Ice and the beard

Ok, so it’s a stupid title.  I got nothing…

So, last weekend, we decided to take a quick trip to PA to visit my family since we were not going to travel over the Thanksgiving rush.  We all had Monday off so we decided to leave WV Saturday morning pretty early so we could get to my parents’ house around lunch time.

We were making good time until right around Pittsburgh where it started raining…no worries, right?  People drive in rain.  It wasn’t 2 minutes after we hit rain when traffic came to a complete halt on the interstate.  We sat for only a few minutes and then started easing forward.  We stopped again on a long bridge where we could see the traffic ahead.  As we sat watching the wreck clean-up, vehicles around us started sliding down the slope of the bridge….from a stand-still they were just sliding!  The rain was actually ice and it was really bad!

That dumptruck was sliding sideways
Those dumptrucks were sliding sideways

We took it easy after passing the 6 vehicle wreck for a few miles until we came upon another stand-still.  When it was all said and done, we ended up sitting in the second mess for over 2 hours.  Salt trucks were trying to get by to treat the roads but were sliding sideways as well.  It was fairly terrifying as semis were jack-knifed around us and all sorts of people were helplessly sliding…again, from a stand-still.

We checked online maps and there were 8 closures between where we were and where we were trying to get.  Since we were still sitting on the interstate around the time we planned to get to my parents’ house, we decided to call it a day.  We finally got moving again and took the next exit to find a hotel.

My Novembeard offering
My Novembeard offering

It ended up being a pretty fun time despite this appearance of the selfie I took in the car.  We ate a nice meal and watched a movie together.  It’s always fun when we get a chance to hang out in a hotel…without the usual home stuff to do, we get a chance to just goof around together…always a good thing!

So we made it to my home town on Sunday afternoon for a really quick visit so everyone could see my Novembeard crop which is much grayer than it was last time I saw my chin-whiskers…This weekend, it has got to go!

Cabin update…slow but sure

It seems like we have been working on our cabin for a hundred years.  I guess it hasn’t been that long, but if I had hair, I am sure it would be a bit grayer than when we started.  Nothing has gone wrong, but it is just a slow process for us to build the whole place by ourselves.  We finally decided to help a little with that exact problem.   Some folks who live up near our place are skilled at roofing and other things of the like and were willing to help us get a roof on the porch that my brother and I framed up a year ago.

Putting the roof on my porch...finally!
Putting the roof on my porch…finally! I didn’t take a good picture of the final result

We sort of do work as it seems necessary, and lately, interior things are taking precedence.  We framed the roof a year ago because I need strong backs and weak minds to lift the beam that holds the porch roof out at the end of the porch.  My brother was in town a year ago and fit the bill nicely so we framed it up while he was around.  The roof itself was not critical and was low on the list.  The lumber we used for the frame was treated wood so it had no problem being in the weather.  We finally figured that although the lumber didn’t mind the rain, we did.  When my neighbors agreed to do some roofing, it seemed like a perfect opportunity and they did a heck of a nice job roofing our porch framing!  It is absolutely wonderful to be able to get out of the rain when we work out there now!

Cutting a hole in the roof for the stove pipe
Cutting a hole in the roof for the stove pipe

In addition to the porch roof, the guys got up on the roof of the house itself, a 10/12 pitch roof, and poked my chimney pipe through so we can install the wood stove we bought two years ago.  We had to use an ugly orange silicone boot to seal the pipe opening from the weather but I guess it doesn’t look too bad.  It’s on the side of the house you don’t really see much anyhow.  And for the ability to have a wood fire to keep us warm, I can handle the looks!

Up on the roof!
Up on the roof!

While my friends worked on those things, Emily and I continued hanging drywall and bead board on the ceilings.  It is sort of miserable work hanging any sort of wall covering, but we are mostly pleased with the results.  It’s not so bad working inside this year as we also got our baseboard heat installed.  I wired in a total of 5 baseboard heaters to the house and it keeps the place evenly and toasty warm!  We will burn a fire when we are there, but the main source of heat will remain electric.

