Saturday, October 30, 2010

Front Deck Decisions

I think I'm going to move forward with the deck stain on the front doorstep and just get it installed. The delay stemmed from what sort of stain to use in light of what color we're going to paint the house. Since we still are not sure what color to use, though we're leaning to red, I was hesitant to move forward, but I realize this could go on forever. Who knows when we'll decide.

In the meantime, I'd like to get something over the front before Winter really sets in, though I might be too late. What I need to do is get that deck board down, then put in the trim and then finish with clapboards. I have most of the materials, I just need to do it. This could be the weekend I begin, but we'll see.

I'm going with a water based waterproofing agent for the front step. I'll cut the wood to size, stain it, then nail it in. Once the step is in, I can tackle the trim and then the clapboards. I won't be able to paint them this year, especially since we don't even know what color to paint the house, but they're primed and should survive the Winter... I hope.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Maybe Painters and No JH

I met up with RH, JH's brother (we're big fans of the H's), who is a painter, and we talked about our options for painting the exterior and interior of the house. In typical fashion, I was hoping he'd hold my hand (not literally) and tell us what to do, but he was very professional about it and offered a bunch of suggestions and advice. In other words, the ball is in our court, and we have to decide.

I hate when that happens. Now R and I have to sit down, ruminate over color options, and then make some choices. Personally, I'm still leaning to red, but I'm beginning to realize that the only way to really know is to, like everything in life, just do it, and then if it doesn't work, try again. I could spend my entire life torturing myself over making the right decision. Meanwhile, life just passes you by.

One thing is for certain, painting will not begin until the Spring. The interior work will involve oil based primers, and would be best accomplished with the windows open. Can't do that in the Winter.

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

Septic Pumped

I contacted Herrin's about getting the septic tank pumped and they managed to squeeze me in while the guy was in the area. Otherwise, who knows when he would have come.

It worked out well because the day before and the day of were both warm, so there were no concerns about leaving the tank exposed. I managed to find the opening and clean the area around the door, readying it for its big cleaning.

The next day, the couldn't tell me when he'd be there, so we kind of had to sit around and wait for him. He finally arrived in the late morning, while the kids were playing upstairs. I closed all the windows and had planned on sitting back and letting the guy do his job, but curiosity got the best of me, and I had to take a peak.

When he lifted off the lid, I was expecting to be knocked off my feet, but in all honesty, it really wasn't that bad. The kids said it smelled terrible from up on the second floor. According to N, "It reeked." I don't know, I was standing right next to it, looking straight down into the abyss, and while I wasn't about to jump and go for a swim, I wasn't devastated.

It didn't even look that bad. I thought I'd see the gory details, floating nuggets and assorted refuse, but it really just looked like muddy sludge.

Maybe I'll leave it at that. I chatted with the septic guy, and he gave me a quick lecture on the merits of adding a concrete stem to the opening, but I wasn't sure if that was to make my life or his life easier. Whatever be the case, if I have to dig it out every 4 years, it's not such a big deal. I can live with that.

In the meantime, our tank is clean. He said it looked fine, which was good enough for me. Now I can use the bathroom with peace of mind, which is important when you consider that these are sacred moments and better left unaffected by worries about your tank.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Injury Report

I hurt my wrist, and I'm not even sure how. It feels like tendonitis, and it's not bad, it's just a bit sore when I try to lift heavy objects, like frying pans filled with potatoes.

I'd like to think that I hurt it at my last karate class while delivering a death blow to my opponent, but I didn't even spar last class. I might have done it when I was splitting wood, because my limbs endure a lot of stress when I'm working the maul.

However, I think I may have to face the unfortunate reality that I probably hurt it handling a pot or pan while making dinner. Not a very manly way to hurt yourself, but that's why I'm still just a real-man in training.

Speaking of injuries, my back is acting up, as well. Again, I don't know how I hurt it, but it's sore, and when I lay down in certain positions, I have a heck of time getting up off the floor. Am I getting old, or what? The old body just can't shake it like it used to. Time to break out the Geritol.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Septic Search and Find

Yet another job tackled and dealt with. I'm no expert on septic systems, in fact, most of my life I never had to deal with them and didn't really even know what they were. That's what happens when you grow up in the big city.

