Thursday, August 29, 2013


Despite the million and one things that need to be done around here, at least one thing is finished, and that’s this year’s wood. I’m glad for that, but let me tell you, it was a bit of a rush. I know people who split and burn, but I personally think the longer it has to dry, the better. Ideally it would have a year to sit, but when does that ever happen? Actually, more often than you’d think.

Either way, I had the wood sitting around, it was just a question of splitting and stacking it, and now it’s finally done. I have to confess, I rather enjoy looking at a completed wood pile. Not only is it aesthetically pleasing, but it’s nice now and then to see the fruits of one’s labors, is it not?

I still haven’t heard from our wood man, though he’s come through for us every year and I shouldn’t fret, but I have considered talking to another logger. Even he might not be able to get me wood, but it’s good to get the word out. You just never know.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sarah Fleming for the pic.

Changing of the Guard

As part of our quest for homeschooling endeavors, we attended a Civil War re-enactment over in Lyme, and I have to confess, I was not as enthused as I could have been. I guess (incorrectly) I sort of grouped the Civil War re-enactment crowd with the Medieval/Renaissance re-enactment crowd, sort of fringe-ish and perhaps a little eccentric. Well, I have to say, I was wrong on a number of counts.

First off, the act was pretty cool. Sure, it’s a bunch of middle-aged guys wearing uniforms and shooting guns, but they did a nice job, and the really rewarding part for me was talking to them and learning about the conditions. Not only was it informative, but the actors were very knowledgeable and not pretentious. I learned a lot, and the kids had fun. I’ll say this much, I never had fun learning history in school, and I think seeing it and talking to the people (even though they’re actors) makes a big difference. We even got to eat hard tack, which for the record is pretty nasty stuff.

All in all, I highly recommend attending one of these shows, they do a great job and you sure learn a lot about a really significant part of this country’s history. Also, the mom and the kids went to the Precision Museum and learned about Civil War weapons, many of which were made up here for use in the Union Army. That’s kind of cool, isn’t it?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Don Shall for the pic.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Inching Along

People who have any knowledge about our barn are not going to believe this, but we are actually in the process of putting up siding. I can’t believe it myself. After all the drama of choosing siding and obtaining the stuff, I finally managed to get some of the stuff up. It’s pretty straightforward, except that I have to stain it before putting it on, which delays the whole process. Cutting the boards to fit properly around windows and doors adds to the time, and working around the return on the soffit almost killed me, but progress is being made. I know some people in this house are happy about it, and people who stop by all comment on the fact that something is actually happening. Sometimes you have take what you can get.

Anyway, like I said, it is a bit of pain, because I have to measure out the boards, cut them and slide them in place, remove and paint them, then wait for them to dry. I’m guessing a professional contractor, or my Mentor or the Amazing PR Man, would simply measure the distance, calculate how many boards it would take, cut and paint them, and then nail them in. Somehow that sort of approach never works for me. I have to put them in place first, make sure they fit properly, and then paint and nail them in.

Whatever be the case, it’s moving along, albeit at a snail’s pace. Part of the problem is I can only dedicate 1-2 hour increments of time, because I am constantly being called away to cook meals, pick up the kids, cook falafels, or take N golfing or to the skate park. I would love 4-5 hours of uninterrupted time to work on it, but around here, that sort of time is a luxury item.

The reality is the situation is not ideal, but when is that ever the case? You have to make lemons, right? I’m glad things are at least progressing, and if anything, I’m getting better at it with time, like fine wine, right? Yeah, right.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Happy Birthday to Us and Making Contact

What a way to celebrate our birthdays, selling falafels. Another birthday came and went and it was sort of nice doing the market because it takes your mind off having another birthday, which I am not so keen on making a big deal out of. For the record, I did not hear from my mom or brother, but there’s more to that story than meets the eye.

We had a pretty quiet day, we were at the market, and the cupcake folks next to us gave us extra cupcakes for our big day. We stopped at our favorite place, Boloco, who gives us free burritos on our birthday. I love that place. We came home, had our cupcakes, and the kids put together a little birthday celebration for us. They made cards, presents, and we opened gifts from J&RR. It was cute, the kids have a way of being cute and endearing, it breaks my heart sometimes.

It was a fitting end to a long and tiring day doing falafels. The market was a little slow, but not too bad, and we survived to sell falafels another day. On the subject of my mom, I was going to call her on my birthday and remind her, but figured that would just piss her off. I did, however, call her a couple of days later because several months ago she requested that we come and visit her. She said she wanted me to clean out her my stuff, and she wanted A&N to meet their cousin, TL, my brother’s daughter. I told her we’d come out, but never specified when, and then summer came and went.

I figured she’d be livid with me, and the conversation would be painful, but it wasn’t like that at all. She was very congenial, and our conversation was nice. She never wished me a happy birthday, but she did something that for the life of me I don’t recall her every doing - she asked me if I was happy. When I said yes, she said that’s the most important thing. Wow, what a shocker.

We talked at length, and she again requested that we come and visit her, and I think we should. It will be a little awkward, but sometimes you have to be a man and deal with these things. It will involve seeing my brother, which I’m not looking forward to, but that’s a whole other story.

