Saturday, July 21, 2018

When I woke up this morning...

When I woke up this morning ... it was to the sound of a baler working in the field just to the north of us (the field we're in the process of buying).  The photo at right was taken a few days ago, right after the field was first mowed.  Tim had it mowed with very wide windrows, to speed up the drying.  Since then it's been raked twice to turn over the windrows, fluff them up, and let them dry thoroughly.  Then this morning was the baling.  It was just barely daylight, and that baler was making short work of the baling job.  Before the baler was even finished, there were two trucks with hay trailers out on the field, with 6 or 7 people working to load it all up.  By the time I finished with my tea (and homemade apricot/pistachio biscotti!), the field was clear and I knew Tim would want to get the water going.  So I walked out, met Tim on his way over to start putting down pipe, and the two of us got three strings of pipe up and running.  The arthritis in his hands is keeping him from gripping anything, but otherwise his strength is at least 50% of normal, maybe better.  Considering that two weeks ago he was down to about 5%, this seems almost miraculous.  He did about half the work of moving the pipe this morning, where when he's 100% he does about 2/3 (because he's stronger than I am, and can move two pipes at once).

I did manage to get a bit of work done on the grill cabinet drawers over the past few days.  I'm currently working on the two drawers for the center unit of the cabinet.  That's one of them at left, having it's bottom (1/2" birch plywood) glued on, with 25 lb. bags of lead shot as “clamps”.  In addition to the work on the drawers themselves, I also got the four cabinet half of the rails installed.  I'd made a jig for this on the first two shelves, and this greatly simplified the rail installation I did yesterday.  Hooray for jigs!

I sold some of our index-fund ETFs yesterday, in preparation for buying our neighbor's place.  Those ETFs were purchased in early 2014, over four years ago.  I was surprised by the capital gains on them – over a 100% gain on each of the three ETFs I sold.  The stock market has been very good to us in our retirement.  Well, so far, anyway...

Hoping to make some progress on those drawers this morning!

Friday, July 20, 2018

Had a busy couple of days...

Had a busy couple of days...  Our friend and neighbor, Tim D., (along with his wife Jeannie) came over to tell us that they have decided to move into a smaller house, nearby in Paradise.  We had a standing offer to them to buy their current place, should they move, because they have a 2.5 acre field adjacent to our property that a new buyer could build on.  We knew that Tim and Jeannie would never build there, as they valued that field as a buffer as much as we did.  But a new owner?  Who knows?

So I've been scrambling to do all the things one must do to buy a piece of real estate.  We've agreed a price with Tim and Jeannie.  We've engaged a realtor friend to represent us in the transaction, and to make sure the paperwork all gets done correctly.  We've consulted with the county to make sure that we will be able to “detach” that field from its current parcel, and merge it with our own parcel that's adjacent to the field.  The county treats this as a routine matter, so we're not expecting any trouble there, and the cost is quite modest (well under $1,000).  We do have to hire a surveyor, though, to make new legal descriptions for the two lots being modified.  We also arranged for a local hay farmer to lease the newly merged field from us, for a grass and alfalfa mix (horse hay).  Once the field has been moved to our parcel, there will remain a 3.5 acre property with a nice house near the center of it, and that piece we'll put up for sale. 

So many details, though! 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

A sonic mystery...

A sonic mystery...  Most mornings at home, I make a cup of tea for myself and a cup of coffee for Debbie.  We both use the same kind of mug: a 16 ounce double-walled stainless steel mug.  A long time ago I noticed something odd: tapping a spoon on the rim of the mug makes a distinctly different sound on the tea mug than it does on the coffee mug.  The tea mug sounds higher pitched and crisper; the coffee mug lower pitched and sort of a thud.

Why would this be so?

I've been trying various experiments over the past couple of weeks to try and narrow down the cause.  First I kept track of the mugs we used, and switched which one was for tea.  That made no discernible difference.  Then I compared the tea and coffee with no additives (cream, sugar, etc.).  This time the two mugs sounded very similar, though the coffee mug was still slightly lower pitched and not quite as crisp.  Then I added sugar to the tea – and the pitch went up (not what I expected at all!).  I added Equal to Debbie's coffee and heard no difference.  I added milk to my tea and the sound pitch went down slightly and got slightly less crisp.  Then I added collagen powder to Debbie's coffee, and the sound changed quite dramatically: lower pitch, much thuddier.  Ah ha!  Then when I added milk to her coffee and the pitch went down a bit more.