Since moving here, however, I've become very familiar with them. Not so much because we had problems with ours, we did not, but more so because you hear about all these horror stories, and they all involve urine and defecation. Not exactly dinnertime topics.

Either way, we knew we were due to have our's pumped, and this was something we'd never done before. The tank was pumped prior to our moving in, but we had yet to take care of it. We are not heavy septic users, and are vigilant about not putting the wrong stuff down there, or even using our garbage disposal. I'd say we're pretty conscientious users, but even the most careful person still needs to have the stuff pumped out.

I'd heard of people who claim to have never pumped their tank, which I don't believe, but some say every year, some say every other, and others say 4-5 years. Who do you believe? We could erred to the side of caution and just done it after one year, but that would have involved me digging and locating the tank lid.

Naturally, I put it off for 4 years. The time had come, however, and it was best to do it before the ground froze. At least, that's what I thought, especially since I was the one who was going to do the shoveling.

I recall MG telling me the distance from the house, but also recall SG actually digging it up, and there was a residual bare spot where he did it, even after 4 years. I started there, and ended up going down probably about 4 feet before I found the lid. I eventually figured out that the location of the tank actually lines up with some landmarks, so I'll use those the next time.

Now that I've found the tank, I just have to wait for the guy to come and pump it. I just hope we don't get a frost before that time because the tank is exposed.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Closing the Garden

It seems that no matter how good our intentions are, we just can't pull certain things off when we want to. We've been talking about preparing the garden for Winter for weeks, and we had an early frost so nothing is really worth saving at this point, except for potatoes under the ground and maybe some squash, it's all destined for the compost heap.

Of course, we never got around to it, and put it off for weeks. However, last week we decided to finally deal with it, and N and I took it upon ourselves to take care of business (what a guy thing to do). We not only pulled out all the corn and assorted plants that were done and over, but we also got on our hands and knees and dug up the last of the potatoes.

We actually ended up with quite a few, and had a blast doing it. I really enjoy doing jobs with the kids, it makes it fun and I feel good that they enjoy taking part and helping out. Plus, they're a lot of fun to hang out and talk with.

Next up, we're going to have to tackle all those leaves, but that's something they've been itching to do, anyway. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Car Repair

This is a completely trivial matter, but when you're a real man in training, you're always looking for someone to toss you a bone.

The headlight on our car burned out, and my first thought was to ask our mechanic to change it when he installed the intake pipe. Then I decided that it might not be too hard, and maybe I could it myself.

Sure enough, I consulted the manual and the instructions were right there. I got a bulb, which was actually kind of pricey, and then dismantled the front light and put it in. It was actually pretty easy, and I learned that you can buy brighter bulbs, which might not be such a bad idea since there are times when it doesn't seem like our lights are even on.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Wood Pile OCD

It seems as if I've jumped out of the pot and into the fire. I managed to move all the blocks of wood from the landing to the woods (5 cords by wheelbarrow), but now I've got to split it all. There's a lot of wood.

My goal, as I've mentioned ad nauseum, is to split it all, then cut up the pile and begin splitting that. I hope to have the uncut logs gone by next spring to accommodate another load. That way, I can have two years drying and ready, and a third year drying, as well.

I confess to having OCD about this, but I've found that even after two years of drying, our wood still hisses in the fire. What's up with that? I figure that I'll split this pile of blocks, and that should fill year 2, with wood leftover for year 3, which will dry in the woods. Next spring, when year 1 is spent, I can begin stacking year 3 with the wood that is split and drying in the woods. That way, it will have a head start and be dry enough to be incredibly heat efficient. At least that's how it goes in theory.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Full Frontal

The front of the house is coming along, and if we can decide on a color, we can work towards getting the front step done, though it's looking highly unlikely for this year. We'll be optimistic.

