Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Anti Climatical

Well, Irma has come and gone.  That ass-kicking?  For us, more like a friendly pat on the rump.   It's almost embarrassing.The storm started to break up just before it hit us, the big rain bands shifted to the east, and although some of Tallahassee got hit pretty strongly (there are trees down, and about half the town lost power, and for some it's still out three days later) it just sort of parted and went around us.  Just as it was getting light, the power went out and the wind started picking up, and we were bracing ourselves and thinking "here it comes" and then the wind would die down again.

And that was about it.  It was grey and wintry looking (and feeling--the high was 63!) and a bit windy.  Mostly we sat on the front porch and read.  Even the power outage was courteous--went out when it got light, and came back on just as the sun was going down.

So after 5 days of fear and trepidation and prepping, and one day of bracing ourselves because it was going to hit any minute, it was simply over.  We had to spend a day putting away tarps and emptying all the jerry cans of water and we're back to normal.

Almost--a consensus among our friends is that a lot of us are feeling tired and headachy and sort of crashing but I think that's because we're coming off that 5-day adrenaline jag.  And there's a level of survivor's guilt.  People are dead.  People are homeless.  People are trying to get back to see whether or not they're homeless.  Massive areas were flooded.   And here--we were . . . . inconvenienced.

But trust me--we're grateful.

Surrealistic Weather

The weather for the past three days has been glorious.  Clear, bright, DRY, almost cool (OK, in the 80's, but after months of high 90's that seem cool enough).  It's like fall just decided to drop in for an unexpected visit--and it's a visitor  that we want to stay.  If I lived under a rock, far from TV and the internet and didn't venture off my own piece of property I would be reveling in it.  Alas, no.

In the next 48 hours the weather is going to kick our ass.  We don't know how hard.  It might just be a bit of a buttock-bruising.  Or it might be enough to knock out our teeth.  Hurricane Irma, the Mother of All Storms, is heading our way.   Maybe

We've had to go into town, but we've done it carefully.  6.3 million people evacuating in a state causes major traffic jams (yesterday I-10 was logjammed from I-75 to Pensacola--think of a 300 (think of it slowly--THREE HUNDRED) mile stretch of bumper-to-bumper traffic.  Fortunately for us, in these day of using GPS instead of a paper map not too many people realize that there are alternate routes, one of them being Hwy-20, which is the only road that goes to our house.  It's busier than usual, but not too bad.

We drive to the grocery store.  On the way we notice that most of the gas stations are out of gas.  The open ones have long lines.  It's hard to find a parking spot--and when you do get in, you see bare empty stripped shelves.  We did most of our prepping a week and more ago, so we just needed a few non-emergency things.  This confused the woman at the register, who looked at our purchases and commented "you're just doing some ordinary shopping??"

It's hard not to flip on the TV or check on the computer because we really want to know what's happening, or, more importantly, is going to happen.  And no one knows--but all the stations are trying for ratings so they just keep flogging the guesswork.  Will it hit our area?  Well, *something* will, because this storm is bigger than the entire state of Florida.  We might just get a strong "wind event."  Or a tropical storm.  Or a Cat 1 hurricane.  Or Cat 2.  Maybe Cat 3.  Not much rain.  Or 1-5 inches of rain.  Or 5-10 inches of rain.   All of the prediction maps joined together for a wide potential swatch known officially as the Cone of Uncertainty.   Less, officially, the Cone of Doom, or, more graphically, the Cone of the Pinched Sphincter.

We should be fine.  Or we might not have a house in 48 hours.  We might lose power and water for a few hours, or a few days, or a few weeks.

We've done what we can.  Lots of water stored (it's recommended that you have 1 gallon per person per day--but that doesn't allow for the fact that it takes 4 gallons to flush a toilet.  Lacking an outhouse, I like to have flushing water available).  Non perishable food that doesn't have to be cooked.  Propane stove in case we want a cup of tea.  We've done all the laundry.  Have the emergency battery radio.  Batteries in the flashlights.  Chocolate chip cookies on hand.

