Sun, sand and glaciers

COVID-19 notwithstanding, we decided that a couple of days of us not working on the house, not working in the garden and perhaps not being in Olympia was a good idea. We’d debated going camping, but left it too late to book a site that was sufficiently socially distant for our tastes (our tastes essentially being that no-one else is within about a 10 mile radius of us).

When I’ve been at work the social distancing is mainly for their safety, since Kathryn’s not at work right now her contact with peeps is pretty minimal. But since I’ve been not-at-work for a couple of weeks, this was mainly for our and my patient’s safety – because I don’t want to ferry plague back from other people to my, potentially sick-but-not-necessarily-with-COVID, patients.

So, instead we packed up our car with a coolbox containing lunch, took our coffee and tea in insulated cups and headed firstly out to the coast – and then on our second day of holiday – to Mount Ranier.

Our very first attempt was Westhaven State Park which is a beach over by Westport. Being a bit of a mizzly day it wasn’t too busy until you got down to the bit of the beach which was where the surfers like to hang out. Even there we were able to maintain distance, but it was a bit busier than we liked. So we poked at the map and found Griffiths-Priday State Park. Not far from the very popular town of Ocean Shores, which has reportedly been fairly much fully booked up with people who aren’t as concerned about COVID as we are.

We decided to give it a go, and what an excellent decision that was. It’s much closer to a wild beach with a large expanse of dunes and we meandered around barely seeing anyone that wasn’t a bird. The mist rolled in and out, the waves running up on the sandy beach. It was wonderfully peaceful and a lovely wild space to be away from other people for a bit.

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Sitting there and listening to the sea, watching the birds, hearing the wind in the grass; it just reminds you how beautiful the world is. And letting the water roll over your feet, feeling the sand slipping out from beneath you and back into the water is just such a centring experience.

Dinner was fish and chips (no malt vinegar though; I clearly need to get a bottle to carry for such events) from a restaurant that handily was doing drive-through ordering then kerbside pickup.

Yesterday we decided to head to the mountains. By sheer coincidence it happened to be one of the National Park’s free days – so we loaded up again and headed to Mount Ranier. One primary discovery from yesterday; we’re both hideously unfit. While working on the house has, I’m fairly certain, improved both of us’s upper body strength, our general stamina for ‘walking up a big hill’ has not improved.

But, it being a popular national park you can cheat and drive a big chunk of the way up ;)

We’d actually selected what was supposed to be a lightly trafficed route, but the sunshine and the free day and the fact no-one can go anywhere thanks to COVID mean that it wasn’t that quiet (although, it may be that it’s quieter than other routes…?). It also turned out that the combination of ‘moderate’ difficulty combined with almost no shade at all was… not ideal on such a hot day.

So we abandoned the plan and instead went on the Moraine Trail, which it turned out was an excellent plan because there was almost no-one on the short out-and-back trail which takes you to the foot of the terrifyingly disappearing Nisqually Glacier. It’s stunningly beautiful up there, and the mountain kindly let us get a really good view before mist and clouds suddenly descended covering the peak.

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It’s funny, because it’s one of those highly deceptive trails which – being unmaintained and over in a valley, makes it feel like you’ve hiked out to the absolute middle of no-where, when in fact you’re just a half hour walk from one of the tarmac’d paths in the Paradise area of the park that’s incredibly heavily trafficed.

We meandered up the trail and gazed up a the much diminished but still amazing glacier, then down the hill to attempt to find a spot for our snack. Which… ended up with me shrieking, leaping up and dropping my snack (which we then picked up and packed out, because we’re not arseholes); thanks to an ant deciding to take a bite of my arm.

Thankfully it turned out not to be a truly vicious ant, nor a swarm or herd or whatever it is of ants. But Kathryn swiped off the other one after I’d managed to remove the one from my foot and the one that was attempting to go up my leg. After that we decided to maybe continue our walk…

…and after climbing back up to the main path we headed across to the Stevens Canyon Road for a brief peek, before heading down the mountain, stopping for a brief look at Narada falls (which incredibly wasn’t too busy). Then down the mountain for takeaway dinner (which we tookaway to the carpark outside the restaurant). Turns out there’s a Nepalese food restaurant (and also a Ukranian one, actually) not far from the park entrance, so we tried that… which was okay. Not amazing, but not bad for tourist trap munchies.

And then home.

And now we’re back to regularly scheduled house stuff :)

It seems counterintutive, but we were nearly sunk by the sink.

Sorry.

So we got the counter on. Getting the counter on wasn’t terrible. We had to maneuver the dishwasher in and out a few times because the level wasn’t set quite right; so it would have fouled the bottom of the counter. But after a few trips (and it’s on rollers), it was in and seems to be at the right height.

