Saturday, September 30, 2017

Paradise ponders, discombobulation edition...

Paradise ponders, discombobulation edition...  Sorry for the radio silence, folks – things have been a tad confused and hectic around here.  I just got back from the Salt Lake City airport, where I dropped Debbie off for her flight back to Ohio to attend her mom's viewing and funeral.  She'll be back home next Friday.

On Thursday, Debbie got some great grief therapy: she went shopping with our friend Michelle H., getting an outfit to wear at the events of next week.  She might have accidentally bought about six other outfits as well. :)  She came back home much cheered.  Bless you, Michelle!  My own much less effective efforts at therapy included conversations about the good memories about her mom, and playing long games of Mexican Train.  Those didn't come close to rivaling the effects of shopping with a good friend...

In between all the other stuff happening, I did finish the redwood 2x6 rails for our deck.  I'll be installing them today, weather permitting (rain is in the forecast, so there's some doubt about this).  Yesterday Randy Bingham and his sidekick Jeffrey showed up to install the stone on our two front porches.  They'll be back today to finish up the porch by our front door.  The porch to the sun room has a problem, though: the quarry cut one of the four pieces incorrectly.  Randy and Jeffrey took that back to the quarry yesterday, either for re-cutting (if they can) or cutting four new matching pieces for us.  It will be done on Monday, either way, and they'll have it down soon thereafter.

I have some photos of this stuff, but I'm not where I can post them right now.  I'll catch up on that another day (maybe tomorrow!)...

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

RIP, Mary Kathleen Geis Lorenz...

RIP, Mary Kathleen (“Kate”) Geis Lorenz...  Debbie's mom died last night, after living several years in a nursing home with gradually worsening Alzheimer's.  It's been a couple of years since Debbie was last able to hold a real conversation with her, and about a year since Kate last knew who Debbie was, so in a sense she's been gone for a while now.  With Kate's passing, all four of our parents are now gone.  That's a strange and lonely feeling...

I knew Kate fairly well, mainly from her many visits to us when we lived in California.  I have many fond memories of her.  She was at our wedding, which my own parents couldn't afford the travel to attend.  We went on several trips with her: to the La Sal Mountains in Utah, to Idaho, to Yellowstone, to Hawai'i, and up the California coast.  Those trips were huge adventures for her, as she had only rarely strayed more than a few dozen miles from her home in Liberty, Indiana.  Kate was a most excellent traveling companion: full of wonder at all the new things to see, always in good humor, and willing to put up with all the privations of traveling on a tight (sometimes nonexistent!) budget.  Debbie and I are lucky to have a brain full of these wonderful memories to remember her with.  Here are just a few:
  • Four-wheeling in the La Sal Mountains near dusk, and coming upon a “tornado” of swallows.  We'd never seen this behavior before, nor have we since: something over 100 swallows flying in a tight vortex over a knoll, continuing even as we approached quite closely.  I remember Kate's face as she watched this, full of wonder.
  • Visiting a “hummingbird lady” in Idaho, after getting directions from the owner of the B&B we were staying at.  This lady had perhaps 50 or 60 feeders, all crowded with hummers.  We sat under a covered porch and watched them with the hummingbird lady: a little old lady with a sunny disposition who was happy to share her flying jewels with anyone who happened by.  This was before we fed hummingbirds ourselves, and was the first time Debbie and I had ever seen anything like it.  Kate was transfixed, her eyes following those little hummers for the entire time we were there.  Uncharacteristically she was quiet, almost reverent.
  • Pretending we'd put a gecko on her back in the cabin we were staying in, in Kalopa State Park on the big island of Hawai'i.  The hooting and screeching, and subsequent laughter, still brings a quick smile for me.  On this same trip, her luggage went to Pago Pago (literally!) instead of Kona.  She wore clothes borrowed from us until her luggage was found.  When it finally got to Kona, a taxi driver brought it to us, about 90 minutes from the airport.
  • Four-wheeling down to Kealakekua Bay, and back up.  It rained while we were down on the bay, so I had to get the vehicle back up slippery wet lava to get back to the top.  This involved several occasions when I'd run at a steep slope as fast as I dared and let momentum carry us up.  Kate's screeching and hollering when I did this was hysterically funny; we were crying we were laughing so hard.
  • Four-wheeling through the Parker Ranch (then still operating), and coming upon a cattle drive, complete with cowboys (paniolo) on horseback.  The cowboys stopped to talk with us, and Kate watched the entire affair with delight.
  • Standing with her at the Monterey Aquarium, in front of the jellyfish tank.  Those jellyfish gave her the heebie-jeebies, but she seemed unable to move away from them, fascinated by their movement.
I could go on with these memories for a long time.  It's very comforting right now, just to have them...

