Wednesday, November 25, 2015

A Tip of the Hat to Dame Mavis

I came upon an inherited fur stole while digging through the costume boxes and bins last month. The obvious next step was putting it on Mavis. The next obvious steps after that are digging up costume jewelry and and pearl encrusted antlers. Mavis dresses for Thanksgiving Dinner, because she's a real class act.

Ramon is a Tyrannosaurus rex which means he's over 65 million years old and while he doesn't care one way or the other about pilgrims of any sort, he does come from a generation that appreciates quality haberdashery. He'd tip his hat to you, but... you know, those short arms.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Odds & Ends: Autumn 2015

Around here we've been up to lots of smaller projects and chores. Mostly these involve preparing for winter. It was time to take down the screen-doors-that-are-not-screen-doors, call Mike to deliver the firewood to fill the woodshed, rake all the damn pine needles off the long, long driveway, put away the patio furniture, et cetera and so on.

I finally got the new name sign for the base of the road finished! Maybe this means neighbors will start thinking of our place as something other than "the Alexander place." Possibly not. 

Before pictures here.

Look at this lovely sight! Holy cats, there's just something so comforting and satisfying about a nice stack of firewood, especially when it's stacked in your new woodshed. 

So much wood! It doesn't go all the way to the roof at the front, because we thought it would be easier to measure for payment. 3.73 cords if you're interested.

Awhile back I got a special price on some of these laser cut monograms. I have always loved monograms, so it's fun that Eric and I share one, even though we don't share a name. 

White washed antlers and copper leaf initial F.

I bought the antlers for general gate display, but I couldn't resist this turkey for November. Heck, since we have wild turkeys wondering around the neighborhood we could legitimately leave it up all year.

Faux stained turkey with red variegated metal leaf initial F.

Snow on the Bass Creek Crag! The tamaracks have turned! There has been some real rain and snow! Chance of snow at our place this week! WHEE!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

It's a Treat to Trick Out Betty!

We kept it pretty low-key for Halloween decorating this year. After all the hubbub of shed building, house guest hosting, adding a kitchen island (post coming, I promise), etc., it just felt like a few well-placed favorites would be enough to get in the spirit. Of course, there are more favorites around and not all the favorites were put out, but next year, boy howdy!

I found the extra small vintage marching band uniform (left) for $5 at a flea market in the valley in September and knew it would fit the skellies just right. I dug up some academic award medals from junior high and we named him The Commodore. Later I brought the sombreros in from storage and started making the mariachi jackets.

Just wrapping a length of fake barbed wire around the chandelier made it kind of creepy.

This just goes to show you that Mavis will not be chained down.

Last year I added this headstone to the Bitterhill Boneyard. It seems some squirrels or similar chewed a bit on the "carvings" while it was in storage, so it was very roughly "repaired" before installing in the 'yard. This one went to the office, as is appropriate based on the design.


I set up all the bleeding candles in the kitchen this year. Since last year I found a couple of killer sales on these flicker flame light bulbs, so they're extra spooky now!

House decorations aside, I did get to contribute to Eric's office celebration. His team did a Mexican theme with the lucha libre and Dia de los Muertos* accents. One of his co-workers was a calavera catrina mariachi musician which worked out perfectly, because I had made mariachi jackets for our 5' skeletons to go with the mariachi hats we just happen to have on hand. Eric and Betty were a luchador team! Photos from the office courtesy of their Photo Editor, who does not know I am using them here, but probably won't mind, right?

I made Betty's costume from the ground up, then Eric's shorts, belt, and gauntlets. I had made his boot covers several years ago for a Ziggy Stardust costume, the luchador mask was a special premium from Sol Neelman's first Weird Sports book.

You may recognize headstones from the Bitterroot Boneyard.

Betty was a champion (as indicated by her belt) throughout the whole costume making and wearing process! She loved the attention and spent lots of time wagging her tail. She loves Fritz, the calavera mariachi, but his mask was throwing her off a bit.
Here's the arty, moody, movie star shot of Betty in her lucha mask! Note the antlers.
And these shots of the costume were taken by a rank amateur at home with a phone camera, but dang it... Betty is just so cute in this costume and who doesn't want to see more photos of dogs in costumes? No one I want to know about, that's for sure.

