Geeks, mountains and meteors

Statically, everyone else in Oregon was downhill from us.

The Science Sleepover at Silcox Hut included 25 adults, mostly centered around the Nerd Nite crowd, 3 telescopes, 2 suburbans, and Mount Hood. And thousands of tiny rocks, below, and above. We gathered at Timberline Lodge, the flagship CCC structure that sits at 6,000 ft elevation on Mt Hood, looking at the stonework and double-notched beams as we sat in the busy 3rd floor bar. Once our crew was ready, they loaded up the vehicles with All The Stuff and quite of a few of the people and drove up the snow cat trails, now mostly snow free in mid summer.

I hiked. Kit, Nina, and Alice strolled with me. The lodge desk had hiking maps for other locations, but not for their own backyard, and the chauffeur had claimed there was no trailhead (?!), just take that trail up and kinda head over the ridge. I gathered they didn't know what the term 'trailhead' meant, as we went to 'that trail' and walked up hill. We stopped often, as the air was thin, and in addition to Kits hip, Alice was just done recovering from a broken tibula – and I certainly didnt want to have them start out the adventure being pushed more than they were willing. The trees disappeared quickly (Daniel had complained earlier that Timberline was not technically above the tree line, but really, 50 feet vertical did it). There were some succulents here and there, and the golden mantled ground squirrels that fed on them, but mostly, the ground was gravel and dirt that had been scoured by snowmelt and wind. We passed the water tank and could see our destination – Silcox Hut, a B&B created out of a former ski tow line hut and the best LED showerhead, with Carter standing out front playing “The Girl from Ipanema” on his trumpet.

It was only another 1000 feet vertical, and barely a mile before we rejoined our party as they explored the rock and wood structure. Ines, who had taken the vehicle route, apparently commented that the long snaky entrance looked like we had a pit toilet, but Steve our host said “no, it has a light.” Actually, it had electricity, plumbing, starched napkins and cozy bedding, though the building is basically a handful of 4-person bunk rooms, a bank of toilet rooms, and a large dining/hanging out room. With windows looking up to the peak.

As we wandered outside, we watched the US Olympic Ski Team doing their daily summer workout on Palmer Glacier above us, and snow cats moving equipment and people up and down the tongue of winter that extended past our hut and down towards the lodge. Beyond the lodge, we saw the forest undulate over the foothills and disappear into a cloud bank, from which Mt Jefferson occasionally peaked out in the distance. Lots of magnetic bits were rearranged into jpg files….

The dinner gong sounded and we all trooped into the hall. The lodge sent up fresh ingredients and Steve had assembled lasagna (with meat, without onions!), salad, steamed veggies, grains, and options for our gluten- or meat- avoiders. Conversation slowed as we dug in. Then we headed back out – the fireplace and stone walls were neat, but outside, that's where the view was.

Sunset sent our photographers off to a ridge line behind the skier's current chairlift (closed for the night), and then back. Scott and Jay had various alarms going off when astronomical or oribital events were due, and thus the whoop-whoop of the Star Trek klaxon gathered us to watch the International Space Station pass from west to east over the mountain. He pointed it out with his green laser, prompting us to discuss if the astronauts in the IIS could see the glow, and who was up there. Then Steve called us back in for a peanut butter mousse with cream.

At this point, the sun has dropped, the wind picked up, and temperature fell. Steve kept a fire blazing in the grate of the massive fireplace, and as people decided on layering, there was a constant stream of people going into the hut, warming up, then bundling up and heading out to look at the night sky through cameras, telescopes, and naked eyes.

Eventually, I settled down just uphill of the hut, with Paul, Kristin, and Amanda int their sleeping bags on my right, Ines and Carter to my immediate left, Niki and Dan slightly lower, and Scott with his tracking mount whirring in our ears just above. Random other voices sounded o. Occasion, but i didnt know where they were, or when they showed up. I had brought a fleece blanket, but lay on the dirt and gravel between folks in subzero bags – they were much warmer. Carter would pass a flask of whiskey on occasion, which helped, but mostly I stayed low and out of the wind.

