email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Monday, April 30, 2012

Doing Useful Stuff, 4

My back yard has a lot of mature trees, and a lot of volunteer saplings grow as a result.  Vines keep growing all the time, and I am constantly fighting wild ("mock") strawberries.   I deliberately left half of it "semi-wild".  Well, I'm not the typical suburban yard-like-a-pool-table-top with bits of shrubs and flowers type.

So there is always SOMETHING invading the more domesticated parts of the back yard.  Today, I finally got tired of the wild blackberries infesting the astilbe section of the flowerbed.  No, they aren't blackberries worth eating.  They are small, seedy, and hard as dry raisins. 

So...  I got out my poacher's shovel (a curved shovel with a blade only a few inches wide but 12" long - so named for digging up valuable wild plants with the least soilball for transport).  Its a really nice tool for digging up deep-rooted weeds among close-planted desirable plants. 

An hour later, I had a nice pile of brambles.  I had to work at getting as much of the roots as possible without killing the astilbe and baptisia.  The astilbe are well-grown, but the baptisia are just sending up shoots (they are rather like hostas shoots at emergence).  I still snapped a few baptisia shoots in the process, but was relieved to discover that each of the 6 plants had at least 6 more shoots emerging.

And there is not a briar/bramble to be found in THAT section...

I rewarded myself by standing on the deck with a beer, and classical music on the radio while I contemplated what best to do tomorrow.  And I admired the pile of brambles.  I sure wish I could have had the cats outside with me.  I miss that.  

Tinkerbelle (1982? to 1999), Skeeter (1992 to 2008), and LC (1993 to 2010) were always outside with me.  Tink and LC went over the fence routinely and sometimes stayed out for the night, but they always ran home in the morning.  Skeeter seldom left the yard (crawled through a rabbit trench under the fence a couple of times and then hated it cuz he couldn't find his way back and would moan on the other side until I removed a fence board to give him a return point).

When Ayla stayed out several nights because of "in heat" and then Marley jumped the fence, I had to stop their outside fun.  And there are owls around now at night and they didn't used to be around here.

I think I need to make the under-the-deck patio area a "catio".

Friday, April 27, 2012

That Collapsed Storm Drain

Well darn, I thought I had posted this 2 weeks ago, but I saw it was just sitting in "draft" mode...

It lasted 25 years with flood waters pounding it from almost ALL of the rainwater that ran down from the upslope neighborhood of about 1 square mile.

It finally fell apart.


Well, there it was all fallen down.  "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up".  So I called it into the County Maintenance office as a safety hazard that children might fall into.  They came RIGHT out and surrounded by this "child-proof safety fence", LOL!  Yeah, THAT will keep the kids away for SURE.
Well, better than nothing, I suppose.  More impressive, they returned in only 3 weeks to do the actual full repair.  I was expecting more like 4-6 months.  My County is not rich, and I'm sure scattered odd repairs are not their favorite ways to spend tax money.  But they did a really good job.

The first person examined the entire structure.  He decided it needed complete rebuilding.  I asked him about that and he pulled out 1 brick and broke it in half with his bare hands.  Yup, it needed new (and better) brickwork.  And he said he didn't get any extra money for recommending full rebuilds.

Here is the finished product.  I asked the guys rebuilding it if I could take a picture of them, and they said they would rather I didn't.  So OK.  Its not like taking pictures of my cats, who don't have a choice.
But they did good work!
They said the bricks were stronger and the morter more waterproof, so the storm drain might outlast me. 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Doing Useful Stuff, 3

Biannual Trash Dump:

I visit the landfill twice a year.  I recycle and compost so much that I seldom have anything for the trash collectors to haul away.  Maybe 1 bag per month.  And since I have to pay private trash collectors at least $40 per month, that's not a good deal.

And since what IS trash isn't organic, it doesn't smell.  So it can sit in bag in the garage for 6 months.

The kitty litter is the bulk of my other trash.  I can't compost THAT! But with the scoopable litter in plastic bags in the plastic tubs the litter comes in makes a good storage. I can wait on that too.  Seriously, the scoopable litter in the plastic tubs it comes in DOESNT cause any odor.  To me anyway.

So I filled up the car with the tubs of used kitty litter and the bags of  clean trash and drove to the landfill.

I can't BELIEVE I didn't take pictures of the SUV all filled up this time...  This isn't the picture from THIS year, but it is about the same amount.
The difference is that I learned that if I could put it all in the back of the car, I could pay just a flat fee of $5 for the whole load.  A trailer MUST be paid by weight (and that weight cost $10-$15)  So I do that by carload now.

Now I start another 6 months kitty litter and uncompostable, unrecyclable trash collection in the garage.  LOL!

Doing Useful Stuff 2, Planting Tomatoes

Planted tomatoes.  Heirlooms.  Can't wait for the ripe ones.

First, dug nice wide holes with a post-hole digger...  4 per box.
 The hole is deeper than it looks.  They are a foot deep.
Scatter some 2-6-6 organic slow release fertilizer and some pulverized eggshells (for calcium) in the bottom.  Lay the rootball in, add soil and some more fertilizer and eggshell.  Fill it up
Tomato seedling looks happy but floppy from the handling (yes they react to handling).
Add a short stake and a plant clip to hold it upright.
Put a 5 gallon bucket over the seedling...
Put a Wall O' Waters around the bucket...
Put the pointy nozzle on the hose...
And fill up the tubes.  1/2 at first for balance, then 2/3 to hold the teepee upright on its own after you pull the bucket up and out....
Strange as it may seem, the cooling water at night actually releases heat into the center.  The inside is 20F warmer than outside.  I've measured it!   That's great on the occasionally cool nights that drop to 40sF, but the main advantage is that it keeps the soil around the roots warm.  That really matters more.  The soil temperature stays around 60F.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Earth Day

OOPS!  I missed it yesterday somehow...

