email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Garden Layout

Megan asked why the garden beds "should be true square feet".  A good question.

There is a home gardening system by Mel Bartholomew based on planting home crops by square feet.   Generally, I have used it.  It works by rotating crops through square feet, never letting any space be unused.  It works, but you have to keep at it.  A square foot of radishes, a square foot of carrots, etc.  You learn the best spacing for crops.  16 radishes per square foot, 9 carrots, etc.  It does make easy planting.  As I understand it, it is an adaptation of French Intensive Row Planting.

I try to keep at it, but it takes planning.  Still, I want my framed beds to be in true square feet of interior size.  The interior size is the problem.  The boards you use to make the framed bed take up some space.  So you have to use boards that are longer by their thickness.

It isn't TOO complicated.  To make a 4'x4' soil framed bed, you need boards that are 4' 1.5 inches on all sides because the boards are 1.5" thick.  If you just use exactly 4' boards, some of the last squares are 12"'x9" (12" -[1.5"x2]).

So in my framed bed plans, I have to make the the framed boards a few inches larger than the square feet.  An 8'x4' bed actually has to have boards 8' 3" and 4' 3".  It makes the details a bit insane!

Fortunately, there are some shortcuts.  If there are 4 beds (8 boards total), then that takes 12" of space (8*1.5").  If I didn't take that in to account, then the paths between the beds would be too small for my 24" wide wheelbarrow,

Properly arranged, my beds allow my wheelbarrow.  An inch wrong, it doesn't.  So, my constructed beds must have outside dimensions larger than the true square feet inside but allow the wheelbarrow just barely. 


I hope that all makes sense.

And Megan, you sent me your email once but I lost it,  Would you send it again?  cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT net...

Trailer Re-Siding

Before I can get the pipes, bulk chicken wire, and then additional compost/soil for the garden enclosure, I have to have the trailer renovated.  I started on that back in last Summer with pressure-treated plywood to cover the sides and base, but the plywood layers separated and warped on the sides, was too high, and too thin for good stability.  All around, a seemingly good choice of material that didn't work. 

Well, "almost" didn't work.  It did fine screwed down onto the boards that make up the bottom of the trailer.  I covered those with plywood because the original individual boards have gaps between them that let sand/dirt/compost fall through unless I covered them with a plastic tarp.  And when you shovel the contents out, you tear up the tarp.  At $10 per tarp, I got tired of that fast (and repairing tears with duct tape isn't free either).

So last week, I decided to go back to what DID work; T1-11 Exterior Plywood Siding.  The previous sides lasted 15 years before starting to rot, and the stuff is very stable and strong.  I should have just stayed with that last Summer.  I guess I figured pressure treated plywood would last even longer.

So last week, I started planning for T1-11 plywood.  I went to Home Depot and they didn't have any of the T1-11 in the thickness I wanted (it comes in basically 3/8" and 5/8" thick) and I wanted the thicker for strength.  Three days later, they also did not have it.  Today I went and I was annoyed enough to find a helpful employee to ask.  He said, that if the plywood wasn't on the shelves, they probably didn't have it in stock. 

I suggested that maybe there was some "in the back" or newly delivered.  But as I said that, I looked WAY UP at the top of the stacks, a good 20 feet up an saw a carboard-covered box that suggested it was the stuff I wanted.  19/32nds thick (seriously, who would make anything 19/32nds?  It must actually be metric).  Then a look from the side showed the other dimensions I wanted.

I won't say the senior lumber guy wasn't exactly upset to have to get that stuff down from the top, but he didn't thank me for the opportunity either.  Well, he got to use a BIG DAMN FORKLIFT and most guys would enjoy that.  Other employees gathered around to watch (they don't get to use that cool stuff).   I don't want to spoil any "guyness" here, but I'm not impressed.  He had only 3 controls:  A steering wheel, the fork up and down, and a slight forward adjustment to the fork.  My mouse is that complicated.  And he screwed it up the first 2 tries!  And he was the senior person...

OK, eventually, he got the pallet of the plywood I wanted down to the sales-level bin.  I told him I wanted 2 sheets and I wanted them cut.  I should explain the cutting.

