I was supposed to have some work done to the Scout on Saturday morning, but the mechanic failed to hear the words “International Scout” on the phone and realized it was going to be more than a 3-hour job. So we rescheduled for this coming Friday, and I hope they will be able to handle it without any further hiccups. In the afternoon we headed across town to hang out at Will’s house for some barbecue and a bonfire in the backyard; it was great to catch up with him while the girls ran and played together, and we stayed much later than we realized.
Sunday we got up late, farted around the house in the morning—eggs are back on the menu, so life is returning to normal—and got ourselves ready to hit the pool. After some last minute inquiries we picked up one of Finn’s friends, staked out a spot under an umbrella on the west edge and relaxed while the girls played in the water.
The greenhouse is producing a ton of tomatoes, and after a brief blossom-end rot scare I think the remainder of the fruit on that plant is safe. The weather was a lot hotter yesterday so by the time I checked in on things late in the afternoon there were some plants looking wilty. We’re looking at 5 days of hot, sunny weather this week so daily watering will be key to keeping things healthy. The cherry plants are by far the most productive, followed by the roma plant. I haven’t figured out what the heirlooms respond to, because no amount of fertilizing the flowers seems to get them to produce more than two or three fruit per plant. I’ve also noticed that there isn’t as much bee activity in there this year, which is worrying. I think the majority of the production we enjoyed last year had to do with bees discovering the greenhouse while I was stuck in the hospital, while this year I’ve been doing the heavy lifting for Nature.
Speaking of hospitals, I’m waiting on communication from my doctors about our next steps. My white blood cell count has continued to drop. They ran a bunch of rule-the-weird-stuff-out tests and I’m happy to say I don’t have hepatitis A, B, or C, and I tested negative for HIV. Not that I was expecting a different result.
Update: looks like I’m going to be scheduling another test.
Celebrating the fact that I got paid this week, I promptly ordered a prehung closet door from Home Depot for the new bathroom. It was a little tricky to find something that fit the style of the rest of the house but HD had what we needed in the size we wanted. And as luck would have it, the door was on sale this week so delivery will basically be free. The only downside is that it won’t be here until the end of the month. I’ve been stalled in the bathroom on trimwork waiting for this door and for movement on the cabinetry, which is wrapped up in a larger ongoing discussion about other project priorities and how we’ll wrap those into a home equity loan. I think I’ve identified what my maximum loan payment will be, which obviously caps the amount we borrow, so it’s now a matter of filling out paperwork and getting the loan started. Meanwhile, I haven’t been able to nail down my neighbor the electrician to finalize the wiring, so we haven’t fired up the heated floor yet.
Once the door is hung I can continue with the trim surround all the way to the shower and start putting kickplate in permanently. The next big trick is going to be adding 3/4″ shim around the inside of each doorjamb so that the casing will sit flush with the wall. (I left the sheathing intact on the walls, which may have been a mistake, so there’s sheetrock over top of that; thus the jamb is generally 1/2″ too narrow. But what’s done is done). Then I can mill and install casing around the back door. The front door will get done toward the end of the project, once the cabinetry is all in place.
The greenhouse is looking great, although one of my Roma plants has developed blossom-end rot. This is due to a lack of calcium in the soil, which means I’ve got to amend it quickly before I lose the whole plant. I’ve got some products coming from Amazon to combat this and hopefully we can catch it before all of the fruit is damaged. Two of the cherry plants have grown taller than the ceiling and are still producing flowers, so I know everything else needs fertilizer too.
Strangely, half of the marigolds Finn and I planted are happy and blooming, and the other half are 6-8″ tall and continuing to produce new leaves but no flowers. I’m going to give those another week to bloom, and after that I’m going to toss them. Apparently I let them get too leggy too early and didn’t pinch off new growth soon enough. Honestly I think the cheaper seed is doing better than the expensive stuff.
Finn was having a problem booting up one of her favorite apps after school yesterday, and I had to sit down and troubleshoot the issue. I locked down a ton of different settings when I set up her iPad so it took me a bit of time to go through the list and figure out what was blocking her (the app icon didn’t even show up on her desktop). When I logged in as her parent it was visible to me, and I spent a bit of time in the Restricted Apps section wondering why it didn’t show up. It wasn’t until I looked closely at the app itself and realized it was rated in the App Store for 12+ and I had her iPad blocking everything 9+ that I realized what the issue was. As soon as I switched this, it showed up fine. I was initially a little annoyed at Apple, but once I understood how the system worked, I appreciated the ability to switch these settings from my iPhone so much more.
Compare and contrast from May 11:
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.
- Replanted a bunch of marigolds from the big pots Finn and I had planted them in to separate singles, and learned you have to pinch off everything past the first two pair of leaves to promote blooms and keep them from getting leggy.
- 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.
Here’s our children as of yesterday afternoon. You’ll notice some leaf discoloration on the plant closest to the camera; I think this is a bacterial infection that can be treated with a copper soap spray (ordered). The marigolds have this too, which leads me to believe it’s something bacterial. That is to say, I’m hoping it’s not Verticulum, which is untreatable and basically means you’ve got to throw the plants out.
I’ve been a lot more mercenary with these plants this year, being sure to cut back any new shoots from the main stem before they produce flowers to prevent the giant explosion of leaves and branches I had last year. Because they’re in the center of the greenhouse they can grow taller instead of wider and it’s easier to access both sides to prune them.
Meanwhile, they’re all beginning to set fruit! The romas (up front) have four, the Beefsteak have three, there are several dozen cherries starting, and I think all but two of the rest have at least one fruit. Still no love for the tomatillos yet.
I did my year-and-a-half cancer checkup yesterday, and after a sonogram, a CT scan and bloodwork, it appears the clot in my arm is gone, I’m clear of any new passengers, and my white blood cell count is low. This last bit is alarming, because we don’t know what’s causing it. I’m not run down, I’m not sick, and there’s no reason we can think of for it to be so low (it’s roughly half the count it was when I was laid up with a busted small intestine). So there will be some more tests performed in a month and we’ll wait to see what they look like before any drastic action is taken. Meanwhile, I’m cleared to have the port removed sometime in the next couple of weeks, and when that’s over with, I’ll be off blood thinners. Hooray!
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.