Our road keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin, into the neighbor

In high school, I really enjoyed listening to Steve Miller Band.  The music is a little funky but I still really enjoy it.  They had one song called, “Fly Like an Eagle”.   One of the lines is, “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…into the future…”  It’s catchy and seems to sort of fit with a fun little thing that is happening in my neighborhood right now.

When we bought this place 8 or so years ago, the road was in less than stellar shape.  It was obvious a slip of some sort had occurred at some point.  As time passed, we noticed that the road gapped a little now and then…it was still an active slip!  Every year the city…or maybe the road elves…someone would bring a load of asphalt to patch the gaps that developed and we went on our merry way.  This year, however, the issue became serious.  Over the course of a week or so, half of our road dropped a foot.  The city brought rock to fill the slip to allow everyone to pass.  Of course, that was a hopeless battle because the rock added weight to the mix which worsened the slip.

Road slip

Our road is one lane and a dead end.  The way our driveway is shaped, we typically back up or down it to the road, drive to a turn-around where we change direction and then drive out to the main road.  We need to cross the slip to turn around but we can survive without being able to do that.  Fortunately, for us, this is a mild inconvenience compared to what some of my neighbors are suffering.   More than half of the residents of my street live beyond the slip and were at risk of not being able to access their homes, being left without refuse service or emergency services.

Road slip panorama

Click to see the larger view

I’ll give credit to the city, the water company and the sanitation folks.  Oh yeah…in varying forms, there have been water and sewer disruptions in addition to the road mess.  All three agencies seem to have come together nicely to drive piles, dig holes, cut trees and in general, fix the road.

Just last night, however, the urgency has grown.  The pilings are mostly in place so our road appears to be safe, but the earth below the road and wall-in-progress failed.  A 40ish foot swath of earth slipped significantly down the hill towards another neighborhood below over night.  I’d be terrified to stay in those houses, especially with the forecast of rain and possible snow tomorrow.

The road slip worsens

The road slip worsens

I’m typically one to find the good in situations though, and I have definitely seen good come of this mess.  In addition to improving our home values with a good road, I have been given the opportunity to stand upon the road once the work crew leaves, with my neighbors.  We all knew each other but we rarely just stood around and talked.  We have done more of that lately and it has been a good and fun thing!

The chickens have left the building

It occurred to me that I haven’t mentioned a thing about our chickens since we first got them.  I have been amazed at how fast they have grown up…they look like real chickens now!  When we started, of course, we kept the chicks inside under a heat lamp.  The brooder was just a washtub with a piece of fence I wrapped around the sides to make a wall.  At first, the setup worked well and the chickens grew very well.

Our chickens

I really needed to get a coop built so we could transition them outside, but we have been super busy lately.  The chickens were fine in the brooder after all…so what’s the hurry?  I mean, the brooder was in our office at the house which has it’s own heat source and I can keep the cats out very well.  Heck, the chickens might even enjoy looking out and seeing the beautiful cork floor, right?

Our chickens

They did indeed like the look of the cork floor.  Apparently, one day, the decided to mount an attack on my fenced in brooder wall…they somehow knocked the wall over and escaped into my office.  Now, if you have never been around chickens, I need to tell you…chickens can poop a lot.  I mean a lot!  And they are generally pretty messy.  Imagine, if you will, 7 chickens free to roam about my office.  They didn’t exactly admire my cork floor in the traditional sense, but they did apparently walk about every square inch of it, dropping blobs of chicken poop wherever the wanted.

Our chicken coop

I upgraded the roof a bit

Of course, that was it…I could not wait to build my coop any longer.  I ended up buying a coop which was not quite what I had originally planned but it looks nice and works pretty well so far.  I still need to build either a chicken tractor or an extended run to give the chickens more space but this has alleviated my original problem…and now, let’s hope cork flooring comes clean without too much work…

It once again rolls downhill

Awhile back, I mentioned that we had a pretty bad Saturday that culminated in erupting sewage in our house.  There is more to the story of course and you dear friends, are always so patient to listen to my ramblings…

The tool of doom!

The tool of doom!

