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Archive for the ‘General stuff’ Category

Country Living Expo and stuff I learned about learning

Posted by joeabbott on February 25, 2018

imageA few weeks back Suzanne and I attended a Country Living Expo … officially titled: Country Living Expo and Cattlemen’s Winterschool. You see, we live in a suburban area now and a mile from Costco, gas stations, and about any fast food option you might consider. It’s convenient but for all that proximity, we’re looking for a change. So, within a couple years we’re relocating to a small town on five acres of land. We’ll have a barn for small animals (goats, likely), our chickens will come with us, and we will have to come to grips with not living within a mile of a Costco, gas stations, or fast food. We’re looking forward to it but it’ll be a change.

While I never knew something like a Country Living Expo existed, I was game to give it a go when Suzy bought it up. The heart of the Expo is a series of classes you can take throughout the day; you can choose from a long list of options. Concurrent with the classes is a trade show: a large auditorium where vendors can hawk their wares or information. A bonus to this one were free snacks and a nice lunch that would be part of the price for admission\classes.


The class part of the day was to select five classes over six hours … lunch would be sandwiched in the middle of them. Due to a scheduling snafu, one of my original classes was over-booked and so I ended up taking a baking class with Suzanne. Here were my five classes: (1) Buying a Tractor, (2) Arc Welding, (3) Let’s make some Scandinavian cookies, (4)/(5) Introduction to Building Basics (it was a two-hour course). They had many other classes from basket weaving (literally) to working farm dogs. Aside from the baking class, I chose my sessions either based on interest or to answer some questions I had on the topic.

What I came away from the day with was a better understanding of how I learn! You see, this was the first time in a very long time that I’ve had a chance to see and watch many different instruction styles. It was fascinating and fun. Here’s a little about my classes and a few of my observations.

Buying a Tractor

imageI took the class because we’ll be on some acreage and, while we’d like to do without the hassles of another machine to store and care for, everyone who has a tractor and some land has said they’re indispensible and one of the best things they’ve ever bought. Everyone. From plowing the driveway, to trenching, to drilling postholes, to moving gravel, to … you name it. We don’t believe we’ll need one once we’re established but “you never know”. I hoped to understand some of the utility, costs, and potential tradeoffs. And, perhaps secrets on getting a good deal!

What I learned

Honestly, very little.

There was the rule of thumb that most first-timers buy underpowered equipment: pick up something for mowing lawns and are then disappointed it can’t move downed timber. I learned that I’d likely be interested in a Category 1 tractor, the smallest class of tractor vehicle. And that there are very few good secondhand tractors for sale … based on their utility, they hold value and anything that would go for a “deal” is immediately snapped up before it hits the market.

And so, aside from those, I learned that being a salesman does not translate well to being a teacher. And that I get prickly toward teacher evaluation when my questions aren’t answered well.

Teacher eval

The instructor wasn’t a fulltime teacher; what he was is a tractor salesman who had years of experience. His background suggests he’d have been good at the class, but I found this to be my least favorite course during the day.

What he did well was avoid pushing everyone toward the tractor brand that he sold; what he did poorly was convey much of any other meaningful information. As I sat with pen poised over paper, I waited and waited for something meaningful to write down. I got little.

He started out asking everyone their names and why we were there. It turned out to be a bit meaningless as he never referenced the information again … he never said anything like, “I’d heard a few folks had small farms and wanted a field tractor to double as a lawn mower; here are your options and considerations.” Nothing like that.

He talked about the attachments, he discussed the price of buying a new set of tires, and the value of buying a tractor with a front loader on it (they’re not universal so after-market installations can be pricey). What he didn’t do well is answer questions. This happened with several people including me.

I asked him what sort of maintenance costs I might have to expect in owning a tractor. He looked puzzled and wanted clarification; what would I consider a maintenance cost? I was surprised this left him confused so I listed 4-5 different things: would I need special oil changes? are there other fluids that need changing? do I have to take special wintering precautions? would I risk damage that needed repairing if I left it outside? Is there a maintenance schedule?

He then said, “you don’t need to winterize a tractor around here. Are there other questions?” I stopped him and asked, “what about the other maintenance costs?” And he said something about tractors in the range we were talking about not having different fluids and it wouldn’t be a cost or something like that, and then he moved on. Why he didn’t give better treatment to this topic was confusing.

