Monday, June 29, 2009

First Fruits

Our strawberry patch is really cranking them out now.

I got so many raspberries, the three of us couldn't eat them in one sitting. (And we tried.)

Those are some hot banana peppers. Troy's first batch failed, so we bought some plants to make up for the lost time. I filled two of my pots with the hot variety and another pot with the last sweet banana pepper plant the nursery had!

Troy is going to dig for some new potatoes this week. I can't wait!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Local Bugs

This was a moth which took temporary residence on the side of the overhead door of the shop.

Care for a little scale?
I think Troy's leatherman is 6 inches across.

And while I was taking this pic, Troy slapped a mosquito on my back:
It's the largest we've ever seen. It may be hard to see scale on Troy's palm, but I would defend the claim that it was an inch from tip to toe. We were all impressed.

And what about the wasps? I did manage to paint a coat undisturbed. The trick is to resume the game without the opponent knowing that intermission is over. In other words, I headed out early enough that the wasp was not back looking to go to bed yet. Or whatever they do in the nest in the early evening.

Then I soaked some rags in wasp killer and left them hanging up there.

That's right, I went all Tonya Harding on their ass.

Insulation: Day 8

We were at it again today. And with a new helper
and a new machine. Both helped us to have our most productive day ever: 72 bags! The new pallet and all the "leftover" ones. It feels good to have the shop empty of insulation again.

Isaac arrived today and was barely here an hour before we had put him to work. He was a good worker and as he could handle the bags, I shifted to helper/project coordinator.

They gave us a different machine because the regular one was broken. This produced some anxiety on my part [change! change! ah!], but it worked out great. I think the machine was quieter and quicker with less dust. And much lighter to move around and lift into the truck. What more could I ask for? And why is this the "back up" machine? Or maybe that's the wrong assumption. Maybe they save it for their favourite customers. Who knows.

In any case, we got a pallet blown in the first two hours and then went back out for another 70 minutes to blow the last 30 bags. (That's 2 1/3 min/bag which soundly beats our previous 3 min/bag time). The attic is nearly finished, with about 3.5 bays (out of 35) to do yet.

The new machine had a lovely picture on it:
They make it sound so easy: no cutting, no fitting...nothing to it, right? And I notice the man in the picture has no dust flying around.

I wonder what we are doing wrong?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Score is Tied at One

That would be
Christina: 1
Wasp: 1

I scored early in the day (let me specify: early by my standards) by getting up the ladder and actually being able to reach the wasp nests right under the very peak:
They were waaaay up there and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to reach them. But we got the ladder in the right position and I got them. I also got all the boards scraped.

We have a lot of these little wasps nests and it felt good to get rid of a few of them. See:
Doesn't that look better?

The wasps weren't home at the time and so weren't able to mount a protest.

Later, however...I went back up the ladder when the temperature was cooler and was painting happily away. (Happy to not have fallen off the ladder anyway.)

I noticed the wasp come over the south edge of the roof, but he (she?) it was just flying around and walking along the eaves. I was content to live and let live. It didn't take long, however, for the wasp to read the situation and take some offense. For some reason, with its home disappeared, it felt threatened by this big body waving an arm around with a paintbrush at the end.

I warded off the first dive bomb but it got in a good sting on my left hand. (Middle finger, appropriately enough.) Score one for the wasps to tie it up. When the second wasp showed up, I hightailed it down the ladder, not willing to try to fend off two at the top of a ladder.

Not wanting to make my retreat permanent, I went back up with a fly swatter. That didn't go so well. The wasp has to actually land for it to be very effective, and it was too busy trying to dive bomb me again. Another retreat on my part.

Now I am left considering my options, regretting I didn't remember to use the wasp spray earlier, and nursing my finger.

But this is only an intermission...Game on!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Primed to Go

Just a little update of what I got done over the weekend. Two coats of primer where I could reach from this ladder position.

It didn't seem like much when I was up there, but when I stepped back and looked I could see that it's nearly a third of what needs to be done. That's not nothing.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Happy Happy Joy Joy

We have reached the milestone of finishing the drywall in the shop! (Trumpet flourish, please.)

We put up the drywall in the last corner on Friday night:

We are now free to go really crazy with insulation and put it everywhere. It also helps to make the shop look that much more "finished" (from the inside).
West end of shop

Sadly, the first thing Troy will have to do to that nice drywall is drill holes for the insulation. He tells me that's just how it goes.

And in case you want a review, here is the east end of the shop:
We were going to go crazy with insulation again tomorrow, but Troy came home from work very sick this evening so those plans are uncertain right now.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Odds and ends.

It has rained a lot this season. I hope that hasn't inconvenienced any of you since I caused it all. You see, last year was a bit dry for the garden, and I tried to water it with an oscillating sprinkler, with modest success. But it was a huge pain. So this year, I set up a very sophisticated sprinkler irrigation system that is semi-permanently installed in the garden. Now, with the twist of the handle, I can water the entire garden and the orchard. I can even put it on the water timer so it shuts off automatically. My garden will not lack for water this year.