This was the first full "dress rehearsal" for La Cazadora (The Huntress)! She's fierce.

A closer look at her pink, orange, and black spangly camo pants! Note the "boots" at her ankles and her IT champions belt. Obviously, La Cazadora is a winner!

A little side-eye action modeling her mask. 

A closer look at the new parts of Eric's Diablo Rojo costume...

A champions belt to match Betty's, vinyl cauntlets to coordinate with Diablo Rojo's uniform, and shorts to keep the costume safe-for-work. Note the subtle flame motifs on the red fabric. Fun Fact: the only material purchased specifically for Eric's costume was the red-flame fabric for the shorts. The rest was from stash or left over from Betty's. WOO!

Now, Delia was not left entirely out of Halloween shenanigans, you guys. It's just that she really hates outfits and costumes and she doesn't like going to the office, either. So she celebrated by a) not doing those things and b) wearing a gross eyeball Collar Cozy and c) not holding still for a photo unless she was asleep.

*Missoula has a big Festival of the Dead celebration with a parade and activities leading up to it. We can't quite figure out how or why a place with so little other Mexican culture goes big on this, but it all just happens anyway.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's No (Longer A) Mystery

Back in Auguest, Eric noticed a single LED light from our deck sting lights laying on the floor of our deck. Huh. So I looked over the railing and noticed that most of the bulbs were gone and the wires cut. The heck? So I looked around on the ground under the deck railing for the rest, after all it had been windy so maybe the wind eventually wore through the wires. Maybe? But I only found one bulb on the ground. Hmmmmm.

So I took that string down. Whatever was going on wasn't effecting the string that went the length of the overhang above the deck.

Until it did. My guess was squirrels, but Eric wasn't convinced.

Why would squirrels want light bulbs? 'Cuz they're jerks*, maybe?

Then a couple of weeks, just this last Saturday, later I noticed how the pattern of the indentations on the bulb covers looked roughly pine cone-like and mentioned it to Eric. He still was not convinced... until he saw a squirrel running on the fence line with something white in its mouth! It sneaked up into the "attic" of the shop! So I decided to use the photos I'd taken to start writing this post.

Fast forward a couple of days and Eric is calling me to the living room, "Come look at this!" and what are we looking at, but a [cuss word] squirrel running along the railing with a freshly plucked bulb from our string lights! Of course, the whole thing went pretty quickly, and my phone was charging so no photo.

But, WAIT A MINUTE! The very next evening Eric again calls me to come look and this time I grabbed my phone (i.e. camera). But Betty beat me to the door and startled the vandalizing thief off of the deck railing and into a nearby tree. Well, we watched him climb the tree then travel in the canopy through three or four trees, then scamper across the yard towards the fence!

Who does he think he's foolin'? The bulb in its mouth is obvious! 

He then used the fence as a thoroughfare to travel to the forest side of the property and off into the forest!

See that white bit in its mouth? That's our bulb!

He seems to either drop or deposit the bulb out there not too far from the property line, but our quick investigation was unable to find either a stash or a single bulb.

It does seem that there are more of the bushy-tailed rodents this year than in the past, especially the chipmunks, but they are not much bigger than the bulbs. The chipmunks keep the dogs busy hassling them, though. Chipmunks 2, Squirrels -136. Why 2? There are two entertained dogs. Why 136? As of mid-October, there are 14 bulbs left from the two 75-bulb strands.

* In Portland, the squirrels were eating the house! Chewed a dang doorway right through a drawer the built in buffet/china cabinet in the dining room! ACK!

Saturday, October 3, 2015

No Clever Title Including the Word "Shed."

I spent a good part of September building a woodshed. I expected it to take a couple of weeks, but I underestimated how physically difficult it would be for me and then we had rain, smoke, and even house guests! I had help from Handyman Nick and from Eric, but I think I did at least 85% of it myself. WOO! Some people might think that it is over built, but I would rather over build than build it again. It is 8' x 12' and should easily hold 3-4 cords of wood; more if we stacked it to the rafters. I took pictures at the end of almost all the phases and intend to post all of them here! You lucky so-and-sos!

Supervisor Betty checking on the materials while I was framing in the floor.

