Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Washington State Park, Missouri

Formal entrance station to Washington State Park
Having been given a break from campground hosting at one Missouri State Park, the S.O. and I naturally decided to spend one of our days off by checking out another. Washington State Park is located north of the community of Old Mines on Missouri Highway 21, which means it's real close to St. Louis. It's got to be a madhouse in the summer, especially when Washington has something for everyone, or close to it. Hiking trails, campground, swimming pool, fishing, picnicking, you name it. They even do boat rentals. About the only things missing are bike and equestrian trails.

And, in addition to the recreational stuff, it has History, both ancient and modern. It has Civilian Conservation Corps constructed structures (lots of them) and it has petroglyphs. Indeed, the park is one of the few places in Missouri where pre-European contact rock carvings have been found in the state. The CCC-constructed structures have an additional layer of significance; the only African-American CCC camp in Missouri was at Washington State Park.

Interior of interpretive center.
Because this park is so close to St. Louis, I have no doubt it is incredibly busy in the summer. Even on a rather gray day in October, there were a good number of people there. The day use area parking lots are extensive, and there are a gazillion picnic areas scattered throughout the park. The picnic areas are nice -- the tables are spread far enough apart that even on a busy day you're not going to feel too crowded.  We decided to do a short hike, the 1.5 mile long 1000 Steps Trail, and encountered a number of other hikers both coming and going. The trail loops around from the Thunderbird Lodge and climbs a fairly steep slope that takes you to a scenic overlook and also past the formal entrance to the park. The trail was laid out by the CCC in the 1930s and takes its name from the rock steps that the CCC workers installed. Time has taken its toll on those 1000 steps, but some sections are still intact.

That trail reminded me that the next time we decide to do a hike, I either need to be wearing my Tevas or my hiking boots. The shoes I had on just didn't feel right, probably because they've got the orthotic insoles and I don't wear them often enough to get used to them. The orthotics are supposed to position my feet in a way that prevents under-pronation, but as far as I can tell, all they do is make me feel like I'm walking on rocks barefoot. Which probably explains why I avoid using them, which in turn means I never get used to them and my feet will continue to under-pronate. But that's a digression. . .

1000 Steps Trail
The park information describes the trail as "rugged." I'd tend to agree. At least half the trail is either steep uphill or steep downhill, and the 1000 Steps are no longer 1000 Steps -- and even when they do still look like steps, the spacing is a bit odd with the rise too short in some places and too tall in others. You definitely need to watch your footing, and a hiking staff is a good idea, especially for the vertically challenged. It was a nice walk, though. Long enough to feel like an actual hike, varied enough to be interesting, and challenging enough in places to work up a bit of a sweat -- although someone younger and in better physical condition than me might disagree with that last part.

We were curious about the petroglyphs so after we finished the hike we went looking for them. There are two locations in the park that are easily accessible to visitors. We only visited one. It was interesting. Two things amazed me about the petroglyphs we saw: one is the fact that anyone ever found them to begin with. The carvings are not large, and there isn't any contrast between them and the rock they're carved into. It's possible that at the time they were carved, the Native Americans doing the work rubbed charcoal or colored soil into the carvings to highlight them, but if they did no trace of that remains. The other amazing thing is that they're still discernible at all. They're carved into limestone, a notoriously soft rock that weathers easily. I couldn't help but marvel that they'd survived centuries of exposure to the weather. They're under cover now, but that's a pretty recent protection.

What the steps for 1000 Steps Trail originally looked like.
I was also amused to see that the most common item carved into the rock was, to put it euphemistically, a "female fertility symbol." People are people, after all, regardless of time period or location, and people do tend to obsess about sex. I've often thought that a lot of the ancient petroglyphs are simply the result of guys getting bored and doing the equivalent of carving on a schoolroom desk or scribbling on a bathroom wall. No deep ritualistic meaning or religious significance, just the usual human behavior in a different medium. I took an anthropology course years ago where one South American's mythology was described as being basically nothing but raunchy stories and dirty jokes -- but isn't that true of most mythologies? Some just phrase the dirty jokes a little more elegantly than others.

