Sisyphus had it easy in my opinion

I haven’t been working on my tree-cutting/path-building project for the last few days because a completely unrelated project jumped to the front of the priority list. The real estate agent has found a buyer for the house my brother and I have had on the market since my mother died last year. We had done some cleanup but had left a lot of stuff in the house for two main reasons. The first is that we wanted it to look lived in. The second is that we are procrastinators. The buyers want to move in on April 15, so now we can’t procrastinate any longer.

We actually got a reprieve. The buyers originally wanted to move in on April 1.

My brother and I have been making trips to the house every so often. It’s easier for me than for him because he lives more than an hour away in Chattanooga.

My father, who died back in 2000, was a collector of stuff. It’s really hard to categorize a lot of it any more narrowly than that. He had a lot of tools, including some that look like they were designed sometime around the turn of the last century. He also liked to get power tools. Among the tools he bought was a stand-mounted drill press. It’s about as tall as I am. Its height is appropriate, because it weighs about what I weigh, too.

Now the Parises seem to have a thing for living on hills. My wife and I live on a hill, my brother lives on a hill, and so did my parents. Unfortunately, my father’s workshop is halfway down the hill from the front of their lot.

My father’s drill press is not only heavy, but also awkward to handle. It’s extremely top heavy, with a big electric motor mounted to the top. I had a hand truck, but when I tried to strap the drill press to it, it was so top heavy I couldn’t keep it upright. I had to take the cast iron base off and carry it upside down on the hand truck.

The next problem was that the ground is covered with a layer of dead leaves and pine straw, which makes for poor footing. There are also a couple of sets of steps my father built from concrete blocks. Did I mention that this thing is heavy? Well, it is, even with the cast iron base removed. I was not at all sure I was going to be able to make up to the front of the yard.

Suffice it to say, I got the thing all the way up into the carport, and here it is, still upside down.

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

The drill press in the carport, with stuff

My brother and his wife came down Saturday and we worked for a while going through other stuff. The hospital bill from my brother’s birth in 1947 (it was under $75, with a room rate of $7 a day). My mother’s high school diploma. Letters from my father to my mother before they were married. A nice note from my mother’s high school glee club instructor. The admission pass for a Civil Service exam my father took right out of high school. A box full of cameras. A set of notebooks with my mother’s budgets from right after the war. All the things people save for their children to go through after they die. Maybe I’ll write about a few of them later.

Friday Felines

It must be summertime, because Zoe got his summer cut on Wednesday. This is how he looked before.

Zoe's impression of a throw pillow

Zoe’s impression of a throw pillow

This is him after the cut.

shaved zoe standingYou can’t see it in the picture, but his coat has grooves that make him look like an unfinished marble statue. You also can’t see it in the picture but he has a big pink belly that rolls out on the floor when he lies down. We’re going to have to put on a treadmill and cut back on the beer.

It’s supposed to get a little cooler next week. At least the ends of his legs and the tip of his tail will be warm.

One thing leads to another

Some tasks aren’t as straightforward as they seem. Sometimes things have to be done in a certain sequence; you can’t do one thing until something else is done first, and sometimes the chain of things that have to be done goes back a ways.

We ran out of firewood this winter. Also, the trees on the east side of the house are getting tall enough that they’re beginning to block our view. So it seemed like a good time to start cutting a bunch of trees. One thing led to another, and I had about five trees down. Now that we have a chipper, I planned to use that to make mulch to put on the path I use when I walk Zeke and Lucy around the house.

You can see the how the trees are blocking the view to the east. On the lower left you can see a little bit of the trees I have cut.

obstructed view

I learned a few years ago that I need to take care of the trees as I cut them rather than cutting a bunch of trees and then cleaning up. I once cut a large number of trees and ended up with a disaster area that took a couple of years to finally clean up. From now on I clean up as I go.

So, I intended to chip the limbs for the path right away, but first I needed to do some work on the path. I had been intending to level out the path where it leads from the back of the house around to the east into the leach field, but a lot of other things were higher on the priority list. So now I had a bunch of trees with a bunch of limbs to chip, but the path wasn’t ready for the chips. Before I could chip the limbs, I had to level out the path.

