Saturday, April 30, 2011

Saturday Morning Briding

Yesterday was one of those steps back to early spring and maybe winter. It only reached 42 degrees beneath cloudy and occasionally spitting skies. (We actually had some hail late in the afternoon.) I was forced to go around and turn the heat back on although I'm not sure it ever did actually kick on overnight. It did get down to 38 degrees at 6 AM when I got out of bed.


Terry went to New Jersey again this weekend. This time it was for a sewing thing being held south of Trenton. She reports it was pretty nice there and the trees were all in leaf.

Here, the maples and poplars are in bloom and, down in the valley anyway, the shad bush (also know as service berry) have opened their white flowers.


I went out on a bird walk over at Hills Creek State Park this morning. We had 11 people show up and, even it started overcast and chilly, things warmed up and cleared up nicely. The adverse weather may have actually helped us out a bit. There are still numerous water fowl on the lake and an abundance of yellow-rumped warblers flitted about in the trees. Over all, I counted 36 species on our three-plus hour walk around the lake. Here's my list:

Location: Hills Creek SP
Observation date: 4/30/11
Notes: The day started chilly (40 degrees) with misting rain and overcast skies. Cleared and warmed to 52 degrees and bright sunshine by 10 AM.
Tons of yellow-rumped warblers in the newly flowering trees. Dozens of buffleheads on lake.
Number of species: 36

Canada Goose X
Mallard X
Ring-necked Duck X
Bufflehead X
Common Merganser X
Ruddy Duck X
Double-crested Cormorant X
Great Blue Heron X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
American Coot X
Mourning Dove X
Belted Kingfisher X
Northern Flicker (Yellow-shafted) X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Cliff Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
Tufted Titmouse X
Red-breasted Nuthatch X
Brown Creeper X
Eastern Bluebird X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Yellow Warbler X
Yellow-rumped Warbler X
Common Yellowthroat X
Eastern Towhee X
Chipping Sparrow X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Northern Cardinal X
Red-winged Blackbird X
Common Grackle X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Gary tries to get an actual count of each species while I tend to merely run a check-list of species. I think Gary got a bit overwhelmed by the number of buffleheads on the lake and especially the number of yellow-rumps in the trees.


I actually saw a few other species on my way to and from Hills Creek SP. There was a ruffed grouse along the side of the road. A brown thrasher dove across the road in front of me. The ubiquitous rock pigeons circled the barn yards at several farms along the way. A pair of wood duck on a small beaver pond.

And then there was the turkey one successful hunter had slung over his shoulder as he walked into the sporting goods store in Mansfield. (Today was opening day. I saw several vehicles parked along the side of the road, but only that one guy with a nice big tom.)

On my way down to Route 6 from the Aerie, I had to stop for a red fox in the road. And then, coming home, I spotted five deer in the hay field of one farm and, closer to home, a white squirrel ran into the woods from the road's edge.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Another wedding

No. Not the one in England.

A week ago tonight my eldest niece, Kristen, got engaged to the fella she's been dating for a year, Rich. In fact, they were out celebrating their 1-year dating anniversary when he popped the question. (Rich, when she brought you to Christmas Eve, it was just a matter of time.)

When I heard the news, I began to wonder when they would tie the knot. All the suitable holidays had previously been taken for this year. We've got one wedding in Milwaukee Memorial Day weekend, one near Portland, Maine, on 4th of July weekend, and one in Springfield, New Jersey the Friday after Labor Day. (Labor Day weekend we've a clam bake at the base of Cape Cod, but that's a different story and not family related.) Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas I dismissed as being unlikely times to wed. So when, I wondered would they get married?

I had forgotten a couple of possibilities still available in 2011: Flag Day (to small a holiday), Columbus Day (possible although neither is even half Italian), and Veterans' Day. They opted for the latter's traditional day of 11/11--although neither has any connection to the military, it is close to her Mom's (and my sister's) birthday (11/13). And for a very small, town hall ceremony with a reception to follow.

I wish Kristen and Rich all the best.

So that's four weddings this far. Two years ago it was three.

Still think the best plans would be a ladder before and a post card after.

Two Bears

An email from my Florida cousin:

Two bears were sitting at the side of the banks of the Potomac in D.C.

The smaller one turned to the bigger one and said, 'I can't understand how you can be so much bigger than me. We're the same age; we were the same size as kids. I just don't get it.'

'Well,' said the big Bear, 'what have you been eating?'

'Politicians, same as you,' replied the small Bear.

'Hmm. Well, where do you catch them?'

'Down near the parking lot by the Capitol Buildings.'

'Same here. Hmm. How do you catch them?'

'Well, I hide under one of their Lexus cars and wait for one to unlock the car door. Then I jump out, grab them by the leg, shake the shit out of them and eat 'em!'

'Ah!' says the big Bear, 'I think I see your problem.

You're not getting any real nourishment. See, by the time you finish shaking the shit out of a Politician, there`s nothing left but an asshole and a briefcase!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Weather follow up

Still waiting for today's round of T-storms to start. But we do have a tornado watch (possibility) in effect until 10 PM and a tornado warning (stronger possibility in the immediate future) issued for the northwest corner of the county. Luckily. we're on the eastern edge of Tioga County. Looking to the northwest from here, things do look...well..interesting.

Almost forgot, the area still has a flash flood watch in effect until tomorrow.

Got up to 82 degrees this afternoon in what would otherwise be considered a lovely day.(Except for those nasty T-storms and tornadoes j-u-s-t over there.)

I grabbed a shovel and went out to play in the dirt, rock and flowing water. Hey, it's a guy thing. First I did some altering of water flow along the sides of the road. Some pretty bad erosion in spots where larger stones or a small delta of stones forced the water toward the middle of the road. Then I went and did some work on the upper driveway. Good thing I only need to take the ATV and/or tractor up there, I'm not sure the Tundra would handle the new gullies. After that, I dug a small, shallow channel along the edge of the lawn to allow the water still seeping out of the hillside to drain off instead of pooling up right behind the house.

Sweaty work in the high humidity and climbing temperatures. And that humidity and warmth as sparked the appearance of the Black Fly--and I've a few bites to prove it. On a positive side, should the temperatures remain in the 80 degree range, the Black Flies should rush through their life cycles and become less troublesome.

Once more into the breech!

Again it rained. And thundered. And blew.

Actually, Tuesday started out pretty darn nice. There was a light breeze and the sun was shining and things were definitely looking summery. So much so, that I even went and pulled out some screens, cleaned them and the windows they went into and put them up in anticipation of airing the house. I even went so far as to go around and turn all the thermostats to the "OFF" position when the outside temperature surpassed the inside temperature (68 degrees vs 65 degrees) around 11 AM.

After lunch I grabbed the shovel and went and dug up all the strawberry plants (and weeds) in an 8' x 8' raised bed prepping it for some lettuce, carrots and zucchini. This bed hadn't been dug over since I built it and put the strawberries in in the summer of '07. The number of earthworms I uncovered was amazing! I guess the decaying leaves from the strawberries provided some good food for them.

While I was working, I heard a turkey gobble across the road and my head went on a swivel as I wondered if he would come my way. I didn't hear another sound from the tom until five minutes later when he snuck past me on the downhill side just 20 yards away. His movements created just enough noise to get my attention as I was still bending over picking out strawberry plants. It was big old tom with a long beard, reddish snood and a blue head. He was all decked out for breeding season. I watched as he continued to circle my position and head out to the small open field on the back end of the property. He never uttered another sound after the one gobble.

The temperatures rose to 80 degrees just after 1 PM, but then the sun quickly disappeared between 2 and 3 o'clock in the afternoon and the winds started to shift about as the clouds rolled in from the southwest. Off in the distance there was an ominous rumble of thunder. Here we go again! I thought.

