email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, June 30, 2017

Compost Bin Onsite, Part 3

The compost bin is finished!  Well, OK, I can add a lid ta keep critters out, but that's not urgent.  Last time you saw it, it looked like this.
The front posts were constructed to form slots down the sides to accept horizontal boards that could be removed for easy access to the contents of the bins.  So the next step was to make the horizontal boards.

I could have just cut boards to length to slide down into the post slots, but allowing air into the composting material is very important.  So I wanted to add spacers between the boards to create gaps where air could get in.

One site suggested using 3" screws sticking out an inch to make the gaps.  I decided they would eventually push into the boards below. So I made 1" wide wood spacers.
 Glued AND screwed, of course...  I want this compost to last 20 years.  The spacers leave plenty of air to get into the composting material.  And the sides and back are all wire mesh, so that is even more air (see the top picture again).
When all the boards were set in place, they sit above the top of the posts.
That was deliberate.  It will make the top slightly sloped back so rain will run off.  The top will be hinged in the back so that I can easily raise it to add or mix the composting material.

I started building the compost bin in mid-May.  The major reason is for making the compost, and I have a LOT of compostable material in the yard), but it was also a labor of love in the construction.  I am no great wood-worker or even a decent carpenter, but I put a lot of technique into this project.

I used tools and jigs I have owned for a decade and never used before.  I deliberately did some things that weren't strictly necessary but improved the strength and future durability.  I overbuilt it in some ways...

Because the first compost bin I built here "fell right over" and it has annoyed me for a decade.  I knew all the mistakes and made sure not to repeat them.

And I loved every minute of building the new one.  I got much better at some routine building techniques and learned new ones.  The tenoning jig was a wonder to use and I am now amazed at my hesitation to use it before!  I developed some new skills of half-lap board connections.  I even finally used my jointer.

And my tenoning jig.

I can now read Sanskrit, can divide by zero, and program in C!  Just kidding...

But I did learn some really good techniques cutting and fitting wood.  And that encourages me to try some indoors furniture.  I think an end table with a floating top will be a good project.  I would like to get into building Arts&Craft style furniture.  Just for me.  I'll never be good enough for selling anything. 

But the compost bin will do for now...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Catching Up

I'm surprized it has been 6 days since I last posted.  Well, I've been busy and put my posting efforts into the cats' blog.

The time has been spent, mostly, in yardwork and finishing the compost bin.  The compost bin is nearly finished; I'm really only deciding whether to put a solid top or a wire top on it.  I made the mistake of looking that up on the internet.  Naturally, people come down on both sides.  Some want rain to fall in to keep the composting material wet, others say it gets too wet and better to moisten the material as needed.

Don't laugh, but I'm doing both.  The lid will have a chicken wire top for normal rain to fall in, but also an attached plastic top I can drape over for torrential rains.  It matters because composting microbes need air and too much water fills up all the spaces where air can enter.  If there are 2 good ways to do something, I will generally find a way to do both.

But most of the outside work has been in the yard itself.  I started several projects last Fall and some new ones this Spring and have a couple yet to start.  The veggie garden has been a priority.  As much as I like flowers, I would rather eat a tomato than stare at a flower.

The tomatoes are my favorites.  I have 9 heirloom plants and 3 hybrids.  All are in places where I haven't grown them before (to reduce diseases).  The 3 hybrids are backups in case it is a really bad year for diseases.  My 2nd favorite veggies to grow are Italian flat beans.  Last year they just didn't grow; this year I am harvesting already and can expect to continue that until the 1st frost.  Italian flat beans are not the grocery store beans; they have a deeper, nut-like taste.  My 3rd favorite veggie is bi-color corn.  Yellow corn is too starchy, white corn is too sweet; bicolor is just right for me.

And of course, I have cukes, radishes, carrots, melons, kohlabi, spinach, snow peas, leeks, scallions, chard, beets, etc.  I need to plant my Fall crops of broccoli, brussels sprouts, and cabbage soon. 

The other major yardwork project is cutting down brambles in the backyard and killing wild ivy, wild grapes, and some persistent invasive vine from a neighbor's yard.  And there seems to be poison ivy cropping up everywhere! 

