Entries to Win Afghan

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Tuesday, October 31, 2023

First Snow and History

Today was the first snow of the year, although it's not amounting to much. Compare my backyard to yesterday! I like the blue dusk, and it looks twice as wintery.
a dusting of snow at dusk

I spent the afternoon in Ludington doing some errands and then research for Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. This is the Daniel Goodenough house, built in 1888. Goodenough first operated a grocery store, and then became a manufacturer. Here, the house wears a decoration of fluffy flakes. This is part of the East Ludington Avenue Historic District which is stuffed with huge mansions built by the lumber barons.
Victorian mansion in snow

One of the oldest commercial buildings still standing was built in 1887. This is in "Fourth Ward," the section that was the original center of the city- nearer to the harbor of Pere Marquette Lake. It is currenty a business called Love Wines, a small batch winery that uses mostly local grapes.
Love Wines, Ludington

Most unusally, I woke up this morning with a blazing headache. I still got my editing done, but it took longer than usual. I felt pretty much all better by about 1:00. Bell choir practice in the late afternoon.

See My Backyard Yesterday

Monday, October 30, 2023

Trailer Repairs - 1C - Insulation

The trailer insulation is ready to have the final interior layer put back on. I will have help with that later this week. I finished this in small work sessions throughout the day so that the fumes weren't too bad. A couple of mistakes were made, but if the ceiling stays up this time, I'll take it.
insulating a fiberglass trailer

The temperature was chilly today, but the sunlight was most welcome. Here's another mood of my backyard.
october scene with clouds and shadows

The gazania in the front flower bed just isn't ready to give up for winter. This is not quite open, and there is another bud. I covered it for the night. We'll see if it survives to open.
gazania opening

I edited. I paid bills. I put some garden stuff away. Maybe the first snow tomorrow.

See Insulation 1B
See Moods of My Backyard

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Trailer Repairs - 1B - Insulation

Some days it feels just normal to go work on the trailer in the afternoon, and some days it's just a drag. Well, today was one of the latter, but the insulation is close to being ready for the finish layer to be put back in place.

Here's what it looked like yesterday, after completing the scraping and cleaning of old glue off the ceiling.
insulating a fiberglass trailer

Today I learned that although the spray glue has almost no odor when I can keep the door open, when it's cold enough to need to work inside with a little heat on to make the glue a happy temperature, the fumes can get a little bad. Thus, I didn't quite finish. I had to give up and let it all air out a bit. That center section has to have a double layer, so there's a little more to do than what might be apparent, but I'm close.
insulating a fiberglass trailer

I also checked out how easy/hard it is going to be to mount the new light fixture. I decided to change it while I had everything apart. What I had was an LED light that was really bright. I liked it a lot, but it wasn't dimmable, and some of my helpers had trouble with that. So, now I have a dimmable one, and it will actually be easier to install than the previous one.

The big news of the day is that I couldn't sleep again last night. But I know exactly why. I finally got a brainstorm for the details of the plot line in Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp.

Have you ever had a brainstorm? If so, you know why they are called that. The neurons in my brain just fire off so fast and continuously I'm like in hyper-drive. I can even physically feel it- almost like my brain is pulsing. I did speech to text in Google Docs, and managed to get most of my ideas preserved. I've learned that when things are coming to me so fast and furiously I'll never remember them all if I don't make notes. Now I know exactly what additional research I need to do. I wrote the next scene and started a Chapter List. I don't really do outlines, but I sort of block out what might happen in each chapter. This helps me see if I have enough/too much material, good flow, story arc, etc.

The books don't always happen this way. The Hollow Tree at Dead Mule Swamp did. The idea came to me and I wrote the whole thing in a weekend. OK, it's only 15,000 words, but boom- there it was in my head. Dead Mule Swamp Mistletoe was essentially written on a 12-hour drive home from Alabama. That also got recorded in Docs as I drove. I worked out all those crazy relationships- how so many people hated each other and why. It still took me several months to actually write it, but I didn't have to agonize over what was going to happen next. The rest of the series basically came one chapter at a time, as a slog, with only a rough idea of the ending. In one of them, I even changed my mind about who the guilty party was about half-way through.

