Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fall is right around the corner

funny pictures of cats with captions
see more Lolcats and funny pictures

It may not have been bunnies but blight. Truth is we had virtually no insect or animal damage to our garden plots.

All the tomatoes that looked so green and promising two weeks ago look like sh*t now. Terry managed to harvest a few of the golden cherries and fewer of the regular tomatoes (enough to can 7 pints) but the remaining fruits are all discolored and even the vines are dying.

The cucumbers, right next to the tomatoes, are also beginning to look like they've had it...FINALLY! In their case, I'm sure it's pure exhaustion. We easily harvested 130-140 cukes from that 8' by 8' plot.

And, while they have slowed down some, the string beans are still flowering and the ever bearing strawberries are still producing fruit.

Working in the coal mine!

Well, that's how it felt.

Alternatively, we can call this Reconstruction: The underground story!

Removing the front porch on the south side of the Bolt Hole exposed the lack of support for the sill. Something that was also obvious from the inside. someone way back had decided to dig out a portion of the crawl space under the kitchen. The sides began to collapse and they added some wide, rough cut barn board to hold back the earth. It didn't work. The boards either gave way when their support posts (nonpressure treated 4" x 4" rough cut) gave way or rotted out on their own.

We removed the rotted posts and boards on the south side, jacked up the sill, dug a hole for a pressure treated 6" x 6" which was to sit upon a concrete pad, and let the sill back down upon it. Then the boards got replaced and 6" x 6" posts put behind them to hold them in place. Next we back filled to within a few inches of the sill. (Insulative purpose. Less air behind the wall to be hung from the sill and under the porch.)
South side support post and back fill

South side retaining wall

On the north side we removed the boards to find there was even less support. What we initially thought was a concrete wall/ foundation holding up the sill was in actuality just a few loosely laid stones with mortar on the exterior. And the earth beneath those stones had collapsed into the hole.

Loose stones with mortar on the exterior...and nothing beneath them.

Further, one corner of the sill structure that once sat upon three large rocks no longer sat upon those rocks. This was the cause of the major sag in the kitchen. directly above joint.

Lack of support beneath the corner/joint.

The soil on the south side had been very loose and almost a sugar sand. That on the north side was much more solid. We dug back several feet toward the sill moving the soil to the south side and creating a nearly four foot high face to the soil on the north. In front of this face we erected a retaining wall of seven 6" x 6" timbers laid one atop the other and backed by two 6" x 6" posts and one 4" x 4" post. Atop the soil and beneath the sill we created several piers of concrete blocks. By using two 4" thick, 8" wide and 16" long blocks as the base to form a large concrete pad, even the pressure of the jacks against the sill did not press down very far before movement stopped. (In the front, we found the blocks kept sinking until we reached the level of the basement floor.)

With the aide of Mr. Gravity (he's a very serious worker),
the big rock in the corner was moved to a less obstructive position.

Retaining wall on the north side

We used these piers to jack the sill up, inserted a section of 6" x 6" beneath the joint and shimmed the hell out of the mess using pressure treated 2" x 6" and decking material (5/4" thickness). Once the pressure treated material was in place we let the jacks down and let the sill settle on the bracing.
Concrete piers and wooden shims support the joint

If it's not textbook construction or methods: it Good Enough Construction Company.

The air crackled electrically with forboding energy

A second project accomplished at the Bolt Hole was electrical in nature. Wires had to be moved and replaced the Lords of Watts and Ohms needed to be placated and appeased.

The floor joists being logs, it's very difficult to drill holes and run wires through them. Instead, the previous owners stapled the wires to the sides of the logs. Sounds okay except that the metal staples draw moisture in the cold, cold days of winter. They may even be coated in frost when it's 5 or 10 below. That moisture gets into the log and nourishes all manner of little beasties of both flora and fauna. Beasties which can weaken the log and turn it into so much powder. This is especially true if the log is a soft wood with its bark still attached--as most of the floor joists at the Bolt Hole are. (The bigger beams seem to have been either oak or chestnut--they ARE old enough--and while having some surface decay, are pretty damn sound.)

In preparation of possible jacking up of the main support beam, and possible replacement down the road of one or more of the floor joists, I needed to pull as many staples as possible without damaging the wires--especially the very old, canvas and tar covered wires that were probably constructed by Edison. I eventually decided to remove two of the longest canvas-and-tar wires that ran from the breaker box all the way across the basement to a junction box. One supplies power to the first floor and the other to the basement lights--one of which is also wired with the canvas-and-tar wire.

Lots and lots of wires

I left plenty of slack in the yellow 12-2 replacement wires since our plans for support of the central beam--the spine of the house--were not fully developed. The slack can be reomved once things have been finalized in the basement or it can just be coiled up near the junction box. I also left the shorter wires running to the basement light and its switch for a future replacement.

The Evil Breaker Box

Okay, it's not EVIL evil, but it still scares the bejeezus out of me to be working so close to so much voltage. Yeah, I got 'er done without any bodily harm or damage--this time. Still....

Farewell Old Man of the Chimney!

One of the tasks I undertook this past week was the removal of an old, unused brick chimney. It was just 20" square and extended 30 inches above the roof peak and, perhaps, just as much below into the attic where it was supported by some timber cribbing.
The Old Man of the Chimney

Well, that chimney had been crumbling for years and recently the water leaks around and through it were getting worse. It had to go. Taking a little four pound sledge and a four inch masonry chisel with me up the roof and down it came. The portion above the ridge line actually came down almost entirely by hand. The mortar had grown very, very week. I was able to throw the bricks to the ground one at a time.

Inside proved a bit more difficult. The mortar was stronger and the space in the attic was a little cramped. I needed to be aware of where my head and back were at all times or the point of a roofing nail would have perforated me. Plus, the bricks had to be carried out in 5-gallon buckets under low rafters and an even lower access door. I managed to avoid the rafters but the top of my head hit the top of the door--three times.

I eventually managed to get all the bricks out, the floor cleaned of dust, debris, mouse and squirrel droppings. I then added some 2" x 4" braces across the gap where the former chimney had been. I cut some metal from left over pieces from a demolished shed and, with generous application of roofing tar, nailed the metal and a ridge cap in place.

No more chimney

The ridge cap didn't match the one already in place and tar can only do so much. A little Great Stuff sprayed in the wider gaps on the ends of the patch's ridge cap and I'm satisfied that my Good Enough Construction Co. membership is intact.

