Thursday, April 30

Eye'll second that

Oh, what a clever headline!

Karla gets a new lens in her right eye today. She has described the procedure in detail to me, and it mostly involves deadening just about all of her head, making the iris open so wide you could drive a semi-truck through it, and getting her head restrained by a strap that doesn't allow any movement at all. That's the part she dislikes the most. Other than the part where she doesn't get to eat anything for a whole twelve hours before the procedure.

We are heading to Fresno now to get the job done, and will let you know how things went. She'll be wearing a mask till tomorrow. We'll find out how it is by then and tell you about it.

Wednesday, April 29

Try a Little Harder, Costco

Here I am, sweaty and plastered with horse manure on my bare legs after a couple of hours of hacking at our weeds. It’s the first day of the season when I am wearing cutoff Levi’s, and whenever the weed trimmer hits a relatively fresh pile of horse manure, it splats all over my feet and legs. So as a result, I feel less than elegant at the moment,

so I stopped the weeding operation and came in the house. I looked to see if there was any email of interest and clicked on the usual “Costco Wholesale” banner to see what they had on special today. I was in the mood to save some money, and my eye was attracted to the ad shown here. The opportunity to save $260,950.01 is awfully appealing, but I don’t like the way they placed the two side diamonds. And why are they white, not yellow like the central stone?

Come on, Costco. You gotta try a little harder if you want my money.

Tuesday, April 28

Weed trimmers need a re-do

I could maybe make a fortune by redesigning the ergonomics of the weed trimmer. I can understand why they’re made the way they are; it’s cheaper. Every weed trimmer I’ve ever seen has a straight shaft at the top end where the motor is. There’s a trigger release that has to be held down with the palm of the hand, while the trigger itself is squeezed by the index and middle fingers.

Adjusting the position of the other grip lower on the shaft is easy. Its angle and position can be custom set to where it’s comfortable and helps to balance the tool in your hands. The non-adjustable handle is where the trigger is located. The user has to cock his/her wrist at an angle that after awhile gets downright awkward and even painful. In today’s two-hour stint I took several short breaks in order to “shake out” the discomfort in the trigger-squeezing hand.

What would it take to put an adjustable trigger-handle on the machine? It could be at a 45° or so angle to the shaft, and even tiltable beyond that if you want to get extra-fancy.

Are there any trimmer designers out there reading this blog entry? You’ll get a pat on the back from me for making a comfortable trimmer and if you’re a lovely lady you might also get a warm hug; even a kiss if that’s okay. And by the way—what’re you doin’ tonight? Let’s have a nice dinner and talk trimmers!

Yeah, trimmers.

Sunday, April 26

Keeping the peace

We have a very nice piano, a Steinway grand. Karla loves it. And for a couple of hours a day, she practices on it. Grand pianos are made to fill the space (like an auditorium) with sound, so if the playing is less than superb, the space is less than peaceful.
Karla keeps it shiny.

The piano is located in our most northwest room. My little space is in the most southeast room. I can sit and listen to my SiriusXM radio while Karla plays and I only barely hear her. We have often talked about how this is an ideal situation since she may not want to hear my music, and I may only occasionally want to hear hers (the pieces she has practiced to perfection).
This morning I chose Classical. Later it will be Jazz.

The house has ten interior doorways, only one of which has an actual door in it, the half-bath. We are still planning where to put more doors, and many of them could be simply visual blocks like louvered doors on places like the pantry, laundry room, walk-in closet and maybe even the toilet room in our full bath. The piano room has an opening for double doors to the living room so the sound can come pouring out full blast if we have a concert and an audience.

Today I used our distance measuring wheel to see how far apart we are; it's almost exactly 100 feet (30.5 m) as the crow flies. I wouldn't have thought it was that far, but when you go around corners and stuff, it's a good distance. Or as some old-timers might say, a good piece. Or as I would say, a good piece for peace. But then I'm corny and can't resist bad puns.

It's a beautiful morning

Sometimes it's too easy to forget how lucky I am. I live in a beautiful space. This morning I got up at 5:30 or so and brewed a cup of Peet's Alma de la Tierra Organic Dark Roast coffee. Heaven in a cup.

Sally gets rid of yesterday's meal
I gave the two dogs a treat—their favorite chicken jerky fillet—and let them go outside and do their thing elimination-wise.

Yesterday it had rained a whole lot so the ground was still very wet. I grabbed my camera and went out just after the sun came breaking over the scene and creating wonderful shadows and highlights. Early morning is a fascinating time since it brings out so much more to grab my attention and differentiate the foreground from the background. And with everything being freshly soaked the colors were intensified.

