Monday, December 31, 2018

This Is How We Ended 2018

This is how we ended 2018 here on the property. (Central Texas)

What a glorious way to usher out one year and get set for the next!

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Hey Santa! Where Do I Send The Bill?

Worst place ever!!
A bit of a leak in a steel barn with a concrete floor is nothing to get too excited about, unless that leak happens to be right over your workbench. You know, the place where you carefully cut, trim, fit, and assemble complex masterpieces of woodworking art, (Yep, maybe a bit of exaggeration there.) where you apply museum-quality finishes that take days to complete, and where you painstakingly place 1000 different puzzle pieces made of paper and ink into cohesive wholes.

When that's where the leak is it becomes a big friggin deal!

Because of the sprayed foam insulation where the water comes out in the inside, just off the end of that light fixture in this case, doesn't always correspond to where it went in on the outside.

OK, I'm not saying I have definitive proof. No CCTV, no eye witnesses, no forensics,  no smoking gun, not even little reindeer footprints, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty dang strong.

I mean who else would be stomping around on our roof creating leaks on Christmas Eve?? And I don't care if it was the fat man in the velour suit or the pointy little hooves of his ride, a leak is a leak.

There are a trabazillion bolts in our barn. That might sound like an exaggeration
but ask me how I know what the actual count is. Go ahead, ask!

In the 15 years since the barn was assembled, bolt by bolt and section by section, we've had one other leak. It was in a non-threatening location, doing nothing more than creating a temporary damp spot on the concrete floor during rains, but a leak is a leak so I tracked down the source and put a stop to it.

Because of that previous experience I had a pretty good idea what I needed to tackle this second leak.

With my bucket full of potential tools at the ready and my trusty ladder firmly in place (I know, it looks scary as hell leaning over like that, but it's propped securely against the AC platform and is more stable than if I blocked up the right-hand legs to level it out.) I headed up to correct the situation.

Our barn is made up of a number of 30' X 14' arches, 25 of them to be exact, and before I went wheels (feet) up and climbed on top, I stood under the leak and counted valleys from the front of the building to the inside location of the leak - five. I knew from my previous experience that the source of the leak was either the 5th or 6th peak, the peaks on either side of the 5th valley.

And once I got up there the culprit was obvious. This bolt at the top of the barn right were two of the angle-supports come together. Those supports are used during the assembly process. (The whole 30' X 50' building was delivered to us on a single pallet and just adding water does not turn it into a building.)

They help hold things together during the process of standing the next flimsy, twisty, floppy arch up and getting it bolted to the one already standing. (It takes about 5 arches before the whole mess stops feeling like it is on the verge of coming down. Scary shit!) You could use just three (one on each side and one on top) of the 10' angle sections, moving them along as you go, or you can buy some extras and just leave them on the building as additional bracing. We chose to do the latter.

But the previous leak was also at one of these overlapping joints.

The bolts are about an inch long with a neoprene washer under the head and a square nut on the inside of the barn.

One thing you do NOT want to do with neoprened bolts is over-tighten them, squishing the washer until it can't do its job anymore, but that does create the risk, especially for an amateur, of leaving a bolt loose enough that over time it backs off to the point where the washer isn't doing its job for a whole 'nother reason.

But no big deal, just come back and tighten the bolt down a little bit. Except that with the nut now being inaccessible under the spray-foam insulation, that can be problematic, as was the case with my first leak several years ago. The nut just turned right along with me as I tried to tighten the bolt, so I ended up calking the area instead. (Yes, I could have dug through the foam and gotten to the nut to tighten the bolt properly but that just didn't sound like a lot of fun. Besides, having the guy come out and spray the foam was one of the few things we actually paid good money to have done and tearing it up just doesn't seem right.)

This time the nut stayed put and the bolt tightened just fine, bringing back memories (flashbacks?) of tightening all trabazillion of these bolts 15 years ago as I tried to judge just the right degree of tightness.

