Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Catch up

Seems I haven't posted in a while, but that's ok, it means I've actually been getting something done. Youngest daughter left several days ago to go visit the almost-son-in-law in Utah, she made it there yesterday morning. I am supposed to be leaving to head up north, but can't seem to get going. There are too many projects here that I never got around to this summer, what with moving the ASIL to Utah, and at this point it's so late in the year I am sorely tempted to just stay here. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, I'm supposed to meet my brother the second week of August in South Dakota to transfer some land that has been in our family for 140+ years.

Our great grandfather owned the General Store in what was then the town of James, South Dakota, east of Aberdeen. James is almost a ghost town now, with just a few residents left. The lots where the general store stood went to my great aunt Frances, my grandfather's sister. At some point the land was deeded to my brother, and he's been paying property tax on it for decades but never did anything with it. Aunt Frances made him promise to never sell the land, but he almost sold it a few years ago, at which point I jumped him about selling it outside the family. I told him I wanted it, and before she died  Mom had told me she had been telling him that he should give it to me. She passed in February 2010, and it's taken until now to get him to agree to file a Quit Claim deed so it's in my name. Money hasn't been discussed, so I have no idea if I'm buying it from him or if he's giving it to me, but either way it's good. Hopefully nothing comes up and he actually makes it to SD, he lives in Phoenix and has a film production company so projects often come up unexpectedly and his travel plans are pretty iffy at the best of times.

I actually started packing the travel trailer on Sunday, and Monday I decided I should start the fridge to get it cooled down before I loaded the frozen stuff, and the darn thing wouldn't light on propane. I just had the two 40-gallon tanks mounted on the camper, so I tried it several times thinking maybe there was just air in the line, but eventually I gave up and started searching for an actual problem. When I took off the outside cover for the fridge I quickly discovered what the problem was, WASPS!!  I waited until very early this morning when it was just thinking about getting light out and I knew they would all still be in the nest, and after lots of wasp spray and cleaning the nest out the fridge is working again, it's cooling down as we speak.  :) A-SIL had been hooked up to campground electric for the past 9 months and never ran the fridge on propane. These may have been transplanted North Carolina wasps for all I know.

I have been trying to find someone to mow while I'm gone, and after several failed attempts at hiring a yard service to do it, the neighbor finally volunteered her adult son to do it for me. In exchange, he got the 10 x 10 x 6 dog kennel that I had used as a chicken house.  You can see it in the back left of this photo if you can see though the mess in the lean-to of the old shed. The chicken house/kennel had a metal roof on it, and I told him I wanted the steel, so I took that off on Sunday.

Speaking of the mess in the shed... that's one of the many projects I intended to get to before heading north, so with no extra free time to speak of I decided to finally tackle it. It took a few days to drag everything out, build some shelves for the lumber, and put everything back inside. My older daughter tells me I'm a hoarder, but I disagree, it's not hoarding if you use the junk. My total cost for the shelving was about $9 for some lag bolts, nuts and washers to hang the shelves from the roof joists. Everything else was leftover from some other project here. Not only did I get everything that was in the shed put back in an organized fashion, I also got a bunch of other stuff under cover that had been sitting on the other side of the shed along with a bunch of garden fencing that was around the raised beds.

 After pics...

The entire lower shelf is the used metal from the roof of the chicken house along with some other steel that was found on the property when I bought it. I plan to use it to enclose the side of the lean-to closest to me in the photos, this is the side the rain usually comes from. If there is enough I may close in the left side as well, and add more shelving to hold parts and pieces of the Caboose when I start dismantling it this winter.

 The remains of the chicken house/kennel... I raked up the straw bedding and will let it compost some and then use it in the raised garden beds this fall. I plan to hack down the overgrown brush behind where the kennel was, and move the Caboose there so it's sitting level when I start working on it. Currently it's on a pretty good incline, not a problem for disassembling it, but it could be a major problem when I start the rebuild and need to get things plumb and level. The fence to the right is multiple chain link kennel panels hooked together to give the Great Dane and Golden Retriever a space to roam. Amazingly I removed all the vines just 3 weeks ago. It's incredible how quickly the forest encroaches here. If people were to disappear it wouldn't take many years for most signs of them to be swallowed by the forest, at least outside the cities.

Another, sort of related project today was to move Rover, the old Class C. I'd like to park him so that he blocks the view of  the shed lean-to from passers-by, and also get him sitting a bit more level. There's a cut-off switch on the battery because he tends to drain it when sitting. I threw the switch, hooked up the jumper cables and crossed my fingers. He's been sitting since we took him to Bonnaroo in June 2011, but the battery was new at that time so I was hopeful. After many minutes I tried turning the key... nothing happened. OK jiggle the jumper cables around, and let it sit again. 15 minutes later, he turned over once. Jiggle some more on the cables to make sure the connection is good, then go do something else. 1/2 hour later, still no joy as he slowly cranks over once again. I think the batter is toast, but I REALLY hate to buy a new one to use just to move him 30 feet. He's currently being used to store "stuff" and I don't foresee a rebuild in his near future, so buying a new battery seems foolish. He's developed a small roof leak recently though, probably from being stressed by parked on such an angle.

