With the quarantine altering my work schedule last year, I was able to spend what would have been commuting time on starting seeds and tending plants over my morning coffee. 2020 was a pretty good season but I know it could be vastly improved with the right lessons learned. This year I started seeds much earlier and transplanted the strongest seedlings into larger pots a couple of weeks ago. I’ve learned that the larger starter pods don’t work well, and taking the covers off the trays (and moving them upstairs into the heat) helps them grow much faster. There are now 30+ plants that are ready to start hardening outside, and the overall weather is getting warmer.
Having expanded the number of seedlings available, I knew that I was going to need to reorganize the greenhouse to take advantage of as much interior space as possible. Yesterday I dragged all of the chairs out onto the lawn, dumped last year’s soil out, and took stock of the space. Back in 2005 Jen and I bought a trio of greenhouse tables from a local nursery that was closing; I don’t recall what we spent on them but it wasn’t much. I usually have 2 set up down the middle of the floor and have the fourth over in the corner for storage, but that’s valuable surface area that could be covered with plants. So I moved that to the back corner and offset the middle table to give us walking space. The big question is whether or not to move that table up to the front (southwest) corner, where the majority of the daily sun is, and find a new place to move the old potting bench so that it all fits. It’s raining today so I may go back out and move some stuff around to see if I can make something work.
We hit the Home Depot and picked up 8 bags of potting soil to start the bins, and I figure we’ll need another 8 at least to fill them all completely and the extra pots I’ve got set up for stragglers. I’ve got to pick up a cheap fabric mop and an extendable pole so that I can wash the sap off the plastic outside, and find a way to build a rack for all of the poles sitting in the far back corner.
A brief update: I’ve got new bolts in hand for both the bumper and foglight brackets from Fastenal: 1/2″-13 x 5-1/2″ Grade 8 hex bolts for the bumper and 3/8″-16 x 3/4″ 18-8 stainless carriage bolts for the brackets. I also got a 1′ length of 2″x2″ .250 wall box steel delivered to be cut down into a pair of C-shaped brackets. Unfortunately, the metal cutting blade I bought could not make it through the steel, and truth be told, it’s way too thick anyway. So, I’m going to order some .125 wall and use that instead. I’ve found a local welder who can put them on for me, which should only take a half an hour. I’m also going to have him weld the lock hasp on the bottom of the ammo can and put that job to bed as well, because it’s springtime and the top is coming off soon.
Another thing I stumbled upon was a “fuel sender test kit” from one of the parts vendors, which is basically just two lengths of wire and some instructions, something I should be able to build and use myself in a half an hour. The key are the directions, which look like they could be even more helpful—the only issue is getting a wire to the top of the tank itself, but as I’d like to rework the hoses anyway, I might spend a day dropping the tank and working on it.
Because I have nothing new to share this week, I leave you with this curly-haired girl helping me bake a cake ten years ago today:
I had a little bit of time over the weekend to do some Scout stuff with the weather beginning to warm up, so I got right to it. The first thing on the docket was to bust out the sandblaster and remove the paint from a couple of parts I’d picked off the Flintstone scout: the license plate mount, the firewall bracket for the steering wheel, and the latch mechanism for the tailgate. Without remembering that I had better luck with glass bead, I used up a bunch of baking soda and got most of the old grungy paint off of the parts.
There’s a fair bit of pitting on the mount, so I wire-wheeled everything and shot it with a coat of rust encapsulator to keep it sealed tight. The entire socket needs to be replaced, so I’ll source an LED unit (or reuse one from the old swingarm setup) at some point in the future. The spring in the tailgate latch had slipped its cog so I reset that, cleaned the grime out with a wire brush, and shot it full of lithium grease.
A few things I’ve learned from using a $20 homemade sandblasting setup:
- It pays to have a pile of parts to do all at once. Setting it all up for one part is a colossal waste of time.
- A $200 blast cabinet, while pricy and bulky, looks more and more like a good investment. Healthier, too.
- Sandblasting with the right media in the right conditions is immensely satisfying.
