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Monday, November 30, 2015

Space Three and November Goal Report


I'm amazed that the grass has continued to stand up despite heavy rain and the first snow. Consequently, space three is cleared!

yard work

I'm sure every place you'd attempt to whack weeds there would be one plant that was annoying. In this space it's the witch grass, which you can see being beautiful if you follow that link. However, for purposes of cutting it, what a pain! It grows in thick clumps with very soft leaves that just want to entangle the blade rather than get cut off short.

And what about ALL that cut grass? Dumped in a place that doesn't matter. But it's quite a pile.

yard work

There are two more spaces to whack. Will I get them done? Not likely, but if the weather holds out, I'll keep chopping at them. I do have to nip off all the baby autumn olive trees that spring up instantly.

And now, it's the end of the month, so here's my report on progress toward my goals. Not great, but I did some things, and have to allow myself some leeway because of all those extra work hours.

54 in 300, report on day 37
1WRITINGbegin working on North Country Quest againnothingnothing
2WRITINGedit Kiss of the Butterfly, submit for publicationnothingnothing
3WRITING100 NC History pagesdid some preliminary planningnone
4WRITINGblog about 8 wild foodsnonenone
5WRITINGfinish Dead Mule Swamp Druggistchapter 202 chapters added
6WRITINGdo 10 book promotion things1, have an article in Aaron Paul Lazar's Write Like the Wind which will also be on his blog in Dec2
7WRITINGwriting schedule day 50 times45
8WRITING5 entries in Off the Sanctuary Wallnonenone
9WRITINGpursue a contract I can't name yetnothingnothing
10WRITINGtalk to 5 bookstores about carrying mysteriesnonenone
11HOUSEfix kitchen drawerDONEDONE
12HOUSEcut down 5 autumn olive treesnonenone
13HOUSEclean refrigerator twicenonenone
14HOUSEreplace kitchen faucetnothingnothing
15HOUSEget lawnmower fixednothingnothing
16HOUSEclean terracenothingnothing
17HOUSEkitchen light electric boxnothingnothing
18HOUSEreplace faucet by washing machinenothingnothing
19HOUSEput away model railroad stuffnonenone
20HOUSEspend 10 hours sorting books1need to buy a new, brighter light bulb for that space!
21FITNESSincrease to 30 pushups16increase of 4 this month
22FITNESSincrease to 100 jumping jacks50increase of 20
23FITNESSincrease to 2 min planking70 secincrease of 10 sec
24FITNESSwalk, bike, ski or snowshoe 200 times58, this is terrible, but I was just too tired after all those extra work hours to walk
25HIKINGNCT Hike 100 Challenge for 2016nonedoesn't start till Jan 1
26HIKINGvisit 5 new MI counties to explore trailsnonenone
27HIKINGhike 100 more miles of the Buckeye Trailnonenext spring
28HIKINGclear my trail better5have worked on it a total of 8 days, terrible
29PERSONALSavings Goalnonenone
30PERSONALFinancial Goal #2nothingnothing
31PERSONALlose 10 pounds1I think I can safely claim to have lost 1
32PERSONALplay music 50 times35
33PERSONALother #1 (200 times)712, not on track
34PERSONALother #211, not on track
35MISCmake 21 quarts juice4, made the rest of the apples into cider7 total
36MISCtry 10 new wild foodsnonenone
37MISCsome genealogy stuffnothingnothing
38MISC100 more pix on Shark Shotsnonenone
39MISC2 photo cards documentednothingnothing
40MISCgive 10 gifts from my kitchennonenone
41MISCeat at Brenda's Burgersnothingnothing
42MISCeat at Country Crittersnothingbut I'd better, because it's for sale
43MISCtake my trailer on 2 tripsnonenone
44MISCfinish monkey bootiesnothingnothing
45MISCget two programs NCT and Kitchen Sinknonenone
46MISCget rid of 100 things7, sold some things on eBay7
47MISCread or listen to 100 books6, best one was Alex Cross's Trial by James Patterson, set in the early 1900's when many lynchings happened in the south6
48MISCmove NCC from Josh's garagenothingnothing
49MISCshort bios of 5 relativesnonenone
50MISCsort my fabricnothingnothing
51MISCdo something inside my trailernothingnothing
52MISCadd 50 things to family heritage listnonenone
53MISCsome VCR tapes to DVDnonenone
54MISCsome cassette tapes to CDnonenone
See Two-and-a-Half Plus
See Changes and First Update
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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Lesson of the Strapper

Wanted to post this last week, but I ended up not blogging at all while we were so busy at work.