Looking straight up, the Milky Way drew a fuzzy line across the sky, and the star field was abundant. It quickly becomes apparent that any light that moved steadily was a satellite, blinkers were airplanes, and the second-long bright streak was the piece of matter vaporizing on the atmosphere.

“Perseus: that's ice, right?”

“Perseus was Zeus? No, he was Neptune's. haven't your read the Lightning Thief?”

“Was Neptune the god of the underworld?”

“No, that was Hades.”

“Hades? I thought that was Pluto.”

“Pluto is the roman name for Hades.”

“Them Romans had a different word for everything.”

“But what is burning up?”

“Is something on fire?”

“Yo crotch is on fire.”

“Oo ooh ” (many voices)

“Yay, that was a good one!”

“I missed it!”

“It was to the left and low.”

“The meteors are vaporizing.”

“But what are they made of?”

“Bits off a comet.”

“So they are made of ice.”

“Oh, was that what you asked? I thought you'd said Zeus!”

And the evening continued with rapid fire commentary, a fine mixture of observation, science and humanities discussion, and crotch jokes.

A lot of crotch jokes.

And a lot of meteors. They average one every minute, but that's a lot of sky to be scanning, and many are quite faint. Mostly, we looked up, and any bright streak would catch the eye, and a Greek chorus would oh and ah.

Scott eventually stopped shooting and came to join me under the blanket, which increased my exposure to wind and gave me a heat source. But around midnight, I decide I needed to go in. Some others stirred to join me – apparently Niki had fallen asleep out there.

Back in the hall, there were abandoned sleeping bags and Alice, sitting by the fire, reading (was it Connie? I was half asleep and don't recall). I warmed up a smidge then headed to the bunk rooms, found my toothbrush & took care of business before putting on pjs and crawling into the top bunk. Ear plugs and sleep mask as handy as I could make them, I nodded off quickly.


Others didnt sleep so well – light, noise, snorers, skinny beds, etc. Scott apparently got up at dawn and did some early photos, others had woken even earlier. I crawled out of bed just as Steve was starting the waffles.

After breakfast, there was more photo taking, and then we packed up and took the chairlift down, while Carter played the theme song to Star Wars on his trumpet.


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Dancing…or not

“Just close your eyes and trust me.”

This is not a good phrase for someone to say to a gal they just met. I heard it on the dance floor at Lenora's Ballroom, and I'm still puzzling out if they guy knew what it sounded like. He was kinda insistent that all I needed to do was to… Well, I'm not sure, other than “trust” him.

I suck at following. I know this, but like the idea of dancing, partnered, and therefore head over to Tuesday Blues once in a ..heh…blue moon. For the most part, I'm willing to place my right hand in their left, left hand on shoulder, and “listen” for the slight pressure saying step forward or back as we shift weight, “hear” the shift that denotes a spin, among other cues the lead gives. However, occasionally I'll dance with a nervous lead who does not know what we are going to do next, and therefore gives no clues – assuming authority, I tend to lead from the follow position, kinda without thinking about it. This does not help me learn to be a good follow.

Then we get to the older gentlemen who seem to think they know what's best for me. I told this guy that I was not understanding what he was oh so confidently assuming I should be doing on the dance floor (pressure on side to step that way while hand shifted as if to spin yet he's stepping that way = tangle of limbs, I'm running to catch up, and he's got a good grip on my hands or I would have come loose). Just repeating that I should trust you, stranger, when you are giving mixed signals, and I tell you so, is not a way to solve the problem, nor will I ever dance with you again.

It's creepy.


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A weekend at Oakridge

We don't know how to relax anymore. To solve this, we took a weekend off of house construction and business & social obligations, and we went to Oakridge.