So ... collagen powder made the biggest difference.  Why?  What does it do to the liquid that affects the sound of tapping the mug's rim?

I have two theories.  First theory is that the collagen powder increases the viscosity of the liquid, and thereby increases the damping effect it has on the “ringing” caused by the tapping.  Second theory is that the collagen powder, when dissolved, changes the speed of sound in the liquid, which changes the resonating characteristics.

Do any of my readers have any knowledge of this phenomenon?

Monday, July 16, 2018

On precision...

On precision...  Do you know the best way to gauge the alignment between two pieces of wood?  This need comes up frequently in woodworking, and getting alignment wrong means (at best) a lot of sanding and (at worst) discarding a piece of work.  So what's the best way to determine whether two pieces of wood are lined up exactly?

Most woodworkers already know the answer, either from a mentor early in their woodworking efforts, or through hard experience.  I'm in the former camp, myself – my grandfather (father's side) taught me this simple technique.

Most non-woodworkers don't know this technique, and if asked to speculate, will usually come up with answer involving a known straight edge and squinting at how it sits across the joint that is supposed to be lined up.  That technique is difficult and quite error-prone – and isn't all that accurate anyway.  The best way actually involves no tools or instruments of any kind – just your finger!  All you do is run your finger across the joint to feel if there's a difference in height between the two pieces of wood.  Really!

A study five years ago determined that fingertips can detect surface details as small as 13 nanometers ( about 0.0000005 inches).  No instrument within reach of an amateur woodworker or cabinet shop can measure anything that small.

Your fingers are a marvel of texture-detecting design – better than anything mankind has ever been able to make...

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Tesla Model X...

Tesla Model X...  Our Model X is still in the shop, as the techs haven't yet figured out the source of one problem I reported.  That problem: sometimes as I start a trip, the cruise control won't work.  Also the center console isn't showing a picture of the road, with other cars detected.  I infer that the sensor system is therefore not working, as that's the source of the data for both observed issues.  A few miles after starting, both issues just go away, and everything works as usual.

The techs could not replicate this problem, of course (isn't it always like that?).  However, the Model X apparently has quite a bit of logging internally, and they were able to see the evidence of the problem in that log (and, incidentally, convince themselves that I wasn't some kind of nut).  So the techs kicked this up to engineering.  The first group of engineers to examine issue, late last week, couldn't figure out what was going on.  So they kicked it up to “zone”, which, I'm told, is internal Tesla-speak for “the real engineers, the ones who actually know what they’re doing”.  I'm told that escalation to “zone” is quite unusual.  It figures that such weirdness would be visited upon me!  The plan as of Friday was to wait out the day on Monday (tomorrow) to see if “zone” comes back with some kind of answer.  If they do, then they'll fix the problem and I can have my car back.  If they don't, then the techs will finish servicing my car and give it back anyway – and whenever “zone” finally decides to grace us with some feedback we'll decide what to do next.

Which means that we've been stuck with the Audi A6 since Wednesday.  I'm ready to find me a great big power hammer somewhere and squish the damned thing!

Last night...

Last night ... Debbie made Brussels sprouts and blue marlin (fresh from our local supermarket), photo at right is just before they went on the grill.   The marlin was very tasty, but Debbie and I agreed that it's one of those fish dishes that really needs a sauce.  The meat's texture, after cooking, is much like chicken – it's not an oily fish, like (say) salmon.  The Brussels sprouts were delicious, but I suspect not quite done in the middle, and my tummy rebelled.  Debbie's learning how to use our new grill, which is amazingly hot compared with anything we've ever had before.  Today she made chicken and roast corn, the former following some directions specific to our grill (she found them on the web).  The chicken pieces (thighs) were on the grill for just 8 minutes per side and they were completely done.  That grill is fast – but the high heat means that Debbie has to learn grilling techniques that are a bit different than what she's used to.  Tomorrow she tries a ribeye steak...

I started working on the remaining five drawers for the grill cabinet today.  It's almost a week since Jim and Michelle left, and I last worked on them – my time has been consumed with all sorts of other things.  I started two drawers today: the two that go under the wider middle sections.  One of those drawers is the shallowest I've made yet, which means the vertical pieces that tie the horizontal rails together are the shortest I've made yet – under 2" long.  That's so short that I can't have opposing pocket screws that line up with each other, as there simply isn't room for them.  So I resorted to a “trick”: I offset the screws just enough to let them clear each other.  At left below is the piece of wood with the pocket screw holes drilled, and at right is the installed piece.  It worked great!


