Spring Weekend

This weekend was fantastic. The perfect weekend where we got to enjoy the warm temperatures and sunshine. I purposefully avoiding anything remotely close to work: regular work or house work. I’m consciously trying to enjoy a little bit of life and give some rationale as to why I work constantly.

We had a great time grilling out, and practicing golf with the boys. On Saturday hitting  balls in the front yard, and Sunday we went to the golf range. Golf is a fantastic game, probably the best game ever invented, and it’s nice to see our kids enjoying it. Hopefully we can all go golfing regularly in the future. Food wise we had two good meals this weekend. For about the last two months the wife’s been cooking pretty much a new meal every night to break of the rut we’d gotten into of pasta and chicken every night. Nothing too exotic, but we’ve been going through our Food Network magazines finding new recipes.

There are a lot of things I, we, want to do, so there is a method to my madness of working all the time. It’s nice to consciously take a weekend to not work. We won’t be entirely destitute if I take a day or two off, right?

In the yard we took the wraps off of hive No. 1 and checked the bees. The hive is extremely strong. And we survived without incident. We put an extra box on top, as well as sugar water to help supplement their feed for early spring. There are eggs and capped brood, so there’s a queen in there somewhere. We also set out our yellow jacket traps in hopes of killing a yellow jacket queen to minimize the chances that we’ll have any problems with them later in the year.

Yesterday we had our fist tick, so that’s started up again this year. In a few weeks we should be getting the ~17 year cicadas as well – create a ruckus of sound in the yard for a month.

The apples, serviceberries and gum trees are leafing. The peach trees are blossoming but they look horrible. One peach has two long branches sprouting from the ground with blossoms, and not much more. In time we’ll see what is surviving and what isn’t.

Earth Day on April 22 will mark our 4th anniversary since we moved in. Our plan is to buy and plant a nut tree to mark the occasion to encourage squirrels to come visit us more often.






You’re right.

I didn’t write a single post in the month of July.

And August is almost half over.

So I’m turning over a new leaf and forcing myself to write again.

I actually enjoy writing. And working all the time has kind of jabbed a knife in the back of my desire to be creative or express myself. Well I’m making a conscious effort to focus on the things that bring me happiness. And make an effort to eliminate those things in my life that add no value to it. I need to go back to square one. I need to make my sphere smaller.

So hopefully this will equate to more writing. Though I can not guarantee any of it will be any good, my hope is that it will at least help ease my mind. And maybe you’ll learn something new along the way.

I’ll write three posts this week (actually write them all today, but post them on three different days) on three topics that you, my trusted reader, may find of interest.

One will update you on bees. Another will tell you what’s going on with the basement project.

But today I’ll tell you about our latest pet adventure: a fish tank.

Our youngest has wanted pet fish for some time now. Well we finally caved in a few weeks ago and got him, the whole family actually, a ten gallon fish tank. I had fish growing up as a kid so I sort of knew what we were getting into. With three cats successfully living for a number of years under our stewardship, we figured we could handle some tropical fish.

First off we went to Petsmart and bought an all-inclusive 10 gallon fish tank kit from Top Fin. It included tank, filter, heater and LED illuminated hood. Each family member picked out a fake plant, and we got a 10 lb. bag of gravel, as well as a kick ass looking rusted pipe looking decoration; it fits our industrial chic vibe we’ve got going on at the casa.

Now, before you write me letters on how awful the tropical fish industry is, let me just stop you there. Yes, it is horrific. But as you should know by now, I can’t save everything for everyone all the time. I happen to like pet fish and I think it’s a good teaching experience for the boys: animal appreciation, life, death, responsibility and more. Plus, we decided my office was the best place for the tank, so my mental health and blood pressure benefit from the calm hum of the filter and the swimming fish-ies. Here is a PETA article about how to responsibly do pet fish, if you must be irresponsible monsters such as yours truly.

We set up the tank according to the directions and a few YouTube videos. Treatment wise we used Seachem Prime and Stability to get the tap water whipped into shape for our future guests. We then let the tank sit for three weeks, running, since we had to a vacation to go on.

