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The world loves how-to’s, right? And how many other places online will you find step-by-step instructions on how to turn yourself into a goopy glob of grease?

And no, I’m not referring to super-sizing yourself by eating burgers and fries every day for a year. Nor am I talking about how the “cool” guys used to slick their hair back with lard (or whatever) back in the ‘50s and ‘60s.

I’m talking about something I discovered quite by accident the very day I am writing these words. See, I needed an insect repellent. Right now I am in the process of harvesting as many berries as I can from our four goumi bushes. Check out this post on my homesteading blog for more info and a few pictures.

Also happening right now is very humid and hot weather, the kind that makes no-see-ums come out in droves. Or should I say, swarms.

What the heck are no-see-ums?

Excuse me, what? You’ve never heard of a no-see-um?

There’s a picture of one on Wikipedia, here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratopogonidae

You can actually see no-see-ums, by the way. They’re not practically microscopic like chiggers. However, you have to look very closely to catch sight of one of those bugs crawling on your skin. And they will look nothing to your naked eye like they do in the Wikipedia photo.

And unlike mosquitoes, they don’t announce their presence. They don’t say, “MEEEEE…MEEEEEEEE…I’M ABOUT TO BITE YOU MEEEEEEE.” No. They just quietly land on your ankle or arm or neck or wherever they find exposed flesh and bite you. Now, it’s not a painful bite, nor does it necessarily cause a raised red bump on your skin that itches for several days without treatment (although it may). But it is an annoying prick that will itch for several minutes afterwards.

And when they’re all over the place like they’ve been here, your blood can be lunch for several no-see-ums at one time.

And this makes harvesting berries – already a lengthy chore – a miserable experience.

My brilliant idea

So I decided to whip up a natural insect repellent and smear it all over myself before I went out to do my goumi harvesting. Two or three years ago I purchased two baby food jars of a substance called BF&C, which stands for “bone, flesh and cartilage.” It’s an herbal concoction purported to aid in the healing of all sorts of wounds and injuries. A local woman makes her own homemade version and sells it, so I thought I’d try it.

Long story short, I never used much because whatever I’d used it for, I didn’t feel like it did much good. So the jars just sat in the bathroom, feeling rejected and all alone.

Until this morning. I believed that the salve consisted of olive oil mixed with herbs, so all I had to do was mix in some citronella essential oil and smear it on my skin and I’d be good to go.

Oops

I have good news and bad news. The good news is, I only got two bites this morning. The bad news is, an hour later my skin was still greasy. Olive oil only takes ten to fifteen minutes to absorb into skin, so I knew something was amiss.

I felt like a walking glob of grease.

Two hours, three hours, six hours later as I write this post my skin is still a bit slimy. Much less so than it was at the two-hour point, but still.

So I went online to find out what exactly is in BF&C. I found out here. On that page I just linked to, scroll down the list of ingredients until you get to the last one. See it?

Yep.

Beeswax.

I smeared beeswax all over my arms, legs, and neck this morning. Note the reason beeswax is included in this salve:

The bee’s wax acts by firming up the ointment. It also has properties of its own to create an alkaline condition, keep the area moist…

Keep the area moist. I also know from using beeswax to help make wood more water resistant that it’s sticky. Undoubtedly its incorporation with the olive oil is what made the oil take so much longer to absorb into my skin.

NOTE TO SELF: Thou shalt not smear beeswax all over  your body. Especially when it’s mixed with an oil.

You can if you want, of course, dear reader. But you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

Oh, wait, I promised you a step-by-step how-to, didn’t I? Okay, here goes:

  1. Buy or make some BF&C. Or maybe just melt some beeswax and mix it together with olive oil, say 50-50.
  2. Smear it all over yourself.

Done!

And now you really understand what people mean when they say that the Internet is full of useless information. 😉

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How To K*i_ll Yourself With A Smoothie

All three of us have two smoothies a day, one for breakfast and one in the afternoon. Unless it’s super-duper cold (like it was a few days this past winter), I keep the Vitamix base in the Tuff Shed and walk back and forth from the shed to the house to blend the smoothies. The reason is that this high-powered blend is loud. I’m talking, loud. Like Steven Tyler singing “Dream On” loud.

Only not quite that ear-splitting.

But I digress. Making two smoothies a day has been the routine for almost two years, so you’d think I’d have it down by now. You’d think I’d be on autopilot as I put the individual ingredients together to make the divine concoctions.

Yesterday, though, I forgot to put the vanilla powder in my strawberry smoothie. I don’t always need vanilla, but sometimes the frozen strawberries are obviously harvested before turning completely ripe which ends up making the smoothie taste more sour than I like. Adding a half teaspoon of vanilla increases the sweetness.

But I forgot yesterday. In a hurry, I suppose. Had to get ready for that hot date. Or make it back to work on time.

Oh, wait, that’s somebody else.

So anyway, there I was, in the Tuff Shed, already blending my smoothie, when I realized I’d left out the vanilla powder. No problem; I’ll just mix it in when I get back into the house. And I did. After pouring my smoothie into a jar, I added the vanilla powder and stirred it up with a spoon. But it didn’t really mix in. Instead, it formed clumps.

