Category Archives: Automotive

Bags

This week’s Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

The weather warmed up and I got the car washed. For now.

And now It’s snowing and cold again. Oh well. It’s January in Minnesota.

The ducks and chickens did enjoy the melting snow and grass coming out of the snow; they really like having some dirt to scratch in. Everyone was enjoying the sun.

 The chickens don’t like to walk through too much snow. They’ll do a little, especially if they know there’s some dirt beyond it. Except this white chicken.

She doesn’t seem to care about the snow. Kelly calls her “sturdy and hearty”. Yeah, well, she’s something all right. She’s mean too. She will cut you! Reach under her for an egg and she’ll bite and twist and not let go!  

Daughter and I took all three dogs to the vet this week; they all needed shots. And we got ice cream. Also signed papers for the loans for corn and soybean seed. And on the way home, picked up a ton of ‘egg layer’ ration for the chickens. Thank goodness for pallet forks.

We pour a 50 pound bag of egg layer into a container mounted on the wall, then fill the chickens feeders from there. If I leave the bag on the ground, the chickens will peck a hole in it. And I don’t use enough to warrant getting it in bulk.

It makes me think of how much stuff used to come in bags. I’ll be interested in Clyde’s memories of this.

For my dad, I suppose in the 1940’s there wasn’t so much stuff in bags as they used their own corn for seed and there wasn’t commercial fertilizer or feed supplements. In my childhood, we were always going to pick up feed, seed, fertilizer, and supplements. There were always bags of something around.

I remember a truck coming late winter early spring loaded with several tons of fertilizer bags. I was too small to help or maybe in school, but one day the corner of the shed would be filled with bags of corn starter fertilizer. Seems like those were 60 or even 80 lb bags. My dad was strong! I think he worked a lot harder than I do; just the sheer physical labor of everything back then compared to what I do now. When planting time came, he would load those fertilizer bags into the truck and then dump them into the planter every few acres. Those bags were handled 3 times. Now I get it all delivered in bulk truck, put in the wagon, and unloaded via auger. Pretty easy for me.

The milk cows got protein supplements added to their feed. I used to buy that in bags. Fifty pounds each, and I’d get 500 or 1000 lbs. Sometimes 2000 lbs at once; it just depended on the checkbook I think. Eventually I put up a bulk bin and then I could order a ton or two and another truck with an auger would unload it. I still carried bushel baskets of ground corn to the cows, but it was a bulk truck that delivered the corn and unloaded it into the barn. When we picked our own ear corn, we had to grind it before feeding it to the cows. After I went to shelled corn, the co-op would crack it before delivering.  I remember dad having a “hammer mill” to grind up the corn. The mill sat down by the barn and first he’d have to shovel ear corn from the crib into the truck, then shovel the corn in the hammer mill, which pulverized it via swinging metal bars, called hammers, hence “Hammer mill”. (Let’s not forget, he may have had to pick that corn by hand, throw it in a wagon, and shovel it into the crib in the first place! Read more about hammer mills here: https://tinyurl.com/4tjv8ac4

Eventually he bought a ‘Grinder Mixer’, which was a hammer mill and tank on wheels. We took that to the crib, shoveled the corn ONCE into the grinder, added minerals if needed and it all mixed up and it had an auger that we could unload into the barn. I shoveled a lot of ear corn to grind feed. Had to do that every 10 days or so. The mixer held about 5000 lbs.  And you don’t see them too much anymore. Different ways of feeding cattle that are less labor intensive.

My seed still comes in bags, but for the bigger farmers, some of the seed is starting to come in bulk. Soybeans mostly. Sometimes wheat or other small grains depending how they do it.

Before I bought the pallet forks and had this building, When I got chicken feed or milk cow protein, it was put in an old building called the ‘blue building’ because it used to be blue. It was faded and dull white as I remember it. When we picked up the feed from the coop, it was loaded into the truck from their pallets by hand, then unloaded at home, bag by bag into the blue building.  Then I’d haul them to barn as needed, usually 4 or 5 at a time every week. There was a just a lot more daily chores. And it wasn’t “work”, it was just part of the day. I was talking with daughter about that. I never said I was “going to work”, it was just “going outside” and that might mean milking cows, grinding feed, hauling bags, or who knows what.

