Sunday, June 30, 2013

Myriad Botanical Gardens, Oklahoma City

It's a lazy Sunday here, with nothing to report so I thought I'd post some photos from last month's trip to Oklahoma City. One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to the Myriad Botanical Gardens located in downtown Oklahoma City.
This is a 17 acre park which includes the Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory. Admission to the conservatory is $7, or $6 if you're over 62 or active military. The conservatory is 3 stories high, and it's absolutely jam-packed with incredible flowers and vegetation, and a large number of butterflies. Much of the space is like a tropical rainforest with small waterfalls cascading down rock formations and very high humidity, and the other end is very arid, with cacti and succulents of all sorts. Successfully maintaining two completely different micro climates in one large space is quite a feat. The conservatory building is built above an outdoor water feature in the park. This is definitely worth a visit if you are in the OKC area.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Cat flaps

Another very warm day today with the thermometer hitting 90 degrees by noon. Despite this fact I actually got some things done today. First the fat boys (the 4 dieting cats that own the house here) got a new cat door to their cat porch. Last spring when we extended the front porch so that it would run  the full length of the house we enclosed 20 feet on the east end with wire and put in a cat flap so the fat boys could go outside and watch the birds. I also wanted the litter boxes out of the house because I hate walking around barefoot and having the clumping litter getting stuck to me feet. That stuff tracks everywhere! They are also fed outside on the porch in order to keep the dogs from getting their food. When we were building the porch the only cat flap we could find locally was made to go through a door, not the side of a house, so I just framed up a tunnel through the wall and made do. Last week I broke down and ordered a new pet door that's made to go through an exterior wall. The boys like it, and so do I since it's much more weather and bug proof than the old one was. Here's Blinger, the most svelte of the boys, heading outside to see if there might be any food in the dish.
The old cat flap was now free to be re-used in the camper. Mr. Kitty (K for short) will be traveling with me, and I wanted to find an out-of-sight place for his litter box. The best place seemed to be in the basement under the bed. There was already a "door" that could be lifted up to access the basement area, but I didn't want to have to lift the mattress every time the litter box needed cleaning.


I also didn't want K to have free run of the basement area. So I had to come up with an enclosure that would keep him from getting into things he probably shouldn't be messing with, and I didn't want him to be able to get to the outside door in case I opened it and he jumped out. I still needed to be able to access the litter box from the outside basement door for cleaning. I came up with a hinged wall that gives a large enough area for the litter box, and can be unhooked from the wall just inside the outside door and swung to the side so I can get to the box to clean it.

The other benefit of the hinged wall is the whole thing will fold flat against the inside of the storage space, allowing me access to the hot water heater in case that needs repairs.

The last bit of the project involved installing the cat flap. I had to build a framework to support the cat flap and cut a hole into the interior of the camper.After that it was a simple matter of screwing the cat flap to the wall, and the project was done.
I think this arrangement will work well. It preserves my access to much of the basement storage area and allows me to get to the hot water heater if I need to, it will keep the Archie the Yorkie from snacking on Cat Crunchies and hopefully it will keep the tracked litter to a minimum in the camper. I still haven't come up with a good idea for where to put Marley the milk snake's enclosure but I'll keep working on that one.I also got a paper towel holder installed, and I screwed a small plastic basket to the inside of the cabinet door under the sink to hold sponges and scrubbers. Not a bad day all-in-all.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Catch up

The summer doldrums have hit me. I am lacking any sort of motivation to accomplish all the things I need to get finished here so I can head north. A big part of the problem is the weather. There's a good reason I don't want to live in TN year round, it's just too hot and humid! Anything that requires you to go outside needs to be done before 9 or 10 in the morning, and I am NOT a morning person. Are they even making oxygen outside before 9 AM? I'm not sure it would even be safe to get up early and go outside to find out. And forget working outside in the evening. On the odd chance that it does start to cool down towards supper time it gets dark here by 8:30. And I don't mean it's starting to get a bit dusky by 8:30, oh  no... it's pitch dark by then. I'm not sure how anyone ever gets anything done outside down here. Up north, you have dinner then you can go outside and work or play until 10:30 or so when the twilight is finally fading away and the yard light comes on. The only plus side to this dark-early problem is if you have young kids it must be easier to get them to go to bed at a reasonable time in the summer.

This is a really long way of saying that I haven't accomplished anything significant around here for a while.  Yeah, I've mowed the lawn a couple times, hauled the lawn tractor into town for repairs twice, and picked raspberries several times. Speaking of which, the first harvest is winding down, but the second go-round is ramping up and it looks like there will be a ton of them.