Midway through this construction process, I heard an ominous rattle from my trusty Makita drill.  With a little investigation I figured out that it was the thrust bearing – quite an important piece of any electric drill (even when in screwdriver mode).  It still worked, but it seemed clear that it wouldn't survive for long.  So I decided to make a run to our local Home Depot (one of the few places open on Sunday here) and pick up a replacement.  I am delighted with that drill, which I purchased about seven years ago, so my intent was to purchase exactly the same drill.  This was not to be, as Makita has stopped making them.  There's a newer version, however, with all the same functions (drill, screwdriver with torque limiting, and impact drill), but with more torque, a brushless motor, electronic speed control, and smaller.  In the photos below, the all-black drill is the new one, the blue-and-black the old one.  I've long been impressed with Makita's battery-powered tools, but I didn't think they had much room for improvement on their drill.  I was wrong.  The new one is a bit lighter, substantially smaller, and the added torque is impressive.  The brushless motor with electronic speed control is really nice – the drill ramps up the torque as required to maintain the speed you've selected.  The old drill's trigger didn't select the speed, but rather the power – and often that meant the drill would run much faster than you intended when the load was light.  Not this one.  Another nice touch: manually tightening the chuck is much more comfortable with the new, larger, rubber chuck grip.  Nice one, Makita!


Saturday, July 14, 2018

An old friend of mine...

An old friend of mine ... Mike B., from North Carolina, mentioned to me that he had two GPS systems for his big rig truck that were broken.  He depends on these to do his job, and the loss of the more capable GPS was really making his life difficult.  In both cases the necessary repair involved soldering tiny little parts.  The more capable GPS had a surface-mounted mini-USB connector that needed replacing; the other a resistive touch screen that needed to be soldered (flexible PC to flexible PC).

I have the right tools to do the job, and perhaps hands that are a bit steadier.  So I had him ship the two GPSs to me.  Working yesterday and this morning, I was able to repair them both.  Some specialized tools really helped a lot.  I have a head-mounted pair of 3.5x binoculars (designed for surgeons and dentists, much like the ones at right); these gave me a nice, clear view of the work.  I'll bet I looked pretty weird while wearing these!  My Hakko desoldering iron (with built-in vacuum) nicely desoldered the old parts.  Finally, my Hakko soldering iron with a 0.03" diameter tip let me solder the new parts on.  I don't mean to say that it was all easy because of the tools, though – there might have been a bit of non-Mormon approved language as I struggled to get all the pieces in place and hold them there while soldering.  Removing the old mini-USB connector was a challenge mechanically.  My finest solder was twice the diameter of the work piece, making it a real challenge to get solder only where it belonged.  And both circuit boards had taken some hits, with traces lifted during both the current and previous repairs.  Those had to be repaired with wire jumpers. 

But in the end, I managed to get both of them working.  Mike was very happy to see this (I sent him proof-of-life photos of the GPS screen).  It felt good to be able to help a friend, and it also felt go to have proof that I can still repair delicate electronics.  Both GPSs are now at the post office, and he should get them next Tuesday or Wednesday...

Friday, July 13, 2018

We are laughing at ourselves for this!

We are laughing at ourselves for this!  Our Tesla Model X was due for service, and on Wednesday morning we made the 90 minute drive down to Salt Lake City to drop it off.  We made an appointment early in the morning (8 am) to maximize our chances of getting a Model S as a loaner (we knew they'd be keeping our car for a day or two).  We didn't get the Model S – they'd all been taken already.  So we got a rental: an Audi A6.

At any point in our lives prior to buying the Model X, we'd have been astounded at getting an A6 as a loaner.  By any conventional measure, it's a very nice car.  Plenty of power, handles very nicely, lots of modern conveniences, etc., etc.

But we are Model X owners.  We've driving 36,000 miles in our Model X.  We're spoiled rotten by the experience.  Now the A6 looks like a miserable POS to us.  We hate it...

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Some thoughts on giving back...

Some thoughts on giving back...  Nothing profound here, just some thoughts about our experiences...

Anyone who knows Debbie and I well will be unsurprised to learn that much of our giving back is aimed at animals.  Not all of it, by any means, but quite a bit.