The flowerbeds are doing well, with one exception.  My oldest bed, along a fence, has gotten overgrown with grassy weeds.  That might be a Fall project (pull, cover, and smother) over Winter.  The meadow flower bed is doing wonderfully this year; much better than I expected from the poor growth last year when first planted.  The Hummer/Butterfly/Bee bed is newly-planted this Spring, but is showing some flowers now.  The oldest bed (Spring bulbs of daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths; Summer plants of daylilies is doing well enough, but I want to cover the Spring bulbs with sheet plastic to kill the weeds while the bulbs are dormant.  The daylilies are all along one edge and will of course stay uncovered.

My new Astilbe beds (1 in the front yard and 1 in the back) are struggling a bit.  I think I should have planted them deeper.  I put 3" of compost on the soil and planted them in that; it may not be what they needed to set grow out roots well.  The compost always seems dry.  The backyard Astilbes were getting too much sunlight and 1/3 have died.  I set a shade cloth over them last week and am watering both beds every other day.

So there is a lot to talk about.  I'll post on each part of the yard over the next week, with pictures.  But I wanted to get things listed first if only to make it easier for me to decide what to post about each day. 

And to add to the list of things I need to do, my sister is visiting in a week and I have a LOT of cleaning to do!  She hasn't been here for several years and THAT visit was focussed on moving Dad from here to an assisted-living facility near here.  So she hasn't actually "just visited" for almost 10 years.  It is a big event for me.

So...  More later.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Weird Thoughts

A.  When you first wake up in the morning what do you do first?

1.  Look at the window to see if it is daylight?
2.  Look at the clock to see if you can sleep more?
3.  Jump out of bed joyous that there is a new day of work to be accomplished?
4.  Reach for a cigarette?

B.  When you wake up in the middle of the night and there is a cat in the very middle of the bed, do you...

1.  Move left or right toward the edge?
2.  Invite it in under the covers?
3.  Move in gently, ignoring the protesting claws?
4.  Get up and feed the cat so it will get off the bed?

C.  When you happen to be near the litter box and a cat is using it...

1.  Do you watch out of judging it's health?
2.  Do you watch out of curiosity?
3.  Do you turn away to give it privacy?
4.  Do you rush over to clean the litter box?

D.  If a cat catches a mouse...

1.  Do you EEEWWW out?
2.  Do you AAAHHH out?
3.  Do you grab the camera?
4.  Do you plan a party for the event?

E.  When the garden needs weeding and the living room needs vacuuming...

1.  Do you weed the garden?
2.  Do you vacuum the room?
3.  Sit down and make a To DO list?
4.  Wonder what the odds are that a visitor will show up unexpectedly?

F.  Your refrigerator looks like Mother Hubbard's Cupboard, and it is raining...

1.  Do you decide that pickles, nuts, and an apple is a good meal?
2.  Do you grab an umbrella and go food-shopping?
3.  Do you call the local Chinese delivery place?
4.  Do you go visit a single friend just before dinnertime?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Other Flowers And A New Moth

First,  there was a moth I have never seen before. 
Then there are the Venus Fly Traps I transplaned from tiny pots from Walmart to good ones according the instructions from several sites about caring for them.

I have to undo the potting!  The sites said to use 2 parts peat moss and 1 part sand.  I did that. Then one site mentioned not using "regular sand" because it comes from beaches and has lots of dissolved solids in them, which are bad for Venus fly traps (and explained why).  They said to use perlite instead.  I have perlite.  I will repot them. 

Meanwhile they are catching flies and seem happy.  I caught and fed each one a fly when I first bought them, but now I see that there are at least several traps on each plant closed and showing a dark lump in the traps.  I guess they can do well enough on their own.  On the other hand, I will feed them a caught fly once a week just because it is so strange to watch them close up on the flies.

And the meadow flowers are blooming nicely.  The first ones were all yellow, then sweet williams appeared.  Now I have some blanket flowers.
There are Queen Annes Lace emerging, but not in full bloom yet.  The goldfinches are starting to find seeds to eat in there, which is a natural event.  I have 2 niger seed feeders for them, but I'll bet a variety of seeds is better for them.

And the tomatoes are thriving.  They seem healthier than in years past, so I am hoping for a good harvest.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Not The Meadow

A couple of years ago, I had a ridge leveled and set up 3 edged beds in place of it.  One was a Spring Bulb and Summer Daylily bed, one was for meadow flowers I hope will self sow (according the the package), and the last was a smaller bed dedicated to hummer/butterfly/bee flowers.  And on a whim, I scattered all my "expired" seeds of all kinds.