Must have worked. There was no noticeable leak after the heavy, heavy rains of Friday night and Saturday.

Removing that small section of chimney (only about 5 feet total) means a lot less weight on the pones of this old house. Another good thing, the chimney went on my terms and not its. I semi-feared I would discover it had either blown over or totally collapsed every time I went up over the last year or two. Every spring there would be more brick pieces in the melting snow as the freeze-thaw cycle took its toll.

Jiggety-jiggety home again!

An uneventful trip to the Aerie with the trailer in tow. I managed to get up and out at 0700 and made most of the trip in very light traffic. Even so, it took five hours to make the trip.

My route was primarily major highways: Rte 8 south to the Utica entrance to the NYS Thruway west to I-481 just east of Syracuse; I-481 south to I-81 south to Binghamton and Rte 17; Rte 17 west to Waverly/Sayre and Rte 220 south to Rte 6; and finally Rte 6 west to the Aerie. Only the first few mile to Rte 8 and the final few off Rte 6 were on back roads--not that 8, 220 or 6 are any great major freeways! My plan was not just to get home, but to check the mileage on the Tundra in preparation for a cross country trip. Certainly the grades of the roads (the hills and flats) were such that they give me a good idea of what to expect going across country.

Shocking how much the towing of the trailer cuts back on the Tundra's mpg. Instead of 18-19 mpg, I managed only 7.5 mpg. And having a smaller gas tank than the Silverado means even less range. (I think its a 24 gallon tank.) Looks like I'll be forced to stop every two hours (like my doctor once ordered me to do) when we start trailering again. Certainly won't make it passed the three-hour or 180-mile mark without really squeezing the last drop out of the tank.

I filled the gas tank when I started, topped it off at the Chittenango Rest Area on the Thruway (6 gallons) and once more when I was nearing home in Troy, PA on Rte 6 (another 21 gallons). The total fuel usage then was a little more than 27 gallons and probably just over 30 gallons door-to-door.

Backing the trailer into the driveway was a bit tricky, but I managed. Makes me appreciate the guys who delivered the Aerie's materials on the backs of the 18-wheelers. Of course, they were pros.

The weather was great! Cool and dew laden at the start but sunny and cool all the way home. Just a smattering of breeze once I got on to Rte 17.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, August 29, 2009

Today is my final day at the Bolt Hole for a brief while. Terry's off to North Carolina on Monday with her Mom for an army reunion and I'll be taking up cat sitting duty as well as some more firewood cutting at the Aerie.

Mark and I finished our Good Enough Construction Co. project in the basement today. We installed a retaining wall of 6" x 6" timbers, jacked up the north side sill and installed a couple of concrete block piers beneath it. The jacking up of the sill went a long way toward correcting a major sag in the sill but there's still more that will need doing in the future. I've more support work to do down there in various places but nothing that can't wait for a week or two.

Jacking up the northern sill in just one place--directly beneath a joint--has resulted in things in the kitchen...well, changing. The door to the attached wood shed now closes pretty well for the first time since I've been here. The window I put in while the house was sagging is suddenly not level (but, at least, it still opens and closes easily) and the wooden interior shudders didn't latch properly. The stove looks to be tilted but that's probably because the legs on one side were extended to make it level when we put it in position. All those things are in or against the wall we just jacked up.

When we got done, we used some spare T-11 and closed in the huge hole in the south side that allowed us to get the timbers and block down there. That opening is going to be further hidden by the front porch. (Remember the porch? That's what started this whole sheebang. Was supposed to be a one or two day project to replace it.)

I'll be posting pictures Sunday or Monday when I get to the Aerie's high speed connection.


Once finished, I hitched up the travel trailer to the Tundra and hauled it out of the storage barn. It has to go back to PA for its annual inspection. This is the first time I've moved it since last September when it was inspected. We just never got around to doing any traveling because Terry's been so busy as national president of SAGA. That ends first week in October, however, and we are already talking about a major road trip next summer. Hitching up by myself went smoothly. I was pleased to see all the lights worked fine and that the tires needed only a little air. I had hauled the compressor up for just such a possibility.

The smaller utility trailer went into the barn for the time being. I'll swap again when the travel trailer is brought back to the Bolt Hole on September 8th or 9th.

I'm taking advantage of the enclosed travel trailer to transport some of the "stuff" that we left here when we moved out of NJ in '06. A couple of antique captain's chairs, a pair of old toy boxes, and a few boxes of magazines and cookbooks will make the trip to the Aerie.


It started raining about sundown on Friday and we had more than an inch overnight. Today we had some rather heavy showers off and on. Right now someone has turned the faucet to the on position.

I'm glad I spent some time yesterday creating trenches and swales to take water away from the foundation of this old house. Again, more needs to be done to channel the rain/snow melt away. At least, I'm getting an idea of the amount of digging/grading that needs to be done and I can see if what I've already done is doing any good.

The rain and chilly temperatures (it never got above 65 today) makes things a bit cool and raw inside as well as out. As a result, I've had to resort to lighting a fire in the kitchen wood burner. And it feels good!


I'll be up and Aerie bound before 0800 Sunday morning. Here's hoping it's an uneventful trip.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, August 27, 2009

Another couple of days working in the cal mine...I mean basement.

Yesterday, Mark and I wrestled a pair of 6" x 6" pressure treated timbers through the gaping hole in the front of the building and raised them on end putting three feet in the ground. (Clam-shell post hole diggers rock!) These and a 4" x 4" post form the rear support for 1-1/2" boards that will hold back the loose soil and fill that will be under the porch on the south side of the building...when we get back to rebuilding the original project.

Much of the soil came from the north side of the cellar hole which we enlarged slightly. Unlike the fine, loose, sandy fill under the porch, the stuff from the north side is pretty much virgin soil and quite compact. It holds its face well when we carve into it--which is a big plus when you're concerned about it caving in on you!

We also put in some temporary supports constructed from 4" thick solid concrete blocks on which to position our two hydrolic jacks. We're using these to lift the sill so we can get a vertical and a horizontal 6" x 6" under it where it has sagged. The cause of the sag is due to some water undermining, some critter digging and some aged half-lap joint in which the wooden pegs holding the joint together have long since rotted/disappeared. (If you want an idea of how this place was put together, think of a post and beam barn laid on its side with another post and beam barn built on top. Amazingly, there were no column supports under the joints--a definite no-no. The outer corners in this little ell of a former crawl space were propped up on large stones. The one in front is okay, the one on the north side had slid from under the corner and was supporting--well--nothing.

