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Date posted: June 27, 2018 | Filed under Inspiration, Scout | Comments Off on More Camping Glamour Shots

This dreamy shot of Finn is from our camping weekend. It was shot on my iPhone through a waterproof bag which accounts for the haze. Finn looks like a model.

Date posted: June 26, 2018 | Filed under finn | Leave a Comment »

I took a chance last weekend and ordered a used Airport Extreme base station to replace the one that got fried in the flood/storm a few weeks ago. I bought it on Amazon’s marketplace and hoped for the best. It arrived this evening and within about 5 minutes it was up and running in place of the old one in our living room. Immediately I noticed an improvement in the speed of our wireless network; the wireless router in the basement is just too old and slow to keep up with us. This will likely be the last inexpensive Apple router I ever buy, as they have just exited the marketplace completely (for reasons I still don’t understand).

I’ve got a few more tomatoes blooming in the greenhouse, but not as many as I’d like to see at this point (and for all the pollinating I’ve been doing). I’m sure bees do it better but I’ve been showing those plants some sexxxxy times and I’ve only got fruit on three of the six plants. Maybe I need to talk dirty to them. The cukes are just beginning to bloom as well, so in another day or so I can start pollinating them as well. In the meantime I dug out some old drip hose, switched out the connectors, and looped it around the bins. With a new electric timer it’s set to drip for 30 minutes every morning at 6AM which should be enough water to keep them happy while we’re gone on vacation. I’m testing it out tonight, and then I’ll disconnect it until the day before we leave–both rain barrels are full from the past couple of weeks and I want to keep using that water until it’s gone.

Sunday morning we got up early and headed out to Larriland for some cherry picking. We started in the tart cherry fields because Jen has a lot of baking she wants to do; the trees were absolutely laden with fruit. I’ve never seen cherry trees like that before. Within about a half an hour we had 14 pounds of cherries in two bags. Then we went and picked another 4 pounds of sweet cherries before calling it a day. We’d originally wanted to pick blackberries but the fields were closed Sunday, so hopefully Jen can carve a little time out during the week to go back.

We kicked our asses on the house in the afternoon. I mowed the lawn and then made a small repair to the carb on my gas edger, which I haven’t used for two seasons, and got that running again. Thank you internets! With that I cleaned up the backyard, cut way back into the pile of brush my dipshit neighbor has stopped mowing, and made the whole place look better again. We made a trip to Lowe’s and I bought some wood to replace a panel on the front of the garage, which has been rotting away for years, as well as replace the bench seat under Finn’s playset. Jen continued mulching and cleaning the beds, and then sat and pitted cherries until she couldn’t move her hands anymore.

Date posted: June 25, 2018 | Filed under garden, greenhouse, house | Leave a Comment »

My first tomato is growing ever larger and looking great; there’s no rot or funk on it at all. I’ve also got two new tomatoes starting on a companion plant and many blooms on everything else. I switched a Q-tip out for a small paintbrush to continue pollinating everything manually, in the hope that it will be more effective.

Date posted: June 21, 2018 | Filed under garden, greenhouse | Leave a Comment »

Peer Pressure made a 257-mile trip this past weekend to the Eastern Shore without a hitch. The kids loved it, I had a smile on my face the whole time, and it was her first visit to the shore–about as close as I’ll ever let her get to salt water.

I had no issues with starting, overheating, or odd distributor explosions. I am noticing that braking is getting wobbly up front, probably due to the rotors being warped (the only parts we didn’t replace during the brake job this spring) so I’m going to have them ground or replaced next month.

After that, it’s getting a set of road-going tires. Mud-Terrains are good for mud but loud as shit at 60mph.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: June 20, 2018 | Filed under friends, Scout, Trip Logs | Comments Off on Camping Scout

Date posted: June 20, 2018 | Filed under family, finn, friends, travel | Leave a Comment »

Wow, someone claims they have created a monobath for developing B/W film (instead of dealing with agitation, developer, stop bath, and fixer over carefully watched increments of time) to process film at home. I found out recently I have darkroom privileges at UMBC when I go back to teaching in the fall, and I intend to take full advantage of that shit.