This is the strapper. It flings plastic strap around bundles of newspapers, pulls it tight and heat seals it. This picture is taken from where I stand when I do my usual task. As I work, the bundles come from my left on the conveyor- the one with the rollers. Then they are picked up by the solid belt on the strapper. An electric eye notes their presence, stops the belt, straps the bundle, starts the belt and sends it on to the ramp beyond. That narrow "garage door" can be opened and the roller belt lowered to send them outside to waiting drivers, or a helper can pull them off and place them in tubs. It depends on which publication we are doing.

newspaper strapper

However, if the strapper is not working properly, it's a total pain. Such was the case at the beginning of last week. Last week of the largest paper of the year week. I did everything I knew how to do on the ornery machine. Here are it's innards.

newspaper strapper

Several other people also tried things. It seemed to be not "reading" that a bundle was there and needed to be strapped. The papers would just roll through, and when loose papers start up the ramp, it's a mess. The temporary solution is that the strapper person catches each bundle and manually pushes the button to make it strap. Not a good option when things are busy.

So, Terrie, the manager, set about to try to fix the balky beast. She took it apart even farther than the picture above. I should have gotten another photo, but I forgot since I was mostly holding the flashlight.

Anyway, the problem was not the electric eye. The problem was not the mechanics or electronics of the strapping mechanism. The problem was that the belt which drives the conveyor belt was loose. Not an intuitive solution. The adjustment bolt was awkward to get to, but after tightening, the whole thing worked properly. (Well, until this past Friday night when it broke down again and now has a new problem for Terrie to take on... it won't feed the strap through correctly.)

Because the belt was loose, when a heavy bundle of papers went through it slipped and threw the timing of the strap off.

The moral of my story is... don't be quick to assume the cause of a problem or of someone's behavior is an obvious reason. There could be lots of unseen things going on that we can't see, and that don't seem related to what is observed.

Now, just for fun, here is my view of the whole crew feeding inserts into the machine for that big paper. Usually there are only two or three people over there. But it needed lots of babysitting for a paper with 20 inserts! We strapped them in bundles with only 10 papers in each, they were so big!

newspaper mailroom

See Strapping the Newspapers
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Saturday, November 28, 2015

She's Back (or Did She Ever Leave?)

Like the kid who spoiled the fun for everyone, the adorable Riley Red Squirrel has forced us to stop putting out bird food. Can't afford to feed her too. That doesn't mean she has moved on. Oh no...

I heard her off and on, running across the roof, all summer, and caught glimpses this fall.

Today, she's sitting on the porch rail staring at the door and then the empty bird feeder. Yeah, right. Does she look like she needs more food?

red squirrel

What happened to my sleek young menace? She got fat!

red squirrel

Of course, it might not be the same squirrel, but I am pretty certain the little hidey-hole between the porch and house roofs has been continuously occupied. I don't think I've ever seen such a fat red squirrel. The fox squirrels tank up and become downright portly, but these little ones usually do too much running around to gain weight.

Wild red squirrels have an average life expectancy of under three years, although they have been known to live eight years in captivity. Since females usually don't mate till they are two, that would make Riley a mature survivor (she had a litter of two this spring).

She's certainly looking matronly.

red squirrel

She can continue to live with us, but she'll have to enjoy the pine seeds and other treats she finds on her own. Hopefully, she won't bequeath her "den" to someone else.

See Alive and Well
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Friday, November 27, 2015

A Place to Call Home

I caught this picture last week, but hadn't shared it yet. It's a handsome muskrat lodge made of cattails. Sometimes they dig lodges in banks, but often they make a lodge something like a beaver but not from woody material.

