There are reddening tomatoes out in the greenhouse! The cherries are beginning to ripen, and there are scores of them across all of the tubs. There’s one plant that has 15 cherries in one cluster, which is pretty amazing. The larger tomatoes are also coming in strong, although there’s one that is still producing blossom end rot; I’ve got to look into the application instructions for the fertilizer I bought and see how often I’m supposed to amend the soil (or, just buy some calcium and add it directly). I think the weeks of high temperatures and humidity really kicked them all into overdrive, and I’ve been faithfully watering and pruning the plants every morning after Hazel’s walk.
One thing I need to understand for next year’s crop is how to prune them all back vertically so that they produce horizontally and with more density. I suspect Jen’s suggestion that they’re getting tall because they’re not getting enough direct light is true, but I can’t move them outside without losing them to critters. I’m also going to prune one of the boughs of the oak tree back to bring more light in earlier in the day. And finally, I want to both expand the number of tubs we’re planting in (an entire second row along the south wall) and the variety of plants. Next year I want several varieties of cherries—yellow and black did really well last year—as well as several full-size varieties. Oaxacas, Dagmas, and Paul Robesons grew pretty well in 2018 but I don’t have any seed for them, so I’ll have to figure out where I can get some different varieties and be prepared for 2021.
As of today I’ve got about 120 CD’s digitized from Rob’s collection. I had to open the top of the first case to access the carousel inside, but I can’t figure out what the grinding noise is or where it’s coming from, and no amount of futzing with the innards will free it up. This sucks because I can’t access roughly half of the CDs based on where they are in the carousel—unless I pull a bunch of them out, and I don’t have Rob’s CD binders to file things away in, and I don’t want to have giant leaning piles of CDs all over the place. More research is required, but given that it’s a Sony product, and because I’ve only ever had bad experiences with Sony A/V gear, I’m not optimistic.
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:
I got Finn outside on Saturday morning to help change the plugs in the CR-V and it went a million times better than last weekend. I must have got her on a good morning because she was pretty well focused for the whole thing, even when I had to run around hunting for a 10mm deep socket in my various toolboxes—turns out the only one I have is in a cheap set I bought to change the battery on the CR-V in a Columbia parking lot last winter.
It was pretty straightforward, and I talked Finn through the function of an engine and what the plugs do, and we talked about the difference between the Scout’s engine and the CR-V. She’s learning! After the plugs went in we changed both air filters and then scrubbed the engine down with Simple Green.
After a pressure wash, the whole thing looks much better. We drove out to the Gucci Lowes in Columbia that afternoon and Jen was shocked by how different the car drives. The idle is steady and there’s loads of acceleration response. It’s nice to make a huge difference like that in a few hours’ work.
After we got back from Lowe’s I went back out and swapped the plugs in the Scout. We grilled some dinner and hung out together on the porch, which is really turning out nice. There’s a plant hung in the corner, we found some shades for IKEA lamps I’ve had since Lakewood street, and we found a cool metal plant stand for the area next to the front door.
Sunday I was more tired than I was expecting, and the day was hot with high humidity, so I did some minor things on the porch—wired in a USB plug by the table, fastened the five seats of the couch together with metal plates, and touched up some paint. The rest of the day we all spent quietly hanging around; I wound up napping in the air conditioning for two hours towards dinnertime and caught up on some sleep. I feel terrible because I didn’t do anything with Finn or Jen, and the days are creeping by while we could be out hiking or biking or doing other activities; I have to make a serious effort to plan some physical activity for us. The trick is finding something away from other people who have stopped wearing masks.
Hazel and I have a morning routine that’s worked pretty well for the last couple of months. She stirs at 6AM or so, does some light cleaning, and mentally flips a coin. Tails means she’ll jump back up on the bed and settle for another 30 minutes. Heads means she starts fussing at the door and at me to get me up so that she can go outside. Wednesday morning I slept through the first half of the routine and woke to find her methodically chewing up my favorite (and only) brown leather belt, something I’ve had for about 20 years. I couldn’t be mad at her, so I put my clothes on and stumbled downstairs to let her out. This is actually the second leather belt of mine she’s murdered, so I’m down to one black dress belt.
