Monday, March 27, 2006
4 PM - It's spring and I'm obsessing about our local wildlife. This month it's birds and next month I'll only be talking about the deer feeder I just ordered. After that will be brush clearing month and I'll be discussing my weed trimmer ad nauseam. I guess I'm posting this as a warning.
I started the day off by fooling around with a new birdhouse and studying my new Peterson Field Guide to Western Birds. I don't think I'll ever be well versed on the bird names but I am learning some of the basics. Did some research and added a page to this website about where to put birdhouses. http://creekbed.org/bandh/birdhousecont.htm
I'm still trying to amend the soil around the house so that it can sustain plant life. The decomposed granite is rock hard when it dries and nothing has a chance to get established. The grass and native flowers I planted a week ago are starting to come up but those are only temporary. I've got to change the sand to soil and being a licensed landscape contractor, I know how to do it. It's just that after spending so much $ getting the house put together, I'm balking at any further expense.
Today I dumped a layer of oak leaves on the area and then mixed in a load of soil that I collected from the pasture. I should rototill this in but I'm holding off till later in the season when I'll get serious with bales of compost.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
8 PM - Today we went out with a small group of people from the Sierra Club to visit Sunshine Mountain which is about 7 miles north of our place. Nice people and a beautiful day for a hike. The others were in their 30's and Cath and I are, well... twice that. The hike was 4.5 miles and we did find our selves lagging a little behind the rest. They were a polite group and held back a bit to let us stay up.
Cindy, the group leader and Nathan, a nearby neighbor, have an amazing amount of knowledge about the area. They know this part of the county like the back of their hand and can name every peak, valley and stream without resorting to a map. Nathan brought us a beautiful 1 gallon Tecate Cyprus that he raised from seed. It'll be going in the ground tomorrow.
We bumped into several groups of turkey hunters while we wondered around. Hard to imagine that these people are hunting the birds that walk through our property every day. Cath and I were sitting by a small pond and we could hear the hunters using their turkey calls to try to entice the birds in. Not sure if the turkeys could tell the difference but we sure could. I've got no problem with the turkey hunters but we did worry that we could be mistaken for one of the birds.
Friday, March 24, 2006
11 AM - Yeha the new bird feeder cam! OK, I'm easily pleased. Anyway, because all the predators left during the fire and never came back, we've had a population explosion of rats, mice and ground squirrels. The squirrels are especially troublesome because they burrow under foundations, eat garden vegetables, raid the chicken coop and steal weeks worth of food in a matter of hours. Since they do the same to the bird feeder, I purchased this special squirrel proof model. When the squirrel puts weight on the seed perch, the door closes and shuts off the supply of food.
On our morning walk I was talking to our neighbor Gail and getting advise on how to put out a bird house. She gave me a run down of all the problems nesting birds have and I was kind of discouraged. Without proper precautions baby birds are susceptible to all sorts of predators like snakes, raccoons, rats, mice, other birds and even insects. In our area, it can get so hot that the baby birds can die from the heat if the house is not properly placed. I guess I'm not going to just throw up the $5 bird house I got from Wal-Mart. Gotta think about this.
5 PM - I really didn't wake up till about 2 PM today when the headache went away. Now at 5 I'm cleaning house, drinking coffee and ready to start the day. Well actually, I was up at 4:30 AM talking to a guy in India about why my internet connection wasn't working. Direcway farmed out their tech support to one of those Indian companies you might have seen on 60 Minutes. As you know, India has millions of highly educated men and woman who are hungry for work and can speak passable English. When you call up tech support at Gateway Computers or Dell, chances are you'll be speaking to Amulya Anad in Bangalore. He'll call himself Bob.
The wind woke me up and my weather station data told me that we were having 35 mph gusts that had started at 1:30 AM. The data also confirmed that I lost my internet connection at about 1:30 AM. Not a good sign because I remember how difficult it was for the highly trained technician to get the satellite dish pointed perfectly. It's gotta be perfect and if he had trouble, I don't have a chance at doing it myself. If the wind tweaked the dish, I'm out of luck until the technician can make it out here for the $200 service call.
