Other news

Since my last post devolved into an unrepentant rant, I thought I’d come over here and write something less awful. So – other news. We’re transitioning from having a range extended EV (with it’s gas engine) to a pure EV (in this case, a Soul EV).

The used car market here at the moment is intensely overheated. Positively ridiculous. So it’s taken a few months to find a car that was only moderately overpriced, rather than ridiculously overpriced. In this case, we found a dealer that had a 2015 Soul EV (which has the 27kWh SK Innovation battery). We were leery of anything with an LG Chem battery after the battery fires debacle, and having driven the Spark – yes – it has CCS rapid charging, but it really feels like a cheaply put together car.

The Soul EV does not feel anywhere as nice as the i3, but parts for it are much cheaper, it runs on standard tyre sizes, and many of the parts are shared with the petrol sibling, so… And unlike the Spark EV which feels like the Daewoo it is underneath, it is actually a pleasant, quiet place to be.

Unfortunately, the one we could find in our pricerange turned out to be ‘somewhat foxed’. It’s got a hole in the front bumper – a couple of minor parking dings, and smells strongly of dog. Particularly in the rain.

We’re going to get a detail done on it and ozone it – if I can ever get anyone to give me a call back. I do find it incredibly frustrating that I still can’t ever get anyone to give me fecking call back. Well, that’s not true. I often can’t get a call back.

I’ve called the mobile detailing place twice – so far – and got nothing back. I’ve called the motorbike training place – and got nothing back.

*sigh*

I did call a painting place, the guy came around, but has yet to send us a quote… And yes, we’ve given in. We don’t want to paint the eaves. But we want them painted. So the solution to that is clearly to actually pay someone to do it. This is because while there is enough time for us to do it – it would involve sacrificing something else that we’d rather be doing.

I must admit I’ve not made any more progress on the bathroom since putting up the tiles. They need to be cleaned and grouted – but I bought the wrong colour grout, so I need to go back to the B&Q and swap it for the right colour. Which is annoying – but since I need to get some runners for our sliding attic access doors and a shower drain I suppose it doesn’t really matter :-/

Anyway, yeah. So there’s lots of little bits of life progressing. No adoption news, though. Sadly.

Oh, I have been working on Rebecca Mog a bit – Kathryn’s doing a class on Wednesdays, and so she’s busy for a few hours in the evening. Since I’m at a loose end during that time it’s encouraging me to actually get on with Rebecca. I have started assembling the fancy adpator board for the inverter and bought myself a new power supply so I can power the board to do its test.

I feel like there’s more.

Mymble, incidentally, seems to have recovered from her bumblefoot. So that’s super positive.

I came up with a metaphor for being an adult which I’m pretty proud of:

It feels like I’m constantly juggling – and just when I feel like I’m doing okay, I look down and realise I’ve dropped a bunch of stuff.

Feh.

It’s been a minute

I’ve been thinking about what to write here for a while. Not that things aren’t going on – they are. Life continues much the same as it has for a bit. It’s finally raining today after a ridiculously long dry stretch – it rained yesterday too. In that way that the weather seems to be now. All or nothing.

Broken.

And I’m fully aware that the weather has always done this. We’ve always had extremes. It’s just the frequency of extremes that’s increased. We’ve always had occasional hot periods, it’s just the frequency of that’s increased.

But it’s hard to separate that out from the shift that we’re seeing in our weather patterns. It’s hard to find balance right now. And so life goes on – in a small and enclosed way. People won’t get vaccinated, so people keep dying.

So I don’t go out. We were talking today about how nice it would be to eat in a restaurant. We haven’t had a chance to do that for years. We sat outside a restaurant with Kathryn’s family, which was nice, but it’s not the same as the experience of going out for a meal and sitting inside – of service where I don’t grab my mask to protect the worker (and myself, if I’m honest), but mainly in that case for them.

I’ve recently had to take Raven to have – well, I took it for a warranty repair (the sun visor broke) and a ‘service’ (which being an EV consists of them staring at it) but they hadn’t ordered the part – so it had to be rinsed and repeated.

And so both times I went and sat outside a coffee shop and had coffee and cake – as far from everyone else as I could – because I had an hour to kill and there’s nowhere nearby to sit. It’s that very odd combination for me of being near normality, but knowing it’s not normal. And watching a lot of other people behave like everything’s just fine.

We drove past a restaurant yesterday which was fairly full — and it’s a pretty small space. Being it’s a place I used to enjoy going to now and then I’m also aware that it doesn’t have amazing airflow. And… I just…

COVID cases for our county

…I know the hospitals are — effectively full. I know that people are dying.