Another guy asked about “grey market tractors” and he answered so poorly I stopped the original questioner after class to find out more about what a grey market tractor was. It seems Japan has a lot of tractors used for a short period and, via government mandate, sold off every few years. These are low-hour usage vehicles that are then sent to a refurbishing plant and sold in the US. This fellow had a friend with one who loved it, but he wasn’t sure how reliable they would be.

I don’t revel in dinging someone but this session got a “D” on my survey.

Arc Welding

imageI signed up for this class because I figured it’s a skill that has incredible utility and depth. I have friends who weld and come create artistic creations, and others make useful things. I want to be part of that set … and wanted to know what gear I’d need and whether I could pull it out like I do with my sewing kit: rarely and with little skill but still serve a purpose.

What I learned

The instructor started by pointing to a diagram of an arc welding unit, talking about the various settings (there are very few), and what makes a good weld. There’s the amperage of the welding unit; which is set dependent on the material in the welding rod and the rod’s diameter. There was the distance from the welding surface to the rod … which, as a rule of thumb, roughly the diameter of the welding rod. There’s the angle the rod is held at; call it 15°-30° from top. And finally the speed of travel; it should be slow.

And after a few handouts to be read after class, he sent us into the shop to pair up with a student of his to learn how to weld! I was fired up and ready to show folks I could lean that rod 15°-30° from top-center, I could keep the tip 3/8” away from the surface, and keep it moving nice and slow!

What I found is that I completely failed in virtually every sense of the word.

Over the next 30 minutes I made a half-dozen crappy beads. I moved too fast, I didn’t keep the tip the right distance from the surface, and in my effort to join two plates, I completely missed the seam and drew a scrawling bead along one of the faces. The student I was with was phenomenally supportive and patient. He was masterful in pointing out my mistakes and keeping moving on, trying the same thing a second time or moving to something new. The teacher was great, the student I was with was great, and I’m a very poor welder.

As an optimist, what did I learn? I learned that I’m so bad I can only improve! If true failure is walking away from something, never to return, I succeeded … I’ll be back. Not sure when or how, but I have more learning to do here, more skill to gain, and I can build on this experience.

Teacher eval

I came away from this class with two observations: best teacher\class ever, and I completely suck at welding. Really, the teacher was great and I was so astoundingly bad it was laughable.

The instructor was in his element as he taught welding, the session was being held at the school that employed him, and we were in the classroom adjacent to his shop. Hard to get any better for this guy. In spite of my poor showing, this instructor and class got an A.


Let’s bake cookies

I’ll be honest … I just needed a class to take the place of my overbooked class (whose topic I now forget) and wanted to spend a little time with Suzy. So, her baking class was at the right time.

What I learned

This class was conducted by a woman who grew up in a Scandinavian household and enjoyed several different cookies during the holidays; she shared three recipes with us. I could talk about the cookies but it’s beyond the scope of this write-up to include recipes, so I’ll cut to the chase: the treats were tasty but three recipes in an hour with a class as large as we had wasn’t great.

I didn’t get to try my hand at all the cookies (yes, baking\frying\rolling was part of the class) and it was a bit chaotic. I did enjoy time with Suz and we had enough “free time” to meet a couple folks who we chatted up and thought were awfully nice.

Teacher eval

A cooking class can be hard … three recipes was too much. I think I rated this one a “B-“ … instruction was as expected, the cooking part wasn’t well executed.

Building Basics and Construction Techniques

imageI feel I do OK in the building department, but you can always learn more and do better; I also wanted to understand constructing structures in more depth. So, I showed up to this session with keen interest.

What I learned

This was the class I was most interested in taking as I plan on building a lot of stuff after we move to our property. And … I’m not sure I got enough from this class to have been worth two hours. It was interesting but I found that the instructor pretty much shared information with us, but that didn’t translate to learning.

For example, he talked about different framing options … stick framing, balloon framing, and timber framing. And yet I can’t tell you why you’d use one over the other. He covered foundation options … and nothing about application. It was a class full of data but far less about motivation and trade-offs.

However, he answered questions well.

His list of tools included: Handsaw (pull saw). I asked him if he intentionally included the “pull saw” recommendation, as that was more typical of a fine woodworking or finish carpentry tool, rather than a construction tool. Western saw cut on the push stroke, whereas Japanese saws (pull saws) cut on the pull stroke. As such, pull saws typically are made from thinner metal and, in my experience, have more brittle teeth. His response was to ask me for clarification but to say that he’d seen plenty of pull saws on the jobsite and it was his preference. Something about his manner and approach was more open and considerate … it wasn’t a “well, you’re wrong” kind of answer you sometimes get. I liked it: he was able to share his experience in a way that helped me build on mine.

