Thursday, March 05, 2009

Homeward Bound

Rachel and Dan got home last night so I’m heading home this morning.

Being “in charge” of a toddler, two teen boys, and a puppy was not as difficult as I expected. I’ve heard that “Grandmothering” is easier than “Mothering” because you can always go home. That’s true, but there is also something to being more laid back as a grandma… maybe already a little worn out, so the frequent parenting crisis’s aren’t as huge as they seem as a mom…? Add that to the fact that Rachel and Dan have done a remarkable job of organizing their family and home, so all I really had to do was insert myself into the established routine.

I’m going to miss the kids, especially Miranda… but I’m looking forward to the comforting familiarity of my own cozy little “nest” and my own very laid back routine.

I almost forgot…

…how much food teenaged boys can eat…. (Kyle had eggs for breakfast one morning… he was actually “sick” that day. He ate SIX eggs! Then one evening Kyle and Patrick cooked themselves some quesadillas… I watched a new package of 12 inch tortillas vanish like magic. They each had two.. that means EIGHT tortillas…and over half of the new two pound bag of grated cheese.)

I almost forgot…

…what a good feeling it is when a toddler comes running to me with their arms wide open for a hug, obviously happy to see me. (my experience several times when I picked up Miranda at day care)

I almost forgot…

How messy a teenaged kid’s bedroom can be…. Or how full they can stuff a washing machine.

It took me awhile, but better late than never…
I have now mastered:

Getting the high chair tray off the high chair…. Well, it’s actually a low chair.

Opening the baby lock on the cabinet under the sink

Getting in the door at daycare using the key card. (for several days I just waited for someone else and then followed them in.

Getting OUT the door at daycare… there is a green button to push to open the door and I kept forgetting that little trick most of the time I was here.

Logging Miranda in and out on the computer at daycare. The first few days I just got the office people to do it for me… but they decided to show me how… imagine that!

Getting to and from daycare on my own chosen “back roads” so I don’t have to merge with traffic on the busy road.

The volume controls on the TV remotes in two different rooms.

And last, but not least… I now know where most of the light switches are.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

The GOOD, the BAD, and the UGLY

The Good News... I found the light stitch to the garage light and figured out the volume control on the TV in my bedroom.

The Bad News... One of the boys locked the baby lock thing on the cabinet under the sink and I can’t figure out how to open it… not that I really need to anyhow.

The Bad News... It snowed, about 5 inches.

The Good News... I didn't have to leave the house.

The Bad News… I think I missed a party. When I woke up yesterday there were teen-aged boy bodies all over both couches in the basement (the main living area).

The Good News… nothing was messed up or destroyed… they slept until close to noon, then all went home.

The Ugly News… Millie, the pup, peed on the floor AND on Miranda’s pacifier. (She refused to stand out in the snow/cold to do her business… and before doing it on the floor, she ran into Miranda’s room and grabbed the binky… came into the kitchen, dropped it, and peed on it!)

The Bad News... when I washed the binky, I squirted soap in it and squished it around… and then noticed that the rubber nipple was filled with soap bubbles….

The Good News… I got all the soap out…. Sterilized it in boiling water and we are good to go.

The REALLY Good News… yesterday was another good bedtime day for Miranda…. No crying at bedtime, just a little girl happy to be in her crib ready to go to sleep.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sore Legs and Pimples

(Gheez.. this turned out to be LONG... Just can't stop some people when they sit in front of a keyboard!)

I’ve been here at Rachel and Dan’s house (In Independence, MO) since Wednesday morning. They left for Jamaica early on Thursday, so guess who is in charge around here? Yep… me.

I’m looking after Miranda (age 1 ½), Kyle (age 18) Patrick (almost 15) and Millie, the 3 month old Boston Terrier Puppy. Patrick and Kyle are pretty self sufficient, so there isn’t much for me to do that involves them except just being here.

I got here a day early to give Miranda a chance to get to know me a little better. I haven’t really spent a lot of time with her one-on-one since they live about 3 hours (my driving speed, not everyone’s) away from Fulton. When I first got here, she didn’t want to have much to do with me and I have to admit, my worries were confirmed… this might NOT be fun for either her or me.

Rachel had a dental appointment shortly after I arrived, so I went along with her to watch Miranda in the waiting room… which would be our very first time “alone” together. And, yes, she cried when Rachel went back to the dental room and left her behind with her mystery grandma. It only lasted a few minutes though. Before long she and I were playing happily with the toys in the office and pulling out all the books to scatter them around on the floor. After about a half hour she wandered over to the hall where she’d last seen Rachel… she tipped her head and said “where Momma?”. I told her Momma’d be right back. We did that routine about three times, but it was no big deal.. no crying. So, that went relatively well, and I began to have hope for the week to come. By the way, that was the ONLY time she has cried for her momma.

Rachel showed me the dinner and bed time routine for Miranda.. and assured me that the boys would take care of themselves since they were in and out at all times with their schedule. Sounded fine to me.

