that was still down in the bathroom and placed them in the shower stall. Gary promised he’d put them on the line the next day while I was gone so they’d at least dry and not sour.

They had made some progress, there was no longer standing water from the hot water tank, and the mildewed sheet rock no longer existed. A large hole in the wall, with a small one a now nearly 10 week old kitten could have easily gone down under the house through had taken its place. Thankfully Gypsy was locked securely in my bedroom.

I pointed out that Lizzie B was only slightly bigger and she might just take a trip (or an opossum come in) through that gaping wound so they blocked it temporarily at night with heavy plywood to prevent this. During the day there was always someone in there working so the board was removed to aid in the drying out of the lower wall studs and insulation. Yep all my interior walls are insulated, luckily the mildew had been limited to the outside of the sheet rock, there was none on the interior of the walls. .

I suggested fans and a small heater to speed up the drying process as Sunday passed into Monday, still no hot water.

Gary had already winterized the camper since we knew we’d be home for a month or two and now he had to un-winterize it because for some strange reason Sean and I thought we might need showers before going to work on Monday. Luckily they had forgot the towels in the camper when they were mopping water up. So we were all blessed with nice hot showers and the world was a safer place for it.

Dishes were starting to be more than the dishwasher would hold. Enter the boiling teapot into the daily scenario. I’ve done many a dish by heating water on a campfire at rendezvous (pre-1840 Fur Trade Era re-enactments), so this was no biggie.

Monday I mystery shopped, picked up more materials, did a few returns while Gary stayed home and took things down off the wall to prepare to paint the room. Sean went to work of course.

While I was out I picked up paint chips for both the utility room walls and the dining room wall that would need painted when we got back to it

Tuesday, still no hot water, but the wall studs were finally dry so Gary put up the new piece of sheet rock, and then had to take it back down because he forgot to put the mouse/rat poison down the conveniently open wall and under the house. Luckily I reminded him before he taped and mudded the wall or Murphy would have gotten a giggle I’m certain.

When you live in the country you take all the precautions you can to head off rodents. I cannot tell you how much money we’ve spent due to rodents over the years everything from fifth wheel and vehicle repairs to a whole new re-wiring of the landlines in our home, so we are very cautious about them. We have mousers inside and out of the house. We put Just One Bite (a vet recommended mouse and rat poison) any where we can that we know for CERTAIN our animals can’t get to it and if we notice a mouse dropping we set traps. Again where the pets can’t get to them.

That evening the guys thankfully slid the new hot water tank into its place. Only the connectors and plumbing didn’t match! Murphy snickered.

While I was out the next day doing mystery I picked up the right parts. That night we all did a jig, and then the water line started leaking!! Dang it Murphy I needed to do dishes!

While I was doing the mystery shops I checked the discounted returns and mis-mixed paints at all the stores. At the very last one I found the exact colors I wanted at half price!!! That’s one for the good guys, finally.

Jan who will post this and move on to part three of the saga in OK



October 31, 2009

I’m a follower of the Dave Ramsey plan for financial security. We started the baby steps of his program in January this year and were making great progress right up to the day the guys lost their jobs. Through the following months we put the “snowball” in the freezer for a while until we got things worked out on how to meet our monthly obligations. I’m proud to say we have actually paid off four small bills and are back to snowballing a small amount despite the unemployment.

Two weeks ago the wiring harness and the U joints went out on our truck. I had an emergency fund put back and we covered it. I was very proud.

As the old saying goes, pride goes before a fall. On the Dave Ramsey group they call little extra expenses that pop up as Murphy, as in Murphy’s Law. Today is Halloween and Murphy started early for the holiday he crept through our back door into the utility room and snickered as he knocked the bottom out of our 22 year old hot water tank. We didn’t find until the utility room carpet was well soaked. It had apparently been leaking slightly for a while because mildew was already starting to form on a nearby wall.

I am not a fan of carpeting in any room that you cook or use a lot of water in. We had been planning on replacing the dark blue indoor/outdoor carpeting that was in there from the day we moved in 12 years ago. We’d already pulled up a piece of it in the kitchen and replaced it with floating vinyl flooring two years ago. It had been one continuous piece from the narrow kitchen through the utility and into the little 4’ X 3’ bathroom just off the utility. This is our heaviest traffic area in the house, we come in and out that door from tending to the ranch critters several times a day.

As I sniffed the air and smelled mildew, and looked at the mess I made an executive decision. The carpet was going NOW! Drying it out would take days and the idea of a moldy carpet just did not please me at all. Only there was the cost and how to cover it. We had very little emergency fund left to do it with and the hot water tank would not be cheap.

Then I picked up the mail and an unexpected small royalty check was there, would it be enough? I checked the price of the flooring we’d put in the kitchen online we had a small amount of it left—nope not even half enough.

Then I thought “How about linoleum?” The more I thought about it the more I thought linoleum made the most sense. It would be a continuous sheet and this is the room where the litter boxes are, Miss Amy is missing the boxes more in and more as she ages. I love her too much to get rid of her, but I won’t tolerate the smell either. Linoleum would definitely be better for that problem.

So I went back online and found for less than $100 (far less than the check) We could in fact do the utility room AND that tiny bathroom in matching linoleum, plus have enough money left over to take care of the mildew on the wall and paint it. So off to the local Lowe’s we went. They had a great paving stone look linoleum that I really liked so we are spending Halloween fixing Murphy’s Trick.

The “treat?” Hey, after 12 years I’m getting rid of that dark nasty carpet and making my utility room and bathroom will look great and be a LOT easier to keep clean in all circumstances. Plus I finally get to paint the wall some color than the basic white that’s on it.

