dxmachina: (Dandelions)
Boshe moi, the pollen vortex is frackin' killing me.

March finally showed up on April 1st, and for the past few days April has been trying to shove it out of the way with a vengeance. On one hand, I was finally able to ride my bike two days in a row. On the other hand, I am wheezing like a patient in a TB ward. I hate to think what it would be like without the zyrtek, because even with it, boosted by some diphenhydramine, my mucus membranes are still running overtime on histamine production.

I had the windows open for the first time yesterday. Did I mention I had all the windows except the ones in the front replaced? Back in January, when it was 7 °F outside. Cold as it was, at least I could breathe.

I never did see any crocuses this year, although the daffodils and tulips have sprouted. I'm worried about the two krabapple trees in the front yard. Neither has shown any signs of life yet. They're both a few years old, so it's not like this was their first winter. The branches still seem fairly flexible, so at least there's some moisture in there.

Yard Work

Sep. 12th, 2012 09:28 am
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Wow, after weeks of mostly hot and stiflingly humid, the weather has been wonderful this week, sunny, clear, and right around seventy. I took advantage Monday to plant some azaleas to replace the enormous junipers I'd removed from the front of the house back in July. Not only should they provide more color than just dull green, but I planted then much further out from the house so they won't rub right up against the wall. They are currently dwarfed by the rhododendrons, but they'll catch up, and I don't want them to get that big anyway. A firm hand with the trimmer should take care of that. Next year the arbor vitae go.

As I suspected, the vegetable garden has called it quits, even before the past couple of nights that were down in the forties, though sans frost. My neighbor's tomatoes and peppers all died of verticillium wilt, and now I'm wondering if that could be at work here, too. The tomato and cucumber plants still look reasonably healthy, but I suppose it could explain what happened to my cantaloupe plants.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
So, this morning I pruned juniper #2 with extreme prejudice, then lopped the carcass into manageable portions and fed it to the evil thicket. The arbor vitae will live till next year, at least, but I still need to trim them back some. Soon.

After a much needed shower, I spent the afternoon and evening making truffles for the Tiptree bake sale at Readercon. Tomorrow I'll make some triple chocolate cookies, as well.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
My legs are sore, my back aches, and my right index finger hurts when I move it. Yes, I've been playing volleyball.

Have had a couple of busy weekends in a row, with one more to come (Readercon). Youngest sister visited with her kids two weekends ago, so we did all sorts of stuff. Spent a day over in Newport gawking at the rich folks and their cottages. Spent another day on Block Island (aka, the Block Island Death March) walking hither and yon in the heat and humidity, since we didn't have bikes for the younger kids*. Still, a good time was had by most all, except for younger nephew who was being quite the pill and is fortunate the rest of us decided not to reenact the massacre at Mohegan Bluffs. The next day was a combination pool/volleyball party where the kids swam and I played volleyball for the first time in a year. I also introduced them all to Pratchett via the adaptation of Hogfather, and teenaged nephew left for home with the loan of several books.

* My suggestion that we let the adults and teenager ride whilst the little kids walked was met with disapproval, alas.

This past weekend had another pool/volleyball party, and I played a lot, which is why I ache all over. Still, it's a good ache, and I'm contemplating going back and playing again with the group at the Guild come September. I'd quit after I had my bike accident in 2004, which was followed by back troubles, and general problems with being old and fat. But I've lost considerable weight, and I've been considering going back. I hadn't yet because I was wondering if I could still play up to the competition at my age, but I was able to keep up without embarrassing myself the past two weekends, so maybe. I doubt I could do it every week like I used to, but it'd be fun.

July 4th is my annual marker for trimming back the shrubs, and I started working on that. The problem has always been the size of the shrubs in front of the house. They're huge, because the previous owner wasn't diligent about keeping them trimmed back, and they're a pain to keep in check. I don't mind so much with the rhododendrons, because they are gorgeous in the spring, but the arbor vitae and, especially, the junipers (I'm mildly allergic) drive me crazy.