In the end, I’m glad I made the call, and hope that things will work out this time around.

Until then, thanks for reading.

New Stove Developments

Just when you thought you had it all figured out, new things come along and throw the situation into disarray. We were considering getting a new stove when the idea of having our old one fixed became more appealing, and for a couple of reasons. First off, our Vermont Castings Defiant is an old school stove, the first ones built by the company, and apparently they burn so hot that they had to redesign subsequent models so they didn’t burn so hot. My Mentor relayed this story to me, but I’d heard that the old VC stoves provided great heat.

With this in mind, getting a new stove, unless we got a big and expensive one, would have probably meant not getting as much heat. Possible, but not for sure. The second issue is that I’d read a few message boards and some issues seemed to come up with the Jotul stove we were interested in. Something to do with the damper malfunctioning and letting too much air in. I can’t say for sure, but some people said they would never get a Jotul again, though they were the minority.

Then there’s the issue of cost. A new stove is over $2000, while fixing our old one would be half that cost, if not even less. Finally, we really like our old stove, and I’m a big believer in fixing things and using them for as long as possible. The big issue was finding a person to fix it, and getting it to them. My Mentor was kind enough to offer the use of his truck, which can haul small buildings and has a lift. I was trying to figure out how to move the thing and even bought a furniture dolly at Home Depot ($20, not bad), when I happened upon a guy near Conway who specializes in VC stoves. He even travels to fix them.

He was willing to come to our house to fix our stove, and just needed to know some specific information. I’m guessing the repair will take about a day, and then it should be like a “new” old stove. There are other assorted repairs that need to be done, but apparently they are doable, and we’ve decided to go for it. The cost will be in the range that I expected, about half the cost of a new one, but we will have our beloved stove back, and won’t have to deal with transporting it.

I’m all for it, but won’t jump for joy until the deed is done. Stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Splitting Time

I managed to locate a splitter, and our good friend JP said we could use it as long as we need it. What a great guy. I also managed to find someone who could help me move it in the form of my Mentor, who not only has a truck that can move mountains, but it has the right sized trailer hitch. I didn’t realize they came in different sizes, whose idea was that? JM said he would help, but his trailer hitch is the wrong size, and he said he would try to locate a bigger one. He lives very close to JP, so it would have been easy, but I didn’t know when the proper hitch would be located, and who’s got the time to wait? Not us, that’s for sure.

My Mentor came over and we hooked up the splitter and brought it home. It was all pretty painless, and we even fired the thing up. As usual I was pensive about using the thing, but my Mentor told me to be a man and just go for it. It took a few tries to get it started, during which we learned about optimal throttle and choke settings, and before we knew it, we were splitting logs. Pretty impressive stuff, and as much as I enjoy splitting wood by hand, I have to confess, that machine is pretty amazing. It splits pieces of wood that I couldn’t split in a hundred years. Maybe two hundred.

We probably have at least a cord of wood that’s been accumulating for the past several years, so now I can not only split it, but clean up the pile and make our yard look better, as well. I love when that happens.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Mini Skirt

Before embarking on this whole siding adventure with the barn, there are many decisions that need to be made, and sometimes the decisions are the hardest part. One of these choices involved what sort of trim we wanted to have, and when it comes to choosing trim, the sky is the limit. There are issues of size, color, types of wood, etc. Early on we decided to install a skirt, which is a horizontal slab of wood that runs the perimeter of the barn, near the ground. Since siding incurs a lot of water damage, a skirt is more easily repaired/replaced than the siding, and it looks nice, as well. I, of course, asked everyone I knew what their opinion was, and they all pretty much said the same thing - it’s all a question of personal taste, i.e., it’s up to you. Thanks a lot. I did get a load of helpful advice from my Mentor, who not only has good taste, but is always uber-helpful. He informed me that the skirt is flush with the siding, which makes putting the siding up a whole lot easier, especially when you’re riding solo, because the siding boards rest on top of the skirt.

Anyway, before I could put up siding, I had to put up a skirt, and then a drip guard, but the process has begun. Sure, it ain’t much, but it’s a start, and that’s more than we had a month ago. Sometimes you have to look at the bright side, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

That Familiar Feeling

It’s always this time of year when I lose that loving feeling and have to deal with end of year/beginning of next year school stuff. I know, I know, we created this situation with the choices we’ve made, but can’t I whine a little? The school system requires that we submit an end of year assessment as well as the new school year curriculum, so I have to deal with both. As usual, if I’d have attended to this earlier in the year, I wouldn’t be in this predicament, but the I would be denying everyone the pleasure of hearing me whine.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Keith Wondra for the pic.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Media Coverage

We were in the paper recently and it was kind of fun. A reporter for the daily news was writing an article about homeschooling and apparently someone gave them our name as a example. Go figure. Either way, she interviewed me and was a very nice and pleasant person, and they even took pictures of us at the market. The article was nice, though I think she used a small fraction of the stuff we talked about because we chatted for an hour and of course I pontificated about my views of the world.

After the article came out, people were coming up to me and commenting on how we were famous. It was funny because at first I couldn’t understand what they were talking about when it dawned on me that they were referring to the article. I guess I wasn’t cut out for fame and fortune, which is good because I’m not capable of attaining either one of them.