Then we had to play ‘what looks right’ to get the countertop on. Because the wall’s not straight; and so the cabinets don’t sit perfectly; nor does the cooker.

But eventually we reached a consensus between all the warring angles and we decided we were happy with the position.

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So then it was time to install the sink.

We got the template, positioned it carefully, drew around it, drilled some starter holes and set to with a multipurpose blade in the jigsaw. Did it go well? No, it f’kin did not.

The screws we’d put in to hold the metal to the wood – well, let’s just say they got in the way. Then the blade decided to go off for a wander at a jaunty angle. Then nothing we had would cut through the screws which were riiiight where we needed to go*

Finally, using a combination of the reciprocating demo-saw, a bunch of new jigsaw blades, and a fine agglomeration of swearing we got the hole cut. Then we test fitted the sink – placing some wood blocks to stop it being difficult to get out**, we dropped it in. It fit perfectly***.

We attached the clips (per the instructions), coated the edges with silicone sealant and popped the sink in the hole.

Whereupon it instantly became apparent that the clips now fouled the edge of the hole and would quite definitely not go in the hole. Eventually, after a rapid assessment of the deteriorating situation we realised that even were we to pop it out and cut the hole bigger – which would be a challenge to do as once the clips are on there’s approximately 2-3mm between ‘correct size to get the sink through’ and ‘oh, the sink has fallen through the hole’ because the clips almost, but not quite, protrude at the side of the sink**** – the clips were too short to actually clip the damn sink to our worksurface as they’re less than an inch and a half long, and our work surface is an inch and a half thick. Plus a the front and back 3/4″ for the top surface of the cabinet.

So after some rapid assessment we opted for yanking the clips off again, throwing in a bit more sealant and putting the sink in. It turned out that actually, the wood blocks we’d put which held the sink just out of the hole (making it easier for us to remove it after test fitting) had hidden another problem; the pieces of metal that hold the clips in actually fouled the hole too.

The supplied template is woefully wrong.

We bent them a bit and managed to shove the sink into the hole.

It looks nice now – and hopefully the amount of sealant there is enough to both seal it and hold the damn thing in.

Then came the discovery that the drains supplied with the sink have necks that are about 3cm longer than the old sink. Whiiiiiich, it turned out, is a problem because where the drain enters the wall was somewhat marginal height wise anyway. And it turns out, the easiest and best route ends up with the new drain pipe being in the way of the drain – a plan which obviously wasn’t going to work.

It took a lot of pondering, staring, holding up bits of pipe, and in the end some rather weird routing – but… eventually I landed on this:

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Which seems to work.

And so, at long last, we have a proper kitchen sink. The tap is actually attached and no longer spins at the slightest provocation. It no longer has to be twisted to allow you to have it on cold.

It’s quite nice.

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* Or so we thought.

** A mistake.

*** Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

**** WTF?!

The garden

So, one thing I’ve not talked about loads is the garden. We’ve worked bloody hard on transforming an unloved, uncared for patch of barely alive grass and dandelions into something that’s not only giving to us, but is adding to the biodiversity, and providing food for (some) wildlife. I mean, it would provide food for more wildlife, but we’d actually like to eat it ourselves, so we’re pretty keen to keep deer out.

It’s one of those things that we seem to do that I’m unsure if it aids in selling – as this is definitely not our forever home we do think about that, but then very little we do is really targeted at selling. I mean, we have an awareness that one day we’d like to sell.

But gardening is something we both seem to be driven to do – and enjoy doing. And trying to improve the land we’re custodians of, and giving wild critters somewhere to be in our generally monoculture (grass) built environments. It’s selfish, too, because we want to grow food, and we want to enjoy pretty flowers, and I love watching the birds and insects fluttering around the place.

But it also has some grounding in trying to make the world a better place.

Anyhow, so back when we moved in the garden at the back was a scrubby patch of grass, three plum trees, a lilac bush (next to the house) and the umbrella tree.

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Oh, and there was a thicket of brambles right at the back. Unfortunately, I didn’t think to take a picture before we got our arborist to attack the trees which had clearly had absolutely no maintenance recently, and quite possible for their entire life; and also to hack back the brambles.

You can kinda see them in the background of this picture which was the only picture on the listing when we got the house.

Anyhow, we’ve worked on it lots. We’ve built raised beds, we’ve dug turf, we’ve lasagne mulched. Kathryn’s mom came and weeded and mulched our front garden and helped us make more beds…

And sometimes the transformation is quite striking.