Sure enough, the weather service had issued a severe thunderstorm warning for the area and it (the storm) was literally just around the corner. I sat on the deck beneath the covered porch, watching it approach. Actually, a goodly portion of the storm slid past us to the west along Route 15. I could watch the dark clouds and the lightening strikes along that area as it moved through Mansfield. Counting seconds between light and sound, I figured most of the action to be some 3 miles or so away as the crow flies. Terry and I watched and counted seconds as lightening lit up the sky but we continued to have no rain at the Aerie.

That soon changed as a bank of thick black clouds boiled up above the ridge to our southwest There was a flash and a boom--with virtually no time between them--that indicated that particular lightening bolt had struck just beyond the edge of our property. We watched as a curtain of water moved across the landscape in our direction from the west.

The rain arrived with a vengeance. It fell so swiftly and heavily that the earth couldn't absorb it. Even the recently dug raised beds soon became pools of brown water and streams gushed out of the downspouts and ran along the edge of the yard. Then it briefly hailed. Pea sized little balls of ice landed on the deck for just five minutes or so. Which was long enough for me! (The weather service had warned of the possibility of one inch diameter hail stones so these little ones were a relief.)

THIS round of storms didn't last too long and things were calm again by 4:30 or so. But it wasn't the final round of the day. More arrived at 6 PM and again at 8 PM. These too were accompanied by warnings of strong winds, hail and even tornado. (Those warning's on the local TV can be pretty darn annoying, but useful for those who need them, I suppose. But every 15 minutes?) Luckily, we must have been on the eastern fringe of all the serious activity. Before it got too dark, we could see some oily, greasy looking clouds with slate blue coloring to our northwest but they were already beyond us heading for New York state. What we got was another light show and rain. Lots of rain.

This morning the report is we had over 2 inches of rain last night. The Tioga River is over its banks and flooding sections of old Route 15 in Covington (just south of Mansfield).

Our second driveway has been severely eroded and there's been a slump of soil and rock just behind the house. I spent a little time this morning trying to divert some of the water on the upper driveway to mitigate the erosion/gullying that has occurred. I'd get the tractor out to move some earth, but there's little point. Today's forecast is a carbon copy of the last two days. There will be rain again this afternoon and evening. Probably in the form of thunderstorms.


On a positive note: We had our first sitting of the year of the beautiful Rose-breasted Grosbeaks between thunderstorms yesterday. Two males showed up at the feeders as we were eating our evening meal. They are still here today enjoying a repast of sunflower seeds shared with about 50 or so Goldfinches.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heck of a Show!

"It was a dark and stormy night," or so Snoopy writes endlessly.

Yesterday was a whirlwind of changing weather here at the Aerie. After several days of strong winds we finally had a calm morning but that was accompanied by thick, thick fog across the land. Water was dripping off the roof from the condensation of that fog alone for a few hours. Then, as the fog (remember fog is no more than clouds in contact with the ground) lifted, it began to rain. That continued fro a n hour or two before the clouds thinned and the ever elusive sun started to sneak a peek between them.

Still the wind was virtually nonexistent. The windmills across the way would occasionally spin lazily and then pivot to face a new direction only to spin slowly once more. High above, it was a different story. Way, way up there, clouds appeared to be on separate layers of swiftly moving air. Air moving in different directions as well as at different speeds. They would slip and slide over one another in a scene reminiscent of the battle between Kirk and Khan in the cloud of ionized gas. Watching, you kept waiting for a collision forgetting to think in 3-D.

The clouds continued to get thicker and darker and more ominous while still having huge gaps of blue(ish) sky between them through which the sun would occasionally blaze. Around 5:30-6:00 in the late afternoon, the clouds suddenly let loose and the rain poured forth in torrents so dense that the windmills were lost to sight. Now the water did pour off the porch roof--in a sheet! Water pooled everywhere it was flat enough to do so and, sometimes, even where it only had a small obstacle blocking its way down hill. Above the cascading waters you could hear a distant rumble of thunder and sometimes see a flash of lightening.

Meanwhile, off to the west, northwest, the sun suddenly began to shine beneath the clouds and through the rain. It was low enough on the horizon to get a sneak peek under the clouds. I imagine, somewhere over in Mansfield or Wellsboro, folks looking this way were going to see one hell of a rainbow! Despite the favorable conditions, I didn't. See a rainbow that is. The best view is 180 degrees from the sun and that would be Armenia Mountain on which the Aerie is perched. Oh well.

That rain lasted about an hour and things were calm again by 7 PM. Not dry, not clear, but calm. That didn't last long, however. I used the break to get the bird feeders in.

By 8 PM the sun had set but the sky was darker to the west-northwest for another reason. Thick, dark clouds filled the horizon. Beneath them it must have been pouring rain for the hillsides were obscured. Then the lightening began in earnest. Cloud-to-cloud lightening like nothing I have witnessed before. Every few seconds bolts of blazing white and yellow light snapped and zig-zagged their way across the sky. Not down or up, but across. And at different altitudes. One could imagine the old gods at war. Zeus, Odin, Thor, Vulcan smashing their hammers and tossing their lightening bolts at one another as the clashed in battle royal for domination.

It began to rain around the Aerie, but nothing like what we had earlier. The electric lights flickered a time or two but--except for the hypersensitive microwave, nothing lost power. (I had unplugged a few things, including my 'puter in a precautionary move.) The sound and light show continued in spectacular fashion for a couple of hours before it toned down enough for me to fall asleep around 10 PM.

This morning the sky is mostly clear. The windmills are facing southwest and spinning happily. The ground is thoroughly soaked. The onions I put in the other day have had the soil around them tamped down. The sunflower seed hulls beneath the feeders has been washed across the lawn and lies in little dike -like structures retaining pooled water behind them like miniature rice paddies. The robin who built his nest under the eaves on the top log end of the garage is probably feeling pretty damn cocky right about now. HIS nest remained high and dry during the entire storm.

The temperature outside was 67 when I came down this morning. It had reached 75 yesterday. I believe I shall have to get a few screens out of the attic and think about putting them in before too long. Meanwhile it's just 65 inside the Aerie. A temperature inversion has occurred. Perhaps one that signals the arrival of summer?

Saturday, April 23, 2011


It's another one of those days.

Terry and I were awakened by the sound of heavy rains sheeting against the south and west windows in the bedroom--at 5 AM. The weather gurus had predicted we would get heavy rains along with rising temperatures overnight and they were right--mostly. The rains they did fall and the winds they did howl. Rising temperatures? A little. It got all the way up to 38 at 7 AM. (It was 32 when I went to bed at 9:30 PM.)

Gary and I were supposed to do the weekly bird walk at Hills Creek SP this morning. I called to tell him I wasn't coming. Since he lives only a mile or so from the park headquarters he said he would drive over just to see what idiots--if any--did show up. It was blowing and raining hard there, too.

I took advantage of a brief lull in the rain to hang the bird feeders out and the Juncos, Goldfinches, Chickadees, Nuthatches, Titmice, Purple Finches, and White-throated Sparrows were there immediately.

The Downy Woodpeckers didn't show up and I imagined them in their tree-hollow homes erecting miniature awnings over the opening to keep the rain out. Or they would be asking why they didn't build on the other side of tree.

The temperatures have risen into the 40s now (noon) and the rain has slackened off even if the wind hasn't. Looking at the radar, there's no rain in the area at all and just one kidney-bean shaped splotch of green--right over Armenia Mountain and the Aerie. That might explain why, when I look out the window, I can't really see anything. We are IN the clouds. Only the fact that we are on the lee side of the hill (the winds are out of the southwest and we are on the northwest side of the ridge) has caused the cloud to lift enough that there's a smidge of clear air immediately around the Aerie. Even the tops of the trees around the clearing are swathed in cloud cotton.

Good day for a nap.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Oh Well....

