Saturday, November 30, 2013

All Critters Great and Small

Pamela and I are both animal lovers.  Pamela probably even moreso than I.  It shows.

Yesterday we started out by going over to Judi and Earl's house to feed Jeremiah.  Even though he's got a winter coat of fur, Pam put a horse blanket on him because it's been down in the single digits.  As I'm writing my first draft of this blog at 11 PM on Friday night, it is 8 degrees already.

Pam said that when she first approached Jeremiah with the horse blanket, he recognized it immediately and trotted over and put his head down so Pam could put it on him.

Jeremiah is a classic Morgan.  He's built like a tank, and weighs in at around half a ton.  The Morgan is one of the oldest American horse breeds, from the late 1700s.  Morgans are known for their intelligence, speed, and endurance and were often used for harness racing in the 1800s.

It was very cold yesterday morning, and frost covered the trees.

Before we left to return to our Unabomber cabin, Pam picked up Fat Albert, the Chorkie (half Yorkie, half Chihuahua).  He's about 8 weeks old now and getting around pretty well.  Albert weighs in at a pound, maybe two. 

As you can see, our three dogs had to give Albert the sniff test, probably to determine exactly what he is.

Albert is about the same size as some of our dogs' toys, which concerned me.

Back to the sniff test.

Ruby, our female pit bull, finally had enough and shoved Chevy and Olivia away.  She then watched over Albert to make sure no harm came to him.

Can I have an "awwwwwwww!"?

So, you're all wondering... is Albert the latest addition to our menagerie?  Truthfully, I don't know.   I put my foot down and gave Pam a resounding "NO!!!  I forbid it!".  Just as I did with Chevy, Olivia, Sassy, and Leo.   But then, what do I know?  I'm only the doorman for the critters.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Jack Frost Nipping At Your...

I hope you all had an enjoyable Thanksgiving yesterday.  We certainly did.  As usual, we had WAY too much food, but what we had was wonderful.  Pam and her mom Judi did the cooking, and both are great cooks.

We don't have TV and so couldn't watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade or football, so I had ordered The Best of Andy Williams Christmas Shows to play in the background.  I turned the TV so we could see it.  We all got a big kick out of the really, really bad fashions they wore back in the late '60s and early '70s.  The music was good, though.

The turkey looked so tasty, I had to take a photo of it.

It was 7 degrees when I awoke this morning.  I truly like it when it's that cold.  The snow crunches under your feet, and the humidity freezes out of the air, coating everything with frost.  With no humidity, it doesn't feel that cold out.

Isn't it purdy?

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving today.  We will.  Pam is cooking, Judi is bringing pies, and Earl and our friend Bill will be here.  I even bought a 30 pack of Genny.

I'm really looking forward to today.  I have so much to be thankful for, being alive one of them.  According to Dr. Carl, I came very close to not being here.  Getting slapped upside the head by a "widow maker" tree makes one appreciate everything just a bit more.

The only thing missing from our Bleecker Mountain Thanksgiving will be football, since we don't have cable or satellite TV.  However, I ordered The Best of Andy Williams Christmas Shows from Netflix, so all of us old farts can enjoy some nostalgic holiday music.

Yes, I begin Christmas on Thanksgiving.  That's probably from spending so many decades in retail, including running my own computer store.  I absolutely refuse to start Christmas before Thanksgiving, back then and now.

While sitting here at the table, Pam on her iPad and I on the laptop, Pam noticed something in the red pepper.  I took the top off and pulled it out.  It's a package of red pepper.  It's labeled "McCormick 1/2 teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper (optional)".  I'm not sure what to make of this, but I'm pretty sure that it wasn't supposed to be in there.  It makes me wonder what else we'll find.

Pam wanted to clean our Unabomber Cabin yesterday and summarily ordered me out of the house.  I brought my camera and snapped a few photos to show you some of the scenery along the way.

Beaver pond.

R&R Firewood, where I ordered a cord of firewood.

Bleecker's running water.  This is where we fill our drinking water jugs.

Passing by Bleecker town hall.  I love this view of the mountains on a clear day.

Another beautiful view.  I think that might be Gore Mountain way off in the distance.

