The Dark Days….

Since Gene couldn’t retire until the end of the year, and we moved in at the end of September, he could only stay a few days before flying back to Washington. I dropped him off at the airport in Duluth, and thus began what I refer to as “the dark days”.

I kept myself busy during the day, between my at-home writing job, unpacking, painting the walls a nice bright color (Yellow!), and exploring the woods with the pups. But the nights were rough.

I’m not good at self-sufficiency – in the 10+ years I’ve been with Gene, I’ve grown accustomed to a certain level of service. Drinks presented to me, water glass pre-filled on my nightstand, blanket turn down service… let’s just say I was forced to rough it until he returned.

It didn’t help that once the sun went down (at like 4:00 pm), the house transformed from a bucolic, pastoral cabin in the woods to that creepy cabin from “Cabin In The Woods”. Each time I went out with the dogs for an evening potty, every single episode of Walking Dead I’ve ever seen started playing in my imagination.

Not being accustomed to the local nightlife, the night bird sounds were near-terror inducing. There’s one bird, which I later learned is a ruffed grouse, that makes a noise by beating its wings against a log that sounds exactly like someone dribbling a basketball. Not scary during the day, but at night, when you’re not expecting to hear sports-related noises? It’s twins-from-The-Shining level creepy.

And then there’s Mr. Waddles. I met Mr. Waddles one night around 11 pm. I was taking Ceri out for her last game of laser chase before going to bed. Normally she chases the red light up and down the driveway about ten times, goes pee, and sleeps through the night. Win-win for both of us. But that night, she chased the laser down the driveway… and nothing but the laser came back up it.

I grabbed the flashlight and shined it toward the trees lining the drive, fully expecting to see a zombie chowing down on a 100-lb Shepherd snack. Instead, I saw Ceri trying to play with a big ol’ skunk.

You know that game happy dogs play, where they splay their front paws out and playfully jump toward the other dog? Mr. Waddles was not amused. I daresay Mr. Waddles was vexed. Mightily vexed. As I’m running down the driveway, bellowing “No – LEAVE THE KITTY” (which usually works inside the house), Ceri managed to corner Mr. Waddles against the shed.

Just as I was reaching down to grab her collar, Mr. Waddles decided his personal bubble had been breached one too many times, and unleashed some stinky retribution.

Oh. My. God.

We got both barrels. Poor Ceri didn’t know what to do. It was in her eyes, so she could barely see, and neither one of us could breathe all that well (mostly by choice, cuz damn). I was able to guide her back to the front door, then made the mistake of letting her collar go so I could open the door. She bolted inside, and decided the best way to get the sting out of her eyes was using the couches and the living room carpet as a towel.

(On a side note – I always thought those Febreeze “wash your room” commercials were full of it. Turns out, that stuff actually works.)

It was a rough night.

I got her locked in the bathroom, called Gene, and possibly blamed the whole situation on him for not being there to prevent it. (Our memories of said conversation vary, but I’m pretty sure I would never say such a thing).

He found a recipe on Google for skunk oil removal, involving Dawn dish soap, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. I was able to mix up a batch while Ceri fouled the bathmat, the walls, AND the shower curtain, then I got her cleaned up in the shower.

The next day, I drove to Target and loaded up on Febreeze. I also purchased an entire plastic tote’s worth of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, and Dawn. It’s now in the front closet, with a huge label reading “Open in case of skunk emergencies”.

The worst part, though, was about two weeks later when Bess Bess came up to visit. I had washed the clothes I was wearing, including my favorite hoodie, several times. But we were walking through the woods, and Bess Bess kept saying I smelled like skunk. I was all, “whatever, you’re just imagining things because I told you the story.” Then we happened to run into the neighbor on the very far side of the property, and since I’ve never met them before, she invited us into her cabin. It was small, and rather hot… and soon it was rather stinky. Sigh. I threw out the hoodie when we got home.

I’m back!

Sorry for the hiatus, but life got in the way of blogging for a few months. Well, okay, 12+ months. But in my defense, we did sell our house and move to northern Minnesota. I dare say a whole lot of things got in the way of blogging, starting with getting our house in Allyn ready to go on the market.

The first step was finding great homes for all of our farm critters, which took awhile. The second step was making our backyard look like we never had a farm to begin with, because according to our realtor, today’s modern home buyer expects things like “grass” and “no piles of turkey poo”. So ya, we had some work to do.

Getting the backyard ready was fairly easy – Abigail brought her tractor down and we had a hoot playing demolition derby. Then it was just a matter of paying some guys to haul off the detritus. But since her tractor wouldn’t fit through the front door, I actually had to go hands on with the piles of stuff inside the house. We went from “one step away from qualifying to be on an epi of Hoarders” to “ready to be Home #2 on House Hunters” in just a few months. And all it took was one storage unit, plus A LOT of boxes. (Shout out to the produce department at QFC for saving all the best apple boxes for me!)

