email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Neat Neighbor

This may all seem a bit weird.  I have a cross the street neighbor who managed to get permission to build a McMansion on the wetland across the street.  And he is the father of the Crazy Guy who lived next door to the property.  Yet he is friendly and we talk.

This guy is SLICK!  He not only got permission to build on a wetland (by bringing in 10 loads of soil), he bought the utterly unbuildable property next to his IN EXCHANGE for 6 acres of wetlands behind him.  I would NOT play poker with this guy!

On the other hand, he is utterly friendly and helpful to neighbors. 

The wetlands behind him have been draining for years.  It is now mostly woods and creeks.  So we were talking yesterday.  He has a personal herd of deer in his 6 acres and hunts regularly (with a crossbow!) and there are several good fishing spots there too. 

I tried not to drool while he described it all.  I very briefly mentioned that I was an experienced deer hunter in my younger days and still enjoyed fishing, but didn't outright ask.  But I would sure like an invitation.  We just compared some hunting and fishing experiences though. 

This guy is ultra-competent.  He does his own deer butchering and aging.  He grows corn for the deer (not where he hunts).  He can recognize most of them individually by sight.  He enlarged his concrete driveway by himself!  I saw him atop his 2.5 story house last week inspecting his shingles!  He goes to bed at sunset and gets up at dawn.  He snowblows other peoples' driveways just for something to do!

He doesn't seem to own a computer.  He mentioned being at a target range a mile away and thought he recognized some of his deer there, and thought the properties were adjacent.  When I asked if he had "googled" it, he "said" he didn't know what that was (but keep in mind this guy is slick).

He mentioned that turtles all came around when he was fishing in the back area because they had learned he injured the fish when he got the hooks out of the fishs' stomachs.  So I mentioned that I had learned a trick for that.  You go up through the open gills with a long nose plier, get ahold of the top of the hook and twist it so that it slides right back out.  No harm.  I'm a catch and release type.

That got his attention!  He likes to catch fish, not harm them.

And I mentioned that I had bought a really good hunting crossbow a few years ago but didn't know where to hunt.  But I didn't push it...

He says there are too many deer around here, and I agree.  I mentioned that there are too few places to hunt, and he agreed.  I told him I had driven to southern maryland and back 2 weeks ago looking a lots and saw 4 fresh-dead deer obviously killed by cars.  I have a concern about that.

Years ago, a friend and were driving home after a day of fishing and he hit a deer.  He stopped to look at the damage to his car; I went to look at the deer.  My friend questioned my priorities, but I wanted the deer out of the road because if an unsuspecting driver hit it, it could actually overturn the car.

An injured deer can be dangerous by kicking, so I kicked it a few times myself.  It was dead, so I dragged it off the road.  It wasn't a busy road, but I would have felt terrible if some other driver had been injured hitting it.

We got to my house and documented the car damage for insurance purposes.  But 3 days after, part of my left hand went numb.  I feared it was carpal tunnel syndrome (because I spend a lot of time at work typing).  After having a doctor basically electrocute me in small doses (enough to finally send me into shock), I learned the deer impact had caused a fracture in my 5th (6th?) vertabra of my neck, impacting the ulner nerve. 

To this day, the little and ring finger of my left hand aren't entirely "there", if you know what I mean. They move fine, but I can't feel them like the other fingers. 

So I do not love deer overpopulation...

 I stopped hunting deer when I was 22 and bowshot a doe.  Field-dressing her, milk gushed out.  I was fine with intestines and stomach, etc, but milk?  Dang.  It meant I had orphaned a fawn or two, too.

But I would like to hunt again.  I can't use a bow worth a damn (never could really) but I can use a crossbow.  And I would give the meat to charities that accept it for food for the homeless.

But I need a safe place to hunt.  There are CRAZY gun-hunters out there who fire at anything that moves (my dad was shot by one once).  And here is this neighbor with a personal herd of deer who says he has too many there...

And I want him to invite me to hunt with him...

