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Monday, September 28, 2020

That Dark Deer

  That deer I thought might be wet is really just darker colored. This is a different day, and its other side. Blotchy looking. It hangs around with three other normally colored ones. gray deer Other than this, I have nothing photogenic. It wasn't actually raining most of the day, but it was quite wet, and since there was no panic item, I just ignored the well pit project.

I worked on the extra materials for The Lonely Donkey, including the lettering for the cover. It's all ready, so that as soon as I pick up the art work from Linda tomorrow, and scan it, I can just layer it in place. I did a couple other computer things that I was supposed to do. It would have been really good if I had done three of those, but I did do two. That's better than none.

The other major item was that I got started on the final illustration for The Lonely Donkey. Still a lot of work to do, but I have it blocked out. It's pretty complex, but when I read through the text again for one more edit, I was also mentally scanning for what the fourth picture should be. It really has to be this. So be it. I'm somewhat amazed at how well the first three have turned out, so hopefully this one will too.

Too much sitting. Tomorrow I need to move around more.

See Whose Yard is this Anyway?

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Issue is Water

  Today I finally had to seriously deal with water. Falling from the sky. Yes, the rain arrived.

I pulled up the remnants of the tarp I bought just 2 1/2 years ago. It cost a lot, and it's just shredded. These plastic coated tarps do not last, and big ones are not cheap. Anyway, I salvaged enough of it to pretty effectively cover the new construction.

And by the way... How does Facebook know, even before I made this post that I'm annoyed at poor tarps? That word does not appear in yesterday's post, and I said nothing about it on line. And yet... I am seeing ads for tarps. I was talking about them with Cathy, but I do not have any of those personal assitant "ladies" on my phone. I don't really want my phone listening to me. But, I think it is managing to do so anyway.

Anyway, I got this temporarily covered and then decided to see if I could get the undercoat of paint on before the rain started. The answer is, "almost." I was working on side number four, the short one. The rain was very light at that point, but the wind was blowing crud into the paint can. So I picked up and cleaned up. You guessed it. It pretty much stopped raining after that. well pit cover

But by then, I wasn't going back outside. I'd already started on the next illustration for The Lonely Donkey. I'll show it to you. illustration of a small black girl in a cemetery from The Lonely Donkey

And that is all the news from today. I spent a bunch of time playing my game. I guess it was my goof-off day.

If you want to preorder a signed copy of The Lonely Donkey, email me at jhyshark@gmail.com

See Impressive, But...

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Impressive, But a Long Way to Go

  This really looks like something, but don't be deceived. There is a ton of work yet to do. well pit cover

Just to be clear, I got the other three walls in place, well pit cover

And then I just slid the plywood on the top. The forecast is still for no rain, but it's pretty gray and breezy out there. I'd rather just have some leaks instead of a total downpour on the pump if the sky decides to dump water.

My friend, David Snoek (see hike in the links below) was in town helping with a beach cleanup at Nordhouse Dunes, so we met for a sandwich and ice cream in the late afternoon man eating ice cream

And of course there was a stop at Lowe's for more overpriced items on the way home.

Worst discovery of the day- there is one more broken concrete block that needs to be repaired. It would have been easier if I'd noticed it before, but I can deal with it. It will just chew up more time.

Be assured that mistakes were made, but so far nothing that couldn't be "salvaged."

Best discovery of the day- I have two of these combination squares, so instead of constantly adjusting one for inside and outside squares, I just set one each way. two combination squares

And that is all that happened today.


See Well, Wall One
See More Nordhouse Dunes

Friday, September 25, 2020

Well, Wall One!

  Things are coming together. It was unpleasantly hot this afternoon, but I took a little break and went back out when it was cooler. Got the second angled wall framed. well pit framing

Then I added the rafters. Only made one mistake, but I was able to fix it with a 2x4. well pit framing

Then I started adding the exterior sheeting. Just this one wall is done. well pit wall

I'm beat. But I really should be able to get this covered before we get rain. Maybe not painted and all, but at least enclosed.