Teacher eval

The guy who taught is an accomplished builder who was fun to listen to, but I got less than I’d hoped for from this class. I gave it a “B”.


If we get a chance to do this again I might … a lot would depend on the classes. It was fun to do something new and unique, fun to get a little more information for when we put up our homestead, and fun to spend an afternoon with Suzy. The price wasn’t exorbitant, but I think it was still about $75 a person … for 4-5 classes and a lunch, not terrible, but only if we’re getting value for the time in class.

What I did walk away with was an understanding of some teaching skills and how I should approach instruction if I’m ever called on to help others. It’s a hard skillset and one I’ll have to approach diligently. My respect for those who teach, and teach well, grew over a day at the Country Living Expo.

Thanks for tagging along.


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Go, Rock Island Independents!

Posted by joeabbott on October 15, 2017

WP_20171015_13_04_32_ProA couple months ago my brother-in-law sent out an email to the extended family saying:

Dear Family,

With all my genealogy work, I have done some research on your Grandfather’s football days in Rock Island.  I started visiting the Rock Island Independents website ( and noticed the team photo they had on their site had the wrong names to some of the players.  I emailed the photo from your Grandfather’s collection with the names of the players.  Simon at the website used the photo I sent him on the website and with credit to the Kraker Family.  I also sent him the photos of your Grandfather and Jim Thorp.

While visiting the website I saw they were playing a football game with the 1920 football rules over the last few years.  One day I received an email from Simon, at the website, inviting me to their football game.  He included a copy of the game announcement of the game.  On the announcement, he used the photos I sent him of your Grandfather and Jim Thorp. 

If any of you are interested in going to Rock Island let me know.  I might be fun to have the Kraker Fan Club at the game. 

And then, a week or so ago, I got a package in the mail from my mother … the package was a bit beaten up but the contents were in perfect condition: I’m wearing it in the picture to the right! Yup, a Rock Island Independents t-shirt, perfect for wearing today, the day of the game being played by 1920’s football rules.

Here’s a copy of the picture my brother-in-law sent to the RII website:


And my grandfather? He’s the good looking fella with the perfect stance and the superman cowlick wearing #3:


While I may not be able to catch up on the scores on ESPN, I’ll check in with the family and the Rock Island Independents site to see how they fared but, either way, they have a fan out here in Seattle. Go, RII!!!

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Amazing Amazon

Posted by joeabbott on July 28, 2017

I normally don’t crow about retailers, especially one that doesn’t need my advertising, but over the past few weeks or so, I realize how much has become a part of my life. Also, where others may have had bad experiences with Amazon, I’ve never had a problem they haven’t resolved in my favor. Given that I just sorted through a half-dozen receipts in my inbox, I thought I’d spend a few minutes talking about my experiences.


My wife and I have a home network with a wireless printer located in her home office. At one time I was able to print to that printer without problem … or, with minimal problems. It’s never been plug-and-play, but I could print after a bit of futzing. Then, either going to CenturyLink for broadband internet or Win10 or changing our router or something else, but I suddenly stopped being able to print. I don’t print often, and only in black-and-white, but my new option was only to save a doc to the cloud and have her print for me, or use my Surface and fiddle around a bit, I needed a change.image

So I wanted my own printer but I’m pretty frugal so I wasn’t willing to spend much. Enter Amazon Prime Day.

I chuckle at Amazon Prime Day a bit as I had a friend call it “Grannie’s Panties Day” … his point being, “yeah they’re selling a lot of stuff but who wants it”. And, true that, Amazon seems to be cleaning out warehouse space or getting rid of stuff that doesn’t move quickly. But, they had a well-reviewed laser printer for about $50. I forget the exact price but when Suzy told me about it, we jumped … a bit of checking out online reviews, some comparing and contrasting, and I was sold. The only “hiccup” is that it didn’t come with the cable to attach it to the computer … and I put that in quotes because the selling information was super-clear about that. Nothing hidden.


Well, I was sure I had a USB cable when we ordered the printer so I wasn’t worried … but, when the printer showed up, I couldn’t find it. No worries, there are plenty of places that sell cables. Now I’m not an Amazon-only shopper but, after looking around online, I wasn’t able to find a better price on a 9’ cable … even from the manufacturers site who made the cable I ultimately got from Amazon. And, Amazon was the only place offering free shipping. Crazy! Given that I wasn’t in a big hurry, I even opted for the shipping “delay” in exchange for $5 off my next purchase. Nice.


