Sunday morning hike

I was finally feeling up for getting back out for a short hike this morning. I took Hoagie to the Benedict Benson Preserve to hike the yellow loop trail. It is short, around a mile and a half long, but I figured it was best to keep the loop short today.

Hoagie was also feeling better. When I took him out last weekend (before I came down sick), he seemed tired and was walking pretty slowly. Today he was back to himself, running ahead exploring.

Hoagie enjoying the woods.

The trail was nice, quiet and well marked. There are a few bridges over some streams, but at this time of year the streams were dry. We did find the rusting carcass of an older car sitting in the woods covered in spiderwebs as it slowly dissolves into the forest floor. We didn’t see anyone else on the walk, but the lack of spiderwebs everywhere save the top inch of my head, suggested that it had been hiked by someone just slightly shorter recently.

Detail of car rusting into the forest floor, Benedict Benson Preserve.

A long week (with COVID) and some small projects

It has been a long week already, and it is only Tuesday. It feels like Thursday at least.

I started feeling symptoms on Saturday night and tested positive on Sunday. Luckily it has so far been mostly mild, but I have had no energy. I’m stuck isolating until Friday at the earliest. It has been a long journey since the first lock down in spring of 2021, and I was hoping that it had passed me by. My luck ran out this week, though as far as weeks go, it wasn’t too bad of a week to get sick and have to isolate. Will is mostly in his room in the loft above the garage. Ben is at his mom’s house. Susanna and Izzy are six hours ahead in Sweden. I get the whole second floor and my workshop to myself all day. I just haven’t had energy to do much for the past few days.

Today I’m starting to feel better, though my energy is ebbing by the time I’m writing this. It is almost time to give into watching YouTube and Netflix for the night.

My weekends started out well. I got up early on Saturday and took Hoagie for a walk. It was hot, so I picked an easy 2 mile hike in Ledyard, the Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor Loop. It wasn’t a very nice trail, and there was a section that I had to pass through some construction by the local power company. I’ll be avoiding that trail again.

The not so scenic Pine Swam Wildlife Loop.

Over the past few days I was able to finish off a few smaller projects that I had started last week. I didn’t get any work done on the house, but I was able to get some time in the workshop. I completed the sides and brass reinforcement on the holder for my #4 smooth plane. I also made a simple holder for a try square that I put above the chisels. I’ll probably make additional wooden holders for my other squares.

New storage for my #4 smooth plane

Most of what I did when I got tired of sitting in bed and watching TV was to just clean the shop a bit. And yes, I am bored. My workshop is probably more organized than it has ever been. there is hardly any crap left sitting on my tablesaw. My goal this week is to entirely clean the junk off the horizontal work surfaces and put everything into a home.

Slightly improved hand tool storage.
Finished Cutting Board

Christmas Vacation – Road Trip

Testing the fit of Izzy’s table in the minivan

This year we decided to head back to Missouri to visit family in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. This time it was just Susanna, Izzy and me driving across the country. The boys stayed home. It is a long drive to Missouri, and we decided to split it into two days. Our initial plans were to make the return trip in three days, but eventually we decided we just wanted to get home and made it a two day return trip as well. Isabella did surprising well for such a long drive.

Our first day, 25 December 2022

To make the ride as easy for Isabella as possible, I made her a table that fits in the last row of the minivan. It was big enough to fit a laptop computer, mouse and a drink in the drink holder. I constructed in from scrap plywood and lumber and painted it with left over paint from an earlier project. The table made a huge difference on the trip. She could eat lunch on it, do crafts and play on the computer.

Our trip on the 26th of December

Our journey started on Christmas morning. Not as early as we had initially planned, but late enough for the weather to warm up and melt the ice on the road. The first day took us to Columbus Ohio.

The best part about driving on Christmas is that there was no traffic. Anywhere. The worst part wast trying to find food. We made it to the hotel with time for Izzy to swim and the pool opened early enough for another swim before driving on the 26th.

The first night in Missouri we stayed with my brother. On Monday morning we took my nephew, Chase, with us for a morning exploring the St. Louis Zoo. It was a good chance to get lots of pictures of everyone.

My dad’s bicycle battery testing setup. Not bad for a mechanical engineer!

After a morning at the zoo, we had lunch joined by Bill and his kids. Then Susanna, Izzy and I headed to Columbia to visit my dad. We got there in time to get settled and head out to dinner at HuHut Mongolian grill. The next two days we spent in Columbia, taking walks each day with their dog, Lily. I helped dad finish a few small projects around the house and in the workshop. I was impressed with his setup for testing electric bike battery testing setup, though we didn’t get a chance to test it out.

Both days we took a short (2-mile) hike along the Grindstone Creek, in the Grindstone Nature Area a short drive from their house. It was a park large enough to let Lily off the leash and give her a chance to run around.