So, Happy Earth Day, Earth.  Thanks for supporting all of us another year.

It was probably not a coincidence that I saw my first hummingbird of the year Sunday morning!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Doing Useful Stuff, 1

A series of daily  stuff...

Sorted out and filed 2 years of bills and documents...  It was a pile 2 feet high.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Small Victory

I lost a frame screw from my eyeglasses 2 weeks ago.  I looked all over the area where the lens fell out.  No luck.

Fortunately, I always have 2 pairs of glasses.  So I replaced the lens and wrapped rubber bands around it to hold it in place until I passed the eyeglass shop.  But I kept not stopping (mostly because I always had food that would spoil quickly and the eyeglass place is S-L-O-W).

So today, I was typing at the computer and suddenly my attention was drawn to a tiny object...  The missing frame screw!!!  Hurray!

So I took out my set of jewelers screwdrivers and went about replacing the screw.  Damn, I just couldn't get it started.  Not by hand and not by screwdriver.  I even put a magnet on the screwdriver to hold the screw to the tip.  No luck for 15 damn minutes!  I kept thinking the starter hole OUGHT to be unthreaded and the lower one threaded to tighten the screw.

I FINALLY got it started and screwed it in place.  Took off the rubber band...  And the frame popped right open again.  Damn, damn, damn!

Then I noticed the screw on the OTHER side went in from bottom to top.  The BOTTOM is unthreaded.  Ohhh...

15 seconds later, I had the screw tightened.  I checked the other screw; it was still tight.

But then I checked the other set of glasses (which, of course, I had been wearing).  BOTH screws were loose.

I have a reason to mix up a small amount of epoxy for another reason soon.  I guess I will loosen each frame screw just a bit and use a toothpick to add a tiny dab before I retighten then.  I've had to do that before and it works great.

Granted I have reading glasses, so I put them on and take them off frequently, but do other people have this same problem with eyeglass frame screws falling out?  Have you thought of some good solution other than epoxy?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Good Things Happening, Part 2

THE CRAZY NEIGHBORS:  This time they have actually moved away!  Even the outside stuff is gone.  The BBQ grill, the tarp covering the front of the motorcycle shed that FIG used as a minor repair shop (I had no problem with that), and the kiddie pool in the back yard is gone.  There is NOTHING about them left behind this time.

They have actually left.

They brought out the worst in me, but also some best.

The worst is that I reacted to FIG and SNG  (Fat Idiot Guy and Stupid Nutso Girl).  I almost got in trouble with the police because I yelled at THEM to stop yelling outside at 3 am.  Well, maybe I deserved that.  To be fair, I'm not even sure the police knew I yelled at them, they just asked me some questions about the neighbors.  But I felt guilty.

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YOU KNOW YOU HAVE CRAZY NEIGHBORS WHEN:

1.  They scream obscenely at each other every Saturday night (in warm weather) at 3 am.
2.  One drives the only car away,
3.  With the infant in it,
4.  And with the only cell phone,
5.  And the other jumps in front of the car,
6.  Until pushed forward too much,
7.  And then lays down in the middle of the street screaming for an hour,
8.  Until she comes to your door begging you to call the police,
9.  And you do,
10.  And they come when the guy gets back and haul him off to jail for a few days,
11.  And they both HATE you for doing that,
12.  And she comes over the next day to beg for a cigarette,

13.  And FIG gives you the "evil eye" while you are just mowing the lawn,
14.  And you begin to wonder who owns that rental place so that you can complain,
15.  Or maybe even buy it to get rid of them because it wouldn't be THAT bad a deal,
16. And warm weather comes again and they start the screaming raging arguments again.

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And then they ACUALLY move away...  Hal A Luliah!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Good Things Happening

I have to say that I am pleased this past week. 

FIRST, the storm drain on the property line collapsed last month and I called it in for a repair.  Well, I don't mean that I was pleased it collapsed, but that the Count responded in 2 days with some surrounding warning tape.  So at least they reacted fast.

Then only a couple days later, a crew of bricklayers came out.  They tore down the existing brick structure, loaded it into a pickup very cleanly, then started rebuilding the whole thing.  I was amazed and pleased!

I only went out and bothered them with questions twice.  I've learned a few things over the years.  Guys who cut down trees are daredevils and love to show of.  Guys who lay bricks carefully don't.   

They made a small dam on rocks and soil and put a sump pump in the pool.  The sump pump led across my lawn to another storm drain, so the worksite stayed dry.

I looked at the work after they left.  The brickwork wasn't very level.  But it was lower in the center where the water would drain in, so I assume that was deliberate.  But is was level on the other side where water drains in, so I'm not sure.  It is interesting trying to figure out which side was done wrong, if either was.  The level side is against a solid brick wall downward whereas the lowered center side falls into the open pipe.  There MAY be a reason for that.

Quite frankly, I don't want to attend "storm drain school" to figure it out.  LOL!

But there was wet cement on the bottom of the storm drain and they left a gas electrical engine running to keep the water away for a while.  That makes sense.  But the gas engine ran out at 7:20 PM and I went out to look.  The water was slowly topping the soil dam and reaching the storm drain.  I was wondering whether to call the County when some guys came by in a County pickup truck. 

I mentioned it had just stopped and they said they had estimated it wrong.  The water was taking away some of the concrete.  But they said they could pull it all up and do the base concrete again.  They were CLOSE, but the job won't be "the best". 

On the other hand, the previous build lasted 25 years and I won't be around to worry about it in another 25.

SECOND, The Crazy Neighbors.  More about them next time...