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.
The tomatoes in the greenhouse have skyrocketed in the last couple of days; with the sun and the heat they’re much happier and reaching their stride. I’m testing the use of some tomato fertilizer in two tubs and straight urea in one to see what results I get; nothing is dead yet (I put it in on Sunday) so I’m going to set up a rolling schedule to amend the soil. I put some basil seed in six of the tubs to see if it would grow, and there are seedlings starting in five of them. And strangely, one of the gladiolus bulbs overwintered in the greenhouse and is now sending a new shoot skyward.
It’s officially air conditioner season. Yesterday I hauled all of the individual window units out to a table on the driveway and pulled the covers off so that the girls could shoot some Clorox inside and scrub out the dirt and mold. They dried in the sunshine and after dinner Finley helped me put them back together so I could haul them upstairs and put them in place. I’m getting tired of humping them up and down the stairs in my late 40’s, and now that the front porch has been reclaimed and looks so good I’m going to feel shitty about storing them out there in the winter. My overall goal is to have ductless AC units put in sometime in the next couple of years. I’m thinking ductless—the kind where each room has a wall-mounted unit connected to a large outdoor condenser—vs. ducted—where there’s a big air handler in the attic running hoses to a ceiling-mounted duct in each room, because I’d like to keep the attic open and I figure it might be cheaper. But that may be flawed logic; one handler in the attic, which will never be finished in our ownership of this house, and is mostly inaccessible now that the stairs have been chopped down, may be cheaper than four individual units in each bedroom. More research is required.
I needed a picture of a puppy to offset the news this morning.
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.
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.
Monday I had off from work, and I intentionally made it as laid-back as I could. I spent a quiet morning with Jen while Finn was at school. We relaxed around the house until about 11 and then she ran out for errands while I walked Hazel down to the local café for a bite to eat. The two of us sat in the sunshine and watched the cars pass, and I fed her a little bacon from my sandwich, and then we walked home the long way, up the trolley trail.
I then drove the Scout into Baltimore to the local Grainger storefront, where I had a pair of rocker switches waiting for me. About three weeks ago I was using the bench grinder in the garage for something and the switch on the front broke in my hands. I flipped it on its back and did some surgery to pull the broken switch, then sourced a couple of articles online about a bench grinder with the same issues. From there I was able to find a rocker switch which mostly matched my needs.
While I was in the city I stopped and took some beauty shots of Peer Pressure in an urban environment. The best two setups I found were a line of loading docks facing a huge empty apron of concrete, and an access area adjacent to the train tracks, surrounded by warehouses. The sun was out and the day was warm so I shot about 100 pictures, about a quarter of which I’m happy with.
Back at home, I fiddled with the grinder until I’d sorted out the pins on the switch, and filed the opening on the front out until it accepted the switch housing cleanly. The original switch had a circuit where a lead for the power and a lead for the light shared the same pole, but I couldn’t find a switch that matched it. I went with a three-pole switch and hooked the light up to the center pole, so that it’s always hot (simply leaving the light disconnected prevents the circuit from closing) and unscrewed the bulb. In the summer I’ll solder the power and light leads to the same wire but for now it’s back up and running.
Up in the bathroom I continued painting and finishing small bits of trim. The baseboard behind the toilet is the last major piece to go in, and I’m having issues getting it in cleanly—I should have put it in before the toilet. I cut a test piece and I think I’ve got the shape down, and I’ll have to loosen the cabinet one last time to get it in place, but once that’s done the rest should be easy.