Sunday, May 31, 2009

Day 147 - May 31st

After I had been working outside for a couple of hourse, the sun had moved sufficiently into my workspace that I was starting to overheat a bit. So I took a break and grabbed my camera. I decided to take a picture of one of my valuable tools - the groundbreaker. I could not have done most of my yard projects without this tool and frankly, I have no idea where I got it.

I cannot remember how long I've had it nor how it came into my possession. Did I have it in our Ballard house? No clue. I think I did. Just goes to show you that sometimes, the things that are most useful and/or indespensible are right in front of our faces and we don't even notice.

I have it balanced on two of the many, many rocks I've dug up today. The one under the blade part has a chunk missing where I knocked it out with the groundbreaker. It revealed some crystal like rock whose name slips my mind. In the background are all the other tools I've been using today.

Day 146 - May 30th

I'm prepping the area for the play shed. It's a LOT of work! The ground has been mostly covered by a tarp covered in a few hundred pounds of gravel. But it's uneven, filled with clay and rocks. Not the easiest thing to smooth out. When I lifted the first corner of the tarp, there was an ant farm thing going on. The little ants immediately began their frantic activity of moving their hundreds of eggs underground. It only took about 10 minutes - this picture was snapped half way through their activity. I should've gotten closer. Why didn't I? Because I had my new lens and my original lens was inside and I was covered in mud.New lens? Why yes, yes I did mention that. I received this package and I was so excited. For those that don't know, I use a Pentax K10D and LOVE it. Passionately. I've used the 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 lens since I bought it. Here's a picture of a neighbors bird feeder taken at maximum zoom with that lens.

I decided the time was right to add a lens. I bought a Pentax 50-200mm F4-5.6 off of a well known auction site. Not as fast as I'd like (I'd prefer an F2.8), but the quality and general use is wonderful! I was playing with it yesterday and am so happy about it! Same bird feeder from the same spot:

Next I need to get an off camera flash. I ALMOST won the Pentax AF-540 FGZ TTL the other day but lost out by $3. It was a great price too. Oh well, maybe in a month or two I'll try again.

Day 145 - May 29th

While I was out working in the yard, I opened Alexanders snake bins - he's using two Costco soap containers. I expected to find the two snakes I posted a picture of a short while ago. Instead, each held a large, writhing mass of an unknown number of snakes. Indiana Jones would've screamed like a young girl at a Hannah Montana concert. No way was he going to be able to catch enough food for that many snakes, so I told him he had to go release all but two of them. He wanted to sell them to neighbors, but I don't see that as a viable option at this time :)

While there, Maranda snapped this nice picture of Lydia and Peter as well.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Day 144 - May 28th

On Wednesday night, I bought the plants I needed for the pots surrounding the head fountains. This picture I took Thursday morning of those plants.

Day 143 - May 27th

For several days, I was getting up as early as possible to get the final materials for the fountain area. And each night before, I had been closing at the night job, so I was only getting about 5 hours of sleep a night. This day, Wednesday, I was at Home Depot at sunrise and took this picture with my iPhone.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Day 142 - May 26th

Sophia in front of my terra cotta warrior. He's destined for the area near the blueberry bushes.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 141 - May 25th

Jill took this picture of me as I was putting together the central fountain today. It was all in all a lot of work! I wanted to plant the back plantings and get everything level. And yes, I know that the "me" in this is just my leg. My sunburnt leg. I have a pretty strong pattern of my sandal's tanned into my feet already.

Before I get to more stuff we did today, I want to say - we went and saw Star Trek last night. WOW. Fantastic movie! My sister, who is not an ST fan, loved it. The semi-retired nurse down the street loved it. Everyone was loving it, so we decided to go see it as part of our anniversary celebration (we haven't been to a movie in the theater since 300!). I am so happy we saw this on the big screen. Totally worth it!

Here's a picture of the first fountain after I (almost) finished it. I changed plans in the middle and didn't want to go back to the hardware store, so he'll actually be about 2" higher after I buy more supplies.

Here's a front view of the center fountain. You can see the big crack in the front of the fountain :( I still may rotate the whole thing so that's in the back after I seal it sometime in the next day or two. I have to attach the penguins to their rock bases - otherwise the wind will knock them over. I ran out of stones before I could finish the third fountain today. I'm tired but very satisfied. I planted three clematis and four flowering grasses in the back. I hope they all survive - it would be a pain to replace them!

