21 September 2015

one more excuse to get dirty

Our nearby yard place had some late-season deals on mums, asters and dahlias.  We still have plenty of space for plants along the wood wall, so they will go in this week before the next rains.  Besides the flowers I also found a Honeycrisp apple tree for about $30; that will go on the slope below our withered grape vines where it will receive plenty of sunshine.

I hope those vines are surviving below ground because the hot summer was not kind to them - and our watering system could not reach them.  We now have a 100' hose, when added to our other ones the sprinkler can now get beyond the hill-crest.  Next year we are ready!

p.s. It took over two weeks to get these in.. but they are in!

20 September 2015

Early: autumn

After record-setting regional heat and a dry spring and summer, the early onset of cool and wet weather is a nice surprise!  This usually occurs in October around here but September has had several weak storms dampen gardens (and better still, forest fires!).  The dry weather is most often July through early October here, and 90° temps in Portland can happen through most of September. This year it would take quite a turnaround to reach even the mid-80s, though it's possible. I turned on the furnace around the 15th, so it's beautiful time to get the wood stove ready for another season. Thankfully the chimney is swept so I won't be working on a slick roof!

Maybe this year we'll see some snowit would be fun.. for a few days at least!

One interesting item about snow: Portland often gets bitter east winds through the Gorge which can freeze (or re-freeze) precipitation in the cold season.  We're further away from that effect now, and around two sharp curves.  Also valuable is that we're 800 feet up; the Arctic air will have to flow further to reach us and its effects are at the very lowest elevations since cold air sinks.  We may well stay out of the bad winter weather that I've spent my lifetime seeking (or avoiding if I must travel in it).  Huge east winds often produce sleet and freezing rain in Portland.. maybe not so much here?

The easterly winds still reach us: we had many hot summer days here when east winds passed over the Cascade crest and down to our homestead.  This will provide cold air and snow now and then - but since the coldest air prefers the 100-foot high gap by Portland to jumping the 3000-foot crest, we could see fewer sleet and z-rain events.  It may take a few years to demonstrate this though!

I recently found the PRISM website at Oregon State University, where regional climate normals can be found - and they are calculated in very small areas.  I narrowed down to my site and learned that we can expect just under  64" of precipitation each year.  That's quite a jump over Portland's sub-40" total, though not a surprise. Portland has the west hills and coast range to buffer it from the dominant westerly flow, while we're right up the funnel of the Columbia estuary.  We have been here for over a year now, but the weather system has not been up long enough for me to see how we've measured up.  Since April though I'd say "DRY" since no month since has seen 0.92" like our driest month should be!

11 September 2015

the Steps arise!

I'm tackling a staircase to the patio at last.  We had held off with the idea that our house refinance could allow us to pay someone else to do it, but that might not be complete until late October when the weather has broken down.  So what the heck: let's make it happen!

After picking out the basic framework it was time to raise the bottom of the stairs to match up with the stringers. That process has been .. interesting! My first attempt was not high enough to end with a solid connection to the deck, and rather than lower the huge deck the answer was a higher base from which the steps would rise. I now have tall concrete blocks for the base, and the steps come to just below the patio height.  The metal clip for the stringers' upper end lands solidly on the deck foundation so everything should be quite sturdy!

I didn't think beforehand about the need to level so many parts in three dimensions though!  First see how off-level the deck is, then align four concrete blocks in a reasonably rectangular array, square to each other And all at the same height - or enough so that the bottom of the staps are as level as the deck itself (i.e. not quite).  If that is all done properly the planks should sit on the blocks without any wobble so the stringers can rest securely on those.  Once all that is done, check that the stringers reach the deck while maintaining their own level bases and top ends that are square to the deck pillars. My first iteration was too close to the deck - so down came everything so I could shift the blocks back several inches from the deck. After re-leveling, re-planking and re-measuring the result is..
It's pretty close :^)

I have a couple of spare blocks that I placed upright on the corners - whether for plants or candles remains to be seen!

In other news Zuzu (ex. Sue from Ms. Pac-Man) has renounced her feral affiliation and now lets us pet her, and she rubs against our legs & occasionally gets kicked when we start walking (oops).  She followed me out to the work site and played around under the steps, through the concrete blocks, and pounced on weeds.  Very helpful.. I suppose?


03 September 2015

Stranded in the Wilderness!! *

* Yeah, not quite - but always use the dramatic headline..

We finally got the car in to the shop, after four attempts that went awry for one reason or another.  The thing's had a growl under the hood for a couple of months now, and we hoped it was a simple item (and one under warranty).  The good news is that it was found and is under warranty - but it would take another day to get it finished.  So last night we were stuck at home, with just a bicycle for travel.  That might work for the 800-foot drop to a store, but I'd be ruined getting anything back up that hill; I've not ridden the bike more than a half-mile in well over a year now.

We were not in need of anything though, so just being at home was no hardship at all.  This morning is very autumnal, fog and spider-webs abound.  Very pretty, and a nice change from recent weeks.

Update: wow.  The car needed a special tool to remove the noisy part, so it wasn't until middy Friday that it was restored to us.  This makes a good case for owning two cars for remote living!  We were considering a rugged truck for towing and haulng, plus a cute hi-mpg commuter vehicle.  With fuel down to nearly $2.50 with discounts a few bargains could be had!