email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Sunday, June 30, 2013

More Squirrel Games

Determined to grow some flat italian style beans (Romano), I ordered some seeds from Burpee.  The shipping cost more than the seeds, but it was the principle of the thing.   They arrived yesterday and I soaked 12 seeds overnight. 

I planted them today.  The chicken wire covering the trellis soil wasn't too hard to lift.  I had some garden clips (like round clothespins) to hold it up while I planted the new seeds.  I also planted 5 new cuke seeds.  The previous 6 came up but there were still gaps, so I filled them. 

The squirrels don't seem to bother seedlings more than a few inches high (why they don't, I have no idea).  Well, I'll make a guess that the new seedlings still have most of the growing seed and that's what the squirrels are after.  But pure guess.  I can't really know how squirrels think.

But under the 1" chicken wire cover, the beans and cukes should grow.  The beans should begin to ripen in 60 days  (sept 1st), so I could get 2 months of harvest even at this late date. 

Now I have to figure out how to protect the tomatoes.  That's trickier.  I'll try draping  the tomatoes in row cover cloth I think.  If they chew through that (and they can), I will have to get more serious and lethal.  I don't like "more lethal" things but anything that kills rats ought to kill squirrels...

Of all the plants I grow, I want the heirloom tomatoes the most.  Last year, I didn't get a single one; the squirrels took them all before they were ripe.  That will not happen this year if I have to trap and drown every squirrel within several properties.

I am considering a few designs to rebuild the garden beds and enclose them in chicken wire if I can't eliminate those few squirrels who have learned to depend on my garden for food.

If I redesign the garden beds to get them smaller and eliminate the spaces between them to make one large bed, I could build a frame to enclose the entire garden bed with a door for entry.    I want a garden THAT much.

Monday, June 24, 2013

OK Squirrels, Game ON!

I've had it with the squirrels pulling up my romano bean seeds, cucumbers, and corn.  I LOVE those flat Italian beans and they are harder to find fresh than Giraffes at the North Pole.  So after the squirrels pulled up most of the bean seeds again a 3rd time, I decided, as Bugs Bunny used to say "This Means War".

I went to the local hardware store and bought 50' of 3' wide chicken wire (aka "poultry netting").  I cut two pieces of it 20' long.  It loves the way it is rolled up so I manually bent it flat and that took some effort.  Then I made a tent of the two pieces along the trellis to shield my seedlings and the newly-planted new seeds.



"But", I hear you say, "they will find a way in".  I'm EXPECTING that!  Where they find a way in, THAT'S where I will cut a small opening and set the live-trap to just fit.   And then I'll drop the live-trap in a trash can of water and drown the little %$@*#s ...  And then I'll feed them to the cats!

Bwa-ha-ha-ha...

But seriously, for 20 years the squirrels and I mostly lived in peace.  I put 2 baffles on the pole where I put sunflowers seeds for the birds and they can't get at the feeder.  They were welcome to the seeds that the birds spill on the ground. 

A few years ago, some squirrels in one tree grove started taking all the apples.  I didn't mind that much because I never sprayed the apples and insects ruined them.  Besides, it was funny watching them running along the top of the fence with apples in their mouths. 

But then 2 years ago they started taking my tomatoes.  I don't grow heirloom tomatoes for squirrrels...  There are few enough fruits on an heirloom tomato as it is.  Last year, I only got 2 ripe tomatoes from 8 plants.

This year they started pulling up the corn and bean seedlings for the tiny remnant of the planted seeds.  I WILL have a garden.  If I have to completely redesign the garden so that it can be enclosed with 1" mesh chicken wire and I have to pollinate the plants manually, I will do that!  But killing those few squirrels who have learned to take my fruits and seedlings will (I hope) be easier.  And I will not stay up nights unsleeping worrying about a few drowned squirrels...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Watering Trees

A neighbor has an orange bucket next to a tree he planted 2 years ago.  I had wondered about that.  Then today, I remembered a watering trick from a gardening magazine.  Its funny how the brain can dredge up old information.

The idea was to slowly drip water from a small hole in the bucket onto the roots of a tree so it wouldn't run off.  AHA!  I have a few 5 gallon buckets around for various uses.  So I took a green one (blends better into the background), drilled a very small hole into the bottom and set it next to the Sourwood tree I an trying to bring back to growth.

