Thursday, March 11, 2021

House cleanup update

 It was warm (65 degrees!) today and so for the 2nd time this week I got out the wood chipper and started cleaning up. Earlier this week I spent a couple hours trimming a couple of trees. Today I worked on that 6-foot tall pile of branches that was pictured in my previous blog post. I worked on it for 3 hours and did not finish. That pile is nothing, nothing at all compared to what is in my backyard. I realized that I will be working on the cleanup all summer. I don't mind it, but I had other plans for the summer.

I was going to paint the kitchen cabinets, and I still plan to do that.

I was also going to tear out the lower deck and build a fire pit. I think that might have to wait until 2022. 

Updates on contractor work.

Had 2 roofers give me an estimate. The first one came out to my house twice and never even got on the roof, didn't even bring a ladder either time. The 2nd one climbed on my roof and did a thorough inspection, removed one of the branches at no charge because he said he was worried about it falling on the kids, and then gave me a price that was 1/3 of the first roofer's price. I hired the 2nd one immediately. He said the roof on my house is not damaged at all, just the gutter. So I didn't have to do an insurance claim. I do have to get my shed roof redone though.

We are also proceeding with remodeling our 3/4 bath. Two contractors came to my house and one contractor requested photos by text. Of the 3 contractors, only one gave me an estimate. That estimate was what we had guessed it would be, and based on his professionalism we plan to hire him.

Next up we will be installing some more modern lighting in several rooms in the house. For whatever reason, the living area and kitchen have no overhead lighting. That's right, there is no light in my kitchen. I USE A DESK LAMP ON MY KITCHEN COUNTER. And then we have tall floor lamps in every corner. But sometimes it would just be nice to flip a switch and be able to see. Then we have a hallway with no light because the existing ceiling light just does not work even though we've had electricians look at it 3 times and say there is nothing wrong. And finally our laundry room has a big fluorescent light that Mike says is ruining his life. We have low ceilings, which maybe is why the previous owners never installed ceiling lights? but we can do recessed lights. And so that's what we are doing. But after the roof and bathroom stuff is done. Just in case of surprises.

Finally, and this was decided after the power outage, we have decided to pay to run natural gas to our house. We will replace the hot water heater, install a gas fireplace insert in that fireplace we hate, and prepare a place for a natural gas powered generator. The gas company said they would have a contractor call me within 24 hours. That was at least a week ago. Maybe 2 weeks ago.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Photos from polar vortex Feb 2021

All the photos were taken with the iPhone. The photos do not come close to capturing what I can see with my eye. I will have to try with the Canon and work on contrast.

February 12, a light snow, fun. But by the morning of the 13th, the 3 trees I marked in red would have fallen. In addition to many branches falling from the taller trees above. That's just in the frame of this photo. Countless trees and branches fell around and on top of my entire house.

I took this photo on February 17, trying to get it from the same angle as the photo above.

The path and area where Mae was standing covered in branches.

What happened was this. The night of the 12th, we had freezing temperatures and rain. That caused this to happen to all the trees:

Inch-thick ice formed around every branch, down to the tiniest twig. Ice also formed around the electrical lines. It was very heavy and the weakest branches and electrical lines started falling the night of the 12th. Our power went out intermittently that night and at 11pm I had to ignore this urge to get caught up on our laundry. I told myself, "don't be stupid, just go to bed". I really should have followed my instinct and done the laundry. Around 2am I opened my eyes and I knew the power was out. I went and put an extra blanket on Libby because she normally just sleeps under a thin blanket. Shortly after 2am, I heard a tree branch fall on my roof. It was loud and terrifying although I'm pretty sure the kids slept right through it. And the next one too.

In the morning I went out to check the damage. The side of the house that the tree branches fell on is hard for me to photograph while standing on the ground.

These photos were taken the morning of the 13th. In the first one I circled the gutter which had no damage at that moment.

Above is that same back walkway where Mae was standing. Again, this is the morning of the 13th, and the path is messy but still walkable at the time this photo was taken.