The final result...the chimney and the orange silicone boot
The final result…the chimney and the orange silicone boot

With the improvements we have been making lately, it actually feels like we could almost live in it pretty soon!  I am so excited to be able to head out to the place and just goof around!  I know we will find endless projects, but it will be nice to have a place to go and relax between projects!  I expect we may even spend a little time with all of our neighbors enjoying the wood fire in the winter and the front porch in the summer!

A new tone-arm cobra!

Points to anyone who can get inside my head to know where I got the reference for tone-arm cobra…

So, when I was a kid, probably about 8 years old, my parents got for me a Fisher-Price record player for Christmas.  Honestly, I think it is probably the gift I remember more fondly than any other I received as a kid.  You see, we had a great record collection in our house.  It might not have been huge, but it was diverse and pretty interesting to an 8 year old.  There was CCR, Conway Twitty, and Victory at Sea…Elvis, Dino, Jim Croce, and Hank Williams…all sorts of classical music sets and holiday lps as well.  My Mom had a bunch of 45s from when she was a teenager that I loved.  It was a bit of a wonderland to my brain!

My new Crosley Cruiser record player

So, when I got my own record player, you can imagine that I really owned that record player.  I instantly became a little more sophisticated I guess.  I could control what played and when.  I could change records whenever I wanted and I could imagine a world that matched the music I played.  At some point, I got a cassette recorder and started my own radio station with the records I played…”This is Little Warren on WWAR radio spinning another favorite, Hound Dog Man by Fabian…”  I recorded all sorts of long shows…some rock, some classical, some country.  I was a real DJ in my mind, recording my records and voice-overs onto cassette tape.

Jump forward 35 or so years and my parents brought a bunch of my old things they discovered as they cleaned out their attic…including my old record player and the 45s I loved as a kid!  Just a few weeks after that, I found new-old records for sale for $0.15/each at the local library.  It sort of just clicked, but I knew that my old (and now new-to-me) vinyl was calling my name, begging to be played once again!

My new Crosley Cruiser record player

I tried my old record player and it worked…sort of.  I am no audiophile…in fact, I love the pops and clicks of a record player…but the old record player was just not going to cut it.  I hemmed and hawed and finally found a few extra dollars and decide to buy a new Crosley Cruiser record player.  Some folks online complained that the Crosley was a cheap player or that it sounded bad.  I figured that my not-so-keen ear and my not-so-carefully-stored records would never know the difference and I was delighted to find that the Crosley played even better than I expected!

Awesome record I found...Alpine Holiday!
Awesome record I found…Alpine Holiday!

I fired up the old tone-arm cobra and spun the first record…Glen Miller’s greatest hits.  We played some of the Ink Spots and than an oldie but a goodie – Alpine Holiday…that’s right, it is a record filled with Alpiney sounds of yodeling and oompas and the like.  Abigail and I danced some and we made the record skip a few times.  It was perfect!  Sure, it’s a lot different than CD or mp3 music but it just has a different feel to it.  Old records just sound right to me I guess.  I don’t really want to be a kid again, but I loved remembering back to that time and I love hearing records I hadn’t  heard in a long time!

So…the reference to tone-arm cobra…anyone read my mind?  I am a M*A*S*H guy and Season 6 had an episode called “Your Hit Parade” where Radar plays a bunch of records the unit received (instead of medical supplies) as the staff patched up the mass of wounded troops.  He had to stop playing at one point, telling his listeners about their request, “It’ll be coming to you as soon as I put a new fang on the old tone arm cobra.”  I guess it’s funny but that episode stuck with me and I always call a record player “the old tone arm cobra”…weird, I know.

Eggs

We have had our chickens now for half a year or so.  They are a lot of fun and offer a great source of stress relief.  Abigail in particular has found that sitting in the yard reading a book while they hens roam about is a great bit of fun.  Aside from the fun part, of course, they give us eggs.