That is, of course, until now. Thanks for reading and thanks to Jon S for the pic.

Stove Update

Lots of news on the stove front, and I must confess, it’s all rather informative. First off, we learned that with our current stove, a Vermont Castings Defiant, which for the record we love, you’re supposed to keep an inch or two of ash on the bottom to help insulate the metal from the heat. Some people use sand. I did not know this, and perhaps as a consequence, our stove bottom cracked. Big bummer.

I’ve also learned that not too many stoves out there generate as much heat as our Defiant. In fact, my Mentor informed me that they were originally built to give off so much heat that they redesigned them smaller. We have one of the ones that generates too much heat, but for us, it’s perfect, though now it’s cracked.

After doing some research and consulting with friends, we narrowed our options down to two - fix our old stove, or get a new one. These are standard options for any purchase, except that we are dealing with a quarter ton stove, and safety is an imperative. To fix our stove requires a bit of logistical prowess, mainly transporting a 450lb a reasonably far distance. To buy a new one requires possible logistical prowess if we want to save money on transport (of course we do, it costs $400 to deliver it), as well as a couple thousand dollars.

The new stove that we were looking at is called a Jotul, it’s Norwegian, and our good friend TG has one and swears by it. I’ve read mixed things about it, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get as hot as our Defiant. The guy at the stove store said it’s their best selling stove, not to mention one of the best made in the world. Thankfully, he didn’t give me the hard sell, and was satisfied if we chose to simply fix our Defiant.

Now I was ready to get a new stove, they are really nice, but I really like our old one. My Mentor was generous enough to offer use of his massive truck to transport it, which is nice because it has a hydraulic lift. The trip would have been nearly two hours, and two trips back and forth would have cost a lot in gas.

The whole thing, like everything in our lives, began to spiral out of control in terms of information and decision making, especially since summer is coming to an end and you’re not supposed to use the stove for 30 days after the repair. I felt myself slowly inserting my head in the sand when I happened upon a gentlemen up near Conway who is a Vermont Castings stove expert. I have been in consultations with him, and he may make the trip down here to fix our stove, which would be a bonus. I’m looking into this so stay tuned for more.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Re-Buying Insulation and the Little Car That Could

I don’t know if this falls into the territory of irony, but after all that effort and planning to return the insulation, it turns out I need to get it back. This is after SH bailed on us and we no longer need to implement his plan. The way this sordid tale goes is that we had planned on insulating the barn with fiberglass when SH (before he bailed on us) gave us this sob story about state regulations and how he might be liable for repairs. To make a long story short, he didn’t want to continue working on the barn unless we put some serious insulation in, meaning spray foam or cellulose.

We looked into it, and it was going to be expensive, but it was going to be darn well insulated barn. That left us with all this fiberglass insulation that SH told us to order. I had to take it back to LaValley’s, and they said I would have to pay a 10% restocking fee since it had been six months. At first they said they wouldn’t take it, but then they changed their story. I had to borrow a big truck from GG and load the huge bundles in, and let me tell you, they weighed about a hundred pounds each. Thanks to GG, BTW.

I took them back, they gave me a refund, cutting me a break on the 10% fee, no less, and that was that. However, once SH bailed on us, we no longer had to employ his plan, and could go back to fiberglass. It’s a long story, but the insulation will be good. The only problem was, I have to get that fiberglass insulation back.

As it turns out, I could fit some of the small bundles in our car. Four of them, in fact, which is a good start. It’s amazing what you can get done with a small fuel efficient import. Sure it’s small, but it just forces you to be more creative, and make more trips, but at least it works out in the end.

I love when that happens. Then again, it shouldn't surprise me because we use our Fits to go to the farmer's market, where we used to use my Mentor's Ford Explorer, which is a big car. 

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Family for the pic.

Serendipitous Disappointment

Could it be that neurotic indecision can work out in your favor? Nah. I don’t necessarily recommend this approach to decision making, but at least it’s nice to know that it doesn’t always lead to disaster, and can even be an asset... sort of.

We were wavering back and forth about that darn siding for the barn when we finally bit the bullet and went with vertical. We ordered shiplap boards and of course at the zero hour, when I was at the lumber yard, I had to make a split second decision and decide what width to go with. We had planned on getting 8 inch boards, and I just assumed that’s what our choice was, but the guy asked me if I wanted 10 inch boards. Great, now I had to choose.

My good friend GS built his house with 12 inch shiplap, but he had to get the boards from Cote and Renney (I think that’s what they were called), and they went out of business. 12 inch shiplap is not easy to find. I think the wider boards look a little better, but didn’t think they were an option. Standing at the lumber yard, I had to make a quick decision because I was submitting the order, so I did what I always when I have to make a quick decision - I called my Mentor.

I figured it would be fine because I had just spoken to him a few minutes earlier, but he wasn’t answering his phone. Total bummer, I had to decide for myself. I went with the original plan and stuck with the 8 inch, remembering my Mentor’s one directive to avoid getting siding that looked like T111. I also saw our good friend DB there, he was getting supplies, and he said 10 inch boards make it easier because the job gets done faster. They are wider, after all. All his info was making my head spin and I said forget it, I’ll stick with my choice.