And I was talking to Kathryn yesterday about how the UK and the US*’s cultural history of people dumping their sick relatives at the hospital and then leaving (which is super-encouraged now, when we’re not allowing visitors – for obvious reasons), has done us a huge disservice at this point. Because people have no experience or context for illness. They’re going off what it’s like to have a cold, or a cough.

Maybe they had flu once. But the impacts of severe illness or long-term disability aren’t talked about. They’re not allowed to be a part of life – unless you, yourself, have a loved one who’s experienced those things.

People are so disconnected from illness that now – now when we need them to do some simple, basic, minimal fucking things to protect others, there’s a cadre of selfish shits who won’t get vaccinated because [largely insert bullshit reason]** or won’t even wear a mask because – ‘why should I’.

Why should you?

Because it’s the least you can do to stop someone else dying. It’s the least you can do to stop someone who can’t get vaccinated from spending their last days suffering on a ventilator. It’s the bare fucking minimum to be a decent empathetic human.

But no.

Let’s run around waving a flag for our vile bigoted king-god claiming some kind of religious freedom (although no major religions actually have a vaccine restrictions, because unlike the GOP they’re mainly not death cults).

Moral Majority Report - From Jerry Fallwell - 1983 - with headline regarding AIDS and photo of family all wearing masks.

Funny how y’all were fine wearing a mask when it was something else killing people.

If I sound angry, it’s because I am. I’m livid. I just want these people to grow the fuck up, get some compassion, some understanding of science and then behave like members of a society. Either that or they can go live on a fucking island and take their plague-love-in with them, so the rest of us can get back to trying to build a better world.

We have real – difficult to solve problems. Climate change is coming faster and harder than everything but our very worst estimates. Interlocking feedback processes that speed our path towards a climate that’s completely unlivable continue to be revealed. We should be working on this. We should be working on stopping the police killing black and brown people. We should be fixing the fact people don’t have healthcare.

Instead we’re fucking around with trying to stop something that we could have resolved in 2 months 2 years ago.

* Who aren’t alone, I’m sure, but are the only two I can safely give real comments on.
** And there absolutely is a very real conversation to have about the vaccine hesitancy seen in some minority groups who’ve been underserved or abused by the medical establishment. Who have every reason to distrust vaccines. Also for those who can’t afford the time off work sick if they have a worse vaccine reaction and feel lousy for a day or two – because particularly in the US the worker protections and safety net is non-existent. For them, I have all the time in the world to try and resolve those problems.

pandemic

I think yesterday broke me a little.

I mean, the pandemic has broken me a lot.

Not that I was in an all fired fabulous place before this. I have worked in the Emergency Department for about fifteen years, a significant chunk of that being in charge of emergency departments, so I’ve been tired for a while.

But the pandemic? The wilful disregard for others’ safety? The repeated complete obviousness of how bad things are going to be followed by the inexorable slide towards it? The complete willingness of the public in many places to put “the economy” ahead of lives? When it was obvious to anyone with more than two brain cells to rub together that just paying everyone to sit at home for a month -maybe two – and stopping or quarantining for all international travel – right at the beginning- could have more or less ended this quickly and with minimal deaths.

But no.

Now we have this hydra like disease that we’ve got no way to get a handle on that’s ripping apart the fabric of society, and that we’re having to focus on instead of the very fucking urgent fact that we’re destroying the planet and we need to fix that.

Almost every patient I saw yesterday had COVID. Half our board was bright red with isolation symbols.

And I spent 7 hours watching someone slowly slide to what will be a horrific death. Watching their oxygen level dropping and dropping.

Knowing that there’s nothing we can do. Even if we were in a big, fancy hospital with shiny, shiny equipment there’s very little that could be done. But in a rural hospital? We tried to make her a little more comfortable.

But that’s it.

We “optimised” her breathing within the bounds of what can be done in a small hospital with limited ICU facilities. And a full ICU. So she sat in the ER for the full 7 hours of my shift she was there – on a ventilator – and presumably long afterwards – because when I left there was no-where for her to go.

And at the same time I met that — and other patient’s relatives -who had bloody COVID — who decided to come into the hospital. And who didn’t mask.

And told them that they needed to mask. And isolate.

And…

I want to say to them “How many people have you killed? How many lives have you destroyed? How many families will lose a loved one because you couldn’t be bothered to have the slightest ounce of compassion or care for others?”

