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.
Damn. I don’t know what’s more amazing, the shitty no-apology Florida Man begrudgingly offered for accosting and attacking Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or her incisive, excellent rebuttal.
I got a big box delivered to the house on Saturday, and inside were two beautiful olive drab ammo cans ready for engineering into lockboxes: one is for Brian and one is for me. The 30mm can is big and roomy and built to be weather-sealed, so there’s a beefy rubber gasket around the top of the lid. One bummer is that they’re not built like the 5.56 can I have in the basement, so both sides are latched instead of being latch/hinged. So we’ll have to figure out how we’re going to hinge the top and make it easily accessible, or just put lock hasps on both sides.
My first thought is that we can get a couple of wire rope clips, cut the threads down, and weld the flat ends to the wall of the can so that the loop feeds through the hole, as above. That would be a nice fat bit of steel to cut through.
The next solution would be to simply buy a metal hasp kit and use the staple, as long as it stuck out far enough. They’re already drilled for screws so it would be pretty easy to use the holes for welding (or, alternatively, just drill holes and screw the staple in place). I’d like to avoid having screw heads inside the box if at all possible, so I think I’ll try welding first.
We still don’t know exactly how it’s going to secure to the bed yet. Another thing to add will be rubber feet of some kind to keep it from banging around back there. But I love the look of it, and it’s just the right size to fit a backpack or a big toolbag or a laptop.
Quarantine blows, and the fact that we’ve been holed up in our house dutifully waiting out the Covid while half the fucking country has decided IT’S PARTY TIME Y’ALL doesn’t make things easier. All of us intelligent science-loving rational folks have been self isolating, driving each other nuts in specific ways only nuclear families can, while the tinfoil morons have bitched and complained en masse and busted heads in the WalMart yelling that it’s their God-given right to wander the housewares aisle without a mask coughing on anybody they please. Two weeks later, they are shocked, SHOCKED when the Covid flattens them and they’re on a ventilator moaning about how they never thought they’d get this thing, not even considering the eighty other people they infected. It’s those morons I’m afraid of.
We can’t vacation like we normally would, we can’t stay overnight anywhere because things are either closed or infected, and we can’t day trip without the dog because she would FLIP OUT if she realized we all had left without her. There isn’t a strong enough dose of Trazadone in the world, and they haven’t perfected the three-day time release yet. Puppy daycare has basically told us thanks, but you don’t have to come back, and we’re keeping the deposit on those other days you already paid for. So Jen compiled a list of things we could do together under those very exacting stipulations and we set about doing them this past week.
First, we checked out Antietam Battlefield two Saturdays ago, which is out on the border of the big part of Maryland and West Virginia. It’s been hot and getting hotter for the past two weeks, so we dialed up the air conditioning and packed a ton of water for the trip. There’s a lot to see on the battlefield without having to go in any of the dog-restricted visitor centers, so we used the hike to tire out the dog. We checked out the Sunken Lane and then drove over to Burnside Bridge, where a short walk down from the parking lot puts you under some leafy trees and in merciful shade. A couple of hours of hiking and sweating were all we needed to feel like we’d seen the place, so we retreated into Sharpsburg for some burgers at the Dairy Queen and hydrated the dog. Then we continued west into Berkeley Springs where we showed Finn where the two and a half of us had gotten spa treatments when she was still a cantaloupe and the masseuses wouldn’t touch Jen for fear she’d spontaneously shoot a baby across the table and knock over their scented oil displays.
On Friday we drove north to the Maryland border to go check out Rocks State Park, a place our friends had taken Finn and I a couple of years ago to see the overlook and the waterfall. We were able to wait out the line at the small parking lot (they are carefully monitoring visitors) and hiked in to the river area. We found a quiet spot downstream and let Hazel approach the water at her own pace; she’s nervous around the river and wanted to take things slowly, so I followed her lead and let her follow her nose in until she was up to her paws. I think she was surprised to find herself that deep, because she would suddenly want to retreat to the bank and sniff it out, and then slowly go back in again. The water was cool and delicious in the humidity so we stayed in as long as we could. Then we found a way to get across the river and hiked up among the maskless morons so that Jen could see it for herself. There’s been a lot of flood activity lately so where the falls were clear four years ago there are several huge tree trunks leaning over the rocks now, which is kind of a bummer.