Have I mentioned how hard my dad worked? So much has changed, so much has gotten physically easier in farming.

What do you think of milk in bags?

More or less bags in your life these days?

Carwashes

Today’s farm report comes to us from Ben.

It’s January in Minnesota and it’s cold and the duck pond is half frozen over. Plus the car is a mess and it’s too cold to get it washed.

When I was growing up, this wasn’t considered a problem. Other than spraying the car off with a hose once in a while, or letting it sit out in the rain, I hardly ever remember getting the car washed. Kicking off the snow warts was about all that was involved in exterior maintenance of the car. Maybe that was just us. The first car I remember was a Chevrolet; a Bel Air or Impala, or maybe Caprice. They all kinda looked the same, didn’t they? Pea Green. And a Chevy C20 truck that was blue. But I don’t remember either ever being washed or cleaned in any manner. And they weren’t rust buckets.

I got to thinking about carwashes. I remember taking my cars to the hand wash places before prom or something important. Not being really familiar with how they worked, I ran out of time before I had washed all the soap off. I drove out and was drying it outside when the guy who ran the wash, who turned out to be a guy I knew, came over and asked me what I was doing and told me to run it back in again and rinse it off. He paid for that. That was my first car wash lesson.

I have a carwash membership these days. I average about 2 washes per month, which is almost cost effective. I do like the convenience of just being able to go whenever I want. And they’re nice people and I like it when the woman who is the owner is on the wash line because I know I get a better wash when she’s there. I tip the guys too, I think that helps. I don’t get too many washes in January or February. (Another time I sure wish I had a heated garage). And those nice warmer late winter days, there’s 15 cars in line at the wash. Even 5 cars back it takes 20 minutes to get into the wash so I need to plan accordingly and decide if it’s worth it. And it’s just going to get dirty again so I need to justify it in my mind that at least I’m taking the first layer off.

I did some research. The first carwash was created in 1914 in Detroit. Workers pushed the cars through an ‘assembly line’ process and each person had a dedicated job. By 1920 some carwashes had large, shallow, pools to drive around to clean off the tires and undercarriage before moving into a stall for cleaning. The first automated wash came in 1951. 

There have been a lot of innovations and changes. It was interesting to read how brushes were a big deal and if they made to much noise when scrubbing, people didn’t like that. White wall tires were hard to keep clean and several methods were tried including boys in a 4’ deep pit on the sides to scrub those whitewalls with a steam cleaner or brush. Or the method of attaching a log chain to the front bumper to pull that cars through. That worked as long as the driver followed the rules; Sometimes it would pull the bumper off the car. That was fixed by going to ropes instead of chains so at least the rope would break before it pulled the bumper off.

And the carwash people used to get in the car themselves, which some people didn’t like, or maybe the drivers didn’t like the claustrophobia caused by a tunnel, so the washes got taller and wider and windows got added.

Some washes can handle 250,000 – 300,000 cars annually. Or more. *

Considering how much a car costs now, it’s worth keeping clean. Plus, it just feels better to drive a clean car. In fact, that was a jingle from a local carwash place 30 years ago. “You’ll feel better driving a clean car!” Mermaid Carwash hired a lot of high school kids. He paid a bonus if you kept your grades up. I knew a few kids that worked for him and it sounds like he was a good boss. Eventually he was bought out by a chain.

It will warm up here soon then I’ll get the car washed. The truck too.

Ever been part of a carwash event?  Tell us about your carwashes.

The Water Tower

I’ve lived in the Twin Cities for forty years.  Not that this had made me an expert, but every now and then I feel a little sheepish about what I don’t know.