Our fish tank set up.

Our fish tank set up.

Dixon approved.

Dixon approved.

Once we got back from vacation, we went to Petsmart for our own personal “Fish Day”. The rule of thumb is one inch of fish per gallon. Both boys would get to pick a fish out, as would the wife. Now you don’t want to get all your fish at once. For our little ten gallon tank, we would want to get them in two batches about two weeks apart. We selected neon tetras, 2-3 types of guppies and an algae eater. On this fish day we came home with the algae eater (Otocinclus) and five neon tetras. The tetras like to school, so you need to get a minimum of 3-6 of them. They alone account for five inches of fish. The algae eater another 2 inches. The guppies will push us up to 10.5 inches.

It’ll be fine.

Exciting! Getting our fish!

Exciting! Getting our fish!

Otocinclus are a type of algae eaters.

Otocinclus are a type of algae eaters.

Happily, as family, we introduced our new swimming pets to their new home.

We named the algae eater “Mr. Bloopy” aka “Smoochie” because he “bloops” around from place to place, and sucks on the aquarium glass. Every half hour the boys were in my office looking for him. He’s really good a camouflaging himself. Then filling the house with shouts and laughter they’d exclaim when they found him. Everyone was really getting into the fish tank.

Then it all went to crap.

Late that evening, day after we got the fish, I noticed Bloop swimming irregularly. Then he dashed down to the gravel and flopped on his side.

“Oh no! Smoochie!”

I poked him a little with the net to right up. He was still breathing, but looking lethargic.

Sadly I awoke this morning to find Mr. Bloop didn’t make it through the night. His little stomach no longer moved. Inquisitive searches for his whereabouts were no longer necessary.

Bloop was dead.

Mr. Bloopy "resting". (Sadly, I didn't get a picture of him before).

Mr. Bloopy “resting”. (Sadly, I didn’t get a picture of him before).

The boys took the news a lot better than their mother or father did. In less then 48 hours with us, he brought laughter and joy to our household. So much laughter, fun and excitement dashed.

I’m not sure what went wrong, though I know I didn’t do the one water treatment properly. I only put the Stability product in for one day instead of seven. I’m correcting that mistake this week. The tetras are doing fine, but just to be safe I got our water tested. The pH was off a little so I picked up some Tetra Easy Balance Plus and poured that in.

In two weeks we’ll get the water tested again and get the rest of the fish, including a new algae eater. And yes, we’ll probably call him Bloopy or Smoochie too.

I feel awful because it was basically my fault for not preparing the water correctly.

This afternoon we placed Mr. Bloopy’s little body in a tissue lined X-acto box and buried him beneath a maple tree back in the woods, just off of the nature trail. A small rock and bouquet of queen-anne’s lace marks his final resting spot. The sun filters down through the leaves and shines upon him warmly. I thought of burying him near the pond so he’d be near water, but we all decided that the woods up by the nature trail is a fine resting place for any critter.

It’s a nice place to rest.

I’d like my ashes spread there someday, god willing.

Then Bloop n me can swim whenever we want.

Stone marker before inscription

Stone marker before inscription

As written by a six year old: Mr Blope [Bloopy] The Fish XO XO [fish and hear emoji's] Love. I couldn't have said it better myself.

As written by a six year old: Mr Blope [Bloopy] The Fish XO XO [fish and hear emoji’s] Love. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

It’s nice to have been here at this home long enough to start building some memories, both good and bad.

And it’s nice to get back into writing.

Goodnight Mr. Bloopy. See you on the flip side.

A Xylophone and LED Light Bulbs

Snowy yard in January 2015

Snowy yard in January 2015

A mixed bag of whatnot for this post. We’ve been somewhat snowed in for a week or two as winter asserts itself in northeast Ohio. The ground has been covered in a blanket of white for the better part of four weeks or more. But the last week has found an accumulation of a few inches per day it seems.

We’re in full hibernation mode. Venturing out for school, provisions and not much more. I’ve been busy with work but have found some time here and there to dabble in various distractions.

