Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Slow progress is still progress

Two years ago, I put up a post called "Ten directions at once" in which Don expressed frustration that he was getting scatterbrained because there were so many house and farm projects that needed doing.

As I said in the blog post, "He was pulled in so many different directions that he would do just a bit of this and a bit of that, without bringing a particular project to completion. ... The trouble is, accomplishing one thing was often hinged on first accomplishing another thing first, which in turn was hinged on accomplishing yet another thing ... and so it went, until he felt like he was a hamster spinning on a wheel, unable to focus and accomplish anything at all."

To overcome this issue, we sat down and hammered out a list of things to accomplish:

• Build deck for Older Daughter’s suite (finished, but never put up a blog post on it)
Build storage platform above shop
Organize a yard sale
Fence the pasture
• Build chicken coop
Build more garden beds
• Build wood shed
Order drip irrigation supplies
• Install hand pump for well
Build loft above shop
Cut firewood
• Make a well house
• Re-plumb pressure tank
Coat decks with sealant
• Install sunshade on western wall
• Build deck storage room
• Clean gutters (Don does this every year; no photos, sorry)
• Build cattle infrastructure in barn (he built feed boxes, but that's it)
• Clean out shed (I've done this several times)
Buy cows

I wrote out this blog post and then forgot all about it. But when I stumbled across it a couple days ago, I was impressed with how many of these projects were already completed. 

Don was less impressed, feeling like he should have done more. (How??) But then as he put it, slow progress is still progress.

The next project he plans to do is to install a 1500-gallon water storage tank under the deck. We have the tank; the issue has been finding the time to install it. Once the cows are moved onto the larger pasture, we hope to tackle the water tank.

Slow progress is still progress!

Monday, July 15, 2024

Apparently now the gloves are off

I didn't sleep well last night. I'm still trying to process the events of the last few days. America, and possibly the world, came within a hair's breadth – literally – of being irrevocably altered forever when a bullet grazed Trump's ear instead of hitting him squarely in the forehead.

The dust is still settling and the finger-pointing is just beginning as people try to get to the bottom of just exactly what happened. Speculation ranges from the gunman being a lone-wolf assassin to the whole thing being an inside job by the Secret Service.

I don't know. And here's the thing: Neither do you. Everyone is spouting his favorite theory, but no one knows for sure. We, the ordinary citizens, may never know.

But I do know this: There are layers upon layers of obfuscation that prevent us from seeing the true state of our country. The divide in this nation has never been wider, except possibly in 1860 or so. And above all, there are evil forces at work out there, forces we can't even begin to comprehend.

And now, apparently, the gloves are off. Batten down the hatches, folks. It's only going to get crazier as the election grows closer.

Friday, July 12, 2024

Cows and fencing and water, oh my

Our bovines are settling in nicely. We've gotten into a routine, and they quickly learned to come to the "Bossy" call to get a bit of sweet COB (corn/oats/barley) each evening.

Here's Maggie, peeking over the edge of the deck.

Mignon nursing off her mama Filet.

Right now they're restricted to the area below the house. This is an area of less than 1.5 acres, so we've been closely monitoring how much grass they have left and supplementing them with dry hay in the barn.

We have a larger pasture, but can't release the cows into it until it's properly fenced. That's a task that has been consuming us for a couple weeks now. Most of the hard work has fallen on Don; not only because I was gone for 10 days to visit my parents, but also because I work my online job at least three days a week (sometimes more, if covering for absent coworkers), during which times I'm positively glued to the computer.

Additionally, with this crippling heat wave the western portion of the nation has been experiencing, we're limited to working in the very early mornings. This week, I was at last able to give Don some proper assistance in getting longer stretches of fencing tied up.

We're using up the field fence we bought several years ago, purchased because we knew this day would come. We have plenty of rolls, and we're glad we bought it when we did since prices are significantly higher now.

A roll fits perfectly into the tractor bucket.