Finley has been bouncing in and out of obsessions during her ample staycation. One of her more obscure fixations has been survivalist preparation. When asked what the fascination was, she simply shrugged and said, “when I go live in the woods I’ll know how to survive.” With no real explanation given for why that might happen, I gave her a couple of books on camping I have on our shelves and asked her to make a list of the things she might need to gather to sleep outdoors. I found a beginner compass I’ve had stashed in the Scout and gave her that. She’s been asking about a pocketknife for a while, and I’ve got Dad’s Schrade waiting for her, but I’d like to give her something a little less valuable so that when she loses it, which she will, I won’t be upset.
We set up the tent a few days ago in the backyard when the weather had cooled off and she prepared for a solo night in the wilderness: a sleeping bag, water bottle, flashlight, Ox, and pillow. In 20 minutes she was back inside: it was a little too creepy out there by herself. I told her I’d join her the following night, and she went upstairs and slept in her own bed. The next day I gathered some gear for myself, figuring I’d be up long after she fell asleep—my laptop, a charger, some other stuff. We zipped ourselves into the tent at dusk and settled down. What actually happened was I fell asleep almost immediately while she laid awake next to me. She reached out and put a hand on my chest and that seemed to help. At about 2AM I awoke and had to layer up, as it had gotten much colder. She’d already zipped herself in to her bag so I was satisfied she would stay warm. The next morning my neck was sore from sleeping on the ground but the rest of me fared pretty well, which I thought was pretty good for a 49-year-old man.
We’re at that point in the porch project where we’ve got the bones of it 95% complete, but all of the stuff that has to happen now is taking forever to come together. This past week it crawled along while I applied successive layers of polyurethane to the floor—five in total, equalling about 3/4 of a gallon. We’d decided we didn’t want to see the pattern get worn off immediately, so some serious protection was in order. Now there’s a hard candy shell on the whole thing, and hopefully it won’t come off for a long time.
So my focus was mostly elsewhere on Saturday and Sunday. I pulled a stepladder out of the garage and started scraping and priming windows on the driveway side of the house, working my way around to the two jalousie windows on the porch—which haven’t been touched in the 17 years we’ve lived here. Late in the morning we had a visit from the invisible fence guy, who fixed the wire that had been cut when the driveway went in, as well as altered the layout so the backyard is its own zone to keep Hazel from rushing dogs passing by the front yard.
After he’d left, I took Finn on a bike ride down the hill to the asylum, figuring it would be something interesting to look at. The roads were closed to through traffic, but we pedaled around the campus and looked at the crumbling buildings while I managed Finn’s anxieties about trespassing and breaking laws. She is a rule-follower, except when it involves chocolate. On our way out a nice security guard told us they’d closed the campus up because there was an outbreak of COVID in the wards that are still open, but since we’d only been on our bikes he wasn’t worried about us.
Sunday was overcast and cooler, so I pulled the Scout out into the driveway and swapped out the starter. When I’d finished up that and some other smaller projects, I pulled the pressure washer out of the garage and cleaned the backs of the Adirondack chairs so that they’d be dry for paint on Monday.
Monday broke sunny and warm, and the fifth coat of poly was dry on the floor, so I patched the final areas on the porch that needed attention and left them to dry. Out in the backyard I set the Adirondack chairs up behind the greenhouse and sprayed them with primer and then two coats of white semigloss. I have to say, other than the fact that the container only holds a quart of paint, the sprayer is fantastic to work with, and worth every penny I spent on it. What would have easily taken all day to paint with a brush got done in about two hours time—including cleanup. The area behind the greenhouse looks like someone murdered a snowman, but the chairs look damn good.
While the chairs were drying I went inside and cleaned up the patches on the porch, and then we hauled the furniture around to the front of the house to bring inside. I’m going to let Jen do the big reveal when it’s ready, but it really looks great in here (I’m sipping coffee and writing this on one of the new chairs).
We took a quick ride in the Scout to drop off a birthday present Finn made for a friend, and when we got back it was the perfect weather to light a fire in the backyard. While the fire was getting warm, Jen brought the clippers down and she shaved my quarantine fro down to a manageable 3/4″. It’s choppy and patchy in places but it’s worlds better than the giant bushy mess I’d been hiding under hats for the past month. Finn walked over to invite the neighbors over for some socially distant s’mores. We stayed out and chatted until 10:30, grateful for conversation and company, and then all staggered off to bed smelling of woodsmoke and chocolate.