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And it’s amazingly productive. I mean it’s a weird year weather wise (aren’t they all now, HT: Climate change). But we just pulled over 3kg of veg from our garden in one day’s harvest:

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And that’s not hugely unusual. Last week we had something like 30 courgettes. We’ve also had artichokes, broccoli, radish, raspberries, strawberries, peas, beans, a variety of herbs, our tomatoes are setting on the vine and our sweetcorn is growing inches every day; it’s got tassels and silks, so we should actually get corn (Kathryn’s been hand pollinating them). We’ve got Jerusalem Artichokes, cabbages, brussel sprouts, leeks, onions… oh and 2 plums (there may be more? We can only see two… between our three plum trees. I think the birds got them all).

It’s quite joyous watching it grow and delightful to actually get to eat some of it.

We might get some kiwi’s next year, and if we can keep the deer out we’ll get Aronia berries. We might also yet Jostaberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants….

Anyhow. It’s been hard work, but it’s very lovely now it’s in.

Chooks, Worktops and the floor

Somewhat disjointed progress, since we’ve been working on multiple unconnected things.

Let’s start with the floofy ones. We got some chickens after a couple of false starts – turns out a lot of people with chickens are terrible at contacting you. Also, for some reason, our wanting to buy chickens coincided with other people having a thoroughly miserable time. One person’s partner had multiple migraines, another person’s dog died…

We also had to put up the run (the coop build I’ve wittered about already, but we did paint it). A large amount of treated lumber, some swearing at hardware cloth (thank you Sarah!) and some of our spare chicken wire later and we have something that has very little relation to right angles or verticality, but does ‘follow the contours of the land‘* and also seemed appropriate for containing small dinosaurs.

In the end, after we managed to navigate the disasters we seemed to be causing in other people’s lives, and actually found someone really nice to sell us them, Pippi (Longstocking, obvs) and Mymble (as in Tove Jansson’s moomin books) came to join the fam’. Mymble is slightly suspect for being a boy and we’re not allowed roosters in the city, but they said they’d trade them out if they turn out to be a roo, Pippi seems fairly certain to be a girl.

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They’re both Swedish Flower Hens, which are a landrace** breed (they basically Darwin’d themselves into existence on Swedish farms). That, unsurprisingly, means they don’t have niceties like feather patterns or colouration that disinguishes which sex they are. You just have to look at them and go “well, you don’t look like you have a huge comb” and “your feet and legs aren’t too big” and pray that’s a girl chicken, not a boy. We’d actually hoped to get a third chook but wanted a different breed, and it turned out that they only had one other chicken of a similar age and they’re looking quite roostery.

Still, we’re going to check in on them in a few more days and hopefully that little birdling will not be looking more roostery; otherwise we might go looking somewhere else. We did look at one other person’s birds, but weren’t happy with the condition of their feet (fearing scaly leg mites***), so took a pass on them.

Pippi and Mymble seem to be settling in fine, they’re clearly geniuses of the bird world having worked out the water feeding nipples more or less independently (we showed one of them, once, right when we moved them) and the ladder into the coop with minimal intervention and just the one day of ‘using Kate as an adventure playground and roost, rather than going into the coop’.

Readers, please note: only my left shoulder is approved as a chicken roost by Pippi and Mymble; my right shoulder is terribly, terribly unsuitable.

Sadly? Fortunately?… No video exists of this experience which mainly had me giggling as it became rapidly apparent that I was not going to win on persuading them in to the coop by myself.

That was day 3 of ‘putting chickens to bed’. Day 4, they just went in, all on their own. Same on day 5. We just have to pootle out and shut the door.

The other main job we’ve been working on is the kitchen worktops. Having decided that “thousands of dollars” was a ridiculous amount to pay for kitchen worktops, but also that having built one side that was 3m long, and therefore realising we were unlikely to get leftovers from someone else’s project that would do the job either — we’d been hunting for a solution that would come in more at a price point we were willing to pay.

Eventually we settled on zinc worktops (which should patina up nicely). First we asked someone about making them – and they gave us just as ridiculous a quote as everyone else for every other material. And none of these quotes included installation, so far as I could tell. So we decided to try and do it ourselves.

So we ordered a roll of zinc. Well, three, actually. Two for the counters, one for the cooker backsplash. We also ordered a large quantity of 3/4″ plywood – two layers of which (glued and screwed together) would make roughly a standard thickness counter. Well, the gluing didn’t go quite as well as hoped – I’d opted for construction adhesive initially because then – I’d hoped – we could use it for both jobs (not the ideal glue I’ll admit, but kind of an average for both).

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Unfortunately, the smaller of the two didn’t bond together well – so we ended up throwing a gallon of wood glue into split between the two boards and then clamping them together a second time – which needed a whole ‘nother day to dry. That mean that we didn’t get to start with the easier, shorter worktop for wrapping the zinc, because it was still drying.

Instead the first glue and fold we did was on the long worktop.

