31, 2007 - Well Repairs
5 AM -
Two days in a row of wet weather but nothing serious in the way of rain.
The other day when I was
re-activating the south well, I noticed that water was running backwards down
the pipe after the pump shut off. A check valve 200' at the bottom of the
well is supposed to prevent that from happening and obviously mine has failed.
Besides the obvious problem of not being able to keep the pressure tank full, a
bad check valve can also cause damage to the pump. The water running back down
the pipe causes the pump to spin backward and if the power should kick on
when that is happening, the pump can snap a shaft and be ruined. So next week,
Russ will be out here to pull the pump and replace the valve. $$$
In the mean time
I've opened some valves that allow the south side to be fed from the north well.
And since that well runs a little gritty, I installed a filter to keep things
2 PM - I'm
dealing with a migraine today though I did manage a trip to a nursery and picked
up 5 more trees to plant around the house. Three cottonwoods and alder and
a sycamore that will hopefully provide some shade to our upper entryway.
I'm also using
them to block the view of our house from the adjoining properties.
Neighbors aren't always forthcoming on the subject but most will eventually
admit that they aren't interested in looking at another persons house when they
could be looking at a beautiful view. It'll take a few years but
eventually I'd like people to be able to drive by our property and not know
anything is there. Well, in the summer at least. The trees are
The power went out for a couple
of hours this morning but since I've been preparing for operation "Get
Back" that's happening on April 21, I took it in stride. In fact, I
may not even wait for the event. I think I'm ready to live my life at level 3
Get back, get
back. Get back to where you once belonged. [thanks, mo! ...on behalf
of the group I hope we passed the audition.]
Saturday, January, 26, 2007 -
8 AM - More about the new
computer. Though this computer is "state of the art" and has all the bells and
whistles I'll need to run Vista when it comes out next week, that's not what I
like best about it.
It's quiet. In fact,
with the monitor off, you wouldn't know there was a computer running in the
room. My problem with the old computer was the noise it made while it
adjusted fan speeds to compensate for how hard the processor was working. And it
was constantly doing that to the point of distraction. In Spielberg's
movie War of the Worlds, you can hear the machinery gearing up when
the Martian death machine crawls out of the earth and begins zapping the human
race with its ray gun. That's the noise my old computer made and I kept waiting
for it to sprout tripod legs and walk out of the room.
Even when I'm not sitting in front
of the computer, I like to have it in the background doing useful things. With a
full time internet connection I have it set up to display local news updates,
monitor NPR with a window that tells me what stories they're covering at that
moment (with one click, I can listen in), and I can have it running a slide show
of the hundreds of photos I've taken. And now, all those functions can be going
on at the same without the computer threatening to leave the room.
25, 2007 - Computers
7 AM - The
new computer arrived yesterday and it only took about three hours to get it up
and running with everything transferred over from the old computer. This has
been the smoothest transition I've ever had and I owe it to the fact that I was
able to move files back and forth over my wireless network. I was even able to
move my Outlook contacts data which has always been problematic in the past.
FrontPage and Photoshop are my most used programs and they re-installed without
a hitch. It's a Dell and the best thing is the quiet case that they use these
days. Hardly a sound comes from this thing so Cath can now sleep without needing
In the news this
morning is a story of a cougar attack that happened in Prairie Creek Redwoods
State Park, north of San Francisco. I've mentioned this
today's incident is reinforcement of my concern about walking alone on the
ranch. I'm undecided on what to do though. Carrying a gun seems ridiculous
and it's a major hassle. Considering how rare attacks are, doing nothing is
probably the reasonable course of action.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
- In 1977 I worked with a crew
building parks for the city of Chula Vista California. It was my introduction to
large scale landscaping and that's when I developed a
perspective on the size of an acre of land.
Everything is relative of course
but our 20 acres on the ranch doesn't really add up to a lot of property. On my
morning walk, using my meandering trail that zigzags back and forth, I can visit
every section of our land in just under 20 minutes. To boost my time up to 30
minutes, I have to extend my walk out onto the road that enters the valley.
As recreation it's not bad and my
walks help me keep track of what's happening around the place. It's not like we have a lot going on around
here though things do happen on a small scale. Wood rats get into the equipment, pipes break, trees fall, yada yada.
The photo is of the fishing net
float that I placed in the rocks at the upper edge of the property. I'm
not sure why I put it there but its become one of the waypoints that I pass on
my walk. It has survived the elements for three years and it marks the halfway
point in my 30 minute hike.
