Sunday, June 25, 2006

Cabin Fever

I'm hoping this story cheers up Mr. Mustard.

I took off two days for a long weekend so that I could take the family up to my parents' cabin. Pooteewheet was excited, and then realized after I'd taken the days off that she'd agreed to watch my niece for the weekend, so we'd be taking her with us for four days, much to the irritation of my sister, who thought she'd only be away from her daughter for the first lengthy time for two days. We were going to haul up the canoe in my garage which I never use and which interferes with my ability to store appropriate amounts of junk, so we got my father in law's truck. But after spending an hour going from sports store to sports store on Thursday, I discovered four foam blocks would cost me $60.00. I refuse to buy foam blocks for $60.00. They're f-ing foam - I throw it away when it's computer packaging...give me a break. However, once I loaded the truck with the stuff my Dad left last time he was up here, a crib for my friend Adam (actually for his on-the-way kid), and my sister's sail boat, it wouldn't have fit anyway.

None of this is the interesting part - it just points out that we did several hours of packing/unpacking. The interesting part began when we got to the cabin and I had to put the filter on the water/pump system. I've had problems with this system before. I once went up for a bike ride and the water didn't work. I had to crawl under the cabin and lie on a freezing floor, in water, to try and tape brand new pipes that had pinhole leaks everywhere because the contractor had installed used pipe and never started the system. This time was a little worse.

About a foot and a half of water so cold I couldn't stand in it for more than sixty seconds without having to get out and warm my feet (you could see your breath when you were down there). And that white thing near the pump...that's the filter unit. You'll notice the top is missing. It's not in my hand while I took this photo because it was in the entryway and I discovered this after I grabbed it, it's somewhere under all that murky, rusty water (and it's much darker down there without the flash). So I had to haul down some planks and the bricks from the stairs to create a small working area, then venture into the water in a systematic search pattern until I found the filter cover.

Once the filter cover was in place, the water worked inside. But a trip back to the underworld showed water spilling out of the pipes, spilling through the pipes (in the case of the burst shower pipe) and bubbling up from underwater. I waded in again, swearing that between the bursts of water I could hear critters scurrying away to the furthest corners of the foundation, and turned off all the open spigots, turned off the underwater spigots, and investigated the unrepairable (with my available resources) shower drain pipe. We could be fairly certain there would be no hot showers for the long weekend - we were going to be engaging in a bit of sponge bathing.

Fortunately, I had the pump my Dad had left in all the things I hauled north, so I pulled it out, attached an intake pipe, and headed to the shed to find a hose for the drainage end. I was in the shed for a few seconds when I felt a sharp pain in my neck. Then my arm. And then I heard the buzzing and felt the rebounds as several invisible things bounced off my tshirt. I hightailed it for the cabin with a single look back that validated, yes, many wasps are after me. At the cabin, I picked two wasps off my shirt (I'm so happy I'm not the skin-tight tshirt type. I bet there are others thankful for the same thing), and surveyed my damage. Welt on my arm, pain at my neck. On my neck...oh s*it. Last time a wasp popped out of the railroad ties at the duplex and caught me on the calf, it swelled up like a grapefruit for two weeks - I pictured that happening to my head. It was a waiting game - safe...or shock?

Pooteewheet waited out the first hour with me and I was fine, so she headed off to the local store to buy a hose and two cans of Raid for wasps. By the time she got back, my arm was starting to swell a little, but nothing serious. So I hooked up the pump and got it running at full tilt (picture below). Then I went back to look at the wasp problem (on the door - above). The big issue was I was pretty sure they were on the door I hadn't opened. But how to tell, as the door was balanced so that it swung shut. My solution, chuck a few large pieces of wood at the door and see if the wasps immediately erupted. They did (sorry about the dents on the door, Dad). After that, it was a really long stick and the can of Raid. It was like something out of Tora Tora Tora! Wasps were flying right at me, and I was shooting them out of the sky with the Raid, trying to aim it in such a way that it would hit the nest as well, although spraying everything in the shed with toxic chemicals. I was the Clint Eastwood of wasp killers. However, I recommend Dad not lick any of his wrenches until after they've been in the rain for a few hours.

So, at that point...flooded basement, on the way to a ten hour draining. Wasps, dead. Next dock, and just me and Pooteewheet. And a new rock wall and low lake water, so the dock pieces had to be hauled across the yard, down the rock face, and into the water. But wait! They'd been mixed up since last season, so the first piece was too high and wasn't adjustable, and the following pieces were out of order and had different clip widths, so they didn't actually fit together unless you found the right two pieces. Did I mention we had two children with us ages 3 and 1? We got five pieces of dock in that night - one jutting out about six feet off the water - of no use to anyone, and four heading out until they reached a water depth of about 2 feet - no where near deep enough for a boat (and the last piece was simply sitting on top of the piece before it as it was one of the unmatched pieces). Pooteewheet was primarily concerned about this arrangement of the doc pieces next to the pine trees, which she was sure indicated an abundence of spiders. The dead waterbugs in webs on the planks indicated very large spiders.

