Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cutting Wood, MG, Car Revelations, and Facing Spring

If you've got the time, it doesn't take much to keep things moving along nicely as long as you're consistent. I can't even begin to tell you how many things need to be done around the house, and our house is in good shape relative to some of the fixer-uppers I've seen. Even still, the yard needs work, the garden needs tilling (we're giving in to technology and borrowing PD's tiller), the house needs painting, the wood needs cutting, and I still need to tune up our lawn mower.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Great Karate Class and Dreaming

We had a great class last Monday because it was attended by only three of us, but we lean towards the devotee spectrum. Two adults make the difference, whereas lots of kids have trouble maintaining focus. Either way, PC's son E is a very serious student, so he works hard at it. What made it nice was there were three sensei's, one for each of us, and we had a great class. We didn't spar, but Master Hammond spent the class teaching me bo-jitsu, and I think I'm a little farther along.

I've been obsessing a bit over fighting techniques, and my intense desire to grow as a student has actually resulted in my dreaming about karate. The past few nights I've had dreams of fighting and sparring, and all the while I am hyper-conscious of technique and employing balance in my attack. I personally think it will be rooted in my footwork and my stamina, both of which need a lot of work. But it's fun to think about.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

House Evolution and the Woodpile Calling Me

The grass is finally turning green, and I'm guessing it has a lot to do with the rain over the past few days. There are people around us with pristine, beautiful lawns and I can't even imagine the time and effort (or expense) that it took to maintain them. Either way, ours is finally getting green.

There was a time when I wasn't sure what to make of it all. The grass was brown and there was no sign of it changing. We have grass issues, and it seems like the wild strawberries are simply taking over. For the record, I like wild strawberries, the question is, do I want them taking over the yard? I'll have to do a little more research on this one.

In the meantime, it appears that we might finally get a stretch of sunshine. It had been raining for the past few days and in retrospect, we needed it. There was even a fire hazard warning issued, so we had to be wary. With the nicer weather I can finish painting the clapboards I replaced on the backside of the house. I tore out a bunch of them to put ice and water shield on the frame, and my initial plan was to replace them all, but it was a lot of clapboards, thus lots of money.

I reused most of them, at least the ones I didn't destroy removing them, and it sure saved me a lot of money. Those feet of clapboards really add up. I did, however, get away from cedar, and saved even more. I finally made it over to Britton's and it was good to see those guys. It's been awhile, though it's a little depressing with the downturn and all.

After some touch up with caulk and wood filler, I think I'll start painting the backside of the house. It's going to be a project and a half because I have to paint the trip around the roof, which will require me standing for long periods of time on the 30 foot extension ladder. Never a fun thing, at least for me. It'd be nice to build a scaffolding but I'm not sure if I even could or if it was worth it. So there's the trim, and then the exterior staining of the entire side. I'll do as much as I can over the course of the summer and we'll see where it goes.

Then, of course, there's my woodpile. I found another guy who will sell me a truckload of log length wood, and he told me to call him in May. Now I've set myself to have a buttload of wood, all of which I have to cut, split and stack. My approach will be to block up what I've got ASAP, move it into the woods, and then get another stack. I figure we can store wood for long periods on our property, and you just never know when you're gonna get more wood in the future.

My wife thinks I'm crazy, but I have OCD issues when it comes to firewood. I can't drive by a woodpile without craning my neck and breaking out in a cold sweat. Maybe my wife is right.

I'll try to cut wood over the next few days and we'll see where it gets me. Until then, thanks for reading.

has not been as ideal for me to cut wood, but such is life. There are plenty of other things to be done.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Driveway, Clapboards, and the Weather

I spoke with Mark the excavator, cool guy BTW, about the driveway and he alluded to the same old problem-trucking the hard pack to our house. That stupid bridge in WRJ has been condemned (at least for heavy trucks) so construction vehicles have to take the freeway or drive through Hanover to ship rocks. It's all New Hampshire's fault, they don't to spend the money to fix that bridge, and as a consequence, the economy suffers. The cost of shipping gravel has become prohibitive. I was told a company that built the bridge in Woodstock (they did a fantastic job!) offered to do the one in W. Leb/WRJ, but NH balked at the deal, so nothing has happened. What are you going to do?

