email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Stream Of Semi-Conciousness

You shouldn't have to take a shower at 7:30 AM after being up all night when you are retired.

It started with playing Risk online all night.  Then, at dawn, I decided I was tired of having people drop by to see if I was selling the boat or the trailer, so I decided to move them both into the backyard (inside the fence) out of sight.

Easier said than done!  Its really hard for one person to get the car's trailer hitch and the boat or hauling trailer hitch lined up.  Both are TOO DAMN HEAVY to lift and move around.

So I spent a good (bad?) quarter hour getting the boat attached to the car.  Then drove it into the backyard.  THEN spent another quarter hour trying to get it backed into the spot I had in mind.  Then the trailer support pipe was too low to put a cinder block under so I had to find scrap wood wide enough to support the weight on the ground.  THEN unhitched the boat trailer from the car (breathing fumes from the car because I didn't want to keep turning it on and off).

Then I repeated the whole joyful process with the hauling trailer, except that I can't SEE the trailer as I back it into position unless I prop myself up on the seat and that causes cramps in my side muscles which are REALLY painful and DAMN I hate that.

And IT was too low to put a cinder block under the thing that raises and lowers the support, the name of which escapes me at the moment, so I needed MORE boards to keep that pipe from pushing into the ground.

And the whole process took 2 hours when I REALLY wanted to be in bed asleep but I sure hope my neighbors will STOP asking me if they are for sale...  Out of sight, out of mind, I hope.

And NO, I'm not "that guy" in the neighborhood with the dead car up on cinderblocks, (the cinderblocks should be painted a matching house color; just kidding, LOL)!  I'm just the guy with the organic well-mowed and landscaped yard who doesn't happen to use his boat or half-rebuilt trailer very often... So I'll rebuild the trailer in the back yard and leave it there until I use it again.  I prefer to do my work out of sight anyway.  I should have moved the boat and the trailer into the backyard months ago.


Now it's 8 am and I'm trying to decide whether to just stay up today and get some other work done in the yard or go to bed and get up at 4 pm and blow the whole day!  If I stay up, I'll kind of collapse around 8 pm  and wake up at 4 AM, so I'm pretty much screwed up either way today.

I think I'll play with the cats for a while then clean house until lunchtime.  After that it's a roll of the dice... 

Sunday, July 21, 2013

One Time too Many

Hairy Houdini Squirrel went for the lushious peanut butter bait one too many times this morning.

And this time I did not handle the cage wrong, nor did I place him into the waters in trashcan of water in a way that allowed an escape.

I searched the house yesterdy and found a large plastic container larger than the live cage.  I filled it with water last night.  Hairy Houdini Squirrel went in horizontally that didn't release the doors and he didn't make an escape.

It was quick.  5 seconds of confusion, one blurp, and gone.

I have set the cage-trap up again, because my heirloom tomatoes are ripening, but I am VERY much hoping Hairy Houdini was the last of the squirrels who had learned to raid the garden.

I am designing a total 1" chicken wire garden enclosure for next year that will keep all natural animals around the yard out.   I do not wish to kill anything again.

But I HAVE learned how to set a live cage on the top on a fence that doesn't fail.  I will post tomorrow about that for people that want to know for their own reasons.  You don't have to read it.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Some Projects Are Hell, Part 2

I mentioned explaining the obvious solution to my problem with the light fixture yesterday.  Here it is...

Had I seen the insides of the light fixture after the wooden frame was off, things would have been simpler.  I sort of casually assumed that the wooden light frame was equally fitted to the light fixture at both ends.  So I just chose the end least visible to attach the hinge.  Had I chosen the other end, things would have gone as planned. 

As it turned out, the wooden frame was attached tight to the light fixture at the other (most visible) end, meaning that when I attached the hinge to the opposite end, there was no freedom of movement.  What I unknowingly did was pull the end of the wood frame tightly against the opposite end.  When I installed the hinge and then pulled the opposite end of the frame down (with some effort), I couldn't push it back up. The wooden frame hit the metal of the light fixture from flex.  Even levering the wood frame with a screwdriver could not overcome the problem.

Had I realized at the time that loosening the screw at the hinge end would have given me 1/4" clearance, I could have saved myself an hour of frustration and adjustments that had no effect. 