Izzy making friends with Lily

In the evenings, after Izzy had gone to bed, I hooked up my microphone to my laptop computer and interviewed dad. Susanna did the same for her grandparents a while ago, and it has been on my list of things to do. It was interesting to hear about his childhood growing up in Pennsylvania, and the career path that brought him to St. Louis twice, Cape Canaveral Florida, and finally to Columbia Missouri. The next step in the project is to finish getting the audio files transcribed and put them into a book.

On Thursday morning we started our journey back home. Izzy powered up the laptop for some Minecraft time and we headed east from Columbia. We headed out with no firm destination for the day, but after lunch decided to drive to Akron, OH for the night.

On the way out of Illinois we passed a sign for the worlds largest mailbox. So, we stopped in Casey Illinois for a walk break and lunch at Subway.

Unfortunately the hotel pool was closing for the night when we checked in, and didn’t open the next morning until after we departed. Much to Izzy’s disappointment. At least they had a hot breakfast for us (and Fruit Loop cereal for Izzy).

Heading Home – 30 December
Our final day on the road – 31 December

We made it home in time to make dinner on New Year’s Eve and crash the party Will was hosting at our house.

Izzy swimming at the Residence Inn swimming pool before driving to St. Louis on the 26th of December.
Susanna and Izzy at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy at the St. Louis Zoo looking at her reflection as a red panda.
Susanna and Izzy watching one of the elephants enjoy his Christmas tree snack at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy looking at a polar bear through the glass at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy and Chase on a zebra bench at the St. Louis Zoo.
Izzy at her finest in Casey, IL
World’s largest mouse trap.

Getting Ready for (more) Chickens and an update on the dishwasher.

The old chicken coop is starting to fall down. The roof supports have rotted, and the coop floor is nearly falling apart. We are down to three hens, none of which regularly lay eggs. Much to Izzy’s delight, it is time to build a new coop and get new chicks. Plus, I think the rats have found their way into the composting bin and coop.

The plan is to move the coop inside the last bay in the garage/carriage house. The space is just storage and has a dirt floor, but at least is under a roof, so I only have to build a racoon-proof space for the chickens. I plan on making the coop big enough to walk into, which should make it easier to clean. Which, in theory, will make me clean the space more often. I hope the new location will make it easier for the dog and cats to keep the rats away from the chicken feed.

I am experimenting with the floor. I plan on making it out of soil cement, though I put a load of gravel in that section of the garage many years ago, so I’m not too sure how it will turn out. But it is only for the coop floor, so shouldn’t really matter. I could always add a concrete slab on top if it turns out too lose and I really care about it. To make the floor I mixed in a bag of Portland cement to the first few inches of the gravel/dirt floor, sprayed with water and compacted with a 4×4 post.

The weather forecast for the weekend has temperatures above freezing (though it may drop just below freezing tonight), so I decided to do the floor today. The coop will be approximately 8 feet long by 4 feet deep, and 7 to 8 feet tall.

The soil cement floor installed.

I’m planning on a few improvements over the last coop. I’ll add a larger self-feeder for the chickens. This time, I’ll make it big enough to hold a full bag of pellets. I’ll also make the nesting boxes set up to have the eggs roll out of the boxes to a collection tray to make it easier to collect. We’ll have an enclosed run off to the side of the coop, as well as a door to the outside behind the garage. I’ll make an automatic door opener for the outside, but that will be a later post and after a trip to the pick-and-pull salvage yard with Ben to get a car antenna motor to control the door. I also need to do a good cleaning on that bay of the garage. It is time to get rid of some stuff that has been just sitting around.

Chicken coop floor covered with plastic and a blanket to protect from the cold tonight.

We should be getting chicks in two weeks, and I still have to build a brooder box. The brooder heater arrived today, I’m trying something a little safer than a heat lamp, I’ll see how it works. We will have to keep the chicks inside for a few weeks until they get feathers and it warms up a bit outside. The plan is to get 12 hens and 4 ducks. The ducks will make a mess, but the coop exit will put them in the back by the stream, so hopefully they can get enough water from the stream and keep the mud outside. Once the birds arrive, Izzy will be in charge of handling the chicks daily to get them used to humans. A chore she has no problem at all doing.

And, for the much anticipated update on the dishwasher. The repair seems to be working for now. The dishwasher is back to functioning and the basement no longer rains when the dishes are getting cleaned. Knock on wood.

Keeping cool…

A couple of pictures of us making the best of a very hot weekend. The mini-pool was a great idea – thanks to Susanna!

Susanna and Izzy in the pool

Ben and his little sister playing in the pool.

Izzy, keeping cool on a very hot weekend.

Will at Devil’s Hopyard State Park.

Sunday at Mystic Seaport

This morning I dropped Ben off at the Seaport for his first day as a junior volunteer. Susanna’s dad, Dan, joined Isabella and me for a morning at the museum. It was the wooden boat show weekend, so the museum was packed. We arrived at the museum more than 30 minutes before opening to drop Ben off and there was already a line to get in the door.

Dan, Isabella and I spend a few hours walking around enjoying the show, although all Izzy wanted to do was meet dogs and throw gravel into the river.

