Monday, March 5, 2018

September 2017



Time sure flies, yet this has been a fairly relaxed year (by design). Instead of breaking ground on something new, it was time for finesse and completion. The prairie has gotten off to a good start without requirements of mowing like last year and we’ve seen lots of interesting flowers pop up depending on the time of season. We had rock brought in to top the stretch of lane from the tracks to the Lodge, and later on the curve that was starting to wash out on the west of the tracks. The tractor came in handy for smoothing those sections and moving material around and I’ve been keeping the weeds down with the sprayer.

The solar array has been working flawlessly since it went online last July and has cut our electric bill significantly; paying us during the summer months which offsets our internet cost. In fact, the savings is on par with the estimated payback schedule.

3.5 tons of cooling was installed last month in CS3 to provide climate control for the ‘artifacts’ upstairs. With storage of film, records and tapes, radios of bakelite and thermoplastics and wooden TV’s, this was sorely needed. And with the plan to spend a good part of my future days upstairs working and tinkering, I’ll be able to do so without sweating onto my soldering iron. This has already been a boon for working downstairs as we’ve had some hot, but very humid, late summer days where being able to work on a car without sweat stinging your eyes as oil runs down your arms is much appreciated.

Back on the ‘summer of improvement’ idea, the Suburban has gotten some attention the last few months with a new headliner, a transmission cooler, a sport tach and cleanup of the inside of the instrument panel and some other maintenance performed. We ran it hard pulling with the Shasta with A/C blowing on max and outside temps soaring for the 7 hour drive to southern MO, then adding a vintage refrigerator to the cargo for its return trip! With cooler weather, it hummed right along for a much shorter trip to Wisconsin recently, then onward without the trailer to Oshkosh, only to re-visit the state a week later…this time to Milwaukee. I suspect a trans filter and fluid change may be in its future. And the valve stem seals should be done at some point.

We’re also learning about the limits of the Shasta. The week I took off of work last year to focus on upgrades has paid dividends on convenience and reliability and I took some time to document them here to help others: http://www.linearlook.com/shasta/shasta.html  One of the biggest limitations is in liquid holding capacity. IIRC, 25 gallons of fresh water, 12 gal of gray and 5 gal of black. Fresh water isn’t terrible, the biggest consumer is showering (a Navy shower helps) and worst case you could refill from a 5 gal tote. But 12 of gray* and 5 black is almost laughable (the published figures, of course, are quite different). I shelled out a few bucks last week for a 14 gallon tank I plan to mount up under the rear of the trailer (have to practice my ABS welding skills) which I figure, along with judicial valve placement, will allow for accommodating either holding need in the future. The rear dinette modification meant that we never even set the front bed up as a table on this last trip, and was a nice place to have breakfast and a cup of coffee when you’re not quite ready to greet the fire ring.

*to stem graywater accumulation, I installed an outdoor shower on the right rear which is handy for several uses, but not always practical depending on the shape of the campsite and your proximity to others. The other major advance is a hotwater bypass control. You flip a switch and the hot water lines are flushed of their cold water (which returns to the tank), so when you fire up the sink or shower, you get almost instant hot water without waste.

I had been looking forward to July and the trip up north in 2017, but consider that month a loss. I was fighting poison ivy the days leading up to the trip, which not only meant constant pain, irritation and loss of focus on other things, but resulted in two clinic visits and a trip to the e-room back in CF. I essentially couldn’t do anything productive the entire month and sequestered myself to the air conditioned bedroom and a car with A/C for commuting (the plow truck, actually). It wasn’t until August that things calmed down. Glad to be over that, but I suspect only the minorest of irritations will cause a relapse.

One other thing I’ve been trying to do this year has been spend more time with friends. Time is a precious commodity and at this stage of our lives, will only become more scarce for those our age as people settle down, focus on their careers, have children, etc. The trip this past spring with Micah, Don and Cam was a welcome break to the monotony, and we got to see cars I haven’t laid eyes on in years. A certain trip to the High Life Lounge and an IMAX presentation of Dunkirk was also quite memorable. Now if we could only manage a bonfire this year.




Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Gap

One nice thing about the company I work for are the extra-days off during the Xmas break. I managed to parlay this into 12 consecutive days this year (including weekends). I can count on one hand the number of times I left the house. Which is just the way I like it…except for this year, the cold really got to me.

This little break in the year is typically when I’m most productive. In the days before electricity and windows at the Lodge, I’d get up early at the apartment, fill my thermos and head out to work for the day..as long as the temps were in the 20’s or so. I could warm my hands on a small kerosene heater, but that was about it. I drywalled the downstairs this way, built the kitchen and island, built the first gen garage doors, even worked on siding from the picker. Later, along with insulated walls and heat, this break became the perfect time for indoor work. There was one break where I completed the bamboo ceiling sections in CS3, and cut, stained and installed all the window trim for the 40+ linear feet of windows. Some years, this break has been the perfect time for Relay Computer work. Hand assembling boards with thousands of solder joints. Grueling work, taking around 6 hours per board, if I recall, which is why it took multiple seasons to complete all six.

But this year was different. Sure, I knocked out the annual tasks, like taking all the glassware down in the dining area, cleaning the works and re-arranging. Cleaning and organizing downstairs CS3. Getting the DD stove back to 100% operation. And other yawn-worthy things. As much as I wanted to knock out a little Relay Comp work, the bites were too big. I did manage to assemble and load the firmware on ‘the LittleGP-30’ computer (Google it). Oh, and started building a steel cart for the RR Mark V. That is, before I managed to sun-burn my face from errant welding UV. December in the Midwest and I was applying aloe and dealing with peeling skin for a day or two...without the backstory of laying on a tropical beach.

Before I knew it, the days had passed (much more rapidly than expected) and I found myself back at work. Heck, I was almost glad to roll back in to a place with steady heat and dual monitors. This tells me I’m getting soft, nay, complacent. A bit of Stockholm syndrome, perhaps. With a finite amount of time on this planet, with the knowledge that it could be cut short tomorrow, there is simply no excuse to sit behind the desk of a passion-less job for 8 hours a day while the body atrophies. Don’t get me wrong, I (currently) don’t hate my job. But I do twinge when I think about the energy and creative spark I once had, fade so significantly. 

When I was a kid, if you had asked me to visualize a prototypical 'adult', I would have conjured up images of people my parents' age, going to work, paying the bills, buying groceries, but also being rather boring. Especially when you'd compare that mental image against pictures of them you'd find in a photo album taken 10, maybe 15 years earlier ("really? that's you!?"). I realize now it's not the growing up that causes this shift. It's the compromising. I've met many 30 year olds that are going on 60 (I plead the 5th). And spry young 70 year-olds that are living life to the fullest. Sure, frame of mind is part of it, but the image in that frame is shaped by the day-to-day.

The litmus test is, would I do this job 40 hours a week if there were no pay? If not, what would you want to do for zero pay that took the majority of the day, every day, for decades? If you can answer that question, then that’s the job to seek; the pay is merely a perk to keep the lights and heat on at home. If you can’t answer the question now, then when? Hopefully before your assets have become liabilities.




Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Damfest 2017

Now that was a Damfest! The days leading up to Friday the 26th forecast the weather to be potentially…inclimate. Rain and overcast skies were in the cards, but by the afternoon of the day of, the skies cleared and the temps were perfect. Setup was straightforward except for a lack of power this year which required some trekking across town for mechanical assistance. Turnout was possibly the largest ever, breaking the 30 barrier. Lots of great food, cold drinks and no Po-Po drive-bys.  

One new addition was a tripod Micah brought along to get a well-composed dam shot and that seemed to work well. I unburied the Polaroid 220 but the aging film (10+ years old by my estimation) captured a couple of partial shots before giving up. One notable absence was Cam’s showboard; previously display space was at a premium, but it occurs to me some twine tossed around the roof support on either side would allow it to be hung up on one of the sidewalls up out of harm’s way.

