Monday, February 2, 2009


We were invited to a party at the neighbors' yesterday to watch the game. It's a really fun group of people. We all have kids of varying ages. Our homes are all within walking, riding, or golf-carting distance through the woods. The men are inclined to get in to ridiculous adventures together and we womenfolk are inclined to go get ice cream at the drop of a hat, even if we've just eaten a big meal (not for the faint of heart.) We camp together without the benefit of privacy or plumbing. And we laugh a lot. This was our first invite to The Super Bowl Party, so the pressure was on. (I'm kidding, of course.) But Mark did obligate me to make a minimum of 2 black raspberry pies. He tried for 3, but I agreed to 2 berry and a pumpkin. The 4th pumpkin pie went to another neighbor (big fan of my pumpkin pie.) The trouble with berry pies for me is that you can't tell how they turned out until you cut into it to taste them, so I was driving Mark crazy by repeatedly talking to myself about 'I hope it's not too sour' 'I hope it's not too sugary''I hope the crust isn't soggy.' End of story: I made some mighty fine pies. And we had a blast at the party to boot.
Other than pie baking, our pre-game preparations included Saturday: 'harvesting' the other beef. (Thanks for the term, GreenRanchingMom!) Bummer, too, because I didn't get to sleep in. I also found an old fermented apple under the passenger seat of my car. I had really lucked out because the inside of the apple was nearly liquefied but the skin was pretty well intact. Except for where my finger poked through when I grabbed it. Yum! Sunday AM Mark 'harvested' a sausage hog. We've already got regular cut pork, so this one will be for whole hog sausage. I made my pies and shepherded the children to the shower before we were to leave. I was helping Aggie blow dry her incredibly thick and abundant hair when I came upon a scary rat's nest of tangles. I'm like 'Aggie--how long has this been here?' because it was more intense than her normal tangles. She said that she'd tried to get it out, but she just hadn't had the time. (?) Now I know she's been showering, and I'd be willing to bet she was shampooing and conditioning properly because I have repeated those instructions ad nauseum. And the tangle was hidden up underneath most of her hair so I'm not beating myself up too badly for missing it. I proceeded as gently as I could to brush and de-tangle the mess. Not too bad. I got it under control. Moving on to the other side of her head and what did I find? Good golly, a frickin dreadlock! A little blonde dreadlock. She was turning hippy on me right under my nose. And the only solution I could see was to cut it out. So she now has a Reverse Rat Tail. I gotta say, I'm kinda embarrassed about dropping the ball on that one. So after that rat issue, we were headed out the door on our way to the neighbors' when bam! another rat issue. Muskrat. In the pond. Tunneling in the breastworks. Totally unacceptable. So there was the scramble of Mark trying to find the right rifle, the right bullets, and shooting off several rounds at the muskrat in the pond. And I'm hoping that's the end of our rat issues for a while.