On the phone, Bob wasn't optimistic either. His English was fair but I still had to have him repeat many of the directions he was reading from his prepared script. Together we walked through the generic equipment checks until he finally asked me to unplug and switch the two coax cables that come from the dish to the modem. Still no luck until I put them back into their original connectors and suddenly all the lights on the modem lit up. Even Bob was surprised. He said that the wind must have built up static electricity in the modem and it was released when we crossed the wires. He said it was the first time he had had someone try that technique and he was going to add it to his repertoire from now on. Yay for Bob.
FYI � In Hindu, Amulya Anad means Priceless Bliss.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
4:50 AM - Today I'll be servicing the weather station. It runs on 1 lithium battery and 2 nicads which need to be replaced every two years or so. They recommend that you do it on a sunny morning so the solar panel will have a day to "top off" the nicads. Too bad they don't stipulate that it be a warm day. It's 29 degrees out there!
9 AM - It took exactly one hour to change the batteries in the weather station. I can tell by looking at the data on the computer and seeing how long it was down. The old batteries were still good and would probably have lasted for many more months. The solar panel had kept the nicads charged to just over marginal for over a year. Good enough.
The lithium transmitter battery was readily accessible but the nicads are buried deep in the fan section of the station. Had to take the whole thing apart and not drop the screws while balancing on tipsy rocks. At least this should hold me for a couple of years.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
8 AM - I was up at 3AM this morning staring at the ceiling, literally. The predicted rain had arrived and we were getting a steady soaking that finally amounted to .41 inches. Not a gully washer but it was enough in that short period to give a good test of our most recent attempt at roof repair. It seems to have worked and I've had no more drips in my office ceiling, yet. I did find another drip at a roof flashing that will be very easy to patch and I'll probably do that later today when things dry up a little. For now I'm sick of talking about this so from now on, no news is good news.
Later I may take a drive out on Boulder Creek road to look for some Golden Eagles that I think I saw the other day. A neighbor also had an unconfirmed sighting in the same area and the circumstantial evidence is mounting. Actually, San Diego County is the year round home of Golden Eagles though they are so few that we know the exact number. 208 mated pairs. Our area (Cuyamaca) is described as a suitable habitat though none have been observed. (ref. San Diego Bird Atlas) I'll take my camera this time and see if I can be the first on my block.
Dang, just looked out the window and it's snowing.
4 PM - Crusin' for Golden Eagles - My new movie.
Around 11 AM I went back to the site on Boulder Creek where last week I had seen three large birds take off when I passed in my truck . By large, I'd say they had wing spans of about 5 to 6'. They weren't Hawks or Buzzards which are pretty common in the area, and they were brown. They were Golden Eagles. There, I said it. Of course they weren't there today but I did find the corpse of a dead coyote that they had been scavenging.
I'm currently reading, How to be a Bad Birdwatcher by Simon Barnes so I've been learning about all the tools of the trade. The tools are basically, a field guide and a pair of binoculars. Actually I got rained out though I'm sure that wouldn't have stopped a good birdwatcher. Luckily I got the bad birdwatcher version which meant I could go home and drink coffee.
Monday, March 20, 2006
9:30 AM - Waiting for someone to come and check out our leak. Kind of trapped till then so I've been amusing myself by straightening up the place. I'm spending some time watching the birds visit the feeder and I'm looking up the names of the ones I can find in the field guide. I realize that this elevates my status to "world class nerd" but what the hell, I was pretty close to begin with.
For your amusement, I'm providing a photo of where I broke through the ceiling.