When people tell me they “Haven’t got around to getting the vaccine”, they no longer get some kind of chipper response about how they should take it to protect themselves and others. Now they get “Well, this won’t end until people do, and I’m sick of watching people die, so I encourage you to get it as soon as possible”.

I doubt it does anything.

But I’m too tired to care.

Learning experiences

There have been a few learning experiences of late. We won’t say failures because most of them are still in progress… things.

So, what have I been up to? Well, let’s start with the house because I’ve singularly failed to finish doing the trim. I’ve kind of…taken a break from it. It’s not my most fun making job, and that combined with being tricky and the fact I… well, I haven’t got back to it after the jumble sale.

But today I did start tiling the bathroom. Because if we get the bathroom installed and the two doors on the attic we can be signed off, and done, and finished. Well, with the permit part of this experience, which hasn’t been onerous exactly, but it’s a thing to keep track of when I don’t really… need more things to keep track of? Anyhow, I got it about half done today, which isn’t bad since I didn’t actually get started until after lunch.

Bathroom tiles, in blue, covering the lower half of the wall more or less

It’s quite pleasing to finally see the tiles up – and it looks like we should have enough to do the job and have some above the sink, which’ll be nice.

So that’s not really been a learning experience. Just more of the same.

No, the learning experiences have been a mixture of self-inflicted (the Mycroft AI build, and the record deck I bought); and not so self-inflected (the chickens).

Shall we start with the chickens? First up Pippi decided to get something stuck in her throat / en-route to her crop. She made a very unhappy sound – which we came back to after leaving the house for an hour. Now, literally none of the discussions I’ve seen about chickens having ‘crop’ issues mentioned this noise.

Chicken with something stuck in her crop

We recorded her so that we could ask people. She was clearly distressed, wasn’t eating or foraging, was just standing unless we went near here when she’d run off (she always runs off). We caught her and after some helpful advice fed her some wet bread (initially with water, then with some olive oil on it). Which more-or-less sorted her. Then she went to bed and the next day was fine.

Then the next day? Either then or a couple of days later Mymble… well, she got bumblefoot. We suspect this is related to us cutting back the brambles and her frantic hunt through the cut-back-brambles for anything edible. We noticed her limping on Sunday evening – obviously – at which point we discovered there’s no emergency vet in Oly for birbs.

So… we broke out google, and Monday morning I raced around to Target and Tractor Supply (I’d’ve preferred to use our local urban farm store, but they don’t open that early); got the run set up to separate Mymble during the day; and then with Kathryn we set about the soak-to-remove-the-lump-of-eschar/clean/dress.

During which process she poo’d on me several times, and in the water we were attempting to use to clean her, and I got thoroughly soaked. We didn’t get as much of the eschar out as we’d like – but hopefully got enough out – slathered it in antibiotic ointment and a dressing and then vet-wrapped her foot.

Mymble looking disgruntled

I think she rated the process as about a minus fifty-million out of ten, but she got a bunch of mealworms out of it *and* has been treated to a higher protein diet (she got a whole cooked egg today), since they say she should have a higher protein diet.

Plan is to check her tomorrow (which I’m sure will delight her even more) and assuming it’s improving we’ll leave her be ’til after the weekend.

Vetwrap rocks, though.

So then there’s the technical learning experiences – first up is Mycroft AI which… is being somewhat recalcitrant. While I’ve kind-of-got it working it’s… well, watch:

Mycroft AI OTS Build with 3D printed case

He’s… I mean. Some things are cool. It has Emby – which I’m trialing as a replacement for our previous media server. Buuuut – he did play an entirely random song when I asked for another song.

Then there’s the record ‘deck’ (it’s a tray-loading auto-reverse double-sided record deck, because I love ridiculous things). This is a Sharp RP-119. Now, for no reason that I could imagine I assumed that the RP-119 would be fairly similar to the RP-117. But it isn’t.

I’ve now found dismantling instructions (having had to guess at it using the RP-117 instructions and copious amounts of swearing). But the accursed object is still misbehaving. I’m pretty sure the disk speed is, well, somewhat variable. And I’ve not managed to work out how you get to the spindle to lubricate it (although I may have to revisit disassembly now I’ve found this). I tried the optimistic ‘poke-and-spray’ with some penetrating lubricant, but that didn’t improve things. Or at least, to get it to approximate the right speed I had to adjust the variable speed adjusters… quite a long way.

