Tuesday, June 28 2022

a wet spot, pulled pork, and capture the flag

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. How's your Tuesday going so far?

I'm feeling pretty good today - well-rested and energetic. I've got a quiet house to myself too. I don't think Rodney is sleeping, but the important thing is that he pretends to sleep for just another hour.

"How long is an hour?" asks Rodney. I always respond the same - "count to sixty sixty times."

Rodney started counting nine minutes ago, so we had better make use of the time. Grab your cup of joe, and let's go.

Sip. I'm back to work this week, and so is Marissa, returning to the rock shlepping fields. But despite all the exciting shoveling and bucket carrying on her plate, a wet spot in our grass distracted her. We noticed the damp, marshy square of sod when we first moved in.

"Where is it coming from?" she questioned.

"I don't know," I said. "It's the lowest part of the ground - that's just how water works, right?"

Marissa threw a few buckets of sand on top. It seemed to soak up the water, and at the very least that would keep the dogs from rolling in it for a while. I was happy to put the issue out of my mind, but Marissa didn't forget about it so easily - especially when the water came back.

"Look," she said, stabbing it with a shovel. "The water is coming up from below." She tossed a shovel scoop of wet sand to the side, and the impression immediately filled with dark water. She got down on one knee and reached her hand into the swampy abyss.

"I can feel something," she said. "It's... it's some kind of tube."

A tube? No longer a random act of nature, a man-made tube introduces a new plot twist. Whatever was bubbling water up into our lawn was put there intentionally.

Marissa used a bucket to bale out water. Now with both her knees planted in the mud, she pried up the mysterious tube with her finger tips.

"It's... a gutter?" I said.

"But why does it just end here?" asked Marissa. "I guess this is easy to fix. We just need to extend the gutter to the fence."

I stepped away so I could make a phone call to the Village of Schaumburg permit office. The lady on the phone in passing mentioned that run-off gutters can't terminate closer than five feet to the property line. Crap. Well that explains why the gutter just ends in the middle of the yard. Even though sending the water into a flat rock bed would have made sense, we understood the spirit of the rule. You can't just dump your rain water into your neighbors yard.

So what do you do with a bunch of water that you don't want? I have to admit, the problem was kind of exciting. I had never looked at a piece of property this way. Our roof, our driveway, our yard became a giant puzzle for moving water.

"What if we just dig it out, and fill it with rocks," I suggested. "The rocks won't soak up the water, and if it's deep enough, that will keep bugs from laying eggs in it."

"Can we just collect it in a barrel?" asked Marissa. "I mean, we could empty it when it gets full. Is that dumb?"

"No, that's what a rain barrel is, right?" I replied. "All the hippies in our old neighborhood had those big jugs of dirty water around their house."

Marissa's idea to collect the water was, in fact, not crazy. It's called a "cistern". It's a jug buried under ground. But instead of emptying out whenever it's ful, newer cisterns are designed to leech it into the surrounding earth more slowly than it would just pouring freely out of the gutter.

"We'll have to call JULIE again," smirked Marissa.

Between the two of us, only Marissa got her hands dirty. I got a free pass from yard work so I could keep an eye on our dinner. In the morning just before work started, I plopped a seasoned pork butt on my smoker, stoked a fire, and let it cook all day. When my watch timer rang, I felt a flutter of excitement in my heart like I had just woken up on Christmas morning. I dragged the wad of towels and tinfoil out onto the counter. I peeled back the wrapping. A puff of pure smoky goodness seeped into the air. I made a shallow stab with a simple dinner fork, and the mass of meat began to fall apart.

I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't know why I didn't try this sooner. I don't know why I didn't listen to everyone else who has raved about the simplicity, utility, and sheer deliciousness of homemade pulled pork, but I've finally seen the light.


After dinner, I took Rodney and Miles to the park. Sunset park was a hopping scene. Bikes and scooters littered the sidewalk. Parents mingled and kids of all ages dashed through the playground equipment. Rodney, eager to make a friend, confidently joined an older kid on the monkey bars. I could tell from this kid's body language that he wasn't in the mood to meet Rodney, but Rodney missed the memo. Rodney chased the kid around for fifteen minutes before he turned around and sharply told him "I'm not playing with you".

Rodney shrugged off the terse encounter, and in no time a huge group of kids and parents invited Rodney to play a game of capture the flag. There were rules, teams, and new people to meet - Rodney was in heaven.

"DADA PLAY WITH US!" yelled Rodney. I waved and motioned toward Miles. "I gotta be on Charles Mingus duty," I replied. A half-excuse, I didn't feel like sprinting around a field with strangers on a belly full of pulled pork meat, so I just tottled around the tennis court with Miles instead.

Miles cross the tennis court to meet me where I stood on the fence. He stuck out his hand and planted it on my stomach. "TAAAAAHG," he yelled, then he clumsily ran in the other direction. I guess one of the other kids in the park must have taught Miles how to play tag.

That's what I got today - thanks for stopping by, and have a great Tuesday.