AmazonBasics AA High-Capacity Rechargeable Batteries (8-Pack) Pre-charged - Packaging May VaryAround our property we have a bunch of solar-powered lamps. A bunch. And, over time, they go bad … or, that batteries in them go bad and they just stop working. Well, we collected up all the lamps that weren’t working and had maybe 15 lamps in the garage. That seemed like too many to pitch or send to Goodwill or another donation center, so I spent an hour taking them apart, cleaning them up, and testing the batteries. In the end we had 7 of them that just weren’t going to work, even with fresh batteries, but the rest seemed OK.

After collecting and testing the batteries from all the systems, I still needed a few more AA rechargeables … and, just like with the AAA lithium batteries I’d ordered for my SPOT, Amazon came through with new ones for the lamps. And now our walkways are bright and cheery even at night.


One of the reasons you’re getting a long blog post is because I’m testing a new keyboard. I don’t like bright lights … I don’t turn on overhead lights in my office at work, nor at my home office. Occasionally I’ll pop on a desk lamp, but that’s infrequent. Unfortunately, even though I’m a touch-typist, I’ve been finding it hard to find the right hand-placement and keys while working in dim lights. Enter the LED lighted keyboard.

This one was a little more expensive but it had a few bells and whistles that I liked: variable colors, programmable keys, inverted T-shaped arrow keys, dedicated number pad, and stuff like that. When I’m at a desktop computer, I expect to have a fully functional keyboard … this had all the same features as my last keyboard but has those LED lights, too!!

Enter Amazon … but this time, This is the exact same company and stock as (including my orders, lists, and Prime standing) but a different URL entry point. And, a percentage of the money I spend made through the site goes to a charity of my choice … enjoy the extra money, Puget Sound Goat Rescue!


While I’m somewhat self-conscious about my consumer-minded habits … yes, this past month has seen a lot more purchases than usual … but I was also struck by how I think little to nothing about heading to the Amazon site (remember: and ordering what I need. Free shipping is now standard in my mind and when something isn’t on my doorstep within 2-days of placing the order, I’m now wondering “what happened”. Amazon has been a game-changer for how I live and what I expect.

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Prepping the grill for guests!

Posted by joeabbott on July 6, 2017

Smokin' hot grill ... perfect for steaks!

Smokin’ hot grill … perfect for steaks!

And, the perfect steaks! Trying four different rubs!

And, the perfect steaks! Trying four different rubs!

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Quick update

Posted by joeabbott on May 7, 2017

Well, it’s been a furiously fast couple weeks but lots going on. Work is busy and commanding a lot of my mindshare right now; probably why I’m now (more than ever) not very productive with home chores. That said, we did get a little work out of me recently!

Cedar Plaque

My sister had a milestone birthday a few weeks back and we scrambled to get her something nice. She’s the youngest sibling and has been an active lifeline in keeping me up-to-date on my family “back home” and assisting with estate stuff when a dear uncle passed away. I wanted to let her know how much we value her help. So, we bought a little something at a art fair, got a nice gift certificate to a spa and some candy. And yet, nothing felt special enough.

Well, with our trip back to MN and the short time to accomplish a normal woodworking project, I settled on building her a small cedar plaque. Years ago she came out to Seattle and bought an art print with a native Pacific Northwest Indian motif on it; so, I found a couple similar images, printed them out on a company laser printer … and this is the cool part: this was a laser burner … a machine that could etch\burn an image into wood (or even cut right through it). After that it was just designing a small frame and getting it completed by the time we left.


I was so short on time that I was still cleaning it the morning we took off and we wrapped it in paper towels in case the oil treatment was still drying! Anyhow, it came out nicely and was well received.

Work Party

The second “big” thing that has happened here is a work party up in Granite Falls that Suzy and I attended.

We bought property in a neighborhood that was sponsoring a 4-hour work session with your neighbors. As a gated community, the roads are private property and require the homeowners to manage … either hiring that work out or doing it themselves. As Suzy and I don’t have a home in the community yet, there’s no expectation that we’d participate but we felt we should. First, we’d get a chance to meet the folks we’d be living with; and second, we thought it’d make an awfully good impression.

We were right on both counts.