We needed two rolls (they're 330 feet each) for one of our fence lines, up a steep enough slope that we didn't want to tote them by hand (each roll weighs 144 lbs.). We were also armed with gloves, extra T-posts, wire, nippers, a come-along, and all the other accouterments necessary to pull a fence tight and wire it in place.

We started at the top of the hill and unrolled the fence downward.

Earlier, while I was down in California, Don was weedwhacking along the fence line when he discovered this brave pheasant, setting on eggs on our neighbor's side of the fence. She hasn't moved off the nest, despite us working mere inches from her. Pheasant hens set for 23 days, and we have no idea how close the eggs are to hatching.

Well hidden, isn't she?

She watched me with her gimlet eye, but hardly blinked.

A day or two later, when passing the same spot, I noticed the hen was gone (doubtless off getting something to eat). Six eggs, that's her clutch.


Once the fence was unrolled, we loosely looped it over the T-posts to get it off the ground.

Then, section by section, Don ratcheted the fencing tight and I wired the fence to the T-posts. We've been working very early in the morning to beat the worst of the heat, which is one of the reasons the process is going as slow as it is.

(Bonus photo: I was trying to focus on an insect that had landed on a stem of grass when suddenly a hover fly flew into my camera focus, so I snapped a pic. Not the clearest, but kinda cool.)

Meanwhile, another chore that needed doing was cleaning out the cows' water tank.

It had become gooky (is that a word?) and needed a good scrubbing.

Siphoning it out was a slow process and took about an hour.

Finally it was drained enough that I could tip the rest of the water out.

After that, it was just an easy application of elbow grease.

I rinsed everything, then reattached the float valve and started filling the tank.

Filet wandered up about this time to see what I was up to. She got the benefits of fresh, cool water to drink. It must have tasted like ambrosia after a warm day.

Yeah, they're extra work. Yeah, fencing is a pain in the patookus. But I'm glad to have cows again.

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Let the harvest commence

The blueberry bushes are absolutely loaded this year. I've been waiting for the first berries to ripen.

A few days ago, the harvest commenced.


On the first day, I picked a couple cups of berries.

A couple days later, I picked closer to two quarts. I'm freezing the berries as I go. So far I have about three-quarters of a gallon.

I'll keep picking (about every other day) and freezing until the end of the season, at which point I'll weigh the final tally and then can them up. Last year we harvested 16 pounds of fruit, up from a modest one pound the year before. Clearly the bushes (planted in 2021) are ramping up production. It will be interesting to see how much we get this year.

Tuesday, July 9, 2024

My love affair with bandanas

Many years ago, the Lewis family decided to try an experiment: Phasing out (almost) all disposable products. This includes facial tissue, paper plates, plastic cutlery, feminine hygiene, and the ubiquitous paper towels, among much else. It was so successful we've never looked back.

One of the greatest benefits of this lifestyle is the constant presence of bandanas in our lives. Pockets, purses, vehicles, toolboxes – all have their share of bandanas. We use these squares of cloth for a zillion different things. Currently, for example, we're going through the same heat wave that has gripped much of the western third of the U.S., and I can't count the number of sweat-soaked bandanas I've swapped out (I tie them around my forehead to absorb moisture) over the last few days. I keep another in my pocket for nasal emergencies, and another gets draped over my head under my hat whenever I go outside to keep the sun off my neck.

We were running short of bandanas, so I did a load of laundry which included every dirty handkerchief I could find. Here they're hung to dry in the outdoor heat, so they'll be ready to use within minutes.

Bandanas are so much a part of our lives that I can't imagine being without several within easy reach. Now it seems strange when I see someone using a tissue to blow their nose.

Who else loves these little square of cloth?

Monday, July 8, 2024

Minimalism vs. maximalism

I've always had an interest in interior design. This is hilarious, of course, since I have absolutely no talent for it whatsoever. Nonetheless I have many coffee-table-sized books on various interior aesthetics. It started with a book on Shaker style I purchased in high school and, most recently, a copy of "The Not So Big House" purchased in a used-book store a couple years ago. In my younger days, I even subscribed to Architectural Digest, though the vast majority of each issue is nothing but advertisements and the rest are high falutin' design styles that do nothing for me.

