That is all I can think sometimes when mulling over life with this little white city dog out here in the rural wild west. Monty is a great urban dog. He loves dog parks, loves restaurants with outdoor patios, and loves meeting people. His fur, what there is of it, is thin and short and perfectly suited for warm cities and cute winter coats.
Naturally he also enjoys the freedom of this forest life, going without a leash, pooping wherever he wants, all the great smells and chasing a forest critter every now and then. But his body is not designed for such living. His bare tummy gets big scratches and he gets wounds from sticks that poke out as he runs past, and most recently he tore a nail. Have you ever torn a fingernail way up high into the quick? I mean WAAAAAYYYY up high? Were you able to rip it off yourself or did you have to get someone else to do it? And remember how much it bled and how sore that finger was for days and days? Well, turns out the same thing can happen to a dog. Here was the chain of events. The neighbors dog came over to play
The two dogs are running around having a great and rambunctious time as we trek through some woods
Then suddenly Monty comes up to me and says, “Owwwie!” and holds up his paw.
Sheesh, that is a bad tear. Maybe if I clip the nail a little shorter it will be okay.
Nope, still hurts and Monty doesn’t want to walk on it.
Here is where I realize that as his human it is my job to address this issue. So, as any person would do, I call the vet so she can fix it. Fiddlesticks, the vet is only in town on Wednesday (hello, life in a rural area) so we will have to wait 4 days for an appointment. Ummmm, I don’t think that will work. I could drive 80 miles and almost 2 hours to the next town that has a vet but that also seems excessive, so maybe I can just Google this and see if cutting the REALLY nail short is do-able. I also check with my mom and sister for their opinions. Naturally they do have opinions and, as luck would have it, they contradict each other. After a few more moments of fretting I decide to channel my sister’s badassness and just be my own veterinarian. It’s starting to rain a bit so probably inside is the best place to work. After spreading a canvas on the bed to protect from muddy paws, I get Monty situated, feed him some treats, then look at his paw again to see if maybe there is a way out of doing this next step. I have trimmed many a dog’s nail and infrequently cut it a bit too short. If you have, then you know they squeal, rip their paw out of your hand, bleed a bit, and look at you accusingly while you feel like Judas with the nail-clippers betraying their unconditional love. But what if you PURPOSEFULLY cut deep into the quick? Ah, so this is why people pay doctors to deal with this stuff, so you don’t have it on your conscience. I really do not feel like wearing my big girl panties today but I guess I’ll go put them on and take care of my dog. My sister said not to equivocate. Just get the nail and cut it. So I channel that matter-of-fact attitude, grab the nail and cut the damn thing.
Holy redrum, Batman! I knew there would be some blood but I never imagined this! I had a cloth ready but didn’t know it would spray the walls! I wonder if that will come out? I also wonder if Googling “how to get blood spray patterns out of walls” will raise any flags? And that nail bled like a mofo, I spent over 40 minutes applying pressure (and taking pictures with my free hand) while Monty recited lines from Mercutio’s death.
And now to try and keep this puppy bandaged while the wound scabs up. Yeah, my dog hates me now.
Fortunately the nail healed up just fine after a week or so and Monty was back to roughing it with his pals. But just show him a pair of dog clippers and he gets PTSD and hides under the table. This is going to make nail-trimming day really interesting. I wonder how filing his nails would work?
Do you think dogs think about the past? I wonder if Monty ever thinks back to his city days where he went to restaurants and shared furniture with a cat?
I would like to think that even though, or perhaps because, the days are no longer predictable and each moment brings a new experience, Monty is digging his new life. Certainly the freedom of going outside without a leash and having uncountable acres of trees and hills and creeks to explore bring a huge amount of interest and enrichment to his days. His personality has expanded and he surprises me sometimes with his actions and antics. Sometimes it can be nice to be predictable for a little while but, for some of us at least, too much predictability can be lethal to our creativity.
But it would still be nice to pay someone else to do the dirty work.
When last we met, Brighty had been brought to her winter home on the western side of the Olympic Peninsula, a place known for its typically mild winters. Actually, the OP winters are so boring that the temperature logs look like a flat line and the reporter has to use a thesaurus to find new ways to say “mild and rainy.” Typical doesn’t mean always, though. On or about the winter’s solstice a tremendous storm ravaged this area with wind gust like a hurricane. Hundred-foot trees were so harshly bent over from the wind they were no taller than thirty feet! Or so the locals told me as I was not in attendance, being safely ensconced in the humid embrace of a Gulf Coast December. Brighty held her own in the maelstrom except for a tree branch that pierced her roof at what appears to be a 60 degree angle.
Fortunately no one was inside the camper when this branch came through as it was directly over the kitchen sink, and being over the sink helped alleviate some of the flooding from having a hole in the roof. It is now patched but not painted. I have to think on the painting issue because I had personally custom mixed the ceiling color and do not have any of the custom mix leftover nor do I have the colors I had used to mix. I’m thinking this particular portion of the ceiling will just have to be slightly different. I mean, it’s not as if anyone is looking at the ceiling, right? (I totally heard that, Taeri.)
Keeping a roof over one’s head To add a layer of protection from rain and flying branches, the don built a temporary roof over Brighty. I like the play of rustic tree poles sourced from the property with the corrugated aluminum. And oh, the rain sounds so nice on this roof now! It boggles my mind to be able to do this solo but that is what he did with only a ladder, a few tools, and a generator. Here you can see the shed as it is being built. Brighty has her wood stove burning hot to help dry out and next to Brighty is the truck camper, which has come to be known as “the guest house.”
This unusually cold winter has let us realize how very drafty Brighty is. No risk of “new house syndrome” in here. Additional insulation has been added to cabinet areas along the kitchen wall since the propane appliances require an opening at the upper level of the appliance for oxygen and an opening at the lower level of the appliance in the event of a propane leak. Propane is heavier than air and sinks to the lowest level available so this allows it to exit the living space and disperse rather than killing the occupants. As Martha would say, it’s a good thing.
A different sort of bubble tea…
Actually, it is a very good thing because within a day or so after I arrived I could smell a bit of propane in the morning. Unlike that famous movie quote, I do NOT love the smell of propane in the morning. My very sensitive sense of smell helped me locate the source of the very tiny leak and then a soapy water solution verified what my nose told me. It is a very tiny leak but I am taking a no-tolerance policy on this situation.
