Saturday, April 28, 2018

Flowers, Ducks and Blocks

Things are starting to happen outside, so yes, I do believe spring has finally arrived and I do not believe we will get any more snow - knock wood.  Such a late spring that the trees are still bare and even the buds still barely visible, the lawn has just started becoming green again and there's still ice in the compost bin.  But better late than never as the usually early flowers are blooming, the air is clean and crisp yet warmer and projects await!

First of all, a few days ago we noticed that something had been digging around in the mulch beneath the steps out back and the other day my wife saw a male mallard duck on our neighbor's roof.  We don't normally see ducks on pitched roofs.  This morning it all made sense when Kate noticed a female mallard under the back steps.  She had fashioned a nest, and the roof where the male was overlooked the area.  Still, we needed to go about getting things done outside for ourselves.  She was undisturbed by our several trips in and out before we left to run several errands, but when we came back and pulled in the driveway my wife saw her fly off.  Not necessarily unusual, and it gave Kate a chance to add new mulch to areas between the steps and the house.  While down there, she noticed there was at least 3 or 4 eggs in the nest, so she left the area alone and even put more hay near the nest so the mother duck may use if needed.  It's been several hours now and she's not back yet so we hope she didn't get scared off.  Oh, and it's illegal for us to mess with the nest, too, my wife looked it up.  Not that we would do anything to it, but we do need to use our back yard.

20180428_122303Besides mulch, my wife also got some work done in the garden.  Speaking of the garden, I posted pictures and a yard tour over at the garden blog a couple days ago, if you fancy a peek.  It was nice to take pictures with no snow in them.  We also made some headway on the fire pit.  Last week I got the screen top, a couple days ago I put the fire ring together and today we went and got the blocks for it and an adhesive made for outdoor fireplace blocks.  A total of 94 - 3"D x 6"W x 2¼"T blocks, total.  It was supposed to be only 90 but I miscounted and they didn't check so I stole less than a buck and a half's worth as they were only 32¢ each, oops.  And they're actually not even landscape blocks but pavers, they were more the size I was looking for than I could find in landscape blocks.

20180428_122225In the picture you can see my scientific way of figuring out about how many blocks to get - I cut out 14 cardboard pieces the same size as the blocks I wanted and laid them around the ring.  It should be 16 blocks in a circle and 5 levels of blocks.  This comes to only 80 blocks, but they're really inexpensive and I wanted some extra for the bottom of the fire pit to help airflow.  I may even use the bottom grate from the fire pit we have now.  No matter what I use, fire will burn in it.  I figured the easiest place to store them for now was on the stump, close to where they will be used and also guarded by the gnome.

So, now that I have all the pieces I need, I just have to prepare the area and build it...
Without scaring away the ducks.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Spring This Year?

Well, I bitched enough about the snowy and cold weather lately that I feel I need to follow up.  Not for the locals, you Wisconsinites are aware and may disregard and skip ahead.  This is for the others, my friends that are not from here.  And for me and my OCD tendencies.

On Sunday, Madison reached 63ºF, the first over 60ºF day since Dec 4, I learned that date from an article couple weeks ago.  Out of laziness I will not be citing sources, this is just our observations.  On Sunday when I asked Alexa how many days since December 4, 2017, it counted 140 days, my wife heard 138 days later on some news.  Either way that's a very long stretch, even for Wisconsin.

Yesterday, Monday, we hit 68ºF.  A local news station reported this morning that this was our warmest temperature in over 6 months.  Even I have to pause to let that sink in.  .  .

We're not headed straight into summer, at least.  The upcoming 10-day forecast has ups and downs from the 60ºF's and 70ºF's, though the next couple days may fall a bit short of that.

I must say, it is very nice to have the windows open again.  The cats seem to agree.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Happy 6th, Basil and Hamish!

Taken Sunday, during the snow.
The cats turn 6 tomorrow.  Seems like just yesterday they were kittens.  Happy Birthday Basil and Hamish!