So that's it for now.  Lovely cool weather, some nice breezes, all is well.  The forecast for Tuesday should also be clear and lovely.  Sunday and Monday--maybe not so much.  We'll see.

Friday, September 8, 2017

The ADD Continues--Marbles, a Helmet, and a Workbench

When not stacking wood and spinning and knitting, I've been hanging out in my cottage (aka The Wicca House, sometimes The Studio [if I'm feeling pretentious], sometimes the Workshop).   I love kinetic sculptures--those structures where marbles (or, in bigger ones, billiard balls) go running around.  Once, on a Boston visit, I almost missed my flight because I was so fascinated watching the large one in the lobby.

So I got some copper wire and made a small one.  There will be a bigger on in the future, something less basic.  This was my learning one.  The main thing I learned was that the copper wire I got was way to heavy to bend easily (but it was the most accessible).  I also needed a lot of practice soldering.  But I had a lot of fun figuring out the slopes and the banking and I like the final product.

video
 
Then I made a dive helmet, because who doesn't need one?  Actually, this is for my brother who has some idea about making a Captain Nemo outfit and wants to put in some smoke effects.  (the big question is how long will it take me to find a box big enough and actually go to the post office with this?)
 
 
I'm ridiculously pleased with this, because you have to actually pick it up and look at it to figure out that it's made from . . . . floor mats.  Those rubber mats you put on the floors to ease fatigue.   It did take awhile--I had a pattern, but there were 30-some pieces to cut out and glue together.  The paint job alone took several hours. 
 
 I'd work for awhile, then take a breather and clean up Chez Wicca for a bit.  So not only did I end up with a helmet, but all the drawers and shelves got tidied up.  At least in the front room.  And the sewing room got done not too long ago.  This leaves the back room (where I do wet stuff like dyeing and felting and papermaking) which had gotten out of hand.   I decided that I needed a new workbench.
 
Here's the before picture--the work area was an old kitchen cabinet that came with the cottage (and we've been here 27 years), and I also had an old butcher's rack for supplies.  The butcher's rack was OK, but too big for the area, so to come in the back door you had to sort of sidle sideways.
 
 
So all of that stuff had to come off--and it couldn't go in the front room because I needed my space in there to build the new workbench so the poor sewing room got the brunt of it. (note:  I thought about *buying* a workbench, but they seem to come in two sizes--48" x 24" or 72" x 30"--what I needed was 60" x 24" and that was not to be found.  Besides, buying something isn't as satisfying as building it). (and not saying that the old cabinet was in bad shape, but it sort of fell apart when we dumped it outside, and then dissolved to a pile of sodden sawdust in the rain)   I found a good set of plans and rewrote them for the size I needed.  Bob took me to go buy lumber and I was off.  And immediately hit a bump in the road.
 
The bench is built of lumber, 2x4x8.  Ostensibly, this means that the wood is 2 inches by 4 inches by 8 feet long.  Now, I know that the real measurement is not 2 x 4 inches but more like 1.5 by 3.5 inches.  What I didn't realize was the in the lumber world, 8 feet means 82.5 inches instead of 86 inches.   Hmmmm.  I had written my new plans to be as economical as possible so I had to do a quick rewrite to re-figure out how to cut everything.  After that it went quite well.
 

 
 
 
 It's got a deep lower shelf and an upper shelf and it actually holds all the stuff I took out (which did get culled and sorted).  I'm particularly pleased with these small wire baskets I put on the side which holds a lot of the bits and pieces with a physical "cost" to the room of only 5 inches.




And I'm *really* pleased that unlike some of my projects which sort of become Bob's projects, this was about 90% mine.  Bob was gracious enough to help with cutting the shelves and installing the upper shelf, both of which would have been awkward for one person.

Then as soon as I got everything cleaned up from that a friend who saw my dive helmet wanted to come over and get help started some foam armor?  Who am I to say no to a playdate?
 