Friday morning, 9 am, found us in a shuttle vehicle, travelling up the mountain side to the top of the town's flagship trail, Alpine. With us were two speedy gents from Iowa & Idaho, who disappeared when the shuttle dropped us off, a Seattle net ops named Ryan who was regaining strength after a month long illness, Katy from South Tahoe who worked in mortgages and had been riding just over a year, and her friend Sue the civil engineer from Truckee. We all chatted on the way up – Sue's book group is reading 'Unbroken' and she's not enjoying it – and our driver pointed out trail crossing intersections as part of the scheme to not leave lost riders on the hill.

Alpine starts with a 1/2 mile of gentle switchback climb, followed by another mile of even gentler climb. And then you ride predominantly down hill until you hit town, 13 miles away and 3000 feet below you.

We didn't stop much, so I don't have many photos. I do have memories of a meadow of waist tall grasses with a view of blue mountains. Climbing beside trees as broad as a VW. Swooping through the forest to the next viewpoint.

Speaking of viewpoints, that's where we lunched with our compatriots, as we caught the ladies there, and Ryan silently rolled up behind us. Wind Pass overlooks the valley, and you can see the reservoir and peaks spread out below.

We played leapfrog with Sue, Katy, and Ryan, but eventually the ladies outpaced us, and the only reason we kept seeing Ryan was thes long breaks he took to recover from the climbs. He was ahead of us by likely a leg or two of distant switchbacks when the underbrush below us moved, and Scott assumed Ryan had panicked a deer that was now rushing uphill. Right action, wrong critter. Not 20 feet in front of Scott, the mountain lion crossed the trail and kept going, long tail stretched out behind it. I was just a bit behind Scott, and only saw the motion in the undergrowth as it disappeared.

We rode pretty close together after that.

The trail drops down to the suburb of Westfir at a lovely covered bridge (which looks like it has a solid flooring, but you can dizzily see the water below as you ride through). Our van had been left at the park n ride, which was across from the B&B where Sue & Katy sat drinking beer & fruit juice, so we loaded our bikes, changed out of bike shorts & joined them for lunch – the now kilted Ryan wandering up shortly as well. We sat at the unlit fire pit …contraption…artwork…thing. It started out life as an ore car, but now had tractor seats welded to it via heavy chain, and wooden bar tables. Anyway, the sandwiches were good, and our waitress a delight, and we chatted away.

Returning to our camp and got some real practice relaxing in: we set up the hammock creek side and read. There is a developed campground up Salmon Creek, but we have a bandit site we know of that is reasonably private and closer to town – indeed, Thursday night we had pedaled from camp to the pub for dinner. This afternoon was spent in Dolnick's Clockwork Universe, Lafferty's Shambling Guide to New York, and Lake's Mainspring. You know, the variety of our books speaks to the flexibility of our brains. (For those not following links, that's a text on Newton's era, a zombie/vampire story, and a steampunk with angels novel)

But we continued on the togetherness theme and made salads and spaghetti in camp, setting up a table and chairs under the canopy of maples, and chatted about science fairs and bicycle rides. If you don't think this is romantic, you don't know us.


The Middle Fork of the Willamette flows through the long, thin reservoir and past town to join with its other branches to water Oregon's bread basket. Way above the lake, beside the cascading river, a bike trail called Middle Fork wends through heavy forest. Saturday at nine a.m., we're back in an Oregon Adventures shuttle with Danny our driver, heading up to Paddy's meadow, from which Katy & Sue talked us into doing. At the drop point, they were going to ride up trail, then turn around and descend. We were just heading down, and expecting 20 miles of technical singletrack to beat us enough. Ryan followed the hard core riders, but then turned back at the first stream crossing and rode with us a while.


Our ride started feet wet. Long shallow water crossings just about hub deep, followed by deep understory trail. Yesterday's ride, I wore dark lenses in my sunglasses, today I changed to copper, which let me see more in the dense wood and dappled light. Yesterday's ride was almost completely down hill, or down mountain. Today trended down hill, but was more cross country, with short steep climbs and flat meadows interspersed with fun descents. The trail at the beginning was a bit sketchy – a field of knee high flowers, with no path beat down, showed us tht no one had been through here of late. Another area had been burned a few years back, and was all dead, standing trees and blooming fireweed. (We stopped for a bite here – a breezy spot to keep the bugs down). The crews had been through at some point to restored a bridge over a mossy cascade and benched in a good trail through the scorch, but the trail went back to belong less obvious on occasion.


