Saturday, September 23, 2017

Paradise ponders: shrimp burgers, electrical details, and the endless Mexican Train game...

Paradise ponders: shrimp burgers, electrical details, and the endless Mexican Train game...  Well, we had our shrimp burgers yesterday afternoon and they were delicious.  They were followed up by some most excellent chocolate mousse, homemade from scratch by the dynamic duo of Debbie and Michelle.  The chocolate in it was Callebaut, the best we know of for cooking.  There are several more servings of that mousse sitting in our refrigerator...

Yesterday morning I made scrapple and eggs, as planned.  The scrapple was good, but quite different than what I grew up with.  The biggest difference in the ingredients is that instead of just corn meal as the cereal component, this stuff has wheat flour and oats in addition.  Also, it's much less spicy than other scrapple I've had, and more “porky”.  None of those differences were bad, and I quite enjoyed it – and yet, it's not the same as the scrapple I'm familiar with, so I couldn't help being a little disappointed.  Nevertheless, the scrapple we bought won't last long, I'm sure.  :)

Jimmy and I finished up all the electrical work on the deck last night.  It's beautiful!  There are now nine 100 watt equivalent (but actually 17 watt LED) bulbs on the deck ceiling, giving us bright, shadowless light across the entire deck.  There are also four duplex GFI outlets, two on the wall of the house and two on the ceiling, away from the house.  Now all we need is the grill and nice enough weather!  Well, that's not quite true...  I still have to put up the rails.  I have 8 pieces of 8' long 2x6s of clear redwood heartwood.  These will be cut up into four rails, each of which will be made of two sections dowel-pegged together.  I've got to do that cutting and doweling, then some routing (to round off corners, sanding, finishing (with three or four coats of clear acrylic polyurethane), and then mount them into the stanchions.  I also need to caulk and paint a bunch of stuff on the house wall, and on the outsides of the deck ceiling.  The weather next week promises to be great for all this work...

Yesterday we played an epic Mexican train game.  On all our previous games we've played partial games, generally using half the starting numbers (0..12), in order to keep the game to just a couple hours.  Yesterday we did the entire thing, a total of 13 rounds, each one lasting around a half hour.  It was a lot of fun, and there was much merriment and laughter (helped by generous quantities of alcohol :), but it sure lasted a long time!

This morning we head to SLC to pick up our new dogger (Ipo) at the SLC airport, then lunch at the Red Iguana, drop off Jimmy and Michelle at the airport, pick up bird seed at Wild Birds Unlimited, visit the southern SLC Trader Joe's, and then finally head home.  After ten days with Jimmy and Michelle, our house is going to seem quiet and empty – though the presence of Ipo should cause a bit of a ruckus!  :)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Paradise ponders: no, we didn't fall off the edge of the earth edition...

Paradise ponders: no, we didn't fall off the edge of the earth edition...  We've just been busy!  Jimmy and I finished the cedar ceiling on our deck, including the trim!  It's beautiful, but you can't see it – because it's dark as I write this, so I can't take a photo.  Even better, the sod is completely down in our back yard.  It's beautiful!  The contractors still have a few details left to do (mainly patching small holes, getting valve boxes to the right level, etc.), which they're planning to do today, or Saturday if the weather is still nasty.  We had rain last night, and our forecast includes the possibility of more today.  The dogs have been out in the yard, supervised (so they don't ruck up the sod), and they've pronounced it acceptable...

Yesterday Debbie and Michelle were busy all day long – cleaning, organizing, and (most importantly) making a b'stilla for our dinner.  It's been seven or eight years since we last made one.  Oh, man, was it delicious!  They've got shrimp burgers on the menu for tonight's meal...

This morning I'm going to have something I've never had in Utah: scrapple.  Debbie and Michelle ran down to the Amish store in Perry on Wednesday and picked up five pounds of it for me.  Four pounds are in the freezer.  One pound is about to have some slabs hacked off of it, fried, and arranged on my plate with a couple fried eggs.  Then I'll slide that whole lovely, aromatic concoction down my throat while making ecstatic noises...