In other news: I FINALLY found out how to finish the top edge of a lean-to shed roof. You'd think that would be mentioned in the hundreds of shed plans that are available. But, anyway, I found instructions. I also finished one piece of the extra materials for The Lonely Donkey, and I made pear muffins. But now I'm d-o-n-e for today.

See Framing and Friends

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Framing and Friends

  Please notice that I did not say "framing friends." That would be in really poor taste, even for a mystery writer.

Cathy met me at the store today, and then helped me get the full sheets of siding and foam that I needed to buy. Unless I've calculated something really, really poorly, I shouldn't need any more help with a truck. You can see my loot behind us... in the weeds with everything else. two people with a pile of siding

What I did today is the kind of thing that looks really impressive because, suddenly, there is a structure that wasn't there before. Framing is fun. In this picture, I just have the two straight walls in place and tacked together. framing for a well pit

I did get one of the angled walls built and put in place. Some of the pieces are cut for the other one, so hopefully it will go together easier than this one did. framing for a well pit

I did mention friends, plural. Another friend stopped by to pick up some things. Also, Joshua came by to explain some things to me. You know that none of those events happened in a flash. And I also had to do some errands. On top of that, I did manage to work a little bit on extra materials for the book.

The weather forecast is now saying no rain before Tuesday. I think I'm in good shape to get this well pit cover done by then if I don't let up.

See Turning a Corner

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Turning a Corner?

  I got a LOT done today, but I'm whipped. A lot of what I did isn't worth looking at yet, but I do feel as if perhaps I'm getting somewhere. A couple of days ago, I replaced a missing half block on one of the other corners of the well pit. But the southeast corner block was broken at an angle. I decided to just rebuild it. Just jammed some plywood scraps into the ground and braced them in place. repairing broken concrete block

By late afternoon, I was able to remove the makeshift form, and voila- a "new" corner block. That is all of the block work that had to happen before I can start putting the topper on. repaired concrete block

I also did some more cement work on the inside, but that looks the same as all the bits I've showed you already. I did get the short wall put together. I'm not sure why I thought the other wall needed studs on 16" centers. 24" would have been fine. I switched to that for the remaining walls. short stud wall

Tomorrow, I should be able to move the frame back into place, put up these two walls and get the angle for the sloping wall studs. I also have a friend with a truck who is going to help me get the sheets of stuff I need to finish this.

I do have to do a little bit more of "making it up as I go" when I get to the entrance hatch. But I do feel a little better about this. I'd rather finish the cement work in natural light, but it's not a big deal. If I can get it covered, there is elecricity in the pit, so I can plug in a droplight.

In other news: Yes, there is other news- very productive day. I did laundry, and I got one of the pieces of extra material that goes in The Lonely Donkey done. That involved getting into a box that was buried. Then I discovered the mice had been in it. They did some damage, but nothing super critical. The big question in my mind is "where did all the cotton stuffing they dragged in there come from?" I think I'm going to have to buy a plastic tub for those items. Mice!

See It's Not Even Square!!??

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

It's Not Even Square!!??

  I am having a terrible time talking myself into keeping on working on this miserable project. I'm not entirely sure why, but I'm hating every single minute of this. The quality will be if I actually get it done.

Today, I discovered that the pit itself is not square. Had to have been built not square. When friends and I knocked together that frame on which to lay some plywood a couple of years ago, I guess we just made it fit without paying much attention.

Yikes! It is 2 inches shorter on one side than the other in both planes. I have decided that I can use the frame as it is. I will build the topper square and nail the sills of its walls wherever they hit that frame. well pit

I finally got started on the walls. One done. But that's all I have time for. short stud wall

I'm nowhere near done with the cement work, but I need to switch to getting the cover built. I'm not hauling the plywood over it just temporarily again. (I used to be able to pick up and carry a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 inch plywood. Now I can barely drag one.) I have one more top corner of the blocks to seriously repair (already did one) before I can put the walls up.

I am posting early because I will not have a free minute until much later tonight. I spent most of the day preparting for a workshop I'm leading this evening, after bell choir practice. Then I did this little bit on the well pit project. See you later.