Our Rhode Island Red Hen
This is Fezzik…my favorite hen

I never realized all of the oddities of fresh, home-grown chicken eggs.  Many of you chicken experts probably know these things, but we have found interesting tidbits from having the birds.  For instance, did you know that hard-boiled fresh eggs are dang-near impossible to peel?  The protective coating on the eggs keep carbon dioxide inside.  As eggs age, the coating wears off (or, with store bought eggs, is washed off) which makes the shells more porous.  Carbon dioxide leaves the eggs, the pH increases quite a bit and the inner membrane separates from the shell making older eggs easier to peel.  There are all sorts of alleged magical ways to make fresh eggs peelable but I haven’t seen them work yet…so we let eggs age some if we want to hard boil them.

Can't peel fresh eggs
Can’t peel fresh eggs

Did you know that eggs vary A LOT in size and shape?  We have seen monster eggs, nearly spherical eggs, double yolks, tiny eggs, elongated eggs.  It’s always a lot of fun to see what the hens lay day-to-day.  We average 4-5 eggs per day from our 5 hens…one Easter egger (or maybe both) are not 100% layers but the brown egg layers are super reliable.

All sizes of eggs

All sizes of eggs
All sizes of eggs
A double yolker among the bunch
A double yolker among the bunch

The color of the yolks in fresh eggs (at least in our coop)are deeper yellow, larger and firmer than in store bought eggs.  Their shells are harder to crack and feel heavier in general.  There may be breed differences and there are certainly dietary differences between my birds and factory birds so who knows what really is the cause, but it is a striking difference.  Some people say the fresh eggs taste a lot better.  I know mine are better because my chickens are never given shots of medicated food or anything that a big chicken farm might give their birds to eat.

Can you pick out the 2 store bought eggs?
Can you pick out the 2 store bought eggs?
Rich yolk color
Rich yolk color

Mine get to stretch their wings and run around and act like chickens act…which is crazy…I never really understood the phrase, “You’re a chicken” until I watched the hens jump at a gust of wind or run from a falling leaf.  So maybe it is the surges of adrenaline they get running from their shadows or maybe it’s the diet or maybe just the breed that makes their eggs different, but different they are.

I dig my chickens and am delighted to learn new stuff about both the chickens and their eggs!

Fall does have some good things

Since forever, I have sort of dreaded Fall, and, more to the point, Winter.  I don’t have anything specifically against Fall other than it proceedeth directly into Winter.  By the way, that reminds me of one of our favorite lines from Monty Python and the Holy Grail in reference to the Holy Hand Grenade:

“And the LORD spake, saying, “First shalt thou take out the Holy Pin, then shalt thou count to three, no more, no less. Three shall be the number thou shalt count, and the number of the counting shall be three. Four shalt thou not count, neither count thou two, excepting that thou then proceed to three. Five is right out. Once the number three, being the third number, be reached, then lobbest thou thy Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch towards thy foe, who being naughty in My sight, shall snuff it.”

Anyhow, Fall isn’t my problem so much and as I am typically an optimist, I decided to make a real concerted effort this Fall to find as many positive things as I can.  It wasn’t actually all that hard to find good things in Fall…there is Apple Cider, pumpkin spice cappuccino from the gas station, well actually…pumpkin spice everything/everywhere, Novembeard (1,2,3), changing leaves, and the end of gardening and late-night canning.

Fall leaves in WV

We carved pumpkins this year…well, sort of.  Abigail and I carved pumpkins this year anyhow.  We pulled out all of all of the seeds and roasted them.  It’s hard to beat roasted pumpkin seeds.  I remember in second grade when my teacher, Mrs. Kuhn, made roasted pumpkin seeds…I am pretty sure she cooked them right in class…maybe in bacon grease for all I know…they were so good that the memory has stuck with me so well.  I doubt that would be allowed any more.  Anyhow, we had exquisite pumpkins this year and they were a good price as well…that’s rare!

Pumpkin stem

Fall means an end to mowing the lawn.  Well, nowadays, it means an end to watching Isaac mow the lawn.  Either way, I am good.

Fall leaves in WV

I am also delighted when Fall rolls around because our bath towels dry in what seems like a matter of minutes.  The air is definitely dryer and, while that drives many people nuts, I like the fact that I can pretty much count on a dry towel at any time…am I weird about that?

So dear friends, Fall is here and I am pretty ok with it.  There is lots of awesome stuff all around and I am determined to find it this season.  I’ll just keep drinking my pumpkin-spice cappuccinos from the gas station along with all of the girls in their Ugg boots and down vests…say, do they make those boots in men’s sizes?

