Sunday, March 28, 2010

Airplane Repair

Wow, I can now rub elbows with my brother in law, who builds and repairs WWII fighter planes, which for the record is an amazingly cool job. The reason that he and I are now contemporaries is because I'm now an expert in airplane repair.

N received two planes for birthday presents, and they both incurred damages. The first one actually flies and is pretty darn cool. You charge it and it takes off flying, except that when it lands, it's not always a smooth transition. A piece of the wing chipped off, and it probably would have been fine to leave it, but the kids really wanted me to do something about it. So broke out the Elmer's glue and patched it. I'm sure PR uses the same technique when he repairs p-41s.

The other plane was a model bi-plane, the sort I used to make when I was a kid. The tail wing broke off, and we tried putting it on with Crazy Glue, but for whatever reason, it didn't work. I needed model glue, but had to get over to the hobby shop for that. The repair was easy, and we were back in business in no time.

Now that I'm an expert at fixing planes, I think the next time we visit P&D in Ohio, if he needs some help installing an engine or fixing the landing gear, I'm his man... yeah, right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Barn, the Lawn, the Woodpile, and Then Some

I've been trying to squeeze in as many projects as time allows, which means that I get no rest and have no time to breathe, but sleep and oxygen are overrated when you're training to be a real man.

With this in mind, I need to keep my feet moving. It's a little crazy when you get down to it. My first order of business is to get next year's wood split, stacked and drying. My goal is to get 10 cords onto those pallets, I've got about 40% done. Last year we used about 5 cords, so I need to revise my estimates of how much to have on hand. This translates into about 10 cords of wood. Last year we cured about 8 cords but ended up dipping into next years pile. Plus, our wood was not even close to being dry enough, which frustrated me to no end. I've got to cut and block up about 6 cords in the front yard, then split and stack it. I think we're also getting another truckload, i.e., 7 cords. Yikes!

Then we have to finish installing the windows and doors on the barn. I'm really close to being ready, and thought we'd begin this week, but will probably being next week. Found a good person to help me, CH's uncle, JH, and he lives right down the road. Score. Also have to get more windows for the second floor and begin thinking about that darn soffit and fascia.

Then there's the issue of our house and replacing the trim. I've also got to finish painting two sides of the house, and of course, the all important finishing of the front deck.

The garden is in shambles and will need to be turned. I speak with all these people who are up on the latest wisdom that they've read that tells them not to turn their gardens. In certain ways it makes sense, but our gardening guru extraordinaire, WWA, says she tills/turns her soil, so that's enough for me. How else are we going to conceal the weeds?

I've got to re-stain and finish our picnic table. It's really taken a beating, mostly because I used the wrong stain and finish. It was soy based and non-toxic, but I think I need the nasty stuff to endure the elements. What would my Mentor have to say?

Okay, that enough for now. I'm sure there's more that I'm forgetting, but such is life. Thanks for reading, and sorry to be AWOL.

FF Meeting, Busy (like a bee), and Pseudo-Celebrity

Well, I finally made it to FF meeting, and had a nice time, though it really threw a wrench into my day. We have our weekly meeting with GK&T, and it's something we all look forward to because T's a great kid (smart and creative), and I really enjoy G&K's company. The kids play on their own, there is a ton of stuff for them to do at their house, because it's basically a farm (Dragon's Eye Farm), and G and I get to do real-man stuff like cut down trees and drive tractors.

This meeting has been in the planning stages for weeks, and I saw PA and he asked me if I'd be there. I'm supposed to help out with the pizzas, so how could I say no? The problem was, it would mean unloading the kids on G&K in order to attend, which they gracefully agreed to. It actually makes it easier on everyone because when kids have other kids to play with, they go into auto-pilot mode. I brought over pizza and salad.

The meeting was nice, a pot luck dinner. I had intended on bringing some dish or some desert, when it dawned on R and I that it might be a good testing ground for some foods we might like to sell. An informal focus group. Since we came up with this brilliant idea at the last minute (the night before), it meant that I was going to have to scramble that day to gather the ingredients, make the food for the meeting, make the food for GK&T, and rush around town getting people to where they needed to be. Just another day in paradise.

For the record, people who think being at home with the kids all day is all fun and games (I hear this all the time), they have no idea what they are talking about.

I had to start early it the day to make the food, and because we were going over to Dragon's Eye Farm earlier, I was going to have cook the food and then drag it around town, which meant it wouldn't be as good, but it would have to do. I spent the better part of the day making and cooking, then finished the salad and hit the road. I picked up the pizza and hung out with friends. I was originally going to bring the food on my way back from the meeting, but that would have been late, and I wanted to kids to eat early enough.

