Sunday, October 29, 2006

I’ve Been Busy… Still..

In all honesty though, I’m really happy and having fun, even if I am exhausted.

Maryan had a total Thyroidectomy last week (on Wednesday) so I’ve been tending to her, on top of tending to all ten of the new puppies, the two cats, and attempting to keep the house in some sort of order close to the way she keeps it!

I took Wednesday-Friday off from work, and while I did log a few hours, despite all the work, mostly while Maryan was sleeping, it was probably less than 12 total.

I’ve been having so much fun with the puppies, that it’s difficult to treat this as any sort of ‘chore’. They’re walking pretty well now, and are so sociable and friendly that feeding and watering them becomes a ‘pet’ fest.

I’ll admit that the cleanup after all of these little guys is among my least favorite tasks; even that task will get me giggling as they try to “help” by attacking the end of the rake or shovel.

It seems that at this age they actually grow a little (visibly) each day… and that growth is evidenced by how much they can eat. We’re going through about 40 pounds of dog food a week… its tough some days keeping food available to them all!

Maryan is doing pretty well, she’s still in some post-surgical pain, but it’s been diminishing with each passing day and that’s been a blessing in and of, it self.

She struggled with a Thyroid ailment called “Hashimoto’s disease” for about three years. When it was first discovered one of the doctors recommended a partial thyroid removal, which would not have ended the progression of the disease, simply removed the effected tissue. In the end, this disease destroys the entire thyroid, so she opted to wait until such time as a complete removal was called for.

Hashimoto’s is an immune system disorder. In short, the immune system decides the thyroid is “foreign” and attacks it in much the same way it attacks the flu virus. When you have Hashimoto’s, you feel like you have the flu, all the time. No on knows exactly what causes the disease, and there’s no ‘cure’ short of removing the thyroid.

If you’ve ever battled a case of the flu, you know how she’s felt, everyday, for about three years.

The surgeon seems fairly confident that this procedure will have her feeling ‘normal’ again, but the return to normalcy will take place over several months, slowly, but steadily.

She may never get back to her ‘old self’, but, she should end up feeling much more like her old self than she has in quite some time.
Initially, I thought us adopting a pregnant dog, and keeping the puppies until they’re weaned was a crazy idea. However, when I see her face light up when she’s watching them play, or when I bring one or two in the house for her to hold, it’s all worth every second of time, and every bit of effort they take each day.

I’ve actually found myself wishing we could keep all ten puppies as they’re so cute, and loving. I know though that us having eleven dogs, and two cats is just not realistic, or even within our realm of possibility.

I do wish though that we’d find some homes for these little guys… I hate the though of taking them back to the shelter… I know they won’t get the kind of care they’re getting now, and there’s a possibility they won’t all get adopted.

Stay tuned, if the weather holds out we’re planning on taking all of them out in the yard to play later this afternoon… and taking some pictures… which I’ll post as quickly as I can get them uploaded.

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Sunday, October 15, 2006

The Annual Gasoline Engine Maintenance Party. . .

Or maybe, it’s just an annual ‘pity party’ as the only one usually invited… is me.

Now I know I should start, and run all of my various gasoline powered pieces of lawn and garden equipment once a month or so… fire them up, and then let them run 15 or 20 minutes each.

Then, depending on who you ask, you should either let them run out of fuel (or close the fuel shutoff and wait for the engine to die), or, place some fresh ‘stabilized’ fuel in the tank.

So, depending on my mood, or the particular piece of equipment, I’ve done both.

It doesn’t seem to make much of a difference… eventually; one or more pieces will refuse to start, especially if I’ve neglected to give them their monthly ‘attention’.

I suppose it’s because of my upbringing. A time when gas, fresh from the pump was already ‘stable’, or as stable as a highly volatile liquid ever is, and didn’t turn into some sort of sludge resembling dried varnish, in as little as 30 days.

Maybe it’s because I have ‘too much’ gasoline powered equipment… Naaa, that can not possibly be it!!

I have fond memories of firing up the tiller in the spring, burning a tank or two of fuel tilling the gardens and then returning the tiller to the shed until it was used once more to turn the garden in late fall. Between those two uses, it sat, quietly in the back of the shed, having just been shut off and wheeled there.

No ceremony, no ritual, just hit the kill switch and roll it into the shed until you needed it the next time. It was always ready the next time, one or two pulls and it would be ready to go to work again.

The same was true for everything, the mower(s), chain saw, snow blower, tractor and every other piece of gasoline powered equipment I’ve owned. Despite not being used for close to a year, they'd always, or almost always, start on the second or third pull.

These days, despite using a fuel stabilizer and following the aforementioned ‘rituals’, I’ve discovered it’s still about a 50/50 shot as to whether any one piece of equipment will start, or not.