22, 2007 - Wildlife
6 AM - From
the photo you can see that this area of ground was scraped to bare dirt when
they leveled the area for the new house. I've been trying to encourage native
grasses to return but after a year, the area is still dusty and dead. Of course
having 40 turkeys pecking around everyday doesn't give the new growth much of a
chance to sprout. Last spring I spent a lot of time sowing native wildflower
seeds but not a single one came up.
I have no one to blame but
myself because I've been throwing out chicken scratch to feed the birds and
turkeys. You reap what you sow and in this case it�s not going to be
Actually I�ve been
backing off on the bird feeding. Though the turkeys aren�t native, they are wild
and I don�t want them to become dependent on my handouts. With the
drought, it's tempting to start handing out food to the struggling wildlife but
I'll limit my generosity to just providing water.
4 PM -
Another quiet day on the ranch and in the valley. This morning I crawled around
under the house looking for mouse entryways. I found a couple of holes under the
back porch that I plugged even though the access to under the back porch is
tightly sealed. Mice can squeeze through holes as small as a dime so I know what
I'm looking for and I'm taking my time to do it right. I can't deny that
one got in so I'll keep looking.
And I finished my
repair at the south well. Pretty simple and nothing unexpected.
Saturday, January 20, 2007 -
AM - It's still in the low 30's so before I head out for my chores, I've
been fooling around with screen resolutions and aspect ratio settings. At one
time when I was seriously interested in building web pages, I was told to design
my pages for the most commonly used screen resolution. At that time it was 800 x
600 and you wanted to make sure that your WebPages viewed properly in that
resolution. If you designed your pages at a higher resolution, they would most
likely display poorly when viewed at the more used lower resolution.
Not a subject that is of much
interest to the average computer user and most just use the default setting that
came with their computer. For what it's worth, the pie graph shows the
screen resolution percentages used by the people who visit this website.
These days, most entry level
computers come with hardware that can handle the higher resolutions. The most
common monitor size is 17" though 19" is quickly becoming the standard. Of
course, trying to keep up with current technology is a losing battle but, if you
have the hardware, you might want to experiment with some of the higher
resolution settings. Many websites post photos that won't even fit on a single
screen at a lower resolution.
19, 2007 - Well Repairs
5 AM -
By Tuesday I
had the pump repaired and the the house was again being supplied with water at
60 PSI. But in all the excitement, I completely forgot that our pressure tank on
the south side of the property had also suffered from the freeze and had burst a
pipe. It supplies water to the old house and one of Catherine's small orchards.
This was the well that was supplying our water right after the fire and in my
rush to get it going, I used pvc pipe instead of steel. Today I'll be doing it
On Wednesday I
bought a new computer monitor and I've been fussing with it ever since. It's a 19", wide
screen model with features that are much better than the computer I have it
connected to. My video card is short on memory but since it's in a laptop,
I have no way to upgrade. Because the laptop is so noisy, my plan was to put it
under my desk and use the new monitor with a wireless keyboard.
The plan is
flawed. The computer still sounds like a 747 (it can be heard throughout the
house) and the monitor doesn't really mesh well when being run from a laptop.
And I'm having trouble finding a screen resolution that isn't distorted.
7 PM - Kind
of an odd weather day. Started off sunny until the tail end of a storm swept in
from the northeast. Mostly just clouds, a few flakes of snow and a bit of
drizzle. I did manage to get a new GFI outlet installed at the well before
the drizzle cancelled my repair of the broken pipe. It's not a high
priority and tomorrow will be a sunnier day.
Mayflower, a book about the pilgrims at Plymouth, I order a couple of books
about the settlement of Jamestown. Jamestown - The Buried Truth and A
Land as God Made It. Good reading for a drizzly day.
Monday, January 15, 2007 -
8 AM -
yesterdays entry, the phone rang and someone started knocking on the back door.
Two of my neighbors were contacting me to let me know that the pump at my well
had cracked and was throwing water 15 feet into the air. The pump had
frozen and the suction flange had split.
The repair isn't
terribly complicated but the hard part is getting a new flange. So, the water
was off to the house and I had to run a hose from the water tank to back feed
the house through one of the side hose faucets. On my trip to the hardware
store, I could see that I wasn't the only one with similar problems. In
Descanso, water was spraying over the road from a ruptured hydrant and the
hardware store was packed with people buying parts to repair their frozen pipes.
