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.
Well, the site is back up again, after several conversations with my hosting provider. Somebody injected my site with some malware, putting a script in place that was sending my Archives link to a Canadian pill pharmacy site. It’s still there. I had the admins rebuild the site from a backup and run a scan for malware, and it looks like we didn’t catch it. I’ve got some more sleuthing to do. I also think I’m going to finally move hosting providers to the company that hosts my namesake site; I like them a little better and their pricing is more competitive.
About two weeks ago, Hazel came back from the puppy daycare with a chunk taken our of her ear missing. The daycare was horrified and notified Jen right away but we were pretty relaxed about it; she’s a dog who tries to punch above her weight. We know she’s going to het her butt kicked now and then—and that’s good for her.
But the nick in her ear wouldn’t heal, and we noticed that she was leaving drops of blood all over the house as she shook herself off (she shakes herself at least 20 times a day). Alarmed, Jen took her to the vet, where she was diagnosed with “ear crumble“, a condition where an allergic reaction to a vaccine causes the capillaries in her ears to go necrotic and die off, which, untreated, can lead to loss of both of her ears. She came home from the vet wrapped up in gauze like a Civil War casualty, and then immediately proceeded to shake most of it off. Jen took her back where they sedated her and re-wrapped it and then put her in the Cone of Shame; she returned home stoned to Venus and staring off into space.
Jen ordered a product called a No Flap Ear Wrap to replace the cone and gauze. The first one she ordered was the size recommended for her measurements, but was too large. The next size down was still a bit large. Jen got back online a third time for the next size down, and the manufacturer immediately responded to refund her money and ship us a new one specific to Hazel’s size, requesting we donate the current one to the vet’s office. It’s not often to get customer service that good or that prompt; I was extremely impressed with them.
She’s about as happy with the wrap as she was with the cone; she tries to shake it off about every five minutes.
Sunday Hazel got us up and out the door at 7:15 and Jen and I took her on a long walk all the way down to the café near the junction, where I got us a coffee for the return trip. After Finley woke, we jumped in the car and drove to the top of the trolley trail, then walked all the way down into Ellicott City for breakfast. Everyone else in Catonsville had the same idea, because the trail was busy. But it was lovely to sit outside and have breakfast with my three girls, and Hazel was about as patient as she could be under the circumstances. We then walked back to the car and headed home, where Hazel passed out in the hallway and we all split off to our own pursuits.
I took advantage of the warm weather and a fresh bloody mary to break down the door on the Accord and swap out the door lock mechanism. After working on the junkyard Accord it was quick work to get the door card off to expose the mechanism. The bolts came off easier with a larger screwdriver—we stripped two of the four bolts in the junkyard—but I still had to drill one of the bolts out.
Once that was done it was a simple matter of pulling the faulty mechanism, replacing it with the new one and testing it before buttoning up the door. Confirming it worked, I put the card back on and put my tools away. Then I stood to the side, used the keyfob to unlock the doors, and enjoyed the fact that the rear door unlocked as it should have the day we bought it.
We’re scrambling to tie up loose ends and pack for the trip; with all of the curveballs we’ve been thrown this week it disrupted our plans to get ahead. The tree guys came back on Tuesday and hauled off the large logs they felled, which were sitting in the middle of the driveway. To do this they had to use the big grapple truck, and to get that in the driveway they had to prune one side of the tulip tree way back, so now it looks like someone with half a moustache. There’s a huge pile of chips where the tree once stood, and they ground out all of the roots that were surfaced in the middle of the driveway. When we get back from vacation and it cools off some I’ll have to figure out what we’re doing with that mess, and spend an afternoon spraying the east side of the house in one uniform shade of blue.
It’s also easier to see how shitty the garage looks now. The two sheets of plywood serving as doors have never looked good, so I have to think of some ideas for how to pretty them up. Now that the tree is gone I also want to dig a trench across the driveway to send runoff from the gutters into the neighbors’ yard and not directly into the front of the garage.
Jen texted me Wednesday, in the middle of the 100+ heatwave, to tell me the A/C in the CR-V had died. Given that we’re going to take it on vacation next week, we couldn’t defer this maintenance, but I knew it wasn’t going to be cheap to fix. Our local mechanic agreed to fit us in Thursday (god bless him) and looked it over first thing in the morning. The bill wasn’t cheap but it had to get done, so we pulled the trigger. We got it back last night and it is cool again, thank GOD.
Meanwhile the Scout is in Essex for what I’m assuming will be a substantial repair to the transmission while we’re on vacation. All of this happening at the same time sucks, but the fact that the average age of our vehicles is 20 years old means they’re going to need maintenance (this is somewhat tempered by the fact that we put a total of less than 10,000 miles on all three of them yearly.)
I set up the drip hose and timer in the greenhouse Wednesday night so that it runs for 15 minutes every morning at 6AM. We’ve got a bunch of nice tomatoes coming in (and we’ll have to pick a bunch and bring them to the beach) so I want to keep them alive until we get back. I did the same thing last year and it saved everything in there while I was stuck in the hospital, although it all grew out of control in our absence. I also collected one dead mouse from the traps I put out on Tuesday evening; someone was nibbling on two of our low-hanging fruit and I decided it was time to seek vengeance. Also, the tomatillo is gone, because Jen read up on them and found that there need to be two plants to cross-pollinate each other.
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.