Saturday we returned to the Sharpsburg area and hiked up the C&O canal on the north bank of the Potomac above Harper’s Ferry. It’s a challenge to find parking in places like this on a good day, and Covid has made it even more difficult. We picked this trail because it’s lightly traveled, and thankfully there were not a lot of people out there. It was even hotter than the previous day, so we hydrated continuously and enjoyed the shady pathway.
On Sunday it was too hot to do any damn thing so I dug our inflatable pool out of the basement, washed it down, and blew it up with the compressor (oh, thank you lord for the wonderful compressor). I switched our water over to unfiltered and filled it up in a sunny spot on the back lawn, and Finn and I jumped in around noon. I’m happy to say I didn’t get out until 3:15, but the price of all that leisure was a bright pink sunburn on the tops of my legs. The rest of the day was nothing but relaxation (and a sunburn-induced nap, if I’m honest).
Ford just announced their new Bronco this week, and I have to say I’m really admiring the look of it. As much as everyone claims they want a bare-bones model with no features at all, nobody would buy one, so the packages start at $28K and go top into the 60’s. I’d assume these will be $10K above list price for the first couple of years, as Ford pretty much knows they’ve got a winner on their hands. As long as they don’t fuck it up too badly, I see these selling like hotcakes.
My personal preference is for either the base-level model with 2.3 liter engine and 6-speed manual (the only way I’d buy one of these, frankly, is with a manual) or the next model up (the “Big Bend”). Optional packages would give us some features we’ve never had in a vehicle: two-door lock and unlock functionality, 110V/150W AC power outlet, ambient footwell lighting, dual-zone electronic automatic temperature control, and heated front seats, among others.
In other Bronco-related news, Hemmings just ran an article about Ford’s attempt to redesign the Bronco in early 1971, and it’s fascinating to look at the pictures of what could have been and where they were looking for inspiration. They started with something that looked great to begin with and generated some of the ugliest redesigns I’ve ever seen. Nothing about the new concepts feels balanced, looks attractive, or works with any of their design cues from that era; the initial sketches have some of the DNA of the full-size trucks but as they looked at the competition (there’s a Scout poster in one of the photos, and later clay models are posed outside with a Range Rover and a Scout in the background) they smoothed the edges until it became a bland stick of butter. The grille treatments alone make me want to barf. They couldn’t figure out how to finish anything behind the A pillar—all of the tailgates look like dogshit—and the side profile looks smaller and more station-wagony as they go. I was always a fan of the 2nd gen Bronco (using the cab of the full-size pickups) so they eventually landed on their feet, but this is a horrifying could-have-been.
After 10+ years of faithful, if not mediocre service, our fancy HE front-loading washing machine has given up the ghost. I’m no stranger to basic appliance maintenance, but when the display starts showing strange error codes and failing to drain, and the internet tells you it’s expensive problems with the computer in the unit, it’s time to call in a professional. Jamell was super-cool and nodded his head sadly when I showed it to him; he confirmed my suspicions that we were either going to have to replace the main control board (~$500 plus labor) or the motor (~$500 plus labor). He suggested we replace the whole unit and this time go with a top-loader, as they are easier to work on, break down less, and wash clothes better. I wanted to do my part for the environment and everything but I also don’t want to stink. So we’re heading out this afternoon to the
Sears Outlet American Freight to pick up a new Kenmore and have it delivered before we run out of clean underwear. I’m going to steal the top cover before it goes, because washing machine steel makes great automotive patch paneling.
Finn and I were in Easton at Karean’s house yesterday to help move some furniture and do some house maintenance before she has her carpeting replaced with hardwood flooring; she’s got heavy and bulky furniture that would be impossible to move solo, so we got the coffee table and couch moved together. Then I fixed some stuff around the house and tried to revive Rob’s 400-disc CD changers, which both powered on and immediately made screeching noises—which leads me to believe either the motors are bad or the belts that the motors drive are bad. I threw them both in the back of the car to do some more research, and there’s a chance I can fix them if it’s just the belts, but either way I’m going to be ripping CD’s for the next couple of months so that she’s got her music available again.