Now, why I didn’t put the lid on the jar right then and there and shake everything up well, the world will never know. Nor did I try to break it up with a fork. Instead, I sighed, resigned to consuming a tart smoothie.

I was probably three spoonfuls in when I realized my folly. I shoved the next spoonful into my mouth, began to swallow, and –

COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH! COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH!

You would’ve thought a marble was lodged in my throat by the way I was carrying on. But I almost couldn’t breathe.

COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH! COUGH COUGH – HEAVE – COUGH COUGH COUGH!

I was so thrilled my gag reflex forgot to work and I didn’t puke my guts out. BUT…for about two minutes, I thought I was going to die. Seriously.

I either inhaled an itty bit of the vanilla powder when I took that last spoonful, or the clump landed at the back of my throat and refused to go down. Whatever the cause, I coughed long and loud. Had to go outside to “hock-ptooey” the mucous that was forming at the back of my throat quickly and furiously.

And yes, I did try drinking water. It was no help.

J got worried, and ran outside next to me. “What happened?”

COUGH COUGH COUGH COUGH! “I-“ COUGH COUGH “…inhaled-“ COUGH COUGH COUGH “…some va-“ COUGH COUGH COUGH “…vanilla powder.” COUGH COUGH!

I knew at that moment I was going to live. I could breathe enough to spit out words. When my system finally calmed down, I went back inside, put the stupid lid on the stupid jar, and shook the contents up. Lid off, and…voila! Vanilla powder all mixed in.

Duh.

Well, there you have it, folks. Today’s Helpful Tip. How to k*i_ll yourself with a smoothie. No need to add poison. No need to make a two-gallon, 10,000 calorie beverage and drink it as fast as you can until you stomach explodes.

No. Just add vanilla powder and mix it in with a spoon. Make sure it doesn’t actually get mixed in, then drink a bit of it down and do what Bill Clinton claims he didn’t do – inhale.

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A New, Old Way To Campaign

When you think of political campaigns, what comes to mind? A lot of T.V. and radio ads, maybe. Town hall meetings and debates. Public speeches where the candidate walks around afterwards shaking hands and admiring babies.

Oh, and let’s not forget those all-important mind manipulators: the lawn signs! Yes, many is the person who has voted for a political candidate based on a name being staked in red and white (or blue and white, or mauve and beige, or purple and pink polka dots) on their neighbor’s lawn.

But apparently, that’s not how they do it in southeastern Oklahoma. Actually, maybe it’s a rural South thing in general.

The other day, a pickup pulled into our driveway. Pretty far up. Farther up than even U.P.S. or FedEx dares to tread. And the truck was unfamiliar. Understand, even though the road we live next to is public, it’s gravel and leads to a dead-end at the top of the mountain. While we get an occasional four-wheeler joyriding through, most of the time when a vehicle goes by it’s one of four or five vehicles whose owner we know (or know of).

The majority of the time, however, the road is vacant.

So when this truck pulled up near our house, we knew a stranger had arrived.

J saw the truck first, and went out to see who it was. I looked out the window, perplexed. I was washing a dish or something, and when I finished I dried my hands and went out to see what the deal was. A couple of weeks ago a forestry dude stopped by to let us know he’d be parking on the perimeter of our land to check trees in the neighboring area. Once a guy from the electric company came to see if any trees under or near the power lines were getting out of hand.

So when somebody unfamiliar drives into our driveway, who knows who it might be? Could even be – get ready – Jehovah’s Witnesses!

However, as I opened the door I saw only one guy, so it wasn’t them. Or Mormons. He was dressed in quintessential rural South garb – cowboy hat, boots, jeans, even a longish mustache. He had handed J something and was just leaving as I came up.

He greeted me, calling me, “Ma’am”, which made me want to go dye my hair gray and get me a pair of rusty knitting needles.

A couple of seconds later, he was in his truck and backing out of the driveway.

“Who was that?” I asked my husband, who held a small piece of paper in his hand.

He handed me the paper. “Somebody running for county commissioner.”

Sure enough. It was a note-card sized campaign pieces that said, “Let’s Do This – John Doe for County Comissioner.” And he’d even driven all the way up to the top of the mountain to see the one guy who lives up there full time.

All righty, then. Kinda puts a new spin on the phrase “campaign trail”, don’t ya think?

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What They Say About The Word “Assume”

I usually avoid the word “evolve”. In fact, I probably should have included it in this post about overused words.

But I’m going to use it now.

Since we moved into our small (576 square feet) earth-sheltered house two years ago, our family’s needs have evolved.

There. Do I get a gold star for putting the vocabulary word in a sentence?

What do I mean by our needs having evolved? Well, two years ago, I didn’t realize that the sun would stream into our south-facing windows all fall and winter long. I mean, of course after forty-some years of life on earth I know that the sun is lower in the sky during the winter, and that the sunlight comes in deeper into the house.

But I didn’t know that the rays would be annoying fifteen feet away on the opposite side of the house or that even in summer the light outside the windows would cause a glare on the computer screen.

So I need to move my computer desk.

