So I didn’t do a great job of sticking with my declaration that I would post more. My diary has been fairly quiet lately and that is a drag for me. We did have a wonderful Christmas and New Year’s season and are racing towards the most important of all holidays, Groundhog’s Day!
Anyhow, I took a bunch of pictures of stuff we have been up to lately…
I love our fireplace area at Christmas…we still put out cookies for me Santa to eat
We pretty much only do sugar cookies at Christmas…and I mostly eat them in dough form leaving few to actually make it to the oven. The kids “decorate” them in interesting patterns.
And by patterns, I mean globs and piles…which makes them perfect to eat!
Best Christmas present ever!
I buried my nephew under his new blocks. I loved those kind of blocks when I was in school…We had a large, ride-able wooden train in kindergarten that we used to drive through great walls made from similar blocks. Anyhow, we had a lot of fun “hulking” out from under these blocks!
My brother mentioned that he always wanted the game Operation as a kid. We obliged this year although it is a much different game now. Still, they talked trash and left a watch or two inside the body…it was good fun!
Sober…all of us, sober. We do New Year’s with Emily’s folks. It’s a great time and we made it clear until midnight!
Somewhere during the holidays, we replaced two windows in our house. All together, I think we have replaced 21 windows or something like that. We have become old hands at it. It made a huge difference in both warmth and sound control. It’s always so striking to see a gaping hole in the house.
Well, we have had a busy few weeks lately including the crummy snow storm. I have lots more pics to post soon. I hope you are dug out wherever you are!
My baby turns 16 today. I started off his day with the well-known, “Sweet 16 and never been kissed.” Cooly, he replied, “Yeah, let’s just go with that.” How can it be that the tiny baby so long ago has turned into a nearly grown man?! And just who did he kiss?! Anyhow, this is a big year for him and Emily and I are so excited to see what comes next!
Some pics with his friends from his Winter Concert last night:
We have been busy with lots of stuff as I mentioned before and most of what we have been doing revolved around my coaching soccer again, the kids doing stuff in band, and work related obligations.
One thing, though, that I have been doing is a little different from that. Back in April, my company sponsored a 5K to benefit the local chamber of commerce’s scholarship fund. I ran a lot in high school as a member of the soccer team, but after that, I really didn’t run again. I decided to give running another try so I could train with Abigail who is on the middle school cross country team and so we could both run the 5K.
As I posted before, we ran the 5K which was pretty fun. What surprised me, though, is that I really enjoyed running. My first race nearly killed me as I pushed probably too hard, especially for the shape I was in. The thrill of racing and actually not embarrassing myself made me want to do it again though. My time in that first race was 27:30…not a bad time and it piqued my interest. I wondered if that was my max or if I could get better. I know I am not old yet, but I am not young either.
Since then, I have continued running and have come to really enjoy it. I tried running with music but it drives me crazy. I prefer to listen to my breathing and to the birds and the squirrels. I like to look up at the sky at the clouds or keep count of just how many people pick their noses when they drive. Someone asked me what I think about when I run (assuming I must get bored). Sometimes I think about this or that, but most times, I literally think about nothing. I sort of zone out and occasionally take in a sound or a sight, but I don’t really ponder life’s deeper meanings or worry about stressors. Maybe that’s why I like it so much.
I sort of like running after dark through neighborhoods. I quietly cruise by homes and hear people talking or watching tv. I can smell a steak cooking a mile away and people make a lot of popcorn in the evenings. I run 2-3 nights during the week and most times it is after dark. It’s quiet then and even easier to zone out and the stars are pretty amazing when I take the time to look up.
I try to do a longer run on Saturday mornings. Emily and the kids sleep in most weekends. I have always been an early riser so it sort of works out perfectly. I may run 8 or 10 miles on Saturdays before they wake. When I start to smell bacon cooking on my trail, I know people are waking up and it’s about time to head home.
I really like racing and my best 5K time from a few weeks ago was 22:10. It’s a little harder to zone out on race day as I get pretty wound up waiting for the starting gun. During the race, it’s all about keeping myself from running too fast the first mile and then having nothing left for the next 2 miles.
I do not think my goal in running is only to race, but it’s a nice side benefit. What’s better, though, is that I have met some pretty cool people and stand amazed at what people can do, physically. I ran my most recent race with a 60 year old man, a new friend of mine. We talked about our plan for the race as we stood in the starting chute, but we both had doubts about whether we could pull off what we had discussed. We ran a pretty fast race and he and I stayed together throughout and we ran just under the pace we had decided on. Before running, I never dreamed a 60 year old man could run a race, let alone a pretty fast pace. Older men then he ran even faster than we did though and did it with apparent ease. Of course, they were not new to running, but age didn’t hold them back one bit.
This is a meandering post, but I think it sort of mimics my thoughts on running. My mind wanders about how I will age and what I think about (and what I don’t think about). I like to be exposed to new people and especially people who don’t fit my stereotypes. I also like an occasional shot of adrenaline that comes on race day rather than during rush hour!
