Thursday, May 25, 2006

Paul's henhouse is better than ours.

Well, okay, maybe not better, necessarily, but it does look like he actually measured stuff and had real plans and all that. I had been inclined to think such things were overrated, but after spending two days digging into subsoil with a trowel because our site was much farther from level than we'd thought, I decided maybe we should consider having pretty detailed plans once we're ready to build an actual house. But the Olin P.T. Younger Memorial Chicken Fortress stands proud, and is certainly not going to be blown away by stray breezes. And once we paint it a delicate pink, no one will notice the miscut plywood.

I recently said to Odious that I didn't want to post about a particular incident because I wanted to keep this a book blog rather than an online journal. Well, since I really don't feel like posting about books today, I'll tell you about the latest farm adventures instead. The chicken fortress will indeed be done once we get around to painting it, and the chicks are due next week. And not only do we have a real bee hive, it's now filled with real bees! (Or at least it was on Monday; we have not heard to the contrary.) Odious and I picked up our little nucleus Monday morning--a gently buzzing wooden box that turned out to be not quite as well-built as one might hope. Fortunately only a few escapees met sad deaths before we got the crack covered and made the rest of our 1 1/2 hour journey safely.

Once at the farm, Odious cavalierly slung the bee veil over his head, scorning the sturdy yellow gloves provided with our starter kit from Dadant, and strode with manly purpose out to the hive. Prying the lid off the box, he stared down for a moment at the the three frames swarming with docile but nervous bees, then turned to me and said in a tone that he claims was not more high-pitched than usual, "Why don't you go get those gloves?"

Bees are not difficult creatures, but they don't like to be fussed with. Any dealings with them should be brief and assured, and beginning beekeepers are, understandably, anything but. Despite the croonings in French (don't ask me), the bees were somewhat disturbed by their transfer. I still have a red welt on my temple, and Odious, with more French, pulled seven stingers out of various extremities. He's still immoderately enamored of the petits soeurs, though he's decided to take them rather more seriously next time.

Our next project? Rabbit hutches, for those freakiest of animals. Odious drew up the plans yesterday during a store meeting, where he was also presented with a customer service award. His prize? A $50 gift card, which will certainly come in handy. And a medal. Yep, that's right. The kind that hangs round your neck. We're going to hang it in a place of honor. I'm just disappointed he didn't get a plaque.

Friday, May 12, 2006

I crossed another book off my 2006 list the other day--Theodore Dreiser's Sister Carrie. I liked it enough that I'll probably try An American Tragedy too, although I'm not sure exactly why I liked it. For one thing, there were too many similarities to The Jungle--the sort of descriptions one reads with horror, and characters that one wants to believe could never exist. But there was also the same fascination that drew me quickly through it, watching the downfall of one character and the rise to glory of another.

And yet it doesn't take Dreiser's blatantly obvious ending to show that Carrie is actually somewhat lacking in glory. Throughout the book she lives by following other people, which serves her better than perhaps it should, but she never really thinks about what she might want, or what sort of person she might like to be. It may not be possible to consider these things when one must find a way to make money or starve, but Carrie's character is so different from the others in the novel that it's surprising that she is so willing to go wherever she's led.

In the end Carrie ought to be happy, in her secure position as a well-respected actress, with all the money she needs, a bevy of friends, and a posh hotel apartment, but, of course, she's not. How much better off is she than her seducer, Hurstwood, who comes to quite an unfortunate end? Dreiser says not much, and I have to agree.

Friday, May 05, 2006

My mother raised me well: I get more excited about a library booksale than almost anything else in the world. Despite getting to bed later than planned last night, I bounced up this morning ready to dig through other people's trash and find my own treasures. There's something so intoxicating about a room full of cheap, random, disorganized books--I feel a little crazed sometimes, trying to see everything at once before anyone else beats me to it.

Odious and I arrived at the library this morning 15 minutes before it opened. To my surprise we were the first ones there, but then I remembered that most people are not like Johnnies, willing to stand in line for an hour or more just to be the first one to caress and pore over those precious tomes. Most people are also not like my mother, who signed us all up to volunteer when she discovered that assisting the librarians with set-up meant first crack at the books (not to mention a 50% discount--I remember driving home, sated, with a carful of boxes that cost us somewhere around $40).

I think if I went through and counted, I'd find that at least half of our substantial personal library consists of 50-cent rejects. While a number of books gleaned from these sales have been re-donated (paperback mysteries, disappointing sci-fi, accidental duplicates), we've gained quite a few prizes. None, perhaps, as exciting as Steve's signed first edition rarity (it was not a book I'd ever heard of, but apparently quite valuable), but I think the James Branch Cabell set I nabbed for Odious our freshman year may be one of the reasons he married me. And who wouldn't be pleased to count among their possessions lovely old hardback classics, dedicated with swooping Victorian penmanship, to "dearest Ida" or "Augustus on his twelfth birthday, with love"? And of course there are the completely random finds, like the collection of satirical mini-biographies of famous authors, illustrated by Edward Gorey, that fell into my hands at the last sale.

What did I find today, you ask? Well, sadly, nothing much. We had only a scant half-hour to buzz through the room, but even so I saw a lot of books from the last sale(this library has highfalutin ideas about booksale pricing). So, aside from a couple nice gifts for people who read this blog (hi!), I picked up Ann Radcliffe's gothic novel The Italian, the basic writings of Freud (well, he's interesting!), a Katherine Anne Porter novel, several collections of short stories (D.H. Lawrence and Willa Cather), and possibly something else that I'm forgetting. Odious's finds included a computer book about 3 inches thick and a new-to-us Arturo Perez-Reverte.
He's happy, but I'll be going back on Sunday...