I managed to get a small fascia piece in to cover up that gap. Before I got it in, I stuffed some fiberglass insulation up there, so hopefully it will be somewhat protected from the cold. My final act up there will be to fill the gaps with caulking, then paint it over to hide the poor job I did of ripping that piece of wood.

I also finally cut out some rigid foam pieces to fit into the gaps on the inside. Since I'm not sure when I'll actually get around to putting in insulation and covering with drywall, I wanted to get some insulation in before it gets too cold. I figure every little bit counts. I was ready to caulk the seams when I realized that I have to glue the stuff on. After that, I'll fill in the gaps with expanding foam, and I think we're in pretty good shape.

Except, of course, for that front door. There is still the issue of fixing the gap in the weather stripping. My brother in law PR said the right way would be to remove the stripping, push it in, and create a better seal. Of course, I'm always looking for an easier way out. JH had the brilliant notion of moving the door plate, but in retrospect, I don't think that will solve the problem on the hinge side of the door.

It looks like I may have to break out my tools and get my hands dirty. Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Hearing from Painter

I finally heard from JH's brother, RH, and he said he'd have time next week to come over and have a look at our house and give some helpful suggestions. I've found that until the job it done, however, it's all talk. I hate to be so cynical (actually, I don't, I love it), but I've just had so many experiences with contractors where they just stop calling or don't show up. Don't they want our money?

Either way, R is wavering a bit on the color of the house, so we may ask for some helpful suggestions there, as well. The main thrust of the meeting, though, will be to get some advice on the inside.

We'll see where that one goes. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ove Tøpfer for the pic.

Great Karate Crowd

I don't know if it's the season or what, but our karate class is growing like crazy. I would say it has practically doubled, and best of all, A is a part of that group, although she sure does get silly with her buddies.

Anyway, it's nice to see so many people interested, and I think Master H is pleased, as is sensei H. It makes class more interesting to have such a diverse range of people, and the black/brown belts have been coming (NS and BS), so we have a good mix.

It's nice to see the class coming together, though it's only one class, and we've had a bit of turnover in the past few months.

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

Disposal Drama

We are having some issues with our disposal, and I'm not sure if we should replace it or just ignore it. When I say ignore it, I mean not do anything about it and simply not use it.

I've been told by many people in the know that garbage disposals are a big no-no when you have a septic system. This was told to me when our friend KB installed a new faucet, he said not to use the disposal, and that his friend who installs septic systems said that people shouldn't use them.

Good enough for me. We have one, and only use it when bits of food scraps fall into it. Recently, however, it has been making funny noises. The problem is that our dishwasher is connected to it, which I believe is standard protocol. We rarely use our dishwasher but employ it more as a dish strainer. This, however, leads to unsightly pools of water at the bottom, so we have to run it regularly to clean it out. Personally I think dishwashers are a bit of a sham, but that's just me.

Anyway, when I ran the dishwasher the other day, the disposal started to flood. It was disconcerting, to say the least. Now I'm left wondering if we should replace the thing, or just get rid of it. R is in favor of the latter, she never uses it, and it's pretty disgusting down there.

We may just get rid of it and simplify things. Then again, trying to simplify things only seems to complicate them even more. You just can't win.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.
we need a new disposal

Monday, October 18, 2010

Meeting With the Plumber

I dealt with another issue that I'd been putting off because, quite simply, I had no clue what to do. We had been wrestling with the whole septic system drama, and part of the problem was deciding where to exit the house. That issue combined with where to put the tank inspired me to ignore the problem for as long as possible.

Now that we may have resolved the situation, we still need to determine where the septic connects to the house. In other words, we have to make a decision. Yikes!

The original plan was to contact BS and have him come and map out the bathroom, thereby determining where the septic stuff will flow. As I may have indicated, BS is nearly impossible to get in touch with, which actually worked in my favor because it gave me an excuse to put things off. When someone asked me about the progress on the barn, I could just say, "I'm waiting to hear from BS." Funny that his initials are BS.