Sunday’s project was fixing the driver’s side exhaust donut, which has been leaking for several years. I had the truck out yesterday for some errands, and what had been a low bub-bub-bub-bub last fall had progressed to the BUB-BUB-BUB-BUB of a straight-piped Harley over the winter.
This involved shooting the flange bolts with PBBlaster and letting them soak, which predictably had no result. No matter how I tried the outside bolt would not budge, which of course meant the inner bolt was never going to move. I used a small reciprocating saw to cut the outside bolt in half and then realized that the inside bolt was still snug—so I decided to leave that one alone. One copper bolt and two nuts later, the flange is snug around the manifold again. The difference is amazing: driving through Ellicott City to go pick up beer this afternoon, she purrs again; heading up the hill toward home no longer sounds like we’re beating a war drum on the march to Valhalla.
Saturday afternoon a new set of Hella fog lights appeared on the doorstep, which will require some slight modification to mount to the new bumper. I went with LED units because the wattage is lower and the draw on 45-year-old wiring and the alternator will be gentler. This kit came with black covers which I will have to swap out with OG white ones sometime in the future.
The current plan is to order a length of 2″x2″x1/4″ wall square tubing, chop that into 2″ sections, and then chop one of the walls off to make a strong, geometric C. Flipped on the side and welded to the top of the bumper, they will be mounts for the lights so that I don’t have to drill into the bumper itself. This is going to require the services of a local welder, as Brian came to pick his MIG a couple of weeks ago. (Or, I drive out to his house and we bumble our way through some booger welds ourselves). Either way I’m dying to get it moving along so that I can mount it. I’m still on the fence about whether I should powder-coat or just shoot it with rattlecan black here in the driveway. The paint on the rear bumper has held up really well in the nine years since I painted it; I do like inexpensive solutions…
And in the RockAuto cart this afternoon:
- A new temperature sensor—suddenly the gauge is reading zero, and I’d like to have a firm idea of how hot things get this summer. I put a laser thermometer on the water neck and it read 165˚, which means the thermostat is doing exactly what it should be.
- An air cleaner intake hose to replace the chewed up dryer hose POS I’ve had in this engine since I got it.
Twenty years ago today, I opened up a text editor and wrote a little bit about what I saw around me as I commuted to work. I styled some HTML by hand, stuck it in a subdirectory of my website, and began a habit I would stick with until the present day.
Unknowingly I was one of the early attendees to the party, and if I hadn’t been quite so cheap—I was getting my hosting for free through a friend and didn’t buy proper webhosting until 2005, after all the cool kids had staked out space in the ecosphere—I might have had a higher profile in the strange world of weblogs. Because I didn’t use weblog software, I was late to the blogroll and the trackback and software wars, which sidelined me from people discovering what I was writing about for years. And as much as I wanted for people to read what I was writing and comment, I was never one of the try-hards who begged for traffic. I’m not much of a joiner, so I only attended a few blogger meetups, and those were usually hosted by people I already knew, but it was nice to meet other folks who were doing it for as long as it lasted. There was always a tension between the promise of internet fame and the terror of internet infamy. I’m probably not tough enough to weather either of those storms, so I continue to fly under the radar. As it was, I never kept a weblog for the same reasons other people did anyway; while some folks were happy to document their every emotion and feeling, my weblog was more a record of my own headspace at any given moment.
Besides keeping a log of what I was doing for my own purposes, I also wrote this as a way to update my friends and parents. Mostly my parents; I was a little embarrassed to share this with friends directly: “I have a blog” sounds pretty dorky. It sounds dorkier now that it’s a decade past being a fad. Upon reflection, I think I wrote most of it with my Dad in mind—here’s what’s been happening—whom I found hard to talk to through normal channels. We’d talk on the phone, yes, but as I’ve gotten older I realize how much of his approval I was always seeking, and possibly how this was my weird way of reaching out. He didn’t comment on here as far as I can remember; comments only go back to the switch to WordPress. Most of our electronic communication was stereotypical Dad ALL CAPS EMAILS or forwards of annoying chain mails. Mom did tell me he read the site, but I tend to think she is the regular subscriber and he was a casual visitor.
