Monday, December 08, 2014

If It's December, This Must be Another House Project

We're working on the dining room, trying to get it up to speed.  We had taken the carpet out back in August and it's been a mess since then.  Now we're making a push to finish it up.  The floor in there was a nice maple, long covered by carpet and glue.  It's looking pretty good now, patched, stained, and finished.  I removed the false ceiling and fixed the holes in the plaster there.  I'm currently working on getting the east wall, long covered by wallpaper and paneling, into shape.

One of the improvements will be putting vintage mop boards and chair rails back into the room.  They are long gone, but it's clear they were part of an early version of the room.  We're interested in how the design of the room has changed.  In the first photo below, you can see outlines of where trim surrounded an old doorway, and the discolored panel to the right shows where there appears to have been another door.  But lath and plaster reveals that those changes were made LONG LONG ago.  

The wife is choosing colors to make it pop, and trim from the old Mason's building downtown Madison will surround the doorway and provide a new, vintage mop board.  It's going to be much nicer.

We are also refinishing the oak floor in the entry way.
The doorway from the kitchen to the dining room is opened up.  

Repairs needed on the east wall.  Cracks!  The chimney creates a little trouble.  

Once we took the carpet up, this glue hid the wood.  

Penny does NOT like the floor.  

Partway through sanding.  I had never used a big sander before.  

Sanding the edges.  

The completed floor, patched and stained.  I don't remember if this photo came before or after the final coats of poly.  

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My Blue Heron Returns

There's a joy in seeing your life come around again, circle back to something you once thought was lost but returns in an unlikely moment.
I've mentioned my blue heron pond, where I used to run past often as I headed out to Lake Herman. Running in that part of town is rare now, and although I've seen herons elsewhere since then, it's never the same as when, early in the morning, I could come around the corner onto the gravel road, approach the creek, and see my blue heron rise out of the water and gracefully and elegantly wing his way into the sky.  It was like seeing the world find me again.
But I seldom run past the creek any more, and the blue heron hasn't followed me.  When I do go by, he's not there.  But I look for him, with expectation, a kind of longing for a past that isn't there any more.
So, on Sunday, as I was out for a long run, preparing again for the Twin Cities Marathon, I was out that way, coming from the opposite direction from where I once did.  As I approached the creek, I didn't have the heron in mind at all.
As he rose up from the creek and pointed himself in the direction of the sky, I felt my heart rise with him, Maybe it was that I'd already put in 11 miles and feeling the effects, or maybe it was my sense that luck had turned my way again.
But the heron was there for me, lifting both of us into something higher, something better.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Tree Fall (Pt. 2)

So, with two other trees under my belt, I called up my friend JB, who has performed well at the end of a rope as we sought to guide a tree down as it fell.
He was game for another tree-felling session, so we ventured over to B and S's house to drop a big old diseased pine tree that looked like it was on its last legs.  We looked things over.  It was a good day to work there partly because the tree would be falling into the street, but because the city was installing new water mains, the street was torn up and few people were using it.  The air was calm, no wind.  The construction crew was right up the block.
But we could see the drop wasn't going to be easy.
The tree stood next to the driveway in front of their house, its trunk split into three main sections that rose maybe 50 feet into the air.  Big.  Heavy.
And leaning just a bit toward the house, it seemed.
We examined the tree.
We walked around it, considering where it might fall.  We didn't want to hit the electrical can out front.  Or the fire hydrant.  Or the neighbor's tree across the street.
And we didn't want to hit the house.
So, we spent some time getting a rope into the tree as high as we could.  JB even climbed a ladder and threw the rope as high as could be.
We looked at the tree again.  There were some low branches on the house side we thought might be wise to eliminate, to avoid that dropping-on-the-house problem.  So we cut off several branches.
We tested the rope.
We warned the neighbor lady to get moving if she was going to keep her hair appointment.
I started my saw, adjusted my ear protectors, and I cut the notch.
Nice.  A good start.
Then I cut the back cut, deep into the tree, as JB put all his weight into the rope.
I could feel my saw binding in the cut.  I pulled my saw.  The tree stood, then leaned back toward the house onto the cut.  JB called, "I can't hold it!"
The tree stood.  JB pulled.  I ran into the street to join him, and we pulled on the rope, our desperation mounting.  It wasn't budging.  We were verging on panic, the huge tree all but cut in two, standing, barely, next to the house.  "I can't hang on," JB said.  I took the rope.
I'm not the best person to have in a panic like this.  I think my mind begins to skitter to a stop, the possibilities of what I might do going click click click like changing channels.  This one?  This one?  This one? This one?  Constantly stuck on not choosing.  JB does better.
One of us brought the pickup around as the other held the rope.  We tied it to the pickup.  It held tight, a taut line running from my pickup bumper to about halfway up the tree.  I could see the frayed spots on the rope, one knot where I had previously put my chainsaw through it.  Was there possibility of a breeze?
JB thought we could get someone from the construction crew to help.  I thought of other possibilities.  Crossed them off, thought of more.  All were pitiful.  And all would require that I admit that this tree fall was a disaster.
But JB decided to run up the street.  I talked to S on the driveway and couldn't help but make the dire situation clear.  Then JB came running back down the street.