Today, my task, whether I wanted it or not (Mark had to be elsewhere) was to move that half ton boulder out of the way, reposition the temporary piers and the jacks and get ready to dig another post hole or two to support the rear wall.

Mission accomplished thanks to a little sweat, lots of gravity, some luck, and lots of concrete blocks. In fact, I like these 4" x 8" x 16" solid concrete blocks so much, I even took the time to go purchase another twenty. That makes nearly sixty of the things on site. Those we can pull out when we finish will make one heck of a patio!


Oh yeah, the weather. Beautiful! It got down to around 40 degrees last night and might be in that neighborhood again tonight. Perfect sleeping weather yet not so cold that I feel the need to start a fire. The sun shone all day and the temperature still didn't get above 70 at the Bolt Hole. It was up to 72 degrees when I went down into the valley to get the blocks at Lowe's. Tomorrow is supposed to be about the same but with clouds moving in in the afternoon and showers starting Friday night and continuing though Sunday. If it's raw and wet, I may have to build the first fire of the season. *sigh* It was a short summer. I think it happened last Tuesday through Friday.

As for the rain: What do you expect? The NY State Fair opened tonight in Syracuse.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Humor Me.

Over the transom from my younger sister:

okay ... so it's politically incorrect ... get over it!

A Mexican, an Arab, and an American girl are in the same bar.

When the Mexican finishes his beer, he throws his glass in the air, pulls out his pistol, and shoots the glass to pieces. He says, 'In Mexico, our glasses are so cheap we don't need to drink with the same one twice.'

The Arab, obviously impressed by this, drinks no-alcohol beer (cuz he's a muslim!), throws it into the air, pulls out his AK-47, and shoots the glass to pieces. He says, 'In the Arab World, we have so much sand to make glasses that we don't need to drink with the same one twice either.'

The American girl, cool as a cucumber, picks up her beer, downs it in one gulp, throws the glass into the air, whips out her 45, and shoots the Mexican and the Arab. Catching her glass, setting it on the bar, and calling for a refill, she says, 'In America we have so many illegal aliens that we don't have to drink with the same ones twice.'

God Bless American Girls!

(Sis actually had it as "a New Jersey girl", but with the gun laws in NJ what they are, how likely is that!)

Bolt Hole Report, August 25, 2009

Well, the chimney is down and out. The patch has been put into place and awaits the next rainstorm to see whether I did a good job or not.

Regardless of the weather tightness, the removal of the four feet of bricks will take a load off the two sills that HAVE NO FREAKIN' SUPPORT BENEATH THEM! Goes a long way to explaining the sag in the north kitchen wall, no?

The removal of the chimney was the last thing on my "honey do" list that my biddy Buddy Mark left.
Wires and plumbing moved? Check
Rear (north) wall exposed so we can asses the situation? Check
Lolly columns installed to support main beam and prevent further sag? Check
Remove old, unused chimney stump from roof and attic area? Check

Now comes the hard part. Figuring out how to shore up the two sills so as to prevent their further sagging. And seeing if we can get a leverage point so as to jack up the rear (north) wall which has sagged some two or three inches over the years.

Further reflection: The sags were here when I bought the place. If I had inspected more carefully, I might not have purchased the Bolt Hole but would have certainly negotiated a lower price. Even so, the location--adjacent to state "forever wild" lands--and the size of the land--34 acres--probably would have swayed me. This old place has its problems, but....

(I'm saving the pictures to upload at a future time. Dial-up and all that.)


The humidity disappeared today. Great weather to work outdoors or in the attic. The temperature rose to around 80 degrees but with the lack of humidity and the steady breeze that blew, I found myself quite comfortable. Aside from the tar all over my hands, one dinged up nail on my left index finger (another reason to use screws!), cuts from sharp metal edges on several fingers despite wearing gloves--most of the time, a couple of sharp dings on the noggin when I forgot just how low the rafters in the attic were, and all the dust from the old crumbling chimney, that is.

Tomorrow will be even cooler but there's a slight chance of showers late in the day.

If Mark shows (and he says he will), it will be time to move some of the 6" x 6" timbers into the basement to prevent further soil slides that caused the undermining of the sills. How many people can say they've had to build a retaining wall IN their basement?

To think, all this started when we decided to rebuild the front porch. A task that was projected to take half a day. HA! Nothing like working on a century-old house. I should have paid more attention to the original This Old House. Norm and Bob were always running into the unexpected.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, August 24, 2009

Sunday was spent in the basement doing some rewiring. I've mentioned that the core of the Bolt Hole dates back to the early 1900s--very early. When first constructed they had no electricity and used home-generated gas. The site for that gas production is still present in the yard. They must have wired the house as soon as the power line made its way up the road. It stops here. Some of that original cloth covered wire is still in use. If it was in the walls, it would be okay. But some of it was stapled to the moldering logs that from the beams and joists in the very damp basement. Just as the logs have felt the wear and tear of ages and moisture, the wires were a tad bit worse for wear. Removing the staples so as to shore up and eventually replace some of the logs made me aware of just how worn the wires were. Some of them needed to go!

So, after going back to Lowe's to get the correct 12-2 instead of the 12-3 I had purchased last week, that was my project for the afternoon. This required that I disconnect wires from the main circuit breaker box and put in the new ones.

I hate working on circuit breaker boxes. Something about the power of electricity scares the bejeezus out of me. I mean it's quiet and unobtrusive as all get out and then WHAM! it can kill you dead! Even when working on a light, switch or outlet, I'll not only flip the breaker, but the main if I can. And then test to see if there's any current in the line before I'll unscrew the plate.

When I wired my basement in NJ, I had my cousin--the shop teacher--do the breaker box thing. After wiring the basement at the Aerie, I had the contractor come out to put the wires into the breaker box.

I have a very healthy respect for electricity.

And I must have learned something from watching those other guys do the job.

After making a diagram, measuring three times for the length of the wire, and delaying as much as possible, I finally got down to business. I flipped the main "Off" and tested the circuit for power. None. So far so good. Then I disconnected the old wires and rewired the junction box. Then I went to the main and did the same thing. Out with the old and in with the new. I double checked my handy work and then flipped the main to "On" position. And there was light! Everything seems to be working well.

Add one more skill to my repertoire.


Today I was back in the basement briefly to cut out a vent hole in a boarded up coal chute and install a screen cover over same.