You can see the water spraying up as he shot. Oh, the weather did warm up a bit, so I coined up some carrots for the horses, gave them their treats and well-placed scratches: Nikki's ears & Admiral's butt. The turkeys came out for their own treats in the horse manure.
And this:
Is where Mark's brother lives. That Winnebago covered in silver tarps, surrounded by plywood & propane tanks. Talkin' 'bought brother Greg. He prefers to be called Cecil. Greg's 'not all there' according to his IQ and according to his behavior. For as long as I've know him, he's either been living with part of the family or out on his own because he's made himself unbearable to the family. He's lived with Mark's other brother & his wife. They gave him his own room and it looked like someone just dumped a mattress and some garbage in there once he was done with it. He used to live with his mother where he worked on the dairy farm they managed. He loves barns & animals & being filthy so it was a shame when he became inevitably belligerent and she kicked him out. Mark's grandmother let him stay at her house, but she vacuums daily and he cannot use a toilet without serious incident. That was doomed from the beginning. He moved out of state to work for his other set of grandparents. They gave him work, took him to church, and watched over him, but eventually he decided to move out on his own again & called a few months later crying to Mark that he was afraid he was addicted to crack. We're not sure whether he ever even smoked crack, but we do know that he wanted to come home to PA. It had been breaking Mark's heart all those years see Greg continually fail to improve his situation, so a year or so later, after Mark visited him in his umpteenth cruddy, toilet-paperless apartment, he finally asked him to come live with us. Now I was in no way thrilled with this prospect, but I also knew how it upset Mark so I agreed. We cleared out a space in the basement-the most ideal place for Greg: semi-private but where we could keep an eye on things. He was pretty excited at the time. We let him fix it up to his liking. He painted & put down new carpet. He helped Mark around the farm & we settled into a routine. Sort of. The second goal of having Greg with us, besides trying to end the cycle of eviction, was to have him properly diagnosed and cared for by a doctor. His moods were erratic. He'd cuss you as soon as look at you. His hygiene was maddening. But when he wanted to, he could do a job really well. And if he was making a paycheck at McDonalds or Wendys or whatever, he could calculate to the penny what his net pay would be after taxes. He was half as big as a house, trudged around in bare feet on his pant legs, and would lie wallowing in the dust like a hog--literally. Or he could be polite, thoughtful, and carry on an intelligent conversation with you.
So Mark embarked upon a long journey of doctors visits, testing, and paperwork. I was helping with documenting and Social Security.
No matter where Greg stays it always starts out on a good foot. He's helpful and appreciative and happy. But eventually it all starts to get to him, and he starts to get to you. He was so cruddy that Mark finally forbade him from getting into the refrigerator. The purpose was two-fold: keeping things clean/uncontaminated, and helping Greg control his portions since he was way over-weight. He was cool with that at first. Good homecooked meals at your service. He wanted to lose weight. Then Mark had to tell Greg to get a shower when he wouldn't take the initiative. We'd already discovered his trick of going into the bathroom and hanging out like he was showering but never actually showering. Mark threatened to shower with him. Then Greg decided that he wanted to start raising rabbits to show at the fair. So Mark let him set up some hutches in the barn to raise rabbits and he got rabbits. Boy, did we have a buttload of rabbits when Greg left. The appointments with the doctors were giving us some direction and Greg finally qualified for Social Security disability, and Mark was relieved, but the tension was mounting and a blowup was only a matter of time. I was at work, 11 miles straight down the road from home when I saw Greg walking by. He had run away from our house after a fight with Mark. Or rather, after Greg stood on the side of the road screaming profanities at Mark in front of our neighbors. Long story somewhat short, we eventually got him into an independent living type home, where everything was paid for. It was a really nice place, close to everything, and as Mark told him 'all you have to do is breathe here-you don't have to work, don't have to worry about bills,etc. Just behave.' but he only lasted a few months there too. Those people are used to dealing with difficult people and Greg still managed to piss them off. It was probably a year or more of Greg not speaking to us at all. So he's bounced around a half dozen places since then to arrive at his present home: the junky Winnebago parked on the railroad tracks behind Mark's aunt's (another story altogether) where he's currently happy as a hog in $#*t. We'll see how long it takes before he gets pissed off at the aunt who's keeping him fed and letting him squat in her back yard. Yay Family!!


Belle said...

Geez that's one helluva story. The pies look good. I had the same problem once with The Former Vegetarian's hair. Except she woouldn't let me brush it. She screamed so loudly I decided to leave it. I eventually cut it out. Yes I did!
Gosh - that was years ago - but you reminded me...

Tipper said...

The pies for the super bowl party look YUM!! The brother story-could be a book or a movie.

Annette said...

Egads, girl. What a story! How is it that I've not heard this one before???

Camp Papa said...

I just love reading your blog! About half the time we are away from internet access, except via iPhone which for some reason won't let me post comments for blogs. Anyway, at the risk of sounding like crazy-old-man-stalker-guy, know that even when I'm not commenting I am reading and enjoying your writing and your family.

God's love to you and yours.

Sara said...

Belle-that makes me feel better. I'm not the only one.

And that story was the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes I just can't believe some of the stuff that happens is real.

Camp Papa! Always glad to 'see' you! xo

Heidi said...

boys dont get dredlocks!!! LOL they get ring worm in their haire from kissing calves to closely!!! LOL what a story about your brother in law... mentaly ill people are VERY hard to deal with, especially when the emotionaly ill part comes out. :) I LOVE pie...nuff said right?

Becky said...

Whew, that's quite a story about Greg. I think it was really generous of you to take him in, even if it didn't work out. Family really brings you into close association with all kind of people, doesn't it?