So anyway, I was out there trimming away, and I finally decided to do something about it. Went into the basement, found the chainsaw, and cut down juniper #1. Then I spent the next couple of days hacking away at all the intertwined branches with my loppers to separate them all into manageable bits so's that I could dispose of them all. I was worried that the side of the rhododendron would appear bare now that it's neighbor is gone, but it's not too bad, and will undoubtedly grow in now that it has more access to its environs. Juniper #2 meets its fate this week, and then I'll make a decision about the arbor vitae. Then I'll need to replace them with something. I'm thinking azaleas.
dxmachina: (Dandelions)
First mow of the year today. It might have happened last weekend, but for the non-functioning of my lawn mower. My old adversary, the Briggs and Stratton two-cycle engine, strikes again. The first time starting in the spring is always an adventure. Normally I can get it to start by spraying a little starter fluid into the cylinder, but my trusty can of starter fluid seems to have gone walkabout. I didn't make it over to Wal-Mart to pick up a new can until yesterday. One spritz and I was good to go. Take that, B&S.

In retrospect, I probably could've waited a few more days. The grass wasn't as high as I thought it was. It's been a really strange spring. March was essentially April in disguise, which has many of the plants in my yard very confused. It's interesting to see which plants have been affected by the warmer temps and which haven't. For example, the grass greened up and grew like crazy during the one week in March when it got up into the seventies, but slowed a lot once the spring temperatures became a little more normal. My crocuses were apparently up in late February, because they were already past their prime before I'd even noticed they'd popped. The cherry tree bloomed in late March, about a month earlier than usual, while the Bradford pear waited until about a week before its usual mid-April to puff out. The forsythia have been golden for a couple of weeks now, while the rhododendrons lagged behind. The daffodils on the south side of the house are mostly gone. The ones on the north side started popping Easter weekend. The tulips, being more mercurial, shall arrive in their own good time. (Actually, the first started to bloom yesterday.)

Up until this weekend, April was April-like, however it got up into the seventies today, and, depending on which weather site you check, we'll be up into the frelling nineties tomorrow. Yikes!

I suspect I may have to buy some tomato plants early this year.
dxmachina: (Rain02)
For obvious reasons, The Kinks' "Lost and Found" has been running through my head all day.

Waiting for the hurricane
To hit New York City
Somebody said it's hit the bay
This is the nitty gritty

And all the bag ladies
Better put their acts together
We're near the eye of the storm
This is really heavy weather

We were lost and found, in the nick of time
While the ship was going down
We were lost and found, just in time
With the hurricane crossing the coast line
We were lost and found, just in time

This thing is bigger than the both of us
It's gonna put us in our place
We were lost and found, just in time
Now we've got no time to waste

They're putting up the barricades
Because the hurricane is heading up this way
So won't you come in from the cold and the pouring rain
And the old sea dog says shiver me timbers
The sky's gone black
And it's like the dead of winter

We were lost and found in the pouring rain
When the hurricane swept across the coast line

This thing is bigger than the both of us
It's gonna put us in our place
We're gonna see what really matters
When you see that storm stare us in the face

We were lost and found
And we beat the fear
We came through the storm
Now it all seems clear
We were lost and found, standing here
Looking at the new frontier

Ray Davies, The Kinks

There's a video here, but YouTube disabled embedding, so you'll have to click.

Spent the day getting ready for whatever comes. Tried to get some D cells, but everyone was sold out. Plenty of AA and AAA, but none of the big guys. I briefly considered looking at generators, but they were already long gone. I can rig up a makeshift using an AC inverter that I got years ago that plugs into a car's cigarette lighter. It won't run a refrigerator, but I can probably charge my laptop with it.

Took some photos of the Bradford pear out front, to capture what it looked like on what is likely its last day with most of its limbs.* I moved the gas grill and some of the other backyard objects close by the house and out of the wind. I also pulled the air conditioner from the bedroom window so that I can seal the window. I learned the hard way when hurricane Bob rolled through in '89 that air conditioners do next to nothing to prevent horizontally projected rainfall from getting through them. The downside is that it's been high 70's with 80%+ humidity all day, so it's been frelling miserable without the a/c.

* I've mentioned before about how Bradford pears are terribly susceptible to storm damage after they pass ten years old or so. I lost one of the two I had about five years ago. The remaining tree is now about 22 years old, and has lived a mostly charmed life so far. If the winds are what they predict, I suspect most of it will be on the ground by tomorrow evening.

They're also predicting flooding, so I spent some time in the basement making sure nothing was on the floor should the water table rise up through the floor like a year and a half ago. I never did dig a sump for the sump pump I bought back then, so since I had the time today, I hooked up the air hammer** I bought a while back for just that job to the compressor, and had at it.

