Monday, April 28, 2014

Grandkids stay

At first we weren't sure if we could handle Riley, our grandson, for a few weeks this spring while his folks got prepared for a move to another state because of Donna's health issues, but thought to give it a try.

Oh man...Mr. Cool! This kid has "attitude" written all over him. Riley is an easy to "keep" kid and can stay as long as we have no other pressing matters that would interfere with life as we know it.

What's one grandkid staying with us when we can have two? Ash-a-ley, as Riley turns her name from a one syllable word into three syllables, came up for the night. The kids played in our impromptu sand box. 

The children woke up to nearly a half inch of snow April 27, which had soon melted by 10 am.

The grandkids and I gave Granny a break by taking a drive thru the Little Pend Oreille Wildlife refuge looking for deer or moose, neither of which were seen. The kids love getting out of their car seats and moving up to the "front row" which is ok on a dirt road @10 MPH.

As you might assume, looking at thousands of trees without wildlife on our 22 mile trip, is less than exciting.

Crystal Falls off Highway 20 near the wildlife refuge.

Back on the road so the kids had to be back in their safety seats and I of course used a remote trigger to shoot the photo, ya right.

The Ash-a-ley and Riley made many of these little flower stakes for Granny's and mine garden.

After Ash-a-ley went home it was time for a little schooling with Granny... or maybe Riley was playing a video game on Granny's iPad.

Riley was really getting into weeding with opa's special weed eradicator. Always use a little hip action when getting those pesky weeds.

Opa trying his best to replicate one piece of the "American Gothic" by Grant Wood with some poor results. Regardless, this is my first pair of overalls in more than 65 years...amazing!

 Missy, Benji, Riley and Granny going for a daily walk to build up Donna's strength, sure glad it's not winter. 

Last bit of blog is about Missy. Donna and I sat on the front patio and watched her for at least 30 minutes circling this tree looking for something. Donna asked me to video but I was facing the sun, so at the risk of ruining the moment I moved to the other side of the tree, didn't seem to bother Missy a bit as she was preoccupied.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Composting 101

Admittedly, I haven't composted anything other my 401-K in many years. In Las Vegas things don't compost as much as they de-hydrate! I did try gardening a few times in our 24 years as residents of the wonderful Vegas valley without much luck. Seems vegetables try very hard to grow as thick of skins as possible to resist the summer heat or blazing sun.

I had a good start on my compost with the several mounds the former owners left, mainly around tree trunks. Seems they just piled pine leaves, grass cutting and pine cones under several of the large pines. This was like finding the "mother load" of deep, dark and very rich compost.

Several inches of the rich compost on top of several inches of  deer alfalfa, several more inches of compost, more alfalfa and some water should help make for a great addition to next years garden tomatoes. 

Additionally, just a few feet away from the compost pile was a mound of sand, which in concert with the layers of alfalfa and compost, should give us a great, loose soil to add to the garden.

I've widened and lengthened the pile to accommodate the volume of debris that I found on the property. By Riley's estimate our compost pile is 10 feet long, 3 feet high and 5 feet wide...what a heck of a lot of good soil we'll have next year.

There are many discussions on the web as to whether you cover or uncover the compost, with some saying it needs air while other saying the heat really helps. Personally I'd like to break it down as fast as possible because pine needles are tough little buggers. I do have a few holes in the tarp to allow for some ventilation so I guess I'm a fence sitter. My cement guy said he has tried a few times at composting but the bears get in there ripping it apart looking for rotting veggies or citrus. Personally that would make my job easier at turning the pile if they'd rough it up for me once in awhile. 

Finished patio, Granny comes home the day before Easter

Granny wisely waited for the reconstruction of our front patio before coming home.

If you had read the previous blog you may of noted that our patio was being prepared for todays pouring...of mud. Chris, an old hippy, and Steward got busy leveling.

I am used to seeing those cement trucks at have a round mixer, this one was just a big hopper full of mud that is pumped out.

Steward is doing some finishing work around the roof pillars that will eventually have brick built around them up to about 3 feet.

The guys had just finished for the day when Donna called me from the hospital to come pick her up.

While I was in Spokane picking up Donna, our son and family came up for a day. I asked Jason to scribe into the concrete before it dried what his mother wanted...our grandkids name.

My father built a cabin in Big Bear, California around 1960. We kids got write our names in the wet cement and a few years ago while visiting Big Bear I could still see our names in the walkway, some 55 years later.

Donna looks amazingly good considering close to 7 weeks in the hospital. Of course the almost 4 hours trying to checking out was  stressful because Granny was anxious see her grandson, home and dogs.