Next I used the Sawzall to dismantle a false wall that someone had put up four inches in front of the stone wall. It was serving no purpose except to allow mold and mildew to thrive on the wood kept damp by that stone wall.

While I burned the moldy planks (some over 14" wide--it made me weep), I removed the raspberry plants, phlox, milkweed, ragweed and other plants that were growing too close to the foundation. With them out of the way it will be possible to regrade the earth to slope away from the house and, hopefully carry rain and snow melt away from the basement/crawl space.

Meanwhile, it rained. Off and on much of the afternoon and not nearly as heavily as it did on Sunday afternoon, but it did get wet from time to time.

Tomorrow promises to be a nicer day with plenty of sunshine, cooler temperatures and lower humidity. A good day to get out a work on the roof. There's an old, unused brick chimney that extends 24 inches above the roof ridge and about 30 inches into the attic space where it sits on top of some timbers. It has got to go before the basement beams can get jacked up--and before it comes crashing down on it's own! We're talking very old, very soft bricks here. But they are heavy!


So, JihadGene left this comment on my Saturday post: Up Close to Nature Too Up Close!

At 8/23/2009 11:28 PM, Blogger JihadGene said...

It may not be a skunk but rather a democrat congressman hiding out from any Town Hall meetings! Chicken bastids!

And it got me to thinking:

1) sponging off my hospitality instead of finding digs of its own

2) fearful of going out into the daylight where it might be seen

3) when confronted with its trespass it's capable of creating a big stink

4) logic and kind words failed to swayed it from its chosen path

5) when loud noise was created it sorta just disappeared

Yeah, JihadGene could be right.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Up Close to Nature
Too Up Close!

I spent yesterday (Friday) in the Bolt Hole basement moving electrical wires, installing temporary support posts, and removing an old and rotten wooded plank floor from the dirt. Today it's time to move some plumbing which requires I cut perfectly good pipes and install replacements. Luckily it's PVC work and no soldering is required. Light a torch down there and the whole place is likely to burn to the ground!

Any who...I got up early this morning and was at the kitchen table when the sun came up. Three does walked through the Phase One Apple Orchard cropping the tall grass/weeds in a leisurely fashion at 6:30 AM. Nice to see the deer using the orchard as we had planned, but I'd prefer to see some horns as you can't shoot does during the hunting season. Then again, when the rut starts, where the does are, the bucks are sure to follow so let's hope the girls stick around.

At 7 AM I went into the basement again to check the adjustable lolly columns I put up and to make sure I knew exactly what and how much plumbing materials I needed to purchase. While I was down there, I saw a movement off in the corner and saw, to my dismay, that I was not alone. There was a sleepy, skinny skunk probably just awakened from its sleep by my coming down the steps and turning on the lights. I kept a close eye on the tail and tried to make enough noise to get it to go back out the way it had come in all to no avail as it moved off deeper into the crawl space. *sigh*

At least a skunk that isn't frightened (or hasn't been recently) doesn't smell. And if that tail doesn't go up, it can't go off half cocked. Right? But, come on! The thing's got the whole forest to play in and there are still some brush piles out there for it to hide in during the day, why pick my cabin?

I left the lights on while I went for supplies and checked again when I got back but, while I didn't spot the polecat, I can't be sure if it left while I was out. I guess I'll just have to make even more noise as I work down there this afternoon and try to watch my back. Maybe I should have gotten a gallon of tomato or lemon juice while I was out.

It took me longer than I thought it would (and another trip to the hardware store) to finish the plumbing work but it is done and does not leak--always a plus. The electrical wiring will have to wait for another day.

What did I learn?

That drain pipes, even those coming from the kitchen sink and supposedly empty of water, may still contain water--smelly, stinky water that made me pine for my skunk friend. Luckily I had a bucket standing by for just such an emergency and I managed to catch 80% of the gray water. I'm afraid the rest went into the earthen floor. Can you say "eeeewwww!" I knew you could.

PVC pipes bend and are flexible, but they begin to lose that flexibility when they are over 1 inch in diameter. Drain pipes are 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Curse them! Still, there was a little bit of give that allowed me to rearrange the slope of the pipe juuuusssst enough.

A small project (realigning the drain pipe from the kitchen sink) can grow quickly. While I had the water turned off, I (1)altered the length of the hot and cold water lines to the kitchen sink so the drain pipe could go above them rather than below, (2)shortened a vertical section of the drain pipe so the slope could be altered to carry all the crude to the "outside" rather than pool in the line and possibly freeze, (3)installed two replacement drain valves in the hot and cold lines (One of the old ones had a stripped faucet handle and I could not open or shut it easily and I could see the other going the same way. That's the reason for the second trip to the hardware store. Luckily, the local had the materials and I didn't have to make the trek to Lowe's where I had gone earlier.)

I started the day by taking my Sawzall to two steel oil drums (50-gal?) that were in the basement. They were too large to make it up the stairs and through the door and the ribs in their sides made it impossible to squeeze them into an oval that would fit, so I cut them in half down the sides. How they got into the basement will forever remain a mystery. They were there when I bought the place in the mid-'80s.) If that noise (yeah, I wore ear plugs!) did not get the skunk to vacate the basement and crawl space, I'm in trouble. I blocked what I think was the entrance hole when I finished the plumbing work.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Aerie Report, August 19, 2009 Evening Edition

I took my bride out to lunch today. Not quite an anniversary dinner, but we did have coupons for the McDonald's Angus burger.

We sat down at a window table just as the sky opened up at 1 PM. And remained open for about 90 minutes. We had some other errands to run at Agway and Wally World so we had to venture out in the wet. We managed to do so during slack times but the sky opened once more as we made our way back to the Aerie. The sides of the dirt roads ran with chocolate milk colored runoff.

When we got home and the rains finally stopped, I checked the rain gauge. The contained 0.77 inches of water. (Add yesterday's 0.41 inches and that's a heck of a lot of water!)

The sun did come out for a few hours after the rain passed and the temperature rose all the way up to 78 degrees. Since the sky is still mostly cloudless, I expect the temperature to drop into the 50s tonight. Great sleeping weather!

