Underestimating

So I got started early on this painting project. My idea was to get things sanded and primed, then maybe tomorrow morning I could paint. I would have time this afternoon to get enough paint to make it happen. I had the primer so I just had to crank. But it weren’t happening.

I had to fix a few boards, take off the stairs (they were starting to rot), and prune the landscaping all around the deck since it was rubbing and scraping. Then I could start sanding. And I did sand. It just took way longer than I anticipated. I had to stop and scrape at times, and change the paper on the sander. I stopped for lunch, and stopped when the sander busted. I thought the pad was simply loose, but it was, in fact, too worn to keep using. And I was missing a screw.

My wife and kids were off to the farm to collect our share of vegetables for the week, so I headed to the hardware store to get some stuff. I got a pad, and some new sanding paper disks, and some new safety goggles to replace my scratched ones, and some batteries while I was at it. But I could not get a screw. It was not to be had in that establishment. I headed home, knowing I would not finish today.

I went from painting tomorrow morning, to maybe just priming tomorrow morning, to finishing the sanding tomorrow, to nothin’. I didn’t even get the sanding done. The wood is just way too far gone. It would probably be easier to just replace all the dang decking, but apparently I like to make things hard on myself. I had the idea to at least replace the stairs today, but I had the little car, and I need a ten foot board–couldn’t carry it with that rig.

Everything is put away now. The majority of the deck is sanded, and all the wall next to it is sanded. I will finish another day. I am hoping I can order a couple screws and pick them up later this week. I won’t be able to get them for a couple of days anyway. This project will get completed. It is just taking longer than I would like. I hope the rest of the house doesn’t take longer than planned. Summer only lasts so long.

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Painting Tomorrow?

Summer has arrived and the big house painting project needs to begin. Tomorrow? The weather should be fine. My plan is to get started early: sand and prime the deck and the wall next to it. If that goes well I might be able to paint all that the next day. I say might because we plan to travel to Montreal the next day, see the city and have a fine time of it, thank you very much. If I can squeeze some painting in before we leave, I will be better off. If not, it will have to wait until Friday or even Saturday. Too busy.

I will need some supplies, but not to get started. Once I get that first stint under my belt I will go get the supplies I need–more primer, more paint, a taller ladder. I can get most of the house but our ladder isn’t quite tall enough for the ends. So more tools are required. At least it will save us some cash.

I am fired up for this project. I fear I will not have enough time, but if the weather holds I think I can crank and make it happen. I had better. I should have gotten it done last summer.

So tomorrow I begin and see how far I get. If I can at least get the south and east sides of the house painted–they get the most sun–then I will have been successful enough. I hope to do it all, but who doesn’t?

My immediate problem is the wasps nests in the exterior deck light. One mud wasp and one yellow jacket.  I should rid the lamps of that nuisance this evening. If our insect friends stand for it. I don’t mind having them around. Don’t bother them and they won’t bother you. That seems to be the way it works. But these characters are making themselves a little too much at home, so I will need to suggest they leave or be slain.

Or I could paint their houses as well. But I don’t need more work than I’ve got with this project, eh?

End of the Day

Warm night. Lightning bugs dot the field. Children sleep their innocent sleep, half under blankets.

Summer has arrived. I watched the sun set on the lake tonight. The Adirondacks outlined in pink and red. Peepers still sing to one another in the darkness.

I am in love with everything around me–my wife, my children, this world. I am love with the lightning bugs and the sunset. My heart leaps up.

Dew settles as the air cools. The wind has the night off. The sun wakes the other side of the earth. Somewhere outside the house, a skunk searches for breakfast.

How can I sleep with such wonder? How can I sleep with such beauty? And what about love? That, too, keeps me stirring long after my family sleeps, long after I have risen and left my bed to gather the day’s dust.

More Ice Cream

Made chocolate ice cream again this afternoon. Dang good stuff. I rushed it, however. My son wanted to help. His idea of “mix well” is a couple turns of the whisk. I knew I needed to mix and melt the chocolate more thoroughly, but I caved to his impatience. It has a few cocoa-ish bits floating in it. The upside is that they seem lit little cocoa nibs. High end confectionary.

I made waffles to start off the day. These were old fashioned yeasted waffles. I made the batter last night, popped it in the refrigerator, and this morning–easy waffles. And they are way better than the waffles I typically make with baking powder. Of course, they also have a lot more butter in them. OK, my usual recipe has no butter in it, but if it did, it wouldn’t have as much as these yeasted puppies. Can’t argue with butter, however. It makes everything taste good.