The last is finally showing some flowers.  First, I noticed that the "expired seeds were quite fertile.  I've been harvesting radishes for a month and there are squash, broccoli, and even some corn plants growing.  Well, they are all annuals and won't be around next year.  And I planted some annual sunflowers in the center of the bed.

But the actual hummer etc flowers are now starting to bloom!  They are slightly different from the meadow bed flowers.

 I expect there will be tubular flowers for the hummers soon.   Meanwhile, they are still happy with the butterfly bushes elsewhere in the yard.

I haven't seen many bees or hummers around them yet,  but I have seen a few butterflies.  Maybe it takes some time for word to spread of the new wonderful feeding spot.

Monday, June 19, 2017


On Friday, the weather reports warned of severe thunderstorms arriving Monday.

Saturday, the warning were repeated and added "heavy rains".

Sunday, the storm warnings were updated to "torrential rains, hail, and strong winds".  The weather forecasts warned about  possible flooding, electrical outages, failed traffic lights, and falling trees. 

The forecast this morning was for all that to occur between 3pm and 8pm.

My patio tends to collect water because the lawn has slowly raised above the level of the patio.  So minor basement flooding is always a threat.  I have had to suck up incoming rainwater with the wet/dry shop vacuum.  So, as I have for several years now, I dug a small trench in the lawn to let the patio water flow downslope.  I keep telling myself that I should install a drainage pipe just below-ground, but it stays near the bottom of the To Do list; the trench works well enough...

At 2 pm, I brought trashcans into the garage, set out buckets to collect rainwater (for the Venus Fly Traps, brought flats of flower seedling inside so the strong winds wouldn't damage them, and filled  the trench with hose water to make sure it was flowing away from the patio.

The storm was scheduled to hit at 3:45, then 4:45 and it did rain at 4:45.  Drizzle for 15 minutes.  But the radar map showed other heavy rain coming later.  It drizzled another 15 minutes.

The radar map is clear now.  I got 1/4" of drizzle, no serious rain, no winds, no hail. I wanted that rain!  And there is no rain predicted for the rest of the week.

Which means I will have to water the gardens and flowerbeds deeply tomorrow.  I had put it off anticipating the heavy rain. 

I don't blame the weather forecasters too much.  It's tricky.  It would be one thing if a couple forecasters got it right most of the time, showing that it was a matter of individual skill.  But they are get it wrong together.  Which tells me it just can't be done very accurately by anyone.

But I sure wanted that rain!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Productive Stuff

Some days I just have to catch up on household stuff.  And yesterday and today were good for that.  I let things collect sometimes and then get through them all at once.

I made bread today AND rolls.  I make bread every couple of weeks.  I've tweaked the bread machine recipe until I LOVE my own bread and visitors who have any comment in surprise at the taste (yes, I'm bragging).  I use beer instead of water; and I add 2 tbls of dried oregano and a tbls each of garlic powder and onion powder.  It really makes a difference!  Making rolls is a bit new to me so I follow the recipe exactly, but I will probably start changing the ingredients in those too.  Bread and rolls freeze wonderfully, so I can store them.

The IRS sent me a notice that I owed them some money a couple of weeks ago.  I was surprised since I use tax software.  The notice didn't say exactly why.  I called them yesterday and got to an agent after 45 minutes on hold.  After going around in circles a few minutes with IRS terminology, I finally realized that I had simply forgotten to include a CHECK for the amount I owed above the withholding.  50 years of paying taxes and I finally messed up!

I figured out why afterwards.  I had intended to use the electronic payment the software offerred but decided not to because of the fee.  And then sent the tax form the next day thinking I had paid electronically.  At least the penalty was only $13.

Next on the list was a recurring fee on my credit card for an anti-virus software for the Windows computer I bought in March and then promptly stopped using because I like Apple better.  Researching the company, I found a number to call with questions.  The area code made me suspicious, so I looked up the software name and discovered it was a scam.

The recurring fee was $8.99 per month and that is almost $100 and I have never paid that for anti-virus software.  The scam-busting site stated clearly that it was indeed a scam program that prevented its own removal and also prevented other software from detecting it.  Further, it gave false reports of infections.   It could be downloaded directly OR unknowingly by a user visited a legitimate but hacked website without the user knowing about it.