I'm just not in his circle.  Yet.

We have some things in common.  Hunting, fishing, DIY home and yard stuff; general compency.  It could be interesting.  He's slick and I'm not.  I don't even cheat at solitare.  But I am also "slick-proof".  He might find that to be a relief.  Or a challenge.  LOL!

But I sure could use a real-life, face-time, neighbor friend...

I'm Not Moving Anytime Soon, Part 3

I know I seem to be complaining about my house.  It does have features I like. The ease of movement in the circle is really very good!

There is the computer/library room, the cat room, and the master bedroom, but I spend most of my time in the house in the circle I drew.  It is very efficient!

I took an architecture class and the professor said "tell me something useful about designing a house".  Most all the students talked about the pleasure of large rooms.  *I* said don't waste space on hallways".  There were other tests of course, but I did get an "A".  And I have a pretty minimal hallway today! 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I'm Not Moving Anytime Soon, Part 2

The House I Want:

I have always desired a particular floorplan.  All one level (no basement, no attic), and all interior rooms except bedrooms and bathrooms being divided by 30"/1 meter high walls.  So I could have a sensation of space.  Kitchen cabinets at the floor and above, but with the space between them open.

I want a 2 bay garage; one bay for the car, a second bay for a decent small boat.

I want a workshop about 20'x30' so I don't have to push equipment around on wheeled bases to get at them; with a garage door for easy access.

I want a TV room positioned where I can watch the TV while I prepare food in the kitchen (as I can now), because I spend a lot of time doing both.

I want a fireplace where I can see it burning from anywhere in the house.

I want high ceilings for a feeling of space.

I want geothermal HVAC (Heating And Ventilation Air Conditioning) and solar panels covering a unobstructed south-facing roof.

I emailed many "custom-builders" asking about such a floorplan.  Only one replied, saying the layout needed "rearrangement for utility efficiency".    That's OK, its the basic open structure that matters.

My basic idea is this:

I sent the diagram to a dozen custom builders asking if they could build something like that.  I had no idea what to expect, but I figured that if anyone HAD built custom-designed houses, they might already have something like that.  Only one replied and said the design was flawed for efficient utility design and they couldn't tell the scale, but they could come up with "something more buildable" in a couple days.

I waited 3 days and emailed to ask if they had anything and were still interested.  I even said that I understood my amateur diagram probably had some flaws and looked forward to just a paper sketch suggesting a new arrangement of rooms so that I could imagine "walking around through the house" before we discussed details of actual architectural plans and costs.

Now, keep in mind that there are thousands of free basic floorplans on the internet.  None of those will enable you to build a house.  The real work is in the details and a basic floorplan doesn't provide those!

But the custom home builder apparently wanted (and I didn't realize THAT being new to custom-built houses) payments up front.  OK, I might have considered it in $100's, had he mentioned that.  My conclusion is that this particular builder wants to know how much I CAN spend, and get me for some few $1,000 starting fees  of the process without MY having the slightest idea of the final fees or design.  Well, maybe he is used to building houses for really rich people who have too much money...

So I replied that the overall dimensions were about 30'x80' and it was otherwise to scale.  I took 2 classes in mechanical drawing, and an architect's ruler (a weird triangular ruler) adjusts to all scaling would have told them everything.

I emailed a note of apology for wasting his time...

I don't know why my basic design is so hard for builders around here to consider.  It seems they just don't LIKE the idea.  I had an Uncle and Aunt with that basic house in New England, and it was easy to build.

I still want that house.  I just might have to approach getting it another way.

But then there is the property.  I wanted a lot large enough to guarantee sunny space for gardening and sun on the roof for solar panels regardless of neighbors' trees..  And I wanted geothermal HVAC.   I thought that meant at least 2-3 acres.

So I had a Real Estate Agent looking.  She found several properties close to my fishing locations,  open and level, 2-3 acres.  I visited them.  They certainly were open and level.  I took lots of pictures.

When I got home and loaded the pictures, I realized things I had missed...