Friday, August 01, 2014

Tree Fall (pt. 1)

This summer has seen several trees come down at the mercy of my Stihl chain saw.  It's never a happy thing to cut a tree, but these were sad, sorry, aged trees that were on the verge of falling into the yard or driveway, or--worse yet--onto a house where they might hurt someone or damage the house.

So, we cut down a tree that had a big branch come down off it and expose the rotten core, so that it only had about half of the outer bark even available to keep it upright.  Our friends Amy and Phil helped on an early Sunday morning when we thought the fewest cars would be out trying to get by on the typically busy street that runs by our house and where we would be dropping the tree.  But the, as the two women stood on the street blocking traffic, and as I made the final cut to drop the tree, a woman in a red SUV exclaimed (at about 7:15am), "I can't be late for church!"  She then zipped around our guards and continued on her mission from God.  And narrowly escaped the tree fall.

Once we had that tree cut up and hauled away and cleaned up the driveway, we had a little breakfast.

Then we journeyed to Phil and Amy's to cut down their tree, one split down the middle so that every breeze opened and closed a long crack on the trunk.  Theirs too, had rot down the center.  We dropped their big ash tree into the street, cut it up, hauled branches and twigs away, and then hauled the firewood back to our place.  Six or so hours and we had the two trees down.

But yesterday was another story.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

A Photo from the BWCA

Our trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area a few weeks ago gave us one beautiful day, one day of perfect weather with sunshine, a light breeze, and some of the most amazing clouds.  We spent most of the day on Gabbro Lake, mostly just admiring the view with a fishing pole in hand.  I discovered that it was possible to take a panoramic photo of the sky, and after several attempts, got this beauty.  I love it.

Friday, June 13, 2014

BWCA Again

We look forward to heading to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area once again after a great time last year.  It's a beautiful and somewhat daunting place, where you face all the elements on your own, which, this time, might be even more daunting, as the forecasts predict rain tomorrow and Sunday, our first two days out in the boondocks.

But I think we're ready.  Big packed backpacks and much food and gear.  Better prepared than last year!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Poetry from All Over(Madison)

Folks young and old seemed to enjoy some of my poems, especially when I was talking trash.

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Inside and Outside

The wife found her first tulip volunteering that spring had finally arrived in South Dakota yesterday. And the lovely day continued, as I was able to fire up the wood splitter in 40 degrees and split the wood that had piled up after cutting down some trees last fall.  I rolled some of the logs from back in the trees out into a clearing so they can be split.  Then we took a good walk/jog in the park, where people were walking their dogs and enjoying the warm day.  Then back to more outside work for a while, and lunch and the last "free" episode of "Mad Men" on Netflix.  Then some school work and a trip back up to DSU where we saw Expatriate and Burlap Wolf King play some awesome song.  A good, long spring day, full of good times.
The First Tulip Arrives in Madison

Monday, March 31, 2014

The End of March

Yesterday was a spring day--sunny, warm, slightly breezy, and beautiful.  It's funny how the weather makes a person feel different, feel like doing other things, changing.  Just like the lilacs bursting their buds, or the rhubarb pushing its way up through the thawing soil, so do we change and begin to grow different ideas and moves.  "Something there is that doesn't love a wall," Frost says.  "Spring is the mischief in me," he says, and likewise in me.  It's time to clean the porch, clear away the leaves, prepare the soil, plan the garden.

Yesterday we took a drive out to the park, ran and walked a few miles, and enjoyed the sunlight.  I think I sunburned my poor unprotected scalp!  We cleared the porch out, getting it ready for company, thinking what a great day it would have been to have people there.  Instead, we fired up the grill and enjoyed some good burgers.

Then we watched over some friends' baby, just a month old, and, with a little schoolwork in preparation for the week, we called it a good day.

The only thing is, now we're looking at a few more inches of snow tonight.  Blah.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Goodbye to All That (Loud Noise--AKA--Kick Ass Rock and Roll)

After 38 years, I'm letting go of my big-ass stereo equipment, the stuff I bought when I was a teenage soldier in Friedberg, West Germany.  These served me well over the many years, rattling the windows of many homes I had hither and yon.  After I let these go, only my Marantz turntable will be left of the powerhouse stereo I carefully assembled over the course of a couple years, doing my research and saving my money.

