Bon Appetit, Your Pipe Repair is Served

I know most people are tired of masks, but they do come in handy in times of crisis, like when you smell like a sewer and need to purchase miscellaneous items for an emergency pipe repair. Under normal circumstances, after digging up the oozing drain pipe, I would have at least taken a few seconds to spritz myself in Febreze before departing for Lowes. In Covid times, when people’s nostrils are covered, I figure I can save a few seconds and go straight to Lowes smelling like a swamp rat and not bring shame and disgrace on my household. 

My wife is not a big fan of malodorousness. In fact, one of her major weaknesses is sensitivity to smells, mainly those that adhere to and emanate from my person. Sometimes she says I smell like the barn, calves, pigs, or moldy hay. The fact that she can distinguish each of the aromas is proof that her petite nose is fertile ground for olfactory receptors. Meanwhile, the large acreage inside my nostrils is mostly barren wasteland, incapable of growing much but mucus. Of course, if an overactive nose was her worst feature, then I’d be just fine. Wearing deodorant mostly everyday is a small sacrifice to make, and everybody has flaws. But the fact that she also has a weak stomach compounds the problem.

“That smell makes me feel queasy,” she says one day.

“That stench is nauseating,” she claims, as I walk through the door.

“You smell like a trash can. I’m going to throw up,” she warns.

“What smell?” I  ask.

To help me understand the subtleties of my aromas, she often resorts to food analogies. Stale means I’m past my expiration date for a shower. Sour means the sweat on my body is fermenting and rising. Burnt means I smell like the charred inside of my bee smoker and need to be hosed down before the fire spreads. Fishy means I protrude the smell of freshly-caught bass, hopefully of the wall-hanging variety. 

Anyway, I made it in and out of Lowes without leaving a trail of dry-heaving and gagging people in my wake, successfully completed the repair, and then (after all that work, in the misting rain no less) was barred from entering my house by my very own wife. She stood guard at the back door and made me strip off my clothes and put them in a trash bag. I was only allowed entry on the condition that I would go straight to the shower and scrub real good. 

“You smell like rotten eggs,” she said. 

an oozing burst drain pipe

How to Achieve Complete Mindfulness and Live to Tell About It

I have a suspicion that most people who practice mindfulness, or living in the present, don’t drive jalopies. If they did drive a rust-bucket that at any moment could disintegrate and/or implode, they would already be masters at living in the present and could proceed to practicing other stuff. Their bodies would be finely tuned instruments, with hands sensitive to the slightest vibrations (specifically those in the steering wheel), ears perked (listening for the frayed serpentine belt to snap), nostrils flared (to detect even the faintest whiff of burnt oil), and tongues hanging out (to cool what the air conditioner couldn’t). 

Furthermore, I can’t remember the last time I saw someone doing yoga or meditating at a junkyard. People who pull their own parts already know how to contort their bodies to relieve stress, namely the stress of getting their cars back running. Early in our marriage, my wife and I got a yoga DVD and did yoga together once or twice to help me quit worrying. Admittedly, I could “worry a copperhead out of a copper cent.” That’s a common saying around these parts because we have lots of copperheads (plus lots of people with mere pennies, hence the worry). But the main thing I learned from doing yoga is warrior pose is nothing compared to “remove-the-water-pump pose.” 

The older I get, the more I find junkyards and scrapyards and even landfills to be oddly serene places. Wandering around a scrapyard looking for the perfect pieces of metal to weld together is a fine way to spend an afternoon. Watching giant bulldozers sail by at the landfill, with seagulls diving overhead and earth trembling underneath, could be as romantic as watching boats come and go in a marina, if only someone would put a bench at the dump site. 