Of course, driving home I kept thinking to myself I should have gone with 10 inch. I saw DB again a day or two later, and he said you save money with 10 inch because it’s cheaper per square foot. What?!?! If he’d have told me that in the first place, it would have been a no-brainer. Money talks, right? It was too late, however, because they said the wood would be delivered the next day. Oh well, life goes on.

Well, as luck would have it, they didn't deliver the wood. Sure I was bummed, but thought that there might be a window of hope. I called Brittions and it turns out that they were behind schedule and hadn’t even put the order together yet, even though they said I would get it the next day. I asked if I could change the order to 10 inch shiplap, and they said yes. Woo-hoo, how cool is that?

In the end, I got what I wanted, or at least what I thought I wanted, and now I’m ready to rock and roll on the siding. At least until someone tells me otherwise.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tony for the pic.

March to Dine

Normally we enjoy our family walks into town, but this time around it came about through a bit of miscommunication. I was working outside a week or two back when N came over and asked if we could walk to the diner. I assumed (incorrectly) that he’d talked it over with mom and that was what the family had wanted to do, but it turns out that this was not the case. What in fact happened was N asked me and when I answered yes, he took that information to mom and said that I wanted to go to the diner for lunch. How’s that for planning?

It was a nice day, so taking a walk was not unthinkable, but it also meant money spent and time taken away from getting things done. I could have always said no, but I also feel it’s important to make time for all of us to be together, because as the kids get older, those times will become fewer and fewer. Kind of sad.

We were pretty much commited so we took a walk, and as always, it was nice. We had a nice lunch and blueberry pie for dessert. I have to say, I like the diner a lot, but it doesn’t blow my mind, not like before. You can’t go through life constantly comparing, and if anything, the new diner is more of what you’d expect from a diner, but even still, it ain’t what it used to be.

The weather held out nicely for our walk home, and within half an hour of our return, it started to rain, so we were spared a soaking. I’m thankful for our good timing, even though my time working outside was over.

Oh well, sometimes you have to look at the bright side. At least I didn’t have to cook lunch.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to krisjaus for the pic.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A Day at the Races

I didn’t realize this, but there is a racetrack over in nearby Canaan, and apparently it’s the real deal, with some sort of affiliation to NASCAR. I don’t know how it all works, and am not that enamored with car racing, but can appreciate aspects of it. Whatever be the case, once A&N (especially N) learned about a local racetrack, of course we were going to check it out.

The track is about an hour away, off the main road and tucked away near Mt. Cardigan, so it’s easy to miss. I’m sure we’d passed by it on occasion and never even knew it was there. They run dirt track races on Friday, and then asphalt on Saturday and Sunday. We were set to go on Friday but it was cancelled due to rain. On Saturday, we had a full day of family fun, and since our day began sort of in that direction, we just continued out to Canaan.

The track is as you would expect it to be: loud, exciting, and filled with fried food and people who love cars. It’s pretty loud, even for me, but it’s pretty cool getting up close to the track and seeing the cars whiz by. I don’t get the whole racing format, but they start early in the day, and by the time we got there, around 6:00PM, they started the real races. I’m guessing they do time trials during the day and establish the positioning for the race.

They have a few different divisions that race, including modified, stock, and a couple of others that were beyond my comprehension. The cars themselves are cool. I figured they would be souped-up of versions of dad’s station wagon, but they looked cool, like real race cars. There was a division where clearly some guy had modified his grandparent’s Gremlin, but they were still cool, fast and loud.

The race was exciting, the kids loved it, and we had a great time. We didn’t eat any fried food, though the corn dogs sure looked good. We ended up leaving around 9:00PM and made the long drive back home, but the kids were all abuzz about the races. I’m thinking we’ll be back again before the season’s over.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to jason goulding for the pic.

Time for a New Stove?

This breaks my heart, but I’m thinking we may need a new stove. We could fix the one we have, if it needs fixing, which I think it does, but the cost may not make it worth it. Also, from what I can gather, this is not the most efficient stove around, even though we love it. Then again, it’s the only stove we’ve ever had, prior to which I had little to no experience with them.

The current stove we have is an old Vermont Casting Defiant, built about 40 years ago. It’s the original, the first they ever made, and it’s a beauty. It’s big and heavy and a beast, but man does that thing give off heat. The problem we’ve run into is the base plate has developed a crack, and you don’t want your base to collapse when it’s full of burning wood. Talk about a disaster. I noticed that crack last year, and truth be told, we used the stove anyway with no problem. I can’t determine if it’s gotten worse, but my gut feeling is that we shouldn’t ignore it.

One solution would be to prop up the base with bricks or something that can handle the heat, but that is a short term remedy, and doesn’t solve the problem. The other options are to have it fixed, or get a new one. My Mentor is all for getting a pellet stove, he raves about his, but we have been using wood for years, and I sort of like cutting and splitting the stuff. I know how stupid this may seem, because pellet stoves are more efficient and much easier to use, but who said I wasn’t stupid?