What you see here are, first, my big and heavy (50 pounds!) Teac SX4300 auto-reverse reel to reel.  This baby would play music for seven hours uninterrupted.  It had a clean and clear delivery, especially at 7 inches per second (it's a two-speed).  I've still got many reels of music, some (like Larry Hosford) that I have not been able to find since 1978.  So it goes.

Then there is the matching set of Kenwood amp and tuner, a KA-8300 amp and a KT-8300 tuner.  They were excellent components, especially that kick-ass amplifier.  What a beast.  I matched these up in 1976 with a pair of Pioneer HPM-100 speakers, and they would rock the house.  The sound they made was a beautiful thing, and I loved to hear The Edgar Winter Group rocking "Frankenstein" turned way up loud.  Sometimes too loud.  I had to have both the speakers and the amp repaired after too vigorous play.

These components were a signature in my barracks room, my bachelor pads, my dorm room, and my several homes.  Now they're heading to new homes via eBay.  

Check them out if you're interested.  It would be good to see them go to new homes (at high prices!).  

Go ahead.  Bid.  Then you too can be rocking to this:

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Blue Jeans 'n Classics, the South Dakota Symphony, and Fleetwood Mac

The wife, the mom, and I enjoyed our Sunday afternoon with the Canadian group, Blue Jeans 'n Classics, who played with the South Dakota Symphony to offer up many hit songs of the group Fleetwood Mac, songs that I remember so well, especially from my two years in Germany.  My big expensive stereo at that time could crank out the tunes on the albums Fleetwood Mac that appeared in 1975, then Rumours, appearing in 1977, both while I was doing my soldier duty in Friedberg.  They were awesome records for me at the time, great lyrics, beautiful signing, and some hard-driving rocking.

The group of musicians that put on their show were welcomed by the crowd, and they were well worth it.  I hope the many sponsors from Madison that supported bringing them here were pleased with their efforts.  Thank you, sponsors!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Sirje Kiin and Marie Under, Poets, Writers, and Estonians

After a day at home it was nice to get out and have a meal with my mom and the wife and go see our Madisonian Sirje Kiin tell about the subject of her book:  Marie Under, an Estonian poet whose work hasn't had the attention it deserves.  Her poetry is almost all written in Estonian, a language that only about 1.5 million people speak in the world.  Sirje has written (in Estonian) a critical biography of the poet.  
The biography is now being translated into English, along with some new translations of the poetry.  It's a remarkable thing to hear about a person who lives just up the street who is working on such good, important things.  Marie Under's Wikipedia page needs editing!
Our speaker pointed out that one of the problems with getting Under the attention she deserves is that good translations of the poetry can be difficult, since the language they're written in is so unlike English or many other major languages.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The World is a Little Colder Today

Each of us works on our own schedule, but we hope to create something that remains when we're gone.  On this cold January day, we note the loss of Pete Seeger, the great folk singer and author of great songs including "We Shall Overcome," "Turn! Turn! Turn!," and "Where Have All the Flowers Gone," songs that we think of as America's songs, our songs. It's good to stop and note with gratitude the gift that artists like this give to us.  Thank you, Pete Seeger, and rest in peace.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Another Blower

Today's another blowing day, another day with the trees waving in a gale, snow flying, students emailing me that the weather will keep them out of class.  Another day in Madison.
I spent part of the day outside examining my wood pile. Let's call it that, as I took the wheelbarrow to the back yard and filled it from my ever-diminishing pile of firewood, which I thought would last us all winter.  I'm not one skilled in estimating wood usage, but I'm spending more time in the house this winter, and it's been a cold one, so we keep stoking that stove, watching the wood flame up and out of the chimney.  We've always got one damned warm place in the house.  Some cool places too.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Water Issues, Wind Issues, Snow Issues. Winter. I'm issued out.

The past couple of days we've been riding a winter wave as the giant claw of a blizzard grips eastern SD and other parts.  Yes, out in the west it's something different, but here in the frozen east we keep watching out the window with it feeling like we're flying this old house through a cold and cloudy sky at a breakneck speed.  The old girl doesn't care for all this windage.

We'll survive.

The situation with the water was that a roof caved in on a water supply, a "clear well."  All over town we've had to curtail (as in STOP) our water use.  But our city fellows hustled through the night and during the day today despite the bad weather, and they're allowing water use and soon will have drinkable water again.  Thanks, guys.

I'm not sure why it's in the Anchorage news:

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Dog Sitting

We're watching our friends' dog for the next few days, and so far, so good.  I was concerned this morning that it would want to be at my heels during my morning routine, but so far, an hour later, the pooch is still on its bed upstairs as she and the wife sleep into the late hours of the morning (it's 6:30am now).  The wife is much more a dog fan than I am.  Not that I don't like dogs or pets in general; it's just that my attitude is more laid back than some of the people around me whose affection for pets is more pronounced.  They do sometimes amuse me, though, such as when this hound becomes engaged with the monkeys on the TV screen.