When we were sitting at a stop light in Spokane I happened to look up and see this huge billboard advertising "Walker's Furniture". I opened and retired from the Bellagio Hotel a few years ago and can't imagine they knew about this...well, they do now!

Even I was surprised at the welcoming party the kids had prepared for Donna when she walked in the house, something tells me it had "Lisa" written all over the surprise.

We celebrated Easter the following day and I am somewhat embarrassed that I took video but almost no still photos, which is unusually for me because I prefer stills. Here are a couple of edited videos from Easter morning.

Later in the day Riley and Opa played in the yard with some of the toys from his basket.

The last project of the day was transplanting some of Opa's small tomato plants into larger suroundings. We made some hanging baskets for Granny's begonia's, also grown from seed.

Happy belated Easter to all.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yard Work April 2014

This is a great time of year to catch up on a few projects around the house. The weather is good and the ground still soft until the summer sun starts drying it out.

As I had mentioned in an earlier blog, our front porch slopes toward the house rather than away from it. So today the guys are tearing it out for a re-pour of the porch.
Donna, who has been laid up lately in Spokane, is missing a historic event, us making the first major change to the house. After seeing the video she was good with it. :-)

The guys did a great job of breaking it up...considering

Considering, the f'ing concrete was up to 9 inches thick, thick enough for a 4 lane highway, and the re-bar was laying on the ground underneath the concrete which further leaves me with nothing but more contempt for the former owners. The builder spent tons of money on the house and upgrades but the folks he sold it to used every cheap trick in the book to degrade any upgrade. My propane guy told me they sold the original propane heating stove...$4500 according to him...on craigslist for $250 so they could put in a wood-stove and cut their own wood. He was sick about it because he was about two hours late in buying the original stove. Why do I say cheap? See that drain in the was a fake, like two others with no drain system attached.

Ok, "calm down Tom"... my wife would say. The guys had to fill in quite a bit of the washed out soil under our aircraft runway cement with some of the crushed concrete. This will be great when it is finished...the right way! I'd do it myself but a man's got to know his limitations!

Just another example of the dim wits before us is this drain line for the rain gutters. The top was visible on the surface of the side driveway because someone was too lazy to actually set it below grade.

After cutting the line and moving it, I dug it down at least two inches below the top of the driveway. As you can see from my very "straight" trench, this is one of the reasons I don't play well with construction.

Not really knowing much about construction I did think it might be a good idea to have some drain rocks to help percolate the water into the soil. It's not actually rock but concrete the former folks decided to camouflage with mulch hiding on top near the side of the property.

Ok...just one more grip about the JO's of whom we bought the property from. The black line laying on the surface you are looking at is actually a water line going out to one of the water spigots for the yard. Totally their style!
It will be fixed in the coming week.

While Donna is recovering I tease her with relaxing photos of the back patio. My distorted sense of reason is, this will push her to recover and join me. Last fall Donna and I set about 100 tulip bulbs in the flower bed near my feet and they are just starting to come up. There is a little wire fence (three feet tall) just to keep the dogs from wondering off and I really have no intention of blocking our view with a deer fence to save the bulbs.

My son told me about these motion detectors that shoot out a stream of water when prompted. Denny has one brand and I went with a slightly more expensive one that has a few more "bells and whistles".
Below is my evaluation of the "Orbit Yard Enforcer"...I've had trouble attaching videos to the blog lately so a youtube video is the only way to present it.

Disclaimer: no animals were harmed or killed in the making of this video.

I turned off the "Yard Enforcer" so they could come back and eat the apples but I'd say our tulips might be safe this year!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Spring 2014

I ran up to the house in order get a few things ready for spring, like getting garden hoses out of the basement and turning on the outside water spigots. The temperatures are running in the low 60's during the day and mid 30's at night, so when I get here after dark I love whipping up a hot fire to take the chill off the house...and I mean hot!

No, Benji is not hiding from the wood stove. I'll sit in the white chair while watching TV and every time I go to get up, he is under my feet! Finally I tried moving his bed under the end table near where I sit and now make him lay there...stay out of my way, good boy Benji.

Still polluting the air trying to get rid of the left over deer feed.

My buddies have not abandoned me, although I think in a month or so it'll be "fawning" time and I expect the mothers will be more skittish.

This might be the deer's perspective while licking its lips thinking about how to get to Donna's tulips, a favorite of the deer. We tried planting vegetation that can be harmed by the herd behind a fence while letting the rest grow out in the yard.

It is Sunday, so I'm wearing my "Sunday best" outfit while working in the yard. I have used the typical cylindric tomato cage years ago and still have a couple in the garage but found an alternative  recently at a farm store. It is a triangle shaped cage, which doesn't sound that different but because it anchors with five legs instead of three... it should be much sturdier.

