Monday, January 22, 2018

What an effin' idiot

I call myself an effin' idiot several times a day for various justifiable reasons. Sometimes I may be judging myself a bit harshly, but not this time, because only an effin' idiot would do something this stupid.

It was Saturday afternoon. I had just finished preparing for a predicted snowstorm – moving hay from the hay barn to the feed room, dumping the ash can, filling the bed of the Ranger with firewood – and Smooch and I were headed out for a walk before it got any windier.

Just as we were leaving the front gate, I smelled smoke. It didn't smell like chimney smoke. It had earthier tones, almost...manure-like.

I looked back to my right and saw it. Holy effin' shit. The track where I spread the donkey poop was smoldering, right where I had dumped the 50-gallon trash can of ashes an hour before.

I ran to the scene as fast as I could, pulling a very confused Smooch with me. Clearly the can of what I thought contained only cold ashes had a hidden layer of embers, and pillars of smoke were popping up over there, then over there, now over here, then over there. Picture me playing whack-a-mole with my feet which, even at size 8, weren't big enough to stomp out the hot spots.

While I was stomping, I tried to formulate a containment plan before the situation spun further out of control. I figured the almost-worst case scenario would be that I'd have to keep stomping until the storm hit, then the snow would put out the embers and burning poop. But Smooch was getting inpatient and didn't think jumping up and down was a suitable substitute for a walk. And what if the snow didn't happen?

I pressed my luck and ran with Smooch to the house, tossed her inside, grabbed two buckets, filled them with water, ran back to the poop track and listened to the ground sizzle as I poured on the water. The hot spots were hotter than I thought.

So I ran back to the house again, refilled the buckets, ran back to the poop track, did not have a heart attack, dumped the buckets, listened to the ground sizzle again and screamed the title of this post more than a few times.

It looked like I had extinguished the worst of the embers, but with the wind blowing hard, I wasn't about to declare victory. My new plan was to run back for the Ranger, unload the firewood from the bed, load up the water tank and fill it, while periodically running back and forth to the poop track to make sure nothing was getting out of hand.

Once the tank full of water started draining on the ashes, my heart finally stopped beating out of my chest and I ran back to the house to get the camera because I'm a blogger and what did you expect?

 It takes a long while for 65 gallons of water to drain...


...which gave me plenty of time to ponder the depths of my stupidity...


...and think about a foolproof method for ash management,


which will likely involve dumping water on the ashes while they're still in the can.
Why I never thought of this before remains to be seen. What an effin' idiot.





70 comments:

  1. What a lovely, efficient, quick thinking, strong, original and utterly adorable ff'ing idiot you are! xxxx

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    1. You are way too kind.

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    2. effing, is that from from efficient?

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    3. Effing = f'ing = f _ _ _ ing (fill in the blanks )= fucking. Terrible American slang, I know.

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  2. Wow! What you did was pay attention to your instincts. Think of all those who never do. Denise

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    1. I think one's instincts continue to strengthen when one lives in the middle of nowhere. At least I hope they do!

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  3. Yikes! What if you hadn’t decided to take Smooch for a walk? God is watching out for you. Love, aunt Jean

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    1. I know! This had potential for ending badly. Between you and all the good folks here and the universe at large watching out for me, I feel much better.

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  4. Your quick thinking saved the day! Hooray!

    Laurie in NB, Canada

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    1. When quick thinking offsets stupid behavior, it's always a good day.

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  5. i am so happy this has a happy ending and i do agree with your title and would have done the same thing. so glad you thought of the water tank. this could have had a bad ending. i agree with elsewhere about the adorable ffing idiot part. you done good in my book

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    1. I am so not adorable but thanks for thinking I am.

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  6. "Elsewhere" said it perfectly!
    Now, maybe a Think Tank meeting on that watering down the ashcan idea is in order.... Should water be added AFTER you poke some drain holes in the bottom of the can and AFTER you calculate how much heavier (for lift onto the Ranger and transport) said can will be and AFTER you figure out how pourable the sludge in the can will be? (I know you're not talking about a lot of water but just saying'.
    Oh, how I wish the universe had had a ProCam!

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    1. As long as I can wear a tiara to the meeting ;-)
      BTW, I use a hand truck to move the ash can to the poop track, so there's no heavy lifting.

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  7. I knew it came out OK from the tone of your first paragraph, but whew! my heart was in my throat. Thank goodness you figured out the problem as quickly as you did and were able to solve it so well! I didn't even know you had a 65 gallon water tank.

    Julia

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    1. I got the tank several years back when I planted a few trees that needed to be watered. It's also a component of my backup plan for if/when the well pump goes out.

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  8. All's well that ends well. And Smooch is owed a walk :)But she is patient.

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    1. She got an extra-long walk after all the drama was over.