Here is I photo I took today, Feb 27th. Forgive my face, I was staring at the image behind me.

I have 2 dogwood trees in my front yard. Here is what I saw the morning of the 13th.

One of the trees lost a small branch at the end of my driveway. In the back you can see a tree fell on my neighbor's car.

And here is my other dogwood on the morning of the 13th:

This photo of the same tree, different angle, was taken on the 15th. I am not sure when that branch fell.

You can see on the 15th the ice has not melted. It's still very heavy and the branches are coming down every few seconds. I tried to get a video of the branches falling but it was harder than it sounds. The branches would make sound and I would try to hurry and point my camera there but I would still miss it. I did personally witness 2 more branches fall on my roof. Here is a 4-second video, once again I caught it on camera too late but you can hear it and see the motion after the fall. (You might have to try the video twice.)

One of them must have been very heavy because when I took this photo on the morning of the 14th, now my gutter is bent in a crazy fashion.

But going back to the 13th. Mae took a walk around the neighborhood and came back and told me there were power lines on the ground. I wasn't sure I believed her so I told her to show me.

The photo above is just one example of many, many, many. This one was down for 7 days I think before the power company came out.

Because the branches kept falling, and after I took that video on the 14th, I asked Mae not to sleep in her bedroom until the ice melted. She set up this cozy cot in the living room. We have candles in the back and a propane heater in the lower left corner. We still had a little hot water in our electric hot water heater and we used it to take pioneer baths that day.

By the 15th I was on my last little can of propane to run the little camp heater. We had big propane tanks but no more little ones. Close to 300,000 people out of power in the Portland area meant that there was no more tiny propane cylinders or any alternative heat of any kind.

Oh, you might wonder about the fireplace in the background. Yeah, we hate that thing and it's getting replaced with a gas insert just as soon as I can get a contractor over here. But we did heat our home with the wood stove that is downstairs. 

This is how we cooked:

This was our fridge:

On the morning of the 15th, this tree at the end of my driveway fell. That tree was literally on my to-do list of trees to chop down. It was in the power lines and I knew it had to go. I was so happy to see it fall. Since our power was still out and we only have an electric chain saw (and the chain fell off last summer), Mike had to get the tree off of the car using a hand saw.

At this point you can see the ice on the street has melted and we can finally drive. First Mae and I went out in a pointless attempt to find small propane cylinders. Then Libby and I went out to go to Walmart in Portland. In a pointless attempt to find small propane cylinders. When I got to Portland I realized they had much more snow than we had gotten in Oregon City. And when we got to Walmart it was closed!!

But it was warmer that day and our house at this point was nice and warm from the wood stove. Mae said the living room was much warmer than her bedroom and so she slept there another night. 

Feb 16th we still did not have power/internet and my office was telling me they were going to send me a lot of work to do. I do not like to turn down work. And more than that Mike and I were going crazy from not bathing. Since we did not have internet, even on our phones, my sister helped us find a hotel. We went to the hotel to use their hot water and internet so I could work. It was so nice! Although we did not sleep there, we used the hotel for 2 days. My neighbor called me on Feb 17th to say the power was back on.

We had it good. I visited a girl scout home on the 19th that is just a few blocks from me. They still did not have power and their firewood had gotten wet so they were cold. I brought them some dry firewood. They still did not have power on the 20th but they told me they had gotten some more wood from another friend.

Here's 2 more before and after photos.

Front yard Feb 12:

Feb 15th:

And today, Feb 27th. The mess over my shoulder that is 6 feet tall is stuff that Mike cleared from the driveway. When I get the chain saw fixed we will turn it into firewood. Based on the existing stuff that fell, we will have firewood for the rest of our lives. But that's not all because we plan to have 4 extremely large trees taken down.

We will keep the 4 trees for firewood as well. The 4 trees are too close to our home and after 2 freezes and one wildfire in the past 12 months, we think nature is trying to tell us something and those trees have to go. We already knew they had to go, but we're talking about a bill for several thousand dollars, so, it was hard to prioritize that before now.