Of course, the astute reader will immediately recognize where this is going. This is like washing your car on a gorgeous saturday morning, just to have big rain clouds immediately roll up saturday afternoon. The causal relationship is so obvious.

OK, not really. Enough of the jesting.

I am dangerously close to finishing the drywall in the shop. Two and a half sheets will do it. Tonight may see the completion of the vast expanse of drywall, almost disappearing into the horizon.

OK, not really that much drywall, though it seemed like it at times.

Now I just have to cut some more wood so we can get our two years worth of firewood split and stacked. And fix the "big" trailer in anticipation of our vacation to missouri. I know a guy who has a couple of really old, really cheap VanNormam horizontal milling machines and a little collet lathe. He is a buyer and seller of equipment, plus a first rate mechanic on just about anything. But old milling machines are a little outside of his arena, and he would like them to go away. So, for a very reasonable fee, they are mine. But each machine probably weighs well over half a ton and they won't both fit in the mighty dodge pickup truck bed. So that means some cutting and welding and beefing up of the old trailer.

I continue to hear carefully worded propaganda on the popular mass media outlets regarding the fledgling economic recovery. This is, if not patently false, at least misleading. It would be shocking if the economy did not show some signs of growth after the injection of unprecedented amounts of public money. So, the fact that we have seen modest improvments in some of the economic indices is not surprising. My problem is the vast leap in analysis that the talking heads then make. Everything is rosy. All the worry is over. Things are just going to get better and better. Isn't it great how the government can just step in and fix things. Etc etc. It is my belief tht this moderate "improvement" is what the technical analysts in the stock market world call a "dead cat bounce". The implication being that the recovery may be short lived, and followed by something much worse. Peter Schiff said it much better than I could. You may watch it for yourself if you wish.

Please do not bet the literal or figurative farm on the impending good times. Pay your debts down. Reduce your financial risks in any way that you can. Increase your rainy day savings to a healthy 3-6 months of expenses.

It looks to me like we will go through a moderate deflationary period, which will superficially resemble a recovery, but which will freak out the Federal Reserve and the Obama administration. It will cause them to stomp on the cheap money/low interest economic accelerator pedal even harder, which will be very bad. The end result will be aggressive inflation. I believe the phrase that comes up in the Schiff interview is, "Watching us drive off a cliff..."

I hope and pray that I am wrong. You should do the same.

Finest regards,


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Keeping at it

Today I left work early in part to get to the paint while the weather was still clear. We've had a lot of rain lately and it's interfering with my progress.
Troy had the ladder in place for me and I finished scraping the gable tonight! Yeah! I celebrated with some Kraft dinner [mac&cheese] with hotdogs. It was very yummy and convinced me that it really is summer.

You will also notice in the picture that the window has two coats of primer on its trim. That's as far as I'm going when I still have to paint above it. But as you can see, comparing to this:
the trim looks a lot better now.

After my fortifying Kraft dinner, I went out and split and stacked all the wood we got the other day too. While the weather's good I've got to get as much done as I can. It added about 24" of height to the wood stack I piled it on, so that is at least measurable.

That means Troy's "it" if you're keeping track. I won't yell it too loud, however; I don't want to intimidate him again...


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Insulation: Day 7

We were at it again. I can't say I was a cheerful worker today, but we got it done. I should admit that I had my fun first and then the work, so maybe that was part of it.

We rearranged the schedule so I could go to the Red Purl knitting club for the first part of the afternoon. (Thank you, Troy.) Troy used the time to put up more drywall so we could finish the north wall and start on the west end of the attic. (Meaning the east side was almost done!!)

And concerning the drywall, I counted 3 partial sheets left to go on the ceiling and 2 1/2 on the west wall. And I think that's it! Can I hear a big "woot woot" in da house?

I was home by 5, changed and ate dinner by about 5:20. I went out and met Troy who was just finishing up a sheet of drywall. We did all the set up, unloading the truck, etc, and were blowing insulation by about 6. Took a break at 7:30, finished blowing 45 bags by about 8:45, cleaned up, loaded up the truck, and I was in the house by 9:04.

We skipped insulation last week and noticed some changes in the equipment. For one thing we could tell someone else had rented it. We got the hose in this sort of condition:
When we're the only ones using it, we enjoy receiving the hose in this condition:
--the way we left it. (Is it really so hard to coil up the hose for the next guy?)

And the other thing we noticed is that they finally fixed the on/off switch! We didn't have to tape a power cord to the side of the machine. Perhaps the other people who rented it complained in a more convincing manner than Troy. Who knows. Not that we need the on/off switch much now that Troy's in the attic. It's all go go go now.