So the Harvester Homecoming is actually going to happen this year; I have no idea how they’re going to arrange things so that there’s social distancing, but I’d wager the boundaries will be pretty porous. I’m skipping this year for obvious reasons, but my eventual goal is to make it to the 2022 event, COVID willing.
Back in college, I used to frequent a place in downtown Baltimore that spoiled me for surplus stores for ever after; in what was then a lousy neighborhood there was a warehouse storefront with several old military chests chained to a steel post outside a heavily reinforced door. Inside, a showroom was filled with new camping and mil-spec gear, haphazardly placed and barely organized. Down a tall flight of stairs into the basement of the building, however, was a city block-sized space full of surplus gear, piled high on 10-foot shelves that stretched from one side of the building to the other. This was the kind of place where you could still root through 5’x5′ cardboard bins filled with surplus fatigues for elusive SL-sized Vietnam era jungle pants; there were shelves stacked with tank periscopes, racks of cold-weather coats, an entire section devoted to ALICE packs (the most uncomfortable backpack ever invented), tents made of stinking olive green oiled canvas, bins and bins of 80’s era combat boots—this was where I bought my first pair—and in the far back there were honest to god oscilloscopes sitting next to unidentifiable electronic equipment that was probably used to call in missile strikes. We’d roll down there every couple of months to check things out, much like visiting the IKEA, and usually find something interesting to buy for cheap. Half of my college wardrobe was made up of surplus clothing or thrift-store finds.
About four years ago they picked up and moved north into the Hamilton neighborhood on the east side of town, and I figured they were my best (and only) local shot for 30mm ammo cans in stock. The guy on the phone claimed they had them and quickly hung up before I could ask about pricing or condition, so I was somewhat skeptical about what I’d find. Their current Yelp reviews are less than optimal, but I figured I’d take the chance. I drove the Scout in on Saturday morning and found the place in downtown Hamilton, empty of people; it was maybe 1/20th its original size, now occupying an old beauty supply store. The scene inside was as disorganized as the old basement had been. After a few minutes I found the ammo can section and was annoyed to find they didn’t have any of the size I wanted, and the guy in the store was less than concerned with helping me find any. I spent a total of about 5 minutes in there and left, disgusted with the whole situation.
Back at home, I found them for sale online and for $10 in shipping I’ve got two on their way to the house, due here by Saturday.
I saw this picture in my Instagram feed and it got my brain thinking about a lockable security container again. See that green ammo can on the right side?
That’s a 3omm ammo can, which measures 9″ x 17.5″ x 14.5″, and weighs 21 lbs. For $~35, I could easily adapt this into a lockable container for the back of the Scout for more tool storage. I’d have to do a couple of things to it though. First, I’d weld a loop on the box and cut a hole on the handle for a padlock of some kind. Then I’d need to set up a fastening system on the bottom of the bed to secure it to the truck. I’m thinking I’d cut down a loop of metal and weld it to a square steel plate. That would be bolted to the floor of the truck, or better yet, weld a pair of captive nuts under the truck so that the only way to pull the loop off would be from under the can.
After cutting a slot in the bottom of the can to accept the loop, I’d use some kind of lock or steel bar through the loop, inside the box, to secure it in place. The point of all this is to be able to quickly pull the can out of the truck when it’s in the way and have only the loop in place (or also be easily removed).
I’d immediately discounted the idea of an ammo box a while back because I was only thinking of the 7.62 and .50 cal cans, which are smaller in dimension than the 30mm cans. I have a .50 cal can and it’s roughly half the size. This looks like it’s the perfect size and shape for my plans, and the only other things I’d need to make this happen would be a welder, gloves, and helmet– something I’ve been considering the purchase of for years. There’s nothing like a project to make things happen! And, after some practice, I could then start welding and repairing my spare windshields and other sheet metal to prep them for paint.