On Christmas Day YA and I drove to Hudson to have dinner with friends.  These friends just moved to Hudson in June, so this was the first time we would visit them in their new home.  I let YA put the address into my phone’s GPS.  YA has been on a campaign to change my GPS of choice from Google Maps to some other direction-finder.  She is convinced that my difficulties with Google will be solved with this new app (I am constantly confused when Google changes the perspective while I’m driving; oftentimes I think I have more time before a turn and then suddenly Google zooms in and I’m either missing the turn or swerving quickly to make it.)

The fact of using GPS is a little frustrating to me.  As a teenager, driving all over the suburbs of St. Louis, I don’t ever remember getting lost or turned around; I certainly didn’t have a city map that I consulted.  I’ve thought about this a lot over the years as I’m pretty sure my penchant for getting turned around is getting worse as time goes by.   And what I’ve come to is that GPS is what’s making it worse.  Prior to the internet and GPS, if you went to a friend’s new house, you’d call them up and ask for directions.  You’d usually get a mix of “go two miles, then turn left at the Shell station, then go four blocks and turn left on Discovery Street, we’re the fifth house in on the left, white with green trim.”  This seems highly sensible to me.  Now I just turn when I’m told; I’m not keeping track of how many miles or blocks I’m going and not paying attention to what’s on the corner when I’m turning. 

Anyway, the new app that YA likes shows where there are traffic signals along the way.  It also shows some landmarks (although not helpful in terms of where to turn).  As we were driving over the 94 bridge toward St. Paul, I noticed the GPS noting “The Witches Hat Water Tower”.  I looked up and there it was – as clear as day over the trees – and definitely living up to its name.  The water tower, which sits in Prospect Park, was built in 1913, designed by Norwegian-born architect Frederick William Cappelen. 

I used to work in St. Paul so I used to drive over the 94 bridge 10 times a week, not to mention all the other times I’ve driven that direction over the decades.  I have not once noticed that there is a water tower that looks like a witch’s hat.  Not once.   I’m thinking that maybe I should keep using the app that YA prefers – who knows what else I’ll find!

Once you’ve driven someplace, do you remember how to get there the next time?

Busy Week

The Farm Report comes to us from Ben.

It was a busy week for the Hain farm. After getting the crops out and the soil testing done, I got all the corn ground chisel plow on Saturday. Bailey rode with me all day.

Sunday morning it was warm enough I could use a hose and jet nozzle and clean off the chisel plow and tractor. (Pressure washer is already put away for winter.) I also finally got the garden fence taken down. The garden had been done for a month of course and I left the gate open so the chickens have been in there scratching around, I just hadn’t time to get the fence down. And it was bugging me so I’m glad that’s done.

I ran out of diesel fuel in the barrel when filling the tractor on Saturday. Off road diesel fuel is dyed red and can only be used in off-road equipment like tractors, combines, or construction machinery. The point of dying it is because I don’t have to pay quite so many taxes on off-road fuel.  As I understand it, a DOT inspector might check the fuel tank of an over the road truck and if there are traces of red dye in it you get a hefty fine. Gasoline I pay taxes, but I also get them refund on my tax returns for the gallons used on the farm. Hence we don’t fill the cars with gas from the barrel. When I was a kid we did, then the tax laws changed. My cost for a gallon of diesel is $2.50, it’s about $3.54 in the stores around here. My big tractor holds 140 gallons of diesel. I know the big 4 wheel drive tractors might hold 350! Crazy. I had the delivery truck fill the tractor, too. There is a long story about summer diesel and winter diesel I’ll skip. I use an additive to make it winter diesel and prevent gelling.

I got 200 gallons of gasoline (a couple of the older tractors, the swather, the lawnmower, the four wheeler, the gator, chainsaws and Weedwhackers’ use gasoline) and 500 gallons of diesel for the two main tractors.   

Also Monday, the quarry and the co-op arrived to spread lime. I was at work but Kelly got some photos for us. A semi would deliver and fill the spreader using an elevator. Then the spreader had the computerized mapping software integrated with the soil tests so they could applied as needed.