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Paradise ponders: dogs and rails edition...

Paradise ponders: dogs and rails edition...  Ipo, our newest field spaniel, acts like she's been part of the Paradise hooligan field spaniels forever.  At right you see her last night, just before she tucked in with us for the night.  I took about 25 flash photos of her, and this is the only one that wasn't completely wrecked – she just won't stand still when there's something exciting like bedtime at hand!  I'm (very pleasantly!) surprised how fast she's integrated with our herd.

This afternoon I walked out in our back yard with the three  youngest (Ipo, Mako, and Cabo) and watched them play and run (two minutes of happy field spaniels at left).  Ipo acts just like the other two, and all three are having a ball...

In between runs to Home Depot, feeding the birds, and other sundry chores, I managed to get a start on the redwood rails for the deck.  For the long rails, on the east and west sides of the deck, I joined two 92" pieces of 2x6 to make a 184" rail.  I used my dowel jig for the first time, and I'm very pleased with the results.  In the first photo below, you can see the jig attached to the bottom piece of 2x6, and the results in the top piece.  I've made a lot of dowel joints, but never have they been either this easy or this precise.  Those holes are positioned to within 1/100" of where they should be, maybe much better.  The second photo shows my gluing clamp arrangement in the foreground, and a glued rail in the background (lying flat).  These joints are darned near perfect – after a swipe or two of 200 grit sandpaper the joints will be impossible to feel...


Monday, September 25, 2017

Paradise ponders: the all-kinds-of-stuff, catch-up edition...

Paradise ponders: the all-kinds-of-stuff, catch-up edition...  Seems like ages since I've had a few calm minutes to sit down and blog!

Jimmy and Michelle made it back to the airport for their trip home on Saturday, after a stop at the Red Iguana for yet another outstanding meal.  We had a fifth person with us: Jay G. (more on him later), who hails from Michigan and was unfamiliar with “real” Mexican food (Taco Bell was most of his previous experience).  Because he was unfamiliar with the items on the menu, we helped him order: chicken tamales smothered with his pick of the mole sauces.  His surprised smile when he tasted the first bite was priceless. :)  There were not many molecules of deliciousness left on his plate when he was finished!

Last week Michelle and Debbie made a wonderful b'stilla (a traditional Moroccan delicacy, a kind of sweet and spicy chicken pie).  I mentioned this in a previous post, but failed to post the photos – I've fixed that below.  The two of them were disappointed that the phyllo dough didn't hold together, but Jimmy and I couldn't have cared less: it tasted great, and brought back fond memories of a restaurant in San Diego, long out of business...


Speaking of Jimmy (aka “the goat”): here's a snap of him and our border collie Race, who milked every bit of attention from both Jimmy and Michelle that he could get.

Sometime last week, our friend Michelle H. showed up with pillows for our mud room.  She made these for us, after she and Debbie picked out a bunch of different colored cloth to make them from.  They're beautiful!  The photo at left shows half of them; the bench on the other side of the mud room is similarly pillow-equipped.  The pillows also fixed a color problem that Debbie had with the mud room – the color of the new cabinetry didn't go well with the color of the floors and walls, and somehow the pillows were needed to fix that.  Such things are beyond my ken, but Debbie and Michelle were happy with the results, so I'm happy!  :)

While Michelle was visiting, I walked by her car and saw this bumper sticker on it.  Loved it!

On one of our rainy days last week, we spotted the season's first snow on the local mountains – it's just visible under the cloud bottoms on the photo at left.  There's a lot more snow up there today, as you'll see in a photo below...