Date posted: June 20, 2018 | Filed under photography, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »

As I mentioned in the last post, I was really nervous about the Scout doing a long-distance trip. I’d prepared everything else as much as possible, but the worry nagged at me all morning as I packed it up with our gear. That only took about 20 minutes (I was basically just stuffing things in there) and after getting Finley up and moving we were on the road by about 9:45. She and I stopped for some breakfast at Dunkin Donuts and then we hit the highway. It’s going to sound mawkish, but as I merged on to Rt 97 I talked to Rob under my breath and asked him to help me get Zachary to the campsite and back home so that we could show him a good time.

The ride down went without a hitch. We made great time to Easton, only having to stop for a five-car line at the Bay Bridge and were in Easton by 11. This never happens. Usually the Bay Bridge line looks like the traffic scene from The Day After. We did some repacking of Zachary’s gear, found some space for it in the truck, and then the three of us were off!

Roaring Point is about an hour south of Easton below Oxford, and the route gets much more rural the further south you go. We turned off Rt. 50 to head west towards the shore and were swallowed up by cornfields and blue sky. As we entered the tiny town of Nanticoke (traffic lights: zero) I stopped for beer, ice, firewood and bait, and talked to several different people about Peer Pressure (“Hey, I haven’t seen a Scout in years!”) before finding the campground at the end of a dusty gravel road. We checked in at the front desk and they gave us the lay of the land; our site was up in back by a giant field we’d passed on the way in. I cruised around the rows of long-term camp trailers and over a bridge to get to the tent area; we had our pick of all but one site. We had to walk the area to see what was available, because the heavy rains of the past weeks had made most of the sites wetland and I didn’t want to grind out the mud looking. We found that the sites furthest back and closest to the field were high and dry, so I put the truck in 4WD to grind over the bog in the middle and backed in to our site.

We pulled gear out of the truck and got our tent set up, put bedrolls down, organized the food situation, changed into swimsuits, and took a vote: fishing was first on the list. Collecting our bait and tackle we walked to the pier and scoped the situation out. I got Finley’s line set and got her casting, then untangled Zachary’s line and got him casting off the other side. Finally I put my giant surf pole together and got my line in the water.

They stuck with it for about an hour as we worked through most of our bloodworms, and then the lack of action caught up with us all. We moved over to the beach area and jumped in the water together, splashing and swimming until about 6.

Getting hungry, I corralled them back to the site and we got changed for dinner. I realized pretty early on that lots of my old camping gear had made its way out of my bins and never returned, so I was missing important food-related things like a fire grate, spatula, wooden spoons, long roasting forks, and a frying pan. While I had the kids hunt down kindling wood, I whittled the ends of three long sticks and set them in a cup of water to soak while we got the fire started. Luckily there was a lot of dead wood on the ground and plenty of pine needles, so within minutes I had a good fire going. I speared a hot dog on the end of each stick and showed them how to cook without dropping everything into the fire. Once the nutrition portion of the meal was consumed I busted out the S’mores and we had dessert. Victory!

After food I busted out our walkie talkies and had them test out the range by exploring the field behind us while I cleaned up the dishes. I was impressed by how far they carry, and felt secure about letting the kids roam the campsite by themselves–which they were happy to do. When I finished cleaning up the site I called them back, busted out laser tag and we ran around the site for about a half an hour shooting each other before the light started fading.

Now it was craft time. I’d bought each of them an LED flashlight, a length of paracord, and a handful of hardware to make lanyards, but it took me some time to improvise a way to set up the workspace and then remember the way to get the lanyard started. My phone was bouncing between two bars and NO SERVICE, so the internet was intermittent at best. I finally reverse engineered the lanyard I’d brought along and got us all started but at that point the light was almost gone and we couldn’t see anything. Before turning in we walked out to the field to look at the stars and realized that the moon was directly over our tent with Venus shining brightly right next to it.