 I never really posted a photo of Todd, the full-timer on a bike who helped me with a bunch of electrical work and also did the majority of the re-roofing. Here he is the morning he headed off towards Michigan to visit family. As I've mentioned before, he's lived on the road for years with only his bike and what he pulls in the trailer. 

I'm pretty sure I couldn't become that much of a minimalist at this point in my life. I'm a big fan of  refrigeration and hot and cold running water, and I want a solid roof over my head at night.  I've never actually mind sleeping in a tent, but these days my body complains loudly about it if I do.

I should perhaps mention my chickens. I had a rooster and 4 hens, a wonderful little flock that gave me all the fresh free-range organic eggs I could eat. The Araucana hen had even made a nest under the hood of the bagger for the lawn tractor and was setting on 20 blue-green eggs that were only a few days from hatching. Unfortunately something got them all early one morning a couple weeks ago. I went outside fully expecting to see the rooster shepherding his small harem around, only to find feathers all over the yard, and all the eggs broken and eaten. I strongly suspect it was the neighbor's pack of 7 or 8 dogs that they let run loose, but I can't prove it. I miss my chickens scratching around and cleaning up the spilled seed under the bird feeders, and the insect population has exploded since they've been gone.  I miss eating those marvelous fresh eggs as well.

The baby bluebirds fledged yesterday. They were looking out of the nest box and making a racket in the morning waiting to be fed, and by mid afternoon all of them had flown away. I'll clean out the next box in a day or two, and perhaps the parents will nest again.

And oh yes, the dirty rotten shingles are GONE! Richie, a very nice young guy that I met at Home Depot came with his dump truck and loaded them all up and hauled them to the dump for me. YAY! 

Since I've updated all this stuff I suppose that means I have to actually do something tomorrow so I have something to say on here. Hmmmm.... I hear the weather is supposed to be very hot and muggy again...  LOL

Monday, June 24, 2013

Ugh..... roofing

Cleaning up the yard after re-roofing the house has been a major PITA. It would maybe be a less objectionable job if the weather would just cooperate a little bit.

Ok, the thermometer is just below the steel roof of the porch, so maybe it reads a bit high. Just to see how much it might be exaggerating I brought the little indoor thermometer outside to compare.

Yep, it really IS 90 degrees in the shade! And would you just look at that humidity?! Gosh, I really need to get out of TN before I melt!  Where was I.... Oh yes, the shingle clean-up. I had a guy lined up to come tomorrow morning and haul them to the landfill for me, so I had a deadline to get them all picked up. I'm a procrastinator by nature, so I actually work best with a deadline. lol  I borrowed the neighbor's steel lawn tractor cart, took down part of the dog kennel fencing in the back yard so I could drive in and started in very early in the mornings. After 10AM or so it was just TOO hot to work on it until evening, and then I only had a couple hours because it gets dark so early here. Probably a good thing, because my back was not happy at all about all the bending over and lifting. I'm happy to report that after several days of working on it I've finally finished the job.

 I somehow neglected to take a Before pic, but here's a During pic... you can see from the dead grass how large an area I had already cleaned up. (Yes, that's a really big dog house, I have a Great Dane  lol)

And a couple After photos!
The bottom one is where we had to open up the skirting to get at the plumbing for the bathroom remodel, and in the process found where the previous owner had stored a ton of old fiberglass insulation. Cleaning all that out from under the house was an entire evening's work by itself. Again, the area with nothing green growing is where the shingles were laying after the tear-off.

And here's the offending pile of no-good, dirty, rotten shingles! There are 36 bundles of them, or at least that's how many it took to replace them, and there's 25 shingles to a bundle, roughly 900 or so. Well, it would be 900 or so if the majority of them weren't in pieces. I picked up easily double that many "things" off the ground. Oh, and they weigh in the neighborhood of 3200 pounds. No wonder my back is unhappy with me!

 I actually finished last night, but by the time I returned the neighbor's cart it was too dark for photos. Today was a do-nothing sort of day because my back is really bothering me. My most strenuous project for today was to check on the progress of the baby bluebirds in the nest box on the porch. I'm happy to report that they are doing great! Both parents are in and out all day long feeding them. Here's a pic from 10 days ago, and one from today. It's hard to see the third one in both pictures, but he/she is in there. They've grown a bunch, their eyes are open and their feathers are growing in rapidly. They will be fledging before too much longer.

