Snaotheus and kids are coming up! Yay!

I love my daughters-in-law dearly; they are wonderful women and I enjoy spending time with them. There is also something extremely special about spending time with just your body-borne, grown-up child and/or any attached littles, and I have that rare treat coming today since KrisDi is off training for something. Snaotheus, Chilkoot, and Chilkat are on their way up. happy dance, Kermit flail, happy dance!

I’m thinking of tying string to their ankles, handing them some cuttings, and letting them crawl down Horrible Hill and jam them into the ground. If the cuttings grow, yay! If not, no harm, no foul.

(I suspect dad and kids will all veto this plan. 🙂 )

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

The Horrible Hill Project

Since my neighbor weed-whacked stuff on my side of the property line last summer, I’ve been rushing madly about trying to determine how to keep what remains of my clifflet where it belongs. He exposed quite a lot of unprotected area, and with as much rain as we get, that’s not a good thing. As mentioned previously, I lucked into the last slot in a County Extension class on landscaping with native plants, which included a section on erosion control. It was pretty extensive (six hours a day, two days a week, three or four weeks) and I learned a lot. Of course, “a lot” in a massively large knowledge bucket still leaves a whole lot of ignorant, so I didn’t exactly feel like an expert going in.

But yesterday, I got all of The Horrible Hill Project done that I can do this year. Probably. I might be able to stick another bush or two into the ground but… I got no reachable place to put ’em and haven’t yet figured out how to reach the unreachable, so I’m calling it good for now. Probably for the entire winter. Maybe.

I hauled myself outside at 9 a.m., dressed stylishly (oh, yes!) in three layers of tops and two of bottoms, plus the bright yellow rain pants ($15! On clearance at Hardware Sales! With a jacket and hat, too! So I can plant in the rain! But wait! I don’t have to, because it’s all done!!!), clambered down the hill in best sloth fashion, and started Looking for Places to Put Boards.

This is a daunting task. From the bottom, that clifflet looks so big and so steep, and I really, really, really didn’t want to have to do this stuff. Still, there wasn’t anybody else and I can’t throw money at it, so what’s the option? Floating downstream in a matchbox? D’oh.

I’d decided on a couple of places when my friend and neighbor Linda–the one with the problem-solving superpowers and suicidal desire to help people–showed up.  Linda spotted all the essential areas in about 30 seconds, while I’d decided on two in about 15 minutes. (“You overthink everything!” she likes to tell me.) We clambered back up, tossed four boards (salvaged from tearing down the raised bed, at Linda’s suggestion–remember superpowers?) down to roughly where we wanted them (they bounced. Who thought they’d bounce?) and proceeded to wrangle them into place, though two of them expressed reluctance by refusing to fit neatly where we wanted them to go. I’d already plopped a few big rocks and some large-ish bits of dead tree in a couple of other places, so we wound up with about six tiny retainers poised to arrest and jail any soil attempting to run away without permission.

After that, we got four or five bushes planted, mostly on the lower slopes. This required a lot of up-and-down activity by me (Linda has Owies that make it hard for her to play mountain goat, so I really, really appreciate her willingness to bop down there with me). We hauled everything back up and I started working on that actively eroding corner; it now has the fern (planted a couple weeks ago) and a snowberry (actually on my neighbor’s side of the line) along with one of the reclaimed Trex boards. And some clayey dirt packed into the eroded voids and a gob of hog fuel on top of that. By the time we finished, it was noon and Linda had reached her limit. She went home and I went back to work planting the scavenged and purchased ferns along the top of the hill, per Slope Guy’s instructions.

I went up and down that hill at least 38 times, hauling stuff, hauling other stuff I hadn’t had enough arms for, and reasons. I planted nine ferns of varying sizes, five bushes, two groundcover plants (they’ll spread!! Yay for spreading!) and five (or was it seven? I think it was seven) potted sticks that are going to turn into bushes (one will turn into a huge one, if all goes well). I shoveled half a yard of hog fuel onto everything (that makes a yard and a half in less than a week). But let’s take the trip in pictures, shall we?

Looking down from the top, you can see four of the five gray boards we put in place. The red blobs show three of the bushes (you can tell by the white-ish wood rectangles near them, put there to kinda-sorta help temporarily shelter the disturbed soil). There’s too much background detail to see the other two. I did  mark the bushes with paint, but you can’t see it from the top.

Another three hours got me the ferns planted at the top of the hill, on the left side…

… and on the right side. This does not show the Dramatic Surprise, which involves the gravel walkway slanting very slightly downhill so when you think you’re balanced, you suddenly discover you’re not. At one point, the bucket I was using to carry the hog fuel decided it wasn’t happy, and it leaped up and over the edge at the very steepest spot–that part that’s a foot or more deeper than the rest, that The Brothers were using last summer as a path when they were doing Jobs for Mom–and bounced merrily a-a-all-l-l the way down to the very… very… bottom. sigh

Here’s the corner where the dirt is (one hopes “was,” now) washing away (out of focus; sorry). I put a board in place there along with the fern and snowberry, both of which have good roots and will hold the soil in place nicely after a couple of years. Okay, maybe five. This part is actually not my property—the 4×4 marks the property line—but my neighbor said he isn’t going to do anything much about it, and I figure it’s better to do some work and plant a couple of things on his side than have what tiny yard I have fall down the coulee (followed by the house). He said he didn’t mind (of course).

The last bit of this part doesn’t show: At bottom right of the corner is one of the seven cuttings I took from my upstairs neighbor’s Big Honkin’ Bush. The rest I stuck in the flat (i.e., disturbed and damaged, therefore more runaway prone) places I’d been using as “steps” all day. All but one going down toward the bottom of the clifflet. So more climbing. I recently discovered that a cutting I’d plopped in the ground a couple of years ago and completely ignored had managed to root and grow five or six inches, so I’m thinkin’ this might be a decent bush to take care of those spots.