Unfortunately, there was a live band playing at the camp rec center for Father’s Day. They started up at about 8 with a Hootie and the Blowfish cover and didn’t stop until 10:30, ending their set with a mashup of Sweet Home Alabama, Whoop! There it Is, and a G-rated edition of Closer. Yes, this is true. By this point the kids were half-asleep but grumbling, and someone suggested walking over to hit the singer in the face with a frying pan. That person may have been my daughter.

The next morning we woke to direct sunlight on the tent as it broke over the field behind us. I got coffee brewing and offered the kids eggs and bacon, but they each chose to try one of the freeze-dried meals I’d brought on a whim: Finn had eggs and bacon, Zachary and I split mexican rice & chicken. And they weren’t half bad! The bacon was a little chewy as was the chicken but for a simple heat-and-eat meal they weren’t bad at all.

Then we sat down and finished our lanyards, which took some patience and multiple attempts to master. Zachary got the hang of it first, and Finley picked it up right after that. When we ran out of cord, I cut the ends, melted the loops together, and we hung them on the walkies.

After gathering supplies, getting our suits on, and grabbing towels, we walked up to the office and rented a canoe for two hours. It turned out to be a three-person kayak, which was actually a bit better for us, as the freeboard was lower for the kids to make paddling easier. Life jackets donned, paddles in hand, I dragged it down to the water, put the kids up front, and pushed off into the bay. It took some time to organize their strokes (I had to tell Z to watch what Finn was doing so he wouldn’t bonk paddles) but after a few minutes we worked out a working rhythm and headed for the point.

The campground is named for a spit of sand that noses out into the bay and disappears at high tide; as the tide shifts the water from upriver hits the sand and rushes over top–less than a roar in our experience but loud enough to hear from a canoe on the bay. It was about a half a mile from the beach, and so just the right distance for the kids. We nosed onto the beach and explored the point, stopping to talk to two gentlemen casting long lines into the bay and walking out to look at the osprey nest at the tip of the sand.

They spent more time in the water than on land which was fine with me; I splashed and played as much as they did–the water was warm enough to be in for hours. The horseflies from the nearby marsh were fierce but we dove under the water when they landed, and as the wind picked up in the late morning they blew away from us. Up on the spit I noticed a turtle crawl out of the marsh to explore the tidal pool and brought the kids up to check him out.

We wound up keeping the kayak for four hours, taking a break from the water to paddle down past the pier and explore the other side of the campsite. Then we paddled back up to the point and jumped in the water again after stopping for a Clif bar.

At 12:30 we returned the kayak, bought ice, wood, and bait, and walked back to camp to get lunch together. I packed up more water and cheesy-poofs and we hiked back out to the pier to try our luck at fishing again. They did great on their second try, spending an hour casting until it got too hot, and then jumped in the water again. I continued fishing until I caught a small 3″ bait fish, showed the kids, and then hooked him to use for bigger bait. I’d paid $35 to a guy at a yard sale for a second-hand fishing rod for Finn earlier this year, and after rebuilding the reel it turned out to be a pretty good setup. The rest of the afternoon was spent alternately fishing, swimming, fishing and swimming.

At dinnertime we walked back to camp and put more dogs over the fire, then had a massive game of walkie-laser-talkie-tag in the deserted tent area of the campsite. During dessert I busted out the glowsticks and we decided to walk back down to the pier to watch the sun set over the water. As the kids sat and played with their flashlights and talked, I said a quiet word of thanks to Rob and poured a little of my beer into the water for him.

Our second night was much quieter without the band, and both kids went down hard at about 9:30. I’d forgotten to put my spare battery in the tent to charge my dying phone, so I laid quietly listening as a blanket of birds and cicadas settled in around us mixed with quiet breathing from both kids, enormously grateful that things had gone so well both days.

