Our house is coming up on its centennial in just a few years. At the turn of the century, this whole area was still sparsely populated with gentleman’s farms and vacation homes for Baltimore’s wealthiest residents; The track for the trolley from the city is still embedded under Frederick Road in front of our house. From our back windows we can see Summit Mansion, one of the largest of the local mansions, whose frontage was subdivided into our current neighborhood in the early 1900’s.
When they put these houses up, the practice of home insulation was still in its infancy, and I’ve been playing catchup for the last sixteen years. With the weather in the teens overnight, I’ve been concerned that our seedlings will get frostbitten in the basement once they’ve grown large enough for me to take the covers off, so I figured I’d make a plan to move them upstairs. The best location I could find was in the den, on the cabinet under Finn’s gallery wall, where there’s lots of natural light during the day and several available plugs for the lights and the heaters.
I built a frame out of scrap wood for the grow lights so that the fixture sits directly over the trays and put some plastic down on top of the cabinet before getting everything situated. Once I’d moved the old light fixture up and plugged it into the timer, it refused to work, so I picked up a new one from Lowe’s and wired the plug into it from the old one.
The new covers are excellent. They give the plants tons of room to stand up, and they feature two vents on the top to let the condensation out. By Sunday evening, everything was standing tall and enjoying the new location.
Other than that, and a bunch of chores and other small projects around the house, I did absolutely fuck-all this weekend. I’ve made it through a bunch of minor quests in Fallout 76 solo and participated in one event with a bunch of other random players, but I got absolutely smoked in a cave by a giant mutated turtle trying to complete a major quest and spent the rest of the weekend licking my wounds.
Sadly, two of my beautiful Chef’s Choice tomatoes developed blossom end rot over the weekend, so I have to use my spray and hope I can save the rest of the fruit. Clearly there’s more research I need to do on what needs to be added to the soil to prevent this; it’s been a year-over-year problem that I haven’t licked yet. The other plants look extremely happy, however, and there are dozens of cherry tomatoes growing ever larger on the vines. I’ve been extremely aggressive at pruning the plants back this year, so walking in to the greenhouse and seeing 1/4 of the volume of plants vs. last year is still surprising.
My Fuji XT-10 apparently doesn’t like my new iPhone for some reason—or from what I’ve been able to find out, the Fuji app on the phone doesn’t like to talk to the camera. My iPhone 6 worked fine, albeit slow, but I could at least fire up the wireless connection on the camera and quickly transfer images to my phone. From what little I can glean, Fuji doesn’t seem to give a shit, there are issues with iOS 13, and there’s no telling when it’s going to be fixed.
Here’s your humor for the day:
This is a cover of an Interpol song that, in my opinion, improves upon the original. And everything on that Interpol album is pretty fucking tight to begin with. You may have issues with Hazel English’s voice but I dig it.
I’ve got a batch of Shiner Bnock-Off in the fermenter waiting to be kegged this weekend, but both my kegs still contain the remainders of the last two batches I brewed. This means I need to drink through the rest of them in a hurry—Darn. They feel empty but I’m still able to pull beer out of them. I ordered a session IPA kit from Northern Brewer on Monday but with the delays in fulfillment and shipping I don’t know when that will get here.
Yesterday I put the seedlings outside for a couple of hours in the shade to start hardening. They got very leggy until I adjusted the lighting, so some of them are taller than I’d like; when I went out to check on them there were several that had blown over in the breeze. It’s overcast today so hopefully they’ll do a little better and stay upright. The goal is to get the soil bins prepped over the weekend and have the seedlings ready to go by late next week. I’m also thinking they need to be transplanted into bigger starter pots so they get more nutrients while they’re hardening—some of them are a little wilty, which is concerning me.
The front porch continues moving slowly forward. The patch next to the front door is 90% complete and the hole that claimed my thumb has its second skim coat of mud. Jen and I tried to hang one of the headboard panels last night but we could not find a way to get it to stay up without flopping out of place almost immediately. I’d built an 8′ brace for Jen to hold, but what I realize now is that we need three of them about six inches longer so that they’ll snug the panel up against the ceiling until I can tack them in place. The big thing right now is to get everything cleared out of there so that we can work without tripping over furniture or air conditioners or other junk.