For many years we gave modest amounts to carefully selected animal-related charities.  Over and over we learned to our chagrin that the beneficiaries of our largess were anything from outright frauds (ouch!) to high-overhead operations where too much (often most) of our contribution went to paying the officer's salaries.  We got fed up with this, and searched for a better way. 

Today we're making three regular animal-related contributions.  Two of these are through small, local organizations that we know personally.  Obviously we could still get surprised by these, but I think it's much less likely than with the contributions we've made to the larger organizations that actually market for contributions.  The third is one that we started about six months ago.  We met with the owners of a local veterinary clinic – people whom we know and trust – and arranged to create a fund that helps people with animals who need veterinary care that they cannot afford.  This was our idea, though we discovered when we talked with the clinic's owners that they already had a poorly funded version of a similar idea going.  The money involved is quite modest, but it has direct impact on local animals in need – and, of course, on their owners.  We make these contributions anonymously, but we learn about the animals (and owners) that have been helped.  It's been very satisfying to have direct knowledge of the impact of our contribution, and comforting to personally know those people who are (in effect) administering our contributions.  We like this general pattern much better than sending a check to a large, opaque organization and never knowing what they did with money.

We've also found a few ways to follow the same general pattern to help some local people in need.  I'm not going to get into the details on these, as in some cases these are done anonymously and we'd like to keep it that way.  The important bit, for us, is the combination of direct knowledge of how the contributions get used, and a trusted intermediary to administer them.

After a bit of fumbling with ways to do achieve this pattern of contributing back to our community, we've learned to be a little creative and a lot careful – and we really like the results...

Moved pipes this morning...

Moved pipes this morning ... in our alfalfa field, just north of our house.  I started before sunrise, finished just as the sun was peeking up over the Wasatch Mountains to our east.  In the middle of this effort, there was a moment when the eastern sky was bright along the Wasatch silhouettes, and the puffy clouds were all lit up against a gorgeous blue sky.  In the mountain foothills, the spray of dozens of irrigation systems was all backlit by the bright sky, jewels against the dark green carpets of alfalfa, oats, and other grains.  A light breeze rustled the leaves of willows, cottonwoods, and box elders along the irrigation canal 100 feet east of where I was standing.  Several hawks circled overhead, while dozens of other birds greeted the morning with a nonstop chorus.  I heard a few rooster crows, and a couple of our neighbor's dogs barked at who knows what.  What a beautiful morning in the 'hood!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Yes, I'm happy...

Yes, I'm happy ... with Trump's selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as the nominee to replace the retiring Justice Kennedy.  Very happy, actually.  And yes, overall I'm still unhappy and frightened by Trump's performance as President.

Why on earth is it so difficult for people to understand how both of those statements can be true at the same time?  Must we either love or hate any politician 100% of the time?

We're baaaaack!

We're baaaaack!  Our friends Jim and Michelle B. have, sadly, departed for their home in the high tax, underfunded pension headquarters also knows as Southern California.  As always, we had a wonderful time during their visit.  They were only here for a week this time, and that time seemed to just fly by – seems like we were waving goodbye the day after they got here.  Next year they're going to try to make it up at the end of August, and see Paradise's Trout & Berry Days.  This year they watched the Fourth of July fireworks at Hyrum with us, and it was just as good as it was last year.  We had lots of good talk, good food, and good times together.  Maybe they'll escape California someday and join us up here...

Jim and I built two (of seven) drawers for the grill cabinet while they were here.  The photo at right shows a nearly finished drawer, lacking only the handle and the spar varnish I'll finish it with.  There are an amazing number of parts in that drawer: 16 pieces of framing wood (poplar), 4 pieces of trim wood (also poplar), 1 piece of 1/2" birch plywood (bottom), 4 pieces of 1/4" birch plywood (sides), 3 pieces of cedar (front), 40 pocket screws, 2 slides, 20 wood screws (to hold the slides in place), 1 handle, 2 handle screws.  When you add all that up, that's 93 parts –  for one drawer, and I'm making 7 of them.  That's 651 parts in all!  Some of the steps in building the drawers involved gluing and clamping; a couple shots of those below:


Here's a nice sunset we shared with Jim and Michelle, enjoying it from our deck.  The weather here was hot every day they were here, except for one morning when we had a few scattered showers.  Every morning Jim and I went out at just after 6 am and moved irrigation pipes, along with our neighbor Nick S.  This is something I've been doing here for years, usually just Tim D. and I.  This year, as I've written before, he's unable to do it – it's a privilege to be able to help him, but I miss his company while we do it...