The only problem was that we drove the 130 miles (65 miles each way), raked gravel back onto the exposed roadbed sides for four hours, and missed out on putting that time into working on our property! That, however, was overwhelmingly negated by all the good stuff that came of it: we met wonderful people, we contributed to the place we’ll live, and enjoyed a fantastic picnic when it was all over. Lots of “win” in all of those!

So, I awoke this morning sore and quite tired, unable to really feel awake as I rolled about in bed. And Suzy and I will now spend 4-6 hours clearing brush on our property today.


Sorry this is so short but that’s it! Just a couple moments in the last few weeks that have been rewarding. Thanks for dropping by.

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There’s a lot going on in this part of town

Posted by joeabbott on March 5, 2017

Image may contain: tree and outdoorOK, maybe not so much going on but I’m feeling chatty. And, rather than try to ram it all into one post, I’ll drop a couple to make things a bit more digestible.

The first order of business is recognizing that I’m pretty tired and sore. Yesterday Suzanne and I spent 7-hours putting up fencing but, sadly, it wasn’t on our property. The good news is that it was for a charity so an organization in need benefited from our time and efforts; and that’s always nice.

Suzy volunteers at the Puget Sound Goat Rescue (PSGR) and I’m very supportive. Supportive to the point of thinking we have an obligation to contribute some of our time to a worthy cause; and, as it’s easier to think someone else should be volunteering their time, I make a point of committing some of my time when I’m able. So, when Suzy mentioned the PSGR was having a “fencing party” … and it didn’t have anything to do with swordplay … I signed up. Hearing that a fellow co-worker of mine had signed up helped!

Aaron and I worked together ages ago and as he’s one of the Nicest Guys in the World™ (and, really, he is), I was happy to drop in if only to catch up. So, at 7AM on our Saturday morning, Suzy and I drove across the valley to Aaron’s home and, along with his lovely wife Jane, they showed up their setup on 15-acres in Maple Valley. After a half hour of seeing their goat runs, deluxe chicken coop, barn and the beautiful outdoor setup of their home, we headed into the bramble-covered PSGR area we were going to fence … which, conveniently, was right next door!

If you’re a “Facebook person” you can read about the project here, but the post talks more about the many events of the day … and while I think I had a busy day, the Goat Rescue had it going on!

While we took a half hour break at noon for pizza, chips, fruit, and water, the rest of the time was doing heavy manual labor. Aaron and Jane were in charge of using his tractor to dig ~2’ deep holes, insert a 6×6 timber, and shore it up with crushed rock. Suzy and I would follow ensuring the posts were plumb and then laying in cross bracing. For all sections we’d lay in two horizontal members; one high and one low. For the corners we’d install a single diagonal beam; and for other sections that would be in the middle of the fencing, we’d put in two diagonal members.

The corners were the trickiest because the field failed to follow a strictly rectangular shape, leaving us making cuts that had several angles to them. A couple sections gave us problems trying to get the right fit but most of them went into place relatively nicely.

The Seattle weather held off until the end but we eventually took a few splashes of rain and by 4PM we were done. The fencing wasn’t completed but we were DONE. Lots of hours stumbling over roots, carrying heavy loads, and trying to figure out how to look competent doing something for the first time. Tiring though it was, we really enjoyed the experience.

I will note that while I was asking questions and learning how to install a fence (Aaron and Jane were old hands at this by now), Suzy was scouring the understory for decades-old barbwire and various other metal accoutrements that were used in a fence long-since neglected. It was rusty and vicious but a pair of thick gloves and some bolt-cutters took care of the problem

While I’m looking forward to today and my light-duty garage projects and some sitting about, I’m happy to have had a chance, to be physically able, and give back a bit to a world that’s if not better, at least tidier and with the prospects of a bigger pasture to roam in.

Thanks for dropping by.

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And we’re back!

Posted by joeabbott on February 6, 2017

WP_20170206_06_39_49_ProThis morning at about 6:30AM we lost power for about 10 hours; it was grueling.

With heavy snow forecast for the Seattle area overnight and an inch already accumulated, I’d planned on working from home. As my next day would be mostly meetings (we’re in the middle of quarterly planning), I could attend online and still be an active participant; not ideal but for a once-in-five-years storm I’d be OK.

At 5:15AM my alarm went off and I noted that it had prodigiously snowed that night, with about 8” standing on flat surfaces; wonderful to look at and I was happy I had other arrangements for the day. So, I returned to bed and around 6:30AM I heard a noise, looked at Suzy (who was awake) and asked if she heard her computers *bonk*. “Yup … and with the green flash in the sky, I’m thinking we’re without power,” was her response. And she was dead right.