Two of the trees that will go are the big chestnut that we hate anyway, and the other one that was dropping branches on the roof. The other 2 that will go are at a different end of my house, not pictured. But one grows over my chimney which just can't be good, and the other one is the type of tree that falls down, so it has to go. 

My front yard area(ish) has 2 dead trees but I think they are small enough and far enough away from the house that I don't need to pay to have them removed. To be fair, one of them already fell on my house four years ago so now what is left is the bottom half.

We have not yet had a roofer climb up to see if my roof is damaged. I looked in the attic crawl space and there's no holes or leaking. 

This county looks like a hurricane went through. Between us and Texas (and others), State Farm is overwhelmed with claims right now. 

After spending last summer removing trees it looks like I have a similar summer ahead of me, only this time the trees are much larger. Fun! And, I wish I could start now, but it's still a little too cold outside for me. Mike repaired our little electric chain saw today, though, so we can start soon.

I took this photo from the 2nd floor, looking down. The reason I took it is because none of that stuff is supposed to be there. Except for the blue barrel. The blue barrel marks the entrance to my little hiking trail. The barrel held walking sticks. So, you're supposed to be looking down at a clearly marked dirt path heading downhill. Instead, you're seeing 3 trees that just laid down right there. The path itself is not navigable at this time, but thanks to my chain saw it will be soon!

Friday, January 29, 2021

Friday 5


Five random things about this week.

1. We got the game Mastermind, and we've been having fun playing it. Also that is my Valentines tree in the background of the photo.

2. I use the Public app for investing in stocks. I started using it about 2 months ago and I turned $25 into $30 so far. I did not invest in GameStop and I didn't know about the Reddit plan. When the GameStop thing happened yesterday, the clearinghouse (Apex) for Public did shut down trades from 'normal' investors, but not hedge fund investors, for several hours. I want to say about 6.5 hours. Public stated that they disagreed with this decision and they negotiated with Apex to reverse that decision. I realize my $25 investment is beyond comedy, but as a student of economics I 100% disagree with Apex's choice to shut down trades. Incidentally, I also have (paltry) investments through TD Ameritrade and I have an account with e-trade. Public is FAR easier to use than TD Ameritrade. But since I don't have serious money to invest I guess my opinion is limited to a review of the user interface. Public also differs from the hated-on Robinhood app in that they educate and alert buyers when an investment is risky. Mike was impressed with my gain so far and my "strategy" of investing in things that I like and use myself. Which was funny after I saw a blog post headline that said, "Do you really need to be told to invest in Apple and Netflix?"

3. We decided to do a minor remodel on one of our bathrooms because the existing setup promotes a moldy environment. I don't like the fact that we will probably have to use our home equity to pay for the update, but I do not feel like we can afford to allow possible mold. The problem is that the shower leaks, so we need to replace the shower stall, as well as the floor covering. I'm pretty sure the previous homeowners installed the shower just for the purposes of selling the house, but not for functionality.

4. We had a snow day this week. It was pretty for a few hours before it melted.

5. Mike's car broke down and has to get a new radiator. I had to go pick him up about 45 minutes away. It was in the 30s and he had no coat. The tow truck driver was not allowed to let Mike ride with him due to COVID-19 etc. AAA sent him a taxi to take him to Denny's, which honestly was stupid since restaurants are closed. Anyway he was able to walk to a grocery store that was closing in 15 minutes and wait inside until I got there. Really, you need to have a coat when it's 30 degrees out and you drive anywhere at all. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Friday coffee post - the one with the muscovy

 Not much coffee left so let's see how far this week's diary gets. The week felt long, in that both Mike and I agreed that yesterday felt like Friday but here we are with another workday. 

I finished scheduling all but one of our 2021 weekend getaways. We have a LOT booked this year, all new places, and they all look like so much fun I can't wait. There is just one month that is missing a trip, but since it's more than 6 months away I am limited in campgrounds that take reservations. 