I had two ferns left over—the kind that had to be soaked, coaxed, pulled, tugged, and mangled to get their roots out of the pot shape rather than the kind dug up at someone’s house—so one of them went beside my stairs, where there’s nearly a vertical drop, and the other (not shown; the photo imps were on break) up top, next to the disused sidewalk.

After that, I put hog fuel (remember hog fuel?!) on and around everything, and used up about half the cubic yard.

The remainder of the hog fuel with the Big Blue Tarp, and the upturned no-handle pot I was reduced to carrying the hog fuel in after the bucket headed south. Erm, east. Fortunately, I remembered to sloth-run the traverse (SO not a picnic!) and grab it when I went down to shove the cuttings in.

It couldn’t get away that easily! Naughty bucket!

After six hours sloth-ing up and down the hill, I’d shed a layer or two, soaked through the rest, and tried to take a picture of my stylish outfit. That was an epic fail, but… I was definitely hot and sweaty. Eww!

By this time, I’d also hauled the ladder downstairs and brought out the three different gutter covers I’d gotten for a ‘Speriment in the one gutter that gets horribly clogged. My quantum-mechanics friend was coming over, and she was going to spot for me… but she was way late, and by then, I realized how very tired my legs were, so I brought the ladder and covers inside. The front end of my house looks like a hardware store in progress.

So I peeled off The Filthy Outside Layer of Things…

… and took a long, hot shower. And called it good.

Save

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Happy birthday to me!

Now I am Officially Old. (Never mind that I felt that way quite a few years back.)

I spent the weekend with the Snaotheus clan, whose adorable children entertained me adorably, and they took me to see “Disney on Ice” for the second year. I fear this may be becoming a tradition. This year’s seemed more interesting than last year’s, though the skating is always good. This year I was captivated by the costuming and the way they were able to translate fabric, plastic sticks, and a few other things into props that evoked a surprising number of backgrounds and effects.

This was my birthday cake, baked by the redoubtable KrisDi. I shared it with my knitting group, who all thought it was fantastic (they know a good thing when they taste it), and ate the rest myself.

Amazing apple-caramel birthday cake. Yummmm! It’s healthful… apples, and nuts, and eggs, and milk, and cinnamon, and… and… other healthful things.

Chilkoot gave me, among about six equally adorable little-boy presents, this one, which is (though he doesn’t know it) the topic of a running gag on one of my knitting forums:

We’ve all gone Quackers!

At one point, Chilkat was playing “pet store” with approximately 6,000 of her favorite stuffed animals on the floor. I told her I wanted to buy the dragon. Her dad said he bet it would be delicious. She became quite displeased when he and I began discussing which animals would be most delicious, and he told her she needed to have a “No Eating Agreement.”

She flounced off to get pen and paper, and promptly drew up a legal paper, which contains a word she didn’t know. She spelled it “ugrimint.” (It’s hard to tell because I had bad shakiness that day and I got bad focus.) Pronounce it phonetically, accent on the second syllable. I love it!

No Eating Agreement

And Snaotheus bought me new windshield washers, and installed them, and a new pair of earphones, too. It was a good birthday weekend.

Save

Save

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

The no-choice, suck-it-up
Curse of Competence Project

 (Warning: If you are a member of my family, this is Required Reading. Get a cup of coffee and settle in or I’ll cut you out of the will. Be grateful for the pictures. If you aren’t family, get an excuse from your doctor. You get points if you wade through it.)

Part I

Among the many, many, many things the <numerous expletives deleted> developer did criminally incorrectly when my poor sad house was put in place was, I am far beyond positive, putting perforated drainage pipe around the house, dropping it a foot or two down the hill, and leaving it there so all the roof and garage run-off could eat the hill from the inside out. Which it has done.

The first thing Wonderful Slope Guy did when he came by and gave me a free consultation (blessed be he forever) on the recommendation of my landscaping-with-native-plants teacher was write me a list of things to do to stabilize the clifflet and prevent as much additional erosion as possible. Number one on that list, in Large Bold Letters, was know where your run-off goes and control it.

Well, I knew where my run-off went. Down the gutters, swooshing through the downspouts, and into the (cheap-@$$, 18-year-old, most-likely-broken-and-crumbled since its useful life is 10 years) buried corrugated piping ubiquitous around here, and thence into the ground, probably under my house and down said clifflet, happily destabilizing everything that needs to be stable.

So I Made A Plan. (I don’t make plans. I am no good at plans. I hate plans. Plans always go awry. It’s a rule.) I hauled out the longest measuring tape I have (30′) and started measuring how much corrugated pipe I’d need to replace the old, broken stuff with new but malignant, possessed-by-devils stuff. This was entertaining, given that I had no helper and the tape wouldn’t stay where I hooked it. Many unplanned (see?) whacks on the knuckle by unexpectedly and rapidly retracting tape occurred. Much swearing and stomping of feet nevertheless, repeated often enough, tamed the tape, and eventually I determined how much hose and what kinds of fittings I needed (connectors, adapters. Ts, Ys). I was going to run the two garage downspouts into one hose, the two south-end-of-house ones into another, and the same on the north side, with the drainage hoses going all the way down the hill this time, to drain safely away from my poor beleaguered cliff.

My friend and neighbor Linda got roped into this by virtue of a) the Curse of Competence, b) previous evidence of ingenious problem solving, and c) an apparently suicidal desire to be helpful. I showed her my plans, and she immediately consolidated the garage hose with the south-end hose, lopping about 100′ of piping (and $60) off my bill. She even went shopping with me, and that turned into An Adventure.

Lowe’s didn’t have anything I needed but caps for the hoses I was going to cut off and seal. We went to Hardware Sales. They had everything (of course!!! They’re Hardware Sales!), bless them, and cheaper than Lowe’s, so I wound up with two 100′ rolls of hose, a couple of Ys, a T, blah blah, that added up to about $270, which was more than I was willing to invest in this d@mn place, but what can you do? All it has to do is last another 10 years or so, ’til I croak. After that, I don’t care.

