Archive for the ‘Personal status’ Category

Local Wendover lunch

Thursday, January 26th, 2012


If you’re passing through Wendover, UT on your way across Interstate 80 and you’d like some lunch and you don’t want to give your money to the casino robber barons of Wendover, NV – you can get a great meal and support the locals at “Garlic and Onions”.

The carne asada tacos with rice and beans were fresh. The lettuce was crisp. A family friendly place. Very reasonable prices.

Open 10:00 am – 9:00 pm every day but Wednesday. The walls are decorated with photos of Bonneville racers. If you want a beer it’s BYOB. Credit cards accepted.

Get off the main drag and relax!

Elk Mountain – head in the clouds

Friday, January 20th, 2012

The top of Elk Mountain is in the clouds

Elk Mountain stands out south of I-80, east of Rawlins. This stretch of the highway is reknown for snowing over. The state has installed miles of snow fences in an attempt to reduce the amount of snowfall drifting onto the highway, with only small effect apparently.

With the tailwind as I head east, I’m getting great mileage – almost 50 mpg. Road conditions are pretty good. The signage warns of “slick spots”, but have not seen anything serious (yet).

Salt flats in January.

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Looking across the freeway to the north side.

The tourist traffic is clearly reduced this time of year. Interstate 80 isn’t the ribbon of cars traveling east and west.

The salt flats are brown and soft. The brown is a fine powder that might be from the blowing dust. It’s been a dry winter. But they are soft when walked on. Footprints are easily left in the surface. It’s about 50°F this afternoon. Only a few truckers stop in to use the restroom and then get back on the road. The sky is a pallette of greys. The mountains to the west are snow capped. The foot wash faucet is, of course, turned off.

Nevada evening sky on I-80.

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012


Storm is blowing in as I head east on interstate 80. The bands of clouds rolling across the sky are sharply delineated. Temperature about 54°.

Chickens help make beer

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011


Making a batch of ESB, The chickens loved eating the spent mash. I set down the screening colander and they all gathered round and dug in like feathered pigs. They were funny to watch. They’d snarf down a bunch and then take a few steps away and stagger off a few feet or so. Then they’d turn and see their flock still eating and they’d walk back and chow down for some more. The lure of food was so strong. The sticky grains would stick to their beaks and they’d pick them off each other while eating.  I was a bit concerned that maybe I should take the ‘punch bowl’ away before they make themselves sick.  I’m not sure what nutritional value is left in these spent brewing grains. But I let it go and eventually they got their fill and wandered off elsewhere.

It’s now the next morning and they seem fine.

Chorus concert – season finale

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

This weekend was the 2 concerts of the chorus.  Haydn’s “The Creation”. With soloists and orchestra.  It was fun and I sang well and the event got a blurb in the local paper. The blurb doesn’t mention Christa Pfeiffer, the other soprano that sang the part of “Eve”.  She was stunning. Very expressive  both vocally and in her presence. Her duet with “Adam”, sung by the bass John Bischoff, was so sweet and delicious it got people in the audience wanting to applaud when it was over despite the usual tradition of waiting to applaud until the end of the entire piece.

Since long stretches of the music are when the soloists are singing, the choir sits down – on the risers – while they sing, and then gets on their feet again to sing the choral numbers. Rather clumsy looking, but hey. Sitting there, behind the orchestra, I get to watch the musicians in the orchestra.  I was closest to the bassoon players.  They constantly fiddle with the reeds on their instruments – soaking them, licking them, adjusting their position in the instrument, swapping them with others soaking in little vials of water clipped onto the music stand.  Watching them play I see them dance, as well as possible while playing, when they do their parts. Shoulders move, heads bob slightly.  The flutist is very good – she has a good sense of musical line and brings out the flavor of the music.  The most bored-looking people were the trombone players.  Not that I blame them.  None of the brass get to play much except when the full chorus is singing, and even then they’re asked to keep it down.  It doesn’t take many trumpets and trombones to outblast a 70-voice chorus.  I guess being behind the wind section, I see all the slobber that gets dealt with as breath passes through instruments. Horns and their spit-valves with a splatter of spit on the floor beside each player.  Little vials of water for all the players with reeds soaking and dripping. There was an english horn player who kept her cleaning rag on the floor (!). She’d pick it up off the floor and pull it through her instrument after each section of playing and then drop the rag on the floor again. (kinda ‘yuck’, if you ask me).