I also edited.

See 1A - Insulation

Saturday, October 28, 2023

The Last of the Color?

Today was crisp, and maybe the last day for the beautiful fall colors. I don't think they will all come down right away, but we may not see much of the sun for a few days. There may be a hard frost Tuesday night, and that will loosen the leaves.

First shot in the cemetery.
fall colors

One of the twin mulberry trees here that I've featured quite often in different lights and moods. This almost looks like spring colors instead of fall.
fall colors

This picture doesn't do this line of trees justice. This is behind a garden center- thus the piles of mulch. But there are always a variety of colors here.
fall colors

And the sky was clear, October blue. Right after I took this, the clouds started moving in.
blue sky with clouds

I edited, I wrote, I researched, I did some volunteer stuff, I went shopping, I worked on trailer prep. The rest of the glue came today, so tomorrow I should be able to finish the underneath layer of insulation. I guess I did all right!

See Other Fall Colors

Friday, October 27, 2023

Back in Harness at 15+1

Ha! I could have blogged about the blog yesterday. I've been blogging here for 15 years and one day. So, it's blogiversary plus 1. (And occasional blog-like posts on Xanga before that.)

Today, as opposed to yesterday, I felt fine. I worked on a number of projects, although it was not a good day to work outside, and so nothing really lends itself to photos.

The biggest news, for sure, is that I wrote about 500 words in the current Anastasia Raven mystery. The title is Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp. This one starts out with a bang, and it's going to be a fairly unique setting for the story line.

The location, however, is going to be Ludington. Yes, here. Fiction books set in real hometowns often do well, and I'm going to take a shot at it. That said, the story line is strange. I hope I can pull it off in a somewhat believable manner.

Although I had chapter 1 written over a year ago, the whole project went on hold. Of course, I simply didn't have time for quite a while as I finished my big hike. I did a lot of research into other books with similar plots which made me think it is doable.

The biggest problem was that I could not think of a sufficient motive for my bad guy (remember, this starts off with a bang) to take the risks he obviously is taking. And I could not dredge up any interest in writing any further without knowing what was motivating this guy. Two days ago, I came up with a motive that works.

I was going to share Chapter 1 with you. I probably need the motivation of some expectant readers to keep me writing what may prove to be a difficult book. However, I just found a contest I can enter this in, and it requires me to NOT have shared this even on a blog. Come back in a few weeks!

And... it's probably too early to reveal the cover, but here's a sneak peek.
partially revealed cover for Vacation from Dead Mule Swamp

Did my editing, and as mentioned, a bunch of computer stuff.

See The early books in the series

Thursday, October 26, 2023

The DVD Collection

This post is for those of you who think I work on stuff all the time. Today was very unproductive. I did manage my editing quota this morning, but the truth is that I did not get to sleep until 6 am, and after I woke up at 10 am, I felt like crap for the rest of the day.

I decided to watch a movie, and went to choose one from our collection. Since cleaning up after the January flood, there was no organization to it AT ALL. I decided that was something I had enough motivation and brain power to do. The good news is that I separated them all by category. The bad news is that since we gave away 7 banana boxes full of VHS tapes, we no longer have a lot of movies that I wish we did.

We both really like good movies. Sometimes we even like mediocre movies- depends on the topic.

This was somewhat enlightening, although, remember that we used to have maybe 200 additional films or TV shows on tape. The two largest piles are sci-fi and historical fiction. Classic fantasy was a close third. That pile isn't in the picture. It was already stashed on the shelf. Also, complete sets of the 3 TV series: Perry Mason, Person of Interest, and The Fugitive are not in the stacks. (These are favorites of mine.)

I would have thought thrillers/action dramas would be a bigger pile. Then too, sometimes what we own depends a lot on what's in the discount bins. Anyway, here are the category piles
stacks of DVDs

I organized them, got them back in the shelves.
organized DVDs

Then I selected Minority Report and settled in to watch it. Of course, now I'm feeling better, but hopefully I can get to sleep at a more normal time tonight.