We did a bit of way finding. Getting lost wasn't an issue for us – we had a GPS going, and we had the trail map, and the track was between river and highway. In fact, it was actually beginning to look painfully familiar as we hit the double black diamond section near Indigo Springs. Our favorite Texans had been here with us, and we could still hear Susan cursing as we hiked bikes over the mossy, loose rockfalls in slippery conditions – this was the trail we nearly turned back on, and where (much farther down) her Ryan broke a finger.

We carried the bikes carefully, and kept an eye out for the Seattle Ryan, who was now riding alone 'somewhere' ahead of us. Scott managed a small fall while riding a switchback, and caught himself with his left hand, jamming the shoulderblade – we suspect that will be a week in healing, and he had to use the other arm to heft the bike onto bridges. Of which there were a lot. The mighty Willamette starts as a hundred trickles, and we crossed forest service spec bridges (3 steps up, wide, solid, and with right corners both entering and leaving the structure), old hiking bridges (an old growth log, planed down on the top, sometimes with a rail on one side), and mountain biker bridges (level with trail, often made out of pallet lumber). We also crossed stepping stone fords, waded more shallow creeks, and crossed water on deadfall logs. And in between, we rode miles of creek side swoopy trail.


Lots of miles, actually. We had two highway bridges over the Willamette that were supposed to divide the route at 10 miles, and then another 5 miles on. Alas, we were at 15 miles in, had not yet hit the first one. And we running low on water.


So we decided to cut our losses, and when we found the first highway crossing, we stayed on the highway and pedaled down to the nearest campground for a water refill, then continued down to the second trail-highway intersection. At this point, we'd done 16 miles of hard Singletrack, 5 miles of speedy road ride, and looked to still have 5 miles to go to get to the van. We stayed on the road.

Back at the van, the solar shower had powered up to triple digits, so we dumped the remaining campground water from camelback to shower and cleaned up – the bottom of the trail was likely full of poison oak, but we think we missed that, as we passed the 2000 ft elevation sign while road riding. Ryan rolled in convinced it was all he'd been pedaling through all day, so we handed him some Technu before we started driving back to town.

Checking in with our shuttle service let them know 2 were still on trail (and we were a smidge worried – they were faster riders and should have passed us on the descent, even with our road excursion), we then went to the town's living room.


Oakridge's Brewers Union Local 180 is a public house where everyone goes. When we had pedaled here for dinner on Thursday, we brought a chain & lock, expecting there would be a rack to lock the bikes at. There were, but there were also high end bikes just leaned against the side of the building while their owners sat under umbrellas with their suppers.

Today, the bikes were already loaded onto our van, so we parked and went in (I'd had enough sun). Dinner would be a large spinach and apple salad and a bun-less burger with provolone and garlic for me, and a chicken sandwich with house salad for Scott, and a mound of shared french friends. We practically licked the plate clean. Scott was trying out a bottle of orange zinger (“wow orange!”, he said) while I had a glass of the cask ale East West (smooth and non hoppy), and we companionably read Facebook separately on the bar's wifi.

As we finished up, Randy, the owner of Oregon Adventures, came in, and I bought him a beer while we discussed trails, life, and if we should be worried for our lagging bikers. Luckily, the ladies texted Scott as they got into cell coverage again, and we did not have to send out the rescue party.

Randy left with friends, and we waited for Katy & Sue, who came in with tales of getting lost on trail – actual wrong turns, as well as having to do way finding in vague meadows. They had also been swarmed by mosquitos and Sue had a little melt down moment – I don't blame her a bit, as the skeeters were heavy for Oregon (but still slow & dumb. We used DEET based jungle juice, and the bugs hovered about 5″ from skin – annoying. The toxin is why we were in a hurry to shower at the van, though).