I had some stuff to put in the compost heap and when I got there I finally figured out what our bruin visitor was up to this morning. There were two small chokecherries just behind the compost heap. I say "were" because one of them is bent horizontally now and the other has a few branches snapped off about four feet off the ground. Last week these were loaded with tiny chokecherries. From Terry's description of where she saw the bear, I deduce it had just finished snacking on the cherries and was heading up the hill to see if there were any blackberries left in my pickin' spot. Since I'm leaving for the North Woods tomorrow and with the work I've got to do up at the Bolt Hole probably won't be back for a week or more, the bruin is welcome to all the berries it wants. I'm through picking for this year. Especially since there's no room in the freezer what with the blueberries, blackberries, string beans, and zucchini bread. heck there's not even any room for a deer or two. BUT I WILL MAKE ROOM IF NEED BE!

Well, time to take a shower and get some shut eye. It's going to be a busy and interesting week at the Bolt Hole.

Playing in the Big Sand Box in the Sky

The Spirit rover completed its 2000th workday on the Mars earlier this week. Not bad for a project that it was hoped would make 90 days. And we're talking Martian days here. They're a little longer than Earth days.
The rover team keeps track of Spirit's timeline in Martian days, or "sols," which are slightly longer than Earth days. The result is that even though the rover passed the 2,000-day milestone a few weeks ago, as measured on Earth, the Sol 2000 mark didn't come around until Tuesday.

...Spirit is currently mired in a sandpit nicknamed Troy, facing a trial worthy of the Divine Comedy. The poetic parallel is doubly apt - considering that Dante posted half-buried villains around Hell's central pit in his "Inferno," and that NASA's Opportunity rover escaped from being buried in a Martian sand dune called "Purgatory" more than four years ago.

The NASA boys and girls have been playing in a sandbox in the lab to determine how best to get Spirit out of its predicament. They've devised a plan and will execute it during the first week or two of September. Meanwhile, daunty little Spirit keeps right on observing and analyzing and sending data home.

(h/t to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit)


Here's a rather unique means of combating crime being used in Peoria.

Meet The Armadillo

The Armadillo is the opposite of an undercover operation. Its goal isn't making arrests, but alerting suspects that police are on to them, police say. The surveillance footage is rarely reviewed by the police and is saved for just a short time before it is erased. Still, the unit can have a significant impact.

So effective is it that the police have a four-week waiting period of requests by folks who want it parked in the neighborhood.

However, I wish the author of this piece had left out that one sentence: "The surveillance footage is rarely reviewed by the police and is saved for just a short time before it is erased." Any of the bad guys reading that will assume they can just carry on as if The Armadillo weren't there. In short, the author provides information that will harm the effectiveness of the program.

(h/t to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit)

Aerie Report, August 19, 2009

I've been on the phone with Mark and we've sorta, kinda worked out a plan to stop the bleeding at the Bolt Hole. He gave me a list of things to purchase to shore up the beams in the basement and has contacted a few guys to advise and even help with the task. He's still helping out some guys on other projects for which he is being paid but will be meeting me this weekend to get started.

I'll be heading up to the Bolt Hole Thursday morning with the utility trailer in tow and shopping list in hand.


As luck would have it--and this is the good kind of "luck"--the heat wave we have been experiencing has shown cracks and may tumble completely in a day or two. We had some massive T-storms move through the area yesterday afternoon and evening that sent the temperature plummeting 10-15 degrees in a few hours as we went from a high of 83-84 degrees at 4 PM to 69 degrees at 10 PM at the Aerie. The storms just skirted us to the north and south, however and we got "just" 0.41 inches of rain from them. Today's humidity remains quite high and the temperature may still reach 80 degrees but over the next week the highs will drop to the mid 70s while the night time lows may reach down into the 40s by the middle of next week.

Hurricane Bill's trip up the eastern seaboard will pull the cooler air down from Canada but it's power should, according to accu-hunch, remain well east of both the Aerie and the Bolt Hole.


The cats let us sleep in a little this morning. They didn't start their wake-up call until 6:30 AM. As Terry threw on her robe and went down to feed them and to open the sliding door on the porch, she caught sight of a black bear walking across the lawn. Before she could get me to the window, it had slipped into the woods and out of sight.

I checked the veggie garden to see if that was a stopping point but there appears to have been no damage done to the beds. Perhaps it was just walking through or perhaps it doesn't like string beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes. With no bird feeders out, that's the only food source in the yard aside from the compost pile which holds some vegetable matter and watermelon rinds...and even that seems to have been untouched.


Thirty-seven years ago today Terry and I tied the knot. It's been a hell of a ride with no end in sight.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Oh Sh*t!

I hauled the ATV down to the Aerie this morning and had absolutely no problem doing so. The trailer behaved and the straps I applied to hold the ATV in place did their job admirably.

Once back at the Aerie, Terry and I did a quick cleanup of the garage finding lots of cardboard boxes to burn and recyclables we need to haul to the dump. No problemo!

While burning the boxes, I noticed a small group of blackberry canes that were loaded with ripe berries. So, after eating Sunday dinner, I went out and picked a bunch of berries up the hill. Got a quart and a half of deep, dark ripe berries which were washed, drained and packed for the freezer. (Where they joined all the blue berries and 28+ loaves of zucchini bread.) No sweat!

Then I got the phone call from Mark. He was at the Bolt Hole. He had gone over to do some work on the porch, found the pier of blocks we put in yesterday had toppled over. (I had told him that the huge sill on the front of the house was not putting any pressure on the pier when I was down there yesterday.) He tried to put it back together but, while jacking up the sill, there was a crack, and clatter from other parts of the house. Pushing up in one spot had led to things going down in other spots and the 100+ year-old makeshift floor joists weren't happy.

Long story short. Now, instead of just replacing the porch at a cost of a few days labor and maybe $750 in materials, We could be looking at having to replace all the beams and joists holding up the house, perhaps pouring a new foundation to replace the loose stone the previous owner had simply pointed with mortar from the inside to stop drafts, and--worst case--facing the demolition and reconstruction of the old part of the cabin. Mucho dinero. And insurance doesn't cover dry rot, mildew and/or mold. All of which along with age, contributed to this problem.

I, for one, feel out of my depth.

I'm going to think over my options and let Mark talk to a couple of people in the area--both physical and construction business--and see what the options are.

Oh, and somewhere somehow, while burning the cardboard, I twisted my back funny--and not in a "HA HA" kind of way. So I'm feeling a little crippled up right now physically and mentally.


On the weather front: It's been hot. Not super-duper, end-of-the-world kind of hot, but in the upper 80s and uncomfortably humid. Might reach 90s tomorrow. (They said the same thing for today but the temperature fell short.) There's a cooling breeze in the shade but the sun? Man it is blistering! One little move and my shirt is drenched.

