email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Gardening Day

I had a great day out yesterday!  I finally got all those annuals planted.  Yeah, kinda late, but better late than never, right?  I had carnations, salvias, wave petunias, marigolds, forget-me-nots etc in cell packs I grew from seeds earlier.   And I finally found those basil herbs I thought I had lost. 

I had a large spot that needed soil improvement, so I decided to plant all the annuals there. That way I can improve the soil in the Fall after they die.  I got SO used to the County providing mulch for years that it was getting hard NOT to get it the past few years.  I guess it became too costly to run the loading equipment,  So without mulch to dig into the soil (after aging it 2 years), the soil was rather hard.

First, I spent 2 hours digging it loose with the leverage fork.  That's a great tool.  A spading fork with a bar on the back for leverage.  All steel!  It can REALLY pull the soil up.  It is the best thing to dig up all the grass weeds, too.  I have that nasty grass that sends shoots underground about 12" before sending up another grass plant.  I've been fighting it for several years and I think I finally have it beaten to extinction.  But that's why I wanted to fill the space with annual plants this year.  So I can do a final dig this next Fall after the annuals die.

And they will give great color this year.  Its a good idea to always leave some space for annuals, season-long color is a good thing.

It was actually awful outside today.  Not the temperature, the mosquitoes.  They were there in desperate swarms.  The child strength DEET works fine for a couple hours.  But they were at my face and ears all the time.  Thank goodness the stuff works!  2 hours out there in swarms and I only got 3 bites.

Here is the space before I started.   I had some sadly planted Knautia there.  An utterly unruly plant.  

I moved then to an enclosed spot where they shouldn't cuse a problem.  Then I double dug the whole space.  It about killed me.  I filled the area with annuals I grew from seeds.  They dont looklike much nowm but they will grow fast. and produce good flowers.

And here is the space when I was done. 

Not much to see there yet, but they will grow fast finally put in the ground and given some sun.  With some regular weekly watering, they will grow gret.  I should have got then planted a month ago, but that's life...

I bet they will be stars of the Garden Tour in late July!  But we will have to wait to see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Plant Light Stand

I finally finished it.  The final steps were awful.  The 2-bulb fixtures had a metal strip that fitted into the center to hold the wires off the lights.  Fitting them back in place upside down drove me NUTS!!!  They just DIDN'T want to go in upside down.  They wanted gravity.  Or its opposite, levity...  There were slightly bent spots all along the strip and it made it nearly impossible to get them set back in place.

Getting the 1st one back in took 30 DAMNED minutes!  I was screaming in frustration.  Then I forced myself to calm down an examine the problem carefully.  There were some bent spots from removing them previously.    I have a parallel pliers, and used that to re-make the edges are straight as possible.  Eventually, I got the wire-holding metal strip back in place.

The 2nd one took only 15 minutes.  I was getting the trick of how it fit in.  Ans I did that 4 times.  The last time, I had to crawl onto the bottom shelf and stare 6" away from the fixture.  I can't see anything 6 inches away even WITH glasses.  I'm, farsighted.  I had to do it by touch.

Basically, you have to install the wire hold-up strips by squeezing them slowly along the entire length a little bit at  a time.  I was pleased when I finally completed that task!  Here is what the stand looks like now.
You can see it better from an angle.
 This shows the difference between the double 2 light fixtures and the single 4-light fixtures.
I have good storage on the top, and good storage on the shelves during the non-growing seasons, which is most of the year.

It was a longer project than I expected, but it will be great for many years to come.

You wouldn't believe how much my basement has been cramped out of place because of all this.  I'll sure be glad to get it back to order.  But that is for tomorrow!

But if I had it to do over again, I would have just made the whole thing 5' wide of 1/2" plywood 16" deep.  It would have been SO MUCH easier.  But, you go down a path and you are stuck on it sometimes. 