Anyway, I contacted the credit card company and spoke to an agent who said they were removing the charges (I read them the scam-busting site description).  But they warned me the company could dispute my claim and then we would all have to argue about by letter.  I doubt the company will contest.  Meanwhile, I have printed out special instructions for how to remove the software.

You can't remove the software from the infected computer directly, but you can download removal software to another computer and transfer it to the infected one at boot-up with a USB thumb drive.  It's an annoying process, one of those deals where you have to press a couple of keys at start to enter a safe mode and do about 10 things after.  I've done that sort of thing a few times.

The last annoying thing was to change my Federal tax withholding so that I wouldn't owe anything next year.  I had printed out an IRS form and sent it to them in April, but it turns out you have to send it to the company that pays you.

I got to them online and struggled to log in.  They are one of those places I visit once a year and the password expires in 3 months.  So they wanted me to answer some previously given security questions.

I keep a printed list of all sites I visit with the user name, passwords, purpose, and security question answers in a notebook.  I keep the list in Excel on a computer not connected to the internet, of course.  My list didn't have the security question answers!  And my best guess to the one they asked was not accepted.  ARGGHHH!

Turns out I had an old page of sites in my notebook and found my password on a newer page.  I really need to redo the list.  It is full of hand-written changes and arrows to new passwords, etc, that it is nearly unreadable.  That a new project...

But I found the newest entry and signed in.  The site was so slow, I fed the cats while waiting for it to load.  But after that, I changed the withholding easily.  Yay!

Having taken care of the serious things, I balanced my checkbook, then turned my attention to the clutter on the dining room table.  I have piles on clipped out newspaper recipes, interesting sites to visit, DIY ideas, and gardening suggestions.  I have several boxes full of that stuff.  One of these days I will go through them and save no more than a 6" high stack!  But not today.

With enough space on the dining room table to actually eat at, I turned my attention to the basement.  Lots of work to do there.  I have been working on the new compost bin few a few weeks, and things clutterred up in the basement.

So, do the projects that stuff was sitting around waiting to be used.  None took a lot of time, but there were many.  First, mark the places in the Spring Bulb garden where I can plant more bulbs without disturbing the existing ones.   You may have seen pictures of cardboard covering the tulip cages.  Well, I had to wait longer for the hyacinth and daffodil foliage to die back naturally..

I surrounded the daffodil areas with rope and held it in place with tent stakes.  Then I added more cardboard to the hyacinth cages held down with more tent stakes.  I have daylillies arounfd the front of the bed, but they will still be growing when it is time to fill the rest of the area with more daffodils  In a few days, I will cover the entire non-daylily area with black plastic to kill the weeds. 

The Spring bulbs like to stay dry in Summer, so they will be happy.  And I should be free of weeds there by October.  The voles will like the cover, but they can't eat daffodils or lilies and the tulips and hyacinths are in wire cages!  When they emerge looking for food, the cats will have fun...

Next was to put the 3 Venus Fly Traps into proper containers.  I researched it.  Those tiny 2" pots they come in are no good.  They need deeper containers and more soil.  Not "dirt" soil, but  a mixture of relatively sterile peat moss and sand, 2 parts to 1 part.  The containers for each one are 6" deep and wide.  They also need at least 4 hours of direct sun (a surprise to me) and water "with few dissolved solids" (distilled or rainfall water).  No wonder most people who buy them are unsuccessful at keeping them alive. 

So I bought a gallon of distilled water, and I'm saving the rain from the large rain gauge.  I'm also making a rain collection device.  It's a plastic trashcan lid with a hole in the center attached to a 1 gallon container.  Distilled water is only 88 cents at Walmart, but free rain water is even cheaper.  I LOVE to make useful things!

Speaking of the Venus Fly Traps, I have had a blast feeding them.  They catch some insects on their own, but I want them to grow well and send off baby shoots.  Eventually, I want to have a wading pool bog of them.  So I've been catching flies and small cabbage worms for them.  Heh-heh-heh!

I and the cats are in and out of the house often enough so that houseflies get in.  I've learned how to catch them by hand,  I sneak up on them against the window and their escape paths are limited there.  I catch them about 25% of the time.  A quick flick of the hand close to the floor and they are stunned.  Into the Venus Fly Traps they go.  Watching the traps close on them (a slight rub with a toothpick triggers the trap hairs) is darkly fascinating...