Hazel had me up at 6:15 this morning and as I rose from the bed I got an alarm bell from my head, which told me the barometer was pogoing around and that we were steering for a headache. Jen took Hazel and I went back to bed until 9, which was a lovely treat. Unfortunately my head felt worse when I woke up, so I made coffee and took two Advil in the hopes things would calm down.
It’s sunny but cold outside and the wind is howling through the trees, so Hazel isn’t keen on a walk and I’m not keen on getting out to the porch and continuing work, but the show must go on. I’ve got some painting and patching to do, and then we have to focus on the floor. Jen and I assembled a bunch of furniture on Thursday night in the backyard and left it out there to offgas (the oil they used in the teak stinks) for a week or so before we move it inside. Besides Finn’s bed, this is the first new furniture we’ve bought in probably 10 years, and it was fun to put together.
On my desk in the office there’s a shiny black iPhone SE2 in the final stages of pairing with my Apple Watch. They arrived yesterday (Jen and I both upgraded) and they are everything I hoped they’d be: faster, shinier, and the same size as our 6’s. I could actually use the beat up old case from my 6 for this phone, but I think the case has seen enough abuse—and this time Jen and I are going to buy different cases to avoid grabbing each other’s phone.
Pairing the watch was a little rocky last night—it took several tries and failed for various reasons so I let things sit overnight and let the two of them talk things over before forcing them to get married. The getting-to-know-you time seems to have worked because they’re currently planning the honeymoon and picking out appliances together.
From my desk, which faces the front of the house, I see lots of people out walking each day as they escape their quarantine for some moments of sunshine. Most of them have become familiar. There are the joggers, who used to pass once a day but now make multiple runs. There are the dogwalkers, many of whom we’re familiar with because of Hazel and our own morning route. There are old couples, young couples, family groups and singles, baby strollers, bikes, electric skateboards, wagons, carts, scooters, and skates. I’ve grown familiar with them; they tend to come by at predictable times.
Beginning last week, a new family appeared around dinnertime, and they were a bit different. They were dressed in what I’d call Amish chic: definitely churched up in a Pennsylvania Dutch sort of way. The mother had a sister-wife vibe going: long floral dress, buttoned-up hair. The kids looked like cosplayers from the turn of the century—the boy was wearing a flat-brim hat. The dad wore a button-down collarless shirt with suspenders. And they carried signs, both of which I couldn’t read until I passed them in the Scout on the weekend: the first read “HONK IF YOU SUPPORT OUR FIRST RESPONDERS” and in smaller text, as if we needed the clarification, “police, firefighters and nurses.” The second read, “HONK FOR THE CONVERSION OF AMERICA.”
At first I thought maybe the Westboro Baptist Church had maybe opened a satellite in Catonsville, and I was excited about brainstorming ways to fight their bigoted bullshit on my own turf. But after a quick google search, my hope is that maybe this is something less sinister. Either way, I wonder if their compound is nearby and whether or not they’re stockpiling weapons in there.
This is progress. Hazel still gets worked up when Nox comes around, but she’s getting better and better about letting him exist within her perimeter. Nox rolled around on his back for a good five minutes before getting bored and leaving, and Hazel mostly left him alone. This encounter ended peacefully, but at any given time there’s a 33% chance Hazel will chase after him to sniff his butt.
I took Hazel on an early morning walk and ordered some breakfast from a restaurant downtown. While the girls slept in I went out to the greenhouse and started planting tomatoes, starting with six healthy cherries up front, then four Chef’s Choice, and six Cherokees. In the back two containers hold a grab-bag of seedlings, and there are four more in pots on the side. This last bit was not by choice, but that’s what happens when Hazel knocks over the seedling tray and they all get mixed up on the floor. Hey, fuck it, they’re all tomatoes.
Our lawn guy finally showed up after a two week absence, so the house looks somewhat cared for again. When he leveled out the lawn last fall, he used some kind of nuclear-powered seed that grows at five times the rate of the rest of the lawn, so we get patches that are scrappy-looking and full of dandelions and others that grow lush green and higher than the roofline of the house. It’s nice to have him knock things out in 15 minutes, because I get that three hours of my life back.
