Dafuq is This?

It can’t possibly be sun poisoning, because I haven’t been out in the sun much longer than it takes to vacuum the pool (~20 minutes per morning).  It sort of looks like a rash that started on the back of my hands yesterday, and spread up my forearms today, to my elbows.  It could be a reaction to poison ivy, because we have lots of it around here, but it doesn’t itch, it’s not forming tiny blisters, and it doesn’t hurt.  It probably is some sort of contact dermatitis, but it doesn’t fit the usual bill, aside from a reddish rash.

This is going to be fun when I meet my other side of the family in MN Friday afternoon.  If this horse hockey persists when we arrive, all I can do is “air kiss” them, tow our coolers full of Yuengling and Long Trail out of the truck bed, and go fetch whatever ice, or other cookout supplies they need.

Hello, Minnesota, here we come.  FWIW, I think none of my relatives will hold it against me for not giving them a bear hug, under the circumstances.

Amazing Pool Opening and Road Trip

I’m amazed.  Within 36 hours of the guys coming by to open the pool, it was swimmable.  The water was crystal clear, and all it takes is a few minutes skimming flora debris off the top, and another few to vacuum whatever debris sinks to the bottom.  Granted, once the cover came off, the water didn’t look all that bad to begin with — nothing like the bayou soup I had to deal with a few months after we closed on this place, and the owner just slapped the cover on it, w/o bothering to treat the water, or winterize the pipes.

So, I went ahead and inflated a few floats that aren’t solid, unsinkable foam, and tested them out (for “quality control,” you understand *wink wink*).  The only problem so far was that the carpenter bees thought I was wood, and swarmed all over me, often landing on my arms and legs, while I was inflating those floats.  I’m not allergic to bee or wasp stings, but why me instead of the split rail fence that was 3′ away?  I can guarantee that my sunscreen does not smell like wood.

Also, who’d have thought the sun was this strong in USDA zone 6 in May?  I’ve already got a really decent tan, complete with fish belly white marks from my watch strap and sandals, in only three days.  I can’t even stay in full sun for more than half an hour at a time.  No way could I lie out in in for half a day or more like I did when I was in my teens or twenties.  This sun is more like July/August sun.  Wow.  I’ll need to get something with an SPF between 4 and 30, because that’s all I’ve got.  I tan like crazy, but my shoulders and nose can get a first degree burn if I’m not careful.

As for the road trip, it’s to the annual family shindig in MN.  It’s ~1200 mile drive, each way, but it beats getting molested by TSA staff at an airport, and having to rent a car.  We could hook a right in IL, and go up through ‘Sconsin, but the driving is much easier taking the route through Iowa.  A little shorter, too.  We anticipate delays going through Columbus, OH, at evening rush hour, ’cause there always are some, whether we take the bypass or go right smack dab through the center of it, and possibly some at Waterloo the next morning.  My guess is that on the way back home, we’ll cross the Mississippi at Quad Cities.  Hopefully, we won’t encounter a detour through the local streets of Bettendorf.  That happened once before, and it was not fun.  As long as we make it back east to Cambridge, OH by 1am, we’re good.  From there, if we get up early enough, and hit the road after partaking of the breakfast bar offerings, we should be back home in time to pick up our dog from our vet’s boarding facility in mid-afternoon.

For the shindig, we will bring a couple of cases of beer that are not distributed in the upper Midwest.  People seem to like them, probably because they can’t get them there.  Yuengling lager, and a Long trail IPA should suffice.  I’d never show up to anyone’s party w/o at least a bottle of wine, or a six-pack.  The quantity depends upon whether the party is for a few hours, or a few days.  When I throw a party, it’s not BYO, but if you want to bring something, we know where to stash it, if it needs to be chilled, or not, and, yes, you may consume what you brought, if you want to.

On a completely different subject, our “spare guts” are poking up from the ground.  We got them bare root from Burpee.  Third try’s a winner, evidently.  I love asparagus.

Concerts, and Pool Opening

Within the past week, we had tickets to see Black Lillies, Al Stewart, and Michael Martin Murphey.  All concerts were good.  Never seen MMM before; country/cowboy isn’t really my thing, but my other half really wanted to see him, and it was good.  We’ve seen Black Lillies before; I felt bad for them this time, because the theater was only half full.  Al Stewart, of course, sold out.  Fourth or fifth time we’ve seen him at the winery, which has bistro type seating, instead of movie theater type, and he always sells out.  I got us front row tickets for that one.  He had Mark Macisso with him again this time.  We’ve seen him have Peter White join him onstage for a song or two before, as well as play with with Dave Nachmanoff.  That was a lot of concerts packed into a small time frame for us.  Next one is BoDeans in July.

