Archive for June, 2014

Raining Saw Blades

Sunday, June 29th, 2014

palletsOne very discouraging thing about the maple syrup season is collapsing woodpiles. I work pretty hard during the year to have sufficient dry firewood for the sap boiling. Last year I had three long rows of wood carefully covered with sheet metal, and the pile stayed up until just about the time I needed it. The snowfall last winter was so heavy that the weight of the snow on the piles knocked them over (a picture of the devastation is available here.)

For the past couple of days, I’ve been working in my shop making two pallets that I hope will solve the collapsing woodpile problem for the foreseeable future. When completed and full of wood, they’ll be solid against most anything mother nature throws at them. (I hope.)

sawbladesI’d just finished up building the pallets and was putting tools away. I hung up my air stapler when I heard a noise above my head. There was a clatter, and the next thing I knew, it was raining sawmill blades. As you can see in the picture, I store my sawmill blades on pegboard high above my work bench. The particle board cracked around the hole that contained the peg holding up about 6 blades. The peg tilted forward, and they slid off. One landed on my arm and punctured the skin in about 6 places. I think I got off lucky on this one. I’ve seen what these blades are capable of when they are spinning on the sawmill, so I’m very careful when I’m sawing lumber. I never thought I needed to look up for them while working at my bench inside until today.

Dormant

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

dormantOn a vacation trip early last month, we were lucky enough to visit the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh. What a fabulous facility, which I recommend to anyone that likes plants and happens to be in the Pittsburgh neighborhood.

While we were wandering around the various greenhouses, we came upon a sign planted on a patch of bare dirt that said, “I’m Not Dead, I’m Dormant.” I commented to the group that that phrase would be good for a t-shirt. We all laughed, and I forgot about the whole thing until a few weeks ago. I was looking around online, and did one of those “for the heck of it” searches. I typed in tshirt im not dead im dormant. A t-shirt did come up, and when I looked at the name of the store where it could be purchased, it was none other than the Phipps Museum Shop. I chuckled as I emailed the url to Alice and Steve, and then forgot about it, until today, when a belated father’s day gift arrived. We took one picture of me holding the shirt looking dormant, and one of me smiling. Guess which one I picked?

Poo

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

In my younger years, I worked as a Carriage Tour driver on Mackinac Island. The job was to drive a 2-horse hitch buggy for a tour around the scenic spots of the island, while talking about the island to my 12 passengers. It was a great job.

I especially enjoyed watching the new folks come off the ferry and take their first look at the place. I imagined them thinking what a wonderfully low-key atmosphere the place presented. Bikes whizzed around, horse-driven taxis clopped by, and people filled the sidewalks downtown. Many of the people made the choice to take a carriage tour. I’d get them settled on my carriage, click at my horses, and away we’d go. There was a short level stretch downtown, then we made a left turn by the fort, and climbed a fairly steep hill.

When the horses worked hard, they often had to relieve themselves. I would be turned around talking to the passengers, and could often tell by the look on their faces when the first horse poo started. The kids would giggle in amazement. The parents would wrinkle their noses, and I’d smile to myself. Welcome to one of the consequences of horsepower.

pooI’ve never owned a horse, but am grateful for those that do, because horse poo is great stuff for the garden. When our neighbors called to say I could drive over and get a load, I grabbed my hat and headed out the door. I learned that tolerance for poo must be like riding a bicycle. Once you have the skill, you don’t lose it.

There was some skepticism in our household regarding this valuable resource. Words were spoken like, “If the dog rolls in that stuff, he isn’t sleeping in this house!” And, “I’ll make sure there is plenty of hot water for your shower tonight.” Those of you not trained in subtlety might miss the thread, but I did detect that the goal should be to keep the poo in the garden. And I accomplished that mission… mostly.

Sting of the Mosquito

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014

teahearthI was sitting at the computer just now. I sit at the computer a lot, but I think I’ll remember this session for a long while. I was filling out the online application for Social Security, which, at age 62, I am eligible for. (AMAZING)

I’d completed the process with no major hitches. I was at the point where I had to read several paragraphs carefully and hit the SUBMIT button. My tea glass was positioned just above and to the left of my keyboard as usual. Then it happened… a mosquito hove into view.