Many of the people were dealing with frozen & ruptured pipes inside their
houses. I consider myself lucky.
Around 8 PM I finally got in touch
with Russ Seevers, our well guy. He was on his way to Campo to do his 15th
repair of the day but he said he had the part I need and he will drop it off
By 9 PM the temporary hose I have
supplying the house was frozen solid. Not a big problem and we saw it coming so
we had set aside some water jugs to get us through the night. And this
morning I'm just waiting for the sun to clear the horizon so I can start taking
the pump apart.
10 PM - Man!! It's still
freezing out there! And the wind has picked up to 45 mph which has brought the
wind chill down to 28. Working on cold metal parts with the wind blowing around
my ears is something I'm not used to. I got the pump apart and I'm waiting for
Russ to bring the flange by.
Amazingly, the weather service has
declared a red flag fire warning in our area. Freezing temperatures but the wind
is blowing and the humidity is 16%.
3 PM - Still waiting on the
flange. Not looking good for getting it installed today but at least I have
running water (but very little pressure). And the propane guy came today to fill
our tank. $380. Groan!
10 AM -
Dang it got cold last night! 20 degrees. When the temps get into the low
20's for a sustained period of time, we run into trouble. Pipes freeze, the
water stops flowing and that's what we're experiencing this morning. At least
it's clear so as soon as the sun cleared the horizon, the temp jumped to 40.
I've uncovered the pressure tanks to allow them to thaw and hopefully we'll get
the water moving soon. Of course for you people in the Midwest, this would be
And we had a mouse
again last night. Actually it was the same mouse from the night before and we
could tell because he's missing half of his tail. I know, I know! We were soft
hearted so we let him out too close to the house and he found his secrete
entryway again. This time we took him far away so I don't expect him back.
I thought we had
this place sealed up tight as a drum but obviously I missed something.
I'll be in the crawl space today looking again.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
6 AM - A mouse is in the
house and Blackie the cat is having the time of his life. Involvement in group
activities is one of his favorite things and he and Catherine spent a good part
of the night bonding during a cooperative mouse hunt. From the clamor I knew
something was up but my cold medication had kicked in and I slept through most
of the event.
This morning when I groped my
way to the kitchen to get my coffee I saw the results of last night�s
activities. Chairs were overturned, cabinets had been pulled away from the walls
and the contents of several closets had been moved out into the center of the
room. Wow, that Tylenol cough syrup really is strong stuff.
I know, I know, that isn�t the way
to catch a mouse but once you get drawn into the action, you become caught up in
the thrill of the hunt and the next thing you know, you and the cat have morphed
into a mouse hunting tag team.
Blackie had no trouble catching
the mouse but rather than dispatch it on the spot, he�s under the impression
that his human hunting partner is supposed to step in for the final blow. With
the mouse pinned by the cat, the human approaches with an upturned waste basket
and the intention of placing it over the mouse. Brief flurries of commotion
ensue while the human, mouse, and cat tumble around the room. Of course the
mouse escapes and runs under another piece of furniture and I swear that once I
saw Blackie roll his eyes at Catherine. Variations of that process went on into
AM - Success! The mouse has been evicted to the wild outdoors and today I'll
be looking for mouse entryways that I can seal up.
We're having a cold snap and on my
walk this morning I noticed light flakes of snow blowing in the wind. I'm
not used to hiking in 30 degree weather but it's nice for a change. After
6 weeks I'm down about 8 pounds and it looks like I'll reach my 10 pound goal by
February 2. But, according to the health charts, at the very most my max weight
should be 185 so that leaves another 10 pounds to go. Weight charts!!! I
suspect they're put out by companies trying to sell diet products and even my
doctor scoffed at their figures.
8, 2007 - Weather
10 AM - After 3 days
we're still being pounded by Santa Ana winds. They're relentless and after
a while, kind of nerve racking. 57 MPH is the highest gust we've had from
this storm and the ceaseless racket makes it difficult to sleep. Our house
was chosen with these winds in mind so we don't have any concerns about damage.
Our hurricane shutters and low profile protect us from the type of damage
that some of our neighbors sustain.
But the noise
doesn't stop and sometimes in the darkness of night it rises to such a high
pitch that I wonder if any trees will be left in the morning. At this
point though, the weaker trees have been eliminated and the wind is now
busy removing layers of top soil. In some spots the ground is scoured down
to decomposed granite in a fashion reminiscent of the 1930's dust bowl.