We're hoping for a little weather good enough for Jimmy and I to work outside today.  If we get it, we'll be hauling my chop saw from our deck back into my woodshop (that sucker is heavy!), putting up light fixtures, and possibly moving the leftover cedar (about 200 sq. ft. worth) into my barn.  I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that cedar, but I will most certainly be doing something with it – it's beautiful!

Tomorrow is shaping up to be a bit of an emotional roller-coaster for us.  In the morning we're headed down to Salt Lake City for several stops.  First up: we go to the airport to meet our new dog.  She's a young field spaniel, about 16 months old. coming from a breeder in Michigan.  Why, you might ask, would we get yet another dog (this one will make five!)?  Well, because we're suckers for sad stories involving field spaniels.  This little girl (who we will call Ipo (EE-poh)) was adopted as a puppy from the breeder in Michigan.  Then after being in her new home for a year (!), her owner decided she didn't like field spaniels, and returned her to the breeder and got a different dog.  For Debbie and I this seems just appalling – and most likely indicative of a less-than-loving home.  The breeder couldn't find a home for the year-old dog, and already had far too many dogs herself.  She reached out to Debbie and, well, we're going to the airport in the morning. :)  After we pick up Ipo, we're headed to the Red Iguana for a farewell dinner with Jimmy and Michelle – after that repast, doubtlessly excellent, we had back to the airport to drop off Jimmy and Michelle for their flight home.  Then we head to Wild Birds Unlimited to stock up on some high quality birdseed – it's on sale for 30% off, and we're taking advantage.  Then (finally!) it's back home for us, to introduce Ipo to our other four mutts.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Paradise ponders: good news and bad news, this and that edition...

Paradise ponders: good news and bad news, this and that edition...  Sunday afternoon, after I finished my bookkeeping, I found myself alone in the house with four dogs who desperately wanted some attention.  So I leashed up the two little ones (Cabo and Mako) and we all went walking up the dirt road leading east from our driveway.  The two photos below were taken along the way, but the highlight of the walk is captured in the video at right: butterflies.  Hundreds upon hundreds of yellow butterflies, feeding from the 200+ acres of alfalfa around us that was in bloom, and getting minerals from the water seeping up on the drying dirt road.  At points in the walk I was in the middle of a cloud of butterflies, so many that I often felt their wings beating against my arms or my cheeks.  The dogs (Cabo, especially) went sort of crazy for a little while, trying to catch them – and then suddenly they just gave it up as a lost cause and simply ignored the butterflies all around them.


Sunday evening we all played some games: the Mexican train game, and a card game called Skip-Bo.  The two photos below show a Mexican train game in progress.  The lovely lady in the first photo is Michelle, Jimmy's wife (and Jimmy is the sap at left).  I lost the game, badly.  :)


Monday morning I was up before sunrise, and headed out to give the doggers their morning constitutional.  I walked Mako and Cabo first, and those two basically dragged me around the alfalfa field.  Afterwards I got Miki and Race, and we had a much more sedate walk – to the point where I dared take out my phone to snap a photo of an interesting conjunction in our eastern skies.  If you click the photo at right to embiggen it, you'll see an out-of-focus crescent moon with the “dark” side well-lit by earthshine, and Venus above and to the right of it.  Just below Venus and slightly left you can just barely make out another planet: Mars.  Quite a show of solar system objects for one small section of the sky!

Sunday afternoon I mounted our cutoff switch into the oak panel we'd glued up the previous day – that went perfectly, and now our electrical box is very securely mounted in a proper way.  So yesterday morning (Monday), Jimmy and I went right to work on the cedar tongue-and-groove ceiling.  Despite a slew of interruptions, we made substantial progress – about a third of the ceiling is now sheathed. The first photo below shows the initial three runs; the second where we stopped for the day.  We installed the first three lights after we got by their junction boxes.  That cedar is going to make a beautiful ceiling, especially after it goes gray.  Once it reaches that stage (probably at least two years), I'll put a coat of flat polyurethane on it.  We did have one small oopsie along the way: the escutcheons for light fixtures don't quite cover the square holes we cut in the cedar.  Dammit!  But Debbie had a wonderful idea for how to fix it: we're going to get the folks at Lazy K Wrought Iron to make us some ornamental plates to go between the light fixture and the cedar.  These will be donut-shaped, with the outside diameter big enough to comfortably cover the square hole, and the inside diameter small enough to be hidden inside the fixture.  Perfect!


