Monthly Archives: September 2008

More Critter Wars

Many of you who actually read this drivel I send out have read about my wars with our animal and bird friends in the past. You also know that I haven’t been very successful in my personal wars, especially with moles. At the cottage, without me being there, they have taken right over. I’ll be getting the cottage back from the renters by spring, so the feud with the moles will continue and I’ll probably still not win, but maybe keep them somewhat in check.

So my latest battle has been with skunks. I’ll be 62 in December, and in all those years, I’ve never had issues with skunks. Never been sprayed…never had them cause problems…until now! Sure, they stink, but we may stink to them, so maybe it’s even. Anyway, yesterday I was walking around the front yard and noticed that the turf is peeled right back all over and it looks like someone buzzed through with a rototiller. The neighbor had mentioned something about skunks the evening before, and I really hadn’t paid much attention to it, but it made sense that skunks were having a party in the front yard of the condo.

So last night, around 8:30 or so, I looked out into the front yard. Jean had left the front light on and there was a skunk having a blast in the turf. I walked out on the porch and he didn’t even look up. I walked to the edge of the driveway, and he looked right at me as if to say, “Thanks for leaving the light on so we can see these tasty morsels”. Boldly, or foolishly, take your pick, I took a couple of steps toward him. He looked up again and took about two steps, stopping at a better place to eat, and started digging. I clapped my hands several times and he finally took off for the back yard.

The back yard doesn’t have the topsoil that the front yard has, so it takes a jack-hammer to penetrate the clay. Hence, no grubs…hence, no skunks. I went back inside for a few minutes and was mesmerized by the President’s solution to all big business’ financial problems at your and my expense, but I digress. I went back out a few minutes later and our buddy was back. Again I went out to the driveway and, this time, he didn’t even look up. I threw a small stone at him, got him in the tail, and he raised it as if it were at attention. I clapped and he ran away again, probably to come back in a few minutes. So I went down to the basement, where the guns are stashed, and got one of the kids’ confiscated BB guns. Either the one used to shoot the neighbor’s cat or dog…I can’t remember… or the one that was used to shoot the windows out of the garden house. You kids know what I’m talking about.

At that instant, I rethought my strategy and could see a couple of flaws. First of all, I hadn’t gotten on the internet to see how far a skunk could spray. With my luck, as I stood 20 feet away, I would find out the hard way that they spray 21 feet (I still haven’t looked so don’t hold me to that number). Second, even if the spray wouldn’t go that far, it would make the entire neighborhood reek for days and I may be drummed out of the homeowners’ association (maybe that’s a good thing). Third, if by some stroke of luck, good or bad, I hit the skunk in the head and killed it, I would have a dead skunk in the yard and now what?? I checked a couple of more times but the skunk hadn’t returned.

This morning, I started looking at the internet, where we all know you can find out real solutions to all your problems. I went down the Google page, and most of them said something like, “The skunks are after the grubs, so if you kill the grubs, they won’t be back”. That’s fine, but it takes quite a while to kill grubs and, in the meantime, our lawn would turn into a plowed field. I was looking for some quicker action. One of the web sites said that skunks are repelled by the urine of their predators. I read farther into the blog and a woman said that her husband just went out and peed in the yard, “marking his territory”, and it kept the skunks away. In Michigan now, if you are caught urinating in public, that’s a fourth degree criminal sexual conduct charge, and you would end up on the public web page as a convicted pervert.   I can see the Banner headlines now. PENNOCK HOSPITAL BOARD MEMBER ARRESTED IN SEXUAL DEVIANT STING. The story would read: Jack Walker was quoted as saying, “I was just peeing in my yard, in front of everyone, to keep the skunks away”. If nothing else has derailed the building of a new hospital on the Ferris property, that might tip the scales.

So I went to the garden store today and bought some fox urine. All the way home I was thinking of the guy that had to run around chasing foxes, holding a cup for them at just the right time. That’s a good candidate for one of those DIRTY JOBS for Mike Rowe that I watch on the Discovery Channel all the time. Around that same time, Jean figured that I wouldn’t have enough time to get anything with my meetings and all, so she got a canister of “Pest Away” granules. I put drops of the fox urine on cotton balls pegged into the ground with roofing nails at regular intervals. I also sprinkled the granules around the perimeter of the yard, so we’ll see how that works. I thought when you moved into a condo, you had “people” to do all that stuff for you. Now, $30.00 or so later, I’m beginning to wonder.