Around 9:30 someone got the bright idea to close up shop but evenings as clear, temperate and bug-free, under twinkling lights and with good music are tough to come by. Even tougher to come by as the years progress. A small group of us hung out and chatted for another hour or so until finally retreating to Micah’s place to witness the infamous back yard fountain and take a spin on the new rider…at midnight.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Hard Stop

That title goes double for this entry. Firstly, it's time for a brain-dump and a little timeline of the goings-ons around here. As far as I can recall, September was consumed with Geoff's visit, a rather low-key birthday (mine), travel to Chicago for work, the Don and Mark wedding, and a good old fashioned flood. Any remaining time was consumed with a final mowing of the upper field, painting of the CS3 east and west fascias, and some prep work on the Suburban.

This rolled us into October and the first camping trip with the Shasta. Pike's Peak was a great time and the scrambling to get the Pull-Rite bars modified to work was well worth the effort. Unfortunately, there's not much more camping to be done this season, so the Shasta now waits for a wash and winterizing before putting it away for the winter. As for the rest of October, that's a blur. The next Saturday I hopped in the car and drove to the twin cities on a moment's notice. I had learned of an auction at the Northwest Airlines flight simulator center in Eagan and bid on a few items I knew I could fit in the Sonic. Half the anticipation, however, was having free reign of the building. Free to explore the computer rooms, simulator rooms and offices. And that is where I ran into the LINK Group General Precision GP-4 Computer. A mid-60's design that would easily fill a single stall garage, housed in 9 double-width steel cabinets towering 6' tall. My back hurt just looking at this machine. How could I have missed it during bidding? And what would I have done with it if I had won? I snapped lots of pics while trying not to sweat all over everything (the heat was CRANKED) and I had been moving equipment and climbing up on half-walls to remove aluminum blinds. Then another 3.5 hours back to get home in time for Micah's birthday celebration.

Festivities kicked off at Oktoberfest on The Hill with wrist bands and craft beers. Jon and Amanda joined Micah, Cam, Cara and myself as we worked our way through several different brews. Then onward to Los Cabos on University for some welcome food. Robert O. dropped in and we made a time of it.

After dinner, we pressed on to the Beer Hall over by Rudy's where Viet joined us. They had replenished their stock of Old Tankard and a tallboy hit the spot while much kibitzing ensued. But if that wasn't enough, we decided we better head over to Maple Lanes for semi-lunar bowling. For some reason it wasn't as dark as I recall back in the day, and we pretty much closed the place out at midnight. However, as someone mentioned, we witnessed a unicorn. The attendant on duty pressed the reset switch for the entire alley. Every lane, save the 2 in use, knocked over all their pins and performed a reset before shutting down..all in the matter of 5 seconds or so. Like the crack of a bat, that is a VERY satisfying sound.

The news of the closing of The Blue Room prompted us to make that our next stop. Jon was supposed to meet us there but ended up MIA. Cam and Viet called it a night, but Micah, Cara, Robert and I pressed onward. Some foosball and (lousy) pool was in the cards and the place was fairly busy. Around 1, we folded and headed for home.

Sunday arrived and the thought of that GP-4 continued to haunt me. I put out a post to a computer mailing list I'm on. This list was formed back in the 90's and is the home for all manner of experts that indulge in rote daily conversation that keeps me a lurker. When that message failed to ignite a discussion, I uploaded photos of the complete center I had taken and posted the link on Monday. I buried the lead and this time someone took the bait.

So, why all the interest in this machine? Well, for one, this was a fully intact computer, that appeared to be turn-key, and had somehow survived over 50 years in working order, complete with its schematics and connection diagrams. There are only a couple computers in the WORLD that date from the same era and are complete enough to have been restored to working order. Two, I felt like this might have been my time to step up and be the voice of preservation for something pretty darn rare. At age 25 I couldn't have done it, but at 35, while stretching it (trailers, storage, moving equipment, connections in the community, etc) I might stand a chance. But it was not to be. After some detective work and a few phone calls, I had the buyer's name, number and the selling price. Before I could figure out my next step (perhaps just saving a couple cabinets full or early digital cards), I got the news I was hoping not to hear. It had all been bought for scrap, and while I was pondering what to do next, half the machine had already been gutted, the control panel cut out and in the back seat of some guy's car, and the rest would be gone in a day. So ends the chapter on the GP-4.