I love the Sourwood Tree.  It has red and gold seeds and leaves in Fall.  I planted 3 when I first moved here.  1 remains and it is only 3 feet high.  I don't water the front yard as well as the back.  Well, I live in the back and don't care about the front much (I'm changing that). 

So I placed the 5 gallon bucket just uhill from the tree, filled it up with a hose, and watched what happened.  It took 2 HOURS for the water to drip out the tiny hole.  RThat means every drop went down into the root zone.

I LOVE this idea and will use the bucket all around the front yard plants.  The advantage is that the bucket has a 5 gallons of water, but no more.  I used to leave a hose dripping water out very slowly but I never knew how much it was getting (and forget it was going overnight sometimes.)  THIS way, its 5 gallons and no need to remember it later.

What a great idea!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Plagues?

I'm beginning to get a bit suspicious at the series of "troublesome critters" this year.  First there was the groundhog.  I seem to get a couple each year for the past few years.  I usually live-trap and relocate them miles away, but that is tiresome (and possibly illegal), and replacements always arrive for a while.  This year I decided to just start dumping the bags of catbox scoopings into the burrow entrances.  This groundhog dug 2 more new burrow entrances that I kept filling up before it gave up and moved away.  At least, I can't FIND any new entrances and I haven't seen it out on the back lawn at dusk.

But perhaps it made a deal with the squirrels.  As soon as IT vanished, the squirrels started pulling up my new bean, cuke, and corn seedlings.  I've tried to live-trap THEM, but no luck yet.  I attached the live-trap to the top of the fence they use as their personal highway, but I think they just run over top of it.  I may have to encourage them to go THROUGH the live-trap with a small chicken wire wall above it.

Meanwhile, I was invaded by small ants.  As mentioned in a previous post, they don't seem to be coming FROM anywhere or going TO anywhere in particular, just wandering around near the deck door and the kitchen backsplash.  No trail of ants going back and forth, no food being targeted.  They don't even bother the cat's food!

I think that the invasion is over, because I didn't see one for 2 days and then just one this morning.

But perhaps they all turned into houseflies!  Yesterday morning, I woke up to find a dozen of them all buzzing at the living room window looking for a way out.  The source baffles me.  I haven't had any windows open, there are none in the garage where I keep the garbage, there are none in the small compost collection bin, there are none in the basement where some mouse might have gotten in and gotten killed by the cats.

They are easy enough to kill against the windows, but I found just as many there again TODAY!  Killed those too of course.

What's next, a rain of frogs?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Da Squirrels, Da Squirrels!

Well, I have pretty well confirmed that it's squirrels that have been pulling up my bean and corn seedlings.  The past 2 mornings, I have slipped out of the house quietly in the morning and rousted several squirrels from my garden at the right spots. 

They all run away in the same direction.  There is a grove of trees in the east neighbors' yards that direction that don't seem to produce much that a squirrel can eat.  They seem to be aspen and birch.  The trees on the west side are oaks, and I never see squirrels from the garden run in that direction.

Squirrel families are territorial, so I gather that the East Side squirrels are outcasts who are starving.  I ALMOST feel sorry for them.  Still, they pulled up 10 of my 12 bean seedlings, 18 of my 18 corn seedlings, and 6 of my 12 cucumber seedlings.  It may also explain why most of my crocuses on the east side of my lawn have been dug up.  Maybe I've been blaming the voles overly much (not that they are innocent either).

But the point is that there seems to be this one group of squirrels that have learned to get their food from my garden.  I have been here 26 years  and only started having a problem with squirrels 3 years ago.  At first they only took the green apples from my 2 dwarf espaliered trees.  I didn't mind that much because I never remembered to spray them and the insects always ruined the apples anyway.  Last year, they started taking the green tomatoes.  This year, its even the various seedlings.  I have to stop this group before they teach others squirrels these damaging habits!  I know that sounds silly, but local groups animals do learn successful feeding strategies not common throughout the species.  So I am after one small group of squirrels.

I tried using a live trap several times, but I haven't caught a squirrel yet.  I tried it on the ground next to the beans, on the ground just before the beans, and finally on the top of the fence where the squirrels run along.  No luck!  Well, I caught a young possum, and it won't be tripping my trap any more...

Well, maybe my bait was bad.  I tried cashews, I tried a slice of peach, I tried a small apple picked from my tree.  A couple of times the bait was simply gone with the enclosure doors closed, but most times the doors were shut with the bait still inside.  I assume the squirrels ran over the top of the live trap and triggered the release lever.

