Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Passport Woes are Over

Incidentally ....

Vicki's passport showed up yesterday. So the "new" birth certificate and letter did the trick.

Tight Fence

I've been planning to do this for quite some time. My electric fence around my tiny garden has long suffered from posts and insulators that were too flexible and stretching wire. It looks sloppy, and the bottom wire touches the ground -- not excactly what you want on an electric fence.

Earlier this summer I replaced the posts with more sturdy ones, and the plastic insulators with ceramic ones.

But the stretching still happened. So a few-years-old plan has now been implemented.

Each stretch of wire now has a spring in the middle of it. I got some pipe bending springs from Hoods for 88 cents apiece, and cut them in half because ... hey, the spring doesn't have to be THAT long, and half a spring is still a spring. Then I bent out the end coils on each one to form hooks, snipped the electric fence wires in the middle and made loops to hook the springs on.

Voila! Tight fence.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Walkabout Recap

Guess I never got around to telling you about the overnight walkabout a couple of weekends ago.

Ryan and I hiked in to Cedar Creek forest about 6:30 friday night, July 6.

All we had with us was a knife, a flint, and a water bottle.


Two tents, sleeping pads, candle lanterns, lighters. Pipes. A couple of folding camp stools. Whiskey. And a couple of pistols just in case. GPS. 4 cornish game hens. A couple of potatoes. Trail mix. Oatmeal and apples for the morning. Mini alchohol stove. Head lamp. A thing of camp spices. 4 beers. A hatchet. And a hiker's water filter.

Yeah we were each carrying about 50 lbs, including a gallon of water each. Not excactly "Man vs. Wild".

But it was fun.

These walkabouts were started by Ryan's grandfather, his Mother's father. When he was a boy, he and his grandfather would pack some hotdogs & buns and a pan into the woods, make a little campfire, cook the dogs, eat them. His grandfather would teach him a few outdoor skills. Then they'd go back. I don't think it was even very far into the woods.

Ryan, as a teenager, really wanted to go on Outward Bound, and saved his money to go. As it turned out, some juvenille delinquents were "sentenced" to it... they "had" to do it and didn't want to and didn't pay for it. Ryan was the opposite. He wanted to do it so bad he saved up his money and paid for it. And early on in the trip he slipped and fell in a stream, cutting his face up pretty bad. They were going to evacuate him, but no way was he going. He ended up doing the whole trip. I think it was out on the Appalachain Trail.

Me, I watched two of my older brothers go through cub scouts, webeloes, and boy scouts when we lived in southern California when I was very young. I couldn't wait to get into cub scouts.

But it never happened. We moved away from California about the time I would've been doing that, and life changed dramatically for the Leith family. The closest I ever got was a brief stint in 4-H... and my project was our 7-year-old poodle. Not excactly hiking and camping and pinewood derby.

I do remember family camping in the Sierra Nevada mountains a couple of summers when I was a kid, and those memories probably have a lot to do with my love for mountain air. Baking pine needles, lofty peaks, cascading streams -- and camping.

Anyway, as we were roasting our game hens on a spit, drinking a beer, smoking a pipe by the light of the Uco candle lanterns and campfire -- I think Ryan's grandfather was at light's edge watching in approval. We could almost feel him.

There are wild dogs and coyotes out there and we were probably a good hour and a half from medical help. But headlamp scans of the surrounding forest showed nary an eyeball. Cant' say the same for Alley Spring, where all evening raccoons were battling for position in the shadows to invade the campsites the moment our lanterns were snuffed.

There was a lot to do. We really didn't have anything to eat the game hens on, so we picked it apart with our fingers. It was good, but messy. It occured to us that perhaps cooking the food at the camp fire so close to our tents might not have been the best idea because of the wildlife it attracts, but we burned the bones, the wrapping, and anything food-like in the hope that the rest of the camp site would not attract any unwelcomed visitors. That seemed to work.