** I got the hammer sometime over the winter, so I should've tried this out before now.

Turns out I'm gonna need a bigger hammer, or a better chisel for the hammer. I managed to chip out some of the top layer of concrete, down about half an inch to an inch below the surface, over about a third of the foot square or so of floor that I need to dig out. Looking at the chips that came out, the hammer works well until it reaches the level the aggregate settled to when the concrete was curing. Once it started hitting the stones of the aggregate, it was less effective. I saw Tommy Silva dig a sump on an episode of Ask This Old House, and he used a portable jackhammer, which he also said are rentable. I will need to check this out.***

*** If for no other reason than because when I was very young, I loved jackhammers. My parents even got me a toy one. Unfortunately, it only simulated the action of a jackhammer, and wasn't actually able to penetrate concrete. Sigh.

I'm not too, too worried about flooding. For one thing, I had warning to get stuff off the floor. For another, unlike most of the Northeast, we haven't actually had all that much rain this summer, so I don't think the ground is saturated as it is in many places. I had to water the garden the other night, and I've only had to mow the lawn three time since the 4th of July. We could stand some rain.

After I finished cleaning up down there, I emptied the shop vac so that it would be ready if I need to suck up any water. I also did a couple of loads of laundry.

The main thing I'm worried about is power. I have city water and a gas hot water heater and stove (plus the grill) so I should be okay for cooking and cleaning. I don't have any reserve batteries for my camp lanterns, but I have some AAs for my smaller flashlights, and I have candles. Worse comes to worst, there will likely be power at work before there's any here, so I can always head there. I was there today, too, shutting down the servers.

Stay dry, everyone.
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Today is the 4th of July, which means it was time for the 11th annual Casa Machina shrub trimming extravaganza. The spring growth surge is over, and it's time to do some hacking. Of course, I decided to wait until the hottest day of the weekend to do it...

Shrubs and tomatoes... )
dxmachina: (Bike)
Mother Nature finally remembered to flip the switch on her the heating system last Sunday. It's been warmish since, even for the couple of days of rain we had mid-week. The winds have backed off a bit, too. Now they're merely annoying rather than absolutely brutal. The upshot of this more reasonable weather is that my body now aches like an achey thing after three straight days of riding. And despite the brutality of the weather, I managed to have my second best month of April ever, mileage wise, and my times have been a full mph better than this time last year, so there's that.

Things continue to bloom. The Bradford and rhododendrons are in full splendor. OTOH, the cherry is almost all green now, and the forsythia are losing their blooms but fast. On the gripping hand, krabappel #2 is showing leaves, and even the dogwood is finally showing signs the it is not just another dead stick. Whoot!

Of course the downside to all this growth and rain is that I had to mow the lawn this week, and will have to do so again tomorrow. There also seems to be a wee bit of a dandelion problems out there that will need to be dealt with.

I have some mini-projects scheduled for the very near future, as in after my current credit card cycle recovers from the damage done to it by the Machinamobile. A new front storm door to match the one I installed on the side, replace the light fixture that got smashed by the previous side storm door, and perhaps a slightly larger garden with a raised bed. Ah, the Home Depot, where dreams become reality...
dxmachina: (Warp Speed!)
The Machinamobile needed some serious engine repairs, so I've been driving a rental for the past couple of weeks. I got the truck back Thursday, and I returned the Ford Fusion to Enterprise yesterday. Nice car, although it felt weird driving a sedan. OTOH, it had a six cylinder engine, so it had way more zip than I'm used to. It also had a stick shift, so that, along with the zip, took a little getting used to. Of course now I keep reaching for the stick when I want to put the truck in gear. All in all, with the rental on top of the repair bill, it was a very expensive week around these parts. That said, when I first heard the estimate for the repairs, I priced potential replacements. Repairing was a LOT cheaper.

My riding also suffered a little as a result of not having the truck to tote the bike around with, although I did strap on my old bike rack onto the rental last weekend. The weather was more to blame as, apart from one day last weekend, it stubbornly refuses to warm up much above 50°. Yesterday was gray, cold, and windy, and eventually it rained buckets. Today looks a little more promising, but a glance out my window shows the branches on the Bradford pear whipping around in the wind. Feh.

Found out* a piece of neighborhood news I somehow missed when it happened. Apparently someone was storing massive amounts of cocaine and cash in a storage locker just around the corner from me. Huh.

* When he found out where I lived, the kid who drove me home from Enterprise asked me what I thought of the drug raid, to which I replied, "What drug raid?"