Fixing the stove may be practically, economically, and logistically less than optimal. There are people who can fix this very stove, but there are complications involved. First off, we have to get the stove to him, and he’s about 45 minutes away. Then, after he fixes it, we have to bring it back. The cost of fixing it will probably run around a thousand dollars, I’m guessing. The cost of rebuilding the thing alone is $450, but factor in new parts and any other problems he may find, not to mention transportation cost, and it all adds up. Finally, the guy said it has to sit for a month after a rebuild so the cement dries properly. He does have the part we need, however, and I was wondering if I could just do it myself... yeah, right.

The other option is to just replace it. As I mentioned, this stove is old, and the new models are more efficient and supposedly give off more heat. They are also supposedly more eco-friendly, but we’re looking at a pretty big chunk of change (probably a couple of grand), all in the midst of dispensing all sorts of chunks of change building this barn and taking care of all or our living expenses. Life is just a bottomless pit of expense.

We don’t have unlimited time to deal with this, and as usual, I should have dealt with it in the spring, but no sense in whining, because as we’ve all learned, whining gets you nowhere fast. Somehow knowing that still doesn’t stop me from indulging.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.


We ordered some of the siding, about half, and as usual, it was a painful and tortuous decision, mainly because any purchase for more than a hundred dollars is hard for me to make. When you’re doing construction, a hundred bucks is chump change. We need about 2000 linear feet of board to side the barn, and that doesn’t even include the dormers, but don’t get me started on that. The difficulty in obtaining siding includes the decision of what kind to get, but also preparing the house to put it on. In my city-boy days when I had no clue (not that I have one now), I would have thought you just get the siding and nail the stuff on, but no such luck. There are soffits and house wrap to think about, not to mention trim and other assorted goodies.

It was enough to discourage a person enough to just walk away, which is in essence exactly what I did. Now, years later, I’m ready to tackle this beast. I finished the soffit, so I’m ready to roll. If I could just get some outer coverage before winter, things would be looking up. Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and go for it, after painstaking research and decision making, of course.

We are going with vertical siding because it’s more economical, faster, and easier, but that’s not all. Our house has clapboards, so it’s a nice contrast for the adjoining structure to have something different. I’ve also just learned that there are some efficiency and environmental benefits, but I’ve forgotten what they are, so never mind.

Now in an ideal world I’d just cut the stuff to size and nail it on, but the proper protocol is to paint the boards first, and then put them on. It’s much easier to paint a piece of wood before it’s nailed to a house than after, but it does delay the process. Plus, as any modern contractor will tell you, you have to paint the backside, as well.

So that’s what I’m doing. I haven’t gotten any boards on yet, but I have the wood, which is an important, dare I say critical, first step. Who knows where this will lead me, but hopefully at some point I’ll find myself at a house with siding on it. We’ll see.

Until then, thanks for reading.

Kitchen Chemistry

We were making falafels the other day and ran out of baking powder, which helps to make the falafels a bit fluffier. Now normally we buy Rumford’s because they don’t add aluminum, which most of the others contain. It’s a little harder to find, but not a big deal. Of course, almost all of the smaller and more local stores carry the aluminum brand.

I was reading up online about falafels when I learned that you can actually make your own baking powder, which intrigued us. All you do is combine an acid and base, and you’re all set. Think of when you add vinegar (acid) to baking soda (base) to make a volcano, it’s the same principle. Can you see the where we have a homeschool chemistry lesson here?

We simply combined baking soda with cream of tartar, which is really tartaric acid, and voila, your own homemade baking soda. One of the websites claimed it tasted a lot better, which I find hard to fathom, but it is nice to make it yourself, if for the simple fact that you’re making it yourself. Kind of cool.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Nabeelah for the pic.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Rainy Day Fun

We have really lucked out with the weather for the past several days, though we got a day of heavy rain this past week. I’m not complaining, we need some precipitation, it just makes it harder for A&N to get out. Hard, but not impossible. Case in point, we had a playdate with NP the other day, and the kids rode their bikes in the rain. NP rode over because she doesn’t live far, even though there was a light rain falling. The kids met her halfway, and all was well.

I made lunch for everyone (vegetarian, which is always more of an adventure) and then the kids entertained themselves while I worked on the barn. It worked out perfectly because the kids were really self-sufficient and didn’t pine for TV or video games all day. In fact, I told them they could use the computer, which they did for a short stint, but then they went off and continued playing a game they had made up. I love when that happens.

It’s nice to have buddies who don’t watch a ton of TV and play endless Xbox. I can’t tell you how fortunate we are to live in this area, many of our friends are not completely enamored with TV. It helps that we live in the wilds of New England, where suburban temptation and angst are not the norm. Having grown up in the midst of it, I can tell you that it’s not all that it’s cut out to be.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Cuba Gallery for the pic.

Shredding at the Skate Park

We’ve returned to N’s old favorite haunt, the skate park, and I think his interest has been renewed. I, for one, think this is cool, because there is a cool factor to the whole X-Games thing, even if it in the early years it is inhabited with a bunch of hoodlums, but mostly decent kids, nonetheless. The problems arise when said kids grow up to commit crimes and live in their parents basement at the age of 30. There seem to be these types out there, but who am I to judge?