I wanted the sides of the trailer 18" high.  But that's tricky with T1-11 because it has a tongue and groove edges  (like half-laps depending on your familiarity with terms). 

I had the lumber guy use the coolest saw I ever saw...  Its a circular saw on a pipe grid that works both vertically AND horizontally, with rollers at the bottom so the large plywood panels slide smoothly. 

I ended up with four 8'x18" pieces  and 2 scraps I will find a use for later.  I was initially worried about securing the pieces on the trailer, but then I realized the could fit corner to opposite corner.

Back home, I set the 2 long sides of the 8' plywood strips along the 8" side of the metal frame and drilled holes through the wood to attach them with 1/4" bolt and fender washers on the inside, and lock washers and wing nuts (for easy re-tightening) on the outside.  That took care of the sides.

The front and removable back will take some more exact cuts.  It will be important that the front and back make good contact with the sides so I can't lose material at the corners.  Fotunately, when I put the old back in place, it fit perfectly, so I know what size to cut the new T1-11.  The front part will require so detailed fitting.  Well, the last part always needs details work.

And the forecast is for 2 days of heavy rain, so I brought all the side pieces into the garage.  I'm guessing Tuesday is when I can bring the pieces out to the trailer for correct fitting.

Then I can use the trailer to get the pipes and chicken wire for the enclosed garden.  I always say
something else has to be done first" on any project, and this is proof.  LOL!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Garden Enclosure 2

I love gardening.  I love geometry.  The two intersect when laying out framed beds in restricted space.  Having decided that a 20'x20' enclosed space ought to be a reasonable size to built, I have been sketching out various sizes and arrangements of framed beds to but in that area.

The results have been both maddening and enjoyable.  Maddening because there are possibly endless arrangements, and enjoyable because I love the challenge.  In the process, I have developed some rules:

Primary Considerations:

1.  20'x20' total enclosed size
2.  Paths between beds cannot be narrower than 2' (wheelbarrow access)
3.  No part of a bed can be more than 2' from an edge (for easy digging and reaching access)
        A.  That means no bed can be wider than 4'
        B.  A 4' bed needs a path on both sides
4.  Maximize growing square footage
5.  Minimize pathway square footage
6.  There has to be a support pole dead center in the 20'x20' enclosure and it can't be in a path (the 10' pipes need a center support)
7.  Growing area in beds must be true square feet*

Secondary Considerations:

1.  I won't walk on the framed bed soil, so beds must allow easy movement among them (no labyrinthine paths)
2.  Boards cost money, so the fewer needed, the better.
3.  Beds against the enclosure chicken wire allow some access to varmints

Observations:

1.  Material costs count only once.  Square feet of growing area is forever. 


* Meaning the inside dimensions of the beds are whole feet, not the outside dimensions.  That threw me for days when I calculated the square feet of the beds and the square feet of the paths and it wouldn't add up to 400 square feet (20'x20').  Boards have thickness, and it adds up!  Nominal 2" boards are actually 1.5" thick, so 8 boards across 4 beds takes exactly 1 foot off the available space!

Anyone who wants to suggest some layouts is more than welcome to send some.  My email address is right under the header.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Enclosed Garden

After several years of increased varmint invasion, I have decided decided to take the bull by the horns (or more properly the squirrel by the tail) and exclude the little beastards entirely.  I'm going to totally enclose my garden in 1" chicken wire.

My original (and technically "current") garden has a 32'x2' framed trellis, plus four 8'x3' beds and two 4'x4' beds.  But over the years tree shading and invasive vine growth has reduced that to 12 feet of trellis, two 8x3s and two 4x4s.  And they are over 20 years old, so the wood frames are rotting badly.  With the need to rebuild the beds anyway, the varmint problems invited a serious solution.

First, let me assure you that I realize home gardening does not save money on food.  It is a hobby (of great personal satisfaction) and no hobby saves money.  Hobbyist fishermen don't get fish cheaper than can be gotten at the grocery stores, and the same is true for hunting.  So if my plan seems to cost more money than its worth, don't be surprised.