So I went to a site that discussed the right bait for attracted squirrels into live traps.  It said the best was peanut butter with peanuts in the shell stuck down onto it.  I didn't have any of either.  But I did had some dried corn on the cob.  I bought a cheap bag of it to bribe the squirrels away from my garden, but hey if they like it that much, it should get them in the trap, right?

I sure hope so.  One web site I found said that squirrels are gluttons and easy to trap.  Right...  I'll settle for ONE first.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Those Darn Ants!

For 2 weeks, I have had very small ants wandering around the TV room and adjacent kitchen.  They show up just inside the deck door, the kitchen windowsill, and on the backsplash board on the counters.

OK, ants seek food and sometimes they find their way into the house, but they aren't acting normal!  There is no trail of ants going anywhere.  There is no sign of them outside the house.  There is no paricular entry point I can detect.  There are never more than a few at a time, but there are ALWAYS a few any time I look.

They aren't in the pantry at some loose food box (I moved everything around and looked with a flashlight), they aren't at the cat food bowls, they aren't in the cabinets (flashlight again), they aren't even at the compost bin which is the main thing I would think would attract ants. 

They aren't in the ceiling of the basement below the kitchen or the TV room. 

Hey, this is vaguely sounding like a Dr Seuss poem...  I'll have to work on that idea!

I sprayed only once right under the base of the deck door inside and out (and then cleaned the exposed floor because the cats found the smell interesting).  I'm not too worried about the effect of the (organic) ant spray on cats because the stuff won't even annoy wasps and wasps evolved FROM ants (or vice versa) so they are very closely related, but why take chances.  But the limited spraying had no effect on the few ants visible at all times.

The point is that I can't figure out WHERE they are coming from, WHY they are in here, WHAT is keeping them searching around, or WHEN they are most commonly seen.  It seems completely constant, yet completely random.

I've probably killed over a thousand by finger and shoe.  It doesn't seem to make any difference if I kill them or not.  When I crush all the visible ones, there about as many in 10 minutes.  Yet after not bothering them all night, there are still ONLY as many in the morning.

ON THE OTHER HAND, I haven't yet had a fruit fly (aka fungal gnats) yet this year, and I usually have problems with them by now.  I'm pretty sure the ants aren't catching the fruit flies, but bigger theories have been proposed on such coincidental observations, LOL!

I expect the ants will simply stop appearing in a few days and I will never know why they where here or why they left.  It will be one of those mysteries of nature; those "Ants In My Midst".

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Some Evil Squirrels

Some evil squirrels are about to die.  I do not find pleasure in this.  I admire squirrels in many ways; they are clever, agile, and adaptive and I generally respect that.  I even think they are "cute".  I set up two squirrel baffles on the bird-feeder and I thought we had reached an understanding.  They couldn't reach the birdfeeder, but they were welcome to the seeds that fell.

But one one small group of them in a particular community learn to survive by eating every unripe apple, pull up every pole bean seedling, dig up every corn seedling, and pull off every heirloom tomato fruit , I have to put a stop to it.

I had squirrels around for the first 24 years here and never had a problem.  2 years ago , they suddenly learned to eat my tomatoes.  Last year, they started to eat my bean seedling.  This year, they are tearing up any plant I plant.

I wasn't sure it was really squirrels until yesterday when I caught them in the act.  There were 3 squirrels in the garden at the places where I am losing plants that I am growing for my food!  I know the direction they come from. 

I seriously think it is just one group of squirrels.  I intend to kill them as serious varmints.

I have several Hav-A-Hart live traps and one is sized for squirrels.  But I must mention that I am only using Hav-A-Hart traps so that I won't catch innocent animals like my cats or other cats.  Any squirrel I catch in the direction of the cadre that destroys my garden will die.

They have pulled up all my corn seedlings 3 times, my beans 3 times and half my cucumbers up twice.  I admire squirrels a lot, but when it comes to MY food, they are going to lose.  Its not ALL the squirrels; its only the ones that come from one direction and I'm going to get THOSE!

The most humane way I know to kill varmints is drowning.  I tried stabbing them with arrows through the cage screen, but it didn't work fast.  So I just drown them.  Its not as bad as you think.  They move around confused for a minute, then blurp an exhalation.  Then they are gone.

I expect some complaints, but I've tried different ways and that is the fastest I've found.

