You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘rants’ category.

We needed to replace our trusty and rusty Franklin stove in the Music Room where we’re living this winter, because the bottom metal plate burned out last week. James did a temporary fix — great handyman that he is! — by placing a piece of sheet metal on the bottom.

But it wouldn’t be long before the old thing would become a fire hazard.

So we ordered a new stove online and picked it up on the last day of 2006. It arrived a week earlier than we expected.

Getting the new stove was rather a flashback to the 1800s. With a few “modern twists”, of course!

Back then, many people lived in rural areas and bought stoves and other household goods through the Sears catalogue or something similar. The stove might be shipped by train and dropped off at the station, where the purchaser would bring their wagon to pick it up.

The distribution center for our stove was down in West Sacramento, about 80 miles away. They called us to say that they could meet us in Colfax, which has an exit at I-80. This is about a 45-minute drive from our place In the Woods.

When James asked the person on the phone why they couldn’t deliver the stove to Grass Valley — where they had JUST delivered a stove to our next door neighbor a few days before! — the person said, “We won’t go that high”.

In elevation, he meant.

Okay, whatever.

So we met the driver of the truck bearing our stove at the Colfax Starbucks. Ah, that ubiquitous purveyor of caffeine and sweets and mugs and CDs comes in handy yet again! We have a love-hate relationship with that chain.

The driver fork-lifted the stove, encased in cardboard and wooden slats and scrawled with the handwritten calligraphy “MADE IN CHINA” (isn’t everything?), onto the bed of our pickup truck.

On our way home, we stopped at the hardware store in Nevada City to pick up various configurations of stovepipe, “Where every visit is at least $200″quips James to the sometimes-amused cashiers.

It was too late on New Year’s Eve to install the stove, so we uncrated it in the truck-bed and then hoisted it down to the ground by the back door.

We attended a New Years Eve party at a friend’s cabin a few miles up the Sierras and arranged to stay overnight, so we didn’t get back to our place In the Woods until noon the following day.

We planned to put in the new stove then, but James suddenly realized that if something went wrong and we needed to go to town for more stovepipe or whatever, we’d be sh**-outta luck on New Years Day, and we’d be as cold as ice! So we decided to wait until today to install it.

Ha ha.

We got up this morning and took out the trusty rusty Franklin stove, which served us well. It didn’t put up too much of a fight.

We put the new stove on a dolly and wheeled it into the Music Room. No problem.

We hooked it up to the eight-inch stovepipe which was already in place, and fired ‘er up.

Smoke, smoke, smoke!


We determined that we needed to get six-inch stovepipe which would match this particular model better. This meant a trip down to “Big Town” (what the locals call Nevada City) to our favorite hardware store.

And we must be one of their favorite customers, as we spend money at that store so frequently. This place is requiring quite a bit of materials and tools to bring it up to speed. We don’t mind.

We returned home at 4:30 this afternoon with five 2-ft. sections of stovepipe, along with a rubber mallet to hammer down the sections, and two sexy Mag-Lite flashlights to illuminate our work on the outside stack. We’ve been wanting decent flashlights up here, in any case.

James wrestled with the recalcitrant stove pipes to put them together, with what seemed an interminable time. Then he hooked them up to the stove, and we fired ‘er up again.

Smoke, smoke, smoke.

We let the pieces of wood die down and then we added more height to the outside stack.

Lit the stove again. More smoke. But with slightly more draw now.

We’ve spent the last four hours trying to keep the fire going in this stove! It is so very different from the Franklin stove. We believe that it will ultimately be more efficient. We think that we overloaded it at first, which caused a lot of smoke. So James took everything out and started all over again.

The new stove seems to prefer very small pieces of wood at first, certainly a lot smaller than the Franklin stove required. It took several days for James to learn how to deal with the Franklin stove, so we should expect nothing less with the new one.

We measured the total amount of stovepipe that we installed and it turns out that we are a couple of feet short of the required minimum of fifteen feet, so we need to go BACK to Big Town tomorrow to buy two additional sections of stovepipe. We hope that this will solve the problem. It seems essential to have the proper amount of “draw”.

Hopefully this small crisis will have a simple solution. I keep reminding myself to keep the faith, as I am not by nature a handyman and don’t know how things work, really. James has been rather stymied by this, although tonight he is steadily accumulating information on the Internet about how to deal with woodstoves.

At this moment at near midnight it is 61 degrees inside and 28 degrees outside. The fire is trying to stay alive, with James’ constant nursing and encouragement. It’s gone out repeatedly and James brings it back to life each time with the bellows that my Dad made many years ago. I treasure this memento, and it comes in so handy in our present situation!

I am wearing my hoodie and a jacket and am warm enough, although my feet are always a bit cold this time of year.

This room smells of smoke and we’ve put our cat Rupert into the trailer for the moment. I just asked James if we should sleep in the trailer tonight, and he says not. We will be plenty warm in our bed with several layers of blankets and quilts. There is only a small cloud of smoke hovering about the ceiling right now, with the attendant odor.

Live and learn, we remind ourselves. This is just a learning experience. We love living in the Woods, even with these little challenges.