Yesterday, I became aware of Carl, a guy I've known for many years through the wonders of Al Gore's internets, who will be spending Thanksgiving alone, eating hot dogs and drinking Busch beer.  His wife passed away a few years ago.  Except for his mom, Carl is pretty much alone.  We are political adversaries and dice it up quite a bit on an internet message board.  But as soon as I found out he was spending Thanksgiving alone, I invited him to spend it with us.  We wouldn't even discuss politics, I offered.  He declined, saying that he really didn't do holidays anymore and preferred his solitude.   

How sad is that.  Thanksgiving and Christmas are two of the most important days of the year to me.  It is when I reflect on my life, on what I've done and who I've done it with.  I'll recall past holidays with friends and family no longer with us, remembering the laughter, the joy, and the love.  I'll enjoy the moment, enjoy the company of who I'm with.

I'm saddened to think that there are Carls who no longer have that joy, nor want it.  I'm also saddened by the local family whose young daughter passed away due to a heart condition just a few days ago.  There will be no joy in their holiday this year, nor for years to come.

I wish you joy this Thanksgiving, and for the upcoming holiday season.  I don't care if you're spending it with family, or with strangers at a senior center, take a moment to be thankful for your life and those lives that you've impacted, and be thankful for those who have influenced your own life.  Be grateful for what you have, for what you've been given, and for what you can give, no matter how large or how small.

Happy Thanksgiving to the love of my life, Pamela.  I'm so grateful we found each other.  Happy Thanksgiving to my daughter Becky, her husband Rick, and to my ex-wife Jahnn who will all be spending Thanksgiving with my crazy cousins Dan, Maureen, Erin, and Tom and their spouses and kids.  

And finally, a big thank you to Abraham Lincoln, who declared that Thanksgiving be set aside as a special holiday 150 years ago, while the nation was embroiled in a terrible civil war.  It is hard to imagine living in a time of war and hardship, and yet pausing to give thanks for what they had.  Abraham was an amazing guy.  Thanks, Abe.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Let It Snow!

One thing that Pam and I were looking forward to by moving back home to upstate New York was snow.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I dislike the stuff.  I hate driving in it, and shoveling it.  But from now until Christmas, it's just so darn purty.

When I was a kid growing up in the 50s and 60s, snow was never a problem.  We always had a white Christmas, with the snow starting to fly by Thanksgiving.  It hasn't been that way for a number of years, thanks to Al Gore's global warming.  But here in Bleecker, we have just enough latitude and just enough altitude that it doesn't seem to be an issue.

This was the view out the door yesterday.

So what's the deal with the screen door?  The frost heaves have it stuck there, partially open.  Nope, you can't close it, and you can't open it more.  I suppose I could take it off its hinges, but where would I put it?  That looks like a good place to store it to me.  Just walk around it.

Chevy, our Connecticut dog, doesn't seem to be liking snow too much.  When we let the dogs out to play, he's always the first one back in.  Surprisingly,  Olivia, our Georgia German Shorthaired Pointer, loves being outside, and the snow is no bother to her.

The view inside our wood shed.  Yep, we're getting pretty low on wood.  Yesterday, I stopped by R&R firewood on route 309 and ordered a cord, which will easily last us for the next month that we're here.  If not for my limited activities, I would have cut much more wood than we did.  If we were here for the full winter, we'd need five or six full cords to see us through.  A cord measures four feet wide, four feet high, and eight feet long.   What you see there is maybe a week's worth of wood, about a face cord.

Our "driveway".

Once the dogs are in for the night, they curl up on various pieces of furniture.  This is the dog couch.  They seem to like the dog couch.  It's rare that all three dogs share it though.

The cats seem to prefer our table.  Especially Leo Pard.

Today we're forecast for anything from rain to snow, from a little to a lot.  Right now, at 6:45 AM, it's 34 degrees, so I'm guessing that we missed the big snowfall and will get mostly rain.  It will be a yucky day.  A good day to chill, watch movies, and play on Al Gore's internets.  I might even research a bit about Al Gore's global warming.  These temperature swings are interesting.

