Stopping for Turkeys

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Your standard work day. Did some good work, offered my knowledge and labor, learned some things. Heading south toward home. Near Burlington, some traffic. Not bad, considering, but not quick. The traffic loosened as I moved south into more rural territory. Then the car in front of me braked, more quickly than for just a turn off the main road.

It was turkeys. A whole gaggle of them crossing the road. Well, not a gaggle. That’s geese. You could call it a flock. They are birds. Call it a rafter. Seriously. A group of turkeys is called a rafter. Once upon a time it was a raft, I guess. Then it got colloquialized.

Anyway, this rafter crossed the road. There were eight or nine of them. Or ten. I maybe didn’t see all of them. The majority of them ambled from west to east and blended into the trees. Three of them hung out on the other side, pecking at the grass. Cars started moving again.

Turkeys have made a comeback in recent decades. They once were booted entirely out of Vermont, but they came back. Now they are everywhere in the state. Still, it isn’t every day that one must pause in one’s vehicle to let them waddle across the byway. Lucky me today.

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Not Out in the Snow

Yesterday it snowed most of the day. Today there was fresh snow on the ground, flurries on and off. I work in lots of different places, with no office or standard workplace to speak of. Yesterday and today I hung out in a library, meeting students.

The place is well lit, with lots of windows. I sat next to the windows, facing into the building so students could find me. But I turned around a lot. Sometimes, when I had a moment, I would stare out there. I would watch the snow fall, look at the piles of it. I would imagine being out in it.

I wasn’t in the middle of nowhere. I was next to a parking lot. But I have a good imagination. I imagined, in a few spare moments, being in the wilderness, skiing where the wind provides the only sound aside from the shush of skis. The Wind River Range in Wyoming, the mountains of Idaho, the Green Mountain Ridge. I thought of these places I had been.

Two days ago I worked in a windowless conference room. It was snowing like crazy and I didn’t know it for hours. This morning, at least, I did get out in it. I skied several laps around the meadow. It was just light enough. I had to break new tracks in places where the wind had filled them in. A Great Horned Owl hooted in the woods. A couple of crows called back and forth. Snow Buntings trilled across the road. Then I went to the library.

I will ski again tomorrow. Maybe in the mountains, maybe right here. We’ll see what happens. I might read for a while, looking out at the snow from the warm house. But I won’t do that in the library. I’ve spent enough time there this week.

Trying Something New and Snow Melting

I had to work today. I got to present a workshop, twice, on getting organized for the college admissions process. Each session had an audience of about 200 people. It was a lot. It was a little scary. That is why I did it.

If I am not doing something a little scary on a regular basis then I am not learning and growing. When I say “scary” I mean something that at least makes me uncomfortable, something that requires a risk, something that I have never done before. It always a little scary to present to a large group. If I totally miss the mark, then a large group of people will notice that, but when it works well it feels pretty good.

I don’t want to have too much routine in any area of my life. Routines are comforting and safe and it can be really nice to have that at times. If I get into too much of a routine, however, than I stop liking what I am doing. In my job, every day is different, every week is different, every year is different one to the next. That is not easy sometimes, but I certainly won’t get bored that way. If I can take risks often enough, then I will stay interested and I will keep developing as a professional and as a human being.

So I offered a workshop I had never offered before. I got some positive feedback, so at least for some participants it went well. Phew. Before I headed home I took a half hour to walk along the Winooski River, to calm my mind. The snow, 18 inches of it in Winooski, was quickly melting. The temperature got up to 45 degrees today. It wasn’t sunny but the snow slumped and melted. The river was starting to run high.

I watched ducks on the river. I saw three common goldeneye diving for mussels or whatever else they could find. One was hanging out under the Route 7 bridge in a hole in the ice. I saw a bufflehead, always cool to see. I watched a couple of mallards fly in and start dabbling on another open patch of water right below me. I saw my first cormorant of the year as well. I even got to hear a fish crow, which is hard to tell apart visually from your typical American crow but has a distinct nasal call. I watched the water flow around the ice and listened as the ice groaned–I think it is ready for spring.

Mallards on the Winooski River

Mallards on the Winooski River

I have realized that the reason I have enjoyed birding is that it is always new. Every time I go out I am surprised. I may see birds I expect and I may not, but there is always something I don’t expect. The weather may offer something curious, I may see a new species, I may just enjoy being in a new place. I always discover something. There is no bad birding experience. I always take the chance that I will be disappointed.  I never am.

The Winooski River is still in winter mode

The Winooski River is still in winter mode, but thawed a little today

Icy Situation

Bus on the Icy Road

It started raining yesterday afternoon. By evening it was really coming down. The snow turned to mush. Water poured from the roof. It was winter at it ugliest. It was a bit of a mess. But we were snug inside. No problem.

It was still raining in the morning. I did the usual routine to get ready for work. I was sitting at the table, eggs for breakfast, reading something or other and my wife says, “Whoa, look at how slowly the school bus is moving.” I look out to see one car sliding toward the side of the road, then stop. Then I see the school bus emerge from behind some trees, poking along. “Must be icy.”