Curious to see how this turns out.

Now--whatever shall I do next?  (Other than prepare for that honkin' big Hurricane Irma that's breathing down our necks)



 

Wood and Socks and Scarves, Oh My

For some reason I've been terribly ADD lately, but at least in a productive way.  The productive part is unusual for me, particularly in the summer, when all I want to do is sit inside in the AC and sip iced tea.

One project started with the car.  When Dad quit driving, he gave us his Infiniti (pretty classy, huh?).  Except that Infiniti's are designed for people who take care of their cars--like have garages for them.  As the car is now about 16 years old, some of the gaskets are getting old and when it rains, the car leaks (and we don't keep a cover on it because we tried that--with our humidity, the car got moldy inside).  As the Southern saying goes, Infiniti is right proud of their product--meaning that they charge and arm and a leg to do repair work.  We figured that for the price of getting the gaskets replaced we could have a carport put in.  So that's on order.

Step one--clear the area where it's going.  The Sanford and Son area.  Meaning for the last upteen years the area where we've dumped all scrap metal because "we'll take it to the scrap metal place and sell it."  Well, we did that one time--a couple of hours of loading (and then unloading) earned us enough to buy lunch on the way home.  So we haven't been motivated.  Especially because we had a couple of junker riding lawnmowers that for some reason Bob's father thought we would want.  We tried to figure out how we could get them into the truck.  Then we thought "this is dumb--we'll hire someone to haul them off."  We checked on Craigslist, and found this add "will haul off non-working riding lawnmowers for free."  Hot diggity damn!  Made the call, and the next day the guy came and not only got those but everything else--10 years worth of junk in about 2 hours.  SCORE!

Then we stared at a tree for awhile.  It stood between the barn and where the carport is going to go.  We realized that if that tree ever had a problem it would be almost impossible to take it down.  So, sorry, tree--called the tree guy and had it removed.  Or at least, cut down.  There's that part of me that will pay the experts to cut down a tree safely but rebels at paying another 500-600 dollars to haul away good oak.   On the other hand, splitting that much wood is a daunting task (we did three trees last year and it took a couple of hard weeks).  Heck with that--we rented a log splitter.

 
That is one seriously sexy piece of equipment.  We had to be careful not to knock ourselves out--it was so fast that we were pulling a John Henry trying to keep up with it.  However, even with taking three water breaks and a lunch break, it was still less than 5 hours to split enough wood to later stack into this.



Power tools--they're a beautiful thing.

Meanwhile, when not splitting wood, I've been doing a lot of twitchy knitting.  Twitchy, because I'm still stalled out on that beautiful big multicolored shawl.  So instead I made a pair of socks.  Yes--handspun with a dye experiment on the wool before spinning.  Not sure I really like it--but they feel nice and I can always wear them with my ankle boots.  Another pair is on the way with a better dye job.

And this scarf.  I had about an ounce of that beautiful yak/silk multicolored fiber I used for the cowl for Margo earlier this year.  I spun that up and grabbed some fine black yarn to eke it out and got this.  Unfortunately the battery on my camera died and the phone doesn't have a flash so the colors don't show well enough--they're luscious.

And a new pair of slippers.  I'm visiting Mike and Margo next month, and I've decided one of the reasons their cat Moonie didn't like me was because she doesn't like other cats and my slippers were probably at least 50% cat hair.  So I made a new pair that will be kept away from the cats and not worn until I go there.  Besides, this is the fun pattern I've written about before--you make them *way* too big, and then throw them in the washer until they shrink. (I didn't spin the yarn for these, but I did do the dyeing)

 
And in the words of game-show hosts "But wait--there's more."  But this post is overlong so I think I'll do another one.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Playing with the Eclipse

As anyone who hasn't been living under a rock for the last couple of months now, there was a solar eclipse today.  Alas, we did not see a totality--I am not fond enough of traffic jams and huge crowds to have driven the 300 miles to see that (with no guarantee of decent weather and really no guarantee of a decent clean toilet)

