Spring up here

Spring is springing up on the mountain. The inversion saved us from what we hope will be the last freeze of the season. It reached 27 F Saturday down in town, but we bottomed out at 33 or 34 F. That saved the first hints of dogwood blooms.

earlydogwoodThis is one of the larger native dogwoods we have. It has bloomed profusely in the past. We’re going to miss this one when we move.

Some of the understory trees have fairly advanced leaves. The dogwoods are at the early stages. Poplars were starting to show green on Saturday, and some of the oaks are showing signs of life.


We had rain early Monday morning. By the time the dogs and I walked, the rain had stopped but the fog and clouds were still around.


I like the woods in fog. Everything seems more mysterious.

The other plant that is showing green is our jalapeño. This green started a few weeks ago. I wrote earlier about the mild but tasty chilis we got from the plant last fall, and about how we planned to try to keep the plant alive over the winter. Some people have reported getting a second crop of jalapeños when they do it. Here is our plant now.


We have already eaten one pepper from this second crop. The peppers seem to be smaller than the first crop, but the first one tasted good. I counted 23 after picking one last week. If they all ripen, we’re going to have trouble eating them all.

Friday Felines

Sylvester didn’t follow us on our walk Thursday evening, but he met us when we came back. He likes to dive into culverts every so often

sly in the culvertCan you see him? Here he is zoomed in.

zoomed sly in the culvertThis is our neighbors’ driveway. We think Dusty might sleep in a culvert sometimes, either this one our ours. We also think Sylvester likes to chase him into the culvert sometimes. But not this time. This time he was just galavanting.




A hurdle cleared

On Monday we came close to clearing the last hurdle we face before getting our building permit. The final item on the checklist is a soil test for the septic system. Kirk, the man we hired to do the soil test, was finally able to get a backhoe onto our property to see just how deep the soil is over the bedrock. We had had a good bit of rain over the last day or so, so the ground was very wet. I wasn’t sure Kirk and the backhoe operator would want to get out onto the cleared area of the lot. They made it OK, although the backhoe slid around quite a bit during the digging. The operator had to push himself around with the bucket a few times.

Kirk, the backhoe operator, the backhoe, and a hole in the ground

Kirk, the backhoe operator, the backhoe, and a hole in the ground

Kirk and the backhoe operator admired our soil. They said it was beautiful. Kirk said the deep red color indicates that water is moving well through the soil, reaching all the little iron particles and rusting them thoroughly. That is apparently a good sign for the operation of a septic system.

According to Kirk, the soil is just deep enough to put in a conventional septic system leach field, although he said we will need to cover the leach field with a foot to sixteen inches of additional soil so the pipes won’t be too close to the surface. That’s good news, since the other possibility was an alternative system that would have been more complicated and more expensive.

The bad news is that I could hear the bucket on the backhoe banging on the rock even before I got to the lot. Once the backhoe operator reached the rock, he wasn’t going any deeper with his equipment, but we’re going to have to go through that rock to excavate the basement. It’s possible the rock can be broken up into small enough chunks to get them out without blasting, but we won’t know until we start digging.

We should get Kirk’s report Tuesday or Wednesday. Then we take it to the county health department for their approval. We then take the health department certificate, two sets of house plans, a site plan, a driveway permit, an officially-assigned street address, and a zoning verification form to the inspection department. After some period of time, we hope they will issue a building permit and we can begin the actual construction process.

A close call

My bachelor’s degree is in journalism. I worked for a newspaper for a total of about four years. For most of that time I really liked it; in fact, for a lot of that time I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Since I was a general assignment reporter, I covered almost anything except sports. I covered the rural areas around Augusta, Ga. When you cover things like the school board meeting or a county commission meeting in a small, rural county, you have to be interested in all the things that go on, whether it’s how many teachers will come back next year or who needs their road paved. I found that I had no trouble being interested in those things.

After I left journalism, went back to school at Georgia Tech, and then went to work in Huntsville, I kept the ability to be interested in almost anything. I don’t know whether it was because I had been a reporter, or simply a manifestation of my innate curiosity. In any event, for a long time I remained interested in everything that I worked on.

In the late ‘90’s I transitioned from a full-time employee to an independent contractor. By most people’s standards, my income was pretty good.

Now that I’m retired, our income has dropped significantly. We aren’t starving, but a little extra income would always be welcome. So it was a nice to hear from a former colleague about two weeks ago that his company was looking for resumes for someone to work on a task that would last 10 to 12 weeks. That suited me, since I don’t want to go back to work full time, and the job was pretty much exactly what I spent most of my Huntsville career doing. He said the hourly rate would be good, and then he quoted a couple of numbers that ranged up to about what my hourly rate was at the end. It made sense to send him a resume.

In the meantime, I started thinking.

As a retiree younger than the full Social Security retirement age, I will lose one dollar in Social Security benefits for every dollar I get over a certain amount. When I factored that loss into what I would have made in 10 weeks, the hourly rate no longer seemed so good. And then I started imagining working for a couple of months doing the kind of stuff I had done for so long, and the job itself no longer seemed quite as attractive. I have a lot to do around here, and for some reason, tiling our downstairs bathroom seems more interesting than analyzing optical signatures.

So sometime during the last year since I retired, my ability to be, or become interested in just about anything seems to have diminished. And it seems that my time has become move valuable as well. At least to me.

My friend called about a week ago to tell me that the company with the short-term task had decided to do the work with their own employees, so they wouldn’t need an independent contractor like me. I think the strongest emotion I felt at that time was relief.

It’s possible my old company will need me to do some very short term jobs, jobs that only last a day or so, and that would be nice. But two or three months? I don’t think so.

Friday Felines

Sylvester likes to come with us if we walk the dogs down to Fouche Gap after dinner. He runs around ahead of us and then falls behind. He meows if we get too far away. People passing in cars always look and smile when they see a cat walking with us and the dogs.

dog walking dogI got tired of Lucy constantly pulling on her leash, so Mark tied it to Zeke’s collar. Zeke barely even knows she’s there.