Tag Archives: love relationships

Clothesline Love

“Have you been sniffing stuff again?” he asks.


It’s time to do laundry, and I have just announced this fact to the Bearded One, who manages to get absolutely filthy each and every day here. He’s been cleaning up Tropical Storm Iselle debris for three weeks, and has turned the project into rehabbing gardens and tending to the new bananas. Neat stacks of twigs, sticks, and branches dot the landscape now.

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“Of course I’ve been sniffing stuff,” I say. I sniff everything, it’s what I do. “You are out of T-shirts. We’re gonna have to do the laundry.”

He pauses and stares across the landscape.  His banana patch is taking off. “Tomorrow.”


This is an offer of an actual plan, something he is loath to make, so I pounce. “Done.”

Until then, I will wash out my favorite top and lightweight cotton cropped pants and his favorite soft old underwear and hang them on our new clothesline. Which he rigged between two palms out front between the gate and the house.

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Our “simple” off-grid life is still pretty complicated at this point. The solar panels are installed but not yet hooked up to the inverter nor to the battery nor to wires in the house. So we use a small generator to run the water pump (toilet, sink, and shower water from the catchment tank), computer, printer, and fans. The fridge, stove and hot water heater are propane, and will stay propane. The big solar system generator is also propane. But our small generator is ethanol-free gas.

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Each week we haul in some combination of propane, gas, and drinking water, and will continue to even after we have the solar running.

Right now I’ve got to start the little generator so I can wash out the favorite clothes and get them on the line. It’s sunny and windy today, the perfect combination.


I walk around the side of the house to the utility area where the new catchment tank sits. The bank of 4 solar batteries is still covered by plywood protecting them from Iselle. That’s also roughly where the Bearded One is pondering space for a movable washer and dryer.  On big dollies.

I head under the house and duck walk to the where the little red generator sits on its pallet.  I greet it, check its vitals (are the shims in place that tilt it just the way it likes?), turn the switch to On, plant my left foot on its side and pull the rope. Starts right up. Always a noisy relief.

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Lightweight clothes wash and wring out easily, but it’s still a lot of work. At least I have running water with the generator on. Clothes washers, in my opinion, are the best invention of mankind.

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I’d also like a dryer. Some days are just too wet and humid to dry anything, and I could run a dryer off the big generator. But I could also live without it. Lots of families do. Dryers take a lot of electricity, solar or otherwise generated.

Clotheslines are all over Hawaii. Colorful layers, odd combinations of people’s stuff, the overlap and flap of lives. I love our clothesline. So does the Bearded One. He comes over to help me hang the little tub of clothes. He kisses me from behind as I pin up my tissue thin orange top.

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I laugh and turn around and sniff his neck, a nice long snuffling sniff — he smells wonderful — then I kiss him back.  Laying it on the line.

The Rain Gap

“You have my blessing to blow it off,” says the Bearded One, whose elbow hurts.  “I’ll get it when I get home.”

There’s a gap in the rain and we’re filling potholes.  We’re halfway up the road, at Momma Goose’s easement, and I still want to clean the barn and get a sack of dry cob out of the truck and haul it up to the barn on the dolly.  According to the Bearded One’s experienced radar reading, the rain returns in less than one more hour.  He’s offered to haul the dry cob.

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He strained his elbow this weekend, though.  We had twelve people here for a tour and dinner to celebrate the holidays and coupledom and our eldest daughter’s engagement, and the elbow flared up while moving furniture.  He got it from cutting thick fence wire weeks ago.  He’s been shoveling gravel for an hour and a half.  I’m not sure if I should let him finish the potholes by himself, much less haul the dry cob.


I look at him.  I love how he looks in his black dickey, which keeps his neck warm, and which I kid him about regularly — Hey! You with the dickey!  I love how he says that I have his “blessing.”  He says it all the time, it’s part of his Texas accent, but he is the least religious person I know.  He believes in radar, though.

After our oatmeal this morning, we checked Seattle’s AccuWeather map on the computer, the green rain blobs floating across the screen.  The Bearded One had pointed to a huge undulating green mass south and east of our place on the edge of Puget Sound.  “The big one is past us,” he said, “but look at these coming from the Olympics.  We’ve got a gap of about two hours.”


Now the sky above us looks puffy and swollen with rain and I say, “I’ll get the dry cob, but I’ll take you up on finishing the road.  Your elbow is good?”


A crow flies ahead of me, straight down the road as I head home.  Even at 11am the forest is dark, and the crow caws “Hurry up!”  The green blob is coming.  As I walk, I think about the party 48 hours ago, which occurred during the last rain gap.  We got lucky.

I toasted the group from the balcony overlooking our tiny living room where six couples and the Bearded One gathered around the woodstove with their glasses of bubbly or whatever.  I played out a little drama of having invited a mystery visitor up there with me to read us a poem.  Then I backed away from the railing, leaned over to my computer, and clicked on Garrison Keillor’s NPR reading of Mary Mackey’s exquisite “The Kama Sutra of Kindness Position #3” — about what it means to be, or try to be, a couple for life.  There were many tears, including my own.


It’s rained constantly since then, and the potholes are full of brown water, which disguises their depth.  One takes 10 or 12 shovelfuls of gravel.  There are dozens of smaller ones growing furiously.  The first few weeks after the annual grading and graveling are always like this — super rainy and the low places in the road get beat up no matter what.  One of these areas is up at the corner of our place.

I turn around and can see the Bearded One way up the road, a stick man with a shovel next to the tractor.  It surprises me.  We are rarely so far apart, and I can feel the separation.  It’s like I’m walking away from myself, or a layer of myself.  My heart aches with the distance.