Friday was quite hectic for our contractors putting in the sprinklers and sod: rain was due Friday night, and they were scrambling to get the sod all laid down in time.  They did it, but only just: the first rain started just as they finished.  By this morning we've had over an inch of rain fall here, and the newly sodded areas are thoroughly drenched. The first photo below shows one of the trucks that delivered our sod (three loads in all).  The truck is too big to get into our driveway, so they drove through our hay field to get as close to our house as they could, then drive a couple hundred yards with a fork lift to deliver each pallet of sod.  Each truckload delivered 28 pallets of sod; we used 62 in all.  The center photo shows the dogs on their first outing onto the sod-covered yard.  For the first ten minutes or so, there was non-stop sniffing by all five dogs.  After that, they started into the hard-core playing (especially Cabo and Mako, the younger two).  They played so hard that they've been flipping up corners of the laid sod. :)  All of them love their new back yard!  The last photo is from this morning, looking at our back yard: nicely smoothed, gently sloped for good drainage, and (for the moment) free of anything even resembling a weed.  The color differences, I'm told, come from the fact that the sod was cut from different parts of the field, with different exposures, soil types, etc.  That should all even out by the middle of next season.  Mark (the contractor) tells me that I'll likely need to mow it next week.  Amazing!


The fellow I mentioned earlier (Jay G.) was here on Saturday because he flew in from Michigan with our new field spaniel, Ipo.  He stayed with us on Saturday night, and we took him back to the airport yesterday for his trip home.  Ipo was an absolute sweetheart from (literally) the first moment we spotted her.  As I walked from the car to the curb to greet Jay, Ipo jumped up to investigate me, all curious and bold – but very gentle and respectful.  When we got her home, we introduced her to our other four dogs one at a time, out in the yard – no problems at all.  Within just a few minutes, she was bounding around our yard with all four of the others, and joyfully roughhousing with Cabo and Mako.  We've had a few minor tussles, always between Ipo and Mako, but they got it all straightened out by themselves in just seconds.  If you've had any experience with adult dogs meeting new adult dogs, you know that's about as good as it gets.  By this morning they're all acting like they're in the same pack – just wonderful from our perspective.  That's Ipo in the two snaps at right.  She's slightly larger than Cabo, quite a bit smaller than Mako; darker brown than they are in overall color, with a nice big white patch on her chest.  Her face is longer than Cabo's, narrower than Mako's, and her shoulders and thighs are narrower than either of them.  She's fast, clearly smart, very confident (in both personality and physicality), and graceful.  We've had her with us for two nights, working on our bonding, and she's been most respectful of us – but also occasionally (during the night) coming up to see us for some reassurance.  She's had three homes in the last two months, so we're paying a lot of attention to making her feel confident of this one – her last one, though we have no good way to tell her that.  Debbie and I are a bit surprised that even though we have four field spaniels, they are four very distinct animals, both in appearance and in personality.  There are no problems telling this group apart! :)

I'll leave you today with a photo I took this morning.  I was driving to our vet just before 8 am, to drop off Laki for a couple of minor surgeries.  I had to stop to capture this: the Wellsville Mountains in the early morning sunlight.  This is the sort of display – common here – that causes Debbie or I to say: “We live in a postcard...”  Indeed we do...

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!

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!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Paradise ponders: sprinkler malfunctions, birthdays, clear skies, animals in hurricanes, and different assumptions edition...

Paradise ponders: sprinkler malfunctions, birthdays, clear skies, animals in hurricanes, and different assumptions edition...  After I finished my shower this morning and was toweling off, I heard something most unexpected: the sound of large volumes of water running outside.  I threw on my robe and ran out to see what it was – and discovered that our sprinklers were running.  I've no idea why they were running, but right now, with no grass, all they're doing is making a nice field of mud.  I logged onto the controllers web site and suspended the schedule for a month – and a few minutes later, the sprinklers shut off.  I thought that was the end of that.  But ... when Debbie started her cat chores this morning, she discovered that one room in our basement had been flooded, about 50 square feet in all.  She and I moved everything out of the flooded area and mopped up; no permanent damage, I think.

Today is my birthday.  Feels just like any other day to me.  Try as I might, I can't feel anything different about it...

Our skies are mostly clear of the smoke that's been plaguing us.  Yesterday was the first relatively smoke-free day in a week or so.  There's still a teeny bit of haze visible, but no more stinging eyes or awful stench.  Very nice, that is...