Speaking of the Bradford pear above, it is just about to bloom, as are the rhododendrons and one of the krabappel trees. The forsythia popped out a day or two ago, and there are lots of daffodils on the south side of the house. The daffodils on the northern end of the property are getting close. OTOH, the dogwood and the second crab apple that I planted last September appear to be doing their best impressions of dead sticks. I hope that isn't true, but if it is, at least Lowe's has that one year guarantee on trees. I also started some tomato, squash, etc., plants a couple of weeks ago, and none have sprouted yet. I'll be patient, but I worry that my black thumb has come back with a vengeance.
dxmachina: (Bike 05)
I am very tired right now. I woke up an 4 am and couldn't get back to sleep. Blech. I'd gone to bed at 10, so I did get some sleep. I don't understand why this only happens to me on weekends. On week days I always manage to sleep till the alarm goes off.

So first I went into work and spent about four hours wrangling computers in the server closet. We have two servers that are meant to be rack mounted, but until today they never have been. The problem is that while our rack cabinet is deep enough to hold them, it is not deep enough to contain the rails they ride in. The rails are about an inch longer than the rack cabinet is deep. I would have to remove the rear door of the cabinet so the rails could stick out the back. The problem is that, like the cabinet's front door, the rear door has a lock, the key to which has apparently vanished from the face of the earth. I have the key to the front door, but it doesn't work in the back. So I wound up having to remove one of the cabinet's side panels, and then unscrewing the lock mechanism from the latch from behind.*

* The annoying thing about all this is that removing the side panels was a piece of cake since they're fastened with only four screws screwed in from the outside of the cabinet. Really makes you wonder how useful those locks are in the first place.

Once I got the rear door removed, and the rails and servers installed, I also had to remove the front door of the cabinet. The space is so tight that if I closed the door, it would press up against the fronts of the two servers, blocking the vents through which the cooling fans draw fresh air.**

** If I ever find the guy who sold us this cabinet, there are going to be words... and possibly the use of a baseball bat.

I stopped at the Davisville Library on the way home, and while checking out a book there was informed that a book I'd requested was waiting for me over at the main library in Wickford, so I drove over there, too. Afterward I headed home, had lunch, and then drove down to the bike path to take a ride. Once I got there I remembered*** that I'd taken the bike out of the truck earlier in the week so there'd be room in back to haul some trash away, and that the bike was just then sitting in my living room. So I drove back home, got the bike loaded, and then drove back to the bike path. Sigh.

*** After looking in the back and seeing it wasn't there.

I did nineteen miles at just under 15 mph, a remarkably good time considering I hadn't ridden since last weekend. Right now my legs are probably stronger than they've ever been in my life. My times have been really fast for the last couple of months. I even hit an all time high of 15.5 mph on a ride about a month ago.

After the ride, I mowed the lawn, probably for the last time this year. At least that's what I'm hoping. After I finished I let the engine run until it used up the remaining gas in its tank so that it'd be ready for winter storage.

Now to take a handful of ibuprofen and head to bed.
dxmachina: (Bike 02)
I rode all three mornings, Saturday and Sunday in Kingston, today up at Blackstone with friends.

I've taken to riding early on Saturdays so that I can do whatever chores I need to do after I ride, rather than before, which leads to tuckered-out rides. Given the forecast, i.e., lovely on Saturday, blistering after that, I did my annual July 4th trimming of the shrubs Saturday afternoon. It was still hot, messy work, but it wasn't baking hot nor terribly humid, so it worked out.

The basic problem is that the previous owner let most the shrubs get too big. The hedge on the north side of the house is perfectly sized, and the shrubs on the south side aren't ridiculous, although perhaps there are too many, but the junipers, yews, and even my beloved small-leaf rhododendrons out front are all my height or better. The yews are tall enough to partially block the view from the windows behind them. I can't really cut them shorter, because the leaves end not far behind the new growth, and because they also got too wide, so the sides the plants that face other plants are completely barren of foliage. All six of them are pretty much hollow.

I don't even like the junipers, as I get a mild allergic reaction if I get scratched by one, and although I don't mind the yews, they're just too damn big. The problem is that if I cut them out of there, I'm left with two rhododendrons that will flower gloriously come spring in front and on top, but not at all on their sides. To do it properly, I probably need to take them out, too. Sigh.