Of course the heat could finally drive my tomatoes over the edge and they might actually ripen to red in a week or so. We had some of the golden cherry tomatoes fresh off the vine today and their taste was heavenly!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, August 15, 2009

The last couple of days saw my buddy Mark and I demolish the front porch, attempt to jack up the front beam of the Bolt Hole and prep for the rebuilding of the porch.

Mark had to leave for a previous commitment Friday and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up the demolishing, stacking the old tongue-and-groove flooring in an out of the way place, and burning some of the most rotten and powder post beetle damaged wood you'd ever home to see. (Although when the back shed gets torn down--or more likely falls down--the porch wood will seem like solid oak in comparison.)

Suffice to say, it's been a sweaty, dirty couple of days and there's still a huge, gaping hole where the porch and house meet that affords ready access to the basement for the chipmunks and other critters.

All this hammering and banging has deterred the mice, however. After trapping nine in the first two nights I was here, they haven't bothered the baits.

This morning I hooked up my utility trailer and went down to Lowe's for materials to rebuild the porch. Sheets of AdvanTech, pressure treated 2x6s and 4x4 posts, a bag of mortar and a bag of concrete to patch up the foundation, and all the hardware and fasteners set me back $500. Call it a stimulus to the Lowe's bottom line.

I've got to be heading back to the Aerie for clean clothes, a good meal or two, and some tools before Mark and I can rebuild starting Tuesday.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bolt Hole Report, August 13, 2009

I drove up to the Bolt Hole on Tuesday morning towing the empty utility trailer. Wanting to avoid having to pay any tolls of the NY Thruway, I followed a new route along Routes 13, 20 and 12B to Utica. Interesting ride. I'd not been on the section of 13 from Cortland east nor on that part of 20 or 12B before. It shaved some 20 miles off the distance traveled but added almost 30 minutes to the time involved because of all the small towns I had to travel through and the lowered speed limits. The antiques fair in Morrisville didn't help much either.

The route took me past the place I had dropped off the lawn mower for a tune up and repairs (only had water in the gas tank, thank goodness) so I stopped there to ransom the machine.

Once at the Bolt Hole, I unloaded the mower and put it to use. Worked great at cutting the "front" yard, rousting out the toads from the deep grass, and mincing one that proved to be too slow to get out of the way. I normally try to avoid slicing and dicing toads, but this one didn't move out of the deep grass until it got cut in half. The same thing happened to a garter snake the next morning when I cut the rest of the lawn and started work on the grass beneath the apple trees. Gives new meaning to the saying "the quick and the dead."

Speaking of "the quick and the dead," the mice are back. As twilight approached Tuesday evening the deer mice started to tap dance across the tins on the shelf in the living room. The set up a racket that would make Buddy Rich envious. Disturbed me enough that I got the traps out and refreshed the peanut butter bait and set them up. Within minutes I had my first kill and there were four more dead mice by Wednesday morning. Four more last night for a total of far. I need a weasel.

As with the mice, the red squirrels are also back. Outside, thankfully, but still noisier than I like. They seem to take umbrage with any little disturbance to their world including my opening the blinds and windows or a deer walking through the apple trees. Since they are staying outside, I wouldn't mind so much if they weren't such early risers. I mean, 5:30 AM is way too early guys! Then again, I wouldn't have seen the doe in the apple trees if they hadn't awakened me.

Note to self: Before running over what looks like a fallen apple in the grass, make sure it's not a 3" diameter tree stump. Plays havoc with the lawn mower blade. Luckily I had a spare. Now I'll have to get another.

The weather has been great. Sunny and warm (hey! it is August!) with only one passing T-storm Wednesday afternoon. The highs have been between 75 and 80 degrees but the night time lows have been 55-60. It's supposed to be even cooler this weekend. Terry says the Aerie has been slight warmer and wetter with T-storms most of Wednesday afternoon into the evening.

On a weather related note: NOAA reports that the July temperatures in the US were below average with six states (including PA) recording their lowest July temperatures ever. (Watts Up With That has the story here.)

Tonight is supposed to be a peak night for the Persied Meteor Shower. I might just have to go outside after dark to take a peek.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Aerie Report, August 10, 2009

Lorraine and Nancy left around 8:30 AM today (just slightly after I headed out for Cabela's. They planned to head over to Ashley, PA before turning southward and back to their home in SOuth Carolina. It figures that they should choose to leave just as some of the hottest weather of the sumer arrives. At least they got to enjoy several days where the high temps were only around 75 and the lows were in the low 50s. Today's high was 87 degrees (better than the 95 the truck recorded down at Cabela's!) There are some heavy storms to the south of here stretching from Williamsport down to Harrisburg and they are drifting eastward--right over Cabela's in Hamburg. Here, in Tioga County, we are enjoying a reprieve from the heaviest rains while experiencing the drop in temperature that usually accompanies a squall line.


Seven hours round trip from the Aerie to Cabela's in Hamburg, PA today, two hours for lunch and shopping with my buddy (and squash pusher) Joe. Neither of us found everything we wanted, either. It should be a crime when you travel as far as we did (Joe had a four hour round rip from eastern NJ) and find out that the store doesn't have what you want and its shelves where what you want is supposed to be are literally bare. Joe was looking for primers to do some reloading. I wanted a copy of the Deloreme maps for PA to put in the Jeep. Nada. Zero, Zilch. At the cash register we were handed that age old fishing line we've heard time and again: "You should have been here yesterday!" Seems this weekend was a big promo thingy and everyone--and I mean EVERYONE--was there to stock up. Hell, we tried to boost the economy! Oh well, we'll just have to go back again when they restock.

I did get myself a nice Nikon ProStaff 550 Laser Rangefinder and some additional Magnus Snuffer broadheads. (The new bow and/or pistol will have to wait until 1) I feel more comfortable with the sizable cash outlay 2) I can figure out how to sneak it in the house past Terry.)


When I got back from Cabela's, Terry and I had a quick dinner and headed over to the Tioga County Fair. She entered four pieces of needlework--one stump work, one black work, one sampler, and one smocked infant dress--into the fair this year and, since I'm heading up to the Bolt Hole tomorrow, I wanted to see how she fared.

She got three first place ribbons and one second. She does say, however, that there were not that many entrants. Still, the judges seemed impressed.


As I said, I'll be hooking up the utility trailer in the morning and heading up to the Bolt Hole for a couple of days. The grass needs cutting and there are other chores that need to be around the cabin and out buildings. I plan on being up there for five or six days. Then I'll haul the ATV down to the Aerie and start moving some of the firewood I've cut out of the woods. Weather permitting, (and if my back doesn't go on strike against me) I've got some pretty busy days ahead of me.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Interesting times!