I have already fallen behind schedule in my Star Wars book club. I think I was supposed to finish Master & Apprentice at least 2 days ago, but I'm only about halfway through. It was a bit of a slow start but now I'm enjoying the story. Still, when one only reads about 21 minutes per day (#Read21in21) then one can not commit to the Star Wars Canon book club schedule.

I downloaded the Toss decluttering app and have been using it all week. It gives one task per day, random, and so makes decluttering more like a game.

Homeschooling difficult this week due to my work schedule. Mae chose the "Inside Government" Girl Scout badge which I thought was rather ambitious, but also a good idea. I got through 2 of the 5 steps this week, not counting discussion of the inauguration.

We did manage to get out to the park once this week and Libby and I found a new walking trail along the river. 

We also saw a muscovy duck which Mae referred to as a "turkey". Wikipedia says the muscovy is an invasive species in the US and we're supposed to get rid of them. The muscovies have lived at this park for a long time, as many years as I have been going there. There's usually only one or two and I've never seen them aggressive. Their large size keeps most people distant, although this week we did see a family of 4 posing for photos with the muscovy, which was ignoring them completely.

Friday, January 15, 2021

Steens Mountain area photos

Here are some photos from our trip to Steens Mountain last September. Mike said he wanted to see the wild horses, and luckily we found a herd right away.

I didn't actually need the binoculars

Steens Mountain is an unusual mountain in that it is not shaped like an upside-down V, and it's not part of a mountain range. It's a very long, very tall rectangle, so long that you might think it is a mountain range. It was forced upward by volcanic activity, and many walls in the area look like they were built from large toy blocks. They are very geometric and flat. 

You can drive your car nearly to the summit, making the road the highest road in Oregon. Although Steens Mountain is not the tallest mountain in Oregon...just the road is the highest. We drove to the summit and walked the rest of the way up.

Here are the kids at the summit and they were being scared looking down over the side. The Oregon wildfires were going on at the time and the air was very smoky even though we were about as far from the fire as you could get and still be in Oregon.

Sunset photo in the smoke...

On another day we picked up jaspers etc at a dry lakebed:

And on another day we went to Little Glass Butte and picked up around 100 lbs of obsidian, forgive the screenshot for now, I can't find the original photo.

I think the same day we went to the dry lakebed, we ended our day at these funny hot springs in the middle of nowhere. Well, everything in the Steens Mountain area is the middle of nowhere.

We enjoyed our trip very much and would like to return another time to see more when it's not so smoky.

Friday, January 08, 2021

Great Wolf Lodge trip


We have just returned from a trip to Great Wolf Lodge. Almost everything is open, though you have to wear a mask unless you are eating or actively playing in the water. Restaurants are takeout only, but they seem to have expanded their menus a little bit and allow for more ala carte ordering and now have single slices of pizza instead of just whole pizzas. No cash is allowed, so you pay with card or wristband. It was just me and the kids this time, so I was the only adult. 

Something that troubles me about quarantine/closures in general is the lack of public restrooms and the lack of public water fountains. This is a problem that has presented itself multiple times to me over the past year and certainly once again on this trip. And I figure if I have this problem then it must be many times worse for a homeless person. I also believe the kibosh on cash surely presents a problem to many people (homeless or not) as well. 

Anyway, back to GWL. No refillable drinks and you couldn't even refill your water bottle because the drinking fountains were turned off. And the cashless issue meant that my kids could not pick up food on their own. This did become a problem on our last morning when Libby was sick to her stomach and I wasn't feeling well either. I did not feel comfortable leaving my room and there was no room service. Mae was hungry for breakfast and I had not brought any food from home, and this was our last day anyway so even if I had I imagine she would have eaten it already. I gave her Pop Tarts from the vending machine that was a few feet away from our room. She barely nibbled on it, but then I guess she wasn't that hungry because she announced that she was headed to the pool. She took herself to the pool for an hour and a half while Libby and I slept. She came back and said she'd played with some other kids and they all went on the water slides together. It was her 4th time at the pool and I'm glad she got to do that.