And, speaking of graffiti and the human tendency to want to leave a mark, any mark, we noticed that the roof at the overlook shelter had been reshingled recently. From the underside, you can see that several boards were replaced. They already have graffiti scrawled on them. No female fertility symbols, though, at least not yet.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Back at Montauk

 Well, we are back at Montauk State Park. This is our third time here so we're starting to feel like we sort of know what we're doing, although I'm sure I'll screw up something on the computer the first time I touch it. I have a knack for making electronic devices decide that it's time to crash and burn. Our arrival followed the usual pattern: lovely weather when we got to the park, really nice and easy to get set up because the sun was shining, temperatures were (by our standards) balmy, and there wasn't much wind to speak of.

That changed the following day, of course. Temperatures dropped low enough during the night that I felt compelled to turn on the furnace first thing in the morning, and then, despite the Weatherbug claiming that the Montauk area was enjoying clear, sunny skies, it stayed gray and overcast most of the day. Not a particularly auspicious start to the annual Rose Holland Trout Fishing Derby, altough I've hear many anglers say they prefer gray days. I'm not sure why -- makes it harder for the fish to see them? Trout have really good vision -- maybe they are smart enough to make the connection between some oddly dressed human upstream from them and the possibly edible lure floating their way. In any case, the weather didn't matter. The park was full, 100% occupied, every reservable site reserved and all the first come, first served sites snapped up by early afternoon on Friday. I was happy we weren't in the fee booth. The folks working there was going to be forced to repeat over and over that the No Vacancy sign really did mean no vacancy, no empty spaces whatsoever, and that campers were going to have to go back up to the hill to Happy Pappy's, Tradewinds, or one of the other privately-operated campgrounds in the area.

In any case, the park is full, and we're not there. Through sheer dumb luck our first scheduled days off fall this weekend, Saturday and Sunday, so bright and early (for us) yesterday morning we tossed a suitcase in the car and headed east to Farmington. I'm still feeling sufficiently irritated by the hassles getting the new siding on the museum entailed that my supply of patience for clueless people (and that describes most campers) is rather low at the moment. Avoiding one of the busiest weekends of the camping season is probably a good thing. The S.O. got to spend the afternoon watching NASCAR (Xfinity Series) instead of having to field queries from clueless campers; the kid and I went grocery shopping.

Current River at Montauk State Park, October 2014
Today, instead of having to cruise around the campground pulling tags off posts, putting up Vacant signs, and fishing half-melted Busch Lite cans out of fire rings, we're going to check out another state park: Washington. It's between Potosi and St. Louis and, according to the web site, has extensive Civilian Conservation Corps features -- lots and lots of steps and walls and whatever. We'll hike at least one trail, have a picnic lunch, and maybe check out the campground to see how busy it gets in October. That's assuming it doesn't rain, of course, the weather is still looking a little iffy.

The S.O. did remind me that we'll have the fun of checking multiple camp sites tomorrow. Quite a few of the campers did reservations that include a Monday departure. Some really will stay until sometime Monday, but others will pull out late this afternoon or early evening. They just reserved a site through the weekend because they want to be around when the winners of the derby are announced and prizes are awarded. In addition to the usual prizes given for largest fish, heaviest stringer, etc., a certain number of fish are tagged and there are prizes associated with them. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that they're typical campers and leave their sites clean; the guys who try to burn beer cans are the exception, not the rule. Although it does seem rather petty to bitch about campers trying to burn cans when we discovered a partially burnt can in the fire ring at the host's camp site -- whoever Host 2 was for the month of September, they didn't set a particularly good example by burning garbage, especially when it's an easy walk from the Host's site to the dumpster. J was less than impressed by the evidence left by previous hosts at our site. In addition to the can in the fire ring, they had left a vinyl tablecloth thumb tacked to the wood top of the picnic table. Don't know how long it had been there, but the wood underneath was thoroughly saturated. The flip side of the tablecloth itself was so thick with mold I'm a little surprised it hadn't started growing legs and trying to crawl off the table on its own. 