I finally decided to contact our plumber, B (not sure of his last name) and ask him his advice, which is what I should have done in the first place. He came over and within minutes told me what to do. Wow, what was I missing here?

Armed with this information, I need to relay it to the excavator, and hopefully we can get this thing done before Winter. We'll see.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stephen Davies for the pic.

met with B, was a fruitful meeting
will indicate where the holes will be

Burning Wood

We did our first burn pile with construction waste, and for whatever reason, the entire process gave me a lot of anxiety. Something about fire that makes me nervous, especially when it is in proximity to the barn and the woods. We have a fairly decent sized pile of wood, though nothing compared to some of the burn piles I've seen. Plus, rather than burn the entire thing all at once, we opted to start a moderate fire and feed it.

We even went through the proper channels, which I've learned is not always the norm. In other words, I contacted the fire marshal and waited for approval. This can be a tricky process because the marshal has a regular day job and is a busy man, so he can't always attend to everyone's individual needs. I completely understand.

I managed to contact him, and the day was good for the fire because it had rained for two days before and it was still damp outside. Also, the previous day was really windy, and the wind had finally died down. I was thinking it would be nice to burn at dusk, but we were planning on ice skating in the afternoon, so we changed to the morning. We were all kind of excited.

The original pile was close the barn, so we decided to burn farther away, which made it more difficult because we couldn't simply light the whole and thing and watch. However, I learned this increased the entertainment value, because now the kids (and adults) could throw pieces in at our leisure, thus prolonging the fun.

We started by loading the wood into a pyramid and using paper and shingles to get it going. It really took off, and man did generate a lot of heat. It was a cold morning, but at some point we were down to our t-shirts. The kids had a blast, tossing pieces in, holding the hose and putting out little grass fires.

Who needs TV?

We could have done it all day, except that we had places to be, so at some point, when we'd made a good dent in the pile, we had to put it out. The kids loved that, as well, because they got feel like firemen, or rather, fire-people.

Plus, I feel like I overcame yet another paralyzing source of anxiety. We also found out that to have a small fire pit doesn't require a burn permit, just a lot of common sense. We still have some small scraps of wood, and will burn them in small fires throughout the fall. We may even toast some marshmallows along the way.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moving Ahead

I was talking to R about the septic, and after ruminating over it for a bit, we both decided that we should move forward with this. It has been two years since the previous quote, so it is perfectly reasonable that the cost of materials would go up. Also, we changed the plan, so it will require more materials, thus more costs. Finally, they are going to do some of the work that I thought I was going to have to do, and now that I don't have to do it, that will save us money, as well, not to mention anguish.

In the end, we both agreed that we weren't happy about the price increase, but felt like it wasn't horrible, and we really want this project to move forward. Plus, it got approval from my Mentor, so that's a bonus.

On that note, I contacted the plumber, B, and he came out and we talked about locations for septic tank pipes. He indicated where the holes should be, and I will relay this info to the excavators. B said he thought it wouldn't be too bad, and it should go smoothly, which of course means that it will be fraught with problems, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it. He did say, however, that we could work during the Winter, so that's a bonus.

In the meantime, I'm excited to say that we've got the green light to move forward on this. Thank goodness for that. Progress is a beautiful thing.

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

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Burn Pile

This could be the magic weekend when we actually burn that pile of construction waste, but we'll see. It's been raining a lot, and the conditions are good for burning, but it has also been really windy. When I contacted the fire marshal, he said it was too windy and to call him the next day.

I'm hoping to get this done, because not only is the pile an eyesore (R hasn't complained, but I know she's not happy about it), but it stands smack in the middle of where the septic pipe will go, and the excavators will need to work in that area.

Plus, this will be our first construction burn pile, a big first step for a real-man in training, and as my Mentor pointed out, burn piles are much more fun (and cheaper) than simply taking it to the dump.

Until then, thanks for reading.

