Pick A Number

This will be a list with numbers, just not a numbered list.

We had two women start work at the auto-parts plant at the same time.  I don’t know how long they had known each other, possibly from high-school.  They had worked together at a cookie plant.  When times got tight, and they both got laid off there, they both got a job just outside the city, at a chicken processing/packing plant.  When that company had to cut back, they both came to work for us.

Like the Polish Contessa at the deli, they both came to work immaculately turned out.  They wore clothing to a vinyl-parts plant, better than I would wear to church, if I attended church, perfectly coiffed and full makeup, with gorgeous nails.  After about a year, one of them managed to swing a job in the office, as the general manager’s assistant.  About the same pay, but with office hours and better working conditions, if you didn’t mind being on your knees under the desk, looking for the cigar.

When the other one got transferred to my line, as the inspector/packer, I found how she kept the gorgeous nails.  She had most of the guys, excluding me, beguiled into doing a large portion of her work.  She suddenly started yelling at me one day.  “Don’t do that!  Oh, that’s horrible!  Don’t do it!”  I found out that I had yawned, and she saw the back of my throat.  Another day, she suddenly wailed, “Oh, that’s terrible!  I hate that! Why did that have to happen to me!??  Uck!”  It turned out that a drop of water, distilled from the muggy air had fallen on her from the mold-chiller pipe.  It doesn’t come much purer, especially in a manufacturing plant.  I often wondered how she had conceived and bore two children.  I did not wonder why she had an ex-husband.

The wife and I are not butterflies.  We have always planned long-term, and have done more so as we age.  In almost 45 years of marriage, we have lived only five places, the last three, 18 years, 13 years, and we’ve been in this house for 10 years and expect to go out feet-first.

Despite the work I’ve done on it, the back lawn gets more and more uneven from ant hills, worm castings and frost heave.  We have flower beds along the fences but have turned them more to shrubs and bushes.  The disabled wife loves to garden, but finds moving across the lawn increasingly difficult.  As a result, most of the flowers we have, are in pots, on or beside the back deck, or in planters, hanging from fence posts.  Since they’re not in the ground, they require daily watering.

To facilitate this, we have five 55 US gal. plastic barrels catching rain water.  One is at the front of the house, under the porch downspout.  Three more are at the side of the house, on concrete paving stones.  I diverted the rear downspout and ganged the three together with hoses.  When one fills, the overflow fills the other two.  There is one more, at the back of the property which I filled by hand, as a last resort against drought.  As the mobile mate, it is my daily job to take water from these barrels to the plants.

Early in the season, when the plants are few and small, it only requires one two gallon watering can to do them.  As the season progresses, and the wife pots more plants, and they all grow, the task grows with them.  We planted three tomato plants for home consumption, and those babies want water.  Soon I add a small long-spout waterer, then we include a larger long-spout for the hanging baskets.  Then it goes to two of the two gallon, plus the two smaller.  I think I’ve reached the max by now.  I now need to lug two of the small, two of the medium and five of the two-gallon.  Come on, weight-loss!

When I was making 450 Jeep parts a day, I thought of the old Tennessee Ernie Ford song, I Load Sixteen Tons.  I asked the Quality Control guy one day how much each part weighed.  The answer, the next day was, 18.2 pounds, times 450 parts/day equals 8200 pounds.  But wait, I had to lift that off one production table and place it on the press, and then remove the same weight in finished parts and place them on the inspection table, so I moved it twice, for a total of 16400 pounds a day.  No wonder I have to watch my weight, now that I’m retired.

With all the roofs and pavement and hard-packed lawns, the city has trouble dealing with storm-water runoff when it rains, so they’ve instituted a runoff levy to pay to upgrade the system.  If you catch, hold and slowly release 13,000 liters of water, you get the levy refunded.  Despite the fact that I’ve been doing this for years, my five barrels only total 10,000 liters.  There was a company selling rain barrels at the Cherry Festival, but even if I could squeeze in one more, it would only get me to 12,000.