Sitting outside while they ate, we were joined by Eugene, who wrenches at the Mercantile, during the busy rush at the public house – everyone local stopped to say hi to him. He says thet happens a lot in the small town – everyone knows everyone, and the public house is where you hang out or play scrabble or get gossip. The ladies had hosted hosted the bike shop for dinner at their camp last night, but now had someone they knew to grill about local trails – they were into long mileage, and Eugene had an event for them – look up the Fat 55 if you are into that thing, I'm not.

Just as Eugene was talking people into going to a party and swim at the reservoir, our friend Ben finally arrived. We hung out at a barrel with him & beer while the swimmers took off, and heard about problems with a beer delivery system in Westfir (for the want of a $2 part…) and the work he was doing on local trails. Alas, the handlebar mustache is long gone.

At 10pm, I noted we'd been at the Brewers Union for five hours and we were both yawning, so we headed back to camp and fell over. The end.



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We created a large bookcase in the media room – it took us all weekend, and Scott had had the lumber cut, more or less, before we started. Mostly it was he and I, but when the rain loomed while we hadn't finished applying wood stain on the shelves, we called for help and friends S & z showed up. And when it was time to lift heavy objects, we talked A & K into into move things with us. The conversations were, uh, not necessarily safe for work (hence the initialing, in case they want plausible deniability)

K: I love the patterns in this wood grain, the stain brings it out.

Me: Yeah, my friend Z was commenting about it while we were staining. I looked at the patterns and saw three aliens standing there.

K: Ooh! I see them…

Me: … But she looked at that part and saw three vaginas.

K: Ahh! I see them too! Eek! And then I can't not see it! It's like they follow you around the room!

Me: What, the aliens or the vaginas?

K: Both! I can feel 'em on my skin! (Cringing)

Me: uh, which, the 3 aliens or the 3 vaginas? (Laughing)

K: The eyes of the aliens are al over me! The flesh of the vaginas are all over me!

Scott and I have since loaded the shelves up with much of our library. However, I suspect that helper is going to be looking past the texts at the wood patterns every time they come into the room.


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The Raw Ride

Let me tell you about my behavior at this year’s big group ride for the city.

The have been apparently focused remodeling of late, and that project doesn’t appear to have an end in sight. This doesn’t mean we aren’t occasionally having fun or doing things that others think of as strange. (Note: some links are NSFW)

Just this last weekend, we went on a free, late night bike ride with a large number of intimate friends. As a comparison, the BridgePedal is a bike based fundraiser that has published routes up to 24 miles in length and costs $40 to join in, and garners 12,000 riders each year. This other ride is also an annual event, but its only about 7 miles of slow riding, yet when we leave the starting place, the riders don’t know the exact route. Actually, the police officers that hold traffic at the intersections also don’t know the route until it starts (I assume their supervisors know). Still, the gawkers knew were we began and lined the streets. And stepped off the curbs. And into the lanes where 10,000 bikers are trying to pass.

Now, I’ve done years of bike patrol, including the starting line up of the Chequamegon Fat Tire 40, where we spend some time working the crowd before the ATVs fire up their engines to lead the pack of racers down Main Street. Just before the gun, we get the high sign and ‘race’ down the curb lines, encouraging the spectators to step back least they get hit not by our few bicycles but by the dense pack of 2500 determined souls come up behind us. When we are passed by the ATVs, we dive off into the crowd. I’m pretty sure we’ve prevented some ugly accidents by being the gentle reminder that the road is reserved for the event.

Not everyone at last weekend’s meandering Portland event has the bike handling skills to break suddenly, nor the crowd handling skills to ‘scare’ a gawker back onto the sidewalk from the middle of the car lane. I do.

I have to admit, I kinda reveled in being an ass. The bars open up and tipsy travelers step out to watch and make a nuisance of themselves, so I returned the favor.

I aimed for them.

I was at least half way back in the pack, but I gave up avoiding them and rode the curb line, ringing a bell and verbally reminded the crowd that there were a bunch of riders stuck in the bottleneck because the 4 lane road was constricted to about 1 lane because of them.