A bit of soapy water to show exactly where the leak is in this line of connections on the virtually antique stove and some special goo to seal it and voila, no more carbon monoxide issues. One of the bonuses of working on this project was its proximity to the truffle salt and the lovely truffle scent that wafted around once the propane issue was addressed.
One thing that was very fun on the kitchen was making my own cabinet pulls and drawer handles. There aren’t many designs that “spark joy” in this department, if the drawers had recesses to open by hand I would not have even bothered with using hardware. I also wanted to minimize pointy edges since the chances of brushing up against the drawers and cabinets in this narrow RV are pretty much 100 per cent.
I finally hit on the idea to make them myself from leather! I can post a tutorial if you wish but here is the gist of it. Cut saddle leather to length, drill holes in cabinets (the scariest part, imo)
and attach. I chose to stay rustic on the bolt attachments that echo the other metal accents in Brighty.
Spice of Life File this under the “Hmmm, didn’t think that through, I guess,” tab. First off, let me say that the don and I think the recessed spice cabinet is a brilliant idea that works well for cooking in a tiny kitchen. There were a couple of hiccups along the way, though. Knowing it would be just a matter of moments until i knocked a spice bottle into the pan bubbling away on the stove, I opted against putting shelves in the spice cubby and instead went for magnetic containers. Naturally this required lining the back of the cubby with a magnetic material. So far it is a no brainer, right? And then, having just acquired an air compressor with a fun assortment of nailers, I VERY thoroughly attached this metal to the cubby back. Oh boy, did it look great! Shortly after admiring my work I realized the fridge had been pulled out some reason or other and needed to be slid back in. Hunh, it is kind hard to slide in. i don’t remember it being difficult before, is it hung up on something? Well phooey, what on earth could be the probl…. Oh shit. Can you, dear reader, guess what the problem was? Maybe this photo will help.
Yep, you hit the nail right on the head. I neglected to consider how long the nails were that I was happily driving through the back of the cubby were and I freaking nailed the cubby to the fridge. For all that is holy, PLEASE don’t let me have just ruined this $1400 refrigerator, please God. After a sleepless night spent berating myself (a useless waste of time and a terrible habit I should give up for this coming Lent), the offending nails were removed. Actually, lest you think I did it, the don pulled the nails out as I fretted and it was no easy task, the nail removal and the fretting. Thank you, God, for protecting us DIY idjits from ourselves. I fully expected the fridge to deflate or implode or start spewing propane upon nail removal but crazy enough, it still works. However it won’t slide all the way in, whether it is a bit of fallout from the nailing issue or what, I don’t know, but it is a little reminder to measure twice, nail once. And the spice cubby ended up working out okay.
Everyone wonders, no one asks… Toileting. It’s a question that is pertinent to everyone but no one wants to ask about. We decided to go with a more environmentally-friendly toileting situation. Most RV black tanks (the tank the poopy water goes into) have nasty chemicals to deal with the contents until they are dumped at some facility. We didn’t want to be adding to the poisoning of the earth if there is alternative options and so began the education and quest for something better. Better than digging a hole in the ground (I can only do that for so long before my cushy urban princess says enough) and better than using toxic chemicals. We chose to use a design that is popular on many sailboats and tiny houses, the composting toilet for indoors. I won’t go into it here since you can Google it and see lots of info. All I can say is that it actually works! We did a DIY for about $20 -$30 rather than buy the $1000.00 version. The only challenge, and it has more to do with living in a tiny space, is the lack of privacy. One either learns to time their body workings or just… go with the flow. And now the toilet area doubles as a coat closet. It feels a bit like entering Narnia when I try to go pee but all those coats do add to the feeling of privacy so that is a plus right there.
Okay, enough of working on Brighty. Let’s get to work on developing this property and putting a house on it! I’ve watched TONS of houses get built back in Houston so I’m practically an expert already on this building stuff. Right?
Yowza, December 2018 was a blur! After beating a fast retreat from the wintery Norther Rockies with my Southern sandals-in-December tail between my legs, I made it to the one and only big city with the best food and winter and proceeded to try and squeeze an entire year of living into just a few weeks. Needless to say, by Christmas I was whuupped from the over-indulgence in visiting, eating, drinking, and all the other carryings-on.
the don came down to see the town I had been bragging on so much and that, too, was virtually non-stop action of sights, friends, family, and food. Fortunately we did not encounter mosquitos but any Gulf Coaster knows the perils of the December mosquito, so much so that Medicaid rightly provides spray.
It’s all about prevention, y’all.
Since Monty is not allowed to fly commercially, I drove down to Houston in my beloved Pearl, a 2007 Toyota Sequoia. It was the last year of this model and I still believe it to be the prettiest of all SUVs. Pearl was equally at home in the city or on country roads camping and acting as an RV. Her only challenge was the 2 wheel drive thing which wasn’t a challenge for most of her city-dwelling, summer-camping life. And even the one time she went to the snow it was in a relatively populated area with treated roads (and filled with people and stuff so she weighed quite a bit, too). Yes, until this rural living thing happened, Pearl was my jam. But then I did make a change and decide to try northwest country living and 2WD was not working out for me (as mentioned in a previous post). The hunt for a 4 wheel drive was on, and while I’m at it, maybe a truck, too. Most everyone out here drives a truck. They are good for hauling wood that you just cut in the forest to heat your home which is the only heat-source, btw, a not-uncommon thing out here. Trucks are also good for pulling trailers, whether it is a cargo trailer, horse trailer, or boat trailer. Oh, and did I mention I was also shopping for a cargo trailer? So yes, a truck it is. My oldest child was quite vocal about the idea of me driving a truck, “I just never saw you as a truck person.” Turns out I am not really a truck person. It was hard to get excited about truck shopping. My decision coming down to what would have the best resale value in a couple of years if/when I got tired of truck life and wanted a different vehicle.
And so I present to you Leah.
Her name comes from the Judeo-Christian Bible story in which Jacob makes a deal to marry Laban’s daughter, Rachel, only to find after the wedding that he has been fooled into marrying Leah. In the purchase of my truck, Toyota’s brochures made it appear that the Ensuite system would have a navigation by map. When I test-drove the truck and mentioned the navigation, my salesman said that it would connect to my phone and I would download a specific app and then navigation would show on the screen. Fine. I LOVED the nav system in Pearl and it was quite my habit to glance at the map frequently.
