Sunday, March 29, 2009

Home Improvement Spring Fever

After lounging around most of yesterday Shana and I got going early today. First stop - Jeff's Country Cafe for breakfast. We had not tried it before, and being fond of diners we could not let it go untried. We enjoyed it - the biscuits were good, with plenty of pepper in the gravy. One menu oddity was that you can order gyro meat with your breakfast. Otherwise pretty basic.

On from there to Bass Pro, one of our usual Sunday stops. Shana was looking at coolers; I was on a mission to get a hiking hat. As it turns out the camp chair Shana is longing for goes on sale next weekend, so I guess we'll be back then. We cruised by Home Depot to look at their storage bins (poor selection). When we came home we made a list of clothing and equipment we wanted to add this year. It's pretty short, fortunately. We are adding a week long trip to our usual schedule this year, so there were a few things that needed to be up sized or upgraded, but nothing terribly spendy. Good Old Amazon is sending the Rubbermaid bins that we'll be adding to our kit. Our old kitchen and pantry bins will be swapped over to tent equipment and general campsite bins, replacing an old hamper and laundry basket that had been pressed into service for those functions. That will get every thing into rain proof containers at last.

Every spring Shana and I are seized with our different forms of spring fever. We both have an increased interest in outdoors activities, of course. On the home front we head in radically different directions. Except for expressing a preference for particular styles of landscaping or colors of flowers, Shana has no interest in gardening. She wants the yard to look nice, but takes little pleasure in making that happen. That's my area, and I am happy to do it because not only do I enjoy it, but also it frees me from the dreaded annual cleaning of the garage. Shana loves to throw things out; I tend to hang on to things just in case. I'm happy to see a tidy garage, but I want absolutely no part in the process. I point to the things I am willing to throw out, and move the plants that have wintered in the garage to their outdoor homes, then I run inside to do ANYTHING else.

I planted cannas in the front yard last year, thinking their luxuriant foliage and long flowering period would be ideal. I had chosen two old fashioned varieties for their vigor and foliage color, but they turned out to be too big for the space. The Red King Humbert grows to 6 feet tall, and the Richard Wallace, while shorter, is amazingly vigorous. From 24 medium sized rhizomes (12 of each) I have enough now to generously fill a bed about 50 feet long. This summer they should be beautiful. In a few weeks we'll choose some more domesticated-looking flowers for the front yard.

Until I went to San Antonio I though we had reached the limits of aloe Vera and my giant specimen while huge, would get no larger. Apparently this is not so. This creature is headed to the territory of Man Eater. I have not watered it all winter, and kept it in the garage, where it got pretty good light but cool temperatures. I expect some epic growth this summer. This may be the last time I move it without help or rollers. Even though it had not been watered for months it is still really heavy now, and it's basic pointyness makes it unpleasant to handle.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Out in the Woods at Last

This weekend we finally got out to go camping. We had cool nights, but were blessed with partly cloudy pleasant days. It was really windy every day, but spring in Oklahoma requires wind. I took off Friday, and hit the road early. Camp Doris is small, and the fact that this was local Spring Break did not help matters. I got out of town before 8:30 am, figuring to be around when people started breaking camp. The campground had been full the night before, but only three tours of the campground scored us one of our favorite campsites (7). The occupants were not ready to leave when I stopped by to check, but were agreeable to my leaving a few items at the site to mark it as taken when they left. I zipped up to the gate and paid for my two nights, then parked near the gate and took off for a walk. I've been to the Refuge many times, but had never hiked up to the top of Little Baldy. With plenty of time to spare I walked across the bluff (giving the bachelor Bison grazing there a wide berth) and up to the top. The trail is not difficult, but somewhat stenuous in my current state of fitness. I hung out a while, then started down, heading over to my campsite instead of back to my car. The prior campers were just about ready to leave, so I strolled off to get my car. By the time I got back they were on their way and I started unpacking. I settled in for a little lunch, then put up the tent and got the campsite ready for us. After that I still had a little time to spare for a trip to the Visitors' Center and a walk beside Quanah Parker Lake, where some trees were still in bloom. The trees have not leafed out yet, and I got a glimpse of a bird which I could not immediately identify. It had bright red-orange sides and dark wings. I thought perhaps it might be an Easter Towhee, but now I am thinking it may have been a painted bunting. You can be sure I will be out watching for a better look next time I visit the area.