Well, at least I know now!

The hard but sad rule of DIY home projects is that you could always do them better the 2nd time but seldom ever need to.  That's where professionals get the edge; they made the same mistake the first time but have learned and done the same thing right afterwards a few dozen or hundred times.

But I'm still going to DIY it when possible...  LOL!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some Projects Are Hell!

This is a long story about what OUGHT to have been a simple project..

It seemed like such a simple idea.

I had a 4' fluorescent kitchen light installed 15 years ago.  It replaced the incandescent 2 bulb light originally installed and provides a lot more light  It has a nice wood frame and a diffuser panel.  Thoroughly attractive. 

But in the heat of July and August, it doesn't want to come on.  Multiple flippings of the light switch tend to get it on eventually at first, but on the very hottest days, it just won't.  Something about the ballast getting hot from the hot atc above it.  Adding more insulation didn't solve the problem (nor did removing it).

So, for years, I have removed the frame cover in mid July to late August and taken out the diffuser panel.  That apparently let enough cool house air to let it come on. 

2 years ago, I drilled ten 2" holes along the sides of the frame to let cool house air in (5 each on the 2 sides).  That only helped a little.  Removing the wood frame to take out the diffuser panel is a real pain. 

Being just me here, I had to unscrew one end of the wood frame from the actual lamp fixture and then stick a nail in the screw-hole to keep that end in place temporarily.  Then I had to walk across 3 chairs to the other end and remove THAT screw.  Then I had to hold the whole frame up in the center to pull out the opposite nail.  Then I could lower the wood frame down and remove the diffuser panel.  Removing the diffuser panel DOES let enough cool house air DOES allow the light to come on.  I should mention that I live in constant house air 72F year round.

But that sure makes the kitchen ungodly bright for July and August.  I could actually live with that, but it seems to annoy visitors.  So that's why I tried drilling the 2" hoes in the sides.  I was SURE that would keep it cool enough to come on (and it almost looks like a design element) but that didn't work.

Replacing the diffuser on September 1st (the usual date for attic cooling) was the hardest part.  Its one thing to hold up the wood frame in the center with one hand and pull OUT a nail and each end of the frame in July.  It's an entirely different effort to replace the screws that hold the wooden frame in place while holding the 4" frame against the ceiling.  Lets just say there are eventually Really Bad Words and eventual frustration-screaming involved.  It DOES get done, but I am emotionally and even physically exhausted.

So this year, I decided there HAD to be a better way.  I stared at the wood frame several times and decided that I needed a hinge on one end of the wood frame.  I am "sort of competent" at most projects (I always have to make surprise adjustments to my plans), but my talent is being "creative".  Eventually, things work.

The hinges I had wouldn't work.  Most hinges have large round areas at the corner and there was no space for that.  I found "piano hinges". 
 National 1-1/2 x 48 Nickel Plated Piano Hinge (N148320)
They fit into tight corners.  So far, so good.  I marked the holes of the 12" long piano hinge I bought onto the wooden frame, drilled holes for the enclosed screws and set in the screws.  Then I marked the spots for holes into the ceiling for toggle bolts.

Toggle bolts
are weird things that have wings that fold down to go through a hole through thin material like a drywall ceiling and then open by springs.  When you tighten them, the opened wings come down flush with the drywall top.  It's as if you had a large fender washer above the drywall to tighten against.  So after I attached one part of the piano hinge  to the wood frame, I went to drill holes for the toggle bolts through the ceiling drywall.

No go!!!  The toggle bolts were 3 inches long (It takes some length to fold the toggle wings down enough to get them THROUGH the 3/4" drywall to open up above, and the hinge would not allow that angle, being attached to the wood frame.

If this is hard to follow, just trust me on the statements and continue...

So I had to remove the screws holding the piano hinge to the wood light frame.  But if I did THAT, it would fall down.  And guess what I discovered I had overlooked?  There was the screw holding the wood frame to the actual light fixture.  And the hinge covered it!  So I had to remove the entire hinge anyway.  So I had to figure a way to hold the wood frame in place while the screw was removed. 