As the original lightbulbs in the house burn out, I’m trying to replace them with energy efficient LED light bulbs. Because LED’s do cost a fair bit, I can’t just go out and replace them all. But this past week I replaced the four light bulbs in the upstairs studio. This space is used by the wife and kids everyday so it’s a good candidate for eco-friendly, cost saving bulbs.

One of the three recessed ceiling cans had a burnt out bulb. I took the three working bulbs and transferred them to the kitchen where we have a half-dozen burned out cans. I then went to Lowe’s and picked up four Sylvania Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood light bulbs. I normally prefer Home Depot for LED light bulb selection. But I get a discount at Lowe’s and there’s for the studio recess cans, you don’t see anything but light, so a sexy bulb design isn’t important. Though these Sylvania do look good.

 The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe's

The smooth lines of a SYLVANIA Ultra 11-Watt (65W Equivalent) BR30 Medium Base Soft White Dimmable Indoor LED Flood Light Bulb from Lowe’s

Here’s a picture of the box with all the stats. For60Watt replacement bulbs you want to make sure you’re getting around 800 lumens, which is exactly what these65W equivalent bulbs get. At 11-watts, according to the packaging, the bulbs will each save us $1.32 per year over 22 years for a grand total of $29 per bulb (at 3/ hrs a day, at $0.11kWh).  Each bulb cost $15, so we’ll sort of “make money” in the form of long term cost avoidance.

Those four bulbs will keep 1,600 lbs (nearly a ton) of carbon from entering the atmosphere over 22 years (18.2 lbs per bulb per year). It feels pretty good.

Another fun fact I pointed out as my kid helped me install the bulbs, since they last 22 years, it could very well be my grandkids standing there the next time I have to get on the ladder and change those bulbs in the studio. Who knows, the bulbs may even outlast me.

Side of the box

Side of the box

front of the box

front of the box

The new bulbs doing their thing.

The new bulbs doing their thing.









One fun thing we did this week was we made a real xylophone. Our oldest came home from school and told us how he played a xylophone that day, and he wanted to make one.

We didn’t have any sort of plan, but he drew up his own plan in book form. It was cute. He then directed me as I sawed and screwed together some scrap wood. The first one didn’t turn out too good so on Saturday we woke up early and picked up some 1×2’s at the store. I used this guide online (click here) to make our xylophone. I’ll let you look through the steps yourself.

Ours turned out okay and it does make the right sounds for the most part. It was a fun project and nice distraction for a snowy Saturday afternoon.

I used a file to tune the keys.

I used a file to tune the keys.

The assembled xylophone.

The assembled xylophone.

The xylophone in action.

The xylophone in action.



Trailer Happenings

No, we haven’t bought a trailer. We’re holding true to our game plan. But I continue to learn more and more about trailers, their prices and the best places to hunt for them. The last week has found me on eBay, which is turning out to be a good hunting spot. The site seems to get a steady stream of trailers, especially on Saturday and Sunday.

Other good sites include Tin Can Tourists, which has a decent classified section, that features a few new trailers every week or so. For Airstreams, the best site is Airstream Classifieds. 

The problem with Airstreams are two-fold. One, they are way too expensive. There was a damaged one on eBay that was a steal at $12,000 which, given the means, I would have rolled the dice on. Otherwise though you’re spending $10K minimum for anything in our 16′ range. The longer ones are actually less expensive. Which leads us to the second problem with Airstreams, they weigh too much. We could only pull a 16′ with our RAV4, and even so it’d have to be a vintage one. The newer ones are outfitted like Cadillacs with all sorts of heavy furniture and gear. This doesn’t keep me from looking, but you know how it goes. Wishful thinking.

Here are just of few of this week’s crop of new and used trailers I’ve been spying.



Autumn Scenes & Honey Bottle Label

Autumn is in full swing.

Today we labeled our honey bottles. The labels look okay. There are some design changes I’ll make but those can wait until the next batch. We needed to get them labeled for tomorrow’s community yard sale.

Here are a few photos, including one of a frog that jumped out in front of the Rabbit the other day. It’s a northern green frog (Rana clamitans melanomawhich is can be found throughout Ohio. It’s fun discovering a “new to us” species on our land. Especially this large of an amphibian. One of these days I should do a book on all the animals we have on our land.