All in all, I am happy with it, and I am pretty sure it will outlast me.  Can't ask better than that, I suppose.  But I'll always think I could have done it both better and easier.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Cat Fence Enclosure Idea

Well, Ayla getting over the fence is difficult enough.  Today I saw Marley descending into the yard.  Unfortunately, I couldn't tell if he had tried and failed or was returning to the yard.  But it makes the requirement to keep them in the yard more urgent.

I've seen systems of nets attached to fences at angles, but the cost is high per foot and I have about 450 feet of 6' high backyard fence.  And I have seen where smooth hard plastic sheeting is attached to the upper 2' of fencing (which I suspect works well).  But that is also expensive.

So I have been pondering other, less expensive, designs.  I think I have one and want opinions on it.  It seems simple enough, but I haven't seen it on any "cat containment" sites.  I know I can construct it (it is uncomplicated but tedious).  My concerns are first, will it work, and second, is it safe.

I would provide a sketch, but my Mac doesn't seem to have a simple drawing program that can be saved in the formats demanded by Blogger.  I can't figure out how to do something so simple in Photoshop, and I can't save in the required formats from Word Art, Excel Draw, or Google Layout.  And Photoshop won't open those to change the format.

But it isn't complicated.  There is a 6' high alternate board wood fence.  I can buy vinyl coated wire mesh fence in 2'x50' rolls.  I will cut the rolls into 8' lengths and bend them 90 degrees the long way.  That gives an "L".  One part of the "L" gets attached to the fence, the other part makes a 1' wide "ceiling".  In case I'm describing it poorly, it would look something like this:


I could bend the wire at 45 degrees upward if that improved anything.  The vinyl coated wire mesh costs only $27 for 2'x50' roll, is easy for a person to bend, but pretty stiff to a cat.  I've been using the stuff as plant supports and cages for years.  The vinyl couating makes it quite weatherproof.  I'm thinking 8' sections because that is the distance between fence posts, plus I have a couple of 8', 4"x4" posts I can use to bend it.  I can attach it with a heavy duty electric staple gun.

So, I'm looking for errors, and PLEASE don't hold back.  Tell me ANYTHING you think might cause a problem in construction, in safety for the cats, or safety of wildlife.  Or anything else.  I spent a career as a project manager where negative ideas where often the most important contributions from the team.

So, thoughts?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I love playing board games.  Last week, I stumbled across  I LOVE that game.  I stayed up til dawn 3 nights last week playing it over and over.  Thankfully it's free.

What I love about games is figuring out a winning strategy.  Then I get bored and try something new.  But I haven't gotten around the computer programs in this yet.  So I need to keep trying.

The first few nights, I lost every game.  The second few nights, I won a few.  The last few night, I won half. 

Off I go to try again...  I DO enjoy it.  But it would be nice to get a whole regular night's sleep!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Ayla Out

I kept Ayla inside for a year.  It got so difficult that I decided to experiment letting her out as long as she wanted to be out.  It wasn't an easy decision.  The first time, she stayed out 3 nights.  But the next two times, she stayed out 2 nights.  Then one night.  After that, she came in the same day she was let out for several days.  I consider that a good arrangement.

She stays near the fence and has no desire to wander further to the street.

But Iza complicates things.  Iza and Ayla and Marley all cuddle up indoors.  They eat together,  They play together.  Iza likes Ayla indoors.

But outdoors, Iza considers Ayla an introoder.  I cannot understand this.

This afternoon, when I called Ayla inside, she came running happily.  But when I opened the door for her to come inside, Iza sprang out and attacked her.  As a stranger and in apparent anger.  Ayla fled over the fence.

Iza does not do this with Marley when he is out.

Iza only reacts badly to Ayla when she is outside.  And just as she goes outside.  Something about Iza says that Ayla is an introoder when outside.  It baffles me.

Iza is a bully, but only when Ayla is outside, and not when Marley is outside or Ayla is inside.

