Friday, May 7, 2021

May This-And-Thats

I have a few things on my mind, and it's too small to hold them for long, so it must be time to get them out.  Nothing very major, just some updates, thoughts, and an announcement to my email readers, so it's time once again to just start typing and see what happens.

  • Blog emails are going away in July, they will no longer be supported.  I've been looking for another widget or service to do this, but I'm not going to pay for it so it may not happen.  I have over a dozen friends and family currently signed up and I'm afraid I will lose those readers when this convenience goes away.  If you are one, click the link to the site at the bottom of your email and save it as a favorite now!  I'll provide more updates when I have them.
  • Remember when I wrote about my site being probed?  Well, it's happened each month since.  739 hits on March 24 and 760 hits on April 26.  I have no idea why, who or what it is, but it doesn't appear to be doing any real harm, either.  We'll see how many hits I get for May in a couple weeks, I guess.
  • The extra dirt and old grill are gone.  My wife put the dirt on the neighborhood farcebook page and in a day one neighbor picked up a couple big buckets and a day or two later another took almost all the rest.  The little that remained I found places for in the yard and gardens.  Also, the rotting wood that was the old gardens I cut up and took to the dump last weekend, so now I have my garage back.  And that old grill I put out to the curb a day early and it didn't take long for it to disappear, no sticker required.  Maybe someone will try to clean it up and get another year or two out of it, but more likely it will be sold as scrap metal.  But now I have a 35 dollar sticker that I don't need.  Maybe I'll pay it forward and have my wife put it on farcebook and give it away to someone with an appliance they need to get rid of.
  • I mowed the lawn for the first time this year on Wednesday.  The front needed it more and the back just in places, typical for the first mow.  Thus begins a (mostly) weekly ritual that will last until late fall.  Thankfully, it's a small lawn.  It's also showing wear in areas that I'll need to get grass to grow again.  This is likely due to me spraying the weeds instead of getting down and digging them out.  Trouble is, my back is no longer built for all that low work.  The good news is last summer I got a tool that I can get the weeds out while standing up, but it does leave a divot.  I'll just call that aerating the lawn.
  • Remember the drawer that I built downstairs for the cat's litter box?  I still look at it and think of how nifty it is.  After using it now for quite some time, I really like how it contains the mess a whole lot better than when the litter box was on the floor.  Oh, litter still gets dragged out, but mostly only onto the walkway and a bit on the stairs, and I just sweep it into the drawer.  If anyone figures out how to get a cat to wipe their paws, please let me know.
  • BW left a comment over at Nic's recently that got me thinking.  It's about getting used to music that's not on CDs or records.  To a certain extent, I have the same issue.  I do have many releases on digital only by now, but I also have YouTube Music as a premium member, so have been trying to use that more.  The issue I'm finding is it's geared more towards individual songs, not whole albums, and I am very album-oriented.  Are all music streaming services like that?
  • I have my spring vacation in a couple weeks, and I expect it will be better than last year's.  I don't have any big projects in mind, but I'm sure I'll think of something.  Or maybe I'll just sleep until noon every day and have a fire every night.  It will be different because my wife will be here working from home all week, but I'll hit two weeks after being fully vaccinated so I do plan on going out and about.  We also want to start inviting friends over for firepits and outside socializing soon.  I know vaccination is no guarantee, but I feel the benefits will outweigh the risk, at this point.

Well, that was fun.  The weather has been seasonable and we're still getting overnight frost now and again, at least for this next week, it appears.  Might be a good night for a fire, tonight.  Have a great weekend, everyone.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Nice Spring Evening


New fence, new gardens, new spring growth.

First Cardinal of spring, that I've seen, center.

I enjoy watching the air traffic.

And the trees are filling in nicely.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Gardens, Grills and Dirt

My wife and I finished the other half of the gardens yesterday, and it was much easier with her help than the first two that I did on my own.  The front left garden is at a bit of an angle compared to the others, but I'm satisfied for now.  I put in an order last night for mulch and a few other things that I picked up this morning.  That's one thing that's come of this pandemic - much more ordering online for pickup.  Never have to get out of your car, just show up and they put your stuff in the back.  We'll likely keep this up even after these pandemic times.

So I picked up 4 bags of mulch, and it took two in the garden paths.  I knew 4 would be more than enough but it was dirt cheap and I know we'll have other uses and places for it this year.  I also spread grass seed around the outside of the gardens and the mulched area.  I have a few other places in the yard to get grass to fill in, too, but that's for another time.  After mulch and seed I gave it a good watering, trying not to wash away the seed.  I hate to do it, but I may have to put straw down in the seeded areas this year to get grass to grow, but we'll see.  

