Friday, May 31, 2013

the rat bastard is pissing me off

You might remember that one of the chores for my grandkids was helping me clean out a rat's nest in the garage.

I've known about it for quite a while, known I would have to move two crates of glass and one of kiln shelves to get to it.  

I have, for weeks now, been yelling at the rat bastard as he gnawed away on my crate, his nest being in the back of the crate next to the adjacent metal shelving unit, banging on the crate with a hammer, shaking the glass around.  

the section of crate the rat destroyed, now flipped over

I can hear him when the door to the garage is open.

I guess he moved in during the winter or early spring.  While the one garage door is propped open enough for the cat to get in while we are in residence, we always close it tight when we are in the city to work.  Which, this year, has been half of every week so the little bastard settled in on the days we were gone.

Since I was disturbing him in his main location, he started building an annex under some metal shelves on another wall.  I swept out the most peculiar things besides the expected acorns and shredded fiber blanket that we use in casting.  

And by sweep, I mean that I took an old broomstick and waved it back and forth underneath the shelving unit pulling out stuff like round and peanut shaped ceramic insulators, plaster fingers (that's a different story), and metal brackets for mini-blinds among other things.

So now that we had cleaned the nests out, we stopped propping the other door up but he was still getting in through the hole in the wall where the wire that powered the old well pump came through because I could hear him gnawing in the garage again. Before we left for the city this week, I nailed a piece of flattened aluminum can over the hole.

When we got back yesterday, I noticed that my aluminum patch was gnawed and torn up and he had started building a new nest. Repeat the sweep under the shelving unit and pulled out all those weird little things again...plaster fingers, ceramic insulators, metal brackets, kiln furniture. The rat bastard had fetched all those things again off the bottom tray of the cart that the kiln sits on where I had put them.

the rat's eclectic collection

Last night I was determined he was not getting in again so I set up a much bigger barrier. Now if he wants in he has to gnaw through 2 pieces of 1/4” glass and about 4” of brick.

an impenetrable barrier

So far so good.

Since he has such a fondness for plaster fingers and kiln furniture, I'll just keep my eye on that stuff and if it disappears again, I'll know he's back.

In the meantime, I'm getting a trap.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

yard work with willing hands

The parental unit came and fetched the 4 grandkids yesterday about mid-day on Monday. They spent the long weekend with us, coming out Friday evening. They lazed around on Saturday while I worked at the antique store

and caught lightning bugs and put them in a jar Saturday night, later releasing them.

Sunday, though, was a very busy day plus about two hours or so on Monday morning.

The grandboy had to work off a previous loan to buy a new board for his skateboard and one of the twins also wanted to make some money so we spent the day outside doing yard chores. I had quite a few things that needed to be done. Such as...

pulling the wild grape vine out of the little oak and the raintree next to the Wild Space

hacking and pushing the Wild Space back from where it was encroaching on the tamer parts of the yard and was poised to swallow the shed

dig up the grass between the two small garden squares

pull out the goldenrod and grass in the front flower bed

spread mulch in two flower beds

get rid of a small pile of chunks of concrete that had been grown over

clean up, straighten, sweep, and get rid of a rat's nest in the garage

sweep out all the leaves that had accumulated in the shop over the winter

The boy also cut the grass in the Little Back Yard, edged all the flower beds and around all the trees with the weed eater, edged the concrete aprons in front and in back of the shop, pruned the water sprouts off the crepe myrtles, hauled innumerable loads of stuff in the wheelbarrow back to the burn pile,

and helped his grandfather cut down and cut up a huge branch off the pecan that had fallen Friday night.

We disturbed a lot of bugs like this beetle

and these walking sticks.

Mikey and Autumn worked really hard and the yard looks great. I don't know how the kids fared, but I am covered in chigger bites.

After they left yesterday, I had to get the full size drawings done for the shower and toilet enclosures for the ranch house as we are heading into the city today to try and finish up this commission. Fortunately, it was a simple design.

Once we do that we'll be on our summer break with the week long individual visits from the g'kids lining up, working in any jobs that may come in during that time.

And me, at the end of the day on Sunday?

oof. tired.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

elephant garlic

Elephant garlic is not really a garlic as it is a member of the onion family and is more closely related to leeks.

Though it does have a flavor more resembling garlic than leeks, it is milder and sweeter.

Also like garlic, it forms bulbs of individual cloves.

It is much larger though and a single clove can be as big as a regular garlic bulb.

They bloom in my yard late spring/early summer.

I haven't, so far, dug any of them up, much less used them in a culinary fashion.

Mostly I just enjoy the blooms, the stalks of which get nearly as tall as me. 

Sunday, May 19, 2013

a day in the life

Another day spent putzing around in the yard.  I had made plans with my sister to venture out so I didn't have a clear plan for today.  Then she bailed on me.  She'd already spent her four hours or so in the yard and was tired.  She gets up a lot earlier than I do and Sunday is even slower for us.

