The Air We Breath & The Demise of a Tree

Our normally excellent air in the Pacific Northwest has been polluted by all the forest fires burning throughout the state. There is ash raining down everywhere and breathing is at your own risk.

That isn’t a complaint – it’s a simple fact. Although the air in St. Helens is compromised, we are not dealing with the threat of evacuation due to fires as are many, many areas of the state. Last night fire fighters were close to losing the historic Multnomah Falls Lodge in the Columbia River Gorge due to a fire started by a 15-year-old child playing with fireworks. The lodge was saved but the fire remains un-contained as I write. In the blink of an eye this fire, named Eagle Creek, has consumed well over 10,000 acres of forest in the gorge and has caused closure of I-84, the main freeway artery from Portland through the gorge. Closure is from Troutdale to Hood River.

It’s a mess. I’d say visibility is less than a mile at our house.

Regarding the tree … it’s the tree that participated in our power outage during the last wind storm we had in December 2015.

Some more of it fell off the tree a week or so ago so the power company decided it was time for that tree to bite the big one and sent Asplundh over to take care of it. It was a two day job.

After cutting off, and grinding up all the limbs, they were about to haul it all away and dump it some place. I only begged and pleaded for a short time before the foreman decided that we could keep the residue which we intend to scatter all over the place around the house. Now we don’t have to buy bark dust.

Actually, I didn’t have to beg at all. They were glad to leave it for us.

 

Happy Independence Day – 2017

Greetings Fellow Earth Dwellers. It’s another glorious day in the neighborhood, the kind that makes it OK to get up early, even if you don’t want to. On this day I was compelled to arise at 0430 because the little dog decided it was time. The last few days, since returning from our vacation, he waiting until 0500 precisely. I swear he wears a tiny little wrist watch with an alarm. It’s amazing.

Just like all previous years, beginning a couple of days before the 4th, many of our neighbors find it necessary ignite extremely loud fireworks well into the night. We expect it. The dogs hate it and would like to run down and have a word or two with whoever is holding the igniters. Apparently the city police view such events as normal, and accepted, because we never see them converging on the offenders, even when they lite off rockets that spew sparks all over the place, including over the dry hay-field next to our property. And it’s the same folks every year.

Now, having shared all that, I’ve got another story about a fire I started, legally, on June 30th. That was the last day for open burning in the county and I’ve been putting it off. Being the last day kinda prompted me to get busy and make it go away.

I took my handy little propane torch down there, after stringing my longest hose to the pile of debris. I’ve always used matches in the past then decided to try the torch with the last pile and found it to be much more convenient because it’s got an igniter on it. Pretty handy. When I touched it to the pile it went up pretty quickly and spread to the entire burn pile in a matter of seconds. I hadn’t planned for it to be as big as it got, but I had it under control with my water hose so just let it go. After it died down a bit, I went up on the porch to watch it and visit with our Niece Maryssa who was visiting from Salem where she spending the summer in a test marriage with her boyfriend who lives with his parents. Maryssa is a Senior at Eastern Oregon University in La Grande, Oregon so we don’t see her much. It’s great to visit with her. I spend at least one evening talking with her and Granddaughter Lydia just like I was one of the girls. The entire time I feared they would talk about stuff I probably wouldn’t want to discuss, but they didn’t, so it was all good.

As I sat there visiting, Keith, a young firefighter, came walking into the back yard and reported that I had to put my fire out because the burn ban was ending at midnight. It was about 4:30 pm at the time, and dusk was hours away so I reported that I was legal because the “Burn Line” (503) 397-4800 told me that June 30th was the last burn day and open burning was allowed in the county for folks who had a current burn permit. My fire qualified so burn it did.

Being a good citizen, and knowing Keith was just doing the job he was told to do, I went down to man my garden hose while he went to his truck to unreel a couple hundred feet of hose after connect the truck to the fire hydrant that is conveniently located at the corner of our property. As we hosed down the pile I asked why I had to put out my fire when the burn line said it was legal and he said, “We’ve had phone calls … “, an unfinished sentence.