I took possession of the truck and traded in my Pearl on Christmas Eve. On the morning of the 26th I was back at the dealer because I could not get a map to show on my screen. A couple of hours later I was sick to my stomach and asking to have Pearl back because it turns out that particular feature is not even available on this truck. And they wouldn’t give me Pearl back. I could probably have tried a law suit but in the end it just wasn’t worth it to me. Pearl had over 200,000 miles and a recurring emissions issue which cost over $900 to fix the first time.
And so this truck’s name is Leah.
I am reminded that Dante wrote of Leah and Rachel in his poem about Pergatory. In his dream just before he reaches the paradise on Earth he sees Leah and Rachel, who in this poem are symbols of the active and thoughtful aspects of living, respectively. One translation has it as, “in my dream, I seemed to see a woman both young and fair; along a plain she gathered flowers, and even as she sang, she said: Whoever asks my name, know that I’m Leah and I apply my lovely hands to fashion a garland of the flowers I have gathered. To find delight within this mirror I adorn myself; whereas my sister Rachel never deserts her mirror; there she sits all day; she longs to see her fair eyes gazing, as I, to see my hands adorning, long: She is content with seeing, I with labor.” (Purgatorio, Canto XXVII, lines 97-108, Mandelbaum translation)
So in Dante’s poem, Leah represents the worker, the active part of the full life and was envisioned just before he entered the Garden of Eden or Paradise on Earth. That’s not a bad namesake.
Leah did a darn good job of getting me to my own little paradise. With the help/guidance/bad-ass-ness of my sister, Leah pulled the new cargo trailer filled with heavy outdoor furniture and other outdoor living items. And some clothes, and some kitchen items, and a bicycle… On the way I learned to tow a trailer at 70+ miles an hour on freeways. We were blessed with good weather for the first day but then rain and then freezing rain and then icy snow on curving mountain roads in the dark. Yeah. I didn’t drive that last part. I managed light snow on curving mountain roads up to about twilight and my sis was talking me through it, what to do if I hit a patch of ice (scream? No, fight your instinct and turn into the slide. Ummm, it takes training to fight your instincts and I have definitely NOT been trained unless there is some Jason Bourne shit going on here. Nope, upon reflection definitely no memory loss that could be tied to some secret mountain-ice-towing-assassin stuff. My only memory loss was that weekend in Mexico and some homemade mescal, back when you could safely get drunk in Mexico and not fear for your well-being.) Thankfully I only hit one or two tiny patches of ice and it felt a lot like hitting that gumbo clay back home after a gully-washer, just a little wiggle and the wheels were back to being best friends with the pavement. Of course, I was driving about 35-40 miles per hour on a 70 mph road so cars would occasionally pass me. Fine, let ‘em. But come dark, I was not going to drive. I am a person with extraordinary good luck but even I know when to fold. So the BadAssSis took over for the night. Or at least the hell-storm part of it and I drove again somewhere in the middle of the night with only rain. We did 2400+ miles in a weekend with only a 6 hour layover to sleep. Like I said, she’s rock hard bad ass. I’m more on the squishy side but can tag along sometimes.
Here’s a couple of photos. This is Leah and the trailer safely parked in Texas before the big road test.
Here is Monty all buckled up for safety. Dogs can be seriously hurt in car accidents if they aren’t secured. Also, you do not want 60 pounds of muscle hurtling around your head.
Yes, there really is a Weed Police. It was here that the weather intimidated me. To my credit, just before reaching Weed, California I saw not one, not two, but THREE cars that had slid off the road, one a roll-over. And these cars were visible because they slid into the center median. The poor bastards who weren’t so lucky to slide towards the center of the highway slid right off the mountain. I was not in the right frame of mind to enjoy Weed. Maybe next time.
And here is a photo oh, maybe an hour later. Yep, had it been me driving in this bit of road hell, Leah the Toyota would have been FORD (found on the road dead). That sign reads, “Sharp Curves Ahead.”
And finally, here is Leah enjoying the brand new driveway, if a 900+ foot stretch still counts as driveway, of the parcel of land that the don and I are developing on the western edge of Washington.
And one last photo, here is Brighty. If you will remember, her job is to be a winter home while the development occurs. She sat for a couple of months alone and, unfortunately had to bear some pretty harsh storms by herself and did not get out unscathed. But that is a story for another time.
Wish you were here!
Oh, and here are some photos of the drive down from Idaho to Texas in early December 2018. For your viewing pleasure.
I am putting together a post on Brighty’s update but was rudely interrupted by… winter.
So, when did snow become a threat? As a Gulf Coast person snow was a delightful novelty, hoped for each year but only because the below freezing temperatures that made you have to cover up all the citrus trees and hibiscus in the yard came rarely and didn’t stay long. I remember the year we had 3 nights in a row that dipped below freezing and my lemon tree really took a hit. I actually had to buy some lemons after that because so few made it through the freeze.
So imagine my delighted surprise the first time a few snow flurries drifted around the mountain house. Everything so fresh and clean and the world seemed like a little snowglobe. Ahh, winter. I LOVE having four seasons!
Ummm, wait. It has been cold for like a week already. I totally do NOT have the right clothes for this! Ohmigosh, the little creek by the house has ICE. Ice y’all. On the creek, where there is running water. And the dirt isn’t soft anymore and the wood bridges are very slippery in the morning. Holy moley, the pond up the hill is completely frozen over. And it isn’t even Thanksgiving yet!
Ummm, maybe I should think about leaving for Texas a little earlier than originally planned. Well, except the don invited me to his family Thanksgiving and I really want to meet this group of people. Well, it was said that last year this time had days in the 70’s so it should be fine. And that will give me more time to figure out my route back to Texas.
Well, rats. The jokes on me. Ice, snow, and I actually got stuck the day after Thanksgiving in the snow on a hill no steeper than an ADA ramp. Yep, couldn’t get anywhere. I’m probably going to die out here in the snow. I’ll probably hit a patch of black ice and go shooting off the highway down a mountain and get trapped in my car to die from exposure and in a puddle of urine.
Well, so that didn’t happen. YET. I didn’t exactly panic, though I’m sure I had every right to, when the car wouldn’t move forward and the back wheels just chittered around. Lucky for me, the don came to my rescue and moved my car to a safe place where I could safely drive it in the daylight.
Which is how Pearl got all CBGBs. For a sophisticated car, she sure looks tough with these bad boys on. After that near-death experience I went straight to the tire store and bought these chains. No more getting stuck on icy roads for me! I’m not going out without a fight, doggone it.