Then I turn into our driveway and up the tractor trail to the barn and get to work.  I finish mucking out the barn, raking the soiled hay into a 3-foot-tall pile and then wheelbarrowing it to the chute where the chickens turn it as it makes its way down the hill and into compost.  I even have time to move the dry cob and load some firewood before the rain and the Bearded One return.


After lunch, as the rain comes down, I make citrus for fruitcake.  I boil grapefruit and orange rinds, scrape off the pulp, slice and chop the skins into 1/4″ squares, then boil them in syrup.

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It takes a couple of hours and the Bearded One wants to help.  He did last year.  But his elbow hurts, and I know the scraping and chopping will just aggravate it.

We have so many words for rain, I think — drizzle, shower, downpour, sprinkle, mist, drench, torrent, deluge, cloudburst, squall, spit — I wish there were as many for love.  I say, “You have my blessing to blow it off.”


Companion Rotation

“The plan is changing again!”  It’s our older twenty-something daughter calling at 10:30pm on Friday after a complicated night of ferries and cars coming from  downtown Seattle (our daughter) and Forks over on the Olympic Peninsula (her boyfriend).  In 4 hours the plan has changed 4 times — not coming, coming, not coming….

“We are coming!  We’ll be there at midnight.  We’ll let ourselves in.”

“Sounds good,” I say.  I’ve been digging trenches and planting potatoes all day and I am going to bed.  “See you two in the morning.”

Plans change.  The heart of a plan is a ticking clock, especially my garden plan which has changed weekly this month after I started reading again on crop rotation.

The idea is to plant a sequence of different crop families in a garden area so as to build up the soil and/or manage pests.  Some plants are heavy feeders (broccoli, cucumbers, lettuce) and some are heavy givers (beans) of nitrogen.  Heavy givers, called “nitrogen fixers”, have nodules along their roots with specialized bacteria called rhizobia that absorb nitrogen from the air then release it into the soil.

Some plants, like strawberries, can attract fungi into the soil after a few years.  It doesn’t hurt the strawberries but it will mess with potatoes if you plant them in that former strawberry bed, like I was going to do.

And how do you rotate crops when they were carefully companion-planted to start with?  The crop rotation rules say onions can go anywhere, but the companion planting rules say onions stunt beans.  It’s a Rubik’s Cube of Nature where everything affects everything.

Companion plants don’t change — they’ll always be good companions — but crops still have to be rotated to keep the bed vital.  Soil does just wear out.  Heavy feeders, then heavy givers, then light feeders (root veggies), then back to heavy feeders. These are my final waking thoughts before I hear our daughter and her boyfriend arrive and I fall asleep.

Saturday morning I scramble eggs for the four of us; we thank the Hens, and then have a lively conversation about the boyfriend’s kayaking trip in the ocean; about the hundreds of slugs — most really tiny — on the outside of the hoop house apparently lusting for the cabbage and broccoli starts inside; and about the new chicken door the Bearded One made in the aviary that the Houdini-goat LaLa can’t get through.

Jane at the new, smaller chicken door, which keeps LaLa the Goat out, but is a bit harder for her to get through with her hurt foot. She manages, though.

We all look out the window past the blooming pie cherry tree…

… and see Jane the Chicken limping down the hill.  Our daughter notices.  “That chicken is limping,” she says, and I explain.

My best guess is that she crashed getting off of the roost the morning when I was late opening the coop doors.  The hens crash into the door even when I’m on time and in the process of opening the door.  But still.  Jane was limping the day I slept ’til 7:30 and she wasn’t limping the day before.

It’s light by 6:00am and not freezing anymore, so now we’ve started just leaving the coop doors open.  There’s nothing to crash into.  The hens are safe because the aviary is still locked, and the morning crashes do seem to have stopped.

Our daughter gets up for more coffee, checks the calendar on the fridge on the way back, and says, “Oh my Goodness!  Your 15th anniversary is this week!”

It’s true, we say.

Our wedding, May 2, 1997, Bainbridge Island, WA. We always tell the youngest twenty-something that he is married to us because he stood with us through the whole ceremony. That's his 6-year-old head.

“You were married to Dad for 15 years,” she observes.

The story here is that I loved the Bearded One in college, we separated as he was being engulfed in law school, and I left Texas and married another good man in order to escape my tyrannical father.  That other good man is the kids’ birth father.

“Crop rotation,” I joke.  “Serial monogamy.”

The Bearded One smiles.  “You are legally obligated to hang around.”

“I’ve been legally obligated before,” I say, and then kiss him.

The next day, our other daughter rotates in for a 12-14 hour stay between nursing shifts.  She’s eating the same breakfast and says, “Hey, Happy Anniversary you guys.”

“Thanks.”  We toast each other with toast.

“So,” she asks, “what’s the difference between the 15 years with Dad, and the 15 with the Bearded One?  Make it short and sweet, please.”

I think.  Both daughters are so interested in this, especially this younger one.  What is the sign of true love?  How do you stay together forever?  As if I know.

“With the Bearded One, I’m more and more myself,” I say.  “Before, I was losing myself.”  I begin to say more, but she stops me.

“That’s good,” she says, “I get it.”

“We’re companion planted, and we’ll rotate together.”

She nods, and then says, “What’s that on your chin?”

I wipe my hand across my lower jaw and hold up the evidence of the morning goat feeding, a long piece of orchard hay.  “A goatee!” I say.  The perfect companion for the Bearded One.