So the gluing – we definitely don’t have enough weight or big enough clamps (can’t reach the actual board from the edge with the overlap required to cover the sides and the underside). That is definitely the case. Also, we worked out after we did it the way we should have got the metal sheet positioned, because it didn’t land where we wanted it to, not at all. Also, we should have done this the other way up – using the offcuts from the plywood to support the metal sheet, then dumping the heavy wood onto the metal. That way, the wood would have added it’s weight to the piled on piece of stuff making the contact adhesive stick. Instead, it was just our pressure and then piling paint tins, blocks, bricks, bits of random wood. The gluing worked…ish, and the positioning should work, but it’s not… generous.

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Also, folding it is a thousand nightmares. We don’t have a nice jig, nor fancy metal folding machinery, just a rubber mallet and our arms. The first fold – the one on the back that we don’t care about – is not great. Partly because it took a couple of attempts to settle on ‘just beat the sh*t out of it with a rubber mallet’ as the “best” technique. I’d tried applying gentle force with a bit of wood running back and forth along the length of it (nope). I’d tried hitting it with a hammer using a bit of wood as a protector (works, but dents it a lot). I’d tried swearing at it vigorously (not effective, but therapeutic). But both of us whaling on it – taking turns – with the rubber mallet and working outwards from the centre? That seems to work.

I mean, it’s not a nice pin sharp corner with smooth verticals.

That is definitely not what it is.

But it’s looking okay.

Unfortunately, even with our temporary shade (Kathryn’s cunning plan of stringing the tarp between the house and the garage), the gap at the side of the house is very warm and catches sun all morning. In the afternoon it’s just hot there, though, but well shaded. Hopefully we can get the big one done tomorrow (today it’s going to be way too hot for sure at 31°C); and get the smaller one glued. I’m also wondering if we can use some of the offcuts we have around to make the backing board to wrap the zinc around for behind the cooker (because I forgot to order that when I bought the big sheets for the counter).

So that’s slow, but definite progress.

We still haven’t chosen handles for the kitchen cupboards.

Which leads us to the floor. The floor is a constant source of concern. The microcement topping we used didn’t come out smooth – now how much of this is applicator error, and how much is not is a question we’re going to have to resolve when we do the bathroom. But it came out with a suedey texture which is actually really nice to look at, and feels pretty good… but it holds dirt really well. Add to that, that without surface sealing (which we were told wasn’t necessary in light duty areas) you can only lightly clean it with water. Add a cleaning compound or rub at it, and the colour changes, permanently. We have a nice streak by the back door where a slug found its way in that demonstrates that quite well.

So thaaaaat’s not going to work long (or even medium) term. It’s becoming increasingly problematic, so we think (maybe) we’re going to try and polish it and then seal it. Which is quietly terrifying.

The theory being that if we fuck it up we’d have to do something else with it anyway. That may end up being tiling the bloody thing with slate (because the colour we went for is effectively slate, and looks really nice), getting someone else to pour a resin floor (lazy, easy), or painting it (meh)… Either way, it’s a pain in the arse.

So at some point we’re going to have to do a test patch, probably in the cupboard somewhere. Then it’ll be renting a floor sander and wishing that we’d done this before we moved in (but we didn’t know… and really, didn’t have time).

Meh.

The main big project over the next few weeks however, is the trim. Which I keep saying but we’re not getting to, but is actually true. I’m off work for a couple of weeks and apart from us going to spend a little time walking out in the wilds, we’re mainly going to be putting a concerted effort into getting the outside of the house finished. So… err, hopefully that will be a big job done :)

*Definitely not an excuse for “we just threw it on the ground”.

**I have learned more about chickens than I ever knew in the past few weeks. Mainly from Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens by Gail Damerow, but also from rando blog posts on t’internet.

*** It’s amazing what you can learn.

Another project

So, I’ve taken a bit of a break from the house for a minute. This is because we saw a rat in our woodpile. This is… not something that we felt positive about. We’re aware that Oly has a rat…issue. Apparently we’ve arrived at around the time the city has got big enough and dense enough to start supporting a significant rat population. Hence our house’s previous existence as a service station on the rat highway (now subject to a bypass).

We hadn’t seen any rat action under the house since we dried it out down there and also made it so we weren’t pumping warm, moist air into the void (the lack of maintenance from the previous owner extended to the dryer vent just venting under the house). We also blocked off one of the routes in (next to the sewer pipe) with a mixture of rocks and pebbles, which apparently is not a thing they love. There are, however, snap-traps under the house for the purpose of preventing rat-ingress.

So that’s all good. But when we wandered over to the compost pile a while back, we noticed… a rat. Which prompted a rather more urgent building of the chicken coop, for which the wood was being saved. This lumber had been pulled out of the house with the original intention that it’d go back in, but having de-smelled the house we decided we didn’t really want that grotty lumber making up our nice new clean walls – and also, it was quite often split or holed…which made deciding not to use it for that much easier.