Many of them thought I was joyfully swinging close because I wanted to glad hand or high-5, and maybe 1 or 2 still had that notion once I passed. Really, John Q. Public: think before you step out into the way of traffic.

No, I didn’t actually hit anyone. But they got the hint.

Beyond the starting blocks, the crowds thinned – this isn’t actually a parade, the event is for the participants rather than couch potatoes (sidewalk spuds?). At various points, some crowd gathered, but rarely did I need to repeat the act of citizen traffic enforcement.

As always, it felt like we spent more time coasting downhill than working up a sweat going uphill, and therefore kinda chilly. The group is a spectacle but not particularly erotic or lewd (though the gawkers were trying to be – there’s a reason I call them that rather than ‘spectators’ like CFTF fans). Costuming was great, with a prevalence of flexible glow sticks and flashlights in surprising locations and interesting paint jobs – I thoroughly enjoyed the creativity of my fellow participants, even though I was only bedecked with my bike pirate flag and a blinky green light. Of my immediate party, we had a tail light that made a smily face on the wearer’s back, a couple of gals who were a bit tied up, and a few just being theirselves.

Eventually, the pack meandered back near its start, and we peeled off to find the vehicle we’d stashed. Dropping off our biker brethren, we made it home extremely late – or early, depending on your view.


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Doug’s Bookshelves

Three houses ago, Doug built us some bookshelves.

Actually, it was when we three were moving into the house in Madison, and all the books of our modest paperback collection were boxed up and we were tearing out the carpet in the living room, so we weren't exactly *in* that house yet. Doug, however, wanted some peace and quiet, and so he engineered a bookcase out of plywood and 1x1s that was based around the strength of the I-beam structure. He and I cut the wood, glued the pieces together, stained it, then brought it into the spare room and assembled it to hide the wallpaper with roses and duckies on it – near 8 feet high, and just as wide, it left us a lot of room for library expansion.

We loaded it up with our books, and then were easily distracted by sitting still and reading, and Doug could happily watch TV in peace.

Since then, Doug got married, moved out, had a kid, and bought his own house that he is remodeling (oddly, in that order), and we moved west, taking the shelves with us, in pieces for reassembly. Having the books out means its home.

After our acting minions hefted the now quite extensively library over to the new house, stacked the way-to-many-boxes in the media room and left us to unpack, we found we had a 'but first' problem. We needed to do this, but first that had to be done, and to get that done, we needed to have space available, and before we could do that we needed to clean this, but first we have to get this done so we had room, and so on in an endless cycle. Maddening.

So *first*, we took two freestanding black bookcases and temporarily set them in the living room and loaded them up with hardcover sci fi. Then we cleaned out the wine celler – a nook thusly labeled but full of 47 mostly empty paint cans and other left detritus. Then we piled up all the nonfiction hardcovers into this celler, plus all the “to be sorted” boxes, plus anything else in the way. Then we tore up a 3 foot strip of cat-smelling carpeting and laid down one stripe of new floor tile.

Then we assembled Doug's shelves.

While it's not the 74″ tall hobbit hole, the ceiling isn't high enough for the shelf unit, so Scott trimmed 4 inches off the top, removing the usefulness of the top shelf. We ripped the plywood, assembled the backing and stood it upright on top of the new tile, then screwed it to the wall and placed all the shelves with the help of a mallet.

The next night, the paperbacks came out of the boxes. Alas, not all of them fit on this one shelf unit any more, but its full of books, and I can browse most of the authors.

And that's something like 30 more boxes empty and out of the way, and we can move around the garage We had help from Kelly, Andrew, and Mark on these tasks, plus a whole lot of schlepping and configuring on our own. But now we have space for the next steps.

Assuming we aren't completely distracted by having books out to read.


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Loppers and ladders

I have not seen so many beater pickups since high school football games in rural Wisconsin.