We were facing this day with some trepidation--we are now in our standard weather pattern of clouding up and raining in the early afternoon--say, from about 2:00-3:00-which of course was the time scheduled for the eclipse.  One o'clock came, along with the beginning of the afternoon clouds.  The eclipse began, and we watched the solar fan dance as the sun slipped in and out, showing a tiny bite taken out of the edge.  Then, mirabile dictu , the skies cleared.  We watched (with proper protection, of course) as most of the sun slowly disappeared (we got about 86% of totality).  But while the rest of the country was looking up, I was looking down.  I find it fascinating that the tree leaves will act like hundreds of pinhole cameras, casting crescent shadows.  I had my camera (did not take pictures of the eclipse itself because I don't have the proper filters) and a piece of poster board that I would drop below various trees and bushes and snap pictures.



 
Then, gradually, the sun returned--which we didn't watch because within 20 minutes of totality, the clouds rolled in and blotted out everything.  I'm OK with that--I am just amazed and grateful that they cleared for that one precious hour.
 
 
Meanwhile, back at the farm (as the saying goes), a couple of weeks ago came that time that any rehabber/ wild critter foster parent achieve the goal that they dread: time to release.  This is what it's all about--returning them to the wild.  It's  so hard after caring for them.   So I fed the foxes one evening, and when I walked out, I left the cage door open behind me.
 
video

(not sure if that video will show--I tried to make it a smaller file but it's still having problems loading)   If it doesn't load, use your imagination and visualize a fox leaving the cage.

Hard as it is to let them go, the cool thing is that they're still hanging around.  I put out food for them, and set up the video camera, and all three of them are still looking pretty  good.  Eventually they'll wander off, but for now it's good to know that they'll come get some dinner while they're learning how to hunt for themselves. 

Reading:  Microshelters.  Bob picked this up while we were at the Tractor Supply store.  Basically it's riding on the tiny house movement, only these are *really* small, meant to be used as backyard retreats or lake cabins.  While I personally could never live tiny (I need my stuff) I love the creativity that goes into these little builds.


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Hugging the Fishies

Bob has a thing about stingrays.  Yea--that's different.  But I've learned that if we ever go to a zoo or aquarium that has a stingray pool, I had better drag him around to see everything else first because he'll be hanging over the pool trying to pat the rays until the place closes (OK--I'll admit that they do feel rather nice, sort of soft and velvety and not like their sandpapered skinned shark cousins).   And although he's normally a properly frugal sort of guy, he doesn't hesitate for a moment to drop $5 for an ounce of fish (or $10 or $15) to feed them  (and, yeah, I'll admit that it's kinda fun to do that because they just sort of Hoover it out of your hand).

So when our friend Kim let us know last month that the Gulf World Marine Park at Panama City Beach (where we've fed the rays before) will now let you actually get in the pool with the rays, we of course had to set up a date right away.   Bob wanted to wait in the line immediately when we got there--Kim and I pointed out that we already had the reservations and the swim is limited to six people so there wouldn't be a line, so we really didn't need to be waiting an hour early.  The compromise is that we got to look around for about 45 minutes.

Of course, as a "zoological professional" I had to assure myself about the welfare of the fish.  All was well--we had to shower beforehand, and the fish were not harassed.  Quite the opposite--we all got to pose for a photoshoot where the rays on command would swim into our arms, give us a hug, and stick their heads out of the water for a kiss.  Being as there was a fish reward involved, the rays were mobbing for a chance to pose.  Afterwards we got to swim with them for about a half hour (armed with fish).  The water was lovely and cool on a hot and sticky day and I'm not sure what Kim and I enjoyed more--playing with the rays ourselves, or watching Bob being so happily enthusiastic.