So we finished our ’round-the-clock pumping and called the plumbers.  They immediately told us that our city sanitary board offers a free service where they will run a camera through the system to identify the location of the problem.  In fact, a simple clog will sometimes break free when their camera passes so we were pleased with the possibility.  The city came and did their thing…after they finally found a spot that the could even access the system.  You see, in our old house, there are essentially no viable clean-outs they could use.  Luckily they were able to access the system through the floor drain that was the original source of our problems.  After some work, they identified a spot 44′ out into the yard that was the problem…it just went black on the camera.

Replacing our sewer line

Replacing our sewer line

We called our plumbers back and they began the task of roto-rooting the system.  Of course, without a clean-out, they had problems.   The only option for their bigger tool was to remove one of our toilets and go through the system that way.  Luckily we have 3 bathrooms so we weren’t immediately doomed.  The problem, however, was that they got their tool stuck in the system somewhere 80′ or so in from the entry point.

Replacing our sewer line

Replacing our sewer line…all the way down to the main!

The only solution was to excavate to retrieve their tool.  I figured that since they were going to have to excavate, we might as well replace the old clay tile pipe with new pvc and hopefully avert future crises.  So, with a huge tool still stuck in our bathroom and plugging a large part of our drain system, we entered day 3…or was it day 4?  Who knows?  Anyhow, the excavator came and dug up a large part of our yard, including the water line which was apparently buried on top of the sewer line.  Yeah!  More problems and expense!  Yeah!   #+@#$*!  It turns out the line was full of roots from the house clear to the city’s tap.  The city had to replace their tap and a section of their line as well…luckily that won’t immediately cost me.

Replacing our sewer line

Covered again…waiting for the mud!

Everything eventually got put back together and reburied.  We flushed and flushed to make sure it all rolled downhill as…stuff…is meant to do.  There is nothing left in our basement so it seems that all is well once again in our little piece of Heaven!

Our new land

We bought 30 acres a couple of years ago and we sort of figured that would be it.  We love the land we have and do not intend to ever leave it.  We weren’t looking for any more land, but it turns out that their was another piece of land within walking distance of our original property that came on the market.  It’s within decimal places of being the same acreage of the original property and the price was right…so we closed on our second piece of land on our beloved ridge last Friday.  I walked the perimeter a few weeks ago and took some cool pics.  Now that Spring appears to be here finally, I hope to explore some more and maybe find a hot stash of Molly Moochers!

A stream on our new land   I have no idea what we are really going to do with the property but if nothing else, the kids can have equal inheritance!

Now that I look at these pics…meh…but I like the stream for sure and it’s a nice property in spite of these pics!

I have no idea what we are really going to do with the property but if nothing else, the kids can have equal inheritance!

 

Pollen!

It’s finally Spring as far as the bees are concerned!  Typically, maples are among the first things to bloom…usually in March sometime.  When the maple blooms pop, I usually sigh a sigh of relief.  There are no guarantees with honeybees, but once the maples bloom, bees generally can find sufficient pollen and nectar to start their spring build up and ultimately, survive.

Honeybee laden with pollen

Honeybee laden with pollen

This weekend I peeked in on the colonies and saw lots of activity!  Maple pollen is a sort of greenish, grayish color and it was what I expected to see.  Instead, I saw tons of bright yellow pollen!  I have no idea what pollen source the bees had found but I suppose we might as well call it daffodil pollen…it was the right color and daffodils are my favorite flowers ever.  Does anything smell better than a daffodil bloom in spring?  No, I think not.

Honeybee laden with pollen

Check out the wings of the bee with pollen

As I often do, I sat in front of the hives and watched the bees come and go.  Spring is a wonderful time for bees…they are so focused on chasing blooms and nectar and pollen that they hardly even notice my presence.  I love the opportunity to just sit and listen to their buzz and watch as they weave and bumble into the hive entrance, loaded with pollen.  In addition to the pollen baskets on their legs, the honeybees seemed to be completely covered in pollen, head to stinger.  I love spring in the apiary (and everywhere else too) and I can’t wait to taste this year’s honey crop!  Yeah yellow pollen!