We didn't turn in until about 1:00 am. I woke up to birds about 5:00 am. A whipoorwill whipooorilled outside of my tent briefly, then flew on. Got up about 7. Cooked our oatmeal, then went down to the creek to clean the pans and get more water.

That's where I took the hummingbird moth picture.

We broke camp and hiked out about 2 or 3 miles to the Calloway County side where Kristie picked us up at about 1:00 pm.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hummingbird Moth

From the weekend walkabout at Cedar Creek.

4th of July and a visit from Aunt Pat

Aunt Pat is up from Florida for the second year in a row. That's a lot of driving. She's up here visiting the various people in the Missouri wing of the Leith clan. We all went out to Mom & Dad's on the 4th and had ham sandwiches and such and shot the breeze.


Jeff and I went out and shot off a few rounds from my .22 & .38 pistols... and he brought his Taurus 4410 (also known as a 45-410). It's a nifty little wheel gun that shoots 5 rounds. It'll fire 410 shotgun shells (2.5") and .45 long colt rounds as well. He brough some clay targets and we tossed 'em up and blasted them from 10-15 feet. I think I'll get one. It's a substantial piece of self-defense weaponry that has some versitility to it. You can use the shotgun shells for "safe" home defense or varmint killing, and .45 could offer adequate bear protection when hiking as a last resort. Or stop a determined assailant if the 410 shells didn't get the message across.

Plus it's just cool.

Met a couple of Dawn's kids (I guess that makes them "first cousin, once removed"). Nice girls, and pretty ones, too. Uncle Ed and his wife Pat were there (not to be confused with the "other" Aunt Pat. At one point we had two sets of Uncle Eds and Aunt Pats -- a source of much amusement when we were kids). Joel was there sans Dawn (that's his wife Dawn, not our cousin Dawn) because she had to work, and of course Tom & Betty Jeff & Cindy.

Aunt Pat followed us home Wednesday and stayed with us 6 days. We had a nice visit. I did go on walkabout with Ryan Friday night/Saturday, and she played some rounds of golf with Sam & Co. a couple of days.

Vicki's been coming down with a cold that I hope she gets over soon. Sore throat, feeling just generally icky and all. But she still smiles and presses through it. A trouper, that one.

Bought some Flat Iron Steak last night and used a little Kroger steak marinade on it and did it out on the grill. It was pretty darned good. I think we'll do that again. That and some pepper/onion kebobs. Vicki and Aunt Pat spent a lot of time playing cards. I got out the guitar and I was even ginned up enough to sing along even though there were people there.

I have not been riding the bike the last two weeks. I didn't ride today because we're going to the Elks for Sam's birthday after work. But I need to crank it back up this week.

And it looks like Mark will be going with me to RMNP this August, if all goes well. Vicki wants to visit her mom, so she won't be along. This sets up perfect conditions for a guy trip. So I need to get that planned out.

Well, as planned as I ever do it ;-)

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A shotgun pattern of things

This last week's been pretty busy. It started out with a scare with Vicki's mom. Susie had been trying to get hold of her after an afternoon doctor appointment. Mom was supposed to call her when she "got back from the doctor". Well Susie'd been trying her since 6pm, and at 10pm, she called us. We got Susie B. (different Susie) from across the street to go check on her, and Mom's car wasn't there. Well within a half hour the phone rings and the caller id says Lutheran Hospital.

Fortunately, it's mom and not some doctor on the phone and she's ok. We told her that Susie was expecting a call from her when she got home from the doctor. She replied "well I'm not home from the doctor yet." Well good, her sense of humor is intact as well. Anyway, she went to the doctor for "heaviness" in her legs, some swelling and discoloration. Turns out her heart's not ticking quite right and the swelling and heaviness is blood that isn't getting back to her heart fast enough and it's kind of collecting there, causing the discoloration as well. And that can lead to blood clots. Which can then break free and go clog up a valve or chamber in your heart and do you in. So they sent her to the hospital to get her on blood thinners and a close watch pronto.