“OK,” I said, “so I burn legally and someone in town calls to complain so you come out to put my fire  out?”, or words to that effect. He didn’t respond to that so I prodded a little harder suggesting that whoever called knew the Fire Chief. He denied that, of course, and said, “No, some fires have already gotten out of control, and the burn ban ends at dusk.” I noted the change of the ban ending at dusk instead of midnight, his first choice, but didn’t say anything. He also said”the chief said …” a number of times that so I just left it alone.

The Chief Said.

Since I used to be a Chief, a Navy Chief, I understood the concept about “The Chief Said”. It’s law and doesn’t require any explanation. Just do it. So he did. And he did a great job. He blew my fire all apart, even thought it was barely burning when he arrived, and sprayed it all down with foam when there was no more smoke coming off the embers. I acknowledged that I doubt that that pile would burn any time before next year at the earliest.

Then, regarding phone calls to the fire department, I said, “you think you got phone calls now, wait until they build those 77 new houses in the field adjacent to our property. When I burn then you’ll probably get tons of calls.” He said, “It’s OK if you have a valid burn permit.” I let that rest a bit before replying, “I have a valid burn permit for the one we’re destroying.” Keith had no response because he knew I was correct, but, The Chief Said.

Finally he was done and told me “The Chief Said you need to have a 3 foot bare dirt perimeter around the debris to ensure it doesn’t re-start.” Looking at my destroyed burn pile which had been soaked with probably 200 plus gallons of water, maybe more, I thought it was unlikely it would ever burn again.

He wound his hose up and departed well before the Dusk ban and I went to work creating the perimeter as directed. Diane made me quit after I made one circuit of the pile because, well, it was just time to quit. Now the plan it to get the old truck down to the pile, scoop up the residue, and just let it resume to be just another part of the field I mow. Works for me because keeping track of the burn pile is a pain.

For today’s festivities at our house, I made potato salad and will be BBQing pork ribs this afternoon sometime. I have to be down at the docks at 2:00 pm to ring in the 4th using the bell in the Columbia River Warrior Rock replica located near the gazebo in front of the old court house in St. Helens. All I have to do is ring it 13 times for the original 13 colonies. It’s a yearly thing done by the American Legion Post 42 of which I’m a member. It’s kinda cool to be part of that.

Now I must go put on some clothes and ready myself for the task.

Hope everyone has a safe 4th.

Old Friends, Zip Ties, and Bubble Wrap

7 lbs of hair from Diane’s tub drain. By my calculations, she should have been bald somewhere around May 14th. But, she’s not because it just keeps growing back.

Mowed all 7 acres. Took three hours. Bagged it all.

The Crossfire gave me some difficulty yesterday. I went golfing, didn’t do very well, but stayed under 60, then we went to Burgerville for lunch. Diane said I could go. In fact, she encouraged me to go. So, I did. I invited her to join us, of course, but instead she went to a more upscale facility, The Warren Country Inn, for a sit down lunch with Nancy. They worked hard all morning at the church so they certainly earned it. None of the golfers were invited.

I was a little late arriving at Burgerville so Doug and JP were already sitting, waiting for their food. I got in line and determined that I recognized the guy in front of me as someone I knew from PGE. In fact, I knew both guys waiting in front of me. To my never-ending humblement (yes that’s a word I just made up), they both remembered me, too. Lonnie and Tom from Facilities, the department that is currently managed by my friend Fred with whom I worked in IT as a desktop tech for most of 20 years. Turns out Tom and Lonnie were just passing through on a job and stopped for lunch. It was good to visit with them and catch up a bit on what’s happening at PGE since I left 10 years ago. Small world stuff gets me excited.

Here’s Tom, Lonnie, and me.

