Ah, yes. Shoveling snow off the driveway. The wintery exercise that blows the flabby coronary muscles of dozens of aging, out-of-shape Wisconsin men every year. Will this year be my turn?

After I “retired” from the Air Force, I moved back to Wisconsin because I remembered liking four seasons, and after living in so many places that had two or less, I thought I wanted to go back to having the full four.

Oddly, Misawa was the last place I lived before I came back to Wisconsin. There are four seasons in Misawa, just like Wisconsin. Also, just like Wisconsin, I had to shovel snow in Misawa. Lots of it. I wonder why that didn’t set off alarm bells in my head?

Anyway, today was the first day in winter when I had to shovel the driveway. In my mind, that ought to be the first official snowfall of the year. If you don’t have to shovel it, it really shouldn’t count.


And, just like that, we went from barefoot weather to slippers-wearing weather. I can go barefoot in my house about half the year, and in the summer I actively search out cool floors where my feet will bring relief to the rest of my broiling body, but the other half of the year I have to put slippers on my feet if I want to maintain a body temperature above frozen solid. And I am living in that half of the year now.

I don’t remember what day it was, but it was last week while I was changing after coming home from work that I first said to myself, “It’s kind of chilly, think I’ll wear my slippers tonight,” and realized immediately that I would probably be wearing slippers in the house from now until March or April. And wearing flannel shirts and long pants. And not feeling warm, except when I’m buried under a quilt and a blanket and a comforter and snuggled up tightly against My Darling B, who will throw off all the covers because she’ll be too hot if I do that.

Some people figure it’s not winter until the snow flies. I figure it’s already here.


image of tree

Oy. The leaves have started to turn. Time to lament the passing of summer already.

Or not. I was talking with Timbo about this last night, and he and I agree: Summer’s too hot. I like summer up until about mid-July when the temps get high enough to fry my brains if I don’t wear a hat and all the bugs in the world descend on my yard with the intent to eat me alive whenever I go out there. Sometimes it’s so bad that, to do something as simple as mow the lawn, I have to dress up in long pants and a shirt with sleeves, take a shower in bug spray, and put on a straw hat with a comically wide brim so my ears won’t sizzle like bacon in the merciless summer sun. And that’s if I get to keep moving. If My Darling B needs help weeding the garden I also put a net over my head like the kind beekeepers wear. If I don’t, I just end up swatting myself in the face over and over again so much that the number of weeds I can pull is so close to nil it makes no difference.

I don’t like to sweat when I’m sitting still, either. I don’t mind popping a sweat when I’m working hard, but when I sit and read, or sit and eat, or just sit absolutely still, I want to remain dry. I don’t think that’s too unreasonable, do you? I don’t want to have to uncross and re-cross my legs to keep them from gluing each other together, I don’t like having my clothes stick to me no matter what I do, and it really bugs me when even the tiniest rivulet of sweat tickles its way down the back of my neck. I’m sitting still! None of that should be happening! The only time I should be dripping sweat is when I’m digging rocks as big as babies up from the garden, roofing a house, lifting dat barge or toting dat bale.

These are just a few reasons that, from mid-July until the end of August, all I want to do is stay inside the house with the airco on.

Autumn is a relief when it comes, as far as I’m concerned. I love the return of cool weather, and the idea that bugs are dying by the truckload is very satisfying. Where do they all go? You’d think we’d be knee-deep in bugs, but unless they’re under the leaves I don’t see them anywhere. We live in an older neighborhood with lots of mature trees, so great big swirling piles of leaves wander to and fro across all the yards. Even in our yard, one of the few on our street that doesn’t have any mature trees (thanks a lot, previous owners), I have to clean leaves out of the gutters and B rakes up huge piles that she composts and throws on her garden.

I expect the bugs are getting recycled in other ways, though, that the birds and bats are fattening up on them before the cold weather hits. The irony of bugs getting eaten instead of eating me is fairly satisfying, too. I can’t fatten up no matter what I do (I’m one of those guys) so this is the time of year when I dig my flannels out of storage, start wearing socks that go higher than my ankles and get out in the yard with a rake.

