Grading is complete, grades are submitted, and all my grading sheets are in the Outbox. The last step is to shoot some pictures of student work and then drop it off at the university.
Stuff I accomplished this weekend, in no particular order:
Took a load of stuff to the dump; my nostalgia/hoarding filter is extremely thin right now, so I finally chucked a bunch of stuff I swore I was going to save to “use later,” including two of our old kitchen cabinets I had to take off the wall to be able to fit the fridge. Little by little, the basement is clearing out (aided in no small part by a trip to goodwill last weekend). I still need to figure out where to dump the old CR-V hood, two Scout brake drums and a spare steel wheel; the dump doesn’t take car parts of any kind.
Mulched the rest of the front bed with Jen. This also allowed us to find several of the gladiolus bulbs poking through the soil that we’d planted a couple of weeks ago. Success!
Ran over to Christi & Glenn’s house to pick up my ladder, which they’ve had in their garage since last fall. While I was there Glenn and I crawled up on their garage and removed about 30 pine boughs from the tree behind it, which were sitting directly on the slate, as well as about 6″ of pine needles stuck in the snow catchers. We threw all the boughs into the yard of the retirement community behind them, who haven’t pruned their trees in decades.
I was taken down by a stomach ache Saturday afternoon, probably from the sushi we’d had the night before, and had to lay down for a nap until dinnertime.
Cleaned the gutters over the new bathroom, which were completely filled with helicopters and sprouts from the sugar maple in the driveway. Which is living on borrowed time, because I emailed a signed contract to the tree removal service on Sunday in the hopes we can get it taken down in the next couple of weeks. I’m also hopeful they can drop it and leave the wood away from the central part of the driveway so I can get our cars in and out.
Fertilized and trimmed all of the tomatoes back. I’ve been using a different method of pollination and it seems to work better; it’s basically just flicking the flowers with a finger for about 10 seconds. I’ve been pretty lethal about cutting stray shoots and old growth back, and the plants are still alive, so that’s a relief. The romas by the door have gone absolutely crazy—there’s at least 14 tomatoes working on that plant alone.
Took an hour or so with Jen to wrap the grape arbor with netting to try and save as many of the new shoots as possible. This involved cutting half of the old netting away and attaching the new netting to the remainder; picking grapes later in the season will be interesting.
Rebuilt the edging around the herb bed, which dates back to 2004 or so. One side had collapsed, so we picked up new wood on Saturday and I had the new bed complete by Sunday afternoon.
Disassembled and cleaned out the A/C units for our bedrooms, which were disgusting. This prompted me to look into ductless air conditioning systems, something that could be a workable, cost effective alternative to heavy window units or rehabbing the whole house for central A/C. The system uses a single compressor outside and relies on thin hoses that go up the side of the house into wall-mounted units in each room. This avoids installing a giant air handler in the attic and a bunch of ducts in the ceiling; while having an appliance bolted to the wall of each bedroom isn’t the most attractive approach, it’s a hell of a lot better than plugging up the windows. If I’m serious about a home equity loan to finish the bathroom, this might be the other thing we spend on to raise our quality of life.
The update: I’ve got a Carter AFB carburetor in two dozen pieces on the workbench downstairs. It’s waiting for the rebuild kit, which should be here later tonight. I want nothing more than to pull up a stool with a cold beer and start re-assembling it, but I have to focus tonight on studying for my welding test, which will be tomorrow at 5:30. Will I fail at life if I don’t pass this test? No, but I’d sure like to walk away with some new knowledge and the ability to MIG weld with a better idea of what I’m doing.
In the greenhouse, I’ve got three store-bought tomato plants in tubs which seem to be very happy; two are flowering and they’re all at least 3′ tall. I originally thought I’d buy more but we haven’t been to a garden center in weeks, so I’m going to re-pot one in its own tub and let them do their thing. In some ways being this busy all spring is a good thing, as I finished out last year’s planting season very discouraged by my yields. I don’t think I was cut out to be a farmer, but I do love having fresh tomatoes.
We are home for the first full weekend in a month and a half, and I enjoyed a day of puttering around the house doing small things. Saturday morning I took Finley over to school for a catch-up in Math and Spanish, and when I got home I took Hazel on her 2-mile coffee walk. I spent most of the walk obsessing over a cheap local Scout on Marketplace that I convinced myself I could afford.
When I got back home I figured I’d get my mind off it completely by reading the second half of the comic run of Paper Girls, a title written by Brian K. Vaughn (of Saga and Y: the Last Man fame) and drawn by Cliff Chiang. It’s a bit hard to describe, but I found it completely engrossing and absolutely riveting storytelling. Back in the Before Times, when I was going to the library, I read a couple of issues but found it hard to follow out of order. I’m nervous because Amazon is making it into a series—I hope to got they don’t fuck it up.
My mind sufficiently clear, I got to work fixing the steering wheel on the Scout and then taking Finn out thrifting. While she browsed in one corner of the store, I found a 4-gallon pot and a couple of cheap shirts but not much else. We did some other shopping and then came home with dinner for Mama. When we’d cleaned up the kitchen, I brought the beer stove outside, filled the new pot with water, and boiled the deer skull for about two hours. As the light faded I used a stick to scrape off the loosened skin and hair and set it out to dry. On Sunday I’ll dump it in with some hydrogen peroxide and let it sit for a day to whiten up. Then it’ll be ready to hang.