I am thankful for a place to call home, and I spent part of the afternoon in a warm bed with no cattails. Worked 8-3 today, and am getting ready to head in for the night.

muskrat lodge

See Furry Swimmer
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Thursday, November 26, 2015

Weird and Wonderful

Yes, it's Thanksgiving. I'm just ending the longest run without blogging except perhaps when I was off hiking. Here's why.

The newspapers and shopper editions with the flyers for all the Black Friday and pre-Christmas sales are the largest of the entire year. I've just worked eight days in a row with a total of more than 60 hours. For that, I am truly thankful! But I'm also whipped. Everyone who worked on that project is; it's not just because I'm old (so they all assure me- and they look bushed, too).

So, when Omer asked what we were going to do for Turkey Day, I said, "I am going to be too tired to care. Surprise me." So he did.

Thanksgiving buffet

He got House of Flavors fresh roasted turkey (if you are local, you know that is GOOD), pie from Big Boy, and several kinds of deli salads. The kale one is especially good. He made the cranberry relish himself.

It was perfect. I didn't do a thing except open a few containers. I've been in my pjs all day. We ate when we wanted to. It was quiet. I am happy. (PS- I go to work at 8am tomorrow again!)

Thanks, Om!

See Thanksgiving 2011
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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

It's Orange Again

You'd think I like orange given how often I seem to feature it. It's actually third from the bottom of my list (purple and pink are below it). That said, I like color in general, and any color that displays itself nicely works fine for me.

This bush was growing at a house I surveyed yesterday. It's the horrible Japanese Barberry. But it's still often planted as an ornamental. You can see why. It's beautiful in the fall, and the red berries last all winter.

Japanese Barberry

This was going to be featured alone, but the sunset tonight was amazing. It ended up with blue and pink stripes, but it began with orange flames.


Early bed for me... early work in the morning. And I got extra hours today too.

See more about the barberry
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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Step Around and Check a Different Angle

Out doing cases today. Went to Natahki Drive on Big Bass Lake. Actually, the lake's name was officially changed to Lake Natahki in 1907, but somehow that didn't stick. It is the name of an Indian girl who married James Willard Schultz, a popular explorer and author at the turn of the 20th Century. Here, the name survives only on this one road and a variant, Na-tah-ka, a very popular local bar, which is also on Big Bass Lake.

Anyway... I snapped a picture looking down the lake, even though it wasn't a day for attractive water pictures.

Big Bass Lake

The next stop I had to make was around on the other side of the same lake, on Bluegill Drive. The timestamps on the pictures show that these were taken 22 minutes apart. I thought it was two sides of the same island, but looking at the map, I see that it is not. However, it's the same lake taken from another angle. What a difference!

Big Bass Lake

Maybe if life is looking glum, we just need a different angle?

Right now, it's raining pretty hard. But I'm inside and warm and doing reports. All is well.

See A Winter View from Natahki
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Monday, November 16, 2015

Who's Important? and a Family Mystery

While sorting some things today, I came across a leather 4-fold picture frame that I don't recall ever seeing before.

family pictures

Judging from the age and three of the pictures that were in it, I'm sure it was my grandmother's. That said, there's a bit of a mystery...

The far left space has a picture of "Aunt Lucy." She's no relation at all, but was a friend of Granny's. She went on several vacations with us. To me, as a child, she was sort of a non-person. Just an adult who showed up for various things. Right at the moment, I can't even remember her last name. Clearly, she was very important to Granny. I never realized how much, if this collection of pictures means anything.

Aunt Lucy
The next slot is filled with a photo of my grandfather, Granny's husband, Howard Meade Rowe. I never knew him. He died before I was born.

Howard Meade Rowe
Next is, well... me. I'm about two. This was one of a set of professional photos that Granny had taken. There is another one that ended up being framed with Granny, Mom and me together (same dress, age, etc). I don't think I've ever seen this one of me alone.

Joan Hall Leary
Now comes the mystery part. Who was in the fourth frame? Clearly, there is a picture there of my mother. But it was not put there by Granny, and it doesn't fit the frame. The picture was taken after Granny was no longer living on her own. I'll show you the picture of my mom, in a minute. My guess is there was a picture there of "Jacques." (just say Jack- Granny had pretensions) Here's why I think that.