We got our new grill installed just a couple of days before Jim and Michelle arrived, but we used it several times during our visit.  Jim and Michelle have lots of experience grilling, and Debbie thoroughly enjoyed having the chance to get some tips and instruction from them.  I thoroughly enjoyed the results, such as the steak and grilled vegetables meal at right.  Yum!

Two days before Jim and Michelle got here, we had our once-every-two-years driveway resealing done.  We used Statewide Paving for the work, and this makes twice that I've been very pleased with the job they did.  The owner's son (Andrew) both supervises and participates in the work, and everyone works their butt off to get the job done.  Their attention to detail beats any paving contractor I've ever seen at work.  This time, for example, they found a place in my driveway where there were a couple hundred square feet with embedded soil (from where we had piled dirt during construction).  Rather than just coat over it, they took an extra two hours to power-wash that part off – and charged me nothing extra for that work.  If you need a driveway resealed, you can get Andrew at 208-317-4418.  Highly recommended.  Here's a few shots of them working away...


Another thing that happened this past week: our roofing contractor showed up to finish up some work started almost a year ago (seriously!), and to put gutters up on my barn.  The barn has 82' long eaves, so they bent up two 82' long gutters – quite a big piece of sheet metal to carry around and install!  The photo at right shows the metal as it came out of their automated gutter bending machine.

The contractor who works on my lawn, sprinklers, etc. came out with an aerating machine – a “core aerator”.  This is possibly the most evil looking machine I've ever seen.  Dave M. is guiding this beast in the photo at left.  The front end of this machine has dozens of “teeth” that dig down about 3" into the ground and pop out a round “plug”, leaving a little hole in the ground.  It also left my lawn covered with thousands of what look like small dog turds.  :)  Those, I'm assured, will disappear after a few waterings.  We'll see.

On the day that Jim and Michelle got here, I finished a couple of projects on my gas pumps that I shelved last year when it got too cold to work outside.  One was to replace one of the filter cups – that took just a few minutes.  The other was a bit more challenging: installing an electronic lock on the “gas station” door.  That's what you see in the photo at right.  It actually wasn't very hard at all to install, once I figured out the directions – they were harder for me to understand than such directions usually are, despite being written by a native English speaker (so far as I could tell).  One part I found challenging was that the directions were divided up into “panels” for each of the 10 steps they identified.  The panels were numbered, but the number wasn't particularly prominent.  The physical layout of the panels on a single large sheet of paper was really odd – they started about 1/3 of the way down the left side of the paper, went across to the right, then back to the left margin and down – and subsequently over three vertical columns.  Why would anyone lay out directions in such a confusing way?  Things like that really puzzle me.  Anyway, eventually I found the numbers on the panels and was able to do the steps in the right order, which turns out to be critical for success.  When I got all done, everything worked on the first try – even programming in my own codes.  Now our gas station has a lock, and (much more relevantly in our area) a latch to keep it shut when the wind blows.  Hooray!

Monday, July 2, 2018

All is fine, folks...

All is fine, folks...  We have not disappeared from the face of the earth. :)  Things have just been a bit hectic.  Here's a quick update; more on everything mentioned here later...

Most important event: Tim is ever so much better!  He was in the hospital for a few days this week, and it made an enormous difference to him.  He's eating (though food still doesn't taste good to him), his important blood indicators are being monitored carefully, and he's under treatment for all the issues they found (worst problem: blood calcium levels spiked way up).  His sense of humor is back, as is his color, and he's walking around without having to stop every five feet to rest.  He came over to visit us for an hour or so this afternoon, and ... we had the old Tim back.  It was so wonderful to see him looking so much better!

The granite folks were back on Friday to finish the granite installation on our grill cabinet, and we hooked everything up on Saturday.  Debbie cooked some salmon on it – and it was great!  The cabinet looks wonderful  When we get the drawers done, we'll have a real showpiece there...

On Friday my new mower was delivered, and what a magnificent beast it is!  It's by far the nicest mowing machine I've ever used – soft, sprung-and-shock-absorbed seat, smooth controls, flawless cutting.  It's also built like the proverbial tank.  Before I had two hours of use on it, I got a flat tire.  Hyrum Tire fixed that for me today for $12.97. 

Our lawn guys were here today with an infernal machine called a “core aerator”.  Basically it drills holes in our yard about ever 6", and spits the dirt “cores” out on the top.  It's supposed to improve the health of our grass, but it looks more like a grass torture machine to me...