We've been looking forward to this fountain area for so long. I just need 9 more wall blocks, 12 more paver blocks, three lights, one short extension cord, two 36" flexible tubing, two fountain sprayers, several small pots with plants, two block toppers, one medium pot with plant, a little bit of steel cutting and I'm done! Hardly anything left on this project. YAY!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Day 140 - May 24th

Today I had the whole day off! Since my original Memorial Day weekend project was postponed, I decided to do #3 of the gravel consumers - the fountain area! Here is Alexander helping me with the drainage pipe. Our neighbor to the north has a higher property than ours, so whenever she waters heavily, it kind of floods parts of our yard. So I put in 20 feet of drainage pipe.

Here's how the site looked this morning.

First thing I did, after spending an hour and a half shopping at Lowe's, was the drain above. Then the repair of the electrical outlet. It had been damaged beyond repair by some child at some point last year. I snipped the old one off and wired in a new outlet to plug the multi-outlet timer into. Then with Maranda and Alexander's help, hung the trellis behind that will support the Clematis. Then built the east retaining wall.

Then I began mocking out the placement of the three fountains. I had found these bowls at Lowe's that fit perfectly in the holes in the tops of the Easter Island guys heads. It looks a little odd, but it'll work. We found a large crack in our main fountain - it was damaged while in storage over the winter :( I'll caulk it and fix it up tomorrow morning. After a couple of mock ups and getting Jill's opinion, we settled on this arrangement. I love my little penguins :)

Then I stripped all the sod off the area and now in about an hour, Jill and I are going out to a dinner and a movie to celebrate our anniversary :) Tomorrow I should make huge progress on finishing up the fountain area. I need a few more supplies, but we are getting close to finishing project #3 of the season!

Oh, I should relate a funny story. Peter (our 3-1/2 year old) came up and we had this conversation:
Peter: "Are you building the fountain?"
Daddy: "Yes, I am."
Peter: "Can we pee in it?"
Daddy: ".....uh, no you cannot pee in the fountain."
Peter: "Then what is it for?"

Day 139 - May 23rd

Today the kids got to play in the sprinkler for the first time! Yay! There was much loudness.

This was an unusual Saturday in that I worked the evening shift - starting around 3pm. So I had the entire morning off! My next major project was the sheds. They are going on the skinny south side of the house. The original plan, the one I've been going off of for four years, called for two sheds, 7 feet by 3 feet each. One would be for the yard/garden and the other for the kids bikes. I've had the plans picked out for a while. Here's how the site looked Friday at lunch:

By Saturday early, the pallets were chopped up for the firepit, the rest cleaned up and during the day, I carted around 13 loads of gravel to the site. Meanwhile I studied the plans I loved so much. I was really looking forward to building them! Of course, I had to modify the plans a bit, because the one I linked above is a different size. By the time I left for work, the site looked like this:

I then had to make a painful decision. The more I studied the plans, the less likely they were to happen. I ALWAYS wanted wood sheds - they stand up to kid abuse so much better. We had a metal Arrow shed at the old house and any nick in it could eventually turn to rust. And they just don't make wood sheds the size I need. had to be waterproof. And for that, it needed to be built in the round. Which meant building each one in the yard, renting two industrial pallet jacks and several spare sheets of plywood and moving them carefully into place. The more I thought about it, the less practical it was to pursue my beloved course of action.

So I made a painful, painful decision. I abandoned my four year old dream of building my own least for now. Home Depot had an Arrow shed on sale this weekend that was close - it's 8' x 3', so they'll stick out from the house a bit. I ordered two and they should be here next week. HOWEVER, they are not for bicycles. We've had to come up with a more creative solution for them.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Day 138 - May 22nd

I was wondering if today's picture should be of the jewelry I gave Jill in celebration of our 19th wedding anniversary today. But I decided on this picture instead. Why? Because Lydia took it. She's been pretty ill all week - strep throat plus an ear infection and finally felt good enough today to get out and about. So she went picture taking - mostly of birds, but some of the strawberry plants and their little baby strawberries.

Happy Anniversary, my love. It just gets better and better every year :)

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day 137 - May 21st

Alexander and the snakes he caught down at the pond. He caught a third, but he let that one go in our garden. He's got a male and a female, so he wants baby snakes.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Day 136 - May 20th

Self portrait sitting on the steps I finished today :) YAY! Project #2 of the season is done. You can't tell because they are nearly invisible, but I'm wearing my brand new glasses I only picked up about 3 hours ago.

And to my brother and his wife: Happy Anniversary!