Libby also played with new friends the night before. They played kind of relay races in the lobby and they posed in front of the Christmas tree to take photos. It was very cute. 

It was a fun trip but I hesitate to travel again without another adult to back me up. I don't feel I was 100% prepared for illness or for issues presented by COVID-19 closures even though you'd think I'd be used to both of those things by now as they are a daily presence in our lives. Lessons to be learned, I guess, but I regret not learning them sooner.

I was lucky that GWL allowed my kids to have room keys (wristbands) though I had to make a special request for them. This let the kids be a little more independent, although we still had some issues when the kids wanted to be in 2 different places and there was only one me. Examples: Libby and I were at the pool and Mae went back to the room to take a shower. Then she couldn't figure out how to turn off the shower and she had to leave it running while she went to find me at the pool. Also we could only check out pool towels with my wristband, so when Mae went to the pool on her own I had to send her in with a bath towel. Or when Mae was at the pool and I went to check on Libby who was back in the room, and then Mae left the pool and abandoned the pool towels that I had checked out at $15 each. I suppose the solution would be to insist that we all stay together at all times, but they are of the age where they really value their independence and I certainly support that.

When Mae wasn't swimming, she was playing in the arcade, where over 2 days she won 5 stuffed animals. I can tell you there was no social distancing enforced in the arcade. I also don't believe that GWL is operating at a reduced capacity. It sure didn't look like it to me, not by measuring the number of cars in the parking lot or the number of people in the pool on a Wednesday. It was a lot. Oh and they said they've removed some chairs from the pool area and "strategically" placed the others, but again, no. I didn't see it. Social distancing is kind of enforced in the elevators and in 3 of the smaller stores. 

I did see a lot of cleaning going on. In the arcade, pool chairs, banisters, hand rails, carpets, etc. Lots of cleaning. 

We paid about half of what we usually pay for such a trip, so it was a good value considering the minor inconveniences.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Happy New Year 2021


I just realized I never posted about our trip to Steens Mountain in September. I'll have to get to that later.

We had a 20 for 2020 New Years Resolution list, but about a month or so ago I tore it off the wall and threw it away. We are not doing a list for 2021. We did about half the things on the 20 for 2020 list, I'd guess, but we changed a lot this year and priorities changed too.

My word of the year for 2021 started out as "Less". Which is something I have been working on for several years. But then I realized I also want "More". Less of the things I don't enjoy and more of the things I do enjoy. So I have both words now. I think I will do the necklace again because that really really helped when our theme was "Fun". 

I finished watching The Mandalorian. Unfortunately I saw a spoiler before I saw the end so I knew you-know-who was going to be there at the end. Of course it made me really happy but I did not cry like everyone else did, maybe cuz spoiler. The scene that actually meant more to me than you-know-who was the scene with the 4 women defending the Mandalorian.

Still working through Cobra Kai. Mae started watching The Masked Singer starting from season 1 from a few years ago. It's cute because of course she doesn't know who any of the celebrities are, but she likes to watch it anyway. 

I guess I joined a Star Wars canon book club as something to do in 2021. It has a very ambitious reading schedule so I don't know if I can keep up, but so far so good. So I'm currently reading Dooku: Jedi Lost. I guess I'd give it 3 out of 5 stars so far. The story is good, the dialogue is juvenile, the format (screenplay) is atrocious. I'm also currently reading The Paper Magician because it's free on Kindle Unlimited. Currently 2.5 out of 5 stars. Hoping it improves but the plot is getting too weird for even a fantasy book.