But first a little history:

The former owners had their firewood stored on pallets behind the chicken coop. When we bought the place, we bought a couple cords of wood they had stacked there under tarps. For this photo, I am standing just outside the back door which is the very closest to the wood stove. That highlighted, red building is the chicken coop.

After the crazy snowy February of 2014, we decided to move the firewood much closer to the back door with the intention of building a wood shed in the summer of 2014, but since I spent so much time away that summer it didn't get built and we just set up pallets as they were behind the coop. It was ugly, but way more convenient with a lot less snow shoveling just to heat the house.

I forgot to get the "before" photo before I started disassembling it to start building the shed, but you get the idea. 

The photo below is taken with me standing on the same spot as the photo of the highlighted coop. MUCH closer, but also that much uglier because it is so close to the house. And no matter how tidy and satisfying the pile was at the beginning of the season, it became messy and unruly looking as winter progressed.

And so we hired Renaissance (Handy)Man, Nick, to design a plan to our specifications and put together a materials list. He nailed it. We also hired him to do the brute work that I knew I couldn't or that if I could would take me so long I'd never get done: He dug the holes for the footings and set up the sonotubes for me to fill with concrete. He drilled the concrete for the post holders and cut/notched the posts, then I helped him set the posts. Later on he ripped down some of the siding trim pieces and also cut down the end pieces of the metal roofing. He was also great at answering questions via text or stopping by when he was in the neighborhood working for someone else.

And now a series of in-progress photos that will probably be boring, but dammit I have this digital witness to my accomplishment and I am sharing it. Like inviting friends over to see your vacation slides... every last one of 'em.

The lumber package, with the poured footings in the background.

The opening shot again, because it's the only one I took before the floor went down.

Posts up, headers up, floor down. I went to a small, family lumber mill in Florence to get rough sawn fir, in a true 1" thick. Nick suggested this instead of 3/4" plywood for ventilation and it is why the floor joists are 16" on-center.

If only I'd realized that there would be a point in the process that we'd have a cool stage, maybe we could've planned a party. I tried to convince Eric to bring out his amp and a guitar for a quick rock-out sesh, but he refused.

Rafters up and back wall framed.

Side walls framed. All this framing is with swinging a hammer. It would have gone sooooo much faster with a pneumatic nail gun... I thought I had one of dad's Senco guns in my things, but it turns out it is a stapler. D'oh!

Front walls up with doorway in the center!

When I got this far, I cleaned up the site then laid down in the dappled sunlight to rest and admire my work. Supervisor Betty took this as an opportunity to suggest that fetching would be a way better way to celebrate "our" accomplishment.

Drip edge and roof panels up! This was before Nick came back to cut the end panels. So I took those two back down. Sigh.

Instead of just solid and opaque metal, I specified for 2 clear, poly-carbonate panels for light. No reason to run power to the woodshed or struggle in dim light, either.

Before the siding could go up, Inspector Delia had to verify it's quality and that the chipmunks were hiding under the stack.

Siding up, but not the trim.

Trim up and end panels of roofing off to be cut.

Do not let the glamorous pose fool you. Supervisor Betty is a terrible boss. She either ignored me, messed with the materials, or shouted incomprehensible and incorrect instructions... usually sneaking up behind me to do so.
Siding stained, roofing panels reinstalled, steps built and stained! All just in time...

... for the first load of fire wood to be delivered!

That ladder is still there, because there are four (4) roofing screws left to go in the middle of the roof. I ran out and my sales person at the local lumber yard brought me a few from home so I wouldn't have to buy a whole package.

Some details that make it a "really good design" as spoken by our firewood supplier, Mike. Mostly it's about ventilation to keep that wood dry and let it further season.

That neat, rough sawn, true 1-inch lumber with approximately 1/2-inch gaps between them.

The gaps between the rafters were left open not only for ventilation, but also so the wind that might come in the front opening* doesn't off push the roof.

I added hardware cloth under the shed to prevent dog toys, and thus dogs, from going under there.

And finally the view from the forest.

* I think that next year I will add a sliding barn-style door. We'll see how much snow blows in there, how often the dogs get in there going after the inevitable chipmunk invasion, etc.