But the thing that’s definitely problematic is that the drawer doesn’t close. At least, it doesn’t close if you press the drawer-close button just once. If you press it twice, though, a second or so apart:

VID_20210816_141733

If you press it twice super quickly it will close more than if you press it once but not all the way.

I have NO IDEA WHY IT IS DOING THIS. It is driving me batty. I’m contemplating getting stili for it (because it needs two, so it can play both sides… obviously…). BUT I don’t really want to do that until I can work out this closing issue. My ‘best’ guess so far is that the motor has a run-time (I’m going to try measuring the voltage on the motor and see if it switches off when the drawer stops because I feel like it’s the motor stopping because it hasn’t managed to close the drawer.

If that’s the case maybe it’s just a lubrication issue? And the motor’s not running quite as fast as it should?

Ooooor maybe something in the supply is failing and it’s not getting the volts its needing so the motor’s running slow, then it’s running out of time? But since it’s all IC controlled, I’d figure that it would have more problems if voltages were off. So, yeah. Seems unlikely.

At any rate, I’m still working on what I’d thought would just be a quick application of some new belts and a good clean. Sadface.

…and then I’ll take a break

There was this great tweet – which I think ended up being a meme – that I saw a while back:

And that feels a lot like it’s been here the last few weeks.

I mean, it feels like that a lot of the time anyhow, but moreso the last few weeks. Kathryn and I made the decision to clear the storage unit completely, which meant going through every box that we had in there and deciding what stays and what goes.

Y’all know how amazing I am at getting rid of things. I totally don’t have piles of semi-sorted crap that I should have got rid of years ago… and lots of things that have emotional attachment to my dad or mum, that because my dad died I have a lot of weirdness about getting rid of things.

Also, my dad worked for companies that have vaporised – digital and CTL/ITL – companies who had some awesome achievements. One of which people give a fig about, one of which no-one remembers.

Anyhow, so it was kinda stressful, and also there’s a bunch of stuff related to my childhood that brings back not great feelings, but that I kinda want to keep, bits of my history. Things that may or may not bring back the pre-out angst, but that also bring back some of the moments I had joy. Because I may have been struggling with my identity back then, but I had/have awesome parents and I felt loved and safe at home. Not everyone gets that.

So. Yeah, it was kinda vaguely stressful and also long. There were a lot of boxes. And trying to decide what should stay and what should go… Some things I left to the gods. Like, my oscilloscope – that I said “if it sells, it goes, if it doesn’t, it’s mine”. It’s now sat on my bench :)

Some things I thought would go didn’t and I was okay with them just leaving my life – so they ended up in the free pile at the end of the day. It’s kind of a relief though, letting some things go. Some things I couldn’t quite let go. The AA Book of the Car! I mean, why didn’t that go? It’s awesome. So I kept it.

Anyhow, at the same time you may have noticed it’s July. Gardens do some growing in July – and that’s been horribly neglected as we organized the yard sale. The tomatoes are horribly overgrown, the grass around the will-be-pond and will-be-rain-garden has got to about a meter tall. And had the yard sale. And then slowly are working on getting rid of the last few things (which really need to be listed).

The house also feels pretty… in need of a clean. I mean, it’s not terrible, but it’s cluttered and in need of a hoover and a dust. The bath got a quick going over yesterday, but the rest of the bathroom needs a clean. It’s getting a lot better – Kathryn spent a lot of time when I was at work making it more habitable.

Anyhow. There’s also been more socialising than we’ve had for nearly two years – because we have sensible / privileged friends who are all vaccinated. Which means we feel safe to actually *go* to see them. I mean, going anywhere else is a bit of a toss-up. Going to get coffee? Well that’s still going to be masked… eating or drinking outside though, that’s a possibility.

So we’ve seen family here, and chosen-family in Oregon. Of course, the UK is still a hot-mess of Delta variant and that fucking idiot Boris trying to make Britain lead the world in variants of COVID. So that’s still out – although their half-arsed middle path of quarantining all those who don’t live in the UK makes it financially and vacation leave availablly impossible anyway.

So I’m still missing my mum, dreadfully.

At least we can talk on the phone.

Anyhow.

Then there’s the usual adulting along with all of that. We’ve decided that we’re going to sell the BMW – it just has the potential to eat too much money when something inevitably goes wrong. That and we really don’t need the range extender. So it’s just consuming petrol for no good reason now . That means finding a replacement – which would have been easy – we would have had a Bolt. But now bolts are periodically catching fire, that has put the kibosh on that. We’re contemplating other options — maybe a Chevy Spark? Or a not-too-ancient Soul EV?

