View from the roof

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.

Backyard cinema

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.

Date posted: July 21, 2014 | Filed under finn, friends, house, photo | No Comments »

We’re back from the beach, sadly, gearing up for our return to normal life. We had an idyllic week 50 yards from the water, one big deck away from the dunes. The house we picked out with help from Google Earth and Street View turned out to be an absolute gem; one wall of windows opening out onto a deck facing the Delaware bay. The water was warm and gentle compared to the vicious riptide and crushing surf of the Outer Banks, so both Finn and Zachary were perfectly safe the entire time they were in the water (and when the tide was out, the water was waist-deep for 50 yards). We walked the beaches during horseshoe crab mating season in the middle of a preserve, so we took the time to check each one on the beach and throw them back in when they started wiggling. (Our final tally was somewhere around 18).

Celebration cake!

The kids had a great time together, settling into a sibling-like pattern of peaceful playtime immediately followed by total warfare and then back to playtime, which meant us adults could sit and relax a bit more than we’ve been used to. We carried several cartfuls of toys, chairs, and gear down to the beach and then left it there above the high tide line overnight, which was a huge help. The beaches were as quiet as we were used to in Hatteras, which was a fantastic surprise. Meals were easy, and we each traded off an evening to drive into Rehoboth for a quiet dinner. Beer o’clock started at noon, punctuated with Dark & Stormys, vodka tonics, or wine.


Saturday came too fast, and we stretched it out as long as we could by heading into Lewes for breakfast and some sightseeing. Then, we hit the road. Three hours travel time is nothing compared to the OBX trip; this is our destination for several years to come, and we’re already making plans to make next year’s visit two weeks.


Date posted: July 14, 2014 | Filed under friends, photo, travel | No Comments »

Hawaiian dinnertime

Friday the girls came to pick me up from the station and we stopped for dinner in scenic Arbutus for Hawaiian barbecue. Arbutus is a two-light burgh next to the train tracks and Route 1, with its own movie theater, a pizza restaurant, three hookah bars, and not much else, so a Hawaiian restaurant is a bit of an outlier. I’d been told it was worth a try, so we gave it a shot. While the ambiance in the dining area was a bit lacking, the food didn’t disappoint, and I’ll definitely go back for their pulled chicken and pork.

Saturday we spent the day chopping and sawing and trimming and pruning. Trees encroach on our gardens, choke out our lawn, and kill our herbs, so we fight back with saw and clippers. I hauled three truckloads of brush to the dump, along with all of the pallets we used to make our mulch piles, the box our grille came in, and multiple bags of yard debris. I hung two of my old Pottery Barn shelves in Finn’s room and started on her light fixture, but started winding down after five or so. After dinner, we got a text from the neighbors to join them in the playground across the street. Originally the plan was to get some dessert, so we put the question to Finn: friends or ice cream. Her reply:

“I have a stronger heart than my love of candy.”

So we let the kids run around until dusk while we sipped beer from Solo cups on the picnic bench. Then we watched them catch fireflies in the backyard until it was way past bedtime.


My neighbor and I were discussing the large variety of varmints in our yards and he gave me a present, a cardboard tube filled with chemicals designed to make smoke and kill burrowing animals. He’s also convinced me that trapping is too slow and time consuming, and that more direct action is warranted given our situation: our backyard is like the Serengeti, with herds of bunnies migrating through packs of squirrels, accompanied by circling flocks of starlings and ravens and catbirds. So I will buy a pellet gun and lie in wait and kill these invading pests before they eat all of our herbs and Jen’s flowers and dig more holes in our shitty lawn.

Summer toes

Sunday the girls went to church while I got back to work. Finn’s fixture needed some specialty adapters so I hit the store and came back in time for a Farmer’s Market run. Then we got a text from Christi and Glenn about looking at a house on the other side of the beltway, so I drove over and looked at it with them while Finn napped.

After a strategy session with them (it’s a beautiful house), I got the light fixture hung and the lawn edged before stopping to straighten up, and then we had the neighbors over for pizza and beers and more fireflies and grape popsicles and laughing.

Things I didn’t get done today:

  • Kegging the beer
  • Spraying the yard with Cutter insect-kill-um
  • Filling the sandbox with sand
  • Humping baby gear back up into the attic
  • Spraying the driveway with Round-Up
  • Shoring up the playset with some new lumber

Fuck it. The Fourth will be what it will be, and our friends will be here. The house won’t be perfect, and that will be fine.

Date posted: June 29, 2014 | Filed under friends, house, photo | No Comments »

Yes, a Scout hood will fit in a CR-V

w00t! It was close, but a Scout hood will fit in a CR-V.