As I look back over the body of work here it makes me think about all of the things I never asked him before he passed. There’s a black and white picture of him laying on the roof of his first car in front of Grandpa’s farm—how did he buy it? How long did he have it? There’s another of younger Bill holding a rope around the neck of a cow in shirtsleeves and a tie—where was that? What was he doing there? How about the picture above of him standing next to Mom, who is holding Renie as an infant. What was going through his mind? I would like to know who he was as a man of 30, raising a young family, and what his hopes and dreams were—but I realize know nothing about him. I have boxes of his slides, decades of memories, with no context or reference to who is pictured or what they are doing beyond what little I’ve been told. As I tried to do with my grandfather, I lost the chance to do with him, to get him to talk about those experiences and his memories and hear about his life and learn from him. Mom, get yourself ready.
Someday I hope that Finley will be able to read this and know a little more about who her parents were, what we were doing, and what we were thinking before she blew up our world in the best way possible. In that way, this weblog is more a gift to her than anything else, an annotated photo album of where she came from and the people that made her.
In that way, it’s documented the last twenty years faithfully, through one house to the second, through a wedding and honeymoon to various foreign vacations, home projects, employment shifts, a pregnancy and birth, BABY, another employment shift, more vacations, friends coming and going, cancer, death, and now the pandemic. It will continue as long as I am able to put fingers to keyboard. Maybe Finley will even take up the mantle someday, if there is still a text-based internet where people can write about their dishwasher breaking or post endless blurry pictures of their dog.
Current events have me looking back on a lot of my history, and it seems like some of that history is catching up with me, too. I popped on to the Binder Planet while we were on vacation and saw a post in one of the main forums about the passing of a familiar name: John Hofstetter, who used to frequent the IHC Digest (a precursor to webforums, back when email was the next evolutionary step beyond BBS). He was an old-timer then, someone who always had a minute to help a young shit like me figure something out in the days before YouTube and when the pictures in reprinted service manuals were too dark to be usable. That led me to another thread started back in 2017 asking where all the old timers were: as I read through the posts I realized that a lot of the guys I’d learned from back in the day are gone, and I’m now the age they were when I got into Scouts. That was sobering.
The family is enjoying a couple of days at an AirBnB out in Western Maryland, away from responsibilities and neighbors and the house we’ve been trapped in for a solid year. Jen began following a lady on Instagram who has a lovely cottage perched on the side of a hill, and they struck up a conversation. We booked it for a couple of days in the middle of my birthday week, and we settled in last night.
Hazel spent the entire evening pacing around the house, peering out the windows and BUFFING at the chickens next door, who don’t give a crap about her, and BUFFING at noises she’s not used to, and whining at the door to go out but THERE ARE CHUPACABRAS OUT THERE so she whines to come in, and paces around, and whines to go back outside again. I grabbed her up and bear-hugged her on the couch until she calmed down and napped for a while, and that seemed to help.
This area of Maryland is beautiful. It’s basically old-school farmland, dotted with red-brick barns and lots of old houses that look like they’ve been kept up really well. It’s hard to tell what the main crops are out here but we’ve seen a lot of sheep and goats munching idly in the fields. However, the specter of our former president haunts us, waving at passers by from atop a boom lift in the middle of town.
This is a lovely way to spend a birthday. When Jen proposed we get out of town back in January I was hesitant, but I’m glad she talked me into it. I’ve been getting more and more stir-crazy being trapped in our house as the winter has dragged on, and my mood has not improved with the promise of spring around the corner. We have a day of exploration planned, and hopefully Western Maryland will provide some sights and sounds to lighten the mood and calm Hazel’s nerves.
Here are eighteen tomato seedlings I transplanted over the weekend into some leftover bins I had squirreled away in the greenhouse. We’ve had hit-or-miss luck with about half of the seedlings so far; half of them died off completely and the other half grew out of control. These are now under a growlight up in the new bathroom, and hopefully they will develop quickly with more room for their roots.