So, the plants were doing fine up until the night before I came back from Ohio, when something descended on the plants in the darkness. Much of the topmost foliage on five of the ten plants was completely consumed by something that left big round black poop on the tables below. I did some reading and found some references to tomato hornworms, which I guess makes sense. The girls were able to harvest more fruit before the disaster but we did lose some ripening fruit as well. This could have also been due to the mice I’ve been trapping every week, who are jumping up onto the containers and chewing at the low-hanging fruit. I’ve put out two different types of traps baited with peanut butter, and they seem to be taking their toll on the population but there are always more where they came from. It’s clear I have more research to do as well as some serious varmint-proofing.
Cabinets for the bathroom were ordered the Wednesday before I left for Ohio, and should be delivered sometime in the next three to four weeks. I have more woodworking to do on all of the trim throughout the room, including some very tricky angle work on the back door/window area where two sections of crown moulding come together at the top. I have to pull off two precut pieces of casing and cut two new ones 1/8″ higher so that they line up with the top of the window moulding, which will help align the crown moulding. There are some sections that need some trimming above the closet door, and once that’s done I can permanently install that trim. Oh, and I have to find someplace to put the cabinets when they’re delivered. I think that treadmill is going out on the front curb this weekend…
Finally, I have to troubleshoot my $20 router table to allow for the super-wide bit I bought for the threshhold plates. I think I’m going to just widen the hole with a Dremel and lower the bit below the deck height; the only alternative is to build up a taller cutting surface with scrap wood, which is a janky solution at best. The threshhold plates are sort of the keystone for a lot of the moulding in each room; I can’t permanently install any of the moulding without setting them in place.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse made it through our week away with little damage; this was in spite of the failure of my automatic timer the morning we left. I made the mistake of hanging it below the level of the hose instead of above, so the water running back down the hose soaked the electronics inside and jammed the valve open. I’m glad I checked on it one last time, or we’d have come home to a swamp in the greenhouse, drowned tomatoes, and a sky-high water bill. Thankfully I was able to get our sister to stop by and water everything through the week.
I’d picked as much ripe fruit as possible that we packed on the trip with us—a bowl full of cherry tomatoes and a handful of Romas and heirlooms. The latter were delicious in guacamole.
Everything looks OK right now. The second wave of cherry tomatoes are coming in, and there are a few heirloom plants that are making a late-season rally: both of the Cherokee Purples, the second Roma, and one of the Beefsteaks have produced a ton of new fruit that looks healthy. I’d pruned everything way back before I left but there are new shoots everywhere that need some major attention, some of which have fruit and some that don’t. And I keep spraying the shit out of everything with Rot-Stop.
The other concern is that of varmints. Several of the ripening heirlooms have been lost to nibbling, which enrages me. I’d left a bunch of traps out over the vacation and caught one rat which was getting ripe under the table. I put six traps out last night and got a mouse this morning; obviously something is going to need to be done about the larger problem. In the meantime, I’m going to keep setting traps to see what I can kill off.
We’ve had a giant rhododendron in our driveway since we moved in this house. It’s a pain in the ass because it was allowed to grow for too long unchecked, so its footprint reached out into the door-swinging space of an already narrow area. Originally it was one of three, but I yanked the other two out after they died.
There was a whole section of parking that really wasn’t parking because of this. We noticed it was getting sickly this spring, and one of two main branches died off before springtime. Jen and I made a deal that we’d let it bloom one last season and then I’d yank it out. On Saturday morning, its time was up.
I worked on it with a pair of clippers and a shovel, clearing out the bottom of the two branches and digging down about 2 feet with the aid of a mattock, and gave it a couple of shoves to see how well it was clinging to Earth. Then I put the Scout in 4lo, wrapped my snatch strap around the base, and goosed the accelerator. POP!