I forgot to mention that I met Millie, the puppy for the first time that day also. She’s a cutie.. She is accustomed to spending all day in her kennel since that is what she does while Rachel and Dan work. The boys were to take care of feeding her twice a day, changing her puppy pads, and taking her outside a couple times a day.. oh, and playing with her in the evening. That turned out to be pretty theoretical and idealistic.. but Millie and I are getting along fine.

I was a little freaked out this morning when I woke up and found Millie’s cage door open and no Millie… I did a quick search of the house and didn’t see evidence of her partying it up during the night.. nor did I see Millie. I convinced myself not to worry, that one of the boys had her in their bed. Then about 6 am when I was in the office, I heard someone put her back in her cage… but by the time I went to look, they were gone and Millie was safely where she belonged. Later I asked Kyle about it, and he sheepishly admitted that he’d had her during the night… By his hesitant reply, I’m guessing that’s not “normal”… but oh well… at least Millie is safe. I had imagined at one point that the boys took her outside last night and forgot to bring her back in.. and that maybe she froze to death, ran off, got hit by a car…or got DOG-NAPPED. I tried for a few seconds to come up with how and when to break the news to Rachel and Dan…. But, what a relief, all is well.

That was not the first time I thought about NOT wanting to ruin Rachel and Dan’s vacation… On the way up here I was driving VERY carefully… I am a totally chicken freaked out driver… and hate passing trucks or sharing the highway with them in any way… and of course, the interstate which leads here is full of trucks. I thought how horrible it would be if I got in an accident and got hurt (or dead) and ruined their vacation… because if something happened to me, who would watch Miranda? Once I got here I was relieved to know that I was unlikely to “ruin their vacation”… (Although I could probably conjure up other possibilities if I’d let myself…)

Rachel and Dan left early yesterday morning… (wow, only yesterday? Seems like much longer than that) Anyhow, Miranda wasn’t awake when they left, so I’m sure she was surprised when I was the one to get her out of bed when she woke up. But, she seemed fine. That morning she asked me about three times, “where momma?” (she tips her head to the side when she asks). All three times, I said . “Momma’s in Jamaica. She’ll be back later.” Yeah, I know that Miranda doesn’t have a clue what or where Jamaica is, but that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

I got her dressed, fed her her usual breakfast. Then, according to her routine, sat her in front of a “Dora” video. (She LOVES Dora… which is a cartoon character I’d never heard of before.. Dora, by the way is way less irritating than Barney… but still irritating.) After her half hour with Dora, I took her to her daycare and tried to remember all the checking in, dropping off routine that Rachel had shown me the day before… and did okay at it with a few reminders from the staff. Miranda was happy to be there and only once more asked “Where Momma” as she hugged me goodbye. When I went to pick her up that afternoon, she came running to me with a BIG hug, and that made me feel good. She was happy to see me!

So.. the title to this ramble is “Sore Legs and Pimples…” you are probably wondering by now where that came from.. The sore legs are MINE… well, so are the pimples.

My legs are sore from stair climbing! (I wonder if it counts as aerobics?) Rachel’s house has four levels.. there is probably a proper a name for it but I don’t know what it is… The main level where you walk in is the living room. There is half a level worth of steps up to the kitchen and Patrick and Miranda’s rooms. From there, there is another half level worth of steps up to Rachel and Dan’s room where I am sleeping.. and where I have all my “stuff”. The main living area (where everyone hangs out) and office where I use my computer is actually in the “basement”… a half level down from the living room… OR three sets of stairs down from “my” bedroom. (I’m not even counting the fourth set of stairs down to the FIFTH level where Kyle’s room is.. off the “basement” into the “sub-basement” It really doesn’t count for me since I have no reason to go down there. So… I said all that to explain why I have sore legs… I am not used to so much stair climbing to often throughout the day. It’s probably healthy… and my sore legs will probably get less sore as time goes on.. right?

Okay… pimples. (I'll spare you a picture.) I only have TWO.. but they are nasty looking critters.. they are on my nose. I guess I must be a bit stressed because it’s stress that usually cases them… because of a skin condition I have called Rosacea. Anyhow, they are UGLY.. I felt one of them starting up last night and decided that if I ignored it, it wouldn’t exist… a look in the mirror this morning told me I was wrong… not only did it exist, it brought along a bigger uglier friend. Oh well..