There are three tomato plants in the greenhouse, but not much else right now. I bought seedlings from the store and threw them in some new dirt, but I’m not planning on filling every inch of the greenhouse like I did last year; I just got too discouraged at the end of the season with how things went. I’ll probably buy five or six more and focus on keeping them watered and happy, and see if I can get some different results with fertilizer and watering schedules.
Today will be more puttering. The dog needs a bath, the bathrooms need a cleaning, and I have a list of things that need attention around the house.
We enjoyed a somewhat quiet weekend with our friend Christopher visiting from New York, which meant there wasn’t a lot of movement other than switching from the living room to the porch. The weather kept flipping back and forth from sunny to overcast, but I was able to go rent a ladder from Home Depot—I have a 7′ stepladder and a 24′ extension ladder but nothing in between, which makes painting 12′ eaves difficult—and clean up the first floor trim. Then I brought the tools and a leaf blower up to the roof of the porch, scraped about seven of the bays in the eaves, and hit them with a coat of fresh white paint. Then I blew all of the paint chips off which made it look much cleaner. There are a bunch more to do but it already looks worlds better up there.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse are all looking very happy, and more of the plants are producing fruit. I’ve got to look in to proper fertilization to avoid blossom end rot and pull a couple of runty plants out to make way for the bigger ones.
Things are coming along in the greenhouse. There are already several sets fruit on one of the Roma plants, and the cherry plants are close behind. Everything is flowering so I’ve been out there flicking the stems to fertilize as much as I can. It’s all a lot lower to the ground this year—cutting the extra shoots and branches way back has kept a lot of the plants focused on producing blooms instead of reaching skyward, and if I stay on top of that, their energy will translate into more and better tomatoes.
The sap from the oak tree falls onto the plastic and collects dirt quickly, so I bought a cheap mop and scrubbed one side yesterday. I have to get back out there and do the far side one morning before it gets too hot, and that will further increase the sunlight getting in there.
Over the last couple of weeks, Jen and I have pored over three pages of calendar printouts—the next six months—penciling in plans and family events and trips. We’ve got a lot of it hammered out, some of it is still in flux, and other things are dependent on timing and circumstance. One of the things on the list is a camping trip I’ve been wanting to organize with Finn and Zachary for the last two years following our excellent trip in 2018. I’m a little nervous now that they’ve both fully embraced video games, and especially after a year and a half of COVID schooling, that they won’t be able to leave screens behind. Or that just as they are getting past that stuff and into being away, we’ll have to pack up and head home. I’ve got a reservation set up in late August to a state campground on the Eastern Shore for three days and two nights which should be a lot of fun; it’s near the water, has fishing and kayaking, and now that I’ve got a good hitch for the bikes we can take those along too. Now I’m thinking I should add another night to the trip so we’ve got a little more time to rough it. I also need to sort through the camping gear and make some upgrades and additions, especially around food planning and storage.
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I think I’ve mentioned the Coffee Walk at some point: essentially an excuse to buy coffee and muffins, we walk downtown to the bakery and then make a long loop around the neighborhood before heading home. It’s about two miles and gives us an excuse to get more exercise, catch up with each other, tire out the dog, and most importantly, get muffins. Our local bakery makes what they call Triple Ginger muffins, which are fucking delicious, and uncharacteristic of all of their other dry, crumbly pastries. We’ve been hooked on these since they started making them, and this spring they’ve been especially good—we can often time it so that they’re still hot from the oven.
Well, all good things come to an end; the bakery makes “seasonal” pastries, and only offers two types of muffin at a time; they’ve now switched to chocolate chip-almond (not as good as it sounds and crumbly at the lightest touch) and strawberry cheesecake, which sounds like it might be good until it suddenly makes one feel sick.
Continuing around the corner, we came upon the Farmer’s Market, which looks to be busier than it’s ever been; I think they’ve been preparing for people to come crawling out of their homes looking for human contact and artisanal pickles since COVID began. One thing I was happy to see was a mobile knife sharpening van, and while we tried to scope out the rest of the offerings Hazel completely lost her mind in the presence of all the other dogs out for a walk, so we noped out of there and headed home. I grabbed up a handful of knives and headed back down there with Finn: two Schrade pocketknives I’ve had on my workbench—one 3″ I’ve had since high school, from a repo’d car, and a smaller 2″ blade that was Dad’s. I brought our Wusthof hollow edge from the kitchen, which has needed attention for the last couple of years, and finally Dad’s 6″ Dexter skinning knife from his days at Cornell when they taught him how to dress meat as part of the Agriculture program. For a total of $25 all four are back in shape and ready to be used again. He took a little more off the blades than I liked to see, but they were all in pretty rough shape. Sadly he doesn’t do chainsaw blades but I’ve got a couple of other knives around here that will need attention, so we’ll probably head back in two weeks.
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Things in the greenhouse have slowed due to the iffy, ineffectual weather we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Where there was a lot of growth in the hot weeks right after they got planted, they’re all stalled and are throwing out multiple suckers instead of producing flowering branches. I’ve got one Roma plant with about ten blooms but other than that it’s all show and no go. At the Farmer’s Market I saw a bunch of potted patio tomatoes that looked lush, carrying fruit, and it immediately made me feel like I was doing things wrong. But when I looked at other stands, I saw the same varieties we’ve planted for sale that were smaller than ours and had no fruit, which cheered me back up—it looks like we’re right on time.