This was a weekend full of birthday parties. Saturday we drove across the bridge to attend Zachary’s 5th birthday bowling party, which was full of kids and heavy balls and Transformers and classic rock and friends. I still can’t believe he’s 5. After the party broke up we drove back to the Morrises for hors d’oeuvres and catching up with folks we haven’t seen in years, which was great.
Sunday we noodled around the house until 2, when we took in another party in Columbia at a playground warehouse showroom. This, a business model, is genius: They actually charge you a fee to bring your kids in and let them run around, and rent out the space for parties. The kids ran around and climbed on the playsets while we adults marveled at both the list and sale prices of each model; when I say that there were swingsets priced comparably to a well-optioned European sedan, I’m not kidding. But, whatever; the kids had a great time, we parents had a great time chasing them around, and everyone left happy.
I’m listening to Signs Under Test by John Tejada, a very interesting electronica album that makes me think a little of In Sides-era Orbital. I think it’s the sound and approach of the melodies: fluttering around the beat, layered in echo, and often paired with a more dissonant counter-melody. It’s also refreshing because I’ve had various selections from Steely Dan’s Gaucho running on endless repeat in my head for the past week (seriously, since last Thursday) after watching the making of Aja on YouTube. GOD DAMN YOU, STEELY DAN.
Mike in Colorado sent me a nice big box full of weatherstripping seals for my Traveltop, which I’m very, very excited about. As stated before, I’ve got to get some Eastwood encapsulator and treat the rails before I put new windows in, but before I tackle that, I’ve got to get lighting in the garage sorted out. I looked at some new fluorescent fixtures at the Lowe’s last night and realized I don’t have to buy anything new: all I’ve got to do is wire outlets into the ceiling and plug my existing lights in. I’ll have extra outlets if I need something overhead (it’ll be on a switched wire, but that’s OK) and I’m not out $100 in materials. I am, however, sending Mike a check for the rubber.
Having finally brought wired power to the garage, I thought it would be a good idea to add a battery conditioner to help the Scout make it through the winter. I generally get out and start her up every weekend during the snowy months to keep systems lubed and working (three of the saddest words in the English language are ran when parked) and there have been some days when I’ve needed to pull one of the Hondas up to jump the battery. I found an inexpensive battery conditioner on Amazon and got it a few weeks ago. It’s meant to keep the battery topped off, which is just what I need.
I heard from our friend Mike in Colorado after a long quiet spell, who has been driving his shiny Scout daily after rebuilding it from the ground up. He offered me a spare set of traveltop window seals he’s got sitting in his garage, which is fantastic timing. I’ve been eyeballing my traveltop in the garage, thinking it would be wise to get it back on the truck before things get really cold. It’s got solid side windows but I’ve got a set of sliders from the crappy top I had sitting in the backyard, and the seals they came with are OK but not new. One of my goals before it goes on is to knock down and shoot the rust inside along the bed rails with some Eastwood encapsulator and then cover them with etching primer. It’s in great shape overall but there are a bunch of inexplicable screw holes that need to be welded shut, something I’d like to test out a new welding rig on.
As much as I love the smell, feeling, warmth, and challenge of building and tending a fire in our fireplace, the vortex-like draw from the flue chills the rest of the house down to subzero temperatures. This will change, possibly, after we replace our windows and plug drafty holes, but that’s a long way off.
Pique The Incontinent has been pissing on the front porch carpet to register his displeasure with the litter cleaning schedule. While I’m pleased it wasn’t on my bead, it got to the point where opening up the front door unleashed an almost physical wave of cat stink, like being punched in the face with a boxwood plant. We adjusted the cleaning schedule and decided to pull up the carpet for good, as no amount of remover would actually remove the smell. The carpet came up easily, and the padding underneath did too, but then we were faced with lovely white and green adhesive tile, which is almost certainly held together with asbestos, hantavirus, and lead-based glue. I put an order in on Amazon for toxic particle filters for my mask, and will resume careful demolition next weekend. Under the tile is some kind of useless fiber-based sheeting, and below that is the original grey deck planking. Hopefully the wood isn’t swiss cheese under the sandwich of cancerous building materials.
Saturday evening we attended a beer-pairing potluck dinner with friends. Jen accepted the challenge and made a delicious lemongrass soup (tom kha) to pair with a wheat beer, and the rest of the meal finished up with provencal chicken and roasted lamb. We drank lots of fantastic beer, ate wonderful food, and returned home completely stuffed.
Sunday we were invited to an afternoon party at one of Finn’s new schoolmates’ house, where we found ourselves outnumbered by Irish expatriates handing us fresh Bloody Marys–THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE. Within about ten minutes we felt completely at home among their friends, who could not have been more welcoming, and after our host busted out fresh brisket (from his backyard smoker, naturally), we knew we would be fast friends. Finn was tired out from Saturday night but rallied and played among the other kids; I had to pry her hands off the side of the car to get her to come home.