Soon the weather will change to its usual hot for the summer. Since I was born in the San Joaquin Valley, I am used to heat and love to shed all the heavy winter clothing and run around practically naked, or at least as close as our society will tolerate. Natural Tom, I think of it as being. It's nice to be in a place where near-naked is okay and doesn't upset too many people. Karla's gotten used to my proclivities and I love her for it.

Life is good.

Saturday, April 25

Fix a tooth, shoot a dog (with penicillin)

Friday I went to a couple of dentists' offices to get started on the repair of the tooth I broke off Tuesday. In Oakhurst the first dentist did a procedure called a root canal and post implant. I arrived at 9:30 and the job was done by 11:15. That gave me plenty of time to head north to Mariposa for the next procedure, fitting a fake tooth on the post. That went from about 1:30 to 3:00 o'clock.

Then I drove back home. Karla and I and the two dogs took a hike, and as we passed the big unused-roof-tile pile north of the house, Sioux, the white dog, yipped. She got nailed by a rattlesnake. Barely, I think. Karla called our vet, described the wound, and he suggested a regimen. She took the dog up to the other house where Luke and Hilary, accomplished animal-repair folks, gave her an injection of penicillin and some oral medication whose name I forget. It's nice to have syringes around for things like that.

I can't even think how many gallons (liters times 3.8) of penicillin I've shot into horse butts over the decades. It's thick, like dilute pancake batter, and takes awhile to push through the tiny hole in a needle. The game, for me, was to get good enough at it that the horse never felt the needle being inserted. I found that if you slap hard enough on the spot where the needle will go, they won't feel it. Of course, the horse may turn around and bite you; it's a trade-off.

As I write this Saturday morning, the dog is fine. The rattler bite must have been just a warning. After all, the dog is way too big to swallow so why waste venom?

Thursday, April 23

I busted a toof

Yesterday was the roundup and all that stuff. I started the morning off by using up a whole battery charge with our new weed whacker, then plugged it in to do another round. Meanwhile Karla went up to the old house to help out with breakfast for the people who would be doing the heavy lifting: The vet and the shoer. (My computer highlights the word shoer as if to day "that's not a word, dummy" but I say it is.) Both of those gentlemen will be doing the most physical work and they need to be prepped with tummies full of good food.

For the first time since 1981 I won't be cooking breakfast. Nor will I be barbecuing tri-tip steaks for lunch. We have actual cooks who will be handling those duties so I am free to chop weeds instead! Lucky me. I had intended to get up to the ranch a little after noon, but something happened to change that plan—I broke a tooth! Not just any tooth, but number 10! That's dentist-speak for my upper left side lateral incisor, the one right next to the big central incisor. So I had to be on the phone instead, setting up a visit to the dentist and answering the question, "Does it hurt?"

No, it doesn't hurt. I guess they ask that in order to determine how quickly they have to act. It's funny since a few years back (like 15 or more) I had broken off number 7, the other lateral incisor. That got me to the dentist in Mariposa whom I still use. That one didn't hurt either.

Tomorrow morning I have an appointment at 9:30 with another dentist in Oakhurst who specializes in root canal surgery. If he's done by 11 o'clock, I'll notify my Mariposa dentist and he'll see me by 1 o'clock to outfit me with a temporary incisor. Then three weeks later, I'll get a permanent tooth put in.

Then I'll go home and wait for the next tooth to break and repeat the whole thing. That is if I'm around in another fifteen years.

Tuesday, April 21


I figure that by tomorrow, this lamp will be toast. Yes, this morning I forgot once again that the pointy end of our weed trimmer is a lot stronger than glass. Again I was wearing a hat, so no blood was lost as I heard the now-too-familiar sound of breaking glass overhead. The worst part of this all is that I have to go grubbing around in a ten to twelve-foot (3 to 3.5 m) area picking up bits of lamp glass, then sweep it all into a heap for disposal. Some of the glass is in the soil of the nearby driveway. Some of it goes sliding under the stairway. So it takes a lot of searching to get it all.

I am writing this as I wait for the trimmer's battery to recharge. It looks like there will be another three or four days or more of trimming to ready the place for summer wildfires. I am sure that by then this lamp will be history. Looking on the IKEA Web site, I have found the lamp's successor. It will be loaded with an LED bulb, too. I figure that even if I smash the bulb's glass outer shell, it will still work.

I think.

Monday, April 20

We lucked out

I folded up the two work tables in our dining area so we could take them up the road for tomorrow's roundup. As I swept the floor, I recalled the time we laid the tile and the fear that we wouldn't have enough to finish the job.

