Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Hunkered and Battened

Our first snowfall of the season. Big puffy cotton balls of snow, in Johnson and Johnson size. The beds in the garden where we planted new perennials this year have been mulched to protect the plant's tootsies. All the bulbs -- the double narcissi, the tulips and muscari, numerous Asiatic hybrid as well as naturalizing lilies, random scilla and bluebelled hyacinthoides -- are nestled in the ground. The lawn has been clipped short and fed a bit so it will awaken refreshed and energetic come spring. The three new aspens went into the ground while dormant, slumbering; they will be surprised and pleased to wake up surrounded by such rich compost as I've given them.

The irrigation system has been blown out, and the garden hoses coiled away.

The little garden shed received a small electric heater this year, to protect our garden sprayers from freezing, the  nozzles, valves, and plungers from shattering. A few families of mice may find shelter in that warm space. They are welcome to overwinter but will need to move out in early spring. Humans and wild rodents do not share the same space comfortably or safely.

Speaking of little critters, our hot tub is finally up and running and it appears that a skunk has decided to set up camp under the tub's supporting deck. It's warmer under there than under some tree or in a hole. Skunks are not aggressive, not terribly interested in humans; it takes a bit of riling to get one to release the dreaded stink.

So I figure that if the skunk leaves us well enough alone, he or she is welcome to the underside of the deck. We aren't using it anyway.

We have nearly five cords of wood stacked alongside the house, under a stout Harbor Freight tarpaulin lashed securely so the winds don't carry it away. A kerosene heater and oil lanterns stand by in case power or gas fail.  

Chez Elliott is ready for another winter. Looks like a good night to hop in the tub.

Big Strong Mens

"You gotta problem with a rock?"

Two burly men were standing at the front door talking to Mrs Elliott. I had put a call out yesterday see if anyone I knew could help hoist a small boulder out of a hole destined to be the new home for an aspen tree. These two guys showed up. One was chewing a cigar butt that looked like a plug of wet black leather.

"Oh, thank you for coming over. My husband says the rock is very heavy and he can't budge it."

While Mrs Elliott led them around to the side of the house, I put on my shoes. Caught up a few moments later.

"Dat's it?" said one, pushing his hat back on his head with a fingertip. He glanced at his partner.

"I dunno," said the other. He stared at the boulder and scratched at his stubbled neck with a finger the size of a plantain. "Maybe we should get Petey to help."

Good thing they brought a third guy, I thought. I hope they can lift it. 

The first nodded. "I'll get him." 

He returned in a few moments with a boy.

"This is my son, Pete. He's a good kid. Goes to Mountain View."

The boy looked kind of small, but who knows? Kid could be a wrestler maybe. 

"Pete, can you get that rock out of that hole?"

The lad looked at the stone, shrugged, bent over, reached in and plucked it out like it was a feather pillow.

I was nonplussed. "Wow. Pete -- how'd you do that? You lift weights or something?"

The two men guffawed. His father pulled his cigar stub out of his mouth with two fingers. "Dance major."

The boy looked at his feet. 

Mrs Elliott started to giggle. I protested, "Well, I didn't want to . . . to hurt my metal knee."

She laughed harder. The two men smiled. "C'mon, Petey, let's get you home."

I had to go back into the house and lay down for a while.

[Mrs Elliott writes to say, 
That's not the way it happened. It was more like...
Two studly men came to the door and I excitedly took them around the house explaining all the while that Mr. Elliott couldn't lift this heavy rock out of the hole. The taller of the two studly men said, "What -- this puny thing?" and lifted it out and threw it like it was a pebble.  At which point, I laughed hysterically telling them that "Mr. Elliott thought it was so heavy it would take a few crowbars and pulleys to lift it." At which point I went over and tried to lift it myself, having just come from the gym. Once again realized..."we're old people." ]

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Aspens, Two Out of Three

There's not a great view out the kitchen side window. Our neighbor's house is only about 25 feet away, and presents a fairly featureless expanse of gray siding. This would also be the view we get from the hot tub.

Trees would be nice, we figured. The east side of our property has a bunch of aspens, and they are quite lovely. Maples are prettier, but don't grow as quickly, and we need height as the kitchen is on the second floor.

When I was at Moonfire and Sun Garden Center on 27th picking up bulb food last weekend I saw they had 7-1/2 gallon aspens for $25. I inquired about planting the things.

"You need a hole about 2-1/2 feet in diameter, and 10 inches deep," the garden center lady said. "Then fill around the root ball with a 50-50 mixture of compost and native soil."


I figured I could do that, but before purchasing any trees, I wanted to see if holes of that size could be dug where we wanted to plant the trees. Judging from the number of boulders protruding from the ground, my guess was that what we have over there was a mess of rock with a thin skin of dirt.