So what’s the stress coming from? Really, I don’t feel stressed, but a couple things might qualify… last night I thought I might have to drive in the rain… I HATE driving in the rain… or after dark…. (remember, I told you I was a fanatically CHICKEN driver?) I can’t see after dark, it feels like I’m driving blind… I CAN see in the rain (assuming it’s not dark) but I just don’t like driving in it.. (to be honest, not even little sprinkles… because little sprinkles can quickly become huge storms.. right?) So, yesterday, late afternoon, I looked outside and it looked ICKY… and like it might storm soon… I hurried to get Miranda, hoping to beat it. I knew I HAD to go get her… (Actually it never did rain. All it did was make me think it was going to.) The other little stressor was also related to driving.. but in the dark. Patrick told me that morning that he had band practice at his school and needed a ride at 6 and picked up at 8… I told him I’d take him, but the more I thought about it, the more I didn’t want to…. Not only would the pick up be after dark, but it might RAIN… and also.. what about Miranda.. she goes to bed at 7 or 7:30… I couldn’t leave her home and I sure didn’t want to keep her up that late and take her. I solved the problem by asking Kyle to do it and he agreed. BUT I still have the pimples. Oh well.

A very small stressor is trying to find the light switches to various parts of the house.. knowing where switches are is something we all take for granted.. until we are in a strange place and either need to turn one off or on.. and can’t figure out how. I think Rachel and Dan may have some “creative light wiring” too.. My switch confusion doesn’t stop with light switches… I was going to vacuum yesterday… plugged in the vac and couldn’t figure out how to turn it on. It wasn’t long before I saw it… a huge thing marked POWER that you step on at the bottom. Duh. I am still working on remembering how to take the tray off and on Miranda’s little high chair thing. I say “high chair thing” because it’s not “high” at all.. it’s low.. and it rocks and bounces and does all sorts of things… but it also has a tray across it to put food or toys on.. Yesterday morning, I finally managed to get the try on.. but couldn’t get it OFF.. I tried to pull her out the top without taking it off, but that wouldn’t work. I tried THAT several times…(It was getting late and I had to get her to day care before 9 or they wouldn’t take her)… Finally, I had a good talk with myself… in “The Road Less Traveled” it says.. “with enough time and focus, you can solve any problem” (paraphrased) So I sat down, looked under the tray and finally figured it out.. it is NOT hard.. it’s just knowing which plastic part to press.. However.. I had trouble getting it on and off again last night AND this morning. I guess I am just getting OLD…. Or maybe haven’t focused enough on implanting that routine into my brain.

So right now, I’m all alone… I have really enjoyed the cable internet connection and have been working a lot on my Family History website, mostly uploading old pictures. It’s so nice not to have to wait while each part of the process “loads”… I haven’t watched much TV because I’m more interested in working on the computer while I’m alone.. and when Miranda is here, DORA is on. And then there is also the remote control challenge. I mostly have them figured out well enough to do what I need to do.. (put Dora on)… but last night Patrick was playing a video game before he left for band practice.. and when Miranda and I tried to put Dora on.. all it would say or do was “component two” (the words floating around on the screen)… There was nothing about Component Two in the notes Rachel left me and I wasn’t about to start experimenting with the pile of remotes. Finally, Kyle came home and we got Dora going. That is all for the downstairs TV.. then there is the one in “my” bedroom.. I can turn it on, change channels, and even use the DVR to record or watch recorded shows… but I don’t know how to change the volume. That’s okay. Rachel was going to show me, but at the time I had brain (and remote control) overload. I told her to just put it on a good volume and that would be fine for me the whole time. And it has been..

Rachel and Dan will be home on Wednesday late at night.. I will certainly have more chapters in this saga. I will not necessarily take time to write them, but I might.

PS If you are interested in checking out my family history photo pages you can find them HERE. I still have a LOT more to add, many that need to be scanned, which is a learning process all in it's own (to get the best quailty) I have a good start though, and it's been fun.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Still Alive... and Relatively Sane

Some of my family and friends are asking me if I'm "okay".. mainly because I haven't been online as much lately as I have in the past. Well… yeah, I'm okay. I have several projects going that are occupying my time and attention. BUT… I decided it was time to get on here and post a blog or two to reassure people that I'm still alive and relatively sane.

This will probably be a little boring, but here goes… Basically I'm working on three projects right now. One is family history research, another is "helping" Jay work on my room renovation, and the third is cleaning floor tile grout (exciting, huh?),

I have put some of my family research work on some web pages in my regular "Mommac" website. ( I didn't want to pay the extra monthly fee to make a separate website right now.) Here's a link to my main family history page. I just completed two related pages that I'm rather proud of. Letters to Lydia has letters that my great grandfather wrote to my great grandmother from 1907-1914 and related family photos from that time period. (I have the original letters!) The other is Edna Miller's Autobiography which has the Autobiography that my grandmother wrote when she was in ninth grade, with family photos from her life and some other "stuff". So, if you are inclined, go take a look at those pages.

I am going to put the information and photos from both of those pages into small books that I hope to distribute to historical societies in Southwest Colorado where they lived, not really for "financial gain" because I doubt there is much of that to be had from these sorts of books… but mostly for "posterity" and just because I want to.

I have a TON of pictures from my own childhood and one of these days, hope to write stories to go with them… And probably more interesting, stories from my teen years that DON"T have pictures to go with them. But that's down the road.