Hardware Sales (which still sells screws and nails by the each or pound, for those of you unfamiliar with its wondrousness) keeps all its drainage-hose stuff outside, stuffed under a steep roof and behind a long bank of shelf units perpendicular to the deep, dark cubbyholes in which reside all the fittings. Linda, who … let’s just say dislikes mice and such … commented to that effect, then courageously reached into one of the deep, dark cubbies, at which point the nice man who was helping us leaped at her and growled, causing her to jump, shriek, have a small, quick heart attack, and smack the guy on the noggin.

This is how things go with Linda.

She had driven on this outing, since she has a rather large car (compared to my wee Ladybug) and we figured the hose etc. could go in her trunk no problem. Oops… problem. Even one 100′ roll of corrugated hose wouldn’t fit in her trunk or in the back seat, and we had two rolls plus a big box of fittings. So the nice man tied one roll onto her roof. We trucked it home and unloaded it, whereupon I walked it down the stairs.

We discovered that Linda had lost her wallet. Naturally, great angst ensued and phone calls were made to Lowe’s, where we quickly headed and which we quickly scoured, to no avail, for her missing property. Next had to be Hardware Sales, ’cause we didn’t go anywhere else, did we?

She wandered off one way, I another (I took the deep, dark cubbyholes). We met in front of the cubbies.

“No luck,” she said. “God, I hate this.”

“None for me, either,” I said. “You wanna go look back there?”

No.

“Well, wait a second,” I said, and went back in there again, this time looking all along the floor and under the cubbies’ lips (cavities, ha ha ha) instead of in the cubbies… and there was her wallet. On the ground, tucked a bit out of sight. Calloo, callay! O frabjous day! So we found Nice Scary Man, who loaded up the second roll of hose like a little car-sized top hat, and we drove it home.

We had quite a time attaching and screwing together All The Things. I’m not going to go into the Keystone Kops routines we did with our various and intermingled tools, or the three trips Linda sent me on to her house to retrieve tools I didn’t have but that we needed rather desperately. Suffice it to say that eventually, all the tools were in the same big black trash can and were being used with great regularity.

Between 9 a.m. and 3:30 p.m., we had first connected the two garage downspouts (rather tidily, if I do say so, with sheet-metal screws which I later wrapped with specially made tape).

Step one: Attaching the garage downspouts. Eureka!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rest of the garage connection. Double Eureka!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then we tackled the downspout closest to the door on the south side. This required removing three of the deck boards so we could see and (we hoped) easily get beneath the downspout, where we intended to connect the new hose after dragging it by  main force under the deck. Then we intended to run it down the side of the house. However, this is what we found.

Lots of short, angle-y 2x6s and many-lots of spider webs, along with a quite large spider that Linda was positive was out to get her. That’s Linda in the corner, glaring at the uncooperative substructure. The spider wound up a blotch on the ground.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just getting to that was A Major Ordeal involving the unintended stripping of four screws (ones with those square holes in them–honestly, whoever invented the square holes, the star-shaped ones, and anything but flat and Phillips ought to be keel-hauled, tarred and feathered, and tossed out of town with the glass recycling). After we got them out (by virtue of channel locks and elbow grease), I crawled partly under the deck (I’m too old and creaky to get all the way under. Three more days and I’m Officially Old). It didn’t look any more promising from that perspective, and it looked a whole lot more spidery. We looked at each other and said, “Well-l-l-l-l-l, I think we’ll just bypass that. We can always raise the gutter so the water goes to the other end.”

On to greater things. After the T joint and woman-handling the hose under the deck, hooking up an in-line connector was a breeze, and then, like magic, we were at the far end, where we hooked up a Y. I threw the remainder of the hose down the cliff, then scrambled, slipped, slid, and not-fell (mirabile dictu!) down the cliff, where I had to stake the end of the hose to make it stay in place. But yay! That end was done!

Y connector on the south side of the house. Nice job, us!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And yippeeee! Down the hill it went.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And evening and morning were the first day.

Part II

There was still plenty to do, and the next day I got to do it by myself. Namely, digging a trench in the gravel walkway in which to bury the hose, running it under the 6×6 edging, connecting it to the Y assembly, taping all the joints, and letting it bop down the hill.

This did not go, shall we say, smoothly. Oh, digging the trench wasn’t too bad, once I got past the fact that you can’t dig out sharp gravel with a shovel and discovered that the hand mattock was da bunnies. But digging it deep enough, under the 6×6… yeah, that was a whole ‘nother story. ‘Cause right there, about 2.75″ under the 6×6? Where I needed a tish over 3″ of clearance to get the hose in? Yeah, right there was a boulder about the size of Vermont. Plan awry! I could not budge it, no matter how much I muttered, swore, and banged on it with implements that should have been harder than the boulder. So I stalked into the house, muttering and snarling, grabbed my pry bar, stomped back outside, put the pry bar under the 6×6, and stood on the pry bar, using the bloody boulder itself to lever up the 6×6 enough to quick, shove the hose under. Connecting it, screwing it together, and taping All The Joints was a snap after that. (Comparatively. This does not equate to “easy.”)

Then there was the matter of keeping the hose from crumbling when people (hah! who am I kidding? I. When I, ’cause I’m the only person who’s ever here) walk over it. I had a fortuitously sized length of rigid plastic pipe. I measured and hand-sawed off the appropriate length to cover the hose. I got out my little saber saw, which has served me so very well so many times in the past, and cut the pipe piece in half longitudinally… and discovered that a power saw generates enough heat to let the plastic pipe seal itself behind the saw. So I had to hand-saw both sides of that little mother, too. More awry. Everywhere you look, awry.

This did not make me a very happy camper. In fact, it escalated the grumpiness from the digging/boulder fiasco. I know you’ll find this hard to believe, but it’s true. I was ticked off.

The half-pipe, though, went down perfectly over the corrugated hose. I shoveled the gravel over it, stomped on all of it as hard as I could, and called it good. I hope to heck it doesn’t let that particular subset of All the Dirt Around My Sad House go floating down the coulee.