Two years ago, I didn’t realize B would be getting a computer a year later. Because we didn’t have his room set up with a desk, we had to put it against the wall in the living room area.

Bye-bye, cozy living room area where I could sit in my rocking chair and escape from looking at a computer screen.

I want it back.

So the other night, armed with a ruler and yardstick, I drew up a grid and began to experiment with different furniture arrangements on paper. I would have to change out the five-foot long desk for the three-foot long one J recently made for me to have in the Tuff Shed, that was for sure. I tried putting the two desks right together, and the living room area next to it. But then I would have to take the coat closet out of the corner and stick it against the wall opposite the exterior door, becoming the focal point of the room when you entered the house.

Or I could do it this way…no, not nearly enough room for the two living room chairs.

How about that way? That would look weird.

I drew and erased, drew and erased, drew and erased. Asked J for some input.

Finally, I got so frustrated that I got loud enough about it that B asked what my problem was. I told him that I was trying to figure out how to rearrange furniture, and somehow ended up telling him that the long desk he was using for his computer was going to end up back in the shed.

Misunderstanding, he began to remind me that he didn’t want to put his computer on the little-kid table in his room because it was too low (which I had him try last year when he first got his computer). I told him that he was going to use the new table, and we were going to paint it.

At this, his eyes opened wide. “Oh, let’s paint it red!”

I frowned. “If you want it all red, it’s going to have to be in your room.”

“I don’t care! Let’s paint it red!”

If B sets up in his room, all I’ll have to do is move my pretty white-with-black-trim desk over to where the ugly five-foot computer desk is now. I’ll tweak the locations of all the bookcases (two tall and two short) and move a couple of other smaller pieces, but that will be easy, and cut and dry.

All that drawing and erasing, all those mental acrobatics, for nothing. Just because I didn’t ask B up front if he would mind being in his room if he had the right-sized table.

You know what they say about the word “assume.” Except I’m the only looking like a donkey here.

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Electric Avenue

In a few days, we will be welcoming home a new member of the family.

My husband is going to finally buy his own computer.

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, J and I have been living in the Dark Ages since moving to our rural property and sharing a computer. I know – how passé, how very ‘90s.

But let me tell you, I have mixed feelings about it. You see, I have a love-hate relationship with electricity, and technology in general. When we lived in Plano, having a monthly electricity bill that averaged close to $200 drove me crazy. I started cutting corners wherever possible. Started line-drying the laundry. Started turning off the hot water heater between eight in the morning until around five in the evening.

Then, I started listening to a self-sufficient podcast, around the time that J and I decided we were going to move out of the city and into the middle of nowhere. The podcast filled my mind with all sorts of dreams and ideals, the first one being that once we’d moved, we would minimize our electricity usage as much as possible and be off-grid with solar panels. We were not going to have Internet service at home – why bother when the library has free Wi-Fi? – and we were not going to keep the computer on all day like we used to when we lived in the suburbs.

One day I watched a video of a couple who lives in a tiny house in central California who live completely without electricity. I began to bemoan the fact that number one, we lived in an area where it’s miserable to e without air conditioning in the summer, and number two (a year or so later) that we chose to have an earth-sheltered house built, which would require frequent use of a dehumidifier, as well as constant air circulation via a ceiling fan.

One by one, I had to let go of my grand ideals of living with very little electricity. First, I found out that making the investment into solar panels really wasn’t going to be worth it for us. Second, about six months of hair-pulling frustration because the library’s Wi-Fi was abominably slow, we signed up for wireless Internet service. Then last year, we bought B his own computer because he’d become interested in playing video games and sharing our computer with him wasn’t the most peaceful way to go for our family.

Finally, after that, both computers started staying on all day – as well as the Internet router. I realized with horror, we were beginning to act like a mainstream family, with no regard to the depletion of resources and pollution that electricity production causes. How evil could we be, using $50 of electricity every month on average?

I had a choice to make. Continue on browbeating myself over not being able to live my ideal lifestyle, or let it all go and decide to enjoy life.

I chose the latter. See, I’m not that stupid! 😉

A few months ago, J got into playing Hidden Object Puzzle video games, which morphed into a Quora addiction. I wanted to be able to get on the computer and write Band-In-The-Box music, edit videos, or work on a blog whenever I was in the mood. But I couldn’t, because most of J’s leisure time was being spent on the computer.

So one day, about a month ago, I made a suggestion so shocking that the ground rumbled underneath our feet. I said to J, “You need to buy your own computer.”

To my surprise, he hedged about it for a couple of weeks. Typical man, he won’t take advice from his wife unless he thinks it’s his own idea. He got this brilliant idea a couple of weeks ago when he started working on a novel he’d begun a couple of years ago, and realized that the two of us might end up competing for computer time once he got serious about writing and editing.

“You know, I think I do need my own computer.”

Great thinking, sweetheart.

And now, this whole striving against electricity thing has come full circle. While I still wish it didn’t have to be this way, I’m actually more excited at the prospect of each of us having our own computer than dismayed about it. Even though all the computers will probably be on all day, every day.

Call me greedy, call me selfish, call me modern. Just don’t call me to guilt-trip me about being on the grid – and using it. 😉

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