I also picked up a cardboard glovebox liner to replace the one I’ve got. Meanwhile, Bennett loaded up Heavy D with four fenders, a hood, a couple of driveshafts, and miscellaneous smaller parts I can’t recall. So now I’ve got a complete spare front clip tucked neatly away in the garage, awaiting a date with the soda blaster.

Date posted: May 10, 2014 | Filed under friends, Scout | Comments Off

Finn and Alina

waiting to start the hunt



chilling out in the fort

Date posted: April 19, 2014 | Filed under finn, friends, photo | No Comments »

It’s about 10° outside today, which means we’re all in our PJs at 4PM. I have had no motivation to do anything today other than straighten up the house, swap my AppleTV out with a new Roku, and help Finn put her final Christmas LEGO set together. She’s now got about eight vehicles, two horses, and a bakery, as well as five of the LEGO Friends characters, and she’s quickly become a pro at assembling the kits.

Down in the basement, I have a new IPA kit fermenting happily; it’s called Sinistral Warrior and it contains the most hops I’ve ever added to a batch of beer (6oz.). It smells delicious down there, which means it’ll be a long six weeks until it’s ready. The pumpkin I brewed a month ago is doing well but needs a kick in the butt for flavoring; I’m thinking Mr. Scout’s method of rum-soaked vanilla beans along with some pumpkin pie spice will help liven it up (it’s heavy on pumpkin but low on flavor). I also know what the next batch will be– a session beer, something lighter and flavorful with a lower ABV. I happened to run into the father of one of Finn’s friends on the train before Christmas, and he expressed an interest in learning how to brew, so I set him up with a beginners’ kit for his Christmas list, and we have tentative plans to get together in the next week or so to get him started.

Elsewhere, there was a shooting at the Columbia Mall this morning, and three people are reported dead. I’m glad we habitually don’t get moving until the afternoon, and that we had nothing to go out for today.

Date posted: January 25, 2014 | Filed under brewing, finn, friends | No Comments »

A pickup, a Wagonmaster, and a couple of Scouts walk into a bar...

We had a workday north of Baltimore the last week in October, and I was lucky enough to have about five sets of hands helping diagnose my fuel sender issue. What we were able to sort out is as follows:

  1. My wiring loom up to the bulkhead is not original, but contains original green wiring.
  2. The ground spade on the sender wasn’t connected (it must have come off at some point after we installed it) but it is now.
  3. The sender is working properly. We tested it for resistance and it works when we slosh fuel around in the tank.
  4. The PO put in a grounding wire directly to the frame, which I cleaned up with some sandpaper.
  5. The wire going up to the bulkhead connector works.
  6. The bulkhead connector is a mess, and has been screwed with quite a bit.
  7. Everything behind the dash is a mystery.

The service manual says we’re looking for wire 36-16, which checks out behind the dash but the wire going from the sender through the loom looks like 11. Additionally, the 11 loop (the one which appears to ground on a stud welded to the backside of the dashboard) was loose, so I reconnected that.


While I was there, I bought a Thermoquad from Jason H. for tinkering (it’s the one on the left; the one on the right will get rebuilt as my spare).

Date posted: November 29, 2013 | Filed under friends, Repairs, Scout | Comments Off

Here’s the video I mentioned last week; Finn is featured practicing her excellent manners (right at the 2:00 mark), and the Scout even makes a brief appearance in the background!

Date posted: November 18, 2013 | Filed under finn, friends | No Comments »

I had dreams, big dreams. I had a list of projects two pages long that I wanted to tackle in my free week. Most of them involved hefty tool rental fees, multi-day logistics, or the employ of multiple day laborers to complete. Some of them were simple. Most of them didn’t get accomplished.

I was supposed to haul an engine out of my friend Brian’s yard about two weeks ago, and for whatever reason we weren’t able to synchronize our schedules. We finally got together on Monday and got it moved into the garage without collapsing the floor, but it ate up most of the day. I did recover enough that evening to transfer my batch of Belgian Dubbel into the secondary, and then brew a Kalamazoo IPA, which started with a 25 minute grain steep and is mostly Centennial hops. It smells great and hopefully it’ll be done quickly because I’m running low on Texas Bock.

Monday was supposed to be the day I borrowed my neigbor’s pickup and hauled concrete chunks out of the driveway, but that didn’t happen. I did dispose of two old bucket seats, an inoperable snowblower, half a load of brush, and a spare tire, which made me happy.