The lots were end parts of working farms.  I hadn't considered the smell of commercial fertilizers and the sound of agricultural equipment working from dawn to dusk.  If the entire farm was being sold for residential lots, that would be one thing.  But they were not.  The one soybean field being sold as residential was fine in THAT regard, but the slope of the property from the owners house shows severe erosion.  Not good.

The Real Estate Agent suggested some other properties.  But those were all on well water and septic tank sewage.  I'm not ready for that.  Wells dry out sometimes, and both wells and septic tanks need some routine maintenance.  I'm not that great on routine maintenance.

And they only have satellite TV service.

So she suggested that I consider places closer to me that were on city water and sewage and cable/Fios.  And she mentioned that places with city water and sewage were generally 1/2 acre lots and already built on with standard houses.

Um, I'm there NOW...  So I would be going through the trouble of moving to be in a house and lot about what I have now.


No point in moving, is there?

I'm going to keep looking, I might find just the right space.  But I won't find it today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

I'm Not Moving Anytime Soon, Part 1

Looking for a new house and property was really frustrating, and there is a lot to explain.  I may have to divide it into several posts.

I am in a split-foyer house, which is basically a ranch house on an above-ground basement with a front door in-between the basement and ranch.  I can't even get into the house without going up or down stairs and I'm tired of stairs.  And as I get older, I will get tireder of them.  The house is about 20'x40', which means that all the rooms are on the small side (by US standards at least).  Well, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, kitchen, living room, dining room, hallway and stairs doesn't leave much per room.  It was a "starter home", but after 29 years, when do I get beyond "start"?

The basement would be fine if I didn't have some serious wood-working floor equipment and gardening shelves and tables.  I can hardly move around in it.  Indeed, if I didn't have all the floor equipment on mobile bases so I could push them around to make room, I wouldn't be able to move around in the basement at all.  And upstairs, I have 7 bookcases, 3 large cat trees, a large aquarium, stereo equipment, secretary desk, 60" flat TV, no attic storage space, etc.

I'm not in any way complaining about what I have, but I've run out of space.  I gave away my sofa and loveseat set years ago.  Yeah, I might have "too much stuff".  But right or wrong, I feel cramped.

The yard is also a problem.  A half acre sounds big.  That's about average for semi-rural property here.  But with the property surrounded by the 100' tall trees in the edges of the neighbors' yards, I don't get much sunlight.  I can't get any of the neighbors to let me have the ones blocking most of my sunlight cut down (professionally and at my expense).

And I like to go fishing.  But the nearest decent places are almost an hour away and 1.5 hours away.  I don't like driving.  Some people do, but it bores me to death.  My brain stands to shut down after about 30 minutes...  I wanted to be closer to those places, which are in more rural Maryland.

And my town is a traffic bottleneck.  It can take 15 minutes to drive 5 miles, and everything useful is on the other side of town.  I'm really tired of that.

So I'm feeling cramped inside and lacking good gardening sunlight outside and feeling to far away from good fishing.  And been here 29 years; I can walk through this house in pitch-black.  So I felt the only decision was to move.

The problem is that what I want in house and property and location doesn't seem to be easy to get.  But this is getting long, so I'll post about that tomorrow...

Sunday, November 15, 2015


The fanatic religious idiocy HAS to stop.  And I don't care if it is current moslem craziness to attack the christian West or the protestant/catholiic craziness of just a couple decades ago, or the hindu/moslem craziness of many decades. IT HAS TO STOP!

We can't continue like this.

We can't continue as a species this way. When will we realize that, as humans with our particular bizarre and unproven religious views, that if there is a Deity, it probably doesn't care how we think of it, it being being incomprehensible.

And that is assuming that a deity DOES exist, for which we have no evidence.

These minor arguements about the nature of a possible deity sicken me when people kill each other in ITS name.  IF there is a deity, we cannot possibly know anything about it,  IT being beyond all comprehension.  And if there was not one, how would we know there was not?  The universe, existing, would seem the same.