I took Wednesday off from “Work” work.  I was able to get my brush mower fixed. Got the blades fixed, and I also realize the timing of the two sets of blades was off. They need to be at 90° to each other. And that was simply a matter of removing one chain, getting them aligned, and reinstalling the chain. Much easier than I had expected. Got the roadsides mowed down, mowed two little parcels that are going to be planted to native grasses next spring, cleaned everything off, and got the mower put away. Hooked on the snowblower and move that into the machine shed.

I hope I don’t need it for several months, but at least it’s in. Got the grain drill all put back together

and tucked that back into place. What a good day. 

The theater renovation is finally wrapping up. I was waiting on one final approval from the fire department about a sprinkler head, which would then let the city inspector sign off on the final permit. I started this the first part of November, some minor corrections to the work done and some bureaucratic red tape means it’s Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we have an audience that night and I’m still making phone calls and poking people to approve this! I did not sleep good Tuesday night. It’s so nice that everything is online these days, finally about 1 o’clock Wednesday I see online that it has all been approved. I did a happy dance in the tractor.

Man, maybe I can sleep again.

I know some of you get so excited about the seed catalogs coming. Hoovers Hatchery has announced their 2022 catalog and a couple new breeds of chickens they’ll be carrying. Maybe I should get some of the Buff  Chantecler or Black Minorca! The ducks and chickens are still good. I notice Rooster #3 has got some size on him and he’s not shadowing Boss Rooster anymore. I haven’t heard him picking fights, but I think he’s strategizing.

We had a Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat* and had a nice relaxing day. A few minor odds and ends to do at the theater for opening on Friday. Saturday daughter and I will get driveway markers put in. Kelly and I would prefer a nice day with no wind to get snowfence up. Maybe middle of next week.  

Twisted any arms? Talk about when that’s gone poorly. Or well.

How do you feel about Alice’s Restaurant?

*Anyone catch that reference? I listened to it Thursday morning.

Fair Joy

I know we talked about joy the other day, but… I want to talk about it again.

At the State Fair yesterday, a woman with two kids sat down next to me on the curb, waiting for the parade to begin.  The son was about 8 or so, the daughter was maybe 3.  She was adorable with bright blonde hair that curled around her face and the back of her neck.  She also had quite a dirty face – a combination of what looked like chocolate and something berry-ish. The berry stain had found a home on the front of her shirt as well.

The most interesting thing about this little girl was the fact that she was completely suffused with joy.  Everything about the parade was fascinating to her.  She couldn’t sit down, swaying and dancing as each band went by.  She ooh’ed and aaah’ed over the stilt walkers, the art cars, the waving princesses and especially the big bovines.  As each attraction reached us, she would turn to her mother, her face alight with pleasure, pointing out this newest discovery.

No matter how you measure it, nobody enjoyed the fair more yesterday than this toddler. 

When was the last time you got dirty (and enjoyed the process)?

Farm Report – Early July

The corn made knee high by the fourth of July.

It’s as high as a small elephant’s eye. There have been a few years the corn was only knee high on the fourth and those were extremely wet years and it was planted very late.

Beans are coming along and looking good. Oats is just starting to turn color. The green is fading and it’s turning yellow as it matures and dries out. Now I worry about storms and high winds knocking it down; we want rain, not storms.

We keep scouting the crops, watching stages of development and looking for diseases or insects. Beans can get aphids that affect yield. But we don’t spray for them unless it hits an ‘economic threshold’; the point where the cost of the damage from the pests would be greater than the cost of the spraying. That’s about 250 aphids / plant. It’s been a few years since I sprayed for aphids, it doesn’t happen very often. 

The corn I like to watch as the brace roots emerge – extra roots that come out to help stabilize it as it gets taller.

I found a few places where corn plants are still emerging after all these weeks. They’re too far behind the rest to amount to much; the ear most likely won’t fully develop or be dry enough by fall, but it’s pretty amazing the seed still grew this long after planting and being in the ground all that time!

We are delighting in the warm summer nights and enjoying the fireflies over the crops. They’re always such a treat to watch. Some of us like the “warm” part better than others of us. Growing Degree Units are up – 355 over normal.