Tuesday after I drove Finn into school, I came back and attacked the attic. We’ve been hurling stuff up there into piles for the last six years, so the whole room has gotten way out of hand. All of the baby gear is now organized into one section and the rest of it is separated into categories. After I got that finished I worked my way down the stairs into the atrium–what is now the master bathroom–and continued cleaning. More stuff had been piled in there by necessity, so that got sorted and moved to the right locations. Then I cleaned up the construction debris and made it all ready for whenever we’re able to get back to work.

I’ve been meaning to get a brewing stand built for months now, because the amount of brewing gear I’ve got has outgrown the table I was storing it on. I picked up a wire restaurant rack from Lowe’s and set it up to hold three fermenters, with a set of tubs below and storage for other gear up top. It’s much easier to work with everything organized and out of the way. It’s not as strong as the ones I bought from Sam’s Club years ago, but it does the trick.

New Brewing Stand

I’ve had lengths of 2×4″ PVC cut for the kegerator for about six months. The plan was to replace the wood surround it came with, which had gotten stained and dented and had several holes drilled that I wasn’t using. Initially I was afraid to pull everything apart for fear that I’d never get it back together again, but with a full afternoon to work with I figured what the hell. My neighbor (the original builder) had warned me he used several tubes of silicone caulk to hold it together, and he wasn’t lying. Once I’d pulled all the screws out it took just a few taps with a rubber mallet and the whole thing came right apart. I made a few cuts to the edge of the plastic surround to fit and it all slipped right into place. A few carefully placed screws and some clean new caulk, and it looks brand new. The cover went right back on with no problem, and I mounted the temperature controller where it had been originally. I’ve held off drilling to replace the tap handle, gas lead, and temperature sensor because I’m not sure which side the gas tank is going to go on or where I’m going to mount a gas manifold that I don’t have yet.

Rebuilt kegerator surround

Wednesday was taken up with a doctor’s appointment in the morning and a bit of rest in the afternoon, but I put a sheet of plywood down on the brewing shelf and cleaned up the rest of the kegerator before disassembling my old speakers. I was planning on buying some new MDF to cut down into new sections, but I held off in favor of some other more important projects.

Thursday, on my way in to drop Finn off, I passed a set of dumpsters by an apartment building and spied something that looked familiar: Two A/V receivers sitting on the ground waiting to be picked up. I backed up and when I spied the word DENON on the face, they quickly made their way into the car. Later, when I had some time to look them over, I realized they were units in the same family, separated by one model number. It took some time to sort out the controls and how they worked, but both of them fired up, recognized an iPod, and worked perfectly. They date to 2008, so they predate HDMI, but for utility use in the garage or basement they’re perfect.

I also sold a set of Scout doors I’ve had kicking around the garage for the past four years; they were painted blue with a white stripe by the PO and gave up their window regulators and some other hardware years ago, so they’ve been getting in the way ever since. Erik M. stopped by to pick them up before work, and he grabbed a spare set of wing windows as well. Now I can pull the windows from my good doors and stack them vertically where the other ones had been, which will make more room for the engine in the back corner.


In the afternoon, I had Jen help me lower the traveltop onto the Scout, and I pulled it out into the sunshine to bolt it in. Brian gave me a 3-gallon jug of muratic acid (he gets it free from work) to dip rusty parts into, so I dunked a pile of body bolts and other hardware and soaked it earlier in the week. After two days the bolts look brand new, and they go in just as easy as butter.

Friday we have plans to do a family trip out into the mountains and see leaves and pet cows, which sounds just right for all of us.



Date posted: October 24, 2013 | Filed under friends, general, house, photo | No Comments »

So Brian and I finally got our schedules organized to move the spare engine out of his backyard. First we had to borrow Bennett’s engine hoist, which meant disassembling it and fitting it into Peer Pressure, then driving that over to Brian’s. Then we had to build a ramp to coast the engine and cart down off his patio, onto grass, and then onto the driveway. Then we rebuilt the hoist and raised the engine.


Then we scooted the Scout under it and ratcheted it down with four straps.


The engine hoist got broken down and shoved into the back of Brian’s Prius. I drove gingerly up 95 to the house, backed in, and we reassembled the hoist.


Then we muscled the engine and cart up into the garage, got the hoist inside, and attempted to mate it to the Harbor Freight engine stand I’ve had for 8 years. We got three of four bolts to mount but when we let the hoist drop the whole stand leaned frighteningly forward. So we put it back on the cart and called it a day.


So, I’ve got some reading to do. I think I’m going to start with some basic engine rebuilding books and go from there. But for now, I’m resting my back.

Date posted: October 21, 2013 | Filed under friends, Purchasing, Scout | Comments Off