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  9. LOL ... now that you are retired, you have all this extra time on your hands to deal with the extra special moments that will arise ... like smoke from the ashes!
    Don't beat yourself up too harshly, Linda. Just be glad you were close at hand and able to contain what could have turned into a major problem had you been away from the Ranch. Perhaps keeping some water IN the trash can you use for your ashes would be a good idea!
    Continue to breathe!! Hugs from S. CO ... Marcia

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    1. "Extra special moments" sounds so much better than "effin' disasters."

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  10. I think that almost anyone who has dealt with embers will have done that at least once. Well, I have anyway. Burned my pasture to the ground. Got blisters from hell--put on muck boots without socks, because fighting a fire in flip flops wasn't working. Got to meet some very nice firemen, just as I got to the edge of my property. They were nice enough to NOT give me a giant ticket for burning brush without calling it in (in my county, you call the FD to let them know you're burning). I came to understand that fire is alive, just like in the movies and it can run in two different directions at one time. I know the terror of "what if", just like you do. I'm glad you got it out and didn't have to explain to the neighbors why you'd been an 'effin' idiot. I don't think you were though. We all make mistakes and you obviously learned from yours.

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    1. Ha! And here I thought I was being extra stupid for trying to stomp embers wearing Crocs! We probably both would have done it barefoot had it been necessary.

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    2. then we'll have to call you Saint Linda!

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  11. Instincts are a great thing to have especially out on our own. Glad you are ok and everyone is safe.

    I will indulge with my own effen idiot moment while using a mandolin slicer last week. I thought sweet potato chips would go great with our turkey burger. I being the village idiot decided the guard hat was useless. Ye old thumb got in the way. I ended up cutting the corner tip of the thumb off. After three band aids and no sign of the damn thing not bleeding. Had to go to urgent care to finish the job of getting the tip off. Foamed and bandaged. Best part is I have taught cut classes because I work in manufacturing. Stupid Ass.

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    1. Yikes! Precisely why I don't own a mandolin slicer or a chain saw. I hope your thumb heals quickly.

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  12. I think I would just put the ashes someplace away from the poop track. Surely there is an open area with no plants that could catch fire you could designate as ash-dump-area. Dump them there and let them smolder. Or, if there would still be a danger of embers blowing someplace, come up with a second ash-can trash-can. You fill one and cover it (no air plus time means no fire) so the ashes would have time to extinguish while filling the second. By-the-way, is it okay for a guy like me to say I love our effin' idiot and her tales of wonder, excitement, joy, sorrow, and every-day life? I do!

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    1. You're so sweet, Dave. And it's okay for a guy like you to say all that because I know your wife reads this blog, too.

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    2. Yes, she does. I saw Dave typing this morning after we talked about your escapade and figured he was making a comment. And, yes, it's okay for him to say he loves you and your tales. He's a lover and a hugger and a spreader of good will and smiles. I, too, and happy you were so quick to deal with the situation and had the brains to do it right. Good job.

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  13. Scary, glad that turned out ok. I arrived home one day to the Fire Department putting out the last of smoldering embers which burned up my bamboo plot. Boyfriend was being overly helpful and dumped out the can before completely cold. A wet can of ashes would be really really heavy, maybe just the can and water to dump on it right then? On the plus side for me: it slowed the bamboo growth for about 6 months (the whole plot was luxuriously back in 6 months, hate the stuff!)

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    1. You've got me wondering what's going to sprout from the poop track, now that it's been so thorougly watered.

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  14. Did it ever snow? Asking for a friend :-)

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    1. It did! A whopping half inch. I kept checking the spot on Sunday to see if any of the snow was melting suspiciously.

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  15. I ditto the 2nd can, and some sort of digging tool ... wide blade hoe or whatever the fire fighters use, to disperse and cover with dirt.

    I am guessing digging an ash pit would be difficult even in the best of conditions. Too bad the Ranger doesn't have an attachment for digging a furrow (think tractor and a plow). Pouring the ashes into the furrow and scratching in some dirt?

    M in NC
    was not a camp fire girl !

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  16. Yikes. At least you got a good plan together fast. You don't need to say any more effing idiots, I think you learned.

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    1. I think I learned, too. Let's hope so anyway.

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  17. Very scary! You did good with your fast thinking. Do you have a posting that I missed on what you do with your poop management. Just curious as you must have had heaps when you had more grazing animals.

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    1. There was a poop management post years ago - I'll resurrect and update it. One of the beauties of New Mexico is that as long as you spread it out, it never piles up - just dries out, turns to dust and blows away.

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  18. Was it the brush that was igniting or the poop?

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  19. I may be wrong, but isn't this how the two step, and line dancing started?πŸ˜„ Glad it worked out ok for you!

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    1. You might be right. Next time I'll be sure I've got some music to listen to while stomping.

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  20. I had a similar effin' idiot moment a while ago when I dumped "cold" ashes on my manure pile. It was surrounded by snow, but close to the barn and the manure was heating up from composting - could have been quite a nice fire. You might want to get a second ash can, fill the first, but don't empty it until the second is full. This will let the embers choke out and they will be safe to spread. Trust me on this when I say you do NOT want to add water to the ash can. You will have the most ungodly mess that will be near impossible to get rid of and you will be calling yourself even worse names. I'm not telling you how I know that:)

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    1. I do trust you on the water thing and have put a second big can on my shopping list. Thanks!