While Jimmy and I were working away on the deck, a small army of sod workers descended on our yard.  At one point there were six people working hard at it.  The sod truck (ginormous!) delivered the sod around lunchtime, and from then until around 8 pm this group slaved away.  The truck delivered about 10,000 sq ft of sod, and every square inch was laid by the time the team left.  Almost all of our front yard is now under sod, and about 1/3 of the back yard.  Photos of the sod part of the day below...


So ... if you've read this far, you might be wondering what the bad news is.  Well, take a look at the scene at right: our back yard this morning.  We had a 50% chance of 0.2" of rain in our forecast for last night.  As of 8 am this morning, we've received 100% of about 1" of rain.  We're soaked.  This means that the sod truck (which has to drive across an alfalfa field) can't deliver.  Even if he could, the workers can't lay sod on soupy mud.  The deck is wet, so Jimmy and I can't safely work.  It's still raining as I write this, though the end appears to be in sight (judging from the radar).  Argh!

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Paradise ponders: good company, good food, and deck progress edition...

Paradise ponders: good company, good food, and deck progress edition...  Jimmy and Michelle are with us, which automatically means lots of games, laughs, conversation, and red, red wine.  :)  This morning we went to Herm's for breakfast, and as always it was delicious.  Debbie and Michelle went shopping in Ogden yesterday while Jimmy and I worked on the deck, and they came back all smiles and happiness.  Yesterday afternoon we had bison burgers.  For lunch, Jimmy and I had some delicious sandwiches: tomato herb bread from Great Harvest, with Lebanon bologna and farmer's cheese from the Amish store in Willard (courtesy of Debbie and Michelle on a previous trip).  That sandwich brought back lots of memories for me, of the good food my dad always knew exactly where to buy in the Pennsylvania Dutch country – the Lebanon bologna and farmer's cheese tasted exactly like my memory of them...

On Saturday afternoon, Debbie and Michelle made us a feast with enough food for a few dozen people.  The centerpiece was Debbie's fresh cod – but there was also roasted veggies (beets, potatoes, crookneck squash, and orange zucchini), and homemade biscuits.  Awesome, it was.

The cats have basically taken over our sun room.  So far as they're concerned, the room belongs to them – and our presence may or may not be tolerated.  :)  As you can see, they certainly seem to assume the furniture out there is their own...

Yesterday Jimmy and I made really good progress on the deck.  The day's big job was to patch all the siding damaged during the deck construction (and related demolition), and to install trim around the new door onto the deck.  I forgot to take photos of that. :)  The first thing we had to do was to move my chop saw (first photo) from the woodworking shop in the barn to the deck.  That required a bit of ingenuity so that we could lift it up – we ended up fabricating some wooden handles so our hands wouldn't be cut by sharp edges on its table.  The second photo shows our “clamping” arrangement to glue the oak panel (painted white) to the OSB sub-wall.  We're using the electrical box (with a cutoff switch) to wedge the oak panel into the wall.  The third photo shows some of the electrical work we did on Friday, and the last photo the stanchions we installed on Thursday.  Tomorrow we're going to screw that electrical box into the oak panel and then start installing the cedar ceiling.  Real progress – woo hoo!


Our sprinkler contractors were working all day on Saturday, getting ready for sod installation early next week (Tuesday is the current target).  The seed planted last Thursday has already started to sprout.  Even the yard is (finally) starting to come together!  We're going to be very happy when there's no more open dirt to make dust, and when we can tell that we have an asphalt driveway again (it's completely covered by dirt now)...

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...

Paradise ponders: all kinds of stuff edition...  Jimmy and Michelle B., our guests for the next ten days, arrived as planned on Wednesday afternoon.  We stopped at the Red Iguana (of course!) and had a wonderful dinner, then at their request stopped at Walmart so they could pick up a game they wanted to play with us: the Mexican Train Dominoes game.  The four of us have been playing it each evening.  It's a game whose outcome is mostly determined by chance, but has some opportunities for strategy and more for skilled pattern-matching.  It's fun and easy enough for anyone to learn how to play in a short time.

