Month: February 2019

Glad To Be Replaced By Technology

In recent times technology has replaced people in the performance of mundane tasks, and I’m glad for it. I don’t want to do those jobs anyway. Take land surveying for example.

All my married life, I’ve been the “rodman.”

On a surveying crew, there is the guy who runs the instrument, the surveyor. He’s the college guy who has lots of training. And then there’s the guy who holds the rod, a long stick with numbers on it. The only skill required is to hold the stick straight up and down, the rodman.

You might wonder what kind of marriage metaphor I am leading into. There is no metaphor. I was the literal rodman. My husband is an engineer who knows how to do surveying. Very early in our marriage, he bought a used surveying gun (yes, they call it a gun) and a rod. I’ve seen similar equipment in museum displays.

We used it to level the mailbox at our first house. He ran the gun and I held the rod. I’m sure the neighbors found it curious. I wonder if the current owners appreciate their level mailbox.

Next it was sprinkler systems. The pipes need to slope downward to drain properly. He ran the gun and I held the rod. I didn’t mind. It was an inexpensive way to spend time together on a sunny day. Teamwork is a part of marriage, and I didn’t have the training to run the gun.

Our surveying activity ramped-up when we purchased old mining claims for cheap in the Colorado Mountains, most of them inaccessible by road (which is why they were cheap). Unlike a cabin site or a home, the property boundaries weren’t marked.


Bring out the surveying equipment. These sites were bigger than our yard. So, bring out the walkie-talkies, too. If I was too far away or next to a stream, I couldn’t hear him say, “Move five feet to the left.” And he couldn’t hear me say, “That’s in the middle of the creek.” (This was before cell phones, and many of these locations are still out of range for mobile phones.)

For many summers, we poked around the mountains. I enjoyed the scenery and read novels while he collected rocks and studied the maps. Then the surveying equipment came out and I held the rod. A completely unfair arrangement since he stayed mostly in one place with the gun while I hiked the property to position the rod.

GPS improved things, but was less accurate.

Last summer, we rented modern, professional surveying equipment, and a robot took my place. My husband could run the gun from a remote control and hold the rod at the same time. The new rod had a mirror on top for the gun to key in on. The robot gun rotated to follow the mirror. How cool is that?

Check out this video of my replacement.

I enjoyed a fun trip to the mountains. While he tromped around with the rod, I took pictures and read a novel.

I love technology.

But alas, we only rented that cool technology, for most little projects around the yard I’m still the rodman. Quality time with hubby. Next project: a new foundation for the shed.



Not More Laundry!

Every day there’s another set dirty clothes. It never ends.

As a working mom, I developed my own laundry strategies. My mother dutifully taught me to sort laundry and to iron everything, including pillowcases. I don’t do those things now.

If the clothes are old, they can all be mixed together in one load. The occasional sock turns pink or green. A small price to pay for simplicity.

When I buy new jeans, I separate them for a while, until they don’t turn the underwear blue anymore. How do I know? I throw in a test item like a mostly white rag. If I can’t find a rag, one of my husband’s socks will do. When it comes out white instead of blue, I’m free to mix colors again.

At least I don’t have to wash clothes like people of old. Laundry has existed since nearly the beginning of time. Our ancestors washed clothes in streams and beat them on rocks or with sticks. Even the washboard we associate with our western history is a relatively modern invention, patented in 1833.

In Roman times and Medieval Europe, human urine was used to clean clothes because it contained ammonia. It was saved from public toilets and chamber pots. Eeeeew.

The first civilization to offer public laundry services was ancient Rome. Laundry was a man’s job. I would be okay with that.

In historic Europe, washing clothes at public wash houses called lavoirs provided a social outlet for women. A place for singing, gossip, and connection. Water sat in giant, waist-high tubs covered by a roof.

I seldom identify articles of clothing for special treatment. As a young adult, I washed some sweaters separately. I’d roll them in a towel to squeeze out the water and lay them flat on sweater drying mesh. Now I check the labels when I shop. If I accidentally buy a special treatment garment, I push the bounds to see if it really requires special treatment. What is dry cleaning, anyway?

There is nothing dry about it. Clothes aren’t zapped with special dry cleaning solution. They are washed in a solvent instead of water. They swish around in a washing machine just like they do at home. Apparently, water can damage some fabrics.

Dry cleaning has been around much longer than I imagined. The first dry laundry was founded in Paris in 1825. Modern dry cleaning methods have existed since 1855. Why haven’t I ever seen that in a historical novel? That gives me an idea.

I once worked at a place where “business professional” dress was required. I avoided dirtying jackets by not actually wearing them. I would hang a jacket over my arm as if I had been wearing it. During a meeting, I would drape it over the back of the chair. No cleaning needed.

I keep an iron for the occasional sewing and craft project. As a toddler, my daughter saw my mom ironing once. She said, “Grandma, what are you doing?”