See Putter, Putter, Scrape

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Putter, Putter, Scrape

I didn't accomplish much on several important fronts, but I did putter at some other things that needed doing. Probably the most important was that I got the headlights on my car fixed. The low beams weren't working at all. Since I thought that was going to be in the range of $250, and was only $71, I'm pretty happy.

I did a little prep work in the trailer; I did a lot of nothing. It was a dreary day, and my discipline was not up to snuff.

Every once in a while, I show you a purchase I'm pretty happy with. There were a few on the big hike, but the last ones for the house that I shared were in 2020. So here's a little item I'm quite happy with. It's called a "jar spatula." It's made (I think) of silicone with a metal, or perhaps hard plastic, core.

This was purchased with the hope of solving a very particular "problem," and that is the nearly empty 40 oz. peanut butter jar. My usual method to clean these out has been to wait till a day that I just wanted that last bit of p.b. even if it was hard to get at. Then I just put my hand in the jar and use my fingers to clear it. Messy, but effective.

However, it looked like this spatula was going to be just the right size to clean the sides and get in the curve of the bottom. It is.

Notice in the first picture that one side of the spatula sticks out from the handle a little more than the other side. This gives you two options for the depth of the shoulder of the jar.

How do you think it works? I'm very happy. This was on one of those "extra" aisle displays at Meijer.

I did do my daily quota of editing. It's how I'm paying my bills.

See Best Purchases of 2020

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Rock Garden Report 8

This will probably be the last report for this fall.

I did get most of the rock garden weeded one more time this month. There are a few spaces on the far edge that I didn't get cleared. Maybe I'll get those done, but it's not too critical.

The top picture is this afternoon, and the one just below it is the end of August. Of course, August was more colorful, but I think this looks quite good for one year of reclaimation.

rock garden

Here's the view from out in the yard. I can't wait for this to look really colorful and full.

I worked on the trailer this afternoon too. Prepping the ceiling kills my back, but I got a fair amount done. All of the kitchen area and a bit less than a quarter of the table/bed area is ready for the final layer. I ordered more of the Helmistik glue and a new light fixture. They will both probably be here Friday. Today was probably the last nice weather day for a while anyway.

This was the sunrise. The color was very strange. Not only was the eastern sky orange, but the light everywhere was orange. The camera saw this as pink, but I changed it to be more what my eyes saw.

I also did a load of laundry when I realized the rain was over, and it was turning out to be a really nice day. Edited too.

See Rock Garden Report 7

Monday, October 23, 2023

Trailer Repairs - More Adhesive Product Education

I spent 3 hours on the trailer today and have very little to show for it. Except that some new pieces of information are now located in my brain.

Maybe I should have known this one, but if I did, I had forgotten. The shelf life of fiberglass resin hardener is only 6-8 months. It's the stuff in the little squeeze tube. You put in one drop of this to every 0.1 ounce of the resin, then mix and use it to bond the fiberglass cloth to the surface. Only, if the hardener is old... it never hardens. My two little braces were lying on the countertop in a sticky mess of unhardened resin this morning. Solution... new hardener. Those are now attached yet again. Hopefully, tomorrow they will be tight and dry.
fiberglass resin kit

The next bit of adhesive information involves removal. The Loc-tite Ultra peels off the fiberglass easily. However, there are two strips of wood running the length of the trailer that the previous owner added to hold various things, and I left them in place because they were useful to me as well. Loc-tite sticks to wood very well. Some of the stringy blobs of adhesive peeled off pretty well, but most did not. Scraping them off wasn't very satisfactory either. It left a bumpy film that wasn't going to be a good surface for gluing to.

I looked up how to remove Loc-tite. This is one solution, and it worked well for me. Blast it with a heat gun and scrape it while it's hot. I couldn't hold both the heat gun and the scraper and take a picture, but you get the idea.
removing glue with heat gun

This got most of it off, and then I wiped the final residue with acetone, and that got it clean and smooth enough to glue to again.