Of all the possible design styles out there, I've always been most attracted to minimalism. While I don't care for bare stark white rooms, I admire the aesthetic of clean spaces with lots of wood trim (I think the term is "warm minimalism").



Which is why, ironically, my own personal decorating style (if you can call it that) leans more toward what is called "maximalism." How embarrassing.

Maximalism, according to Wikipedia, is "an aesthetic of excess. The philosophy can be summarized as "more is more," contrasting with the minimalist motto "less is more."

The interior decorating trend appears to be geared toward "curated collections," whether artwork or books or glassware or whatever floats your boat. Colors and patterns are embraced, not rejected. The entire goal is to be comforting and welcoming. It's described as a "space that tells your story" and "a happy interior style."

What appears to tip us away from anything even remotely resembling minimalism is our book collection. Maximalism, is seems, is just made for book collectors. In a minimalistic lifestyle, books you've read in the past have no place in a home (with few exceptions) because they represent both physical and visual clutter. Minimalism favors library books, audio books, ebooks, or other temporary or non-tangible options. Me, I like books. Heavy, paper, physical books.

I've been saving favorite books since my high school days. There's no way I'm ever going to get rid of them. In fact, despite the capacious shelves Don built when we moved into our house in late 2020, the shelves are overflowing ... which is my fault entirely. (Don has a collection of literally thousands of books, but they're on his computer.)

Another factor putting us squarely in the maximalism camp is our house size. We downsized to a home well under one-third the size of our old place (not counting Older Daughter's side of the house, our living space is 1,000 square feet), so certain things (such as jigsaw puzzles and photo albums) are by default on display rather than stored in distant corners. We trimmed and pared down on things we no longer needed or wanted, and "curated" (that seems to be an important word) the things we wanted to keep. When we had our massive yard sale last summer, it was in part to get rid of things we no longer wanted or needed. Nonetheless, space in our home is at a premium, closets (except for small ones in the bedroom) are nonexistent, and we must make do with visually displaying and living among the things we choose to keep.

That said, there seems to be a camp which is a blend between minimalism and maximalism into which we fall. Maximalism doesn't mean you go out and buy "stuff" for the sole purpose of displaying it. Rather, it seems to be the opportunity to display objects or collections you've inherited, thrifted, assembled, or otherwise acquired through frugal means.The lines of a home's interior d├ęcor can still be clean and, yes, minimal. But the resident is comforted by the presence of comfortable and cherished furnishings.

Despite having a "maximalistic" style, I still like clean surfaces, uncluttered countertops in the kitchen, and other expressions of order.

What I try not to do is cross the line into clutter. "Cluttercore," as the name implies, is embracing one's inner collector and having spaces filled so with many objects that it's often difficult to clean and (to me) visually unappealing. In some cases it may even bear some resemblance with borderline hoarding.

I still admire the heck out of minimalism ... but I'm afraid it's not me.

Thursday, July 4, 2024

When the backyard is occupied

I know someone who lives waaaay up in the Colorado Rockies. He had family visiting this Independence Day weekend, and planned for a cookout and other outdoor activities.

Unfortunately he was unable to use his backyard. Why?

Because it was already occupied.

They had to wait their turn.

Wednesday, July 3, 2024

Trip home

I'm home, dear readers! Thank you for your forbearance as I focused on my parents rather than the blog for the duration of the trip.

As you can imagine, it was wonderful to see my parents. My mother had a stroke last year and is confined to a wheelchair, and my dad (who turns 89 in a few days) is her primary caretaker, so Older Daughter and I tried to be as useful as we could during our visit. (Unfortunately I had to work three of the days I was there, but such is life.)

My parent's home is comfortable and filled with photos, cards, and other evidence of the warm family life they've cultivated during their marriage.

Here's a hallway of photos. What's not visible is the rest of the photos – the entire angled hallway is filled with pictures.