Just (If You Can’t Smell Me Coming I Was Successful) Jack  

P.S. I already thought of peeing in a jar while inside, then sprinkling it around the yard from a watering can, but Jean won’t hold the jar.

Lazy, Lazy, Lazy

My triathlon season has ended after having done only two races, and I’m not training for any running races, so I don’t have that inner desire to drag my lazy bones off the couch and go out and train. I’ve had some busy days lately and I leave for San Francisco tomorrow, so I’ve missed swimming this week Monday and today and I’ll also miss swimming Friday and next Monday while I’m gone. The water is getting colder and the mornings aren’t all that warm either, so lake swimming may be over for the year, at least for me.

I know I should start going to the fitness center to lift weights and do some cross training on the spinning bike or the elliptical machine, but I haven’t mustered up that motivation either. I know I’d miss tomorrow through Monday on my San Francisco trip and October 9th through the 19th on my Belgium/Germany trip, so I can think of a whole lot of reasons not to get started until my world travels end. I have been running, two days of five miles each at a slightly faster pace than normal, and eight miles on Sunday at a slow, endurance pace.

My run this past Sunday was not the best. First of all, I had a disastrous brewing day on Saturday. Without going into a whole lot of detail, my 6.5 gallon carboy wouldn’t fit in my small basement refrigerator to ferment (yes, I did try it before I filled it, but the weight of 5.5 gallons of wort made a difference). It was awkward to get in there in the first place, then to spend 15 minutes trying to get the door closed, then haul it back out and transfer it to a 6 gallon carboy, then put it back in, also awkwardly. Anyway, I strained my back muscles…nothing was pulled, but it was sore and the muscles were tight.

I thought they would loosen up as the Sunday run went on, but they got worse. I ran “around the block” from Broadway, to Willitts, to Hammond, to State Road and back to Judy’s where I started. It ended up being 7.78 miles, not the eight I expected, but I hurt too much to run any farther and round it off. For those of you who think I broke one of the “Jack Rules” by not continuing to 8 miles, you forget about Part 2, Subpart (a) that says if you do a loop run, you have the option of rounding it to the next mile or leaving it at exactly “loop distance” even though the promoter of the loop says it’s an even mile distance. It was raining most of the way; not hard, but enough to get everything wet, which leads to my second problem. Without getting too graphic, I’ll just say that I had some chafing in some delicate areas that got to the point of bleeding. Jean’s extended family came over for a get-together Sunday afternoon, and I must have looked like a toddler that had soiled his diapers and no one would change them for him.

I have thought that Jean has been losing it for a long time but I’m sure of it now. We went to a family wedding Friday night and hardly knew anyone. It was Jean’s brother’s wife’s brother or, maybe more confusing, my brother-in-law’s brother-in-law, but it wasn’t me…think about it. Anyway, I had swam that morning and my sinuses were acting up. I leaned over to Jean at the church and said that I could be the designated crier since I was sniffling all through the service and my eyes were watering. Anyway, I digress. We went down, after the wedding and the three hours of pictures (it seemed like three hours…maybe it was thirty minutes), to the County Seat for a reception dinner. It was a sit down affair so there was no walking around and mingling.

Jean sat next to me and also the groom’s mother who is 92 years old. Jean was helping her get some things to eat and trying to convince her that it wasn’t the waitress’s fault that she got a huge piece of prime rib because she was the groom’s mother, even though that isn’t what she ordered. I looked over and Jean was talking to Mrs. Hale and was putting coffee creamer in her own rice. I asked her what she was doing and she said she thought the creamer was butter. Now I ask you…have any of you ever mistaken the creamer for butter? The question is rhetorical…no need to respond.