WP_20170206_08_01_08_ProBeing without power is typically not a big deal, as we’re near the airport and facilities in that area seem to get a priority on being fixed, but as we’d find out, we were on the other side of the hill from the airport and outside the golden zone of immediate attention from Puget Sound Energy. And so, for the next 10 hours we did without, only seeing the “to be investigated” listed on our phones when we queried the myPSE app about our service. But, we weren’t sure when our power would be back. And so our day started.

Without power, I wasn’t able to get on the internet so I needed an option for that; which would be the library just up the way; easily walkable, but they didn’t open until 10AM. So, I tried what I could from my phone and then waited.

Suzy and I cared for our hens, shook heavy snow from the branches of our trees (many younger ones will likely suffer an odd tilt but none looked lost), and enjoyed a morning of reading. She had a cold breakfast and I opted to get out my camping stove and enjoyed some hot-water-grits. Not great but I’ve had worse … or none!

At 10AM I headed to the library, wanting to give them a little time to open and get setup. The heavy snow made slow going but I was there in short order … the trip made a little more easy because I was able to walk down the middle of the street. At the library I was met by closed doors and apparently no power to that building, either. Sigh.

Back home I trudged, connected to those through phone-mail, and I planned for the day off.

WP_20170206_07_52_26_Pro 1A little more reading, a bit of napping, and I offered to drive us out for lunch. It felt a bit disingenuous to take a day off for snow and then drive to lunch, but it was a late lunch and the roads had improved; what I feared the most was nighttime temps and icy roads. So we headed out … first to get gas for my trip into work tomorrow, and then to Qdoba for chips and a burrito. The roads were mostly fine: in some cases just two tracks for your tires and everywhere heavy accumulations on the sides, but I did manage to get stuck at the bottom of my driveway!

Yup, couldn’t get up. I wasn’t truly stuck as I could back down but I had to get my shovel out and shovel the whole thing off. Ugh … my back forgets those Minnesota winter days when we had to do this. While our driveway lent itself well to clearing, the snow was abusively heavy and where I’d pulled out, the snow was compacted to ice and needed a lot of work.

After that was done, I got into the house, now about 57°F and was pretty chilled. So, under a blanket for a dozy bit of time on my (sore) back with a cat. And, around 4:30PM or so, Suzy was walking by and *pop*, the power came back on! No circuits tripped, no flashes of lights going out, just a hum of the furnace and digital clocks flashing.

And with that, we were back in business. There was a bit of futzing with the internet and the question of “what to do for dinner”, but mostly it was me heading upstairs to check in on work and Suzy enjoying her time with the cats. While I had been dozing, she had been more industrious upstairs doing a bit of tidying up and sorting books. It’s not a “fun” job, but we have amassed quite a few good books and sometimes it’s fun to look through them. This time, they were just a clutter and she was trying to put some order to the mess.

And now I’m here. That’s about it for our “snow day” and while the hassles were minor and we weren’t gone long, it’s good to be back!

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Weekend activities

Posted by joeabbott on February 5, 2017

WP_20170123_17_31_35_Pro 1My weekday activities are pretty routine: work, dinner, some gaming, and bedtime. I’m still getting over the fact that, to feel my best, I need to head to bed before 10PM … as “10PM” usually translates to falling to sleep about 45 minutes later … so there’s not a whole lot of time on weekdays when I get home. Monday and Friday are “free days”, days I can do whatever I want with the 3-4 hours before I need to start getting ready for bed; Tuesday and Thursday we head to the YMCA for a workout, one day with cardio, the other (a new fave) doing yoga; and on Wednesday we are spending time talking about the new house plans. I could share volumes on what we’re learning about in the house discussion but today I’ll look at what I’m doing the other two days of the week: Saturday and Sunday.

Those are also “free days” as we have few commitments asking time of us now. We have a few days on the calendar for special activities: gatherings with friends, work parties at some charity, and things like that. But mostly, it’s the Suzy and Joe Show. And the best way to say what we do is share a few pics!


Typically I have some project or other going but, right now, Seattle is continuing with a bit of a cold snap and it’s making it hard to get into the garage. A week ago I tried doing a project in the evenings but something happened again that I hate: because I’m rushing I made an error and cut a piece wrong. in this case, I cut four pieces wrong and it bugs me a lot. I stewed a bit wondering what I’d do and I won’t recut some lumber and I won’t change the design … I’ll fix it. Meaning, splice (glue) some of the existing wood together and use that. It’ll look fine once I’m done but it’s taught me that trying to rush (for me) is a no-win deal. I’ll just wait for it to get warm.

