Friday, August 31, 2012

It's Not Kentucky

But it is a Blue Moon! The second full moon of the month, the one Elvis sang about!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Broken Clock

During the fence building and the blocks being laid around the patio planter the other day my sun dial got broken. This thing has sentimental value to me as it had a place of honor in my father in law's garden for as long as I knew him. I inherited it.

It must have got knocked off it's stand because the little upright piece that casts the shadow had snapped off. The perpetrator simply put it back on it's stand, laying the snapped off part on top. They said nothing but I suspect Norma. The whole thing is brass and I did not know how or even if, it would weld so I thought I would try Gorilla Glue on it. It seems to have worked, it is good as new. It will not stand up to another fall but excluding that, it should be good enough until it is passed on to Brooks.

I had a great time with our youngest granddaughter, Sierrah, a few years ago with this sun dial. I asked her to "please set grampa's clock". She said, "What clock?" and I pointed to the sun dial. She went over and stared at it for a minute before asking, "How do you set it?" I had a great time explaining what it was to her. She has a very scientific mind and grasped the concept immediately, even why it only goes from 6:00 AM to 6:00 PM. I told her she would end up with it one day.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Next Project?

My Blogging friend Rene' asked what our next project is. Well Rene’, there are a few. The back door should be replaced. It is wood and is showing a little rot at the bottom and the building has settled a little, making the door a little crooked in the frame. However, it is an odd size so no direct replacements are available. I will have to buy a pre-hung door and then cut into the wall an inch or so to make enough room for it. This may mean a new header as well. The door is secure and I have hidden the faults with trim so it would last a few more years but every time Norma passes it, she complains. This door is seldom used. This job is on the list, low on mine, high on Norma’s.

The laundry room is the only room without a new floor. We were going to tile it but then thought a combination of laminate and tile with tile under the washer and drier and laminate everywhere else would be better. The result of this indecision was that the laundry room got left out when we re-floored the rest of the house. It has the old linoleum that is still in good condition.

Brooks has also been talking about adding a wood porch onto the front of the house. There is a small one there now in front of the door where we have a small glass top bistro table and two chairs. It is nice to have coffee there in the mornings and a larger porch would be very nice. I might even add a porch swing hanging from the eves or at least a couple of rocking chairs  It would be the same width as the existing porch but would extend about 12 feet along the front of the house under the living room window. Brooks estimates $1500 for material and figures he, Linda Lee and I could do it in a weekend. I like this idea, he likes building things and Norma liked to cook for everyone when they are here. The perfect storm.

The next project concerns our nemesis, the deer. The rear of the property is bush going up a very steep incline. The property line is about 200 feet up this bank but that property is useless to us. Deer, eagles, raccoons, mink and blackberries live there. A small stream fills a very old, abandoned concrete cistern that used to provide pressurized water for two or three houses before the city expanded and started providing water. The land is far too steep to easily access. This is now the path of least resistance for the deer who have two well established game trails heading down the bank. We tried the electric fence here a year ago but it all came down in the winter storms. Electric fences loose efficiency if plants are allowed to touch the wire and greenery does very well back there. It kept Norma’s lawn boy busy keeping the fence clear. Now that the new fence blocks off one side of the property it would be a fairly simple project to string strong wire mesh farm fence across the back, a total distance of maybe 140 feet. The plan is to have the lawn boy weed whack a path as close to the heavy bush and trees as possible and Brooks would follow, unrolling farm fence as he goes. This would be stapled to trees with maybe a couple of posts put in as well. The ivy and morning glory would very quickly claim the fence but this is fine, it would hide it from sight while still keeping the deer in their place. This project may be the priority as well as being the least expensive. It is NOT a priority for the deer.

Last on the list (and maybe not on the list at all) is to fix the slightly out of level floor of the house. The house is a combination of three different additions over almost a century (last one about 40 years ago) and is built on two separate ring walls and one slab. One of the ring walls has settled more than the other, throwing things out of level. It is barely noticeable when walking in the house but a marble placed on the floor quickly finds it’s way to one wall or another. Fixing it would mean jacks, spacer boards and shims in the crawl space. This is not a job I relish tackling myself and I have no idea what these repairs cost to have done professionally. I suspect lots and I also expect many drywall cracks would result. One real estate agent we consulted told us to forget about it unless it gets worse and another told us we should get it fixed if we ever sell the house. If we have to get it done eventually anyway, why not sooner rather than later so we also get the benefit of being “on the level”? Like I say, I have no idea of how much this might cost. Brooks says he is willing to try it if I research the methods but I am not sure if this is a good idea for a DIY project. Laying in a 2 1/2 food high dirt floored crawl space while jacking the house up above your head does not sound like the smartest way to spend a weekend.