On Saturday we had our driveway resealed, an all-day operation by a three man crew.  In order for them to do that, I had to clear everything off our pavement on Friday – and that took me the entire day.  I was exhausted by the time I was finished.

And momentarily our friends Jim and Michelle B. shall arrive for a week-long visit.  We can hardly wait!  Because of their visit, my posting will be intermittent again...

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Days 8 and 9...

Days 8 and 9...  We left our lodging in Brunswick before 9 am, and traveled up the coast to Belfast, stopping here and there for art galleries.  It was really hard, but we drove right past Young's Lobster Pound without stopping, as we had a big dinner promised to us by my brother Mark and his wife Gina, so we needed to remain hungry.  We spotted this driftwood horse at a gallery near Rockport – it's distinctly inferior to one that my brother Scott is building now.  After that we made our way on back roads to the Tesla Supercharger at Brewer, Maine (just outside Bangor), and then north to Long Pond near Lincoln, Maine.  We got off the I-95 at Old Town and went the rest of the way on SR2.  We pulled into my brother's “camp” early in the afternoon.

If you click the screenshot at left to embiggen it, you'll see a red star in the rough location of the camp.  It's a beautiful spot, though it's a lot different than my memories of the place from the '60s.  Back then there were far fewer camps on the pond's shores, and none at all on the entire north shore.  Furthermore, the camps were mostly fairly rude shacks – now they're real houses, complete with all the modern amenities.  Sweet Road, which provide the access to all the camps, was a rough dirt road back then – now it's paved and smooth.  There used to be more trees around most of the camps; now many are in spacious clearings.  All of these things combined make quite a change in the character of the place – and it's not so much that the changes are particularly good or bad, per se.  The fact that they're different than my many memories is inevitably jarring as hell for me.  The photos below are all taken at Mark and Gina's camp:


My mother called Long Pond her favorite place on earth; her experiences there filled her memory and her stories.  Most of all, I think, she loved her many friends in the area.  I was there part of about a dozen summers in my youth, and I remember how happy she was there.  The cabin that she first visited as a girl and every summer afterwards for close to fifty years is now gone.  It was falling apart, and was demolished a few years ago.  It was on a lot a hundred yards or so west of Mark and Gina's cabin, and they still own the lot.  They plan to build there, hoping to provide a place their kids and grandkids can enjoy as they do.

Of all my siblings, Mark is the one who comes closest to sharing my mother's love of Long Pond.  He also shares my mom's love of fishing, which explains why he's willing to be seen in slippers like those at right.  He and Gina are up there every year, and I suspect that Mark has been up here every year since he first came as a kid. 

One of the few requests my mom made in her will was that her ashes be scattered on Long Pond, specifically off the point where blueberries grow (the locals all know where that is).  I am the executor of her will, so the responsibility for getting that done was mine – a duty I was happy to perform.  We did something like this for my dad a few years ago, scattering his ashes amongst the blooming azaleas of Dolly Sods, West Virginia.  Mark kindly offered me the use of his boat, complete with a driver, to get out to the right spot.  Debbie and John M. (a close friend of my parents) wanted to go with me, so the four of us headed out in the morning of June 9th.  The day before was the second anniversary of my mom's death, a coincidence that somehow seemed appropriate.  That's me in the photo at left, caught in the act of scattering some of mom's ashes.  It's hard to find the words to describe how I felt at the moment.  Memories of mom were flooding in, partly triggered by being in a boat on Long Pond, a scenario I spent many hours of my youth in.  The fact that I was finally able to complete her wish was more satisfying than I'd have expected.  It wasn't at all an unhappy experience, and I'm positive that's what mom would have wanted.

After mom's ashes were scattered, we had a burger-and-dog meal outdoors, sitting near the lake.  Tillie B., another old friend of my mom's (and someone I remember from my hormone-filled youth as one hot mama) joined us, and there was much pleasant conversation including many memories of mom.   When we came into the house to reload our plates, Mark and Gina's two dogs (one of whom is at right) would get very attentive.  Obviously they were hoping a stray hot dog would fall off someone's plate! :)

Mark and Gina had told me I was welcome to wire into their camp's electrical panel to charge up our car.  I was all over that offer, and before we'd left Utah I bought all the parts required to do that.  I'm not sure Gina was thrilled with the redneck wiring job I did, but it all worked great in the end – our car was fully charged before we left, and I put their electrical panel back together again.  It even worked when I got done!

