Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Leak - or God Gave you a Brain - USE IT!

Sept. 2012 In September we found a little red tag attached to our front door knob that said “don't be surprised if you get a high water bill this might want to check to see if you have a leak..." It was from our local water company. Thank God they do that kind of thing. Our water bill went from $35 to $99. We’ve never had to pay for water before, having gotten our water from wells. Which has the advantage of..., uh, well you don’t have to pay for it. But when the electricity goes out - you’ve got no water, because the well is run by a pump. When it comes from the town, even if your power goes out - the water keeps flowing. But you DO pay for it.

So we ‘invited’ the plumber to come over. He said it was probably a leak in the main line or a T valve connection going to the barn - wherever underground THAT might be. “Most leaks occur at the joints,” said he. He asked the obvious questions (were toilets running, etc.), and we said no. And if you had a pipe leak in your house, you’d probably notice some moisture - somewhere...ceiling, wall, etc. Nothing was obviously leaking.

He said for $125 he’d return, find the leak (if he could) and fix it. (He charged nothing for this first trip.) Several days later he came back with his handy dandy water detection device. Think of a metal detector. You know, you’ve seen those people wandering the beaches with headphone on, a few days’ growth of beard on their faces, a bit of desperation about them, wafting a wand back and forth hoping to find someone’s lost gold ring in the sand. Well our plumber too wore earphones and had some magical device that he pressed against the ground that supposedly would indicate running water. More sophisticated than the last dower we had looking for our well. I guess. Neither was successful.

But he had another handy dandy device - a thin metal pole with a cross piece on top (think of a metal T). You push it as far down as you can and then pull it up and if there’s mud stuck to it that's a goodly indication of a leak in the soil. He pressed it into the ground up at the main source which is at the top of our driveway and left about a hundred paces - LONG way from the house. Nothing. I thought it was a neat device and something that might come in handy so I tried it. I managed to get it about 2" into the ground. And I’m VERY STRONG. This guy must have had arms like Godzilla for he got it down about 15". I scrapped the idea of buying one for myself.

We then walked down to the house and he employed the magic wand around the area where the pipe came in. (He knew where that was because he had gone under the house to determine exactly where that was, God bless him. There are the biggest spiders known to man under there!) No sounding. Then he pressed the T pipe. Nothing.

Then we walked out to the barn - another several hundred feet away. And he pressed his magic wand around the pipe coming out of the ground there. No flow indication.

Then I asked him about a silver thing in the ground that I’ve been curious about since we moved in here. About 10" in diameter.
I’ve asked every workman that has come to this house from plumbers to electricians to carpenters. Not one had any idea what it might be. Nor did this plumber. Though he did pry at it and it did seem to move somewhat. And he tried his magic water detector around it too to no avail. I hadn’t tried to pry too much at it because I thought it might be something that shouldn’t be tampered with, and also it seemed rather pry proof. But since he had managed to get it to move.....clued my brain.

OK. So he couldn’t find the leak. “Now what?” we asked. “Well, you’re not gonna wanna hear this, but it’s probably in the main line between the top of the driveway and the house.” Uh huh. “Which means...what, exactly?” “Well, it means you’ve gotta dig up the old line and replace it.” Ah. “And what exactly will that cost?” “Well, it’s $225 for the trencher (the machine that cuts the trench), and then it’s $3 a foot for the piping, but if it’s over 150 feet we knock it down to $2 a foot.” Uh huh. “And how many feet do you think this will be?” He has a handy dandy little measuring device with a wheel that he could walk along with to measure. So he walks the distance to the house from the top of the line. Then he adds on the distance to the barn. And he comes up with 500 feet. That’s $1,225. He says the line is probably real old anyway and needs replacing. I say, “but we don’t know if it’s leaking from the top of the driveway to the house, or from the house to the barn. Supposing there IS indeed a T valve somewhere and we locate it? Then we could determine which pipe is leaking, at least, and save some money, no?" He says - "Yes, that’s true." My brain is churning. “Are you SURE there’s no leak at the connection at the top of the driveway on the main?” He actually takes the time and we all walk way back up there and he digs out all the earth around the connection and I can see it and the pipe leading from it. I bend down and feel the pipe, which is plastic. Feels strong and sturdy and just fine to me. Brain continues to churn. This pipe doesn’t seem old and degenerating to my mind. Just doesn’t make sense there would be a leak in it.

I tell him I’m gonna dig up that metal thing in the ground and find out what’s under there. (Maybe it’s the T valve - I’m thinking.) He says with a laugh, “Maybe you’ll find some buried treasure.” I said, “Yeah, and maybe it’ll pay for the new pipe we need laid.” I’m thinking to myself I’m gonna do everything in my power to find that damn connecting T valve, wherever it may be. Of course I don't even know what one LOOKS like.

The next day I get up, get out my pitch fork, my shovel and go after the silver disk. I dig, I pry, I wiggle, I curse AND, I manage to get it up.
I move the earth away from under it.
And...oh wow, look at THAT!!! It’s a gate valve. It must be the shut off to the barn. Oh please let it be. Is it?
And I reach down and start turning it clockwise. And it turns...easily. "How bizarre," I think. "This thing must have been in the ground for - who knows how many years, probably since the barn was built. And yet it turns?" And I keep turning and turning.... and turning... and - oh crap, it’s probably so old it’s just gonna keep turning forever and isn’t active any more and then....

... it stopped. It stopped! And I RAN to the barn and opened up the spigot and.... NOTHING HAPPENED!!!! Yipeeeee!!!!! I’d found the turn off for the barn for sure!!!! Ok. So now at least I can determine if the leak is from the main to the house or from the shut off to the barn. It certainly wasn’t at this gate valve connection anyway. I run back up to the top of the driveway and look at the meter with hope in my heart. 'Cause if it stopped, that means the leak is in the shortest part of the line which is to the barn.

