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Sunday, December 20, 2009


Well, we got our first big SURPRISE snowstorm of many year the past few days.  Not 5 days ago, the forecasters were saying they didn't see any snow through New Year's day.  Then they suddenly predicted 4", then 8", then 12", then 20"!
I got 14" out in the middle of the driveway, which is about my most accurate place to measure.  Some nearby places did get 20", so I guess I was lucky.

I got up early this morning, deciding to buy a snowblower.  Consumer Reports magazine had an article rating them in October.  I googled my local stores for the "Best Buy" recommendations, but of course, none of them had those models.  My one gripe with Consumer Reports magazine is that it is nearly impossible to ever find the exact models they give the best ratings to.

But then the sad truth hit me!  First, I had to shovel the driveway anyway to get the car out.  Second, most stores were closed because of the snow.  Third, any snowblowers available tomorrow weren't going to be on sale, even if the lesser ones were available.

So I accepted reality.  The driveway had to be shoveled before I could contemplate any further decisions.  Reality sucks!  But I got out my heavy socks, pulled on my knee-high rubber boots, pulled the "serious" (Carhartt) winter coat out of the closet, and set about shoveling the snow.

The driveway is 60' long.  I did almost 1/2 and decided to stop for a rest.  I had taken some pictures and decided to load them onto the computer, and I make it a point not to over-exert myself (the hospitals call the day after a major snowstorm "heart-attack day").

When I went back outside, a neighborhood teenage boy walked by and asked if I wanted to have him finish the job.  I said no, but quickly changed my mind.  When he said he would finish the job for $20 I said YES YES YES! (in my head)  but "well...  OK" out loud.  He didn't have his own snow shovel, but I have a good one (real metal, teflon coated).  He didn't have gloves, so I lent him a pair of mine.  It was worth it just not to have to deal with the dreaded snow plow ridge at the end of the driveway!

I told him it didn't have to be edge to edge, just more than the width of the car.  And because the driveway is at an angle to the house (because of a poorly placed storm drain), I stomped out the edges for him.  And he went to work.  Not to make fun, but his technique was horrible.  Clearly, he had little experience shovelling snow.  I gave him some slight advice (like, you really can't lift 15" of snow at once because it won't stay on the shovel, so take it off the top first.  I know about snow.  I grew up in Massachussetts and as the eldest child, I did all the snow shoveling, as I have all my years.

I helped him out when snow started sticking to the shovel.  Even teflon-coated shovels will start to keep snow when they get cold enough.  The trick is to bang the snow off and hit it with a silicon spray.  He did his best and was about near the end of the driveway (that dreaded snow plow ridge) when a neighbor (whom I do not know) came by with an ATV with a snow blade attached.  He blew out the snow plow ridge in 5 minutes!  What a cool machine...  I would love to have one, but I would settle for a snowblower!  When he finished, he just drove to the next driveway.  The only thing I could do was salute as he left.  I wish I had pictures, but the camera card was full.

Meanwhile, the neighbor kid was widening the driveway (relieved by not having to fight with the snow plow ridge).  Finally, it was done.

When I could tell it was wide enough for the car, I offerred him another $10 to do my 12' sidewalk and front steps.  Again, his technique was awful.  He was trying to do it from the bottom up and tossing snow where he would have to shovel it again.  I showed him that it was easier to turn the shovel over and scrape it "downhill".  When he did that, it went very quickly.  He got that done in about 20 minutes.


After he left, I widened the driveway by another 2 feet, but that only took 10 minutes.  After all, he had done what I asked of him and I was grateful to be spared the endless bending to scoop out most of the snow.

I'm still deciding whether to buy a snowblower.  I'm thinking a 2 stage, multiple speed model with electric start and recoil rope backup.  And I'm thinking Ariens for the quality, but CR magazine rated a Craftsman a "Best Buy".  Any advice will be appreciated.  I'll probably wait until the end of winter when they go on sale.  For use next time.

Then I went to do the deck.  I usually shovel out a path for the cats.  I did that.  I discovered that I had more raised decked nails than I realized.  As soon as the snow melts, it is HAMMER time!  But I did get it shoveled.