But then, EA just announced they’ll no longer be installing CHAdeMO chargers – so a CHAdeMO car doesn’t seem like such a hot idea. Kathryn mentioned that if we can get a classic EV with modern batteries that’d work – and then I found out about the Mars II! I’d never heard of the Mars II!

And there was one for sale just 3 hours away.

Only…

A Mars II! A 1960’s 70-120 mile EV with 48-minutes to 80% recharge time. No, I’m not kidding.

It was for sale in March, and I don’t know if it’s still for sale. The Craigslist listing has gone. I managed to find out the street I think it was on – but given that it’s 3 hours away that’s a bit much to ‘just drop past and see if it’s still on the street’. Kind of somewhat far into the creeping mode.

Which is a shame – because putting some LEAF cells in that would be enough to get it mobile, and much lighter, for the same capacity battery. Or Spark cells from a deaded Spark. Really anything modern with a modern rapid charging connector.

I’d love to get it working *as it was meant to be*, but the number of lead-cobolt batteries handily available is probably quite small. And getting people to service the silver coated contactors might be tricky.

In other, other news I’ve been working on the Mycroft – trying to get that project working enough to take it off my workbench and for it to live inside. It’s looking much closer today… I’m just trying to coax it all into at least more or less working, although the audio is very noisy.

Holidaaaay!

It’s been more than 2 years since we went away on a camping holiday. The pandemic, obviously, and the associated closure of the state parks. And before that there were the climate change related wild fires. Our tent had languished — for a long time in our storage unit, then more recently in our emergency go kit.

That kit we finally got around to putting together as we approached the last election. Never mind the earthquake and wild fires potential, the threat of red hatted Nazis plus wild fires that actually started to threaten places not far from us is what finally got me to prioritize that enough, and my wife was patient enough to support that activity. I mean, obviously it was something we should have done before, but we finally got around to it then.

So after two years of rest we finally dragged it from its slumber. And thankfully, apart from smelling a bit like Olympia’s harbour front / downtown buildings (which do have a distinctive smell – the old ones at least)… Well, that and the delicious scent of meths* – it seems fine. It’s getting on for probably nearly 20 years old and has traveled all over Europe with us.

It’s kind of an old friend.

And here we sit. We’re camping just over an hour away from home in the Kanascat-Palmer state park, which was one of the few parks in which hit the combo of at least feeling rural, having lots of tree cover and being near plenty of nice walks that wasn’t also hours and hours away. Since we’re just here for a few days – getting our sea-legs back with not being at home and reminding ourselves that we do actually like camping.

It’s funny – I’ve done the odd day trip to see Nikki for work as we all got vaccinated, but this was the first time we’d really gone away from home. And I did actually feel a vague nameless anxiety about going out and staying away from the house.

===== Back home.

But I’m glad we did.

We hiked up Little Si, a 1500 ft climb, then – having claimed that we were going to ease ourselves back into walking, then the next day we swore we’d take it easy and added 5 miles and another climb on the Mount Sheppard trailhead. It felt really good to be out in nature, sleeping under canvas (well, nylon). And pleasingly the tent and our associated gubbins has all survived just fine.

It did act to remind us that we really, really do want to be out in the countryside. we both feel much better there…

Now it’s just how to we make that happen.

In at-home news, we’ve been clearing out our storage unit and preparing for an epic garage sale. Lord knows what will sell and what won’t. We’re leaving some stuff to the gods (like my oscilloscopes, which I kind of want to keep but also think I should get rid of, so we’ll see if someone makes a decent offer for them).

It’s actually not so much the getting rid of stuff that’s hard, but the unexpected pictures of my dad, the bits of my childhood, they’re harder. More emotionally draining.

Also, I still have no fricking idea where I’m going to put some things. Like, where does the reel-to-reel tape player live? Where do the tapes live? I have no clue.

We’ve also exceeded the capacity of both the CD and DVD DJ cases.

Augh.

*Which Kathryn printers our we may want to not shout –or maybe we should use its American name (Denatured Alcohol).

Plant problems…

We were really organized this year – made a spreadsheet that tells us what’s up for planting when. We got grow lights, because last year the plants went super stringy – probably because of insufficient light.

But last year we were pretty successful – despite getting plants into the ground late, things still grew well. In fact we gave away a ton of food last year. This year… things have not got gone so well. I’m now wondering if the grow lights were too close to the plants, apparently that can lead to bleaching. This round of plantings does seem to be doing better and we’ve just been turning the lights on briefly in the morning and evening.