The meter’s still spinning. Crap. OK. Well at least we know it’s not in the line going to the barn. That’ll save us a hundred feet or so. Having reached this level of success I was not about to give up. I dug down far enough so that I could expose the plastic pipe.

I felt it. Just like the one at the top of the driveway, it felt strong and good. I thought ‘THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THESE DAMN PIPES!!! It’s gotta be in the T valve connection.” The plumber said “most leaks occur at the connections.” I was determined to find that T valve.

God gave me brain and I used it at this point. I thought, “If there’s a leak under ground somewhere, it’s gotta show up on top of the ground. It’s just gotta. There has GOT to be more moisture in a certain area.” I thought “If I have to crawl all over this entire acreage on my hands and knees, I’m gonna find it!” And I began.

I knew where the main line started down from the top of the driveway. Didn’t know where exactly it went, but it had to head for the house. I knew now where the shut-off was for the barn. I drew an imaginary line from each in my mind. Somewhere these two lines had to intersect. I began a slow systematic ground check about 20 feet from the turn off valve heading toward the house. Noticed one area that seemed moist. Went inside and got a paper towel. Pressed it into the ground. Didn’t pick up much moisture. Pressed the ground with my fingers, feeling for dampness, sponginess. Felt kinda damp, but...not sure. Walked all the way back up to the main perusing the ground along the way. Did anything look damp? As damp as what I had just seen? No. Back down to that other area. Back on my hands and knees. Pressed with paper towel again. Yes, minor moisture. Wait! I have an iron rod. I kept it. Moved it from NY to NC to here. (Ya never know when something's gonna be of use!) It didn’t have a T on top to help me press, but I got it out from the garage and stuck it in the ground and pushed as hard as I could and it went down a goodly distance and... I pulled it up. And...yes, it did seem kind of muddy-ish.

So I dug there with my trowel. Got down about 6". Nope, not quite the right spot, I instinctively knew.
Must be close though. I moved on my hands and knees farther toward the house a couple of feet. Pressed my finger into the ground and it - WENT IN. Easily. My finger NEVER goes into the ground easily. This is hard clay soil. I then pressed the pole in and pulled it up. YES! Definite mud! The leak has to be here, I thought. And after about a minute water actually started pouring out of the tiny hole I’d made with the pole. EUREKA!!!!!!

I didn’t know what I’d find when I began digging in earnest, but I knew it would be wet. And this was a good sign. So I took the shovel and began.
I got down about 10" and YES!!!!! There it was, I'd actually found it! the holy grail! I was beside myself with happiness. Within a few seconds, however, water filled up the hole.
I dug out a channel so the water could pass and sure enough, right at the connection of the T I could see the water pouring out. THERE'S THE LEAK!!!! It felt like a small miracle. Truly.

The plumber came the next day. Was rather amazed that I had found the T valve. I think he was a bit disappointed that he didn’t get the $1,225 but only the $125.
He put a new valve in, big brass thing. Told us to leave it uncovered for a couple of days. Glad we did, because the clamps didn’t hold. He had to come back and re-clamp the connections. I have since put a valve cover box on the turn off to the barn and also this T valve spot. The former allows us access to the turn off. The other one is just a marker so that we or any future owner may know where that damn connecter is located. Moral of the story - never give up and use your brain!!!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

CPR 2009

Husband and I took a CPR course here yesterday offered by the Red Cross. All chapters give it for free once a year. And if you’ve never taken such a course I highly recommend it. We did it about 15 years ago and things have changed quite a bit since then. Instead of five heart thrusts and two breaths, you do thirty to two.

The majority of folks taking it was up there in years, including the ones who volunteered to give it. Perhaps because we live in an area with a higher aged population. I hope it’s that, because it’s really the young folk who should be learning these skills for their children and all us old folk.

There were two sessions - one in the am one in the pm and two groups of about 18 in each. First you watch a seemingly ENDLESSLY BAD video. Endless because it wasn’t working right (or perhaps our dear leader was not savvy to the ways of DVD machines.) It seems whether it’s a DVD or home movie, the end results are always the same...gnashing of teeth. Being a professional actor also helped make the video experience excruciating. Watching industrials (as we call them in the trade) is almost as boring as acting in them. First, they’re horribly written, second they’re terribly directed and third they’re terribly acted. That don’t leave you with much entertainment value. However we’re not watching them to be entertained. I might venture to say that we might learn more if it WERE entertaining in the process but....

So we’ve got the requisite pc multicultural group on the film taking us through our paces. They describe what must be done AS they are doing it.

1. Check the surrounding area. Which makes sense. If you were to walk in and see a bunch of snakes eating someone you might run in the opposite direction.

2. Assuming all is safe and the guy ain’t lying in a puddle of water with an electrical cord dangling in it, you go over and assess the situation. Give him a good poking and shout “ARE YOU OK?” If he were OK he probably wouldn’t be lying there looking like he was dead, but ya never know!

3. Call for help - assuming you have a cell phone (which we never use) or maybe there’s someone nearby (like the rest of the world) that has one happily radiating into their ear. You would instruct them by saying loudly, “CALL 911! HE’S UNCONSCIOUS!” Why you have to add the “He’s unconscious” provider - who knows. I’m just explaining what we were seeing on the video.