I decided that I could take 2 boards and clamp them both so that one was set on the floor and the other was pushing the frame up and the top.  But that was requiring 3 hands and I was short one.  Then I noticed an "expander bar sitting in the corner of the basement.  Thats a small pipe inside a larger pipe and so can pull the smaller one out and fix it in place (mechansms vary).  Setting a metal can on the floor below the wood light frame, the expander bar reached the wood frame and held it in place. 

Great.  So I marked the spot on the ceiling where the toggle bolts had to go and removed the hinge and drilled the holes.  Then I put the toggle bolts through the hinge tighten them and put the screws on the other half of the hinge back into the wooden light frame.  I was DONE!

No. I wasn't...  I still had to put the other end of the wood frame back in place and get the screw in.  I thought that would be simple.  The far end was hinged, just lift the other end into place and replace the screw.  Nope.  The wood frame hit the lightfixture too short and would not go over it to the ceiling.

I should have taken pictures, but quite frankly, I was not in the mood for that.

I eventually solved the problem by putting longer screws in the hinge end and leaving them 1/4" loose (to give some sliding room) and the whole wooden cover minus the diffuser fit well enough to attach again firmly. 

But that's why I say I have the worst luck with what SHOULD be simple projects sometimes.  I should be the Murphys Law (anything that CAN go wrong Will go wrong) poster boy...  What SHOULD logically have taken 20 minutes took 3 hours!  Worse, when I could see inside the wooden light frame, I saw the solution will simple, but was not observable until the effort was finished.  I will explain about that tomorrow...

On the other hand, the light came right ON after I gave in 10 minutes to cool down with  the house air.  I turned it off and back on several times just for the pleasure of seeing my efforts work.

There are some things some people are naturally talented at.  There are  somethings some people will NEVER figure out how to do.  And then there are SOME of us who are just unnaturally persistent and accomplish things we are not talented at anyway.  LOL!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Houdini Squirrel

There seem to be 3 squirrels in the Grove Tree Gang who attack my garden.  The small grove of trees on the east side dont have food trees like oaks, so they have learned to raid gardens and fruit trees.

In desperation this year, I set up a live trap.  I caught 2 of them in 3 days.  But the 3rd one must be the mastermind.  I keep finding the trap shut yet the peanut butter all cleaned off the trigger lever.  Its been 13 days of resetting the cage and applying new peanut butter sometimes even twice per day.

Today I walked out to the cage and heard a rattling sound.  I GOT it!  I was excited.  I loosened the rope tied to the cage handle that keeps it from falling over the fence into the neighbor's yard and went to carry it away.

Oops, I forgot the wire that holds the cage to the fence.  It made me lose my grip on the cage and fall 2 feet to the end of the rope.  That caused the wire that holds the doors closed to flip loose and Squirrel Houdini was out in a flash.

I said a LOT of Very Bad Words...

So I did what I have done every day the past 2 weeks and reset the trap.  I'm sure Squirrel Houdini is going to be leery of the cage.  But I also know it LOVES the peanut butter.  So it is a game of squirrel gluttony vs patience.

I'll  get it eventually.  And when the last of the Grove Tree Gang is removed, I hope the replacements don't learn the same garden-raiding tricks.

I don't have anything in particular against squirrels.  We coexisted peacefully for 23 years before this one group started destroying my garden (and I put 2 squirrel baffles on the birdfeeder pole years ago).  I even like them in their natural habitat (living in trees and eating acorns - of which there are plenty here).  But last year they pulled every green aple of my trees and ate all but 2 tomatoes. This year they have pulled up 3 plantings of corn, beans and cucumbers.

Here it is the middle of July and I have eaten just 2 beans (and just tonight).  The cukes are only a foot high.  The last corn seedlings died under the cover I put over them (too hot, I guess) and there is probably no point in replanting them at this point.  There is a new planting of beans under a tent of 1" mesh chicken wire. I MIGHT get some beans from this planting

I don't have a problem with the squirrels on the west side of the yard.  There are 2 huge oak trees there so they seem to have all the acorns they need, and apparently, the birdfeeder is in their territory.  They eat the seeds the birds spill out and they are welcome to them.  No squirrel of the west side has ever run toward the east grove.  I never bother animals that don't attack my food.

