Moving mountains

09 Sep 2020 | 01:09

Some people love to move. I am not one of them. You forget, when browsing real estate listings online, that you will not magically arrive at your new house atop your own made bed. The basement may be finished, but that does not mean you will find it unoccupied by resident wildlife. A pool! Yes! Soon all your friends will be beating a path to your door. But first you need a fence to keep the kids from drowning, so it will just have to remain a malarial swamp until 2021 – mark your calendars!

Particularly intimidating is moving with farm animals. This feat husband Joe accomplished single-handedly, bringing over back-to-back truckloads of chickens in the middle of the night when they’re anesthetized by sleep; hauling the goats two at a time, Mitt Romney style, on back roads.

Much of the heavy lifting occurred while I sat at my desk in my air conditioned office. I got home one day to discover the baby had a bloody face, having fallen (not for the first time, either) out of a stationary car while Joe was rigging up the goat transport system in the bed of our little truck. The purple scar under Dion’s nose three months later may or may not be permanent.

This? he can say one day. I got this when we moved mountains.

We are trading one Machu Picchu for another: Brimstone Mountain in Chester, NY, where two of our kids were born, for Heaters Hill in Matamoras, PA, where we will dig our graves. I kid. Sort of. But I would be thrilled never to have to move again.

The day we were supposed to be out of our house, the new tenants arrived with tape measure to find me, sweating through a film of dust, in the midst of a roiling sea of uncapped markers and orphan clothing and half-eaten snacks and spilled drinks and three children. Could they tell I had been crying? We’d need an extension... a day, or two, or as it turned out, 10.

The kids and I tapped out, fleeing upstate and leaving Joe to finish the job armed with packing tape, scrub brush and a boombox for company. In the end he capitulated to the laws of physics and rented a U-Haul for the final push, capped off by a trip to the dump that I’m glad I wasn’t around to see.

Then it was time for Joe to turn his undivided attention to the new place. People are always asking, when we show up to birthday parties and vacations and everything in between: Joe’s not coming? Where’s Joe? Poor Joe!

We miss him, of course, but this annual chunk of the summer, when the kids are out from underfoot, is his chance to tackle a few projects with the kind of laser focus available to him exactly once a year. Without it, we’d never get past treading water. His big jobs this year were to build a bunk bed, weatherproof the barn roof, sink a fence and clear a field of the Japanese barberry growing rampant all over our new property. They’re deceptively pretty, blushing crimson at the tips, but these invasive bushes are vicious when it comes to forming impenetrable tick habitat.

Tick bites are a fact of life for Joe under normal circumstances. Hacking away at a barberry thicket for a couple weeks, though, increased the risk to pretty-much-inevitable.

When at last the kids and I bumped up the long dirt road, heads hanging out the windows to sniff out the new smells of home, Joe came out to greet us looking even more like Jesus, somehow, than usual. What was it? Had he forgotten to eat while we were away? That night, he lifted his shirt with an irritated shrug, revealing the culprit: a telltale bullseye rash emanating from his armpit.

He was trying to “beat it naturally,” he declared, repeating his mantra: “When ticks bite me, I give them Lyme.” Fine. I peeled a head of garlic, laying the raw cloves on the kitchen counter: take two of these and, sigh, cross your fingers. But as the nights of sweat-soaked sheets got progressively scarier, and then were joined by days of sweat-soaked sheets, enough was enough. To urgent care we go.

After the first dose of doxy, he was (cue the Rocky music) up to cooking dinner. A couple days in, when sensitivity to the sun forced him indoors, he retreated to the garage and started churning out child-sized furniture made from scrap wood. This I took to be a good sign in terms of Joe’s return to his former self, though the house is getting crowded.

The collateral damage of a move, I’m coming to realize, is not negligible. Our six ducks got eaten within a week of their arrival, and our sweet baby goat, ChaCha, wandered off one afternoon never to be seen again.

Still, we did it. We have arrived – more or less in one piece. And now that we’re on our third homestead, we’ve picked up a few tricks: like instead of building a playground, Joe has hung all our swings from high tree branches, so the kids can tickle the treetops with their toes.