Other 2021 goals include more camping around Oregon and Washington, finishing a couple of income-generating projects I started previously, and some boring legal/financial tasks for our business. Around the house, I'm going to paint our kitchen cabinets. This is a big job that will probably be the one that takes all summer. I also want to rip out our 3rd deck and pour concrete, but may need to hire a contractor for that. I'm not sure yet. I'll continue to maintain the acre as I cleared it this summer. The before-and-after is astonishing and now we know what we have to do to keep it up. I will also work on clearing a new path down into the ravine. Maybe. There is a known cougar in the ravine at this time that is caught daily on a neighbor's game cam. I guess I could clear a little path and put up my own game cam. That would be fun. I did surprise an owl on my property a few months ago, I got really close to it and that was pretty cool.

In 2020 learned that if you don't move your car frequently, like, because of quarantine so why would you, then a mouse moves in. Yeah, that happened. It doesn't help when Libby spills a box of Cheez-Its in the car and leaves it there. Well technically that is my fault, I guess I'm the one that left it there too long. 

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Kids cooking classes on Zoom

 ...not recommended!

Both Libby and Mae have taken cooking classes on Zoom. I imagine a cooking class with a child is chaotic even in person, but it's worse trying to communicate on Zoom. The kids both said they had fun but I really wouldn't recommend doing it again.

Mae made chocolate truffles and chocolate-dipped pretzel rods.

Libby made baked apple cider donuts.

A bit less chaotic than Mae's class, but it was difficult for Libby and the chef to communicate. 

I look forward to in-person classes returning again.

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Deck re-do updates

 Here are some photos from when I refinished the front deck. I pressure washed it, then sanded it, then put down wood filler, then wood preservative, then 2 coats of primer, then 2 coats of deck paint. 

In these photos you can kind of see the before and after. The last photo is with wet paint and I tried to barricade the porch. Somehow Amazon managed to bypass my barricade and my WET PAINT signs and they still walked on the porch. I was very annoyed with them. But happy that the paint dried so fast. 

The deck on the other side of the house...didn't get finished in time. I got as far as pressure washing and sanding. It's in worse shape so then I tried to do wood filler but my wood filler experiment turned out disastrous. Then I found one board that is actually rotten, not just cracked, so Mike said he would replace it but he did not. And then fires happened and we were not supposed to go outside due to the poor air quality. And then it started raining and it has rained ever since. The weather report shows sun all this week so I'm hoping I can finish it now. Tomorrow is my birthday. Maybe I can get Mike to replace that board.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Crater Lake photos

 It's going to be hard to choose just a few photos of Crater Lake. We went on a Saturday, so we had to wait in a long line of cars to get in. But once inside it was not crowded, except at the visitor center, which was actually closed. I guess you could stand in a very long socially distanced line to get a sandwich or something, and so everyone was, but we had brought our own food in the car. 

So, there was no visitor center and also no trolley tours or boat tours. I wished we could have done a boat tour, and I almost cancelled our trip, but Mike said he wanted to go anyway. I'm glad we did. It was nice to drive the rim. We drove clockwise as most everyone directed, and it was great!

The first thing we noticed is that it is true that water is unbelievably blue, so much that it seems like there's an error when you look at the photos.

We also got lucky because fires in northern California had already started, but the air was relatively clear that day.

Don't feed the animals! But they are so cute!

The lake is not actually in a "crater", but rather is a caldera. But since we are literally driving around the rim of the caldera, it is very steep down both sides - both the lake side, and the opposite side down the mountain into a valley. Due to the steep angle, there is only one path that goes down to the water. It switches back and forth but it still very steep. Libby and I considered walking down. Mike and Mae didn't want to. But it was hot that day and Libby and I decided against it because we knew would be gone a couple of hours. We decided that a better day would be when the boat tours are open again, as this is the only path down to the boats as well.

When we got further away from the path down to the water, I took this photo. It seemed that NO ONE was choosing to walk down. The path is hard to see in this photo, but look for a whitish-strip going down the volcano on the right-hand side of the screen.

Family in front of Wizard Island:

And Mae and me in front of Phantom Ship island:

I like this one of a black and white bird over the blue water. Yes that's water in the background, not the sky. The bird is a small speck but you can click on the photo to enlarge it.


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