Driving me NUTS!!!  What is it about Iza that she reacts badly only when Ayla is OUTSIDE?  It cant be outside smells.  Iza has them, Marley has them.  Iza loves Marley inside and outside.  But Iza hates Ayla outside.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Groundhog Wars

If you are sqeamish, don't read further.  I don't mean that I am showing bad pictures (there are none).  But I am fighting with groundhogs that damage my garden.  I mean, they destroy my food. 

Today, while I was weeding the garden, I heard an odd thrashing noise nearby the fence and old toolshed where a groundhog had taken up residence.  I had let Ayla out and feared she had tangled with the groundhog.  She is, in some ways, stupidly fearless.The only tool I had on the way was a gardening spade.  I grabbed it and ran toward the noise. 

I may also be stupidly fearless.

When I got to the fence, I saw the groundhog run into the burrow under the old toolshed.  I have GOT to make that space inaccessible!  But I also sawsomethng else.  3 groundhog pups huddled together 20' away from the burrow.

2nd Warning:  Violence ahead...

There I was with a garden spade, expecting to protect my cat from an adult groundhog.  What I found was future garden-destroying varmint pups.  I had the garden fork in hand.  They had no flight instincts.  I dispatched them as quickly as possible.  I didn't like it, but I did it.  Nothing needs be said further about that.

I did not enjoy it.  But I thought it was necessary.  Every year when a groundhog lives under the toolshed, my crops are ruined.  That is my food.  Last year, they ate all my cukes and most of my bean plants.  I am determined to drive the adult away.

I scooped up one dead pup and put it in the entrance burrow.  I moved a barrier board out of the way enough to place a second dead pup in there.  If that doesn't make Mom Groundhog leave the property, I will take further measures.  I am growing crops for ME, not her.

If I had a 10 acre farm and lost 100 sq ft to a groundhog, I wouldn't worry too much.  But last year, I lost every cuke and bean.  Between my organic safe food and the groundhogs, they are going to lose every time.  I have been tolerant for years, but the tolerance has ended. 

Mrs. Groundhog will die next!  And I will bury mesh wire 18" deep all around the shed to prevent any new ones coming back in the future!


When I was 14, my dad took my brother and I out to a huge field to "hunt" groundhogs.  He had a whistle that made them stand up to look around for danger.  Toward twilight, he whistled at them again.  One stood up a long distance away. 

I laid down for a careful shot.  Dad laughed and said I couldn't aim that well.  I pulled the trigger and the groundhog vanished.  He said I scared him with the shot.  I said I got him.  I was insistent enough to make him walk with me to the spot.

There was the dead groundhog.  I nailed him right between the eyes.  He brought the dead ground hog home an made a stew of it.  Trust me, it doesn't taste like chicken.  He did it because he was being mean.  I made him look wrong.

I hate groundhogs...

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Some Days Are Just Good

I love productive days!  It doesn't matter much what I am productive at.  Some days it is gardening, and it might be planting seeds, transplanting seedlings,  or weeding large areas.  Some days it is building stuff indoors.  Some days it is cleaning the house.  Some days it is organizing things.  Some days it is as basic as cleaning out the fish tanks.  Or other stuff.

It matters that I keep busy in retirement.  It is easy to waste time.  "Tomorrow" is fine...  I don't work that way.  I have less time left than I did when I was 20.  I don't mean to say that bothers me all that much, I stayed busy when I was 20, too.  But I don't want to sit around thinking I will do things tomorrow".

I could go into great detail (and I probably will in future posts), but lately I've weeded 500 square feet of flowerbed, planted small crops (carrots, radishes, kohlrabi, leeks, etc etc),  trapped a threatening groundhog and a rabbit with a taste for cucumber seedlings, cleaned out and rehabilitated an aluminum bass boat with floors, created a new plant light stand for seedlings, destructed the old light stand, drained the hot water heater of mineral sludge, cleaned the washer/dryer/dishwasher/oven, rewired several basement outlets to code, and about finished the new plant light stand (which was a real piece of work)

And then there are the cats.  I love them all dearly.  At least Iza and Marley come in when called.  Ayla doesn't. She likes to stay out a night first before returning.  So I had the idea of letting her out as long as she wanted til she was bored and preferred the food inside.  Its opposite feral adoption, in a way. 