Norma would like to tackle everything at once but I am the budget director and have to keep the brakes on a little. The recession has diminished the size (or at least the growth) of our “Rainy Day Fund” and I refuse to dip into it until it finishes recovering so that means improvements have to come out of our pension income. This is very possible to do, we just can’t do everything at once. Norma, are you listening?

The porch. The new one will extend under the living room window beside it and go all the way under the inverted “V” of the roofline. It would be about seven feet wide and twenty feet long, about two feet off the ground:


Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Fence Saga

I finished the fence today. We left room for a gate which I built today but I miscalculated and the gate ended up a little too big to swing so it ended up as a fence panel. I screwed it in waiting for Brooks to come back when maybe he can trim it down a bit and make a gate. He is very talented. I could do it but it would take me another day or two and I am out of band-aids. I am not sure if we really need a gate as we have very little interaction with the condo folks. Every conversation we have had with them over the past twenty years has had to do with the fence and who would or wouldn't pay for it.

There had been an old fence between our properties dating back twenty five years or so to when the condo was built. It went in as part of the construction and we were never asked our opinion or to share in the cost. It was a pretty minor issue for them at the time and a tiny addition to the total construction costs. It was mainly put in to secure the building site and was not the best quality. It lasted about fifteen years and then started falling apart. I repaired it several times but eventually it was beyond repair, fell down and was hauled away for firewood. A twenty foot section remained at the foot of the bank.

Then about ten years ago Brooks was up building a fence for a neighbor. The Condo Committee came over to talk to him about a new fence. He gave them an estimate of around $3,000 for about 120 feet of new, five foot high cedar board fence, half billed to them and half split between us and Pauline, the neighbor in front of us. This price included removing and disposing of the twenty feet of old fence at the back and the old fence still standing fence between them and Pauline. He told them it was a one time offer as he had his truck and tools here already and also had a free couple of days to stay here and work. If he had to come back, the price would be considerably higher. Pauline quickly agreed but they could not get their committee together quickly enough and came back the next morning to say "no".

A couple of years passed with still no fence when they told us they had decided to put in a hedge instead. We have had bad experiences with hedges and told them we were not interested but if they wanted a fence, we would get Brooks to give them another estimate and we would share the cost. They said no, the decision was made and they were putting in a hedge. Norma warned them that she did not want it infringing on her flower gardens along the property line and that they would have to keep it trimmed at the property line. They agreed and their gardener planted 10 or 12 small, foot tall cedar trees on their side of the property line, about one every four or five feet. They have not yet, and probably never will, turn into a hedge. Norma hacks back any branch that intrudes over the property line.

Fast forward to November 2009 when a huge tree on the bank fell down in a storm, landing between the buildings and wiping out the twenty foot fence but doing no other damage. We were in Mexico and arranged over the phone and email to have the tree removed and the mess cleaned up. At that time we assumed the tree had been on our property. Late that summer we got a letter from the condo committee telling us they expected us to replace the twenty feet of fence at our expense because 1) the tree that fell was on our property and 2) the fence was at the top of a steep bank on their property and they feared liability if someone fell down the bank.

We replied that if you sight down the property line, the root ball and trunk of the fallen tree was pretty much on the property line. It was not clear at all whose tree it had been. Also, anyone who fell down the bank would have to have come from our property and it was a part of our property that we never used so there was no danger. We did not think that short fence was needed, but if they wanted, we were still willing to share the cost of a complete fence. They responded, saying they had hired a contractor to build the short fence and would be sending us his entire bill. We replied that we would not pay it. The contractor built the fence, the bill arrived and we returned it unopened to the condo committee (more on this later). We heard no more from them but they were mad at us and sent a letter to all the condo owners telling them so.

A couple of weeks ago Norma saw the committee standing in the yard next door. They told her there had been a homeowners revolt and the old committee had been replaced. The new group seemed very nice. Norma told them we were going to be putting up a fence made from recycled boards. She said we did not expect any compensation from them and that she was doing it because the hedge was not stopping the deer and she was tired of doing their hedge trimming for them. They said they were broke but would give us $100 from petty cash. The total cost to me for the 60 foot fence was about $1000 (framing material, stain, gas, posts, concrete, jack hammer rental etc). Brooks and Jason's labour was free.

While they were talking they told us the bill for the 20 foot section of fence that we sent back unopened was for $3000! The contractor was a nephew of a previous committee member. The fence was the cheapest possible construction for a cedar board fence. Brooks says there was about $200 -$300 worth of material in it.