Day 135 - May 19th

On Tuesday, my eye was caught by our pencil container. I had just bought a replacement pencil sharpener after our old reliable one finally died. The new one is so much sharper! No more grinding 2 inches of the pencil just to get a point. So we have lots of nice, sharp, ready for school pencils.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Day 134 - May 18th

A picture of the garden as it stands right now, with onions in the foreground and a lot of sticks marking rows of seeds. A few tomato plants and three cucumber plants might be visible in the background along with a wheelbarrow filled with gravel.

Today is a sad day for our family. It was 18 years ago today that Carrie, my older sister, was killed. She was 19.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Day 133 - May 17th

These are Jill and my hands holding last nights tickets to Celtic Woman. We had SUCH a good time. Even though we were in the very, very last row of the Paramount Theater - row Z! But they were simply amazing. Especially Máiréad. WOW. For those who may not have seen nor heard of them, check out this youtube video which is an ad for the show we went and saw. These women are just .... awesome.

Máiréad is phenomenal to watch. Seeing someone spin around and around while furiously and flawlessly playing the fiddle is something you have to see to believe. Here is a youtube video of her playing at Slane Castle. The two amazing drummers in this video were also in the show we watched and were mind blowing with their skills, too.

Day 132 - May 16th

Today's picture is an in-progress shot of my latest project - the steps. Ya ready for a long explanation? Too bad, I'll give one anyway.

I don't remember if I posted or not, but my next major project is the kids playset. I'm going to build this one. BUT, in order to do that, I have to do a couple things. First, the space where the playset is going to go has a pile of gravel. AND it's got a few depressions - when our neighbor waters, parts become big puddles.

Why is their a big pile of gravel? Because several years ago, I saw the yard completed - in my mind. All the various constructions done, etc. Then I sat down and roughed out what materials I would need to complete all those projects. I estimated, for instance, how much gravel I would need for ALL the projects put together. And then I had it delivered. I did not anticipate our major financial challenges that culminated in 2007 and resulted in me having to get a second job and work 75 hours a week. But it happened and I still work that.

So there are four major projects needing gravel: the north bottom stairs, the east deck outside the view gate, the fountain area and it's drain system and the shed's. So this weekend, I tackled the north bottom stairs - because it accomplished multiple goals. 1) it has been one of the most "undone" areas of the backyard. 2) it is using a LOT of gravel. 3) it supplied me with a LOT of dirt - to fill in those depressions.

It was tough work - to haul out the dirt, I had to carry it up the hill to the wheelbarrow and then carefully get the wheelbarrow up a three foot high wall - balanced on a single 2x4 scrap. And it was hot weather! I brought up 5 or 6 loads of dirt before I declared myself done. The rest of the dirt (about 6 more loads) got tossed over the fence into the woods one shovel full at a time.

I made it through most of the project on Saturday and then finished all but one row of three boards on Sunday after I got home from my 9 hour shift at Fred Meyer. I would have gotten more done had Lowe's actually carried decent materials, but they didn't and I had to drive an hour out of my way to go to Home Depot, which had superb materials. Why, oh why, couldn't we have gotten a Home Depot!

OK, enough talking. Here's the site after some prep work on Friday. The first shot is from above, the second is approximately the same angle as "the shot of the day" above.

Here's the shot from above taken Saturday night.
Finally, if you've actually read through all this, I wanted to tell you what that big space is there. That space was actually inspired from a book and I've been planning to build it for three years now. The book? Winnie the Pooh. There is a line in the book about Winnie sitting in his "thinking place" and I wanted to create one. This is fairly separated from the rest of the yard and I plan on putting a bench against the fence in that big space. It can be a little retreat from everyone so you can "think".

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day 131 - May 15th

Lydia has a friend spending the night and they wanted to sleep in the tent. They set it up all by themselves :)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Day 130 - May 14th

Went to the dentist this morning with Alexander and Sophia. Sophia = awesome. Not a problem. Me = no major problems, just a bad area of the gums that required "deep cleaning" - the iPhone picture above was taken just moments before that needle went into my gums. I have to go back in four weeks for a follow up.

Alexander=$$$$. He has an abscess in one tooth - it has to be extracted and a place holder put in. Plus four baby cavities need work. Our portion? $500. OUCH.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Day 129 - May 13th

I took the camera out over lunch and what caught my eye were the onions left over from last year and the chives. Both are blooming. I don't really know what to do - should I lop the tops off? Should I let them flower?

I opted just to take the picture.

Then I stood up and Peter was right behind me with a peanut butter and jelly face. I didn't even look through the lensfinder, just pointed the camera at him and snapped. I liked it!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Day 128 - May 12th

I went to a client today and on the way home, snapped this picture of our local Starbucks. I liked the light and cloud effects.