This morning I got up at around 5 am, well before sunrise this time of year.  The dogs were agitating to be let out, and right now our yard is not a place we want to let them run (more on that in a moment).  So – before tea, even – I grabbed a couple of leashes and took them out, two at a time.  First out were Mako and Cabo, both pulling so hard that I could barely stand upright.  They wanted out, and right the hell now!  They half-drug me over to the hay field north of our house, where we've been walking them for the past few days, and then went about 2 feet before both of them stopped, simultaneously, and peed.  There were little canine grunts of relief all during this process.  Then again in perfect synchrony they launched themselves into a new effort: drag the poppa across the alfalfa field in a search for voles.  While being dragged I had the opportunity to glance around the sky: marvelously clear for the first time in weeks (the smoke is gone).  Orion, my old constellation friend, was high in the southern sky.  A less-than-quarter moon hung in the southeast.  Just over the Wasatch Mountains in the east, Venus hovered in a notch between two mountains.  Despite not a hint of twilight, I had plenty of light to see (mainly from the moon).  Eventually I managed to herd the two puppies back into the house, and swapped out the two older boys: Race and Miki.  We three took a much more sedate walk over roughly the same route, and I had a better chance to look around and observe.  One thing that struck me was the sheer number of artificial lights visible at this hour on and around our home.  I counted 11 LEDs visible from the north side of our house, mainly on electronic equipment: little low-power status lights for the most part.  Some are green, others orange, red, blue, or white.  None of them are nearly bright enough to interfere with my night vision, but are plainly visible even a couple hundred feet away...

Our yard had some real progress this week.  The forecast called for rain on Thursday night and Friday morning, so our contractor went all out to get the yard ready for seeding before that hit.  He managed it, putting the last seed down in the first of the sprinkles.  It took 600 pounds of seed to cover roughly 2.7 acres.  All of that area had to be raked, rolled, and fertilized before he could spread the seed.  He and his crew also made sure that the sprinkler heads in those areas were all functioning correctly, just in case the predicted rain didn't arrive.  They also fixed a problem our sun room builder had left for us: leaks and seepage from the sun room foundation into what used to be casements and are now cat perches and routes into the sun room.  The problem was twofold: two large joints had not been sealed, and the outside of the concrete had not been tarred.  Our sprinkler contractor was digging in the area anyway, so he volunteered to tackle that repair for us, and he did a bang-up job.

As it turned out, for once the weatherman was dead on: we got exactly the forecast amount of rain (0.6"), and exactly when predicted.  Our freshly-sown seed got a great soaking-in, just as we'd hoped it would.  The back yard, due for sod shortly, turned into one giant mud-bowl.  That's why we're not letting the dogs run out there – they'd end up doubling their weight through mud adhesion, and instead of enjoying the time with our guests we'd be washing unwilling and uncooperative mutts. :)  The sod for the rest of the yard has been ordered, and is scheduled for delivery on Monday evening.  Our contractor is trying to arrange for help to show up Tuesday: an entire girl's high school baseball team.  They have experience maintaining and installing sod from the maintenance of their playing field, and there's 20 of them.  That would be quite a sight, if it actually happens! 

Jimmy and I have been working on our long-postponed deck project.  On Thursday we got 22 steel stanchions installed, all spaced properly.  I got a nice big blister on my right hand from using the electric screwdriver to screw in the six big lag screws on each of those stanchions: 132 of them in all.  One stanchion (thankfully, just one) was placed right in front of our air conditioner compressor where there was insufficient room to use the electric screwdriver.  That one I had to screw in with a ratchet wrench – that was a lot of work!

On Friday we went to work on the overhead wiring: two duplex outlets and nine ceiling light fixtures.  It's all in now, and the inspection (the last one!) is scheduled for Monday morning.  Today we're going to start on the carpentry.  First up is the exterior wall of the house where the deck was installed.  There are a half-dozen or so pieces of siding that need to be replaced, some electrical stuff that needs to be removed, some mounting of electrical gear, and quite a bit of trim around the door.  If we get through all that, we'll start putting the tongue-and-groove cedar up on the ceiling.  Monday, for sure, we'll be working on the ceiling, which I'm guessing will take us three days to complete.  Progress!