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Day 7...

Day 7...  The Utahans make it to Maine!  We left Plymouth, New Hampshire bright and early and headed up the road a bit to the supercharger in Lincoln, New Hampshire.   Then we headed by back roads roughly straight line from Lincoln to Freeport, Maine (where another supercharger resides, behind the L.L. Bean “flagship” store).  This path took us through beautiful hilly scenery (the hills the locals call the Appalachian “Mountains”) that Debbie had never seen before.  An almost randomly selected scene is at right, for the purposes of illustrating the following discussion: how strange these eastern forests look to a western eye.  There are several things that stand out to us.  Foremost is the amazingly large quantity of greenery: an acre of this forest must have ten times the chlorophyll of an equivalent forest out west.  Then there's the number of species of trees.  Most western forests have just a few species; a forest with a dozen common species would be unusual.  Here we saw several dozen species while standing in one spot!  Next is the near absence of mature trees.  Nearly everywhere we traveled, we saw young forests like this, with most of the trees appearing to be roughly the same age.  I'm guessing this is the result of clear-cutting, though it might also be forest fires (though we didn't often spot evidence of them).  Also odd to us: the lack of obvious forest mix changes with altitude (mostly likely because there simply isn't much altitude change) or exposure.  The “mountains” here are blanketed with nearly uniform forests.  Out west, we'd see distinct and easily visible changes with altitude, on the north or south sides, and along ridges or in gullies.  The sum of all these effects makes these eastern forests look quite odd to us...

All along the route we took today we spotted rhododendrons (both horticultural varieties and apparently wild ones) and lupines.  I remember the rhododendrons from my childhood visits to Maine, but not the lupines!  Here are a few of the hundreds of beautiful spots we passed:


We arrived at Brunswick (where our next lodging was) with lots of time still left in the day.  After checking in, we headed up the coast toward Belfast (more on that place later) along what we remembered as a sort of “art district” from our last visit about 25 years ago.  At that point in time, we had little money to spend on art, though we did purchase a few pieces that we cherish – especially a beautiful photograph that hangs in our living room.  We saw a sculpture on that trip – a life size bronze of two deer being pursued by a mountain lion – that we told ourselves we'd try to get if we ever had enough money to consider it.  Well, we do have the wherewithal to do that now, so we were searching for that sculpture or something like it.  Sadly, we were in for a bit of a rude surprise.  First, the raw number of art galleries was far lower than we'd remembered.  Second, the art galleries were dominated by what I call “modern art” – stuff that looks like any idiot could have done it, and that looked to our eye more like junk than art.  There were some exceptions, but few and far between.  And nobody was showing traditional bronze sculpture.

I spoke with some of the galleries' staff about this, and was able to piece together what happened.  Fundamentally, the dot-com recession killed them all off.  Some of the galleries up and moved to more moneyed territory – primarily Boston and New York.  Others simply folded.  The galleries that remained were, for the most part, more marginal in their appeal – as one gallery owner put it to me, the ones who stayed were attracted by the low cost of running a business on the south Maine coast.  She told me candidly that she showed the work of local artists whose work tourists were willing to buy, not the work of artists she enjoyed.  One could almost feel her sorrow.

Our quest for the sculpture was a bust, but there's a happy ending on that story that I will tell another day.  I did find a couple of quite nice turned wooden bowls, made of glued together segments (dozens of them in one case).  The first photo below shows the two bowls, and the following two show details of the fancier one.  Both bowls were made by a local woodturner named Frances Farley.  All the local galleries knew him, liked him, and knew that he had recently died at a ripe old age.  I feel lucky to have stumbled across these.


While we were walking around the town of Camden, we happened across a couple roughly ten years older than us who was gawking at the same window we were.  We struck up a conversation, and during that I mentioned the two visits I'd made to Matinicus Island in my youth, one of them involving working on a lobster boat for two weeks.  That's when our new friend let us know that he was a lobsterman, out for the day with his wife!  He worked his lobster pots near the coast of Rockport, a few miles away.  We shared some memories of the old mail boats that were based in Rockport, and which provided our transportation to Matinicus back in those days.  I didn't really expect to see any locals in a town like Camden, but to run into a lobsterman was completely outside expectations.  That was fun!