They enjoyed that, but you will have to go to my cat blog for that story.  The snow on the deck was almost 21" though.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Boat Canopy Again

Well, I waited too long.  I need to assemble it in halves in the garage (for the outside access) and assemble the 2 parts outside on the spot.  It is now too cold!  I am going to bundle up all the cut PVC and set it aside until Spring.  There were just too many questions about constructing it that made me hesitate in warmer weather, and then too many things that distracted me from the project the past month.

Next week will be cold but dry, so, as soon as the insides of the boat dry out and I can clean the leaves out of it, etc, I will simply put ropes over the seats bow to stern and across an tie a tarp down over it for the Winter.  Too labor-intensive for daily use, but worth it for the season.  I think other boaters call that "winter shrink-wrapping".

At least that frees me to pursue the other inside projects I have been putting off while dithering about the stupid boat canopy.  The pedestal dictionary stand, the end tables, and flooring the other half of the attic (though it does get cold up there in Winter, so I'm not positive). 

I put plywood on half the attic floors years ago, but the other half had wires running over the joists.  I cut notches in the joists for one sheet of plywood, butdecided that seemed structurally unsound.  It suddenly occurred to me last week that I could glue spacers/supports between the wires and simply raise the plywood up a 1/2 inch.  I am usually quite creative, but in this case, quite stupid!  The solution was obvious in hindsight.

I think I will set up a Betta (Siamese Fighting Fish) breeding tank.  I have a new tan male with unusual darker spots on the fins, and I've never seen that before.  And since I have a tan female showing signs of eggs, why not?  I've raised them before (decades ago).

I think I will do the Bettas first, to get them on their way.  I need to make a multi-compartment insert to place in a aquarium for the newborns.  Even males a few weeks old will attack each other, and fin damage never heals perfectly so they need to be separated real early.

Then the dictionary stand.  I am really ready for that.  I want to work with wood again!  All that PVC stuff really threw me out of my comfort zone for months.  Not that I am a great woodworker, but at least I understand the stuff!

And gardening season actually starts in 1 month!

Back on track, ever optimistic, and ready to go back to what I know...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy...

Sorry I haven't been doing projects lately.  I've really been distracted. Raking out leaves from the patio, pulling early winter weeds from the flowerbeds, doing the Thanksgiving Dinner thing, cleaning pots for next year, arguing with people on the Richard Dawkins website (WAY too much time spent doing that). 

Ayla (a cat) is in heat again.  It's really sad.  She has been spayed twice and neither operation worked.  She demands a lot of attention.

The rain gutters that I cleaned only a few months ago overflowed yesterday in a storm and the overflow gets into the basement.  I have screens covering the gutters and made sure the downspouts are clear, so I can't figure out the problem.  I was going to take another look at them today, but it started to snow unexpectedly.

I've been cleaning out my file cabinet.  That takes a lot of time and I'm not done yet.  And because of that, I am trying to re-write my Will.  Not an easy task.  And I am trying to search through old letters from my parents to find the information they have sent about their instructions about elder care and funerals.  I should have kept notes along the way, but I didn't.  Now I have to try to catch up.

A neighbor is having an addition put on the house.  The nailing starts at 8 AM every morning.  I normally don't go to bed until 2 or 3 AM, so I am not getting much sleep.

I've also been cleaning the basement.  Way too much stuff left out and to the point where I couldn't find anything.  Cleaning was needed.

And the car needed attention.  Not maintenance (I'm good about that), but cleaning.  I should have cleaned it when the weather was better, but I didn't.  I spent almost a whole day doing that.

And then there were the holiday cards to make.  I don't buy mine, I make them on the computer.  And it isn't easy.  The 2 programs I have to do that suck!  One only permits installed clip art and that got boring real fast.  The other allows imports but not "French-Fold" (twice-folded) cards.  So I figured out how to create French-folds in Excel.  It's not easy.  Half the text and pictures have to be rotated, I can't delete the boxes around the text half the time, and changing the text colors is nearly impossible.  I am a bit inept at that stuff.  Took my 2 days to create 1 birthday card, 25 Winter Holiday cat cards and 15 Winter Holiday people cards (my cats have more friends than I do).  But I did it and that's done with.

And there was a LOT of garden cleaning to do.  I cut down 90% of the tall perennial flower stalks last week, pulled up all the old tomato plants before that,

So, basically, I've been busy with stuff that was not "photo-interesting".

I'll try to get back at the boat canopy and other projects soon.