More Septic Issues

Just when we thought it was safe to jump for joy over this septic system, we hit another snag. The excavator, Dan Clay Excavating, contacted the who engineer, who said that moving the tank was okay, as long as certain numbers were maintained. In order to do this, certain steps were going to have to be taken, which meant more materials. Factor in an increase in the cost of materials, and the news is not-so-great.

In other words, it was going to cost more. I think it's reasonable that price would go up, but nobody really cares what I think.

The price, however, was still reasonable, mainly because the original price was pretty low. I spoke with my Mentor and his opinion, which I value, the price was still a good one and that it didn't seem unreasonable.

Good enough for my Mentor, good enough for me. Convincing other people who are involved in the decision-making process, however, is another story. My personal feeling is that we can put this off and shop around for a better price until the end of time, but at some point you just have to take the plunge and just do it. Often times, shopping around for a better price not only delays things, but you don't always save money in the end. Then again, that's easy for me to say, I'm just an observer.

More on this later. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to nikolas araya for the pic.

Friday, October 15, 2010

More Lawncare

Got a stroke of good luck with the lawn, though it took some industry and effort on the part of yours truly. Then again, we won't see the fruits of these labors until next year. BTW, do you like our massive leaf pile?

I was planning on seeding the lawn after it was fertilized, but seeding requires watering, and we don't have a sprinkler system. We have to rely on Mother Nature.

I had laid some seeds down before a day that was supposed to be rainy, but no such luck. The seeds just sort of sat there as I watched the birds feed on them. Then, I saw there was going to be a serious rain storm coming, the same one that forced the cancellation of the FM, so I went to work.

I mowed the grass short, really short, to the point of gaining greater access to the soil. I then seeded the front, side and back, and then went back and used up the seeds on all sides, just for good measure.

The next day, it literally rained cats and dogs for about 36 hours straight. Just what the grass doctor ordered. Hopefully it'll help come Spring, but whatever happens, the lawn is still green, so I won't fret over it too much. Besides, it's one less thing for me to worry about, I've got enough on my plate for now.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Making Contact with Dan Clay Excavating

I've resolved to get this darn septic system done before the end of the year, or rather Winter's arrival. The first step was to look at the plans and decide what we wanted, and then relay this information to the excavator, who I was hoping was still interested in doing the job. If not, then I was going to have to borrow N's front-end loader (pictured here) and do the job myself, though he might not be willing to let me use it for too long.

Two years ago (was it that long ago?), the main concern that was voiced by the excavator was if we could move the tank and allowable distances were covered. This, of course, paralyzed me into doing nothing, so I put it off for months. Finally I looked at the plan and realized that moving the tank would not change plans radically, as long as the minimum isolation distances were met. Listen to me, like I know what I'm talking about.

I called the excavator, Dan Clay Excavating, and spoke with JH, and it turns out that he didn't think we were total loser (maybe a little) and was still willing and ready to do the job. He even said he could come over that day to have a look at the changes we proposed.

We talked about the placement of the tank, he thought it was doable, but wanted to confirm it with the engineer. He even gave me two pieces of fabulous information. First off, they would cut the concrete foundation and lay the pipe, all we needed to do was tell them where to put the hole. Secondly, he said he could move those big logs to more accessible location.

Wow, serendipity shines on us, but I won't get too excited until the work is actually done. I hate to be so cynical, but this aspect of this project has really stalled.

We'll wait and see, but we're hoping to get this septic system in before Winter arrives.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to homero chapa for the pic.

Fall Lawncare

I'm a little late on this one, but I've started to prepare the lawn for Winter by grooming the soil and preparing it for planting. They say mid-September is about the right time, but mid-October will have to suffice. I first cut the grass short because I was told to do this by someone, but I've forgotten who. This helps to expose the soil, making fertilizing and seeding more effective.

I have leftover fertilizer that I spread over the front and back lawns. The back lawn is a mess, though the front doesn't look half bad. The fertilizer is this organic stuff I got at Longacres and whatever it is made it, it sure stinks. This in itself wouldn't be so bad, but when you spread it, the dust gets all over you, and consequently, you stink, as well. Not horribly bad, it just has this organic sour smell. Makes you feel like a farmer. We use the organic stuff because we don't want toxic chemicals to foul up our groundwater.