After Ayla escaped out a couple weeks ago and stayed out three nights, I have let her out regularly.  She stays near the fence, just won't come back in when called.   The idea is that I let her out enough so that she gets bored and decides the house is good at least at night.  I don't know for sure that this will work

But she stayed out 3 nights at first, 2 nights the next 2 times, and not at night today.  It MAY be that enough outside time equals more inside time.  She sure loves my attention!  When se comes in she crawls all over we seeking my scritches and neck rubs.  So it may be that, let out enough, se will b more willing to come inside again.

I HAD TO relent.  She had gotten so frantic to get outside after a year confinement that she would hide behind the drapes near the deck door, stalk behind me, etc.  She just couldn't be kept inside anymore.  As strong as my desire was to keep her in, her desire to get out exceeded that.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Yard Wildlife

I bought a wildlife camera (GameSpy) in April and got some pictures, but forgot to post them as promised.  Since Iza ran into the groundhog (which was caught in a live trap) recently, I remembered the GameSpy pictures.

There is more wildlife living under my toolshed than I thought!  The shed is a foot above ground level, so there is lots of room underneath.

Some of the pictures don't come out very well.  I need to read about the autoflash feature more carefully.   This is a rabbit.
Here is the groundhog that I knew I had there, emerging from the entrance.
 Here is the best picture I got of it.
Seeing a possum emerge from the same hole surprised me!
The groundhog emerged again soon after.

I'm sure they don't share the same burrow, but they do share the access hole to below the shed floor.  The possum probably just sleeps in a corner under the shed.  I have most of the rest of the shed access blocked by boards.  But apparently the groundhog also tunneled through the compost bin.  I surprised it once and it dove in there and vanished.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Odd Remembrance

I was watching TV this evening, and saw a gas commercial.  One part involved putting a gas nozzle in the inlet part.  And I had a flashback to my first car.

My parents gave me a 1966 Pontiac Bonneville convertible for my 20th birthday (1970).  It was a complete surprise!  As a freshman in college, I wasn't allowed to park a car on campus (weird old rules), so there was little point in my having a car before.  And I was never a "car guy".  I just borrowed the family station wagon if I REALLY had to drive somewhere.  Although I did get to drive the Lincoln for special dates.

But anyway, I was presented with a card with a car key in it when I turned 20.  It was one of those shiny red or green duplicate keys from the hardware store.  I assumed it was for the station wagon.  I hemmed and hawed about what to say, because it didn't seem like much.  I mean, I could use the car when I needed to already.

But then they pointed out the living room window to a different car.  The Bonneville...  I almost fell over.  I was speechless.  It was a great gift!

Here's the funny part that the commercial reminded me of...

After a week, I needed gas.   I drove into a filling station (as we called them back then) and the attendant came around to fill it up (yes there used to be such people who actually filled your car with gas while you just sat in it).

He asked where the gas cap was.  Think about that for a moment.  He couldn't find the gas cap.  I had just automatically driven to the pump on the side of the station wagon gas cap.  I got out and looked.  There wasn't a gas cap on either side of the car!

Don't laugh, but we actually looked under the hood for a gas cap.  I'm serious.  The attendant finally brought his boss out to solve the problem.  He looked, laughed, and tilted the license plate down to reveal the gas cap!

It had a 26 gallon gas tank, too.  Good thing, it only got 13 mpg!  On the other hand, gas was only 29.9 cents per gallon then.  I learned the gas tank size when I ran out of gas once and coasted downhill to a gas station and filled it up!

Who on EARTH thought to hide the gas cap behind the license plate holder?   Apparently, the idea didn't catch on.  On the other hand, I was always able to drive up to any side of the gas pumps available.  But I'll just say that was one of the funniest/odder things that ever happened to me.

Just wanted to share a great old memory...