Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Living With Bats

I love watching bats at night fly around in the evening twilight catching all those bugs that would otherwise try and suck my blood. This year, the bug problem hasn't been a problem so they have no water in which to breed in. Also related there aren't any birds around either since water is not to be found anywhere close by. But back to bats and my love for them, WHEN they aren't flying inside my house.

Three days ago, I had one of my spells where no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get to sleep. I got up and tried this and that and kept returning to bed only to watch the clock roll past one, two, three, four and five. As it rolled past five, I could feel my body finally wearing out and sleep descending on me. I knew I had to get up shortly but even a little over an hour and a half of sleep might be the difference between barely functional to totally crazy. As sleep enveloped me, I jumped three feet out of bed to the bloody murder screams coming from both of my daughters. Thinking some deranged lunatic was chasing them down the hall with a long knife, I hustled out of the bedroom and quickly ascertained that it was a deranged lunatic but a blood thirsty bat that was going to suck the life out of them.

I shushed them down, shut all the doors I could and spent an hour doing a sweep of the house but could find no bat. I bid anymore sleep an evening and suffered through the rest of the day. That evening we had a party to go to and took our oldest daughter with us while the youngest stayed home with my mother-in-law. When we got home late, I found the tennis racket that I still keep just for this occasion had moved but everyone was in bed and there were no signs of the bat. I learned the following day they had seen it again but it was still nowhere to be found.

My oldest looked up somewhere on line that they can only live 24 hours without food or water so I assumed that I would only find a bat carcass sometime in the future at this point. I didn't see him the rest of the day and we put the girls to bed that night with assurances that the bat was long since dead. The oldest closed her door just in case but the littlest one wasn't so sure. A half hour later as my wife and I were enjoying a peaceful evening, the littlest one came running out saying she had seen the bat. I assured her it was just her imagination and she cuddled with my wife on the couch. Our plan was to wait for her to fall asleep and transfer her to her bed. Fifteen minutes go buy when all of a sudden I see a bat come up the stairway, circle through the living, dining and kitchen  before diving back downstairs. Unfortunately the little one saw it too.

I did another fruitless search for the creature but he wasn't flying around and with a 1001 nooks and crannies to hide in, I gave up and just shut all the doors in the house hoping that I could get him trapped in one room where I might deal with him. The little one of course wouldn't be sleeping in her room that night so we made a pile of blankets beside our bed and she slept there only after she verified that the door was locked.

Day three dawns and life was progressing through morning almost towards noon when I heard the bloody murder scream again. This time I spotted the bat right outside my office inside the basement flying this way and that. I grabbed my tennis racket, opened up the basement walkout door and tried to shoo the thing outside. It instead crawled behind a framed picture on the wall. I took the picture off and again tried to shoo it around but it crawled into my bookcase. I shoo'd it out of the bookcase and I could see that getting it outside was a lost cause. I started taking swings and on the fifth or sixth attempt (those things never fly in straight lines), I clipped it enough that it landed on the floor.

The funny thing about bats is that they can't take off from a floor. They don't have enough power or lift to do so which is why they roost on ceilings or in places up high. So now I had a bat scrambling across the floor seeking shelter and the thought of four screaming girls who are afraid of them causing havock to my life until the poor thing finally died of starvation or thirst. So I did the only thing I could think of in the second or two I had left before it crawled into someplace I couldn't extract him. I put the poor guy out of his misery.

The young one immediately came down to see the bat up close and I took a picture of it to show the oldest as evidence that it is no longer among the living. Both were satisfied that it is gone and the days of cries of fear whenever they had to walk down the hallway or fetch something downstairs are over with, for now. We used to get the occasional bat at our old house and I had thought this was the first one we had here in the five years that we lived here but my oldest reminded me that we had one when we first moved here and I faintly remember that episode. So if the law of averages works out, I probably have another three to five years of peace again before the next bat enters my life.

Monday, September 18, 2017

WHEN not IF

As I followed the fellow swerving onto the shoulder and across the center line driving 15 miles under the speed limit which was only 35 mph, it seemed like an excessive amount of caution for a mid afternoon drive across town with the kids still in school and most people still at work. I had an epiphany of sorts. Two decades ago, I would have assumed the fellow had an all night bender and was drunk driving. It wasn't a rare event but it didn't happen too often. I remember a time when I followed a fellow five miles who kept swerving from one ditch to the other ditch. Lucky for him they were very shallow ditches and we met no oncoming traffic on his way into town where he finally made it up a side street. These days, I would have called on my cellphone and had the police waiting for him upon his arrival.

Times have certainly changed. The swerving and very slowly driving fellow I was following wasn't drunk. I knew that because I could see the cellphone held up to his ear the entire way into downtown. By my count, he committed four traffic violations by failing to use his turn signal and caused one other driver to slam on their brakes hard when he started to proceed from a stop sign into the path of an oncoming car. He also figured it out and hit his brakes three feet into the intersection.