I've been reading multiple stories (one example) of animals being abandoned by people fleeing the hurricane zone.  At least some of these appear to be legitimate stories, and not Twitter-fueled hype or outright fake news.  I just can't wrap my brain around people being so cruel or thoughtless – and especially when the disaster is a hurricane that people had several days warning for.  They could have gotten themselves and their helpless, dependent pets out of harm's way, but they chose not to.  People who would abandon their pets like that ... must be dangerous to their fellow humans as well.  Long prison sentences at hard labor sounds quite appropriate to me...

This morning as I walked out to my barn it was light outside, though the sun hadn't quite risen above the mountains to our east.  I could clearly see Venus in the blue sky, nice and bright.  This made me think about a similar morning a few years ago, not long after I moved up here, during the period I was alone here to remodel our house.  One of the construction workers was out working on the barn, and I remarked to him about how bright Venus was that morning.  He said “I don’t know what that is, but it’s not Venus.”  I asked him why he thought it wasn't Venus, and he showed me an app he had on his phone.  The app used the phone's orientation sensors to figure out what piece of the sky the camera was aimed at, and then it showed where bright objects should be.  It showed Venus on its map, but not exactly where the real Venus was.  That's because the phone's sensors aren't all that accurate.  The worker's default assumption, though, was that the phone's sensors (and the app) were perfect.  If there was a bright star near where the app said Venus was, that couldn't be Venus – it had to be some other star that the app didn't know about.  I could not convince this fellow that the phone and app were imperfect.  I'm fascinated by that assumption, which is just the opposite of my own.  I tried it on a few other people over the next few days (having loaded the app onto my own phone).  I found several other people who reacted exactly as that worker had, and a couple whose first reaction was to think the app was lame (but even they didn't realize it was likely the phone's sensors).  I think what's going on here is that most users of things like smartphones and apps have no idea at all how they work.  For them, it's effectively magic.  And who ever heard of lame magic?  So if the real world didn't match what the magic said – why then, it must be the real world that's at fault!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Career fair...

Career fair...  Well, as planned I attended a career fair put on by the LDS church for the young men in the stake we live in.  If you're unfamiliar with the LDS church's organization, a “stake” is a collection of “wards”, and each ward is one congregation in a church (one church generally has several congregations that meet at different times).  So a stake is a fairly large collection of people – several thousand at minimum.  The idea was to bring about ten or so adults representing a variety of career to one place where the young men could easily talk with them.  The place they selected was an area within the Cinnamon Creek church property that's east (and upstream) of Porcupine Reservoir.  It's a beautiful property set in a beautiful canyon; I spent quite a bit of time just gawking at my surroundings.

Prior to the actual career event, I sat with a group of adult men being engaged by one of the stake leaders.  This is the first time I'd ever been able to observe such a meeting, and I was impressed with what I saw.  This particular meeting was all about various ways the adult men were going to help and mentor the young men in the stake over the next year.  The leader was a skilled facilitator, adept at extracting participation of even the most reticent participant.  He was also good at communicating, and at listening.  Several of the group he was engaging with showed evidence of similar skills.  This sort of community participation is a big factor in LDS culture – it's easy to imagine that as a group they might produce an unusual percentage of competent leaders.

The presenters (which I was one of) were a great cross-section of the Cache Valley work force.  I know several of them who are part of the same ward that we live in; two are neighbors.  We had several engineers, a fellow who makes fireworks, a firefighter, a car repairman, a doctor, a graphic artist and photographer, and more.  I'd have found such an opportunity very interesting when I was in high school.

Unfortunately, the attendance (by kids) was quite disappointing – only a dozen or so showed up, and less than half of those came over to speak with me.  This career fair had been scheduled on the same day as homecoming in the local high schools and a bike race that many of the stake's young men were participating in.  They're going to try to do a better job of scheduling next year, but they've got one bad structural problem that's vexing them: they have to schedule the Cinnamon Creek facility nearly a year in advance, and events like homecoming and the bike race are scheduled months after that...

Friday, September 8, 2017

Paradise ponders: easy days and career fairs edition...