The Y-joint, corrugated hose, and sawn half-pipe in the trench. Go, me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Y-joint/hose, all covered up and stomped into place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The pipe emerging from beneath the 6×6 and heading off downhill to find mischief to get into. Yes, I need to adjust the slope so it will all drain downhill. One step at a time, OK?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The grand 66.6% finale! And the evening and the morning were the second day.

Part III

The third day, last chance to finish before a big rainstorm moved in, Linda and I were confident. We’d done the hard parts. We figured we could knock this last, north-end bit out of the park in an hour or two.

At first, things went smoothly. If you discount the fact that she broke my tiny drill bit, then lost the fragment we could still use, and then found a nail-screw hybrid on the ground and stuck that into her drill chuck!

First connection on the northwest corner: easy-peasy.

But the Project Gods had other ideas.

Rather than the Y connector I’d gotten for the northeast corner of the house, Linda determined an elbow (which I had) and a T (which I didn’t) would work better. I’m still not convinced of that, and I may yet, some day when I’m feeling both lucky and risky, go back and re-do it.

But that necessitated a trip to Hardware Sales–an essential part of any project, though we had fewer Trips Back to the Store than most people–to buy the T. I had clippered my hair to the crew cut the night before, and on the way out of the store, out of the blue, Linda pops up: “Do you suppose people think we’re a lesbian couple? You have a crew cut and we’re not wearing rings!”

I really did nearly rupture my diaphragm laughing. “If they do,” I gasped, “I hope it contributes to a rich fantasy life!”

So. We had the northwest drainspout hooked up and going east around the corner. We hooked up the hose, the elbow, and the T, and hooked them up to the downspout. Among other adventures, we managed to avoid Linda tumbling over backwards down the hill when she tried to sit on the stepstool while it tilted backwards. “You don’t wanna do th–” I started, then grabbed her arm as she shrieked and started to flip over. Save!

Down the north side of the house, west to east. One. More. Set. Of. Joints.

Then came the last hookup: the hose to the T, and then down that side of the hill.

The problem was that the 75′ of remaining hose was rolled up. Despite being labeled “flexible,” this corrugated stuff is so not flexible. It is, as I may have mentioned, infested with evil wights that cause it to flop around in unimaginable directions and configurations. Linda Blair  had it easy.

There we were, mooshed up against the back side of the house with about a two-foot area between wall, us, and dropping to the center of the earth. And 75′ of unpredictable and surprisingly heavy drain pipe. Linda insisted moving it this way would let it unroll easily; I pointed out that doing so would turn it into a knot. We argued and futzed with it ’til I finally went around the house, onto the deck, and tried to pull it out straight across the deck and the south end of the gravel walk.

Epic fail. I wound up dancing with the darn stuff, as every time I straightened out a coil, two others locked into place between me and Linda. She was, I think, getting pinched rather nastily by the stuff, but she didn’t wail.

Eventually, I got it straightened out and lopped off about 25′, thinking that would leave more than enough to go down the hill and bypass it entirely before water came out.

But.

That long a chunk of hose (about 45-50′) weighs a really whole big lot. I’m not strong enough to throw it from the deck down the hill and have it fall neatly into the place I wanted it to be. I tried two or three times before admitting defeat, though I refused to cry.

“Here, tie a rock to it,” Linda said.

“How’s that gonna make it less heavy to throw?”

“Oh.”

“I’m gonna have to go down there. I don’t see any other way to get it where it should be.”

Down I went. Now, when I went down there last summer, it was dry and easy to walk on. After several rains, there’s actual standing water, and you cannot tell how deep it (and the mud beneath) is because the autumn leaves have stained the water a dark coffee color. So I was climbing, creeping across, balancing on, and clinging to all manner of boulders, fallen and mossy nurse logs, and I think even swinging from tree to tree, at about the top speed of a three-toed sloth. So like three or four centimeters per minute, tops.

I could get within about 8″ of reaching the pipe. I stretched. I held on  to a semi-stable cut tree limb and stretched farther. I picked up a hook-shaped limb and tried to snag it. All to no, as they say, avail.

Moving at slow-sloth speed, I inched forward on a mossy boulder, hooked my arm around its edge, and le-e-a-a-aned forward. At the ultimate stretch… I got it! I grabbed that pipe, yanked on it, and didn’t let go.

Unfortunately, the wights were still in there and having a party. I was able to get the curly pipe into place, but it wouldn’t lay flat. It insisted on springing straight up in the air, no matter how I shook it or waggled it. It was way too excited about this whole thing.

“Hey,” I hollered the 30′ or so up to where Linda was laughing. “Can you th’ow me that brick?”

“Sure,” she said. “Stand behind that tree.”

The only tree within an hour’s sloth race stood about 6″ in diameter. “That tree’s too little,” I pointed out. “You’ll hit me.”

“Sissy,” she said, and tossed it.

The brick landed about six feet away from me, miraculously not in either one of the dark unplumbable bottomless voids or in the equally deep (I was certain) mud. I picked it up, slithered over to the end of the hose, wrestled it onto the ground, and plopped the brick on top of it.

Hah. Opposable thumbs win again!

This is going off the gravely part and down into the jungle, where…

… this does not give you a sense of scale. It’s about 40′ straight down, maybe more, and that cedar tree it snakes around is about 18″ in diameter. It is most definitely not a sapling. That tree covering up part of  the hose at the bottom of the shot is a big-leaf maple, one of two that will have to come out soon so they don’t grow overnight to 250′.

After Linda gave out and went home, another hour or so taping all the joints (which was much more difficult than anticipated because of the tight T-joint clearance, which is why I think I may need to go back and put in the Y), I gathered up tools, hauled tools and spare parts inside ’cause it was gonna rain, and got ready for the neighborhood Halloween potluck. (I went as a psychopath: They look just like everybody else, so the costume is easy-peasy.)

And the evening and the morning made the third day.

Epilogue

Today, it’s rained. Despite having nightmares that it’s all going to melt or be dragged away by ravens or eaten by bears, the hoses still seem to be in place.