Now it was already too late in the day even for me to get started on some sort of major project and the unprecedented coolness of this May is starting to give way to our usual weather.  

I still have so much to do just in the gardens I have and still have a few plants to find permanent spots for but that all involves digging and I didn't feel like digging today I guess.  

So I spent the day flitting around from one task to another.  I was busy all day, coming in about 6, but I don't know exactly what I did.  I watered, I did some pruning, I repotted some succulents, I cleaned the evening primrose out of one part of a flower bed, I took some pictures, I cut some of the Easter lilies and brought them in.  

Oh, the house smells so good.  

I haven't been to the gym in weeks except for yoga every Friday morning.  I can get there for that.  I was going to go today but by 4, I still had a lot to do.  Ha.  I still have a lot to do but I wasn't ready to quit.  I consoled myself by telling me that I was still being very active.

Next weekend, the grandkids are coming out and the boy owes me some physical labor in the yard in return for the money to buy a new board for his skateboard so hopefully next Sunday we'll get a lot done.

Now the weekend is over and I need to get a sketch done tomorrow before we head into the city to finish this last commission.

Friday, May 17, 2013

the Flotek Leadership Wall

This is how it goes sometimes.

We had the installation for the Leadership Wall on Wednesday morning but before the guys could get here to pick up the glass, it started to rain.

It was raining lightly when they loaded up the glass and stopped soon after but in route to the building the client called to say the conference room was being used and we wouldn't be able to get in there til 12.  

We only had to wait about a half hour and while the guys were unloading the dolly I looked through my folder for the layout.  I searched my folder three times.  No layout.

Fortunately, Marc had a copy of it on his phone and forwarded it to us to be printed out.  But there were no measurements on it.  And it wasn't in scale but that didn't matter because I had removed from my bag before I left my scale ruler and other things I thought I wouldn't need.

So with Homer's tape measure we worked out a layout, they marked the holes for all the pieces and with the second hole he drilled in the wall, he hit metal.

So then we had to determine what that metal was, if it was a metal stud, or plumbing, or an electrical conduit.  Fortunately, they had a set of plans and with that and a call to the construction manager of the building we learned that it was a metal stud.  One of several we encountered.  That had to be drilled through.

I'm not even going to go into that my installer forgot that there was blocking behind the wall and sent his guys with the heavy duty molly bolts that required a 5/8" hole instead of a 1/4" hole that the easy install stand-offs need or that all they had was a 1/4" drill bit.

Homer sent Oscar off to the shop and the supplier for the easy bolts and a half inch drill bit.  While we waited, he drilled a 5/8" hole with a 1/4" drill bit.  It. Took. For. Ever.  Oscar returned with 10 of the easy bolts.  We needed 16.

They put the ten easy bolt stand-offs up quickly and mounted two of the portraits and set about to put up the rest of the pain in the ass needs a big hole molly bolt stand-offs.  By now we are all pretty annoyed at the boss.

Then, they discover that they only have 12 of the needed 16 stand-offs.

They have three of the four panels mounted by 5 o'clock.  The boss has obtained the missing four stand-offs and we must all return tomorrow.

The last panel went up quickly with the right bolts and I think it all looked very good.


Saturday, May 11, 2013

beauty in the sky

I saw an amazing sight this morning as I was driving the short distance from my house to the antique store.

My house is on the outskirts of one end of town and the antique store is on the opposite side of town. When I was about ¾ of the way to the store I looked up and to my left to see hundreds of birds swirling around in the warm thermals.

They were big birds and very high up. They looked dark for the most part but every now and then a group would turn and they would flash white.

I kept craning my neck out the window to see better and finally pulled over into a parking lot and watched for a while and snapped some pics at full zoom (3x) and I know from experience that those pictures come out very grainy.

So here are the pictures I took. They totally don't convey what I was seeing and only show a portion of all the birds.

When I got to the store, the swirling floating mass of birds seemed to be right above me and the courthouse and the square. I unlocked the store and then got my camera out and took this last picture. I still wasn't sure what they were. Not vultures or ahningas. Long necks held out, feet straight out behind, big wings. Some sort of geese maybe but I didn't think so.

I went in to turn on the lights and 'open' the shop and when I came back to the door, they were gone. Not a one in sight. When I consulted my tablet bird app I thought they must be cranes.

And it turns out I'm pretty sure that's what they were. Of the three cranes in my bird app it wasn't the common crane which is considered an accidental vagrant from Europe/Asia and doesn't come down this far. It definitely wasn't a whooping crane although they winter over not that far from here in a protected area in Matagorda Island State Park and Aransas National Wildlife Refuge as do sandhill cranes. So I'm thinking they were sandhill cranes but if they were, I'm surprised they are just now migrating.