Not having learned from the past, Terry attempted to make some babka tonight. It's a yeast bread. The house temperatures are not conducive to the growth/activation of yeast. At least not during the cool time of the year--you know, when heating the house up with the oven baking bread would be okay.

I had tried this several times right after we moved in with some sourdough bread and ended up with doughy bricks for my troubles.

Well, we learned that even Fleischman's can't do the job.

Back to using the bread machine for any home baked goodness.

Earth Day 2011

A chilly, overcast day that seems to be perpetually threatening to do something but just can't make up its mind as to what. At 42 degrees it's just plain raw outside.


I celebrated Earth Day by planting my onions today. About a pound of whites, half a pound of Spanish reds, and one bundle (forty to fifty plants) of sweet whites. We had good success last year with our onion sets. They grew all by themselves over the course of our long absence and supplied us with lots of good eating once harvested in October. I've never tried growing onions from little plants but there was a gentleman at Agway who told me these were sweet enough to eat like an apple and get about the size of a baseball (or larger) if you pull the earth off them as they grow.

I also spread the top soil around the larger bed. It's amazing how wet that stuff is when it comes out of a bag. Perhaps because it was sitting out in the rain for a week or more. I certainly hope they weigh it dry when they package it up. Regardless, even though it probably costs more than having a dump truck of the stuff delivered, the 40-lb. bags are easier to carry and there's no heaping mound sitting int he yard that has to be spread out. And at $2.50 a bag, it's not going to break me.


And now for something a little different:

First we have a faux retro flick from Weird Al Yankovic: Our Friend Dirt

And then there's George Carlin on Earth Day and Environmentalism:(WARNING: Some bad language is involved. But you probably figured that out as this IS George Carlin.) Listening to Carlin's take on many things, I find I agree with him an awful lot. Especially on this topic. Which is kinda weird for someone who has a BS in Environmental Science and MS in Ecology.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

True or not, this is good

This is too good to bother checking. This arrived via email (what else!) from a friend.


In Florida, an atheist created a case against the upcoming Easter and Passover Holy days. He hired an attorney to bring a discrimination case against Christians and Jews and observances of their holy days. The argument was that it was unfair that atheist had no such recognized days.

The case was brought before a judge. After listening to the passionate presentation by the lawyer, the judge banged his gavel declaring, "Case dismissed!"

The lawyer immediately stood objecting to the ruling saying, "Your honor, How can you possibly dismiss this case? The Christians have Christmas, Easter and others. The Jews have Passover, Yom Kippur and Hanukkah, yet my client and all other atheists have no such holidays."

The judge leaned forward in his chair saying, "But you do. Your client, counsel, is woefully ignorant."

The lawyer said, "Your Honor, we are unaware of any special observance or holiday for atheists"

The judge said, "The calendar says April 1st is April Fools Day. Psalm 14:1 states, 'The fool says in his heart, there is no God' Thus, it is the opinion of this court, that, if your client says there is no God, then he is a fool. Therefore, April 1st is his day. Court is adjourned."

You have to love a Judge that knows his scripture!

"For evil to flourish, all that is needed is for good people to do nothing." Edmund Burke

Aerie Report, April 21, 2011

A very productive day on all fronts here at the Aerie.

We had a lovely spring-like day with a lot of sunshine, cool temperatures, a stiff breeze out of the northwest and, thankfully, no rain.

First Terry and I had our eyes checked and we both needed to have our prescriptions adjusted just a wee bit. My distance vision was fine--hasn't changed in over three years--but my reading needed to to be tweeked just a tad. Probably because I've been spending too much time on the intertubes. I wanted new glasses anyway since the ones I've been using have gathered a few small scratches over the last two years and the frames are starting to suffer metal fatigue in spots. Terry has had the vision in one eye change a little so she needed a new prescription as well.


Then we got the kittehs crated up to go to the vets for their feline rabies and Fvrcp boosters as well as physicals. The two kids (Shadow and Chester) soiled their carriers in the 6 mile ride--as usual. Julie was just pissed and acted like a lioness when it came time for her shot. As expected, we were told that Chester is too fat (19+ pounds of purring love) and Shadow was headed that way (13+ pounds of indifference). Both were extremely docile on the examination table. Julie weighed in at just 10 pounds but it was all pure meanness after she got poked and prodded a little bit. Leather gauntlets and a firm hand of the assistant were needed so she could get jabbed. Thank goodness that won't have to be done again for a couple of years!


Don, the contractor who built the Aerie, stopped by with a prospective customer to show him the type and quality of work he/we did. The guy wants to build a somewhat smaller log home just over the hill from here and seemed suitably impressed with both Don and the Aerie. As they were leaving I told Don that if he needed another set of hands on that project, I was available. It's not a Beaver Mountain Log Home, but I'd still like to do some construction--as long as the ladder work isn't too far off the ground!


Finally, Terry and I went to Agway for some top soil to add to the gardens and then to Lowes to price some perennials and shrubs (Agway didn't have anything but pansies in their stock yet). We got some good ideas for a few shrubs (Rhododendrons, Burning Bush, Spiraea, Lilacs and, maybe, Holly) and flowers (Bleeding Hearts, Dianthus, Columbine, Salvia, Wallflower, and Periwinkle). The difficulty is in picking plants that will tolerate our 2100 feet on the northwest side of the hill. It can get pretty dang cold in the winter time and we don't get much morning sun in the summer.

Back home, laced up my new boots, grabbed a shovel and turned the soil in the onion bed and in the bed I'll use for string beans, cukes and zukes. The soil was still pretty damp--too damp to put the onion sets in just yet, but it turned easily enough and I was able to get nearly all the weeds and their roots out. I was also pleased to see the number of earthworms in the soil. Every shovel of dirt held two or three good sized garden worms and there were a number of real nightcrawlers, too.


I've got to start taking the bird feeders in at night again. Last night we had visitors that damaged our thistle feeder and emptied all the others. Although the metal shepherd's crooks were bent, I'm thinking the culprit was more of raccoon sized since most of the feeders were more delicately disassembled than a bear would have done.

A new bird showed up late yesterday. A Rufous-sided Towhee has returned to sing its, "Drink your tea" song. It was on the ground with the feeders this morning. The White-throated Sparrows have been singing their, "Old Sam Peabody, Peabody, Peabody" song from the top of the shrubs along the clearing. It's a song we hear a good bit around the Bolt Hole and when we go fishing up in northern Quebec but it sounds a little strange to the ear this far south. The Goldfinch males are in full, bright yellow-and-black mating plumage. Soon, I'll have to start hanging my hummingbird feeder out. Maps indicate the hummers return to this area around this time of year but no one at the Tiadaghton Audubon Society meeting last night has seen any yet. I'm already looking in the trees for the Indigo Bunting that has been a regular the last five years. Any. Day. Now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boots, Birds, Plans, and Memories

Holy mackerel! THEY got it correct. AccuHunch said it was going to clear up this afternoon and that the temperature would reach 71-72 degrees as the sun would appear late in the afternoon. And they were correct! (They also said we might have some T-storms before all that happened and they got that one wrong. I'll be generous and let that one slide, though.)


I mentioned last week that I was going out to purchase a new pair of boots. That mission was accomplished on Friday when we visited a boot shop over in the town of Troy to the east of here. They are Danner boots but not the ones I initially wanted. I would have had to order those. These were the Quarry GTX model with an alloy (read aluminum) toe instead of steel. They are several ounces lighter but are supposed to meat the same safety requirements. I hope I never find out. I've dropped logs on my toes before and even with the steel toes, that hurts! Nice thing about the Danner boots is that, should they be damaged in any way, they can renew/repair them.

My new Danner Boots

If it ever stops raining long enough, I may actually be able to wear them while I go out to cut firewood and move rocks around for a new garden bed--or two.