Thinking about the fishing derby and its prizes reminded me a story I heard last year that just illustrates that some people will cheat at anything. The state hatchery has a lunker pool where they raise trout to Loch Ness monster size, truly humongous fish. Well, you guessed it -- someone tried cheating at the fishing derby by sneaking in and using a dip net in that lunker pool. He got caught with four huge fish in his waders. This brings up several intriguing questions and images. How do you manage to walk with any semblance of normalcy with 4 humongous trout stuffed into your pants? Who noticed that the legs on his waders were bulging in strange ways? And how many years will have to pass before people stop asking him "Is that a trout in your pants or are you just glad to see me?"

When I say humongous trout, I do mean humongous trout. There's a white board up at the lodge where people can record the size of their catches if they think they did especially well. Last year some woman caught a rainbow that weighed over 7 pounds. That is a large fish. . . How weird would it be to walk around with 4 fish each weighing about that much stuffed into your waders? And why bother cheating at all? This particular fishing derby doesn't have huge amounts of prize money involved. It's a fund-raiser for, if I recall correctly, the American Heart Association. You get bragging rights if you win but not much else.

Cruise-in October 2014
The fishing derby does have one event that interests the S.O.  On Friday evening a local car club does a cruise-in. There are usually some interesting vehicles. I didn't bother walking over to the lodge to see what was there this year, but the S.O. did. He said there were a couple rat rods; he always enjoys looking at them. There was also a rather nice looking late 60s Barracuda. The owner was camped in our loop; we could see it from the Guppy. The owner was definitely proud of the car. Seemed like every time I glanced over that way, he was dusting it. He had the hood open, too, a clear sign he wanted people to stop and admire his toy. Don't know if anyone did, but, if not, I'm sure there were plenty of people willing to schmooze about cars for a few hours at the car show in the park office parking lot.

And, speaking of special interest vehicles, I'm now wondering if the World War II group will come camping again this year. Last October members of a club that specializes in World War II equipment spent a weekend at Montauk. They had some interesting vehicles, including jeeps, trucks, and a general's limo. If they come back, I'm going to be a lot more aggressive this year about getting photos of the equipment. Or at least make sure the battery in my camera isn't dead. I haven't taken any photos at the park yet because when I did pull out the camera, I couldn't use it. The photos with this post are from last year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

What is wrong with people?

September isn't even over yet but the ridiculous memes about "Don't say Happy Holidays!" or "I will say Merry Christmas!" have begun to flood Facebook. What the fuck is wrong with some people? Just how unbelievably tone deaf do people have to be to not realize that all they're accomplishing is pissing people off and sucking the joy right out of the holiday season? Do they seriously believe that somehow "Christmas" is under attack?

Please, idiot acquaintances who fall prey to the temptation to share those annoying memes or to lecture the rest of us on the need to "keep Christ in Christmas," if Christmas is somehow in danger of being neglected explain to me why Walmart already has Christmas merchandise on display? I noticed that last time I visited the Evil Empire there was a humongous display of Xmas crap  sitting right next to the Halloween candy. The only war on Christmas being waged is the one you over-sensitive paranoid Bible-thumpers are fighting in your own heads.

For what it's worth, every time I see or hear someone getting worked up over the phrase "Merry Christmas," I tend to think, holy wah, they really don't know their Bible, do they? They may thump the Good Book a lot, but apparently quite a few of the nominal Christians never bother reading it. 

Monday, September 28, 2015


Ever since we started thinking about buying an RV, we'd been hearing about "boondocking at Walmart." Until we decided to invest in a motorhome, we didn't worry much about the details that boondocking might entail, although we did notice an occasional travel trailer or motorhome positioned at the edges of parking lots at the Evil Empire. Once we acquired the Guppy, though, the notion of finding places where it would be possible to spend a night for Free moved way up the interest scale. So I researched it online, looked at various blogs to see what other RV-ers had to say on the subject, and more or less decided it would be doable on an occasional basis, like while in transit from home to Missouri. 

Boondocking, for the uninitiated, refers to camping where there are no amenities such as electricity, running water, or a sewer hookup. Until I started hearing about spending the night at Walmart or in an Eagles Club parking lot, I tended to think of boondocking as heading out into a national forest or some other remote area. You know, doing basic camping. Rustic camping. Not pulling into a huge parking lot and sleeping there. A Walmart parking lot definitely strikes me as being the antithesis of the boondocks.