We had bought the tile decades ago for another project, but ended up not using it. It looked like there was enough, so without counting the pieces we started the job. The pile was getting smaller as time went on, so we took one of the tiles to the tile store in Fresno where we had bought oodles of other stuff. We wanted to be sure we could buy more if we needed to.

"Nope, they don't make that anymore," the tile guy told us. Uh oh.

For some crazy reason which I can't recall, simply counting the remaining tiles wouldn't give us the information we needed to assure a complete job. We sweated it out as the job went on, and any cuts I had to make were done with absolute accuracy so there wouldn't be any mistakes. As we laid the last tile, I checked the "tile pile" and saw that along with cutoff waste there was one whole tile left. ONE!

We lucked out.

Morning view

This morning when I looked out the bedroom window, a big gorgeous oak tree got my attention. These trees have worked out a way to stay alive even during drought times.

There is a patch of five—count 'em, FIVE!—digger pines* along the road. All are dead, offering themselves up to be processed into firewood. Unfortunately all five are situated so that when they fall, they take out several hundred yards (several hundred meters) of wire fence. At least the fence is wire, not wood.

As the picture shows, the grasses and forbs are drying out. Soon they will become nothing more than a huge fire hazard, so my days will be spent clearing at least a hundred feet (30.5 meters) around the house, then around the garage, then around the solar array. At least it gives me a chance to give our new trimmer a workout, after which we will put it away in the garage and replace the hanging globe lamp on the back porch with something more crash-resistant.

*Also called bull pines or gray pines. Scientific-minded folk call them Pinus sabiniana Dougl, but who pays attention to those guys?

Sunday, April 19

3-Gal Sal

For the roundup, we need vittles. One special treat every year is Karla's scrumptious potato salad. Here's how she whips up three gallons (11 liters).
First, cook and chop all the parts
Build it up a layer at a time. Add all the parts, but only maybe twenty percent per layer

Stir each layer up real good

Add whatever needs to be to make it perfect, then…

…bag it up for the fridge! Cool for a couple of days before serving to hungry guests
There you have it. It takes the better part of a day, but hey—who's counting? Let's eat!

“Breaking” it in

A couple of days ago we bought a new weed trimmer made by Echo. While we were looking at the display of 58-volt tools, the store manager came by and filled us in on their advantages. He said The Home Depot store managers gathered in Las Vegas (tough duty, I’ll wager)* where the Echo company extolled the new line of tools' virtues, so he really gave us the  pitch. Mostly it comes down to power and duration of charge.

 So far I’ve put in over two hours of continuous use with the trimmer, and it still has nearly one-third of a charge remaining. In the photo the four red lights indicate that it's fully charged. In only forty minutes! Slave-driver!  At least with our old gas-powered trimmers, you have to refill the tank after just under two hours, giving you a nice break.

When I go to put the trimmer away on the back porch I carry it vertically. The spinner end is up in the air and has a tendency to hit the hanging lamp. I hit it once yesterday, breaking it a teensy bit. Then I whacked it again today and that did the most damage. Fortunately I was wearing a hat so when the glass came down it landed on the hat. Only one little piece hit my arm and the loss of blood was so tiny even a mosquito would starve if that’s all it got for a meal.

While at the store, Karla spotted the 16-inch (41 cm) chain saw that uses the same battery. “I want it,” she said, complaining about how hard it is to start a gas-powered saw after it’s been unused for months. That idea sounds good, since I can’t remember ever breaking a hanging lamp when putting a chain saw away.

*Get it? Wager, Las Vegas. Heh heh.

I Suggest a Merger

I was tidying up the kitchen sink when I happened to notice the label on the faucet, Moen. I was thinking about the products Moen makes when I remembered that our shower control and spray head are also made by Moen. Since they are in the body cleaning business too, I thought it might be a good idea for them to sell the peripheral products used in bathing. I looked on the Internet for a good candidate and found a company named Delon.

Sounds like an ideal merger—Moen Delon.

Saturday, April 18

Today: Charlotte Is Two

Two whole years! It seems like only yesterday she was born! Oh, wait—it was Elliot who was born last week or so. My bad.
Nice tiara, Kiddo—makes you look like a princess!

Our granddaughter Charlotte enjoyed a large crowd of friends who brought a plethora of gifts which she appreciated very much. Toys, clothes, dolls, a playhouse and the pièce de résistance—a bright pink tricycle from her Mom and Dad. It even has a nice-sounding bell to warn the dogs and cats away as she tears up the road. Actually brother Ben is the road terror since Charlotte will have to grow a bit to reach the pedals. Next winter she'll be the one to watch.