Well, truth be told, I’m a lover not a fighter and I heard it said you can’t beat a Russian winter and I figure an Idaho winter might put up a fight, too. So now I am on my way south to get to a climate which isn’t trying to kill me and for which I have the proper clothing. Flip-flops in December? Yes, Please! Update on Brighty will follow once my fingers thaw.
I am going to have to give the UPS man a Christmas present because I have ordered so much of the items needed to rehab Brighty via online shopping that he is at my house at least every other day. And some of it has been rather heavy. Thank you, UPS! I do make every attempt to shop local, even asking if items can be special ordered which does take longer and costs more but I believe it is important to support local business. It’s just that many times the stores say they can’t get the particular item, and for the special needs of this rehab, RV stores with an online presence are the only option. So, thanks again to my friendly guy in the brown truck!
Finally, the propane lines are in and I can start installing the insulation and paneling and then install the kitchen cabinets! Woohoo!
Well, the lower cabinets anyway. I still have some AC wiring to install and check so the permanent install of the upper cabinet will have to wait. But it is still progress. and the sink I ordered has arrived as has the water heater and the water pump. I did a test fit for the upper cabinets because I wanted them to be flush with the ceiling and I could find no definitive info on how to achieve this. Surprise of surprises, it worked the first time! I also realized that absolutely nothing on Brighty is square or straight. She has curves even in her straight lines, like how is that possible?
We also received the new fridge (that was delivered by freight which I am sure the UPS guy was very appreciative). It can run on AC power or propane. We had a bit of discussion, the don and I, on what size to get. I won’t say who wanted what but one person wanted the largest fridge possible and the other thought maybe a smaller fridge and a cooler would be the way to go. It was agreed to get the largest possible and with assurances that it would definitely fit through the door. Crap, the fridge is just 3/4 of an inch too wide to fit through the door. Maybe removing the door frame will help. Whose idea was it to get such a big fridge anyway?
I took a long weekend off to go bow hunting with the don. This is a real departure for me because I do not hunt and do not eat critters. Not on purpose, that is. Anyone who has gone for a jog on warm summer morning along a lovely wooded trail a few times has probably had the experience of jogging up a hill and fallen into the open-mouthed breathing bug-swallowing morass of ickiness. If you can except the accidental bug, I fall into the category defined by a non-hunting friend who said, “I could have taken the shot but I realized I just was not hungry enough to where killing the bird would make a difference for me but it would certainly make a difference for the bird.” And he stopped hunting. I make my own choices about eating animals but if I ever got hungry enough, I would eat one. So far I just have not gotten that hungry. Lucky me! Plus, I have tried a bite of an animal if it was offered and novel and, to be honest, no critter has ever tasted all that good to me. If eating a critter, whether cow or elk or snail or frog or turkey or duck…, if it had the same explosion of joy on my tongue like an amazing guacamole or piece of chocolate or superb cup of coffee, well, maybe I would not be vegetarian but no bite has ever done that. So why bother killing it if it is not fabulous? Elmer Fudd is the only vegetarian hunter that I know and we all know of his lack of prowess with a gun. I personally would not hunt with a gun, it would feel too much like being an assassin, but seeing how much Monty likes the elk meat and how well his allergy-ridden body does on this type of protein, maybe I will take up bow hunting. To feed my family.
I am a tremendously curious soul and, while very opinionated, I tend to not judge that which I do not have any experience. I have known a few bow hunters. Stories of spending days following a particular animal and strategizing to get close enough to shoot, well, they sounded perhaps more sporting than the hanging out and assassinating that rifle shooting seems to be. Again, I fully recognize that I have zero experience and am in good company with having an opinion on that which I know jack shit. When the chance to go bow hunting came along, I decided to “give it a shot” and get a little experience.
Here I am, all camo-ed up. My first day as a bow-hunter and I totally look the part.
This kind of hunting requires a bit of hiking around and watching to see where the elk are moving about. This apparently changes from year to year and getting into a position where a shot can be made during the early morning or twilight-ish times the big guys get going takes some intel and planning. Have you ever heard an elk They make a weird sound for such big animals, kind of like a squeak.
So a few days is spent walking and observing quietly and making sure not to scare any of these critters. Funny enough, there were quiet a few elk on other hillsides. Here is a herd with a pretty big bull and his cows and even a baby elk. They do not look that far away but it would be a good full-day hike to get over there so moving camp would be required.
And these guys must have had some intel of their own because that hillside they would traverse for the next few days was not near any access trail to be able to get the mules near to a kill and pack it out. Being able to get the “harvested” animal out is an important part of hunting and having to backpack a several hundred pounds of raw meat sounds nigh on impossible. No wonder this bull was so big, he is pretty smart!
Hanging out waiting for an elk to cruise by was one of my favorite parts. the don would get his different elk call whistles out and see if there were any elk nearby. It was really cool when one would answer and a bit of call and response would go on. I found the waiting a great opportunity to meditate and to practice being in the present moment.
See, hunting is kinda fun!
Bow hunting requires getting very close to the animal. If we had been using a rifle, there were quite a few opportunities to kill but with the bow you have to be more patient and get in very close. This trip resulted in no kills so that worked out fine by me. All the fun, none of the blood and guts. the don was not concerned since he had plenty of meat left over from last years kill, so much so that he passed on a couple of shots because the bull was so big the don wanted him to go on and make more baby elk. I am thinking that could be a nice set of antlers to find next spring!
A storm began to roll in after lunch. The winds picked up like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. Monty and I were hiking around just enjoying the scenery and not worrying about being stealthy when this line of clouds came in so we began to head back to camp.
No photos of the food on this trip. It was good but not as amazing as other trips because the don felt that campfires were not conducive to keeping elk nearby so cooking was done backpacking style in a single pot on a stove. It was still nice to have the mules to carry all of the gear and if you got tired of walking Stella would carry you for a stretch. She is becoming one of my favorite mules of the seven due to her relatively calm disposition. We also share a distaste for the antics of the two rambunctious boy mules I call Thing 1 and Thing 2. One afternoon I came back to camp and saw only one mule instead of three. Expletive. Stella and Thing 2 pulled their pickets and took off. It was just me and Monty and the choices were clear:
Leave and pretend I didn’t see anything. Come back well after dark and after the don would have returned to camp.