Paradise ponders: easy days and career fairs edition...  The past couple of days I've spent most of my time working on some programming.  Very satisfying for me to get deeply back into it.  I'm writing some low-level network communications stuff at the moment, to create a lightweight, convenient, and secure library for my homemade IoT stuff.  Much fun!

Tomorrow morning I'm driving to the Cinnamon Creek campground to participate in a career fair of sorts.  Some local folks asked me to be there to talk with any kids who might be interested in a career I have knowledge of.  This is a church-sponsored event, but the fact that I'm not a member of the church doesn't seem to bother anyone.  It will be interesting for me to see the Cinnamon Creek facility (I've heard a lot about it, but usually its for church members only), and to see what the young folks here might be thinking about their careers.  I'm scheduled to be there from 9 am to noon.

After I finish with that, Debbie and I are planning to drive down to Salt Lake City to meet up with a group of her friends who are in town for a conference.  Naturally, we're going to the Red Iguana!   I don't think I'll be hungry tomorrow night!  :)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Paradise ponders: outrageous fees, orange moon, lonely dogs, and hurdling hurricanes...

Paradise ponders: outrageous fees, orange moon, lonely dogs, and hurdling hurricanes...  Watched the video of hurricane Irma at right this morning.  The first thought that came to mind was borne of my days in the Navy: I wouldn't want to be on a ship in the eye of Irma.  You'd be in calm waters, but there would be no escaping that wall of wind.  The second thought that came to mind: how marvelous it is that we can actually see this hurricane, and nearly in real time.  In the '50s and '60s, when I was a young boy, photos or movies of hurricanes were impossible.  We generally only knew approximately where a hurricane was until after it made landfall.  The sort of precise warning we have today was unheard of – we just knew there might be a hurricane coming.  We had no real idea of when or where it might strike, or how powerful it was, until after the fact...

As I walked out to my barn this morning, pre-dawn, I saw a most beautiful sight: a perfect full moon hanging about 10° above the western horizon.  It was orange because the light is filtered through the smoky air, and the shorter wavelengths (the blues) are scattered more readily than the longer (reds).  The smoke particles are fine enough that they don't noticeably interfere with visual resolution, yet they still filter the color.  The smoke is, we think, from wildfires in eastern Idaho and western Montana.  Our winds were from the northwest most of yesterday (and will be again today), blowing the smoke from those distant fires over us.  Yesterday there was enough smoke to irritate our eyes, and to remind us of the scary days in southern California when such smoke meant wildfires within striking range of our homes.  Thankfully that is not the case here – we're safe, though many others not so far away are not...

Our friends and neighbors, Tim and Jeannie D., are on a cruise off Alaska right now.  They left on Sunday, and won't be back until next Sunday.  Their three dogs (at right: Debbie with Riley, Lexy, and Marley) are in an outdoor pen with access to the barn.  Abby S., a mutual neighbor, is taking care of their basic needs.  Debbie and I are visiting at least daily, just to give them a little company.  These three spend most of every day with Tim, following him about everywhere he goes.  Being on their own is a new and not particularly happy experience for them.  When we show up, they swarm us, looking for touches and reassurances.  Tim texted me yesterday with an annoyed message: it seems the cruise ship somehow manages to charge him per text received or sent – $3 each!  That is completely unjustifiable gouging.  Normally price gouging doesn't bother me, as it is an efficient way to distribute a scarce resource.  But ... texts are not a scarce resource at all!  The cruise ship is taking advantage of a monopoly it holds, plain and simple.  I already have about 17,000 reasons to never go on a cruise, but this adds yet one more.  I wonder if all the cruise ship lines behave like this, or if it's just a few?  I remember when hotels generally did this sort of thing (with telephone calls), but that's nearly gone now in this age of cell phones...

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Paradise ponders: weird switches, doorbells, dusty sunrises, and fine wine edition...

Paradise ponders: weird switches, doorbells, dusty sunrises, and fine wine edition...  A while back, Debbie found a really pretty doorbell switch (with a brightly colored cat background).  Our house has no doorbell wiring between the front door and the place we'd like a bell, so a conventional 24 VAC doorbell is impractical.  Someday I'd like to build a doorbell that actually uses mechanical bells (I love the sound of them!), but for now we decided to get one of the bazillion electronic doorbells – the kind with a radio transmitter behind the doorbell switch and a receiver you plug in the wall.  I figured it wouldn't be very hard to scab the pretty switch Debbie found onto the transmitter inside the plastic electronic doorbell switch enclosure.