I had to schedule our pool opening for tomorrow because the company I use for opening and closing said they were only doing openings on commercial pools next week, when I originally tried to schedule it.  Oh, well.  At least I got the first appointment of the day, which probably means ~8am.  It leaves me plenty of the rest of the day to run errands.  I really ought to learn how to do this myself.  I am learning by watching them, which they don’t really mind.  They’ll answer any questions I have while they work, and if I can help them fold up an stash the cover, I will.  For me, it’s sort of like an apprenticeship.  For them, I watch, but am not hovering all over them while they work, which would creep out anyone.

It’ll take two or three days with the pump running on “circulation” constantly to get the water clear, and safe to swim in after the chemicals get dumped in.  After that, an hour or two per day will do.   It should be okay before we leave for Memorial Weekend with family in MN.  I just hope we don’t come home to a bunch of dead frogs and baby toads clogging up the filter baskets.  Live frogs are easy to fish out with a net, and toss over the fence on the yard, so they can hop back down to the pond.  Scavengers will eat the dead ones, but they’re sort of yucky to remove for disposal.  Not as bad as a drowned floaty, bloaty squirrel, though.

ETA:  Wow.  The pool guys were here at 7:30am, and gone by 8:00.  Granted, I helped them out a little by skimming off the largest bits of floating debris that managed to make its way under the cover over the winter (mostly bits of arborvitae leaves and maple seeds).  They did the chemical additions, brushed down the sides and bottom, and made sure the DE filter grids were in good shape.  They asked about the heater, but I told them the bottom had rusted out a couple of years ago, and since I never used it, simply had the water supply rerouted to not run through it, rather than have it removed or replaced.  This year, the water looked remarkably clear when they took the cover off.

If we ever sell the place, I’ll probably have it removed.  Nobody’s going to cough up an extra $3k on an offer to cover the cost of replacing it — if anything, they’d insist that I replace it as a condition of the sale (or ask that the $ to do it themselves be rebated from the sale price), in addition to nickel and dime-ing me on whatever small repairs might need to be done that we missed before we put it on the market.  People nowadays seem to expect perfection in a house they’re about to buy, even if it’s 150 years old.  Plus, building codes change over the years, and things that might have been grandfathered in no longer are upon resale.

I Love This Time of Year

Here in USDA zone 6, it’s a little early to stick most veggies in the ground, but we did get the peas, asparagus, lettuce, potatoes, herbs, and strawberries planted.  The rest of the stuff is still hanging out in the cold frame, or indoors.  For some reason, my sage and rosemary didn’t overwinter, although the oregano made it.  It’s hit or miss with the thyme.  Typically, thyme is treated as an annual here, but some years it comes back.  Oh, well.  At least herbs are inexpensive.  It wasn’t even a particularly cold winter.  We got snow, but never more than a few inches at a time.

I do not understand why our asparagus all seemed to die.  We had no problem with it at our old house, but two years in a row, here, it died over the winter.  So … third try’s a winner?  This time, I ordered 50 dug-ups of the Jersey Knight variety from Burpee.  That doesn’t mind the crappy, rocky clay soil we have.  Those crowns arrived looking phenomenal.  There’s no reason they shouldn’t do okay in that raised bed we constructed out of old railroad ties we found in the woods on our property.  Those ties still have the old rusty hardware on them, and the creosote coating shows no signs of giving up the ghost.  Plus, where we dug up the lawn to put in that bed is in full sun.

All I can think is that getting beefy looking dug-ups, instead of bare roots from TSC, where there’s no telling how long they’d been sitting on the shelf, drying out, is a better choice.  TSC is great for fruit trees, though.  You’ll get 6′ tall whips for ~$15, instead of ones half that size.  I can guarantee we’ll be harvesting Kieffer pears in September, and we only put in that tree last year.  Probably won’t get any Bartletts or Honeycrisp apples for another year or more, but those trees leafed out just fine.  We may or may not get Elberta peaches this year.  That tree bloomed, but we only put it in two years ago.

I also ordered a few perennials I wanted that we had at our old house, but not at this one:  a couple of lilacs, a butterfly bush, some coneflowers, bee balm, and a wisteria.  One of those lilacs can go in where we ripped out an unruly barberry.  That barberry obviously got enough sun there, because the leaves turned quite red, rather than staying green, as they would if it were in shade.  Lilacs are pickier than barberries about getting enough sun.  They can get powdery mildew if it stays wet for long enough, although it doesn’t really seem to hurt them any more than leaf miner does to columbines.