I suppose I'll stick to little things, like console TVs, and cars. And so we jump forward to the next weekend. Friday I had lined up a U-Haul trailer and Saturday before sunrise Cara and I set off for Overland Park, KS. A long haul in the Suburban, especially when we were turning around coming back the same day! The trip was a success, and we loaded 8 Philco Predicta TVs from 1959 into the Suburban & trailer, along with another late 40's console and some early portables. We also indulged in some delicious KC BBQ for lunch. Paired with a Boulevard wheat, it hit the spot.

And so, we pointed the rig north onto 35 and began the trudge back to Iowa. At roughly the same location as seen when we departed, we now watched the sun drop below the horizon, and the miles click on. Sleep came easy Saturday night.

Sunday came the unloading, and getting the trailer back over to University Ave. Then more chores before setting off to the parents' for my sister's birthday. Meanwhile, Cara's father dropped in to unload "her things" that have been cluttering his basement. Guess everyone was on the road this weekend.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

MMM Check-In

So it’s been a year since I signed onto the MMM train; at the time I kicked myself for not discovering the group earlier. I still do, but I’m glad I didn’t wait any longer than I did. So now that we’re 12 months in, how are things shaking up?

If you recall, the first order of business was taking advantage of any tax deferred accounts. This meant things got kind of lean towards the end of 2015, but it also meant I was able to max out the 401k up to the federal limit. If I had to live on Ramen to do so, I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Everything not put there gets taxed at your AGI, plus the state tax, and if you spend it, better tack on sales tax, too. In the end that dollar only has about 75 cents of buying power, even in your savings account. While a simplification, you just worked 10 hours of your 40 hour week for free. Not only did you do it for free, you will never get that time back. Scale that out to 25% of the working year, and….

Don’t have a 401k? You likely qualify for other pre-tax savings plans.

Next step was investing in an IRA. Nice thing about a Roth, if you need the money in an emergency, the contribution portion can be withdrawn at any time without penalty as it’s post-tax money. You can’t make up for the lost cost-opportunity of pulling that money out, but it is a legit option. Roth or tIRA, see which one is right for you.

There was some pain and work involved.

The next goal was to reduce fixed costs. I sat down with my insurance man…several times…and sharpened the pencil; coverage is now appropriate and we moved a couple cars over to take advantage of bundling discounts. A pain in the ass for sure, but I’ll be sitting down with him again in a month to revisit. If I don’t like the numbers, I can always take my business elsewhere. You’d be surprised how much money can be ‘found’ if you talk turkey.

Other fixed costs; I had a car I was making payments on. A 2009 Sky Convertible. My newest vehicle…working A/C, impressive gas mileage, fun to wind out. It had been on various trips to MN and even New York, but I had a note on it and as is the case with new cars, eventually it would cost me major bucks. Sold that off before it would eat me alive. No more car payments.

Some very uncomfortable phone calls to the farmer renting my land, and lots of paperwork at the FSA office to get us into a CRP program. This also meant a conversation at the Assessor’s Office to get us squared away for farming changes. And it’s not as easy as shuffling paperwork. Both C and I have spent untold hours on the tractor rotary cutting 47 acres of grass and weeds so the prairie has half a chance.

Taxes: Such changes have implications, but there are likely credits and deductions you qualify for that aren’t caught by H&R Block nor a computer program...because to qualify, action is required on your part ahead of time to take advantage of such. The biggest takeaway for me was that if you wait to look at your tax situation when taxes are due, you’ll always be behind the 8 ball. I admit, this is a rather daunting topic, but the question becomes, at what level of effort are you okay with sitting in a cubicle vs. taking action. If you look into it right now, you still have 4 months for course correction.