Being as the new-to-us house had been a rental unit for a couple years, then sat vacant for about a year, the yard had been a bit of an overgrown mess. Scott had been trimming back the shrubbery during the few dry spells on the last rainy week, and I had previously made a pile of pulled stalks from discovering that some *#%^[! had disposed of aggressively invasive Himalayan blackberries* by putting them in an in-ground compost heap. And during move-in, Amanda and Janelle had tackled the front yard’s English ivy problem.

So we already had most of a load of yard waste, and the sun was shining (finally!), and thus it was time to weed. I ran some errands, including picking up flooring for later and hitting the Hollywood farmers market for veggies, and came home to assist in snipping, pulling, and loading the old pickup Stacy had loaned us.

The neighborhood cleanup day was the first weekend of June, and as a neighborhood association fundraiser, they put a dozen semi-sized dumpsters at a park, labeled with “metal” and “yard waste” and “electronics”, and for a donation folks brought loads down to fill them.

We were happy to pass the volunteer $15, and even happier when we found they had other volunteers who were hyped to help us unload. I’d pull a bit of trashed conduit we had found in the weeds out and someone would take it from me and carry it over to the metal bin. They took the paper lawn bags and launched them towards the back of the bin. They helped pull the tangles of vines and branches out of the truckbed. They found us a broom to sweep the truck before we left.

Then Scott ran an errand to Lake O while I weeded, and upon his return, we generated another two paper lawn bags^ and then proceeded to use snippets, loppers, and a bow saw to deal with a pair of ugly problems that had grown together. There is a clematis growing along the side of the garage, through the walls, and under the roof. I’ll have to deal with that more someday, but in addition, it had grown along the power line attaching the garage to house, been snipped but the refuse left dead on the wire, then grown over it again, several times. And a small pine had been left beneath this in its nursery bucket about 10 years ago – it was a bent over, unpleasant plant and had long since split its pot, and the trunk growing out of the pot remains was 8″ diameter. The branches were now merging with the tangle of dead vines.

I have the head for heights, so we pulled out the ladder & up I went, showering myself and Scott with dead vines, leaves, and bugs as I snipped at the tangle, pulling down chunks and lopping off branches and being very careful of the live romex power line I was working around. Scott used the bow saw on the tree branches further down, and we are down to a trunk in a pot that will wait for a serviceable chainsaw to remove.

We loaded up our second refuse pile and made it to the drop off site before they closed. Plenty of others were trying to get that last load in, and the drive through area was a mess. The volunteers were still happy and meaning business.

Our efforts left the back yard neater and opened it up to sunlight in places that haven’t been bright for a long time.

Also, speaking of light…I hadn’t put on sunblock, and had been enjoying being warm and able to wear just a strappy top while we worked. Alas, this means I toasted myself. My back and shoulders are bright red.**

I think that’s required for a full day of yard work.



*For those of you who aren’t around here, the Himalayan blackberry is plump and tasty, has lots of sharp thorns, grows visibly after a rain, sprouts from dropped leaves, crowds out all other plants, and eats buildings. Do not put invasives in your compost, send them to the city heap or burn them with fire.

^I suppose we didn’t have these person-tall, extra strong paper bags in the Midwest due to the wetter fall conditions, but they still strike me as a ‘genius’ idea. Why put leaves into non-compost able plastic?

**I burn extremely easily and should know better. Alas, it won’t fade to tan, but will peel, yellow, and fade to white. Aloe is my friend.


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I had the occurrence to compare ecosystems while walking under a tall, flowering purple bush with Amanda the other night. Jogging, really, and I reached up to touch the blooms as I identified the rhododendron as 'not a lilac' which made Amanda laugh.

We don't see many lilac here. They are in well tended gardens here and there, yes, but growing semi wild, 10 feet tall at a forgotten corner of the property? Not happening.

I miss the arboretum garden in Madison, with its 50 shades of lilac that seem to bloom all at once in a heady, thick flood of scent. When strolling through, I would forget to exhale.

Here, of course we have the rhodos, which grow in the deep woods as well as along the city streets, but also roses, which seem to be the default planting because – and this seems as odd to me as the lack of lilac – they take little effort. Roses just kinda grow.