However, I learned another thing about working with the polyethylene foam. You don't want to let the direct heat of the heat gun hit it! See how it shrank? This location doesn't matter, so I'm glad I learned that lesson where it makes no difference. That arc of damage is from waving the heat gun at it. I'll be sure to remove the rest of the glue residue before I have polyethylene foam anywhere near it.
heat damage on polyethylene foam

No picture, but I also learned that you can clean drips of soft fiberglass resin and/or glue off the epoxy resin countertop with acetone, and it will not damage that surface.

The only thing I managed that looks like progress was to get the middle of the kitchen ceiling ready for the finish layer. I did the inside layer of this with the new Helmistik 1685 spray glue. I did learn that the nozzle of that gets a little clogged. I'll try to clean that with a pin next time I use it. Tomorrow may be a serious rain day which would hamper the trailer progress. The far section of the kitchen ceiling is again waiting for those two little braces to dry.
foam insulation on a trailer ceiling

It turned out to be a beautiful day! I had to go to the store to get the resin hardener, so I also returned the gallon of contact cement and found another piece of the trim strip I need to support the kitchen cupboard. I had hunted unsuccessfully for it the other day. Today, the store employees seemed to have no idea even though I had found a small scrap to show them what I was looking for. But, one guy helped hunt, and, yup! After we looked all the places I had searched, there was one more display of trim pieces I hadn't previously found, and there it was. However, I have to say that when you actually have a sample in your hand and the "helpers" in the store look at it blankly and can't come up with what it is, my confidence is not inspired. (The answer to the question is- PVC screen molding. Now I won't forget, at any rate.)

On the way home, I stopped to take one great autumn photo.

In other news, I edited and finished one big volunteer task.

See Battle of the Glues

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Trailer Repairs - The Battle of the Glues

I'm sure you're all familiar with good old contact cement. So far, this was the one product I had found that would actually hold things to the fiberglass. You may remember that the Loc-tite Ultra held to some extent, but not long term. (Other than using fiberglass resin, but that won't work to adhere large flat surfaces.)
can of contact cement

While we're here, let me show you this brush I bought. It has silicone bristles, just like the silicone barbeque sauce brushes, only shorter and more rows of them.

No one, not even the guy who's worked at Lowe's for 17 years (forget the kids who've been there 5 minutes and don't know what you are even asking for), could tell me if you could use it with contact cement. It says it's for wood glues. Well, it was only $3, so I gave it a try. Answer- it works great. You just let the glue dry on the brush and then peel the dry glue off. It won't stick to the brush.
silicone glue brush

Now back to the scheduled program. The contact cement is here to do battle with the product recommended by Scamp. This is Helmistik 1685. It's a Canadian product and very hard to find in the U.S., but I found a dealer who could sell it to me. (The Canadian companies won't ship it to the U.S.- at least not to an end user.). This is a latex-based spray, but let me tell you that except for the consistency and faint odor it has nothing in common with liquid latex. I've used liquid latex for stage makeup purposes quite a lot, so I know how that looks, feels, and smells.
Helmistik 1685 spray glue

I had pretty much decided, based on price, that I was going to glue the underneath layer of foam to the fiberglass with the Weldwood contact cement. I knew it worked. Well, that's what I thought I knew. But as I was taking down the rest of the ceiling insulation, I learned that some of the places where I'd used it to glue white foam to the fiberglass had let loose. So... good, but not 100%. But, I'd been using the open quart I had to begin putting the underneath layer of new foam against the fiberglass. I finished that, but hadn't opened that full gallon yet.

Yesterday, I tried gluing two pieces of the polyethylene foam (the white) together with the Helmistik. It's also a contact cement, so you spray both surfaces, let it dry for about 10 minutes and then press them together. I checked to see if you really could reposition the pieces before they adhere for good. Yes, you can do that. That's going to be really important for putting the finish layer back up.

