Archive for February, 2011

Busy Day

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Things seem to go in bunches sometimes. Our fire department has had no fire or first responder calls for what seems like a month. Then earlier this week we had the logging truck fire I discussed earlier, and then today we had TWO first responder calls. The first time the pager went off while I was dozing on the couch. That ended that nap, I can tell you. I sometimes think the pager has an IV that connects directly to my adrenal gland. When it wakes me up, I am AWAKE!

That one got solved as they often do, and I got home and thought that would be that for a while. As we were just starting to work together on supper, another first responder page came, so I was off again. Many of these calls fall into a fairly predictable pattern, but this one was like nothing I’ve ever experienced before.

So that makes 3 calls in one week. I intend to stare at my pager before I put it on its charger cradle tonight. It knows what I mean when I start at it… you woke me up once already today, now don’t press your luck.

Bald Eagles

Saturday, February 26th, 2011

eagle.jpgI get a thrill every time I see a bald eagle, and the other day I was lucky enough to see two of them; both mature. They were near the intersection of our road and Cabbage Road. The two differ in the amount of traffic they receive. Our road has grass growing in the middle of it during the summer, and Cabbage road has no grass growing in the middle of it ever.

The eagles and a large number of ravens were feeding on a deer carcass that was just off the road in the woods. They were getting as much as they could while they could, because they knew as soon as the coyotes and/or wolves found it, it would be gone. So you could tell that when Franco and I came walking up, they were bummed to have to stop eating, but they scattered anyway. If I’d have known they were there eating, I would have walked the other way that day. Sure enough, the next morning, the carcass was gone. Something dragged it away. Perhaps the birds found some of it in its new location.

I got an email from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society today. I’d heard about their harassment of the Japanese whaling fleet on the high seas this season, which had caused the Japanese to cut their whaling season short this year. This may have saved the lives of dozens of the gentle giants. I’d emailed them asking if there was a way to send them an anonymous donation. I try to be anonymous because I HATE junk mail (don’t get me started.) It seems that no matter what you tell these folks about wanting no mail when you make a donation, that their systems intervene, and you get mail for years until it gets shut off. Their answer was that I could mail them a money order, so that is what I plan to do on Monday when I run my errands. If you’d like to do the same, send your money order to:

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
PO Box 2616
Friday Harbor, WA 98250

Two Little Boys

Sunday, February 20th, 2011

I was thinking back about the Los Angeles trip, and remembered events at Disneyland that involved two different little boys. In Disneyland, you spend quite a bit of time in lines, and both these events happened there. The first was early in the day waiting for the Finding Nemo ride. Mom and I were in a roped off line waiting to walk toward the ride, while another roped off line was walking next to us going the other direction. These people were toward our right, and an empty roped off line was to our left. I assume the line that was empty would be used if there were more people waiting. Anyway, Mom and I were chatting away; sometimes standing and sometimes walking forward a few steps. I wasn’t paying any attention to the people to our right. Then I heard a man’s voice say, “grab him, grab him!” I looked to my left and there was a little boy maybe 2 years old that had escaped his Dad, run under the rope to our right, the one to our left, and was in the clear to keep on going through a maze of ropes to the left of all that. Bracing my legs on the ropes to my left, I leaned over as far as I could and just got a couple of fingers on the little guy’s shoulder. He immediately stopped, and I was able to grab him under his shoulders, pick him up, pivot around, and hand him over to his Dad. It all happened in about two seconds.

I have never seen such relief on another human’s face as I did on that guy’s. He looked at me and said, “thank-you, we owe you our first born son.” A week after the event it still makes me smile. If I hadn’t reacted immediately, the little guy would have gotten to who knows where before we could have jumped the ropes to retrieve him.

The second event was only a few hours later. A young woman had two children just outside “The Pirates of the Caribbean.” When I first saw her, she was lifting them both up to get a drink of water. We walked along and they walked just in front of us into the building where the ride was located. As we walked in it got darker and darker, and ominous sounds were coming from inside. Suddenly, boy number two broke from his Mom’s grip and started running back toward the entrance. She didn’t have time to react or say anything, but by know I knew what to do. I put out my hands and stopped him. Then I scooted him around and herded him back toward Mom. He seemed to be getting hysterical, so I asked her if he was scared of the ride? She said she though so. By that time they were behind us in line, so I don’t know for sure if she retreated or talked him into going on the ride.