Unfortunately, that meant it sat outside under cover for… years.

About 2 and a half of ’em.

Fortunately, it actually doesn’t look terrible, because we were pretty good at keeping it dry. And uncovering it revealed that I think that the rat was just using it to access a hole it’d made; it doesn’t look like they’ve tried to make a nest there.

So I ran out to Hardel and got some 4×4 cedar chunks, some concrete mix, some hardware cloth and some utility grade siding. Annoyingly they only had shiplap, but it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.

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That same day I dug out the patch where the coop was going, threw the poles in the ground with some concrete, and buried the hardware cloth.

Then over the last 3 days or so I’ve built a coop – which I’d planned out roughly, but not knowing exactly what wood was there, I didn’t want to be too specific about which lengths of wood I should use. That did, of course, lead to some rather…interesting decisions (some would call them ‘mistakes’) when cutting as I tried to model in 3D the final result. Fortunately, it’s amazing what you can cover with trim.

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It does still need a coat of paint, although I’ve thrown some primer down on the inside. Unfortunately, our only ‘spare’ paintbrush is basically a solid lump. It’s sufficient for painting the inside, because I don’t think the chickens are going to be deeply concerned about the quality of paint finish, but won’t work for the outside I don’t think. Pleasingly, we managed to use literally all the trim wood, and nearly all of the 2x4s.

It also needs some locks (the doors are currently screwed closed, which is a short term solution), and a latch for the egg box. Especially since we saw raccoons, I don’t want to find them in our coop.

Oh, and I keep forgetting, but it does also need a roof. That means getting hold of some of the finishing strips for the metal roofing, which is a bit tricky. It also means buying some non-deforming metal shears.

In a little job on the house I put up the plywood in what will be our pantry, which is pleasing. I need to cut some pieces to be the base, and the back; then we can mount our pull out pantry. There is about 2 sq ft of wasted space… but in the entire house, that’s the only area we can’t use… which isn’t too bad since a lot of that space was scattered around in the old layout. Originally I planned to make a custom pull out for this, but the amount of time / reward for it doesn’t seem worth it…

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Soon, /so?on/, adverb. Meaning at some vague point in the future.

Wow, it’s been a while since I did a house update. Progress has been slow, in part because of the weather, in part because of [other things going on in the world that are more pressing] and in part because I’m not always super efficient. I know it looks that way, but I’m not.

So, mainly there’s been a lot of work in the garden. I’d like to pretend that the house has been first and foremost on the project list, but it definitely hasn’t. The weather has been alternately vastly too hot to spend ages outside or alternatively, very wet. Neither of these has resulted in a rapid rate of progress, although this morning I finally got back to moving the infinite pile of rocks from our construction driveway and have managed to clear to only a meter or so from the garage (not across the full width, sadly, but a chunk of it).

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This may seem like an odd thing to be working on right now, but the cunning part of this plan is that if I can get to a point where Rebecca can move in and out of the garage, albeit with me pushing, then I can actually break out the table saw. Now while I can cut the trim for the house with the circular saw, the table saw will be a hell of a lot easier and quicker. And the damn rocks need to move anyway; I’m fairly much sick of the sight of them. It’s abundantly clear that we’re going to have quite a few rocks left over, so working out what we’re going to do with them is becoming more pressing. We’ve got more beds we can edge with them, so that’s a possibility for some.

Send your thoughts on a postcard to “Kate’s rock dilemma, BBC Bristol, PO Box 111…”

Anyhow, clearing the rocks means that I’m most of the way down the north side of the house with the rock-gap, which should stop our house having any chance to get damp. The underfloor heating I’m sure helps with that, because the point that would be wettest, in the winter, is the joint between the floor and the wall, which has the potential to get sprayed with water when it rains. That is dried out by the heating, anyhow. But, making it so there’s not grass able to hold water right next to the house; and so that the water is more likely to drain quickly should improve that further. Thankfully, the house hasn’t shown a tendency to dampness as of yet, despite the lack of maintenance it had been subjected to. And I think our rainscreen seems to be doing its job pretty well.

To head back to the garden, however… It was progressing well until a deer managed to find its way in. We’d done a pretty good job of preventing ingress/egress of deer, with our 7′ tall monstrosity of a temporary fence, but a while back one managed to get in a gap between our house and our rearward neighbour. We’d not fenced a short section that had the original, only 4′ tall, fence on the basis that we didn’t think deer could get to it anyway being as it’s up by the neighbour’s house. It turns out they can, they did, and they came to eat. Kathryn chased it off that time and we tacked up another section of fence to try and prevent it coming back – which worked for a while.