Our driveway problem has disappeared with mud season, so we might be okay until next season, but does that mean we should ignore it? It dawned on me that maybe we don't need hard pack, after all, and maybe there's a cheaper alternative. It might require constructing a culvert to divert the water that's making it a mess, but I was told by two reliable sources that it's very doable. Our friend AB who works for UV Land Trust said they do it all the time for trails, and two people could do it with shovels and the proper pipe. I'm all for any real man projects. My mentor GS also said he has experience and would take a look, so the possibilities out there. I'm all for saving money while taking care of business.

In the course of tackling the woodpile, I cannot forget about dealing with the house issues. This summer there are several things that need to be done-I need to protect the frame on the back of the house with ice and water shield, which will require me to tear out the clapboards, put on the Vycor, cover it with felt (I was told this is redundant, but such is life) then replace clapboards. I realize you can reuse clapboards, but they really get thrashed when you pull them out, so we'll see. It's supposed to rain today, so that's on hold for now.

The weather has been fabulous-warm, dry and sunny. It really tempers the mud season, though if you can believe this, it's actually too dry now, and there's a fire warning. You just can't win.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

The weather has been beautiful

It's A Start

I've had my chainsaw for a few days now, and I've even cut some wood, if you can believe that. Hey, it ain't much, but it's a start. The saw cuts really well, and all the hype about getting a bigger, better bionic saw seemed a bit overblown. In fact, as I may have mentioned, the guys at Joe's didn't push the bigger saw, and deep down, I got a sense that they felt I would have been fine with the 270 but didn't want to come out and say it because they would have preferred I get the bigger saw, but again, they didn't push it, and even alluded to the 270 being enough. I wavered at first, the anticipation was in the air, but when I finally said I wanted the 270, it was almost as if it was a relief to everyone, and the guys even said the 270 would be fine, and I wouldn't notice the difference. Mainly because I have no frame of reference.

Okay, so using the saw. It still scares the pants off me, and I've managed to hurt myself in a couple of ways. First off, trying to be the bitchen lumberjack, I tried starting the saw like the pros. Once the saw is warm, most loggers I've seen (or should I say weekend loggers) do this really cool drop start, where they lift the saw slightly then drop it down while holding the cord. The saw kicks on immediately. I've tried this three times and once the blade nailed me in the knee (thankfully it wasn't running) and bruised it, and the second time it hit my chaps and tore them. Bummer. I did manage to start it, but realize that I have to do it the novice way - on the ground with my foot holding it down. Sometimes you just have to face up to your limitations.

I have to confess to really liking the saw, and though I'm tense and sweating bullets as I fear for my life, it's really satisfying cutting through wood. The saw cuts through it clean and smooth, and as the wood chips fly past me, I feel like such a real man, or at least one in training.

So much so that I can't wait to get our next truck load, but one thing at a time. I realize that cutting a wood stack presents a few problems that are potentially hazardous to my health. The wood is stacked about eight feet up, and somehow I've to either move the top logs, creating a life-threatening avalanche of logs weighing several thousand pounds, or stand on top of the pile and cut. The main problem with the latter scenario is that if the pile shifts while I'm on it using a chainsaw, I'm screwed. I have nightmare visions that I won't share with you. I told my kids that if anything happened to me, they would have to call 911, after which they nodded their heads and took off to play, never to be seen again. Oh well.

I'll wait and see how it goes. I can cut the smaller, more accessible logs, and like my mentor GS said, just pick away at it rather than trying to move the logs. But at some point, they've got to be moved. We'll see where this one goes.

My next project will be sharpening my chain, which in theory seems simple, but I know I'll manage to make a huge to-do about it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to my kids for the pics. I have to say, they did a really nice job, and that's my objective opinion... yeah, right.