More bee stuff…

In the middle of tweendom

My little baby girl turns 11 today.  That places her squarely in the demographic known as “tween”.  My mom always used to say that she liked my brother and me best at the age we were, whenever someone asked.  I have to say I see it now.  I loved Abigail as a baby and as a 5 year old and I am really enjoying her as a budding young woman right now.  It’s fun to see her interests begin to shape and her soon-to-be-adult ideas begin to form.  She is strong willed and determined and sometimes emotional and always just a lot of fun to be around.

Abigail! Abigail!

Emily and I had to beg her (as we always do) to give us some gift ideas.  Our kids have the most awesome responses when asked what they want for gifts.  Typically it is just a small thing or two.  I wrote about  a few examples awhile back…sort of a funny read I think.  Anyhow, I do not think they have ever just “gone wild” asking for things.  They see value in certain things and also are beginning to see and understand the value of money.

Birthday knife!

Birthday…knife?

Birthday Presents!

Birthday Presents!

So this year, Abigail asked simply for a pocket knife, an iTunes gift card and some Gobstoppers.  I think that’s a pretty cool list…not a typical list by any means.  Of course, the pocket knife surprised me the most but hey, who am I to question my daughter wanting to buck stereotypes?!  I got her exactly what she wanted and surprised her with it this morning.  As of breakfast time, she had not yet cut herself.  I know it will happen at some point.  Folks have to learn things and sometimes it has to be learned the hard way.  We will teach her safety of course so it will be up to hear to learn, one way or another.  It’s good to have a little danger and responsibility too…she is 11 after all…growing right up into a real person a wonderful young lady!

The worst Saturday in awhile

Typically, I cherish my Saturdays.  A few years ago, I pondered about how many Saturdays I have and how I wanted to use them.  They are special.  This weekend, I learned that some can be “special”…yes…in quotes.

A got up early on Saturday to go to a farm equipment auction I had been looking forward to for awhile.  It was overcast but ok.  Rain was coming but it was supposed to hold off until after noon.  I wandered about the auction and discovered that this year’s auction was sort of pitiful compared to previous years.  Still, it was fun as I got to hear a few good auctioneers and I got to see all sorts of people.  I ran into Granny Sue and her husband Larry so we had a good chance to drink coffee and talk a little.  Emily and the kids were to meet me at the deluxe shed around lunchtime so I gave Larry a ride home as he lives next to our property.

Emily and the kids showed up, we ate lunch  and commenced working on the inside stuff in the cabin.  The rain came and then it picked up and then it got serious.  I didn’t think much of it, but all the rain was saturating the ground.  We do not yet have a driveway at the cabin…we just drive across the field.  We have done it since day one and plenty of times in the rain.

This Saturday, the worst in awhile, was different.  As we started to drive off, the car started sliding.  I wanted to stop but it was sliding…in WV…which means down the hill.  I was trying to go sideways across the field with my trailer in tow, but I guess the weight of the engine pulled the nose of the car down the hill.  I was standing on the brakes and all tires were locked up but we were sliding…in WV…which means down the hill, nose first and I couldn’t steer or stop.  Isaac and I were in for the ride as long as we had to be.  Emily and Abigail were farther up the hill and watching helplessly.  Fortunately we crashed through some wood and over a “hump” of dirt which finally stopped us maybe 15 feet from a tree and, more importantly, the edge of a significant cliff of sorts.  All told, we probably slid 100 feet or so, totally out of control.

Wreck in the mud

Emily flagged down a neighbor and asked if they could bring their tractor over to pull us out.  It was so wet though that we decided that would leave them in the same boat with the tractor.  Fortunately, many of the neighbor’s family live on the same ridge and one had a dozer nearby.  Now I mean to tell you, WV has some of the finest people anywhere, but our ridge community shines above all other people I think I have ever met.  I do not say that as a simple reply to this one incident but this one incident simply reinforces what we discovered early on up on the ridge.  Our ridge community is built of wonderful people who would give the shirts off of the collective backs to help neighbors.  So far, I have had very little to offer in return but I hope someday…hopefully soon, to be able to spend enough time on the ridge and be a helper in the community of such wonderful people.