I hope to all that’s holy that they stay that way, and that the dirt underneath (especially that very narrow spot at the northeast corner) doesn’t decide to get miffed about the whole thing and head for Idaho.

The bad thing about having done this: The Curse of Competence will apply. That means the next time I need Son Assistance, I’ll get told, “Ma, you did all that drain stuff by yourself (not true! I had Linda the Clever!). You don’t need my/our/his help!”

No matter what, an old lady can’t win. And don’t forget: As of Sunday, I am officially an Old Lady.

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 2 comments

Yesssss!

One of the joys of being nouveau pauvre is that you get to learn exciting new things… whether you like it or not. Because you can’t throw money at them.

Add that fact to autumn in the Pacific Northwet (sic) and my phobia about anything higher than the third rung of a ladder, and you’re looking at wheeeeeee!!! territory.

Today, those things collided.

It was a nice day (read: no rain, flash of odd yellow in the sky) and one does not waste this hereabouts. I was too tired of doing diggy things to start digging holes for sword ferns or trying to shove the eroded dirt on my clifflet back into place and find a way to keep it there, so I decided I’d take the cheap-@$$ leaf blower onto the roof and blow off the thick layer of deposited-in-the-weekend-storm cedar droppings (every fall, yellow and gold chunks of … I don’t have a word for it other than “cedar leaves” … blow off during the first several big windstorms. Since I have a number of huge western cedars and one gigantic hemlock tree very near the house, I get enormous quantities of this crap on everything. The whole lot, house and all, is blanketed with non-negotiable gold).

Last summer (2016), I installed with a neighbor’s help some netting stuff on the gutters that promised–promised!–to keep out everything from squirrels to radiation dust. I knew from halting at the top of my stairs and looking a couple days ago that it lied… because gold crap quilted my roof. I couldn’t even see the gutter netting.

I finished three hours of dirt shuffling and dismantling the raised bed on the clifflet lip, ate lunch, went upstairs to get the ladder, brought it downstairs, and took a half hour or so to reacquaint myself with how to make it the size and shape I wanted (haven’t used it for a couple of years. A person forgets). I tried the ever-popular upside-down V. That didn’t work. Went to the straight variety. That just looked scary, but I couldn’t find a configuration or destructions for “lifting magically onto roof.” I had to go with what I had.

I put up there the leaf blower and a couple of extension cords, plus a leftover roll of the dishonest gutter netting, took a deep breath, huffed it out, closed my eyes… opened my eyes,  realizing that trying to climb a ladder blind would be counterproductive… and headed up.

Yes, I’d called my spotter but she hadn’t answered her phone. I didn’t have a pocket for my own phone. I figured at least when she got messages it would occur to someone to check to see if I was a) alive, and b) unbroken.

Astonishingly, I did get onto the roof. Not without a fair bit of gasping, eye-closing, eye-rolling, false starts, face-squinching, jaw-clenching, ladder-gripping, self-encouragement, and various other ploys of similar ilk… but I did it.

The leaf blower? Brilliant. It blew the cedar crap way the he!! off the roof (although it blew a good portion of the crap from the west side onto the east side of the roof, so it might’ve been a wash). But my extension cord was only 25′ long.

My house is about 48′ long.

Fair bit of discrepancy there (dare I say “discrapency”?)

After I blew off what I could, I crawled around on the roof brushing the cedar crap and hemlock cones off the roof… with my unclad fingers. Especially the large piles of yuck in the joint of that pointy bit that’s supposed to be Front of House but is actually Back of House given that my house was plopped in place so The View is out the “front” windows, which are actually the back windows, and if you’ve followed that you’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.

‘Twasn’t long before I’d sanded all my fingerprints off on the new-last-spring shingles. And been not impressed with the amount of sandy stuff that had washed off the new shingles into the crack between the pointy bit and the rest and the supposedly protected gutters. The netting had become a nice social gathering point for all the cedar droppings, which had congregated on the part just under the roof overhang and become so familiar with its various parts that it had coalesced into double-fist-sized gobbets of decomposing yellow matter. Still, I persevered.

I pulled the useless netting out of the gutters on the east side and began scooting across the roof, scooping out the gunk in the gutter with one hand and tossing it down onto the areas I’m shortly gonna have to put sword ferns in. It was kind of gross. No, it was really gross. Though I reclaimed probably five pounds of roofing nails. And the “filters” that the last gutter cleaners had “installed” at the downspouts turned out to be … are you ready? … little twists of the same failed gutter-netting junk I’d just pulled out and tossed overboard!

Just as I finished pulling crap out of one section of the gutter, my spotter showed up and started to give me grief. I didn’t care.

She had a 50′ extension cord, and went to get it, bless her heart. She made me promise to sit on the ridgeline ’til she got back.

I tried. I really tried. But I had to not waste the nice day, so I pulled out and pitched the gutter netting on the other side and checked the no-longer-in-place downspout filters, noted as per above.

She scolded me when she returned. “You just can’t do anything you’re told, can you?” Caught me red-handed… well, brown-handed, covered elbow high in dirt, muck, deliquescent cedar crap, bits of pine cone, and general misery, but still caught.

She passed up the 50′ cord. I stopped sweeping. Oh, yeah. At some point, I’d decided sanding my fingerprints off was a stupid way to avoid a trip down and up the ladder, gotten down (no broken bones!), grabbed a broom, and gone back up (no broken bones!).

She laughed at me. “You know this isn’t enough junk on your roof to get excited about, right?” she said.

“Don’t care,” I grumbled. “If I leave it, it’ll wash down into the gutters.”

I could hear her eyes roll from where I … well, not exactly stood. Crouched is more like it, kind of a half squat, given that I’m not good at standing on unlevel surfaces.

Turning on the leaf blower, I waved it across the roof. Magic! Cedar crap flew off the ends, into the air, off the sides, into the gutters…

“Why not?” I thought, and crouched over to the gutter edge. I aimed the leaf blower into one end of the gutter and turned it on.