The end-of-spring picnic is tomorrow at the director’s house.  Kathie & I will go.  Maybe we’ll hear the barbershop quartet that the director is part of.

yup… gophers

Sunday, June 6th, 2010

Lost 2 squash plants to gophers a couple days ago.  They dug up to the plant and ate it. Entirely.  Not a trace left.

Garden … moister than usual

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

The garden is coming along. But it’s raining today! This is, by all local accounts, a very late spring.  That we’re getting rains this late in the spring is very unusual.  Anyway…

Here’s where things were on May 9:

Freshly tilled soil

It had just been tilled with the tractor.  Nice puffy dirt! All the weeds chewed up.  I moved a few wheelbarrows full of dirt around to try to level it out a bit; so water wouldn’t gather too much.  Then it was setting out the drip lines from last year’s garden by mostly just laying them out.  We’ll plant things where the drip points are.  Much easier than trying to reconfigure the lines!  Then setup fences for the tomatoes and the beans/peas.  Sorta looked like this:

Drip lines and tomato fences

Great to walk around in all that soft soil.  It’ll get packed down in time.  A couple yards of composted chicken manure (under the grey tarp) have been tilled in, as well as having a pile of it to add in with the plants when they’re set out.

In the meantime, seedlings are started. Corn, peas, squash (kuri, kabocha, pumpkin, pattypan).  Starter plants from stores are planted; tomatoes: red cherry, orange cherry, yellow pear, asian blacks; eggplants, cucumbers, and a couple winter squash from a local charity sale. The strawberry box is made and setup and filled with creek dirt mixed with compost.  It now has strawberries (two kinds from a nursery in Tomales), sweet onions, carrots and two kinds of beets planted.

I want to get some bales of straw and spread it around thickly for weed-control mulching.  Some cardboard from Costco stocking shelves to help control weeds, too.

There’s a new automatic drip control installed with 5 valves.  So far, no need to program it – what with the rain continuing. But it’ll be needed when summer finally gets going.  I hope this doesn’t mean that fall will arrive early!

It’s going to be a great garden!

The bale-raising

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

It was a great day. Overcast in the morning, but clear and sunny by 10:30 or so.  The hosts provided breakfast and lunch (catered mostly; some potluck action, too.).

Got there around 9:00 and saw the framed buildings and 3 large stacks of bales of hay.  Rice hay it was.  People were gathering.  Things got rolling around 9:30. They showed how most of the spaces to be filled were approximately bale-sized. But between the building not being designed so that doors and windows were placed with consideration for bale-size; and that bales vary in length from 40-50 inches, it becomes necessary to cut the bales into the needed sizes.  Turns out there was a lot of bale-cutting.  They had 3 sets of tools and 3 cutting stations setup.

Since bales come very tightly tied with baling twine – and you want to keep as much of that tightly packed feature as possible – you don’t cut bales to size by just cutting them open and making new bales out of loose straw.  So the bale cutting is done by sticking 3 bale “needles” (as in sewing needles – but these are 1/2 inch round iron bars with sharp arrow-head-like points welded onto them) through the bale at the measured size. The heads of the needles have 2 holes in them and you feed new twine into the 2 holes (for each of the 3 needles) and then pull the needles back out, drawing the new twines back through the bale.  For each needle, there are now 2 threads of twine pulled through the bale.  One thread is tied around one end of the bale and the other thread is tied around the other end of the bale. As tight as you can by hand with gloves on. Do this for all 3 needles gives you 2 parts of the bale, each tied with 3 strings of twine.  You then cut the original twine holding the entire bale and then pull the bale apart into the 2 separately tied pieces. You loose a little of the tight packing, but not much.  Sometimes, the size you’re cutting to won’t leave much to really cut the bale into 2 pieces, so you only cut it into 1 piece and let the rest of the bale “flake” off.  This “flake” is used to pack into small spaces where bales aren’t fitting tightly.