So many ideas, so little time.

Labor Day 2014

I have some form of undiagnosed obsessive compulsive disorder that requires me to get monkeys off my back. So I’ll throw out my “Happy Labor Day” post before I get back to working on a Sunday. (You’ll be reading on Monday (Labor Day in the U.S.) and suffice to say I’ll be working on Labor Day as well.)

My Exterior Doors Hate Me

Speaking of obsessive compulsive, I interrupted my work Friday with an hour fit of wanting to get my Therma-Tru doors fixed again. This saga has been ongoing since January and every time I see the air gap in my doors, and missing hinge screws it fills me with rage.

I bet most people who go postal had someone mis-install three grand worth of exterior doors in their house; only to find there is absolutely zero customer service after your doors are installed. I can’t go after the installer because we’re related, and it would make holiday parties difficult. I call the place every four weeks where we bought the doors from but they never call back. I send emails and check out the manufacturer website out – hoping I can order replacement parts but they say I have to contact the distributor.

See the problem is Therma-Tru makes the door slabs and then a distributor puts on the frames. You need to contact a distributor, but it has to be the one you got the doors from. I don’t know what you do if you buy the house new.

It’s a good example of how pathetic customer service is in this country. Specifically customer service in the building industry. It is horrific. From manufacturers, to sellers, to installers; my impression is they just want to take your money and never deal with you again. In this day and age I should be able to have an expert look at my door, order the parts, install them / fix the problem, and then give me a bill to pay.

I did have a distributor rep come out in January but he never followed through and I don’t have his contact info. The whole process defies logic and common sense.

I did purchase some long #12 screws for the hinges, where they neglected to install screws. They’re zinc plated which I don’t know if I like that from a corrosion perspective – I may still go out and find stainless screws just to suit my anal retentive nature.

The lack of air tightness isn’t the only door problem I’m having, the front door lock won’t accept the key all the way. So I called up Emtek and they’re going to send me a “tool” I can use to try to fix it. I suspect it’ll either do the trick or turn into another complete cluster. We shall see.

Air Show

We went to the air show this weekend. I had been wanting to go for the last 15 years but never found the time. It comes to Cleveland every Labor Day weekend, except last which was cancelled due to the government shutdown.

The best part of the show for us as a Harrier flying right over top of us as we got out of the car. It scared the entire family because we didn’t see it coming.

It was awesome!

The day was hot but the we had a really nice time. The kids got toy airplanes, and got to stand next to the actual planes to get their photos taken. We had some lemonade and settled down on our blanket to watch the Blue Angels. They were really awesome!

I know a lot of people who live in the USA hate the country, military and whatnot but I love going to the air show and seeing the jets. I’m no war monger by any means, unless maybe it has to do with my ill-fitting doors, but I’m really glad I live in the United States of America. We enjoy more freedom and opportunity than any other nation in my opinion and we have really awesome people protecting us. And those people get to use the best equipment available. Watching those planes and how powerful they are makes me glad I will never have to be on the business end of one of them.

Go off on your political rants all you want; but I really love this country and don’t mind one bit that we’ve got good people wielding capable weapons in defense of freedom across the globe. It’s a shame that the advent of drones and a changing world likely mean the need for jets will wane soon. I’m glad I grew up in an age where we could see them.

One environmental note, to me an air show is a great use of fossil fuels – it was great entertainment and made treasured memories for our family. And I don’t mind buying the foreign made plastic toy planes as  a token of the day – though it’d be nice if they were more eco-friendly and made here, it’s not a big deal.

Abstinence isn’t a viable option for this tree-hugger when it comes to the air show.

Apologies to my green loving, dove friends.

This B-25 is the last one that still flys and saw actual combat. It flew sorties into Italy during WW2. It's a beautiful machine. Hopefully it will be flying for generations to come.

This B-25 is the last one that still flys and saw actual combat. It flew sorties into Italy during WW2. It’s a beautiful machine. Hopefully it will be flying for generations to come.