I’ll keep you informed.

We have a clothes washer, but not a dryer.

One reason for not owning a dryer is that we prefer clothes that are dried out on the traditional clothesline. The natural way. Sun-dried clothes smell so fresh and good!

Another reason is that our electricity is not wired for 220. Yes, things are primitive out here In The Woods.

Besides, in recent years both James and I seem to have become almost violently allergic to dryer sheets. They stink to high heaven! We can smell them literally a mile away, from our neighbor B.’s house, when the wind is right. It was weird this summer to walk through our pristine meadow and suddenly catch a whiff of….DRYER SHEETS? Out here???

My sister-in-law uses them, as do most people. I did, too, Back In The Day Before I Became An Old Curmudgeon — when I wasn’t so sensitive to chemicals.

Whenever James and I stay at the family compound in Sacramento, in the “Yonder House” (the bungalow which had been built for my parents in their last years) we chafe and itch on the bedsheets.

We’ve talked about suggesting (diplomatically, of course!) that my sister-in-law pour a half-cup of vinegar into the fabric softener compartment of the washer, which effectively softens the clothes without the chemical intrusions of dryer sheets.

Maybe my brother will approve of this, too, because it would save them money. 😉

If this falls upon deaf ears, we plan to bring our OWN sheets to use on that bed from now on. Then we can launder and dry them ourselves.

I stayed at Yonder House this past weekend, and washed some clothes. Unfortunately the wash cycle didn’t finish before I had to rush off to play a concert on Sunday afternoon, so I asked my brother to throw them in the dryer while I was gone, which he was happy to do.

Thanks, bro!

But I forgot to ask him NOT to use dryer sheets. My bad!

So my black sweatshirt and sweatpants (our usual garb In The Woods) were infused with their cloyingly sweet chemical perfume.

I thought I’d try an experiment in which I didn’t tell James about it when I changed into them once I got home, and see if he noticed anything.

I came home and put on the sweatpants and sweatshirt. James immediately said, “Oh my god, those REEK of dryer sheets! Gag me!”

(Or in 21st Century lingo: “GAH!”)

So much for trying to pull the wool over James’ eyes. He doesn’t miss a thing.

The truth is, I couldn’t stand the smell either, and was about to take the offending sweats back off.

Back to drying clothes on the line: for all practical purposes, it is now Winter here In The Woods. The sun’s declination is quite low; it barely skirts above the hills surrounding our property. The sun’s rays don’t peek out from behind the barn where the clothesline is until almost 11 a.m., then it dips behind the southern slope by 1:30 p.m.

This little window of time, combined with freezing temperatures, makes it impossible to dry clothes out on the line in Winter.

So James thought of rigging up a clothesline in the Music Room, near the Franklin stove, which dries the clothes out very nicely in two hours.

He told me later that he could hear his South Georgia grandma Jessie Mae telling him from the grave, “Jimmy, I’m so glad you’re getting back to your roots!”

I took the following pictures a couple of days ago. Along with the clothesline, you’ll see my mother’s legacy to me, her 1906 Steinway grand piano. Its arrival last Saturday shall be the subject of my next post. It’s quite a story!

Now let me tell you about some of the stuff in these pictures:


We use these black dish-towels (a bit faded) instead of paper towels. None of our clothes are white, actually, except for my musician uniform dress shirts (not pictured here).


The chairs were part of my parents’ original diningroom set bought in 1941. James recently re-covered them in black naugahide Volkswagen car upholstery.

Shot from the other side of the room. The diningroom table is also part of the 1941 set. I sit at the end nearest the camera (with my laptop) while James sits on the opposite end with his laptop. Notice the board holding up the clothesline in the middle!

We will eventually finish off the insulation at the top of the far wall — ha ha! I’ve already told you we live in a SHAQUE!

As you can see, our clothes match our decor. This is NO accident, thanks to James the Artist. Also, all the plants are fake. Aren’t they convincing? And we can’t kill ’em.


Two of my most prized family possessions are the grand piano and the black marble French clock. The first from my mother and the second from my father. I’m glad that James combined the two so closely, which has never happened before.

The window coverings are actually sarongs. We wear them during the warmer months. We love multi-functional stuff!


A mix of the Old & the New: my electronic keyboard sits atop the grand piano. The piano stool between the chairs was found by my father at an antique store in Northern Virginia circa 1969. He removed five coats of paint to get down to the natural wood finish!

I bought the gong at a New Age store in Nashville while on tour with Phantom. It has a lovely sound.



Hundreds of them have accumulated on my computer over the past couple of years.

Tonight I am finally grabbing the Firefox browser monkey by the neck — ripping it off my back — and starting to go through each and every bookmark to see if:

1.) …the links still work. (A surprising number of them don’t!)
2.) …I want to keep them?

For example, I have bookmarked many blogs on people’s blogrolls that I have ended up being bored with, or they haven’t posted in forever. But I keep checking!

Okay, it’s time to throw in the towel on some blogs…you haven’t posted anything since June!

Cyberspace calling Cameron! Why in the #%@^ did you bookmark this link???