Second, last year the squirrels (and possibly a groundhog and a rabbit or two) ate or pulled up almost all of my seedlings early and ate most of my ripening tomatoes and melons later.  That was the last straw; I could either give up of double-down.  I'm doubling down!

I started looking for structure ideas last Fall and found one site where a person had constructed an enclosed structure about 8'x10' using EMT pipes (thin metal pipe used to hold electrical wire underground) and chicken wire suspended over picture frame wire.  I sketched out a few designs on that idea and realized it needed to be stronger for the 20'x20' size I wanted.

One thing I discovered was that PVC pipe fitting fit over EMT pipe quite tightly.  So I figured out the kinds of connections I needed to build a 20'x20' grid of 1"x10' EMT pipes.  There aren't metal connectors in complicated shapes like there are for PVC pipes, so that was great.

I ordered the PVC connections last week and they arrived a few days ago.  But I wasn't committed to the structure until I started to take apart the existing framed beds.  I started on that today.  My 2'x32' trellis bed had 6" concrete remesh wire as the vertical support.  That's the heavy wire grid they put into concrete driveways for strength.  I use it for super-strong tomato cages and trellis material. 

The act of commitment was to cut the trellis remesh wire off the posts supporting it.  I have a tool called a "Sawz-All" that is basically an electric kitchen knife on steroids.  It can cut wood or metal.
I unrolled 125' of heavy-duty extension cord out to the garden, plugged in the Sawzall and started cutting the concrete remesh from the trellis posts.  It went easier than I thought.  But there is ALWAYS some suprise to any part of a project.  Well, the first half of the remesh grid came off fine and I propped it against the fence (it will be used later). 

The second half was not so easy.  Years of evil vines (some 3/4" thick) had the wire remesh locked down.  It took a good 30 minutes to cut the vines loose.  No matter how many I cut there were more from unexpected directions, so it took multiple tries to get it all loose.  I finally got that half propped against the fence, but there is probably another hour of pruning to get all those interwoven vines cut out of the remesh.

So part is done.  A small part.  But a start is good and I have to continue now or there won't be any trellis to grow cucumbers, pole beans, etc on this year.  The first part of destruction requires the remainder.

The next step is to pull up all the scrap carpet I've used to suppress weeds in the paths between the framed beds.  I already know that there are many weeds growing through it, so pulling it up won't be easy.  Then I have to take apart the framed beds themselves.  That old lumber is all trash, but it will leave the good garden soil without support. 

With Spring coming late, I don't have as much time as I expected to have to complete this project.  Of course!  Any normal year, I could have started this project in early March.  THIS YEAR, we have more snow forecast for Wdnesday! 

Basically, I have to set nine 10' EMT pipes in the ground 2' deep in a 3x3 grid and then connect them all at the top.  I can dig individual holes but my test dig in the rocky clay soil was not promising to be easy.  I could rent a power auger to drill holes.  Or I can rent a power trencher to make a trench along the entire outside of the structure and then backfill the soil around the EMT pipes.

I may go with the trencher because I have some other uses for one.  There are tree roots coming from neighbors' trees and I need to get them out because they are are making the ground unlevel and the new framed beds need to be on flat soil.  But maybe I can cut them with an ax and pry them out with a steel bar easier.  I'll have to give the latter a try first.

The last part of the project is to use the interior structure space as efficiently as possible.  I have done some sketches and realized that my original layout of framed beds was very inefficient.  Well, that didn't matter when I had the whole backyard.  Now it matters.  The most efficient 20'x20' section of the existing beds had 126 square feet of garden.  The best 20'x20' section I have layed out so far has 224 sq ft with 2' wide paths.

A new post when I do more...

I'll be taking lots of pictures as I go on this.  I can tell from doing internet searches that a lot of people want to do this but don't know how and will find my project.  I don't have anything to show yet, but should soon. 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

New Cosmos TV Show

If you are like me, you worry when you read that some Hollywood type is going to make a movie of your favorite book, or old comic mag, or a remake of an older favorite movie.   I went through the 60s to 80s with bad results from Hollywood.  The first Dune movie was horrid, and I still have horrible thoughts about 'Howard The Duck'.  When the first Marvel Comics movies were announced, I prepared to cringe.  But they came off well, as did The Lord Of The Ring  and I sure never expected they could do THAT right.