Haha, I just realized all three of the campers are visible in that photo, only Daisy the Shasta is missing, and she's up north. The KZ is level for the fridge to run, compare the underline with that of the Caboose, you can really see how much of an incline it's parked on.

This is where I want to move Rover to, parked facing left and close to the  two trees on the right. I even trimmed the lower branches today while I was waiting for the battery to not charge so they wouldn't rub on him. It's still not completely level, but at least he wouldn't be leaning over to the side so badly and would only be pointing downhill slightly.

One of the better things about cleaning and organizing in the lean-to,and one of the major reasons I wanted to get it done before I leave for a few months, is I finally have space to park the V-Strom. This poor bike has sat outside ever since I bought it, both in MN and here in TN. Eventually it will be parked on the rear 'boarding platform' of the Caboose and will be my run-about vehicle.

I miss my V-Star that I sold to a neighbor last week, but Jimmy rides past in the evening and honks at me if I'm outside. Not sure if that helps, but at least I still get to see it. I did 30,000 miles on that bike in a bit over 2 years of riding it, lots of good memories and great places.

One last catch up item... I mentioned that I was waiting for the lady that owns the organic blueberry farm to call me and let me know she had my fruit. I had picked some, but between trying to get daughter packed up and heading off to Utah, packing the camper, and working around the house here I didn't have time to go pick the rest myself. It costs a bit more if they pick for you, but I'm okay with that. I told her I wanted 12 gallons total, thinking I could easily go through that in a year, a gallon bag per month. It turns out she picks into the cardboard pint containers, and 4 of those more than fill a gallon Ziplock bag. Bless her heart, she even bagged them and froze them for me before she called me to come pick them up. This is what 12 gallons of organic blueberries looks like.
Yes, that's 21 1-gallon Ziplock baggies full of blueberry goodness... What's a person to do with this glut of berries? I humbly suggest blended Margaritas...

Beware... your lips will freeze to a titanium straw when drinking frozen margaritas. LOL

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Trip preparations

When we moved my almost-son-in-law from North Carolina to Utah, a lot of things ended up staying here in Tennessee, thing he didn't want to move or store, and he left them with the purpose of us selling or donating or otherwise disposing of them. All those totes and boxes holding his things are stacked and packed in the sheds in front and on top of the totes holding all my "stuff" that came out of the camper when he borrowed it. Today was a day for unpacking the sheds, digging through boxes and totes looking for my stuff to put back in the travel trailer. Easier said than done. The weather is NOT cooperating, dishing up some rain and a lot of heat and VERY humid conditions.

While it was still cool this morning I hooked up the TT and took it into town to the dealership and had them remove the single propane tank bracket and mount a sturdier one that will hold two tanks. The SIL had purchased two forty gallon tanks and an auto-switching valve this past winter, and had them hooked up sitting next to the trailer this winter. When we were loading up his things in NC he donated them to me.  Nice guy! :) The dealer got the new bracket mounted on the tongue, topped off both tanks and checked the tire pressure. The longest hose he had on hand is a bit short, and he ordered a longer one that should be in on Friday.The tanks look quite large, but they're solidly attached, and they should really reduce the number of refills needed if I'm up still up north after it gets cold.

Last evening while I was outside mowing the neighbor stopped by. He said he had something I might be interested in for the Caboose, a very large 6000W pure sine wave inverter. I told him it was bigger than I thought I would ever need for the Caboose, but he has been interested in my Yamaha V-Star ever since I moved it down here, and we did a bit of trading. He got the bike, I got the inverter and a nice chunk of cash. I'm a bit sad to see the bike go. I bought it new in May of 2006, and by May of 2007 I had put almost 18,000 miles on it. I rode it until I crashed in May of 2009, when I was off bikes for a full year. Shortly after I was able to ride again I bought my 2009 VStrom and the V-Star has been sitting by the wayside ever since. It really needed a new home, and the neighbor was thrilled, so in the end we're both happy.

While I was at the RV dealership, the female owner came inside and was almost-but-not-quite- screaming about some bug. I went outside to check it out, and this is what I found.WARNING: VERY CREEPY INSECT PHOTOS FOLLOW AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS POST!!
This is seriously the creepiest bug I think I've seen, mainly due to the size of the insect and the size of the mandibles. Meet the eastern dobsonfly, Corydalus cornutus. This is a female, the male's mandibles are MUCH longer, up to half the length of the body (approximately as long as this girl's antennae). I had never seen one before, although research shows "The dobsonfly is found throughout most of eastern North America east of the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico near flowing streams which provide habitat for its larvae." They are considered beneficial.

This one was showing signs of advanced age, she tried to fly once but only made it a few feet off the ground and quickly crashed. I scooped her up into a baggie and she expired a short time later. No way would I have tried to photograph her next to my hand if she was still living, the females pack a very painful bite. The mandibles on the male are so long they lack the ability to put much of a pinch into their bite.