So there you have it, more than you ever wanted to know about the Randle fence saga.

The twenty foot. $3000 picket fence and my "gate" next to the yet to be trimmed post:

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fence Day!

Well, Friday was the day. Linda Lee and a friend had booked a spa day on Saltspring Island so Brooks decided to take an early weekend himself. Jason, his friend and our house sitter for the winter had the day off as well so he drove down to Brooks’ on Thursday night and between their two trucks, they brought up the seven fence panels, seven ten foot long six by six posts and ten bags of quickset concrete. They started digging post holes at about ten and finished at five. The digging did not start off all that well as they found some old footings right where every post had to go. They solved this problem by moving the first post over three feet to make room for a gate. This gave them good dirt to dig in for every post except one where they discovered an old concrete structure about a foot under the ground. This required a trip down to Home Depot to rent a huge jack hammer ($60 for four hours) and an unplanned couple of bone rattling hours to break up the stubborn concrete.

The rest of the job went well enough although, much to Norma’s concern, many of her lovingly tended flowers and bushes got trampled. It was not easy to move the three hundred pound panels around without doing some damage but it can all be repaired.

The row of concrete blocks and toppers that previously marked the property line were removed and Norma called Beau, her lawn boy to come over to help her place the blocks as a border around the planting bed that divides the parking area from the patio. That kept her out of our hair at the fence project on the other side of the yard so things went a little faster and she did not have to watch her flowers get trampled.

We are very pleased with the final result! The posts will be trimmed down to size in a week or so after the concrete has had a chance to set.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

A Wine Post

Wine, not whine...

Today Sierrah and I washed, rinced and dried 100+ wine bottles! At 3:00 we are going down to the wine store to bottle all the wine for the wedding! There are three batches (two white and one red) waiting for us. We have never bottled more than two batches at one time before so this will be a lot of work. Sierrah has the artistic eye so her job will be putting the labels we had made on the bottles after they are filled and corked. I will add photos later.

Sorry, both Sierrah and I forgot our cameras!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Wedding, Beachcombing and a Fence

The big thing going on in our lives right now is preparations for our son's upcoming wedding. Brooks and Linda Lee are getting married at a beachfront resort just down the road from us so that is taking up much of our time. For his first marriage he eloped and didn't let us know until after the fact. That pissed me off at the time but in retrospect I can see the advantages of it! Financially anyway! Because we are close to the venue we are taking on a bit of the work. We just ordered several cases (93 bottles) of wine to be made for the dinner and had labels printed for the bottles. Friends and family have booked the entire resort so we can stay up as long as we want. Many of his old friends from Terrace are coming down and Linda Lee's friends and family from Edmonton will be here. They are expecting 87 people. It will be a fun party!
They are doing it as much on the cheap as they can. A fisherman friend traded a few days use of their spare work truck to haul his boat and mobile home across Vancouver Island for 100+ pounds of salmon and a liquor salesman friend is donating four cases of hard liquor including a very expensive bottle of single malt for "special" people (me and Linda Lee's dad). Norma and our neighbour are going to stuff and bake the salmon and a butcher friend of Brooks' is donating a cooked and sliced baron of beef. Vegies and salads will be done on site before dinner as each room has a kitchen. Lots to do and it is driving Norma a little nuts but it will all go well. 

We have Sierrah, our youngest granddaughter (12), here for the week right now and are enjoying our time with her. She and I just returned from a walk down the beach out front collecting driftwood pieces for use as wedding table centers. Brooks will be up on the weekend to pick her up and to install the fence between us and the condo next door. There has been an uneasy peace between us for several years and the fence should help the situation, even though they will not pay for their half of it. Long story, best told over a glass of wine.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Windows Weirdness Part 2

I thought my desktop had recovered from the crash until I tried to print a document from Word and was told I had no printer. I restarted a couple of times to see if that would clear the problem but no luck. The Dell 1350 laser printer was listed in Devices and Printers but Word could not find it. I then tried to print a document from Acrobat and was told I would first have to install a printer.(!) I Coogled and found a printer repair utility on the Microsoft site and ran it. I was now able to print my document from Word but when I tried to print a second document I was told I had no printer. Same from Acrobat. I then deleted the printer and reinstalled it, allowing it to download a new driver from the internet. Same thing... I did not have a printer even though it showed up in Devices and Printers. I did a System Restore from way before the crash but it did not help. The printer showed up but I was told I had no printer! Oh boy, now what?