Half-rotted cedar crap, teeny pine cones, new-shingle sand, general dirt and disorder, it all rocketed into the air, over the side, onto the ground, the roof, me… “Whoa!” I heard myself say… to myself, given the leaf blower’s decibel level. “This is seriously cool.

I went to the other side and blew out the gutter crap there. This was awesome. I felt like a little boy who’s just discovered he can pee his name in the snow.

Within a short time, I’d blown crap out of all the gutters. I could feel my fingerprints starting to grow back. I turned to Spotter Linda and grinned three feet wide, blobs of black dirt all over my face, arms, and shirt. “Awesome!” I crowed. “It gets the crap out of the gutters!!!”

“You look way too happy,” she replied. “You shoulda started at this end and gone the other way. Now you’ve got gunk all over the deck.”

“I don’t care!” I cackled. “It blows! It totally blows! Everything!”

I finished up, handed her all the stuff, and carefully crawled down the ladder for the third time in one day. Then we went to Lowe’s to look for better gutter screens.

“Your gutters are clean,” said Linda. “Now is when you put better screens on. You don’t wait for the next storm, dummy, or you’ll have to do this all over again.”

“And that would be bad… how?” I snickered.

We had teeny DQ Blizzards before we came home. On me.

It was good. It was very good.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 3 comments

If it’s not one thing, it’s five others

It’s not bad enough that Lake Shitticaca shows up on my driveway every time it rains, reminding me of the Upcoming Great Retaining Wall Explosion Get Your Own Now Only $75,000 event, but we had quite a downpour yesterday and I could see just how quickly the bare ground, exposed by my overenthusiastic neighbor when he weed-whacked my blackberries (without asking), is going to wash away. Scary.

So I got a hook thingie and using all the muscle I’ve built this year pulled out from the trailing-blackberry cover the spring’s clematis prunings, which are conveniently wrapped up in bird netting, hauled the whole mess over to the naked area and plopped it over the worst part, hoping it will provide at least partial protection until I can get with a neighbor who has a pickup and go get 10 or 12 bags of mulch to cover it, and some jute cloth (ideally, but it seems to be hard to find locally) or more bird netting to anchor it to the ground. That ought to work, except that it looks as if one of the drainage channels is going to go from neighbor’s side of the property to mine, and I don’t want that At All. I may do some judicious dirt rearranging to make sure that doesn’t happen. His foundation goes down to bedrock, so his house won’t be floating down the ravine if all that dirt goes away; mine, as far as I know, has no footings at all. Of course. Having that shored up would probably be another $75,000 project. I don’t even want to know.

Neither of these has been good for the Anxiety Monster, who’s been feeding on them very happily and making my life a living hell. Acupuncture this a.m. helped a lot, but the effect starts to wear off after seven or eight hours, which is frustrating.

Good news is that I went to a readers’ theater group today and we ran through two old radio-show scripts from “Suspense,” and it was a lot of fun. And they let me in and were nice to the new kid and everything.

The “landscaping for erosion control using native plants” class I’m taking is going to be much more comprehensive than I really want, but I learned a lot in Monday’s class and the teacher said we’re starting on erosion control tomorrow. I’m surprised that the five-hour-per-day class exhausts me, but it does. Monday’s included about two hours in a local nature reserve that has about 100 native plant species. I discovered that I have a few red elderberries along with the sword ferns (which I will protect with my life, since they do extremely well with soil retention), a bunch of not-terribly-helpful bracken ferns, enough trailing blackberries to stock a nursery (which I’m sure everybody else has, too), and of course the big, non-native, invasive Himalayan blackberries (the huge, bushy ones that cities have to cut back every year and have thorns the size of a football field) that I have learned do a very poor job with soil retention. It’s not going to be pleasant trying to figure out how to get those things out (if I do) and put other, more suitable things in, and even less pleasant actually doing it.

So there’s my current life: one fresh hell after another.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, Gardening, 0 comments

Ugly fire season

This was my sky about 2 p.m., complete with headaches every time I went outside. I suppose it’s from the Cle Elum fire (Jolly Mountain) on the east side, which caused emergency evacuations. We’re supposed to get rain (on our side) Thursday, but who knows? It’s a bad season. Normally, rain over Labor Day weekend is as reliable as, well, Labor Day weekend, but this year it’s been the hottest part of the summer.

Smoky sky with half-hidden sun

Why is this showing up tiny and smooshing the sub-info next to it? Why is everything new a fresh hell to navigate?

Save

Save

Save

Save

Posted by wordsmith, 10 comments

… and now for the railings …

One of the things I couldn’t get to because of the Chilkoot Back Injury. They’re just gross, and it’s taking about an hour per section to get them clean. Plus now that I’ve migrated my site, WordPress seems to have updated automatically and a LOT of things have changed. The CSS still doesn’t display properly for the main page, but it does on the individual posts. I have absolutely no idea why.

Here we have got-to-clean-it-tomorrow railing followed by cleaned-today railing.

I’m completely lost with this new dashboard thing. Sheesh.

 

 

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

One small win

Finished sealing the deck, so it rained last night. But it’s a win.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

@.@

Holy hollows, Batperson! After the tree guys came in today and thinned out the tops of my neighbor’s and my trees, and trimmed branches off the bottoms, I’m amazed at what’s out there that I’d never seen before. Wooooo! Tres different!

17-tree-trim.jpg

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Good-bye, Arvin. Fly high. Run fast.

My friend Ann had been posting cryptic messages on Effbook for a couple of days. Given that she hasn’t, in the 20 years I’ve known her, been cryptic even once, I got worried and called her.

Turns out her husband Arvin, who’s been in an Alzheimer’s care unit for about four months, was expected to die in the next 24 hours or so. He’d declined quickly since entering, but we expected him to be around for at least several more months. This was a surprise.

I love these people. I lived in their basement suite while looking for work when I first  moved here. We went to pen shows, concerts, movies, all kinds of things together. When my two younger sons came to visit, Arvin would entertain them with his antique gun collection or by firing off his little 12″ or so cannon model (great Fourth of July fun). We’ve seen a lot of life together and they’re both precious to me.