The picture to the right is from this project. I typically make all of my designs using the same thickness of wood; usually 3/4”. In some cases you need that sorta thickness, in other cases it’s just because I’m inexperienced and use a single type of wood for all the parts. In this case, I have a bunch of 1/2” thick pieces (that will be fine) but I’m making a bottom section twice that thick to give a “heavier” look to the base. I think it’ll look good … we’ll see!


WP_20170128_17_44_51_ProWhile not a typical weekend activity, it’s a little something Suzy and I got to enjoy last weekend: a niece on Suzy’s side of the family was getting married and she choose to do it in Canada! Brush off the passport, get that suit out, and enjoy a road trip!

Suzy and I headed out early, got a nice breakfast in at a place in Lynden, WA by the name of Dutch Mother Family Restaurant. Suzy got a pannekoeken that was too large for the plate (but with crepe-like thickness) and I got a pancake; we both got eggs. And, while it was too much food, we wouldn’t have chickens to help us with the leftovers, so we gobbled it down and had to save the bakery treats we got for the next day’s ride home. We then headed to MEC (Mountain Equipment Co-op … Canada’s REI) and Lee Valley (a woodworking and gardening place … talk about perfect for Suzy and me!). We made a few purchases but then headed to the hotel to change.

The wedding was very fine and we enjoyed a night of socializing. But, the long day of travel and loud music got to me and we had to say our goodnights before the final dance. But, we have a few snaps … and, apologies in advance: Suzy has the better camera and better eye for photography!



A walk in the woods

While destination hiking is always fine, Suzy and I enjoy just getting out and seeing new places: yesterday we were curious to visit Squak Mountain State Park. We’d seen signs directing us to this State Park on our drives and stopped in too late to truly walk the park but we did make ourselves known, familiarized ourselves a bit, and will be ready to better visit in weeks to come. It didn’t help that the rain was pouring (by Seattle standards) and we were making our trip with umbrellas … not the best hiking gear.

And yet, we have some snaps.

Out of the parking lot is a nature trail, and while it’s been years since I’ve learned anything new from these signs, I always welcome a stroll to see what (and how) they’re educating people. Suzy enjoys the signage and seeing how they make these things so durable in all types of weather!




And that’s it. We’ll do a bit of shopping for our weekly groceries, maybe eat out, and will stop when we see something interesting, but otherwise we just are bobbing through the days, happy to be together and seeing and doing new things.

Thanks for coming along with us today!

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Let it snow

Posted by joeabbott on January 21, 2017

Seattle is just getting out of a cold snap that started with snow and then settled into days of mid-20s in the evenings to mid-30s during the day. Much more moderate than a lot of the country, but pretty chilly by our standards. We don’t usually have snow and seldom have cold, so this was unique. But, we enjoyed this view for a few days:


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Odd jobs

Posted by joeabbott on December 19, 2016

Well, I didn’t get to cleaning my room … guess that’s what Monday is for … but I did manage a bunch of small jobs that were piling up in the garage.


Just a few pics from the mess that was my garage. Some folks may not think it’s out of the norm, but I’d always parked inside the garage when I was able and only after getting a truck and parking outside regularly did I let clutter take the second bay. It was nice to have room for spreading out with a project: a place for lumber to dry, a spot to setup a table and work, or a sheet of plywood on two sawhorses so I could just have more table space.

But, I’ve never enjoyed leaving things out for days. There isn’t an after picture, but here are the befores:


Relighting a deer

At one time we had well over a dozen lighted deer but time has culled the herd. And, we’re a little sadder for it. So, when one of our deer was just “out” and I wasn’t able to find the problem, we got creative! Suzy spray painted the little fella and I strung it up with a couple sets of lights. We then placed him in a part of the yard that didn’t have a deer and now we have one more place in our backyard that gives us a smile.




My mother has always had an uncanny sense for when things aren’t quite right. Well, a couple months back I remember her recalling the birdhouses I’d made and we painted together and then placed in the backyard; she asked if they were still there. Of course, was my quick response. But, as Suzy was doing fall cleaning she noticed one was in a bit of disrepair: it was the birds favorite house (always the home to some family or other). It was the most sheltered and in the branches of the trees and also the one my mother painted … a happy yellow and white striped shelter with rust-colored eaves.