Friday, April 17, 2009

So Much To Do

Sorry to be away so long, but I've been swamped, so I'll give you a brief overview of life in the past week with details to follow.


Wow, I'm feeling like a real man already. I even broke it in and cut some wood, but man was I nervous. It was not as bad as I had thought, but it still scares the heck out of me. Pics coming soon.

I started to fix the clapboards on the back of the house, but it's clashing with my desire to cut wood.

Still searching for more wood, but that's another story.

Karate has been going well, trying to get tips from Chip, and trying to be more aware of my presence when sparring.

More later. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Spring, New Driveway and Chainsaw (tiny) Steps

It is indescribably wonderful to hear the songs of the birds in the morning, it really invigorates you and makes you feel alive. I'm hearing chickadees and thrushes and robins as we speak, not to mention a stray wild turkey or two, and it makes me feel lucky to live in Vermont. It's really beautiful out here. On the days when it's sunny and cool, with blue skies and a gentle breeze, the kids playing in the background, I can't think of anywhere else I'd like to be.

We had an excavator look at our driveway and give us an estimate on putting some hard pack on it, and it was higher than we expected. We're looking at a sizable investment, so it's not going to happen right away. There are too many other things to address, and that much money keeps us up at night, so we'll sleep on it. Our driveway is a mess, however.

My whole journey to get a chainsaw has taken a new turn: my wife gave me the thumbs up to get the bigger, more powerful machine that I wanted but didn't think warranted the extra $75. It boils down to how much do I need, versus how much do I want. When you talk to real men, they won't hesitate to say, "Go for the bigger (better) machine," as if money were no object. Well, it is an object, and highlights the dilemma of being dependent on someone else-you can't spend it freely. I'm fine with that, but it influences my purchasing decisions, as it should, in my opinion.

I see a lot of guys all around me who drop horrendous amounts of money on every tool they can get their hands on, but skimp on things that they don't have to deal with but their wives do. I feel like a tool is for our family, not just me, so I have to factor in many issues, not just what I want.

Because of this, I've been assembling my chainsaw package piece by piece. My first issue was what saw to get. It boiled down to two-Stihl or Husqvarna, of course. Most of my friends have Stihl, but a lot of serious loggers use Husqvarna. What to do? My sense is that they are equivalent, and you can't go wrong with either, so for me, it boiled down to where I was getting my saw. I went to one store that sold Huskies and it was a bit out of the way and rather new. My store of choice, Joe's, sells only Stihl (also other brands, but no Husky), and I like them for service. They just give me the best vibe, so that alone made me choose Stihl.

Except that my good friend keeps plugging Charlie Brown's. They are a local, family run shop with very cool people, except that they only sell Shindaiwa saws. I have complete faith in Japanese products, and would get one, except that there is such limited information on their saws. When you check out the forums and opinions, it's all about Stihl or Husky. The price of the Japanese saw was not that much better, anyway, and you have way more options with the Stihl. I.e., the Shindaiwa makes big jumps in size, where as the Stihls have a more gradual rise. Charlie Brown's offered a package deal, but it reminded me of the surfboard wax approach. When you buy a board, they give you handfuls of wax, giving you the impression that they're dropping all these gifts in your lap, when in fact, your not saving that much money.

CB's had a package that threw in a lot of peripheral stuff that was necessary, but the overall saving was not that huge. Lots of oil and a gas can, but really the only thing that stood out were the chaps. The saw themselves were about the same price for comparable performance, so I was not taken in. I did, however, want to support them, so I'll buy certain things over there, like chaps and helmet, and then get my saw at Joe's. At least, that's the plan.

Another part of the puzzle was steel-toe boots. They had some at CBs but they were like rain boots, which didn't bother me, but I figured I'd look around since I'm not pressed for time... sort of. My friend GS told me he saw some nice ones at Dann and Whits, and since we're out there a lot, I checked it out and found some. They were reasonably priced, though the guy who was helping me didn't help me at all. Everytime I tried to get some advice or an opinion, all he would say is, "Whatever feels good." I guess you can't argue with that, but throw me a bone, dude.