But suppose there was a deity.  It could be be Zeus, Odin, God, Allah, Vishnu, etc,  and how would we know?  And all the beliefs about each one differ. 

If you want to have some set of beliefs about the nature of a deity, go right ahead.  But stop killing other people about it.  Today, its the crazy Moslems.  Yesterday, it was the catholics and protestants.  Before that, it was the Mongols and the great Sky God.  Before them, there was some other idea of was a deity was.  Etc etc, back through time to where the earliest humanoid conceived the idea of a deity.

Really, does it make any sense that so superior a Being would CARE how it was thought of by us?  Do you care what ants think?

Can we just please stop killing each other about what we THINK a Deity might care about how we imagine it to be or want from us???

At the risk of being called an godless atheist (and I am), I say that all religious texts are written by humans trying to understand how we should live in groups, why we die, and what happens after. 

We can answer the 1st question.  All religious texts basically describe how people managed to live together without lower primate mayhem at the time of the writing.  It was codified social rules for sensible behavior at the time.. 

The answer to the 2nd question is that all organic beings wear out, and cease to function.. Your great-grand-parents wore out,  you and I will wear out, earthworms wear out.  Organic material is AWESOME, but it can't last forever.

The 3rd question is unanswerable to us.  Not a single human has ever come back from death to expalin what he/she saw on some other side.  And never will.

So please, stop killing each other in the name of vague ideas about what a deity might be.  Please.


Let there be a day when we just stop the fanatic religious madness....  Let it be today....


The House I Want


Friday, November 13, 2015

Error, Error!

Oh wow, I almost made a BIG mistake in cutting out pieces for the crocus bulb cages I am making.  Drawing diagrams on paper, I had it pretty well set so as to fit the cutouts as efficiently as possibly.  The 1/2" wire mesh isn't cheap.

But, as part of my plans, I built a wood form to use to bend the wire over.  The form needed to be 8"x6"x4".  I had fun cutting some scrap boards, running the pieces through the bench planer for utter flattness , gluing them together, and then sanding them smooth this afternoon.  Perfect 8"x6"x4" blocks.

But, um, something didn't look right...

You remember those school tests where they showed you a folded shape and you had to decide what it looked like when unfolded?  I was great at those.  Except this time!

I got one side off by 2"!  I had the small ends of the cages diagrammed at 4"x4" and they needed to by 4"x6".  If I hadn't actually built the wood form for bending the wire mesh around, I would have cut all the pieces the wrong size.

Look at the end of this; it obviously isn't 4"x4"...

I was lucky that there was a series of events that led me to see my error.  I had to take the roll of 3'x50'x1/2" wire mesh and unroll part of it.  The roll is held tight by some wire that has to be cut away.  And it was rolled under tension, so when I cut the last wire, it sort of exploded.  Which I was expecting, but not quite the way it did it.

I'm not stupid, I wore goggles as I cut the last wire.  You never know quite how these rolls will suddenly unwind.   It's a guy thing.  You KNOW its gonna get you somewhere but not just WHERE.  Fortunately, I heal very fast.  Ever get shots or give blood?  They slap a bandage right on you.  I don't need them.

So I had to flatten it to be able to cut the sections off in the size I needed later.
So while the wire mesh was being forced to flatten (a common problem with stiffly rolled material), I went to change the laundry from the washer to the dryer and start a new load.  And THAT got me to taking out a frozen steak to thaw for dinner, which led me to feeding the cats, which led to me checking my email, which led to me getting back downstairs...

Where I looked at the wood block form I realized that I had a dimension wrong.   Not on the wood block; on my wire mesh cutting diagram.  I just spent 30 minutes redesigning my cutting pattern on the wire mesh. 

Sometimes you just have to build shapes in reality to make sure they are right!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Utterly Disgusted

I am so utterly disgusted, I could bite real nails.  I just spent 3 1/2 hours finding and escaping from a housing nightmare.  Never mind the 15 minutes I spent discovering that most everything advertised about it was *koff, koff* wrong.