I drove a friend to Grand Rapids this morning for radiation treatments and memories (what I can remember) of the bike wreck came streaming back. The more I thought about it, it was really all of your memories that you have told me about ‘cuz I don’t remember much. When my friend went for lab work, she was complaining about all the times she has had to fork over what little blood she seems to have left. I remember, to some extent, being poked and prodded by everyone who came along including the janitors. I feel guilty whining when I see what she’s having to go through.

Just (Thankful For The Friends And Family That Helped Me) Jack

Filling In The Blanks

I haven’t written in over a month so I thought I’d fill in the blanks on what’s been going on. Living in Hastings, that should take one paragraph. In case you haven’t heard, there was a group of us that decided to skip signing up for Lake Placid Ironman next year with Bill, Kim and Gary, but we were gung-ho about signing up for Ironman Wisconsin. In order to do that, you almost have to go to the race site since the races fill up so fast. Well, our gung-ho got up and went somewhere, but it wasn’t to Madison. The race is going on today and none of us are there. Maybe it sounded better at Lake Placid with Ubus still affecting our judgment. I shouldn’t really say none of us are there because Matt Toburen (not a Trilander…yet!) and John Hopkins are doing the race. I hope the weather cooperates for once. Cheer them on!

A group of us did do the Three Rivers Triathlon a couple of weeks ago and all had a decent race. My training partner Bill, who had an excellent race, was the only one to not place in the top three of his age group. His age group was tough and had some “ringers” who ran the run in a 7:30 or so pace! For the first time ever, I was last in my age group. Usually I’m in the middle of the pack, but my small chain ring (a 42 which means nothing to you non bikers) was too hard for the relentless hills. Although I’ve lost some weight, it wasn’t enough, and it was tough pulling that lard over the top of those peaks. Luckily I was going fast enough not to start rolling backward down the hill I had just climbed.

Of course, I’m old and use my brain injuries from Ironman Wisconsin 2003 to excuse doing dumb things. I wore shoes that I thought I always used in the past for short races. They had speed laces so you slide them on like slippers and away you go. They had very little wear so I knew they would be fine. WRONG!!! After the first mile I remembered why I didn’t wear them any more. They have a rub spot on the forward part of my right instep. It was annoying at mile two, quite sore at mile three, and a real pain in the “you know what” from there through mile six. I went through all the stages from a red abrasion, to the beginnings of a blister, to a full blown blister, to a torn open blister, all in less than an hour. Matt (my son) went with me to the race. He had stayed up late the night before, winning a couple of hundred dollars in a poker tournament, so he was quite tired. On the way back, I made him go by the area I used to live in and past the church his Grandfather preached at when I was in grade school. If that wasn’t punishment enough for staying out late, I made him listen to stories about my childhood.

Bill, Diane and Kim are all doing the Grand Rapids half marathon in late October, so they’re into their training mode. Thankfully, I’ll be in Belgium during that race so I don’t have to make any excuses about why I’m not doing it. Matt and I will be visiting breweries and pubs in Belgium and Germany, so I’m training for that. It’s tough work, but I’ve mastered the American twelve ounce right arm curl and I’m starting to set my sights on the half-liter “lift and tilt”. Europe is metric…they all learned it while we in the USA tried but couldn’t…so Judy…how fast is 100 kilometers per hour?

I’ve had several Sundays in a row of  “…those days where you feel like you could run forever”. Today I felt really good, but my legs were a little tired so I ran slow and went 8.26 miles. Yesterday, Jean was having lunch with her high school classmates…no, from the class of 1966…she’s not having to go through high school again. Anyway, I was bored, and the Michigan and Michigan State games were over, so I walked to the Dairy Queen on the new sidewalks our tax dollars just paid for. I walked right along, but not all out as fast as I could go, and it took 47 minutes one way. I figured it was between 2 3/4 and 3 miles. Since I am trying to watch my weight, I counted the calories burned up when a 200 lb. person walks at a 3.5 mile per hour pace for one hour and 34 minutes and came up with 540 calories. I got a medium butterscotch sundae which, in my The Complete Book Of Food Counts, is 400 calories (actually a medium chocolate sundae is 400 calories so they must be close to the same). So I burned 140 more calories than I took in. Great diet, huh??

Just (Bored But Not Looking For A Job Or More Chores) Jack