All of my sorting, packing, and cleaning paid off big time, though. The house sold in 24 days! I like to think it’s because of the incredible staging – Bess Bess flew out to help me, and we hit the clearance bins for suitable bedding, statement pieces, and decorative orchids. Our realtor had said our bedroom wasn’t “master suite-ish enough”, so we found a collection of throw pillows that any HGTV design star would be envious of. (We knew we struck gold when Gene declared them “too sparkly for Liberace”).

The Things were especially fond of the new bedding. Prior to a showing, I would spend hours vacuuming, dusting, and Febreezing the litter boxes in hopes of hiding the fact that we have cats, only to get calls from all the realtors asking for permission to photograph Chunk. Apparently he was fond of following the prospective buyers from room to room, then hopping up on the bed to demand pets before curling up next to Liberace. There’s probably like 15 versions of a 30-lb cat curled up next to a beaded pillow on Instagram now. Thing 2, on the other hand, preferred the stealth approach of sleeping underneath the decorative pillows, then yowling if anyone went in for a closer look.

Of course, the house selling so quickly meant we had to find a new house sooner rather than later. Gene was lobbying hard for Idaho, but my need to be closer to my family won out in the end. Plus, the amazingly low price tag on an 80-acre proper farm (with a real barn, smokehouse, pole barn, and shop) backing up to state land had a lot to do with his willingness to relocate to the frigid Northland.

Surprisingly, moving 2 adults, 2 dogs, and 5 cats almost 2,000 miles went fairly well. Gene built a rolling kitty condo to haul behind the truck, which I furnished with tons of pillows, blankets, and bedding, and I had Ceri and Chupi with me in the car. It took us 3 days to make the trek, mostly because we stopped at Every. Single. Rest Area. between Washington and Minnesota, according to Gene.

The moving truck showed up a few days later, and brought all kinds of drama with it. First off, it was HUGE. It was the kind that moving companies contract with, so there were multiple family’s worth of stuff in it. Our driveway is long, lined with trees, and since it had been raining heavily for days, surrounded by very soft mud. You can probably see where this is headed…

First the driver got stuck backing up. Gene had recommended the best angle of approach, but the driver was all, “Ya, I got this.” Then did the opposite. He managed to get the semi stuck against a tree on one side of the driveway, and mired axle deep in the mud on the other side.

Gene ended up having to cut the tree down with a chain saw to free the trailer end, but pulling the cab out of the mud required heavy machinery. Luckily enough, the one and only employee of the shops for Koochiching County happened to drive by, and was kind enough to return with a grader.

It took about an hour, but he was able to pull the truck out and get it oriented the proper way along the driveway, only to have the driver high-center the semi on the highway as we he was re-positioning for Take 2. Good thing graders can’t go very fast, and we were able to flag him down for a second tow.


So by this time, the moving crew was pretty much over it. They decided since the semi was safely back on the highway, they could just unload the stuff from there, put it in our rental Penske, and drive it up to the house. Since there’s almost no traffic on the road (besides the shop guy going back and forth, thank God), it seemed like a grand plan.

Until we realized we had lost the keys to the Penske. That was a fun hour long search. Gene finally found the keys where they had fallen into a bag that had been stored in the cab of the truck, but was now sitting on the kitchen floor. Kudos to him for even thinking to look in it, I was too busy checking the front yard and telling the moving crew how crazy it was that the key chain looked exactly like a fallen leaf, and that’s why I kept screeching, “Found it… no wait, sorry, guess not.”

It probably didn’t help that I spent a good half an hour taking pictures of a frog I found by the garage. Because it was the first frog I’d ever seen in Northern Minnesota, and gosh darn it I was going to document it for posterity.

We fed the moving crew dinner, since by that point they were looking a little stabby, then we pitched in and got everything unloaded and in its proper room. Once they left, we released the kitties to explore their new digs.

What are the odds that all five of them would end up crammed in the tiny space underneath the basement stairs? The only space in the entire house that’s only accessible via an 8″ opening?

We were able to coax all of them but Thing 2 out with some tasty tuna. Thing 2, however, was well and truly stuck. It was 20 pounds of cat crammed in an area the size of a shoe box. He started having trouble breathing, since he was trying to get out and couldn’t. Gene ended up having to tear the stairs apart to reach him. (No worries, Thing 2 is fine and healthy and happy, and loving his new home now!)

So ya, that was our move. Welcome to northern Minnesota!!!!