Archive for September, 2011
There is (was, now) a crab-apple tree on the left side of the porch as you stand in the street and face the house. It isn’t there anymore.
For the past couple of years it has been looking increasingly wan and sickly. There are other crab-apple trees in the neighborhood, all of them approximately the same age as ours, and they all looked pretty sickly as well. So John and I concluded that the tree was probably starting to near the end of its natural life, and that we ought to deal with it before it turned from a small annoyance (sick tree) to a big problem (dead tree overhanging our porch).
Apparently if you are going to remove a tree, it is best to do so in the late summer/early fall.
Before we left for vacation, John “ringed” the tree (took an ax and cut a circle around the trunk near the base) to start to kill it and make it easier to deal with later.
A couple of days after we got back, he took a shovel and the ax and severed all of the roots that he could find.
Then last weekend we rented a chainsaw and a big truck from Home Depot, cut all of the branches off, yanked the stump out of the ground (which was a huge undertaking), piled the remains in the truck bed (it took three trips) and hauled it all off to the dump.
They weigh you coming and going when you take stuff to the dump here, so that they know how much to charge you. According to the receipts, we deposited over 1700 pounds worth of crab-apple tree in the brush and yard waste section of the dump.
That’s a lot of tree. That’s not even counting the roots which we were not able to get out of the ground.
Come spring, we will probably plant a dogwood tree in the newly empty space, and then re-do the surrounding flower beds.
About this time a week ago, John and I were on the very last leg of a backpacking vacation in Yellowstone and the Tetons with my parents. We were on day number six of a six day and five night trek around the Tetons. At that time, I was looking forward to nothing more then my first shower in a week.
(The Yellowstone portion of the vacation was a couple of days of “normal” camping and hiking while my Dad got acclimated to the change in altitude.)
When I saw we hiked around the Tetons, I mean that quite literally. We hiked around Grand Teton, Middle Teton, and South Teton.
My parents really enjoy backpacking, and have been going to backpacking trips at least once a year for quite a few years now. So sometime last year I hit upon the brilliant idea that I wanted to try it out. I wanted to see what my parents enjoyed so much about it, and also I wanted to have a chance to share a vacation with them, doing something that they love. So I proposed a backpacking vacation with them.
We started making plans, and John and got the equipment we needed and we started training for it by hiking longer and longer distances with weights (we used lot of 1 liter water bottles) in our frame packs. And I felt ready. There were some things that I felt a bit nervous about, sure, but in general I felt ready.
It turned out that I was not ready.
My parents are machines. John and I were struggling to keep up most of the time. (I can only hope that I am still as active and in share as my parents are when I am their age.)
I learned a lot about myself on the trip. I learned that while I will always enjoy car camping and day hiking in national parks (which I was introduced to by my parents over the course of many many family vacations while I was growing up), backpacking (other then maybe short, overnight trips) will never really be my thing. I like indoor plumbing a lot and I don’t like going for too long without showering or washing my hair. None of these are bad things, but I still kind of wished that I could enjoy the backpacking as much as, and in the same was, as my parents do.
And there were certainly things that I enjoyed.
We saw a lot of wildlife. There was a new beautiful vista around each bend in the trail. It was incredibly peaceful. The weather was gorgeous. I took over 1000 photos, and have (after a week) finally gotten them processed and posted them (not all of them, but a lot of them) on flickr. The Yellowstone photos are here. The Teton backpacking photos are here.
All in all, it was certainly a trip of a lifetime. I am glad that I did it. And my parents are right, there is a feeling of accomplishment and there are certain bragging rights that you get when you complete a trip like this one was.
So thanks. Thanks to John for indulging me, and thanks to my parents for both indulging me and for helping to make everything possible. I sure couldn’t have done any of it without all of you, and I really appreciated it.
Next family vacation, lets all go someplace warm where we can go snorkeling.
Ever since we got the boat finished, John and I have spent large swaths of the weekend out on the lake – sailing around, and fishing, and swimming, and just generally enjoying the heck out of life.