Flexible Spending. Based on a rolling 12 months from the year prior to the most recent 12 months. Groceries and adult beverages: We don’t scrimp here, but the local grocery stores put almost everything on sale on a given rotation so it never makes sense to pay full price. If there’s a sale, I stock up and ride it out. This takes almost no effort and keeps the spend under $200/mo for two people. If I’m out of state and see a good deal, I’ve been known to buy a few cases of libations which really adds up in savings over the long run. Plus I send in the rebates.

Fuel costs are down, due to a combination of pump price, but also due to a little planning. I have to drive into town for work anyway, might as well make the most of it.

How about plugging those leaking holes? I know people here at work that buy both breakfast and lunch in the cafeteria DAILY. That way madness lies. According to my records, in the 12 months prior, I paid for lunch at work 20 times during the course of the year. That’s less than once every 2 weeks. For the most recent 12 months? I cut this number to 1, and it was for the outdoor car show with coworkers.  

And coffee? 71 times at $1.18 now down to exactly 10 cups over the year. And I ate outside the office 4 times at a total cost of <$10. So roughly, a $20 bill took care of lunch and coffee for the last 12 months. I can live with that. Yes, I am still drinking coffee every morning, it just means I have no excuse not to clean the percolator and load the basket each day. And I still eat lunch at my desk, I just don’t “treat” myself to the overpriced cafeteria. Is my quality of life somehow reduced due to those decisions? Not that I can tell.

I was a debit card man up until this time last year. It made record keeping easy as all transactions were in one place and I could be completely up to date in 5 minutes. Plus, as you know, credit cards are evil. Well, so much for that. There are folks that take CC churning to new levels, scoring travel miles and cash rewards by being savvy on the latest offers. I decided to stick my toes in the water and took advantage of several cash back rewards cards and can honestly say it was worth the juggling. The Citi Double Cash is my go-to for most purchases but each card has their advantage. For example, there will always be something I need from Amazon, so having that card as a tool in my belt makes good sense. I will always buy groceries, so why not take the 7% bonus for 3 months and 2% for the other 9? It’s free money.

Additional “opportunities”. I try to routinely list a few items on eBay for a little ‘fun money’, branched out into other services for RR Central, and doubled down on our energy costs by going solar. Interestingly, as time rolls on, the state and fed tax credits continue to decrease so it makes sense to get this plant in now. As of August, we are online and producing and just crossed the 1 megawatt/hr production threshold. Yes, payback time is in YEARS but the tax credits are arguably more valuable now during my working years when we’re in a higher tax bracket, so that’s bonus 1. And every dollar I save not giving to the utilities for electricity can be put in pre-tax savings, so that’s bonus 2. Oh yeah, did I mention clean energy? Plus they look cool.

No, I am not riding my bike to work from where I live; I don’t have a death wish. No, I am not trading my ‘gas guzzling’ vehicles; I see the automobile as more than just transportation. Yes, I actually bought a project car earlier this year that I can spend time working on when I’m out of the rat race. Perhaps not the most opportune timing, but the fact that I could see the car in person rather than as photos on the internet, and that I wouldn’t spend 25% of the purchase price transporting it on a carrier, weighed heavily into my decision. I don’t plan to stop such insanity anytime soon.


Wow, so I guess I did make some changes in the last 12 months. In my estimation, quality of life is exactly the same, but now I know each day I spend at work gets me one day closer to a goal; something tangible. C is onboard and has made similar changes with her spending and investing as well. Do I recommend it? Hell yes.  

Monday, August 1, 2016

Good. Lord.

It has been a week. Literally, a week’s sabbatical without pay to get away from work for a few days during the factory shutdowns and allow me some quality time to get to know the Shasta Airflyte. Most of it was fun, though rustoleum paint dripping in my face, and lots and lots of sweat were not so fun. I looked back yesterday eve and managed to cross off 41 projects; others had to wait as parts weren’t yet here, and still others due to time constraints. Eventually I’ll put up a webpage with info for other owners, but I was pretty vocal on the Shasta Reissue FB group, to the point some people thought I was talking cheap shots at the manufacturer (and to think I was holding my tongue).