I was part of the bale-cutting crews the entire day. My arm is too sore to be hauling bales up to walls (and up ladders) and using sledgehammers to pound them into place.  It was fun. About 40 people showed up. Each bale-cutting crew is 3-4 people. The bale-stuffers would measure the sizes of the spaces and then come back to one of the bale-cutting stations and write down, in big sharpie pen, the size bale they needed. It was common that a bale-cutting crew had a list of bale size orders written on their bench. You tried to work out the cutting so that you could find a raw bale of a size that would cut into 2 “orders”.  Not always possible, but you tried if you could.  Since the bale-whackers could order bales a lot faster than bale-cutters could cut them, it was often the case that by the time you got your bale cut and called out “order up” with the size you’d just made, that it might be a while before the bale-stuffers remembered what that size was for and where it was supposed to go.

We all broke for lunch around 1:00.  More work after lunch. Things faded out around 3:00-ish.  There were places where bales had to be fit around plumbing/wiring in the walls and that took more custom work than volunteers should be used for.  I hear there was another crew (paid?) coming the next day to do the custom/finish work with the bales – tight corners, triangle shaped areas (under roof edges), around the plumbing/wiring, etc.


(yes, I know the photos don’t fit in the margins of the blog layout)
Here are stacks of fresh-off-the-truck bales in front of the framed master bedroom (the house is 3 separate structures facing a courtyard).

An empty frame and a stack of bales

Here we are pulling the bale needles out after stringing them. The twines have to be kept straight so they don’t cross in the middle of the cut. Otherwise the bale can’t be pulled apart with crossed twines.

Pulling the bale-needles out after they've been threaded.

The bale needles. While this set had 3 holes per head, we only used 2 of the holes per needle. It could be an effort to force the needles through the bale. Sometimes you had to use a sledgehammer on the needles to pound them through the bale.

A workbench, 3 bale needles, water, twine.

The finished project. Exterior walls with bales stuffed in. Now you can see where the windows are. The walls will be finished by nailing up “chicken-wire” over the exterior and interior surfaces and adobe/plaster applied. Probably a plastic sheet, too, to keep the moisture out of the bales.

Bales in the walls

Community effort? Sure! Free labor? You bet! (well, they did supply food and drink). It was fun and satisfying work. Will I see these people again? Some, now and then, maybe. We all got along just fine and figured out who could do which tasks well.

One last photo.  The floor of the master bedroom will be stained concrete. As the concrete was poured, she showed up and pressed oak leaves into the wet cement.  They were brushed out when the concrete was done.  She hopes the stain will look interesting in the embossed oak leaves. Several of them all over the master bedroom floor (nowhere else in the house). The floors throughout the place are radiant solar heated hot water embedded in the concrete.

Oak leaf on concrete floor

A “Bale-Raising”

Friday, May 7th, 2010

I’ve been included on an invitation to a “bale raising”.   Next Saturday (May 15).  I’m going!

The purpose of a straw-bale raising is to shape and place the bales of straw (which are far more energy-efficient than conventional framing) into the framework of the house. We’d really appreciate having your help! (or just your company and moral support)

Work will begin at 9am, and continue for 6-7 hours — please come for any or all of it. If you’re going to be there, please let us know approximately when you think you’ll arrive.  We’d really appreciate it if morning participants could be there by 9:00 if possible, as we’d like to begin with a brief training by the architects (who are among the founders of the California Straw Builders Assocation) and then get right to work.

Cool, huh! I’m going!