Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Totum Poles

Totem poles are monumental sculptures carved on poles, posts, or pillars with symbols or figures made from large trees, mostly western red cedar, by indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest coast of North America (northwestern United States and Canada's western province, British Columbia).
Now if we had the skill or the time, Walt Kowalski and I could totally do that.  We can do most anything we put our minds (and backs) to.
But pretty or not, we were tired of looking at our totem poles.
They have been standing "drying" for almost 2 years now.  The wires are ugly and the trees, that's extra ugly.
Here's the six of them.  How do I know it's autumn?  My spring alazlea is blooming.  Strangest shrub, it blooms in the spring AND the fall.  The crocus are blooming,  too. 
Add a blucket truck, a good breakfast, and a littel bit of courage...It took Walt Kowalski a few minutes to get his "bucket legs" back. The plan was to tie off an section of the tree, cut it, then lower the cut piece down to me.  I'll grab it and haul it over to the log pile. They weren't heavy logs, just awkward.

It started as a cloudy rainy day and turned into a beautiful afternoon and evening.

Now those are a lot of wires.  All important.  Some more dangerous than others. Luckily, he only had to go through the not so scary wire and the telephone wire.  He was away from the scary power wire.

I got to wear the hard hat and "catch" the logs after he cut them and lowered them to me. Luckily, I didn't need the hard hat for logs falling on my head.  I did need the hard hat because I kept running into the mirror on the truck!  *sigh*

We got the trees cut below the lowest wire and tied a rope around each one.  Now Chain Saw Johnny can come with his big saw and cut the remaining down to the ground and Walt Kowalski and I will pull the pole up onto the driveway to be cut into pieces. 

Here is the final product before the finish:

Bring on the fall outside fires!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Rocks and Roll

What do you do just before going on vacation?  Pack clothes and towels and shoes?  Yes.  Grab your swimming suit? Yes. Make snacks for the ride? Yes.  Get 21 tons of rocks?  Yes! Only at the Cat Ranch.

We're not just talking about stones, we're talking about ROCKS.  Rocks, baby.

Walt Kowalski and I directed traffic as the tri-axle truck delivered the stones.  Some cars didn't mind waiting a moment and other were jerks and speed off like they were late for surgery.  Those are the same people that pass you and you catch up to them at the red light. 

The truck couldn't get off the road any more because there is a dip and he didn't want to get stuck.

Now that is a pile of rocks. As the driver was empting the load, our neighbor stopped to watch.  Normally, when we see him, he's half in the bag, but today he was leaving.  (Probably to go GET half in the bag.) He stopped his truck and watch the stones pour out of the truck.  As the driver was unloading, he said "Yeah! Jerk it man, jerk it.  Yeah!  You got it.  Good job!" 

Then came the hard part, which Walt Kowalski did most of, moving the stones one by one.  By hand.  We wanted the largest ones as a base and fill in to the top.  I used the smaller stones to fill in from the bottom up to Walt Kowalski's edge.

The pile slowly decreasing.  Every day, move a few more. 

My work of making a "river" up to meet Walt Kowalski's.

I like how the rocks follow the contour of the land.  We want to add some more so the "river" isn't as small.  

We've had so many people stop and tell us how nice it looks.  Some stopped right in the middle of the road. Several times, people looked twice and almost sideswiped the guardrail! One guy even pulled up in the driveway, got out of his car, and walked over to talk to Walt Kowalski.  Snuck up on him and startled him.  This guy had a whole list of questions.  "Where did you get the rocks? How much did the cost? How many tons?  Are you a professional?  Are you the homeowner? Can I get this for my yard?  Can you help me with my yard?"

Monday, August 8, 2016

Falling Trees

We have been so busy with everything.  (Isn't everybody?) We have neglected so much.  Lately it seems like all we do is laundry and clean up cat hair.  How many cats DO we have?

When I'm at work, all I can think about is everything I want to do at home. After work we've been working on drywall and patching seams at the project house, then by the time we get back to the Cat Ranch, all I want to do is sit and watch the sunset with a cocktail and Walt Kowalski.   

Two months ago, in the middle of the night, I heard a big crash of a tree.  The crash in the silence of the night woke me out of a sound sleep.  It was a clear night with no breeze.  In the morning, I told Walt Kowalski and we went out to the patio to investigate.  Nothing. Maybe it was in my dreams. 