Wreck in the mud

Where it took a turn for the worse

So several members of the family…our neighbors, came around, brought the dozer and yanked first the trailer, and then the car up from the abyss.  Somehow we managed to escape all injury and damage to us and the car.  During the process, I was soaked to the bone with 38 degree rain and became covered in mud.  That along with the injury to my pride was a pretty hard blow.

Wreck in the mud

Scariest few seconds I have had in awhile

While Emily was waiting with the kids in the other car, somehow the battery went dead.  Luckily the neighbors were still around so they jumped the battery but talk about adding insult to injury.  We thought we had seen the end of the mess…I mean, two things go wrong…what else could possibly happen?  Could this day get worse?

Wreck in the mud

At least we stopped…

We drove home, wet and shivering.  We all stripped down to get cleaned up and warmed up.  Our laundry area is on our basement…the lowest point in the house.  The lowest point in our house has a floor drain which was spewing water and…uh…stuff…bad, bad stuff…into our basement.  I would guess there was 4 inches of stuff in the basement.  Our furnace had water in it.  The electric water heater had water covering its base.  Lots of stuff we had sitting in the floor had water in it.  In answer to “can this day get worse?” “YES!”

“#@^!%@…YES!”

We have a sump pump so I ran to the home improvement store and got some fittings so I could connect a garden hose.  We pumped and the drain kept on giving.  We pumped it down to a quarter of an inch or so and the drain would fill it back up.  With no idea how deep it would get, Emily and I traded off all night getting up every hour to turn the pump back on and drain it out.  Getting a plumber out in the middle of the night would be expensive and we didn’t know if it would matter anyhow if we needed excavation done.  That wouldn’t have happened until the daytime anyhow so we decided to save the off-hours fees.

Backed up drain

Ugh…

It slowed to where we could just pump every couple of hours so we decided to wait until Monday to get someone to come to the house and fix it (hopefully in the same day).

I don’t wish away too many Saturdays but this most recent Saturday is one I cannot wait to forget…

 

A little more about my diet

A LOT of people have asked me specifically how I lost 47 pounds (so far…probably won’t lose any more).  I did follow a particular diet called “The Ideal Protein Diet“.  My chiropractor said she was tired of telling people to lose weight to help with their back problems but then not having a real suggestion that was easy and worked.  She researched around and found this diet and tried it.  It worked so she became a provider.

I know people have all sorts of self-image issues and skinny isn’t always good and fat isn’t always bad.  I am not about chasing the “skinny ideal” and everyone has to make their own decisions about their own health so please don’t think I mean to judge anyone on whether they are thin or not thin.  I have blood pressure and cholesterol issues and those are the reasons why I did this diet.  My blood pressure is normal now without my medicine.  I will continue to monitor it daily, but so far, so good.  For me, I was comfortable at my previous weight but not with my other issues.

Anyhow, the gist of the diet is to minimize carbs and maximize protein but it is unlike Adkins or those sorts of diets in that the practitioners of this diet want participants to eat good protein (i.e. not bacon, etc) and to eat lots of vegetables, control portion sizes and hydrate.  It has worked for us because the diet program provides a video series that is excellent and not just smoke-blowing.  We see a weight-loss coach weekly who is helpful to our monitor progress and guide us forward.  The diet is very well regimented so there is no counting points or calories or anything like that…it’s just easy.  The other neat thing is that the process includes monitoring muscle loss and fat loss.  The idea is to minimize muscle loss and focus on fat.  It’s interesting but I lost very little muscle in this process which is not typical of most diets.

It is a little expensive to start as there are “good protein” products we eat to supplement other lean meats, etc but it has worked very well and I have not been uncomfortable or weak/tired, etc.

I am transitioning to the third phase where I begin to reintroduce healthy carbs and prepare for a maintenance phase.  The idea is to retrain my way of thinking about food and what is really going into my body.  The focus now is on eating whole foods, good portion sizes and how to enjoy food without gorging and snacking constantly.  There is no magic to keeping the weight off…no more eating donuts every day.  No more drinking four Mountain Dews a day.  No more snacking on chips right up until bed time.  This diet helped me get the weight off.  Of course, it is now up to me to keep it off and I have been pretty well educated on what causes weight gain, how to manage it and how to move forward while still being able to enjoy food.