That's what you get when you deal with real men. I found a pair I liked, reasonably priced, and rather than hem and haw over it, I just got them. So I'm about 30% of the way there. I figure the saw is half of it, and once I get a helmet, I'll be half way there.

Until then, thanks for reading.

my optometrist has a stihl

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tiny Steps and Substitute Teaching

I am making tiny steps towards dealing with my woodpile and at the very least, the end goal is becoming more tangible. I got my chaps, I'm now shopping for a pair of boots, steel toed with a kevlar lining, though I'm not sure how much I'll need that. I figure it I'm going with safety, might as well go all the way, but we'll see. It's going to cost me an arm and a leg, and after all is said and done, could run me around $1000. Ouch. You can't mess around with chainsaws, though, and better safe than sorry. You can't put a price on your limbs.

I have narrowed my saw choice down to two-either the Stihl 270 or the 280. The 280 is a more powerful saw, and apparently easier to use since it has more "technology." Everyone promotes the idea that if you get a better saw (same weight, more power, about $100 more), your job will be quicker and easier. I'm not in a hurry, and bear in mind, I've never really used a chainsaw before... though I do have my chaps! I have a problem with compulsiveness in that when I set my mind on purchasing something, suddenly I feel I need the best, and am easily swayed into spending more money. Salespeople eat me alive. I think the 270 would be more than adequate, because I'm going to use it once a year. Granted, it's possible I'll cut a lot of wood, but once a year ain't so bad. Then again, should I go with a better machine. Everyone around me seems to think so, but then again, everyone around me is knee deep in credit card debt. I don't want to fall into that trap.

So I guess in the end, I'm leaning more to the 270, but we'll see. I need to talk to more of my gurus, who I'm sure will tell me to get the bigger saw. I almost fell into my own trap the other day because the 280 was on sale, but they pulled the same retail BS on me by saying that there was only one model left and then it was going back to the higher price. Act now or be sorry. I wasn't ready, because I'm going to have to do this piecemeal, one thing at a time. Did I mention I got my chaps? That way it won't be as painful. I figure I won't start cutting until the snow has melted and the ground has stabilized so the pile won't shift too much while I'm standing on it with my chainsaw.

Now the quest begins for some boots. This should be interesting.

I was thrown to the lions the other night in karate because our sensei hurt himself badly on an ATV and made ME teach the class. I was mortified, and in retrospect felt like I didn't do as good a job as I could have. It's hard to be an authority figure when you feel you have no authority, but the class was willing to listen, I just didn't know where to take them. It's another step in my training to be a leader when called upon, so I'll have to work on that. I felt terribly self conscious, and it's really hard when you're working with kids, but that's part of the game. Now, of course, I once again have the key, so more responsibilities to handle. That's all I need.

On a bright note, I met the mom of one of the students and she and her husband have an excavating business. They said they'd take a look at the driveway and get back to us with a quote. It's pretty bad right now, so hopefully this will not break us in half, because I think it needs to be done.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Lars Sundström for the pic.

Monday, April 6, 2009

In Memoriam

We went to a celebration of the life of Barbara Sargent and had a really nice time. It was a wonderful way to remember the life of a town icon, and they did a really nice job of honoring her. I had never met her, though there was ample opportunity because she was so incredibly involved in the community, you could tell that she really loved it here, and the town loved her. What's striking is the amount of time and effort that she poured into her little town. When you really get down to it, for a small town, there is a lot going on here, and it is a fantastic community without being too backwards or even provincial, for that matter. As I say all the time, we really feel lucky to be here.

They had some wonderful performances as all of her friends came out to show their respects. The Hall was packed, standing room only, and I kept thinking what a great idea it was to throw a party to celebrate your memory. My biggest regret that I never got to know her.

They had some food and the kids did a wonderful job as usual being patient and sitting through the festivities, even though they probably didn't have a sense of what was going on. We met some new neighbors but again were really struck by how many people, almost everyone, we didn't know. Just goes to show you, as small as this town is, it's still not that small.