After lunch I jumped in the Crossfire to head home, but it wouldn’t start. The motor turned over nicely, but it wouldn’t fire. So, I raised the hood so Doug and I could just stand there looking at the engine, neither of us having a clue about what was causing the problem. We took a lot of guesses, none of which were projects we could do in the Burgerville parking lot.

So, I called Triple A to have it towed home. I was told it would take an hour for the tow truck to get there so Doug and I just visited. After a while, I decided to see if anything had changed and tried to start it again. To my surprise, it fired right up, but the Engine warning light stayed on. Having some minimal experience with causes for Engine warning lights that don’t go out, I pondered a bit, trying to recall some of the easy ones, like a gas cap that isn’t properly secured. Actually, that was the only one I remembered.

Since it was running, I called AAA back and cancelled the tow truck and headed home. Doug followed me in case it quit on me during the short trip. He’s a good friend. I made it OK and shooed Doug away so he could go home and get busy on some of the projects he has going on there. He lives on 85 acres on the top of a hill above Scappoose so he has projects all the time.

Curious about what the Crossfire computer might tell me about the problem with the Engine warning light, I searched and searched for my ODB II code reader. I searched the entire house and finally found it on the tray sitting about 14 inches from my right elbow. I actually looked there first, but didn’t remove enough layers to uncover it.

With the code reader in hand, I went to the car to plug it in and see what it might tell me. After a while I returned to the house, and my computer, to search the internet for information about where the ODB II port is on a Crossfire. Should have checked first, right? Right.

Back to the car, I connected the reader and stepped it through all the discovery steps and it came up with no news. So, I started the engine with it attached and it promptly popped up with P0337, the code for the Crankshaft Position Sensor which is identified as the CKP, which I don’t get. It should be CPS. Acronyms should make sense, don’t you think?

On my computer I found a lot of information about the CKP … how to find it, remove it, and replace it. Finding it was essential, I thought, so I did that first. It’s actually right in plain sight so I was pleasantly surprised. Nothing to dismantle to gain access. It is, however, in a tight spot which makes it difficult to remove the wire from the sensor without destroying the plug. Following detailed instructions, I managed to get the wire and cap off the sensor and knew I could get the sensor out with no problem. There was a strong warning about making sure to not lose the screw holding the sensor in place because when it falls it goes to an inaccessible part of the car. Not willing to test that theory right then, I replaced the wire on the sensor and put my tools away.

Then, for some reason, I started the engine. Perhaps it was to just make sure it still ran in case I might have to make a run to Urgent Care for some reason. I have a bicycle that works nicely, but I’d rather drive when that need arises because it’s much quicker. Anyway, the engine started just fine, and the Engine light didn’t stay on. I stopped and started the engine a number of times and it never stayed on. So, apparently, removing the wire from the sensor and putting it back on was the solution. Didn’t cost me a dime. Fixed. This is day 2 and it’s still staying off, so I’m calling this a win. I love solutions like that. Now I’m thinking that maybe I should work my way through the entire car unplugging and plugging all the connectors to avoid possible future weird things. Then again, I don’t think I want to engage in that much work. There’s a ton of plugs under the hood and most of them have names written in German because the car, although it’s a Chrysler, is made in Germany.

This morning I was up at 0500 for the marking dogs, but only for about half an hour. Then I assumed my napping position on the sofa until 0830 or so. Then it was time to put on some outdoor clothing and make a trip to the Kozy for coffee with the guys. I got there right on time, but there weren’t any familiar vehicles parked in our normal spot, so I just lurked for a while, then went home because I had yard work to finish.

You may remember that I buzzed the entire yard but it was so tall there was no way I could vacuum the mess, or use the mulching blades. Today, as anticipated, it being 80 degrees and all, the mown grass was nice and dry, weighing next to nothing. Before I could begin, however, I tackled the project of putting my grass catcher, and associated parts, back together, and tightening some nuts and bolts so it would mow better. I’ve run into a few trees these last 10 years causing the catcher cover to be hanging by a thread. Well, actually it was hanging together by two zip ties. Yes, just two of them. I’ve known for a while now that it needed many more to avoid the need to haul it back to the house when it fell off in the field somewhere.