As for the room… You can see pictures and read about that on my other blog "Tearing Down Walls"… Jay has been working on it a lot over the past few weeks… I have been "helping" him, which at this point mostly means walking in there, standing around watching him for a little while, reassuring him that he's doing great, and asking if there is anything I can do. He almost always says, "No, not right now."… so it's a safe question to ask. Occasionally, when the drywall dust settles long enough for me to see the floor, I sweep and vacuum. (At this point, there is very little else that I can do.)

And now… about the floor tile grout. I saved the best for last. No, not really. I saved the one that I have the most to write about until last.

Background: About a million years ago when we put quarry tile down in the main part of the house we decided to use brown grout. We thought it wouldn't show the dirt like lighter grout would. Well, it doesn't show "dirt" but it did turn sort of a whitish color over time. I don't think it took too long either, because it seems I've been trying to rectify the problem for as long as I can remember. I have spent a lot of time off and on trying to make my brown grout LOOK brown. I have tried a lot of things… and most of them probably ended up making it worse. My most recent experiment a year or so ago was to mix up brown fabric dye and paint it onto the grout. After a couple coats, it DID look good… but it didn't last.

I think there are a couple possible reasons for the problem. ONE: I'm not sure we sealed it when we put it down. Maybe, maybe not.. but I lean towards not. TWO: cleaning products! Maybe the Pine Sol, or whatever I've used to clean the floor has sunk into the grout and caused the whitish look… maybe if we'd sealed it that wouldn't have happened. Then, I think… well, it looks like hard water residue.. but we have a water softener… It's a real mystery.. and I love a mystery and I am determined to solve it.

Background: Not too long ago I got a new type of mop that I really like. Now WHO gets excited about a mop? I guess I do. I liked it so well I actually got a second one just to have on hand for a "back up". I LOVE these mops. They have micro fiber covers that you can take off and wash. (I have three extra covers for them, so I'm never without a clean one.) They do a great job for damp mopping, dust mopping, or even WET mopping.

I started damp mopping the kitchen floor often…very often (with water only). It was so nice to use the mop I just couldn’t resist. Then I started to notice that the part of the floor that I’d been mopping so much had BROWN grout that actually looked brown. I had been damp mopping with water only.. no cleaning solution… Then, I really scrubbed one day with the mop really wet….. and noticed that soap bubbles were coming out of the grout! That’s when I started to think that maybe old soap residue was causing the whitish-ness. Sooooo my project, tackling the rest of the floor (little by little) began. I started my experiment in the dining area where I wouldn’t be disturbed. (Who uses a dining area anyhow? We use the breakfast bar.)

I couldn’t just mop it several times everyday (like I’ve been doing in the kitchen) because there was furniture in the way… I needed a process to get it done. (so I could put the furniture back).

It’s really quite a process, and not especially fun, but if I can make the white go away and the brown come back, (and STAY back) it will make me VERY happy.

I found an old cleaning product under my sink (from years ago) called Nutra Rinse that is supposed to “neutralize”. It says something about taking out alkaline… not sure what all that is about, but when combined with soak time (5 minutes) and a lot of elbow grease applied to a small scrub brush, it seems to work. Well, sort-of work.

I only work on about a 3 square foot area at one time… I soak it, scrub it, wipe off the bubbles and scum ,scrub again, wipe off more bubbles and scum, rinse it with clear water, rinse out the rag, get new water in the bucket, rinse it again.. dry it with a towel and wait for it to dry to see the results… It takes several times of the whole process on the same area, (about four times to be exact). It’s a good thing I have a good stock of old towels and rags.

I have almost finished the dining area (about 8 by 12 feet) and also in front of the back door leading into it. There are parts right now that only need one or two more scrubbings, but the first time is always the hardest.

I took this picture before I worked a lot more on this area. You can see how part of the grout is much darker than the part in the middle area. The part closest to the floor mat was done (and under it too) and about 2 feet around the perimeter was done. Other parts were partially done but I hadn't touched the part in the middle at all.

I have gotten very SORE and achy. I am trying to convince myself this is "exercise". The scrubbing is hard work! Not only do the muscles in my arms, shoulders and back hurt, the palms of my hands feel bruised from the scrub brush and my knees feel bruised from keeling on the floor. My solution to this is to do less each day, maybe limit my enthusiasm to only two three foot patches per day…(four times each).

Of course this WILL take forever.. I think I figured we have about 1,000 feet of tile floor. That's okay. I'll just make cleaning a little patch part of my daily routine. Right? That sounds pretty optimistic. I'll probably lose interest when I see the daffodils start to bloom…but for now… It's on my project list.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Split and Burn... going, going, almost gone

The last time I wrote about the tree, this is how it looked… and it looked just that way for two weeks. (I mowed the lawn around it several times.)

Then last weekend (June 21) Jay rented a wood splitter for 4 hours, a "half-day", thinking he'd finish splitting up the rest of the tree. He hoped, but didn't know for sure, that he'd have help from Amon and or Nathan. As it worked out, they were both there to help…. As it didn't work out, it took much longer than the four hours that Jay had planned. (Although that is not unusual, it is quite "usual" that almost everything takes longer than Jay thinks it will.)