My only fight is with the east Grove Tree Gang.  Sheriff Cavebear IS going to get them...

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Blast From The Past

I used to play a complex strategic computer game called Civilization 2 (not an action/shooter game).  There would be a large map (unseen at the start) and you would slowly establish and improve cities with military, civil and science improvements.  You would discover the map as you moved slowly.  You started around 3,000 BC and very gradually moved to launching a spaceship to Alpha Centuri competing with up to 6? 8? other players.  The game took many hours to play.  I was obsessed by it.

But I quit when the new version (Civilization 3) of the game gave less and less control to the player and whole cities would switch sides to another player for no particular reason I understood ("through cultural influence").  And then I switched from Windows to Mac and my CD didn't work any more anyway.  So I moved on to blogging.

Well, I suddenly developed a great desire to play the game again.  I still had the old PC around and thought to have it cleaned and upgraded, but then decided that I liked internet multi-player competition, so I simply bought the Mac version of Civ 2.  The CD should arrive in a few days.

But I wanted to review some of the game strategies and looked at the current Civ 2 discussion board.  Its been 7-8 years since I played.

Imagine my surprise when the very first post I saw was advice FROM ME.  LOL!  And it was quoted by someone else as "from veteran player xxxxxxx", ME.


It is going to take a while for me to get back into the details of the game.  This rejoining the game is going to be VERRRY INTERESTING...  I'm going to get KILLED at first until I remember the old strategies and catch up on the new ones.  But that's the kind of thing that keeps the brain working, you know?

I could die of many causes.  But brain boredom ISN'T going to be one of them.  LOL!

[Update:  The Civ 2 CD arrived today.  I am devastated.  The CD is too old to load on my up-to-date Mac...  My anticipated thrill at playing Civ 2 again is stomped by technology failure.  It looks like I will have to get the old Windows computer cleaned and working if I want to play Civ2. 

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Let There Be Light!

No offence intended but my bathroom is interior and light has always been an issue.  It came to a head when I bought a new sagegreen bath towel and it looked dead gray on the towel rack.  So I also bought a bright blue towel that matched the fancy marine fish shower curtain and it looked PURPLE!

OK, I decided to get some daylight in there.  No, not a skylight, just "daylight" bulbs.  I figured there were regular incandescent daylight bulbs, but I couldn't find any.  I had to get compact fluorescent bulbs.

WHAT a difference!  The color of both towels sprung to life.  Now, I don't want to suggest that the color of my towels defines my life.  But it WAS annoying that they looked so different than in daylight and I never saw a problem I didn't want to fix.

And don't get me wrong about the towels either.  I'm both genetically and by upbringing used to going "cheap", but my escape is that I go by value rather than price.  The $13 towels at Walmart and Target are as good as the $30 ones at Bed, Bath&Beyond.  Soft, absorbent, oversize and 100% top cotton.  I'm glad to see the true colors of the new towels.

But, OMG, I'm going to need to clean the bathroom a lot more often!!!  And forgive me if I won't explain why...

But the towel color with regular incandescent and "daylight fluorescent"?

Big difference, huh?

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

More Critter Trouble

All is NOT quiet on the Garden Front!

OK, It seems I pretty much have the Grove Gang Squirrels at a stalemate.  But to review:  They started by pulling up most my corn, bean, and cucumber seedlings (but not eating them) 2 plantings.  I attached the live cage on the top of my fence (their highway to my garden).  I caught one in the live cage and dispatched it.  A second one pulled up my 3rd planting, so I covered the trellis bed with a tent of 1" chicken wire and covered my block of corn separately.  Some squirrels penetrated the mesh tent and also got at the corn again (I had uncovered it for some afternoon sun and forgot to replace it).  I then caught a 2nd squirrel and dispatched it.

In addition, I had had 2 groundhogs move in under my toolshed earlier.  The first was live trapped and relocated.  The 2nd was driven away after I filled 3 different burrow entrances with used cat litter.  I thought I was done with them for the year (in the past, they have only showed up in the Spring).

So there I was trying to catch the 3rd garden attacking squirrel, but also having fixed the spots it/they got into through the mesh tent.  I thought I only needed to catch the 3rd squirrel and then protect my developing tomatoes in another garden bed.