Anyway, after several hours of wielding my electric hedge trimmer as though it were Excalibur against the shrubs that say Ni, they were trimmed for another year. Actually, I got a little over zealous here and there, and there are some definite bare spots where I went a little beyond removing current growth.

Sunday after the ride* but before it got ridiculously hot, I pulled out the loppers and my camp saw to do battle with the part of the evil thicket that was encroaching on the SE corner of the yard. Spent about an hour working on that, then continued training the tomato plants to their stakes. I have lots on teensy green tomatoes on the way, and even one tiny spaghetti squash so far.

* I rode the now well-adjusted 3-speed, and it worked flawlessly. I'm still surprised, though, at how badly it managed to get itself out of adjustment just hanging from a hook in the attic for the last year or so.

Afterward, I spent some quality time down in the basement organizing and cleaning up matted sawdust. Then I repaired to the a/c in the office to enter utilities and pay stubs for the last nine months into gnuCash. Still much to be done on both projects.

Today, as previously mentioned, I went for a ride on the Blackstone path with part of the v-ball crew. Apart from Blake, none of them had ever been before, so that was fun. It was blistering hot, which suppressed the usual pack of strollers, pedestrians, and other speed bumps from blocking the path. (I will note, however, that since we were constantly stopping to wait for the slower members of the group to catch up, we often became speed bumps ourselves.) Later we went back to Dale's for a pool party and barbecue which was great fun. Fun fact: wasps will catch crickets and haul them back to their nests for dinner. I know this because the nest in question turned out to be in the tubular steel chaise immediately to my left as I sat talking to Christina, who was sitting in the aforementioned chaise. Fortunately, the wasps turned out to be too stuffed with cricket to do much more than glower at us as Chris noisily vacated the chaise.

The one tiny silver lining to the temperatures was that it never got particularly humid (31% yesterday, 50-60% today, not Arizona, but neither was it business as usual for the Northeast). Tomorrow it's supposed to be even hotter. Yikes!

I didn't go to any particular fireworks display, since a couple of my neighbors put on pretty decent displays in their own backyards. This year Rhode Island rescinded the statewide ban on private possession of fireworks (a state felony). They had been banned in the late seventies after a couple of well-publicized accidents involving children. It didn't help that Connecticut legalized them a couple of years ago, and that there was a store just over the border on 95. Now you can get them in Wal-Mart and even Stop&Shop. The fact that it had been a felony had never actually stopped the displays in the past. They've been going on for the ten years I've lived in this neighborhood, throughout most of the summer.
dxmachina: (Writing 01)
Previously in the Plentiful Vintage: It rained for forty days and forty nights, and our hero had to shell out a lot of (fairly moldy) dough to get new tires and a battery for the Machinamobile. Also, it was air show week.

Two weeks... )


Jun. 7th, 2009 07:53 am
dxmachina: (Garden02)
Ah, circadian rhythms, you are a cruel master. I've been up with the sunrise the past couple of days, my eyes popping open for good somewhere between 5 and 5:30 in the frelling A.M. I've been hitting the sack between 10 and 11, so it hasn't been that bad. I was up at 5:15 this morning, for example. Went into the kitchen, ground some coffee, put water in the coffee maker, dumped the ground coffee into a filter, put the filter in the basket inside the maker, hit the switch, and went over to the computer to read the Sunday funnies. Five minutes later I went back over to pour myself some coffee, and noticed that there were coffee and grounds all over the kitchen counter. I'd completely missed the step of putting the actual coffee pot under the basket, and since the basket couldn't drain, it overflowed.

The weather continues to be ridiculously chilly and wet. I considered turning the furnace back on one day last week. Doesn't mama nature know it's June? Even yesterday was cool, although the humidity made it feel warmer than it was. Today looks good so far, though. Very sunny.

Tomato Patch, May 2009 Last weekend was pretty nice, too. I planted the tomato patch last Saturday. Just four plants, two reds (Better Boy and Beefmaster), a cherry (Patio), and an heirloom yellow (Brandywine), along with a pair of muskmelons. I got the melons and Brandywine at Schartner's, the others at the Depot. The Depot had single plants, as opposed to Schartner's four-packs, so although the price per plant was higher there, the overall cost was lower. The Depot's plants were from a local grower, and much cheaper (less than half the price) than the national brand they (and Wal-Mart and Lowes) also carry. I wanted to try spaghetti squash, but couldn't find any plants. I have some seeds, but I never got around to starting them.