See Back to the Pit

Monday, September 21, 2020

How About those Sedums?

  Remember those sedums I bought? At least something in my gardens is happy! And that makes me happy. Here is what they looked like today. I even weeded around them so they would look nice. Both patches of the 'Lemon Ball' sedum are thriving, and the hybrid sedum recovered from being eaten, turned dark purple for fall and is blooming. Yippie! purple and yellow sedums

The sun is a hazy ball as it slips to the west. sunset

In other news: I did the second illustration for The Lonely Donkey. I worked 2 hours on the well pit- again with not much to show for it, but progress was made. I walked to the post office. Now, I hope to spend the evening doing serious editing.

See Lemon Ball Sedum- June
SeeHybrid Sedum- June

Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Lonely Donkey is Done

  Today, I did one thing, and one thing only. I wrote. In fact I have finished The Lonely Donkey. Still some little tweaks and editing to do, but the text is basically finished. I am stiff and cranky, but this is how writing gets done. You put your behind in a chair and you write.

Meanwhile, enjoy the bright orange milkweed bug, Oncopeltus fasciatus. These ones don't have full-grown wings yet. They don't hurt anything except milkweed seeds, and they aren't a serious problem for the species. They are true bugs, in the order Hemiptera. The orange and black tells predators that they taste bad. In this case, since they feed on milkweed, they actually do taste bad. Some orange and black insects are just using that color scheme to avoid being eaten. See link below. milkweed bug

See you tomorrow, when I do not plan to sit still all day.

See Milkweed Bug Eggs
See Aposematic Coloration

Saturday, September 19, 2020

False Indigo

  I'm taking you back to the Baker Sanctuary today for another prairie plant. I wish it had been in bloom because it's a spectacular plant, but it was too late. So you get spectactular seed pods instead. The trick is... exactly which False Indigo is it? false indigo The genus is Baptisia. It would be easier to tell the species if I knew if the blossoms were white, yellow, or blue. But the only real clue I get in September is the shape of the leaves. white false indigo leaves I believe this is White False Indigo, based on the leaves. Baptisia lactea, formerly alba. That means it would have white flowers. Here's what the whole plant looks like. white false indigo And a seed pod popped open. white false indigo Why false indigo? Because true indigo dye comes from plants native to India and SE Asia. These plants also produce a blue dye, but it was considered inferior in quality, thus "false." Indigo was the dye used for blue jeans. Now, it's all made synthetically.

In other news: I did work on the well pit today, and got some stuff done, but nothing really of interest to show you, so that's why I went back to a plant. I wrote a chapter in The Lonely Donkey, and did one of the illustrations.

See Flat-top white aster

Friday, September 18, 2020

Back to the Pit

  Finished reading the book I got lost in and got myself back on track. Today I did two more tubs of cement. Got the south wall about a third done. None of the walls is as bad as the one I started the other day. well pit wall

Worked at filling in those big gaps. Probably one more application to those. well pit wall

And I did go to the lumber store and for groceries. Got the 2x4s for the cover. Yes, this time, I am really going to do this right instead of just some make-do fix. Tomorrow, I'll start crafting the little gate over the pipe egress hole.

I have to say again, in case you didn't read the post the other day, I DO know that this looks horrible. I don't care. I just want it to be a little better sealed, and to keep the vermin out. In my defense, I am posting this picture of a block wall that I built 49 years ago. All alone. Not perfect, but not a single crack yet. Didn't realize I was getting an artsy picture with my shadow there, but hey... I like to multi-task. concrete block wall

In other news: I wrote a chapter in The Lonely Donkey, and got the cover artist the info she needs to continue to work on that. Only 3 chapters to go! Still a lot to do after that, but I should have it available by about Oct 15. And now, If I'm good, I'll do something with pears yet this evening. We'll see.