Just a few more reasons to love our town and remind ourselves how good life can really be.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to sanja gjenero for the pic

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Weather Observations and Our Driveway

It has already shaped up to be muddy mud season, but one thing even I, Johnny Flatlander, have noticed, and that is how early the Spring is arriving. It has been commented on by several locals, but I recall last year burning wood into June-for the record, I'm a little embarrassed by this lack of fortitude, but remember, I'm still a real man in training. Either way, it's now April, and I can't see us burning wood into May, but it's still early. I definitely can't imagine getting anymore snow, but you just never know.

The yard is almost completely clear of snow, and I've even begun the process of yardwork, if you can believe that. Raking is the theme of the week, and once that gets cleared up, I can start thinking about getting the lawnmower tuned up. And of course, there is the issue of my chainsaw, but I won't bore you with that.

Living in New England really builds your stamina, because there is always something that needs to be done, and it can be hard work, but in the best sort of way.

We had an excavator come our and check out our driveway because it's going to need some work at some point in the future, or should I say, very near future. We want to resurface it, at least pour some hard pack over it because it's getting pretty bad. It will be interesting to see what the estimate comes out to because we'd really like to see it get done.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Andrei Ghergar for the pic.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Transition Towns

We attended an interesting meeting on the other day regarding the state of the world, and the state of our town. There is a movement called transition towns that wants to make a difference in terms of how we produce and consume resources, and hopefully change for the better. It's a classic example of a good idea that will take some time and effort to take hold, but they said it best: we don't have much choice in the matter, these changes will come, whether we like it or not.

The gist of the meeting was to find ways to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, build stronger communities and learn to be more self-reliant. In an area such as ours, these things are in a lot of ways a way of life, but there is always room to improve. It thought it was nice that there are people of all ages who are making the time to try and change, and that it's a small step but only the beginning.

These are things we really need to think about, and or apathy and hubris of how we live will have to chance. It does make it easier when more and more people are on the same page.

I'd like to write more about this topic but will save it for a later (but soon) time. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Flávio Takemoto for the pic.

Road Repair and Firewood Drama

I don't know what the heck happened, but the wood guy bailed out on PD, and now he's left out in the cold, literally and figuratively. It's still early so there's no need to panic, there is plenty of firewood to be had out there, but here's the dilemma-I told him that if things didn't work out, I'd split what I had with him (how could I not, when he found me the wood?), and now things haven't worked out. He mentioned he might take me up on my offer, but I kind of figured that it would come to this after he'd exhausted all of his options, not just one. Now I'm faced with the conundrum of possibly having to get more wood. I will honor my word, but feel like this isn't over, yet, and we shouldn't be so quick to turn to the option of last resort when there is always hope.

The other thought I had was that our friend, who happens to live nearby to him, also has wood, and he could get it directly from him, rather than getting employing a two-step process of him getting it from me, then having me get it from our mutual friend. It's all so complicated, but I will say this-if the logger dude bailed out, I'm really disappointed. What's up with that? There might be another option, however, and that would be talking to the logger who actually delivered the wood, who was another company. I'll look into that.

I wonder sometimes if it's just not worth the effort to sell us common folks log length wood, though I don't know why that would be the case.

Either way, life goes on, as must we, as well.

On a brighter note, they have fixed Lovers Ln, again. They graded it about a week ago, and it rained and the repairs fell into dis-repair. As I've mentioned, locals have commented that it's one of the worst conditions that they'd seen in years, it was that bad. They came in again and laid what looks like gravel and hard pack, it's gray. It seems to be holding up much better, but could be just a question of time before they need to do it again. There are times I'd like to have it actually paved, but then again, it's nice having a dirt road to slow the traffic when kids/people/animals are present. We don't get a huge amount of traffic, but more than you'd think for a small dirt road, because it connects two bigger roads.

Another negative consequence is that there is a lot of garbage that gets tossed out on the road, mainly McDonald's waste and Bud beer cans. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to bas for the pic.