As I am also a properly frugal person (OK, people say I'm a cheapskate) I wasn't going to bother looking at the photo op pictures because they charge an arm and a leg for them.  But Kim wanted to at least look at them.  And when I saw this . . . well, I just reached for my credit card.  Because how often do you get to see a 60-something dude looking like an 8-year-old?




Friday, July 14, 2017

Halfway though July

I AM OVER THIS FREAKIN' RAIN!!

There--had to get it out of the system.  I really try not to complain, with parts of the country having serious wildfire and other parts having serious flooding (wish they could get together and cancel each other out) and we're just mushy.  And I could even deal with the mushy if it weren't for the clouds and swarms of mosquitoes that make it impossible to be outside for more than a few minutes--and that require me to wear long pants and a long-sleeved shirt even though the temps are in the 90's. 

So--random and mostly inside stuff.



OK--this was outside--but on the beach with a good breeze blowing.  We went to Mexico Beach for the 4th--Robert and Amanda are back from Italy (and trying to adjust).  The young man getting a good view from Bob's shoulder's is our great-nephew Zeke.

From safely indoors looking out the kitchen window we spotted three deer--two were eating lichen from a stump, while the third was on the alert and obviously not happy about something.

video

 
 
 
But looking around we could see the predator she was eyeing.  We've tried to explain to Wilhelm that a deer might be just a *little* too big for him, but he doesn't believe us.
 

My little foxes continue elusive.  As soon as I go anywhere near their cage, they disappear.  And that's good--I want them to be afraid of people.  On the other hand, I do need to see them once in awhile to make sure that they're doing well.  So we set our game camera up in their cage to see what they do at night.

video
 
They seem energetic enough.

From time to time I've posted about a shawl I've been knitting from yarn that's I've spun on my daily walk.  At this point I'm about 6 1/2 panels into the 7 panel shawl--and I've stalled.  See the opening comment about those blasted mosquitoes--I haven't been able to spin for this for three weeks!!   I know I won't be able to wear this for another 5 or 6 months, but it's just so darned frustrating to stall this close to the finish.  Grrrrrr.

 
Not that I don't have other stuff to do.  A few posts back I talked about getting some fleece from a local shepherd.  She doesn't spin (and I don't know if she knits) so she doesn't have anything from her own sheep.  I decided to rectify that and made a small cowl to wear in the winter when she tends her animals.  Of course, one of these days I should actually mail it to her (although, again, there are a few months until it is wearable.  (Her sheep are multicolored white, black and gray, so I wanted to put in all three colors)

 
 
A few years ago I made what I called my Harpy Puppet.
video
 
I wore him for the Halloween Howl, and in the next couple of years he was just a static prop.  But time, humidity, and cockroaches sort of did a number on his face, and last year at the Howl he fell off of where he was mounted and got stepped on.  So, alas poor Harpy--into the trash he went.  But I realized that I missed him.  In between Howls he hung from the ceiling of my cottage.  So when the Halloween Forum had it's annual "Prop under $20" challenge I made a new harpy (her name is Esmeralda).  I still need to make a harness and put on the control sticks for her arms (couldn't fit all that into the $20 budget) but she's going up on the ceiling soon.
 
 
My favorite thing about her is her eyes.  It's an interesting technique of painting nail polish on the back of a glass cabochon.  The trick is to paint on a color, then scratch most of it off, and repeat about 5 times.  I really love the effect.
 
 
All in all, enough to keep me busy until it's safe to go outside again.  Alas, the poor garden is suffering between getting drowned and then stewed in the heat--but at least it doesn't need much tending!
 
 
Reading:  Made it through the first Dragons of Pern book.  Sorry, fans, but I'm skipping the next 22.  Uneven writing, clich├ęd characters and talking dragons just doesn't do it for me.
 
Current read is really nerdy:  Now I Sit Me Down--A history of Chairs.  Yep.  But think about it.  Thrones.  Executive  chairs.  Archie Bunker's chair.  Didn't everyone growing up have a "Dad's Chair" (usually the recliner).  There's a lot of status and social history of chairs.  And he's a good writer.