I am totally amazed at the variety of, the utter mystery of, the totally inexplicable reasons why I’ve saved most of these bookmarks.

I have not revisited the majority of them since the moment I bookmarked the sites. (Except for the blog ones.)

My personal limit seems to have settled into a couple dozen blogs. How many blogs do YOU check in with each day?

Okay. Deep breath.

I’m LONG overdue for a major bookmark purge!

This is going to take a while. A long while.

The computer is just an electronic update on the file cabinet — those myriad junk drawers that we ALL have — admit it! — those piles of crap hiding in the corners of the room. Or brazenly making their presence known right at your elbow.

Surely I am not the only one to “bookmark too much”. (Is this a 21st Century version of “LOVING too much”?)

I’ve spent several hours tonight getting rid of bookmarks and have barely scratched the surface. Cyber Powers That Be, please give me the strength to continue to the bitter end!

I am very curious to know if your experience with bookmarks is similar.

I can use some moral support right now. 😉

For the second day in a row, our quiet skies are being BUZZED by small planes and copters, searching the area for marijuana crops.

The guy and gal who came out to install the HughesNet satellite internet system yesterday (HOORAY! It’s definitely faster than dialup! We like that!) said that they’d read something about it in the local paper.

This is the end of the harvest season and the Gub’mint wants to confiscate every last bit of “crop” before it ends.

Regardless of what your opinion might be on marijuana, this seems like a HUGE waste of our taxpayer’s money!

Yesterday I was amazed at the non-stop drone of small aircraft above our usually peaceful neck of the woods; it went from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. I just heard the first plane of this new day at 10 this morning.

Please go away. Soon.

* * * * *

(UPDATE) Several hours later: We just found out that in addition to the drug survelliance, there is a small forest fire two miles from town — which explains the copters. Strange….because we don’t see any smoke, whatsoever.

All of a sudden, it seems that everything has gotten so much more sophisticated on the WorldWide Web.

Since James and I gave away our television to a thrift store in St. Louis in March of 2002 — we couldn’t STAND it anymore! — most of our news comes from the computer.

During most of this five-year period, news videos on the online New York Times and have been cumbersome, awkwardly put-together, glitchy, and stuttering with poor picture quality.

But seemingly overnight, the online news videos are now very polished, sparkly and glitzy, rather than glitchy, with Google Earth satellite maps and more sophisticated graphics. They didn’t seem to be like that a few short months ago.

The merging of television with computer continues apace. It will not be long before we all have just one little box to watch. Later, we’ll probably have implants so no hardware will be necessary.

Just now I saw the United Kingdom from space, a living example of those flat one-dimensional maps we perused as children, suddenly ZOOM IN to show the actual street-grid of London as the announcer glibly and very quickly narrated short bursts of sound-bytes about the latest Terrorist Threat.


I know this is old hat to you veteran internet habitués, but somehow it comes as a surprise to little old me at the moment. I guess I’m just naive.

It has just suddenly hit me how I’m feeling older, more quickly than I should. I feel like things are racing away from me at an ever-increasing pace these days, as though I’m never, ever going to be able to keep up.

Do any of you feel this way too?

It seems that the world is changing and evolving so rapidly now that we are forced to accept it all, hook-line-and-sinker, just in order to SURVIVE.

And be somewhat coherent about it, and be able to navigate through the ever-more-complicated technological intricacies facing us every moment.

For me, technology has always been a double-edged sword. We have become such slaves to it. We need to buy new computers to accommodate new software every two or three years (at the most!) so we can “keep up”. Americans in particular do not want to be left behind.

Many of us sit in front of computer screens for hours on end, whether at work or at home. Then when things crash, we feel totally bereft. Where have our lives gone? Into electrical gadgets, I think.

Let’s not even TALK about this iPhone thing — except that it’s a four-letter word starting with “H”, ending with “E”.

Yet, part of me wants one.

But there are so many wonderful aspects to being online: communication aurally and visually, and my personal favorite: the written word, exploding in rapidly-multiplying blogs, emails, video conferencing and Instant Messenges.

And I especially enjoy sharing my music, on a much greater scale than I could have ever imagined a few short years ago. I’ve participated in the online musical community at MacJams since 2004. It’s a wonderful bunch of people, mostly. It’s much like the blogging community, except that it has a musical twist.

These online communities are richly interactive environments, bringing millions of people together.

So why am I feeling so conflicted?

On one hand, I hope that I can keep up reasonably well with my online presence, and not be too much of a rube. On the other hand, I am about to move to a place where I will hopefully “get back to basics” in a fashion totally alien to many of us. Kerosene lamps in the river cabin until we get electricity. Outhouse. Chopping wood so we can stay warm in the winter.

My soul welcomes this, in fact yearns for this attempt at simplifying my life. Getting outdoors, using my body more. Trying somehow to recapture something from the past, living life more fully. At least, more peacefully.

Living in the Woods, “with a modern twist”, of course. I am not quite ready to give up modern conveniences like being online. Yet.

We will get satellite, since the land is in the thick of the mountains, no cable, no cell phone service.

Guilty as charged: I am still a slave to Technology.

[Next possible rant: The WorldWide Weather.]