But if it is a contest between my growing veggies for my own food and allowing the squirrels to stop me from growing my own food, the squirrels are going to lose gradually and eventually.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Playing Risk Online

After practicing by myself for a few weeks, I rejoined online play.  It was weird.  The first 4 games I tried to join were apparently started by people who only start games to have inactive games.  Those games never actually start.  But the 5th game was weirder.

There were 4 other players, all who had many more game points than I did.  And I had a terrible position (scattered around Central Asia, which is about the worst place to be).  But 2 of the players had some sort of personal feud and I got Australia (barely).

Then they went to war over North and South America, so I took over Asia (while they also killed the other 2 players).  It may have helped that I had just watched 2 hours of US Civil War battles because I would have made a general proud with enclosing moves and attacks on weak places.

So there were the 2 "strong" players still fussing with each other in North America and FOR ONCE I kept my forces carefully organized and only attacked with strength slowly and had Australia, Asia, Africa, and finally, Europe.  And they both went "Hey wait, whats he doing?"

It was too late for both of them.  LOL!  Most satisfying game in quite a while.  I wiped them both out while they were trading incriminations about each other's poor play. 

The race may usually go to the swift and the battle to the best generals, and that's the way to bet.  But the quiet and the sly also win sometimes.  LOL!

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Ticked Off

My backyard is not mostly lawn.  2/3s of it was wooded and under-brushy when I moved in and I have gradually removed most of the trees.  Its not that I dont like trees (I do) but the neighbors let trees grow so tall all around my property lines that I was desperate for some sunlight for my flowerbeds and veggie garden.  So there are actually MORE trees in the general area.

But one consequence is that the open formerly wooded area is growing all sorts of junk; briars, spurge, burdock, mock strawberries, vines, and tall grasses.  Ticks love that stuff.  I have to thoroughly check the cats when they come in.  I check myself too, but I'm pretty sensitive to anything moving on me.


(Warning, possible TMI alert - You may want to stop reading)


But some places are less sensitive than others.  Like the (ahem) "base of the spine".  I idly scratched there a couple of times the other day before realizing that there was a tick.  Upon divesting myself of some clothing I realized I must have chased it around a bit.  I had 4 bite-bumps in just 4 sq inches! I pulled it off before it drew any blood and put it on the counter where I put a drop of rubbing alcohol on it.  That always kills them.  Not to be gross, but I then scratched all the bumps  a bit raw and put Neosporin on them.  The Lone Star ticks don't carry the worst tick diseases, but I like to be careful. even though the literature says it takes 12 hours before they can transmit any disease.

I did some research tonight, and it seems my yard has Lone Star Ticks (aka Seed Ticks).  They are fast little suckers!  Deet is supposed to repel them, but it doesn't according to some videos I watched.  On the other hand, they seem to get me where I don't use Deet.  I should mention that we have Asian Tiger Mosquitos here in MD (the only kind that I can't detect when they are on me) so I use a 7% Deet spray on my arms outdoors (which is generally sufficient) and I wear long tan twill pants even in Summer.  So when I find a tick on me it is usually behind my knees or on my back.  Hmmm, maybe the Deet DOES work.  I think I will start spraying it on my pants legs and socks.

I rarely find a tick on the cats (although Iza famously had one right on her butt once).  And I found a dead shell of one in Marley's earfolds once.  He is touchy about me exploring there, so I tend to avoid it.

Well, anyway, the tick-bite-bumps have gone away now, I don't see any reaction, and the tick was too flat to have started to get any blood yet.

But watch out for those things.  Most ticks move slowly but the Lone Star ticks run like ants!  I wear the tan twill pants when working outside partly because it is easy to spot them.  But these ones can get over your socks and on your legs before you check.

The backyard, other than the gardens is mostly a wasteland of scrub growth.  I used to rather like the wildness of it.  I keep the gardens organic, but I am not so fussy about the non-edible areas.  I'm going to spray Roundup around a lot of the area.  And trap the voles which seem to be the tick vectors here.

I'm sure you will forgive me for not taking pictures of the tick-bites, LOL!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Don't Shop For Colors On A Rainy Day!

OK, I'm a guy, I can remember about 16 colors in my head when I shop (but interestingly, I know 64 compass directions).  But at least when I'm looking at them in a store, I can tell slight differences.  So there I was deciding to get a new bath towel to (sort of) fit with the  shower curtain with bright colors and the green floor mat.  I thought a generally olive color would look OK.  I selected one a computer color chart says is "dark moss green".  I got it home and hung it on the towel rack.  It looks gray with a hint of blue!  I can't even FIND that on the computer color chart (well computer monitors are limited).