Last night, while I was waiting for my work laptop to clone, I swapped the hard drive out of my late 2010 Macbook Pro into a spare late 2008 MbP I bought as a decommissioned unit from WRI. The 2010 model was suffering from a random shutdown issue, where it would simply blink itself off, and I was getting fed up with it. I’d installed a SSD drive a few years ago so the process was straightforward and easy. The recipient machine only has 4MB of RAM but that should be good enough for the basic stuff I use it for these days. When I stop to think that I bought that machine eight and a half years ago and it’s worked trouble-free for the majority of that time, I have to appreciate the quality and value of Apple gear.
This morning I was on the road by 7:30 to run errands before the storm; I was out of the grocery store by 9 with a completed grocery list. At 10 I had an appointment to meet a lady about a rear cargo cover for the CR-V, which she was selling on Craigslist. This accessory was absent when we bought our car, and I always found them handy to have (my 1982 Subaru GL had one) especially when parking in the city. In 5 minutes the deal was done (they also threw in a set of OEM lug nuts they had laying around) and as we chatted they told me they’d sold their 2005 model with 280,000 miles on the odometer. Our ‘V only has 120K so I think we’re in good shape for another couple of years.
After that were more errands; I sold a couple of lousy XBOX games at the Gamespot so that I could buy a copy of LEGO Star Wars for us, picked up a new metal snow shovel at the Lowe’s, and did some other boring crap.
When I got home we made some lunch and got down to the depressing business of packing up all of the Christmas gear. Within about an hour we had the tree uncovered and out at the curb, and after hunting down and sweeping up all the pine needles we took another hour to straighten up the house.
Then Finn and I took the chainsaw out back to see if I could get it to start. With a little new gas in the tank and the proper choke setting it fired right up and settled into a nice throaty roar. The chain didn’t move at all, which means one of several things: there isn’t enough chain lube, the chain is too tight, on backwards, or misaligned. I’ll try chain lube first and work my way through the other issues afterwards.
Update: It was the chain brake. All I had to do was reset it and the chain spun straight away. Finn and I picked up some chain lube later in the week (the reservoir was dry) and with that I should be able to start breaking down the big stumps in the yard.
The week after I replaced the hood on the CR-V, it decided to show its appreciation by stranding Jen in Baltimore City, on the way to pick up a friend for dinner. She said the clutch locked up, and she was unable to shift into or out of 2nd gear. She was able to pilot it safely to a side street and call me; I arranged for a tow truck through USAA and they picked it up a little over an hour later. Our mechanic can’t seem to find the problem but did find that the gear oil was very low. There’s no noise coming from the box and two short trips I’ve taken since then have been painless; this could mean nothing or it could mean the clutch is about to shit itself. Only time will tell, I guess. The mechanic hinted that it would be wiser to buy a new car instead of fixing this one, but we have a large amount of loyalty for this car and I’d much rather keep it on the road than absorb a new car payment.
I’ve had a Flickr Pro account since 2005, when I decided I’d use it for my image hosting CDN. It’s been very useful over the years, even as it’s been bought and sold, and as they’ve added useful features and then taken them away. I’ve found, however, that I’m not using it all that much anymore. The last photos I uploaded there were from the camping trip in June, and everything after that I’ve uploaded directly into WordPress. I’d guess there are a couple thousand photos I’ve linked to over the course of 4,672 posts, and for now that’s fine. I am thinking about the future, however, and at some point I’m going to have to go through each post and update the photo with a local version (as well as fix a bunch where the links have broken). Not today, though.
My IPA stopped fermenting on Thursday evening, so I have to rack it into a secondary fermenter as well as dry hop it. My neighbor picked up another kit for me yesterday and hopefully we will be brewing this evening, but he hasn’t nailed down a time yet. It feels good to have a batch in the works, and it would be even better to have two in the kegerator by Thanksgiving. It also got me thinking about some of the gear I’d like to update next year–a better burner, a slightly bigger kettle with a temperature gauge, and maybe some upgrades to the kegerator itself. But for now, what I’ve got is working well and I’m just happy to be brewing again.
Meanwhile, the crops in the greenhouse are winding down. There are still many black and red cherry tomatoes on the vines, and there’s a second wave of Indian Stripe and Paul Robesons growing slowly, but the whiteflies have really damaged the plants. There aren’t a lot of green leaves left on anything so I don’t know if any of the remaining fruit will ripen at this point late in the season. I’m going to replace the back wall in an effort to keep the heat inside and start winterizing things.
I took Finley out and scored a new hood for the CR-V Saturday morning. It’s no surprise Jen was feeling self-conscious about the old hood; it was really ghetto.
The clearcoat had begun delaminating a few years ago and it’s gotten so bad at this point that there’s only a little bit of it left on the hood itself.
The area in the upper right is the original clearcoat. Everything you see below that and to the left is bare paint.
Finn and I jumped in the CR-V and drove through glorious Glen Burnie, through trailer parks and high-end estates, and found ourselves at a quiet auto salvage yard fronted by tall fencing and a tired trailer. Inside we talked to the salesman who directed us back outside to the hood they’d pulled that morning. It was in OK shape but had obviously taken a ride in the back of a yard truck and gotten scraped up along the way. We placed it next to the fender of the CR-V and found it was almost indistinguishable–the only difference being the greater amount of metal flake in the used hood. I got the guy to come down $25 on it and stuffed it into the back of the car.
Back at the house replacing it was a matter of loosening 4 10mm bolts. I had Finley help me pull it off, and together we had the new hood on in minutes. After a quick scrub, it looks presentable:
I have to pick up some rubbing compound and polishing discs for the buffer my Dad gave me a few years ago, and hopefully we can get the scratches out of the hood and some other areas along the sides of the car. I’ll have this hoopty shining in no time!