The next morning fog covered the field behind us, and a light drizzle dappled the top of the tent but–didn’t make it inside (I’d left the rain cover off to capture the cross breeze, so this was another lucky break) which was what woke me. Zachary was up first so we snuck out of the tent and I made him some peanut butter toast while my coffee brewed. We chatted for about an hour until Finn woke up, puffy and pink from sun poisoning. Dammit.

After breakfast I let them fart around while I packed up camp, pausing to have them help me with important stuff like their belongings and folding the tent. I found a better way to pack the truck for the ride home so the kids had the whole bench seat to themselves. After cleaning up the campsite and taking a few group photos we dropped off our garbage and hit the road.

At the end of the camp driveway I looked both ways to merge and spotted a lump in the road. Jumping out of the truck, I brought a surprised Eastern Box turtle back over to show the kids, and then ran him over to the other side of the road so he wouldn’t get squished. Stopping for gas in Nanticoke, I got out of the truck and was faced with an old-school gas pump with spinning numbers and a mechanical valve–something I haven’t seen in 20 years. Before I could get it started a nice man named Earl ambled out from the office  and started pumping for me. He and I and a local on the other side of the pump chatted about full-service gas stations and Earl’s odd choice of a retirement career before we got to $20 and I mounted back up.

The ride home was hotter than Saturday by about 20˚ and 100% humidity, so by the time we made it to Easton we were ready for some AC and a quick bite at Karean’s house. Finn and I got back on the road by 1:30 and she passed out in the back seat again. After an uneventful ride we were back home by 3. We laid Finn in the den with some water and debriefed on the couch before heading back out to unpack the truck.

The verdict: both kids had a great time and told me they want to go camping again, but they don’t want to go to a place with a live band. Check. Both of the kids were awesome sports about everything: fishing, canoeing, swimming, crafting, they were up for it all and didn’t complain. They got along great with each other and with me the whole time. I spent two days with both of them and didn’t lose my cool, didn’t lose them, and had a great time myself. All I can think of is how lucky and grateful I am to have the two of them in my life.

Date posted: June 19, 2018 | Filed under family, finn, friends, travel | Leave a Comment »

I’ve got three large Rubbermaid tubs on the floor in the hall full of gear, food, and other consumables. Both fishing poles are fixed and ready for the water. The laser tag pistols are charged. The tent is ready (I didn’t have time to do a test-run today, so, fingers crossed). Cheesy-poofs have been sourced and purchased. We have enough things to do that I think we’ll be occupied for the whole two days, and I’m looking forward to some low-impact camping.

My nagging worry this whole time has been that something will go wrong with the Scout; I really want to take her on this adventure but I don’t want to let Zachary down. She’s been running well since the rotor popped off, but that little episode shook my confidence. I had her out running errands today and while I was sitting in the line at the bank machines, the engine just up and died. This sent a shiver of fear up my back. I took a deep breath, found my inner peace, and figured I’d start with the first of the three requirements: fuel. I jumped out and emptied my Rotopax into the gas tank, shot some starting fluid into the carb, and after two tries had it running again. I’d thought I had enough gas since my last fill-up, but apparently I miscalculated.

So, do I trust my 44 year-old truck to get us there and back with no major problems, or do I punt for the comfort and security of our boring, trusty CR-V?

Fuck it. Let’s go have an adventure.

Date posted: June 15, 2018 | Filed under general | Leave a Comment »

As I walked out to my bright red wagon when we finished those tacos, I felt a thrill go up my spine as I unlocked the door. I have the ability to go anywhere, I thought. I am moving under my own power. It’s such a simple, every day thing that I can’t help but celebrate. Every day is now full of these small victories, and I’m slowly becoming master of my own destiny again.

Erin Marquis is the Managing Editor of Jalopnik, a car-focused blog I read every day, and is recovering from thyroid cancer. She wrote a great post on her first drive after getting back on her feet from treatment. Thyroid cancer is no joke–she’s got to deal with shitty medication issues every time she has to get scanned–but I can relate to the heady feeling of freedom that comes from the first drive after a long time off one’s feet.

Date posted: June 14, 2018 | Filed under cancer, shortlinks | Leave a Comment »