….until a few days ago when it decided that it would come for the all-you-can-eat-buffet. Eating the tops of our biggest tomatoes, peas, great chunks of beans, all our Aronia berries*, chunks of native plants, an entire squash plant…

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Now this is by far a small thing in the grand scheme of things, but this is also the first year we’ve grown so much from seed, so it was pretty annoying and upsetting. We think it came in through that same section where, it turned out, the short section of fence we’d put up had come down. I’m not sure if it was the deer that pulled the fence down though, because yesterday I got to watch the cute – but slightly worrying – passage of a family of raccoons across that fence.

Watching the smallest one wail and flail its forelegs and the [presumed] parents climb partially back over the fence and haul the small one over was, I’ll admit, terribly cute. But it’s also worrying as we don’t really want a family of raccoons making their home in our garden, or using it for object disassembly practice.

Anyhow, we fixed the fence back up – this time with some more sturdy screws, and sprayed some repells-all around (which is quite the scent), and are hoping that this resolves the problem. Frustratingly, we’d only just pruned the tomatoes extra shoots, so they were already under stress. We’ll have to see if they survive this new onslaught.

We also went to the Urban Farm and Garden place, who were having a handy sale, so we’ve now got a fig tree and a nice bay tree (to replace our failed bay tree), both of which should add to the mixture of shade/light in the garden. At the same time we also picked up a few new deer-off-putting plants. Deer don’t eat rosemary or lavender, apparently (and from our experience), and apparently don’t really like the smell of them. So we’ve planted a few more of them around our corn / tomato / squash bed. It’s all looking rather like our usual organic (chaotic) plantfest, which is quite delightful to me.

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Inside, we finally put up the picture rail in our office. This has been one of those jobs we’d been putting off for quite some time – not because it was hard in and of itself, but because it entailed moving lots of things. Again.

We finally sucked it up and did it, and then reassembled the room more tidily than before, and it’s looking pretty good.

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We’re still on the lookout for a 3-section barrister’s bookcase to match the 5 section one we have (to make two 4 section bookcases…), but that’s a thing that involves going out in the world in a pre-COVID wanderings way, so that’s not happening right now as I’m still trying to avoid being Typhoid Mary.

I’ve also been working on the trim – it has been slow going partly because I’m doing it in a very weird way (I should really be using the tablesaw but…. can’t get to it), and partly because I’m still struggling with motivation. But, ignoring that, we now have trim around our bedroom – not finished, but it’s present on 3 sides of the door. I just need to do some more measuring, planing and cutting and we could have it on all the other bits. It is tricky, though, because our local dinosaur has hatched its eggs, and is very unkeen on me walking repeatedly to and from the garage. And I don’t want it to leave.

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But, like I say, we’ve done some of the trim around the bedroom door, and we’ve also done some around the windows in the lounge/kitchen. Which is definite progress. I’m not entirely happy with it, but I’m not a finish woodworker. The whole point of the chair project was for me to learn the skills of making wood actually join together in a pretty way, not in a purely adequately functional way. So doing this is definitely outside the bounds of my comfort zone. But it looks okay, I’m happy enough with it. And I don’t think anyone else will notice the problems, particularly (except for our woodworking friends).

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In the kitchen, we’ve decided to go ahead and try for worksurfaces made from zinc, which should be an interesting challenge to bend to shape without any kind of jig. We’ll see how that goes. I was going to just buy enough for the small one, but the $100 of shipping means it makes more sense to do both as the total is under $600… It will also be the backsplash for the stove, so that’s exciting, too. Planning to order that in the next couple of days.

We are, of course, still debating handles for the kitchen. We found something, conceptually, that we like. But it didn’t come in the shape we wanted. That is a problem, because now we know what we want, but can’t have it. Feh.

*Super disappointing as we were planning to make Sloe gin this year, and we had a really, really good haul of them.

Today is one of those hard days

I’m not sure why. I mean, I could point to a billion things. I could point to the UK government endeavoring to make being trans illegal and life impossible for my many friends over there. I could point to the awful nature of the current administration in the US which is attempting to cause harm to immigrants they have (almost certainly illegally) detained. I could point to the fact that the history of systemic racism and inequality in the US has driven people of colour and their supporters out onto the streets in mass demonstrations which put their lives at risk from CV19 (but their lives are at risk from existing in the US — and many western nations — at the moment anyway). I could wave my hands in the general direction of the awful police brutality and violence being meted out by white supremacist cops and their supporters.

I can look at the news and see that god-awful-weasel of a man that’s currently occupying the White House having peaceful protestors tear-gassed and assaulted so he can do his best Mussolini impression in front of a church.

And this comes on the background awful of climate change and biodiversity loss which I keep wondering if I’m doing anywhere enough for, and knowing I’m not.

All of it makes the jobs I need to do to finish the house feel terribly pointless. And all of the awful is, probably, why I’m feeling pretty crap today. But understanding that doesn’t really help.