See Two Tubs Today

Thursday, September 17, 2020

Not Flat-topped Flat-topped White Aster

  I'm going back to the aster I had so much trouble identifying from Baker Sanctuary. It was everywhere- the most abundant aster on the property. In fact, probably the only blossom more abundant there was Canada goldenrod. But, which aster is it? flat topped white aster

There are hundreds of asters to choose from. Fortunately, only 29 are recognized in Michigan Flora. That helps a lot. It's a confusing group of flowers and I confess that I'm only comfortable identifying a few of them without a book in hand. But maybe this one won't fool me again. It's quite distinctive, once you ignore the common name.

Most of the field guides say that a flat-topped cluster of flowers is distictive for the species. Does this cluster look like it has a flat top to you? Me neither. So, I kept skipping over the rest of the description. flat topped white aster

In the end, I had to come back to several other characteristics. It has few rays (the white "petals" that really aren't petals. The actual flowers are the tiny things in the center). flat topped white aster

The leaves are neither toothed nor smooth-edged. Rather they are just sort of rough. Where the leaves join the stem they neither clasp nor quite have a short stem. I'm not sure what's up with the purple stems. It's not listed as a characteristic of this aster in any books I have, however, it sometimes indicates heat stress, so maybe it just happened in this dry hot summer. flat topped white aster

There you have it. Doellingeria umbelatta, Flat-topped white aster. One of the most common in Michigan.

In other news: I am not very proud of myself. I did write a chapter, but then I started reading a book. A really good book. It's been a while since a book has grabbed me and wouldn't let go. So, I wasted a beautiful day to have gotten some work done.

See Baker Sanctuary

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Two Tubs Today

  It turned out that I was having a tired day. No particular reason, just tired. Nevertheless, I managed to make some progress. Here is what the west wall of the well pit looked like yesterday. block wall that needs repointing

I cleaned the wall, wet the seams as I worked, and mixed and applied two tubs of mortar and now it looks like this. Some of those larger gaps are going to take several applications to fill. I know it doesn't look great. This task is not one of my best talents, but in my defense I will say that the wall was built very poorly to start with. The blocks are not even-apparently laid that way, not shifted. Places where the old mortar is dried in globs that stick out from the surface are impossible to deal with. OK- I could chisel them off and work at this forever, but it's the inside of a well pit, eh? My only goals are to keep the wall together and keep the large vermin out. mended block wall

Tomorrow I have to go to the store before I can continue. I need some things for my gate across the water pipe egress.

I also made pear ginger scones. These are frankly incredible. Yes, I ate two. I could probably eat another one. But I'll try not to. pear ginger scones

In other news: I wrote one more chapter in The Lonely Donkey. Hope I have a higher energy level tomorrow.

See A Dirt-y Beginning

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

A Dirt-y Beginning

  Today was the day. I got myself down in that well pit to begin the first of the two big projects that have to happen this fall. There was still the dirt you can see behind and under the ladder to move out, even though I spent many hours earlier this year, in June. Please note that the ladder is sitting about 6 inches higher in the first picture. I don't think these images do a good job of showing how much dirt I moved. dirt in a well pit

It only took me an hour and a half, but that was enough dirt-lugging all the way up and down the ladder. dirt removed from well pit

I read the directions for mixing the cement and I have the tools. Tomorrow, I start re-pointing the walls. And I have an idea to exclude the ground hog from the access hole for the water line. This part of the job shouldn't be too horrible. I've just had a hard time talking myself into it.

Then I MUST tackle the second part of this project- to create an actual cover for the pit. I think I've finally chosen a compromise plan. All of my plans have at least one flaw, but it's time to pick one and run with it.

In other news: I wrote a chapter in The Lonely Donkey. And... and! Bell Choir practices started up again. We have to wear masks, have our temperature taken at every rehearsal, etc. But we are playing. After that, there was a Zoom trail meeting with the National Park Service, the last of the virtual presentations we've had instead of a North Country Trail conference this year. Oh yeah, and I spent way too long trying to ID one of the plants from the place I hiked the other day. I think I've got it. If I'm right it's nothing unusual at all, just growing a little differently from the norm.

See The beginning of this story
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