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  21. I think all of us who have ever had a wood stove or even a fireplace which produces ash, have made the effin' mistake of taking our ash out of the ash can too soon and melting or burning that which we should not melt nor burn. I was about 9 years old when my family was camping along the Colorado River and one morning I decided to clean out the fire ring using a plastic bucket. As the hot coals melted the bucket, my father saved the day but whipped me good. I am so happy you didn't burn your shoes (were they leather?) when you tried to stomp out the embers. Well, as they say, "we live and learn" or I should say, "as long as we live, we learn".

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    1. Live and learn, die and forget, said the person who tried to stomp out embers in open-backed, rubber crocs.

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  22. That was quite heart pounding to read, I imagine it seriously was in real life. Well done for your quick re-actions.

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    1. It was definitely heart-pounding, according to my Fitbit.

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  23. (this tale just happens not to have me as the main idiot character - there are many others I star in...) Outward Bound group hiking trip to George Washington National Park. We had just set up camp. One girl thought toilet paper wouldn't degrade fast enough for her tastes so she burned hers instead of burying. Meanwhile there were two multi-thousand acre forest fires going on the other side of the park - it was blowing a good 30 mph that day. Luckily we camped by a stream. The amazing thing was how a group of high schoolers self-organized an effective bucket brigade and put out that fire. The scariest part was watching the fire go from nothing to twenty square yards and whole trees burning in an instant. We all went swimming and left she who thought she knew better to watch the ashes.

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    1. Mistakes of our youth can be written off to inexperience. When we're old, we have to blame them on stupidity or senility. I hope I'm only dealing with stupidity at this point.

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  24. And here you thought retirement would be boring.

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    1. I know! "Retirement misadventures" may become a category of its own on this blog.

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  25. heart pounded as i read your blog. glad all ok now

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  26. be grateful for your good efficient nose!

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    1. The smell of burning poop is pretty hard to miss.

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  27. Oh my...this was so entertaining that I had to read it aloud to my husband. So glad it ended well...and I apologize for laughing at your trauma, but you are such a good story teller!! Lisa G in TN

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    1. Laugh all you want. It's what I'm here for.

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  28. An American in Tokyo1/22/18, 8:02 PM

    Glad to hear that you got it out and that you won't be making that mistake again! Whew!

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    1. I hope I won't be making that mistake again. I hate having to tell the same story twice.

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  29. Oh my goodness! I had to skim through to the end so see how it ended so I could go back and read leisurely. How terrifying. And you are the furthest thing from an effin idiot. (And I know because I work at a university hospital and we get the cream of the crop there!). What you are is human and a self-sufficient and competent one so when something happens that could have been avoided, you are not used to it since you are generally not one to let those kind of mistakes happen :) (how about that for a nice run-on sentence)
    Thanks for sharing :)

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    1. I love your run-on sentence. Thanks for your confidence in my abilities, however undeserved.

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  30. Wow ... wow! Just reading your account of this experience has my heart pounding. It is amazing how ashes can fool a person ... been there, done that.

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    1. I'm taking lots of comfort in all the "been there, done that" comments. Stupidity loves company?

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  31. Been there done that! Took a cold (yeah right!) ash bucket and dumped it on our burn pile. Never gave it a second thought. Thankfully it is more of a pit and there is nothing around it that can burn because 2 days later after DH called for and got a burn permit, he returned to the house with a very puzzled look on his face, seems there was nothing in the pit to burn! Oooops! Thankful that your fire did not spread!

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    1. That's a great story - had I looked into that empty burn pit, my first thought would have been who stole my stuff?

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  32. wow. that was a close call. glad you came through it ok. glad you are a quick thinker. and agile.

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  33. Found in the spam folder:
    I ditto the 2nd can, and some sort of digging tool ... wide blade hoe or whatever the fire fighters use, to disperse and cover with dirt. I am guessing digging an ash pit would be difficult even in the best of conditions. Too bad the Ranger doesn't have an attachment for digging a furrow (think tractor and a plow). Pouring the ashes into the furrow and scratching in some dirt? M in NC was not a camp fire girl !

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  34. If you add water to the ash can it will flash rust your metal can almost overnight. Around here in the Ozarks, people throw in sand over the ashes in the can to smother them out. Layer of ashes, layer of sand etc. It makes the ash can heavier but ours tend to be half the size of yours. I keep a plastic 5 gallon can of sand next to my ash can and mix as needed.Hope this helps you.

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  35. This is what RETIREMENT does to your brain! Believe me!!!! :-)

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  36. You're not an effing idiot. Now, the people who live in a town near me who recently put their ashes into a plastic can on their WOODEN deck because the weather was bad and they didn't want to go outside, THEY'RE the effing idiots! You just burned up a little poop and put it out. he he he!

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