Watching the Blue Angels is a Cleveland tradition. It makes me really happy to share the experience with my kids.

Watching the Blue Angels is a Cleveland tradition. It makes me really happy to share the experience with my kids.

F/A-18's from the Blue Angels naval air team.

F/A-18’s from the Blue Angels naval air team. I think flying a jet would be awesome.  These guys are lucky to get to do it as their job.

Grey Day Photos

I’ll leave you this Labor Day (and get back to work before I get in trouble) with some photos from our wild yard.

Peace everyone. Stay safe, love each other and find time to laugh today.

Rain barrel with black eyed susans

Rain barrel with black eyed susans

Front planting bed with wildflowers. A nice view of our rain water collection network and natural flowers managing rain water.

Front planting bed with wildflowers. A nice view of our rain water collection network and natural flowers managing rain water.

The bees working on Labor Day weekend too.

The bees working on Labor Day weekend too.


Apple Blossom

We went to the sold out John Prine concert last night at the Ohio, and it was awesome. I’m not a connoisseur of concerts, so I don’t know if they are all as great, but after seeing John live, I’m not sure there much need to go to any others.

To celebrate the wife and my wedding anniversary we started out the night with dinner at Michael Simon’s Lolita restaurant, where we enjoyed a delicious three course meal. First off were yummy mussels and an order of bruschetta. For dinner we both got the petite steak which was exquisitely fantastic. To top it off we shared a trifle. It’s a nice quaint restaurant and I’d recommend it to anyone.

We then traveled over to the historic Ohio Theater for the concert. It’s a great venue and the seats I got were the best, in the mezzanine, but right behind the aisle so no one was in front of us; I little tight on leg room but definitely the seats to get in my opinion.

Sarah Jarosz opened for John, and even played a few songs with him later in the night. We had never heard her before but we’re fans now. I liked the soulful country sound of her voice, her wonderful lyrics and guitar playing. Sarah entertained the crowd during her 35 minute set. During intermission we went out to the lobby and got her to autograph a copy of her latest CD.

John darted out on stage carrying his guitar, accompanied by his three band mates playing guitar, mandolin and (what I call a) bass cello, and launched right into ‘Spanish Pipedream’ which was a pure delight. It was the perfect song to start with, especially since the wife hadn’t even heard of John, let a lone his music. I wish I could have somehow bottled the moment….the whole night really.

The next two hours were spent listening to songs, ranging from sad to funny, slow to rocking. He hit upon virtually all the ones I know, including the encore ‘Paradise’ which Sarah came back out for and most of the band mates performed solos. John’s music is as authentic an experience as you’re likely to find that touches your heart and soul; it speaks to the human condition. He truly is a national treasure, a hidden gem. We are all better off for he and his music. I count myself extremely fortunate to have seen him perform live and would see him again in a heartbeat.

Here’s a review of the concert from the PD.

Back home today we cleaned up the house for a guest tour. I love having guests and showing off the house. It’s also a great excuse to clean up around here.

We had a beautiful day for it, sunny, though it wasn’t very warm.

As it turns out, we all took the day off. After we visited with our friends and showed them around, we ended up having an early dinner followed by just hanging around the family room watching movies on TV. At one point I even dozed off. As did the cats, and boys. Sometimes, despite the weight of the world squeezing the air out of your lungs, you need to say ‘it can wait til tomorrow’. I’m tired of it all really; and besides I love the escapism of a movie or two on a lazy Sunday.

Oh, and one of the best parts of today – as I was explaining to our friends that I doubted we’d get apple blossoms this year, I spied a white flower in the distance atop the one corner apple tree. Upon further inspection there are five flowers up there.

Who knows, maybe we will have apples this year.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Our first apple blossoms of the year. Better late than never.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

Mama deer is about to squirt a baby out. Today I thought she was based on how she was walking in the south meadow. She walked the whole time tail up. At one point to relieve herself. I’d swear she was crowning (sorry if that’s not the right term, but I saw more of her privates than I care to admit). I was going to video tape the birth but she rambled behind a hedge row.

It's so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.

It’s so rare to have the kitchen clean I just had to take a photo of it.