They (Jay and the boys) started around 10 am and called it quits around 9 pm. In the afternoon, Roger (Rinnah's boyfriend) joined the crew. Roger had already spent the earlier part of the day helping Rinnah work on my wall while I supervised and provided verbal support. (see "Wall Magic" below)

Rinnah and Roger were on their way up our driveway and on to the hotel to take a shower and a nap. They planned to go to the "Fulton Street Fair" that evening, so when Roger stopped his car at the tree splitting party, his willing volunteerism was pretty heroic.

It took all four of them at times to muscle those big chunks into position before Nathan could lower the lever or whatever you call it that does the actual splitting. Usually you can just put a stump under that thing, lower it and it will split right down the middle… BUT there was nothing very "usual" about this. The stumps were so large and apparently gnarled inside, that they had to split little pie shapes all the way around, gradually reducing the diameter until it was more workable. After each split, the four of them would have to turn and push it back into position for the next split. I was totally useless except to take pictures so I didn't hang around much. They were even too focused and/or exhausted that cheering them on was pointless. I guess I have to admit that I was glad that neither my services or even my presence was required.

Amon uses a 2 x 4 as a lever to help position the stump:

The following pictures were taken the next morning. Only one partial stump and the root mass/base remained. My contribution would be to tow the splitter back to the equipment rental place on Monday morning.

Jay takes a break after splitting the final chunk:

We are left with two new wood piles "up there" in addition to the three or four trailer loads that the guys hauled and stacked here at the house. Our wood piling area here at home is FULL so those new stacks will just have to stay where they are until we need them.

A few days later…

You may remember that I had been faithfully hosing down the under parts of the tree stump (giving it a daily enema) to try to get as much dirt off the roots as possible. It still had a lot of dirt packed in, but it was the best I could do. Jay soaked it down with kerosene a couple times and then the day came to "light 'er up" I'm nervous about fire, but thankfully it was one of those windless days. I made sure the hose was connected… and put on my Fire Marshall hat. Heaven knows someone has to wear it.

A bit of cardboard and some dead branches easily got the fire going. Once it was going, Jay kept it going all day by continually adding more of those dried branches we stacked on the edge of Amon's lawn. The stump itself didn't exactly "burn up" quickly, but it did burn… and actually smoldered for several days later until it finally rained and put it out completely.

The fire is out, but it's still smoldering… This, of course is the under part. The tree is beyond being embarrassed now. I think it actually enjoys having it's picture taken, even in this unseemly position.

The picture below (taken from the front, not the underside) was taken after it rained a few days later. Until then, I went up to visit it every day… it was still smoldering and that hole in the middle got larger and larger. I will spare you my daily photograph record.

So… the story of this tree is almost over, but not quite… One of these days when Jay has nothing better to do, I'm sure we'll have another root-burn. OR, we could plant IVY on and around it… which is what I suggested in the first place. I think it's rather artistic and (with a bit of ivy) might make a lovely yard ornament.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Wall Magic

Over the weekend Rinnah worked her “Venetian Plaster” magic on a couple of the walls in the main part of our house. (This is not in the new room.) Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures before she started or early in the process. The only “before” picture that I could find was this one and it only shows the long wall, not the other shorter ones.

Before she arrived I stripped off all the old wallpaper and Jay removed all the baseboards and door trim (three doorways are involved.

The Venitian Plastering is quite an extensive process. It involves several layers of a colored plaster like substance which comes in paint cans… looks like paint, but it’s much thicker and is applied with a flat semi-flexable trowl in short criss-crossing strokes.

The first wall she did was the small multicolored one below. It was basically an experiment because she’d never used more than one color at a time. She started with a mostly white effect and began incorporating the brown and small amounts of red into it. The first couple layers seemed too “white” and sterile looking so she just kept adding more color until we finally decided we liked the effect you see here. We let the wall “grow” on us and decided it was a keeper, but that effect would be too “busy” for the other walls, especially the long one.

Here is a close up of part of that wall:

We decided that those walls should have more of a one color look. Since she had a whole can of red plaster left over from another job, we used that for the first coat, not intending for any of it to show in the final result. It would be only one of three or four layers.

We toned down the brown with a little white to lighten it a bit for the second coat… AND to make sure there would be enough brown so that we wouldn’t have to go to Home Depot (30 miles away) to buy more.

Here is Rinnah hard at work. You always have to keep a “wet edge” so there’s no pausing until you reach the end of a wall and this is a long one.

We even considered leaving some of the really small walls red (kind of a brick color) but quickly discarded that idea.

After a second coat of brown, we were done. I say “we” only because I was very involved in a supervisory role. I did help with the red undercoat, but really couldn’t get the knack of the criss cross thing, which is important to the final look. It is not meant to look smooth… although it IS smooth, but the underlying texture in each layer shows through.