At the curve in our dirt road the bus starts to slide. Slowly it slips toward the snow-filled ditch. Then it stops. Like slow motion only it really was moving slowly. Now the bus is sideways to the road but can’t move. It is too icy. Tires spin. One car passes the bus (not sure what that was about) then gets stuck on the slight hill. A couple other cars turn around at the end of the road, the drivers seeing what is up. My wife calls the town garage to let them know.

That was why I was late for work. The bus eventually got going, with the help of lots of sand. One of the stuck cars got going. The other was still there, hazard light flashing, when I finally decided to give the driving a go. It was, indeed, icy. I didn’t get to work quickly.

Drama for the morning it was. It is still raining. Freezing tonight. Could be another adventurous morning.

A Bad Purchase and Tuckered

I painted a lot over the past couple of days. Trim, siding, windows. I’ve been up on a ladder swinging a paint can and wielding a brush. It takes a long time to paint a house. Technically, I am staining it at this point, although I started last summer with paint. I realized this summer, after carefully looking over the rusting cans in the basement, that the house had been stained in the past, not painted as I had thought. Staining means no priming, which saves me a coat. Still, this ain’t no quick project.

I had the idea that I would us a sprayer at one point. I went to the Home Depot and browsed and found what I thought would be the perfect tool. It was a backpack sprayer, made by Ryobi, the One+. It holds a gallon and a half, carried like a backpack, with a spray gun. It is powered by a lithium battery so no cord needs to be lugged up the ladder. It was just what I needed, so I bought it. Once I brought it home I wondered just how much the battery might last, but the manual was of little use, so I looked at reviews at Amazon and other sites. Things didn’t look good at that point.

The reviews were mixed but were either raves or pans–nothing in between. Reviewers gave the tool one star or five stars. The bad reviews talked of leaking and poor spray power and globbing and spitting. I hoped I would have better luck. Maybe these folks were setting it up wrong? Or maybe there were just some good ones and some bad ones, you know, inconsistent manufacturing. I gulped and figured I would try it. But it wouldn’t turn on. The battery, it turns out, was defective, so my wife volunteered to get me a new one while I got started with a brush. The old fashioned way gets the job done again. One day down.

Finally, with the new battery, I was ready to try this beast the next day. I had a huge scrap of cardboard on which to practice. Practice was all I got. That thing is the worst tool I have ever used. It leaked like crazy and had really poor spray consistency. I took it apart and couldn’t get it to stop leaking after I put it back together. It was awful. I could not have been more disappointed. I cleaned it and returned it the next day. Seriously, I have never made a less satisfactory purchase. Not performing well is one thing. Not getting the job done at all is ridiculous.

So I started painting again with a brush. Now, after a day of painting, up and down the ladder, in hot sun and sometimes high wind, hands pooling sweat in latex gloves, I have made some real progress. But I am, as noted, tuckered. Early to bed and early to rise gets the painting done, however. I guess I’m on that.

Foiled

So I got up early enough. My daughter came in to tell me she had a nightmare where I had died. Rough. So I spent some time with her before getting up. I was slow in moving, for sure, but eventually I got some painting clothes on and went out to put the sander together. I had had to order some new parts and I was ready to reassemble and do some high powered smoothing. When I tried to make it all fit, however, one of the screws just slid into its hole. I hadn’t looked closely enough and it turns out I will need another new part. Actually I need three new parts.

So I looked up these parts on the Dewalt web site and, kaching, easy to find what I need with part numbers and prices. All three parts–and I was careful to make sure I only need those three–will cost about ten bucks. So, the dilemma arises again: Do I order the parts and wait a week or two to continue my project or do I get a new sander? A new sander costs 70 dollars before tax when ten dollars will repair the one I have like new. I decided to do both.

I will get a new sander today because I cannot afford to lose two weeks. Then I will repair the old sander and sell it on Craig’s List. I have been wanting to try out Craig’s List for some time and this gives me the perfect excuse. So really I will get  discount, if you will, on the new sander, and I will also get to continue with my work. Not ideal, but it will do the trick.

So I had to spend a bunch of time dealing with all this and I lost the morning. My wife had to split late in the morning for an appointment so that means I’m on Dad Duty. No painting until this afternoon when, most likely, it will rain. So much for getting things done today. I did take a little time to make some calls for an oven repair. We have a digital display that does not display. So much for high tech. The oven works, but it is hard to tell if I really did enter 375 degrees or if I will burn the bread after ten minutes. At least I got started on that.

Delays, delays–that is the theme with this whole painting business. It will take several hours without any delays, but good lord I seem to be stalled every week with one thing or another. I am an amateur, for sure, but I am learning a lot. Next time, and I can’t say I look forward to the next time, it will be easier. Things may be poking along, but I’ve got all that new knowledge. That counts for something, eh?