And junkyards are great places for quiet reflection. Just last week, I visited our local U-Pull It and did some soul searching. A few days prior, I had experienced a moment of complete presentness when my 1996 Chrysler Sebring lost power going seventy miles per hour down the interstate. Because this phenomenon had happened before on less traveled thoroughfares, I knew nothing was wrong with the car mechanically–just that stupid sensor, the crankshaft sensor, had gone haywire again and decided to power down the vehicle with tractor trailers at warp speed all around me. I’m proud to report I kept my composure. I focused thoroughly on the present and piloted the Sebring safely to the roadside, only stopping to hyperventilate after the handbrake was engaged. 

So, a few days later I went to the junkyard hoping to pull a crankshaft sensor and ended up selling my Sebring for scrap. Having mastered mindfulness, it was time to practice letting go and moving on, specifically to a 2008 Toyota Camry with only 150,000 miles. 

We had some good times, the Sebring and I.

Farmers, the Original Homebodies

A while back, after taking a personality test, I wrote a post about farmer personality types. My personality type, an INFJ, isn’t a natural fit for farming, except for possibly the agricultural position of cult leader. Still, despite what the test results say, I doubt I could lead a cult, even just a little farm cult. I mean, yes, most INFJs are a few worms short of a full bait cup, but we don’t like spreading our worms with others. We like to keep them to ourselves. We’re private people. 

In that regard, INFJs–despite being generally unfit to wield a sharp hoe–may be drawn to the farming ideal, specifically the part about having a small corner of earth to call their hiding place. It wouldn’t surprise me if the first farmer was an INFJ. He was probably sick and tired of chasing woolly mammoths across the continent with his band of obnoxious hunter-gatherer buddies and just wanted some alone time. Thus, he decided to get out of the mammoth race, stay in one cave, and grow stuff. The first nomad became a farmer not because he was good at farming, but because he was tired of traveling and enjoyed being at a cave called “home.” Likely, because he was a terrible farmer, he starved to death and his skeleton still rests on the floor of that forgotten cave. Nevertheless, his idea about home caught on, and eventually people with more tactile abilities started growing stuff and built a civilization.

If you look closely you can see the INFJ in the back.

Fast forward thousands of years to 2020.  To cobble together enough acreage to make a living, grain farmers here are driving mammoth combines down narrow country roads, dodging mailboxes and logging trucks, to tracts all the way on the other side of the county. They don’t particularly enjoy traveling so far just to find land to work, but they do take a certain pride in extending their territorial planting range. Today’s farmer has evolved from chasing mammoths to driving them. By 2100, however, there will likely be no local farmers because our crop production will be outsourced to tech specialists in India, driving mega-combines and tractors remotely by joystick. 

All this sounds swell enough and is likely inevitable as farms grow bigger and bigger and farmers work land farther and farther away from home. But there is a certain irony in the decree to “get big or go home.” Going home used to be the whole point of farming, at least back when people chased mastodons. 

Mysterious Seeds Sprout and Destroy Peace and Quite on Homestead

[Weeks ago, mysterious seed packets from an unknown Chinese source started showing up in mailboxes. Admittedly, most recipients wondered if this could be invasive seed warfare. Most were too afraid to plant the seeds—most, but not all. The following entries were recovered from a homesteader’s diary.]


Garden is doing well, but crabgrass, ugh. Weeding is the worst part about homesteading, if you ask me. I planted one of those strange pumpkin-like seeds in the garden, just to see what comes up. Maybe it will be an exotic vegetable, like a spaghetti squash.


My heirloom tomatoes are nearly ripe, and cucumber vines are spreading. The mysterious seed has germinated! It has the largest cotyledons that I’ve ever seen on any garden plant, though I’m by no means a gardening expert yet. I’m still not sure what species it is—perhaps it will be a leaf crop like bok choy.