It came right out. No drama, no fuss. I used the chainsaw to section it up into smaller bits and filled the hole back in. It sure does look different over there now.
That’s the full flock of tomatoes right there. They’ve all been staked (the tallest is now 3′ high) pruned and watered. I put plastic down over the soil because they have fungus gnats, which are annoying and harmful to seedlings but probably won’t hurt these more adult plants. In 10 days or so I should be able to remove it. I cleaned up a pair of clippers and pruned a pile of branches and leaves off each of the plants to keep the bottom of the tubs clear and keep them focused on producing flowers, something that got away from me last year while I was in the hospital. Finn and I hung a cheapo box fan from the ceiling to keep air moving across the leaves and hopefully draw some pollinators inside. Finally, I set up another rain barrel outside and transferred all the water from the garage barrel into that, so we’ve got two full ones and a third waiting for the rain we’re expecting tomorrow.
And, there are a total of four tomatoes already growing! A big fat Beefsteak and three cherries are already underway; all of my hand pollinating is slowly paying off because there’s another Beefsteak starting on the same plant as the first. I’m a month ahead of last year!
I returned from New York with more than just cameras. My father had a collection of tools from over the years that could fill several garages. We spent some time winnowing down the collection when he and my mother downsized from the lake house, and I filled a U-Haul with all kinds of stuff. Still, when they filled the moving truck later that year I’m certain 1/3 of it was toolboxes filled with mismatched sockets. I’ve now got those sockets, and while I’m not complaining, it’s going to take some time to organize them.
Because most of them originated out of repossessed vehicles, they aren’t complete sets—they are a mishmash of the best of the loose sockets picked up after 10+ years in the business: SK, Snap-On, Thorsen, Craftsman, Proto, Matco, Utica, and a couple of of lesser singles stamped only TAIWAN or JAPAN. There are multiple driver sizes: 1/4″, 3/8″ and 1/2″ all to be collected and organized. There are multiple drivers, as well, and several breaker bars. There are handfuls of screwdrivers, which is a windfall, because now I can stock the garage toolbox with decent tools as well as the basement. I now have at least 5 pairs of vise-grips, an entire set of nut drivers, multiple pairs of regular and needle nose pliers, another fistful of open-ended wrenches in SAE and metric sizes, about 10 utility knives (this is a Good Thing because utility knives always disappear whenever you need them) and SO MANY other odd one-off bits and bobs, I don’t have room for them all in my toolchests.
The sockets will go out into the garage to supplement the ones I’ve got out there already, and the wrenches will come inside to bolster the ones I’ve got in the basement. I’m splitting the screwdrivers and knives and pliers between locations. The ultimate goal is to avoid having to run to the basement for something when I’m working in the garage, and vice versa.
Meanwhile, I’ve had to reorganize the garage again to fit the old fridge, which is now on the back wall where two of our old kitchen cabinets once hung. The garage was at full capacity before the fridge went in, but now it’s overfilled. I’ve started culling stuff that’s been sitting in there for months/years and moving things around but it’s not going to get any bigger in there. It’s to the point where I’m considering buying one of those premade sheds they sell at Home Depot to stuff Scout parts or lawn tools in. Or I’ll just Freecycle the fucking fridge.
The basement has also slowly filled with stuff over time; the amount of empty floor space has diminished to the point where it’s hard to walk down there without tripping. I’ve got a list of stuff that’s going to be donated to Goodwill that I’ve got to start assembling, and there are several piles of lumber that need to be relocated.
I was able to finally make a couple of dump runs to get rid of the foam insulation from the greenhouse, which had been stacked behind the garage collecting pollen, and two bags of old UV plastic from the walls. While I was out, 50mph winds brought on by this odd weather system we’re dealing with shook several of the retaining bars off the greenhouse, allowing the plastic to flap open in places. This is odd behavior, something I never had to deal with before, and I’m a little stumped as to the cause and solution. I think it’s because the foam is gone and there’s less structural rigidity, which means the plastic can billow open and shut much easier now. The only remedy I can see is putting the clips back in and securing them with some sheet metal screws—something that makes me nervous. If this continues I’ll have to spring for some polycarbonate panels in the fall and set up a rigid wall where the foam used to be.