The next basement project was to plant lettuce and boy choy and celery in windowsill boxes.  I don't keep the boxes on a windowsill, but those are good containers for the top of the deck rails.  I tie them down so Summer storms don't blow them off.  I harvest individual leaves so they keep growing, but eventually they flower and are bitter, so I needed new plantings. 

I have endive, red romaine lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and arugula in 3 containers.  Another container has bok choy (the grocery store stuff is old and tough).  Another has celery that was already growing in small pots but I transplanted to give them more space to grow.  If you have never just added celery leaves to a salad, you should try it.  They are MUCH tastier.

Refilled the regular bird feeder with black oil sunflower seeds (a weekly thing) and refilled the finch feeder with nyger seed (a daily thing).  Topped the 3'x5' pond with water; we haven't gotten much rain in June.  I have Sweet Flag and Oriental waterlilies in there.  I should add some goldfish.

Saw a groundhog in the backyard a few days ago, so I set up my live trap baited with a 4" piece of old honeydew melon.  They love melons.  Baited the squirrel live trap with peanut butter.  They can't resist that.  They get relocated.

I'm way late on planting the deck pots with flowers, so I reluctantly went to Walmart and bought 3 pots of marigolds; they were cheap.  They are all just 4 individual plants in each pot and easily separated, so I will have 2 in each small container and 3 in the larger ones.  I also have self-grown seedlings of Zinnias and Salvias which I'll add to the hanging baskets. 

I also found 4 matching 16" pots at Walmart and I will plant some Australian seeds in those.  The old pots are falling apart a bit and I wanted new ones that could stand being brought inside for the Winter.  I would have planted them sooner, but they need a lot of sand in the soil mix and I kept forgetting to buy some (my pre-printed shopping list somehow doesn't have "sand" on it, LOL!).

Finally, I went out and measured the tops of my new compost bin.  In spite of my best efforts, the 2-bin container isn't perfectly square and the tops have to be fitted to match what exists.  So I will be constructing deliberately non-square frames.  "Square" is theoretical; "Fitted" is reality. 

So after all that, it was time for dinner.  I splurged...  Thawed out a 4 oz beef tenderloin steak, cut up fresh asparagus, made a nice tossed salad, and de-silked a bicolor cob of corn.  Chopped up some cremini mushrooms, vidalia onion and red bell pepper.  Cooked all.  Got the steak to a perfect 130 degrees, the salad tossed with ranch dressing, and the aspargus and mushroom mix cooked al dente.  The corn was perfect.  Used the steak juice to make a sauce with horseradish, red wine, and garlic.

I think I earned it...

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Compost Bin Onsite, Part 2

Well. last you saw, I had a corner established.  I gave those posts a few days to dry while I placed the other frames around the general spots and assembled the screws and tools for the next part. 

After the existing posts seemed solidly settled, I went after the rest of the structure.  Getting the left back frame attached was easy.  I just clamped on a good flat 4x4 post across the back and the left back frame HAD to be straight with the right back one.  Then I attached the left side frame so it was square to the back.

I have a 2'x2' square, so it was pretty definite.  That gave me everything in place except the front center post (which is "there" but just sitting loose in the hole).  I filled the other holes with clay, soaked them, tamped the soil hard to make a nice clayey mud, and let it sit for another 2 days. 

The board across the front was screwed on to keep everything upright and level while the clay hardened.  There are clamps at the back for the same reason.
The next day (leaving all the clamps and the board in place for stability), I went about setting the front center post in place.  I will admit it just drove me crazy!  I set a string line across the front of the 2 front posts, so it was obvious where the front of the center post HAD to be.

That at least gave me the dimensions for the divider frame between the 2 parts of the bin.  Because it was between 2 posts instead of outside of them, it had to be made last by onsite measurement.  Given the variations of lumber, there was no way I could figure the exact size of the center divider until everything else was in place.

The exact size doesn't matter and I don't even recall what it was but say 42.25" just to have a number...  I measured to the string across the front posts and then subtracted the thickness of the posts already between.  Had to be perfect, right?

And the frame I built to fit that spot was perfect.  Square, solid, flat; best one of the whole project!  Well, it should be, I had the experience of making the other 4 before to get it right...

But nothing wanted to fit properly.  The hole for the front center post was pre-dug and in the wrong spot by 6".  The center front post had to be, well, "centered".  There are going to be removable slats that drop down into slots in the front posts. 
The problem was that the center post should be exactly between the 2 outside front posts, the divider frame should be square to the back and front, and the frame and post should be level vertically.  I could get any 2 of those to work, but not all 3 at the same time.