Mom called a few minutes ago to thank me for the fruit & cheese basket I sent her for Mother’s Day.  She’s hard to shop for.  Flower arrangements don’t really float her boat, and she’s got a brown thumb, so something like a miniature rose is out of the question.  I never know from one week to the next what she’s decided she can or can not eat, but I know apples, pears, and hard or semi-hard cheese are okay.

I’ll bring her hybrid phalaenopsis back to her when we visit tomorrow.  She sent it home with me last Fall when it was done blooming, mostly so she wouldn’t kill it.  It was a gift from a friend of hers.  Anyway, I got it to respike from the old spikes, and the first of the 15 buds is just starting to open.  I predict it will come back home with me a couple of months from now for safekeeping.  She’s deathly afraid of overwatering it, and afraid to let it have any sunlight, which is ridiculous, because they can handle morning or late afternoon sun just fine.  The main thing is water it thoroughly when the sphagnum moss in which it’s planted gets crunchy, and let it drain before popping it back in the cachepot.  The “only water it half a cup, once per week” care instructions that came with it are crazy.  You could flush the pot with a gallon of water, and as long as you let it drain, it’s not a problem.

Then again, I’ve been growing orchids for close to 30 years, so caring for them is no biggie to me.  On the whole, they’re pretty tough customers, but there are some species I don’t have the right conditions to grow, such as masdevallias.  It gets too hot in the summer for them, and I refuse to turn on my air conditioning until it reliably reaches the 90s Fahrenheit during the day.  No way am I going to spend ~$200/month on electricity, just to keep some picky plants alive.  Fresh air and open windows are great during the few weeks per year it’s comfortable to do so; there’s nothing quite like a good cross breeze running through the house.

Spring Planting Time

Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know.  It sounds boring as all get out.  Since moving here, I have missed our old lilacs, asparagus, bee balms, coneflowers, and astilbes.  So, I ordered a bunch from Burpee.  Burpee has never, ever, let me down on the quality of its seedlings (or seeds, for that matter).  George Ball, who owns the company, lives on Fordhook Farm, only a few miles away.  We’ve been there a few times when he has an “open house.”

Anyway, those bare root plants look really good.  If you have a good imagination, they’d all be Chthulus.  Foot long roots for asparagus, 6″ ones for astilbes, etc.  Good job, George!

Sunday Mail Delivery

How bizarre is that?  At 9:30 this morning, a USPS mail truck stopped by to deliver a couple of packages.  I thought they only did that around Christmas.  I guess they do that during tax time, too, although these had nothing to do with taxes.  Besides, if you haven’t already sent out your state and federal tax returns, it’s not as though the government won’t accept them, but they really should be postmarked by tomorrow.

Mom called early this morning to tell me to hold off on Easter dinner, but come visit, anyway.  Yes, I can freeze the ham; it’s pre-cooked, and cured, so sticking it in the freezer won’t hurt it.  Actually, the real reason for her calling me was to ask me to track something she sent in the mail, because “you know how to do that.”  She asked me to get a pad of paper and a pencil, so I could write down the tracking number.  Um, no, that was not necessary.  I could plug in the number on my computer as we spoke, and did so.  The only thing that threw me for a loop was that it was delivered a week and a half ago, halfway across the country.  I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore, Toto, but that’s almost where the letter ended up being delivered — K.C., MO, but it’s on the border with KS.  *eye roll*

The personnel from my three nearest post offices are wonderful.  The people in the regional sorting facilities, not so much.  I miss the days when people used to take pride in a job well done, whether it was mixing a DQ Blizzard, grilling a steak, or something a little more complicated, such as statistical modeling.  GIGO (garbage in, garbage out).

Another Lovely Neighbor

A woman put out a call yesterday on Nextdoor for some daffys, ornamental grass, and hostas, for anyone who had extras to share.  Hoo boy, do I have those in abundance.  Anyway, she showed up this afternoon at the appointed time to dig up a few.

She even brought her own shovel and 5 gal. buckets.  I had shovels at the ready, and my beloved hori-hori, but she was there doing 80% of the work.  FWIW, she sent me a really nice “thank you” DM after she got home with them.  I appreciate that.

USPS Sucks

I’m getting so fed up with the USPS.  My mom had a package sent to her from her accountant who’s only a few towns away from her in the Northeast get routed through New Orleans.  That was important tax stuff.  She had no idea how to track it, so instead of calling the post office to give whoever answered the tracking number, she called me to track it for her.  I thought that was an anomaly.

Unfortunately, that’s almost becoming the norm.  I’m expecting several packages for which I have tracking numbers.  The ones for UPS, FedEx, and even DHL seem to be routed through distribution/transfer centers that make sense.  But, I have one coming from a town an hour’s drive away, again, in the Northeast, that went through my nearest USPS sorting facility yesterday, and is now in San Francisco.  Another one started in Oakland, went through Sacramento, which makes sense, logistically, but is now in Honolulu.  ‘Splain that one, Ricky.  Might as well sent something from Boston to New York City via Anchorage.

