Water, water everywhere, but not a drop to drink


Last night’s drenching rain wasn’t a name-worthy event. It didn’t deliver a hurricane punch, it didn’t catapult geeky, meteorology terms like “derecho,” into the urban vernacular.

It was simply a strong southeast storm, punctuated by wind, twisters and a wide swath of precipitation — its tendrils dangling down to the Gulf.



But look at it from a local perspective.

This was not the gentle sprinkle of a watering can. This was Mother Nature yanking the dunk-tank lever.

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And after a few hours the storm really flexed its muscles.

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 Actually, this photo shows our cellar flooding. Again.You don’t see that? Look closer…. see… that’s 4 inches of rain pelting the already-saturated earth…

And… see there? That’s a jam in the sump pump’s vertical extension shaft, and groundwater burbling through the cellar floor. Now do you see?

Post-Sandy, this is familiar territory. When I heard the trickle of running water, I ran downstairs and scooped up the toys, floor rugs and the dirty laundry by the washing machine. Then I phoned Martin — who was working late. “The cellar’s flooding,” I said. “You need to fix the sump pump.” Then I went back to making crab cakes.

By the time Martin arrived, four to five inches stood in the cellar. But with some tinkering, the sump pump recovered; only a few damp spots remain.

Outside is a different story. Puddles, potholes and pasture depressions are flush with rain. The ground is spongy. Water is all around us.

Except that it isn’t.

There’s water, but not in the house — not from the taps. The pipes are dry because the well pump ceased operation. It flooded.

Which is kind of ironic. 

Because there is too much water, we have no water…


Status: submerged

Oh, Vengeful Tree


Late last week I took down our Christmas tree. A month after Christmas Eve.

That does not eclipse last year’s record. Our 2011 tree (mentioned here) stuck around until Valentine’s Day.

But last year’s Douglas-fir didn’t fling itself to the ground. It didn’t capsize, splashing a gallon of water on our hardwoods.

We didn’t lasso that tree to the curtain rod in the doorway.


However, our most recent Christmas tree swooned within days. And after mopping up the mess, I never replenished its water supply.

My excuse: I wanted to avoid another spill. But secretly I harbored some spite and thought, “We invite you, Tree, into our house… and this is how you repay us? No water for you!”

After a few weeks, though, I felt guilty. Obviously, we’d shortened the tree’s life when we severed the trunk from the roots. But withholding water? I killed the tree twice over. I tortured an innocent evergreen. 

But before exiting our house, the tree exacted revenge.

Late Wednesday night, as I enjoyed a solitary moment of mindless TV… and basked in the twinkly Christmas tree lights… I heard a low, lingering creak. Not the creak from yielding floorboards or of a radiator, sending steam through the pipes.

It was the sound of our sickly-brown Christmas tree, tugging at it moorings.

I hazarded a sideways glance, as if I didn’t want the tree to know that I knew what it was doing. It was plotting another nosedive and judging from its jaunty angle, it would crash into the mantlepiece.

The next day I gave the tree the boot. I plucked off the ornaments and wrestled free the tangled strings of lights.

It would’ve been easier to disarm a cactus. There was no avoiding the brittle, painfully sharp needles. As I gingerly reached through the branches, the needles clung to the boughs, piercing my clothes and skin.

“Ow..ow…ow! Dammit!” I yelled with each grab.

“Dammit, Mommy,” Brynn replied from the other room.

Finally stripped bare, the tree could be ushered out. (A task for Martin.)

There was just one minor casualty. As I nursed my pricked fingers and glared at the naked tree, it discharged a forgotten ornament with a tinkly ring.

One broken heart. Duly noted.




“I’ll take it,” I said, handing $20 to the estate-sale man.

The salesman guarding his post in the barn.  He smiled, patiently trailing me. I tried to shop quickly but was distracted by his impossibly tight T shirt, barely shading his belly.

Distracted, that’s my excuse for the buy: a burgundy leather Crate & Barrel couch.

For $20. The caveat? This sofa formerly shared a house with 30 dogs, before abandonment in the barn.

You get that? The couch — too downtrodden for homeowners and 30 dogs — was demoted to an outbuilding.

The couch was glazed in a hazy mold.

“What color is it?”  Martin asked.

“Originally?” tight T shirt guy jumped in. “Probably ‘white!’  Ha-ha-ha!” he laughed at himself.

Martin and I heaved it into the truck. “It was a good buy,” Martin assured me.

The couch, on our turf


Driving home we speculated about our existing furniture and which would be voted off the island. There were three curb contenders, including a once-white, threadbare sofa my parents bought in the ’70s. Also, Martin and I had a cloth couch bought during our engagement; the former owner practically paid us to cart it away.

And then there’s our third couch. “This thing looks like a crime scene,” Martin remarked one day.

I couldn’t disagree. The middle cushion bears a sizable stain — more orange than blood-red — from one of Brynn’s oral vitamins. Somehow, a dropper’s worth of multivitamins dribbled on the couch. No amount of scrubbing will raze the stain.

Yet we are loathe to buy anything new. That’s why Frankencouch was worth the risk.

I offered to tackle cleaning.

Wash spots, stains, spills with soapy water, read the Crate and Barrel label nestled on the frame. Wipe with clean towel and air dry.

Care instructions did not offer guidance for a couch inhabited by a kennel’s worth of dogs and defiled outside by pets and wild animals.

I leaned in to smell the leather. Cat pee, I speculated.

Or maybe dog pee. Possibly fox. (I’ve noticed that foxes mark everything. They deposit calling cards in our hayloft near the cat food. And when a diaper escaped our trash, a fox pooped on it — right on Elmo’s face. That’s what they do.)

I used a full leather cleaner bottle on the couch, scrubbing until my hands burned. Then I used hot water and saddle soap on the suspicious spots.

After all that, it still smelled.

Defeated, I left it outside overnight while pondering my predicament. To protect it from another round of abuse, we covered it in horse blankets.


“Ah, smells homey and ripe,” according to Olive.


In the end, it would have been easier to slaughter a cow, tan the hide and build a new couch.

Frankencouch does look amazing compared to “before” pictures. Beneath the filmy dirt lurked rich wine-colored leather. Now it beckons us to flop down on its cushions.


But I couldn’t bear to put it in the house. I’d never be comfortable sprawling on it to channel surf — the cleaning process was too traumatizing. We might have a crime scene on our sofa, but it’s our crime scene.

So what happened to Frankencouch?

We positioned it in the carriage house. It’s better suited to a bar…

…where friends will be too buzzed or drunk to notice the funky smell and marks.