Either way, there is the cool factor, and for a boy, that’s important. We used to go the park a lot several months ago, but N’s interest seemed to abate when he got his new bike. I sort of figured it would because it meant another learning period, where the fun wanes and the challenges renew, but we seemed to have moved passed that. The skate park is a double edged sword because on the one hand you like having an audience, but it also means scrutiny.

Speaking of scrutiny, I think N gets some points with the other kids because he’s on the more capable end of the spectrum. This has earned him a bit of a following amongst the little ones, who tend to follow him around and chat him up. He might allude to it being a bit annoying, but secretly I think he finds it flattering, as well. The bigger kids have to be coy, but several have given him positive feedback, and when you’re dealing with teenage boys, that’s about as good as it’s going to get.

The timing of his renewed interest is good because in the next couple of weeks A is off to camp, and the weather has been stellar. What more can you ask for?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Tom Rokosz for the pic.

Pile it Up

With all that’s going on these days, it’s easy to let the wood pile fall into neglect, which exactly what has happened, not unlike every year in the past. This is not a great plan, however, because the cold weather can creep up on you and before you know it, it’s fall and dipping below 40 degrees. Until about a month ago, the pile was about 85% complete, and only because we had to dip into it last year. I figured it would be a piece of cake to split about a cord and fill it in, but I let it slide, and now I feel like I have to complete the pile and give it at least some time to dry before winter. We are currently at about 97% completion, so it’s not all bad.

It helps that the cut blocks have been drying for a year, and there should be more than enough to complete the pile. Then we’ll be set in the short term, though I’d love to have next year’s cut, split, and drying as well, but we don’t even have the log length, yet. Our man TB has been behind schedule, and who knows when we’ll get it.

One new development that has been helpful is that I can split wood while cooking falafels and french fries for the market. This is cool because not only am I being productive, or rather doubly productive, but I don’t have to sit there and stare at the cooking food, which can get a little monotonous, if not downright boring.

Another issue I have run into is the need to obtain a wood splitter. There are several logs from the current pile and from years past that I could not for the life of me split. They are either way too big or too darn knotty. Naturally I don’t want to drop $1000 and buy a splitter, though I think you can rent them. This brings up the logistical issue of transporting it, and highlights one of the shortcomings of driving a fuel efficient import. I know in a heartbeat I could ask our neighbor EB and he’d be over in a flash with his splitter helping me out, but I don’t want to take advantage of the guy. He does so much for us. I made some inquiries and our neighbor JP said he has one and that we could even borrow it if we could find a way to transport it. He said it needs a 2 inch ball hitch, whatever that means. At least I found a splitter, and he’s close by. Now all I need to do is find a vehicle with a hitch, though I think they may be easier to find that I imagine. The search continues.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to ppro for the pic.

New Tires

We were on the last leg of our tires on our car, and our mechanic said as much. It’s sort of embarrassing because we’re always using thing until they literally die out, including our car. That last time we had the tires rotated, he said to be careful because the treads were basically gone. I figured if we could get though summer then in winter we could just replace them snow tires. The one problem we kept running into, however, was that one of the tires kept leaking air. It got to be a pain, and rather than pay to have it repaired, we decided to bite the bullet and get new tires. Not a cheap proposition when you are looking at good quality tires.

We did a bit of research, of course, and finally decided on a brand. I called around and the funny thing is, tire dealers only deal in certain brands. I wanted Yokohamas, and the only place to get them is at Wilson Tire. I’ve used them in the past, and left with a bad taste in my mouth because of their scare tactics in getting you to buy their tires. Plus, it’s clear they work on commission, so the person you talk to wants to get credit for the sale.

Either way, they had the tires we wanted, so I ordered them and got them installed. When the bill came, there was about $25 in mysterious charges, which I asked about. It had something to do with sensors, and I figured they were just ripping me off and left incensed. The guy was nice, and said I wouldn’t be charged next time, but it seemed too little, too late. I was out of there.

Well, when I got home, I did some more research, and even called our mechanic, and it all sort of backed up what this guy said. When you buy a new car, there seems to be a requirement that there be sensors in the tires to detect low air pressure. We have this on both of our cars, I just don’t recall paying to have the sensors put in. In the end, I think I was wrong for being mad, but I’m still not sure if other tire shops charge. The sensors are an additional piece of equipment, so it makes sense they would charge, it just took me by surprise.

Oh well, something more to investigate and worry about, but that’s what makes life fun and interesting, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Danielle Elder for the pic.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Things Are Looking Up

The last two markets (9th and 10th) have been our best yet, and it sure helps to have nice weather. I’m not sure what to make of it all, but after a brutal summer of torrential rain and blistering heat, we have suddenly been blessed with beautiful weather. I am talking ideal, sunny and comfortable in the high 70s, with a breeze and no humidity, not to mention clear skies with some clouds. It’s great, and if the rest of summer is like this, I won’t complain.

The good weather also brings out the people to the market, and who can blame them? The timing of the market is a little tough because it starts a little late for lunch, but too early for supper. However, but the dinner time hour, it can get pretty crazy. You just have to keep this in mind, because the lull that happens right before supper is not only discouraging, but it’s deceptive because if you’re not ready, the dinner time crunch will destroy you. The key is preparation, and that only works if you take a bit of a leap of faith and believe they will come.