The unused dirt pile in the garage is bigger now.  I had my wife post about it on the neighborhood farcebook page, but no one has inquired yet.  If there are no takers then I'll be hauling buckets to the dump next weekend.  I'll have to go there anyway as I'll need to get rid of the remaining wood from the old gardens.  I've been putting a little in the bin each week for trash pickup, but these bigger boards will be cut up and hauled off.  I do want my garage back sometime soon, after all.  And my wife's not keen on the idea of enclosing the whole area with a fence again, so we'll see how it goes and I'll likely have to get some chicken wire for one or two of the gardens soon.

We had snow flurries on a couple days this past week.  Nothing stuck, but one day it did look like a blizzard for a short time.  April has been below normal in temperatures for us, but also below normal in snowfall.  We still have a few days left, but I don't see any low temperatures below freezing and the highs get much better, very nice and warm the next couple days, then mid-60's (ºF, or upper teens ºC) for the rest of the week.  

The new grill is put together and ready to go, so can't wait to try that out one of these nice evenings.  The old one is starting to rust out inside and very dirty so it was time to replace it.  We got it shortly after we got the house so has served us well for over a decade.  Both grills are made by Kenmore, but I like the new one because there is no side burner (that we never used anyway) and the side shelves fold down, thus taking up less garage space.  Getting rid of the old one now will cost us $35.00 for an appliance sticker to have the city pick it up.  I could put it out on the terrace and hope some metal scavenger picks it up, but 35 bucks to guarantee it goes away is fine with me.

This year's big spring project is now pretty much done, so I'll have to figure out something to keep me busy on my spring vacation coming up in a few weeks.  My vacation will just about be two weeks after my second shot, so I may go gallivanting about to stores, bars and restaurants that I've been avoiding for over a year now.  It will probably seem a little weird, but in a good way.  And people, friends, so many that I've barely seen, if at all, in over a year.  I want to socialize again!  Do I remember how?

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Two Down, Two To Go

Two weeks after putting together the gardens and removing the railings we finally got good enough weather this weekend to continue.  It'd been rainy and cool, but it is still April and our last average freeze is April 30, so we'll take the good weather days when they come.  We've had all the windows open one day, and some open another day, I think that's about it so far.  But the grass is turning green, spring flowers are blooming and tree buds are opening.  And I get my first shot this week, so things are looking up!

I had to go into the office for a few hours on Saturday morning, but when I got home I did a few chores and then started in on the west garden, the strawberry bed.  This one was falling apart, the wood so rotten much of it fell to pieces when moved.  In contrast, the east garden seems to have held together much better, but we'll see how much when we get to that side, likely next weekend.

I dug up all the strawberry plants and two oregano plants and put them loosely in the lower part of the other garden before removing the rest of the wood and moving some dirt around.  Between the gardens and the garage I have a 12 foot 2x6 to stop weeds from growing there.  It's also rotting, but whole, so I left it as is but I plan on putting one of the 8 foot and 4 foot pieces from the east garden on top of it for extra protection, as long as they're in better shape than the west garden, and they look to be.

Left with just a large pile of soil, I removed as many weeds and roots as I could and measured out where I had to get back to ground level.  I wound up moving a few wheelbarrows full of dirt onto a tarp in the garage though I would bring some back once the gardens were in place.  There's maybe a wheelbarrow and a half left over and I expect about as much from the other side.  When we're done I'll have my wife post something on the neighborhood farcebook page and I'm sure someone will want it.  This is why I put it on a tarp in the garage, because it may be there a week or more so don't want a pile of mud.

I kept at it for a while and got both new gardens in place and about half full of dirt, then decided to take a break for a bit.  My heartrate hadn't even gone back to resting when my wife got home from her Dad's, so it was a short break, then that was when we moved some dirt back to gardens to the depth my wife wanted, and she took over and replanted all the strawberry plants.  The oregano plants are just sitting there, not replanted as they will go on the other side when we get that done.

Also, the dang rabbits have been chewing on the plants, so we'll likely need to put a fence up sooner than later, so I've been forming that plan in my head.  I don't want to do them individually so there will again be something that goes around all of them, with a gate to get in.  And we'll put straw or mulch down on the paths between the gardens to keep weeds from growing there.

After all this, I was able to sit by the fire for the second night in a row.  I had a fire the night before, too, but spent an hour on a video call with my mom, followed by another hour long video call with my sister, which was very nice, but this night was just me relaxing and enjoying the fire, the moon, the stars, some music and my thoughts.  It is very good relaxation therapy.