Aside from the fact that such screw-ups add a couple of days to delivery, the person sending it, even if I didn’t have to pay shipping charges, paid for guaranteed two-day or three-day priority mail delivery, complete with tracking number, and got Pony Express instead.

There’s something severely wrong with our postal system when I can get things shipped from China, Japan, Poland, or Peru, including the time they get held up in customs,  almost as fast as I can get something from an hour’s drive away.  Dafuq’s up with that?

Lovely Neighbors

I’ve perhaps had one or two mildly annoying neighbors over the past 40+ years; they were the busybody type who kept tabs on the entire neighborhood, not the kind who threw wild, noisy parties that lasted into the wee hours of the morning.  By busybody, I don’t mean simply paying attention to any unusual activity in the neighborhood, but being seriously nosy about people’s personal lives.  Thankfully, I have not had to deal with anyone like that in ~20 years.

Since moving into this house, we’ve met several neighbors, a few of whom don’t even live here year-round.  Of course, there’s our next door neighbor who introduced himself by bringing over eggs his free range hens laid.  Then, there were the people across the street who, on a lark, decided to invite us to their Christmas party, where we met other neighbors.  The people across the street invited us back for dinner a couple of days later, along with a small subset of Christmas party invitees, and would like to go out for breakfast with us when all of us can fit it into our schedules.  We gave them ~half a cord of hardwood firewood as a “thank you.”  Another couple we met at that party came by with Christmas cookies, and generously gave me the recipe for a killer batch of peanut butter chocolate bars, after I sent a “Thank You!” card, politely inquiring whether they’d be willing to share it.

Last year,  we loaned our next door neighbor one of our trailers a few times, and gave him a couple of trailer loads worth of wood chip mulch for his B&B/farm a few miles away.  In return we got a load of cured sheep manure for our veggie garden, plus a gift card for a restaurant he also owns.  None of this was barter, since nothing was agreed upon ahead of time, nor was any value attached to any of it.  Our deal was either “we’re not using it now, so if you need it, sure, you may borrow it” or “we’ve got way more than we can possibly use, so just take whatever you want.”

This year, he borrowed the trailer again, and took a few loads of mulch, of course with our permission.  We had to bring in a tree service with heavy equipment to down a few really large, mostly dead trees, which took them an entire day, but because we told them to leave the wood, rather than cart it off, it wasn’t as expensive as it could have been, and we had loads of tree trunk chunks to split for firewood, run through our sawmill, or chip for mulch, depending on size.  It was the chipped stuff our neighbor wanted.  When he saw our chopping block, wedges, and splitting maul, he brought over his log splitter.  It’s on loan, with the understanding that we’d let him know when we were done with it, or he’d let us know if he needed it back before then.

What more could we want in neighbors?

I’m going to have to invite all of them, plus a few neighbors from our old neighborhood over for a BBQ/cookout once we have the pool open.  Kids/grandkids will be welcome, but I won’t bill it as a pool party.  It’s just going to be a “come as you are” cookout, but not the burgers and hot dogs kind.  It’ll be more like smoked pork shoulder, pulled, grilled flank steak, grilled salmon, grilled shrimp, grilled chicken tenders, appetizers along the lines of cheese & crackers, dim sum type offerings made from scratch, crudités, tortilla chips, salsa, quéso etc.  People get to pick their animal flesh and whatever sauce they want to go with it (sweet & sour, sweet chili, peanut, mild BBQ, spicy BBQ, Buffalo, etc., all made from scratch).  Marinated grilled veggies will go with it, along with the usual cole slaw, and fruit salad.  I’m undecided about baking banana bread, and a winter squash spice cake for dessert, or just getting some strawberries from a local farm that has acres of them, as opposed to our weenie plot, and having a chocolate fountain to go with them.  I have the chocolate fountain appliance.  Rain or shine, we can do this.  If it’s drizzly, we can roll out the awnings over the patio, or bring the whole party indoors, even if the grills are still going outside.  Mostly, this will be an American style BBQ, but the range of Asian and traditional BBQ sauce options will allow guests to make their meal whatever they want.  The main thing is to schedule it for when most invitees are not yet on vacation, and not be over a holiday weekend.

Operation Norway and Foot Ouchie

Kudos to Willie for his latest.  It’s really good reading.

On another note, I think I might have broken a bone in my left foot.  Having two left feet sort of works in my favor.  If I’m lucky, taping it up will get rid of that bunion.  In the meantime, hopping around on one foot is okay, but not as good as being a four foot critter with one temporarilly out of service.