I guess I shouldn’t complain about washing, given my modern conveniences.

And, if I don’t buy new clothes very often, I don’t need to sort.

It Takes A Year

They say you should date someone for a year before you marry them. See what they’re like through all the seasons, holidays, and moods. It also takes a year to finally feel moved into a new house. Every season brings new insight and challenges.

The first stage involves clicking all the light switches to find the right one. This light switch challenge can last for years . . . Or maybe that’s just me.

Then there are the odd things. My current house had a beautiful engraved plaque with the wrong number. Our new address was 33, but the sign said 321. What?!! Am I expected to add the last two digits together like a math puzzle?

I called my real estate agent in a panic. Did I buy the wrong house?

Apparently, ten years ago, the rural address authority changed the addresses for the 911 system. Whoever heard of the rural address authority, and why did no one change the plaque in ten years?

My theory: The plaque was too beautiful to throw out. It’s a small town, and no one pays attention to the number.

Holidays come, and I must decide where to place the tree, the manger scene, and the handmade snowman- candy cane holder. After eight years with a tree that was to short for my vaulted ceiling, I finally bought a taller one. A year later we moved. The tree stood too tall in the new house. Forget the star on the top. It didn’t matter because we moved again before the next Christmas. The tree fits now.

Heating and cooling present their own challenges. I put pads in the air cooler and figured out how to power it. Eventually, I learned what settings cooled the house best. Then winter came. I’ve had the heating guy out three times, and I compulsively check the thermostats and boiler. In the summer, the propane guys didn’t recognize my name. I had to give them the name of the guy who used to own the house. Now we’re on a first name basis. Hope we get an early spring.

During the cold snap on New Years Day, we learned which pipes were subject to freezing. Not the ones I expected. Next year I’ll know where to put the space heater.

Plant life in a new home can bring a pleasant surprise, especially bulbs that pop up on their own.

Several times I’ve wanted to get rid of a bush only to have beautiful flowers bloom and save its life. Once it was a snowball bush in the middle of the front yard. Scrawny until it bloomed, then it was awesome. At another house purple flowers saved a climbing vine that didn’t appeal to me. I love purple.

And, don’t be fooled by the beautiful blossoms of a crabapple tree. We had one that hung over the front sidewalk. When the fruit fell, the kids were forever tracking crabapple mush onto the carpet.

Unlike marriage, the decision to move doesn’t have to be a permanent one. But remember, you won’t really know your house until you have experienced it in all its seasons.

Going Old School with Amazon

I love modern life where I can order anything on Amazon. I mean anything. But Amazon’s just a catalog company, and catalog shopping has existed for generations. The first mail-order catalog meant for the general public was printed by Montgomery Ward 1872.

In the late 1800s, people could buy anything from catalogs, just like we can now. Not only that, when the catalog got old, it could be reused as toilet paper in the outhouse. Can’t do that with Amazon.

Sears sold houses. My sister’s home was built in the 1920s, and she found a description of it in a vintage catalog. How cool is that? Amazon sells houses too – tiny house kits. Nothing has changed.

People awaited shipments from Wells Fargo. Before Wells Fargo was a bank with reputation problems, it was a stagecoach line. There’s a song about the Wells Fargo Wagon, made famous in The Music Man. Click the picture below for the YouTube video.

In the song, people are waiting for these things.

I found them all on Amazon. I can still have them delivered to my home. Well, the cannon is only a tiny replica, but it’s there. I didn’t even know what a mackinaw was, but Amazon did. Apparently, it’s a jacket.

We need a song about the Amazon Truck. Maybe a rap.

Yeah. Yeah.
Thinking of the Amazon truck.
It’s comin’ any time. The white van with no windows.
At least I think it’s the Amazon truck.
Hope it has my gourmet spaghetti maker, pencil skirt, and hammer.

Yeah. Yeah.
The doorbell rang and the guy didn’t wait.
Must be the Amazon truck.
Well, the truck’s got a logo now. Moving up.
A big brown box with Amazon Prime tape waits for me.

Yeah. Yeah.
The automatic vacuum system I forgot I ordered with one click.
And the video game my neighbor’s kid slipped in the cart when he borrowed my phone.
Thinking of the Amazon truck.

Yeah. Yeah.



Growing up, the best part of Christmas was the fat toy catalog that came in the mail. My sister and I poured over it for hours, circling the items we wanted and writing our initials next to them. We circled something on every page.

Even when my kids were growing up, Toys R Us sent out a big catalog. Hours of fun and dreaming ensued. I’m not sure how kids do it now. Making a wish list on the computer isn’t the same.

I can’t complain. Many times, I scour the mall in search of a specific item, only to be disappointed. Then I order it on my phone, just like the housewife of old. I can sing the Amazon Truck rap while I wait.

Nowadays,the wait is much shorter. Guess I don’t mind living in the now, even if I don’t have a paper catalog. I don’t have an outhouse anyway.