A craftsman would have no trouble, a good carpenter might need a little "push".  I'm not that good...

Have you ever played a gsme called "telephone"?  A dozen people stand in a circle.  One whispers a short sentence to the person on the right (Like "I will be dining with the Queen tonight").  It gets whispered around the circle.  By the time it comes back to the originator, it may be "I hope I'll be dunking the squid in fright".

My carpentry is like that.  Every step gets a wee bit off perfection, and by the time I get to the last part. it is 1" too low and 1" too far.  That's why I have clamps and pry-bars and screws.  The last piece always has to be tortured into place!  I start with a perfect design and end with brute force...

Yeah, yeah, I know, it's "just" a compost bin.  Perfection doesn't matter all that much.  But its the principle of the thing.  I am, by nature, a builder.  I am also plagued by accumulated small errors. 

I understand that part of it is that I do these projects without any help.  I can't be on both ends of an 8' board, and I can't to 2 things at once by myself.  It is still disappointing, though.  I expect better of myself in spite of the difficulties.

BUT, brute force DOES make up for some errors.  A few screwed-on braces replace a hand, a few clamps make boards match up evenly, and enough screws will hold everything in place while the boards stretch internally (and they do) until things work.

Before I finally set the muddy clay around the front center post, I measured the distances between the left and center post and the right and center post.  They were exactly the same.  It looked perfect!  I was thrilled and relieved.  I soaked the clay, tamped it, and remeasured it.  Exact same distances.
The next afternoon, the clay had hardened.  I checked the vertical level of the front post, checked that the center divider was square to the back, checked that the front of the front post was precisely in line with the front corner posts.  Nothing could be wrong.

HAH!  The distance between the left and center post is 1/4" longer than the distance between the right and center posts.  I could cry...  The only explanation is that the universe is testing my sanity. 

On the other hand, it is utterly solid, completely functional, and should last for 20 years.  At which point I will be 87 and too old to consider rebuilding it.

The last part of the project is to make the slats that fit into the slots in the front posts.  That's for the next post...

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Compost Bin Onsite

I got the site leveled.  Well, almost; the yard slopes, so nothing is ever perfectly level even when trying.  But it was as close as I could get it without making terraces.
I got the parts stacked outside.  I had added some diagonal braces for strength with some leftover ballisters from the deck.  There is a reason I keep leftovers around.  Always some use for them eventually.  

The braces were fun to make.  I actually got them cut to have points fitted into the corners.  Took some geometry.  If the frames were squares, it would have been easy (45 degree cuts).  But they are rectangles.  I eventually figured out that they had to be 55 degrees cuts on one side and 35 degrees on the other (55 and 35 equals 90 degrees).  My 11th grade geometry teacher would be proud of me!  Who says that stuff is useless?

That's part of the fun of building stuff myself; solving problems like that. Building it for the long-term, I both glued and screwed the braces.  Screwing the braces into the frames was some work, but I won't bore you with the details.

BTW, the picture below looks like there are X braces, but that is just 2 of them stacked together.  Each frame has one brace.  That is sufficient.
The mower and cart were good for hauling the parts.  Here it all is onsite.
Then I stuck the posts in the holes I had dug.  It gave me a visual on the size. 
The first requirement was to establish a corner.  It was harder than I expected.  I had measured carefully, but nothing goes according to plan.  I forgot the posts were on the INSIDE of the frame, so I had the holes 4" too far apart.  I had drawn it all on graph paper, but the scale was too small for me to notice the difference of 4".

I'm used to adjustments.  "Design in concept, build in reality".  So I made the post holes larger in the direction of the error.
With my trusty 4' level and some bricks for spacers, I got the first post level, and then attached a back and a side with countersunk screws.  Seriously, if I'm going through all this effort, I might as well do it right.  Pilot holes and countersunk holes for the screw heads prevents splitting the wood.  5 minutes of extra work means years of more solid posts.
I filled the holes around the posts with the clay soil, soaked it, and tamped the clay down around the posts.  When that dries, it will be as good as concrete.

The important part was to get the first corner post and 2 frames attached level and squared in all directions.  From that, all the other posts will be easier.  That board on top is temporarily screwed on to hold the posts and sides in place while the clay dries.

It may rain tomorrow, so I don't know if I can do much there tomorrow.  That's OK, I have other work to do.  My "To Do" list is way too long...