The ideal situation would be to fertilize then seed, and hope for rain. I seeded the lawn a couple of days later because the forecast called for rain, and it never came. I ended up just feeding the birds with all those seeds, which is a double-whammy of bad vibes because as the birds come to feed, our cats go on the rampage.

I only managed to get the front done in terms of mowing, but I'll work on the back later, hopefully on a sunny day right before a rain.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to kalyana sundaram for the pic.

Moving the Woodpile

Chipping away at the stone, as the saying goes. That's what I've been doing with that darn wood pile. I'm talking about the blocks that are cut but have not yet been split. Because our wood pile is about 500 feet from the splitting area, the blocks need to be moved, and since I don't have a tractor, it requires hauling them with a wheelbarrow. Due to the presence of a small hill, it can be quite a workout, but I prefer it. This way I won't get fat sitting behind a tractor.

I've managed to move about 5 cords of wood so far, and there is about 1 1/2 left, so there is light at the end of the tunnel. If I can get the pile moved by the end of this month, I can start cutting the new pile and then move that before the first snow. Time is running out, however.

As for the stacking, progress is being made on that front, as well. We've managed to get it about 35% complete. This is the one area where the kids like to help, so it's one of those win-win situations, the kind that parents live for.

Thanks for reading, and thanks to Piotr Ciuchta for the pic.

Friday, October 8, 2010


This is old news by now, but JH came over last week and we finally put up that new track light, replacing the old one. For whatever stupid reason, I found that there are several kinds of light/track combinations and none of them match up. In other words, if you want to change the lights, you generally have to replace the track unless you can find an exact match. I ran into this problem.

I went to Home Depot to get some replacement lights, and of course it was way too easy. They didn't fit, and I figured it was because I went cheap and the previous lights were higher quality. I took one of the lights off and went to a high end lighting store, whose prices, for the record, shocked me. The guy there was knowledgeable but said he needed to know the exact brand of lights before he could find a replacement.

These lights were made in the Dark Ages, and the labels are completely missing, thereby making them impossible to identify. I asked him if there was any way, but he said the only way was if there were any labels still leftover on the unit, which there wasn't. In retrospect, any lights this guy carried or ordered would have cost us several hundred dollars, so maybe this wasn't a bad thing.

The conclusion was to replace the whole track, which would mean doing some re-wiring. This is something that terrifies me, but not when JH is there to run the show. With his magic bag of tools, I feel invincible... standing right beside him while he does all the work, of course.

He came over and we set about getting the job done. I figured it would take an hour or two at most, but it seemed to take a lot longer than I anticipated. Part of the problem was finding the right electrical box. I was at Home Depot and spoke with a guy who actually an electrician in another lifetime, and he walked me through what I'd need to do. He even handed me the box I'd need.

When JH came over, there was some discussion as to whether it was the right one, and if we needed on in the first place. He was fine to go either way, but in the end, I felt better putting a box in. Not only was this more code-friendly, but it seemed safer, as well.

We ended up driving all the way to Woodstock Hardware to find the right box before concluding that we did in fact have the right box. We finally came home, JH took a knife and cut open a hole, and he went about wiring the thing, explaining the difference between black, white, and green wires.

Once we got the wiring done, we had to install the track, which actually wasn't too bad. One of the screw holes actually hit a stud, so we we lucked out on that one, but for others we had to use drywall fasteners that PR recommended. They went in easily, and we were in business.

With the track in place, I now had to make an executive decision regarding which lights to choose. I'd purchase 3 different kinds and tried them out (the light worked, BTW), but only one seemed to fit the look of the kitchen. The others were too hip/trendy for a rustic kitchen.

This called for a trip to Home Depot to return/purchase lights, which we did, and suddenly, our kitchen has a new look to it. It's actually brighter and more cheerful. Go figure.