The bird populations have changed a little. The redpolls have finally gotten the message and flown somewhere. I started hanging the feeders again on Sunday and they never materialized.

The juncos are the most abundant bird out there right now. You would think that birds known commonly as "Snow Birds" would spend more time further north, but we have some around all summer. Right now there are 25 to 20 of them visiting the feeders on a regular basis. They are not big on the use of perch feeders. Instead, they feed on the ground or the trays.

There have been an increasing number of Purple Finches showing up and a few Goldfinches are making an appearance as well.

Joining the juncos on the ground and trays, are a half dozen or so White-throated Sparrows. Today one of them posed for a portrait on the deck rail.

White-throated Sparrow

White-throated Sparrow


I spotted a pair of groundhogs in the woods just west of the lawn area. They take flight quickly when I step out on the porch. I may have to keep the air rifle loaded if I want any string beans or cucumbers this summer.


Tomorrow will be a busy day. Terry and I have appointments to have our eyes checked in the morning. I've already determined I will need to get new glasses even if the prescription is the same. I didn't need new ones last year but there have been a few more scratches added over time and the frames have started to wear. In fact, one of the wires on the nose piece broke last week so I had to have them solder it for me. I picked out new frames at that time and had them set them aside for me.

Once we finish up at the optometrist, we have to pack the kittehs up and schlep off to the vets. All three are due for rabies and other shots/boosters as well as general check-ups. They hate traveling and, even though its just a five or six mile ride, I can be sure that at least two of them will be ill. But once they are on the examination table? Nothing but purrs. They love the attention.

In the afternoon, I hope to be able to get out into the garden and turn some soil--maybe even get the onions in the ground. AccuHunch promises there will be no rain...until Friday.


It was five years ago today that we laid the first log in the building of the Aerie. It was a sunny, warm day and would be so for the next five or six work days. As a result, the walls went up quickly.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Rain, Rain...

...go away. And don't bother coming back for a while!

It's been a(nother) chilly and damp day here at the Aerie. The temperature fell from around 42 degrees just after midnight to 36 degrees at 7 AM Tuesday morning. It rose slowly to 42 degrees at 5 PM and looks like, in a reversal of the norm, it will be rising much of the night and tomorrow until it reaches 70 degrees by 4 PM Wednesday. We will pay for that warmth, however. AccuHunch says the continuous showers we have been experiencing will intensify to thunderstorms by the time the temps reach their maximum.

The sun will--they say--make its weekly appearance on Thursday. Good Friday may merely be cloudy. Saturday will see another chance for T-storms. And Easter Sunday? Cloudy with a chance of rain. *sigh*

We've already passed the average amount of precipitation for the month of April and still have 10 days to go. (We had 2.70 inches of precipitation in March. The average is 2.65 inches. Some of that precipitation came in the form of snow: 24.3 inches of snow.)

Those May flowers we're owed better be pretty darn spectacular!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Places I've Been....

Rev. Paul links to a site that provides the user an opportunity to display on various maps those places he/she has visited.

I've never left Canada or the USA, so those maps dealing with lands "over there" were of no interest to me, but, oh, my!, have I been pretty much everywhere in the USA and Canada. How we missed Manitoba is much the same reason we missed Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama: different trips that diverged in opposite directions just before crossing the border. (Terry did make it to Louisiana--New Orleans, in fact--for a SAGA Board Meeting a few years back, but not me.) We could have filled in the continental USA map this year with a trip to Mardi Gras but...northern snows kept the trailer in the barn and I whimped out. We will fill those gaps soon. As for PEI, hell, it's a little place and is easily missed as we did when we went to Nova Scotia. Another trip will rectify that and the Newfoundland/Labrador omission.

In the USA, I have visited (or at least driven through) these states:

visited 46 states (92%)
Create your own visited map of The United States

And in Canada, I've been to these provences:

visited 8 states (61.5%)
Create your own visited map of Canada

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Saturday Bird Walk, April 16, 2011

I joined Gary on the weekly Hills Creek State Park bird walk this morning. Just him, me, two rangers and one fella from southern PA who came up to his hunting camp and decided to bird instead of go fishing with his buddies. I can't say I blame him. It was wet, windy, cold--just about what you'd expect for opening day of the trout season.

All in all, however, we didn't have too bad a morning. Although the wind and rain chilled us to the bone, we still managed to spot some 25 species including a couple of Bald Eagles, an Osprey and quite a few water fowl including a Loon and a rarity: a Red-necked Grebe.

Here's the report I made to eBird:

Location: Hills Creek SP
Observation date: 4/16/11
Notes: A windy (30-40 mph), chilly (40 degrees), rainy morning. Birded at the beach area and at the campers boat launch area. Didn't stray to far into the woods.
Number of species: 25

Canada Goose X
Wood Duck X
Mallard X
Ring-necked Duck X
Bufflehead X
Hooded Merganser X
Common Merganser X
Common Loon X
Red-necked Grebe X
Great Blue Heron X
Turkey Vulture X
Osprey X
Bald Eagle X
Ring-billed Gull X
Northern Flicker X
Eastern Phoebe X
Blue Jay X
American Crow X
Tree Swallow X
Black-capped Chickadee X
American Robin X
European Starling X
Song Sparrow X
Dark-eyed Junco X
Red-winged Blackbird X

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Aerie Report, April 14, 2011

Not much happening around here.

Yesterday (Wednesday) was a rainy cool day in central PA. Temperatures stayed above the 40 degree mark over Tuesday night, however, so we avoided the little snow showers that were predicted.

I made another run south to pick up baby eels for transplant into Pine Creek. Three hundred miles in the drizzly rainy weather. Not quite as nice a ride as a couple of weeks ago. The folks in Fish & Wildlife are pleased to have the members of the Tiadaghton Audubon Society doing a goodly portion of the schleping for them. I carried empty coolers south and brought something between 20 and 30 thousand eels north. Sometime in June, after they have grown some, they will be released into the creek with the hope that they will serve as hosts for baby mussels. The mussels hitch a ride to new areas to colonize and clean the creek waters. The goal is to move over 100 thousand eels around the dams in the Susquehanna River and into the upper waters of Pine Creek this summer.


Now that things have thawed out some, I noticed that my truck cap was leaking a little water. Today I tried to remedy that by putting a layer of foam tape between the cap and the truck bed. The installer had put some there but it didn't seem to be doing the job. Perhaps that was because his installation was rattled by the rough roads in Alaska and the Yukon (not to mention those around the Aerie and Bolt Hole). The front end of the truck bed is not that wide on top and the weather stripping may have slipped off the edge. We'll see in the next week or so if the stuff I put on has made any difference. The forecast calls for lots of opportunity for testing! An inch of rain is on tap for Saturday and showers are forecast for a dozen of the next 15 days.


Today, however, was a beautiful spring day. Plenty of sunshine on hand and temperatures in the upper 60s. You can almost watch the grass in the lawn, pastures and hay fields getting greener by the minute. The birds are feeling spring in the air too. A robin has begun building a nest on one of the corner logs on the garage end of the Aerie and a wren has a neat little nest in one of the three houses I have out. (I didn't check the others yet.) The robin isn't serious about building yet. Just a few strands of grass and pieces from the frayed tarp are plastered to the top of the log under the eave. Normally, once he starts, it doesn't take him long to get things done. Perhaps he's waiting to get the okay from some female before he goes too far. I can hear the wren singing from the brush occasionally, but haven't caught a clear view of anything but a little brown bird with an uplifted tail flitting about.

A flock of 13 female turkeys appeared where the feeders are Tuesday morning. They scratched a little before heading off into the woods. For a birds with feathers done up in little more than shades of brown and gray they can be remarkably striking. This evening, Terry and I saw a similar sized flock walked single file up through the woods about 30 yards from the deck. Perhaps they were heading to the top of the hill and the stand of large hemlocks that serves as a roosting site. That or they will turn a bit west and go to roost in the Norway spruce stand on the other side of the field at the back of the property.