For their first birthday in 2013 we found the perfect cat tree for them and their size, the old cat tree that is on our porch right now.  Two years later on their third birthday they got an even taller cat tree with less but larger levels for their adult size, the original cat tree moved to the porch.  Now they are 6 and getting the same cat tree as three years ago, but this one has brown carpet as the beige was not available.  I had thought that it was only two years since the last tree, but it has been three.  I must say that is has held up well for three years, but now it will move to the porch and the original cat tree from 2013 will be removed.

20180414_153734I had gotten the base for the new tree cut, stained and finished earlier in that week, so I put together the new cat tree last Saturday.  While the cats showed much curiosity they remained pretty well behaved until I was finished with the assembly and had it in place in front of the windows.  As you can see, they took to it right away.  It is in every way the same as the last one except it is new and the carpet is brown so it's hard to tell if they even notice the difference.  No matter, it is theirs and they know it.  Cats need a place of their own and a high space is good for them.  When they stand on top they can look down on us and feel superior, like the cats they are.

More and better pictures of the tree, the cats and the process after the break!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

No Spring This Year II*

I just took this picture.  It's pretty heavy at the moment, but has been for a while and looks to continue.  Yep, there is no spring this year.


*Update, Thursday 4/19:  We got 7.2 inches total.  Hopefully the last for the season!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

No Spring This Year

No, this is not turning into a weather blog - yet.  If this was anything like last year, or the year before, or even the year before that then I would be writing about all the spring plans for outside and the cat's birthday (post coming soon).  Go ahead and click those links and you'll see how late spring is this year.  I could go back further but I think the point is made.  On a side note, looking back now to get those links I noticed that I missed my 9th Blogday on April 8.  I've now been writing here for over 9 years.  Happy Blogday to me!

20180415 radar2
Madison is dead center, the a in Milwaukee.
I slept in again today and when I got up it had already been snowing for some time.  This weather system started yesterday with rain, then sleet/ice until turning over to snow last night.  The snow has continued and will continue off and on until early tomorrow morning, it looks like.  The yard picture is from earlier today.  Not a lot of snow but it came down pretty steady for a long time and is the wet and heavy stuff.  Northern Wisconsin was forecast to possibly get up to 30 inches - that's two and a half feet!  When I look at the radar (screenshot from this afternoon) - and I'm no weatherman - this system, which has been slowly moving east, is a funnel of moisture coming straight north from the Gulf of Mexico.  When it hits the colder air it forms something like a mushroom cloud.  Today we have been in the center of the rotation on the west side of the mushroom cloud, so while we're kind of on the edge it just hadn't been moving, thus the constant light snow.  Again we get a late snowstorm and again we are luckily on the edge of it and not getting as much as we could have.  A rather fascinating look at the weather, actually, but I won't say that to my wife Kate who is out shoveling the stuff right now.

Yes, this may all melt by Tuesday afternoon, but we still have a chance of snow forecast for Wednesday evening, possibly mixed with rain.  There is no spring this year.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Back Shot, Weather and Lawn Rolling

I got shot in my back yesterday, a steroid (not cortisone) and anesthetic to my left S1 nerve root.  So far I feel pretty good, still getting random pains in my butt and tingling in my foot, but they said it may take a couple days and they want me to keep track of it daily for the next two weeks.  I think it helped for now but seems like a short term solution, but we'll see.  Meanwhile, I am to take it easy today and tomorrow I go back to work.  But taking it easy is hard when there are things to do.

20181104 forecastI slept in today, but I've been doing that anyway lately, ran a few errands and made some calls.  The guy is supposed to be coming over soon to roll the lawn so pretty soon I can start on the fire pit as soon as my back is up for it.  Maybe if he gets here before I finish writing this I'll post a picture.  I have nothing left on my agenda today but a few little things and reading the newspaper.

The temperature is about 50ºF right now.  We still have a tiny bit of snow along the back fence and by the garage but it won't last long, even in the shade. Tomorrow it looks as if we may break our long streak here in Madison of not hitting 60ºF since December 4.  If we do we better enjoy it because it doesn't look like we'll hit it again for some time.  The good news is that it is starting to not go below freezing every single night, but look - there is snow in the forecast twice still.  Sigh.