But it wasn’t all trailer work. The rock came in for the driveway on Monday. Took 17 truck loads, which I estimate to be over 300 tons. In addition to the rock MidAm put down on the final curve, that gets us a layer a couple inches thick from tracks to road. Problem was, it wouldn’t spread from the truck as it should, which meant bare spots and piles several feet high, both left/right and fore/aft. So instead of spending Monday working on the trailer, I was busy with the loader trying to make things passable while the rock kept on rolling in. To add insult, the final product is so bumpy that if you exceed a crawl, you’ll get bounced through your windshield. I made a call midweek and found a guy in Waverly that does excavation and grading work and he stopped out Sunday. He’s going to put a guy with a skidloader on the job today to see if they can smooth it out before it compacts. Fingers crossed.

I managed to burn a couple other mornings by running errands- Menards a few times for supplies, then groceries, post office, etc. That still left me with afternoons. Friday morning (with last bearing in-hand) was spent rebuilding the PTO for the Farmall and  getting that installed for the real test on Saturday. The original outer bearing had blown out to the point several ball bearings were worn into halves! After assembling a cheap hydraulic press, I was able to drive in new bearings as well as the output shaft. What a lifesaver. That meant Saturday we’d finally be able to cut the grass that had been growing for two weeks. That took the better part of Saturday…thick, wet grass that put the mowers to the test. While I ran the Farmall, Cara ran the JD as the 14 acres of prairie on the east side of the tracks needed another cutting. I managed to sneak in a couple hours late in the day but she really handled it, finishing that field on Sunday.


All-in-all, an enjoyable, if not exhausting, experience. By the end I couldn’t even remember what the office looked like. 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Heat-Wave Update

So here we are, mid-July already. I figure an entry is due, at least as a way to capture the progress and events of the last few months should I ever look back at 2016 and wonder what happened.

On the solar front...Apr was set aside for planning the system, revising the system, shopping components around, contacting the necessary authorities for approval and ordering parts. May was the buffer for the parts and components to arrive from all corners of the globe (and of course multiple freight deliveries), while the galvanized pipe was sourced locally. I also took care of the digging and cement work during this time. June was slated as the build month, for trenching, framework, panel bolt-down, excavation into CS3, etc. And I'm happy to report we were ready to flip the switch as of 1 July, with just one little hangup. Inspection. However, this process went smoothly after a date was pinned down and as of 14 July, the initial pass was given, CFU installed their net meter, and we went online that afternoon. Initial response is favorable- we are in fact generating more power than we're using, though without the ethernet link connected (hopefully be end of the week) I can only compare values off the inverter display and the registers on the net meter. It's an interesting paradigm shift (to use a phrase I'd rather not use). During the day we generate power at a higher return per kWh than we use.. And at night, we buy kWh's from the PoCo at the standard reduced rate. So when it's a cloudy day and production is down, the initial instinct is to conserve, but I'd argue that's probably the best time to consume as you're not offsetting those more valuable solar kWh's your selling back. One day I might get around to putting together a web page to capture the entire build; I made sure to snap photos and keep a log of the process and part numbers as others have done as no two builds are ever alike.

Earlier this month was the annual trip up north. This year was similar to last year's in that obviously the destination (Leech Lake) was the same, but also that both grandmas tagged along. On what is normally one of the busiest travel days of the year by car, I chose to avoid the whole 35/94 beaten path and headed west at Albert Lea, taking 13 to (state) 14 to 15 which merges with 10 at St. Cloud.  With no congestion, accidents or construction, I'm convinced this was a faster route. And it allowed us to have a nice sit down lunch at McCormick's Family Restaurant, to pick up some tasty bacon and summer sausage at Knaus' Sausage House, and spend a few minutes at the Motley antique, uh, shop. Plus it was a beautiful day to cruise the two-lanes.