5-Day Forecast for Bleecker, New York

Today: Rain/Snow, High: 39 F, Low: 19 F

Tomorrow: AM Snow Showers/Wind, High: 22 F, Low: 12 F

Friday: Partly Cloudy, High: 23 F, Low: 7 F

Saturday: Partly Cloudy, High: 24 F, Low: 19 F

Sunday: Cloudy, High: 35 F, Low: 25 F

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and we're having a few folks over for dinner.  I need to run off the mountain to fill a propane tank to make sure we don't run out halfway through cooking it.  Our little Unabomber gas stove runs off propane tanks, the same as you use for your gas grill.  Why don't we have a regular propane tank?  Because a propane truck could never navigate our Unabomber driveway.  Even the firewood guy was concerned about getting up and down it, and he has a four wheel drive truck.  I shamed him into it, though, when I told him that I do it with our Kia.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Snow Storm?

We have interesting weather coming.  Some forecasts say it will be just rain.  Others say it will be snow, sleet and freezing rain.  Others say a few inches of snow.  One says we're going to get hammered with snow.  When?  Well, Tuesday.  No wait, Wednesday.  No, no... Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

In other words, who knows?  The guys at the Bleecker weather center aren't too much on the ball.

All I knew is that I needed to fix the flat tire on Bessie the Tractor and move her from our property to our rental Unabomber Cabin.  We have a parking area by the road, and then it's downhill, down a long muddy or icy driveway to our cabin.  First, I moved the Buick from the landing to down by the cabin to make room for the tractor.

Nice looking car for a '98, eh?  It belonged to an elderly friend of ours who lived aboard her boat at Isle of Hope Marina in Savannah, as did we.  Only 71,000 miles, in very nice shape, with all the bells and whistles.  This is our Sunday go to meetin' car.  No dawgs allowed.

Next, Bessie.  I got over to our property and removed the front wheel with the flat from the tractor.  I then hied myself to Tractor Supply and bought a new tube, 5.5" x 16".  Back up the mountain where Earl and I swapped out the tube.  We used Earl's small backhoe to break the bead.  The whole process took less than an hour.  Then it was back to the tractor, mount the wheel, and I drove it the mile to our rental cabin and parked it on the landing.

Kind of a contrast in vehicles there, eh?  That's Pam's Miata, which will be going into storage very shortly.

This is our "driveway".  I decided to park the tractor up on the landing so my first pass with the back blade will be downhill.  I don't have chains, so I might not be able to plow uphill.

The driveway then goes back uphill to the Unabomber Cabin.  

My last job for the day was to fix the stove pipe.  The woodstove's chimney never drew very well.  I blamed that on the fact that it is long, and has three 90 degree bends.  But Earl came over with a ladder the other day and we cleaned the chimney.  The cap was plugged solid with creosote, so half the smoke was coming out of the bottom of the outside chimney.

The bottom?   Yep.  Actually, the bottom was missing.  Rusted away, I presume.  So the smoke would work its way from the inside to the outside where the draw stopped, and the smoke went up a little and down a little. 

The right way to fix it would be to replace it, but we're only here for another month, and then (hopefully) we head south in R/V Drift Away.

If you look carefully, you can see my elegant solution.  You can also see that it is working very well, as the chimney is smoking like a... chimney.

Don't worry.  I wrapped wire around the aluminum foil to hold it in place.

Do any of you take photos instead of notes? 

 My handwriting is awful.  I should have been a doctor.  Sometimes I look at my notes and not even I know what the heck it is that I'm writing about.  It's easier to take a photo of what I need.   In this case, I need to know the size of the back tire on my tractor so I can buy chains.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Bitter Cold, Fixing Things, Getting Shorter

It was cold yesterday.  It was 12 degrees when I got up at 5 AM, but then the temperature dropped to 10 degrees by 7 AM.  Pam went to work for the 5 AM shift so one of my duties was to feed Jeremiah the Horse.

I waited until 8 AM when I had good daylight.   It had warmed back up to 12 degrees.  I started the old Buick and while I was letting it warm up a bit to defrost the snow and ice on the windshield, I fetched firewood for the woodstove.   I filled two gallon jugs of hot water and I was off to Judi and Earl's.