4. Care. Put your ear up against the guy’s mouth (after you’ve tilted his head back to open his airway) and see if you can hear any breathing as you simultaneously look down at his chest to see if it’s moving up and down at all. Wait 10 seconds. Count them like this: one-one thousand, two-one thousand, three-one thousand. (I have a recollection of this same counting method when I was taking parachute lessons. One-one thousand, chute should open, two-one thousand, chute should open, three-one thousand, something wrong, four one-thousand, look up to determine what’s wrong..., five - one thousand - oh oh....but that’s another story.) I’m thinking this guy could have been lying here for 10 minutes and I’m supposed to wait another TEN SECONDS? Ten seconds can be one heck of a long time. Especially when you’re dropping through space or on your way to dying. Which are probably both one and same. But whaddo I know. If he seems dead, he probably is, but you carry on nonetheless.

You then get out your trusty CPR mask and put it over his mouth. Or your trusty mouth barrier against any and all diseases. Yeah, right. By the time you’ve fished it out of your pocket (should you actually HAVE one) opened it, inserted it into his mouth - probably another 60 seconds have gone by. If you’re a woman and have it in our purse, the guy will probably be long gone by the time you fish it out between the lip gloss, hand desanitizer, rat comb, mascara, candy bar and calorie counter.

So, you’ve got the mask on and you’ve tilted his head back. Now pinch his nose closed and give him two breaths lasting about a second each. If you’re too forceful with your breath or do it too long, the air may go into his stomach. And if THAT occurs he’ll probably throw up. NOT a pleasant prospect to then put your mouth back on his (assuming you don’t have the necessary mask/barrier). As I’m sure one of my fellow actors discovered when I ‘d had a bit too many martinis the night before a matinee and did not do well. Turning upstage and actually barfing as unobtrusively as possible into my purse. He was playing my fiancee’ and had to KISS me shortly thereafter. But that’s another story too....

If the breaths you are putting out don’t go in, i.e. you don’t see the chest rise (my CPR doll did not have that capacity, some do), you check to see why not. Could it be that their false teeth have been knocked halfway down their throat? Or perhaps they’ve inhaled an apple and it’s stuck in their craw. A cannibal spear through the throat maybe? Whatever the obstruction, remove it and try again. Assuming air now goes in....

Give 30 quick heart thrusts in 18 seconds. That’s at a count of “one and two and three and four.” Or about two per second. It’s ok if in the panic of the moment you lost count. The guy’s probably way dead, so it won’t matter much. Chances of a revival using this technique are slim. But hey - ya never know, right? And how grateful would you feel if you actually managed to jump start somebody. And how rotten when it doesn’t work.

So you continue giving 30 pumps to 2 breaths until either help arrives or exhaustion occurs. Or the guy starts breathing. HA! Fat chance. And that’s why it’s real important to call 911 so help is on it’s way. ‘Cause you’ll be so exhausted after about five minutes of this you’ll be about ready for CPR yourself!

We also learned the Heimlich Maneuver, which they can no longer call the Heinlich Maneuver because his estate apparently now CHARGES money every time the name is mentioned. I don’t know, but if I were Mr. Heimlich, I’d prefer that the technique I created to save lives had my name on it - even if it were for FREE!


August 7, 2011

So I’m out there happily weeding in front of the house. I say happily because it rained yesterday and the ground was pliable. Not like a clay ROCK baking in the sun, which it usually is. Clay soil in the sun is just like molding clay in a kiln. It’s HARD. And since every day is 90 degrees and a million particles of humidity, breaking through sun-baked clay is not a whole lot of fun. But today it was. Until I encountered a new friend. Actually, this guy was definitely NOT a friend.

I’ve got one glove on and one glove off. If you’re weeding tricky small areas between plants you really need an unarmed hand. It requires the delicacy of fingers unencumbered. Oddly enough, that wasn’t the hand that got into trouble. So I’m weeding along and I suddenly feel a burning sensation on the back of my gloved hand. I figure - well, I’ve gotten pricked by ...whatever. Probably the Barberry shrub nearby. I ignore it and continue on. Then I get another prick. Only this time I think, “Ah, ok, it’s a bee. Kinda feels like a bee sting now that I've experienced it TWICE. Where is it coming from? I look under an iris leaf because that was the only thing nearby that could possibly have been the culprit.

Aha! What is THIS creature? It’s a very small caterpillar with many colors and hairs. Mmmmmm, this is not a good thing. I know most dangerous critters are very flamboyant and give you as much warning as possible. And he is definitely FLAMBOYANT. But HE was under a leaf. Flamboyancy hidden is NOT FAIR! So I tear off the leaf and put him in the bug jail (see another post long ago about the bug jail) and determine to look him up later. I figured he was one of kind and not around a lot.

I wondered how bad my reaction would be. I washed my hand with soap and water thoroughly and then wiped it with alcohol. And went back out to continue weeding. The sting (it was more like burning sensation, actually), lasted about an hour. I kept checking it periodically to make sure my skin wasn't falling off. Less skin reaction than a chigger or a mosquito bite, but hurt a LOT more. So I’m continuing the weeding in other areas and then go in back of the iris (the same iris where he had been hiding). And I’m hunkered down on all fours and my face is - well, in the weeds. And I suddenly feel another stinging sensation by my left eye. Only this time I recognized it right off the bat! Yes indeedy. And then I looked under another iris leaf and — well hello, there are TWO of those suckers hanging out there. Great. Before, I at least had on a glove to protect the back of my hand. This time - nothing. Just my face and the hairs.

I thought “YOU BUGGERS!” But I couldn’t kill them. They’re so beautiful. Truly. They are just amazingly unique. So I ripped off that part of the leaf and took it to the other side of the lawn and dumped it. At that point I took the time to go in and look him up on the wonderful, world wild web. Because he looked like he had a brown saddle on, I queried caterpillars with saddles and BINGO. There he was. A saddleback (aptly named, I’d say) caterpillar.

Sibine stimulea - oh yeah, he definitely stimulates the pain sensors in your skin, though he be very small. That paper clip is not a large one.