Only a few more weeks.

Hot Hot Hot

I retreated to the cool, cool comfort of the basement lair this evening, once Tim went back to his apartment after dinner, because it was just too freaking muggy upstairs. Humidity had surpassed the ability of certified official weather personnel to measure it in the way they’re used to, so according to the local weather web source the humidity this evening was so heavy and damp that it had a dangerous undertow that would drag you way out beyond the dropoff and drown you.

I was pouring sweat just from the mild exertion of chewing my dinner. When I stopped doing that and I could sit absolutely still I was still pouring sweat, but I felt only almost as miserable as when I had to move my jaw up and down and continued sitting stock still right up until the time I had to get up out of my seat to say good-bye to Tim. That was agony.

Things weren’t quite so bad this afternoon while I was trying to do a little more work framing up the windows I installed by the back door yesterday. I was pouring sweat again, but once I’m already basting in my own juices I can just keep on chugging away and it doesn’t make much difference how much hotter I feel. At that point, hot is hot and doesn’t feel any hotter until right before I collapse in a puddle of my own juices and go sliding down the tunnel with the bright, shining light at the end.

It was so hot that a Porsche in the parking lot at the hardware store burst into flames and every fire truck in Dane County came to put it out. Seriously, there were almost as many emergency vehicles in the parking lot as there were cars that belonged to customers. With that many blinking lights I expected to see quite a show, but by the time I came out and saw what was going on the car was barely smoldering as its owner poked dejectedly through the interior as a couple dozen firemen stood by, ready to douse him in foam if the fire should somehow spring back to life.

Actually, I was much more interested in knowing why a Porsche was in the parking lot of this particular hardware store. It’s the sort of place where you see lots of pickup trucks and beat-up Econoline vans, but the most expensive car you’re likely to catch sight of would be a late-model Camry or possibly a Lexus. Driving there in your Porsche is practically begging the gods to drop a meteor on it.

And naturally on this hot, hot evening we planned to grill our dinner on the barbecue, a task I’m normally all to happy to do but this evening was thinking up ways to get out of it, like faking a stroke or gnawing off my own leg. My Darling B asked me to grill bison steaks, though, and I love those so I just manned up, lit the fire and grilled away. They were delicious.

Late Bloomer

image of lilac blossom

I’ve never seen the lilacs in our yard bloom more than once, early in the spring, but the bush against the front of the house has squeaked out two small blossoms. I was about to give it a good going-over with the hedge trimmers when I saw two bright splashes of violet at the ends of some new growth, and after that I didn’t have the heart to do it.

Probably a good thing, too. I got out the weed whacker to do a little trimming around the shrubs and when I pulled the trigger and started trimming, mosquitoes rose like a cloud from the undergrowth. Same thing happened when I uncoiled the hose to water the snapdragons in the planter by the stoop. I figured that would be absolutely safe, but from the first splash of water I was greeted by thousands of the bloodthirsty little bastards, which fell on me like high school kids mobbing a McDonald’s at lunch hour. And once they’ve been at you it’s like they never go away. Even after I retreated to the safety of the house I was slapping and scratching at what felt like mosquitoes all over me.

The snapdragons got a quick drink. I hate to tease them. I might go back after my afternoon nap, if the setting sun fries that side of the house to a crisp, as it usually does, and no mosquito would dare come out.

When does summer start for you? What’s that first day you have to do something, or something is done to you, that you stop and think, This is it. This is summer. We turned on the air conditioning for the first time this week when the weather got all hot and sticky. If I hadn’t stopped and thought about it before then, I did as soon as that cool, sweet air began to fill the rooms of Our Humble O’Bode.

And lately I’ve noticed, as I’ve been standing in the kitchen window taking those first few life-giving sips from my morning cuppa joe, that the temperature hasn’t dipped below sixty all week. A couple mornings back I glanced at the thermometer right after I turned on the kitchen lights and it was seventy. That doesn’t happen unless it’s summer.