It was harder than I expected. :)  When I first wired the new switch into the transmitter, it just continuously transmitted: pushing the switch did nothing and the doorbell rang continuously.  Not good.  So I disconnected the pretty switch and connected it to my multimeter, which has a “beep” mode for detecting closed circuits.  That did something really weird: when first connected to the switch, it made no beep (as you'd expect).  When I pushed the switch, it beeped (again, as you'd expect).  But then when I let go of the switch, it kept beeping – most definitely not what you'd expect.  It acted as though there was some kind of active logic inside a simple SPST, NO switch.  WTF?  That bizzaro behavior prompted me to do a little more careful testing.  With the meter in normal resistance measuring mode, I saw that the switch had 0.15 ohms resistance when pushed, but 63.5 ohms when released – not the behavior I'd expect in a simple switch!  The resistance measured the same with the leads in either polarity, so it was a simple resistance, not a diode.  I finally figured out that the switch had an incandescent lamp in it.  I tested it at 24 VAC, and got a dim glow – perfect for spotting a doorbell in an unlit doorway at night.  There was no indication on the packaging of the existence of that lamp, so it caught me completely by surprise.  Fortunately the lamp was wired across the switch terminals with some barely visible wire; a couple of snips and the lamp was gone.  After that, the switch worked as expected, and now we have a doorbell!

The sunrise this morning looked like it was filtered through dust, or possibly smoke.  An even orange glow covered about 120° of the horizon, quite odd looking.

A few months ago I ran across a blog post raving about the effect that a sulfites filter had on red wines.  I really enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon wines, and the idea of making them taste even better appealed to me.  In a weak moment (probably after drinking some wine!) I bought the √úllo filter (at right) despite the high price.  I've used it now for five bottles of wine, several of which I tasted before and after filtering.  Conclusion?  There's definitely an effect on the taste of the wine, and it's positive.  Some wines are much more affected than others, for reasons completely unknown to me.  I'm going to keep using it, filtering one bottle at a time into a decanter.  The price is higher than I'd expect for something like this, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised to see another company come out with one that works just as well, but for half the price...

Monday, September 4, 2017

Sunspots...

Sunspots...  Yesterday I read a mention somewhere that there were big sunspots facing the earth.  So I got out my eclipse binoculars and took a look – and sure enough, I could see three gigantic sunspots right near the center of the sun's disk.  The image at right was taken this morning by the SOHO satellite, but it's pretty close to what I could see in the binoculars.  The three big ones were easily seen, and I also saw a hint of the one off to the right.  The smaller one to the left I couldn't see at all.

When I was a wee lad, I built a telescope (a 6" diameter hand-ground Newtonian reflector on an equatorial mount made from galvanized pipe!).   It was a terrible telescope by any reasonable standards today, because it's now possible to buy superb mass-manufactured optics at very low prices.  But for its time (and most especially for its nearly non-existent budget!), it was actually reasonably good.  I had a simple solar viewer for that telescope: just a piece of white cardboard that I could project an image onto from the telescope's eyepiece.  It was really awkward to aim that thing, and I had to view it at an angle because the telescope's tube was in the way – but it did work and I could see sunspots with it, which thrilled me at the time.  I'll note, though, that the direct observation with these cheap (around $35) binoculars beats the pants off that telescope.