Last week was also nice because we had a visit from my Mentor and JDB. They brought the kids with them and hung out. My Mentor tried a falafel for the first time, liking it I think, and had some fries. They also browsed the market before heading back home, but it was nice seeing them. Afterward, as the day progressed, people started to come and did it get busy. It makes a big difference having falafel balls ready to go, but the fries are killing us. I just can’t seem to cook them fast and crispy enough. I can make soggy greasy fries, no problem, but to get that crispy goodness takes really hot oil, and the potatoes really suck the heat out.

It’s something we’re going to have to work on, or ditch the entire enterprise. On a positive note, we sold a bunch of falafels, and we are even building a loyal clientele. It’s nice seeing repeat customers, and you like to think they come to the market to get a falafel. I rather like that idea.

This week we had our tenth market, and it was even better in terms of sales. We definitely work as a team, and I’ve said it before, but we couldn’t do it without the kid’s help. They are an invaluable part of the team. Of course, it helps that we had good weather, and after the customary lull, the people came out to party. What was really nice was that it was busy, but not painfully so. It all boils down to planning and being ready for whatever the market throws at you. The fries are a bit of a disappointment, and we ended up giving some away, but again, it’s a work in progress, and I think we can figure this out.

All in all we are lucky to have two good weeks. Here’s to hoping that the rest of the summer is as nice.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mary Lockman for the pic.

A Day of Sun and Partying

Earlier this week we had a big day of partying, and everyone had fun. N was invited to CG’s birthday, and believe me, their house is party central. Plus, JG is the uber-mom who can plan and host a get together like no other. They have an amazing pond and lots of accoutrements, so the kids were on auto-pilot and made their own fun. There was a little confusion about gifts, they asked not to bring anything and instead make a donation to the animal shelter. We weren’t sure how to approach it, but decided that the kids should instead make a cool birthday card and we’d donate accordingly. Of course, this backfired and people brought gifts. We should have known better because it was awkward, but live and learn.

That didn’t diminish the fun, the kids had a blast, and N got to hang with his buddies. JG had things under control so I could run some errands, and then I got to hang with the parents and talk about life, which we all love to do. At some point GG came home from work, and the other JG came to pick up her son. It was a beautiful day, we lucked out with the weather, and it was nice just hanging out on the grass.

One complication was that A had her track barbecue that evening (no cooking supper, woo-hoo!), but didn’t have plans that day. JG said she was absolutely welcome to the party, but she alluded not being so keen on being the only girl there, even though she would have been fine because she does well in any situation. It would have been ideal if A’s buddy SS came, but for the life of me I couldn’t get ahold of S or C, so it wasn’t meant to be. A said she would go to the party if it made life easier, but I figured we had other options. I contacted AM, and she said they’d love to have her over.

So, I took A over to AM’s, dropped N off at the G’s, then headed into WRJ for market supplies. I got back in time for cake and ice cream, and the kids went crazy in the yard while the parents chatted. At some point we had to run because I had to get A to her banquet, so we headed back home and went to the rec center. The banquet was small but nice, and the track kids were having fun together. Strangely enough, it was mostly girls. We brought along N’s bike so he could have fun while the bigger kids socialized. At some point RD invited A and a few friends over for a sleepover, so we she went one way and N and I went home. Boy, life sure is crazy sometimes, especially in light of the fact that the next day was the market... then again, we wouldn’t want it any other way, would we?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to sweetsnsuch for the pic.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Finding Their Groove

So far so good with the video camp. N has found his groove and has been really enjoying it, and A gets to be an intern and learn the ropes of being a counselor one day. They are learning the ropes of video production and having fun to boot. In fact, N was reluctant to do it in the first place, and now he’s done his second week and has asked to do a third. I’m not sure if that’s going to happen, but it just goes to show you that he’s enthusiastic about it, and truth be told, he’s good at it. N can be a ham when he wants to be, but like a lot of things in life, it’s the thought of doing it that discourages him, while he almost always finds the actual doing of it fun and rewarding. Somehow we have to keep reminding him of the fun part.

We have become fixtures at the studio, what with A doing two advanced camps and interning for two beginner camps, while N has done two beginner camps. Plus, both of them want to do one more session. I’m not sure where this will all lead, but that’s part of the adventure, the journey of discovery. Not knowing where you’ll end up is half the fun, or anxiety, depending on your POV.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sergio Bertolini for the pic.

What Have I Started?

Several months back I went searching for employment after R and I had a spirited discussion about income, or lack thereof. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to at least test the waters and see what sort of jobs were available. I investigated what I thought would be the highest demand for immediate employment, figuring it takes about six months for these things to play out, but was I ever wrong.

I contacted two local hotels about jobs just cleaning rooms, and both of them called me in for interviews, which surprised the heck out of me. I went to WRJ to speak to one, and it was clear that I was not what they were looking for. They seemed to allude to me being over-qualified and were looking for someone younger who would be willing to commit to the long term. Fair enough.