Today, I experimented with the other options. I wanted to know if you could actually use it on the green foam- polystyrene. You can't use the regular contact cement on that. It's like pouring gasoline in a styrofoam cup. The foam just disintegrates. So I sprayed a small piece of the green foam. Where I used a light coat, it got a little dimply. Where I hit it heavier, it became shrunken or pitted- but it didn't really disintegrate. You can see the deeper damage in front of the white below. Well, that was interesing.

So, I decided to see if it would bond anyway. I prepped a small piece of the white foam and pressed them together. Voila! I believe this has actually formed a chemical bond. These are unlikely to separate without ripping one of the products.
polyethylene to polystyrene glue bond

I decided to see how well each of these would stick to the fiberglass using the Helmistik. Just to experiment, but not use a lot of product, I did one tiny piece of each color and sprayed both the fiberglass and the foams.

You can see that they are stuck, but what you can't tell from the picture is how well they are stuck. Trying not to exaggerate, I'm going to say that the bonds appear to be about three times better than the contact cement. I think the only way I'm going to remove these samples from the fiberglass is with the oscillating saw. I'm certain that if I just pull them down, the foam pieces are going to tear, being less strong than the actual bond.
polyethylene and polystyrene glued to fiberglass

Well! This has certainly changed my persepective. I think I have to return that unopened gallon of stinky contact cement. That stuff has serious fume issues for days after you use it, and you need to apply it with good ventilation. The Helmistik hardly smells at all. The Helmistik bonds better, and it's easier and faster to use. It will cost a little more, but not THAT much more. It will take a few days to get more cans of it here. The one thing I can not find anywhere is figures for square feet of coverage. Hopefully, the man I talked to when I ordered this first can might know something. I'll be calling him tomorrow. I'd like to order all the rest of what I need at one time. The shipping price is outrageous because it's considered some sort of hazardous product. (Believe me, I read all the fine print. This is way less hazardous than the familiar contact cement, but I'm sure there's a government regulation involved somewhere...)

This is like the miracle glue that I knew must exist somewhere!

And, I re-attached the finish layer on this one tiny section near the door. I just wanted to know how easy it's going to be to spray the first layer that's attached overhead and then put on the single sheet. Of course, this was the small piece, but it was easy peasy. I held a piece of paper up to mask the edges where I was spraying. There was no dripping. I repositioned the finish piece once, and it looks great. Of course, I knew it would look OK, but I'm also confident that it's going to stay up there this time.
foam on ceiling of a fiberglass trailer

The other thing I did was sand off some of that epoxy paint and fiberglass these two little braces to the frame again. Hopefully, they will stay put this time.

Believe it or not, just that, plus some more prep work with taking down the old ceiling took me three hours. Part of that was finding tools and products that have been put away for two years, but that time all counts.

Other than that, I edited in the morning.

See Trailer Repairs

Saturday, October 21, 2023

Bloggy Doggy Buddies

Tonight's post will be rather light-hearted. I worked hard at editing today, and except for shopping, that's really all I did, so there's nothing very photogenic to show you.

However, two weeks ago, when I was at Ann's house on my way home, she took a nice picture of me with her current pup, Gibbs.
woman holding a dog

Today, she posted that Gibbs had been to the groomer. What a difference!
small groomed dog

Stories like this remind me of several good friends I've made because of the hey-day of blogging. Ann likes crafting, and back then she also blogged about the dog she had whose name was Duke. Duke was a character!
white Westie terrier

Back then, I had Maggie. Remember her?

She was half Vizsla, and so I became blog friends with James, the owner of two rescue Vizslas, the funniest (most neurotic) of which was Dennis.

Tucker was a dead ringer for Maggie.

I've yet to meet James (Jim), who now has different dogs and kitties, but he remains on my list of blog friends I'd like to meet. However, he lives in California- not such a likely happening.

If I'm going to mention dogs with blogger humans, I shouldn't leave out John, who rescues Dalmatians. Back then, he had Dash and Dot. Here's Dot.

John only lives in Texas, so it's not out of the question I'd meet him some time, but he finished his quest to do 5000 blog posts, so I don't see what he's up to every day, now.

Back to the editing. I need to make some additional serious progress tonight.

See Blog Buddy Blast