Today I heard something no one ever likes to hear from a Doctor..."It's probably nothing, but we'd like to run some more tests." It was an optical doc. I hadn't been to the eye doctor in a few years and knew my prescription was outdated - I found out my right eye is weaker on both distance and close up. Then he looked at my optical nerves and saw some discrepancies. So in two weeks, I have to go in for an in-depth glaucoma test. It's really not the test nor the prospect that jeebs me out - it's the eye drops. ::::shudder:::::

I also heard a wonderful thing about a Doctor. My brother, Brian (or Dr. Reasoner as the folks in central Texas know him) is coming to Seattle for some medical thingie in July! YAY! I haven't seen my brother in years.

Today was 5-12. A somber date for about a billion people as they reflect that it was one year ago today that an 8.0 earthquake devastated parts of Sichuan County, China. We have friends over there and listening to Wai tell the stories of what he saw as part of the relief effort chilled us to the bone. Over 69,000 people lost their lives.

Day 127 - May 11th

I found Sophia doing her writing practice. She's coming along nicely!

Day 126 - May 10th

A little late posting this! Since Alexander was left out of the family picture on the newly done table, I decided the next day should be him. I caught him glued to the tube.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Day 125 - May 9th

One of those rare days - a full day at home without working either job! So I set out to finish the table. Except for the middle. Without a planer, the middle is difficult. But BESIDES that...behold. Yes, I know, Alexander is missing. He was out running around. I'm still not totally in love with my seat supports and will have to train the kids not to rock back and forth. Not sure what I can do to fix it. And the corners of the tables still need a wee bit tweaking and I may add a bit of flare to the border.

But for the most part, it's done. Finally. YAY!

Day 124 - May 8th

My beautiful wife. Taken with the iPhone :)

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Day 123 - May 7th

Happy Birthday, brother! Today is my brother, Dr. Brian's, birthday! YAY!

I was upstairs over lunch and stumbled across this scene. Peter, for the first time, was attempting to duplicate something he saw in a book. He saw this creation of blocks in a book, recognized that he had those blocks and decided to try and build it. It was wonderful!

Day 122 - May 6th

This is the back of a double bookshelf we have. We call it the "art wall" where the kids can tape up their creations. I think we have representations from four of the five up here - Peter's not much more than scribbles right now. :)

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Day 121 - May 5th

Sorry about the little blurriness. I wanted to snap a photo of one of the kids sleeping without waking them up. My friend Jamie had her baby on Sunday and I've been a bit nostalgic lately. Jill and I both love to look in on our kids as they sleep so peacefully. Until dad takes a flash picture. Not a good idea. So tried it without the flash. My camera still makes a sound, though, so only this picture turned out - the rest showed her grimacing in her sleep at the loud "click" her subconscious heard.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Day 120 - May 4th

Happy Star Wars day! For those who don't know, today is the day when Star Wars nerds wish each other "May the Fourth be with you!" I didn't do it...honestly!

This is a picture of one of the oddest products. Whoever designed this deer repellent obviously thought it would sell SO much better if they altered the deer into an evil mutant vampire deer. Cracks me up every time I see it!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Day 119 - May 3rd

After work (both days of the weekend I usually work at Fred Meyer 8a-5p or similar), I worked outside on the picnic table. Peter was being a BOY and was running around without a shirt - and unknown to Jill or I - without shoes but with socks. I caught him "digging" in the dirt.

So what was I working on? I'm working on the bracing and structure under the seats. It's tricky since I have nothing to go on - I'm just kind of winging it. Here's a mockup of the structure.

Day 118 - May 2nd

After I got home from work, a big windstorm moved in. It looked like it was snowing with all the flower petals blowing about. They are from some tree behind us...that flowers...a lot. I wish I knew my trees better. They need to make an iPhone app for that - snap a picture of a flower or leaf and it would tell you what plant it came from. That'd be nifty.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Day 117 - May 1st

Tonight was the first night in almost three weeks that I was home without a prior commitment. So, of course, I worked on our picnic table! I got all the remaining parts cut (the seats still need trimming). Then I stained all but the exterior most pieces then went to Lowe's and bought the remaining hardware. I had my camera nearby and when I looked down while cutting some braces, I thought this made an interesting picture.

I should add the above is not quite true. The very center of the table is a solid piece of teak I still haven't figured out how to plane smooth and shape. But the table will be quite usable without it.

I have next Saturday, the 9th, off so I'm hoping to assemble it and move on to the next project!

Day 116 - April 30th

Yesterday, over my lunch break, I went out to see if anything caught my eye to photograph. Instead a cobweb smacked my face and a wasp landed on me. So I chased these two items down and photographed them.