I also hacked back the bush that sprang up from the root system of the Bradford pear that crashed to earth a couple of years ago. I'd originally let it grow in order to replace the lost tree, but then the town planted the new cherry tree in the same location. My next plan was to take the strongest stem and transplant it elsewhere in the yard, but I never got around to it. So the shrub grew. The cherry is doing famously, but the pear was also running riot (you can see it in the background here), and some of the stems were already taller than me. It was starting to crowd the cherry, so clearly something had to be done. So I took the loppers to it, and cut out all the stems but one. That one I'm going to try to move elsewhere. I'm not sure how easy that will be. It's growing out of a twenty year-old root system, so I may not be able to hack it out of there without seriously damaging it, or even be able to do it at all. If I can't do it, it'll have to get lopped, too. We'll see.

In a Rut

Apr. 29th, 2009 10:16 pm
dxmachina: (Garden02)
That's a Rut

Back in December as I was power shovelling out my driveway after one of the big snows we had, I had just finished clearing the end when a plow came by and closed me back in again. However, since I was standing right there, he took pity on an old man and came back around and cleared it back out. I was overjoyed. Except that it turns out that there ain't no such thing as a free plow out (TANSTAAFPO). When the snow finally melted many weeks later, I discovered that the plow had left behind a huge rut in my lawn as he cut across the end of the driveway. Couple that one up with a couple of ruts left alongside the driveway by the septic truck the winter before, and that part of the lawn was fast becoming incipient broken ankle territory.

So tonight I finally got around to doing something about it. I picked up four bags of top soil and a small bag of grass seed from the Depot, and started in. Three of the bags went into the big rut, and the fourth went into the others. Scattered some grass seed on top, then raked it in. Finally I hooked up the hose to the front spigot and watered the patch. Easy Peasy.*

* Well, except for the part where the water spigot is behind of the big rhododendrons out front of the house. This is normally not a problem, but just now they are fully in bloom, and are THE place to be if you're a bumblebee. Instead I had to work my way around the back of the juniper bush on the corner of the house, annoying because I'm slightly allergic to it.

The unseasonable warm weather over the weekend seems to have compressed the blooming cycles of my little ecosystem. Everything is fully in bloom. The tulips and the last of the daffodils all popped over the weekend, as did the Bradford pear. The rhododendrons are at peak, while the forsythia have just passed peak. It's all very pretty.

Bradford Pear
dxmachina: (Garden01)
Tweeting outside my window at 5:00 in the morning. Stoopid birds...

Wow, that sure was a short spring. We went from the last remnants of winter on Thursday (high 40's, rainy, windy) to full on summer yesterday (temperatures approaching 80), with even warmer temps due today.

I celebrated by doing the first mow of the season (and was stunned when the mower started up on the second pull), along with some other yardwork. I also swapped out the windows for screens on the storm doors and assembled the garden cart I picked up at the Depot a little while ago. A garden cart is basically a wagon with delusions of grandeur. It does have one feature that I would've killed for back when I was a kid hauling one brother or another around in our Radio Flyer. There's a handle on it that if pulled lets you dump the contents out the back. That would've been handy.

I'd actually gone looking to finally buy a wheel barrow, but as I was looking at the options in the store, I remembered all the times I'd managed to accidentally dump the contents of a wheel barrow after running into an inopportunely placed obstacle. Plus there is still a certain amount of lifting involved when using one, and I'm getting a little too old for that. The cart was in the same ballpark price-wise, and should do nicely for the kinds of toting I need to do around here. It was a bitch to put together, though, relying on very large-headed machine screws to be driven into very tight lock nuts for assembly. I was done by the time I was finished.

I still need to do a couple of chores out there. I need to fill in the deep rut left in the lawn by the corner of the driveway when the kind snowplow driver plowed out the end of my driveway back in December. There are also still some ruts near it from when the septic truck drove over the lawn last year.

I also need to do something about a dead rhododendron. I have a line of shrubs along one side of the yard, alternating forsythias and small-leafed rhododendrons. The forsythia are three years old now, and doing splendidly. The rhododendrons are at least five years old, and aren't. They're barely bigger than when I planted them. One of them is totally dead. What's weird about it is that it was murdered rather than being a natural death. All the remaining branches were clipped below the leaves somehow, as if someone ran it over with a lawnmower. I know I didn't run it over. I'm pretty sure that C next door, who is way more into gardening than I am, would've told me if she'd accidentally hit it with the lawn tractor. That leaves either her boyfriend's kid, who occasionally does her lawn, or bunnies unknown. But if it was a bunny, why just that one and not the others. And my experience is that bunnies don't eat wooden stems, just leaves.