Somewhere along the years, Hollywood realized that a good book (or even comic book) could make a good movie "as is".  Even the slight changes in the movies were well done.

So I've come to expect decent adaptations from Hollywood.  But I was still worried when I read that someone was remaking 'Cosmos', the outstanding "Life, The Universe, and Everything" of my younger years.  I was relieved to read that Niel DeGrasse Tyson would be the host.  A decade ago, I thought that he could do that, but doubted it would ever be done.

Some themes can be redone wonderfully.  "West Side Story' was a wonderful adaptation of 'Romeo and Juliet'.  "The Wiz' was a great redo of The Wizard of Oz'.  And I'm sure Movie majors in college would name many "redos" of Shakespeare.  But good "redos" were few and far between.

'Cosmos" appears to be a great "redo", and Mr. Tyson after the first 2 episodes.  Tyson has the best relaxed and yet enthusiastic approach to science since Sagan, he doesn't drown you in professional terminology, and he just makes things sound exciting.

No "redo" would be good if the "redo" was just a copycat of the original.  There are differences between Sagan and Tyson.  Sagan came across as someone talking just to YOU across a pleasant small restaurant table.  Tyson is talking to a small group of amateur science enthusiasts.  The difference is real, but maybe not very important.

I have watched the first 2 episodes of the new 'Cosmos".  I gave been re-watching the original on other evenings.  I can't wait for the series to be completed so that I can add the DVDs to my library.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Dad Update

I've been asked how my Dad is doing.  He is not real happy, but there isn't much I can do about it.  He lost the ability to take care of himself about 2 years ago when he turned 90.  Some of you may remember that I had to fly down from MD to FL to retrieve him from a rehab hospital where he had been held for a month due to doctor-judged incapacity.

I and my brother got him up to my house where I took care of him for a year as he gradually became less able to manage daily affairs even with my help.  Last April, my sister found a good assisted-living facility near her where she and my brother and assorted nieces could visit him regularly.

We got him to sell the FL house Fall of 2012 and 2 condo investments he had in NH this past January.  They were decent investments, but he kept saying he should move to one of them, so we had to get them out of his thoughts.  He doesn't recall either of those places anymore, so that is something less for him to worry about.

Dad gets regular visits from local family.  I hate to drive, so I mostly write letters every few weeks telling him things I am doing.  He likes to read about "accomplishments", as he was a very dedicated D-I-Y type himself (more than I will ever be).

I get the impression that he his generally happy except after family visits.  I know that sounds a bit of a contradiction from above, but it's timing.  Left alone, he is generally OK, mostly complaining he doesn't get to watch all the Fox News political talk and Golf he wants.  Well, that's because there are more ladies there and they like to watch Soaps and Shopping Channel shows and they outnumber him.

We tried a TV in his room, but he can't manage the channels and mostly forgot it was even there.  So he sits quietly and watches whatever is on.  There are scheduled activities, but Dad was always bored by arts and crafts and socializing, so he retreats to his room.

I feel sad about it all.  He wishes his body would just give up and stop.  He's in better physical health than mental health.  Physically, he could live to a 100.  He can sometimes express a fear that he will start living physically without any self-awareness.  I understand that.  He can't do anything about it (personal decision).  By which I mean that *I* hope I can just crawl out on the deck some cold Winter's night and end it all when I think the time has come for ME.  But he doesnt think that way.

He isn't religious in the organized sense, but he does have a residual idea that deliberately ending his own life is somehow "wrong".  I don't agree, but I have been very careful not to say anything about that.  I don't want to influence him in any way.  He is confused enough about his life as it is.  I am not wise enough to give him advice about his last years, and he wouldn't pay any attention to my advice if I gave it to him (I'm just a "child" after all, so what could *I* know).

So I write letters to him that I suspect are barely read and little understood.  I avoid anything complex and (back to the top) about DIY things he might still understand in general and that might give him the reminder that I am DOING THINGS, hoping he likes that.