And it's time for
my walk. Hold on to your hats!!
Wind Gust Yearly High
4 PM - I'm reading 8
Weeks to Optimum Health by Dr Andrew Weil. What is it about chunky fat
guys (Dr Phil) that makes them want to write diet books? It's because food
is the most important thing in their life and they've been obsessing about it
since they were a child. They turn their food fetish into a ritualized
ceremony that allows them to eat while enjoying their second favorite activity;
pontificating to the rest of us about our poor diets.
I don't see Dr Weils' 8 week program being a big success with the average
person. It requires that all your interests take a back seat to his proposed new
lifestyle that necessitates prowling out of the way health food stores in search
of obscure spices and teas. If you have a Felix Unger type of personality
and you really REALLY care whether your braised salmon is seasoned
with paprika instead of oregano, then his book might be for you.
Saturday, January 6, 2007
8 AM - The Santa Ana winds
are back and we are getting gusts up to 52 mph. Not the best conditions
for sleep and throughout the night I was listening to debris being blown around
the house. At one point I had to go out and crank down the hurricane
shutters. Of course the weather service has declared a "red flag
warning" in our area which means there is an extreme fire danger.
El Ni�o or not, we've been having
lots of high winds and no useful rain this season. The property is parched
and every year it seems to get more desert like. Water is of course our big
concern and during droughts like this, I'm never able to relax. The watershed
that supplies our well is not that big and we can only endure so many dry years
till something goes wrong.
12 PM - Continuing
my efforts to restore our property to its native state, yesterday I removed 300
feet of chicken wire that fenced in my defunct garden. Frankly, the battle
required to cultivate a serious garden on this property isn't worth the trouble.
So the pasture is now fence free and a little less cluttered than before.
I've also joined the RetroScape
Society which is a group of people dedicated to preserving and restoring rural
land to its original appearance. Besides trying to reduce the impact of
out of control development, these people have specific ideas on how to manage
property so that the focus is on nature rather than infrastructure. They try to
modify landscape in ways that will camouflage power lines, hide well houses and
conceal unused farm equipment. These are the same tactics used by the
managers of our national parks.
OK, ok, there's no such society,
but there should be. In fact, I'll form it right now and declare myself
president. If you'd like to join, raise your right hand and say, "I join
the society". Thanks, meeting adjourned.
January 4, 2007
10 AM -
Samoan Tapa Cloths are made from the bark of the Paper Mulberry tree and
originally they were used for clothing, blankets and rugs. They are made by pounding the
bark into layered sheets, then soaked, dried and decorated with paintings that
usually illustrate floral patterns. They are often given as gifts and some cloths
are highly prized depending on the status of the person presenting the gift. Of
course modern fabrics have replaced them for clothing but the cloths are still
used for decorations and souvenirs.
In 1949, when my father was the legal officer in Pago Pago Samoa, (pronounced Pango Pango) he often received them as gifts from visiting Samoan chiefs and
dignitaries. Because I was born in Samoa, the cloths ended up with me and I have
them in the barn stored in a mouse proof suitcase. They�re still being made
throughout the South Pacific and aren�t considered extraordinarily rare so I
don�t feel like I�m hording a fortune in Samoan relics. On the other hand, mine
are close to 60 years old and of course they come attached with sentimental
memories. While I was growing up they were always hanging somewhere on the walls
of our home.
Yesterday I picked out a couple to hang on the walls of my computer room though
I�m a little concerned about how they�ll hold up in our dry desert heat. As it
is, they�re a little tattered and thread bare though it seems pointless to keep
them stashed out of site.
12 PM -Speaking
of computer rooms, as far as current technological trends go, I'm way behind the
times. In the 80's and 90's when it came to the internet and computer
technology, I was on the bleeding edge. At work I was an early adopter and
people came to me for advice and recommendations. These days I�m out of touch
but who can possibly keep up with the latest trends that evolve at warp speed.
According to the computer pundit John C. Dvorak, my website & journal should be
seamlessly integrated into the latest Web 2.0 technology. (Web 2.0 ???) It
should have YouTube imbedded videos and I should be using open-sourced
programming to help it mesh with the latest Wikipedia/My-Space/eBay/iPod
I guess I�m just an old fart who wears checkered shorts and doesn�t get out
much. �Hey you kids, get off of my lawn!