The horse's water bucket freezes, of course, so I figure that putting hot water in it will at least keep it unfrozen for a little while.  I gave him his pellets, a few treats, and a half a bale of hay.

Back at the Unabomber Cabin, I set the two plastic water jugs on the table and was amused by this.

After dumping out the hot water, I screwed the cap back on, sealing the bottle.  The hot air inside super cooled in the 12 degree air, collapsing the bottles.  Yeah, I hear you.  It doesn't take much to amuse me.

I decided it was time to fix Pam's brand new Jonsered chainsaw.  We bought it over the summer and used it for only a few hours when it quit.  Chainsaws have pretty simple engines, and since it quit so abruptly, it had to be the coil.  Even though it was under warranty, I ordered a new coil online for $20.  I didn't want to deal with all the paperwork at Tractor Supply.

I gave the saw a few pulls and it sputtered, so I think it's fixed.

I don't put things away in the kitchen much.  Pam always does that so that she can find things when she cooks.  I do the dishes, so the only thing I know about our kitchen is where the dishes go.  There was a bottle of Clorox sitting on the floor, so I thought I'd put it in a cabinet.  I opened the doors below the sink, and sitting there was a five gallon bucket under the drain, just like there was in the bathroom to catch the leak there.  I fixed that one, but I didn't know about this one.  I should have guessed.

The bucket was overflowing, so I bailed it out partly.  Not having anything crappy to put the scummy water in, I used my beer cooler.

The more astute of you will look at the photo below and recognize the problem.

Even in Bleecker, water doesn't run uphill.  I sorted that out, but it still leaks a bit.  The vertical drainpipe doesn't line up under the trap properly, just like in the bathroom.  I'll fix it the same way I did there, by installing a flexible pipe.  It's a minor job.  I only need to remember to buy a new pipe when I'm off the mountain.  I'm not making a special trip just for that.

In the cute puppy pic of the day category, I present Olivia, snoozed out on the dog bed.

Some of you have been inquiring as to my recovery after my neck breaking tree-on-the-head accident.  It's OK.  As the doctor suggested, I'm slowly easing back into things.  My only problems are limited movement turning my head side to side, which really only impacts driving and looking at intersections, so I do that slowly and deliberately.

The top half of my right foot is still numb, and that really only affects my driving.  I can't feel the gas pedal, and so its difficult to gauge how much pressure I'm applying to it.  Picture jackrabbit starts here.  Once I'm underway, things are a little better.  I've always braked with my left foot, so stopping isn't an issue.

The biggest problem is my right hand.  My thumb and index finger are 90% numb.  I have difficulty doing simple things like buttoning my shirt, picking up small things like screws, and picking up light things like potato chips, and typing (I was a 50 WPM touch typist).  I've been doing most of these things with my left hand which is inconvenient, since I'm right handed, but not a big deal really.

I suffered a concussion.  Getting whacked by a tree can do that.  The doctors at Albany Med were amazed that I didn't have a headache after the accident.  I'm a thick headed Pollack, so no surprise there.  I do seem to have a slight bit of trouble concentrating though.  That's something I was very good at and served me well during my computer programming days.  I could shut out distractions and totally focus on what I was doing.

Perhaps the most interesting thing happened when I went for one of my doctor's visits.  They weighed me.  I hopped on the scale and set the weights for 187 pounds.  The scale didn't move.  The nurse played with the weights.

"175", she said.

175?  I've been 187 for a long, long time, and I'd spent the past two months sitting and doing nothing.  I've had a loss of appetite, and I guess that and muscle atrophy has made me thinner.  That's a heck of a way to lose weight.

Then they measured my height.   I'm 6' tall, and have been since high school.

"5 feet 10 inches", she said.

"What?  No.  I'm 6 feet tall", I said boastfully.

She checked it again.

"Actually,  you're 5 feet 9 3/4" tall."

Getting hit square on the head with a tree has made me two inches shorter.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Saturday Was A Work Day

My morning started out with this.  I stepped outside to go to the woodshed and found this big hole dug by Olivia.