Saturday we drove to top of Mount Scott, where we took a few pictures and picked up a bag of trash. If only everyone who stopped by would pick up a little of the litter things would be so much nicer. It was a beautiful view in spite of the mist. Lots of cyclists were on the road - stronger legs than mine!

This time we saw a lot of bison, although none in the actual campgrounds. Usually I see deer, but this time they were grazing somewhere other than the places I visited. I did hear coyotes up on the bluff, and also a lone elk settleing down for the night. I'd often heard elk bugling in the fall, but this was my first sighting at the Refuge.

A hike to the top of Elk Mountain revealed the pitiful state of my legs, but was still well worth the effort. This time I did not see the elusive and endangered Black Capped Vireo, but I did hear one.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Before and Before

When I bought my new car I had to rethink my bicycle carrying options. Our original carrier, the Sari Bones 3 bike trunk mount has served us well, being adjustable for different vehicles. Later on I added a similar rack to use on my Focus because sometimes we needed a separate rack for each of us. I have seen the Sari like our original mounted on an SUV occasionally, but it did not look secure to me, and would make access to the hatch difficult or even impossible. The reasonable options for my Escape were either an inside carrier or a trailer hitch mount. The inside carrier, consisting of basically a 2x4 and about $30.00 worth of hardware seemed to be a viable option for early season riding, but it severely limits what else you can carry - like camping equipment and luggage. It would have to be the trailer hitch mounted carrier. The big drawback was the cost of that option, although adding the triler hitch would count as en enhancement to my car. The hitch and rack both run around the same price. With a nice (and probably last) income tax refund and Shana volunteering to pay for one of them that's what we opted for. My criteria: hitch mount, no wheel removal required, fold away without great difficulty, will carry road bikes or mountain bikes with equal ease. I think this one will do the trick in style, and both components were purchsed from local independent retailers. Now I am all ready to ride (as soon as I put on my funny bike clothes). A warm day and some free time all at the same time. Whoopee!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Weekend Grab Bag

This week started with a reschedule of our first camping trip of the year. True to the classic Oklahoma weather, the 80 degrees we enjoyed Monday afternoon turned to freezing rain and sleet by Thursday morning. I can tolerate a certain amount of cold for the sake of a weekend away from ordinary life, but rain and snow were predicted for this weekend, so we backed out.

Turns out that was just as well, because Tuesday Aunt Rita fell in Nancy's kitchen and broke her wrist. Shana took her to the emergency clinic around the corner Tuesday afternoon. Wednesday I took the day off from the office to stay with Larry while Nancy took Rita to the bone guy, then took Rita home with me so Nancy could take Larry to his doctor appointment. Nancy had been up most of the previous night, so we kept Rita with us. Shana had already scheduled Thursday and Friday off, so she was able to stay around so Rita would not be by herself for long. When I came home Friday Shana went out to take care of some of her work stuff.

Friday afternoon I brought Vivian home to spend the afternoon with us. It had been a couple of weeks since she had come over to visit, and she has changed so much. She's not really a baby anymore - she's almost a little girl. Rumor has it she can speak in sentences - something she still pretty much reserves for her daddy alone. Personally I did not hear much of it. More cute pictures over on my Flickr gallery as always.