A good time was had by all, and the ice cream cake she's eating here was a hit with all of us.

Friday, April 17

Interesting road

This morning Karla and I took off for Fresno to do some shopping. Next Tuesday we will have a whole bunch of people over for our annual roundup. There could be twenty-five or more people here, some of whom are actually going to be useful in handling the horses. Lots of them are spectators and diners who like the spread we will lay out for lunch. Just the meat, a humongous takes-two-hands-to-carry tri-tip cost way over a hundred bucks since cow meat is getting pretty pricey these days due to the lack of water to grow their feed.

We were going to buy a carful of stuff, so we took the Highlander since it is way more capacious than the Prius. Also, the Prius won't hold boards that are nine feet (275 cm) long. Turns out our doors-to-be inside the house are way bigger than normal doors and the normal frames we bought are short.

Anyway, we hit up Costco for most of the food and bought a whole boatload of sodas and beer. Then we bought a whole 'nother buncha stuff and ended up filling the car to the gunwales. (Does anyone know how to pronounce gunwales? It's gunnels. Impress your friends with this tidbit of nautical knowledge, courtesy of your faithful blogger and former navy sailor, Tommy.)

On the way to Fresno this morning, I got the usual Toyota-seat pains in the butt and right leg. We've had four or five of those cars, and the seats in every one of them aggravates at least some of my nerves and I have to stop, get out, and walk around to rid myself of the pain. While I was out, I took a few iPhone pictures of the pavement. They accompany this article, and are for your pleasure and contemplation.


Thursday, April 16

Number 1301

I just noticed that my last post was number 1300. Whether that means anything I've yet to find out. Thirteen isn't necessarily my lucky number. Neither is hundred. Maybe it doesn't have anything to do with luck at all, but rather perseverance. I took a very long break of over a year then got back to writing an average of an entry per day. Guess I'll keep it up and see what comes of it. Unless I run out of things to say. Yeah, right. Fat chance.

We also like orange

In my previous post, I mentioned that we tend to use green for an accent color in our new house. Several minutes later, I went to the kitchen to make a cuppa, and noticed that in the adjacent living room there were some orange accents. Oh, yeah, orange—I forgot.

Like the little table next to the recliner. Photography can't capture the brilliance of that thing; it's positively fluorescent, the color used to get your attention. Like a highway worker's vest. We have another identical table next to another chair. A subtler orange is on a high stool we're using as a plant stand.

But we also have a whole bunch of green plastic lawn chairs scattered throughout the house. Nice bright green. At first we bought them to fill empty places where we needed chairs, intending to replace them later with "proper" indoor chairs. Over time we came to like the lawn chairs so much we're going to keep them as indoor chairs. Besides, we have almost a dozen of them, so why not?

Toss a pillow on one of those chairs and it's transformed into a luxury item, comfort-wise. Spend our money on something that's important instead, like window and door trimming, baseboard, and the like.


After only 2,300 years, the dripless candle has come to be. I remember reading about how this miracle could be accomplished by simply using a harder wax on the outside of the candle. The heat from the flame melts the softer wax of the interior, while the further-away outside wax still holds its shape. It sounded so simple, but nobody seemed to make candles that way. Feeble attempts gave us candles that dripped less, but weren't truly dripless.

Until, of course, IKEA came along. The last time we were at the Sacramento store, we bought a box of green candles. (Somehow, we seem to be using the color green to accent things in our new house.) We burn a candle during all of our meals every day, so we go through a lot of them and really appreciate dripless ones since they make it easier to keep the candle holder nice and clean.

So remember when buying candles to get ones with harder outside wax. How you determine that before purchase I don't know. Simplify things by going to IKEA. Their stuff works.

Sunday, April 12

Don't bother us, Grampa…

Ben and Charlotte dive into yogurt and blueberries at their favorite table.

Our prep/dining table in the kitchen is one they really love because the chairs are way high off the floor and there's room for only two of them. Luke had some star thistle to get rid of on our place, and some lumber to pick up that was left over from our deck and front staircase. Ben and Charlotte love to go on short trips around the acreage, and they also love to see what Grandma has cooked up as a snack.

And of course we welcome them all whenever they can come down for a spell.

Drought? Bah!

What's all this talk about drought? You'd be hard pressed to prove it around here! On our morning walk, we passed this profusion of spring flowers, proving that at least in some places there is no drought at all. I guess that where there's northern exposure and fairly tall cliffiness, profusion profuses prominently, purposefully, and purty.

