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Offline living


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There I was, about to click the one-stop-shopping button for a 5-pound tub of Spike seasoning when a disembodied voice I'd neglected called out, "Why don't you just go outside?"

So I did. Walking out the front door over to the shed, I reflexively started making a list of outdoor things to do ...

Go over to the coop and have a heart-to-heart with Old Chicken. Unless I coax her out, she spends all day in her favorite laying nest. Her recent eggs have wrinkly, thin shells. I'll tell her she needs regular exercise and fresh water, just like the rest of us.

There's a fallen woodpile in the orchard. "Someone" needs to restack it and top it with a few more sheets of tin to keep it dry. Ah, the romance of wood heat: The first fire is always so tempting—spontaneous, impulsive, throw-it-all-into-the-stove. It's almost that time of the year, so I can't forget Rule Number Two: Always clean out the wood stove first. I have a stiff aluminum wire brush that snakes through the pipe. The process doesn't take long, but it quickly gets dirty—awkward and dusty, too. The rest of the family makes themselves scarce, but at least I get a great view from the chimney top.

And, hey, the blueberries could use a little more mulch. We've been blessed with lots of bright green, new-growth runners this year, rising from the pine straw at the edge of the beds. The deer have noticed, too.

What's with those gutters? They never go away or take care of themselves. Last year, I found a 6-inch pine tree growing in a dangerously unreachable one. Climbing to its perch would've required an extra cup of coffee and better sneakers. That chore will have to wait.

When people think of "life in the country," they usually think of rolling hills and open fields. But there's no "life in the country" without rocks, runoff and ruts. I could fix those holes in the driveway, since they could always use some fresh gravel.

It's never a bad idea to see what the puppies have destroyed, either. Last month, they pulled two bumper stickers off our car, gobbled their dog house bedding, gnawed up a drain pipe, mauled a UPS package, tore the faces off a pair of stuffed animals and chewed up an outdoor extension cord. They love going shopping in the recycling bin, too. Maybe it's time for a good walk in the woods with them?

The tomato cages and stakes need collecting. The only thing growing on them this seasons are morning glory vines—very tasty in poultryville, it seems! The green peppers are still going strong, at least. Some are finally turning yellow.

Wait. I could build a bonfire. That's it: We could "burn" hotdogs, to quote a daughter. As a 4-year-old, she thought that was the proper conjugation of the words "to cook" when applied to an outdoor venue. Who could argue with that?

Or I could always go start my truck and see if the "Check Engine" light comes on. If not, I could find the shopping list and go grab a sensibly sized container of Spike.


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