Shortly after I bought the computer I downloaded a copy of the free backup utility EaseUS Todo Backup. I have never tested this program but I had a full system backup about a week old so thought I would give it a try. I had nothing to lose. I opened the program, found the backup location, answered a couple of simple questions and hit "OK". It hummed away for about an hour, rebooted and EVERYTHING WORKS!

I did remember to back up my data so now I just have to wait for Windows to catch up with it's recent updates and I am away to the races. I can't say enough for this backup program! It is easier to use than the Norton Ghost I had on my Windows XP machines and it worked flawlessly! And best of all it is free to home users!

Get with it and backup onto an external hard drive! This could (will) happen to you!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Windows 7 Weirdness

That was scary! Last night I attempted to download photos from my granddaughter's camera's SD card onto my desktop Windows 7 computer so I could burn them onto a DVD for her. She had her 4GB card so loaded that it could no longer store new photos and she is afraid to move them to her computer as she was told this would slow her computer down. Anyway... I slipped her SD card into my reader and the screen froze. I tried everything but could not free it up. The only thing I could do was to hold down the power button to turn the computer off.

When I tried to restart the computer it would not get past the Acer splash screen. It just sat there. I tried DEL and F12 but that did nothing. After a couple more attempts of powering down and restarting, I powered down again and unplugged the computer overnight. This morning I plugged it back in and powered up while tapping F8 to get into Safe Mode. It suggested going into the startup repair mode. I watched the repair mode box for a while until it suggested using System Restore. I said OK and it went back to the Startup Repair box. I went for breakfast and a half hour later nothing had changed. The repair box was still open and scrolling endlessly. I powered down again and restarted in Safe Mode. This time I chose "Start Windows Normally" and it worked. I did three restart cycles and it worked every time.

Now the computer would not recognise my USB flash drive. I tried to do a System Restore and chose a date two days ago. It sat on the "Preparing System Restore" box for a good hour, doing nothing. I did a restart and Windows opened again. I Googled and someone suggested creating a new restore point and restoring to that point. I did and it worked. However, my older restore points do not seem to work My USB flash drive was still not being recognised but I fixed that by unplugging the computer again for a few seconds. That fixed the USB problem.

I used my laptop to transfer my granddaughters photos onto a DVD and everything worked. Her camera now works much faster with a formatted SD card. The fact the photos transferred fine on the laptop eliminates any chance of a virus on her SD card. I will do a full scan with MSE anyway.

My old System Restore points still do not work and the Internet is full of complaints about Windows 7 System Restore. I guess I will just have to live with it and make sure my backups are always up to date. It is working but I do not trust it. The computer is less than four months old. I hate it when things go wrong!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Meeting At Parksville

Brooks and Linda Lee were driving over to Tofino to go fishing for the weekend with friends. The plan is to catch enough salmon to feed everyone at the wedding. They picked up our granddaughter, Sierrah, from Victoria and I met them in Parksville and brought her up here for a week. We were supposed to meet at the Chevron at the intersection of Highways 19 and 4 at 5:00. We were both 15 minutes early and pulled into the gas station at exactly the same time! No waiting!

It will be a fun week here. Our neighbour Pauline's granddaughter will also be here and the two of them get along so she will have someone to "hang out" with.


Map picture

Monday, August 13, 2012

Fence Done!

We put the finishing touches on the fence yesterday, painted it, and I was on the road home by 1:00 PM. When we went down to the building supplies to buy material on Saturday we talked to the manager who Brooks buys much of his material from, up to $100K per year. Sometimes he gets good deals and this was one of those days. In the "bargain bin" we found a five gallon pail of the best quality Olympic Stain available. It had been mixed to the wrong colour and refused by the original customer. It was Milk Chocolate in colour. The original price tag on it was $199.99 and it was marked down to $99. For that kind of saving, I can like milk chocolate. We took it up to the till and when Brooks introduced me to his manager friend and said we were building a fence for me, I asked for the "Starving Old Pensioners' Price". He then marked the stain down another 25% to $75!

This recycled fence was not actually in panels but was a big pile of loose four foot long cedar boards in Brooks' yard. The tops were rotten down a couple of inches and the bottoms up about six inches. Using Brooks commercial radial arm saw I sliced off the tops and bottoms and was left with very solid boards three feet long. He has a large framing table that automatically squares the fence panels and we quickly built new 2X4 frames for the new panels. These have an extra 2X4 across the middle which allowed us to stack two of the recycled boards to make six foot high panels. Narrow cedar boards cover the joints. They look really nice.