Well that was, well, interesting.

We went to dinner out at the Log Cabin in Gaines on Route 6 in western Tioga County. The food was great and the service superb. Then we went further west into Potter County to show them Coudersport with the idea of taking a loop down Route 44 through Cherry Springs State Park to Carter Camp and the junction with Route 144. We would then turn northeast again and rejoin Route 6 in Galeton.

The rain had ended by the time we arrived at the restaurant and the skies, while darkening, were still dry when we left Coudersport. We were enjoying the drive down to Cherry Springs when the clouds really became black and the winds began to howl. Small branches and debris started to fill the street as the rains pelted down. Lightening and thunder activity increased. Then, rounding one curve, we found a tree recently blown down across the road.

Another car was stopped on the opposite side of the road and there was someone starting to don rain gear to deal with the tree. Being in the new Jeep, we had no rope or tow strap which would have made the clearing much easier. The other fella didn't have any either so we were reduced to trying to wrestle the damn tree out of the road. Luckily, it was pretty well shattered from its fall to the pavement, the other guy had a hatchet to chop some of the smaller limbs off and make the tree lighter, and another vehicle showed up with three strapping 20-somethings who made quick work of the remainder of the tree.

Just as we finished up and were getting ready to move on, a white pick-up came up from behind and passed us all heading south. We found it stopped about half mile down the road where a larger tree had fallen. As I (and my three new friends) pulled to a stop) the guy in the white truck got out with an axe in hand and started to chop the top off the tree.

"You guys got the last one," he said, "this one's mine."

As he cut, we cleared the debris away. As we worked, another car came up from the south heading in the opposite direction from us. The driver remained in the car while we worked. Eventually, we had one lane opened for passage and the white truck moved on. As I prepared to move forward through the gap, the car in the opposite lane moved forward and the woman driver stopped to say thank you.

The remainder of the drive to the Route 144 junction was uneventful except for continued lightening and thunder. My young buddies continued south toward Jersey Shore while I turned north toward Galeton.

There was sign of strong winds along Route 144 and a few branches were in the road and the lightening and thunder show continued to occur ahead of us, but there were no more fallen trees. Until we got to Galeton. There we were stopped for a time as we were told Route 6 was closed both east and west. We took advantage of the restrooms and gas pumps at an Exxon station and wished they had a Pennsylvania map! (Another item to get fro the Jeep.) After half and hour I noticed that some cars seemed to be heading east so we ventured forth. Only to be stopped about two miles down the road at Phoenix Road.

We were told that power lines were down east of there and that there were several road blockages on Route 6, but Phoenix Road had been recently opened if not entirely cleared. If we followed Phoenix Road northward we would eventually get to Route 49 which runs east to Route 15 and we could get home. Hopefully.

We found 10 or 12 trees blown down across Phoenix Road, but someone with a chainsaw had done a good job of clearing at least one lane to make the road passable. We succeeded in reaching Route 49 and turned eastward through Westfield and Elkland where we saw several homes and cars damaged by falling trees and limbs.

Arriving back at the Aerie we found a few small branches on the road and in the driveway and that some rain had blown in through open windows. I found the rain gauge to contain 1.08 inches of water from last night and today.

An eventful afternoon just tooling around the countryside after dinner.

The 6 o'clock news reported a tornado in Allegheny County, NY, and winds measuring up to 80 mph in the Potter and Tioga County areas.

Rainy Sunday at the Aerie

After a week of glorious weather, some rain finally arrived on the scene last night and continues through this morning. The early morning temperature, after being near 50 degrees since last Tuesday, ramped up to a damp 65 degrees this morning. The forecasters also say it will get up to the mid-80s this afternoon in contrast to the highs in the low to mid 70s we have been enjoying. Hey, it is early August, right. Dog Days of summer and all that.

The gals thoroughly enjoyed their time in Corning Friday. They spent a lot of time at the Glass Museum and took in all the exhibits before going downtown for a bit. They ended up at the Wegmans grocery store and had lunch at the cafeteria there. (What is it about some women that they have to take a tour of grocery stores of all things?) I'm not complaining, they brought home a couple of unusual brews from the huge selection of beers Wegmans carries. Lorraine recognized some of the brands as English microbrews having spent two years in England. Pretty tasty.

The Carolinians went out on their own on Saturday and roamed about the local area just a bit while Terry took one of her needlework pieces over to enter it in the Tioga County Fair. The Fair runs next Monday through Saturday.

Me? Friday I was in the woods for four hours with the chainsaw, Saturday I cut the grass knowing rain was on the way and then spent another three hours in the woods cutting up the downed tree tops. I would have worked longer but after stopping the chainsaw to move some of the cut debris, I couldn't get it started again. *sigh*

The ladies all went off to church this morning as per Terry's usual routine. When they return, we'll probably read the papers before going out to dinner.

The bad thing about having company is that Terry feels obliged to cook even more: planked salmon, London broil, spinacoffeta (the Greek spinach and cheese dish for which spelling optional).... Not to mention the Moon Pies and beer the ladies have plied me with. Good thing I've been working off the calories in the woods.

Oh, and the blackberries are ripening on the hill so there's a steady supply in the fridge for ice cream and cereal toppings.

Lorraine and Nancy will be leaving on Monday morning but will take the long way home to South Carolina. Nancy grew up in and Lorraine was born in Ashley, PA so they will swing east of here to go see their old stomping grounds before heading back towards Harrisburg and I-81.

I've a date tomorrow with Terry's cousin Joe, my fishing and hunting buddy as well as zucchini pusher, down at the Cabela's in Hamburg set for Monday at 11 AM. Not sure what I'm shopping for but I'll know it when I see it. I KNOW I'll be coming home with some zucchini I just hope the Tundra is big enough for the amount Joe will be bringing. ;-)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Aerie Report, August 6, 2009

With company (Terry's Aunt Nancy and Cousin Lorraine) from South Carolina due on Wednesday, Terry and I did a little house cleaning during the day. We also went through the garden and picked more string beans (another frozen quart), zucchini (some from the neighbor's "free" pile; another four loaves), and cucumbers. Lots of cucumbers. We ended up with 20 cucumbers on the counter. That stash prompted Terry to make seven pints of garlic-dill pickles. We saved some out for salads the next few days. We have plenty of Romaine lettuce from the garden.

