The Mutton War

(warning, long)

The war has gone on for so long that we almost cannot remember a time in which we were at peace. We start awake at night at the slightest noise, ready to charge outside shouting with guns drawn, only to find we are hurling our fury at shadows, and there is nothing there. Sometimes we awaken in the morning to find they have silently raided us in the night and left nothing but rubble and torn ground in their wake.

We have greater resources, but they have more numbers, and they are relentless. They have worn us down over the years, our rampaging enemy with the floppy ears and the big, round, soft eyes.

Continue reading

a panoply of updates

Yeah, I’m being scarce again. I’m midway through a long tech writing contract and in that “OMG I can’t stand to do any more writing” frame of mind when I get home every night. My head has grooved deep into tech writing and its hard to think about anything else. I think in dotnet. I dream in dotnet. Pray for me.

I’m feeling a bit less dotnet right now so I can catch up with a few updates on past posts and maybe post a link or two.

Still Not Buying an iPhone

An update for why I am not buying an iPhone

So, the Jesus Phone is out, and other than the expected AT&T horrorshow, people seem to love it. Apparently I have no cool friends because none of them have bought one, and I haven’t managed to get to an Apple store. Yes, that’s right, it’s been weeks and I have yet to lay eyes on an iPhone in person. Sob. There is a possibility that once I actually get one in my hands I will be consumed with gadget lust and insist on buying one, but so far from the actual hands on reviews I’m actually even less inclined to buy an iPhone than I was before. No one really likes the keyboard. The email client is only meh (no spam filter? aiieee!). Support for iCal calendars isn’t that great, and To Dos don’t sync (arrrgghhh! I live in my calendars and to dos!) There’s no bluetooth sync or file sytem browse. As fabulous as the multitouch interface is, it’s implemented inconsistently across applications.

Right now I’m thinking I’ll wait for iPhone 2.0 or 3.0 — or more likely, I’ll buy a nice widescreen multitouch iPod when they ship those, which Apple most obviously will.

Awash in Apricots

An update for greed and apricots

So, the apricot tree fell down a month or so ago with a zillion unripe apricots on it. And I cut down a few of the branches that were blocking my path through the garden and crushing the squash. But I left up a good portion of the tree in place — although the branches were broken they were mostly still attached and I figured that maybe they were connected enough that
the apricots would turn ripe anyhow.

I was right. The apricots left on the tree are slowly ripening up. The tree is dying so they aren’t going to get as ripe as they would on a healthy tree, but I am getting ripe and sweet apricots. I harvest them when they’re a little soft and let them ripen the rest of the way on the kitchen counter.

My only problem now is that there’s so many of them. If they had all ripened up at once I’d bring bagfulls of them into work and give them away. I’d can them and jam them and dry them. But instead now I only get a small number ripe apricots every day.

I’ve never tried to eat an entire tree full of apricots all by myself. Its, um, kind of hard on the body. And even worse: the peach tree, also totally full of fruit this year, is just about to come ripe. whimper.

Laundrytastic

An update for i hate water. hate, hate, hate water.

We bought a front-load washer and matching dryer, a Kenmore set from a local Sears subsidiary called Orchard Supply Hardware. They’re nice people, and they deliver.

I should point out here that It took me six months to research and order a new coffeemaker. It was eighteen months before I found the perfect toaster. I’ve been planning a kitchen remodel for close to ten years and that doesn’t even include moving anything around. But I spent perhaps twenty minutes researching washers and dryers on the internet and only an hour and half driving around shopping. The Kenmore washer and dryer are just fine. Perhaps I have some sort of appliance OCD and I need an emergency so that I can actually make a decision.

The new washer is worth gushing over for just a moment. It it one of these spiffy front-loading washers; it senses the size of the load you put into it and figures out how much water you need, which is almost none at all. It is nearly silent when it runs, except when it is spinning the almost no water out of the laundry at insanely high speed. And yet it gets the clothes way cleaner than the old washer ever did, and uses almost no electricity. I think I am in love with this washing machine.

The dryer was a bit of an adventure because we use propane at our house and I could only buy a gas dryer. The salesperson assured me that the conversion kit was easy to find and trivial to install; the installation people would put it in for me. The conversion kit was not easy to find now that my appliance guy is gone, and the installation guy laughed at me when I asked if he would put it in. I ended up putting it in myself and it was somewhat less than trivial thanks to somewhat awkward access. Although I can handle a lot of appliance repair myself I admit that rejetting a gas mechanism is a bit more intimidating than your usual repair. If you screw up you can blow up the house. We haven’t blown up the house yet, so I must have done it right.

From my original story you may remember I had two sets of old washers and dryers. The installation people were instructed to pick up my old set and I asked if they would take away the extra too. They looked dubious until I suggested that since pickup of the first cost me $20 I would be happy to contribute another $20, in cash. Suddenly, magically, there was room on the truck.

They pulled the old washer and dryer out of the barn and just before the dryer got loaded up into the truck a big fat brown mouse ran out of it. There was an exchange of dark looks and I thought for a moment I was going to have to offer another $20. But after banging on the side of the dryer for a while with no further rodent appearances all was good and all my old, bad, leaky, stinky, mouse-infested appliances went away down the hill.

More updates later.

on greed and apricots

It’s been a really good fruit tree year. We had a warm spring and for once it stayed warm rather than the usual pattern of being 80 degrees in February and then snowing the hell all over us in March. For California in particular this has meant abundant, delicious, and cheap stone fruit. The cherries especially have been spectacular.