On my way back to the edge of town, I fell in behind another car also driving slowly and failing to use any turn signals because, you guessed it, I could see the phone held up to their ear. Up ahead, a car was coming down a side street, drove through the stop sign by ten feet and ended up with her bumper two feet into our lane. The car ahead of me still yakking on their cellphone never noticed. I however did and slowed down because there was oncoming traffic and it was a tight squeeze now that my lane had been reduced by two feet. As I slowly went by, the young lady in the car was looking towards the direction I was heading and of course talking on a cellphone. Just as I was directly in front of her, she hit the gas and started going, assuming without looking that I was already past her. I wasn't. I saw the car coming out of my peripheral vision and hit the gas while she finally saw me blocking her entire windshield and hit the brakes. I waited for impact but it never came. She must have missed me by inches.

What gets me is that I see this kind of thing DAILY. It isn't a rare event like seeing a drunk driver of decades past. The streets have become a jungle. Our state finally took a stand enacting a new law this summer than bans texting or use of social media while driving but unfortunately doesn't ban the use of calling or talking to someone while driving. It worries me because there isn't a lot I can do to defend myself. I already assume that anyone at an intersection can turn in any direction because most people don't use turn signals, impaired by cellphones or not. The only way I can prepare is to make sure I have good insurance to take care of me WHEN someone yakking on a cellphone plows into me, not IF. I often wish people used more common sense and this is another one of those cases.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Dam


I live in a small rural town sometimes referred to as the City of Bridges since the city straddles the river in my blog header and there are 4 traffic bridges, one pedestrian bridge, one railroad bridge and one maintenance bridge above a dam that crosses between the sides. As I walked along the river the other day, I noticed that the latter bridge was being worked on or more accurately, some of the dam gates that control water levels was being worked on. As a result, the pool above the dam seen above was probably a good 12 to 15 feet below normal and the river was essentially freely flowing under the gates instead of over the top.

I've lived near this dam my entire life and I can't recall a time when I've been able to see the river freely flowing or the intakes to the hydro electric plant below. It made me want to grab a kayak and float that section of the river although I may have been shouted at. I probably certain I would have had to duck to get underneath the opened gates as well. Alas I settled for just taking some pictures and watching the work on the gates for awhile before continuing my walk.


Bonus feature: Below is a film clip from my great grandfather's film collection showing this very dam under construction almost 70 years ago.

video

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Just when you've heard it all....

While waiting for kitchen quotes to roll in, which is like waiting for pigs to fly, I got a message from a neighbor up the street saying she is moving and wants to sell her house. Would we be interested? We've actually really liked her house since we moved into this neighborhood and have been in it several times. We've joked that perhaps we might buy it to ourselves if she ever decided to sell. Although it still doesn't have a kitchen like what we want, it does have other things that interest us and I think we could get the kitchen we desire much easier and without any additions. 

It is assessed higher in value than ours by around what I thought might be the cost of adding onto our kitchen. I asked her what she wants for her house and she promised to get back to me after thinking about it. (I don't think she thought we would be interested and caught her by surprise.) Perhaps if the price comes back to something affordable, perhaps we might end up just changing houses instead of adding on.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Bank Bistro


Perhaps a year ago, we saw this restaurant showcased on a local PBS show about ingredients that are grown around our state. We made a note to visit it sometime and then forgot about it until recently when we saw it once again on the same show. Since it happened to be a holiday weekend, we called and they were open so we made reservations and hit the road.


It was only an hour and a half drive, about the same as driving to the urban jungle, so we didn't mind. The town itself is largely dead town with only residential places showing any life. There was a gas station and post office but other than that, everything but the bank was boarded up and deserted, including the silos above. They just grabbed my fancy so I had to take a picture. If this were a thriving town, I might have made an offer on them and turned them into a unique mansion.


The two partners of this restaurant bought a bank and literally turned it into a restaurant, leaving all the bank details in place. There are only maybe a dozen small tables in the entire place so seating was very limited and it filled up immediately upon opening which made be extremely glad for our reservation.


The concept of this restaurant amazed me. It was essentially served tapas on steroids family style. So instead of getting little appetizers, you got enough to go around the table but still served tapas style, i.e. they came as they were ready and not all at once. As a result, they might make up three or four meat and cheese platters seen above and send them out to three different tables and then start working on the next round. Their menu only had about twelve items to choose from so the chances of having multiple orders of each item were high. My favorite on this platter was the spice meat on the lower right with the wedge of mustard seed laced cheese right next to it with one of the pickled red tomato looking peppers all on toasted bread. One of the more unusual but very tasty things on the platter was the pinkish pile in the upper left. It was feta cheese creamed together with beets. I had never thought to do something like that but man it was out of the world good. The little squares of fruit pate were also unique and tasty.


Our first dish was actually lamb ka-bobs with a tomato sauce served with toasted points and a cucumber sauce. It was so delicious that we forgot to take a picture. Above, our third dish was shrimp scampy that we spooned up onto our toasted bread pieces and ate. It tasted as good as it looks.


Our final dish was the dish shown on our local PBS show that got us interested in going to this place, pork belly tacos with pickled red onions on top among other things. They were great as well but definitely not as much of a delight to my taste buds as the meat and cheese platter which we mainly just ordered for the kids but they refused to touch. In the end, they mostly just ate the toasted bread while the rest of us at everything else.

It was worth the stop and we now have another place to stop on date night. The only problem is that there is nothing here to do after eating except drive back home or onto another destination.