The other job was in the neighboring town, and it’s a big hotel resort. They were looking for all sorts of positions, and they asked me what my preference was. Wow, I wasn’t sure what to make of all that power. I initially thought I’d be applying for a job in the health club, working at the pool, probably handing out towels and mopping floors. While I think I can work with customers, I sort of preferred something in the background, doing things behind the scenes. They said they had positions in receiving and on the grounds crew, which I figured would work out.

Around this time, I had to withdraw my name because N hurt himself badly on the ice. I really thought he broke his leg, and I told the hotel I had couldn’t move forward at this time. They were cool about it, and I figured that was the end of it, but they called me and said I could start later in the summer, and set up an interview. The pay wasn’t that great, but it was a job, and sometimes you can’t take a job for granted.

The interview went fine, but in the end, it wasn’t going to work out with our lives, and I thanked them, figuring that they were pissed off at me for wasting their time, effectively closing that door.

Well, if you can believe this, they called me again the other day, three months after the fact, asking if I was still interested in the job. I was flattered that I was still even being considered for a job, but again, I couldn’t really manage full time work with our current situation. I called and left a message thanking them but letting them know as much.

There are some serious perks to the job, even if the pay isn’t outstanding. One of them is access to the local ski hill, not to mention the health club, but once hockey season starts, it’s not as if I’ll have time for either. I’m just happy to know that I didn’t screw things up completely on my interviews, for all that’s worth.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to itia4u for the pic.


That’s French for finished, as in finally finished the soffit (the pic is pre-fini). As hard as it is to believe, I got the beast done, in no small part thanks to the fortuitous attainment of certain power tools from HH and SH, no relationship. HH let me borrow her nail gun and compressor, which leaked badly making it hard but not impossible to use. SH, who bailed out on us, for whatever reason left his compressor behind, but that, too, leaked. I tried to fix the problem with HH’s compressor but ended up stripping the bolt a little, so I figured I’d leave it and have it professionally fixed. Meanwhile, I did manage to remove the bolt on SH’s compressor, and found a replacement valve at Home Depot. Both compressors had leaky release valves, go figure.

Anyway, SH’s compressor has it’s own issues, but at least it doesn’t leak, so I can nail away. I feel rather pleased with the fact that the soffit is done, because not only is it one of the rare instances of something actually being finished, but I can now attack the siding. Once some of the siding is on, it will start to look like progress is being made, and everyone loves a little progress.

Then again, I shouldn’t talk until the job is done, or at least gets started. Until then, thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Flip Flopping Again

I realize how crazy this all seems, but when you really get down to it, it’s a little fortuitous, as well. We have been going back and forth with this whole insulation thing, in large part because of SH and his ideas and requirements. Originally we had planned on putting in fiberglass, but then he came along and sort of demanded that we at least use cellulose, preferably foam. It all boiled down to some new state requirement about a minimum R-value for insulation, and how he could be responsible as the contractor.

Anyway, we agreed, and looked into it. We had the insulation guys come and give an estimate, and then we proceeded to prepare for the foaming. It was going to be expensive, all that new technology is, but it was sure as heck going to be well insulated. All was going well and we were on our way to insulation nirvana when SH suddenly stopped showing up. Don’t ask me why, but like virtually every contractor we’ve dealt with, he just disappeared.

Normally this is a complete bummer, but two good things came about from this development. First, we no longer have to adhere to his rigid rules about insulation, and can pretty much do whatever we want. Secondly, since we prepared for the foam, there is a great foundation for insulation in form of rigid form ventilation. With the foam/cellulose, we were shooting for around an R38 value. Using fiberglass and more foam over that, we’re looking at around R35, though it will be several thousand dollars less. True, I have to do the work, but I think the hardest part is done, so there’s a bright side to it. I spoke with my Mentor and KB, and they both gave their seal of approval, which is good enough for me.

This is all theory and conjecture until the job gets done, which as we’ve all seen, is never a given, so I’ll just leave it at that. I will say that our hesitation and reluctance in spending huge chunks of money on insulation did help us out a little, and now we can move forward with the original plan.

I love when that happens. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Fillie Landi for the pic.

More Than 50%

I’m not quite at the point of feeling satisfied given that it has been about two years in the making, but I am more than halfway done with the soffit, which for someone like me, ain’t nothing. Installing a soffit is a challenging job for one person, to say the least, but with greater challenge comes greater reward, right? Yeah, right, who needs that much reward?

It helps a lot that I have a nail gun this time around, and thanks to HH for letting me borrow it, even if the compressor leaks. I can’t complain, the thing has changed my life for the better. I am in the process of finishing the back side of the house, and once that’s done, I’ll attack the gable end, and then it’s time to put up siding. Is that crazy, or what? Working behind the barn is hard because it’s like a jungle back there, I kid you not. The weeds have grown so high and thick that I literally have to bushwhack my way in. I feel so Indiana Jones. To add to the fun, there are a bunch of berry bushes with their nasty thorns, and the mosquitoes have made it their home, making it an adventure. For the record, I live for adventure.

I’m hoping to finish the entire soffit this week, but shouldn’t say anything until it’s done, right?

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Java Zombie for the pic.