As with all things we do, our project to install our woodstove at the executive deer stand has gone slowly. About a year ago, some friends helped me cut a hole in our perfectly good roof and feed a stovepipe through it. Emily thinks we stalled like that for a year, but I prefer to think of that year as all-season, extreme weather testing. Finally, in the last few weeks, we found a little room to breathe in our schedule and finished actually attaching the stove to the well-tested stovepipe!
The funny thing is that we actually bought the stove about 4 years ago. Four years ago we were optimistic on how long it would take us to build the cabin…”oh, about 6 months, right?” Yeah…right…
Anyhow, we fired up the stove with the first fire and it was glorious! Although it was an unseasonable 70 degrees, it will still absolutely wonderful to enjoy its heat. I was a little ridiculous, but I bet I ran back and forth outside ten times watching for smoke in the chimney…I just wanted to see it work! Of course, it was a good fire so didn’t produce much smoke which was good and bad I guess.
And what will we burn in this stove you ask? We just happened to have to cut down a few trees at our house. The lumberjacks left the tree cut up in sections, but unsplit on the ground where it dropped. All together, I think we had wood from 4 or 5 trees. We burned a bunch in the firepit but still have a really good pile of wood….or actually, several really good piles.
At first, I wanted to buy a woodsplitter but decided to rent one instead…right decision. We knocked out splitting a lot of wood in a weekend and hauled it to our woodshed at the deer stand over the course of a few weeks…
So, now we can let it snow and blow. Assuming we can get near the cabin, we can be plenty warm!
I know I have said it before, but I will say it again…I really hate winter. It’s dark early, it’s not just pleasantly cool but really cold. Winter means snow which means slush and muck everywhere. It means waiting on the car windshield to defrost. As a lifelong cheapskate, it also means higher gas bills to prevent Jack Frost’s nipping too hard at our noses.
But one cool thing that happens in the Winter because of both the heat and dryness of Winter is my bath towel dries out quickly. I typically use my towel for several days before laundering it. Of course, that means I hang it to dry between uses like most people. In the summer, though, it doesn’t always dry out between my shower and when I wash my face or whatever. I don’t know why, but using an already wet towel is a real drag. That’s never a problem in the Winter though! I can wash my dry, cracked and chapped hands as often as I want and never have to worry about using an already-wet towel! Ah, glorious Winter…sort of…
It’s been quite awhile (almost 3 months) since I have written anything and I am sort of bummed about that. This space has always been sort of my diary, albeit a public one. But it’s how I hope to keep track of stuff we have been doing, share pics with friends, and make new friends. It’s just that things have gotten so busy that writing has just sort of fallen by the wayside.
Basically, we have been very involved with band, sports, and life…some of the very things I like to write about. But this time around, it seems like those things are all we do and I cannot possibly write about the same three or four things over and over.
Anyhow, things have slowed down a lot and I am going to try to catch up. I am not sure who I am addressing and I hate those random vague thoughts sent out to the Internet that people seem to do far too often on facebook, but I needed a chance to just log in again and write something. Maybe I am just writing to myself as a sort of kick in the pants to get back into writing…
It’s late in the season for swarms to strike out from a honeybee colony. Typically, April through June are prime swarm months when the bees are building up to work the bountiful nectar sources during that time of year. As they get crowded from both the increase in bees as well as the stored honey and pollen, some of the bees along with the old queen strike out on their own and forma new colony. It’s natural and kind of cool, unless you are a beekeeper wanting to keep strong hives and make honey. It’s even less cool when you don’t see the swarm leave so you can’t capture them and at least keep the new colony.
Anyhow, swarming is a natural thing but it usually happens in the Spring and early Summer…and very rarely at the end of August or beginning of September. Still, somehow I got calls for two swarms recently and was happy to gather the new colonies for my apiary! The first swarm was at the local hospice house. A business across the road saw the swarm fly into a tree so called me. I hurried down and went into the hospice house. They didn’t know they had a massive swarm on their property but were happy to have me remove it. The receptionist announced over the intercom that everyone should stay inside while I did my work. Of course, that meant a huge number of employees ran outside to see what was going on. Among them was the media relations guy who saw an opportunity and called the local media. Two news crews came and before I knew it, I was being interviewed for the evening news! That was cool of course and I was happy to help hospice get some publicity as well.
A good number of the people who had gathered had never seen a swarm of bees so it took a good bit if time for everyone to see what there was to see and to get pictures with the bee guy sticking his hand into the swarm (don’t try that at home). I love catching swarms and love an audience so it was a lot of fun and the swarm was huge and should definitely survive the winter, unlike many late season swarms that don’t have time to build up in number, collect nectar and pollen, etc.