I also wanted some deep green casual button shirts and found one that was definitely green but pretty dark, but I thought it would do.  At home?  It looks charcoal!  Maybe it will look OK outside in sunlight...

One of my first post-college jobs was as Manager of a department store shoe department.  One aisle was of ladies fashion shoes.  I ALWAYS used to insist that they bring the shoes they chose to the front of the store to see the real color in daylight.  I would have done that myself today, except the Menswear Dept of the Target store is about 1/4 mile away from the front of the store, and it was raining anyway. 

I should know better.  Men buy things one at a time and hope they match.  A mat here, a curtain there, when some item needs to be replaced, etc.  Women buy "outfits" or "rooms".  Someday, I will learn to do that. 

But for now, I am cursed with bluish-gray towels that SHOULD look moss green.  Well, the cats don't mind.  Maybe I will buy real-daylight bulbs to put all over the house.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Well, That Was Fun, But A Surprise!

Last night around 10:30 pm, I lost access to one of my 3 email accounts.

I spent the better part of 12 hours trying to get it working again and only managed to lose access to ALL 3 accounts.  I boiled, I steamed (taking an hour off  at 6 am to rip the grass away from the front yard trees and prune a few wayward branches in frustration management).  I had tried to find a way to reach Verizon but could only get a dumb computer assistant that was worthless.  Verizon does NOT want you to reach an actual human being...

I was so angry I was QUIVERING.  I wanted a HUMAN on line to solve this problem!  I am sorry to say that I wouldn't let any of the Mews up on the computer desk.  I couldn't handle the distraction.

About 9:30 am I finally remembered that I had old paper bills from Verizon and THOSE had a customer service telephone number.  AHA!  I had a telephone number, and it got me right through to a human (probably few people have that number now)!

It took HIM (matter of chance) an HOUR to fix the problem after I let him take over my computer (and I have to say that almost every serious computer problem I've ever had has been solved SMOOTHLY that way).  I had to keep entering a password (must be Verizon policy since he could see what it was) but it did make me feel involved and gave me the illusion of privacy.

Watching the onscreen typing from the Verizon rep was a hoot.  He types as badly as I do.  He kept deleting keystrokes, LOL!  But he fixed it and that's all I really cared about.  My emails accounts are working again.

But you won't guess the sweet part of the frustrating hours on line...

Iza put her precious purple softy-mouse at my feet while I struggled.

When she comes in from the deck sunpuddle, I will start a DVD nature show and give her as much laptime as she wants...  And she is getting extra treats tonight.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

RSS Readers and Cable TV Nonsense Rant

The Old Reader makes me log in every time I want to check it, doesn't store my name/email/blogname for wordpress sites, and seems to dredge up multiple posts from blogs that aren't active. 

Feedly lists all posts from all blogs individually so there seem to be 100s if I miss a day of visiting, and their icons are odd.  Why a "check mark" should mean "its been read" is beyond me.  Why not just have the button say "mark as read"?

Too many apps try to be too hip/cute/clever.  We dont need that.  We need simple functionality.

I don't really like either site.  I am desperately hoping that some site will simply host Google Reader (with any name they like) so I can get back to visiting our friends easily an understand what I am seeing on the reader site.

It reminds me of the time I was on vacation and visited a restaurant that only had 2 different flowers identifying men an women bathrooms.  I had to wait until a lady opened one door and asked inside "Is this the right room"?  Then I used the other.  Men/Women is functional, Buoys/Gulls is cute at a marina, 2 flowers is just stupid.

My TV is gonna go whacko in a few days.  The Verizon FiOS folks just told me about an "improvement".   Instead of the TV just coming on to the last channel watched, I will have a "helpful" screen full of choices.  Like the temperature/weather outside at the time, advertisements of services I already know about from weekly junk mail I dont want and "channels" in the onscreen TV Guide that offer pay-to-view movies, and a description of the channel I last watched. 

Gee, I can guess the current weather by looking out the window and I have a thermometer.  I know all the services they offer.  I find the idea that I need to be told the basic concept of the last channel I watched rather insulting.  Who dreams up these ideas?

They brag that I can see the last channel I watched by just clicking "exit" on the remote.  But I had that before without having to do the extra click.  Some "improvement"...