“Wikipedia: These caterpillars have a pair of fleshy "horns" at either end, and these, like much of the body, bear urticating hairs that secrete an irritating venom. Stings can be very painful. They can cause swelling, nausea, and leave a rash that can last for days. Individuals with sensitive skin are cautioned against coming into contact with them as the reaction can be more severe than the typical reaction.”

A couple of responders said take some scotch tape and put it over the wound and it will pluck off the little hairs. I did that by my eye (after wiping it off with alcohol too), and the pain didn’t last nearly as long. Live and learn. I then spent the next 30 minutes studying other centipedes and brown recluse spiders. These guys are definitely nasty, but nothing (from what I’ve studied) about the recluse. And I really don’t want to get bitten by one of them, and would have no hesitation whatsoever about killing one. They ain’t pretty like this guy.

A few days later I came upon the monster below. Now he was BIG - about 2 inches. And FAST. Fortunately I found him before he found me. You know, it's funny. I was talking to my uncle the other night and he said he saw a really interesting bug by his front door and thought of me! I was delighted! If my friends and family think of me every time they see a bug - well, there'll be a whole lot of thoughts coming my way. HA!

Monday, August 30, 2010

It's a Boy, It's a Girl, it's Mothra

Missed the actual birth I'm sorry to say. (Though I've kept it's "shell casing.") I came out the other morning and there he/she/it was. Looked exactly like a leaf.
Only reason I could identify her/he/him/she/it was that he was clinging to the side of the aquarium/terrarium. Even though I had left up branches for that purpose. How does one crawl and cling to glass? If I had that answer I'd be Spiderman. But if you notice the first picture you'll see one little foot extended to hold itself there.

So I then watched. And waited. And watched. And waited. Just as I have for the past week? Two? Expecting some fabulous other transformation. Nothing seemed to be happening. Except that after hours and hours it might change it's position.

And so it went from clinging to the glass side to "another part of the forest"...the bottom of the terrarium actually. I took a twig and tried to gently open it's wings. And low and behold there were marvelous orange dots present.

If you look at the last photo it looks like there's fur on it's body.

Not the most spectacular colorations - but to go from a green caterpillar to this air born contraption - hey - it was worth the wait.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


So I go out to our vegetable garden the other day and notice, to my horror, two tomato plants are half eaten. By what? I wonder. Upon studying them I discovered these humongous green caterpillars chowing down on the leaves and nibble marks on the fruit. Even though the things are 4" long and about the circumference of a Sharpie permanent marker, they have pretty perfect camouflage. Duplicate color extract as the plant. I plucked five off and threw them way over the fence. Didn't want to kill them. Stupid. Soft hearted.

Then I got on the internet and looked them up. Tobacco Hornworms they are. In the North they're called Tomato Hornworms and have a slightly different coloration. Down South, however, they have the former name. They eat tobacco, and any member of the Nightshade family. Like Irish potatoes, peppers and eggplant. And of course tomatoes. They become Sphinx moths. One of the larger species of flutterers.

Next day went to check again. Five more. I tossed all but one over the fence giving the last two a good talking to. "This is it!" I said. "Last chance. Come back again and I'm cutting you in half. So Beware!" The last one I took and put in my trusty bug jail. I thought it would be fun (well interesting at least) to watch his transformation. Of course then I was FEEDING him my tomato leaves. (I must be nuts. Don't answer that.) And he had an insatiable appetite. But I found him quite enchanting. The most amazing shade of green and with fabulous eye spots all along his sides leading right up to his eyes themselves which were almost indistinguishable from the false ones. And the brownish red horn on his rear end. Really quite fetching.

After a couple of days I realized I couldn't just keep him in a tiny bug jail. So I went down to the root cellar and brought up the aquarium I bought at a tag sale a zillion years ago which I've hauled through every move. The only thing I ever had in it was a bunch of what I thought were frog eggs. Turned out to be salamanders. Half of them cannibalized each other because there were too many in the tank, I guess. Which was rather alarming, to say the least. Once I realized what was happening I put the majority back in the pond from whence they'd come. Only kept a couple. One of which had a leg missing. I figured I owed him. And several weeks later I was surprised to see that the leg had grown back. Pretty neat. Wish we could regenerate body parts like that. I knew spiders could do that in the molting process, but didn't realize efts could too.

Anyway, back to Mr. Hornworm. My research told me that he would go into a "wandering" stage and begin to shrink. (Sort of like where I am at this age - mind wanders and I get closer to the ground every year. Only my next stage isn't as glorious a transformation to a wing-ed thing. Well, who knows - maybe it will be. One can hope, eh?)

Sure enough the other day he stopped his gluttonous consumption and began to crawl aimlessly around the tank like an Alzheimer patient. I then went and got a small bucketful of the forest floor (dried grass and leaves and such), dumped it in and he immediately buried himself under it. And every day after that I uncovered him to see what was what. And indeed he got smaller and small and less bright, duller and duller in color. Until now where he is the color of a dark brown tightly rolled leaf about an inch and a half long. His horn looks longer and is partially curled around his body instead of standing flaglike on the end of his rear. He's extremely active if you disturb him, wiggling like mad. Much more so than is original self which was rather torpid in nature.

I'm assuming they don't need to eat nor drink in this stage. Otherwise I will have nurtured this creature to his slow death.

Birth of a Sphinx Month coming soon to a theatre near you....

Monday, February 8, 2010

Another Visitor

(I wrote this back in Feb. 2010)

We have two cats. One I think is autistic. Well, according to my lights. Or is that lites - these days? Spelling has gone out the window along with everything else. Anyway, the other day I walk into my office and Butternut (so named because he's an orange tabby - NEVER GET AN ORANGE CAT), is in there. He NEVER goes in my office. In the two months we've been here he is either on the couch or under it. Mostly under it. When he does get brave enough to come out and lie on it, should you walk by a little too close, he'll jump off and slink beneath.