I’ve had another Session IPA kit in the basement for two and a half months, and haven’t had anything new in the kegs since right after the Fourth of July, so I carved a couple hours out on Saturday to brew it up on the burner outside. Everything went smoothly, and I got it in the fermenter cleanly but about 20° below optimal temperature, so I waited until Sunday evening to add the yeast. I may have heated it up a little too high when I activated it, but we’ll see if it starts working this evening. Next up, I think I’m going to do an Irish Stout to replace the last batch I did (which is down to a six-pack) and then maybe an ale of some kind to get through the winter.
My neighbor has been perfecting a backyard auditorium for the last couple of weeks, and he’s got it working pretty well. He stretched a viewing screen across the back of his garage and ran power and sound through two ports in the wall (he’s an electrician), so all he has to do is drop his projector on a picnic table, hook up the cords, and it’s showtime! Friday night was a screening of Monsters University with friends, which was better the second time accompanied by a cold beer and some Junior Mints.
We have a lot of unfinished projects at the Lockardugan compound. On Friday I parked the catalytically-challenged CR-V next to the pile of brush I’d cleared two weeks ago, and resolved to make it disappear. I started stuffing it into the Scout on Saturday morning and cleared out about 2/3 of it in two trips, which helped make the driveway look a little less ghetto. That job was cut short in the early afternoon by social obligations: the local co-op was holding a beer tasting a few blocks over, and we had some friends meeting up with us to check it out. The event itself was fun; there were about 15 homebrews lined up around the backyard with some snacks and a live guitarist playing under a canopy. While Finn played with some neighborhood kids, I chatted up a number of the brewers and was invited to check out a couple of the local clubs, which sounds like it could be fun.
After the event we followed our friends to their place for drinks and dinner. We’ve not visited with them before but easily felt at home, and Finn fit right in with their kids. Several beers, Moscow Mules, and hours of conversation later we ordered some dinner and stayed out late on the back porch amongst the crickets and the stars, which was a lovely way to end the day.
I started Sunday by fixing a leaky water feed to the fridge, which had sprung a leak after being moved a few weeks ago. Repair meant replacement, so I picked up some new hose and ran it down to the basement. Then I moved outside, where the cherry laurels we bought months ago have been waiting patiently to be planted in the front bed. After a good rain on Saturday night, the ground was soft and pliable, so the first hole was easy to dig. I mixed some conditioner in with the soil and moved on to the second, which required the removal of a clay downspout and a stand of peonies. Hopefully a couple days of watering will help the cherry laurels settle in well, and we can keep a bunch of the plants we moved to make room for them.
Dinner was a feast of local produce and a thick grilled steak; we doubled up on our CSA to make up for being gone last week, so Jen spent the better part of the afternoon stuffing the fridge full of fruits and vegetables. We have a lot of food to get through before next weekend, but luckily Jen is a pro at making menus out of anything.
That bit of fence you see on the far right was invisible on Friday evening. The whole right side of the garage roof was covered with two layers of canopy from the trees above. Wires hung above the fence line were fouled with the branches of fast-growing (maple? birch?) which were multiplying and threatening our phone and cable service with every strong gust of wind. I got to work with arbor saw from the roof of the garage and took the high stuff down, then continued taking them down from ground level. My electrician neighbor assured me none of the wires on that pole carry power, so I gingerly trimmed and sawed and hacked until I’d cleared three small trees out with a handsaw, ending when I was faced with stuff too tall to drop alone. When I was done, I built a pile of brush the size of an import sedan next to the driveway. Having that area clear makes a huge visual difference from the road as well as from the backyard.
Lots of other stuff happened this weekend, including a river birthday party, garage reorganization, a long-needed gutter cleaning on the east side, and a backyard screening of Despicable Me 2.
Sunday continued with more work: a trench dug in our backyard in preparation for the addition of hardwired power (The house came with knob and tube hung from porcelain insulators off the office porch, which the building inspector made us remove before we moved in. I’ve been making do with an extension cord run from the greenhouse, which has hardwired power, for five years. My electrician neighbor looked at it and told me it would be a snap to run wire from the greenhouse to the garage, so I busted out the shovels!) Finn and I saddled up the bike train and rode downtown for some lunch, and then took the scenic route home.
Then we tuned up her starter bike, checking the tires and adjusting the seat and handlebars for her size. After that I was beat, so we came in and read books for about two hours, taking turns reading each page. She’s getting better, and faster, and I finally recorded about two of her books on video. Then we made two pizzas from scratch (homemade dough!), and after she went to bed, I kegged the hefeweizen.
This morning I’m paying for it in aches and pains, but it feels damn good to get all of that done.