While it was hard to photograph, if you look closely you see a triangle shaped one and two triangle ones put together to form a rectangle. The rectangle would be great for tomato's, beans or even summer squash. Now when you join two singles to make the rectangle it has ten legs...more than enough for support. They are $2.99 each at "Big R".

I also hung a couple of "begonia" baskets in the front entry and two on the back patio. I have never tried this before but since I have 14 begonia tubers growing in pots I need a place for them. The two plastic yellow thing-a-ma-gigs are wasp and meat bee catchers. They had a bad summer last year here with these pesky little buggers, so we are trying to be proactive!

Time for the little critters. 
Here a male Northern Flicker drums constantly during the day on this old birdhouse, probably bragging to other males that he already has a mate. He never seems to hurt the house but must like the hollow reverberations that are produced by his beak. Take note of his "blurry" tail, I'll mention it later.
I'll accept all donations towards a better lens...haha 

We get plenty of California Quail coming through the yard at certain times of the day...and all winter too. Not too sure why they are called California Quail seeing that we are about 700 miles from California's most northern border?
I did see a good used lens that is only $7000, just saying :-0

Here is the same male Flicker utilizing a "quality" bird house for he and the little lady. I took a look in and they have dug a tunnel down towards the bottom further than I can see. 
The "tail"?
I have noticed in other photos that they use their tails as push bars, if that's the correct term. It looks like they exert pressure with the tail to get more power to the beak?

This area between the garden and fence was knee high in weeds when we bought the property. I sprayed a broad leaf control on it and then laid down some fresh straw to keep any growth from taking root...and to make it easier for the deer to walk around the garden, drooling! ☺
That's it for this blog..stay healthy.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Destruction 101 & Gardening 201

When we bought this house I was aware the front entry cement and brick columns would need to be replaced. The builder apparently did not compact the soil well enough which is causing the water to drain incorrectly.

I've never been known for my mechanical ability but I am pretty good at tearing things apart. To save some money...we are on a fixed income ya know!..I tore down the two brick columns myself. Donna thought we could save even more money if I broke up the concrete patio too...right, not a chance!

Hey, I could save more by just leaving it like this, I don't
 think it looks too bad. Hopeful the crew will start in two weeks and we can knock this out quickly.

When I went to Safeway to pick up some food and I saw a pallet of chicken manure on sale, 4 bags @10 bucks. I ended up getting 6 cubic feet for the garden but if I had more time, I would of gotten 20 cubic feet for the price they were selling it.

I first spread the manure on top of the mounds and started to carefully work it into the soil with my Garden Weasel Claw, which was a present from Donna. I had to be careful because I laid the main waterline for each mound right on top and the claw did have some pretty sharp daggers.
Then I had one of my rare brain farts. Since the waterlines only bring the water to the mound, the mounds will actually get their liquid from separate 1/4 inch lines that I can move. So why have the 1/2 inch line on top and in my way, just off set them to one that's what I did.

Why on earth did I spend good money for a riding lawnmower
when these guys cut and fertilize the lawn all at once? ☺

My granddaughter chastised me for polluting when she saw this photo. People that live in cities don't even know that us "country folk" do this all the time. Makes me wonder why some farms still have so much junk or dilapidated buildings on site when a match would clear the land.

While I was bored this winter, I tried building some birdhouses which were so amateurish in look and design that even I was embarrassed, but at least one occupant doesn't seem to mind. Some might wonder why I didn't use my humongous telephoto lens but to the astonishment of my wife, I didn't bring my 35 millimeter with me on this trip. This box was to specification for the Northern Flicker woodpecker and rather them look to my house as a condo I thought to build one. Just like a optimist..."if you build it, they will come".

Since my wife was disappointed because of the forgotten camera I had another brain fart...just try and get a shot using my spotting scope which wasn't as easy as it sounds but at least I was able to get this shot.This is the female, the male has bright red cheeks and of course is the more handsome of the breed. 

The box is packed to the top with sawdust, as per design, and the two woodpeckers took turns grabbing a mouth full, throwing it out while carving a tunnel for the nest.

The advantages of living off a dirt road is that traffic is limited to only other land owners, and some visitors. Some of the disadvantages are potholes, snow and dust.

We got lucky here. This is a county maintained road because the school bus picks up children which means grading, snow removal and oiling to keep dust at a minimum in the summer.
First time I have seen one of these rigs. Looks like the rear, offset wheels, are hydraulically pushed down to create pressure and thereby acting like one of those road roller...just my opinion.

That's it for this week, maybe more soon.