Also for years, we have composted garden and kitchen scraps.  They disappear and come back as more top-soil the wife can use in her gardens.  We have four composters, two near the house, handy for kitchen waste, and two more at the back for garden scrap.  We also have one Green-Cone Digester.  As the name says, it’s a flat-topped green cone, almost as big as the composters.  Inside, with about a half-inch of air-space, is another black plastic cone.  These two trap and hold solar energy, so that this thing can break down stuff like meat and bones that can’t go in a regular composter.

My Depression-trained Scottish mother and relatively low income have taught us how to conserve and stretch our resources.  We were reducing our carbon footprint long before others had heard the words.

9 thoughts on “Pick A Number

  1. Nicole says:

    I like how you used numbers as your theme to pull it together. Yeah, we all have slackers in the workplace. I have a women in my area that is about 4 years younger than me (see I’m using numbers) but I feel like we are a whole generation apart. She is on a committee to organize volunteer events that employees can participate in … on their off time. Yet she spends most of her time organizing meetings for the committee, making flyers for events, going to meetings with the rest of the committee to talk about volunteer events etc… I organized similar events in grad school for my classmates, but managed to get it done on my off-time even though I was working 32 hours a week while going to school. It’s for the best because when she actually does any work that affects business operations of the company, inevitably something gets screwed up.

    I need to get started on composting. I’m in the “I’ll do it tomorrow” mode though. It isn’t very motivating to start a compost in 110 degree heat.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts. Have a wonderful week.


    • Archon's Den says:

      Start composting in the fall or spring, when it’s cooler. Although, that much heat makes it work harder, like my Green-Cone. We’re basking at merely 85. I can stay air-conditioned for two days. Saturday should be cooler, when I have to set the daughter up at the park again.


      • Nicole says:

        Thanks for the tip. Will probably look into doing this come October. Ah, 85 degrees. Have another 6 weeks or so before the heat starts to dissipate around here. Right now a lightening storm is brewing. Suppose I should start shutting down my electrical items.


  2. Sightsnbytes says:

    we had three days at 92 degrees here in Newfoundland this week. What is happening to the weather? Global warming is becoming more and more believable


  3. Jim Wheeler says:

    I admire your achievements in conservation. When we moved in to our present house 12 years ago I had visions of a little vegetable garden in the back yard. One thing led to another. I hauled in topsoil, bought fertilizer, planted tomatoes, squash, cucumbers and the like, bought insecticide, watered the stuff, and put up a wire fence around it to keep the rabbits out. When the harvest came we had the world’s most expensive vegetables for a couple of weeks. I am now known as “Mr. Brown Thumb”.

    We currently visit a local deli and buy a modest amount of fried chicken about once a week. No heat in the kitchen, no hot oil, no flour, no spices, no preparation. In business school it’s called “economies of scale”, and just like with the farming business, sometimes it makes sense to let the experts do it in bulk and then buy a modest amount. Ah, civilization!


    • Archon's Den says:

      The wife just wants to garden, and is frustrated that allergies and reduced mobility keep her from as much as she would like. Flowers on/near the deck provide color and esthetic beauty visible from the french door or the picture window. Three big pots of tomatoes provide types we/she like, but are not readily available commercially.


      • Jim Wheeler says:

        Good for you both. There’s no question that vine-ripened tomatoes are worlds better. We go to the farmers’ market in season for the same.


  4. whiteladyinthehood says:

    I like your numbers, Archon. You have been married for 45 years – wow -that is so awesome to me! I’ve been with my husband for 25 years, I worked at a cookie/bakery for 5 years…I’ve worked since I was about 17.
    Someone gave me some fresh tomatoes the other day – they were Heaven! (I can only grow peppers in buckets – I have too many trees)


  5. Archon's Den says:

    We’ve been together over 45 years, but the wedding anniversary is still 4+ months off. Two of the three tomato plants yield ping-pong ball sized cherry tomatoes. One, a tasty red, the other, a low-acid yellow for the wife. Pick and wash them. Split them and drop them into a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and vegetable oil with chopped fresh basil off the deck. Marinate overnight and serve as a sparkly little side dish for lots of meals. If I knew as much about plumbing as I do about food-prep, I’d be skinny and rich.


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