Finn and I went out to inspect the tomato plants last night and found three fruit already started on the cherry plant!
I have a lot to accomplish this weekend: All the bins need more dirt, there are two bins empty (with room for one more), and space for a total of eight more plants. I’ve got to buy a cheap box fan for ventilation, a long extension cord to power it, and a new drip hose to water everything, as well as repair the rain barrel platform and get that set up because the garage barrel is already full(!!)
As noted in the Scout blog, I spent Saturday over the river at Brian’s house, but I wanted to get home and cleaned up because Finn was at a sleepover that evening and Jen and I could enjoy a date night together. Initially we were a little worried about the sleepover but when we found out it would be somewhere between ten and eighteen girls we knew she’d have someone to hang with (everything is extremely cliquish and temporary right now). Jen and I had a couple of drinks downtown and caught up on a lot of the past week together, which was just what we both needed.
Sunday I was a little hung over (my new hard and fast rule has to be one whiskey-based drink per night and no more) but after some breakfast, coffee, and a trip to Target I was feeling better. The girls came home and immediately went down for a nap—Finn only had four hours of sleep—and I ran out to Lowe’s for dirt and mulch. While I was there I picked up six tomato plants, and when I got home I offloaded the dirt and mulch and got the bins ready for planting. There’s one cherry plant, a roma, two heirloom beefsteak plants and two reds. I’d like to find a couple of Oaxacas and four more cherry plants to fill things out, but there’s still time.
When that was done I set up a rain barrel on the garage to start collecting water and cleaned up the area behind the greenhouse. The second barrel platform needs to be replaced but I didn’t want to run a circular saw under the bedroom window and wake the girls, so I started rebagging leaves and cleaning up the back side of the house. By dinnertime I was tired but had made good progress straightening things up; I’ve got a major dump run to make with all of the castoff foam insulation from the greenhouse and two bags of plastic, and we’re going to cover the front curb with about thirty bags of leaves next week.
Looking over our overstuffed garage, I’ve been puzzling over where to put the old fridge, but looking things over I think I’ve got a plan. If I move two of the old kitchen cabinets to a space over the workbench I can clear a spot out along the back wall to fit it, but I’ve also got to move some Scout parts around and reorganize things.
This week is going to be nuts. Today I’m running into DC to do a runthrough of the event we’re holding on Wednesday, and then I run back to teach tonight at 4. Tuesday I’m on a train to New York City, and Wednesday I’m at the Ford Foundation in the morning to shoot video of Christiana Figueres, then over to Hudson Yards to shoot photos of the event that evening. We don’t have a full slide deck set up yet but I’ve had a friend working on the video presentation to make things look good. I still have to get a contract signed and officially hire a pro photographer to get the key event moments (at the recommendation of my fellow director, who allayed a lot of my anxiety over that responsibility).
Thursday I’m on a train back home and I’ll probably do a little work when I get in. And then I’m headed up to Mom’s house to start going through Dad’s stuff in the basement, organizing and hauling things out of there. That will be a long but productive weekend, I think, and then it’s back to the grind on Monday.
I bought Jen a Fitbit of her own on Friday, and she’s been wearing it all weekend. I think it took a little time to get used to (it’s not as comfortable as a regular watch, but once you’re used to it, it’s not bad) but I think she’s keen on knowing what her sleep patterns are as well as some of the other features. As watches go they are super handy and as much as I like wearing regular watches I’ve noticed that I’m wearing my Fitbit more, just so I can see what my exercise levels are. If I’m to believe the numbers it’s giving me, my Saturday/Sunday steps are more than double my weekday steps, and my overall numbers are much higher—last Sunday I climbed 65 floors when I was installing the greenhouse plastic. I do think it’s a bit confused, because it thinks I climbed 109 floors this Saturday which I know is not true.