Monday, July 21, 2014


During yesterday's blackberry picking session I came across a couple interesting spiders. If you don't like spiders you may want to skip this post. I rather like the wee creatures, as long as they are NOT in my house. If they cross the threshold they are fair game, no catch-and-release is practiced here.

The wild blackberries are growing on a strip of land behind and below the house that was leveled by the previous owner with the intention of putting a second mobile home on the property. Above this strip is the backyard with a ten to fifteen foot wide area of overgrown trees, shrubs, vines and blackberry brambles that rises nearly eight feet, and on the other side the forest drops off very steeply into the holler. The level section is anywhere from five to thirty feet wide with overhanging and encroaching greenery, a perfect place for spiders to weave their webs.

My daughter was helping me pick yesterday, and she was the first to notice the spiders. Specifically this wonderful female Spiny-bellied Orb Weaver, Micrathena gracilis, who was busily snacking on an unidentified insect. 

Further down the path I found another female and I was able to get a few pictures from a different angle, showing the very strange shape of the abdomen.

These are small spiders, only about 1/2 inch long, with the males being much smaller than the females and lacking the impressive "spines".  A short distance from the second Spiny-bellied we found another Micrathena species, a female Arrow-shaped Micrathena, Micrathena Sagittata. These spiders are even smaller, the males being about 1/4 inch and females about 1/3 inch, and again the males are spineless. Because of the location of the web I wasn't able to get a shot of the back.

This must have been the day for predatory insects, as I also photographed this handsome dragonfly.

We also saw several red wasps although none were willing to hold still long enough for a photo, and a small millipede crawling through the leaf litter.

On a non-buggy note I located a local organic blueberry U-pick farm and visited it on Saturday, picking 3 gallons of blueberries before I got rained out. Half of them were frozen as soon as I got home, and the other half went into the dehydrator. I plan to go back this week and get several more gallons, weather permitting. Their farm is certified organic, and they offer blueberries and blackberries, either picked or U-pick, and they also sell to Whole Foods Market in Nashville. While chatting with the owner I mentioned having driven to Alabama to buy organic pecans and joked that perhaps I should just follow the harvest, going to where ever the fruit is in season. Cherries are picking now in Washington and Oregon...  LOL

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Quick trip to Salt Lake

My almost-son-in-law accepted the job offer in Salt Lake City, and this was the weekend for me to haul his belongings out there for him. He and my daughter left the southeast almost 2 weeks ago, traveling to Chicago, MN, SD, Spokane, the Oregon coast and Crater Lake before they headed to SLC to meet up with me. I took the straight route out on the boring interstate. I took very few pictures since it was a very fast trip, but I did snap a few. Here I am on the morning of the 3rd at the TN/KY border rest area. I sure would rather be hauling the travel trailer but I thought it was rather neat that the Uhaul trailer had the Corn Palace Mitchell SD on the side seeing as I'm a SD resident.

These haystacks were spotted in central Nebraska on the 4th, it's been years since I've seen hay put up this way. These things were huge, standing about 3 stories tall.

Just past the haystacks I still had the camera out and was able to snap a photo of this interesting speed limit signage. Which one is correct? One speed for the left lane and a different speed for the right lane?  LOL

Western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming had some weather going on. I love storms like this, where you can see the rain falling. One of the things I dislike about TN is not being able to see the weather, the hills and trees block everything until a storm is almost directly overhead. I grew up in the prairie, so I'm used to being able to watch storms coming across the land from miles and miles away.

I slept in the truck at the Summit rest area outside Laramie, WY. At 8640 feet it is the highest spot on I-80 in Wyoming and this was also the location of a rest area on the historic Lincoln Highway. The info center had a small museum and lots of nice displays about the original highway and Wyoming's abundant natural attractions and resources. In the morning I woke up to the dog bouncing from window to window and looking intently at something. The parking lot was FULL of these little guys, some sort of ground squirrel I believe.

I saw a few Pronghorn Antelope in Wyoming but being hot there wasn't much other wildlife moving about. The exception was this Bald Eagle. At first I thought it was a vulture, as it was very close to the ground and right along the interstate. I snapped the first picture, then it dove to the ground and snatched something without actually landing, and then flew off. I think it may have grabbed a small rabbit, but couldn't really see it and when I zoomed the full-size photo all I can see is something bloody. Not very good pictures, but since I seen the eagles so rarely I'll take what I can get.

Below is the zoomed in version.
Carrying breakfast away. I won't post the zoomed in version as it's rather gory.

The plan for this morning is to unload the trailer into a storage unit before it gets too hot outside, turn in the Uhaul and then laze around the hotel doing nothing the rest of the day. My daughter is riding back to TN with me, and perhaps we'll take time to actually stop and explore somewhere. I'll leave you with this picture of the most adorable Old English Shepard puppy I met at a stop in Nebraska, she is 5 months old and overflowing with energy!