Anyway, I did the research, checked out the various web sites that explained the protocol for boondocking at Walmart, and then looked at the lists of Walmarts that do or do not allow the practice. I noticed in my online wanderings that some people seemed to believe you can park at any Walmart. Not true. There are whole bunches that say No to boondocking. However, there are also whole bunches that say Yes.

There are established protocols, of course. If you want to boondock, even if there are other RVs already parked on the periphery of the parking lot, you should go to the service desk to confirm that it's okay. If they say yes, you park in the area the service desk tells you to. You live with your RV being lopsided -- no putting out jacks or dropping landing gear to level the trailer or motorhome. If your equipment has slide-outs, they stay slid in. No digging out the lawn chairs and rolling out an awning, no setting up the barbecue grill. In short, no camping behavior.

 We got directed to the far side of the parking lot, about as far as possible from the entrance doors, which meant it was the part of the parking lot that would naturally have the fewest cars wanting to park there. Because we had a vehicle in tow, we had to straddle a row of angle parking spaces on the west edge of the lot. This particular Walmart is one that also welcomes semis (not all stores do); if you look in the background in the photo to the right, you can see two of them lined up in the background. There was a third semi parked to the east of us. There was also a large sign on every light pole saying no truck parking allowed, which was an interesting contradiction.

There were also a couple other RVs in the lot, one pretty close to us and one that was far enough away that we figured that either they were just passing through (i.e., not planning to spend the night) or not familiar with the rules. It didn't surprise me that other RVs were in the same general class as the Guppy, which is a polite way of saying sliding into Randy Quaid territory and appreciating a low budget space.

So what was our first boondocking experience actually like? Well, among other things we figured out that we need to get a ceiling vent cover. We'd been talking about it anyway -- getting a vent cover that would help keep the Guppy warmer in cold weather -- but realized Saturday night that it would also be nice to be able to block the glare from parking lot lights. I could read a book by the light from those parking lot lights; they did not make it easy to sleep. We have good blackout curtains on the bedroom windows; I never thought about doing a blackout for the ceiling vent, too.

Besides the parking lot lights, the other annoyance turned out to be the Illinois Central Railroad. We knew there'd be some noise in the evening -- we were spitting distance from a Taco Bell, close to a highway, and it was Saturday night -- but figured once it got to be after midnight, things would be quiet. We were wrong. I don't know how many trains Illinois Central runs, but it did seem like the noise from one set of cars would just be fading away when we'd hear the locomotive whistle from another train. I like trains, but there are limits.

In any case, it was a good experience even if it wasn't the most restful night we've spent in the Guppy. Live and learn -- I worried about parking lot noise; it never occurred to us to worry about trains.

Explain to me again how the Obama presidency has ruined the country

Back in 2008, the final year of the George W. Bush administration, the S.O. and I did a road trip. We traveled from, if memory serves me correctly, from Atlanta, Georgia, to Hemphill, Texas, where we picked up Charlie the Snowbird Dog, and then north to the Upper Peninsula. Gasoline prices were, by contemporary standards, horrific. They hovered right around $4 per gallon, with a Petro station in Rochelle, Illinois, topping the charts at something like $4.39 a gallon. I could be wrong about the reasons for the trip or the direction we were traveling, but for sure it was Rochelle, Illinois, in 2008.

Well, we stopped in Rochelle on Saturday. We had our initiation into boondocking in a Walmart parking lot there -- something I may elaborate on in a different post -- and then Sunday morning refueled the Guppy and continued southward. Gasoline was $2.32 per gallon. It's been over 7 years since we paid that $4.39, and we have never seen gas prices as high at that $4.39 again. In fact, for a while gas was going for less than $2 per gallon -- I have vague memories of paying something like $1.59 here in Missouri in March (and we noticed it's under $2 at some local stations now). The most we paid on the trip down here, the 745 miles from our place to the Younger Daughter's, was $2.44 in central Wisconsin. And, given that the Guppy guzzles gasoline as fast as the proverbial wino sucking down Ripple we had lots of opportunity to compare prices along the way. Most expensive gas was in Wisconsin, least expensive here in Missouri.