First of all, Granny never made any bones about it that Jacques and I were her favorites. She made a point of snubbing my mom regularly. Secondly, behind the too-small-for-the-frame photo is a letter written by Jacques that I've never seen before. Obviously something Granny really treasured. I'll treasure it too. Jacques (Merrill Fisher Rowe) was killed in a terrible accident when he was 26. We don't have many mementos of his life. Granny (her writing) has dated this 8/4/15. That's 1915. Jacques would have been eight. (In some ways, it's a little creepy to find something written a century ago, by an uncle I never knew.)

On the front it says "Dear Father, Uncle Lew put a saddle on Kate and I rode her around the yard. Love, Merrill."

letter from Jacques 1915
On the reverse is a picture of a horse with a rider. It's labeled "Kate and me."

child's drawing of a horse and rider
I think that Mom found this picture set at some point and removed the photo of Jacques. I know that she loved him dearly, but was naturally always hurt at Granny's favoritism. She couldn't keep it out of her voice when family topics arose. Then, she added her own picture, and three other letters to that last space. Those letters are two short notes I wrote to her, long after I was married and raising kids. Also, there is a thank-you note to her from Steve, our youngest, for a birthday gift. I would only classify one of those letters as anything significant, so I'm not sure why Mom chose to stash them there. She kept all my other letters, but I discovered them in plain manilla envelopes, long ago.

If Mom sort of commandeered the frame for people she cared about, I'm not sure why she left the photo of Aunt Lucy. I never had any sense of closeness between the two of them.

Do you think I'll come across a loose picture of Jacques that would fit this frame somewhere?

Anyway, here's Mom. Photo taken around 1965, my best guess anyway.

Catherine Rowe Leary
Families can be strange things, can't they?

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Staying Safe in the Cemetery

If you are in Michigan, you know that this is opening day of gun-deer season. I took a walk in the cemetery rather than be anywhere near where people are hunting. Generally, I think hunters are fine, but there are some who drink too much, or are a little crazy.

One maple has somehow held on to its leaves and whispers "winter's not here yet."

cemetery creek

It was a peaceful walk. The residents don't bother me much.


See How's the Cemetery Creek?
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Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Auditon

Tonight I went to a one-act play put on by one of the local high schools. The title is The Audition, and it gives an insightful look behind the scenes as various students try out for parts in A Chorus Line.

The scenes I am sharing have more to do with which of my pictures turned out, rather than any particular attempt to cover the story.

First, all the interested students show up for the audition, with an odd assortment of ideas about what it is they are actually doing there.

The Audition

Yuma is the crazy, athletic, extroverted student who wants to dance everything out.

The Audition

Carrie wants to be cast in a love scene with Tommy, who is shy. She tricks him into reading a romantic part with her.

The Audition

Soliel is the girl that doesn't fit in anywhere. She's different. The dim figures behind her are the other kids who are always telling her she's no good, that she doesn't belong, but she's determined to be OK, in spite of them.

The Audition

I didn't get a good picture of these scenes, but two cast members are at odds with parents. The mother of one wants her to be in everything and be perfect, so she can get into Yale. Another girl is very good at dramatics, but her mother doesn't care at all. When the girl is cast in the lead role, her mother makes her quit so she can get a job.

Through the use of heavy stereotypes (the ones I mentioned and others, too) we can all find ourselves when we were younger. There were as many motives for trying out as there were auditioners. I'm sure this play resonates strongly with high schoolers.

But, of course, in the end, the show must go on.

The Audition

I got extra work hours in the morning, so it's off to bed with me!

See Theater
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Wednesday, November 11, 2015

One More Lovely Day

We are supposed to start getting a real wind event later tonight, and a real November storm all day tomorrow. But today was wonderful, yet again. It began with a foggy morning.

foggy backyard

But cleared to blue skies and 50 degrees. Very nice temperature for working. I was out doing cases. This is the last remnants of a mackerel sky, an evidence of a change in the weather.

blue skies

I was much farther east than I am usually sent, so I bring you a picture of the mighty Muskegon River taken from 50th Ave.

Muskegon River

Work tomorrow, and I'm thinking I'll cook some squash in the oven in the afternoon. Sounds like it will be a day that could be improved by warming the kitchen.

See another view of the Muskegon River
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