Once up north things unfolded predictably, except my desire to play Canasta. Years ago I'd play this up on 3rd Crow Wing and it didn't take much doing for us to get back into the grove of things after a quick consult with Wiki on the scoring rules. But for some reason this game managed to bring out the bickering and loathing of half the players when we'd all sit down for a 6-handed round. I have no idea why. Dominoes was a much safer choice and became the default when it was obvious things were going sideways.

This is likely the first year we didn't get to see the fireworks. Had pizza at Rocky's but the rain moved in fast and after sitting for an hour with clouds moving in the first droplets starting, we packed up and headed for the car before it became a frenzy of dashing tourists flailing coolers and folding chairs in the dark. As it turned out, they went on with the show 45 minutes after the fact (according to the radio), but I can only imagine sitting in all that rain and lightning just a few feet from a sizable body of water. I think we made the right call. Too bad the drive back to the parents was another hour.

We have our rock! Well, a quarter of it at least..I'd estimate about 50 ton. I got Mid Am to lay rock on the final stretch of lane where the biggest wash outs occur after the final turn. Actually, the rock extends up past that turn as we originally did have gravel there which was bladed under during their construction this winter. Nice to have that corrected, and the order for the rest of the out of pocket aggregate should arrive this Friday, weather permitting.  Still have some grading to do as well as laying more of the geotextile fabric.

The Farmall is in intensive care due to a PTO bearing "failure". This little issue has turned into a project after pulley failure the week prior, prompting the purchase of a hydraulic press, which'll come in handy for lots of other uses. New seal, bearing and gaskets are on order. I just hope all goes well and soon! We'll get by with the push mowers and the rotary cutter if necessary, but that grass is starting to take off.

The CRP project is underway and we have completed the first mowing of the 47 acres. This is to cut the weeds down so sunlight can reach the prairie grass seedlings. It was roughly a 2-week task of getting in a few hours here and there whenever weather would allow, and burning weekends to stay ahead of the growth. Though it's really a never-ending battle and it looks like we'll have to go for round 2 here in just a couple weeks.

With respect to the Annex, the siding and paint work are officially complete. Soffits are next, though I'm not entirely sure if that's in the cards this year. I've got the materials, but it's a major time sink and there's enough other projects happening that it can wait. They say you'll never be bored living in the country, and that's true to a fault. I have finally managed to slug my way through sorting and stacking all the wood we cut from the highline project. I forget now, 3 or 4 pickup truck loads full up to the Lodge. Initially I laid a pair of treated 6x6's over landscape cloth as a makeshift drying base and stacked the logs on that. When that filled up, I added an 8' pallet and went three rows deep with logs (took another afternoon). When that reached capacity, I dragged over a 4x4 pallet (yesterday) and managed to get the last logs off the ground. Those rotting, not easily stacked or partials then got hauled to the burn pile. At least there's no longer a big pile of cut-up wood killing the grass and inviting snake habitation.

And to top things off, we got to see Huey Lewis and the News play right here in town to a venue of 1500 just two days ago. There's nothing more surreal than spending your afternoon sweating in the sun stuggling with a galvanized fence...a few hours later, raiding the refrigerator, and in between, seeing Huey Lewis perform. Foremost, they put on one hell of a show and somehow, 30 odd years later, sounded just as good as if I were spinning Sports. I have no idea how these guys manage to put on a show almost every night of the week; check their schedule, I'm not exaggerating.  Frankly, I couldn't say enough good things about the performance, but the venue was a little too formal (typical CF haughtiness), and the dynamic of the crowd, a bit odd due to a mix of college kids not entirely familiar with the repertoire, older folks, like the man next to me, who I'm not entirely convinced had heard of HL before, and those in between who were rocking out to Power of Love.


(note: Originally photos were going to be added to this post, but it's 98F in the room I'm sitting in, and if I don't post the text now, it'll never happen).