We then stood all the panels up in Brooks' parking area and he went to work with his spray gun. This had to be done because the old boards had been stained green many years ago and had varying amounts of colour still on them. Brooks supplies painted panels if a customer insists (and is willing to pay) but hates doing them. The sprayer is hard to clean and maintenance costs on it are high. As well, he usually hits the shop or his truck with over spray. It is not a nice job to do but they have a huge order of stained fence coming up this week anyway. He is the only fencing company on the lower Island that will paint or stain fences at all.

Our panels now look like giant 6' by 8' foot Hershey Bars but will blend in nicely once they are up. It will not take long to get used to them. Brooks will bring them up in a couple of weeks to install them. The guy who will be house sitting for us this winter is coming over to help as the panels weigh about 300 pounds each! I will have to buy posts and cement at that time. The entire project should cost me no more than $500 for all seven eight foot panels, including beer for the crew. It is good to have family in the business.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Fence, Part 2

After an early 7:00 AM start and a trip to town for material, we have completed five panels. I treated Brooks and Linda Lee to a halibut taco dinner at the Cowichan Bay Pub and we are now back home relaxing. Tomorrow should see the end of construction and we should be able to spray paint them late tomorrow.

Building Fences

I headed down to Brooks and Linda's for a couple of days while Norma stayed home to play in her garden. Brooks and Linda have salvaged enough material to build a six foot high, 60 foot long cedar fence that will go very nicely between us and our condo neighbours. We have needed this fence for a long time and a couple of weeks ago they replaced a fence that had some rot at the bottom but other than that, all the boards are in great shape. After cutting a few inches off the bottoms, we are combining the salvaged boards with new framing material and building new panels.

One panel down and seven to go!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

More Company

We had company over the weekend when some old friends came up for a visit. Rick is a (just) retired firefighter from Victoria and Sharon works for the Canadian Union of Public Employees out of Vancouver. We have known Sharon since the 70's when her and Norma started working on election campaigns together. Everyone had a lot of catching up to do over several cold beer and glasses of wine. We had some late nights so now I have some resting up to do.

Yesterday we got a call from my great nephew (my brothers grandson) who was passing by Campbell River on a 45 foot yacht which is owned by a business acquaintance. They were sailing from Nanaimo to Port Hardy on the north end of the Island and are going to overnight in Campbell River. We drove down to the dock to meet them and had a great time chatting on the boat before all eight of us headed over for fish and chips on the dock. It was nice seeing Alex, Dawn and the girls. It has been a long time. We will see them again in a month at Brooks and Linda Lee's wedding.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Norma's Garden

I hope the deer are not reading my Blog or this will not last. These are some of Norma's flowers that the deer have missed.

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Audit Done!

I guess I worry too much about these things, it turned out to be not all that bad. When I do my taxes I work off my Quicken accounting program, using figures off the registers in there rather than from hard copies of receipts. I just trust the hard copies will be available when and if I need them. When I got the audit notice I panicked. Where are the receipts? Most were in my catch all "2011 Taxes" file in the house and some were still in the safe in the motorhome. It turned out we had them all. We gathered all the receipts, called my Campbell River eye doctor for a letter saying I had to travel to his Courtenay office twice for tests, which he emailed me within the hour. We then called Norma's dental specialist in Victoria for a letter saying she needed an attendant (me) to accompany her to drive her home after her treatments. This allows us to claim travel expense deductions for myself as well as for her. They have no problem writing the letter but they have no way to email it to me so we have to wait for snail mail. Imagine, a modern office and they cannot email a document! We have given this joker about $40K over the past few years. You would think he could afford a copy of Word or Acrobat Pro.

The Wedding:

The wedding plans are moving along. Yesterday we ordered the wine bottle labels from a local printer. Every couple gets two bottles of wine and two hand painted glasses. There will be an open bar as well. We are providing the wine and Linda's sister is painting the glasses. The labels are quite reasonable. $40 for 100, printed four to a sheet. Here is a printer's proof of the label:

This photo is very "them"! I think the labels will work out fine. Brooks is a very lucky man. I keep reminding him of this fact!

Our next job was to go to the local fancy bakery and order the tower of cupcakes that will take the place of a wedding cake. They will be chocolate cupcakes with "beach theme" icing complete with a white chocolate seashell on each one.

Norma and the baker got into a long discussion over what kind of white chocolate to use. I thought chocolate was chocolate. Not so. She then told us there would be a $.25 per cupcake surcharge on the more expensive white chocolate! That settled it! Chocolate is chocolate! Jeesh! All this drama over a damn cupcake!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Thanks for Lunch, Honey!

"Don't mention it. Thank Norma, her roses were delicious!"

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