Wednesday, April 8

What I hate most…

…about house building is the “p” word. “Lumbing” is the rest of the “p” word. I think “p” was invented by a deranged primitive while locked in a cave by his (her?) contemporaries. After fouling said cave, the deranged soul came up with a way to get rid of body waste by hollowing out a long piece of a tree, then doing the act of elimination on one end while the other end protruded past the stack of rocks that entombed the poor wretch. That simple invention served a purpose that is still done to this day.

That’s the dirty end of plumbing. The clean end is where lovely hot water comes to a Jacuzzi tub. We bought some very nice plumbing parts and provided them to our plumber to install in the wall at the end of the tub. Problem is, being a member of one of the world’s most primitive “professions,” (not the world's oldest profession, but close in kind) he made it so the on/off handle stuck out past the wall way too far for my taste. Like almost an inch (2.5 cm) too far. To remedy the situation requires tearing out the wallboard, un-mounting the valve assembly, removing the thick board to which the assembly was attached, replacing that board with a thin board, re-mounting the valves, then replacing the wallboard so it’s sturdy enough to cover with ceramic tile.

Sounds easy? Well, the thick board was mounted way before any of the wallboard went on. It was never intended to be removed. So I can’t get to the screws that hold it in place without going around to the other side of the wall and tearing out almost two feet (60 cm) of wallboard. Nice, finished, textured and painted wallboard.

So what I have to do instead is make the first hole in the wallboard much bigger so I can get my circular saw in and very carefully cut out a big chunk of the thick board without also cutting into the wallboard on the opposite side, which it touches. It will be difficult since I have almost no room to fit the saw in around the valve assembly which can’t be moved very far left or right. The thin board I need to use as replacement will have to be glued in place, onto the wallboard. Yuck. I know this is getting complicated-sounding, but hey—all this stuff was installed by a simple-minded plumber.

It’s at least a day-long project. So far half the time is spent in deep thought, trying to avoid making a stupid mistake. The other half is spent in rage, throwing things then repairing the damage. (I wish there were a greater range of cuss words; I run out so quickly. They're a good substitute for throwing things.) That doesn’t leave much time for useful work, so I should probably plan to spend another day doing p-word.


This morning I stepped out onto our entrance deck, glanced northward, and was surprised to see—SNOW on Signal Peak, which is only a bit over 4,100 feet (1,250m)* high. Goodness! It’s early April, supposedly springtime, and right up there was a whole bunch of snow.

Yesterday we got 0.59” (15mm) of welcome rain. It was kind of nippy, too. The storm came from the north and brought cold air with it. The most welcome part of this particular rainstorm is that it pushed our season total to double digits! From July first we have now received 10.58” (27cm) of precious precipitation.

We lucked out this year; the rains started in September so the grass got an early start. We fed very little hay to our herd of nearly 40 horses as a result, so the barn still holds a nice mess of hay for next year.

*So how come the metric conversions? Some of my favorite readers live in Australia, and I’m just making it easier for them to get the message. After all, they’re family.

Tuesday, April 7

Welcome, Elliot

At 10:53 this morning, we got another grandson. He was a little early; he was supposed to be here next Friday.
Luke is a proud papa, and Hilary is feeling great. As I type, Elliot is nursing, getting all the special nutrients in early mothers' milk.

It is raining like crazy right now, so this kid is already worth his weight in gold!

Sunday, April 5


Karla's eye operation went off without a hitch. Her doctor, who had treated an injury she sustained over ten years ago, was very pleased with the outcome of her lens implant. Now all she has to do is keep up some medication every four hours during the daytime. In a month or so, she gets the other eye done and will have matching clear sharp vision for the first time in a very long time.

We look forward to that day!

Thursday, April 2

“My eye feels like sandpaper.”

So said Karla when I picked her up after she had a new lens put in her right eye. She complained about the cut near the edge of her cornea having left a little rough spot. It’ll be fine by morning, she was reassured by the doctors who performed the surgery.

The hardest thing about the whole process was deciding whether to select just one of the myriad options available—close vision, distance vision, dual vision like bifocal glasses, near vision in one eye, distance in the other, a partridge in a pear tree—are all options nowadays. I and several others encouraged her to go for distance vision since bifocal vision does weird things when darkness comes, something like jagged edges on what you’re looking at. Close vision is all you get if you lose your glasses, and far vision is what you need when you’re driving without your glasses.

The surgery required a laser-cut incision on the eye, and that leaves a little rough spot that irritates for awhile. Other than that, she’s feeling just fine. Right now she’s in bed with four humongous pillows behind her keeping her upper body upright from now till morning. Then we go back to Fresno to have the eye patch removed.

More tomorrow.