The chickadees, juncos and mourning doves haven't given up on coming to the yard in search of seeds even though I haven't put the feeders out the since Sunday. It's possible the redpolls finally got the message and headed north. I haven't seen one since Tuesday.


Down in the valley you can see some of the deciduous trees--mostly poplars--have begun to sprout leaves. At the Aerie, only the swelling of the buds gives the promise of green soon to appear. A few of the red maples are also showing color in their buds and should be bursting into flower in a few days. I'm still waiting for the shad bushes to open their white flowers. They usually do so before any real leaves open in the other trees as if to make sure you can clearly see them.

I haven't spotted any wildflowers in the woods yet, but the crocuses we planted are all up and seem to have spread a little. The three or four bulbs we put in each spot now appear to be nine or ten strong. A few other plants (probably daffs) have sent their greenery above ground but flowers are a week or more away. The miniature tulips and the rest won't make an appearance until May--if the squirrels, chipmunks and other critters let them.


Okay, tomorrow will be another nice day (knock on wood!)--perhaps the last before the rains start again. I'll probably get out early in the morning to wage war with the burgeoning thistle population before they spiny little buggers get too large. A little Round Up should do the trick as long as the rains don't come until late at night. Then, I'll accompany Terry over to Troy. There's a boot store over there that sells Danner Boots. I need a good pair with a steel toe for cutting firewood and such. (Nothing ruins your day like dropping a section of tree on your toe!) Rick, my arborist son out in Portland, OR like the Danner product and recommended them to me. This model looks promising. A bit pricey and not made in the USA but the reviews are positive and the company has an excellent reputation.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Aerie Report, April 11, 2011

We enjoyed a taste of late spring/early summer today with the temperature soaring to 77 degrees this afternoon. It could have been higher, but we had clouds most of the day. Tonight we will see a cold front come through with some thunderstorms possible (75% chance according to AccuHunch). That means tomorrow will be back to near the average temperatures for this time of year: the mid 50s.

Terry and I took advantage of the warm weather to do some yard work. She picked up the stones I had plowed into the garden along the driveway while I raked leaves from around the flowering crocuses on the hill and pulled weeds (mostly blackberry canes) from the edge of the deck. I also cleaned up some leaning deadwood in the woods adjacent to the trail leading west into the field. Dangerous stuff those widow makers. The had to hit the ground. There are a few more to go but they will require the chainsaw and I was just using brute force today.


We got some other unpleasant, unavoidable business out of the way this morning as I wrote the checks for the IRS and PA. I don't feel badly about having to do so as it means we didn't provide a free loan to either Uncle Sam or Harrisburg. The former got about $700 from us and the latter got just $7.

Later this month I have to write another check for the town and county taxes on the Aerie's two pieces of property (7 vacant acres and 10 acres on which the home sits) plus something called a personal tax ($5 each) that total will be around $1500. The school taxes to be paid in the fall will be about the same. So, all totaled up, the property taxes here in PA--for the year--are about 1/2 what I pay on the Bolt Hole (where I can not, of course, vote on how they are spent) and about 1/4 what we would have paid in New Jersey.


Two things bug me around this time of year: 1-All the adds about tax refunds and 2-All the lawyer ads about how they can get your tax bill reduced to a fraction of what you currently owe.

The refund ads are either about how this or that company can get you the largest refund you deserve, or about how you can spend said refund for this or that (usually a car or a trip).

First off, I'd want a company to tell me how I can pay as little as possible to the government during the course of the year so as to keep my own damn money at home and not send it off as a free loan to the government. Then I wouldn't have to worry about being sure to get it back.

The second type of ad makes me wonder just how someone gets $20 or $30 THOUSAND dollars (or more--much more) in debt to the IRS in the first place. How did they screw up THAT badly? Or was it just Murphy's Law that put them in the hole? And, for added measure, if they really do owe that much, why would the government let them off the hook for a fraction of the debt without forcing them into bankruptcy? And, if they don't pay what they really owe, then wouldn't the rest of us have to pick up the slack?

I don't know. Maybe I just don't understand how the game is played. Perhaps I am naive in the way's of taxation. I know I get frustrated after looking for just five minutes at the forms and that instructions to file and that is why Terry does the filling out of the forms while I just write the checks.

Give me a simple little tax from that says something like: "1-How much did you make? 2- Send us 10% of the above." No deductions. No exemptions. EVERYBODY pays. Make a dollar? Send them a dime. Simple. No? No need for all the big companies that do taxes fro frustrated folks like me. We could eliminate over half of the IRS, cut the amount of paper needed to a tiny, tiny little fraction of what is used now--and it wouldn't have to be revised Every. Stinking. Year.

Nah. Never happen. Not enough opportunity for graft or cheating.


I intentionally did not put the bird feeders out today. I'm hoping the Common Redpolls get the message that it's time to head north. There were a few around today but only about a dozen or so. That's a huge drop from what we have been seeing. I'll keep the feeders in fro a couple of days just to provide more encouragement but then will put them out for the newly arrived Goldfinches and other resident birds. The migrants from the south should be arriving soon, too, and I wouldn't want the Rose Breasted Grosbeaks and Indigo Buntings to pass us by. The hummingbirds should be showing up soon also so those feeders need to be filled and hung.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lazy Sunday Springtime Report
April 10, 2011

Went out through the basement french doors this afternoon to look around the yard at the pretty green stuff out there. Turns out to be mostly wooly mullein, thistle and moss. Still there's some hope for grass and clover to make an appearance.

When I turned around and looked at the glass of the doors, I noticed some muddy spears on both of then between waist and chest height. A closer inspection showed that they were bear paw prints. The pads for each toe could be clearly seen. I called Terry down to have a look and noticed the highest print would have been just about on her shoulders. The bear was probably looking to see if it could come in and play with the kitties. That or eat their food. If he tried that upstairs off the deck, he would probably rip the screens. Downstairs, I haven't put the screen doors up because it's always cooler down there than outside during the summer so who needs 'em?

With 99.9% of the snow gone, I took a short walk in the back. There were a couple of piles of bear, rabbit and raccoon poop on the lawn, but the woods were filled with deer droppings of a variety of vintages. Some was old and dried up. Some was fresh enough to attract the attention of flies. It comforting to know that there are animals--even bears--in them thar woods.

We've still got hordes and hordes of common redpolls coming to our bird feeders. The numbers we get make me smile when I think of the rare bird reports from counties south and east of here where it's A Big Deal to see one or two at some poor schlubs feeder. The redpolls should be heading north to their boreal nesting sites Any. Day. Now. Meanwhile they are being joined, however, by more and more goldfinches--some almost completely in their bright yellow breeding plumage.

Temperatures today have been in the high 50s and we will be even warmer tomorrow. We might even see the upper 70s before a line of thunderstorms moves in Monday night. Despite today's warmth, we haven't see much of the sun at the Aerie. Looking at the radar on shows The Blob--that kidney shaped little splotch of green is again settled over the western end of Armenia Mountain where we are located. Sometimes the sun manages to shine even when that blob is present, but not today. The cloud ceiling must be quite low for even the tops of the windmills across the way are shrouded in clouds. Part of that is undoubtedly due to the small patches of snow and the cooling of the moist air directly above them ("fog" from rotting snow).

Saturday, April 09, 2011

A Lesson in 'Lectricity.

Okay. What went wrong with the kitchen circuit? A fairly simple circuit with just one light and a wall switch, it should have been a no brainer. Yet every time we flipped the circuit breaker on, the light would come on even though the wall switch was turned off. And, when we flipped the wall switch to the "On" position, the circuit breaker would trip cutting off power to the kitchen, the storage room and the bathroom.