Sounds simple right? Anyone that has ever read my stories knows there is NOTHING simple about life here on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch. This two small room project ideally should be able to be done in a week end right? Again, have you read my posts?

We started “preparing” last night. Gary made a list of all the “parts” we’d need. When we went to check on the fittings on the hot water tank the lights wouldn’t work in the utility room—Thanks Murphy. We added fluorescent bulbs to the list—no biggie other than we would now have two long tubes to get rid of safely. We headed for Lowe’s so we could get an early start on the project first thing in the morning.

At Lowe’s I found the linoleum I liked immediately, the hot water tank was a no brainer. It had to be a 50 gallon electric one (we are total electric) and it had to fit through the 24 inch door opening of the hot water tank closet. There was only one choice. Of course we didn’t know all the measurements and such right off so we had to call Sean at home numerous times to get various measurements—including the length of the bulbs before we finished our shopping trip.

Lowe’s was closing as we left, they locked the door as we went out. A few minutes later Gary remembered he needed a hacksaw blade. We stopped at Wal-Mart where I picked up a couple of things we needed for the weekend and out of the sale ad.

Once home Murphy snickered again. We had purchased hoses with the male ends on them because that is what the box said. Turns out we needed female ones. The new bulbs didn’t fix the light. It needed something called a starter to do the repair. Then he had only got one compression fitting and we needed two.

Sean needed to go pay his car tag so they left had to go back to town this morning after all. While they were gone I did morning chores, laundered three loads of clothes, ran the dishwasher, and started emptying the utility room. How can such a little room hold so much. I also removed items from the bathroom and started clearing an area in the sunroom for the appliances.

After several “paper or plastic” calls from the guys they called to say they were on their way home so I started lunch, tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Finally at 2:30 pm our early start happened.

Donning the shoulder dolly harnesses the guys moved the soggy footed washer and dryer into the sunroom. Jolie, the Aussie Collie mix gave an exasperated sigh as if to say “What MORE of YOUR junk in MY room.” We assured it would short lived. Yeah right!

A quick word about Shoulder Dollies. They are one of the best things I've ever purchased for the ranch.There are various brands and such out there.  The truly do work as well as the commercials say they do.  The guys use ours a lot to move heavy awkward appliances and other items all the time.  I can even help with big things like upright freezers using them and I'm only 5'1". Back to my story.

When Gary went to drain the hot water tank so it could be moved the valve was plugged, Murphy grinned. When Gary started talking about just poking a screw driver up the faucet to remove the sludge that was blocking the opening I mentioned the water coming out would be 120 degrees and then made my fast exit to go try and fold laundry with a hyper-active kitten pinging around the room and the bed that I was folding the laundry on.

Gypsy Skeeter is a huge help in such chores.  She lets me get a lot of practice in folding, by unfolding things for me and then racing off with loose socks and wash cloths.  She's a mess and Lizzie Borden still gives her 18 whacks whenever she can.

At one point I heard Sean say “Warm up the truck, Dad’s got an idea, St. Francis here we come”. I just folded faster, St. Francis is the ER we use and I wanted no part of going there tonight, I hollered back “We can’t afford it, I’ve not paid off the tree limb idea yet, RE-THINK!”

They did and Gary realized if he released the pressure on the tank the thing might drain. He did and it did. Take that Murphy!

Next blog, the saga continues in “Like Falling Dominoes, Murphy keeps on keeping on.”

Jan who says “Nothing is ever simple on the Rock ‘n Tree Ranch” in OK

Thursday, November 5, 2009


This is a repeat of a story I wrote years ago about activity here on the Rock 'n Tree Ranch.  I hope you enjoy it.


She rose early, the deed had to be done if they were to protect part of their livelihood. Neither of them cared for what needed to be done. There was no getting around it. She knew that they would need strength and stamina for what lay before them.

Quickly she prepared a simple, but filling breakfast of biscuits and gravy, while he tended to the wood burning stove. Adding sufficient wood to keep it burning while they were away from the house.

Once breakfast dishes were cleared they discussed their avenue of attack. Stalling she put the beans that would be part of today's soup on the wood burning stove to cook. She truly dreaded what they were about to do.

Outside he was hooking the mule to the wagon as she gathered their bandanas and supplies. It would be a short trip. His shot gun was placed in it's holster on the mule, just in case.

Once they arrived he quickly threw a rope over a stout beam in the barn. He would need it's strength to lift the dead weight later. Together they removed any items that might hamper what they had come to do.

Her voice muffled by the bandana that covered one half of her face she said "Let's get this over with" His eyes above his bandana looked straight at her as he said "Guess, we'd better do this before all the stock gets sick and dies."

Outside the stock made nervous noises as they milled about. Uncomfortable with what was going on in their barn. The man and woman worked quickly. Removing the problem by the wagon load. Occasionally there would be loud sounds from the young stock trapped inside.

At one point she traveled back to the house to add the remaining ingredients to the soup pot and check the stove. He labored hard while she was gone.

Five hours after they started, both covered with a fine layer of dust. Bandanas thick with the debris of their labors they silently lowered the dead weight back to the ground and removed the rope from the beam. All looked as it should.

Terrified the young stock allowed themselves to be herded into realms they neither recognized or really wanted to see. They had no choice. Movement was essential to survive.

Back at the house the soup warmed and filled their bodies on this cold November afternoon. Tired and sore they knew that the stock would now be safe and healthy for the next 6 months. For this they rejoiced, they had not enjoyed the job at all.

It was time to relax and celebrate. The young had been moved safely. The block and tackle had worked perfectly to raise the massive roost to make the cleaning easier. It would be six months before they had to clean the guinea coop again! It was a job well done.

LORD I hate cleaning the Keet Kingdom!!! LOL