I mentioned the helicopter spraying at the neighbors. I’ve always been fascinated with helicopters, so it was fun to watch that operation. I’ve been in a helicopter a couple times; Many years ago I took a helicopter tour over Gettysburg Battle grounds and just a few years ago a helicopter tour over Charleston SC. That was fun. 

One night, Kelly was taking a walk and she texted me that a hot air balloon was pretty low. We’ve had a few balloons land in our fields, but usually it’s winter and there’s no crops to worry about. It was a very still night and this guy had lost all his wind and was really just hanging there. I drove up and met his chase crew. I told him if he could at least get to the edge of a field and not land in the middle I’d be happy with that. He said he would do his best. And he did. He managed to get to a water way (just a grassy area) to land and the crew dragged him over to the road. Always fun to see them. If they land 3 times on the farm I get a free ride. It hasn’t happened so far. 

Still fixing things, had a flat tire on the lawnmower, which isn’t surprising given the areas I’m mowing. I couldn’t find a hole, so I took the tire apart and couldn’t find anything inside either, so bought a bottle of ‘Slime’ and put that inside and it worked! Plugged up the hole! (‘Slime’ is a green, thick, goop, you squirt inside a tire and it’s supposed to plug up holes and prevent new holes. I’d heard of it before, but never tried it.) I just bought a second bottle. If this works, I might be sold on it!

Working on the grain drill too. It needed some bushings on the arms that support the press wheels and a couple new bearings in the press wheels (they press the seed into the dirt for good ‘seed-to-soil’ contact.) Plus, one of the actual seed cups had been broken since I bought it. Wasn’t really hard to fix, but it was 44 little ¼” bolts and it takes two people. I have a college kid, Khalid, that is helping me with that. Waiting on parts to finish that project.

I also took the bucket off the loader and have it over at my nephew, Matt’s. He’s a welder and got his own shop going as a side business. The loader bottom was bent because I work it too hard. And it’s also 20 years old and it has pushed a lot of trees over. He tried to straighten the bottom, but it couldn’t be repaired so he got a new piece of steel for that and I ordered a new cutting edge from the dealer. Half the price of a new bucket and this will be better than new. [photo]

I bought another funnel at Menards. ¬¬Funnels are a mystery. I have a dozen different funnels and still didn’t have one that will hit the transmission oil filler on the lawnmower. Although this one today might! I even bought a funnel with a right angle on it and that wouldn’t reach either. Some funnels have too big of a funnel end. Some are too long that they’re awkward. Some are too narrow and the thick oil won’t flow through. Some are metal, some are plastic, some are tapered to one side, some are flexible but never the way I need them to be.

It doesn’t seem like it should be this hard, but I guess it is. You think “I’ll just get a funnel for this”, and then it doesn’t work. I got two flexible folding funnel things. Silicone and moldable, made to fit in wherever you can squeeze it. Sometimes that’s the right tool. I tell the kids a lot, “Every new job is an opportunity for a new tool”.

Helicopter ride? Hot air balloon ride? What’s the craziest/most fun thing you’ve ridden in? 

DMV Woes

Photo credit:  Rich Vintage/iStock

My driver’s license expires in three weeks.  I haven’t thought too much about it – I figured I’d do the REAL ID thing at the same time.  I’ve seen all the various documents and I’m well covered.  And even if for some reason I had trouble w/ the REAL ID, I have a valid passport so will still be able to travel, even after the (again) extended deadline.  I had even heard from somewhere that the DMV preferred that you make an appointment to get your license renewed.

So I was a little non-plussed when I went online yesterday to do the “pre-screening” for the REAL ID and make an appointment, only to find that you can’t get an appointment ANYWHERE in the Twin Cities area in the next month.  I would think that if everything were taking 2-3 months, we’d be hearing about it; I’m surely not the only one who didn’t think twice about having to renew so far in advance.