Just a week or so later, Larry Groce of Mountain Stage fame called me with a swarm of bees in his front yard. Larry is a super nice guy and it was a swarm of bees so of course I gathered them as well. The funny thing is that I went to his place after a Rotary meeting where he was the featured speaker! We got to chat a bit about bees which is always fun! I collected his swarm easily and merged them with another colony so they should survive as well, though not independently.
And now this isn’t exactly a swarm, and I didn’t exactly catch them, but these buggers are still hanging out by my back door. They are sort of swarm-like, right? I mean, it’s a mass of stinging insects…I think they are beautiful so they shall remain until they move on…
A year or two ago, Isaac and a bunch of his buddies discovered hot peppers. They each grew various types and took them to school where they traded, challenged each other, did nerve damage to their tongues, etc…you know, guy stuff. Most of the guys had run of the mill peppers…habaneros, thai chili, cayennes, etc. To be sure, there are some good and hot peppers in that bunch and they were a lot of fun. This year, we decided to step it up a bit and planted ghost peppers, also known as bhut jolokia peppers. In 2007, it was rated as the world’s hottest pepper…a mere 401.5 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. For reference, a jalapeno pepper registers between 1000 and 4000 Scoville units. A freakin’ ghost pepper rates at 1,000,000 (1 million) Scoville units!
Anyhow, we grew a beautiful crop of ghost peppers this year. They grew nice tall plants and this week, started ripening into their beautiful red color. Isaac picked them on Sunday and ate the end off of one of them. We watched as his face turned red and he immediately had to get a tissue as his sinuses drained. He drank a ton of milk and had that goofy look on his face when you know you’ve made a mistake.
Not to be out done, I decided to step it up a notch. I chomped the remaining pepper, including the seeds, and within 10 seconds, knew that I had really screwed up. It took no time for my sinuses to clear and then my lips and tongue felt as if they were swelling…I imagine they probably were. I could feel it down my throat and all throughout my mouth and nose (watch the video link). Finally, and this is the best part, within 3-5 minutes, I had to deliver my supper to the porcelain altar. Luckily, my mouth was so hot that I couldn’t taste a thing!
About a month ago, I got a call from a local woman who had a bee problem. As a flower gardener, she knew she had bumblebees rather than honeybees, my usual bugs of choice, but she hoped I could help her. In her gardening efforts, she was getting stung as she worked near their colony. You see, in her beautiful flower garden, a nest of bumblebees had taken up residence in one of her birdhouses.
I’ve never kept bumblebees, but I like all of the flying creatures with the word “bee” in their name so I said I would come and take a look. From talking with my grandpa a dozen or so years ago, I remembered that bumblebees do indeed make honey. As a kid, he said he and his siblings used to follow bumblebees back to their nest to collect the small caches of honey they made. Grandpa described their unusual-looking nest (better pictured here than my trying to describe it) and talked about the fun he had chasing after them.
Isaac and I entered the woman’s garden and found, on an eye-level shepherd’s crook, a little birdhouse filled with a bumblebee nest, just as she reported. I told her I didn’t think I could get the bees out and she said, “Oh no, of course not, just take the house and all if you want to.” Of course, I wanted to so Isaac and I wrapped it in a sheet, returned home and placed it on a shepherd’s crook in my yard where it remains, still full of bumblebees.
I am not sure how/if they will winter there, but I am inclined to leave it alone and see what happens. They have been a delightful addition to the yard and garden and we have enjoyed seeing them on blooms all over the yard!
A month ago, we actually made it to the Potomac, but rather than tubing, we spent the weekend boating. My brother and sister-in-law have a river house along the river and invited the family for the weekend. My parents and aunt came from PA and my crew drove in from Charleston.
So, their place has a dock which was begging for something to be tied to it. My brother has a saying: “If you’re gonna be a bear, be a grizzly.” We use that all the time, but in our case, it’s usually when we screw something up…we go all-in. Anyhow, my brother goes all-in also but not usually in the screw-up department. My point is that when the decision to buy a boat came up, he decided not to settle for a mere 16 foot boat, but rather to buy a 30 foot long pontoon and two jet-skis that will knock the tears out of your eyes.
When I was a younger man, I had a motorcycle that I rode everywhere in all weather…even once in the snow…don’t ride a motorcycle in the snow…it’s cold and really really hard to not slide. Anyhow, I loved riding my bike but as newlyweds, we really needed a washer and dryer. I sold my motorcycle and never got another. So, the jet ski was a perfect sort of hearkening back to my motorcycle days. I could go crazy fast, do stupid stuff and have a much lower risk of getting killed compared to a motorcycle. It was perfect!
Anyhow, we had a great time at the river house and boating and eating all sorts of food. My brother cooked bacon outside on an electric skillet and my kids raved and raved about it. It’s hard to beat camp food or anything cooked outside for that matter. And of course, anything cooked by their uncle is good too.
I love these family times and boating and the Potomac, at least where we were, was absolutely beautiful There were eagles and lots of fish and turtles and ducks. People were nice and we all had a wonderful time sharing each other’s company! I’d call that a good trip!