The final step is “burnishing” which means polishing. It requires using a flat stainless steel trowel and applying a lot of pressure to polish the wall until it shines. This brings out the depth and texture of each layer even more. When I say texture, it’s only visual. When you touch the wall, it’s as smooth as glass, maybe smoother… it has a unique feel that is really amazing. I know that when people come to see me one of the first things I’ll be saying to them is “go feel my wall”…

Roger provided all the muscle power to do all the burnishing on all the walls. (Boy, that's a lot of "alls" all in one sentence.. which I assume is not at all gramatically correct. ) Because it requires a lot of pressure it’s not easy, especially the high and low parts of the wall. Rinnah joined me in the supervisory lounge during that phase.

The original plan was to have a little party for all the men in the family that we could round up… and maybe host some sort of competition… but as it turned out Nathan and Amon were both involved in helping Jay split wood all day long. (And Roger… good guy that he is, ended up joining the wood splitting team AFTER he finished the burnishing… but that’s another story.)

Roger goes “high”:

Roger goes “low”:

Supervisory lounge:

I tried to take a picture that would show the shine, depth, and what I call texture (even though it's actually smooth) after the burnishing, but it didn’t show in the picture.

While Rinnah was working on the plastering, I assigned myself to refinish the baseboards and door frames. I sanded them down lightly, restained and re-varnished them (hoping to disguise the years of abuse they’d suffered through 25 years of co-existing with our large family.)

I got Jay to put the long baseboard back and then I tried to recreate the arrangement on the wall I had before for all the “school pictures” of my kids and grandkids.

I had hoped to have a final picture with all the door trim and baseboards in place, but it seems Jay isn’t much in the mood for putting them up right now… or something. At least I have that long one where it belongs and the rest can just wait I guess. Hopefully not too long.

All through the process, Rinnah and I kicked around ideas for what to put on the multicolored “focal” wall. We talked mostly of a large black and white framed picture or maybe two… but I also have a large wood frame with a brick colored mat that might work if I could figure out a black and white photo to enlarge to that size… WE loved the brick mat with the wallpaper.

Another more likely option is to hang a framed mirror there. I’m working on that idea now and kind of like the way a mirror reflects the natural light from the windows on the opposite side of the room. Time will tell on all that. Hopefully not too much time but I wouldn’t count that out.

(This post was my first attempt at using a different process for including pictures by uploading to Picassa Web Albums and linking to them. There are fewer options for arranging them, but it's somewhat easier in other ways. I'm still experimenting with this.)


I just took some pictures of some of my options for that multicolored wall... none of them are hanging (or sitting) at the exact right height, that will come when I decide what I am going to do.

The mirror frame would need to be sanded and restained to dark walnut like the rest of the wood trim. I do like how it reflects the light from the windows. I looked at a few other mirrors in stores and if I could find just the right one I'd buy it... but that seems unlikely.

The picture frame might be a little large and strange shape to find just the right picture to put in it. (I was thinking of a black and white print of some sort. I like the color of the mat. The picture is a sunset. I considered just hanging it sideways (as shown) and pretending it's not really a sunset, but simply "art".

The other two smaller pictures have the black frames and black and white pictures. They are too low (and belong on another wall), but something similiar might work if hung just right.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Embarrassed For Our Tree

I am a little embarrassed for our tree. I'm sure it never imagined laying in the yard with its private parts exposed to the whole world. No tree would want to be seen this way.

It's my job to go visit the tree every day and hose the caked on dirt off its roots. I feel like I'm performing a tree-enema or colonoscopy or something equally evasive and embarrassing I just tell the tree, "I'm doing this for your own good"… which really I'm not… it's totally selfish… it's so we can get rid of it altogether. I'm not telling the poor tree that though.

Jay wants to burn that root structure right there where it is… it's too big to chop up or move. He is afraid it won't burn unless we get most of the dirt off of it first. The dirt isn't just "on" it…. It's packed between all the little roots and crevices like concrete. So I take the hose and high power nozzle and spray into all its secret parts daily, gradually washing away the decades of packed in dirt. Once it's clean, it will take forever to dry out enough to burn, but that's not my problem. I suggested planting ivy on it and turning it into a yard ornament, but Jay didn't like that idea.

Mostly what remains to be done besides that is a lot of splitting and hauling. Some of those chunks of trunk are very large!

The pile of small branches with leaves is drying and compressing nicely. It's been way too windy to burn anything lately, but it can wait. There will be more to add to it if we ever get around to that tree behind Amon's trailer. That will have to wait... we're heading out of town for the weekend. More rain is coming on Monday...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Tree Tales - Day Two

If you haven't read the previous post "Electrical MalFunction" (below this one), please read that one first.