Vicki drove up Tuesday Night/Wednesday to be with her and make sure all the right questions got asked and help her get everything she needed. She was discharged Thursday and Vicki came home Sunday.

So I "bach"-ed it here in the mean time.

Fixed some things around the house and started working on the garage. We decided we're going to hang our sleeping bags. They shouldn't really be stored rolled up and compressed. So I put up some short closet rods perpendicular to the wall alongside the storage shelves to hang a bunch of camping/hiking stuff on. And I hung the ladders. Located a smelly dead mouse under the freezer compressor, vaccumed out behind the freezer and the beer refrigerator (both in the garage) and cleaned the coils (they needed it badly).

Well all this means the bikes have to go somewhere else. We only have a 1 car garage, and we have camping equipment, beer brewing equipment, lawn & garden stuff, car stuff, tools, various pieces of scrap lumber, bird seed, coolers, spare electronic equipment ..... it adds up. But I don't want our bikes just sitting out in the weather. I can put them under the deck, but that's almost worse because dirty water drips between the boards when it rains which would make them both wet and dirty and slow to dry to boot.

So I went to Hoods and bought the stuff to make a little bike shelter, and I bought a bike rack to lock them to. Just a shelter built with a 2x2 frame, a plywood roof, with some vinyl shake siding for "shingles". Haven't built it yet. But the garage is shaping up.

Did some vaccuuming. Cleared the basement of moldy smell (I think I talked about that last time).

Oh, and almost killed the cherry tomatoes.

I sprayed some roundup all around the edges of the garden -- very carefully trying to hit only the weeds growing out from under the edges of the tarpaper. Then it rained for about 3 days, and when the sun came out, the tomatoes wilted. The tops of the other two tomato plants wilted as well. But the next day those two appeared to have recovered. Not so the the cherries. So I tore the tarpaper up from around them and just doused the soil with water. Next morning, some of the wilty stuff was perking up and most of the rest of it looked less wilty.

Next afternoon, it looked pretty bad, but not quite as bad as the afternoon before. I repeated the waering. Next morning, more improvement. Next afternoon, less setback. And again the next day. So I think with some TLC they'll shake it off.

We switched from Mediacom cable modem to Centurytel DSL -- in a package deal that gives us internet, phone + unlimited long distance and Dish Network sattellite for less than we were paying for all that before (without the unlimited long distance) AND... it all comes on one bill. Which Vicki likes.

Going out to Mom & Dad's tomorrow. Aunt Pat is there. I imagine we'll see Uncle Eddie and Julie and Dawn, at least. The brothers, too. Aunt Pat's following us back here afterward for a visit and some computer work on my part. And friday evening Ryan and I are going on an overnight walkabout because Kristie's kicking him out for a bachelorette party she's hosting. So we're looking forward to that.

I got my passport last week, just so I'll have one. Vicki's was rejected due to her adoptive birth certificate -- they didn't like it. It's the one her parents got when they adopted her. It's worked all her life for everything else. She had also sent off for two more official copies from Indiana after we sent that one off (her only copy) and we remembered the Marines had lost Brian's. The new ones are different. We wonder if they'll suffice -- but get this, nobody at the passport information help center can tell us. They say "well, try this. It should work. Maybe." But with twelve week waiting periods this could easily stretch out to 6... 9 ... 12 months (it's already been three). And adoption records are closed in Indiana. They will not give Vicki the information she would need to go the other two routes they suggested ... and the state department help line could not tell us what we could do about it -- "I don't know", said THREE people, and all three of them refused to transfer us to somebody who could tell us.

Now damned sure if Vicki stopped paying her taxes they'd show up at OUR door and take HER straight off to jail without asking any of these questions that they want her to answer to prove she exists and is a U.S. Citizen.

We're hoping the new birth certificate and a letter of explanation will suffice. One guy "thinks" it "should".