Anyway, I have one rhododendron that I planted near the flower bed at the head of the drive that's done even worse over the years than the others (albeit without dying), and this gives me the opportunity to move it to the ex-rhododendron's location. Today should be a good day for that.

I also want to go for a ride. The weather's been so lousy that I haven't gotten out much at all. I did get out Friday, and swallowed my first bug of the season. Today I'm thinking about driving up to Blackstone for a ride before the thunder storms roll in.
dxmachina: (Chainsaw)
Other stuff:

The Teen Titans as peeps!

I managed to fix the chain saw. The chain had come off the bar, turning an implement of mass destruction into a noisemaker that couldn't hurt a hamster. Well, unless you dropped it on top of the hamster. As I thought, it was a simple fix, except for the fact that I managed to reinstall the chain backwards, which basically turns it into a noisemaker that can rub the bark off trees like nobody's business, but not much else.

Once I got the chain pointing the right way, though, it worked like a charm, and I spent about an hour attacking the depredations of the thicket. There is still some clean up to do, but things are looking better.

Meanwhile, the forsythia are starting to bloom (although it seems early for that), and there are some daffodils alongside the house. I still haven't started any tomatoes, which I should've done a couple of weeks ago. At this point I'll probably be better off buying some plants when the time comes. Oh, and I'll probably have to start mowing the lawn soon.

I didn't ride over the weekend. Yesterday it rained all day, and today it never got much above 40°. I did get in a shortish ride Thursday evening, so that's something, anyway.

I've got six books read that I need to write about at some point. I've also got grist for several baseball posts. Sometimes it's just so damn hard to put electrons to screen. One of these days.
dxmachina: (Garden01)
Overthinking Loppers...

So, I have new loppers, although not the ones I really wanted. The ones I had were pretty compact for loppers, only 18" long or so, similar to these. They were light, and in a pinch I could manage them one-handed. They also used Fiskars' "3X" gearing system for added leverage, which was a feature I liked. That's what I was looking for when I set out to get the new pair. Except no one had them. Not Wal-Mart; not the Depot; not Lowes. Oh, they all carried Fiskars, but only in the 27" size. (Wal-Mart did have these, but it was an anvil model, versus the bypass type (which are more like scissors), and they were made out of plastic rather than metal. No sale. BJ's had the Lop and Saw model, which were close to what I wanted, but I already have a saw, and they were way more expensive than plain old loppers. Amazon had the ones I wanted, but they would take awhile to get here. Then I noticed something on the Fiskars site. They have a lifetime warranty. It turns out I may be able to get mine replaced under warranty. That would be nice.

Meanwhile, however, I still needed a pair for right now. Knowing that I may be getting my smaller pair replaced, I went ahead and got a 27" pair at Lowes. They are heavier and more tiring to use than my old ones, but on the other hand, I can lop higher branches with them. They certainly work. Now I just need to contact Fiskars about the other pair.

I have lots of crocuses already, even out by the cherry tree. Last year the cherry tree crocuses didn't start popping until the second week of April. That seems odd, because it hasn't exactly been warm this month.

March Madness...

Today is my annual journey to Connecticut to eat ribs, drink beer, watch college basketball, and talk baseball, which makes it possibly the best day of the year ever.


Mar. 22nd, 2009 12:09 pm
dxmachina: (Chainsaw)
Still feel like crap, although not quite as bad as yesterday.

It started out nice and sunny today, with promised temperatures near 50. As usual, promises seem to have been broken. The clouds rolled in and it's chilly out there. Still, there's yardwork that needs doing, so I headed outside with chainsaw in hand.

I last did battle with the evil thicket a year ago. At the time I thought I'd be good for at least a couple of years, but last year seems to have been an exceptionally productive one, evil thicket-wise. Towards the end of the summer there were spots along the thicket that I could no longer walk along to mow the lawn because the canopy had gotten so low.*

* Autumn olives grow on sort of a diagonal between up and out, producing thick trunks that spread sideways rather than upwards. As the leaves grow, they get heavier, and hang lower... and lower...

So I really need to attack the worst offenders, and this year I decided to do it early, before any leaf growth had started. It's bad enough without leaves obscuring things. Besides the autumn olives there is some sort of vine running around out there that lashes many of the olives together, along with another vine with thorns like roses.** So I set to work trimming and cutting back the first bush in line.