While the whole endeavor took longer than I thought it would, it sure feels good to have a brighter kitchen. I need to adjust the lengths of the cords, but I'm thinking even a real-man in training like myself can do that... yeah right. This should be good.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to ilker for the pic.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Great Karate Class

We had a great karate class last week, if not for the simple fact that A decided to join, and she jumped right in. I got the dreaded call around 4:00PM from sensei CH that he couldn't make it, and I could fill in. Those are might big shoes to fill. He said Master H would be there, which is always a bonus because he's an amazing teacher.

Class was not too big, with the usual faithful suspects showing up. A&N were bummed because PC couldn't make it due to illness, but PC was there. Also, the new girl TD was present, and she and A seem to be hitting if off fairly well. My first impulse, of course, is to jump in and do whatever it takes to encourage the friendship, but I'll just keep my distance and watch things unfold.

Now A and I had a chance to go over some basic exercises over the past few weeks, and she has really caught on. She knows the structure but just needs to work on getting the form down. She said she enjoys it, and I'm thrilled to have her in the class. Now if only N will join in, life will be even better, but no pressure.

We went over katas and basics in preparation for testing that will occur at the end of the month. Since sensei CH was not there, I had to lead in warm-up exercises and go over katas with some of the students. We didn't have to spar, which is something A will have to get used to, but I can help her prepare.

We'll see how this one goes. I'd like for A to be able to defend herself while learning discipline and focus, but we'll let it unfold naturally. For now, she enjoys it, so I'll take it. I'll have to work on getting her a gi and some pads.

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

In Need of a Backhoe

I am at wit's end with this log situation, and I'm not sure what to do. We have these two big logs behind our barn that were supposed to be picked up by our neighbor for him to do whatever he wished. I was willing to give the guy the logs and let him keep the boards just to get them out of there, I just don't have the ability to transport big pieces of wood.

Well, he never showed up, and a year has passed, and the wood is sitting there rotting, though I'm told the maple will last a lot longer. Eventually the pine will be useless, so I need to act on this. Another friend with a backhoe and a mill said he'd be happy to come over, get the logs, mill them up and get me the boards. I told him he could keep the pine and I'd pay him for the maple. Of course, here I am, a month later, and he hasn't shown up, though in his defense, his backhoe is broken and in need of repair. I see the guy every week at the market and he feels bad for the delay.

I finally went over to the local mill and asked if he could bring his portable mill over and cut the boards. He said fine, but the maximum they can work with is 20 feet, and that's pushing it. Those logs are easily 30 feet long, meaning someone (your's truly) will have to cut them first, then move them to a location where it will be accessible to the mill.

Seeing that the logs weight hundreds, if not thousands of pounds, I figure I can move them no problem since I have an extra backhoe just lying around the house. What a drag.

I called the original logger about the logs, and he never got back to me after I left several messages, so I finally went over there. I met with his son and he said his dad is not always good about returning calls (an understatement if there ever was one), but he would talk to him and get back to me.

I can't sit around and wait, however. I figured the original guy GC was the best option, because he knew the arborist who cut it down, and he cut it to his specifications. I assumed he knew what to do, but he never showed up. He may still show up, but like all things in life, when you want something done, you just gotta man up and do them yourself, or pay someone else to do them.

My friend is an option, but because he's doing me a favor, I can't force the issue. Finally, I could just let them sit there and rot, but what a shame that would be. Life ain't easy when you're just a real man in training and not an actual real man with a tractor.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michaela Kobyakov and Joe Zlomek for the pics.

Mirror, Mirror, On the Floor

My next goal is to get that darn mirror in. It seems as if I can't go through life without some project haunting me. The weather has been lousy, so it's not a bad time to do something indoors, but even still, I keep putting it off. I have everything I need.

PR gave me some clues as to how to put the thing in, and now that I have them, it's really just a question of time before it gets done. I'm sure of that... sort of.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Getting the Window In

I finally got the window framed and installed in the kitchen, and for the record, the picture does not do it any justice. The new glass is amazing, and it is so clear that N even commented that it looked like there was nothing there. Just goes to show you how bad the previous glass was.