It’s easy enough in principle. All I needed to do was cut into the slope on the uphill side and dump the dirt onto the lower side. But when I cut into the slope, I needed material for a low retaining wall. So I had to make a trip to Lowe’s for garden wall blocks. I got 40 blocks, which is not enough.

Here’s the work in progress. The little line of blocks on the left took care of the 40 blocks I got.

dirt path2

As I worked up towards the back of the house I realized I needed to finish the retaining wall at the corner of the house that I started a little while ago. Make that a few years ago. It’s made of landscape timbers. Here’s the view down from the deck. The landscape timber on the left is part of the existing wall. The three others were left over from some work I did in the front of the yard.

dirt path

Today I got the landscape timber retaining wall finished and backfilled. Now I can restart on leveling the path, and then I can get about 80 to 100 more garden wall blocks and make the low retaining wall along the path. And then, after touching up the level of the path, I can bring the chipper around and start chipping the limbs.And then I can cut some more trees.

Unless I run into another chore that needs to be done first.

Friday Felines

Zoe has always had a problem taking care of his long hair. His mane is even longer than the rest of his fur, and he always gets a mouthful of it when he grooms.

zoe licking fur


We plan to get him a spring cut next week. He’ll get a short cut on his underside but we may leave the rest of his coat alone until we’re sure warm weather is here to stay.

Old School

I had occasion late Tuesday night to drive around for a while. I put diesel in the car, I dropped by Walmart, I drove the long way home, all the way around Texas Valley

I kind of like driving around late at night like that, when most normal people are in bed. I could almost count on my fingers the number of people I saw. The streets were nearly empty. Traffic lights cycled from red to green, but no one drove through the intersections. The streetlights were on, but with no headlights on the streets, the city looked dark. Rome looked like a movie set after the lights were turned off and all the actors went home.

When you’re driving around those empty streets, you notice every car. If they’re behind you, you notice when they turn off. You see the police officer in his patrol car, and you know he sees you.

The service station was brightly lighted but almost deserted. No one else was at the pumps. The doughnut shop attached to the service station was closing. When I pulled up to the front of the station, the last doughnut shop employee looked out at me and then turned the lights out and disappeared.

I went back towards home and stopped at Walmart to get a couple of unnecessary things. It looks like after 11 PM is a good time to grocery shop at Walmart; no waiting in line. But I kind of doubt that Leah and I will start shopping that late.

As I was walking out of Walmart I heard someone calling something. I heard it twice before I turned around and a youngish man called “Hey, Old School” to me. He said he had walked all the way from his apartment and was short one quarter for what he wanted to buy. I gave him a quarter and asked if he needed more. He thanked me and said no. That was the only time I actually interacted with any person that night.

When I drove out Huffaker Road, instead of turning right onto Fouche Gap and driving the mile and a half up the mountain to our house, I kept going for a few miles to Texas Valley Road. And then, after about five miles, instead of turning right to drive along the mountain and then up the other side of Fouche Gap Road, I kept going straight to make the big loop around Rocky Mountain in the middle of the valley and come back to Fouche Gap Road from the other end.

I have bicycled Texas Valley Road quite a few times, but I couldn’t remember which way the road would turn, and how sharp the next curve was going to be. Along one stretch I had a feeling that the woods were different, but until I pulled sideways across the road to shine the headlights into the forest I couldn’t tell that the whole area had been logged since the last time I was there.

I drove slowly because the road is narrow and winding in some places, and because there are lots of deer around. I didn’t see a single car for the entire 20 miles, or any deer.

I think it was close to 1 AM when I got home. Not that late, but late enough for me.

I forgot about “Old School” until Leah and I were having huevos rancheros Wednesday for lunch at one of our favorite Mexican restaurants, Los Portales. Leah asked what “Old School” meant. I didn’t know, so I looked it up in the urban dictionary. Here’s what it says:

Anything that is from an earlier era and looked upon with high regard or respect. Can be used to refer to music, clothing, language, or anything really.

We had a laugh about that.