After picking up breakfast and eating with the girls, I went out to the front porch and tore up the old green carpet, underlayment, and all of the carpet strips and loaded that on top of the treadmill in the back of the Scout. A quick run down to the dump made short work of that stuff. When I got home I was still waiting on the plywood order to be ready for pickup at the Home Depot, so I pulled the pressure washer out of the garage, sprayed the screens from the porch down with Simple Green, and blasted sixty years of nicotine and dust off of them. It was so nasty I could see brown water running off the garage door where I’d propped them up. While those were drying, I showed Finn how to use the pressure washer and we cleaned the gray off of our Adirondack chairs and set them to dry in the driveway. Have I mentioned how much I love our driveway? Or the pressure washer?
Then I figured I’d show Finn how to change the oil in the Accord. I first set up Dad’s wheel ramps but the approach angle of the bumper is too low, and I couldn’t get the tires close to the metal. So we jacked up both sides and set it on jackstands. Once I was underneath I put a 17mm wrench on the bolt but the chuckleheads at Jiffy Lube overtorqued it with an air gun the last time we were there, and I didn’t have the clearance or the confidence to break it loose without stripping the head. GAAAAAAHHHH. On a positive note: the ramps will fit under the CR-V.
By the time I got it back down, the plywood was ready, so Finn and I set out to pick it up. After some confusion about which store it was at, we got it back home and loaded onto the porch for a rainy Sunday installation.
The whole day had been sunny and warm, and our excursion out into the real world revealed all of humanity trying to get out of their houses. All social distancing had broken down; people were out without masks, walking next to each other, oblivious to any of the guidelines. Finn and I played it safe as much as we could, but it was sobering to see everyone disregard the virus so quickly.
After we got home I figured it was time to take the top off the scout because I saw a number of people driving around in their convertibles and I got super jealous. Finley and I headed back out to the garage, and we chatted while unbolting all of the fasteners. I backed it into the garage, and within about a half an hour we had the hard top suspended from the garage rafters so that I could pull it back out and put the soft top on. Then the four of us took a victory lap around Catonsville. I thought I would treat the girls to Krispy Kreme, as I’d promised but not been able to provide fresh beignets at breakfast. Apparently everyone else wanted donuts too, because we sat in line at the drive through for about 10 minutes until I peeled off and we headed to the Dunkin’ Donuts instead.
Sunday morning I was too tired to walk Hazel so I made coffee and let her outside on the run. After getting some breakfast, I went out to the front porch and started cleaning things off in preparation for the plywood. It turned out that they had forgotten to put the construction adhesive in my pickup order, so I had to head back out and get that.
Back at home, the first sheets of plywood went in pretty fast and in about an hour I had four of them glued and nailed down and was cutting down the final piece to put along the side wall. Jen and I decided to go check into paint at the Home Depot and put some test patches down to see what we liked. The whole room looks completely different with the plywood down. It’s clean and neat and once it all gets painted and the quarter round gets put in around the perimeter of the floor it’s going to really tighten up.
We then assembled one of the new chairs to see what that would look like with the paint and I really like what we bought. We were worried about everything fitting in there, but after moving the chair around and roughing things in, I think it’s going to be real nice.
Here are 85% of my seedlings in one place; there are several others in less healthy shape in another flat on the side, but these are the ones that will get planted and cultivated. They’ve been hardening in the greenhouse for the past two nights, and I’m hoping they’ll get nice and healthy so that I can plant them in containers this weekend.
The sun was out today, warming up my morning walk with Hazel, so I loaded up the Scout with the giant pile of construction debris from the front porch and and a nervous dog, and headed to the dump. It felt wonderful to get out and drive on the freeway, do some errands, and see the outside world, even if it was only within a 10-mile radius of the house. It felt so good to be out, I drove into Catonsville and went through the Krispy Kreme drive through for two donuts and another cup of coffee. At home, Finn had completed her homework, so we sat at the table and enjoyed our treat together.
Krispy Kreme had about eight donuts to choose from, down from a normal selection of about thirty. That was a little worrisome.
Hazel is wearing her headscarf again, because one of her ears started scabbing up. She’s been battling warts under her chin because the medicine for the vasculitis is lowering her immune system. The antibiotics for the warts upset her stomach yesterday, so she’s off the vasculitis medicine and only on her behavioral pills; she hasn’t eaten all day and has been moping about the house and sleeping. This fucking blows.
The front porch is waiting for about an hour with the block sander. All of the long seams have a second skim coat of mud that’s been dry since Sunday, and if they clean up well I’ll be able to roll wall paint over them and call the walls done. Then, it’s on to the floor.