And that's what I found. Each of the three holes presented an unusual challenge. One had to be moved half a foot to clear a large stone roughly the size of a 130hp Evinrude outboard engine. The second hole had a boulder right in the middle of it, but it was budgeable with the shovel. I feared that I would break the shovel's handle, so I set that obstacle aside until I had something more substantial to address it with. The third hole also had a boulder in the middle but it wasn't quite so tall, and since aspens don't have taproots, I figured the tree would be able to work out an agreeable relationship with its stony neighbor.


Encouraged, I proposed to Mrs Elliott that we go ahead and buy three aspens and she agreed.


We swung by Harbor Freight where I purchased a damn big ol' iron pry bar to use on the budgeable boulder. Across the steet was JoAnne's, and I got a spool of black thread so I could continue on yesterday's the sewing project. Over at Moonfire, we loaded three aspens into the van along with some compost.

The pry bar made short work of the boulder in the second hole.  Feeling the power conferred by leverage, I decided to see what could be done about the boulder in the bottom of the third hole. The shovel never moved it, but the pry bar shifted it easily. And mainly horizontally. Got one end lifted up, but pulling the stone up out of the hole is another story. That boulder turned out to be the size of two sacks of potatoes, and considerably heavier. It's far too heavy for me to haul up and out.

So there it sits, protruding out of the hole, sullenly mocking me

"C'mon," it seems to be saying. "Do your best. It's my passive weight against your back. What have you got to lose?"

Not much. A disc, maybe.

In the olden days when farmers cleared fields by hand, I reckon they had equipment for this. Lash a strap around it and have the mule pull it out. Or erect a tripod of sturdy timbers over the hole and raise it with a block and tackle.

I own neither block and tackle nor a mule, and it does it not seem economical to purchase either.

My plan, then, is to find a strapping young man or two to clear that hole.

So this is where things stand: I have two of the aspens in the ground, and the third is waiting for clearance to land. My back is a little tired and the hot tub is casting seductive glances my way. Come hither, it says, I will soothe your aches.

I believe I will avail myself to its tender ministrations.

Jack Mans Up

Mrs Elliott brought over a klatsch of her ladyfriends yesterday. Before you knew it, there were four sewing machines chattering away. You see, we were all making [GIFT ITEMS].

Yes, all of us.

For in a moment of fondness for my wife, I agreed last week to join in and make one of these [GIFT ITEMS] as a Xmas gift for [SOMEONE I KNOW].

(The gift is meant to be a surprise and there's no telling who reads this blog, so I must be circumspect about the details.)

I put on my man pants, and joined in. Thar I wuz: cutting, ironing, basting and hemming with the rest.

I used my trusty Regent "Super Deluxe" tailor-type sewing machine; no fancy computer controlled lady's appliance with 57 stitch variations, not for me. No sir, mine's a man's machine: simple, clean, strong enough to sew canvas, and boasting two (2) stitches: forward and backward. It did a job every bit as nice as their fancy $1,000 Husqvurna/Vikings and Berninas.

It was pleasant work, fun, even. In a Da Vinci Code-esque move, I embedded the first few numbers of the Fibonacci series in the design, a nerdy detail which [RECIPIENT] will enjoy knowing.

Despite not having sewn anything since school (where she received a "D" on her assignment to sew a gym bag), Mrs Elliott's [GIFT ITEM] is looking great. She did break two needles, though. Woman needs supervision.

The "sound track" was somewhat reminiscent of the song, "Pick-A-Little, Talk-A-Little" in The Music Man.

"Who wants tea?" Mrs Elliott sang out at one point. The women responded with enthusiasm.

How about who wants a beer? I thought. Alcohol combines well with motor-driven needles.

There wasn't enough time to finish our projects, and we ran out of thread, too. But when completed, the [ITEM] will look quite handsome and I know [RECIPIENT] will love it. So it was well worth it.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

To the Tea Partiers

FROM THE "COULD NOT HAVE SAID IT BETTER MYSELF" DEPT.
And a special message for the "loose confederation" of "non-affiliated" tea party types:
       
When you see Republican leaders in the House fucking up and doing the very things you crapped your costume pantaloons over---and they will---you must stay true to your "party-neutral" mission and declare war on them the same way you declared war on those nasty Democrats.  Because don't forget: by your own admission you're not Republican...or Democrat...or anything "organized."  You say so yourself every five minutes. So when Republicans start pumping out juicy slabs of pork to their districts willy nilly, and add to the deficit, and raise the debt ceiling, and ignore your agenda and, yes, when THEY START TREADING ON YOU...you must hold rallies against them and call them what you called Democrats: tyrants and traitors and Hitlers and Maos and Stalins who want to drop-kick your grandma onto an ice floe (if you can find one these days).
And if you don't judge the New Improved House by the same standards you judged the Old Tyrannical House, then you wallowers-in-hypocrisy will have two options: either drop the charade and start calling yourselves plain old (and getting older by the day) lockstep Republicans again...or shut the hell up.
( http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2010/11/3/916240/-Cheers-and-Jeers:-Wednesday )
I am SO looking forward to seeing which way those idiots flop.
 
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