Which brings me back to my original question, more or less. If Obama's been so bad for the country, why are we able to refuel the Guppy so cheaply? 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Another canning binge begins

I thought I was done preserving foods for this year. I made a gazillion batches of pickles of various types, having made the mistake of buying a bushel of cucumbers from the local fruit stand -- I cannot grow enough cucumbers in our glacial till garden soil to count on having enough to do anything with -- so filled a lot of pint jars with cucumbers, vinegar, and various spices. I pressure canned a couple dozen pints of green beans. I made 3 batches of pickled beets. The S.O. reminded me last week that the plum trees actually had plums this year so I made plum jam. And I thought that was it.

Then I noticed the tree that has really good pie apples had a fair number of apples this year, so now I'm giving serious thought to canning apple pie filling. The tree next to that particular tree yields fruit that is quite good for jelly and applesauce. . . so, yep, there's now a whole lot of jelly jars sitting on the counter waiting to be washed.

And then there are the green tomatoes left in the garden. This was not a particularly good year for tomatoes -- we had major issues with blossom end rot; apparently our garden suffers from calcium deficiency -- but there are enough green tomatoes out there for at least one batch of green tomato pickles. The other day I stumbled across a recipe for green tomato pickles that includes jalapenos. So you guess it. I'm contemplating making green tomato pickles sometime in the next 48 hours.

Why does it have to be within the next 48 hours? Because in the midst of the canning binge, I'll also be prepping the Guppy to hit the road. The S.O. has the bunk-over-the-cab area done -- insulation in place, a new sheet of paneling tacked up to replace the one that was there (that cheap paneling doesn't survive being pulled off very well) -- so I am now free to finish packing various supplies and making sure nothing's going to bounce around too much when we pull out of here on Saturday morning. Today is Wednesday. That gives me basically 3 days to indulge my atavistic desire to fill a metaphorical pantry. I may have to make another trip to the produce stand, though, because it just hit me I haven't made apple marmelade in a long, long time. I think I need to buy some oranges.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The culling has begun

I see the inevitable thinning of the herd of Presidential hopefuls has begun. It's a little early this time around -- usually it takes a dismal showing the Iowa caucuses for a would-be nominee to recognize he or she doesn't have the proverbial snowball's chance in Hell of getting to the White House (except on a guided tour), but then again the public fantasizing and open campaigning began way too soon. A few campaign cycles ago folks like Rick Perry and Scott Walker would have remained in the rumored to be running category until there was snow on the ground. They might quietly cruise around Iowa or New Hampshire, glad-handing the locals and making their ambitions plain, but the national media wouldn't be in a frenzy this far in advance of anything substantive happening. Hopefuls had more time for dreaming, for doing behind the scenes fund-raising, forming exploratory committees, and generally figuring out if they had a shot at it before having to step visibly on to a national stage.

Not this year. Thanks to the news media, if one can refer to Fox and CNN that way, the occupants of the clown car found themselves forced to appear in a format where the public was able to do side-by-side comparisons. Granted, one can't be 100% certain that those side-by-side comparisons were responsible for Rick Perry bailing out last week or Scott Walker hanging it up yesterday. Then again, Scott Walker went into the process with high poll numbers and a lot of blathering about him being the presumptive nominee -- not long ago he was viewed as a stronger candidate than "Jeb" Bush or Marco Rubio. Two appearances on the debate stage and his poll numbers plummeted to where he's now at a statistical zero. Not good. One can only assume his fundamental unlikeability came shining through because he certainly didn't say anything dumber or stranger than any of the other candidates.His poll numbers dropped, and I have a hunch he got an unpleasant phone call from one of the Koch brothers letting him know they'd decided to go shopping for a more electable puppet.

So who's going to be next? I'm not going to speculate. I have trouble remembering who all is in the Republican clown car at the moment, let alone whose campaign might be floundering. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015

How did we all survive?

The grandson and his family were here recently.. Justin came to help the S.O. re-roof the Woman Cave; AnnaMae and the little barracudas accompanied him to have a "relaxing" weekend at the farm.