I fell asleep early on Saturday night while Jay was still sharpening his chain saw. When I drove up the hill on Sunday morning (while Jay was still asleep), I could tell he'd been at work. This is what I saw:

The road/driveway was cleared! This picture (above) is a little deceptive, since you can't see anything to the left. Everything here almost looks "normal"

After Jay woke up we both went up the hill to get to work. It didn't take long for the humidity to kick in… it was a hot, sweaty job, requiring numerous sit-down in the shade breaks. The picture below was taken after several hours of work.

The work rolls have always been rather clearly defined in our family when it comes to tree-stuff. Jay does the "skilled labor", i.e., the chain saw stuff. I (and/or various off-spring) do the non-skilled labor, i.e., the picking up, carrying, stacking stuff. This day was no exception, although Jay had to start off with the loppers just to find a path to something he could use the saw on. He lopped, I carried… smaller leaf laden branches and twigs, that is. He decided that we'd stack them all along an edge of the driveway that is actually on Amon's front lawn area.

He says we're going to let them sit there and dry awhile, then burn them right there. (The grass will grow back, and supposedly it might actually be good for the soil.) He said to try and keep the stack four feet high or less, but to just keep making it longer. Well it's about 30 feet long right now and as of quitting time yesterday, there is probably about that much more to add to it that we haven't gotten to yet. Yippeee… all that carrying, with the distance getting further and further… free exercise, who could ask for more? In the picture above, you can't even see the part that goes around the bend in Amon's driveway.

When Jay got to a point that he could use the chain saw, my duties doubled… I was no longer just the "carrier" of small branches, I was also the small twig de-foliage-er. The branches he was cutting had leaves and twigs growing all over them. In order to have a well ordered wood pile, all those twigs would need to be clipped off. That was my new job, and much preferable to branch-carrying, although I had to alternate between the two.

The most rewarding part was seeing wood piles beginning to form…. Jay says we'll take the trailer up and pick them all up at once when we are done. I love the look of (orderly) woodpiles, I think they lend "atmosphere". If he wanted to leave them sit there all summer, I wouldn't mind at all.

This is a rather photogenic wood pile, don't you think? (below)

In the picture above you can see part of the oak tree that is stuck in the other tree. There were more that Jay pulled down, but he'll have to get the tractor to pull this one out, it's stuck high up. Originally I thought that tree had been destroyed, but it actually only lost a few branches while breaking the fall of the Oak.

In addition to my jobs as "carrier" and "clipper", I decided to bring up the lawnmower and attached little wagon thing… and rake up the leaves and small stems that were covering the ground. It sure seemed simpler and less messy and more instantly gratifying to me than sifting through them for sticks and small branches (and carrying them to that pile)…and leaving the leaves on the grass for Jay to "mow up" with the brush hog. (HIS plan)

I tried to get Jay to concentrate his efforts in one area so when he was done and after I'd clipped and carried all the wood to the pile and all the branches to the other pile… I could rake it up, scoop up the leaves and see nice "clean" lawn again. That's important to me, being able to SEE progress. Jay didn't "get it", but at least he tolerated it.

We have a LOT of White Oak on our property… and I've always wondered about the little white balls shown below… And now I got a close up look. CREEPY!

Jay has always said they are part of the tree, like acorns are. I never really bought that story, and especially with the close up look here. I always thought they were either a disease or bug-related. Hehe… I was RIGHT. I just spent time on the internet verifying that fact. They are "galls" produced by some kind of insect for whatever stage of their life. It wasn't clear if they laid eggs in there, or if the balls were just the tree's reaction to them feeding on it. I think both. Later in the summer the white turns to brown. Like I said, they are VERY creepy.. soft looking and you can see veiny stuff inside them. I was very careful to look before "carrying" any branches.

Amon showed up to help after he got off work at three in the afternoon. By that time, we'd made a lot of progress, but his help was surely welcome. He could take over part of my duties!

As you can see the main part of the tree is now pretty "naked". What you can't really see is that there is still a huge mess behind it… far from the pile where I'm supposed to carry the branches to.
I told Amon to "pose".. This is the result (above)

I got Amon to stand by the roots of the tree, to show perspective of how big it was at the base. The hole (not pictured) is about four feet deep and very muddy. I thought about asking him to get in it, but decided that would really be pushing it.

The tree behind Amon's trailer (below) will have to wait to get any attention. As you can see it got major damage also.. about one third of it broke off. Luckily it broke AWAY from his trailer, and newly coated roof.


Yesterday I had some thoughts that I will now bless you with….

I was thinking how much I admire Jay for being the hands-on-guy that he is, especially at our "advancing age". There is just about nothing that he can't do or will at least attempt when it comes to maintenance of our property.

Jay takes care of our roads with the tractor, fixes any plumbing, electrical, or structural problems, many vehicle problems, appliance mal-functions, and other stuff (that I can't remember right now). Yeah, sometimes he might be a bit slow at it.. but he (usually) CAN do it and usually, he DOES. It seems to me that he often does physical work that most men half his age would shudder at even considering.