Anyway - I see him in my office and find it mighty strange and follow his gaze to the top of the window. And there is a bird. Yes, a BIRD on my curtain rod. A rather terrified Wren I believe it to be. We had the garage door open, and yes, the door to the house too while unloading stuff from the car. Uh huh. I get Butter out of the room simply with a glance in his direction, and then proceed to try to catch the BIRD. HA! The Tommy Dorsey song begins to haunt me: "....The music goes 'round and around, Whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho, And it comes out here." I make a grab here, whoa-ho-ho-ho-ho and the bird goes there. After about five minutes of that nonsense I enlist the aid of my better half. He proceeds to get out a pair of heavy work gloves (well, after all, you never know WHAT diseases these wild creatures may have!)

So together we attempt to corral the creature. "...the music goes round and round, whoa oh oh...." going back and forth to get implementa (like a towel, etc.) from the other room. Mugwump (the other cat) joins in the fray. I take him out of the room. The bird flies round and round and round. And we chase him round and round and round. Poor thing had it's beak open, gasping for breath. I figured, like the bats we've caught, it's just a matter of time until we wear them out.

Eventually he lands yet again on one of the three desks I have in the room, and very slowly I turned, step by step, inch by inch, I move up on him, clicking my tongue in bird speak (this actually works for many different kinds of animals) and slowly raise my hands on either side of him. I've used similar techniques with frogs but that's a one-handed deal in a slow, circular motion. In this case my two open palms gently, slowly close in on him and voila! FINALLY GOT THE BUGGER! And flushed the damn thing down the toilet. Of course not - I let him go.

I recalled after that, the son of the owner of this place saying something about birds coming into the garage and being a pain in the butt. The next morning I went into the garage and there were TWO more Wrens. SO, I guess this is going to be an ongoing THANG.

Monday, January 11, 2010


Beautiful at any time of year...

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Pre Christmas Adventure

Friday, Dec. 18th found me on my way back to our new home with a car loaded with things the movers couldn’t/wouldn’t/didn’t take. Like all the house plants. Which was primarily the reason for my going back to NC the Sunday prior. That and a few other tasks, like cleaning the oven, cleaning the fridge, scouring the kitchen floor, scouring the sunporch floor, raking the ditch leaves, picking up sticks and setting fire to the pile that’s been sitting there for three months. Plus going to the skin doc and the chiropractor. And I even managed to get in a game of tennis.

The heat in the house was not acting right. Had noticed it before we left but tried to believe it was just my imagination. I’ve never known heat pumps to produce much heat to begin with so it’s difficult to determine when they’re not. But after a couple of nights on the air mattress on the floor and feeling cold air blowing on my head all night long, and the unit never shutting off, I opined that, yes, something was definitely not right. I was hoping it was just a thermostat problem.

Wednesday I had a plumber over to fix the hot water faucet to the washing machine. When the movers took the unit out, the hot water tap kept dripping. Fortunately the entire valve didn’t have to be replaced, just the washer. And he did both.

Thursday the heating guy came over. Nope, not a simple thermostat problem. An expansion valve problem. Which means they have to order the part. Which means the heat will be on emergency until then. Which means we’ll be running off the heat strips and it’ll be costing an electric fortune. Think I’ll invest in Duke Power. He sets the system to ‘emergency’ and leaves. I notice after a while that it’s still not getting any toastier in the house. I call Waldrop. “Uh, it doesn’t seem to be getting any warmer.” “Well, give it a half an hour and if it’s still not warm call us back,” came the reply. It had already been about an hour, but I did as told.

Half an hour later the thermostat indicates the temperature has DROPPED a degree. I call again. The guy who came originally has gone home. A new one is sent out. He arrives about an hour later. Is in the basement a LONG time studying the unit. Then comes upstairs and looks at the thermostat. He determines that whomever put the thermostat in didn’t hook it up so that it could use the emergency setting. How is this possible? Who knows. Anyway, we chatted at the folding bridge table in the kitchen until he was satisfied that there WAS heat coming out of the vents. He said they’d let me know about the part and how much it would cost the next day. That night I got a cold.

Snow was predicted for the next day, Friday. It was coming up from the coast and expected to get worse throughout the day and into Sat. Especially in the higher mountain regions which was exactly where I was heading. I really didn’t want to spend two more nights on an air mattress on the floor. Husband and friend advised me not to leave. I left anyway. I’ve always enjoyed an adventure. HA!

It’s normally a four hour trip. But because of a rock slide on I 40, one has to go all the way up North to Johnson City on I 26, and then take I 81 South to re-connect with I 40 to get into Knoxville. Which takes another hour.

North of Asheville the road gets worse and worse. Somewhere after Johnson City everything came to a standstill. Two hours later there was a little movement and I managed to sneak my way ahead. People of this region just don’t know how to drive in this stuff. Cars were in the ditch on the left and off the road on the right. Finally managed with a great sigh of relief to get to an exit and a convenience store bathroom. I think it was then around 6 pm. I’d left at 12:30. Some other stragglers came in. They had been stuck for SIX HOURS. I was lucky with my two. Talked to more people as they came in. The highway ahead was a parking lot. A local cop came in. He said there was a jack-knifed tractor trailer up ahead. How long before he thought it would be cleared? His guess was at least three hours. Called husband. I gave him the info. Told him I’d keep him posted.