I'm not sure just how relaxing it was -- just observing the kids in action from the sidelines can be a tad exhausting. The 3-year-old seems to have only two settings: totally wired or unconscious. Well, not quite totally wired because she doesn't bounce off walls like some preschoolers I've seen. Ziarra's just in constant motion. She's also got a tendency to disappear with no warning. You turn your back and she's vanished, which can be a little disconcerting. Piper seems a little more laid-back. Then again, she can't walk yet. She can, however, crawl remarkably fast and also has a knack for finding the one thing to put in her mouth that she really shouldn't. I hope she has a robust immune system because she taste-tested a lot of rocks and weeds this weekend. Piper would be set in the middle of a blanket on the ground, AnnaMae would turn around to get something from the stroller or out of the diaper bag, and Piper would immediately be a blur of motion heading for the grass and weeds. I am moderately amazed humans managed to survive as a species given the propensity of infants and toddlers to shove every strange object they encounter into their mouths.

It also had me wondering just what my kids got into when my back was turned. What kind of strange stuff did they manage to ingest, how many pounds of cat hair, dead bugs, and miscellaneous gravel samples did the two of them chow down on while I was reaching for the graham crackers or retrieving a toy one of them had thrown? They both made it to adulthood, though, so I guess the rocks they ate didn't hurt them. . . although I do still recall my mother  freaking out a little when changing a diaper and seeing the colorful evidence that the kid had somehow managed to get into my seed beads without me realizing it.It had been enough years that she'd forgotten my sisters and I eating crayons.

On a previous visit, Justin, AnnaMae, and the kids test drove the guest cabin. It doesn't have heat, though, and it was a chilly weekend so this time around they stayed in the Guppy. We figured out a way to block access to the cab and found a sheet of OSB to put over the stairwell so Piper was free to roam the floor, what there is of it. The bunk over the cab wasn't usable because the S.O. was in the process of figuring out how water's been getting in, but Ziarra is still too little to sleep up there anyway.

After finding all that rot in the guest cabin when we started pulling paneling in it, we were a little apprehensive about what might get uncovered when the paneling came off the right front corner in the Guppy. This time we got lucky. Water stains, but nothing important  actually rotted. As long as Justin was here to help, the S.O. pulled the window -- something we'd been talking about doing, but were a little nervous about with just me to help (I have a tendency to drop things). They put a butyl seal around it, which should help considerably with keeping water on the outside. We did discover there was some actual insulation in the walls of the Guppy (at least in the front end). It must be all of a 1/4-inch thick -- tokenism at its finest. It would have an R value of what? 2 maybe? Perhaps 3? In any case, with the window back in place and the various leaks sealed, we can continue prepping the Guppy for its next road trip. (The chains shown in the photo are used to hang the television when we're parked somewhere.)

By next summer, the little barracudas will be big enough that in some ways they won't be quite as much work. Piper will be walking and she won't be quite as interested in eating gravel. On the other hand, with both of them mobile, getting some tracking collars like bear hunters put on their hounds might not be a bad idea.

The Guppy's next road trip will be to Missouri and back to Montauk State Park for the month of October. The S.O. and I had talked about just continuing on from there, doing some wandering around the southern U.S. and maybe volunteering at a federal site or two in Texas or Arizona, but changed our mind. After the past couple of months of dealing with the museum siding project, we realized some time doing close to absolutely nothing would be nice. No schedules, no obligations, just watch it snow and plan for next summer's Alaska trip.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Intimations of mortality

Alternate title: Holy wah, that's my grandmother's hand!

I was wandering around the ranch recently, debating whether or not I wanted to pick some snow peas (they refuse to give up; the vines keep growing and putting out new blossoms), when an insect landed my hand. My first reaction was to freeze -- I thought it was a yellow jacket. Except it wasn't. It was something I'd never seen before: a fly that had coloring like a wasp. So I took a picture.

Downloaded the photo to the PC a little later in the day, and it was, like, omigod. That's my grandmother's hand. Age spots. Wrinkled. Definitely not something I should be thinking about asking the manicurist to enhance with hot red nail polish or glitter (not that I do either of those things now). When did I get my grandmother's hands?!