So, I grabbed a hand full of zip ties, my drill, and went to work. Here’s the end product and it’s just as sturdy as a new unit.

The discharge chute was a mess, too. Up until yesterday it was held together, kinda, with duct tape, but it wasn’t working any more. In addition to stitching up the seam, I pop riveted the two parts of the tube together because the little rubber stretchy things it came with broke a long time ago and Sears doesn’t seem to sell those parts.

I even made creative use of some bubble wrap to keep the grass from blowing out of the catcher onto my back from the hole I previously plugged with a nice towel that was converted to many little towels as reported in a previous post.

Once it was all put together, I got busy sucking up all that grass I chopped down the other day, and it went very nicely. I was pleased. I only had to empty the catcher about 10 times. That’s 30 catcher bags of grass and it’s still nice and solid. It should last me another 10 years.

Now I’m officially tired.

How to make little tiny rags

I’m pretty confident that many of you, like me, have often wondered what would happen if, when mowing your lawn, a towel, normally used for drying off wet dog feet, that was being used to seal the hole around the grass pickup tube, magically fell down the chute and got all tangled up in the mower blades.

First, it makes the entire machine buck and jump like it’s going to tear itself apart, then, if you continue to run the mower deck, friction will ignite it which creates an unsettling amount of smoke from both the mower deck, and the discharge bags. Actually, it never really ignited … it just created a lot of smoke.

It’s quite exciting.

Here’s the resultant product …

I figure I can just little rags like this for a lot of projects around here. Getting them back into shape will require a washing, however, and I’m not sure Diane would be a fan of tackling that project. I might have to take it all to the laundromat. Or maybe just soak it all in a bucket for a few days and just lay the pieces out to dry.

For those of you wondering what Jeff brought me for my birthday, the suspense is over …

My new shirt and a pair of imogee jammie bottoms. Diane was very happy because the legs are long enough to reach the floor. I have another pair that don’t. The last time I wore them she said, “whenever you want to make me laugh, wear those.” They fit a little like pedal pushers. Remember those? Anyway, I love my new clothes.

Diane took her Mom, Jean, to the doctor today and she got a clean bill of health, all things considered. She doesn’t need to see him for another year. Pretty good for 89. I should be so healthy.

When Diane returned from Portland cooked up some more hamburgers. I was trusted with a knife to slice the tomato and chop up the last bit of shallot remaining in the fridge. Diane doesn’t eat them so I got all of it. There was enough to make about an 1/8th inch layer which I imbedded in the mayo on the bottom part of the bun, then put the meat over the top so none of the pieces fell out. It’s very important to me that shallots don’t escape from the bun while eating a hamburger. Most of the time that’s not a problem because I usually have onions. They always fall out.

Now I must flush the grass residue so I don’t make the house unbreathable for Diane. She went to Wal-Mart to get a new kitchen clock to replace the one she got in 1974 at a Copper Ware party in Pensacola, Florida. It’s been around for a while. Now it’s going to be a picture frame. Maybe.

The dogs are barking so Diane’s home. She’s been gone about an hour but they think it’s been days.

Later …

Happy Birthday Jeff & Other Stuff

He’s 45, but he’s still our baby boy. He will always be that and I think he’s OK with it. Now.

Jeff was born this day in 1972, in Rome, Italy. Consequently, his birth certificate is in Italian. Unique. When he started playing Little League we thought it may pose a problem, but no one seemed to mind. Apparently all those official could read Italian, or they didn’t care. He got to play which was all that mattered to us.

Jeff has made our life interesting over the last 45 years. Lots of memories, some good, some bad. Oddly, the good memories are easier to remember so it’s all good. We love our Little Baby Boy who has grown into a good man and a well-loved father. There’s more in store from him in the future, we’re sure.