After catching the first 2 squirrels in just a few days, I expected to get the known 3rd and possible 4th easily.  The peanut butter bait smeared on the trip lever was working well.  However, I have since found the trap tripped daily with nothing inside.

I have figured out that its mostly my fault.  There are 2 wires that need to be set in place after the doors are set open that lock the doors shut when snapped closed.  That may be confusing; what it means is that a frantic squirrel CAN push back out through the spring-shut doors if 2 wires down lock them down.  I HAVE found a couple of times where I forgot to set the lock wires.  I know a squirrel has been in the cage because the peanut butter is licked clean.

But I may have outsmarted myself on a few other attempts.  Trying to be clever, I put a small dot of peanut butter at the front of the cage to lure the squirrel in.  I realized that when the cage was closed and no squirrel was inside, the dot of peanut butter was missing.  What probably happened was that the squirrel grabbed the front of the cage to get at the dot on peanut butter hard enough to trigger the doors.

It must have gotten a wicked strike on the head, but was able to pull itself  out.  But it keeps coming after that peanut butter!

There is also a situation after I stopped putting the dot of peanut butter on the front of the cage and the cage is closed with the trigger lever still having the big smear of peanut butter on it.  I suspect that a squirrel is jumping onto the cage just to get over it, and triggering the doors to spring closed.  I may have to attach a circle of chicken wire around the outside of the cage to encourage them to go through it. 

But I have learned to make sure the door-locking wires are in place each time lately and that the only peanut butter is sure to get them at the door trigger lever.  In fact today, I smeared the peanut butter on a small stone and set it PAST the trigger lever.  If THAT doesn't work, I will try the mesh wire surround to encourage them to go through the cage instead of jumping on it.  I expect to be successful soon.

So what's the "MORE" problem?  Well, as I was quietly walking to check the squirrel cage this evening, I surprised a HUGE FAT GROUNDHOG in the back yard.  As expected, it ran to the toolshed.  I looked around the shed at the previous burrows.  None of the previous burrow entrances had been re-dug.

I wasn't surprised at THAT.  I use scoopable cat litter and the stuff is slimy when wet and cement-like when dry.  Plus it is full of cat pee and poop!  I doubt any herbivore is going to mess around with THAT!  But I looked around carefully (it's a bit overgrown with weeds and vines) and found the new burrow.  They all seem to like the same spot (NW corner for some reason.  It was dug this morning (I check around the toolshed every day at least once).  So I went back into the garage and took out 2 plastic shopping bags of used cat litter and emptied them into the burrow entrance.  I'll be able to tell if it digs its way back out (doubtful - not one has done THAT yet) or digs a new hole elsewhere.  If neither of those happens, it either suffocated or had a panic heart attack, LOL!

One last odd observation.  As I was walking back to the house, I noticed a 3' arc of eaten clover where I saw the groundhog.  I know they like clover.  If I thought that was all they would ever eat, I would leave them be.  But I have, in the past, caught them eating my ripening heirloom tomatoes.  And I love those at least as much as Hobbits love mushrooms!

So the new groundhog has to go too.  I HOPE it leaves from the offense of the used cat litter.  But if not, I will live-cage and dispatch it too. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

I Caught A Squirrel

WARNING:  Squirrel death ahead...  Read or not, your choice.

Yeah, it was one of the Bad Grove Gang, at least from the direction it entered the live trap.  I baited the center release lever with a smear of peanut butter, but I also placed a small dab on both ends  assuming it would lick that off before going for the large smear.  So I know the direction it came from.  It has gone to Happy Squirrel Acorn Acres...

Peanut butter works...

I don't really want to kill any animals.  I stopped hunting 40 years ago because causing unnecessary pain seemed wrong.   If the squirrels had limited their hunger to fallen sunflower seeds and acorns, I would have just admired their antics and left them alone.  I even forgave them stealing all my apples.  I didn't spray the apples so none were ever really worth eating anyway.  When they started taking my heirloom tomatoes last year I got angry about it.  But when they wouldn't even leave bean, corn, and cucumber seedlings to grow this year, I drew the line.  I have a right to a garden.