I don’t usually advertise stuff on this blog because this space is not really about that but I know weight loss is hard and I am so pleased with how this worked that it seems like others may benefit.  If you are local, the link to my provider is above.

It’s Pi Day!

You may not be aware but today is Pi Day…not American-as-apple-pie pie but 3.1415-remember-geometry-and-circles Pi Day!  It’s March 14…that is, 3.14!  Lots of people might ignore such a day but without circles and their measurement and pi in general, our world would be a much less fun place.  Science and math make the world go ’round…get it?  Round…circles…pi!

pi-pie

It’s meant to be!

 

Chocolate pie!

Chocolate pie!

The number π is a mathematical constant, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter.  I am a computer programmer by trade and took a lot of math classes as I went through my schooling so I was exposed to a lot of this but if you have not had tons of math exposure, you should definitely read the info about pi on wikipedia…it is truly fascinating!

So, to honor this special day, we baked a pi…I mean a pie last night.  I took a bunch of pics of the process but that was boring.  Instead, I figure it might be more interesting to see a few pics that clearly illustrate what pi is and how it relates to the humble circle.

Pi unrolled

 

sine curve and pi

 

Weren’t those super cool?!

Reciting Pi

Click to play video

(Or try here if that doesn’t work)

Here’s something else that is pretty cool…when Isaac was in elementary school, he took it upon himself to learn pi to 50 digits.  He still remembers it and recited it for me!  Abigail recently began to memorize it and she knows it to 12 digits.  For most intents and purposes, 4 or 5 digits is plenty but more precision is…well…more precise so why not learn it?!  Incidentally, the memorization of the digits of pi is called piphilology.  The world record for memorizing the digits of pi is 67,890…that’s amazing!

Reciting Pi

Click to play video

(or try here if that doesn’t work)

So friends…enjoy this pretty cool day and get your ovens baking…it’s Pi Day!

We are new chicken farmers!

If you have come around here for very long, you probably know that I get hair-brained ideas and jump before I think.  Well, the other day, I posted this picture and caption to Instagram.

Box of baby chicks

It’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission

I didn’t tell Emily I was going to get chicks on that particular day but I thought I was justified.  You see, we were out at the deer stand the other day and I happened upon a rabbit hunter walking in the woods who found a near-starved beagle while out in the field.  We talked a little and he indicated he didn’t want the dog but didn’t want it to starve either.  I didn’t think much of it but later told Emily.  She loves beagles it turns out, so I said I am sure we could get that dog if she wanted it.  We discussed a little and she finally declined saying, “we can’t have a beagle and chickens”.  Since we didn’t get the beagle, I figured that meant I was green-light on chickens.  Seems right, right?

Baby Chicks!

Baby Chicks!

Anyhow, I begged for forgiveness and was eventually granted neutrality.  Emily doesn’t really have a lot to do with the chicks but I am not presently concerned with her smothering me in my sleep.  Of course, that is always subject to change.

Baby Chicks!

More Baby Chicks!

Anyhow, I got a mixed box of 8 chicks…4 from the dark pullets and 4 from the red pullets.  That basically means I probably have female egg layers and they will probably be reddish or blackish in color.  I may be able to better identify breeds once they get older, but being new to chicks, this could just remain a mystery.

Two or three week old chicks

Two or three week old chicks

One of the chicks, I noticed after I got home, had a goobered-up eye.  It was crusty and swollen shut.  I read online a good bit and tried cleaning it many times with a wet cloth.  I could get it to clear but within a day, it got messed up again.  We figured she would be blind in that eye so we named her Hook.  We couldn’t remember if Captain Hook had an eye patch but Hook stuck as her name.  Unfortunately, a few days ago, we discovered she had a broken or maybe dislocated leg.  It was clear she wasn’t right in several ways…so RIP Hook.

Two or three week old chicks

They are growing so fast!

We have named 2 of the remaining 7 birds…one is Hodor and one is Fezzik.  Both birds appear to be big and dumb.  We will name the others as their personalities become apparent.  Ultimately they will be named Soup, but in the meantime, we intend to have a lot of fun with them and enjoy the eggs as well!