Did I mention I killed a grouse? Up at a cabin in northern Minnesota, you'd probably think I was hunting. No, nothing like that. I scared a grouse on my parents' property and it took off around their pine trees. Then there was a loud "bonggggg". I walked around the corner and saw the neighbor's garage with its six windows. The grouse was lying near the second one from the left, dead as a doornail. Apparently, in the great scheme of horrible wildlife accidents involving my family this weekend, this was a minor incident. While I was accidentially killing the grouse, my dog was at Steve's (and Christy's) house (my neighbor) mauling three baby bunnies in his back yard, forcing Christy's son to deal with the predator-prey aspect of life in the (Eagan, suburban) wild. The way I hear it, Ty actually tried to nurse back to health the bunny with the broken leg (the eviscerated and de-throated bunnies being beyond aid), only to have it die on him. Ty now refers to my dog as "killer".

After that, it went downhill. I did have a good day playing games at my friend Adam's house the next day (in our initial cabin-ing plan) with Adam and Kyle while Pooteewheet hung with the kids at the cabin. But Pooteewheet was stuck inside all day because of rain, so she was a little stir crazy by the time we got back around midnight (Kyle and I saw a freaky giant weasel just down the road from the cabin - it was an adventurous trip from Pillager to the cabin).

Whereas my gaming day, though productive in terms of gaming, was somewhat suffering due to my sleepiness from the all the benedryl (and beer) I was taking to combat the picture, you can see my giant, smooth, baby hand. This isn't even when it was the worst - it puffed up until my finger joints were outies, my knuckes were innies, and my arm looked like a particularly red sausage in a shiny casing, with the redness creeping upward about an inch every six hours until it was over my elbow. And damn did it ever itch.

I made it through the night, but the next day it was looking even worse, so without ever putting the boat in the water or taking the kids swimming, we packed everything back into the car, detached the pumping equipment, locked the wasp shed, and took me to urgent care in Eagan (sure, not really urgent, but that's what was available).

The nice doctor (Dr. Carlson, if you must know, Cookie Queen. She's kind of hot!) came back to talk to me after an hour in the waiting room and an hour in the medical room to ask me, "Do you have mono?" I told her I was pretty sure I didn't, and she noted that my white cells were doing a weird little dance that looked exactly like a reaction to mono. I thought, "Well that's nice - the wasps didn't sting me, they kissed me." Then she put me on two meds - one for itchiness, one for swelling (the drug I used to take in my Boy Scout days for poison ivy, which led to a discussion with the doc about Fels Naptha as a poison ivy preventative), and sent me home with directions to come see her in Bloomington if things got crazy with the arm.

So, it's getting better, and although I have a day off and am not at the cabin to use it, I have fond memories of introducing my niece to The Wiggles and giving her what I can only assume, based on my sister's aversion to sweets, is her first Twizzler (can't give her cousin a Twizzler to eat in front of her and not give her one, that's mental abuse - her favorite thing to say, "More please!", which applies equally to Twizzlers, fries and mandarin oranges, the last one being her hands-down favorite). When we got back home, I brought in a big box of stuff with the Twizzlers on top of it and set it down in the kitchen. A minute later, Amelie came walking across the floor with three Twizzlers gripped in her two hands and the biggest grin on her I've ever seen. She not only recognized the candy - she recognized the packaging. Settle down, Sis, she only ate one of them, and gave the others to Pooteewheet and Eryn.

Finally, just for the cuteness factor - here's Amelie, courtesy of Eryn, who's busting her chops on the children's photo circuit before moving on to bigger things.


Anonymous said...

It looks like a mess at the cabin! Still do not understand how water got in the basement as it is well above the water table. The suprise in the shead was not good. thanks for everything you tried to do. Next time I will make time to open up the cabin before going to Montana and returning to Arizona. Thanks again for the all out war of the opening of the cabin. You were wounded but not defeated. Dad

Scooter said...

I was defeated - I had to go home before I got the rest of the dock in or the boat. However, I hear my problems with the dock may be due to some old man not measuring the new brackets before attaching them to the dock sections. Big storm up there tonight - I hope those pieces stick around!

Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear your lake visit got cut short - based on the shape you were in on Saturday, I can't imagine staying on there would have been much fun or particularly productive anyway.

Hopefully the cortisone/prednisone goodies you got from urgent care have minimized the big hand syndrome which seemed to be in full effect on Saturday evening.

I still think we should have played Everlong by the Foo Fighters & had you re-enact the giant hand scene from the video while you still had your giant baby hand; it would have made for good YouTube material eh :)

LissyJo said...

That's right you will, DAD. Cheese 'n rice--Aren't you retired?? You should have all the time in the world to open up the cabin!! I blame dad for your misfortune, scooter.

Thanks for letting Baby tag along. She still says "EN!" randomly...i think she had a good time.

Anonymous said...

so what's the story with fels naptha and poison ivy? is it an ancient folk wisdom remedy? i heard that the boy scouts used to use it. how old is this treatment and does it actually work? if fels naptha works....would lava soap?

Scooter said...

The irritating substance on poison ivy leaves is an oil. Fels is a base (as all detergents are) and cuts right through the oil - gets it off of you. Regular soap pushes it around quite a bit first. You can experiment if you like - get a bottle off baby oil, get in the shower, and oil yourself, top to um...bottom. Then use a regular bar of Dove to get it off. Takes a LONG time. Now repeat with a bar of Fels. You should see a marked improvement.

Lava would probably work better than soap, but Lava works partially on the fact that it's gritty. Cutting through oil probably isn't the best way to remove it.