Several weeks later, we were sitting on the patio and Walt Kowalski said "Look at that big branch that fell over in the forest!" We went to investigate and found the branch I heard fall.  It wasn't just a branch, but a branch the size of a tree.  

Last month, we were at the neighbor's cookout when we heard another branch falling in the forest.  Same tree. Not as big of a branch, but still a big crashing noise.  Everybody at the cookout stopped to watch.

Our trees are self-destructing.

Two weeks ago, we were sitting on the patio enjoying the sunset and having a quick dinner.  With the humidity so high lately, the evening breeze has been a relief. As we sipped our cocktails, we could hear the branches in the canopy above us.  We thought we heard what sounded like a cracking noise. Nothing alarming, no visible branch falling.

Then last week, we were once again enjoying the remains of the day on the patio when Walt Kowalski happened to look up and say "Holy crap look at that branch!" Just off the patio, in the canopy of leaves above, was a HUGE branch that had fallen. The leaves and small top branches were caught in the crook of a branch on another tree.  The trunk of the branch was still attached to the main part of the tree.  It was hanging precariously over the entrance to the shed.  

So what did we do?  We went to look at it and stood directly underneath of it and looked up.  Of course. 

It was ripped, but still connected to the main part of the tree. 

Everyday we looked and it was still there.  Still attached. But the rip was getting longer.  And the amount attached was getting smaller. 

Then this weekend, while we were away helping a friend move, the neighbors called.  

Neighbor: "There was a big crash of a tree up at your house. Everybody in the neighborhood came to look."
Walt Kowalski:  "Oh man, the branch fell.  Did it hit the shed?"
Neighbor: "Nah, but one of your tiki torches took a direct hit and there is mulch all over the patio."

It was a nice sized branch and is blocking one of the doors to the shed where the tools to cut up the branch are located. 

You can see how high the branch was when it was originally attached. 

And the dagger that speared the mulch. We figure this is where the initial impact of the branch hit, then it splintered again.

We were bummed we missed it fall, but we're glad it fell. Had it fallen when we were home, we would have probably been working in or around the shed.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Rain on vacation

Just a little. 

Rain on vacation doesn't bother me.  There is always LOTS to do if it rains, but the thing with rain on vacation, is that it because it's hot, humid, and sunny, a pop-up rain shower in the afternoon is not a surprise.  It is usually quick, passes fast, and produces really cool clouds.

The days are beautiful.

And then, there was a disturbance on the horizon to the North of us. "Uh, oh, Delaware is getting a storm.  The radar says it's moving out to see."  I said. A few minutes later, Walt Kowalski said "I think Delaware isn't the only one going to get a storm.  We'd better gather our things and adjourn to the balcony."  I'm glad we did.  Before we knew it, the rain was upon us.  Nothing severe, just a passing shower.

As we were having our cocktails on the balcony (watching the rest of the people on the beach make a run for it) a beautiful rainbow appeared.

Not just a rainbow, but a double rainbow in a perfect arch over the ocean.

And just as fast as the shower appeared, it disappeared and left us with a beautiful sunset.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Catch Up

I realize that I have been neglecting posting updates from our current house project.  We have been working on it between trees and stones and fires and life. 

When I last left you, we had just put the beam up in the front entrance.  You can check that out again here: Beam Lifting.

So here is what you've missed (or I have forgotten to show you):

We built stairs to the attic.  The old stairs were not stairs.  It was a slanted board in a closet to a hole in the ceiling with a couple of boards nailed so you could stand on them and pull yourself up into the attic. 

Now there are real stairs. So the attic has become usable space.

Walt Kowalski built them himself. Ok the electrician helped a little.  Plywood was added to create a stable attic floor.  Getting it almost level was the hard part. 

Along with moving walls and adding structure and stability to the entire house, we also replaced floor boards.  The bathroom floor was in sad condition.  We didn't want to add any additional weight of new boards and new tile to an unstable floor.  Same with the kitchen floor.

And drain pipes were removed and added. 

We also had to add a beam in the kitchen. We *think* the kitchen used to be a porch they enclosed and opened up to add more space.  In that process, they cut a major support beam holding up the back of the house. 

Nothing a few boards and a lot of screws couldn't fix.

Back to the second floor, you can see the new door entrances and support.  AND the electrician was busy wiring. Proper electrical boxes at standard heights, new wires, cable, and high and low outlets.