Went off to find something to eat. Burger King had just closed. There was a grocery store open, Food City, I was told. The road was ice and slush. The plows must have all been on the highways. Managed to slip and slide my way into the parking lot. They had a deli, which was closed, but had some tables and chairs at which to sit. I had brought some sliced ham in a cooler, bought a loaf of bread and made a sandwich. Most of the pre-packed warm food had already disappeared, like the rotisserie chicken, etc. There were a couple of salads left, which were unappealing. I kept inquiring about the roads. The local state trooper was of little help. He didn’t know how he was gonna get home himself.

There are no motels in Gray, TN. If I had stopped in Johnson City, I probably would have been nice and snug by now. Food City closed at midnight. I managed to get my car over to their gas pumps where there was an overhang. At least I’d be out of the way of the plow which was attempting poorly to plow the lot. And the overhang would keep the snow off my windshield so I wouldn’t have to scrape it. My cold was in full bloom. It was 28 degree out. Christmas music was coming out of the speakers around the pumps.

I listened to this music for six hours. Every half hour I turned on the car to get some heat so the plants wouldn’t freeze. I nibbled on peanuts and carrots and drank Dr. Pepper. But not much, because I didn’t want to have to get out my sheinal (a woman’s urinal) which I’ve learned to carry in the car. It’s not the easiest of items to use under spacious conditions (like in a tent). When you’re behind a steering wheel and have on long underwear...let’s just say it’d be better to HOLD IT!

My poor husband was so worried. At 6 am the store re-opened. I walked across the lot ‘cause I was afraid that I’d get stuck if I tried to drive. The plowing job was a joke. One of the gals had crossed over the freeway on her way to work and said it looked like there was one lane open and cars were moving. I had a cup of coffee. “What time does dawn arrive,” I queried one fellow. “Around 7:15,” he said. God. Another hour and a half to go. I didn’t want to attempt leaving until I could at least see the road ahead.

Finally things started to lighten up. Still snowing and grey, but it was now or never. Grabbed another cup of coffee and a banana and prayed that I’d managed to get out of the parking lot.

I did. I was two exits from I 81. Within that stretch of road there were over 100 cars on either side. They looked like tinker toys. Seven in a row on the right, four on the left, then more...and more...and more. What happened to all those people I wondered? And how long will it take to haul their cars out.

The snow continued until Knoxville, where it became a sleety rain. I got more coffee. I was getting mighty sleepy. As the elevation rose in the Highland area it turned back to snow. It seemed like an endless drive. Took four hours. I finally pulled into the driveway at 11:30 am. And walked into husbands arms. Then unloaded the car, took a shower and crashed ‘til 6 pm.

The heating company did not call. We had to call them. Estimate is $650. The heat in our new home I noticed was acting similarly to that at Tranquil Lane. Naw - can’t be. But...why is there cold air blowing in the bedroom? Get a heating guy over the 22nd. There’s a problem with the defrost board. Need to order a new one. Fortunately it’s still under warranty. Unfortunately we’ll now be running off the emergency heat strips in this house too. And being Christmas week, the part won’t be ordered ‘til next week. Now gonna also invest in Upper Cumberland Electric. My portfolio will be overloaded in the energy sector......

But the cows are back in the back field. And that’s what really matters.

Saturday, November 28, 2009








It only gets worse from here......

There's nothing more to say. And no time to say it.

Moving is DREADFUL!!!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Another Lady

So I'm out on our front porch a couple of weeks ago and up in the corner is another spider of questionable descent. Looks exactly like the one I saw last year on that same porch. Last year I made a couple of inquiries but got no specific answers but more or less assumed it to be a Black Widow or (according to the descriptions I read, an Australian Redback spider which made no sense as to why it would be here in North Carolina. I mean that's a LONG swim.) She was quite unique looking. That's what caught my attention in the first place. Like someone had splashed three drops of blood on her back. But there are NO descriptions of Black Widows with red on the back, so it was most curious to me. Husband caught her in the bug jail and we took her FAR away. I didn't have the heart to kill her, as she was really quite a remarkable looking lady.

And now here's another one. And I'm equally curious to find out what she is. So I find a site on the internet. The correspondence of which follows.

July 23, 2009 (Spider Question)

To "Peter Bryant"

Dear Mr. Bryant,

You have a great spider page on the internet. And since you seem to be quite knowledgeable I was wondering if you could answer this question for me.

See attached photo. This is the second one of these I've seen at our house. I'm assuming it's a Black Widow, because the abdomen has that red hourglass shape. (At least I assume it does. The one I found last year that I caught in a bug jail, had it.) But I've never seen a description of a Black Widow with red drops on her back? So is this indeed a Black Widow? Makes a very sticky web. From the description of an Australian Red Back spider I would have thought that's what this is. But I live in North Carolina, so that doesn't make any sense.

Any help would be appreciated.

You've got fabulous spider shots!

Giulia Pagano

(His:) Hi! Please contact my friend Lenny Vincent at <>, who knows a lot more about spiders than I do.

Peter J. Bryant, Ph. D.
Developmental Biology Center
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697-2275
Phone: (949) 824-4714
Fax: (949) 824-3571

July 23, 2009 (Spider Question)

Dear Mr.l Vincent

I was advised by your friend Peter Bryant (Please contact my friend Lenny Vincent) to contact you regarding my spider question. So this is all HIS fault. This is what I sent to him:

"...since you seem to be quite knowledgeable I was wondering if you could answer this question for me.

See attached photo. This is the second one of these I've seen at our house. I'm assuming it's a Black Widow, because the abdomen has that red hourglass shape. (At least I assume it does. The one I found last year that I caught in a bug jail, had it.) But I've never seen a description of a Black Widow with red drops on her back? So is this indeed a Black Widow? Makes a very sticky web. From the description of an Australian Red Back spider I would have thought that's what this is. But I live in North Carolina, so that doesn't make any sense.