What follows you around

So, I keep being struck by something that’s popped into my head as a vague thought now and then. And it’s hard to put into words, and being someone who hauled their worldly possessions across an ocean to settle in a new land – and was not particularly minimal about what she brought, it’s perhaps a quirk of me.

But I’m intrigued by the possessions that are quick-momentary purchase decisions, that end up being with you long term. Various random things bring this up for me, the nightshirts I’ve got which were bought because I was going into hospital back in 2001, and didn’t think my nekkid body wandering the hospital corridors was appropriate (it explicitly reminded you to bring nightwear). I’ve still got several of them – they don’t get a hard life, and so they’ve lasted well… and they weren’t anything special – just C&A’s least froofy ones, I think. But they’re comfy, and so until they disintegrate they’ll stay around.

And there’s the steel bowl that came from the now presumably long gone EuroCo Discount Store in Northfield – on the outskirts of Birmingham. I bought that because I wanted to make dinner with friends, and I didn’t have a mixing bowl when I got to university. It was probably £1, or thereabouts, is stainless steel, and not particularly anything that you’d make a huge effort to keep. It isn’t beautiful, but it is very functional. And it’s followed me since that decision.

The cutlery my mum bought me when I was going to university? Still mostly in service (one of the spoons has gone walkies). Until we got an induction stove, the pan she got me also was in use (I’m loathe to get rid of it, so I’ll get an adapter ring at some point).

The cruft of a lived life.

And I faintly wonder about the things I inherited from my dad. Was the soldering iron something he debated? Or just that he needed a soldering iron and that was the one in the shop. The Eagle multimeter – was that the best one he could afford that he saved up for? Or was it just that it was a convenient kit – I know he always commented that he wished he’d got a mirrored scale version.

What will survive me? What things that I’ve accrued will matter to someone after I’ve gone?

I should not have worn the “Impossible” teeshirt today: computing edition.

So this is going to be about me being pissy after a day of disastrous computing. Feel free to skip it.

A while back I ordered the open vehicle monitoring system. I did this because I would like to control the aircon in our Kia Niro EV without paying $225 per year. Now OVMS cannot currently do that, but I thought I would capture the data OBD data from my car — which has a trial subscription to Kia’s UVO system — when it turns on the Aircon remotely. This…might enable someone cleverer than me to identify how to actually make it work. Or even, it might enable me to identify how to make it work. The easiest way to capture that data is to use the OVMS dongle which is designed to be able to capture data. Unfortunately – in very minor things that COVID has caused, my OVMS unit is stuck in China, somewhere, in a freight unit. And our ‘trial’ of UVO runs out in about 2 weeks.

However, in a moment of clarity I realised that I could* use my existing diagnostic OBD dongle to connect to the car, and log using that. However, I didn’t want to pay for expensive software to replicate what OVMS will be able to do, so it needed to be a cheap-or-free solution.

It started okay.

I had located some free software that could, in theory, talk to an OBD dongle, on linux, and log the data from it for free.

Only slight problem, my Linux laptop didn’t have all the bits installed for it. As is often the case, the more geeky the thing you want to do, the worse the installation and usage instructions are, and the more time you have to spend trying to work out what the author had installed on their system that may — or may not — be necessary to built it, but was included in their build files. And also what was in their head when they wrote the instructions (if they even really exist) to install it.

I finally managed to get all the dependencies installed and it sort of working — insofar as it reported that the dongle isn’t connected — only to realise that my dongle is WiFi not Bluetooth, and so that application wouldn’t work. Then I spent a solid few hours trying to get a different application installed. That had a specific dependency on a deprecated version of an application where I couldn’t find that version. After quite a while I gave up on that application.

Then I thought, well… perhaps a Mac application will talk to the WiFi dongle.

So I got one, and the WiFi section of it doesn’t work.

So while I was sat in the car, I got to argue with the Mac which reports that it has a great connection to our WiFi network, but refuses to do anything. Eventually, I got into a position where I had both WiFi reported and working, and…I got another application, and installed it, and it crashes when it tries to switch to logging.

So then I thought, ha, maybe an Android app will do it.

After much searching and dinking I found that all the apps I can find that have OBD data logging are fucking expensive.

So then I thought, fuck it, I will find the relevant archaic version of this application and install it. Found it. Built it from sourcecode. Installed the fucker. Then found out that the Bluetooth logging app has a bug – only apparent when you get to compiling the application (I mean, it didn’t want to configure, which should have been a warning). That bug means it clashes with newer versions of some part of the OS – and you have to hack up your OS to make it compile properly by futzing with a system variable name. This was getting a bit too far into the territory of potential for breaking the laptop’s OS install – at which point I gave up.