I have a big Moorpark apricot tree in my garden; it was years old when we moved in and has only grown bigger ten years since. This area is actually unsuitable for apricots; with the cold springs we get the tree only gives me fruit about every fourth year, like the apricot olympics. When I get apricots, though, I get a LOT of soft, creamy, intensely flavored ‘cots. Cots up to my eyeballs. I adore apricots so every year I anxiously watch the weather hoping for a good fruit tree year.

Over the last few years I’ve been terribly neglectful in pruning the tree and this year I was regretting it. The tree hadn’t grown up so much as out with the branches stretching longer and longer on all sides. I would cut the lowest branches so that I could walk under the tree and the branches higher up would sag lower down to replace them. The tree had grown so wide and dense it was shading the vegetable beds I had in the garden next to it.

This was the year I was planning to aggressively prune the tree. Definitely this year. But I forgot to do it in the spring when it was dormant, and then we had a really good fruit tree year. The tree set hundreds and hundreds of tiny green apricots.

OK, I said. After the apricots turn ripe and come off the tree I’ll prune it.

Over the last month or two the apricots have been getting larger and larger, and the branches of the tree have been sagging lower and lower in my garden. I’ve been propping them up with sticks, worried that a branch might break off from the weight. With the branches hanging so low in the garden it was hard to walk around; I was always getting stuck in the arm and the back by wandering twigs. The shade from the branches was also causing problems with the vegetables in the neighboring beds. It may have been a good fruit tree year but it was going to be a terrible tomato year.

But every day the apricots got larger, and this last week they started to turn beautiful blushed pinky orange that my apricots have. Soon, I thought, coveting my apricots, squeezing the fruit every time I went by, testing them for goodness, and tasting future apricots in my mouth. Soon I would be able to start picking. Soon.

This morning I went out to the garden around lunch, and all was well.

This afternoon I looked out the kitchen window at the garden, and the apricot tree was gone. I could see all the way through the garden to the woods behind it. What? Hey! How…?

I had thought maybe worst case I might lose a branch. I didn’t expect the whole tree to split five ways right down the middle.

quel tragedie

I didn’t want those dirty sour old apricots anyway, said the fox.

i hate water. hate, hate, hate water.

Part of the reason I haven’t been posting here much is that we had a bit of a laundry room breakdown a few weeks back. I discovered that our washing machine had sprung a leak. Actually, it appeared to have sprung a leak a while ago, but it took us a while to find out because the previous owners of our house had carpeted the laundry room (note to budding interior decorators: don’t do that). Good appliance parts juju wouldn’t work in this case; the washing machine would have to be replaced.

Fortunately, we had a spare washing machine, due to bringing a washer and dryer with us when we moved and discovering that the previous homeowners had left their washer and dryer behind. We had intended to sell the extras and never got around to it. So I dragged the extra washing machine out of the barn where it had been sitting under a tarp for nine years, scrubbed the brown slime and rat poop off of it, ran a cycle through it out on the driveway, and it seemed to work just fine. Huzzah.

And then I ripped up the rotted laundry room carpet and put in vinyl. I had read in my home porn magazines that they were making nice looking vinyl these days but apparently not at my local home depot. All I could find was pinky-grey stick-on squares with floral patterns, or sheet vinyl with greenish-grey marbling and floral patterns. Barf. Finally I did stumble across boxes of vinyl planks, which are made to look like wood, in different colors and with a slight texture and everything. They stick to each other rather than to the floor, they’re easy to cut, and are waterproof once they’re down. This sounded like a terrific idea for a laundry room to me.

The planks went down fast and the result looked great (for fake wood the plank vinyl actually looks better than a lot of the pergo-style laminate out there). On friday we put the new washer and the old dryer back in the laundry room. With new baseboard and a quick coat of paint the laundry room was turning out to be the nicest room in the house. “Maybe we should have bought a new washer and dryer to match the new room,” commented Eric. Maybe in a few years. For now this was OK.

On saturday we ran four loads of laundry to catch up.

On sunday afternoon the washing machine I thought was OK seized in the middle of a load and flooded the laundry room, the hall, and a good portion of the bedroom.

Today I go shopping for that new washer and dryer after all.

the death of an appliance parts salesman, or, how to fix a furnace

Last week, our furnace stopped working. Or, or be more precise, it stopped actually producing any heat. It came on just fine. The blower worked. The pilot light went on. It just didn’t actually fire up. There are few things more horrifying than a furnace furiously blowing cold air on you in the middle of December.

Contrary to the various stories of electrical and plumbing disasters I often post, I am actually really good at DIY home repair. I only tell the bad stories because, well, those are the funny ones. (digression: I heard a theory recently that there are people who tell stories about themselves in which they are the triumphant hero who can do no wrong, and people who tell stories in which they are the bumbling idiot who is the butt of all the jokes. I tend to tell the latter kind of stories. I don’t know what that says about me, philosophically, nor do I have an actual point here.)

This is a story about appliance repair and appliance repair people.

Continue reading

squash overload

whoops

The problem with growing squash is that you turn your back for a second and next thing you know you have a dozen of them. Zucchini are known for this but even pumpkins will do it. It seems to be the prevailing feature of the curcurbit species. The guy who invented the curcubit obviously must have been very hungry.

I like squash, but damn.