Stupid computer

I have mentioned before I think…I host this blog on a machine in my office.  There is no real reason why I do that, other than to say that I do.  In reality, it would be smarter, cheaper and safer to host it like most people do…on a server somewhere out there in the cloud on a  machine that other people manage.  I am not too smart though so I am going the stupid, more expensive, dangerous route.

BSOD

So, let’s assume for my vanity’s sake that anyone on the planet noticed that my blog has been sort of “up and down” the past few weeks.  It turns out that one of the hard drives in my web server machine was failing.  Some mornings, I showed up to work to find that the server had crashed.  At first I though there was some sort of magical power flicker or battery back-up hiccup.  Finally, after weeks of ignoring the death screen that presented itself after each crash, I took the time to read the error which clearly said the hard-drive was dying.

Luckily, I have a process where I take a snap-shot or image of the server periodically.  It’s a somewhat fancy way of taking  a backup that can be used to quickly restore a dead server’s data to a new machine.  I finally bit the bullet and got a new machine.  With the image I had created, I was able to create a virtual machine of the image…all that means is that I could basically make one machine run a sort of virtual copy of the other machine.  It’s as if the original dying machine still existed but is now running on a new machine.  The cool part is that if this new machine dies, I just have to copy the virtual machine to  a new machine and start it all up.  From now on, I can literally lose my server and be back in business 10 minutes after I power on a new machine.

Of course, the new machine failed this weekend too.  This was my fault though.  When you set up a new machine, the default setting is to let Windows Updates run automatically. That’s the safe and recommended thing for most machines/people.  It’s a drag for things like my web server though.  Lots of updates installed and my machine rebooted.  Of course, the virtual machine that runs was not set to start up automatically so while my host machine came back up, the virtual machine that runs on the host and that powers my blog did not.  So…I was down again all weekend…hopefully all of that is fixed now and we should be back in business…gee whiz…

Honeybees…the hunt for food

I am always amazed at what creatures do to prepare for the winter…and for that matter, just survive each day.  A few weeks ago, someone had thrown some watermelons outside.  I think their intent was to feed deer as there were apples and other deer-friendly things about as well.  I don’t think deer would have enjoyed the melons as I found them:

Bees on watermelon

Anyhow, during the Fall, things can get pretty tight for any nectar-eating insects.  There are limited things blooming.  Goldenrod and asters and mums and a few other Fall flowers do produce a lot of nectar, but many people view those plants as weeds and cut them down or otherwise try to minimize their presence.

I often see yellow jackets attack my beehives trying to get any bits of honey or nectar that they can get…the yellow jackets always lose but it is a lot of effort for the bees to fend off attacks all day long.  If I am around, I sort of help the bees.  I have literally mashed a dozen yellow jackets at a time as they land on the hives.  Yellow jackets on a bee hive seem to be wary of the honeybees but apparently never see me coming.  Anyhow, you may have noticed that anything left outside…pop cans, watermelon, and hummingbird feeders all attract yellow jackets and honeybees as they make a final push to survive the Fall and stockpile for the Winter.

Bees and yellow jacket on watermelon
Honeybees and a yellow jacket

When I saw these pieces of watermelon, it was most interesting the number and variety of insects that were all sharing time filling up on as much sugar as they could.  I saw hornets and yellow jackets and wasps and honeybees…all working side-by-side.  They were desperate I suppose though they didn’t act desperately.  It’s juts a matter of life for them I guess, and outside of their home nests, there was no fighting for food.  I think there is a lesson there but I will leave that for you to determine (and fill me in if you want!)

 

Other bee stuff

Horny little buggers

I guess they aren’t technically horns, but check out the protrusions on these buggers I found!

Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar
I think this is a Bedstraw Hawk moth caterpillar
Sword-bearing Conehead
I think this is a Sword-bearing Conehead

I am definitely a live-and-let-live kind of person.  That basically applies to my dealing with creatures as well as people…I think I like critters better, but I am willing to leave people or critters alone to do as they please as long as it doesn’t hurt me or my family.  I don’t think it hurt these guys, though, when I picked them up for a little inspection.