Today is a rest day, the weather is similar to yesterday but more overcast.  My out of shape muscles are pretty sore again today, but I'll live.  It crossed my mind to dive into the other side today but my back does need a rest.  It held up well yesterday, but I don't want to push it today when it's already tired and sore.  We grilled out sausages for lunch and will probably be pretty lazy the rest of the day.  That's okay, we earned it.

Spring flowers after the break!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Blogday This and Thats

I started this blog 12 years ago today, shortly before we bought our house.  It's kind of funny how I use this site to refer back to when we want to know when something happened.  Usually, if it's worth writing about, then I wrote about it here.  Of course, I've written a whole lot of nonsense, too!  Speaking of nonsense, time to type again and see what happens.

  • I'm ready for spring, now.  I shaved for the first time since last October and got a haircut for the first time also since October - but 2019!  It was just time to shave off the winter face coat, and of course it was cool for a few days so my face got a bit cold, but I'm used to it now.  I'll probably grow my little chin beard again like I usually do.  And I remember starting to think about a haircut in March last year, but then everything got locked down.  Once I shaved, I knew I had to finally get that haircut.  It's as short as it's been in a very, very long time now, but it'll grow out.
  • We got some rain last night and today, and there's some more in the forecast, so hopefully they will lift the local burn ban and I can have a fire this weekend.  As long as it's not raining.  That might also throw a wrench in proceeding with the gardens this weekend.
  • I've been enjoying the concert livestreams since all this started.  No, it's not the same as going to a show, but for live music lovers it's at least something.  I've lost count of how many I've seen now; a few from Code Orange, Xordia, Richie Scarlet, Stephen Pearcy, Pain, Diamante a couple times, Steel Panther, Wednesday 13, and many others I'm forgetting now, both ticketed and free shows.  There's a couple more on my radar soon, Bruce Kulick on the 16th and Poppy on the 24th.  Rock on!
  • Aside from the new car, we made another big financial decision recently and refinanced the house.  We've been paying off extra for some time now, but now we knocked off a third of the years left on the mortgage and have a much lower interest rate, which feels pretty damn good.  It was a good time to buy the house back when we did, and now it just keeps going up in value. So again, good for us!
  • I get my first shot two weeks from today, the Pfizer vaccine.  I'm very much looking forward to it, actually.  Fully vaccinated, I will have much more confidence going out and about and getting some semblance of 'normal' back.  Live music, dining out, gathering with friends and family, shopping and even just stopping off for a drink somewhere has been missed greatly, but I'm hoping it all gets better as we go this summer.
Well, I thought I might have more but that's all I can think of at the moment.  The cat's have been well, and have been loving the few times we've been able to open the windows so far.  Here's a recent video of them and, if you couldn't tell by the coloring, they sure act like brothers here!

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Feeling the Easter Burn Today

First off, happy Easter!  To those that celebrate it, anyway.  I no longer get the day after Easter off, so it's just Sunday here.

I got a lot done yesterday, and I felt it.  While I got a pretty good night's sleep, in part due to the muscle relaxer, I was still sore when I got up.  Not just my back, but many other underused muscles from head to toe.  So no, we are not starting in on replacing any gardens today.  And this week's weather looks like we'll be wet off and on, so maybe next weekend as the forecast looks almost as good as this weekend has turned out.  Still have a few small things to do, but nothing is critically urgent.

One thing I had to do was make a quick trip to the store today, and along the way I noticed the banks of our section of Starkweather creek had been burned off.  My wife and I went on a short walk to go take a look, but also so I could try to work out some of the kinks in my muscles.  It was a relatively slow walk, and I'm not sure it helped but it surely didn't hurt.  Too much, anyway.  But enough of me whining!

We had been notified earlier this spring that they were planning a controlled burn, but we didn't know when, and were surprised to see it as we've been under a local burn ban for a few days now due to how dry we are.  That means I had no fires this weekend, though the weather would have been perfect for one, both Friday and Saturday evenings.  Anyway, for all I know, they could have done this almost a week ago or even more as I hadn't left the house in quite some time before today.  And with windows closed and working from home I wouldn't have smelled it or heard anything.

The water level is also the lowest I've seen it in years, see pics in this old post or that whole 2018 flood series here.  Probably about where it should be, actually, though it has normally been deeper since then.  And yes, work has been underway to dredge much of the Yahara river segments between this chain of lakes to help prevent floods like we had in 2018.  I've already seen canoes being carried or rolled up and down the street this year, to and from the creek and the canoe slide.  Plenty of headroom for them under the bridges this year.

The rest of the day will be spent mostly resting, sometimes with my feet up and catching up on the internet, other times sitting in the easy chair and reading the newspaper, among other things.  This evening I'll be grilling out some of the natural casing wieners we got when we picked up the cow last month, and they should be quite tasty.  Have a good week, everyone.