Cranes are among the oldest living species of birds with fossils dating back 9 million years. Sandhill cranes have proved to be very adaptable and their populations are healthy although they are considered endangered in Ohio. They are large birds, standing 3' to 4' with a wingspan of 6' to 7'. They are omnivorous. They mate for life and live 20 – 40 years. They are migratory with their range extending from Alaska to Texas and they migrate in enormous groups. Cranes rely on thermals and tail winds to aid them in their migration, attaining speeds of 25 – 35 mph and covering an average of 200 – 300 miles a day or more. They have been seen flying over Mt. Everest at 28,000 feet.

I borrowed this beautiful image of sandhill cranes from:

If I should ever wonder why I moved away from the city, this is why. I would never have seen this and so many other wonderful things if I was still in the city.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

work of one kind or another

We're at the tail end of this long slog of backed up work. We have been working steadily on one job after another since the end of last July with an occasional small break here and there.

This last commission for a ranch house is fairly simple and for that I am grateful although they have added a shower enclosure and a toilet enclosure here at the end.

I can't decide if I'm glad to be at the end of all this work or scared because the phone has been silent lately. I do have two proposals out there that I'm fairly confidant of but two others that I was sort of counting on have fizzled.

But summer is fast approaching and that means the grandkids' visits which will keep me busy. And I am looking forward to having time to work on the pate de verre and cast glass pieces. The peach box is waiting to be finished as well as the botanica erotica pieces.

Because summer will be here soon, I've been spending as much time as I can in between full size drawings and fabrication days in the city and Saturdays at the antique store out working in the yard. I bought a lot of plants at the garden club plant and flower show and also from the native plant nurseries in my city neighborhood so I've been expanding and working in new dirt and compost in the flower beds trying to get everything in before it gets too hot to work outside. May has so far been exceptionally cool but I don't expect it to last much longer.

digging out the grass

ready to be tilled

dirt and compost added

I finally got the zinnias planted yesterday. The third try at starting seeds was the charm. Other things are just getting put haphazardly and will probably be moved in the fall. I prefer wild flowers and native perennials and things that reseed so it will take a couple of years to get the beds established. This is only one of the flower beds I've been working in.

partially planted

We lived here two years before I made any changes at all but that was mostly because of the crashed economy and no funds.

Today I'm off to the garden club's tour of four of our members' yards and gardens. Tomorrow a day in the city for work and fun related stuff.

Next week we start fabrication on the last commission and install the Leadership Wall. Pics later.

Friday, May 3, 2013

the not so great side of home ownership

Wednesday while we were in the city, we had the plumber back out because the first time they came a couple of weeks ago, while it relieved the problem somewhat, didn't fix it. The problem being that the sewer line was backed up.

This was not really surprising as we had had plenty of smaller plumbing issues over the 35 years we lived there but always more related to between the house and the main sewer line. This was the main sewer line which everything taps into at the back of the house. There is a concrete access port for just this sort of thing about 4' from the back door.

They tried the smaller 75' snake again because the bigger 100' boy would most probably damage the old 1950s concrete pipes even more. Then they sent the camera snake down. Not a pretty sight. It was kind of cool though, sneaking a peek in that concrete tube buried two feet underground under my concrete driveway.

What it revealed were sections clear and dry, sections with water and three obstructions, the third of which he couldn't get the camera through. It was about at 75'. When he walked the little detector part along the driveway, it would emit a certain beep when it was right above the camera snake, and it stopped right across from the camphor tree by the edge of the driveway.

So, at least three major breaks and the sweet gum, the pecan, and the camphor were tapping in.

OK. Also not surprising considering a neighbor had had to have a major overhaul a few years previous and their house wasn't as old as ours.

They drew up a plan. The whole sewer line needed to be replaced but rather than tear up the whole driveway, from the concrete port and beyond all the way to the street, about 100' , they would dig a new line along the driveway until they came to the camphor tree and then they would angle over into the driveway and cut through it to the street where it joins the main line. They would have to bust up a part of the concrete apron out the back door and they would haul all the concrete away. They would start the next day and finish on Friday.

Our choices were slim to none. There were two people living full time in the house and two more part-time. We were leaving the next day and didn't have time to get competitive bids. They could get it done in two days. Or we could sell the house.

Since we're not ready to do that, we signed on the dotted line. Let me just say that it wasn't as little as I would have liked but it wasn't as much as I feared.

This was what they had accomplished by about noon today when I went by. My sister and I had planned a day in the city coincidentally so I got to check on their progress today.

Concrete broken up from the driveway to even with the far side of the back door steps, which is about where that pile of concrete chunks is. Covered with plywood.

Trench starting from the back corner of the house down alongside the driveway.

From the front corner of the house. They angled off from just before the concrete walkway to the house with the camphor tree on the other side.

In the driveway picking up the sewer pipe, a big hole in the concrete pipe.

Working the jackhammer on the driveway.

They cut two parallel grooves through the concrete to guide the guy with the jackhammer.

It didn't look to me like they would finish but the guy thought they probably would. We got a message this evening from our son saying it was finished and they had 'flow', as the plumber called it, again.