Any help would be appreciated."

So, since he says you're the one in the know, I pass the question on to you. I have a love/hate relationship with spiders. They fascinate me and I have spent many hours studying them. Really. And taken many photographs of them. However, when vacuum day comes around - that's it! But I have gleaned much knowledge and appreciation of them over the years from observation of their amazing capacities. How many of us could grow a new leg in a molt had we the capacity? (Or if molt is not the right word, you know the one I mean. I'm not an entomologist, just your normal every day bug lover. And especially the Peter Ustinov documentary taught me the brilliance of the creature. And if you're unfamiliar with that documentary - find it!)

Anyway, if you could view the photo in the attachment and give me your words of wisdom, I'd appreciate it. Because I'm still trying to learn what a Black Widow looks like. If this is SHE - she's a real handsome lady.

Thanks for any spider wisdom you can impart.

Giulia Pagano

(His:) From:
Subject: Re: Spider Question
Date: Friday, July 24, 2009, 7:04 PM

Hi Giulia,

Looks like a black widow to me. Many of the immatures have the red along the dorsal surface. Yours looks like an adult which would make this an unusual case. I agree that it looks like an Australian redback. It would be interesting to know if you come across another individual with the same coloration.

Lenny Vincent

(Mine:) Re: Spider Question


Thanks so much for your response. If this is an "immature" I'd hate to see what a grown up looks like! 'Cause this one's pretty hefty. As I said, this is the second one of these I've seen. The one last year, that I put a LONG way away across the road and into the woods, was exactly the same and both were found on our front porch. I guess they like to welcome guests.

Hey, I'd be HAPPY to sent her to you, postage paid. HA!

Take it easy.


(His:) Hi Giulia,

Hey, if you are serious, I'd like to have it. I stick spiders in small vials filled with alcohol and placed in altoid tins. Those go in mailing envelopes. Let me know.


(Mine:) Lenny,

Spiders in altoid tins - now THAT's a novelty. Hope you don't grab the wrong tin and pop one in your mouth by mistake!

Well now I have only two problems with sending her to you. One is - I really hate to kill her for no reason at all. Though if it would serve the purpose of scientific study....


There ain't NO WAY I can put this large lady in some little vial even if I had one. She's much to vial to put in a vial small enough to fit in an altoid tin. A big jar - yeah, maybe. Unless I squashed her first and then, what would be the point.... How do YOU get them in little vials?

So, unless this is probably the most unusual spider found in North America and needs to be examined for posterity, my tendency would be to take her off down the road across the stream, where I put the other one last year.

What do you DO with the spiders you have? Are you an entomologist? An arachnidologist? Or just bug crazy, like me? With an email address of atypoides I guess you're a specialist in them?


(His:) Hi Giulia,

Yeah, I do specialize in spiders, when I'm not teaching. Yes, just let it go. and, in any case, I now know what it. It is the Nothern Black Widow, Latrodectus variolus. They always have a row of red spots.


Message contains attachments
IMG_2873.JPG (788KB), IMG_2869.JPG (1584KB)


Thanks for the Latin name. I looked her up and came across some great photos of her: Pippin Widows (

If I find any more unique visitors, you'll be the first to hear.

Have attached a photo of one of my favorites, the black and yellow argiope. I'm particularly fond of her trampoline act.

Thanks for the many responses.


Here's the photo I attached to that email.

And I wonder why I don't have a lot of friends...... HA!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Comcast Episode

This event took place in 2005.

An Actor’s Life Part XXX

We get a call from our agent in Knoxville to go for a Comcast audition in Nashville Nov. 22nd. They wanted real married people. They’d already gone to NY to look there, but wanted a "southern" type. They're too stupid to realize that NY actors can do southern accents. We’re told it’s supposed to shoot in LA on Dec. 15th.

So we go in half pretending to be southerners. And slow southerners at that. Cute, dry copy. “Frank & Janet Slowsky, DSL Customers.” He: “We come from slow. We like slow.” She: “With Comcast you download music and photos and bam, they’re right there.” He “I mean we’re not hares, we’re tortoises. Give me a little spinning ball time, a stuck loading bar, something...” She: “I mean his middle name is slow.” You get the idea.

They said there weren't call backs which was good, as it's a 7 hr. drive to Nashville. Arrived at the hotel and check in. As I'm making up and Rand is changing, guy comes to give us a mini fridge which was supposed to come with the room but wasn’t there. Timing is everything and we don’t have a lot of it. Get to audition 3:30. They have a lap top which is playing the auditions that were held in NY for all of us “southerners” to see. They all looked bad to me. Our audition goes well. Back at hotel, notice there are bugs in the room. Not good. Go to dinner. Come back, more bugs. Change rooms at 11 pm. Drive the 7 +hrs. home the next day in horrendous pre-Thanksgiving traffic.

Following week we are told there ARE call backs and they want to see us again. Great. Told to wear the same outfits we were in originally. They send new copy of scripts. Now the characters are turtles. “Open on a turtle and his wife in their living room.” Visions of having to wear hideous turtle outfits come to mind. Why does it matter that we wear the same outfit we did for the first audition? Hmmmm? We’re turtles! Leave Wed., another 7 hr. drive. Spend night in non-buggy hotel. Audition next day (Thurs.). Swedish director about 29 years old and about 4 other various sorts - the obese casting girl, the scruffy, un-shaven 25 year old, the young girl, etc.. They spend half an hour having us ad lib into the copy. They seemed to like us. Another 7 hr. drive home.