Friday, June 2, 2017

Too Muddy To Dig

After a week of rain, it is still to wet to do much.  Can't rototill the site for the new compost bin, can't mow the grass, can't walk on the soil around the flower beds to weed them.

So here is a picture of the meadow bed as seen from the house...
It is a joy to see every morning, a joy to see when the afternoon sun shines on the flowers, and wonderful to stand next to watching the cloud of happy pollinators visiting all the flowers. 

I am amazed at all the insects!  I have hummingbirds and large butterflies (I really should learn to identify them) but the number of small bees (neither Bumbles nor Honey) is amazing.  I knew OF them, just never saw them in any numbers before.  I think there are some I can encourage more.  Mason bees like nesting in straw-packed cluster.  I have straws.  Carpenter bees like 5/8" holes in scatterred blocks of wood, and I can make those.  Other minor bees and fly pollinators just need the flowers that are growing there. 

This may be the best use of some yard space I've ever done.  I'm generally organic.  This may be the best place they have for a mile around. 

My little neighborhood used to be surrounded by fallow farmland plots and wild fields.  It seems all developed now.  I may be their last good spot to live.  If I ever had a better reason not to move, that's it.

And if they also want to pollinate my veggies, Yay!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Compost Bin Site Cleanup, Part 2

First, wow did I have "fun" getting those pictures right yesterday  They suddenly showed up with dates on them.  Not that the dates were wrong, but I don't like sudden changes not in my control.  I searched and searched for the cause and how to delete the dates.

And...  it finally occurred to me to check the camera itself.  Yep, I had somehow changed the menu to REQUIRE dates on the photos.  My bad!  I had fun retouching the photos to erase the dates...

SO...  Here are my photos of the spot where the new compost bin will go.  It was 2 days of sweat and various BAD words.  I had forgotten there was carpet buried down deep among the vines and weeds.

The space needs to be leveled and that is a rototiller job.  But I was so worn out yesterday I just didn't want to do that.  And there are stumps of junk trees that need to be dug out (the rototiller can't do that).

And everything is wet and muddy.  I'm taking the day off from that.

But here is a picture of part of the old compost bin, fallen over sideways...

I can't believe I only nailed it together and had no diagonal braces in it.  But I was inexperienced then.  You live and learn... 

Not that I'm not doing anything.  The old toolshed has a leaky roof from when a tree fell over on it 2 years ago.  Rain got in an ruined the cheap particle board shelves I foolishly installed 25 years ago (hey, they were under a roof and should stay dry - it seemed like a good idea at the time).  They swelled up like sponges and warped and fell apart.  So I needed real shelves.  And a new roof.  I'm still thinking about that.

But it needed cleaning too.  Generations of mice nested in the dark corners , in boxes, and under old equipment.  I had to use a snow shovel to carefully scrape out the nests and poop careful to not disturb it into the air.

And there were old weird tool holders in there.  I had to detach them after cleaning out the mouse debris.  I can't figure out how I even screwed in the brackets that held up the old shelves.  The screws were unreachable with the cordless screwdriver.  I must have done it by hand.

So I just beat it all off with a sledge-hammer.  Sometimes direct force is the only way to go.  I have a wheelbarrow full of debris from that.  The trailer is going to be used a lot soon.  Garden carpet, particle board, bent brackets, old framed bed boards...  The landfill charges by the ton.  Fortunately, also by partial tons.  I may have a half ton.  Unless I pound off the old toolshed roof and replace it.  Then I might have a full ton, and it gets cheaper that way.

Anyway, the new compost bin site is nearly clear.  I just want to rototill it to get it all level.  Then I can dig the corner post holes and start setting some posts in loosely.  With modular parts preconstructed, it becomes more "fitting" than "measurement".  So I will make large holes at the corners to allow for some adjustment and see what changes I need to make.

When the whole thing is in place and firmly set around the belowground posts, I'll build a top to fit.  Latched.  Part of this is to keep the varmints out of the compost bin.  Not that they eat much, but I don't need them around.  Rabies, parasites, diseases that might harm the cats, etc.  And the more varmints around, the more likely they will find a way into the enclosed veggie garden.  Enclosures are good, but none are perfect.

Tomorrow may rain too.  It may be Friday or Saturday before I can get at the new compost bin site to rototill it flat.  Muddy rototilling is not fun.  You'll know when I post about this again, LOL!