*sigh*

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Deer Ate A Shrub

Well, OK, that's not all that uncommon.  But it has been for me. 

The very first landscaping I did when I moved in here 27 years ago (new house so no initial landscaping) was plant a few shrubs on the east side of the house.  It was a Korean Dogwood tree with 2 Euonymus shrubs, several Nandina (false bamboo) plants, and some spreading evergreen.

Well, nothing bothered the shrubs in all that time.  Until last week!  But as I walked around that side of the yard (a least-visited side), "something" just looked odd.  It took a few minutes, but I realized all the bottom halves of the Euonymus shrubs looked "wrong".  It hit me suddenly that all the leaves on the bottom half of the 8' high Euonymus shrubs were GONE!  

Well, sometimes it takes a few minutes for the brain to "see" the difference between what it is looking at and what the memory says was there before.  So many possibilities came to mind.  Insect damage?  Not in Winter.  Fungal disease?  Ditto about Winter.  Natural leaf fall?  No, it's an evergreen. 

DEER! 

When I moved into to this newly-built neighborhood, there were deer around.  There was a swamp across the street and deer love wetland edges.  I almost got trampled by 2 panicked deer while I was mowing the lawn my first Fall.  I used to see deerprints in the lawn at first.  That all stopped after a few years as the street filled with new houses.

Last year, I had some hostas eaten for the first time in 15 years.  This Winter, shrubs for the very first time.
And they even left me a "gift"...
THEY'RE BAAAACCCKK...


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Snowblowwer Snow That Wouldn't Melt

Well, I intend to write mostly about something else tonight, but I just stumbled across something on the Public Broadcasting System at dinner I really liked.  A show called "Classic Rewind" plays famous classical music set to film (like Disney's Fantasia" was classical music set to animation).  And apparently, it is a regular show but also available as an 8 DVD set of 135 pieces of music.  I plan to get it.  So I just wanted to mention that first.

OK, onward...  Before it gets too late, I wanted to mention a seeming violation of the laws of physics.  Seriously, ice melts in your drink too fast, right?  Well, I had the opposite problem.  I couldn't get snow to melt!

I happened after I FINALLY got to use my 3 year old snowblower for the first time March 5th (See?  This is already 10 days old).  But the point is that I used it, it worked pretty well, and I was done clearing the driveway and sidewalk.  But there was a slight problem.  Toward the end as the snowblower warmed up I suppose) the input area got packed with snow (so it was heavier than the snow on the ground) and the output chute got clogged with slush.  I had cleared it once, but when I was done, I didn't think about it much except to recognize that the snow in the snowblower would melt in the garage, so I placed an old towel under it to wick away the melting packed snow and let it evaporate.  Good plan.

Except the snow packed in the snowblower refused to melt!  The garage was at 40F degrees, so it should have melted.  Three days later, no apparent melt!  It was FIVE DAYS above freezing in the garage before the snow finally started to melt.  It was only 2 days ago that it finally all melted.

I wish I had taken pictures, but I had no reason to think it would be interesting at first, and after a few days I was just fixated on my annoyance that the snow in the blower wouldn't melt!

You can imagine it though.  Sort of like the "snowman who wouyldn't die"!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Warmer Weather

Just a few days ago, it was freezing at best in the day.  And before that, it was bitterly cold some days.  So what should happen the first nice day?

Mosquito bites.

And to make it worse, I got bitten INSIDE THE HOUSE!

Those Asian Tiger Mosquitoes make me reconsider DDT...

Last year, it was so bad I couldn't run out to get my mail without a bite or two.  Today, I opened the deck doors for 5 minutes and I killed 5 of the little suckers and there are at least 2 more around I haven't caught yet.


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Topics

You know how sometimes you want to write, but can't think of what to write about?  Me too.  That's why sometimes I go on about something badly and then delete it a day later.

So I sat down a few minutes ago and decided to just scribble out some things going on around me, the house, and the yard.  I hit a dozen immediately!  Some days are like that.