I brought the food to the meeting and was hoping to get some feedback, maybe some constructive criticism, but got nothing. I mean really, throw me a bone, people. This is all new territory for me. The meeting was to plan for FF, which was in about two months. Toss around some ideas, focus on the positives and negative in order to make the experience even better.

Personally, I think FF is one of the top ten events in this town, even more than Old Home Day. OHD is a blast, a truly fabulous summer event, but it's so big and hectic. People come from all around. FF is more intimate, but really fun, and more local. Either way, PA, who led the meeting and organizes FF, does an exceptional job, no doubt about it.

Ideas were thrown around about how to improve FF, and all the while, I was hoping for some thoughts about the food. Eventually, I had to get back and pick up the kids. Actually, there was a YKW contingent there and the kids to come and play with YKW during the meeting, but it wasn't meant to be.

I'm still not clear how the pizza is going to be organized, and it wasn't clarified at this meeting. If anything, the picture was even more muddled. I get a sense they don't even have a clear picture of what's going on, and I have the sinking feeling it's going to get unloaded onto my shoulders. That might not be the best option considering that I have no idea what I'm doing, but I need to clarify that, the earlier the better.

Got to see lots of friends, old and new, at the meeting. The movers and the shakers. One thing that's funny is that I've developed a bit of notoriety in local circles because not only am I burgeoning public figure, but I just tested for my next karate belt. Both of these facts were broadcast in the local paper, and people must have read about one or the other, or both, and are continually coming up and congratulating me. I don't know what to say, it's awfully nice of them, but sometimes I find the attention makes me a bit uncomfortable. Oh well, I'll never be a Kennedy.

As I mentioned, I had to slip out early, and made it back to GK&T's house, where the kids were having fun as usual. They really have a good time just doing crazy kid's stuff. I have to confess, I really like sitting with G&K and just chatting about life. K is a Buddhist whose family has been practicing for several generations, so it's really interesting hearing her POV. I could sit there all evening and chat with them, except that by 7:00 PM, we're all barely clinging to consciousness.

We went home after yet another crazy busy day, and it was good to be home and to see R. I mentioned to R that after speaking to KK about the farmer's market, which is separate from FF, he wasn't sure if we'd reserved our spot at the market, and it was full. In a panic, we contacted the organizers who said we were a lock. Whew. She also said people liked our food offerings at the meeting, though I got zero sense of this. Good news, good vibes. You can't beat some positive vibes when you're heading into uncharted territory.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to gorillablu and Dominik Gwarek for the pics.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Small but Giant Steps and Losing Contact

I decided to take the whole lawncare issue a little more seriously, and that will entail a little more sweat and blood, but I think will have better results. Part of the process seems to be preparing the lawn for the assault. As I mentioned before, we had a huge weed problem last year, and wanting to avoid herbicides that will give us all diseases, we are trying to take a more positive approach and encourage the good stuff. Along these lines, I started to rake like crazy, and if there's one thing I don't enjoy, it's raking. And we have a lot of grass.

I know, I'm whining, and if my Mentor were here right now, he'd tell me to put a lid on it and be a real man, but I'm still learning here. How about a little sympathy? Either way, I did realize that there is one key to making the process more doable: music. The louder and more obnoxious, the better. I'd been listening to VPR while working the barn, and really enjoyed it, but when raking, you really need to shut off your mind and become a zombie. I managed to finish the front lawn right before the big rainstorm, which is a bonus because it's nearly impossible to water a lawn manually without sprinklers. Besides, nobody around here has sprinklers, it's way too suburban. I got the seeds and fertilizer down, and now the rains will feed them, and hopefully we'll get some results. I'm really curious about how this will go.

Also, even though we have about 10 cords of wood on site, I'm always looking to the future. If I can manage to at least block up the logs and move them, there will be space for another truckload. I know I'm being OCD about this (what else is new?), but it's nice having the wood here and then cutting it at my leisure. Plus, what better way to signal to the world that I'm a real man in training than having 7 cords of log-length wood sitting in your driveway? That way, when my contractor/lumberjack acquaintances visit, or other assorted real men (including my karate teacher and Mentor), I can point them to the pile and say, "Yeah, I'm going to cut that up and split it. No big deal." Then I can step back and see how impressed they all are. They might even ask me, "Are you a real man in training?"

As if you had to ask.

