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!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A very happy puppy...

A very happy puppy ... and her equally happy human.  The puppy is Lucy, a little smooth-coat tri-color border collie.  She's very smart, and (for her age) unusually confident.  Her human is A. J. – Michelle H.'s youngest son, and a few weeks ago the thing he wanted the most in his life was a puppy.  He's been completely devoted to Lucy for several weeks now, and he's working with Debbie to learn how to train her.  He wants to run her in agility!

Paradise ponders: bountiful hay, crazy doorbell, and touchupalooza edition...

Paradise ponders: bountiful hay, crazy doorbell, and touchupalooza edition...  Our north field and Tim D.'s field (at right) were both baled last night.  The fellow doing the baling worked well into the night; I don't think he finished until after 10 pm.  Last crop, about six weeks ago, Tim set a personal hay record – best in 35 years –  with 325 standard bales.  This crop is going to beat that by at least 20%.  The main factor causing this was the weather – we had lots of hot, sunny days.  I don't think Tim's going to try for another cutting this year, so that means pretty soon his horses will have the run of that beautiful field.  They'll be especially happy because there will be about a month's growth that they can gnaw down...

Two people emailed me wanting to see the doorbell switch I described but didn't post a photo of.  That's it, installed, at left.  It works fine, but we've discovered that we have a slightly problem: if we're upstairs we can't hear the darned thing!  That's probably also true if we're downstairs.  Looks like we might need a doorbell that rings in three places inside the house – and maybe it should send us a text, too...

I spent much of this morning painting – touch-up work, mainly on trim.  We had a lot of places where the trim had taken some hits, most likely from when we've moved furniture or other big things inside the house.  It's easy work, but a bit tedious.  After that I did my “water chores”: added salt to the water softener, changed the sediment filters (we have two in series), and changed out the ultraviolet bulb in our water purifier.  That last bit is an annual ritual – not really very difficult, but because I do it so infrequently I have to re-learn what to do each time. :)  I imagine I'll be able to keep changing the filters and that UV bulb for quite a few more years before I'm too feeble – but I'm more concerned about the salt.  It comes in 40 pound bags that have to be carried from the garage down to the basement mechanical room, then lifted waist-high and dumped into the saline tank of the water softener.  There will come a time when those things are beyond me, perhaps not so many years from now.  The only solution I can come up with for that problem is to hire a local kid to come do it for me!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Paradise ponders: sprinkler project challenges, homecoming, an interesting meeting, finishing touches, and imminent guest arrivals...

Paradise ponders: sprinkler project challenges, homecoming, an interesting meeting, finishing touches, and imminent guest arrivals...  Our sprinkler project is facing some serious challenges, mostly of the running-out-of-time kind.  We are expecting our irrigation water to be shut off in two weeks, and we're not sure we can get the sod down in time.  This is really frustrating for both Debbie and I, as we started this project well over a year ago (with our current contractor) – and we had been promised completion by the end of May.  That was put off until June 15th – and we're still not done.  Worse, if we miss the water deadline, that means we won't have the sod down until next spring (April, most likely).  We've been living with dirt yards now for seven months, and we're kind of tired of it.  Argh!  I haven't given up on getting the sod down this year ... but it's obvious that we're at risk for that...

Our friends Tim and Jeannie D. made it back from their Alaskan cruise on Sunday night, as planned.  Their three dogs were overwhelmed with doggie joy to see them. :)  Tim (who doesn't drink and who is most emphatically not a party guy) reports that despite the crowds and drunks they had a great time.  They had lots of off-ship activities until the last two days, and the food was great.  He actually got tired of eating!  They didn't like the crowds, though, and the last two days were entirely at sea in the fog, so there wasn't much to do.  They felt sawed off from the world, too, as they refused to pay the outrageous fees charged by the cruise line for WiFi and texts.  With their numerous kids and grandkids, they're normally having dozens of interactions every day – but not while on this cruise.  So while they enjoyed it, they were very glad to be home again...

Debbie and I had a very interesting meeting this morning, at our home.  Christine Knapp is a sculptor who specializes in bronze wildlife pieces.  Debbie found her through a dog friend, and she's been talking with Christine for months.  Christine and her husband Bill planned a grand circuit, two weeks long, and this morning they stopped by to see us.  When they drove up, we could tell they were our kind of people: they arrived in a pickup, their two dogs in the back seat.  They've got an FJ Cruiser.  They don't like cities.  We were all chattering like old friends within a few minutes.  Inside the house, Bill started playing with Race right away, tossing a toy for him to retrieve.  Debbie and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting both of them!  Christine brought a small clay “study” of a piece she and Debbie have been talking about for our backyard, on the water feature we're fantasizing about building next year (after our damned sod is down!).  This piece would be a life-sized sculpture of a mother mountain lion with two cubs.  Christine's study shows the pose that she'd like to do, and Debbie and I both loved it.  Because I'm an idiot, I forgot to take a photo of it – so I can't show you here.  The cost is within our reach and substantially less than I had feared.  So we have said “Go!”, and we're expecting the sculpture to be done sometime before next summer.  That, of course, means another project added to the list – the water feature – and that feels like a bit one even before we start it...

Yesterday and today I've been working in our mud room.  Now that the cabinetry is in place, it was time to do the finishing work: caulking and painting, mainly of trim.  I did the caulking yesterday, and it was cured enough by this morning for me to start painting.  I put the first coat on this morning; the second coat will be this afternoon or (worst case) tomorrow morning.  Both the caulking and the paint are modern concoctions that are a joy to work with compared with the materials that existed when I was a kid.  The caulk is siliconized acrylic, with a texture that is absolutely perfect for filling in nail holes, joints between boards, and the like.  It cleans up nicely with soap and warm water, too.  The paint I was using was for our trim: bright, glossy white.  The stuff in the can is very thick – about like whipped cream.  There's so much pigment that only the very darkest backgrounds will actually require multiple coats.  Feathering the paint as I brushed was ridiculously easy, because of the low viscosity.  The self-leveling ability looked like magic to me – I'd brush that thick goop on, which left big brush marks, but then within 5 seconds or so those marks would all completely disappear.  What nice materials we have these days!

Tomorrow afternoon our old friends Jimmy and Michelle B. are arriving for a ten day visit.  We are so looking forward to this!  I'm going to be putting Jimmy to work helping me on our deck.  Debbie and Michelle will, I suspect, be cooking up a storm the entire time.  We'll be playing games in the evening and consuming much wine; the gameplay may not be brilliant. :)  We're going to be picking them up at the airport in our Tesla (which they've not seen yet), and stopping at Red Iguana for dinner on the way home.  Good times!