I have my own ideas on how to fix it. You can see an example of my work skills in the photo. ;-)
12:30 PM - Bill Raver came by and took a look at the roof. The only possible place for a leak was right at the scupper (roof drain) where some of the roof membrane wasn't sealed. He patched it with some Henry's sealant and we'll see if any drips appear with the next rain (probably tonight). I showed him the damage on the inside and he will have to cut out the sagged dry wall ceiling and replace it. That also goes for the spot I broke and repairs will take a guy one day. First we have to be sure we sealed the leak and I may cut out the sagged ceiling dry-wall myself just so I can get a good look in the crawl space. Onward...
6 PM - Received news from the county Ag department that Blacky's tick is negative for Lyme's disease. Not a surprise to me.
The bird of the day at the feeder is: The Dark-eyed Junco, sometimes confused (by me) with the Spotted Towhee.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
9:30 AM - More snow last night though nothing like last week. I went up on the roof to try and prevent any of the problems we had before. Our house was made in Arizona but even though, it is supposed to deal with some snow. OK they wouldn't recommend it for the Lake Tahoe area because of the parapet sides and low roof slope but it should handle the occasional dusting that we get in our area. Actually, it did except for the one spot in my office.
In the picture you can see the snow covered ridge cap that goes down the middle of the house. That cap actually covers the crawl space vent holes. The manufacturer suspects that wind driven snow may have blown up under that cap and then leaked into the crawl space when it melted. I don't agree because of the localized spot where it dripped through the ceiling and I suspect that it got sucked in around the water heater vent. Whatever the case, from now on I'm going to scrape the snow away from all possible entryways. Having snow accumulate in our area is really rare so it could be years before this comes up again.
4:30 PM - Oh good grief! I started the day off so optimistically. I guess the part where I fell through the ceiling set me back a little. The drip started up again this afternoon and this time, it couldn't have been due to snow. Something's leaking and it may be a spot on the northwest side where one of the roof drains is. That spot looks perfectly fine from the outside so I'm a little baffled. One of the guys who put the house together is coming by tomorrow to take a look. Technically the manufacturer should take care of it but I'd like to know exactly what the problem is before I get them out here.
Fell through the ceiling? Well... As a mater of fact, I was trying to get out of the crawl space and uhm, fell through the ceiling. I put too much weight on a section of wall board and a butt sized section gave way. Ya know that's the problem with this sort of problem. Before you're done you've created ten times more damage than the original problem. Kind of like the time I set my circuit breaker box on fire when I was trying to clean out a mouse nest.
Perhaps I'll post pictures tomorrow. For now, I'll just have a beer and watch 60 Minutes.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
9:30 AM - Rain again today with snow flurries. So far, no leaks from the ceiling though the dry wall is bowing in where it leaked the other day. Got it propped up with a 2x4 for now. More on that later. For now I'm headed into town for a quick shopping trip then back home to work on taxes.
5:30 PM - We had another inch of rain and the ceiling hasn't dripped anymore so I'm convinced that the accumulated snow from last week caused the drip. Unfortunately the dry-wall in the ceiling got wet and began to sag. We were told that when it dried out it might return to its former shape but instead it got worse and I was afraid it might collapse. From the photo you can see that I've put up a cross brace supported by a 2x4. I plan to leave it up for a week or two until I'm confident that everything is dry and hopefully it will stay in place. Not much else I can do.
Today I'm sorting out my tax information for Catherine. When we had it done professionally, Cath found all sorts of mistakes so she's been doing it herself ever since. It's been kind of an expensive month with auto insurance and house insurance all due at the same time. Just the usual stuff that everyone has to pay.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
6:30 AM - Up early as usual. Cath works half time at SDSU and on those days I get up when she does (5 am) but on her days off I still get up at 5. The cat sees to that.
I only had one question about Mouse Patrol. And the answer is: "Mouse Patrol" is the never-ending, ongoing battle against mice you will be required to fight when you live in the country.
Today we're expecting a repairman from the people who built our home. It's been a year and he will be here to take care of any warrantee work. Can't believe its been a year and I kind of hate it when time moves so fast. I want things to slow down a bit so I can savor my retirement. Time flies when you're having fun. Yada yada...