The 1.36 acres was barely .5, the apparently open lot (from the pictures) was covered by junk trees, etc.  OK, sure the agents (and I won't name names) want to put the best spin on things, but I consider them lower than smiley used car salesmen...

(Disclaimer:  If you are an honorable real estate agent, I honor you for being in the honorable minority.  The rest of you agents can go eat hot coals somewhere).

So I guess I will stay here for another 30 years and fix up the place.  Or do what my Dad did the last 2 times and buy a property then hire a general contractor to put a house on it.  And oh how I wish I had Dad here to ask about THAT process now.  I waited 5 years too long...

You can look at the ground and have a good idea what you are getting.  Lot owners know their property to the sq inch.  And you can look at floorplans and previously-built houses like that and get a good idea what you are getting from a builder.  They know the house to the sq inch.   But when you talk to a real estate agent selling a home for an owner, you DON'T have the slightest idea what you are getting.  To them, feet are yards and yards are miles... 

I've known more honest carnival barkers...

So, if you will excuse me, I have a large bottle of average Zinfandel to drain today...

Disgusted Mark...

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Veterans Day

Today, we honor the dead, the physically injured, those who struggle with mental injuries, and all those who served.  But I am not here to honor all.  In all history, there have been some fighters who fought for good things.  I honor them.

But there have been many more who fought for bad things.  I do not honor them.  Most of the bad warriors were just out for gold, religion, territory.  History is replete with their kind and they deserve no honor.

The fewer are the ones who protect.  Those who defend their people from attack, who give their lives so the farmers and wives and children, and the other husbands can live.  And yes, for those women who fought and died too.

I honor today those who fought to DEFEND their people.

Not all soldiers and warriors deserve respect.  Ghengis Khan and his armies did not fight for anything I consider "good".  The same for other invaders.  Most of the time, any attacking army is in the wrong, and I do not honor them.

I honor every peasant who raised a pitchfork in every desperate attempt to save his family from marauders.  I honor every city or farm person who slipped into the night to disrupt invaders.  I honor every member of organized armed units that are dedicated to just fightin others to leave the general population in peace.

Today, I raise my civilian hand in honor and respect for the defenders, the veterans of defending our people, all people everywhere.

I wish I could say it better than just...

Thank You!

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Last Edging Circle, 2

Well, you may recall that I had a ridge leveled in my back yard, the soil moved to raise a part of the front yard and that I was creating some areas bordered with edging so I could plant stuff.  And that I had become royally tired of digging trenches for the edging in the rocky soil.  And because there were some large tree roots I did not want to cut which meant cutting the edging to fit on top of the roots.

So I left the last one half done for a week and did other stuff.  Well, I am happy to report that I finished it today.  No more digging in that soil...

There are 3 edged areas.
The far one has perennial wildflowers mixed in with enough compost to barely cover.  I have no idea what will happen there.  The package of seeds did not specify which plants were, and they grow so slowly that I won't recognize any until they bloom, and there were already some small weeds growing there.  I might end up nurturing 400 sq ft of weeds until next Summer when I see nothing blooming  when I have to replant more carefully.

The middle smaller area is for Lychimartra Firecracker, a lovely bronze foliage plant about 24" high with lots of small yellow flowers.  But it is a bit invasive and needs to be contained by itself.  It has its own 200 sq ft circle so that I can mow around it!

The nearest area, also 400 sq ft will be a combination of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths for Spring color; with transplants of purple coneflowers, black-eyed-susans, and goldenrod for Summer and Fall color.  Plus I plan to add a few dwarf butterfly bushes.  I may get a package of seeds of plants that attract butterflies and bees to scatter among the plants next Spring. 

This last area will take some work planting.  Tulips and Hyacinths don't last long here because of the voles, so I have to make cages to plant them in.  The daffodils are fine without cages, being toxic.  But the bulbs haven't been delivered yet, and the transplants still have green leaves so I can't move them yet. 