Mark, who says he is a functional illiterate in the 'lectricity department, could figure out why. I drew a diagram--twice!--and looked at it over and over and couldn't figure out why. It was frustrating. I knew there was something "different" that had to be done but I couldn't remember what. So we agreed to let it slide for the time being.

I headed home to PA and wasn't more than twenty miles from the Bolt Hole when I realized what was wrong. Let me 'splain:

Draw two parallel lines about an inch apart. One will be the black ("hot") wire and the other the white (neutral) wire.

between the two lines on one end draw a square and label it "CB" for circuit breaker. Half way down the lines and between them, draw a circle and label it "L" for light. At the other end of the parallel lines draw something that looks like a slash so it touches one or the lines but not the other. Label that "S" for switch. Look at your diagram for a moment. Those familiar with electric circuits can spot the problem already. If you can't, welcome to my world.

When we hooked it all up and connected to the power source, the circuit breaker was in the "Off" position as was the switch. (We're slow. Not stupid.) When we flipped the circuit breaker to the "On" position, the light came on even though the switch was turned "Off." When we then flipped the switch to the "On" position, the circuit breaker tripped. We did this three times just to be sure and even went so far as to disconnect the switch and flip the black and white wires thinking that might be the problem.

After beating our heads against this particular brick wall (which, in reality, had as much density as fog) we gave up and disconnected the circuit. We would "think on it," we said.

I packed up and headed back to PA and twenty miles into my trip, it hit me. Look at the diagram again. When we had both the circuit breaker and the switch turned "Off," the little electrons were lined up waiting to into the circuit. [Disclaimer: Yes, I know electrons do not actually flow through the wire. That alternating current is more like a long, thin mosh pit of electrons pushing and shoving back and forth. And direct current is more like dominoes where the pushing is all in one direction. But, for the sake of describing what was going on in the easiest manner possible, play along with me here. Okay?]

Okay. These electrons were beating on the door just wanting to get into the circuit. When the breaker was thrown to the "On" position it was Black Friday! Through the gate they streamed and up the black wire to where the line diverged. There, they saw a sign saying "Bridge Out Ahead" and they were detoured to the light. They shrugged their little shoulders and moved reluctantly through the little twists and turns in the tungsten filament of the 60 watt bulbs before reaching the white wire and heading back to the circuit board. There, they were given a pat on the back and a "Job Well Done" commendation for the light and heat they had produced in the bulbs. That's why the light came on even though the wall switch said "Off."

When we then flipped the wall switch to the "On" position, the electrons got the divergence point and the "Bridge Out" sign was not there! They could continue on through the switch and directly back to the circuit breaker via the white wire. No pain. No strain. No light. No electricity. Yet they expected to be rewarded when they got back to the circuit breaker. But Mr. CB was having none of it! He flipped out and slammed the gateway allowing no more electrons into the circuit.

Putting things together the way we had had 1- created a circuit with a light but no switch and 2- a built in short every time we flipped the switch to "On." Dummies!

Yet easily corrected. We had been thinking all black wires get hooked together and all white wires get hooked together. We were thinging in black and white. What we needed to do was remember our current President. the post racial one. While half black, he is also half white. Looks can be deceiving. What we needed to do was run the black wire from the power source to the black wire in the light and then the white wire of the light to the black wire of the switch. From the switch, the white wire would connect directly to the white wire heading back to the ciruit breaker (power source).

The ladder like diagram with the large circle in the middle labeled with the "L" would instead have the circle along one of the two parallel lines. Like this:

This would force ALL the electrons through the light when the switch was moved to the "On" position. No more free lunch. If you want to move through the circuit, you'd have to wait for the bridge to be open and then work!

It'll take me half an hour to make the correction. A real Gibbs' slap moment.

Progress Report

I woke up this morning with the idea of finishing up the necessary wiring to get the kitchen's ceiling light working and then heading back to PA around noon. But the wiring job required my getting into the attic to finish running the wires and it was just 20 degrees and the attic is unheated. So I put everything in the kids bedroom back in shape while waiting for the sun to warm up the attic.

That meant I needed to put the outlets back together, reconnect the wires in the junction box, where the old power used to come in to the circuit, rewire the light fixture over the door, and put the three tongue and groove boards back in place. It took me about an hour to do that but I'm pleased with the way things went back together. i removed the back section of the "groove" so the boards are more ship lapped than tongue-and-groove. That little change, accomplished with a wood chisel, along with a little sandpaper work, made putting things back way easier and neater.

By then I was ready to get the wires run. I had to remove a couple more of the attic floor boards to get the old wires out and the new wires in. Not easy when you have to stand/kneel on some of those boards while fishing around in the pink fiberglass insulation, but I got 'er done.

Just as I was finishing, Mark showed up and we began the process of hooking up the ceiling fixture, the porch light, and the two switches to control them. That's also when things started to go slightly wrong. Mark was the one who took the light apart before I arrived. All I remembered was there was something "hinky" that had to be done to get the light to work with the switch.

Mark being Mark (think hyperactive, workaholic, who talks nonstop) and me being wired on no food but four cups of near espresso level black coffee, we were having difficulties communication. Mark talks so quickly that it seems he sometimes skips past whole sentences. Under normal circumstances I have to ask him to repeat what he said two or three times before I've got all the sentences needed to get the general gist of what he's talking about. Sometimes I have to ask him to draw me a diagram. I'm sure he thinks I'm a little slow in the head.

Anyway, with my memory having failed me and with Mark not having drawn any diagram of the way things were wired, we ran into an "Oh, no!" moment when we got around to powering the circuit up. Mark admits as an electrician, he's a great stone mason. And, unless you do a lot of it, it's easy to forget even the simplest circuitry.

Being late--it was already 2 in the afternoon and I had planned on leaving at noon--we eventually shrugged our shoulders and decided to disconnect the circuit and come back to it another day.

I left the Bolt Hole having two of four targeted circuits working properly. A third was wired but not working as it should (switches turned on caused the breaker to trip). The fourth requires finding the junction box hidden in the peak of the cathedral ceiling in the upstairs bedroom. Good luck on that, Mark.

I hadn't gone twenty miles when the solution to the kitchen problem hit me. It was one of those Homer Simpson "DOH!" realizations. Something so simple that it's almost embarrassing to admit. I'll tell you what it was in the next post: "A Lesson in 'Lectricity."

A Little Vatican Humor

After getting all of Pope Benedict's luggage loaded into the limo, (and he doesn't travel light), the driver notices the Pope is still standing on the curb.

'Excuse me, Your Holiness,' says the driver, 'Would you please take your seat so we can leave?'

'Well, to tell you the truth,' says the Pope, 'they never let me drive at the Vatican when I was a cardinal, and I'd really like to drive today.'

'I'm sorry, Your Holiness, but I cannot let you do that. I'd lose my job! What if something should happen?' protests the driver, wishing he'd never gone to work that morning..

'Who's going to tell?' says the Pope with a smile.

Reluctantly, the driver gets in the back as the Pope climbs in behind the wheel.......
The driver quickly regrets his decision when, after exiting the airport, the Pontiff floors it, accelerating the limo to 205 kph.!

'Please slow down, Your Holiness!' pleads the worried driver, but the Pope keeps the pedal to the metal until they hear sirens.

'Oh, dear God, I'm going to lose my license -- and my job!' moans the driver from the backseat.

The Pope pulls over and rolls down the window as the cop approaches, but the cop takes one look at him, goes back to his motorcycle, and gets on the radio.

'I need to talk to the Chief,' he says to the dispatcher.

The Chief gets on the radio and the cop tells him that he's stopped a limo going 155 kph.

'So bust him,' says the Chief.

'I don't think we want to do that, he's really important,' said the cop.

The Chief exclaimed,' All the more reason!'

'No, I mean really important,' said the cop with a bit of persistence.