One quick side note, my source for tree length firewood is not calling me back. Not a good sign, and more fuel to fire my firewood neurosis. I may have to once again go searching for trees, but I'll let you know what's up with that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Nicolas Raymond and Lysanne Ooteman for the pics.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring is Here and Feeling Overwhelmed

With the arrival of Spring, everyone in the house feels rejuvenated and invigorated by the warmer weather, which for the record, we don't believe will last, but we'll take it for now. Also, with the warmer weather, the number of duties increases exponentially. In fact, there are times I feel like we'll never get through them, but these are not options for a real man in training.

First off, we have to get the firewood ready for next winter. I realized that 4 cords might not be enough, and we probably used about 5, so that means my goal is to get 10 cords standing. Yeah, right. We have the wood, but are just not sure where to stack 10 cords properly so that they'll dry for burning. Either way, that's enough in and of itself.

But to add to the fun, there are yard/lawn issues, house issues, as well as finishing that barn. Yikes, what have I gotten myself into? Time to get a wall calendar. Our lawn was a disaster last year. We're talking weed city, and at times I felt like we were simply maintaining a garden of ground ivy. Speaking of gardens, there is also the issue of getting the garden up and running.

Anyway, I started Lawncare 101, and fertilized and seeded last fall. With spring here, I need to fertilize and seed once again. I could use weed killers, but they're all toxic, and it's just not worth compromising the groundwater just to have a pristine lawn. So, I'll do all I can without chemical intervention, and hope for the best. I will say this, lawncare stuff ain't cheap, especially the seeds.

The priority on the barn is to get those darn windows in, not to mention the doors. That will require that I finish framing and sheathing. I thought I'd finished all that last fall, but it turns out that some of my rough openings were too big, just a few inches, but enough to require a redo. Bummer. As much as I enjoy framing, I was kind of happy that I was done... not! I've actually managed to get a lot of it done, at least on the first floor. I just need to fill in the sheathing gaps, and then it's window/door time. I've also found a friend who is willing to help me and actually has experience. Plus, he's not a pro, so I won't feel like a total loser in his presence. Well, maybe a little.

Just a side note, part of the reason that we have to re-frame is because we decided not to use the old windows. PR kind of alluded to them being highly inadequate, and in the end, he knows his stuff. So we replaced them with stock windows, which are slightly smaller, which require, you guessed it, re-framing. It's getting there.

The excavator contacted me and wondered if we were going to dig the septic, and I think we will. No time like the present. The only problem is, we have to get some logistical issues straightened out, which for a guy like me can be extremely difficult, but not impossible. Once the pipe location is decided upon, it's time to dig away. Then again, there are still big logs back there, so I need to contact my logger neighbor and see if he still wants the lumber. Why did he leave it there?

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I need to work on our house. We are going to have the standing seam installed some time this spring, so I need to clean off the darn moss that seems to thrive up there. That will, unfortunately, require that I do some roof climbing. Speaking of which, I've also got to get up there and clean the chimney. I got a second ladder, and I think we are now a ladder friendly operation. I got a small extension ladder that is nowhere near as high tech as or 28 footer, but man is that thing light and user friendly. Not the extreme burden of our big boy.

There is the front deck which is priority, and assorted painting in the warmer months. I've also got to replace some of the trim on the dormers, and maybe some along the roof, which really bums me out. I hate working so high up.

Either way, we've got our work cut out for us. I'll have to dust off the chainsaw and fuel her up, and start splitting our wood. The sooner I can get it stacked, the sooner it can start drying and the less I'll to worry about it.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Asif Akbar and Alfred Borchard for their pics.

Moving Up in the Karate World

When we were on vacation, I missed two classes of karate, but before that, because of extenuating circumstances, several classes were canceled, so for about two months, I attended maybe two classes. Kind of a bummer, but I knew what needed to be done, and practiced on my own.

When we were in the Bahamas, I had ample time to practice katas and do stretching and sparring drills, and there was a nice deck at the house we were staying in, so I got to practice while overlooking the beautiful beaches in the Bahamas. For full effect, I practiced in the nude... just kidding, though there wasn't anyone around to see if I did.

Anyway, I got a lot of practicing done, which was a good thing, because when I got back, I had an email waiting for me telling me that the next class was going to be a belt test, and I was going for my purple belt.

What!?!?!? I hadn't been to class for several weeks, and the first one back, we were going to test. Fortunately, a karate man doesn't panic, and instead just breaks a few board with his head.

The test was going to be small, just the three of us, but I was pleasantly surprised to see that the class had gotten bigger. It was a good test, though there are always some nerves involved, and a few mistakes made, but we got through it, and it felt good to see the fruits of your labors.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

had my belt test last night