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.

USPS Sucks

My mom called me to track the package she sent to her accountant, five days ago, because she’s inept with modern technology, even though she has it.  She had no clue how to track her package, but she could read me the # over the phone.

So, I did it for her, while she was on the phone with me.  Holy hell.  That thing went from the Northeast, down to New Orleans, spent three days in Thibodeaux, and got sent back to the Northeast, where at least it finally got back to the correct state.  Sheesh.

Man, I’ve had some packages sent from Chicago go though Atlanta to MD, to PA, to NY, to OH, back to a hub in my own state, and finally get delivered, but that circuitous route made slightly more sense than sending something from one town to another 25 miles away via Louisiana.   That’s a whole new level of sorting error.  I don’t think we can blame that on faulty logistics software.  That’s crazy.


Just in the Nick of Time

We finally got our barn roof repaired yesterday.  From estimate, to back and forth paperwork, paying 2/3 upfront for materials, etc., it took almost three months to get the crew over here to do the job.  We got one day’s notice.  Granted, the weather needed to be cooperative, but we visited the company’s office a month ago or so, and were promised at the time that the materials were on a building site a few miles from here, and we were next in line for the repair.  The thing is that the weather cooperated, and we had a few days over the past week that were not only above freezing, but had crystal clear blue skies, sun, and actually got into the 50s, Farenheit.

They moved in one piece of fairly heavy equipment, and two small other trucks, but it was way out by the barn, and three guys got the entire job done in less than two hours.  We didn’t have to move anything other than a tractor, and our big trailer to give them enough room to maneuver their equipment.  I got all the paperwork I needed when I cut them the check for the balance, per the contract.  They did a really good job.  They sure should have, because after taking bids, we ended up hiring the original manufacturer to do the repair, rather than someone who just owns a local roofing company.  One of the crew members remembered building this barn ~20 years ago.

The “just in the nick of time” part was that last night it started raining, and is still raining — hard.  At least we don’t have to worry about snow melt or rain getting inside the barn anymore.  There are still tall trees around the barn, but we’ve already had the ones susceptible to toppling or dropping huge branches removed.  Same deal around our main house, not that any branches have dropped on it’s roof, but when they drop on where we normally park our vehicles in a wind storm, they’ve got to go.

Either the contractors around here are really good, for fair prices, or I’ve been very good at deciding who to hire.  Either way, I’m a happy camper.

Tomahawk Chop

The main reason we chose the tree service company we did was that the company we had used in the past is closed until the end of March, and the company that came yesterday came in with the best bid.  It was a flat fee for a whole day’s work for a crew of four, with the owner supervising.  The owner probably left and came back a few times during the day, to check on progress, while his crew did the work, but I knew he’d show up for his check at the end of the day.  Sure enough, he did.  He was also really interested in seeing our saw mill out behind the barn.  I was glad he took a personal check instead of insisting on a credit card, because although he accepts them, he tacks on the processing fee that the credit card company charges him, so it saved me a few hundred.  That policy is not unusual for contractors around here.

All the really tall multi-trunk trees they downed were left in nice neat log piles on the lawn, and they mulched/carted away anything under a 6″ diameter, as we had requested.  We have more than enough mulch piled up for ourselves, plus a few of our neighbors, so if they can turn around and sell what they carted away, good for them.  I’m sure that was worked into our firm cost quote.

A couple of those trees could have waited another month or two to be downed, but the mostly dead maple by the end of our driveway that was 30′ from the house was a hazard that could not wait much longer.  They dropped it away from the house, and driveway, which they were supposed to do.  Now, we can park our vehicles where we normally do, without fear of having a huge branch break off and land on top of them.  Nobody wants to make an insurance claim for something that could have been prevented by using common sense.

Other than that, our front yard, and the side yard by the barn, now will get a lot more sunshine, even after the remaining trees leaf out over the next two to three months.  We got some really good logs for the saw mill, and whatever is left that isn’t good enough for that will make good firewood after it cures for a year or two.  We have no shortage of firewood, but when we have a boatload more than we can use, we have a couple of neighbors who will take it off our hands for free, whether we deliver it, or they come pick it up themselves.  What goes around comes around.  Do a neighbor a solid, and it will be returned at some point, in some form.  Heck, we loaned our next door neighbor our large trailer a couple of times, and he gave us a $25 gift card to the restaurant he owns, plus a couple of 6-packs of Yuengling.  Lager is good year ’round.

I have to have a cookout to return the favors a couple of my neighbors did over Christmas — two parties, and a box of phenomenally good Christmas cookies.  I sent a “thank you” note for the Christmas cookies, asking, politely, if I could have the recipe for chocolate-peanut butter bars.  Those were sinfully rich, and delicious.  I got the recipe enclosed in a return card.  Feed people, ask what they need or want that you can spare, and they will return the favor.  I’m so lucky that I’ve never had asshole neighbors.

Tree Downing

We needed a few mostly dead trees taken down, that are at least four stories tall.  It’s not a big deal to take out smaller ones, or snags that aren’t close to the house.  The “Okay, that’s it, dammit!” moment came a few weeks ago when a wind storm dropped a huge branch right where we normally park our vehicles.  A week later, after we had called a few places to get estimates, it dropped another smaller one the size of one of my legs, that missed my car by 2′.

So, we went with this one company, after  both of us had shown the owner around the property, pointed out what needed to be done, and got a what I thought was a fair estimate.  We wanted them to leave the downed trees here, so there was no removal cost.  We have use for maple.  In addition to quoting us a fixed price for a day’s worth of labor, even if it entailed more than we originally pointed out, they dropped off two trailer loads worth of white pine logs for free.  They don’t want them; they can’t sell them to a lumber mill, or a furniture maker, as is.  They’re not good for firewood, either.  But, white pine does make nice indoor furniture, and we have the chainsaws and a small saw mill to render them down.

Anyway, they’re here, now that the weather is cooperating.  My god are they efficient.  It’s the owner, plus his crew of four guys.  Split that fixed price between four guys, and the owner, for up to eight hours worth of work, and they’re not exactly making a mint, considering their worker’s comp insurance.  Still, they took the job, and I’ll cut the owner a check when they’re ready to leave, unless he prefers to bill me later, if that’s the only way he can give me a receipt.

Yay, tree guys!  If we ever need tree service again, this company would be the first one I call for an estimate.  Although it might sound a little undignified, woo-hoo!