I suspect that most businesses have a department dedicated to "what can we think of to change today to justify our existence".  The only real change I want from my cable TV service is a la carte channel subscription.  I want my cable service to divide up the exact current monthly bill by channel and let me choose the ones I will pay for.  I'd even let them add 10%.  I really only watch 12 channels.

The current system is ridiculous.  It's as if you bought a blanket at Walmart and it was bundled with a blender, a bag of potting soil, 6 mismatched spoons, a kids shirt, and 2 videotapes from the clearance rack!

End of rant...


Monday, June 3, 2013

Trailer Rebuild, Part 2

So there I was, back to the original framework (except for having some holes drilled through the metal - I tell you those step-bits for drilling metal are great)!

It was time to put on the new stuff.  I had decided to raise the sides from 18" to 24".  Most of the material I want to haul these days is fairly light - mulch and compost and tree debris.  And if its heavy (like sand) I'll just keep the load below the metal framework.

First, I bought all new stainless steel bolts, nuts, washers, split-washers, etc.  And a special purchase I will mention later.

Then I started with a solid floorbed.  No more tarps of the bottom to damage when I shovel material out of the trailer.  The side there is merely clamped down to hold the bottom sheet in place and to see how it would look.
One single 4x8' sheet and then custom fit strips off a 2nd sheet because (surprise!) the trailer is off square by 1/4" and I didn't want any gaps.  I got that strip so accurate I had to stomp it into place!  And then I couldn't push a fingernail in anywhere along the length.  Given a long history of bad circular saw cuts, that may be a personal "best".  It helped that I used a neat clampable straightedge tool (and measured 3 times before cutting).
Here is the clamping straight edge.  It comes in two 4' lengths that can be connected to 8'.  Very nice for cutting plywood!  Mark the cut line and then 1 1/2" more (for MY circular saw - other brands may vary) and it's hard to go wrong.
So, with the bottom in place, I could attach the sides...
Since the sides stick up higher than the metal framework, they need some support.  And the back is designed to be supported by 2x4s sticking into those small frames you can barely see on the back.  They work, but they don't quite fit 2x4s; you have to plane or cut them at th corners.  but I want better support at the top of the back anyway.  And I don't like the exposed edges of the P-T plywood.

So I will show part 3 when I figure out the details.  I know WHAT I want to do, but the measurement tolerances are tight so I may think about it a couple days.  But if what I have in mind works, you'll like it.




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Trailer Rebuild, Part 1

I love my 5x8' hauling trailer.  It transports mowers, hauls sand/mulch/compost home, hauls tree debris/recyclables/trash to the county landfill, and I bet it would carry a dozen neighborhood kids on a joy ride for a dollar each (just kidding).

The thing has an open metal frame, so I had to built plywood sides when I bought it.  Ten years+ later, the sides are rotting away.  And the base is boards with spaces between them, so I've always had to put a tarp on the bottom to keep small stuff like sand and compost from falling out (and a tarp above to keep it from blowing away).

So it was time to rebuild!  This time, I wanted rot-resistant (and higher) sides, a solid bottom, and more attached (but still removable) back.  When the trailer is off the car, the front sits on a cinderblock so it tilts back (no worry about rain collecting inside). 

So after sketching out various trailer side and bottom dimensions, I took the trailer to Home Depot (I needed it to haul new plywood home).  I went for 1/2 pressure-treated (P-T) plywood 4x8' sheets.  Home Depot changed a "no-cutting" policy on P-T wood last year or so to allowing it.  They have a great sheet plywood cutting machine, but it's one free cut per sheet.  I had fun figuring out the cuts (no seriously, I had FUN figuring out the cuts - I was good at geometry in school and I do some slight wood-working).  I figured out a satisfactory way to do the whole thing with 3 sheets of plywood and only 1 Home Depot cut on 2 sheets.  I would have had them do a cut on the 3rd sheet, but I needed to custom fit that cut.

Here are the BEFORE pictures...
You can see the sides were falling apart.
So I unloaded the new pieces.
And set about removing the old...


Easier said than done!  Some of those zinc-coated bolts and nuts were locked in place.  Considering that some of them just loosened and fell out over the years, that was a surprise.  (And for those of you in the know, I used lock washers and double nuts on all the bolts)

Thank goodness for Liquid Wrench!
I soaked all the nuts with that.  They still fought, but they DID all come loose with "persuasion".
And eventually, I had all the old sides removed.

Next time, I put on the new bottom and sides...