The problem is that she dug it the night before when the temps were mild and the ground was soft.  In the morning it was cold and the ground was frozen.  I couldn't fill it back in until later in the day when the ground thawed again.

Then it was off to our property to cut firewood.  The lock to Todd the Trailer was frozen and I couldn't get in to get my log roller, gasoline, or two cycle oil.  I had left a bottle of pre-mixed gasoline and a bottle of chain lube outside so I could still cut a little wood, three chainsaw tank's worth.

Ruby watched what we were doing with keen interest, and then decided to help.  She started dragging wood out of the woodpile. Olivia watched and thought it looked like fun.

Back at the Unabomber Cabin, Pam split while I tried to fill the hole and stack split wood in the woodshed.

At one point, Pam said "Come look at this!"

In the pic above, the log on the bottom is our splitting log.  It's been there for a couple of months, and we set logs to be split on it.  The top log I cut today.  It's a match.  Pam just happened to set it there just right.

Our dogs love to "help".  They watched me pick up the split wood and stack it in the woodshed.  Olivia and Ruby have a pile of their own going.

The bar on my chainsaw was so worn that I couldn't make a straight cut.  Earl had a bar off an old chainsaw that was the right size, but wouldn't fit.   Time to go to Earl's house.  The temps were now above freezing, so I stopped at Todd the Trailer, unlocked it, and fetched the butane lighter inside and placed it outside.  The next time I need to get in the trailer and the lock is frozen, I'll be able to thaw it out.  At Earl's, the master machinist, made the bar fit by milling the slot and drilling a new oil hole.

After a couple of victory beers with Earl, Pam came home after riding Jeremiah the Horse in a team sorting event.  They did well, coming in second.  Back home, it was dinner and a quiet evening of watching Breaking Bad on DVD, then to bed.

At 5 AM I was awakened by a ruckus downstairs.  Pam had left for work a half hour earlier. I tried to ignore it.   It was 5 AM, after all, but the noise seemed frantic, so I got up.  Sassy, our indoor cat, was outside in the 12 degree weather.  She was trying to get in the window that the animals made into a door.  I let her in, and then I heard meowing.  I opened the human door, and Leo came running in.   After I shut the door, Ruby and Chevy whined to go out, and so I let them.  In and out, in and out, in and out.   I feel like a doorman. 

Does all this really have to happen at 5 AM?

It looks like this blog will reach 50,000 hits today.   Very cool.

Today's Bleecker forecast:

Windy. Snow flurries and a few snow showers throughout the day. High around 20F. Winds NW at 25 to 35 mph. Chance of snow 30%. Winds could occasionally gust over 40 mph. 

Windy with snow showers early. Winds diminishing with clear skies later. Cold. Low near 10F. WNW winds at 20 to 30 mph, diminishing to 10 to 15 mph. Chance of snow 30%. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Prolabs Cat Tape Worm Tabs Warning

I write a lot about our dogs.  I really should include a bit about our cats too.

Meet Sassy and Leo Pard.   Sassy is scowling at Leo, who is wearing the sweater.

Sassy belonged to a good friend of ours in Norwalk.  She got into a situation where she couldn't keep Sassy in her apartment, and Sassy was stuck living in a crate at the vet's office where she works.  We were overrun with mice in our rental Unabomber Cabin, and so Sassy came to live with us.  For the record, she is a champion mouser.

Pam was in the barn feeding Jeremiah the Horse a few months ago when she heard meowing from up in the loft.  The next thing she knew, Mr. Pard was on her shoulder, purring up a storm.  The next thing I knew, we had another cat.  Leo is also a champion mouser, birder, and anything else that moves that is small.

So what's the deal with the sweater?  I used to take Ruby to work with me every day from the time when she was a small puppy.  The furnace broke and I only had a small electric heater, so I bought that sweater for Ruby.  She hated wearing it, but soon outgrew it anyway.  Pam happened to find it in the dogs' toy box and put it on Leo.  Leo was less than pleased, as you can see, but he was a good sport and let Pam put it on.