The ladies arrived last evening around 6 PM and after a dinner of salad, lasagna, garlic bread, and wine, we had a nice visit. They were quite happy to find the "high" temperature for the day had been 76 degrees and that the overnight low was to be 52. Beats the heck out of the temperatures in SC.

Today, Terry took the ladies over to the Grand Canyon of PA (the Pine Creek Gorge) and then to Wellsboro for lunch at the diner to do a little sightseeing.

While they were out, I took the chainsaw up the hill and spent four hours on a couple of tree tops that I had lopped the smaller branches off the other day. I've got a long way to go toward clearing up the tree tops from the logging that we had done, but every four to six hours I spend up the hill makes things...well, neater. Plus I've several small stacks of firewood logs awaiting hauling to the house. Of course, there are also several sizable piles of branches and limbs too small for use as firewood. I'm limiting myself to saving anything over four or five inches in diameter and cutting it to 16-18 inch lengths. And even then I'm throwing some really twisted branches that would meet the diameter requirements onto the "debris" piles. Lord knows there's still more firewood than I'll ever burn in the next five years.

Tonight promises to be another very cool night (perhaps even down into the upper 40s according to accuhunch) to be followed by a day where the temperature may not reach 75 despite being mostly sunny.

The ladies will be going up to Corning on Friday. I'll be playing lumberjack again.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Aerie Report, August 3, 2009

Man, oh man! If only every day were like today in the weather department. We started off with a cool and comfortable 55 degrees at 6 AM, followed by nothing but sunny skies and puffy cumulus clouds all day and yet the temperature barely made it up to 78 degrees this afternoon. Absolutely gorgeous!

Yesterday wasn't bad either once the early morning rains (0.15 inches) finished. Made everything very muddy outside. Especially slick was the clay road leading passed the Aerie. I drove to the top of the hill to look at the construction going on up there for both gas wells and wind mills and found the Tundra slipping on the clay like it was snow in winter. The construction is progressing but everything seems to be in the road building site preparation stage. It will be a good long while before the windmills go up. I'd be surprised if they appear this year at all.


Terry's putting in long hours in preparation for the national Smocking Arts Guild of America convention that takes place in Indianapolis the end of September. As national president, she's got numerous tasks to complete, speeches to write, assignment of duties to make, coordination of various committees, etc. and she's trying to get things done before she and her Mom go down to Mt. Airy, NC for a Polar Bear Reunion. (Polar Bear in this instance is a group of Army Vets from WWII to which Dad belonged. He and Mom would go to all the reunions and now that Dad's passed away, Mom continues to go.)

Then Terry has the EGA (Embroiderer's Guild of America) national convention in Pittsburgh the beginning of October. yeah, she'll leave me and the cats alone for two straight weeks.

Then there's two weddings, one on Sept 26th and the other on Oct 17th and both in NJ.


I walked up in the woods today to see what the loggers had left behind. There's a mess of tree tops (maple, ash, and oak) that I need to break down and cut up into firewood. Today was just to scout, plan, and lop off the smallest of branches (anything less than two inches in diameter). I worked for two and half hours and barely made a dent in the mess. I'll bring a water bottle tomorrow and will be able to spend even more time lopping branches. All in preparation of cutting and hauling firewood.


I picked another half pint of mixed raspberries and blackberries while I was out in the woods today. Terry got enough string beans to freeze another quart. She also picked a couple more cucumbers. She also planted some spinach seeds where we had some lettuce earlier in the summer. Yesterday she turned a few zucchini into four loafs of bread.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Aerie Report, August 1, 2009

A glorious day here at the Aerie!

After yesterday's rains (1.07 inches ending around 4 PM), last night was cool and comfortable that we turned the window fan off and opened the window wide. That was good and bad. Today dawned at just 58 degrees but it did so damn early. The heavy dew acted just like rain in the downspout of the gutter and one drip leaking around a joint just outside the window beat a tattoo upon the pipe further down. If the fan had been running we probably would not have heard it but with the fan out of the window it was torture. At 5 AM. And once we started stirring, Chester and Shadow let it be known that they wanted to be fed. NOW!

Back to the rest of the day. As I said just 58 degrees this morning and it stayed cool with light breezes and puffy cumulus clouds casting shadows making it even more comfortable. The temperature reached a high of 80 degrees at around 4:30 PM. Much nicer temperature-wise than you might expect for the first day of August.

I took the stepladder out to see if I could fix the dang drain pipe by applying some silicone sealant in the joint. I guess I'll find out next time it rains.

Hunting hasn't started yet but gathering continues. I got another pint-plus of raspberries and blackberries off the hillside today. Turned them into a pint-and-a-half of syrup by mashing the berries in a sauce pan and adding a 1/4 cup of water, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon of corn starch (thickener). I heated the whole thing to a rolling boil and then poured it into pint canning jars. Once cooled it went into the fridge since I didn't seal the jars in a water bath. Besides, it's only going over ice cream, pancakes, and pound cake in the next couple of weeks. Once the blackberries really start producing, I may make some more but that will get the water bath treatment for longer storage.

Gardening hasn't done too badly either. Terry and I had another quart of string beans for the freezer as well as a cup or so for dinner. There's a dozen cucumbers in the fridge waiting to be processed into something besides salad. And on the counter there are three small zucchinis of the 9-10 inch size that are just right for grilling. Last year we put in a dozen each of everbearing and June bearing strawberries. Right now the June bearers are looking lush and sending out runners all over their side of the patch. The everbearing strawberries are also sending out runners but they are also loaded with berries and flowers. I don't get many berries at a time but for the past week or so it's been five or six every other day. I pulled six onions the other day that are as round as a softball but flattened a bit. I braided their tops together and hung them on the covered porch to dry out a bit. After the rain yesterday, I knocked the tops over on the rest of the onions and I'll pull them on Monday or Tuesday. I've never grown onions before but these look to have done well.

About the zucchini...The neighbor down the hill finally put out some free squash on Thursday and Terry and I stopped to get a couple of yellow summer squash and two zucchini on our way back from wine tasting. They were to be just enough for a couple of loaves of bread. Then I get an email from Joe in NJ offering me all the zucchini I will take. (He says he's not allowed on the neighbor's properties any more and there's no one who will stand still long enough for him to give a few to.) But, just like last year, our zuke plants got the hint and starting to produce. I don't know that they will be as prolific as last year but then again, I don't have as many plants in the ground.