But it’s been dispiriting, our plants going out having barely grown, then plunking them in the soil only for them to die. The weather also, has been somewhat weird – burningly summer hot one day, and ordinary spring cool with a ton of rain the next. I’m not sure the plants really know what to make of it.

Anyhow, all of that combined means that yesterday we headed out to the urban farm store – we needed to get some straw to go around our potatoes, but we also used the opportunity to get some plant starts. We had got some at the market the day before, but having already got out ‘extra’ money to pay for a chopping board (we have finally got ourselves a wooden chopping board to protect our knives. They have been being destroyed by our glass boards for a couple of decades), we felt we’d spent enough. Which obviously we hadn’t because we just spent a bunch more in the urban farm store. ;-)

So today is going to be spent prepping and getting these in the ground in the hopes that they’ll take better than the ones we grew. We’ve also had *something* eat the squash we planted, upsettingly. I don’t know what – maybe slugs? But they’ve taken some of them down to just nubs, which is also… dispiriting.

Anyhow, so the garden is not quite where we were hoping this year, but it’s all about learning.

In other news, I’ve realised we could get solar for probably around 1.5k, sufficient to maybe generate around 40% of our power. Indeed, it would probably meet the majority of our day-time use, and might make switching to time-of-use worthwhile (so we’d charge the cars at night most of the time). Anyhow, I was nudging at this problem (because I need more projects, totally); and came across a company that specializes in used solar panels. That would get us 2.8kW for about $1k plus a not super expensive inverter and mountings – we’re probably in for about 1.5k (less tax subsidy on the new components). That should put us at about 2-3 years for a ROI.

Which, if we stay here (in this house) after we adopt for a bit (current plan)…makes sense. Irritatingly, we could have put these in right at the beginning… anyhow.

I need to replace the duff breaker in the panel (never buy a second hand breaker, even if it’s warrantied, if you work as slowly as we do. Because the only second hand breaker in the panel trips all the time when it’s wet, but I only discovered it after it was well out of warranty — and I know it’s the breaker, not the wiring, because if I switch it for the 40A breaker (used on the other EV charger) it still trips, but the swapped breaker works fine. So I have to open the panel up at some point…

It bears thinking about.

Do builders dream of electric tiles?

I’ve been dreaming about the shower again. Not nice, peaceful relaxing water splashing luxuriantly over me as I relax. No, the tiling dream.

As the due date for another inspection approaches, and with Kathryn now vaccinated, there’s a potential small window of opportunity for us to coat the bathroom walls in the vile gunk that will waterproof it. That will mean I can finally get to tile the bathroom (and that will mean I get a shelf back in the garage which is currently filled with tiles).

It’s quite exciting, but it means I get the recurring dream about how to tile the bathroom, how to install the drain, plumbing it in… It’s all very useless – my brain’s trying to solve problems that I don’t know the answer to until I lay out the tiles. It’s trying to work out how I should space them out, how I should cut around the shelf…

It’s all pointless and irritating and means I wake up not feeling rested.

It’s fine for my brain to do this stuff when progress is quicker* and I’ve actually worked out stuff in the half-sleep/wake state which has been useful. At least, that’s happened at least once.

But for the most part it just means I wake up tired and feeling slightly grumpy.

Today, the plan is to measure out more trim and cut it – if it stays dry. If it seems like it’s going to not be that kind of day I might try and finish the last 4 feet of rock moving; it would be really nice to get that job done. I don’t want to push myself too hard today, though, because I’m going to be at work tomorrow. And work has, of late, been quite tiring.

In an NHSy way, all the local hospitals have been pretty full, meaning that we’re also busy. This normally happens for us in the summer when everyone gets out – and we fill up with people who’ve done something foolish outdoors. But at the moment we seem to be being hit with wave after wave of people who didn’t get X checked because COVID and now are very sick, or are just very sick anyway, or are having mental health challenges either because of the fall-out from a year and a half of limited option to be away from the people they live with.

…or because they’re (understandably) very stressed about the return to ‘normal’ when ‘normal’ involves a big chunk of the population walking around sans-mask-unvaccinated. And also it involves lots of social interaction – which many of us haven’t had much of.

And that makes work pretty exhausting, mentally and physically.

It really makes me more want to go live in the middle of nowhere – on a nice bit of land. Of course, the challenge with that is that money. And this year our growing… well, it’s not gone terribly well. I mean, some things seem to be doing okay, but as usual I’m feeling like I’m quite behind on planting. And the plants that we have – some of them really haven’t thrived, and I’m not sure why.