As for how long this will continue, I anticipate at least three more pallets.

And so it goes on...

Saturday, June 13, 2009

This and That

So making the firewood competitive didn't seem to work. Or maybe my ferocity scared Troy off. You see, since that post a full month ago, I have yet to see a single stick of firewood laid out for me to split it. I finally had to ask Troy for more because I'm getting anxious about getting the racks full. And there were a couple days when I could have done an hour or two. You know, sometimes I like a few options in what I have to do. (All the better to put off painting, perhaps?)

So Troy conceded to my desires and cut a little more last night.

I had dragged myself out in the evening to put a second coat of primer on the window trim (while the ladder was up and it wasn't actually raining...). I finished in less time than I thought it would take so I decided that perhaps Troy would like some help. It can be a real drag when you're doing a job like that alone. Doing every single step of a project can drag you down. Or it can me, anyway.

So I followed the sounds of the chainsaw and while Troy cut, I stacked onto the trailer and helped to uncover branches from the weeds. It was an intricate dance we did as Troy wielded the chainsaw and I tried to stay out of harm's way. We didn't get a whole lot of wood to split but we got a lot of "messy" branches cleaned out of the way and are slowly reclaiming some of the land that it's hogging.

This morning we moved the ladder so I can reach the last corner of the gable that needs scraping. It rained pretty steadily all day, however, so I didn't actually get up to do any work. The rain also precluded work on the wood. (I am a wuss in rain, I admit.)

Instead I worked ahead on the laundry (ok, I know that's not really how it works since I'm not washing the clothes before we wear them, but it felt like it since I could do laundry now or later, and chose to do it now) even though the rain kept me from using the clothesline. And I did a little knitting. Oh ya, and a bunch of book keeping. Taxes are due on Monday so I have to make sure they get paid. And some more odds and ends. And a little more knitting, I admit.

And that's my day.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Caring for the garden and why we do that.

Many things in the garden are happy and growing. Most of the new fruit trees are adapting well and putting out new foliage, if not blossoms. The new strawberry patch looks like it will yield actual strawberries just a few weeks after being planted in the ground. The Yukon Gold potatoes and the watermelons are growing like gangbusters.

Some things are not happy. I planted two kinds of popcorn seed, my own variety that I saved from last year, and a commercially available open pollinated heirloom variety. The purchased variety had poor germination and looks wimpy in comparison to my home brew version. Humph. Two of the peach trees are slow to put on foliage. Maybe that's because they are "Frost" peaches, which is to say, a very late blooming variety that is less susceptible to damage from frost. So, maybe late is good, but it does make me antsy when something won't grow.

Our beans germinated rapidly, almost violently. There is a lot of life packed into those dry little packages. Then something immediately started to eat them. Ouch! I'm hoping it's the deer, because I am about to put up a deer resistant electric fence around the garden proper. I already have it up around the orchard, and it seems to be working there.

I haven't found the row of carrots yet, either because they are slow to germinate, or because the crabgrass and other 50 kinds of weeds just popped up 1,000,000 new cute little weeds. They look like carpet where I have not removed them.

I feel sorry for completely new gardeners. They may not realize that the first year or two is the worst. They don't realize that there are literally 10's of 1,000's of weed seeds in every square meter, just waiting to explode when conditions are right. So when you till up the soil to make a nice seed bed, you have also inadvertently made conditions just right for all those weed seeds as well. Weed seed can remain alive and vital for years just laying in the dirt. The prima donna vegetable seeds have to be kept cool and dry and hermetic or they just die. It's not really a fair competition at all. But it gets easier as the years go on and you eventually cut back on the numbers of weed seed that lurk just beneath the surface.

The vast majority of vegetables would be doomed without humans to tilt the balance more in their favor. Using the stirrup hoe the other day, I probably killed 50,000 weed seedlings just by the gentle sweeping action of the hoe as I worked my way up and down the rows. They would have overwhelmed the poor little outnumbered vegetables.

I am often surprised at how much effort gardeners in general, and me in particular, are willing to put in to make our garden thrive. I can make logical arguments about why that is, how the resulting produce is fresher, tastier, pesticide and herbicide free, environmentally friendly because it only has to be shipped 50 feet (not the average of 1,300 miles), etc. But this somehow fails to capture the emotional side of it. I want my plants to thrive. To really anthropomorphize, I want them to be happy. I want to protect them from harm. I want them to be well fed and watered so they are not hungry or thirsty.

It is interesting to observe these feelings that I experience toward organisms that are, by most accounts, completely non-sentient. I feel this is compelling evidence that I am made in the image of a loving and caring God. As a direct consequence of that, I cannot help but love and care for the creatures put in my care if I am in relationship with the God who loves and cares for me. I may not do it perfectly, but I am aware that I should do it. I believe this is another evidence for the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and in the lives of others.

Finest regards,


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