I need to find Shakespeare's roses, rather than the overbred, pretty garden specimens that have taken over the landscape. He described the scent in fragrant words, and the wild breeds as a delight. I would hope it rivals the lilac of my memory.

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The stove saga

We wanted a gas range. The new house came with electric. So we went shopping for your standard 30″ gas range, in white as that was cheapest, figuring we'd spend about $800 and spend more dollars to get the gas lines re-arranged.

Then we heard through the social circle that Wendy had bought a house with a home warrentee, and the stove's element burned out, and while the stove was fixable, the inurance bought them a comparable replacement, and the old stove was available for the cost of hauling. Their new stove, btw, ran $6k.

So we hauled off the 36″ stainless steel Dacor stove in Stacy's truck. We needed Paul's help in unloading it into the garage, where Scott did the required modification.

The stove model is unknown – the badges are missing, removed when it was decommissioned by insurance. Apparently this model had the element behind a plate, which prevented airflow & caused the element to burn up. For years, Decor sold a replacement plate that exposed the element & a different style of element, but the plate is no longer created. So Scott altered the current plate with a side cutter & popped in the new element.

This change of kitchen plans happened before we had gotten other replacement appliances ordered, and we basically shrugged and decided our kitchen would be stainless steel rather than white. Mom had said she was buying us a dishwasher as a housewarming gift, so we got that in stainless, as well as the microwave, which Scott, Andrew & I installed on Saturday in between unloading boxes.


Yesterday was Contractor Day. All sorts of electrical tasks were completed, including a run that caused Scott to text me the dreadful phrase 'it's a good thing we haven't painted the hallway yet'. Scott moved a piece of cabinetry 6 inches. The gas lines were run to the laundry and to the kitchen, and we are now ready for the new-to-us stove to come inside.

Did I mention this appliance is 36″ wide? And that we had 8 steps to go up, and then 3 corners to go around, to get it into the kitchen? Quote of the night included the phrase “This stove is a significant fraction of an elephant”. Luckily for us, we had been able to send out the call for burly weightlifters, and thus Paul, Travis, Andrew, Amanda, Scott and I put straps under the old stove and moved it out under a tarp (spring rains are running late this year), and then pulled the new stove around the house (Amanda and I taking turns), then with the two tall ones on the low side, brought it up the steps, through the front door, snaked through the house and into the kitchen. Scott had removed the handle from the door so we could squeeze the device through the final 30″ doorway.


Today, the inspector for the gas is to appear, and give sign-off for yesterday's work, at which point we can find out if the fix works, if the stove will light, or if the device needs to be removed from the house. In which case we're having the appliance folks who deliver the new one haul this one away, as it's a heavy beast, and we don't want to lift it again!


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Just a little higher

Plan A was to borrow a friendofafriend's scaffold like rig, but we found it was otherwise occupied.

Plan B was to configure the ladder in the extension position and lean it against the vault ceiling. Upon experimentation, we decided that might be a good way to put a hole in the roof and decided not to unintentionally add a skylight. Besides, the ladder was very flexible at that length- scary to be up on.

Plan C involved a call and run over to the rental place before they closed, getting a rolling scaffolding 5x7x10 feet. After loading all the parts in Stacy's truck (and thank you for the loan), we stopped for more! paint! and headed back to the house.

Assembling the base of scaffold seemed simple, although we wished we had a 3rd set of hands. Ten we started going up, and found the rental place had given us one set at 5×7 and one at 5×5- they don't fit together.

So Plan D was to assemble a 5×7 platform 5 feet off the ground, and then put our A-frame ladder atop it.

Friends Janelle and Charlie stopped by, and they assisted us in this balancing act, and painting. Charlie's long arms came in handy up there, and I perched myself on the tippy top to get the very peak of the vault ceiling.

So the great room is now painted. I hope it doesn't need a second coat, as I don't want to do that again for 10-15 years, and by then I'll be older and frailer and hoping I can hire a team of strapping young lads to do the painting for me. In kilts, by preference.


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