The first weekend of August we took a long weekend off and went to to Michigan to visit John’s family. We stayed at his brother’s place on Whitmore Lake, and were joined by another brother, his Mom and his Step-Dad. They brought their boats (a kayak, a small single-hull sailboat, and a canoe) and we all went out on the lake. That was actually the first time that there was enough wind for us to really sail, and it was a pleasure to find out that our boat handles very well indeed under sail.
Building that boat? Was totally one of the best ideas ever. (For which John gets all of the credit, as it was his idea, and then all of his hard research, and planning, and designing, and building. I just helped sometimes.)
While the boat was being built, I asked John a lot of questions about sailing, and the mechanics of using the wind to make the boat go where you wanted it to go. He explained about the different kinds of rigging was, what beating and tacking were, the physics of sailing into the wind… but when I would ask how you knew something, like how you knew that you needed to trim the sail, or to what degree you needed to adjust it to make the most of the wind, his answer was that you would just know, that you would be able to feel it. Which was a little frustrating at the time, because I am the sort of person who likes to plan everything out and who wants to know how to do something before I actually set out to do it.
Turns out that he was right. It is way easier to learn how to sail if you don’t get hung up on reading books and websites about it and just get out and do it. And a lot of it is really intuitive, you really do just kind of feel how you should adjust the sails to catch the wind. Which is pretty cool.
I prefer to sit up front and work the foresail, while John sits in back and handles the mainsail and rudder. (When I am sitting up front, I don’t have to duck for the boom, because it passes right over my head. Bonus.)
The way that the foresail works, it directs the wind into the mainsail (unless you are running gull-winged before the wind) and like the mainsail, it has to be able to swing from one side of the boat to the other. The mainsail on our boat has a boom, which makes swinging it easy. The foresail does not have a boom or a spar (though this is the next project, so I am told) which makes working it a little trickier. At the bottom corner of the foresail, there is a large grommet, and to this grommet are attached two ropes. These ropes run through eyebolts on the front crossbar over the pontoons on each side. And you haul on the ropes to pull the foresail from one side to the other, and to adjust the angle of the sail. Frankly, it reminds me a lot of riding horses and using the reins to direct the animal. It is also a heck of a good upper body workout, since you are working against the wind the whole time.
Something that I learned: wrapping the ropes around your hands will give you better control and leverage, and will also give you bruises and rope-burns.
Something that we learned about sailing the last time that we went out – throwing out fishing lines when you are putt-putting around using the trolling motor is a great idea, and you can do a pretty good job of catching fish that way. But throwing out fishing lines when you are under sail is not a great idea. Because sailing our boat is a two person job, and each person needs to be using both hands, especially if there is a stiff wind. Which leaves exactly no hands free to deal with the fishing poles if you happen to get a fish. Also, if you are paying more attention to sailing then to your fishing lines, you might not notice right away that you have a fish on your line, which is bad for the fish. Lesson decidedly learned. That was a very exciting five minutes or so, and a few times there I thought that there was a chance that we might go over.
Also, I have learned that you really need a lot less wind to really move (especially with a boat as small as ours) then I had originally assumed. I thought that 5-7 mph winds were nothing, too light. Turns out that is actually just about perfect. Last weekend, when the winds from Hurricane Irene blew through Ohio, we went on the lake. The wind that day was 12-13 mph, with gusts up to 17mph or so. And that was actually a little bit much for me. Yeah, we really flew over the water, but it was a lot harder to handle the foresail, and my hands and arms got tired pretty quickly.
Even a little bit of speed feels like a heck of a lot more on the water.
Because the jalapeno plants are producing like crazy, and because John and I both love poppers, sometimes we take 2 dozen (plus a few more, and maybe we also throw some banana peppers in the mix as well) jalapenos and just make a meal out of poppers.
We don’t bread them, or fry them, or do anything especially crazy with them. We slice them in half, and core them. Then we stuff them with a cheese mixture (4oz cream cheese mixed well with 4oz cheese of choice – we prefer blue cheese or smoked Gouda) and them throw them in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes.
We don’t do this all the time, because halving and coring jalapenos by hand takes a while.
No matter how careful I am when I am cutting and coring the jalapenos, and no matter how many times I wash my hands afterward, the juice from the peppers always leaves my palms burning and itching for at least a day afterward.