Time for a few stray thoughts. I haven’t done this in a while, and I can’t come up with anything but complete randomness right now, so the timing seems auspicious:

Granola. I eats it. I didn’t used to because I thought it was ucky, and I thought it was ucky because it was pretty bad granola. Dry enough to suck every molecule of moisture out of every cell in my mouth and gritty enough to use as traction if my car got stuck on the ice. I don’t know who made that stuff or why, but as granola it was crap. Or maybe that’s just the way granola was made back then, and now they know better. We started bringing it home from the co-op when Tim asked for it, and as he asked for it more and more I started eating it, too. Crunchy and sweet, it’s pretty tasty stuff and comes in more flavors than the multicolored plastic stuff they sell to kids as breakfast cereal. There was a spell after Tim moved out where we didn’t bring much home for a while, and then a while back we started stocking up every week because both My Darling B and I were eating it for breakfast in the morning, and neither one of us are breakfast-eating people. Or weren’t. I guess we are now.

We practiced our dance steps last night and we were freaking AWESOME! By our standards. And the bar’s still set pretty low, but only because we’ve been at it for just five weeks, folks. It’s not for lack of trying. We’ve got all the steps down, for instance, but that’s about it. Grace, poise, timing, that’s all stuff far in the future. BUT WE’VE GOT THE STEPS DOWN, OKAY? That’s gotta count for something.

I thought we’d be able to get an uninterrupted night’s sleep now the weather’s warmed up and the cats have wandered off to find other places to bed down for the night, but the recent cold snap brought them right back to cuddle up alongside us like a couple of heat magnets. Last night they had me pinned to the mattress like Lilliputians pinning Gulliver to the ground. They were purring like great big furry purring things. They were just like another metaphor that I can’t recall right now.

We had one of those weekends where we didn’t go out much and it seemed as though we didn’t really do all that much. I mean, we weren’t inert blobs of protoplasm; we washed some clothes, took out the trash, cleaned the kitchen and unblocked the bathroom drain, things like that. Stuff got done. Also, I finished a book I started last weekend (no prize for guessing what it was about) and My Darling B got herself up into the biggest snit ever talking to me about the book she finished.

And some of us had plans that were dashed by the cold snap that brought us that one last dump of winter (at least I’m hoping it’s the last dump). B wanted to break out her roto-tiller and turn over some soil in her garden so she could plant lettuce, and I think she may have been just a teensy bit bummed out that she couldn’t. With temps in the fifties all week, she was living in anticipation for too long not to be utterly gobsmacked by the change in weather. I’m pretty sure my head would have exploded, but I’m a little more excitable than she is.


Well, who’s going to come clean this up, then? Because it’s not gonna be me! I’m done shoveling snow.

snow snow snow DAMMIT

We here in Wisconsin have a saying about winter: It’s not over until April. March may get warm enough to go out in shirtsleeves and shorts, but there’s at least one cold snap and snowfall coming down the pike to slap us all in the face, and if you can’t abide by that, you’d better move to Texas.

We have another saying about winter that’s especially reserved for mornings like this one, typically uttered the moment we look out the window on the scene of freshly-fallen snow: Dammit! And then we pack up and head for Texas.

[Update: I just realized this is technically the first day of Spring. Touché, Mother Nature!]

in the garden

B in her gardenWith a warm spring sun still dazzling the skies over her shoulder, My Darling B turns over a forkfull of garden soil and crumbles it in her hand to see if it’s ready for planting. It looks promising. This photo was taken in the middle of last year’s potato patch.

garlic sproutingThe garlic has sprouted!

alpine strawberriesAnd the strawberries have wintered over nicely. B says these are “Alpine strawberries,” the most hearty plants she could find. They’ll survive the cold snap forecast for this weekend, she says, even if she leaves them uncovered. I certainly hope so.