Go find the don and interrupt his hunt so he can help track down his got-derned mules
Find those fu*#ers myself.
I was concerned the mules could get tangled in their pickets and get hurt. This explains why I, a person with no mule experience and who is rightfully afraid of these powerful and sometimes unpredictable creatures, chose number 3. A smarter person would have been more concerned that she would get hurt trying to deal with two runaway mules but my heart bleeds for all creatures, great and small. A bit of panic started to rise in my gut as I looked up and down three possible trails and searched the hillside for signs of mule tracks. I could see no obvious path they took. With the last bit of sensibility in my head I asked Monty to find the mules. Monty is the best dog in the world because even though those mules are not friendly to him no matter how much he tries to be nice, he nosed around and then took off down one of the trails. I don’t even know how Monty knew what I was asking but he led me straight to those recalcitrant critters. Now I had to lead them back all by myself. Thing 2 is not usually very cooperative with me but he may have sensed that I meant it when I told him one misstep on his part and I’d tie him to the nearest tree for wolf food. We all got back to camp without further incident. Shortly after our return little Finn, the puppy, came running up. Her new trail name might be Ranger because she goes off on her own so much. About 45 minutes later the don showed up. Other than me drinking hard liquor at 4:00 in the afternoon, nothing seemed amiss.
The day came for us to head out of the wilderness. No elk were harmed on this hunting trip and the sun played peekaboo as we walked out. the don and I took turns riding Stella although he would lead her when I rode since I’m not skilled in mule management. I can ride horses but these mules aren’t trained like a horse. No bridle, no formal riding training, and they question authority with every step. Wrangling one of these guys on a steep hillside is not on my bucket list. I am learning to be around them but I’m still pretty scared of them in unfamiliar situations so the don led while I rode. On the really sharp drop-offs though, no one rode. The mules are very sure-footed and do well picking the way along the trail but I wouldn’t be on top of one!
And so ends the saga of the other great vegetarian hunter. I am happy to shoot elk with a camera and to walk around the lovely hills. If only tacos grew wild I would surely take up hunting with a habanero-tipped arrow.
Brighty’s rehab continues… after a brief interruption called work (and a prayer that my cellular internet access doesn’t drop me this time)
With Brighty’s demo mostly completed and a relatively time-sensitive bit of work to complete out in Forks where Brighty’s new home will be, I had to put on hold any more rehab work. I made the most of the trek to the Olympic Peninsula by stopping at stores in the Seattle area that are not available in my current location. One of these stores was IKEA. After having done some research into RV cabinets it appeared my options were IKEA or DIY. Not feeling too up on my carpentry skills, I opted for Ikea (okay, I’m tired of hitting the caps button) since they promise my dream room for cheap (well, about $700).
After availing myself of the online planner and a less-than-inspiring call to customer service, I took myself to the physical store and met a young lady whose creative thinking and extraordinary patience and product knowledge almost reduced me to tears of gratitude. Planning a kitchen that has curves and wheel-wells was stretching my skill set but Savannah saved the day. May blessings be heaped upon her! When we realized that I was outside the delivery zone and the cost of freighting the cabinets to me was utterly exorbitant, Savannah even figured out how to adjust so that every necessary thing would fit in my vehicle. Did I mention what a God-send she was?
I also made stops to look at flooring and fabric.
The design scheme is coming together with a base of gray and off-white and accents that can change with mood and season (read purple). There were lots of choices but I am still looking for that balance in fabric options that says both “day at the spa” and “day at doggy daycare” and doesn’t involve covering the couch with towels.
Alas, the foundational work must be completed before the fun designing can commence. And so we find the author precariously perched on 12 foot boards spanning the top of the camper scraping off old caulk to prepare the roof for a desperately needed waterproofing. There are no pictures of this in part because taking a selfie while balancing on a rocking trailer seemed somewhat difficult and in part because I didn’t want any evidence of my foolishness were I to get hurt. I’m pretty sure my insurance policy has a clause about jumping out of airplanes and tightrope walking on decrepit trailers. But I did take some video of the “BEFORE” roof while installing the fans that replaced the old vents.
Since Brighty has seen some rough days, it will take a few liberal coats of special elastomeric paint, butyl tape, and caulk to help weatherproof her roof. Fortunately, a timely rainstorm showed me the places that needed extra attention and so it goes.
the don had experience installing the faux wood flooring so he devoted some time to that. I did a little bit, just enough to learn how to do it but in such a small area it really was not a two person job. Plus, you can only have one boss on any project and, well, he is the don and I have never been employee material.
More foundational work to be done before the “fun” decorating was the running of new electric lines. Luckily I found the electronic schematic for the trailer so all the dangling wires should make sense.
I have a passing understanding of house electricity but have never done anything with DC nor have I done anything with connecting the AC and DC so that either or both lines can be run depending on what power is available. In her previous life Brighty was either DC or AC with no connection between the two but, as mentioned above, I am going to wire her differently. My time at the Flying S Farm, while disappointing in the lack of education provided and the quality of work that existed (pretty sure the place would have burned down from the frequent electrical shorts were it not for the 300+ inches of rain each year), did excite in me a quest to know how DC power to an AC house (as with solar energy) could and should be done. In Houston the solar energy collected by those few who brave the cost is wired directly into the existing grid. I knew of no one who was actually off-grid there. I had a lot of studying to do and am so grateful to live in the time of the internet. I learned much about size of wire for particular applications, how much loss of power is acceptable for certain types of “circuits” (only 3% for critical like the propane and CO detector, up to 9% for non-critical like the fridge or water heater), pure sine and modified sine wave inverters (the thingy that switches DC power to AC- you have a tiny one on the cord for your laptop), convertors, battery chargers, generators, and on and on. Suffice to say things got real mathy real fast.
Okay, time to get back to work. I’m going to be better about updating the blog on Brighty’s makeover. I am joining a local writer’s club to make sure I am not getting caught up in the doing and forgetting to write and record everything!
A brief interruption in the rehab of Brighty occurred in early August. I am quite behind in my posting, I know. I will get better about that, promise. I was lucky enough to get a gig helping the don with some pine cone picking. Unlike the other pines worked on in the spring, these pines have no special genetic traits offering resistance to anything. They were just selected for their looks and value as lumber specimens. The person who had done the selecting would frequently point to a tree and say to me, “See that tree? Would you want a forest full of those?” I realized he wanted a forest of trees that all looked the same, very straight and tall and just a few limbs whereas I think I prefer a forest of trees like in the Dr. Seuss books with bends and forks in the trunk and limbs sticking out all which-a-way.