Saturday afternoon I got the dreaded box out from under my desk and started on the bedspreads. Four curtain panels will be plenty for the bed covers, but not enough for shams. I think there is enough left to make a pair of sweet little rolled pillows; we'll see. As I was cutting the fabric it became apparent that there was going to have to be some big time seam finishing because the fabric ravels like crazy. It's made up of two drastically different fibers - a thin slippery rayon like fiber, and a thicker chenille sort of fiber. I thought something like, and yet not quite a flat felled seam was going to be the way to go to get the ends under control and strengthen the seams. I tried it, but just handling the edges enough to turn them under was making it fall apart, with only mixed success turning the edges in. These are not beds that are going to get huge amounts of wear, but the spreads will have to withstand more than just the force of a ceiling fan moving the air around. There was also the tiny little problem that if I had to finish one more inch of fabric that behaved like that I was going to heave the whole thing out into the street. My neighbors are not appreciative of messy front yards.

Off to Michael's I go to try out some Fray Check. I've never used it before, probably because when I choose fabrics I avoid the crazy fraying kinds. I also sew so seldom that most of the new technologies and products have passed me by. I'm still happily using my 1968 Kenmore sewing machine, and doing most of my cutting on the floor. This time I am desperate enough to Buy a Product. I was surprised to see how small the containers are - just 3/4 oz. I needed to stabilize a bit more than eight edges 74" long. I bought four bottles. Turns out I was able to do all of my edges with less than two bottles, and after trying out one long edge it looks like it will do the trick. It does make the edge a little crunchy feeling - not something you'd want next to your skin. Inside a finished seam, especially in a non-garment application I think it's going to be just what I need.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Rites of Spring

Last week the Bradford pears burst into bloom, the redbuds were budding, and the first signs of spring were in the air. The birds are getting into the swing of things, too. I saw a flock of returning robins near my office, and the mockingbirds are duking it out in the back yard over a particularly desirable nesting site. I can hardly wait until the winner gets settled in and sings to mark his territory. I love to listen to them.

For myself I am selecting the cycling events for the summer and committing to my training schedule. As I do every year, I am also wondering why I did not keep up my exercise routine all winter because now I will have to hustle. I have an extra incentive because our May trip to the Grand Canyon will include some rather demanding hikes. Unless the weather goes against us next weekend's trip to the Wichita Wildlife Refuge will tell the tale. I'll be testing my new sleeping bag liner to see if it's going to give me enough warmth for the cold nights in Arizona. I'll also be testing my legs against Elk Mountain to see how they have fared over the winter. I will also be trying out my new hiking pants and day pack. The creaking but comfortable old hiking boots and big heavy old school binoculars will be serving again this year.

Bigger animals are enjoying the warmer weather too. Roxy and I went to the dog park Friday. Our dog park is very near Lake Hefner, and the wind tends to be pretty strong and cool there. I avoid it in cool weather because I'm a big baby, but Roxy has always preferred warm weather too. Even in the hottest weather she likes to bask in the sun like a lizard. Now that she is getting a little older she is even less inclined to stay outside in the cold. She's at least ten years old, and although she's still lively and active she is noticeably less so in cold weather. The achy joints and old injuries are starting to catch up with her.

I'm in the home stretch on my latest pair of monkey socks only with two pattern repeats and the toe to go. I'm really pleased with the almost-solid color and the way it works up in this pattern. I did an eye of partridge heel which turned out especially pretty. I mean to keep these for myself, but even though I think they are gorgeous I doubt I will wear them this year unless I take them along to the Grand Canyon to wear in the evening around camp. Although though I know we will have some cold days and even a likely snow flurry every year at this time I am mentally finished with winter and I don't want to put on anything woolly. I should finish them tonight or tomorrow, and then I will probably cast on for Mr. Foster. The more I look at that pattern the more I think it should be a great learning experience. For a smallish project it has a lot of meat. The legs are basically toe up socks, which I have only done once. The face is worked as a mitred heel. His little Union Suit is made like a bottom up raglan sweater with a Henley neck, and his bathrobe has set in sleeves. I'll probably start on my next lace stole at the same time, and of course also get some socks going. Three projects seems to be my best arrangement.