Time, and probably for being in the branches, had not been kind: the wood in various places was soft, cracks developed in places, and the roof completely came off.

So, a few weeks back I built a replica and Suzy lent her hand at painting it up. While we didn’t want to have a carbon copy and infringe on my mother’s design, we took notes and riffed on her look. It’s still a yellow and white house, but the roof is red. I had the pleasure of putting that up yesterday … after moving the pole it was housed on a forward a bit and out of the trees.



While not a “big” project, it was another task that took a bit of time: repairing the trellis.

A few years back Suzy asked if I could make her a trellis; my answer, of course, was of course!

But, sometimes it takes me a bit longer to get around to my “of courses” than other times so I think there was skepticism in her eyes. Either that or the fact that I’d promised doing it a number of times in the past. Either way, I headed to my little shop, ripped a bunch of strips of wood of varying lengths, chamfered end, made a few “stand-off” blocks, and went to installing.

As with virtually every project I do, I winged it a bit, not sure what I was doing and certainly not having much experience but, in the end, we had a nice looking trellis: lots of vertical and horizontal pieces of wood for her growing things to grab onto. But, we find that other things like to grab onto the slats as well … things like raccoons and cats that are making their way over our fence. And so, every few weeks (mostly during the summer), I’ll be called on to fix up the broken and torn-down slats. Yesterday was that day.

A simple few nails it was back to looking like new.

Birds on a wire … er, branch

I wrote about “Stuff in the backyard” before … search this site for “SITBY” … and it should be clear that those instances were just snapshots; we keep adding new stuff all the time. This past year at the Washington State Fair, a booth selling metal cutouts in the shapes of birds caught our eye. While the signs by all the different shapes noted the species of bird, they all looked like “sparrow-type” birds to me.

Suzy, having a cuter eye (as well as a more acute eye), chose a fine selection of birds and a cat … which then sat in my “when you get a chance” pile until now, December.

While the delay might annoy some, Suzy never said a word and when I was able to use one of the branches that came from our property up north, I was happier for the delay. So, with the clear weather, a little time, and Suzy helping me with the positioning of the birds, we added a bit more to the “stuff in the backyard”.














Squirrel knocker

I can’t imagine those two words ever making sense to me before now, but in her travels, Suzy found a door knocker in the shape of a squirrel. And so, it becomes one more bit of stuff in our backyard. Now, to be clear … “stuff in our backyard” is hardly a pejorative. We adore our backyard and spend plenty of time there. It’s where we go to spend our energy and to get energized in return; it’s a place of living things and stuff we care about. And now … home to a door knocker shaped like a squirrel on our gate.

Love it.


I like to believe it’s because they were cold, but the ladies were unimpressed. Squirrel, indeed.


Fixing some lighting

The last project of the day was to fix a bit of up-lighting that we had on some of the SITBY. We enjoyed these lights but they went out and what we thought would be a simple project of replacing a battery turned into a bit more of a fix.


Upon taking the battery covers off, it became apparent that these weren’t water-tight and, when water got in, it would sit on the electrical components. One of the items was simple to repair: just buff the terminals with a bit of sandpaper and you were good to go. Unfortunately, when removing the terminal plate to clean it off, the connecting wire pulled clear. So, I ran out, got a solder iron and some solder, and reattached the wire.

Like many of my projects, it wasn’t quite that simple. There was the head-scratching, the mild cussing, and then the “how the hell?!?!” moments … but in the end, let’s just say that it was a simple solder job and a good thing my incompetence didn’t require too much more education … the wire I was soldering wasn’t getting any longer!

And then the second lamp. If you look at the below picture, I believed it was the component on the upper left on the board that was so corroded that it just ceased to function. But, when I pulled the wires clear and ran leads directly from the bulb to the battery, it still didn’t light up. While there’s a goodly amount about electrical stuff that I can still learn, there may have been more than one thing wrong here. By the time I was done, there wasn’t anything “Goodwill worthy” left … unfortunately, this one went into the trash.



And that was my day. Well, the fixing things up part. I never got around to cleaning my room and my workbench in the garage still demands some tidying, but I felt like it was a productive day. That evening Suzy and I watched our annual viewing of A Christmas Story and I then played a bit of Xbox and finished the game Dark Souls 3. Gads I adore that game.

It was a great day and one that tees up another good one to come … today. I hope your holiday is turning out to be as productive and fun as mine. Thanks for dropping by.

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