And salad–lots of salad today. My parents came to visit for the weekend. They stopped to pick up their CSA farm share right before they left, so they arrived with a cooler full of greens. We ate greens and salad with dinner. They have a full share and let me tell you that is WAY too much food for two people. Last year the farm did not produce so much. Greens out your ears.

Good food today. That happens in the summer, when I don’t have places to go all day. I like that. We will eat well again tomorrow. Bacon and eggs for breakfast. That isn’t typical fare in this mostly vegetarian household, but it’s Father’s Day. Bacon for dear old Dad.

So we seem to have a theme here–fat. Butter, cream, pork fat. In moderation, however. Everything in moderation. We didn’t eat all the waffles. The ice cream is in the freezer. Bacon? Can’t imagine all that will get eaten. We will have to make sure to snack on more greens tomorrow. All that lettuce needs to get gone.

Finding Birds in the Wee Hours

Before Sunrise from Burnt Rock Mountain

For the second time this week, I got up early, drove, hiked uphill for a ways and then sat in hopes of finding some birds. Last year I had volunteered to do a second survey for Mountain Birdwatch, sponsored by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. I agreed to do it again this year. I packed up the night before, and readied the espresso maker, so all I had to do was rise, brush my teeth, quickly brew some java and head out the door with my backpack. Other than trying to stay quiet so I don’t wake everyone else, the biggest challenge is just getting up. I had to set the alarm for 12:45. It was barely today when I turned back the blankets.

I managed to get out quickly, however, hot coffee in a travel mug (Americano, with cream) next to me in the cup holder. I had planned for extra time, although I did not need it, as the forecast was for heavy fog. I passed through some fog but I drove over Appalachian Gap on Route 17, so I was higher than any fog for a good chunk of the time.  I started driving at about 1:00 and started hiking about 2:15. I was, as you might imagine, the only one on the trail.

My headlamp guided me, and I did feel a little tired. I was up at 2:00 on Monday morning (shorter drive for that survey route) and I stayed up way too late to watch a movie one night (Sherlock Holmes–too good to watch halvsies) so I wasn’t as perky as I might have been. I got to the Long Trail in about an hour and 30 minutes later I was on the top of Burnt Rock Mountain.  I had 15 minutes to spare before I could officially start at 4:00, so I donned some warm layers, lay against my backpack on the warm stone, and waited. The wind was gusting pretty strongly but not so much that I would not be able to hear birds songs. The stars were out. Jupiter dangled in the eastern sky like an earring. The horizon just hinted at the day to come.

I could have fallen asleep. I had to make sure I kept my eyes open. At four I pulled out my notebook to get started. But no birds were singing. So I waited. Nothing. Was it the wind? I waited until 4:25 and the first bird I heard was the one I most wanted to hear–Bicknell’s Thrush. At that first survey point I heard three of them.

Here is the thing. Some people get excited where their team gets a home run. Others get excited when they win at horseshoes or craps or softball. Some get fired up by nightlife. I get elated when I hear a Bicknell’s Thrush singing. It lifts me up and smacks a huge smile on my face. These little brown birds face a lot, from habitat loss in both their and summer homes, to distant migrations, to acid rain and climate change, so to hear that they have returned for another summer brings me pure joy.

I head them again at the second and third of five survey points. It was peaceful in the woods. I heard many birds, despite the wind. I heard plenty I was not seeking. In fact, I heard a long list of birds. On my hike overall I heard (I only saw a couple of birds the whole time, flying away from me in terror of my fierceness I suppose) these species:

  • Bicknell’s Thrush
  • Hermit Thrush
  • Swainson’s Thrush
  • Veery
  • Robin
  • Winter Wren
  • White Throated Sparrow
  • Black Capped Chickadee
  • Dark Eyed Junco
  • Brown Creeper
  • Red Breasted Nuthatch
  • Yellow Bellied Flycatcher
  • Golden Crowned Kinglet
  • Blackpol Warbler
  • Yellow Rumped Warbler
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Black Throated Blue Warbler
  • Black Throated Green Warbler
  • A couple other warblers I couldn’t identify
  • A woodpecker that was drumming but split as I passed
  • Blue Jay

I might have missed a couple here but it was, you might say, a good morning for this citizen scientist. It was a peaceful hike and I enjoyed some time in the woods. And my guess is that I was home before anyone even got to that particular trailhead today. A day’s work, done by breakfast.

After Sunrise

Scrapping Paper

Here is what I can’t figure out: why does my bank allow me to make electronic payments for free? I have all my account information with them and I can just log on, enter amount for the account I want to pay, and BOOM, done.  I don’t have to write checks and payments both get there and get processed sooner.  It saves me time, saves me money, and is way easier and faster.  I just made two payments this afternoon. It took me all of two minutes.