1.  Frogs
2.  Mosquitoes
3.  Crocuses
4.  Deer Ate Shrub
5.  Car Battery
6.  Snowblower Snow Wouldn't Melt
7.  Enclosed Garden
8.  Tomato Grafting
9.  Dad
10. Smoking/Not Smoking
11. Covered Plant Rack
12. Wine

So, how about "frogs"?  Now, I generally LIKE frogs.  None of them around here are poisonous, they eat mostly bad insects, they are impressively weird, and they mostly don't bother me.


Except Spring Peepers.  For a month each year around now, they all start a "chirping contest".  And since there are wetlands across the street (used to be a full-fledged swamp) they are a biblical multitude!  10,000 chirping Spring Peepers can be distracting.  The chirps are of a sound frequency that comes right through windows and walls.  Well, no wonder at THAT, they evolved their sound to penetrate woodsy swamps. 



I can live with that; there are so many of them that the sound is constant.  Its the 5 or so of them that find my small 4'x6' lily pond that drive me NUTS!  The pond is only 20' from my bedroom window, and with only a few of them, the chirping comes and goes.  I can't sleep when they chirp randomly.

It was so bad when I worked, that I would sometimes have to go out at night, find the little devils with a flashlight, and stomp on them just to get some sleep.  And its not like I didn't try passive frog-friendly ideas first.  I put acoustical ceiling tiles covering the inside of my bedroom window.  It didn't work!  Well, it helped some, but not enough.

Even after retirement, when I can sleep later to make up for the disturbance, it is still aggravating.  The past 5 years, I have covered the pond with loose-woven garden cloth.  That works.  If they can't get to the water, they can't mate, so they don't chirp.

I usually notice them first as I go to bed and it is really too late to do the covering thing that night.  But this year, today, I caught them in the act.  It was suddenly very warm today (75F at 4 PM), s I had some windows open.  It was nice and quiet. 

Until...  At precisely 5:30 PM, I heard a chirp in the wetland.  And 2 seconds later, I heard 10,000!!!  They ALL started immediately when the very first one did.  I was astonished.  At least I have tomorrow to cover the pond.  The pond doesn't seem to warm up as fast as the open wetland do, so there is a lag.

Tomorrow, I will take out the garden cloth and cover the pond and ruin the mating possibilities of the several Spring Peepers who chose my pond as their "Dream Seduction Site".  Well, they are either the dumbest Spring Peepers and deserve not to mate, or they are the smartest Spring Peepers (choosing a less-competitive location) and just had the bad luck to annoy ME!  Either way, I doubt I am affecting the long-term survival of Spring Peepers...

And if I am?  Well, MY sleep comes first.  Being Top Of The Food Chain has its benefits.

Topics 2-12 to come later, maybe in no particular order, and interrupted by new topics as they come to mind.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Language Pet Peeve

I learned language early.  My Godmother/Aunt worked on the big 1976  Webster's Third New International Dictionary, Mom was a dedicated teacher of her children (and as eldest child I got the full attention).  I could read before my fellow 1st-graders knew the alphabet, and I had a library card at 6.  By 12, I had read all the "young adult" books in the local library and was allowed to read the "adult" stuff (with adult pre-approval).  I even use semi-colons; who does THAT anymore?  ;)  I had a boss who actually removed a comma from one of the letters I wrote.  I (and a co-worker) were so surprised we did research in the Government Style Manual about it (turned out he was right) and I don't think I have ever put a comma in front of a dependent clause since.  So I should be a language snob, right?  Nah...  I am WAY more relaxed about it all these days.

I got over that fast in college and in my first job.  I can read bad documents and even tweets without cringing.  Everyone has different things that come easy.

But I have a peeve.  I noticed it a few years ago.  The first examples were rare and I considered them editing slips.  But I heard President Obama make the same error in a speech recently, and I consider him to be a really careful writer/speaker.

It's "4 times less" (or 3 or 2 or any number).  How can anything be "4 times less" than the whole?  If a sector of the economy is 10 billion dollars, what is 4 times less than that?  The whole of a number is "one times".  Well, what is 1 times 10 billion dollars?  It's 10 billion.  So 1 times less than 10 billion (10 billion minus 10 billion) is zero.