I called the AAA that I normally go to for all DMV things and the guy who answered the phone was very nice and when I told him my license would expire before I could get an appointment, this is what he counseled:

  • Go to the office so that you are there before opening.
  • If you are one of the first 15 people in line, they bring you into the building and you get waited on
  • If you are NOT one of the first 15, they take your phone number and will call you sometime later in the day with an appointment time
  • Apparently you have 15 minutes to get there (I’m hoping I mis-heard this, but probably not)

He then suggested that if you want to be in that golden first 15, you should shoot to arrive by 6:30 a.m. at the latest.  Sigh.

Looks like next week one morning I’ll be sitting in my stadium chair outside the DMV at 6 a.m.  I think the sun will be up by then so I won’t need a flashlight to read.

Any particular bureaucracy getting you down these days?

Late June Farm Report

Last week of June – The crops are looking better. Still need some rain, (all day rain on Saturday only gave us about 1/4 of an inch), so better than nothing, but keep it coming. I say that carefully.

Corn is finally tall enough and filling in enough I can’t see all the bald spots.

Soybeans are looking good and starting to get bushy and fill in.

Oats is all headed out – looks pretty good, looks like there will be a lot of grain out there. Knock on wood.

I changed some field boundaries this spring, so I’ve got one corn field that used to be two separate fields. This particular corn field was corn last year on half of it, and the other half was soybeans last year. (Normally crop rotation: soybeans last year means corn this year. Corn becomes oats, oats becomes soybeans. That helps with weeds, soil pests, and erosion.) But what’s really interesting is the corn on corn looks better and is taller than the corn on soybeans. And the only difference is the corn field was plowed up last fall, and the soybean field wasn’t. Is it soil compaction? Root structure? I will dig some up and investigate the roots. It’s very interesting; I need to ask more questions about why this looks so different.

I dug these up when the corn was about a month old. Notice the seed still down in the roots. And the other seed that just never sprouted. That was our spring. 

Been fixing stuff. Picked up parts. A bunch for the corn planter (new fertilizer disks and bearings) and some belts for the lawn mower, a new mower bearing, and other odds and ends. The lift bracket on the corn planter, the thing that actually raises and lowers the planter, was just wore out.

Replaced the pin and bracket, added some weld to the hole in the cylinder end so it’s more ‘round’ again. Then I ran into something and broke a big chunk out of the lawn mower hood so had to buy a new hood. I told Kelly I could just take the hood off and we could go ‘red-neck’. (And I did for a day while working on other parts) A friend put it best when he said, ‘You go redneck and pretty soon you’re judging yourself’. Yep. Good point. No trip for parts is complete without a stop at DQ.

Then the electric clutch that starts the mower wore out so replaced that. I’m also trying to get an older mower running again to use for around trees and to mow in the random areas. I’m mowing more area than I used too; behind barns, up in a grove, all in an effort to keep the weeds down.

I mentioned the barn swallows that have two nests by our front door. Here’s the kids’ double nest.

The parents’ condo is on the left side of the door. The kids took flight the day after this was taken.

My chicks are out in the world now. Of the 45 chicks we received on April 14, a few died as chicks and we let 36 out into the open. So far so good out in the world.

I’ve ordered 30 ducklings of mixed breeds. Be here July 27. I really do enjoy having the ducks around, but my goodness are they messy for the first month or so. Water and muck everywhere. I have a bulk bin down by the barn where I store cracked shell corn for the chickens and ducks. I toss some on the ground and I have some in feeders. They prefer it off the ground, I think. Course that also attracts squirrels, rabbits, birds, and, in winter, the deer and turkeys. 

When I was milking cows I had protein supplement stored in this bin. It feeds from an auger into a box inside the feedroom and I fill buckets from that box. It holds maybe a week’s worth of corn in the box. A few weeks ago, when it was so hot, I just got corn from the box and I didn’t run the auger at all. Never really thought about it. And then when I did turn on the auger, no corn came out. Well, sometimes that happens as the bin gets low; cracked corn doesn’t always ‘flow’ very well and sometimes I get a hollow spot. I climb up on top and I have a long stick that I use to knock the corn loose. (I do not get inside).