He bit me!
He bit me!

The grasshopper actually sort of hurt me a little…I picked him up and he wandered around on my hands for awhile…and then he bit me!  It wasn’t a big deal, but I saw his tiny mouth reach down and just take a taste!  I didn’t fling him off or mash him but I figured that maybe it was time to set him free!  I know I am sweet and all, but he wasn’t my type!

I think I am a morning person

When I was a kid, I used to get up pretty early…not obscenely early, but pretty early every day of the week.  I always got up well before my brother on weekends as well as weekdays.  Most days I walked out to the living room and leaned up against my Mom on the couch.   I wouldn’t say cuddle exactly…anyone who knows me knows that I am not a fan of physical contact with other people.  I am not a hugger and I still really dislike even shaking hands with people.  So, I am not a cuddler, but I did enjoy “lean time” with my Mom in the mornings.  Not sure why I am weird that way, but their you are.  Anyhow, both of my parents got up at obscenely early hours for work stuff.  Dad was usually off to work and Mom and I would sort of just chill together.  As I got older, I loved to watch the Today show, and especially Willard Scott.  I still want him to announce my name when I turn 100.

As a younger kid, I watched “Lost in Space” every day.  It came on around 6:30 am and was, of course, black and white.  It was that time period when I was probably most clearly defined as a morning person.  I ate four slices of toast almost every morning and watched that show.  That time is a great morning memory.

I guess from the time I was 18 until…well…now, I was neither here nor there on mornings.  I still am an early riser, but I held no real opinion on mornings.  I guess mornings grew into a warm-neutral.  Recently, though, I have come to really enjoy my early mornings once again.  I get up before 6 am and cook breakfast while Emily is in the shower and the kids are still asleep.  I drink some coffee and read the overnight garbage that my news readers gather.  The house is quiet and so are my thoughts.

Sunrise!

About the time everyone starts to bumble around, I head outside to care for my hens.  The chickens always hear me crack the door and know I am coming with fresh grains or green tomatoes or an apple core or two.  They cluck my way to the coop which is a great help.  My eyes are rarely on my path lately though as the sunrises have been amazing!  I have been treated to some incredible displays the last few weeks.  Timing like that won’t last long, but for right now, it’s just another wonderful part of my morning routine!

Still here…and running!

The end of the sports seasons are near for us…We’ve been full-on since school started.  I am the head coach for the boys soccer team at the local middle school.  Isaac is in the high school band which plays at festivals around the area and at every football game, home or away.  Abigail is running cross-country at the middle school.  Needless to say, we have been running (he he, get it?) and are sort of ready for  things to start to winding-up.

Cross-Country running

In fact, Abigail ran her final cross-country meet, the county championship race yesterday!  Both the boys and girls teams at her middle school won 1st place!  Abigail was not a medalist in the race, but completed a personal record on the course which was super exciting!  I am super proud of her because she has never especially been a runner.  It’s not that she wasn’t a runner…She has just not been a kid that needs to run.

Cross-Country running

In the weeks leading up to the season, she started to run a little according (sort of) to the schedule that her coach sent out to prepare the athletes.  Mostly that didn’t work at all.  She didn’t get that getting in shape was going to be hard and maybe even be a little uncomfortable.  I ran with her a few times and sort of showed her that it’s ok to push and sweat and even be a little sore.  I am no running coach but she sort of “clicked” once she got what it meant to really run and compete and be an athlete.

Cross-Country running
She raced this girls to the end and beat her…it was so exciting!

So, Abigail is a new runner and a lot less experienced than the older girls with whom she ran.  We have decided, though, that she is a runner and that she and I are going to run together through out the year so that when next year’s season comes around, she will already be in a good spot and will be ready to roll!

Cooling down

I am super proud of all of the kids on her team and she has great coaches that are encouraging and genuinely nice and excited for the kids.  So, while I am glad for the running season to be coming to an end, in a way I am sort of bummed too as it brings to an end the excitement of it all.  I suppose Abigail and her middle-aged Dad can always continue to compete…it’s been nice knowing you my friends!