The Chief then asked, 'Who do you have there,..... the Mayor?'
Cop: 'Bigger.'

Chief: ' A Senator?'
Cop: 'Bigger.'

Chief: 'The Prime Minister?'
Cop: 'Bigger.'

'Well,' said the Chief, 'who is it?'

Cop: 'I think it's God!'

The Chief is even more puzzled and curious, 'What makes you think it's God?'

Cop: 'His chauffeur is the Pope!'

Friday, April 08, 2011

A little humor

From my older cousin in Florida via email:

Two guys--one old one young--are pushing their carts around Wal-Mart when they collide.

The old guy says to the young guy, 'Sorry about that. I'm looking for my wife, and I guess I wasn't paying attention to where I was going.'

The young guy says, 'That's OK, it's a coincidence. I'm looking for my wife, too. I can't find her and I'm getting a little desperate'

The old guy says, 'Well, maybe I can help you find her. What does she look like?'

The young guy says, 'Well, she is 27 years old, tall, with red hair, green eyes. She's quite buxom and is wearing no bra. She's got long, long legs and is wearing short shorts. What does your wife look like?'

To which the old guy says, 'Doesn't matter---let's look for yours.'

Slowly but surely, there is Progress

Made some decent progress at the Bolt Hole today. Wired up the bathroom so there's now light and a working GFI outlet in there. Also hooked up the light in the storage room to the working outlet in there. So now I can see well enough to find the toilet and my tools. Both are on the same circuit with room for more.*

Ran the wire in the kitchen that power the light over the stove, one kitchen outlet and the kids bedroom (three lights and four outlets). This will be a single, new circuit in the breaker box when it's finished.

All of the above, except for the one outlet in the storage room, used to be running off one circuit supplied by old, canvas covered aluminum wire.

The fourth line is the one to the upstairs bedroom. As I've mentioned the canvas line goes up into the ceiling there but somewhere there must be a junction box from which the two lights and two outlets draw their power via newer 12-2 grounded wire. If only we could find that box.... I'll put an "X" on the ceiling where I think it might be and let Mark have a shot at finding it. HE can cut through the sheetrock. (Actually, he would prefer to simply run some new wire on the surface of the walls, I'm the one insisting that we find that damn box.)

*The "more" in this case will be another line that will power the front porch light (yet to be purchased) and the kitchen ceiling light. When done, this one breaker will have just four lights and two outlets. Only the kitchen ceiling light sees heavy use.


Tomorrow I'll put in half a day and finish fishing the wires up to the attic for the kitchen and porch lights. Then I'll be heading back to the Aerie for a week. Hopefully all the snow will be gone in PA. Terry said she got about 4 inches Wednesday night. It all stayed south of Route 17. Maybe by the time I get back up here in 7 to 10 days, the snow that's laying around will disappear. The daytime temperatures (upper 40s and very, very sunny) have certainly put a dent in the mounds of frozen stuff, but that has cause the yard to become, shall we say, a tad muddy. I had to put the Tundra into 4-wheel just to get out of the mud so I could run down to the hardware store for a few items.

I need the ground to get thawed and dry out a bit so I can put the onions in at the Aerie. I also need to spade the one bed where we will grow beans and cucumbers as well as take out the old strawberries and spade that area for an attempt at growing carrots. I know it's too early to think about putting beans, cuckes and carrots in the ground--we could have frost for another month--but I'd still like to do some soil prep.

In a perfect world, I'd get some top soil from the mound behind the barn at the Bolt Hole and be able to bring it to the garden at the Aerie. But there is still snow covering that mound and no solid earth between it and the front of the barn--just mud and snow that fell from the barn and garage roofs. This summer/fall, I have to remember to bring a few bushels of soil back to PA whenever I visit the Bolt Hole.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

More Progress

I spent the day crawling around in the attic prying up the floor boards so I could chace down the wires coming out of the kitchen ceiling light fixture. My God! That fixture was the O'Hare of the electrical world in the old portion of the Bolt Hole. Every single circuit seems to have run through that one fixture. Somewhere between 18 and 20 outlets and lights were on that one wire going down to the board in the basement. On a 25 AMP breaker. Water and ice got to the light switch in the wood shed and shorted things out. Wires melted but the plastic tape and wire nuts kept it under control--or so the electrician told Mark when he took a look at the mess. He's also the one that said the canvas coated aluminum wire had to go ASAP. As I've said before, it's a miracle the place hasn't burned down.

I succeeded in finding the paths all the wires took and even located the junction box in the kids' bedroom where the old aluminum, canvas covered wire met with the new 12-2 grounded wire. (I only had to tear out three tongue and groove siding boards over the door to do so. Won't look as pretty when they go back up, but--hey!--this is the Good Enuff Construction project!)

I was disappointed on the other end of the house. The wire that takes power to the upstairs bedroom runs up and out of sight between the ceiling rafters. To find that junction box will require some cutting into the sheetrock--and a lot of luck.

When Mark got back from work, I showed him what I had found and we started talking about how to rewire the bathroom, storage room, (both of which also came off the kitchen light!), kitchen, and the kids bedroom. Oh, yeah and the woodshed and front porch, too. Four short little circuits will do the job and I should be able to do it all on Friday before I head back to the Aerie.

The upstairs bedroom will be another kettle of fish. I'm going to put a mark on the ceiling where I think the junction box is located and leave the task of breaking into the sheetrock for Mark to try this weekend. With lots of luck, the box will be pretty close to the place I indicate and only a small hole will be needed. Once that box is located, the rest is a piece of cake. One wire dropped down to the basement where the circuit breakers are located. There's an empty slot waiting for that wire.

What have I learned so far?
  • Well, rough sawn lumber is hardly dimensional--and after years of freezing and thawing weather may not be straight either.
  • That same lumber along with the very dry tongue and groove pine, bead board, barn board siding, etc. is very, very brittle and can give you lots of splinters really, really fast if you're not careful and bang the back of your hand against it when the pry bar slips.
  • Pink insulation really itches and not having running water to wash the little pits away is annoying. (Okay. I didn't learn that today, but certainly had it reenforced.)
  • Mice and bats definitely leave a messy collection between the attic floor boards. (Of course, the left over concrete chips and dust from when I removed the chimney last spring didn't make it any cleaner.)
  • "Measure twice, cut once," may be the motto of the constructor, but "I wonder what will happen if I hit/pull on this." works fine for the destructor--and can be just as much fun.
  • Wires someone else installed never go where you think they should.
  • The canvas coating on the old wires (circa 1930s-40s electrification project?) gets very brittle with age.

That's about it for today. I'd include pictures but it only looks like a can of worms or a plate of spaghetti anyway.

Some Progress--
not much, but some

So, Mark and I spent about three hours last evening 1- testing every circuit in the breaker box to see what it turns on/off 2- tracing the remaining old canvas covered (aluminum!) wire to see if there's some magical place where we can hook into the new wire already in place in the upstairs bedroom and kids bedroom thereby saving us (but mainly me) from having to cut through sheetrock ceilings.

We made several discoveries which all lead to the same question: Why hasn't this place burned down before this?

The one canvas covered wire still originating in the basement apparently fed power to a gazillion outlets and lights in the kitchen, front porch, woodshed, utility/storage room kids bedroom, and upstairs bedroom. Why it didn't get overloaded ages ago--before dripping water and ice shorted out the switch in the woodshed--probably has to do with the way electricity was used. Seldom were there more than two or three of those lights/outlets ever in use at the same time.

We traced the path of that single wire up the side of the basement steps, up the side of the steps leading to the upstairs bedroom and into the attic crawl space. There, things got funky.

I've not yet pulled up all the floorboards in that crawl space, and so I've not been able to tell for sure where it goes but.... We did expose the box to which the kitchen ceiling light was attached. It has four (4!) wires running to/from it not counting the wall switch I ran over the surface of the ceiling/wall. What those four wires do has yet to be determined.