A bit of a side-note here...  Building that telescope was an inflection point in my life, for several reasons.  One was very simple: through the telescope construction I met Norman Edmund, the proprietor of Edmund Scientific.  That company was located in Barrington, New Jersey, within bicycle range of the farm I grew up on.  Back in the '60s, it was a pleasant enough ride, about three hours on mostly back roads.  I bought my telescope parts from Edmund Scientific by mail order, but when I had finished grinding the primary mirror I needed to have it silvered and overcoated.  At the time, Edmund offered mirror finishing as a service, and I rode down there to deliver my mirror for silvering and over coating.  While I was there, I looked through the submarine periscope that was mounted in the showroom, and wandered through the aisles of surplus optics, astounded at what was on offer.  While wandering, Mr. Edmund came over and introduced himself, and offered to help me find what I needed.  I left with a bag full of lenses, prisms, and first-surface mirrors that he didn't charge me for – treasures to me.  Years (and many visits) later, I ended up working there part-time.  That exposure to all sorts of technology was another inflection point for me.  The main takeaway, in the end, was the sense that I could build anything if I set my mind to it.  Cost needn't be an impediment, as almost any kind of technology was available at low cost if you knew how to do it.  My start in electronics was exactly like that: I scrounged scrap TVs from TV repair shops, and stripped them for parts.  Using those parts, I built all kinds of things, including ham radio receivers and transmitters.  It was really rare that I needed to actually purchase a part – I could find (or make) nearly everything I needed from those old scrap TVs...

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Paradise ponders: orange caterpillars, finished project, shocking breakfast, delicious tomatoes, and beautiful morning edition...

Paradise ponders: orange caterpillars, finished project, shocking breakfast, surprise visitors, delicious dinner, and beautiful morning edition...  Yesterday afternoon, while walking from our barn to our house, I spotted this caterpillar walking across our pavement – moving at a good clip, too!  It's roughly the size of my thumb, quite large for a caterpillar.  Thanks to the wonders of Google's image search, I was quickly able to identify it: it's the caterpillar of the Western Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio rutulus).  More particularly, it's the caterpillar just prior to pupation – about to hibernate while it transforms into the adult butterfly.  Prior to this life-cycle stage, the caterpillar is green.  The Western Tiger Swallowtail is a fairly common butterfly here, and we recognized its photos immediately – but we had no idea it's caterpillar looked like that!

I was walking back from the barn because I had just finished the stairs for Michelle H.   I'm really pleased with how they turned out, and so is she (though so far she's only seen the photo).  Michelle will be over in the next few days to do some staining and polyurethane finishing, and then I'll go over and help her install them.  Hopefully they'll fit properly!

Yesterday afternoon Debbie started our dinner, but it was going to take over an hour and I was hungry.  I looked around for a snack and saw (a) a lovely ripe tomato, grown by Michelle H., sitting on our counter, and (b) some leftover fresh mozzarella cheese.  Ah ha!  A few minutes later, I had the dish at right – a little olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and that tomato and cheese.  Debbie had already eaten her share of the cheese, so I hogged this whole thing down myself.  Delicious, it was!

Shortly after I finished that, a couple we didn't know drove into our front yard.  I was up on our balcony, so we talked for a moment and I found out they lived nearby, loved our barn, and wanted to know who had built it.  That led to a delightful four hours of conversation (after a tour of our place) during which we got to know Ben and Laura.  They live about a quarter mile southwest of us, on the fields just above the east side of the Little Bear River.  Ben is a firefighter, a civilian employee of Hill Air Force Base, near Ogden (about an hour's drive).  Laura is an entomologist, working for the Utah State University in Logan, specializing in agricultural pests.  They moved here the year after we did, and still don't really know very many of the local folks.  We made a start on fixing that yesterday. :)

That lovely visit delayed our dinner by a few hours, and made me very glad I'd had that snack!  Not long after Ben and Laura left, our kitchen was full of the enticing aroma of baking cod.  Debbie had purchased two pounds of fresh cod from Macey's, and it needed to be eaten.  She coated the fillets with egg and a spice mix, baked them until they practically fell apart, and then we feasted on that cod and some perfectly cooked white rice.  Cod fixed that way is a favorite of both of us, and last night it was particularly good.  But oh, man, were we ever stuffed!

Before sunrise this morning we headed up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, hoping to spot some moose like we did about a week ago.  No luck with the moose this morning, though we did see quite a few deer, two kingfishers, and a chipmunk zipping across the road.  After our drive we headed up to Angie's for some breakfast.  The special was a bone-in ham steak and eggs, so I ordered that.  Debbie ordered the “Florentine Eggs Benedict”, a concoction that is meatless, but has hollandaise sauce and avocados.  When our waitress delivered the meal, I was shocked into speechlessness by the sheer heft of that ham steak.  I hope you can get a sense of the scale of that thing from the photo - it was about 3/8" thick and about a square foot in extent.  I stuffed it in until I could stuff no more, and I didn't even eat half of it.  I never even touched the homemade rye toast that I love.  Debbie was even less successful in the consumption department than I was: she could only eat half of her relatively tiny little dish.  We walked out with about two pounds of food in boxes, after we stuffed ourselves to the bursting point.  Our dogs will be forever grateful to Angie's for doing that, as they got to eat all of the (lavishly) buttered toast and ham.  Debbie's Florentine Eggs Benedict she's going to try reheating, but I won't be surprised if it ends up as a dog treat, too.  :)

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Paradise ponders: white dust, finished stairs, and WiFi meshes edition...