So then I thought… well, I used to have an OBD dongle that was bluetooth – where did it go? And I hunted and hunted, and couldn’t find it. Then I remembered that OBD dongle I got sent heavily discounted because I’d bought a ZUS voltage monitor for my car.

And I got that and put it in the car. And my Android device will connect happily to it.

The mac? Well, it let me enter a PIN and connected, then disconnected, and since then has refused to let me enter a PIN for the dongle, just reporting that the connection failed because the PIN is wrong. Deleting the device did sod all. It just sits in the list and if you press connect, fails.

My Linux laptop (Pinebook) won’t even give me a PIN entry option, despite the manual for bluetoothctl claiming it handles legacy devices that need a PIN. How does it handle them? By not working, it seems.

I thought – hrm – the Linux install on my laptop is a bit old (up to date security patch wise, but not the newest or shiniest kernel). So then I shuffled the cars to put Raven right next to the house (and thus, conveniently close to the room my PC is in). And lo, it appeared on the Bluetooth items list – and… failed to connect.

Because it won’t let me enter a f’king PIN.

And then I gave up.

A whole day of learning – the main point seemingly being – don’t think you’re so fucking clever.

And for an encore I broke a friends WordPress install. Thankfully a fresh install with nothing in it on a VM. But let’s just say I do not feel the most technically competent today.

* Because sometimes I forget how much the world has moved on and I still think I possess more technical competence than I actually do.

Gently moving forwards

So, like I say, I’ve been trying to give myself some grace. I’ve also been trying not to get drenched, and the weather (as is often the case in the PNW) is not entirely predictable. Which is another way of saying it’s been raining quite a lot. Actually, it’s kind of flung itself wildly from rain to boiling hot sun and back to rain. Not ideal weather for working outside. AS I’m looking now, the sky has some light fluffy clouds skittering across a blue sky – and it’s predicted to start raining in about 2 hours.

I could use those two hours to get the mitrebox out, cut a couple of pieces, plane them to fit, and then rush to throw everything away before it starts raining, but I’m trying to be a little patient with myself.

But, that doesn’t mean that we’ve not achieved anything.

The compost is largely moved to the back garden, there’s still somewhat of a pile in the front, but it’s not quite so ridiculous. At some point that needs to come back and move to the big triangular bed in the backgarden. About half of what needs to come back is there. I think there’ll be some extra, but that’s fine, because we’ve got other bits of the garden that will need some that weren’t included in my original calculation. That’s the joy of rounding.

The big thing we’ve done in the back garden is we’ve erected a fence. Up until now, we’ve been fending off deer with individual fences:

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But that has been a nightmare for weeding and watering. And it’s not like we’re the most efficient at getting out there (Oh, here come the clouds, btw) and weeding / watering. Doing so when you have to spend 10 challenging minutes unwrapping the flappy sharp bits of wire mesh was… less likely to happen. So we’ ordered some fence poles (turns out you can mail order metal 8′ fence poles) and over the weekend we put up the first run of fence – an ~7ft fence (tallest we could manage, really).

Then today we put up a second run of fence – apparently, deer have terrible depth perception, and really don’t like double fences. Indeed, apparently, you can get away with a 4ft high fence and a second 4ft tall, but canted at 45 degrees fence running parallel, and they’ll go “uh, no”. But we didn’t really want to lose that much garden, and thought our neighbours might not appreciate a fence canted over like a set of spears.

Now, 7ft is apparently a lousy height for a deer fence, because desperate deer will try to jump it, and it’s right on the margins of what they can manage and they’re more likely to fall attempting to clear a 7′ fence and failing (apparently, they’ll pretty much give up at 8′, and our planned proper fence will be 6′ with 2′ of trellis). However, our fence will probably just fall over if they attempt that, so I’m hoping we won’t end up with dead/damaged deer in our garden, and also, we’ve erected our trench defenses second line of fencing alongside our first fence which, while it’s only 2′ or so away will, we’re hoping dissuade them further.

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I’m hopeful, but not convinced. When the lockdown lifts (at least for a while) we can hopefully go get some wood posts, and work out where our boundary is with our neighbour, and put up a real fence that’s somewhat more attractive (and also, ideally, doesn’t make a 3m wide strip of our garden look like some middleclass reenactment of the maginot line).

The nice thing about this is that our garden is starting to look more like a garden, and less like a collection of sad fences. Now it’s just the slugs and the moles that we need to deal with.

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In interior news, work is progressing slowly on trimming around doors and windows – yesterday I did three of the window’s vertical sections. I now need to cut and wax/oil the horizontals, which needs…weather that’s forecast to be dry for a solid day, really. Something that’s been in short supply this week.

However, my weirdy plane the back off them so we end up with L-shaped pieces seems to be working okay.

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