OK, so the calk is clear which makes this photo pretty much useless.
And I really hate opening a fresh tube of calk for a tiny job since I know the leftovers aren't going to last long, but I also really don't like climbing around up here a trabazillion feet up in the air, so I went ahead and calked the whole damn thing as well.

And now I'm back to puzzling without fear, but Santa - you owe me for a tube of calk. . .

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Celebrating the Cycle

Yesterday I saw someone bemoaning the Winter Solstice as a day of peak SADness (Seasonal Affective Disorder) to be tolerated, but not a day to celebrate.

Well, we're all different and each of us have out own unique way of navigating through this life.

When I came across this particular viewpoint of this particular day, I had just been out with the camera capturing memories of, what for me is a glorious day.

Yep, the rules state never take a photo with the camera pointed at the sun. Well sometimes you just have to break the rules.

Of the four annual solar events, two equinoxes and two solstices, the Winter Solstice is my favorite.

The equinoxes are somewhat interesting from an intellectual standpoint, what with there being an equal amount of light and dark on those days, and the Summer Solstice is useful as a bookmark on the solar calendar,


but the Winter Solstice, now for me that's a day to celebrate!

It signals the beginning of the climb out of darkness.

The promise that the days of rest and hibernation will give way to days of renewal and growth.

It reminds that this cycle, so critical to the working of our planet for billions of years,
is still there for us to make the most of.

And when that day, as it did for me here in my little corner of the world, coincides with mild temperatures, dry air, and cloudless skies, well I'm not sure I could ask for anything more. . .

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Weird Coincidence or Serendipity?

My Delorme Topo, the mapping system I use on my laptop, has a choice of 7 different coordinate mapping formats. Admittedly, more than half of these are pretty obscure unless you are in the military, work for the USGS, or are just plain contrary, but that still leaves at least three different  coordinate formats that are in common use.

The other day I saw a mention of the Cosmic Campground in the Gila National Forest. I hadn't heard about this place before so did a little research on it so I could stick a pin in my map.

 Rather than chase down the directions I simply copied the coordinates that came up and pasted them into the find field of Topo

Except that I wasn't paying attention and copied the degree-minute-second format and Topo was set to degree format. I don't know what convoluted magic happened in Topo to twist what I copied into the degree format it was set for but,

It sent me off to what is clearly a campground loop. One I hadn't marked before. But wait! This is in the El Morro National Monument. Still in New Mexico but definitely not the Gila National Forest! What is going on?

I eventually figured out what I had done wrong and plugged the proper coordinate format for the Cosmic Campground into the find field.

Ahh, that's better. Back in Gila National Forest, only this time it's not an obvious campground. Good thing I went looking for it then.

But how great was that! Two new pins in my map for the price of one.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Cha-Ching: or Ho Ho - Ho Hum. . .

You'd never know it based on all the hype, but I suspect I'm far from the only one that's become jaded by Christmas.

It seems like it's been an awfully long time since that unique, delicious, squirming anticipation of Christmas morning has set my youthful blood afire. Disillusioned, for a variety of reasons that would hijack this post if I covered them all here, for decades my participation in the holiday, the Christian version, has been based mostly on upholding expectations and forestalling confrontation.

But this year, for reasons unknown even to me, despite the retail hype pandering to our increasingly gime-gime-gime-and-gime-more culture starting up pre-Halloween, I made more of an effort than usual, but only post-Thanksgiving when it's supposed to happen. When there's time to enjoy but not so much time as to get bored with it.

 This tree, including the pot it is sitting in and the star on top (And the bit of cardboard underneath to keep the plaster-filled ceramic pot from staining the raw concrete floor like it did my workbench!) tops out at a rather modest 54". But in the context of our two-room, (one of those is the bathroom) 380 sq. ft. home it's pretty dang big!