Of course, I screwed up a few things, but not enough to prevent its installation, and not a day too soon. It has been cool, gray, rainy and bleak out here, but at least we can see it clearly with our new window.

I ran into problems putting in the trim/molding. The trim had two widths, and I naturally chose the wrong one to stick out from the glass. I should have tested both orientations, but tried instead to logically think it through. Just goes to show you how thinking only gets you into trouble.

I also was a bit confused (what else is new?) about how to properly caulk the pane. Do you caulk it to the frame, or the molding, or both? The previous owners caulked it to the molding and not the frame, which made it much easier to remove. In what seemed like good foresight, I did the same, but we shall see.

Whatever be the case, my anal-retentive side wants to rip the trim out and put in a new one, but first I have to go get it and then stain it and cut it. The way it is now will hold until Spring, but I may have to take it out before that. We'll see.

Otherwise, it looks great. Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Small Steps with Firewood

Okay, we're about 25% done with next year's wood, and I'm still kicking myself that it's taking so long. Not only do I need to get that pile stacked and covered, but I also need to cut and split more, more, more...

The situation is delayed by the fact that in order to move the pile, I have to haul it with a wheelbarrow, which was out of commission for a couple of weeks until my father-in-law enlightened me as the best solution to the situation. Now that we're back in business, the work can resume.

N enjoys helping me and I love having out there, but sometimes it adds a new dimension to the process. I don't want to discourage him, because he is so earnest and sincere in his desire to help out, and he is definitely getting stronger lifting those pieces of wood, some of which are kind of heavy. I even started the wood pile in a way that makes it easy for him to simply continue stacking the wood in a continuous line. In other words, all we have to do is bring the wood to one end and extend the pile.

Being an optimist, I think we'll have this done before the first snow. Once its stacked, I will continue to cut and split into Winter. That will the wood even more time to dry. My goal is to get really dry wood that burns like... wood, I guess. I've yet to have firewood that doesn't sizzle a bit when it burns, but I know I'll get there one day.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friends and Neighbors

We had a bit of drama when we got back home in that the weather was rough enough to force a tree down over our driveway. I knew this was going to happen at some point in our lives, and the tree in question was actually leaning terribly to the side, so we knew it was just a matter of time before it took a fall.

When we returned from out trip, R noticed that some wood had been cut and stacked by the side of the driveway. Our cat sitter mentioned a tree had fallen and prevented her from getting in, but she didn't mention who took care of it. I left her two emergency contacts and assumed it was one of them, or maybe JH came by and saw it and took care of the situation.

Whomever did it, they did a fabulous job. Not only did they clear the path, but they cut the tree into even pieces and stacked them. Then, they trimmed the branches off and left them in a pile. I don't think even I would have been as neat and thorough.

After some inquiries, I was at a bit of a loss as to who did it. Upon asking my Mentor, he replied, "What tree?" I finally contacted PV and she mentioned calling our neighbor, JH, who is a fantastic neighbor, and it all made sense. He's an uber-capable guy, and the degree of conscientiousness was reflected in the job. For the record, I would have imagined that my Mentor or JH would have done the same.

We were grateful, and baked him our famous rum-less rum cake, which we had to scramble to make because we had just returned home, but we managed, and he was kind and gracious at having helped us out. We're lucky to have such great neighbors.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

First Things First

Now that we are back and ready to roll, my first priority will be to get that window done. I put it off before we left because if complications came up, as they always do, I wouldn't have to stress over it on the cusp of our trip, which would have added to an already stressful situation, especially in light of the limited amount of time we had.

Now, if there's a problem, I have plenty of time, sort of. The weather has gotten really cold, so it would best to get this thing done during the day and in as short a time as possible. I think it can be done, and in the event of an desperate emergency, I can always jet it on over to Portland Glass and plead my case.

So we'll see how this goes. PR gave me some helpful advice, so working with that, I'll jump right in. I think the new window will drastically improve our perspective in the kitchen, in more ways than one.

Until then, thanks for reading.