So what is "4 times less" than 10 billion?  -30 billion (10 billion minus 40 billion, or even -40 billion if you look it it in a certain way).  Well, money can be negative numbers.  But what is "4 times less" of a 10 pole?  Have you ever seen a minus 30" pole?

I cringe every time I hear the phrase "X times less than".  Yes, I know what they mean; "4 times less than" means 1/4.  But it just raises all the hackles of my brain (metaphorically speaking) every time I hear that phraseology!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

More Snow

I was caught off-guard Sunday to hear we were getting more snow the next day.  I really thought we were done with that here, and I hadn't paid attention to the forecast.  Then Sunday night, I saw that we were dead center in the storm-track and could expect to get 6-10"!

And sure enough, Monday morning it was snowing.  Not hard but steadily.  Worse, it had started as freezing rain, so we had a nice later of ice down first.  YUCK!

Well, at least it meant I would get a chance to use the snowblower.  You may recall that after the previous 8" snowstorm (which ended in the morning) I awoke to find that someone had snow-blowed my driveway for me.  I thought I knew who had.  I sure appreciated the neighborly gesture, but I was disappointed to not get to use mine for the first time after having it sit around for 3 years.  At least I did start it up and widen the driveway clearing by one pass on each side (and mostly hoping that the helpful neighbor would notice that I had a snowblower).

But while it was still snowing in the early afternoon Monday, I heard the likely good neighbor snowblowing his driveway, then a neighbor's, then another neighbor's, so I watched carefully.  Seriously, I wanted to use mine, but I was going to wait at least until it stopped snowing!

As soon as he came to the foot of my driveway, I ran down to the garage, pulled my snowblower to the garage door and opened it.  When he looked up, I smiled broadly and pointed to MY machine with a big "Ta-Da" gesture.  He laughed and came up to the garage and we talked for a while.  He admired my snowblower (and it is a good one - I did some careful research before choosing it). 

I thanked him very much for doing my driveway previously, of course.  He completely understood I was anxious to use my own for the first time.  We talked for a while.  Which was good, because I don't talk to my neighbors all that often.  It's not that I'm unfriendly, its more that I spend most of my time outside in the fenced backyard.  And I'm not good at standing around out by the street just "hanging out".  I'm more the "you need help, just knock on the door" kind of neighbor. 

It turns out he does things like snowblow neighbors' driveways because he's bored all the time.  As he said "I watch TV, fall asleep, wake up, watch TV, fall asleep".  Which may explain why he has so many "toys".  He has 2 cars, a boat, an ATV, a jet-ski, and probably other mechanical stuff I haven't seen.  In the Winter, he's trapped inside! 

While we were talking, another helpful neighbor came by (with a snow plow blade on an ATV) and decided I needed the snow at the end of the driveway shoved to the sides before I could say anything.  What had been light powdery snow became a 2' high block of ice...  We both waved at him so he came up and we all talked more for a while.

Well, they were both wearing heavy Winter coats and I was out there in my shirtsleeves, so eventually I had to admit I was freezing AND needed to get back to my lunch (if the cats hadn't already eaten it).  They both laughed and went along their helpful way.  It was nice to talk to them both though.

Later, just before dark, the snow stopped so I went out and used my snowblower for the first real time.  Wow, those things are great!  I have to admit that it was actually fun.  It really threw the snow well off onto the lawn, and with powered wheels, going back up the sloped driveway was a breeze.  6 passes and I was done.  But it is SO COLD that even in my garage, the snow packed around the augers in the front hasn't melted yet.

But funny story:  The snow surface all around my driveway is now MUDDY!  You see, my asphalt driveway is 27 years old and I've never been one to re-coat the driveway every few years (if things are functional, I don't bother with them much).  So grass as grown up through it in places.  I didn't realize that the growing grass was creating humps of soil on the top.  Things that happen very gradually escape notice.  So when I went along the driveway with the snowblower, it cheerfully scraped the humps of grassy soil right along with the snow.

For right now, I would be glad not to have enough more snow to need the snowblower again this season!