After we'd finished our shopping, we headed for Belfast – the home of Young's Lobster Pound, the best place on earth to get lobster rolls or live lobsters.  My family knew about Young's Lobster Pound from my earliest memories of Maine, back in the late '50s.  I'm not sure how we first found out about it.  They started shipping lobsters on telephone orders back in the '90s, and ever since when we're in the mood for lobster, that's how we get it.  There was no way I was going to miss the chance to actually eat there!  The photos below were all taken at Young's, but the last one shows the important part: a lobster roll (never mind that it's not a traditional roll) and a bowl of seafood chowder.  Debbie had the identical meal.  Both were brains-fall-out-on-the-table good...


Bellies sated, after this we headed back to our lodging for a good nights sleep before the next day's adventures...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Helping a friend and neighbor...

Helping a friend and neighbor...  I've written before about Tim D.'s health challenges.  One of the consequences of his current state is that he's no longer strong enough to move his irrigation pipes.  These are “hand line”: 3" diameter, 30' long pieces of aluminum pipe that weigh roughly 40 pounds each.  That weight is a little misleading, though, as generally when one goes to pick up a piece of pipe it's still full of water.  To empty it, you lift up one end – and that weight is more like 100 pounds.  Tim uses about 25 pieces of this hand line when irrigating.  It takes 6 days to complete a cycle of watering, each day moving the pipe to a new location in the fields.  Then after around four days of no watering, he starts the cycle of watering all over again.

So this is a non-trivial amount of work.  One adult, working alone, can move all the pipe in around two hours (including time for clearing clogged sprinklers, walking to the edges of the field to turn valves on and off, etc.).  During that two hours, you might walk a couple of miles in addition to all the weight lifting.  You'll also get soaked when fixing sprinklers, and your feet and jeans bottoms will be covered with mud. 

Tim can't do this, so what happens to his fields?  Nothing!  That's because his neighbors (including me) are moving his pipes for him – cheerfully, happy to be of service to Tim.  Three adults and a bevy of kids are doing it.  If we needed more, there would be a small army volunteering to help.  This is so heartening to see!  And I get great satisfaction from being a part of it...

Day 6...

Day 6...  AKA “Escape from New York!"”  We spent way too much time on the New York State Thruway, otherwise known as I-90.  The tolls on this road beggar belief.  If someone tried to do this in the Rocky Mountain States, I'm fairly certain the population's reaction would include as much high-velocity lead as was required to eliminate it.  In the Empire State, the sheepish population just pays...

We got off the Thruway at Utica, and made our way on back roads across the rest of New York, all of Vermont, and into Plymouth, New Hampshire where we checked into the delightful Tea Rose Inn.  At right was Debbie's favorite part of this B&B: the feline greeter.  :)  The scenery on our drive today was beautiful: the best of New England's rolling hills (which for some reason they call “mountains”), excessive amounts of chlorophyll, rushing streams, and lots of lakes and ponds.  This was Debbie's first time ever seeing the northern Appalachians.  I was a bit surprised by the relative poverty of most places we drove through – I guess the heyday of the Adirondacks is over.

We went to bed tired of being in the car, and preparing ourselves for tomorrow's descent upon the south Maine coast...

Monday, June 25, 2018

Some mixed granite news...

Some mixed granite news...  The granite folks showed up to install the granite on the cabinet that I built, right on time.  It was exciting to see them arrive – four guys in two trucks (at right), with our rock and all the tools they'd need to install it.  They unloaded the seven individual pieces of rock and carried them all over to my cabinet – and a few minutes later, we had set the grill components in place to test the fit.  It was perfect (photos below)!

Much to my relief, the installers found no problems with the cabinetry.  Even more to my relief, the grill components fit exactly as they were supposed to.  So why is the news mixed?

Take a gander at the photo at right.  The piece on the right is supposed to be about 1.5" longer, to match the rear edge of the piece at left.  The fabricators simply cut that piece too short.  The installers have saws, so if the piece had been too long they could have shortened it.  They did not, however, have a rock stretcher – so this means a do-over on that one piece, and that they couldn't actually complete the installation today.  They did leave enough of the rock in place so that we can get our gas installation completed tomorrow – and after that there's nothing stopping her from starting to grill again.  She's been waiting for this day for four years now.  I predict much grilled food in our immediate future!

Here's a gratuitous photo showing one end of the cabinet, before we moved it to the deck.  The spar varnish did a great job of making the color variations, grain, and knots “pop” visually.  I hope it's as durable as I was promised!