Every year is different, we just have to roll with it.

Speaking of rolling, the guy showed up as I was finishing writing this, see a couple pictures of Jason and a perfectly rolled yard after the break!

Monday, April 9, 2018

Projects, Looking Ahead

I was thinking I would get pictures around the yard for another yard tour over at the garden blog, but there's not much green to show.  I took some pictures yesterday, but what you see here is all that we have coming up so far, and a bit more behind the stairs.  There are tulips here, too, but the rabbits are eating them as fast as they grow.

20180408_142237 b

I've been itching to get outside and get things done but winter will not go away.  We got more snow again last night, half as much as last post and it melted twice as fast late this morning.  I didn't get a picture but you know what it looks like.  I also read this morning that the last time Madison hit 60ºF was December 4, a very long stretch, indeed.  But I am starting to see hints of green in the lawn and buds on the trees.  We may end up skipping spring again this year and going right into summer.

20180408_142456Basil and Hamish have a birthday coming up on April 20th and they're getting a new cat tree so I had to build a stabilizing base for it, so I got out in the coldness of the garage and cut and sanded a piece of plywood so I can stain and finish it in the basement.  A base adds weight and width to the bottom and keeps it much more stable during leaping take-offs and landings.  The cat tree we bought is the same as the one we have in the front windows now, but the beige carpet wasn't available anymore so we had to get brown.  This is the most sturdy and roomy cat tree we've seen and the cats love it so no more cheap ones for us.  The one in the house will be moved to the porch and the one on the porch will either be thrown away or given to another cat that could use it.

20180408_142211Another project I've been itching to get to is building the fire pit in the back yard.  The smallest fire ring I've been able to find is 28 inches, I bought it a few weeks ago on sale and saved 20 bucks, but the screen cover was still not in stock as of today when I was at the store.  I'd like to put the ring together but I have nowhere to put it so for the time being it is taking up space on my workbench in the garage.  I also checked out the blocks I want to use around the fire ring.  I'm going to use blocks that are more the size and shape of bricks rather than the larger landscape blocks to keep the footprint smaller.  No rush yet though, because before I start anything I need to get the back yard rolled to get all the little bumps and ankle-twisters flattened.  I've already talked to a guy about that, but I think he wants to wait for it to warm up a little.  Then I have to dig out the area and level it, add sand and pound it down, and start building.  I will be using an adhesive to keep the blocks together.  The earlier I get this done the earlier we can warm up by the fire!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

April Snow and More

We woke up to a fresh blanket of snow today.  A quick check of the calendar confirms it is the month of April and is officially Spring.  Humph.  Yesterday afternoon I stopped at the local bar to have a drink and spoke with a city employee who said he has driven the snow plows for 20 years and he's never had to plow in April.  Well, I hope he didn't stay and drink too much because I'm sure he was out in the wee hours plowing snow.  This was a rather large system over the upper Midwest yesterday and last night, and we got pretty lucky with mostly rain yesterday and then overnight when the temperatures plummeted most of the snow went north of us.  The system was headed east, and the east has already been pummeled with snow this spring.  Good luck to 'em.  Our snow mostly melted by the time I got home, though I'm sure it will linger in the shady spots.

I took this picture as I set out to work this morning.  I've been taking vacation days until I get a steroid shot in the back next week Tuesday but I couldn't get today off so instead of finagling it off I just sucked it up and went in.  I got through it but I'm growing to hate my work chair lots, luckily we'll be getting new ones soon.  I usually take some vacation time in the spring anyway, normally sometime in May.  I'm just taking it early this year due to circumstances, I guess.

Another thing to note is that just a day or two after my last post the ice on Lake Monona was gone from view.  I'm not sure about the larger Lake Mendota, there may be a bit in the middle over there yet but if so it should be short lived.

Hang in there, people, actual spring will show up eventually.  We have a few plants coming up in the flowerbeds by the porch.  I'll have time, so I may post a picture tour over at the garden blog soon.