I have a love affair with Craigslist. Odd, quirky people, free stuff, and a whole lot of trading -- what more could you ask for? Over the past five years, I've done wheeling and dealing for tilling, a garden fence, a side of beef and all sorts of free stuff that was worth what I paid for it. Some of it was even worth the gas money to go pick it up.
So, in continuing my grand streak of ideas that end up giving Mark a ton of work, I had a brilliant idea for a solution to our problem.
This, then, is the problem:
It's more than twenty years worth of horse shit, left in the barn untouched, and fully composted.
It's actually valuable stuff -- fabulous for gardening -- it's just in the wrong place.
The lady who lived here before us had a horse, and apparently never, ever, not even once, cleaned out the barn. It's possible that before she got here, there was a layer of cow manure under that. Honestly, I didn't know there was a concrete floor underneath -- the boys and I shoveled enough to get down to the bare ground, and sure enough, it's concrete. And by "boys and I," I mean I shoveled while they begged to go inside and watch TV and get out of this river of horse shit and Scout sat in it and tried to make mud castles as we dragged her to higher ground.
So, we want to have a "farm." Which, in my imagination, looks like "The Burrow" from Harry Potter. Lots of happy kids, an orchard, a big garden, a few chickens and a few animals, and kids who help with the yard and the upkeep and a husband who tinkers with projects.
The reality will be different. As in, Mark hates yardwork and hates projects. Sawyer has dramatic fits worthy of a reality TV star who's just been told her show is canceled every time you suggest manual labor. And Sander complains and moans that he's miserable if he actually likes what he's doing and is having a good day -- on a bad day, you're lucky if you can him to agree to get dressed, much less muck out a horse stall.
And while I have good intentions, there are a lot of days where "distracted" is a good way to describe what happens. Because I have every intention of getting out to the garden and planting and weeding. But somehow I end up deciding that I need to learn how to quilt, or I have to get started on food storage for a five-year supply for my paranoia pantry, or the kitchen chairs are the wrong color and have to get painted right now, and of course the house isn't unpacked yet, and I need to put up shelves in the dining room, and while I'm at it, the table's in the wrong place, and it would be a good day to rearrange the furniture.
So, sometimes the garden gets a little bit of benign neglect. As in, stuff gets planted, and whatever's alive at harvest season is what we eat. Which means that in Texas, we ate a lot of tomatoes, some tomatillos, and we threw away a ton of habaneros. And that was about it.
Part of "the farm" will be chickens, a huge garden and some kind of meat. Either a pig or a beef cow.
We have plenty of room for either one, but we can't put them in the barn, because the barn is full of horse shit.
So I had the clever idea that I'd have someone come and shovel out the barn for me, and they could take away as much manure as they wanted. If it worked, I'd actually have someone cleaning out my barn for free.
So I put out the ad, sat back, and waited for replies.
The first person who came by was a self-proclaimed "little old lady" and she drove out to come get a load. She lives 40 miles away and wanted to know how early was "too early," as she's up at 3:30 or 4 a.m.
She arrived, all 110 wiry, tough pounds of her, and shoveled a whole load of horse manure into her truck by herself. She lives alone, had five husbands, plust a sixth man that she lived with seven years and never married, and she takes a bath, outside, naked, in a tub warmed by a fire under it every night. Yes, she talked a lot while she shoveled, and I listened and watched. It was something else to see her -- apparently she's had a ton of energy since she was born, and she loves to shovel as it takes some of the energy off her. She usually gets up at 4 a.m., splits wood and then shovels something for an hour or so to keep her busy until the sun comes up.
She lives without any paycheck or income -- she has her house paid off, turns off her electricity, most days -- hence, the "cannibal tub," as she called it, and she's using my manure to grow medical marijuana, which she trades for groceries. She loves the internet so she can look up chemtrails, conspiracy theories, and how the government is persecuting Christians, but won't have a cell phone because they cause all sorts of damage.
Then, a very nice woman who seemed normal enough asked if she could come get some manure when her husband got home from work.
Mark was in Alaska, so when they got there, I was baking cookies, making dinner, I'd been painting and unpacking, and I was in sweats, no makeup, no bra, covered in paint and cookie dough, holding Scout, who was tired, hungry and dirty.
So, the guy at the door, who looks middle aged, upper-middle class, and normal, says, "I know who you are -- you're a Stone!"
Um. Sure. My kids and my husband are, anyway. How do you know me? Boy Scouts?
"Oh, no -- I'm Mark's boss! I'm the guy who hired him! I'm the reason you guys moved here!"
Let me just put down the baby, take the cookies out of the oven, throw on a sweatshirt to attempt to cover up that I'm not wearing a bra -- I'm 44 with huge boobs and I've nursed three kids. A bra is not optional when meeting new people.
He and his wife were polite, charming, funny and got a grand tour of the barn, the manure, the garden and the outbuildings, and I was happy I'd met him. Just not dressed like that.
However, next time I do Craigslist, I'm going to go to the door fully dressed. Even for crazy old ladies with lots of energy.
Who would have thought that my biggest logistical problem is how to get rid of a literal ton of horseshit?