All the small engine shops tell me it’s the gas, and that I must use a fuel stabilizer (I do) and follow the procedures (I do)… and make sure to run each piece of equipment at least once a month for 15 or 20 minutes (I don’t)…

So, each fall I spend at least one day (this particular day actually) trying to start everything that hasn’t been used, and fixing the ones that refuse to start.

Normally I wait until a bit later in the fall, but, as I have a fellow who’d like to trade me a plasma cutter for my wood splitter (I know I’d use a plasma cutter far more than I do the splitter) I decided to fire everything up this weekend, including the splitter.

As expected some didn’t start, namely the splitter, the push mower and the generator. Fortunately, these little one or two cylinder gas engines are pretty simple.. no real complicated electronics… they need three things, fuel, air and a spark at the proper moment.

I eliminate the fuel question by placing a small amount of fuel directly into the carb (you should never use “starting fluid” especially with two stroke engines) and attempting to start it, if it fires, and quickly dies… there’s definitely a ‘gas shortage’. If it still doesn’t fire I replace the spark plug, if there’s still no response if heads to the small engine shop.

I used to be intimidated by the carburetors on small engines… yep, me… a guy who could pretty much rebuild a Holley with my eyes closed… I was once baffled by the little carburetor on a small engine.

No more though…

I owe it all to a fellow who was a co-worker of mine. He’d been given an older John Deere riding lawn mower, and while short of money he needed to mow his lawn and was offering beer in exchange for my help. In those days the lure of a cold beer would get me almost anywhere!

You see I was the only ‘gear head’ he knew and he was counting on my help. I wasn’t about to confess my inhibitions with respect to small engines… so I sucked up my fears and told him I’d be glad to help.

It turned out that they’re extremely simple, one ‘jet’ and one fuel passage… if the jet and the fuel passage are clear, they’ll work… if not, they don’t. I took his new prize apart in his driveway discovered the ‘blockage’, cleared it, reassembled it and the little mower roared back to life.

I also discovered that day, that unlike the big Holley’s I knew so well, I didn’t, and don’t, have drill bits small enough to use for cleaning… instead I’ve taken to using strands of small copper electrical wire.

Cheap, and something I always have handy in the shop, a couple strands of fine copper wire works wonders. Soft enough it won’t damage the passageways, strong enough to clean things up nicely.

I’m done with my annual ritual, all the equipment is running… and I only had to replace one fuel line. Yep one of the fuel lines was actually turning into ‘goo’ from contact with what passes today for gasoline.

I don’t remember ever having to replace fuel lines before… except when they became so old and cracked they’d began to look like they might start leaking. These days though, the fuel we’re being sold is eating up parts. I know it’s not just me, as I helped a friend fix a mower a while back and at the root of his problem was a rubber ‘seat’ on the float valve… it had been entirely dissolved by the fuel.

You’d think that with the price of fuel, and technology, what it is… we’d have better, not worse, fuel today than we did 20 years ago. The sad fact is, we don’t.

Each year, around this time I begin to question my addiction to all things powered by internal combustion engines… but, as each of those little marvels roars back to life, I’m reminded of ‘why’ I’m so addicted. For anyone who has brought one ‘back to life’, that feeling needs no explanation… to the uninitiated though, I don’t know if I can actually describe it, except to suggest that you think back on any profound feeling of accomplishment you’ve ever had, and then you’ll have a sense, a taste, of how I feel when ever I bring something mechanical ‘to life’.

Despite hating the ‘ritual’… I love the end result.

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Saturday, October 14, 2006

Another Trip "Home". . .

I say home, because every time I make the trip, it is truly like I’m going home. While I love living, and working (especially *having work!!) here in North Carolina, I really do miss living in Upstate NY.

There’s a lot to miss, and I’ve certainly gone on, and on, about the aspects I miss here before. The fact remains though, that unless there’s a turn around in the economy, moving back is not in my immediate future.

I left for ‘home’ after work on a Thursday, the plan being to get as far as I could, find a Hotel/Motel for the night and drive the rest of the way in the morning. It was close to 11 though before I stopped, about 2 hours later than I’d planned. It seems the folks in DC had heard about my trip and arranged an early traffic snarl up just to make my drive interesting (and give me something to complain about).

Other than that though, the trip was pretty uneventful.

I arrived at Mom and Andy’s place right around noon, we spent a very nice afternoon sitting around, talking, catching up and, in general, just enjoying one another’s company.

As it was the week of Mom, and Andy’s birthday, as well as their anniversary… I’d told them dinner was on me, where ever they wanted to go, and to invite who ever they’d like to join us.

I’d been expecting that Kathy and her husband would join us, but hoping some of the other siblings might as well. As it turned out, we had a slight communication gap, and Mom thought I was coming in a day earlier, and as such we had a smaller dinner party than I’d expected. Just the five of us, but, regardless, we had a great time, great food, and even better conversation!

Here are the dinner guests....

Mom and Andy.....