Get home around 8:00 pm. Phone rings. Agent says they have 6 Nashville couples they're interested in - we're at the top of the list. She says the production company may be calling later - if they’ve chosen us. We then find out it's a demo. And a voice over only . Turtles are gonna be animated characters like the Budweiser lizards. We’ll be doing the voices. Whomever gets it has to go to NY tomorrow (Fri). Rand tells our agent he doesn't fly. Calls back and forth. We're already exhausted. No calls from the production company. We figure we didn’t get it.

Friday morning we awake to find our digital thermostat - and hence the heat - is not on. Call a heating man. He comes. Says we have a bad circuit breaker. He doesn’t have any in his truck. He can’t get the old breaker back in. He shows me how to re-wire a new one. I say that’s all fine, but if YOU can’t get it in, how am I supposed to. He doesn’t answer and leaves. I go to Landrum to get a new breaker - the only place nearby that carries them. The guy there tells me how it should snap in once wired. I spend a LONG time and finally manage to get the thing in. This on a ladder in back of the heating unit in the basement with a trouble light and zero room to move. Thermostat’s now on but heat pump isn’t working. Maybe it’s a fuse I think. Rand goes off and gets two fuses. Meanwhile I call another heating place. Guy says he’ll stop by later.

4 pm Agent calls and says we got the job. One train out of Spartanburg (20 min. away) at 11 something. Calls back and forth. Packing. Trying to arrange for 3 cats should we be gone longer than expected. With these people ya never know. Meanwhile I put the new fuse in and the heat seems to work. The other heating guy calls, I tell him it’s working, not to come.

Train sleeper is booked by them. 11:40 out of Greenville (an hour away). Great. We wanted to leave from Spartanburg which is closer. We have to find out about parking at the station. Never been there before. Station is supposed to be open at 9:30 pm. No answer. Many calls to Amtrak. Short term parking is only 24 hrs. More calls. Eventually find out "short term" parking is for up to 2 weeks. Main office didn't know that. Still no answer at the Greenville station. We manage to cook dinner.

Find out the train is running two hours late. Well, at least that gives us more time. Get there at midnight. Station is locked up, no stationmaster there. And you have to get the ticket before you can board the train (even if it’s pre-paid - which this one was by the prod. company.) One 76 year old woman had been sitting there since 9:30 in the cold. Eventually station master limps in - literally. He had just gotten out of the hospital. His relief never showed.

Get on the train, it leaves at 1:40 a.m. A sleepless night. Arrive 4 pm Sat. Jason, a typical young man of these days with no brains, says he'll meet us at the 34th St. entrance to Penn Station. He'll be wearing a baseball cap and have a BRIDGES sign. We look for the 34th St. entrance. There is none. Call him on his cell. Oh, he meant 33rd St. “Do you have the BRIDGES sign so we can find you?” No, he forgot it . We finally find each other. He cabs us to the studio. They're currently taping the NY couple they’ve chosen. We sit around for an hour. They call me up to read with the NY actor. I thought they wanted real married couples? Rand falls asleep on the couch. I spend an hour taping, then they bring Rand up. The director has to fly back to Sweden, he leaves as Rand comes in. We two tape 'til 9 pm sans director. Then a cab ride with Christmas music blaring on the radio and a ride over the worst cobblestone street in NY - I thought my teeth would crack. Arrive at Grand Soho ($300/night). Live music blasting in the lobby. Can't hear yourself think. We're totally exhausted by this point. Go to check in. The room is not paid for. Whadda ya mean the room isn't paid for?! They need a fax from someone saying something..... Fortunately the bright girl at the desk eventually found whatever it was that was necessary. Gave us a couple of free glasses of champagne.

Head out for dinner at 10:30. I could barely walk. Go to Italian restaurant and have one of the best meals I've ever eaten. Finally sleep - without motion. 2:15 train out the next day (Sun.). It’s drizzling. We find out they had booked a smaller room on the train for our return. Swell. They're small enough to begin with. Picture, if you will, my 6'6" husband on a small train sleeper. They ain’t what they used to be. Arrive Greenville 4:55 am Mon. Driving home in the pouring rain my speedometer stops working. Swell. Get to bed at 6:30. Sleep for a few hours, then I head off to unemployment in Hendersonville for my monthly review. And later in the day I get a call from our other agent saying I have an audition in Wilmington the next day for a Denzil Washington movie. Probably a one-liner. It's a 7 hr. drive. No thanks....

If this ad runs, and if they end up choosing us and not the NY couple or whomever, (they said they might want us back in mid Jan. to shoot the real deal) we could be sitting pretty because it's a huge campaign and will be shown across all venues, national, regional, cable, internet, etc. And it’s three different spots. If it doesn't - we’ve had one heck of a story to tell.....

Meanwhile I just took the car in to check the speedometer problem, heat pump stopped working again and we had the other guy in to fix it, and we’re waiting for four days in a row without rain so we can stain the decks which we power washed over a week ago now and are already dirty again. Never a dull moment in the Bridges household.

Saturday, September 27, 2008


For the past several weeks I have been doing a Mushroom study, because it has been so damn HUMID down here, and what else can one do outside except take photos of things that grow in humidity. Like mushrooms. While being chewn alive by the thousands of miniature vampires (i.e. mosquitos) that inhabit the same woodland area. I consider it worth the numerous blood suckings that took place upon my person to get these incredible photos. Like Alice, I drank the liquid that made me shrink and walk amongst them. I had no idea of the diversity of the shroom population until I ventured forth. Some of them are rather sexual in appearance (many, in fact). I could imagine Georgia O'Keefe painting the insides of several. Can't tell you a thing about them, the names nor whether they're poisonous or benign. All I know is that they are incredibly beautiful. And have a very short life. Because like Dracula, once that sunlight comes out and dries the air, they wither. I call them forest flowers. (And all praise to Canon for their brilliant little miracle of a camera the 610A Powershot.)