** Those may be actually be some sort of wild rose. My old landlady has some similar looking rose vines draped over her pergola, and in various other places in the yard.

Now I do have a chainsaw for the thicker trunks, but a lot of the work involves using loppers to trim back the smaller branches so I can get at the main trunk, along with a folding camp saw for medium sized branches. So I'm lopping along, minding my own business, when I try to lop off a branch that's just a tad too thick. No biggie, I figure, I'll just cut it with the camp saw. The only problem is that the lopper is stuck, the blade embedded too deep into the branch to pull out easily. So I twist the handles a bit and it comes free with a snap. Whoot! Except then I notice that there's still a piece of metal stuck in the branch. I examined the loppers, and there was a crescent shaped piece of the blade missing. WTF?

These weren't Job Lot loppers. they were Fiskars, with good quality carbon steel blades. Now even the best carbon steel can be brittle (cf., Andúril), but really, broken by a branch? I suppose there's some sort of irony in an olive branch breaking a blade, but still.

Anyway, I did what I could with the saws, but there are just too many vines to deal with. I really need to get new a pair of loppers before I can do much more. Have I mentioned that a Lowe's opened on the base, in sight of where I work. Very convenient. So now I have a choice of both a Lowes and a Depot on my ride home at night.

Other than that, the crocuses popped in the bed alongside the house about ten days ago, and the daffodils and tulips have started poking leaves up, even over around the cherry tree, which was way late last year. At some point I need to start some tomatoes.


May. 14th, 2008 08:38 pm
dxmachina: (Garden01)
Nice day, but I didn't ride. I did ride last night, and my legs are a little sore. Instead I decided to finally do something about mulching the forsythia and small-leafed rhododendrons I planted some years back. Of course, it would've been way easier to do it then, when there was a freshly dug circle around each new planting, but I didn't.

I got a couple of bags of bark mulch last fall, some of which got spread over the new tulip bed, but there was still a bag and a half left. Since I didn't have a nice neat hole to fill, I was worried that the bark would look really sloppy if I just heaped it around the plants. The solution was to buy some of that plastic lawn edging stuff, out of which I made a ring about 2½' in diameter and 4" high. Open the ring, wrap it around a shrub, close the circle, and stuff it with mulch the way you'd spoon batter into a cake pan. The shrubs are still small enough that once the mulch was in I could just lift the ring up leaving a perfect circular pile of mulch behind. Genius!

Only problem is I ran out of mulch. Another bag should do it. I just have no idea when I'm going to do it, given that I'm heading for Jersey Friday night.

Sunny Day

May. 11th, 2008 08:28 pm
dxmachina: (Bike 02)
Boardwalk Through Lonsdale Marsh Rode the Blackstone Valley path this morning. It was very sunny, but cool and breezy. I wore a long sleeved shirt and needed it. I was pleased to discover that not only is the section from Manville to Woonsocket that was under construction last year officially open, but there's also a new half-mile section now open at the south end of the path. A good chunk of that is carried over Lonsdale Marsh by a spiffy boardwalk. It really is the prettiest of the RI bike paths.

In looking at the map, the southern end of the path is now only about two miles from McCoy Stadium. Of course that two miles involves biking on the sketchy streets of Central Falls and Pawtucket.

The next part of the day involved me following the lawnmower around the yard. It's amazing how fast grass grows in the springtime. We hates it.

Then I put some seedlings in the ground. Five tomato plants: Jubilee, Brandywine, Better Boy, Red Lightning, and Super Beefsteak, and two muskmelons: Ambrosia and Hearts of Gold. The muskmelons are interesting in that the Hearts of Gold, packaged for 2008, produced exactly one seedling from six seeds, while the Ambrosia, left over from 2005, gave me five plants from nine seeds. Sadly, I have room for one of each. I also put a basil seedling in a pot. The seedlings are all tiny, much smaller than the ones I usually purchase from Schartner's or Wal-Mart. It's supposed to rain tomorrow. The plants will like that. I also need to buy some tomato cages. I've always tried to stake my tomatoes, but I always fall behind on tying the vines to the stakes. Better to just get the cages and let the plants flop around.

I was going to work on the face frames for the work bench, but discovered that my planned method of construction won't work. I need to visit Woodcraft tomorrow night.


dxmachina: (Default)

February 2016



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