And here's the dutiful parents. There's an extremely large number of some sort of centipede-like insects in the yard this year, and they seem to be making up the majority of the babies' diet at this point. After yet another trip to find food and bring it back to the nest Dad was panting and seemed to be feeling the heat and humidity as much as I was. I can't imagine how hot it gets inside the nest box for the babies.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Departure delays

I'm beginning to wonder if I'm ever going to get out of TN this year, there seems to be an ever growing list of things I need to get done before I can leave. I finally found a good small engine guy to fix my lawn tractor so I actually mowed the whole yard on Wednesday. The back hadn't been mowed in almost a month, so it was nearly waist high. Yeah, Tennessee is subtropical and everything grows very fast. I've finally found someone to haul the old shingles to the landfill for me, he is planning on being here Tuesday morning bright and early, so I've spent the last few days picking up all the old shingles and hauling them to a spot near the driveway. I've managed to get them cleaned up on both ends of the house and the horrible area underneath the house where the new plumbing went in. The previous owner had used this spot to pile up old fiberglass insulation. Needless to say, mice found this to be a very cozy living arrangement but I wasn't too happy about it. Plus me and fiberglass just don't get along. All I have to do is just look at the stuff and I start itching. Six trash bags later, I'm really glad that part of the job is done! Now I just have the backyard to go.

The dog fence in the backyard is actually 6' x 10' chain link kennel panels, a dozen of them hooked together to form a large run for the four-leggers to play in. It works fine, but the lawn tractor and trailer will not fit through the walk gate, so I'll have to take one section out so I can get the mess cleaned up. Unfortunately, the back yard is almost NEVER in the shade, and with Tennessee's lack of any meaningful breeze it makes working back there very uncomfortable when the temps are near 90 and the humidity is higher than that. Hopefully my back holds out and I can get it done before Tuesday.

I have started loading a few things in the new travel trailer, and have bought a few things I'll need for the summer. Mr. Kitty is going with me this summer, so a new litter box was needed, as well as food and water dishes. Hmmm... how to keep the dogs out of the litter box? I think I will put a cat door under the bed so his box can be in the basement area of the TT. I'm not sure what he'll think of the whole affair, both the cat box placement and being on the road, but he traveled pretty well moving to TN so I have high hopes he'll adjust quickly.

So what else is left to do? Finish putting the master bath together, install the floating wood floor in the master bedroom, paint the master, clear all the construction debris off the front porch (hey, it's a handy place to put stuff lol), install a new cat flap on the house so I can put the old one in the TT, and a few other small projects, along with keeping up with the jungl... I mean yard. Piece of cake!  lol

On a side note, I once again made portabello mushroom "pizzas" tonight, this time I removed the gills as per some instructions I saw somewhere, but they still juiced like crazy. Is there a secret way to treat them so you can stuff portabellos and NOT have them leak 1/2 gallon of juice all over the plate? If anyone knows, I'm all ears!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A(nother) travel trailer

I've been looking for a smaller travel trailer to use while the Caboose undergoes it's rebuild. The 30'  KZ Sportsmen that I bought last summer is just too big for what I want or need, and it's really pushing the upper limits of what my truck can tow. I consigned it last fall at the dealership where I bought it, but so far no one has shown any great interest in it. 

I stopped in at the dealership last week and looked around at what they had on the lot for smaller travel trailers. I was hoping to find something that I could trade even up for mine. There were some nice ones with small slides, but the price was too high. I didn't want to have to hand over cash for a smaller trailer. I came across a KZ Classic 204, that really seemed to fit what I was looking for.

We discussed price and trade-in, and I said I would think about it. It's only 20 feet long, no slides. I like the fact that the bed is sideways which frees up a lot of space. Most folks seem to want a walk-around bed, but I always thought that took up so much extra floor space which is at a premium anyway in such a small camper. I really like the fact that there is NO carpet in it. The bathroom is almost identical to the one in my big KZ. The fridge is just 5 cubic feet, that will be a challenge, along with the puny 20 gallon fresh water tank. There's also no oven. It should work fine though for my younger daughter and I to take some extended road trips in, and for me to live in this summer while trying to get the farm house and shop building cleaned out. And best of all, it has enough sleeping spots for my older daughter and myself and her kids to go on our annual weekend camping trip.

I stopped back in at the dealer today to tell them I would take it, and after spending some time trying to recall the figures she had quoted me last week we agreed on a price that would give me almost $1000 more cash back than originally discussed.  I'm a happy camper! I'll be picking it up on Tuesday after they've done the final prep work on it, and I'll have a couple weeks to get all my "stuff" loaded into it in preparation for heading north. Even fully loaded it will weigh in almost 2000 pounds less than the big KZ weighed empty.  My truck will be a happy camper as well!  lol