Paradise ponders: white dust, finished stairs, and WiFi meshes edition...  Yesterday I did the final glue-up on the stairs I'm building for Michelle H.  They're now finished except for a couple of blocks I need to fabricate to attach the stairs to her wall.  I'll be headed over to her house on Tuesday or Wednesday to put them in.  The first photo below shows the bottom of the stairs, and the bazillion clamps I put on for gluing two 2x4s along the bottom of all the lap joints.  I did this just to keep down the bowing that will naturally occur over time.  The second photo just shows the other side, which will be the top of the stairs (the photo shows the stairs assembly sitting on its back, just for convenience while gluing).  I'm very pleased with how this all came out, and I'm especially pleased with how well simple lap joints (created on the router table) worked out.


Yesterday afternoon I headed down to the cat room with a pile of new LED bulbs.  We had three (of 12 total) bulbs burn out, and several were the wrong color (“warm white”, yellowish and dim to our eyes, instead of “daylight”), so I was on a mission to make them all uniform and bright.  While replacing the three bulbs on the first fixture, I noticed that the inside of the fixture's glass appeared to be dirty.  I ran my finger along it and discovered that there was nearly a quarter-inch thick layer of bright white fluffy dust.  This layer was absorbing perhaps half the light produced by the fixture!  So I took down the glass from all four fixtures, cleaned it carefully, replaced all the bulbs, and put everything back together.  Success – the room is much brighter now.  I think at least half the brightness problem was that funny dust, and it was thick enough that I think it may have caused some of the bulbs to overheat (and fail) as well.  That cat room has no windows open to the outside, and has a great air cleaner – so I'm wondering just what the heck that dust is.  Something the cats themselves produce, like dander?  I'm not at all sure, but one thing I know: we have to clean those things a couple times a year, or this will just happen again...

This morning my first job was to install another WiFi access point, this time out near the cedar shed that holds my pump.  There are two devices inside the shed that connect to my WiFi network: the irrigation supervisor computer (that I built and programmed) and the irrigation controller (a commercial device that turns all the zone valves on and off).  Both of these devices were having WiFi challenges, as the signal strength there wasn't very good.  A big part of the problem is the two (metal) fuel tanks that happen to be directly between those devices and the access points they could connect to.  The solution was pretty straightforward: I purchased another access point (the white thing with antennas in the photo at right) and mounted it where it had an unobstructed line-of-sight to both the devices inside the cedar shed and the potential access points it could uplink to.  There was just such a place just 8 feet or so from the cedar shed, and very convenient to mount onto, so that's where it went (and that's what the photo shows).  The new access point, when I powered it up, automatically found the other access point that it had the best signal to – and to my surprise, that turned out to be the access point inside my office, in our barn about 200' away!  The kitchen access point is much closer (about 80'), but apparently the house's external wall attenuates the WiFi signal much more than my barn's exterior wall does.  Just as with the rest of the Unifi access points I installed a few months ago, bringing this one up was quite painless.  It's such a different experience from consumer WiFi routers – incrementally extending the “strong signal region” of my WiFi network is now easy and predictable.  We've gotten quite used to having strong WiFi anywhere in our house, barn, or in our yard – so different than the “stand in exactly this spot and turn your iPad 45 degrees” sort of mess we used to have...

Friday, September 1, 2017

Stairway to ... something or other...

Stairway to ... something or other...  The stairs project for Michelle H. is coming along nicely.  At this point I have just one glue-up left to go (to attach the shortest stair to the other three).  As you can see from the photos below, having a nice clamp collection is really important for projects like this.  After that last glue-up it's just a bit of sanding, making a couple mounting braces, and we're done!