Last year, my parents celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary. I wasn't there for the party, but they kept the decorations up. This August, they'll hit 66 years.

The mantel has cards from kids and grandkids.

One morning while my mom was napping, Older Daughter and I snuck out to walk the beach. The marine layer made for cloudy and somewhat chilly conditions, but we walked a good distance up the shoreline.

We saw gulls feeding on (presumably) sand crabs. It was nice to see gulls acting like gulls, rather than feathered rats rummaging for garbage.

We found a dead crab that was entirely whole, rather than broken into bits. No doubt the seagulls feasted on it later.


We walked until we hit the section of beach that was cordoned off for snowy plover nests. Then we turned around...

...and retraced our steps back to the parking area.

Afterward we stopped at a used bookstore (because, of course) and looked over their selection.

I chuckled at this cartoon.

However this book bag displayed on the wall hit a bit too close for comfort.

On Saturday, Older Daughter and I drove to the airport and picked up Younger Daughter. It was so good to see her! She had been in Norfolk, Virginia for a week of  training, and afterward flew out to California to join us at my parents' house. Unfortunately Older Daughter and I were leaving the next day (Sunday morning), so we made the most of our short time together.

At one point the girls and I went for a walk around the neighborhood to stretch our legs. It wasn't until halfway through this walk that the girls remembered we were going to give my dad an early birthday celebration (since we would be gone by his actual birthday on July11). So we made tracks to a nearby grocery store and purchased a small cake and a fancy novelty candle that, when lit, opens up into petals and plays a tinny version of Happy Birthday.

Well, my dad loved it. I'm so glad the girls remembered!

The next morning, Older Daughter and I made our painful goodbyes and hit the road. We had two days of hard travel ahead of us.

The first leg of the trip is along the I-5 corridor, which has very few urban areas and is mostly irrigated farmland.

However at one point we passed as massive – massive – cattle facility. It must have been a mile long. I was driving so couldn't grab any photos, but it had sun shades (glad to see it, as it was about 100F) over feeding troughs. As I told Don later, there must have been a hundred thousand head of cattle there.

Later I looked it up and saw we were passing Harris Ranch, California's largest beef producer. What I want to know is, how did I not notice this on my previous trips to California? Seriously, this is the kind of thing I would remember, and I don't recall seeing it at all. Go figure.

Here's an aerial photo someone else took, which shows the industrial scale of the facility:

After many hours, we hooked around Sacramento and proceeded east over the Sierras on Hwy 80.

At Donner Summit, we stopped to swap drivers. I noticed this stack of huge boulders, maybe 10 feet high.

We spent the night in Reno (a place where you can get excellent room rates even at fancy casinos, as long as you stay outside the weekend). The next day we had a long – long – day of driving ahead of us, well over 12 hours. Much of it was desert.

Here's a prison a distance outside of Winnemucca. Signs along the highway instruct drivers not to pick up hitchhikers.

Here's the Winnemucca "W" overlooking the town.

Not far from the "W," there's also what looks like a massive private home. Massive. Yowza.

We crossed into eastern Oregon and continued north on Hwy 95. At a jog in the road called Burns Junction is an abandoned gas station with one structure collapsed. Literally that's all there is to Burns Junction.



As we approached the tiny hamlet of Rome, Oregon...



...the skies opened up and it pounded rain for a few minutes.

Finally we got home. After over 12 hours on the road, we were wiped. Unfortunately we've barely been able to stop. During my absence, Don was fencing fencing fencing. The day after we got back, I had to work (covering for an absent coworker), though Older Daughter and I made a fast dash into the city – four hours round trip – to return the rental car.

Today Don started fencing early in the morning while I took both Mr. Darcy and Lihn (the parrot) to the vet for checkups and a beak trimming.


So close to Independence Day, everyone in town had thrown themselves into patriotic displays, which I liked.

To make things even more exciting, I decided to do Camp NaNoWriMo this month, so I've been typing away at a new story.

Phew! This has been a busy two weeks. But at least I'm home.