And what came out was this brown, liquid, sludge! Ewww! I don’t know what that was!! EEEEWWWWW!! It was really gross. There was a fair amount of it, like maybe a couple gallons. Here’s what I think happen: Sometimes when I get corn delivered, the previous load may have had liquid molasses added to the feed. I used to do that when I had calf feed made. And I’m wondering if maybe there was some of that old feed / old molasses down in the bottom, and it go so hot, the molasses all melted and sank to the bottom. Could that be a thing?? Because I’ve never seen it happen before and this stuff didn’t stink like anything rotten… Once that slug was out, it was back to corn and it hasn’t been a problem since. But I run the auger every few days too, now.

Weird.

Wild black raspberries are out; they’re early this year. But just as yummy especially early morning when they’re still cool.

A former college student has been coming out to help on the farm lately. I enjoy the company and It helps me focus and get some jobs done. He’s also applied for a new job and the hours won’t be compatible to here. Such is life.

Got some big summer plans? Making any progress on them?

You Can’t Go Home Again

I lived in St. Louis for many years, including my formative “learn-to-drive” years.  In high school I drove all over the west and south county burbs.  No GPS, no “directions” printed out from a computer.  And no problems.

But now that I’m back in the city to assist my mother, I am completely lost.  Nothing looks familiar even when I’m absolutely in a place I know I’ve been before.  In the last few days I’ve mastered the way from Nonny’s condo to the grocery store and back but everything else, I’m using my phone to guide me. There just isn’t anything that pings my memory as I’ve driven around doing various errands. As I was driving yesterday to pick up a shower seat from a friend of my mom’s I realized that if my phone went out, I would have NO idea how to get home. I’d have to stop at a gas station and ask!  

Is it just me or can you really not go home again?

The Driveway

Big doings this week at our house.  After 30 years the driveway is getting re-done!  It’s looked awful for years, the cement seams filled with weeds and the asphalt part crumbling but I let it go as long as I possibly could.  But starting last year we’ve had to be way too careful driving up and down because the ruts in the blacktop were deep enough that if you just drove straight up/down, you could scrape the bottom of the car.

It turned out to be a two-day job because I decided to replace the little paving blocks in the back with a real sidewalk as well.  The first day, they demolished the driveway, moved the paving stones and dug a nice trench for the sidewalk.  Then in a very smart move (amazing how they know their own business!!) they covered everything in plastic; it poured buckets overnight.  Watching them take up the soaking wet plastic and get as much of the water into my yard and my neighbor’s yard instead of onto the driveway was almost painful.

The cement business seems like periods of very hard physical labor punctuated with standing around.  Waiting for the next phase of the job begins or waiting for some piece of the job that someone else has to do gets done.  Just as well – if they worked that hard for 7 hours straight, no one could last in the job!

The cement truck couldn’t get all the way up the driveway so they filled an intermediate container on wheels – looked like a big bug.  Then from the bug to the wheelbarrows, then the hard work of spreading it and shaping it.

All this excitement was hard on the dog and the cat.  Of course, with all the work in the backyard, Guinevere had to do all her business at the end of a leash and overnight she had to be “escorted” into the yard to make sure she stayed off the plastic.  The noise made her a bit anxious but keeping her upstairs helped a bit.  Nimue also disliked the noise and disruption; I’m never quite sure how much she picks up from the anxious dog and how much is her own crabbiness at having her routines varied.  Not that her routine actually varied that much.

There were a lot of logistics for us as well.  First there’s the car issue.  You’re not supposed to drive on the new cement for 7 days.  And after spending the last year reading about people breaking into cars or stealing catalytic converters, we were both a little hesitant to park on the street overnight.  We decided to be a one-car family for a week; hers stayed in the garage and I parked on the street during the day and then in my neighbor’s driveway at night.  Second issue was the dog – she spent three days on “house arrest” – only getting out when she was supervised or on a leash.  Third issue was actually the biggest… this was SO distracting.  YA and I both were fascinated and I think we would have easily just sat and watching the proceedings for the entire 2 days. 

It looks fabulous now and I can’t wait until the first time I can drive up it and not worry about getting all the way to the right or left to keep from scrapping!

What’s a project that you put off too long (currently or in the past)?