We have to slide the tree, which weights a friggin ton by the way, (Did I really need to fill that pot nearly to the top with plaster? What was I thinking??) towards the door, to the right, in order to use the printer which lives in the second drawer up and I gota kinda squeeze my arm through the partially opened door of the closet above to get to my heavy jacket. (The one I wear to town, My real jacket, my working jacket, lives out in the barn.)

I even pulled the wire lady, one of those 3/4 sized garden sculptures that looks something like the sewing dummy my Mom used to have in the spare room, out of the weeds this year and gussied her up for the season

with a cheap tree-skirt and even cheaper Santa hat.

Oh, and a few lights too.

She's had to endure nearly 5" of rain since December 3rd when I put her outside the back door (where we can see her when sitting inside) and that has washed the color right out of the paper dragonflies,

but she's actually holding up better than I expected.

That's not to say though, that I'm not pretty much over the "festivities" and looking forward to January 6th when all the hype will be stuffed back into the attic until next time.

Friday, December 7, 2018

When Mothers Go Bad

I  (- you know - the first born - clearly her favorite -) called my mommy the other day,

       the woman that birthed me, fed me, guided me firmly down the right path,

                      and also the one that sold up and moved to an independent living place a few months ago.

We barely got started and I was settling in for a nice chat when she interrupted me mid-sentence and said "I'm hanging up now cause I gota a thing ta go to."


What the hell!!!

But then I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised.

Last week she was telling me about how much she's enjoying her Tuesday evening card group.

How they're all a fun bunch of people and they meet for dinner then go play cards the rest of the night.

And, while telling me all this, she accidentally let it slip that the other night they were playing -- gasp -- FOR MONEY!!!

But wait, it doesn't stop there!!  She actually went to my sister's place for a family Thanksgiving with the grandkids and great grandkids, WEARING BLUE JEANS!!!

What is happening??!!

Personally I think she's done that dire and dastardly thing she warned me about all through my teens.

I think she's fallen in with a bad crowd!

But what can I do about it? She HUNG UP on me!!

I wonder what's next. . .

           Food fights? . . .

                       TP'ing the concierge's office?

Disclaimer: None of the images above are of my mom or her new bad crowd because they broke curfew and I don't know where they are. . . 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

(Something) Touches Red You're Dead??

Once in a while, while doing my laps on the back of the property, I run into a snake. The vast majority of the time it's a Texas Rat, a grumpy but otherwise harmless reptilian neighbor, (To big critters like me anyway. I'm sure the voles and field mice have their own take on this.) like the one above that enjoys lurking in the well-house's warmth. (That's the top of the well casing over there on the right, ruining my otherwise perfect composition. . .)

But today, up on the southern end of the ridge-top I ran into one of these. It was about 2.5 feet long (Actually, at the time I figured it was more like 20.5 feet long but you know how things like this tend to get exaggerated.) and must have recently shed because it was very bright and shiny with well defined borders between the colors.

Being a pair of very civilized creatures we both went our own ways, each suffering nothing more than a momentary fright.

There are two red, yellow, black snakes. One is venomous and the other is not. All the way down the hill after our chance encounter I was trying to remember the mnemonic (Isn't that a weird way to spell the word?!) I was taught as a Boy Scout. I knew it was about which color touches red, but I couldn't remember if it was yellow or black that makes me dead.

Well apparently my Boy Scout days are too far behind because according to the The Art of Manliness Guide to Snakes, the publishers of other manly tomes such as How To Ram Through Vehicular Roadblocks: Becoming Antifragile: and How to Make Women Like You: (And the source of the image above since I didn't have my camera with me at the time) the mnemonic is actually Red and Black friend of Jack; Red and Yellow Kill a Fellow.

Clearly I just had a close encounter with a venomous Coral snake; but since I wasn't going to pick it up and put it in my pocket anyway, Coral snake or King snake, it doesn't really matter. (Beyond having a Manliness Encounter that is.)