Also, in case you are wondering, pine cone is one of those words that can be written as two words or as one, called an open or closed compound word. Probably it is best to pick your favorite and stick to that style throughout your writing. I do not promise to do that because I prefer to live the “and” life rather than the “either-or” life. If it is okay to use pine cone AND pinecone then I will probably do that. 🙂
Ponderosa pines are probably my favorite tree because of the smell of the bark. It is either vanilla or butterscotch, depending on the tree, and it is heavenly to smell as you climb. The cones are quite large, about the size of an avocado and about as heavy as a large grapefruit. Now, these cones are just ripening and are still full of moisture making them MUCH heavier than their dried and opened counterparts on the ground and in many fall centerpiece arrangements. I learned this from experience and, as I tend to do, I gained that experience the hard way.
Tip: if you find yourself in a situation where someone 30 feet above you wants to toss a cone down for you to slice open and check for ripeness, let the cone hit the dirt and then go pick it up. Do NOT reach out your hand and catch the falling cone like some baseball outfielder in a World Series game. I have NO IDEA what I was thinking and, really, I’m not a sporty-gal who played softball or anything. I mean, I can barely catch a cold much less anything thrown in my general direction. And yet when the don hollered, “Hey, Susan, can you check this cone,” and lobbed the pine grenade towards the ground, I was walking to the truck and just reached my left hand out and caught the thing. IN MY BARE HAND. To be honest, I was quite shocked that I had so nonchalantly caught it while I was sauntering to the truck, I didn’t even really try to catch it. Probably because, as mentioned, I’m not good at catching things. And even when I do catch something it usually bounces out of my hand and I go running pell-mell after it like a dog with a Kong toy. However, if the caught object has spines like a puffer fish that will stick into your palm and fingers it is much less likely to bounce out.
It can also cause a little nerve damage. Even 6 weeks later the tip of my middle finger has that weird tingling numbness to it. I do not mind too much because it still works well enough when that finger needs to point out some minor infraction or irritation that crosses my path.
Aren’t these pinecones beautiful? Naturally the purple is my favorite.
I mostly worked on the ground the first two days but then we got to an area where the trees to climb were close enough together that I could climb one and have the don within shouting distance in case anything went wrong. I wasn’t worried about falling out of a tree but there are other things that can go wrong and, even if I am late telling you the story, I always want to get back in one piece and tell it. I am kind of cautious that way. So finally the day comes that I get to climb a tree by myself! I get my gear together, check the ropes and knots, get the little “Bo-Peep” tool the don created to pull the branches in. See, the cones are on the outer branches and I am attached to the trunk so this tool lets me grab the outer branch and bend it toward me to pick the cones. It is actually quite peaceful up there. Very few bugs, lots of birds and the views are amazing! It took me probably three times as long to get the same quantity of cones but that is okay, I was having a pretty good time even if I was slow.
Unfortunately the tree climbing was slowed down for me due to getting “glutened.” I have to eat gluten-free or else I get very sick. I had been living in a house with bread and trying to be careful but some crumb of bread must have gotten into my breakfast one morning because on the way to the climbing site I became very ill. I tried climbing a tree but keeping my nausea at bay took most of my attention and I wasn’t able to pick very well. I ended up on the ground for a number of days which is the best place to be if you are vomiting and having diarrhea. When I get glutened I tend to run a fever for a few days, too, and that makes tree climbing not such a good idea, either. At least getting out into the forest was keeping my mind off of how yucky I felt, even if I was on the ground the entire time. I did get to see some pretty sights.
I will say it was hard work but it was also really fun work. Watching the sun rise as I headed to the forest site, then going to swim in the river after working, heading home to appreciate a soft bed and shower. It really simplified life to the sweet things. I don’t think I could do it every day for a year but for a couple of weeks it was really good. It is also really nice to have a job that you can bring your dog along with you.
Oh, and one thing, wear gloves when you work with pine cones. Trust me on this.
For many of us, this is pretty much the total of our woodsman training in avoiding poison ivy. However, if you have an outdoorsy nature and have traveled to other wooded areas then you know that poison ivy can look very different from one place to another. If you have read my earlier post then you also know that plant can take several morphological aspects in the same geographical locale. If you don’t have experience in that location then you are back to your own little ditty to hopefully protect you from itchy skin and oozing blisters.
It’s quite mind-boggling to try and figure out who is who in the plant world on the hill above me. I have been promised that there is no poison ivy anywhere on this hill. Oh yeah? Well, what about this?
Oh, wild strawberry? Really? Not poisonous then? Oh, okay. (Does it really make strawberries?)
Lalala… whoa, what’s that? Three leaves climbing up a stick- kinda like that one down by the Snake River in Hell’s Canyon. Surely that is some version of poison ivy? Nope, just a plant, and don’t call me Shirley.
Monty and I decide to meander down a creek. We love these fresh walks in the woods. The crisp air, the sunlight streaming through the trees and making little patches of light in the green shadows. And here is more three-leafed wonder
Sheesh, I’m beginning to question the validity of that saying now because everywhere I look there are three-leafed plants and some even have the mitten-leaf appearance of the poison ivy I am familiar with.
Oh lordy, look at all that, the mushroom is probably poisonous, too. I used to feel so safe in the woods. I guess those were “my” woods, with animal sounds and plants and topography that I have known for many years. There is PLENTY of poison ivy in Texas, believe you me, but after so many years of exploring I just instinctively knew where it was and how to avoid it and if it did get me a little, well, it was only a little. Maybe a couple days of itchy and a wee bit of blistering. Not a full-body event that is utter misery like I had a couple of months ago. Swear to God I’d rather birth a child than go through that again.
Oh, here is a three-leafer but I do know this one. It’s trillium and is quite lovely.
And look at all the other kinds of three-leaf around it. It begins to get overwhelming, just trying to figure out what is what in a new place.
Monty doesn’t concern himself in the least with plant identification. He does worry about staying close to me and will check on me frequently if I am loitering or moving to slowly. He is so funny that way! I do like hiking with him because he does always check and if he hears me exclaim over something he comes running to make sure I am okay and give me a bop with his nose.