Today I had really good intentions of digging up the rest of those weeds that inhabit the east side of the house, but that didn’t work out. The weather got in my way by turning up the heat. To about 117 degrees. That’s a lie, of course, but it sure felt like it. It really was 90, or so, thought. As I manipulate this keyboard it’s 85 out there and it’s 7:00 pm. Actually, it’s 7:04 pm.

I didn’t do the weeds because Diane said I wasn’t doing it when it’s 90 out there because she doesn’t want me to die, I guess. As a compromise, I got permission to mow the yard which doesn’t require a lot of physical effort. Just steering the mower which is pretty easy to do when the tires are properly inflated.

To prepare for mowing the yard, I lifted the front end of the mower off the ground to more easily access the mower deck so I could swap out the mulching blades for the hi-vac version. That needed to be done because the lower 40 is too tall to run mulching blades. Instead, I plan to just blow it out all over the place, let it dry, then vacuum it up. Much easier than trying to get the stupid thing to vacuum up heavy grass. Much easier on Jerrie.

Once I get the mulching blades off I thought, “you know, I should clean the old grass off the deck before putting on the other blades.” Yes, I actually thought all of that in one coherent sentence. So, I took the mower to the front of the house, got the power washer, changed the short water hose for the longer one so it would reach across the street, went to the gas station to fill my gas can, filled the power washer, and cleaned the deck. Whew. Then I just left it over there to dry.

While waiting I thought, “gee, I might as well finish power washing the front walk. I’d both ends un touched from the other day because Diane usually likes to do a little PWing herself, but not today. I was directed to finish the job, which I did. That and a little more. Not much more. Just a little.

While working on the sidewalk I only had to stop twice. Once when Doug showed up and I did some work for the American Legion Post 42 at his request, then again when Jennie appeared, looking for addresses. She’s working on Lydia’s graduation announcements. Maybe you’ll get one.

After all that, it was time for lunch but I couldn’t eat until I cleaned up. That meant a shower because I was a mess. Since I had to take a shower, my work day was officially over so I put on the PJ’s Jeff gave me last Saturday, in addition to the apple fritter, and called it a day.

While in the shower Diane constructed a Crab Louie for us. We love those things. She was well into hers by the time I showed up because she said she’d given me to 4:00 pm to finish before she started because she was hungry. I don’t blame her because while I was messing around outside, she cleaned the entire inside of the house. That’s the deals with all the dust and pet hair inside and I deal with anything that’s green and grows.

After lunch I took the trash and recycle cans out front so they can be emptied tomorrow. I took the dogs out with me because I knew they’d stay close. They got all interested in the fermenting grass I’d cleaned from the mower deck, to the point where Ziva was laying down in it. Diane poked her head out the door and asked, “What are they eating?” I didn’t know they were eating it, but they were. Must be tasty stuff, but I certainly wouldn’t do that. It was pretty nasty looking. All squishy, rotting, and just plain nasty. It was like silage. And they were eating it. Maybe they are mutated cows that look like dogs.

It wasn’t easy getting them away from their new-found treats, but I did it. I knew they wouldn’t let me brush their teeth because I’ve tried it before, so I didn’t bother. I just won’t be kissing them any time soon. No sir, not me.

Now I must stop and watch the Golden State Warriors finish the destruction of the San Antonio Spurs. I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s just the way it is. The Spurs are a really good team, but they can’t stay with the Warriors. They have a 67-15 win loss record this season. Not too bad.

Now I must stop.

Prom and a Party

Yesterday was Prom Night for St. Helens High School kids, the time of year when girls get new dresses and boys get new ideas because of the new dresses. Every year the cycle repeats. This year our Lydia, a senior, chose to observe this special event by avoiding the boy/girl drama by going with 9 of her friends. She did, however, invite her brother, Jeran, a Junior, and the family’s foreign exchange student, Ahmed, who is from Pakistan. So, it was 10 girls and two boys who were, I have no doubt, the envy of every other boy who attended. Avoiding the dating drama for most of her High School career has allowed her to focus on school work and sports. For her, and her friends, the drama is something that can wait because it will always be there.