OK, I do get why they make it free. It saves them time and money as well. I worked at an organization that processed payments and we encouraged people to take advantage of electronic billing and payments.  Handling a paper bill and a paper check once it arrived too way more time and effort than having it enter the system on its own. Still, I keep waiting for the catch. Heck, we used to pay the day care center electronically through the bank. Since the center did not accept electronic payments, the bank mailed a check. I guess that worked better for the bank. It certainly worked better for me.

I do get a few statements in the mail still. The bill for one credit card we hardly use comes in the mail, for example. And I still make charitable contributions mostly by paper check. I buy many fewer checks these days. I am always surprised when I run out. I order those online.

In fact, I get most things by ordering online–clothes, Christmas gifts, bandages, seeds, flavored syrups, books, music, whatever. A while back I subscribed to a service called YourMusic, which sent CD’s once each month for 7 bucks each. Add CD’s to your queue and they get sent automatically. It is a good deal, except I had to get those CD’s in the mail. Now I just use iTunes. I rarely read a paper newspaper, either. I read it online.

I have been reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peal Pie Society. It consists of a collection of letters. I am fully engaged in the story. I want to be reading it right now, in fact. I have not yet given up paper books altogether (although I have enjoyed a few on my iPod Touch). I have realized by reading this book, however, that I never write letters anymore. I used to write scads of them. It used to be the thing to do when I was in my teens and twenties. Now text messaging has become the norm. Letters, however, have a tangible and emotional substance to them. They can be held. They last. I have stopped writing them, as have most people in the 21st century. This has its convenience and certainly saves resources. We do miss something by giving them up, however.

I don’t feel that way about bills. Send me an email notice and let me look it up through the magic of the internet. I get far more unsolicited crap in the mail these days than anything of use or worth. Thanks for your good work, I want to tell all these organizations looking for donations. I would love to help but I give to others and you don’t make the cut, so stop sending me mail. I tell them that often–I either send an email or just stuff the contents back in the return envelope with a note. Still, I’d rather they did not send me something I did not ask to receive. They would save a lot of money by not mailing me all that junk. They should talk to my bank.

I have plenty of paper files hanging in file folders, but I am trying to cut down. Do I really need those bank statements from the past seven years? I doubt it. Tax returns I’ll save, although it is unlikely I will need those either. One of my summer projects is to clean out the closet. I will pull out the recycling bin and drop it next to the closet and transfer contents from one to the other. And when I  am done I will leave the dust on my journal and get online right here to tell about that exciting adventure. As if that is a good idea.

Chilly. What Gives?

So in May we had temperatures in the 80’s for a stretch. I was ready to plant the garden long before the typical date. Now that my melons, which I have tried to grow three years running without success, have been in their beds for a few weeks, we have temperatures in the 50’s at night, every night. Today is was so chilly I wanted to light a fire. If I hadn’t have been too lazy to move the potted plant from the top of the wood stove, I would have.

The melons don’t look great.  They are sensitive bastards. They have not grown a whole lot bigger in the past month and one of them looks like it is ready to pass out. Maybe they have been staying up too late since they left the pot. Maybe I was too rough with them when I transplanted them. Maybe it is the cold. And maybe, and I shudder to put this in writing, it is the beetles.

I have not seen any cucumber beetles yet. Why would I? They are perhaps happily munching away at the roots of my poor little melons. Or they might be victims of the nematodes I spread this spring. I won’t be able to tell for a bit. The cucumbers don’t look great either, however. And the pumpkins’ growth has slowed. I was really hoping the beetles would be slain by these tiny little animals. I have not given up hope, but I am thinking the damn hole may not be plugged.

I worked at home today and shivered. I wore a hat–the winter variety. I drank hot beverages. I couldn’t get warm. That doesn’t help with the old productivity. But I got work done nonetheless. I made about a zillion phone calls and that kept me mostly distracted from the 50 degree temperatures.  Plus, it was overcast, then rainy, and windy. The highest temperature I saw was 63 degrees. Summer in Vermont.

On Friday night I will wake in the wee hours again and head up to the mountains to see if I can find some birds. Take two. It may be chilly then, but I will be prepared for that, and hiking tends to raise one’s body temperature anyway. The birds like it better when it is warm as well, but they are not as wussy as melons. A few cool nights, a few bugs, and those suckers just can’t take it. I’m going with the tough love approach at this point–no dessert until they start to green up their act. I’m the one whose a sucker when it comes to the birds. They sing to me and I’ll praise them all poet-like. If my melons would sing instead of produce fruit, well, at least then I would get something sweet.