I keep trying to figure out who is who in this three-leafed plant world. My guidebook is not really all that helpful at times. I think it assumes I already kinda know what I’m doing here. I’m beginning to realize I do not know jack. It’s rather humbling because I used to know A LOT and feel totally at home in the woods. Here I don’t know anything. It is both interesting and uncomfortable at the same time. The discomfort makes me think more about what is what. No comfy ruts for me. Every step is examined. Sometimes I can only hang on to the few truths I know still exist, but what are those again? Oh bother, here we go getting existential again…
There are so many encouragers saying, speak your truth. Walk your path and find what serves you. Follow your bliss…
Well, what if you don’t know what your truth is or where your path is or goes? What if you spent your whole life doing what you were supposed to do, what others wanted you to do, what you thought would be “the right thing” to live happily ever after and you played nice in order to make things better for everyone? (but were you included in the everyone count because how did suppressing your own outrageous being make things better?)
How then can you speak your truth and walk your path to the glory of God or whatever if you don’t even know what your own voice sounds like?
A story of a little girl I know has cracked the door open for me. I spent many years playing a role to make life better for everyone else. Like many women, I focused on taking care of others and, in the process, hid who I am and what I want. Maybe it was easier to keep the spotlight off of me rather than risk everyone finding out I am so small and imperfect. Whatever the cause doesn’t matter anymore, it is done. Now I am trying to figure out who I am without the layer of b.s. I caked on to play a role that was not really me.
“I am done obeying for today.”
Rip off the costume you thought you wanted to wear but that does not fit quite right, grab the ice cream cone that you desire and give not a care how it will affect your appetite for dinner. Get in touch with who YOU are, the base instincts and desires, the stories you tell yourself about life, about today. Begin to feel what is real in you. If you are feeling grumpy and bitchy open up and accept the grumpiness, accept the bitchiness fully. You may find that when you open up, and make a place for this so-called ugliness that it no longer needs to grump and harrumph and take up so much of your precious time on this earth.
And this acceptance of the wholeness of who you are just might be the way to start hearing the sound of your voice and recognizing it as you.
My goodness, if you are still reading then you are probably related to me. Thank you, Mom!
So all this came about as I was partaking in an activity that I adore and the circumstance were less than adorable. I had been feeling a bit untethered for a few days and decided to head out for a few days of solo backpacking. Would the place of respite that I had always enjoyed continue to bring solace when things get difficult for me? Who am I now anyway without the jobs, the friends, the home that defined me for so long? That was a question to which the answer still eludes me. I was hiking along a trail and was getting so aggravated, I will blame it on the incessant biting bugs that were thicker than a wool blanket so that I could not stop to take in the views . Even taking a photo was a challenge for in the half second it took to get my camera from my pocket, 3 to 5 mosquitoes would land on my hand, swarming my face so that I had to hold my breath and keep my ears covered and eyes squinted to take a photo. All the tricks I knew of going to a ridgetop for wind, staying away from water, even bug repellent did not deter this irritation. And I was getting grumpier by the step, being driven on by these bugs. Finally I let myself just be grumpy. “Fine, here is some direct attention, bitch all you want about anything, not just the bugs, anything whether it seems to have merit or relevance or not.”
Shockingly, once I had permission to be fussy, there was not really anything to be fussy about. Yes, the bugs were still bad, no miracle came and erased them for me, but my horrid mood was diminished and my emotional load was certainly lightened. I wish I could say this lasted forever, or even the rest of the day but alas, I am not that enlightened. It did last a few moments though, enough to give me a break and some space to see how I was letting circumstance outside determine what was going on inside.
And so I asked, why am I here?
Not the philosophical question but for real. Why, if this is sucky, am I still here? Go somewhere else. And I had no good answer except “well, this is what I planned on doing.”
Well, if you aren’t having fun then go do something else. What would you like to do instead?
Well,… I don’t know. This is what i have always done for fun, to get centered, to get my head together, to find peace and respite and answers to questions. It is who I am. What would I do, who would I be without it?
Who would I be?
Monty doesn’t worry on such matters. He is a good teacher that way. Just chill out and be here now.
Okay, okay. I know Monty is right. All this wondering is not much different from worrying. “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” Corrie Ten Boom
I probably ought to go get on my yoga mat but first, Monty says to take a nap. And Monty knows best.
Homeless no more! Well, I guess technically if the whole world is your home, then you can never be homeless. But philosophical musings aside, I bought this vintage trailer and am jumping on the vintage trailer rehab bandwagon. Unlike some trailers I have admired online, this one needs some major rehab due to water damage and, also unlike those parked “glamping” trailers, it must be actually roadworthy. Some of those photos on Pinterest with the regular fridge, barstools, granite counters, and other apartment furniture just do not make sense if the trailer is actually moving. I learned that a trailer moving down the road is equivalent to a house withstanding a 3.4 Richter scale earthquake. That is a lot of wiggling!
Her name is Brightwater Dive, a play on the name of the private road on which she will be parked this winter. She was born in 1971 and is a Kit Companion model RV trailer. I call her Brighty and am excited to share the journey of her remodel with you. If you have any suggestions, please do let me know! I tend toward a romantic sense of style and am stretching those boundaries for this project with at least a passing nod toward crisp spa-like minimalism and dirty-dog-proof sleekness. We will see how it goes…
So here she is just 10 minutes after I bought her. My vehicle can pull her with no problem. Towing weight is certainly a factor, which is why there will not be granite counters or tile floors, but as long as I make good choices on materials, Brighty will stay well under the recommended weight for towing that my vehicle can safely manage. I have never trailered anything but it doesn’t seem that hard. I mean, I have pulled little kids in wagon a lot and how different could this be
Famous last words… I am pretty sure I heard the demi-god of RV trailers say, “Hold my beer.”