A single wire (canvas covered) runs up the wall of the crawl space from some as yet undetermined locale and into the ceiling of the bedroom. There's a small roof structure that I can cut away inside the attic and I'm hoping that will expose a junction box where the canvas wire joins the new and improved 12-2 wire that runs to all the outlets and lights in the bedroom. There are only two of each but if that canvas wire disappears into the pink insulation finding that junction box could be a royal pain.

The light on the front porch which we thought was being supplied by a wire running within the ceiling of the porch (a relatively easy fix once we breach the knee wall between the attic space and the space over the porch) is actually supplied through the switch in the kitchen. That switch, in turn, gets power from a wire that runs UP inside the wall which is nothing more than three planks covered on the outside by solid foam insulation and cedar shingles. The wire goes UP in the middle of the three planks in a hole just barely large enough for it's passage. There is no slack or movement when it is tugged so it may even be stapled to the plans somewhere along the way. I'll know more when I get into the attic and pull up some more floorboards but it looks like the porch light supply may be one of those four (4!) wires that comes out of the kitchen fixture.

We've yet to figure out where the power comes from for the kids bedroom (two lights--three if you count the one in the closet--and four outlets. It may be coming in from the attic and shooting to either the wall switch or the wall light. I pulled them yesterday and thought they had nothing but new wire, but I'm going to look again after I get into the attic.

There you have it. Still need to find the sources of power and the junction boxes that control it for the two bedrooms. Locating those junction boxes would save heaps of time and effort. I'd be able to run a new power source directly to the box, cut out the canvas wire, and be good to go in no time with a new circuit or two. Everything else we/I can rewire in different paths to join existing circuits that currently are blessedly enjoying very low demand. I mean two fluorescent lights on one circuit?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Here we go again!

Packed by bag and headed north to the Bolt Hole this morning. Lovely drive and this time I remembered to stop along the way and get out for a stretch (and lunch). No snow to be seen until I left Utica and headed up the hill. There the remains of winter linger with a foot or so of hard crusty snow on the ground. The sun which had been out disappeared as I approached the Bolt Hole to e replaced by thickening clouds that the forecasters say will drop a spritz of snow and rain before they give way to clear skies overnight. Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny with temperatures nearing 50 degrees.

My first task was to put a cap on the chimney pipe so I was happy to see that Mark had left the roof ladder in place and I only had to get the ladder to reach the porch roof so I could make my way up to the chimney. easy enough job to do that and get the (too) small chimney skirt and cap in place. I may still have to replace the through the roof insulated section of the chimney pipe, but it will suffice for now and that job can wait until summer. I built a fire in the stove and the current arrangement draws well and heats the living area just fine.

I pulled the elements from the hot water heater thinking one of them must be broken since the hot water wasn't very hot last fall, but they were intact if somewhat rust coated. Not surprising since there's some iron in the water every spring. I did turn the thermostat up 10-20 degrees in hopes that that will give me the hot water I want to wash dishes and shower.

I checked the pump and water is flowing despite the cold temperatures so I could have running water if I wanted it. I don't. That would require I go through the process of draining everything when I leave and the hose for doing that is currently buried beneath a mound of ice out back. (Not to self: Next year, after draining and pumping the water out of the basement, coil the bloody hose next to the house instead of leaving it stretched across the lawn.)

Then it was time to start looking at the electrical wires and try to figure out where the canvas covered wires actually run. I could trace a few of them, but there are still some unknowns. Hopefully there won't be a need to cut through the sheetrocked ceiling of the upstairs bedroom to find out where the old wires run. I explored a few outlets and fixtures in the kids bedroom and found they had new wire running to and from them so the problem becomes where do they run from? There's one canvas wire runing to the light in the old woodshed and new plastic wire runs from that to--somewhere. I've traced it to one outlet and the light over the stove. There's acanvas wire that runs in to the attic above the kitchen and seems to supply a passle of different things once it goes through the ceiling light. There are four (4!) canvas coated wires running into and out of that single fixture. One may run to the woodshed, one may run to the porch light but the other two are a mystery. This could take some trial and error to get straightened out.

Mark showed up after work this evening and he and I will spend some time tonight trying to make heads or tails out of the wiring. Once we have an idea of where things run, I can try to pull new 12-2 wire tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011


"Oh bother," said Eeyore.

The temperature just after midnight was a balmy 48 degrees and it was raining--hard. By 7 AM it had dropped to 30 and the rain had switched over to that nasty white stuff. Not to worry, however, they say it won't amount to any significant accumulations despite the half inch on the deck by 10 AM. Probably surprised the robins who were enjoying the wide open grass and forest floor in their hunt for insects and worms.

Should switch back to rain and then peter off later this afternoon. Should.

Meanwhile, someone--either a bear or a raccoon--knocked the standing tray feeder over during the night and toppled the tray on the deck rail as well. I'm taking my time in going out to upright those feeders and hang the ones I took in at sun down. I'm trying to convince the horde of redpolls to get on their way north. Hasn't affected them this morning as they glean the collected seed hulls on the ground for a few intact seeds. They've been mining the tailings, so to speak. The squirrels have been helping out by digging deep into the mounds of seed hulls the runoff water has piled up. The squirrels are the heavy lifters in this operation.

Monday, April 04, 2011


Feeling better already. I guess early to bed and late to rise has some benefits when it comes to caring for a sore back. That and some serious pain killers I had left over from injuring my knee a year and half ago. Still potent.


Very warm day today. Started out rainy with some T-storms, then we had some sunshine during the mid afternoon, followed by more heavy rain at sunset. In between we had temperatures rise to the upper 50s. The result is that all but the largest mounds of snow are gone, GONE, GONE!

That temperature thing will not carry through to tomorrow as the rain and T-storms are from a cold front s-l-o-w-l-y moving through. Even so, the temperatures will be in the mid to upper 40s tomorrow. Could spring finally arriving?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

I Shouldn't Have Done That!

Last week's long one-day drive between the Aerie and Bolt Hole (220 miles up and 220 miles back), gave me an achy back. Then, today, I decided--foolishly--to shovel some of the heaped up snow that contained gravel from the driveway back onto the driveway where it would melt and return the stones to their proper place and make clearing them from the garden an easier task. I must have twisted at the waist in an improper manner for I have surely irritated the nerves there. Now instead of an "oh, my" ache I've got a "G*D DAMN!" pain.

Not good.

Time for a hot shower some pills and an early night where I can lay flat on my back for hours. With luck, I'll feel better in a few days. Without it, it may take a week or two.

Hopefully it will be good enough that I can go north to the Bolt Hole again later this week (after the predicted rain is over--say Wednesday or so) to work on the stovepipe and electricity.

On the plus side, the morning was bright and sunny and warm. Although the sun disappeared around 2 PM, the warmth remained. We got close to 50 degrees today and a good deal of the snow is now history. With more days of similar temperatures and 1.5 inches of rain in the forecast, we should be snow free in a day or two. There's virtually no snow down in the lower elevations. Only on the north facing slopes or dense pine woods are you able to find any snow. (We face the northwest so we get plenty of the afternoon sun except on the east side of the house.)

Friday, April 01, 2011

More Snow at the Aerie

We got 2-3 inches yesterday (March 31) but most of that melted as the temperature rose to the upper 30s during the day. This morning (April 1) we had a little less than an inch of heavy, wet new snow on the ground and there's more falling now as I type. We might get another inch or two out of this. Still, that's better than the areas between Albany, NY and Augusta, ME will be doing. I've seen reports of from 12 to 18 inches of snow expected just west of I-95.

And the Bolt Hole is just on the west side of the big storm, too, and may see only a few inches of new snow.

Tiresome. That's what it is. Tiresome.