So I postponed the Mothers’ Day lunch I’d been planning with a friend and went out to the care center to spend some time with Ann and Arvin. We sat with him for a couple of hours. I held and stroked his hand. She kissed him and told him repeatedly it was OK for him to go whenever he was ready. He was medicated (for comfort) and unresponsive, but Ann and I talked and laughed and reminisced, as we usually do, even so including him in the conversation.

When a caretaker came in for a bit of maintenance, Ann and I went outside, sat in the sun for a little while, and talked about the usual A to Z variety of things we talk about. No more than 10 or 15 minutes later, we went back inside.

Arvin must have just taken his last breath, because he was still fairly close to normal color. But he had no carotid pulse and his chest was still. Ann went to get a nurse. I held him and talked to him and gave him a good-bye kiss on the cheek, and told him to go run with the big cats, which he always loved, and be at peace.

The nurse came in and confirmed that yes, he was gone. By this time, blood had settled and he was the typical waxy-yellowish color. Ann and I had speculated that he was holding on, waiting for his daughter Lynda who was scheduled to arrive tomorrow. I suggested maybe he felt OK letting go because perhaps he thought I was Lynda, who’s about my age. Either way, he felt it was all right to leave, so he did. He’d not been eating or drinking for two or three days, and as the nurse put it, he finally found the correct exit sign on the roundabout.

I join Ann in gratitude that he didn’t have to suffer for another 12 months, which wouldn’t be unusual for Alzheimer’s patients, and also in the knowledge that we’ll miss him enormously. He and Ann were two of the happiest-together people I’ve ever known, and she’ll be bereft without him even though she’s an independent, adaptable woman and understands that this is, in the long run, a blessing.

It’s not my place to chronicle Arvin’s life, and indeed, there are huge swaths of it I know nothing about. However, I can speak to the part of it I shared with him, and it’s my privilege to do so.

The three of us met through pen collecting and hit it off at once. We became close through sharing the oddities of that hobby as well as Life that happened while we were busy collecting. Arvin was probably one of the foremost experts on the old Chilton brand of pens, and since he’d been collecting pens since the 70s (while I was in college!), he had an extensive group of them (as well as pens of many other brands). After Ann began to veer off into art, starting with photography, Arvin joined her and became a competent photographer (at that point, “photography” still meant “work” to me). A few years later, she moved into painting (and she’s become a darn good painter). Even then, he and I continued to share our love of pens, papers, calligraphy, and the like. He kept a leather pen holder fastened to his belt at all times, with at least one filled fountain pen at the ready.

He was one of the world’s truly gentle, caring, compassionate men, a kind we could surely use more of now. He worked with disabled people. He taught for many years at Goodwill, introducing people to computer-related job skills. He was the rare kind of guy who accepted people as they were, for who they were, and without worrying overmuch about their differences. Even when someone made him angry, his final response was likely to be bafflement and tolerance, not hatred. We could use a lot more of that these days, too.

As the father of two daughters, Arvin adored (and understood) little girls. He was infinitely patient with the intricate imaginary scenarios they could set up with toys and delighted in sitting on the floor with them, watching their imaginations fly while they used him as a pillar of their play. He loved teaching them math skills long before they realized that’s what they were learning. I wish he could have known my own granddaughter better; they would so have enjoyed each other.

Of all Arvin’s qualities, I think his intellectual curiosity stands out the most. He dearly loved learning new things, finding out how things worked, why they worked that way, and comparing that information with info from other sources. He read widely, deeply, and voraciously. He even read my stuff sometimes! An avowed skeptic and atheist of Jewish extraction, he nevertheless respected my faith and quite enjoyed discussing with me why I held my beliefs and how faith worked for me. It was easy to discuss even hot topics with Arvin, because he listened and tried to understand. He wasn’t busy, while you were talking, trying to formulate his response, the way most of us are. He cared about what you said.

He also cared about making a great cappuccino, terrific martinis and Manhattans, and sharing a good glass of wine. He loved word and math games and I enjoyed reading his books and magazines, not least because they were filled with little Post-It notes on which he’d scribbled questions, references to other pages and books, and comments (sometimes with exclamation points!). We also shared a love of fiber arts; he had done a fair bit of weaving years before and some spinning (with a wheel!), and was intrigued when I took up knitting.

For one of his 80-something birthdays, I knitted him a vest of alpaca in his favorite autumn colors. He spent quite a while trying to figure out exactly how I’d done it. He respected craftsmanship and fine handiwork wherever he saw it. Corvids (crows and ravens) fascinated him, too, and he knew a great deal about them and liked sharing that knowledge. A great joke teller, he had a repertoire of hundreds and, in former days, could pull them out one after the other, like pearls on a string. He loved (and played) classical guitar, and I clearly recall his pleasure when he discovered he could have acrylic nails applied over the ineffective ones that grew on his right hand, making it possible to pick strings more clearly.

Arvin was one of the world’s best, a man who moved quietly through the world but touched many, many lives. I dislike that when someone passes on, we always seem to say “so and so will be missed” in passive voice, as if the emotion isn’t really going to touch us as individuals. It’s going to touch me. I will miss Arvin. But I wish him peace and freedom, and as Ann said, a good run with the cheetahs and soaring flights with the ravens.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Best. Mothers’. Day. Ever.
(Or at least since the last one.)

Snaotheus and famille came up for early Mothers’ Day, which gives me the holiday day and leaves KrisDi with her own Mothers’ Day, and the opportunity for the grands to kick up their heels twice.

Today, Snaotheus, Chilkat and I spent most of the time doing SCIENCE! Physics, to be exact. Using the motor from a hand-held vac whose battery had died, a battery Snaotheus brought up, an Amazon cardboard box, some wheel-shaped things and dowels from my Craft Resource Store in the Spare Room, a kitchen knife (that really needs sharpening now), a couple of rubber bands, a plastic straw, an old boot lace (for a brake) and a few what-nots we later picked up at the craft store (with hope, which shortly was smashed) before lunch (Chinese, yumm), we intended to Make A Car using the Rapid Prototyping Process. Snaotheus had been planning this for a while, since he’d brought up some actual gears that we never got to try.