I have read many websites about the lack of success of relocating squirrels and humane killing methods.  Relocation doesn't work well.  First, most anyplace suitable to a common animal like squirrels is filled to capacity.  Most young resident squirrels are driven out to unsuitable places and starve.

Second, any newly introduced squirrel that does succeed means that just one more resident squirrel won't.  It's a zero-sum game for the squirrels.

Third, relocation of varmints is generally illegal.  The idea is that you can't transport your problem to someone else.  Its like trying to get rid of a color on a Rubik's Cube by moving the pieces around.

I am vaguely disturbed by the idea that I am actively eliminating the MOST successful and adaptive squirrels.  I LIKE evolution.  But I suppose that is entirely the point of this effort.  I want DUMB squirrels here...

The live trap allows me to catch varmints with causing them the pain of a snap trap or the danger of catching a cat.  That doesn't mean I use it to let them live.  I can't shoot them through a small mesh cage, I can't inject them with a forever-sleep drug, and I can't stab them fatally fast

My wheelbarrow holds JUST enough water to cover the live trap.  The squirrel was gone in 15 seconds.  Its the fastest way I can use and they don't seem to know what is happening until a very sudden end.  It didn't even move around.

I don't want to draw this out and I probably won't give details again.  I know I can't kill all the squirrels; I don't want to.  I just need to eliminate the few squirrels who have learned to attack my garden.  I would be perfectly happy just to have new squirrels who live off the acorns from the 2 massive old oaks and the nuts from the beech tree on the property.

I've given this post a lot of thought (1.5 hours).  Best I can do...

UPDATE:  7 am 7-3-13..  Make that 2 evil squirrels.... If I can find the smallest bit of good news, they apparently breathe fast.  The 2nd was dead in less than 10 seconds.  I force myself to watch this so that I know what I am doing.  The faster the end, the better, and they go fast!  But the live-trap is reset with fresh peanut butter...

Monday, July 1, 2013

Squirrel Games Again

Well, the bad news is that I uncovered the block of 9 corn seedlings in the afternoon yesterday (an opaque plastic bin) so that they could get some sunlight (the squirrels seem to stay away in the afternoon), and I forgot to put the cover back on them last night.  7 of the 9 seedlings were pulled up and most uneaten this morning.  I meant to form a cover for them out of leftover chicken wire, but I got distracted by housework and putting the recycle bins out by the street, etc.

So I put the cover back over the surviving 2 plants and set 7 more seeds soaking overnight to replant tomorrow.  I will use the bin I am covering the block with and use it as a form for a chicken wire cover BEFORE I replant them  the 4th time.  I should have done that the 1st time.  But one time is happenstance, and the 2nd time can be coincidence.  3rd time is "enemy action" and I am at 4th.

Other bad news is that the squirrels are not going for the dried corn cob chunk in the live trap near the birdfeeder (I placed it there so I could easily see if, and how fast, it worked).  It didn't get any attention.

So I decided to follow the advice of one website and use peanut butter smeared on the trap release lever.  I put the trap on top of the fence the squirrels use as their highway from the tree grove to my garden.  I attached a wire from the trap to the fence so that if one was caught it wouldn't fall into the neighbor's yard.  Then I put some peanut butter on the release lever and tiny amounts in front of the trap and just inside of it.

The good news is that a squirrel followed the peanut butter, but tripped the trap while outside of it.  But there are 2 wire bars that keep the doors from being pushed open from inside and I might not have secured those.  And when I approached the trap, there was a squirrel right there, and it WANTED that peanut butter.  So that bait might work if I set everything up correctly.  I reset the trap before coming inside for the night.  I hope to see a squirrel in there tomorrow morning.

I have high hopes for the peanut butter.  And I really hope it works, because my tomatoes are starting to produce fruit and I don't want them stolen.

Enclosing each raised bed in chicken wire would be ridiculous, might prevent pollination, and be hard to access each time I needed to weed or harvest.

The alternative is to redesign my raised beds into one single large bed and enclose the entire thing with chicken wire, sides, and top (with a door of course).  That would be a lot of work, it would be a bit ugly, and expensive.  1"  mesh chicken wire isn't as expensive as some other garden fencings, but it isn't free.

So those individual talented garden-thieving squirrels just MUST go...