Yes, those boxes are the new laminate flooring.  We aren't even close to be ready for it, but it was on sale at such a great price that I made Walt Kowalski go buy it NOW.  Yes, we'll be stepping over and around it for a few months, but at 50% off, I couldn't pass that up.

We still need a piece of a handrail at the top of the steps and to clean up the old handrail.

I was working on inserting fire blockers while Walt Kowalski was doing some additional patch work. After removing all the old plaster, we found there had been a fire in the living room that creeped up into the upstairs.  The boards were scorched and crumbling.  Nothing that couldn't be replaced and repaired. And a good indicator/reminder to insert the fire blockers around the base of the second floor.

Which leads us to today.  With the wiring on the second and third floors complete, we started insulation.  Yes, of course we start insulation when it is 86 degrees and 90% humidity. That's how we roll. You know, roll of insulation. 

Which means drywall was next.  

We're moving right along.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Tables, no chairs

I prefer quick projects.  Projects I can start and finish in an evening.  That's about all the time and attention span I have lately.  

I have 3 nested tables.  Small. Medium.  Large.  The height of the tables, not the size of the table.  They are great.  Metal, portable, not easily knocked over.  But they were looking a little...shabby.  And not shabby in a good way. 

Nothing a can of spray paint can't cure. 
Even if Walt Kowalski rolled his eyes at the color.  In the store he said "Look, red is nice.  How about Yellow?  Dark Red?"

Me: "How about Turquoise?"  

I love them.  They match nothing.  The fun part about spray paint on outside items is that it's not a longtime commitment.  1 season or 2.  Then a new coat of paint in a new color.  

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Parking Lot

Do you remember where we started with our front hill?  Yeah, neither do I. 

I had to go back and look at photos.  There were trees and weeds and weeds and trees, swamp, poison ivy, bamboo, LOTS and LOTS of bamboo. I don't think I have a photo of it at its worst.

Every year for the past 5 years we have chopped and weeded a little more. 

Here it is currently with all of the bricks from 3 chimneys:

Here are (some of) the problems:

Every brick we find or get we add to the hill.  We've even had several people stop and say "Hey you need more bricks?"  No thanks.  I had no idea it was so hard to get rid of bricks!

But the weeds continue to grow in between the bricks and the entire hill side is run off for rain water and gray water.  Pretty? No. Necessary? Yes.

Our solution, smother the weeds with fabric and bricks and stone.  This has a two-fold purpose. The water will be able to filter down through AND it will help prevent the weeds from returning.

First had to dig out and move the flowers I wanted to keep.  The majority of them were relocated to the top of the hill behind the house by the shed. There is lots of room for them to grow and spread.

Now we can start laying down the fabric and adding the bricks. Yes, we could have just tossed the bricks on the fabric to save time, but we wanted a little more control.

Then we added the stone on top.

More fabric. More bricks. More stones. More fabric. More bricks. More stones.

No we aren't making a parking lot like the Mayor likes to joke.  He'll see when it's complete.

This is our second pile of stone. (It looks like Walt Kowalski is doing a dance in this photo.)

A third truckload of stones was delivered.

It looks so bright at night.  During the last full moon, the light reflecting off of the new stones was enough to light our path up the driveway.  No flashlight needed.

And more stones have been delivered!

In the rain.  The pouring rain.


We started laying the fabric up the hill and even got some grasses moved from the big garden down to the from hill.  It's starting to look like more than a parking lot now. 

Our next truckload of stones will be LARGE stones, 8inches minimum.  Then it will really start to look like more than a parking lot.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Birds of a Feather 2

There was one other bird that visited our neighborhood the other day. 

My opossum didn't make it across the road.  (Poor Mr. Opossum) But in the circle of life, this meant dinner (and lunch and breakfast) for the turkey vultures. 

One circled and circled all morning.  He flew so close to the front window, that while watching, we even ducked thinking he was going to hit us inside! 

One would land on the road next to the opossum, but the traffic wouldn't allow me to get a photo before another car would come and the bird would fly again.

Luckily, he perched on the phone pole at the bottom of the driveway.


Not a pretty bird.  (you can even see the rain drops in the photo!)

The crows were not happy.  When the turkey vulture would fly, he would take wide circles around the neighborhood.  This was WAY too close to the family of crows living down by the Farmer's house.  The whole family (the murder) would start pursuit. 

What's a bird got to do to get a decent dead meal around here?