5:30 PM - The painter from the house builder was here and did some touch ups. We looked into the drip that I had the other day and decided it was caused by ice damming and snow getting blown into the ridge vents. The insulation is drying and hopefully hasn't caused permanent damage.
I spent some time working on the driveway trying to repair erosion damage caused by last weeks storm. Hauled some dirt around in the cart and spread out grass seed in the bare dirt areas. Laid down in the back of the pickup for 10 minutes and actually got a little sunburned.
Kamps Propane came by and filled our tank for $305 which should get us up to the summer. Still some cold days ahead though.
Exciting day. I'll be describing my junk mail next.
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
6:30 AM - Late yesterday afternoon I noticed a quarter sized drop of water next to my desk. Thought I had spilled some coffee till I heard a dripping sound and then noticed drops of water coming from one of the fire sprinklers in the ceiling. No, the sprinkler wasn't leaking, the roof was. It seems we had melting snow on the roof that was somehow making its way under the water heater flashing, dripping into the crawl space then coming through the hole for the fire sprinkler. I went up on the roof and shoveled the accumulated snow and the drip stopped in about an hour.
Apparently, when rain is running off the roof we don't have a problem but when snow accumulates and melts slowly, the water has time to make its way under the flashing. I'm not real happy with this development and not sure how to deal with what must be some sloppy wet insulation in my crawl space. I'll be ruminating on that today.
5 PM - Today was mouse patrol.
When you live in the country, mouse patrol is serious business. If you have a barn, mice get into every closet, drawer, box and piece of equipment you have. They get into your tool box and make nests out of the insulation they ripped out of the walls. They get into your truck engine, chew on the wires and make nests out of the insulation they ripped off the inside of the hood. They get into any storage container that has an opening as small as a dime. They chew up anything made out of paper or plastic and they crap everywhere. They get in your car's vents, die, and smell for months (if not forever).
If they get into your house, they live in the walls and chew through your wires. They skitter about in your ceiling all night long and have babies by the dozens. They get in your clothes, chew holes, urinate and leave droppings. The mouse in the movie, The Green Mile was cute. In real life, they're not. If you see one, you've probably got dozens. Oh yeah, they come in a multitude of varieties, in different sizes with different feeding habits and preferences. We have Field Mice, House Mice, Meadow Jumping Mice and Deer Mice. And don't forget the rats. We have Roof Rats, Kangaroo Rats but mostly Wood Rats (Pack Rats) that chew up your plants and steel shiny objects out of your tool box. They get in your cars air filter and pack your carburetor with acorns and grain.
So today was mouse patrol.
Sunday, March 12, 2006
12 PM - We've had a crazy morning. The power went out late last night from a lightning strike and it just came back on an hour ago. People in Southern California don't have a clue about how to act when we get winter weather and this snow storm has the entire county in an uproar. The Cleveland National Park is next to our property and I monitor their frequencies with my battery operated HAM radio. Their staff has had their hands full with snowed in campers and unplowed roads and one of the rangers was getting a little testy this morning. He couldn't get Caltrans to come in and plow the road so he was threatening to form a convoy and evacuate people himself. I think the power going out was the last straw for him.
Cath and I decided to join the fray so we went for a drive to see the excitement. Because our area is the entryway to Cleveland National Park, people from San Diego drive up whenever we have snow. The roads become clogged with city folk who have brought their kids, sleds and huge inner tubes. Usually the local news is there filming the carnival especially when the highway patrol won't let these people in because they don't have chains on their tires. The city people then park anywhere they want and climb over barbed wire fences to get into private pastures where they can let their kids frolic and build snowmen. I suppose I'd feel smug about living up here except our people do the same thing to the beach communities when we have July heat waves.
5:30 PM - Late Sunday afternoon. The type of Sunday afternoon that makes me reckon back to the old days when Ed Sullivan was on and I was dreading some test or oral report that I had to do the next day. Getting old isn�t all bad. I�ll stay right here thanks.