Catching so many mice, Sassy caught a bad case of tape worms.  I picked up this bottle of tape worm pills at our local Tractor Supply.  The bottle comes with three pills.  Pam and I looked everywhere on the bottle and the instructions inside.   Amazingly, there was no dosage instructions.  Anywhere.

Pam ground up one pill in a bit of canned cat food, a real treat that our cats never get.  Like the dogs, they get dry food.  The next day, we were debating whether to give Sassy another pill.  Three pills, one a day?  I decided to google the company, but the print on the bottle was so small that I couldn't read the company's name.  Lacking a magnifying glass, I took a photo of the bottle and blew it up.  Prolabs.  I then googled for instructions, and what I found was very unsettling.  The dosage is one pill.  That's it.  And actually, if your cat is four pounds or less, the dosage is a half a pill.  If your cat contracts worms again, you have to wait 30 days before the next dose.  Otherwise, your cat will overdose and possibly die.

I didn't find this information on the Prolabs website.  I found it on an internet message board, where someone posted who actually called the company.  I'm not the only one outraged.  Many people are.

How can a drug company be so careless?  So incompetent?  So... stupid?

Tape worms are common in cats that eat mice, since many mice have tape worms.  It is also easily spread to other animals through feces.  I wonder how many pets have been lost due to poor instructions on medications?

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Overnighter

Those of you who heat with wood know what an "overnighter" is.   To those who do not, it is a big fat chunk of unsplit wood that will burn for hours.  Well, last night it was predicted to get cold here.  I'm actually typing this at 2:15 AM on Thursday morning and our overnighter is snuffed.  It went out.  It didn't burn. It is 16 degrees outside, and 60 inside our cozy little Unabomber Cabin.

In order for an overnighter to burn, the stove has to have a lot of coals and a good draft.  Our stove has a problem with draft.  Not only is there about 20 feet of stove pipe, but it has three 90 degree bends, one coming out of the stove, one going through the wall of the cabin, and one outside of the cabin.  Done properly, there would be no bends at all, and the stove pipe would rise directly out of the stove and go straight up through the roof.

But that's not how it was done, so we have to deal with it.

In government news, I had a telephone call on Friday telling me that I had to appear in Albany on Monday the 18th for a social security disability physical.  I've been retired anyway, but as part of my being hit on the head with a tree and having no insurance fiasco, Albany Medical Center wanted me to apply for disability, which means I would be covered by Medicare, which ordinarily you have to be 65 to receive.  I'm 63.  If you are disabled, you can apparently qualify for Medicare at a younger age, retroactively.  Since I always play by the rules, I went.

When I arrived at the designated doctor's office, the receptionist asked me for my paperwork.  What paperwork?  The paperwork I was mailed.  Well, I didn't receive any paperwork.  The indignant receptionist handed me paperwork to fill out, which I did, and I had my two minute physical.  No, I have no idea what the verdict is on this.

In yesterday's mail, on Wednesday the 20th, I had a letter from social security telling me about my appointment on the 18th and with forms to fill out.  It was post marked the 18th.  Yes, correct.  My letter telling me that I had a doctor's appointment on the 18th was mailed on the 18th.

And people have their panties in a twist over  Cripe, forget technology and Al Gore's Internets, the government can't even get Ben Franklin's US mail right.

I guess they must still be working the bugs out.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Meet Fat Albert

Pam's mom, Judi, has an unspayed female Chihuahua.  Then she bought a Chorkie, half Chihuahua and half Yorkshire Terrier.  He wasn't neutered yet.  Before Judi knew it, Abby the Chihuahua was pregnant.  Five weeks ago, Fat Albert was born.

Albert needs to be weaned.  Abby, Albert's mom, isn't as attentive as she used to be.  Albert doesn't seem to really care for this eating food thing at all.

All three of our dogs were fascinated with Albert.  What is it?  It looks like a dog... but it's little.

I have to wonder what poor Albert thought of Chevy, our pit bull.

Olivia took a very special interest in Albert.  She'd get up close to Albert, and if Albert moved, Olivia would freak and run away.  Eventually though, her motherly instincts won out and she decided that Albert needed protecting.

As I write this on Tuesday evening,  Olivia and Albert are snuggled together.

Animals are fascinating, aren't they?