Powerless

Friday, February 18th, 2011

We had a day of high winds. The prediction was for 50+ MPH. I didn’t get out too much today to test that, but I wouldn’t be surprised to learn it was accurate. Our power stayed on until about 1:00 this afternoon, and then bit the dust. I quickly turned off the computer to give the remaining power in the UPS to the cordless phones. When the power finally came back on a few minutes before 8:00, the phones had given up about an hour ago. That was a nearly 7 hour outage… one of the longest I can remember. Interestingly, the fire department did not receive a call during this wind storm. Often in the past, trees blow down across power lines, and the 911 folks call us to keep the public away until the power crews can get things safe again

nopower.jpgMaking supper tonight was fun and different. We were reluctant to open the refrigerator because we didn’t know when we’d be getting power again, so we concentrated on food we could get from the cupboards. I had tried to let the kitchen stove fire go out because the hot water was getting too hot (a water jacket in the firebox of the woodstove feeds the hot water tank upstairs. The only way to keep the water in the tank below boiling is to use it, which we couldn’t do with the power out.) We poked the fire up just enough to cook supper. You can see Alice slaving away at the stove with our emergency LCD lantern hanging above the stove. Supper was yummy and different enough from what we usually do to be special. Note that the flash of the camera illuminated things much more than they actually were.

The Getty

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

getty.jpgOne of our daily events on my Mom and my recent trip to LA was the Getty Museum. This project was funded by the Getty Foundation, and has been open since the late 90s. They purchased about 750 acres and perched this billion dollar facility on a hilltop with great views of LA and the ocean. But the dedicating principle of this place is the preservation and display of great art. We spent part of the day there and left just amazed at the quality and quantity of the displays, and its accommodating design for the public’s use.

sculpture.jpgI am unabashedly prejudiced, but I think my son is a gifted artist. He quickly masters the basic techniques of the many genres he tries, and shows what I consider to be great creativity in the things he creates. One creation of his dates back to his days in college. He took a pottery class and did a couple of pieces that I really liked. On a visit back home while I was on this trip with my Mom to LA, he decided he no longer wanted one of the pieces we’ve been keeping since that time; a piece I’ve always liked. We decided to donate it along with some other things to our local Goodwill store. As I was carrying it from the house to the garage, an accident caused the storm door to close and bump into the piece, breaking part of it off.

I decided at that point that I would not be taking a broken piece to Goodwill, so I carried it out to the place on our property where I dump things like ashes from our woodstove, and tossed it down the hillside. As I drove to town, I became more and more comfortable with my decision. It is no longer inside, which satisfies Steve’s decision to dispose of it, and it is now living in a place on the hillside where I’ll be able to visit it sometimes. As the years go by, it will undoubtably fracture due to freezing and thawing, become covered with moss and lichen, and gradually revert to the clay it came from. And if I choose, I can watch the process. While not exactly the Getty, my new gallery is a fitting home for this piece of art.

Just Back

Sunday, February 13th, 2011

I’ve been taking my Mom on mid-winter trips for several years now, and this year we decided we’d done the cruise thing and the Cancun thing enough times already. We made plans to visit Los Angeles, California. I did one smart thing by buying a book called, “Top 10 Los Angeles.” I read through the relevant parts of that book so we could rough out our trip. And we used it several times during the trip to make changes on the fly as well as check on various details.

Another great move was to program the major points of interest into my GPS. Friends, if you go to Los Angeles, figure out some way to bring along a GPS to help you navigate the labyrinth. I’m sure other techniques work too, but my experiences this trip taught me that the GPS makes navigating the mad LA roads as easy as it can be.

I hope to write up a few stories from this trip over the course of the next few days. Stories there were! The world and the people that inhabit it are a tapestry to be observed, enjoyed, and added to with our own warp and weft.

One of Those Days

Friday, February 4th, 2011

The concept was simple. Start the dozer, plow both driveways and then drive out to the woods to pull down the two hung-up trees, and skid back the 5 logs that are ready. I could do it with one eye closed and a hand behind my back. Ha!

Things started off pretty well. I plugged the dozer in and a couple hours later, it started right up. I used the bucket to scrape the driveways down to the gravel, and even cleaned up the mailbox. Then I drove out to the logging operation in the woods. I backed around toward the first leaning tree I wanted to pull down. As I was maneuvering, the dozer slipped a little, and I realized I was on the side of a hill (this is easy to do in the winter when the snow smooths out the valleys.) There was no danger at all, but I didn’t want the dozer on an angle when I hooked up the winch, so I moved the machine forward a few feet to level it out. As soon as I moved forward, the engine lost power.

I really wanted to get out of that dip, so I kept going. Mistake number 1. By the time I figured out I was out of fuel, the engine had sputtered to a stop. This is bad news for this machine. For some reason, when you run it out of fuel, it takes quite a bit of effort to get new fuel all the way from the fuel tank in the back of the machine up to the engine in front. Also, I was a long way from home, and if the dozer cooled off enough, it would be hard to start and there was no way for me to plug it in.

