Domestic maintenance tips

trash…but what of those times your wife abandons you for an extended period – three, five, seven days, perhaps longer? Most of us can feed and clean ourselves in a crude fashion, but a week of living alone in a typical home will require more self-maintenance than that.

Domestic maintenance tips

Gentlemen, on those rare occasions your wife goes on a week-long vacation and you are left home alone, you must accept a harsh reality: you are in charge of housework. Not just carrying out instructions to do the minor and uncomplicated chores of the cohabited home, but taking responsibility for all aspects of domestic maintenance from assessment to planning to visualization to execution. This is a frightening and intimidating situation for us, and so after a recent eight-day bout of faux bachelorhood I have jotted down several helpful suggestions for other men who may find themselves in this predicament.

Reading this, you protest that you frequently do household chores. Well, yes, you probably wash the car and mow the lawn and trim the shrubbery and may even sweep off the porch and deck once in a while, but you need to do a bit of soul searching and admit that you seldom take part in any of the truly important duties such as cooking, cleaning, vacuuming, laundering, and of course the much-dreaded bathroom scrubbing. Outside the house we are as valuable and skilled as a 19th century Russian serf, but inside we are little more than clumsy gorillas in a gilded cage.

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Turning a blind eye

scope-blur“Hell, you’re already deaf, and if you go blind, too, you’ll be useless in hunting camp.”

Turning a blind eye

The buck came out of the woods downwind and behind me, the kind of unexpected appearance I should be prepared for by now, and he paused on the trail about 20 yards from my tree stand. Because there were low-hanging tree branches between us this was a shot I would usually not have attempted, but this was the only deer I had seen in three days and the bow season was nearly at an end.

When I brought the crossbow up to my shoulder and aligned my right eye with the center of the red dot scope, the red sighting dot flickered and blinked, grew blurry, and went out. I pointed the scope circle as best I could behind the deer’s shoulder and pressed the trigger. The bolt flew low, barely clipping a tuft of hair from the bottom of his chest, and he reversed course and disappeared into the brambles in seconds.

I will not report the descriptive words I used to curse my stupidity in failing to check and replace the scope’s battery before I left the clubhouse that afternoon. I peered through the scope again to confirm the battery was dead, and… I’ll be flummoxed! There was the red dot, bright and clear – because this time I was looking with my left eye.

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Super bole weekend


Splitting firewood was my pregame warm-up on super bole Sunday.

During the decline of the Roman Empire sage writers coined a phrase for this deceptive subterfuge: Panem et Circenses. The literal translation from Latin is “Bread and Circuses,” but its allegorical meaning is the appeasement of a population of dissatisfied citizenry with ample food and entertainment so they would be diverted from acting out against a corrupt and self-serving government. The Latin phrase for the Super Bowl weekend should be Cervisia et Ludi, I suppose: “Beer and Sports.”

Super bole weekend

In the back pages of my FBI dossier there is surely an entry that states: “Subject does not watch the Super Bowl, or take part in Super Bowl weekend in any observable fashion.” Sooner or later that grievous flaw in my character and blot on my identity as a true American will lead to my deportation. Don’t know which foreign country they will send me to; someplace they play soccer, I suppose. And hopefully baseball.

The National Football League Super Bowl? I choose not to be caught up in that frenzy, so my February 4-5 attention was focused on another bowl – a bole, actually, as in “tree trunk.” Running low on firewood in the second half of this winter (in relative terms, about the 7:26 mark of the third quarter) we cut down a red elm that has been standing dead two years in the fence line in our north pasture.

We spent an afternoon cutting the bole into stove-length logs, hauling it to the house, and stacking it on the deck. The next day, our Super Bole Sunday, was a warm one, tending the home fires in the cast iron stove with the first splits from the new stock of wood. We read “the old fashioned way” from books, not computer monitors, because our rural internet service crashes when it is overloaded by traffic. And Super Bowl Sunday is an overload day for the North Country – the entire country.

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Photo from Science News, image credit Neanderthal Museum

When we think of the Ice Age, we think of desolate, glacier filled landscapes. But geologists consider even the present day to be part of this Ice Age, which is characterized by long eras of cold climate (glacials), in which glaciers expanded, punctuated by shorter warm period (interglacials), like the Halocene we currently enjoy.
  – from The Neanderthals Rediscovered – How Modern Science is Rewriting Their Story, by Dimitra Papagianni, Paleolithic archaeologist, and Michael A. Morse, science historian


Sometime during my misspent youth I developed a fascination with the field of paleoarchaeology, the study of hominid fossils and artifacts that date from mankind’s earliest ancestors some 15 million years ago to our closest human relatives that walked the earth as recently as 30 thousand years ago. When I insist on sharing in hunting camp my limited knowledge about prehistoric man, his social organizations, and most of all his wondrous ability to cope with Earth’s pre-civilization wilderness environments, several members of the Over the Hill Gang have commented that my obsession with the subject is linked to my Neanderthal roots, a lineage (they say) that is apparent in my physical appearance and mannerisms.

