My weekdays are pretty structured. I get up around 5:30, and start reading the news of the morning and planning for the day ahead. Then, most days, I swim for 1-1/2 to 2 hours at the NSU pool. At that point, I arrive at the office, whereupon I start editing copy, writing editorials, making assignments, answering emails and phone calls, fending off complaints, designing pages, and on and on.
I try to leave the office around 6 p.m., then take an hour or so off to exercise and start dinner. At that point, it's back to the editing board as Grant works to design the deadline pages. We usually wrap things up between 9 and 10 p.m., but sometimes later, depending on what's happening. That doesn't leave much time for anything but sleep, and since I'm old, I need six to seven hours a night. That, and a 32-ounce Yeti of my husband's cold brew usually gets me through the day.
I've been trying to take 30 minutes a night to stop and smell the roses. That's a figure of speech, since I no longer have roses. I used to have some, but when my husband took over the lawn, they lost their grafts and turned wild, like the Weasleys' Ford Anglia in "Harry Potter." The trees have been encroaching on our lawn, which was once expansive, green and lush. I plucked by hand every blade of Johnson grass over about two years. My husband isn't as determined as I was, so the useless, stuff is trying to take over again.
Living in the country has advantages, although well-groomed lawns usually aren't among them. I've explained before how my husband drags up things: toilets, sinks, cracked solar panels, barrels, wire, and anything most folks consider junk. These populate our yard and shed like ticks on one of the deer that infest our highways. Not only would an up-and-coming thief not find anything worth stealing, he'd kick himself for wasting time navigating through the junk.
We have an assortment of wildlife to watch, which makes it worthwhile. This is best achieved through the vantage point of the above-ground pool. In normal years, keeping the algae at bay is a challenge, but this year, Mark Sweeney sold us some stuff that kills it.
Years ago, we had a big garden: green beans, okra, cucumbers, squash, green onions, tomatoes, lettuce and more. The deer were more interested in the garden than in destroying our vehicles. We had to put up a fence to keep them out. But we kept noticing the cukes were being eaten down to nubs, so my husband put out a trap. We caught a chipmunk, but it wasn't doing the damage. Then I discovered the culprit: a box turtle that had crawled under the fence. I relocated it and the cukes came back.
The forest has taken over the rich soil where the garden once grew, but we did manage to get some tomato and cucumber plants to thrive, along with herbs we keep throughout the year. The success comes despite the best efforts of a groundhog that's been undermining our shed for years. This year, Chris saw three smaller whistle pigs fleeing from our potted plants, and discovered they had a preference for parsley. He tossed some mothballs around the plants, and also put some in two of the groundhog holes. Shortly thereafter, something "took to stinking," as they say in these parts - and Chris discovered what he deemed to be the carcass of the larger groundhog. I'd like to think it succumbed to old age rather than mothballs.
We've observed a number of creatures while in the pool. This we sometimes do around dusk, when I'm awaiting page proofs - after I've exercised and prepared dinner, but before we consume it, and depending on what's happening in the news world. One year, a coyote ambled around the back of the shed, stared at us for a few minutes, and retreated into the forest. We've also seen elk wander through from the nearby preserve.
There's always a raccoon or two. The funniest episode occurred when one climbed a hackberry tree and began plucking the berries with oa hand and popping them into its mouth. A coon was guilty of slurping from the grease pan left on the back porch by my husband after he barbecued. There were greasy coon prints all over the concrete, and we amused ourselves with a picture of that coon waddling around, swatting at intervals to void its bowels. Earlier this summer, the hubs left out another grease pan, and again, the tracks appeared on the porch. Chris still hasn't cleaned off the prints, but we did spot the coon malingering one evening, and gave it a beef stick.
Our favorite things are the bats. Right now, they're coming out of the cliffs behind our house at around 9 p.m. We watch them for 10 or 15 minutes as they bob, dart and weave, scooping up mosquitos. Right before they emerge, we are serenaded by tree frogs. A few live in each of the "joints" of the pool, but sometimes they sit on the rim and sing. A few will perch on the end of my finger, though they always keep their wary eyes on my face, just in case, and Thursday night, one seemed to enjoy my gently stroking it with a forefinger.
Then there are the fireflies. When we were kids, we'd catch dozens of them in jars, watch them flash for a while, then let them go. For the past few years, we haven't seen any, but this summer, they've been out in force. They show up just as the bats are heading off to the river, having cleared the area around our house of insects.
I understand from Lisa Pinnick that cicadas are cycling this year, which means we can expect copperheads soon. I'm not worried. Chris noticed a black snake, 3 feet long, loitering about the other day. We're in good hands - or scales.