So, that’s that really. The world otherwise continues as is.

Which does worry. I mean, I’m pleased that there’s some progress from the new administration – but again a large chunk of the Dems seem to be trying to play nice and by the rules, and ignoring the fact the GOP don’t. It really feels like they’re trying to get bipartisanship from a group who’s only aim is to deliberately obstruct.

And in the mean time, while the Dems are playing nicely, the republicans are making it impossible for anyone but them to win. Voter suppression, gerrymandering, police overreach. I’m really concerned about what’s going to happen in the mid-term elections here. Because if the dems lose that slim majority then what?

*sigh*

And the endless attacks on trans people here, and back in the UK? It’s just wearing and tiring.

Definitely think a house far away from others would be nice.

*it’s not.

*crickets*

So, I’ve not really been in the mood to write for a while. I’m not sure why. Life has continued to trundle along. We’re trying to adopt, so that takes some significant chunk of my brain power. I’m also working for Transport Evolved for actual money these days which means that I’m worrying about my friend not wasting money paying me. Which means I work on stuff…some more than perhaps I should.

I read somewhere an unhealthy team building tip – saying only employ people with massive imposter syndrome, and they’ll always work way too hard.

I feel seen.

The main thing we’ve been sort of working on is the garden. We’ve done some maintenance and planted asparagus! I love Asparagus! Apparently, they’re super picky. And I wish we’d planted them right at the beginning – because we could be eating them now. They take about 3 years to mature to being pickable, if you didn’t know. Also, we’re meant to keep their area weed free :-/

For future reference, in our next house, as soon as we get it we’re planting fruit trees and bushes, rhubarb and asparagus before we do anything else.

Anyhow, this year we tried to be really together. We made a spreadsheet with when we needed to plant stuff. We got it in to pots pretty much on time. We got LED growlamps to try and overcome the problem we had last year with our plants getting super leggy. We used a suggestion from an old homesteading book about using egg-cartons to put plants in.

…and it’s gone pretty terribly.

While nearly all of them have come up, the beans and peas got wildly out of control and we ended up putting them out without really hardening them out – because the weather was so hot that putting them out to harden out they wilted… and they were so tall they kept breaking so they couldn’t come in-and-out to harden…

The other stuff – some of it’s just been really slow to grow. Really slow. The tomatoes – they’re still only 6cm tall or so, and mostly still on their first leaves despite having been in more than a month. Quite a few of the other things have just died.

I think part of it is the cartons – I suspect they work fine if you use them in a greenhouse, or if you live in a coldish homestead in the early 1970s. But in a warm, modern, fairly dry house and filling them with modern potting compost they swing wildly between arid and sodden, which is not ideal for plant-growth.

This is somewhat disappointing after last year’s successes. Anyhow, this weekend we’re going to plant out a bunch more seeds and hopefully we can get a bit more success with those. We were hoping to use the chicken coop products for fertilizing the beds, but I suspect that isn’t going to happen – because we need a trailer to fetch them fresh bedding.

Anyhow, in other news – we picked up a trailer! We got it second hand and it’s very nice. Can’t use it, obvs.

Washington’s “ownership in doubt” title process involves you waiting – three years – which is fine. I mean, it’s not ideal. But it’s tolerable. But that clock starts, I think, when you submit the magic form – which would be all very well – but I have to wait for them to get back to me with a list of previous owners and send them a letter that says “please indicate you no longer have interest in this trailer”.

The previous owner did sign a bill of sale… but with no title or registration, and no licence plate, and no serial number. It’s kinda tricky.

One thing – back to the garden – that is really interesting and astonishing is the difference the chickens have made to our lawn. And presumably to some extent the garden beds.

They’ve been roaming through the winter eating and pooing their way around the back garden and it is astonishing the change in just a year. It’s most noticeable in our grass – because we do nothing to treat our grass. But the grass in the chicken-wandering-zone is lush, thick and green. The grass where they’ve not been is thin and a bit yellow. Now, you might say ‘ah, yes, but you also threw down a ton of compost in the beds and maybe it’s leached into the soil’. And I had wondered that – except that I was out mowing the grass, and the the line is pretty absolute.

At the chicken-zone boundary, cut off by the fence, you can see the grass change.

So, well done to our chickens. They rock :)

We’ve also been progressing, slowly, on the trim. We’re down to a couple of windows needing top/bottom trim, the bathroom window (which is special and weird) and four door frames. That is a huge amount of progress… but I’m hoping that we can get the trailer so I can get all the remaining bits of wood in one trip. I mean, if they have it in stock. I’d also like to get the wood for the kitchen shelves so we can get those up, too.