Boats, Mystic Seaport Museum

At Mystic Seaport with morfar.

Waiting for Mystic Seaport to open.

Waiting for the museum to open

At the water table, children’s musuem, Mystic Seaport

Saturday at the Mystic Seaport

Izzy playing with rocks at the Mystic Seaport on Sunday.

We finally had warm enough weather to visit Mystic Seaport over the weekend. Will and Ben had their orientation for being junior volunteers this summer. The rest of us got time to walk around and try to find shade.

Izzy loves finding rocks and tossing them in the river, so she was happy for most of the morning. The only real melt-down came at lunch. Susanna, Ben, Izzy, Susanna’s cousin, Anna, and I took a break from the humidity in the air-conditioned galley at the seaport while Will spent 3 hours sailing with the community sailing program he will hopefully be volunteering with this summer. Izzy was happy to just hang out until I pointed out to her that she had scrapped her knee. It had stopped bleeding, and she hadn’t noticed it until then. However for the next day and a half she kept pointing to her “ouchie” on her knee. And she spend the hour after lunch crying about her knee.

 

Waiting out the big storm

Bombogenesis, a popular term used by meteorologists, occurs when a midlatitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can happen when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass, such as air over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is a process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a bomb cyclone. – NOAA website

View from the front porch.

The first big storm of the winter is expected to bring nearly a foot of snow and strong winds to the area today. Bitter cold will follow the snow.  My work is closed today. The boys are at their mom’s house and Susanna is sick in bed. So I get a quiet day morning with Izzy.

Last night I finished my storm preps. I replaced the belt on the snowblower and ran it for 10 minutes. I pulled out the generator and got it running and then spent an hour looking for the power cable (that was hanging in plain sight in the garage). I filled up the cars and filled up extra gas for the generator. Susanna filled a few extra pitches of water.

Now to just wait it out. So far it hasn’t been too bad – it is windy, but not terrible (yet). The snow is light and fluffy and not yet too deep. Hopefully we will keep power. The work on cutting back trees by the power company over the past few years has helped; we have been pretty luck with power through the big storms over the past few years. At least it is cold enough that the snow should be light and fluffy and not so bad to shovel.

Looking ahead to a new year (and a big house project)

Susanna is out running errands. Tucker and Izzy are napping. Or at least Tucker is. Izzy is working on a nap – or just reading to herself in her crib (she really wanted her “Star Wars” books from Will and Ben today. I finished taking down the plaster and lath in our bedroom this morning and had good left-over pizza lunch. So, now I get to take some time and look ahead to 2018. We are starting the year with a big house project. We are gutting our bedroom and adding a master bath. We will finally have more than one bathroom in a house of 5 – this is a much-needed upgrade.

Over the Christmas break week, Susanna, Ben and I took turns tearing down plaster and lath. I finished the rough demolition today and we are waiting for the dumpster to get changed out tomorrow to throw the last of the waste away (we had to get a small dumpster to fit in the yard below the bedroom window). What an improvement having a dumpster in a place where we could just toss the debris out the window into the dumpster. Or next to it making a mess as Ben did when he overestimated his strength tossing a bag of plaster out the window. What would have been a backbreaking chore of dragging bags of plaster down the stairs turned into a fun game of tossing bags out the window.

Bedroom walls with the plaster and lath removed.

Over the break we had a new hot-water heater installed. The hot water coils in the boiler wouldn’t be able to keep up with the demand of two bathrooms (it could barely keep up with the one bathroom). The heater is a hybrid heat-pump electric heater which will also help keep the basement dehumidified in the summer.

We are starting the year off right with a major house improvement, which is my top goal for year: Finish the bathroom!

What else do I want to try to do this upcoming year?

  • I’d like to get back into writing in the blog. It is always fun to look back on what I have accomplished in a year, and Facebook and Instagram aren’t really designed for that.
  • I want to take Will’s blog and turn it into a book. He hasn’t been using it much, and he is now in High School – so I’m sure he doesn’t want to keep his blog from when he was in elementary and middle school around online forever. If I get it printed, it will then be a journal for him to keep forever. I’ll do the same for Ben next year.
  • I want to take a trip somewhere with Will. I took Ben to a wood-turning class in Atlanta and we had a blast.
  • I want to get Will’s boat in the water (and not sink).
  • I want to complete a woodworking class (either online or in person).
  • I want to build a step-stool for Izzy
  • I want to finish the patio/pool area (electrical power, shade, etc).
  • I want to do an organized bike ride with the boys (and maybe my Dad) – I’ll have to get Ben onto a road bike for this.
  • I want to help Susanna throw a joint birthday party for the both of us (she turns 30, I turn 45).
  • I would like to finally get the workshop insulated enough that I can use it on cold days – or make a winter workshop in the basement for working with hand tools.
  • I would like to upgrade my dust collection in the shop.

Of course my list is always subject to change. Except finish the bathroom/bedroom. That has to happen.