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Tracks of the fox


The written word is our footprint on the snow, the record of our moment in time upon this Earth.

Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it’s the answer to everything. … It’s the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain…
Enid Bagnold (1889-1981), British author and playwright best known for the 1935 story National Velvet

Tracks of the fox

If we do not write about it, if we do not tell its story, it did not really happen. That is what we writers believe.

Restless, sleepless on a full moon night, I rose from bed hours before dawn, leaned into the middle bedroom’s dormer window sill, and gazed out on the snow-covered south yard, blue-white under bright moonlight and patched with shadows that changed shape as a southwest wind made bare treetops sway. On the hillside, 50 yards to west, I saw a furtive movement, a shadow that moved too stealthily and gracefully to be a mirage created by shifting light and wind. A fox was stalking through the understory of the wooded hillside, searching, hunting, working his nightly rounds of rabbit warrens and mouse nests.

He trotted around the perimeter of the yard, never venturing more than five or six feet from under the scant cover, mingling his own shadow with those of cedar and spruce trees, gooseberry clumps and wild raspberry tangles, buckthorn brush, and the last of the broken canes of Japanese knotweed that own one corner of the yard. I followed his progress as far as possible through the limited view from the dormer window, then moved to catch a final glimpse of him from the south bedroom window.

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Beastly weather, beautiful walk

Beastly weather, beautiful walk

First came a shower of sleet, then an inch of freezing rain, followed by two inches of wet snow, topped off by a half inch of “wintry mix” precipitation — falling on a day with temperatures in the mid-30s so there would be much melting, runoff, and puddles. A few hours later the temperature dropped to 17 degrees so it could all freeze into a montage of bobsled runs, downhill slalom, courses, figure skating arenas, hockey rinks, and curling sheets.

But when the snow-mix ended and the skies cleared late in the day, a walk along the “frozen river” road (with ice grippers attached to our boots) was an hour to enjoy the incredible beauty of the North Country in January.


101_2317Halfway down our driveway, overlooking the seasonal creek the grandkids call Frozen River.


101_2290Filled with runoff from morning’s winter-mix precipitation and snowmelt, it froze and became a sculpture when the temperature suddenly dropped to 17.


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There is some debate about the best brred of dog for skraalung. I find that the dome of a French spaniel’s head, just behind the ears, is the perfect size and shape for my skraalung sessions.

Just when I was ready to do the unthinkable – go south for a couple months to ease the agony of bruma morbus malum (translation from Latin: winter morbidity syndrome) – I discovered skraalung, a low-impact exercise regimen that provides relief for the afflictions of winter.


When temperatures dip to the minus-20 line on the thermometer and the weather forecast calls for another 3 to 5 inches of snowfall, the human psyche longs to sooth the corporeal body by easing it into warm and quiet hibernation. But Homo sapiens have not been granted that grace by the forces of evolution; we must endure as best we can the hardships of winter in the North Country.

It is mid-January, the last days of the final hunting seasons have freeze-dried and blown away, and we are slowly collapsing into that stiff and stumbling winter lethargy characterized by physical aches and pains and psychological depression. Ahead of us lie 10 more weeks of winter, this bleak season when we rise before late sunrise and doze off just after early sunset, trapped in the house much of the short daylight hours by the chill of sub-zero temperatures and knife-like slash of 20 mile-per-hour Arctic winds from the north and west. Our bodies respond by punishing us for subjecting them to this abuse, tormenting us with a cold, endless, throbbing ache. Our minds walk us down their darkest corridors, opening iron doors to usher us into windowless rooms decorated with anguish, worry, and dejection. Medically, this phenomenon is known as bruma morbus malum (translation from Latin: winter morbidity syndrome), and it can be a harsh and cruel malady.

But there is hope for relief. Just when I was ready to do the unthinkable – go south for a couple months to ease the agony – I discovered skraalung, a low-impact exercise regimen that provides relief for the afflictions of winter. First practiced in the northernmost regions of Sweden (or maybe Norway; the history of this workout is cloaked in mystery), skraalung was developed in what is unarguably the coldest, darkest, most remote, and most isolated winter environment on the face of the Earth. Nowhere else do humans suffer more physical and mental tortures than along the Scandinavian perimeter of the Arctic Circle, so the benefits of skraalung have been tested and proved in the harshest conditions imaginable. As is said: if it can help a Swede survive the winter, it can help anybody.

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