Saturday, April 3, 2021

Spring Chores and Garden Progress

Today has been the nicest day of the year so far, sunny and warm, all the things we've been lacking lately.  This afternoon I opened up all the windows for the first time this year, and it was so nice to let fresh air into the house.  But also being Saturday, I had a spring to-do list and a need to check things from that list, and one by one I cut that list down.  Mostly a lot of little things to get done outside now that spring is here, but then there's this years big spring project of rebuilding the gardens.  So after checking off a lot of little things, it was time to start on the big ones.

It took about as long to put all the gardens together as it did to get that protective film off.  A couple hours, is all, and I did use a sealant between the pieces before screwing them together.  Despite putting them together on a makeshift platform atop the bins, they seemed to be self-leveling because of the corrugation as I tightened the screws.  I was planning on putting them together on the floor of the garage, sliding my chair along, but the state of my back recently made me try to get a big enough platform off the ground, and it seemed to work pretty good.

After the gardens were put together I started in on the deconstruction of the old gardens.  I had only planned on removing the fence and railings today, but two boards on the west garden just basically fell off.  For some reason the East garden has seemed to age better, but we'll see when it finally all comes off.  I put many of the smaller pieces of wood in the garbage bin, but a pile has started in the garage next to the stored new metal gardens.  Once I get all the wood removed I'll be cutting it all to a size I can transfer to dispose of it properly.

This was all done carefully today as my back has been acting up again, but I don't think I injured myself any further.  It's manageable as long as I take my time and minimize the stress I put on my lower back, and I will definitely be taking a muscle relaxer tonight.  I'm more sore than I care to admit since I've not had as much exercise this past winter as I normally would, but I'm hoping with spring and vaccination this will change and we can more confidently get out and about much more.  

But anyway, at this point we'll see what we can get done tomorrow, but it may not be as much as today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

New Garden Plan

It's been a beautiful day and I was out of work to do so I logged off early and decided to get a few things done outside.  The last week and a half have been mostly overcast, rain and cold and when we did happen to see the sun it was just plain cold.  While we've had some good days so far this spring we still get overnight temperatures below freezing and the next two days will be chilly with highs around 40ºF, about 4ºC.  We have yet to have a day with the windows open, but possibly this weekend, and I sure look forward to it!

I started by moving some dirt around to fill the gap in some areas under the new back fence.  I wanted it straight across the back yard so there were lower areas in the middle.  I think it looks a lot better not seeing sunlight come underneath the fence.  The hostas will start growing soon and cover it all up, then in fall I can look again and maybe add more before the next season.

I also cleared out the right side of the compost bin and shoveled some of the more recent additions from the left to the right.  Last fall we knew we were going to redo the gardens so didn't add the compost to them.  Well, in the east garden I had removed a lot of dirt to fill in some flowerbeds last fall, and that's where I put the compost dirt.  It was just time to get the compost bin sorted so the left side can do its thing while we add to the right, then do the opposite next year.  My goal was to move as little dirt as possible when rebuilding the gardens, but everything will likely need to be moved and replanted.

After that, I turned my attention to the new gardens we bought, galvanized metal raised bed gardens.  I had been thinking of building them out of treated lumber again, until I saw these in the Ama-zone.  They appealed to me because they may last longer than the wood. I didn't think my wife would like them, but she was very good with it.  I had a two pack on my list, but suddenly that was unavailable.  I found them individually for a bit more and, as quantities were low, we bought 4 of them that night at about 80 bucks each.

The gardens we have now I built 5 feet wide by 8 feet tall, outside measurements, with a 2 foot path in the middle.  The plan was always to put a 2 foot path in the middle crosswise, too, so there would be four smaller gardens measuring 5 feet wide and 3 feet tall.  These metal gardens are exactly that, 5' x 3'.  As for fencing, we kicked that can down the road and will deal with it as needed.

So, anyway, when I turned my attention to the gardens the first step was to get the blue protective film off them, which for 4 gardens was a lengthy task.  I spent two hours just on this, but was enjoying myself while listening to music in the garage.  When I was done I mocked one up on the floor with the rest of the pieces in the middle.  We lose a bit of space with the rounded corners but that isn't a worry.  

We'll have to see what the weather wants to do, but soon it will be time to roll up our sleeves and start in earnest.  First, all the old wood will need to be removed, cut, and hauled to the dump.  Followed by dirt moving and plant replanting.  This weekend is supposed to be our nicest weather yet this spring, so I'll likely be out assembling the new gardens in the garage, and probably starting the deconstruction of the old gardens.  I'm considering using a silicone sealant between the pieces of the new metal gardens when I screw them together, what do you think?