Snaotheus managed to mount the motor to the outside of the cardboard box while I trimmed down the dowels so they’d fit into the centers of the wheel-like objects (two of which really were toy wheels, repurposed from their initial repurposing for spinning spindles). We hooked the rubber band around one axle and the power shaft. We put the battery in the box, hooked it up, and voila! The motor worked and it made the wheels go around!

We called in Chilkat to watch the maiden voyage, explained to her what was going on, and asked what her hypothesis was. Since she’d put a plastic tiger on top of the (very heavy) battery, which was now inside the cardboard box on the other side from the motor, her hypothesis was that the tiger would go flying out.

Well, not quite… the weight of the battery was such that it kept the wheels from turning and going anywhere. We asked her what she thought we ought to do. “Um, put the battery in the middle,” she said. Smart kid: Distribute the weight evenly. Didn’t work, but a good idea!

Snaotheus took the battery out to try it without the weight. It turned out the car went the opposite direction from what we’d expected, so we did a Dr. Who: reversed polarity (in one of the rare situations where that will actually work!).

At the craft store, Snaotheus bought some upgrades for the Rapid Prototyping Project: a wooden crate (small), some wooden spools (for the axle, to give the assembly more torque and make it easier for the motor to turn it while loaded) that turned out to be so badly made they were oval, not round, and a couple of other things. No wooden spools of any size were in my extensive chest of spools with sewing thread, so we were out of luck there.

Chilkat decorated the wooden box while Snaotheus did Tool Things and sent me hunting through the Craft Resource Store for this, that, and the other, including a drill, some bits, and some hole saws.

Despite the upgrades in materials and mounting the motor inside the chassis, it didn’t work any better this time around. The axles were much too wide, since the new chassis was narrower than the cardboard box. We had some clearance issues (a mouse turd would have high-centered it), and after a couple more attempts, we’d run out of materials to try to improve the situation and imagination for identifying completely peculiar materials that might work, if… So it got packed up and went home with them, where other materials and tools are available.

But what fun it was!  And, as we explained to Chilkat, not a failure: just a series of learning experiences that informed improvements to the next iteration.

I’m really sad the cardboard box didn’t work. It was so cool, with its knife-gouge axle holes, flyaway tape threads, and plastic drinking-straw “bearings.” Very Northrup. ;D

I took videos, so if I can figure out how to either string them together and upload them as one or as several very short ones, I shall. If not, KrisDi took stills, so we have a reliable record somewhere.

We finished off the day with the neighborhood potluck, which wasn’t half bad except the kids didn’t want to eat anything. But that’s the kids; they often have days like that, and the two steamed dumplings they had for lunch managed to keep them going.

Plus, Snaotheus gave me a card that called me a bad-ass mother! And little brother Northwood said his wife refused to let him send me the card he picked out for me (I shall get to the bottom of this; he said he might tell me in about five years), so you know that one’s gotta be good. Wheeee!

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Yes, I am easily amused

17-pan.jpg

This not moon craters or volcanic rock or anything sensible or expected. It’s the bottom of my little 7″ saute pan after I cooked eggs in coconut oil. The coconut oil apparently cools off into little crater-shaped blobs that look more like barnacles than anything else to me. Anyway, it amused me this morning while the roofers are making one large noisy kettle drum out of my house.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Flexy is sexy!

I went to see my old friend Ann yesterday and we visited her husband Arvin. He’s in an Alzheimer’s care unit, which is really sad for all of us and I think often frustrating for him. She’s getting ready to sell his pen collection, amassed over probably close to 60 years; he doesn’t remember collecting them now, so it won’t upset him. We all had a good visit and Ann and I think he remembered me (or at least remembered me after a while). He’s gone downhill quickly since the last time I saw him a few months ago. It’s hard to watch that in a man who so enjoyed his mental life and remained interested in learning and doing new things up until he couldn’t.When we got back to the house, Ann and I compared notes on dementia for a while. Since she’s planning on selling the collection in as few and as large chunks as possible, I asked her if she’d be willing to break this one pen out and sell it to me individually. Sweet as she is, gave me the pen:

17-arvs-pen.jpg
Arvin and I shared a love of super-flexible nibs, especially those on old dip pens. He and I spent several afternoons playing with this and other old dip pens, both his and mine, of many sizes. This one is enormous and of the “wet noodle” (extremely flexible) variety; we used it as the opening photo in a story about flexible nibs in one of the Stylophiles issues. Arvin really wanted to be able to make the lovely thick-and-thin lines that I could (then) make with them, and he tried and tried and laughed every time he didn’t quite make it. We had so much fun with those old dip pens.

Though I was more than willing to pay Ann for the pen, I’m so pleased she gave it to me. As we agreed, you can’t put a price on the friendship we’ve had or the memories we’ve shared over the years. I will treasure this old pen from an old friend.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments

Go away! All of you! Just leave me alone!

Only a sour-faced grump would say such a thing, right? Despite the fact that these exact phrases are on a door hanger The Brothers gave me years ago one Mothers’ Day, which doesn’t count, onnaccountabecause, well, children.

Nevertheless, that was my first howl when this jackass showed up day before yesterday:

17damnrobin.jpg

This is the third year running this fellow has shown up in my wee little yard. He started the spring after the mountain behind me was clear-cut (the composition of the entire bird population changed that year). Although I have on my windows those UV shape thingies that birds are supposed to be able to see, and that are supposed to prevent birds from running into glass surfaces and damaging themselves… every dang year he bangs his head incessantly—incessantly!—against my windows. At 1.7-second intervals. All. Day. Long. No matter how much I yell at him. To just shut up. And go away!! And leave me alone!!!

Argh.

Posted by wordsmith in Family, 0 comments