What would make that easier would be a trailer…

Ah well, we’ll see what happens.

The lawn destruction continues apace.

When we bought our house it had what people would, probably, call a lawn. I mean, it was a crappy lawn – and we have since discovered that part of the reason it was so crappy is that a bunch of it had grown on top of what was, I would assume, plastic intended to stop things growing over a plant bed.

This had (again, I assume) become covered in enough rotted down leaf debris that the grass could take hold and bury the plastic where it slowly degraded under the soil into an irritating layer of nastiness that we keep finding bits of. But anyway, there was a lawn.

IMG_20171016_144859

Now, lawns are bollocks anyway. They’re just waste-of-space markers of wealth. Oh look, I can pretend to be lord of the manor, and instead of having a useful garden I can instead have this patch of useless monoculture that does nothing but suck up nutrients. And if you actually want it to look ‘good’ it’ll need constant attention with weeding, or worse with weed killer, and it’ll also need you to water it through the summer, and blah, and blah, and bleh.

I am not a fan of lawns.

If you love lawns, you do you (so long as you’re not spraying roundup on it, or pouring gallons of fertilizer on it).

There’s actually a creepily perfect lawn just down the street from us and I find it deeply unnatural.

Anyhow, we quickly set about ruining it – partially for practical purposes (having a soak-away), partly for having garden… and today we annexed yet another section, extending the bed that we grew stuff in last year outside the back door. We were doing some edging to make maintenance a bit easier… Last year, because of the somewhat rapid way that we did gardening (rotavate, throw in compost, rotavate, plant) the beds didn’t really have any edging. And that meant that it was harder to decide when the grass was invading.

So this year, we took the metal that was originally planned to go around the house (which we decided we didn’t like in that role) and used it to edge one of the veg beds.

IMG_20210329_145729

Of course we’ve done our super-lazy lasagne mulching (which is one layer of card then a ton of compost/soil). This does mean we have to weed afterwards, because the grass, unsurprisingly, survives this onslaught. But it generally only requires *some* weeding. And it means we don’t have to get an enormous amount of card. Which is handy – because that’s all the card we had left. In fact, we had to unpack our (mail order) toilet paper to get enough to do that…

Anyhow, it’s looking pretty good. We also unloaded the bed that was full of the worst soil. The stuff that turned out to effectively actually be gravel with some mud on it… That’s been piled up back around the edge of the soak-away which is meant to have a pond on top of it. There was once soil piled there, but the chickens… helped… with that.

The other quick ‘n dirty bit of garden fixing we did was to create some shelter for the chickens. A couple of weeks back we corralled them up at one end of the garden (so that we can actually grow things in the rest of the garden through the summer). They broadly seemed pretty happy with the high-quality deck we’d created to replace the our one at the back of the house (which they spent a lot of time on):

IMG_20210329_154324

The one problem was when it was hacking with rain they used to come and shelter under the eaves of the house. That no longer being an option and them seemingly almost unwilling to enter the run during the day (except to eat), we decided to create them some shelter on their deck.

This was constructed to an extremely high standard from the finest building materials (and not at all left over random crapity bits of cedar from other projects). We definitely spent more than about 2 minutes, total, on measuring. And we certainly didn’t just throw the whole thing together.

IMG_20210329_162608

It should give them some protection from the worst of the weather, if they choose to use it (which they obviously won’t, because they’re chickens).

In other news, the mixer doesn’t quite work as well as I’d hoped.

IMG_20210316_170615

There are three small problems. One is that the stop-button sticks. So I’m going to have to take the front panel off, remove the “stop” button, sand the edge of the panel I cut to give it a smiiidge more clearance, and then put it back together.

Not a huge thing, but slightly bothersome.

The other thing – which may be related, is it doesn’t always seem to want to latch into ‘run’. So you have to hold the start/run button in.

And finally, the belt seems to slip sometimes.

Now, new belts are available (as are new all the bits, really). But I don’t really want to spend $45 on it until I know that the rest of it is working properly. Since it is currently behaving like too much slippage causes it to switch off I may end up replacing it anyway before I’m totally convinced it’s all working.

But first we’ll fix the ‘stop’ switch.

Of course, now there’s a much cheaper – functional – one on ebay. Buuuut, I resurrected this beastie, and I will say the tealy blue looks damn cool.

So that’s…some of the stuff :)