I’m pleased to report, after diligent watering over two weeks, I now have a vine growing straight up to the clouds, or nearly so—it’s already thirty-feet high! By the looks of it, it should be stout enough to climb in a few days. The vine has the hairy mane of poison ivy, giant thorns like railroad spikes, and elongated trumpet-like flowers that exude the aroma of a rotting whale carcass. The huge tarp-like leaves provide ample shade and, at night, a soft green glow. Needless to say, the plant has the growth habit of a magic beanstalk, though I do suspect my focus on healing the land and increasing soil fertility has played a part. If only this plant was a magic beanstalk, but likely it’s a long-lost species from prehistoric times!


We’ve had ample rainfall, including several substantial thunderstorms. I dumped a half inch out of the rain gauge yesterday. I’ve noticed the vine has been struck by lightning on several occasions and appears to have experienced no adverse effects, though the plant has the curious habit of now zapping dead all creatures that come within forty feet of the garden, including a whole deer herd. The manner in which it does this is something like a Tesla coil. This is becoming slightly problematic because I must now wear bulky rubber rainboots to tend the garden. Plus, the buzzards are starting to pile up.


I have decided not to climb the vine, as it was beginning to move on its own accord. Absolutely no wind at all, and it’s whipping around like a giant out-of-control water hose and smashing pickup trucks. My neighbors are starting to show concern and have requested the governor call in the National Guard. Though I have reservations about chemical use for weed control, I believe a small dousing of Roundup delivered by a fix-winged aircraft should easily solve the problem.


The situation is dire. The vine appears to be resistant to Roundup and napalm. It is now hurling large pods full of the pumpkin-like seeds in all directions. Scientists believe it’s not a magic beanstalk or prehistoric species, but instead a genetically-modified species—who would’ve thought?

8/2/2020 PM

Just got a cell phone alert from Emergency Management—nuclear blast is imminent to contain vine’s spread. Must leave all possessions behind and seek shelter immediately, underground if possible. Once out of cellar, I will contact real estate agent to list property. Homesteading is not for me.

How to Handle a Ruined Crop (or pass the pipe wrench)

There was a time in my life when I liked to discover stuff. Hate to say it, I’d actually get excited to learn new things. But as a farmer, I’ve become completely anti-discovery–and for good reason. Last year, for instance, I was driving down the road, eyes straight ahead, diligently trying not to discover anything, when I noticed something shadowy in the periphery. “Good gosh,” I thought, “what now?” I tried to resist, knowing that, generally speaking, shadowy things are bad, but my willpower failed me once again: I turned my head to look. 

“Holy smokes,” I said, “my whole field is black.” If only I hadn’t looked, my crop would still be green and vigorously growing, like it had been days earlier.

Most of what’s written on this blog should be taken with a big block of red mineral salt, but you can absolutely trust the following piece of farming advice: if your crop suddenly turns black, something is wrong, bad wrong. 

Amnesia: Ruined-Crop Cure All

The best solution for a suddenly black crop is either a stout pipe wrench to the head or bottle of hard liquor down the hatch. Either one, when applied quickly enough, can cause a bout of amnesia that erases the discovery of the ruined crop, allowing you to reawaken in the blissful state of prediscovery. Hopefully, you scribbled a warning on your arm for when you reawaken, or else you’re likely to go right back and rediscover the ruined crop, which can lead to a repeating pattern of pipe wrenches to the head and a severe headache.

And hopefully said warning wasn’t something specific like, “Don’t check milo crop because millions of sugarcane aphids are sucking the life out of it.” Discovering a statement like that scribbled on your forearm can cause shock and leave you convulsing on the floor. Thus, with warning notes scribbled on your personage, it’s better to be rather vague and nonchalant. For instance, a sufficient warning written across the forearm might read, “No need to check milo crop. All is well. Everything green (If by chance you do check, keep pipe wrench handy).” 

P.S.: another useful bit of farming advice: If you write the warning on your forehead, remember to write backwards so you can read it in a mirror. Also, if you want to grow a great pollinator plot, plant a field of milo for grain, let sugarcane aphids infest it, and every known species of stinging insect will descend on the field to suck up the honeydew.