The reality is they probably arrived right about the same time I looked in a mirror and saw my grandmother staring back. I never had the experience of looking in a mirror and seeing my mother -- I do not take after my mom at all; she's 100% Finn and looks it. I got my father's Cornish genes and bear a real strong resemblance to his mother, except I started off as a blonde and she always had dark hair. She was already in her 60s when I was born so my earliest memories of her are of an old lady who looked a lot like I do now. And, yep, I had one of those holy wah moments then, too. Where does the time go?

We went down to Eagle River yesterday to visit the Older Daughter. It's one thing to recognize intellectually that she's old enough now that she's a grandmother herself. It's another to have it sink in that your kid is bitching about hitting menopause and having hot flashes. How did we manage to go so fast from talking about Girl Scout merit badges and homework to discussing Miracool neck towels? It's at moments like that it sinks in that I really am sliding into that older than dirt category. The jokes about not buying green bananas aren't sounding as funny as they used to.

As for the fly that has a color pattern really close to that of a yellow jacket wasp, it is (no surprise) a bee fly, a species of fly that lives on the nectar of various flowers and has apparently evolved to have a physical resemblance that discourages predators. According to Wikipedia, the Bombyliidae are a family of flies that includes hundreds of species, most of which are "poorly known," which is geek speak for "We caught one, named it, and have never found another." They are, however, considered to be important pollinators. No doubt there are zillions of them around that I'd just never noticed because unless one lands on my hand, if I see something buzzing around flowers that looks a lot like a yellow jacket, I'm not going to try to get close enough to get a real good look at it.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

A project update

As of yesterday, here's where we're at with the siding project at the museum.

We probably could have finished installing the siding -- the west wall is essentially done, most of the front is done, and the east end has been started -- but the minion got sick and had to leave at noon, the weather turned hot and sticky, the S.O. had stuff to do at home, so we decided to hang it up when the museum closed for the day (and the 2015 season) at 3.

It is looking like I did good at estimating the amount of siding needed for the 3 walls. I ordered 10 squares and at this point it appears we're going to come pretty close to finishing without having to order more. Which would be nice, but we're probably not going to be that lucky. More likely, because weirdness always happens, we'll end up slightly short -- which is better than ending up with a surplus. It's much, much easier to order an additional 40 or 50 linear feet of siding than it is to try to figure out what to do with leftovers.

The overgrown junipers are gone now, too, although the stumps and a small amount of brush remain to be hauled away. We've already filled an 8-foot pickup box with two loads of branches from those junipers -- calling them overgrown was a bit of an understatement.  In the spring we'll figure out what to put in that space, if anything. I lean towards doing a native shrubs and flowers garden, i.e., some wild high bush blueberries, black-eyed susans, daisies, etc. No exotics, just stuff that grows naturally around here, complete with little metal name tags to identify the plants. It would tie in with the teaching mission of a museum. We shall see. . . it's quite possible that by next May I'll be perfectly happy to let that space revert to lawn. 

I think my next endeavor in grant-writing is going to be trying to get funding to enclose our front entry or at least replace the existing double doors. They no longer fit quite right, probably from the combination of the slab moving when the ground under it freezes and thaws each year and the wood building warping and shrinking over time, so we lose a lot of heat through them in the winter. They're also a little quirky when it comes to locking and unlocking. We volunteers have learned to always keep the key in our pocket because the doors have been known to re-lock themselves for no apparent reason -- people have stepped outside to sweep the sidewalk or wash windows and found themselves locked out of the building. It would probably cost about $1500 to replace the front doors -- we have to have a double set with no center post just in case we need to bring in large objects and the doors  have to open out to comply with fire codes for commercial buildings, two factors that up the cost of doors considerably. I've also been thinking that turning that front porch into an airlock entry would be a good idea, too,for multiple reasons (reduced heating costs, better climate control in the museum, a little more square footage for display space). We shall see. . . .it can be tricky finding grant money for construction. Most of the funding sources for nonprofits like museums want to underwrite programming and events, not improvements to buildings. We got lucky with the KBIC funding but having gotten money from the tribe this year it's not going to be our turn again for awhile. Oh well. . . who knows? Maybe one of these days we'll come across something stashed in the attic or hiding in the storage that doesn't fit in with our mission but can be sold for a small fortune on Ebay. Stranger things have happened.