I actually find that a very attractive quality in a man…. Possibly even "sexy" haha… Yes, even more appealing than a man who is accomplished at other more genial things like lounging on a yacht, dressing in the current fashion, or sipping exclusive wines. (not that I would mind doing that at times… minus the superficiality and switching the wine for beer, that is.)

(However, sometimes I DO wish he'd just pay someone.)

I took it on myself to ask one of our neighbors (who stopped over to check out the mess) if they had a wood splitter… Jay usually just does it all by hand with a splitting maul! BUT I'd hate to see him even attempt it this time. Heck, there is no way I want him laid up in bed with a back problem! They DO (have a splitter) and she said we are welcome to borrow it. (YAY!!) I'm not even sure how Jay's chain saw can cut through the diameter of that tree… I think he needs a bigger one for that… like a logger's chain saw or something. He's probably been thinking about this little problem already.

What I do know for sure is that this project is far from over.

Tidying Up - Monday Morning

This morning I went up the hill to survey the tree-mess situation and was surprised to see that Amon had done a LOT of work after Jay and I left.

I spent the morning "tidying up" the area. It looks sooo much better now. There is nothing on the ground except the main trunk various sizes of branches that still need to be cut (and possibly split) to the right size to burn in our stove.. no leaves, no small branches…

I had to hurry because another "severe" storm is supposed to be on it's way, and after that, another one tonight! I just hope the storms don't blow around my neatly stacked leafy branches which are waiting to be burned.

We now have TWO rather decorative wood piles. I really think they provide "atmosphere" to the place, right? In the foreground is one of two piles of smaller branches that still need to be cut.

Those big chunks (below) will have to wait to join the wood pile. That's man-work… I could barely roll them into line. They are heavier than they look.

Just yesterday, this area (above) which is behind the main trunk was full of large and small leafy branches and the ground was covered with leaves and sticks. Now all that remains is the small pile of branches to be cut up.

I feel much better now. AND with storms coming the next couple days, that's it for now.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Electrical MalFunction

Yesterday, we had a thunderstorm and in the midst of it, our electricity went out… not a big deal, it happens. After a little while it seemed apparent that it wasn’t going to just “blink right back on” as it often does. Jay tried to call the electric company but couldn’t get through because the line was busy. He kept hitting redial and I got the bright idea to drive up to “the top of the hill” to see if it looked like any of our neighbors had their lights on…. As I approached the top, this is what I saw:
Yep, that is a HUGE oak tree, laying across our driveway. Not only that, our pump house (for our well) is somewhere in that mass of leaves.
I could see broken electric lines laying on the ground under the tree and on both sides. No wonder we didn’t have electricity.

I got around the tree by driving on the grass… got out of the van and took a few more pictures.

That tree laying on its side was as large as the one still standing. The base of the trunk is about four feet in diameter.

It’s a miracle that it missed the pump house… by an inch or so. It would have been a REAL drag to have had our well or pump messed up.

There is a huge hole in the ground where the roots used to be. The picture doesn’t really do a good job in showing how big (and deep) it is.

These trees may have been there when the old farmhouse that stands on our property was built in 1903. (no one lives in it now) When we bought the property in 1981 there were three of them. Quite awhile back we cut one down (before it could fall)… this one fell, and now there is only one left.

After I found out what the problem was… and saw those scary electric lines on the ground, I called the electric company again and this time got through. I told them that a BIG tree fell on our lines. Meanwhile Jay had been getting out his chain saw and getting ready to head up the hill to start cutting a path through the branches across the road. I was more than a little nervous about him messing around up there with the electric lines on the ground… so I was relieved when the electric workers showed up after only about 15 minutes, and before Jay even got up there.

The guys said…” wow, that is a BIG tree…” I said, “Yeah, that is what I told your dispatcher…” They said they knew it was “big” but never expected it to be this BIG. They called for more help then made sure the wires were not “hot”… When two more guys got there, they got in the “bucket” on their truck and sawed off the upper parts of the tree branches so that they could reconnect the lines.

After this quick attention from FOUR electrical workers, I felt better about our higher than usual electric bills. I really never expected them to cut any parts of the tree. I only thought they’d disconnect the lines and then say to call them when we got “our tree” out of the way. I guess I failed to understand that the whole neighborhood lost power, thanks to “our tree”, so of course the electric company had to get it back on as soon as possible.

After 3-4 hours we (and all our neighbors) had electricity again and all that remains now is putting away my candle collection… oh yeah… and cutting up and splitting that tree and cleaning up the mess. There is another tree behind Amon’s trailer that lost a huge branch in a storm the day before… about half the tree… but I guess cleaning up that mess will have to wait. At least we’ll have the trailer hitched to the tractor, ready for action… no wait, the tractor will also have to grade the road and repair some of the huge ruts made by the amazing amount of rain in a short while.

One thing is for sure, we will have firewood for a LONG time. We still have a couple cords left from the ice storm clean up this past winter.