So about 30 minutes into owning Brighty I discovered at least one big difference between kid wagons and RV trailers. No photos of the next part because it was a little traumatic for me. While driving along the 2-lane highway in the middle of Nowhere Eastern Washington there was a terrible explosion and the right tire literally exploded. It must have been something to see because the people in the vehicle behind us stopped to offer help. The tire blast bent a part of the trailer frame next to the wheel and blew off/up the fender cover. I cannot imagine the force it takes to bend this metal. I looked for the fender cover and it could not be seen anywhere along the road, nor was there any appreciable pieces of tire. Then getting the lug nuts off to change the tire was a chore. the don brilliantly came up with the idea to use the hydraulic jack he brought to apply steady pressure to loosen the damn things. He put on the spare (thank God there was a spare!) and then he checked the tire pressure; sheez they were terribly over inflated! No wonder it blew up. The previous owner had let us use his air compressor and tire pressure gauge to inflate the tires and the measuring device must have been horribly off. An interesting side note, out of all the people who passed us on that Washington highway where Brighty sat keeling over due to the embankment (there was no hazard lane), the only two people who stopped to either render aid or see if they could help in any other way both looked, how to say…, a bit rough around the edges. All those people in nice cars and apparent access to dental care just stared as they zoomed by, not even bothering to scoot over in the lane to give Brighty some space. One chick, absorbed in her phone, had less than 6 inches between her car and Brighty as she hurtled by. A pox and infestation of fruit flies on the lot of them! “Well Toto, I guess we are not in Texas anymore” In Texas a woman standing on the edge of a highway with an apparent vehicle issue would have several people stopping to render aid and probably, once the flat was changed, enjoy a beer and discuss bar-b-que recipes too. Oh well, that is that.
As soon as Brighty got to the RV makeover spa, aka the back yard, her tires were removed and I bought new ones. When I took the old tires to the local tire store, the young fella working there exclaimed with delight when he saw the rims. Apparently these are not the original rims but are off of a vintage Camaro so Brighty will have a bit of sporty to her! Hmmmm, maybe I need to look into more chrome-plated accessories. I know they say beauty is only skin deep but Brighty’s gonna need a bit more than a cute personality. Here she looks pretty much worth the $600.00 I paid for her.
So here is her interior. Classic 1971 color scheme, just missing the shag carpet.
We knew there was some water-caused damage as the floor was soft in one spot. Anyone care to hazard a guess as to the next thing coming?
When some of the siding was removed, the water damage became obviously rather extensive. The final decision was to rip out the whole kitchen and bathroom as those two walls were completely rotted. How Brighty made it down the road without collapsing on herself is beyond me! I learned a lot from the demolition about how these RV trailers are built. Just leave everything you know about building construction at the door; all you need is a mondo staple-gun and an inside-out attitude. These guys are built by putting furniture and then walls together to form what I would think of as supporting walls, the so-called framing and skin come last. Hunh.
Here she is demo complete, with some repaired flooring and walls.
All the while, I’m envisioning how I want Brighty to look. I decided it would need to happen in stages; it could be totally overwhelming to go from party dump to chandeliers in one step. And she needs to be livable by October. Sadly, the closest big hardware/homeware store is an hour drive away and is not a very good representation of Home Depot. I have to go to the west coast anyway so am going to go by the Ikea in Seattle. Wish me luck!
In America we celebrate this day as a reminder of our birth as a new self-governing country. It is classically celebrated with time spent outdoors, picnics, family and friends gathering, and, my favorite, firework shows. The history behind it all is not something I will discuss except to add this is not a unique situation in human experience, some group gets together to manage the society and then a smaller group splits off because they want to do thing differently or are being mistreated by the bigger group. I appreciate that my grandmother made the arduous journey to America, that she was welcomed into this amazing country even though she did not speak English or have any job skills. She got work as a housekeeper and taught herself English, then she built a life for herself and paved the way for her progeny.
One of the things i like to think about while making Oma’s perfect potato salad is independence of thought. I believe my greatest contribution to society has been raising three people to be independent thinkers. I tried hard, failed occasionally, to see the strengths and weaknesses in each of these magnificent beings blessed to my care and stewardship for a brief time. Like any parent, I wanted to instill my values in them. However, the double-edged sword of holding in highest esteem the ability to suss out what is right for you regardless of what anyone else thinks, whether that anyone is the kids at school or your own mom, means that I got to be both pleased and worried when they would do things in a way different from how I wanted them to do it.
Critical thinkers, awareness of personal strengths and marching to your own drum, seeing clearly and acceptance of the weaknesses which lets you also strengthen your march, willingness to try something new and to listen and pay attention to those who went on before you, allowing yourself to fail and then get up, reevaluate, and get going again without fear of failure dogging your every step, all of this is what I think about on Independence Day. I believe that to be truly independent you must be willing to listen to the truth that whispers in your heart and soul. We need to recognize when fear is driving our steps and be courageous enough to turn and face it openly or else we are not truly independent. Could there be anything sadder or Machiavellian than to be enslaved while pretending we are free?
My children are each unique in the paths they each have chosen and the way in which they choose to walk it. That I was entrusted with this little part of God wrapped in flesh boggles the mind, yet I was. And without a doubt they are each so very much greater than the sum of their parts.
Here is to Independence Day and independent thinkers! Thank you God, amen, please pass the potato salad.
Oh, and the secret to the potato salad is to boil the potatoes, slice them and lay them in a dish while still very warm and then sprinkle a mixture of vinegar, olive brine, and water over the potatoes and let them sit until cool. And don’t you DARE use anything but real mayonnaise; the use of so-called “salad dressing” may cause my poor grandmother to roll in her grave or even come to your house and haunt your kitchen.
I had the weirdest dream last night. In it I was pregnant and in labor and all these people kept coming up and interrupting me and the calm and peaceful labor I had planned. It was very frustrating to keep fighting with them all. Then I was at the doctor at some kind of in-labor check-up and he told me I had cancer and only 10 months to live. So here I was about to give birth and prepare to die at the same time. And I got to where I could find acceptance with the duality and had to begin to accept how others were going to handle it all. Isn’t that weird? Lot’s there to analyze, for sure.
I went for a mule ride on this Fourth of July weekend in the hills just above the house I am staying. The good news is that Monty has gotten more accepting of me being on top of a mule, he no longer panics at not being able to touch me with his nose to make sure I am okay and that he is okay. The bad news is he is way too lackadaisical around these powerful animals who only just tolerate him. He gets too close to their feet, doesn’t take it seriously when they charge at him to run him off. Fortunately these are nice mules who don’t really mean to hurt him, they are just giving him a hard time but if a mule or Monty accidentally stepped the wrong way, well… it would be a very sad situation.
So unfortunately some electronic collar training is going to be necessary. You might recall that is what I had to do to get Monty to leave the elk alone. I send many prayers of thanks and gratitude to the God that cares about little white city dogs and protects him.
And, for your listening pleasure. hooves on a wooden bridge spanning a lovely mountain creek. No coconut shells were harmed in the making of this sound video. Isn’t it adorable how her ears flip around?