So I jumped off the dozer and walked back home. I threw my 5 gallon plastic fuel can in the truck and headed for Karvakko’s for diesel. I got about 4 gallons and headed back home. Then I carried the fuel back to the dozer and poured it in the tank. I got to thinking that the reason it ran out of fuel when it did was because I was on that angle, and the remaining fuel in the tank sloshed away from the pickup. My instinct to move the dozer to a more level orientation might just have worked if another few seconds of fuel had remained in the tank.

With 4 good gallons of fuel in the tank, I sat in the seat, sprayed starting fluid into the air intake (mistake number 2,) and pressed the starter lever. The engine spun merrily and sputtered a few times. I sprayed a bit more starting fluid in the intake, and pressed again. More spinning and sputtering, but no starting. And the spinning started slowing down. I sprayed a bit more and pressed again. More half-hearted spinning that slowed to a stop. Dead battery.

Having a diesel engine like this one with starting fluid in the cylinders is not a good thing. But I had to get back inside because I was making some yogurt, and had to check it and adjust the temperature as needed. So I walked back with my empty fuel can in one hand, and my logging chaps in the other hand. (I bring the chaps along to sit on because the dozer seat is saturated with snow and ice from sitting outside.)

Once inside I did my yogurt chores and then grabbed my spare battery and put it on the charger. This is a big and heavy 12 volt deep cycle battery. Once charged, I headed back out to the job site with the battery in one hand and my jumper cables wrapped around my shoulders. The battery was so heavy that I had to shift it from hand to hand, then shoulder to shoulder, and finally carried it next to my chest. The cables around my shoulders slipped while I was walking and the ends hooked onto my boots and almost made me fall down. Franco kept hopefully putting his stick in front of me for a toss, but I ignored him.

When I got everything out there I hooked up the battery, and decided to avoid mistake number 2 this time. If I spray the starting fluid into the air intake, it has a ways to travel to get to the cylinders. Instead I removed the plug from the intake manifold and sprayed in there instead. The intake is right next to the cylinders. Then I climbed back into the seat and removed the cover from the air intake. If things worked like they should, the engine would start, and I’d keep it running with a few squirts of starting fluid in the air intake until enough fuel sucked down from the fuel tank to keep the engine running. I pressed the starter.

The engine started. Then it sputtered and started to die. I grabbed for the starting fluid can, but I had not placed it where I could easily reach it, and by the time I got some fluid in the air intake. The engine died again. I just sat there and looked off into space. I may have said something too.

The battery still seemed ok, so I got back off the machine, unscrewed the plug from the intake manifold again, sprayed in some more fluid, and climbed back into the seat. I pressed the starter again, and the engine started again. This time I was ready with the can of fluid, and when it sputtered I gave it a squirt. It came back to life. It sputtered. I squirted. It ran again. As it was sputtering for the third time, the fuel finally found its way from the tank, and the engine roared to life. Yay!

I had the choice of staying out there and doing the skidding I came out there for, or driving the machine back home. I chose the later. I noticed about now that I had neglected to bring the logging chaps back out, so I was sitting on frozen snow. The dozer didn’t have far to go, but it goes very slowly, especially when you have a cold butt. I tried various contortions on the way back and finally settled on bracing my feet on the firewall and my back on the seat back, thereby lifting my butt a few inches off the seat. Not the most comfortable, but the best compromise I could think of for the 10 minute drive back to the garage. I was one happy camper when I pulled back into the parking spot and shut the dozer off.

It would have been better for me if I’d have had something to blame for this chain of events. I had not, in fact, checked the fuel level when I left for the woods; a mistake I hope I don’t make again any time soon.

Ice Chopping

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

todo.jpgYesterday and today I got up on the roof of the house and chopped ice away. I usually have to do this once per year because ice accumulates in the valleys of the house due a mistake we made when we put the addition on the house. The ice piles up in the valleys because heat from the house below seeps out the cracks and into the attic. Once up there, it should be able to find the attic vents easily enough that is doesn’t hang around the roof long enough to melt snow, but in our case, the heat hangs around a lot, and the ice accumulates. It wouldn’t really hurt anything up there, except that water is constantly being made beneath the ice, and it moves around until it finds a way into the house. The picture shows the east side of the house that had yet to be done.

done.jpgThis picture shows what the roof looks like when the ice has been chopped away. Now ice can start to accumulate in the valley again, but it will take months to build up to the point where it can cause a leak, and by then the weather will probably be warm enough that it will start to melt.

Franco has wisely learned to stay away from the drop zone while I’m chopping. Sometimes some pretty big chunks can come sliding down, and they really hit the ground with a thunk. He seems to know that when I’m up on a ladder I’ll have to come back down the same way, so he lays down where he can see me and just waits. Good dog.