So, here’s the crowd who reportedly had a terrific time. I only know a few of their names so will have to make something up for those I don’t know. On the left is Jeran, then a cute little red-headed girl in a white dress, a cute blonde in a purple dress, Maryssa, Lexi, a cute brunette in an aqua dress, Fiona, Lydia, a cute girl in a jacket, Ceierra, another cute girl in a white dress, and Ahmed. Good looking bookends for ten lovely young ladies. This photo was taken in front of the Midway Veterinarian Hospital in Warren, Oregon where Jennifer works. She’s Mom to Jeran, Lydia, Ahmed, and some times Ceierra, and had to work so they blessed her with a drive-by on their way to Portland. How cool is that?

 

Ahmed, Lydia, Jeran

Jeran , Lydia, Ahmed

I can’t go through those names again so refer back to the first photo …

We’re proud of our young adults and the values they embrace. In case any of you are wondering where those last three photos were taken, it was at Cathedral Park, which is under the eastern end of the St. Johns Bridge, which spans the Willamette River, which courses through down town Portland. Another interesting thing about Cathedral Park is that it’s where the Library resides in the TV Series, “The Librarians”. Watching that show gives folks an opportunity to see bits and pieces of Portland. “Grim” gives you more but, sadly, that show ended recently.

This afternoon, after church, we had a party at the house for Baylee who is going to be celebrating her birthday on April 30th. We had the party today because Diane and I won’t be home and we wanted to have fun, too. It was a simple affair with a herd of little girls running all over the house having a great time. There is one little guy, Donny, in the front row next to Baylee, but he wasn’t there for the festivities, just the photo-op.

They had a piñata, a Hello Kitty piñata, that took them a long time to destroy because I was in charge of the rope. Everyone had a good time and had a chance to take a whack at it, even the big kids. Here’s what was left of it. It was on the stake for just a short time before a short person grabbed it and made a gallant effort to destroy it by hand.

This is Eilena, a little girl Lydia babysits who many folks thinks is her daughter, which she finds adorable. Eilena (I’m guessing at the spelling) is like a Lydia Mini-me. I had to take this photo because Eilena managed to get cupcake frosting all over her face without ever attempting to take a bite of the cupcake. She dipped her fingers in the frosting one hand at a time, cleaning the fingers of one hand while the other was dipping up a little more frosting. Economy of motion. Smart kid.

Here’s Baylee, Gilligan, and Jerrie on their way home after the party. I think the smiles are a good indication that things went well. The candy didn’t hurt at all in swaying that good feeling to the positive side.

Here’s Lydia and Ceierra with that cute red-head in the white dress at Cathedral Park.

This is Gilligan and Abba resting with Ziva … in the very wet grass, that I haven’t been able to mow, because it’s so wet. Did I mention the grass is wet?

And, finally, here’s a rainbow Diane and I saw yesterday. We don’t often get rainbows where we can capture both ends. Quite festive.

Now it’s getting late and time for us to head to bed. I have ‘tasks’ tomorrow and need to be alert.

Bless you all.

My Lawn Mower

Just letting you all know that it was spring in our neighborhood yesterday so I mowed the lawn. All of it. Diane timed me and said it took me an hour and ten minutes. The mulching blades were still on from last summer so I could run flat-out pretty much the entire time. I did that partly because I had no idea how much gas was in the tank because the last time I filled it was in August last year, I think. So, I just cranked it up and figured when it sputtered to a halt I might be able to get another 5-6 feet of lawn mowed as it coasted to a stop. Yes, I could have gone out and got more gas but that would have made it a lot less exciting. As it turned out, there was plenty of gas.

The real upper for this evolution was the fact that the mower cranked right up without hesitation after sitting outside all winter.

I love my mower.