Which means I can start on the new border of the older flowerbed (up against the fence to the left of the above picture).  I originally planted the border with alternating 12" sections of yellow then purple crocuses.  And 4" gaps between sections for annual Summer flowers.  The voles ate most of the crocus bulbs in just a few years, so this time, I am planting them in cages.  I'll still leave a 4" gap between the cages because it is nice to have Summer flowers there too and change them each year (yellow marigolds one year, dusty miller the next, orange zinnias after that, etc).

At least I don't have to install more edging there.  It's already in place!  And the soil there is soft and the border is the width of my spade.  "Piece of cake".  Right?  Yeah, right...

Fortunately, the weather is forecast to stay nice into mid-November, so I may get away with all this before the first hard freeze hits.  But I had better get working of those cages.  Two sizes of cages actually.  8"L x 6"W x 4"H for the crocus bulb border (so I need about 50 of those).  I haven't decided on the size of the cages for the tulip and hyacinth bulbs yet.  I need to sit down and diagram cages what use a 3' wide roll of wire mesh efficiently.

But I have the crocus bulbs now, so they come first.  The tulip cages can wait a few days...  But they will look basically like this...

Bulb Cage 

 12-18" square, 6" high.  It only needs making a wood form to bend the wire mesh over.  Not that that takes no time, but it beats buying cages at $30 each!

Monday, November 2, 2015

A Surprise Letter

I subscribe to The Washington Post newspaper.  Yeah, the print edition.  It also happens to be my local newspaper (living near a nation's capital can have odd twists).  But its easier to turn paper pages while I eat my lunch than mess up my laptop.  And I recycle/compost anyway, so little is wasted.  But I am also always about a month behind, so reading the political, business, and sports news can be hilarious!  I read it mostly for the editorials.

So when I received a letter from The Washington Post, I expected some notice that my subscription was unpaid due to an expired card.  Nope.  It was good news.

The Washington Post has run a humor contest called 'The Style Invitational' each Sunday for 1,150 weeks.   The weekly contests always some some odd theme or another.  Write a limerick one week, caption a silly drawing the next, combine 2 Kentucky Derby racing horse names and come up with a funny name for the offspring, create a motto for a politician, etc.

I've sent in entries a few times, but because I'm behind on the reading, the deadlines are usually past.  But I always read the winning entries because I admire the cleverness.  There are usually a top 4 of winners and a dozen or so Honorable Mentions.  Winners are referred to as "Losers" (it IS a humor column, the top 4 get prizes (like T-shirts saying "'Im a LOSER",  cheap plastic coin banks shaped as outhouses, fake Dracula teeth, etc).

First time winners get one of those cheap pine tree car air fresheners, and even that is a joke.  The air freshener is a "fir stink" (first ink).
 I got my "fir stink" in the envelope!  Hurray, I'm now a recognized LOSER!

The person who manages the contest (The Empress) doesn't have to give out very many "fir-stinks".  The weekly winners ("losers") are usually pretty much the same group of very talented humourists.  A new loser (also called a "first offender") is rare.  Hurray, I'm RARE!  And a "First Offender"!

For the record, the Week 1,142nd contest was to combine any 2 names into a Twitter handle and write a tweet by the hybrid person.  Most just used real people names.  I combined Secretariat (Kentucky Derby race horse winner) with Hillary Clinton for "@SecretariatHRClinton", and the tweet was "So I'm supposed to just keep running to the left?"

I'll leave everyone to figure that out themselves, but will explain if asked...

The winning entry was "@OrangeJulius:  Could be well mov'd.  My friends in the House are sticking knives into me."  That shows the difference between a winning entry and an Honorable Mention!  It succeeds on multiple levels.  I was, as my Aussie friends would say "gobsmacked".  No wonder some of these weekly participants win frequently! 

But I think I may try entering the contest more often.  There are, apparently, anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand participants each week (some contests are trickier to get a grip on than others).

I am outrageously delighted with my "First Ink" and want another shot of INK!