My Sister Kathy and her husband Joe. . .

and of course me... with the guests of honor. . .

The next day, I headed over to North Bay to visit my buddy Whit. You may recall that Maryan and I made a trip up last summer to attend his daughter’s (my goddaughter’s) graduation party and stayed the week to visit with friends and relax a bit. Well Whit and I have stayed in touch over the past year or so, and while I didn’t have a lot of time, I took some to hang out with Whit, and his family.

On Saturday he and I hung out in the shop, I lent a hand where I could, but the truth is these guys don’t need much help, they’re pretty much on top of the ‘game’.

Here’s an updated shot of the shop (that was under construction last year) and some activities…

THe outside of the now completed shop. . .

Whit doing a little "bizness" on the phone. . .

and of course, a shot of the dog!!

Saturday night we went out to dinner at a great little Italian restaurant, Maryan will be forever sorry she wasn’t there for that meal… excellent food, and once again great company and conversation.

On Sunday, we had a leisurely start to the day, a nice (but hearty) breakfast, did a little maintenance on a family members car, and then Leslie and Jake headed out to the market for the day.

Whit and I took a ride around the area, checking out some of our old haunts, he was showing me things that have changed… what hasn’t changed (it’s nice to know some things haven’t!!) … and in the midst of all of that I got him to drive by my old house, and the lot Maryan and I sold a year or so ago….

Here’s the old North Bay homestead. . .

The new house going up on the lot we sold. . .

Sunday evening I made dinner. My adaptation of Justin Wilson’s Catfish Creole. Instead of Catfish we used Shrimp.

Whit and I went grocery shopping, grabbed a little of everything I remembered I’d need.

Of course I forgot a couple of items… and was having so much fun talking and laughing while I was cooking that I actually forgot to add a couple of ingredients… but in the end it was edible… and once again it was the company and the conversation that was the star of dinner anyway.

At some point Saturday or Sunday I’d used the phrase “Cowboy Up”… we got to talking about it and I mentioned it was one of my favorite phrases, and heard it in the movie “Tears of the Sun”… Whit hadn’t seen the movie, so while we were out, we rented it, and relaxed in front of the TV Sunday night.

All too soon it was Monday morning and I was loading up the car and hitting the road to go home….

I have only two regrets about the trip… I regret I didn’t have more time, and that I didn’t do it sooner.

One way or another, I’ll be making more trips in the months to come. I know for sure I need at least a week to do, and visit with, everything and everyone, I’d like to.

Mom, Andy, Kathy and Joe... Thanks for having dinner with me, it's been too long between visits!!

Whit, Leslie and Jake… thanks for having me up, and for your wonderful hospitality!!

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Sunday, October 08, 2006

I know I've been gone awhile. . .

First, let me say I’m sorry for not posting in such a long time.

Second, thanks to everyone who dropped me a note and asked if I was Ok… I was truly flattered that each of you took the time to do that.

Last, why the absence?

Well, to make a long story short, I’ve just been very; very busy, both, at home, and with work.

It’s the busy at home aspect I’d like to share with you today.

About four weeks ago Maryan and I adopted a dog from the local shelter. Not a big deal, in and of itself, as folks do that every day. The ‘big deal’ part is that she was pregnant, and within a couple of weeks of delivering the puppies.

Maryan fell in love with Lulu, and wanted her, pregnant, or not. The pressing issue was that if she stayed at the shelter and delivered the puppies, they were going to put her down once the pups were weaned. That’s right, regardless of us wanting to adopt her; after she gave birth she would have been deemed ‘un-adoptable’ and put down.

So, the only real choice to Maryan was to take the dog home, then and there, with the stipulation they would take the puppies back after they were weaned.

That’s exactly what she did.

I had a trip up to New York planned, for the next weekend, and sure enough, while I was gone, Lulu delivered all ten (that’s right TEN!!) of her puppies. So, I went from a no dog, to an eleven dog, household overnight.

With that came the need for some ‘housing’… two reasons actually, one to provide a warm, dry and safe environment for the puppies, and second, to protect Lulu’s ‘honor’. While the corner of our patio was working nicely, we both felt a more permanent and secure place was needed, especially when we both had to be away from the house.

You see, she got pregnant at the pound (that’s right, those same folks who preach on, and on, about spaying your pets, placed an un-neutered male, in the same pen with an un-spayed female… go figure), and she can’t be spayed until after she’s finished weaning the puppies.

Soooo… I built her this little place for her and the puppies….

Of course I can’t end this without showing you some more pics ofthe puppies… and the new space I built for her and the ‘kids’…

and, last, but certainly not least... there's still our two cats.

So... that's part of what's been keeping me busy... helping to tend to the "dog pound" and the two cats.. Not to mention work has been a flurry of activity as well.

More on the work scene in a couple of posts, in the next post I'll share some pics of my visit to see some friends and family in Upstate New York!

Anyone want a puppy? Or two, or three??

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