I reacted like the blood-thirsty killer I am. I extended my arms and SLAPPED with my hands. I have a great deal of experience with this particular movement, which is why I think my brain didn’t feel the need to become involved this time.

I slapped my hands together, missing the mosquito, but upsetting the tea. It sits in a spill-resistant glass for precisely this reason, but still, a fairly large amount glugged onto my desk and started sprinting across toward my important papers. (I can imagine the mosquito watched all this with amusement.)

I jumped up and started for the kitchen to grab the dishrag in order to wipe up the mess. On my way across the heating stove hearth, which has a cracked and loose corner on one of the tiles, my timing was such that the heel of my left foot came down on the pointed part of the loose corner of tile, and ripped a 2″ gash. There was copious blood.

I do not do well when several things happen at once. The spilled tea was asking to be cleaned up, my foot was bleeding, and I was standing there. Eventually, I limped over to the sink, grabbed some paper towel, and started soaking up the wound. There was a lot of soaking up to do.

Oh, and did I mention that Alice was gone for the morning? Franco, my constant friend, lifted his head up from his nap, watched me for a few seconds, and lay back down again. I was on my own.

Once the paper towel was doing it’s job, I had a moment where things were not getting progressively worse. “I think I’ll walk over and finish wiping up the tea,” I whispered to myself. I tried to take the first step and smiled out loud. It seems that it is difficult to walk when you are holding one of your feet in your hands. I tried to hop, but remember, I am a 62 year old who just applied for Social Security. I settled on the technique of cleaning my heel thoroughly with the paper towel, limping a few steps, stopping to wipe up, and then doing a few more steps. Miraculously, I remembered to bring the kitchen rag along.

I cleaned up the tea, and took a peek at the gash. Thankfully, my bare footed summer habits toughen my feet up a great deal, and the blood was slowing down a lot. “We’re going to get through this,” I thought to myself.

Get it clean and cold, I thought, so I hobbled upstairs to the bathtub, sat on the edge, and started running cold water for my foot to soak a while.

Our bathtub has a lever that directs water to either the shower or the tap. We normally keep this lever in the middle so the water will drain out of the shower pipe. It happened to be in the middle as I was sitting with my feet inside the tub. That meant that water came out the tap, and a brief moment later, out the shower head, and yes, all over my pants.

After a few minutes of soaking, my efforts were definitely staunching the flow. I grabbed my first aid kit, slapped on some triple antibiotic ointment, a large bandage, and finished it off with some adhesive tape. “This will make a good story,” I thought to myself. The rest is history.

First Pea

Thursday, June 12th, 2014

The gardens have been planted for a few days now, and we’re settling into our maintenance schedule. I haul the buckets from the pond and water inside the greenhouse, while Alice hoes. One aspect of gardening I never seem to get tired of is discovering progress the gardens have made since our last visit.

This morning we had a nice rain, and the outside garden responded by putting up a few more potato plants. The rows of potatoes are clearly starting to have tiny green flags to show where they are. These flags are much more interesting to the potato bugs, who can’t be far off now. Vigilance is the key.

peasWe also saw our first open tomato blossoms in the greenhouse this morning, and our first shy little pea plants. We planted mostly sugar snaps this year, so we’ll see how this goes. A good friend of ours wanted to visit our garden about a week ago, and offered to plant the peas for us, so this triumph belongs to her as well as to us.

We’re slowly progressing on the mulching of the gardens too. I started spreading last year’s hoarded yard waste on the onions in the outside garden today. The plants are still pretty small, but the advantages of keeping the moisture in and the weeds out tend to make me throw caution to the wind sometimes.

wateringdockThe project of watering the greenhouse garden has developed into a routine each summer. I don my carrying yoke and hook the two empty buckets to it, and stroll down to the watering dock. I almost always stand on the dock for a few moments and stare off into the view shown in the picture. You’d think that after so many hundreds of times, the routine would get dull. But it never does. The typical thought that runs through my mind while I’m standing there is, “Gosh, we live in a beautiful place!”