Thursday, June 23, 2005

Deck Building Project Day 4: Stringers

I've been to sleepy to diarize each day of the deck building project. Here it is in a nutshell.

Day 2 was spent pouring cement into the sonotubes for the deck supports (I am very good at mixing cement, since I learned how to do it at the big playground build last Fall), and putting all the fence posts into the ground. We had a stunning cloudless sky on Day 2, and this squirrel was wearing sunscreen and a t-shirt with sleeves.

The night of Day 2, however, there was a staggering thunder storm that poured buckets of rain and knocked out a few trees in the neighbourhood (and one house by the park got struck by lightning!). Our fence posts stood proud through this test, but the few post holes left to fill (supports for the lower deck) were water-logged once again.

Day 3 was a hot, cloudless day again, and I put up all the fence stringers while Jim put in deck stringers and started on support beams. Our yard, once so organic, is taking on a definite geometric angularity.

Johann, the carpenter from down the alley, stops by once or twice a day to check on our work, crack a few jokes, and share bits of carpenter wisdom: "It's the steady plodders who win in the game of life." (My past favourite carpenter expression, in the case where there's a flaw in your work, is "It's nothing a man riding by fast on a horse would notice.")

Day 4 comes with clouds but no rain yet. It's cool and breezy; perfect working weather, Johann says. I am putting all the capping boards on the fence and Jim is finishing the deck beams. I have become competent with doing my one repetitive task on the chop saw, and have not spilled any blood yet.

My cordless drill is a thing of beauty. I feel oh so builder-esque on my ladder, with my apron, screwing 3-inch screws into the capping boards. My father would have been so proud (a lawyer who bought power tools as a hobby and always dreamed of building big things with his hands).

Sprout comes home from daycare each day and needs to inspect our work and pound on some boards with the hammer. "I making a project in back yard. Dat's my project, Mommy," he says, very importantly.

Off to make coffee for Mary (I'm still the Rhoda). Being the Rhoda, though, is an important and undervalued job in society, don't you think.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Public Retraction

I have just edited Floyd's Index, because Jim says that he doesn't use the 'C' word. "It is a word that is offensive to all females, and I don't use it."

The 'C' word, when used in renovations to denote a measurement, is an expression that he has heard other people use and he told me about it once. Somehow my fuzz brain stowed it and brings it out each time we renovate, with statements like "Now don't used the 'C' word!" People who grew up in Lead.r are doomed to have brains and mouths filled with filthy words.

I publicly apologize for attributing this expression to Jim. Not that we're fighting about it. He just didn't want all of you to think that he's a complete boor. 'Cus he's not.

Off to Day 2 of the deck building project. (He's stiff and sore, and I'm covered with bruises from hoicking the manual post hole digger. Yee haw.)

Monday, June 20, 2005

Floyd's Index

'Floyd' is the persona that Jim becomes whenever he builds things, goes fishing, or sits by a campfire with my sister and a lot of beer. In honour of this year's reno project, and with a nod to Harper's, here's what things look like.

Floyd's Index

Number of post holes dug: 18
Percentage of post holes that immediately filled up with water due to the heavy rains we've been getting: 50
Ratio of blisters incurred by today's efforts to number of people working on the project: 1:1
Number of neighbours with whom we chatted about the project today: 7
Number of neighbours who gave us advice on the project: 3
Amount of time, in minutes, that it took to get money, navigate road construction, and buy croissants: 45
Percentage of chocolate croissants that were eaten within 5 minutes of arriving at the house: 100
Today's temperature high in sunny Saskatoon (celcius): 24
Number of times "You're the Mary" or "You're the Rhoda" or "I'm the Mary" or "I'm the Rhoda" were said today: 38+
Number of squirrels who are too stupid to wear sunscreen on this project: 2
Number of squirrels who have sunburns due to being too cute to dress properly: 1
Days left until Floyd turns 50: 5

Da Big Mess

So I think I imagined that digging post holes would look kind of like the tidy little holes that gophers make. You know, a hole with a ring of dirt around it.

It's not so. The after effect of post hole digging is more like a wasteland of refuse interspersed with invisible holes that jump up to get your foot when you're not looking. But all the holes are dug and some of the posts are already in. Tomorrow we pour concrete into the sonotubes for the deck footings, set the rest of the posts, and I probably get a lesson in putting up fence stringers.

If I'm not too busy driving around getting pastries for Floyd.

Deck Building Project Day 1: I'm the Rhoda

Today is the first day of our holidays to build a deck and fence in the back yard, and I've spent the morning being the Rhoda (as in 'Mary Tyler Moore').

Jim rented a gas-powered post-hole digger, and has been drilling big holes all over the yard for the fence and the deck supports. He's the star with the big drill. And me? I spent the first two hours answering questions like "Honey, would you please go buy me some cigarettes?" and "I'd work way better if you popped off to the Mayfair Bakery for some chocolate croissants, and made some more coffee?"

Not that it's bad to be the Rhoda. I'm very good at it actually. After all the shopping, I've finally gotten down to hand-digging the holes after the big digger comes out (you have to tidy them up afterward). It feels great to flex all my muscles in the sun. (I may be the Rhoda, but I think I'm cuter too.)

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Aunt Frieda is Driving Me Crazy

I almost peed myself last night reading my sister's version of the current Aunt Frieda furor. I don't know if it translates as funny outside the family, but it sure worked for me.

Aunt Frieda got this idea in her head to write a 'user's manual' for all the stuff that she owns - mainly three junkie cars from the 70s, a few small pieces of land in a province where 'if the hail or drought doesn't get it, the grasshoppers sure will' (or genetically modified wheat from the next field will blow in and start some sort of lawsuit), and about six houses in our home town that are so run down that no one will rent them. This 'user manual' is a six-page letter that she sent to me and my sister, and it says things like 'Rent the Weezie house for $300 a month, or $500 a month if there are two working men living in it'. These instructions are meant to help us if Aunt Frieda dies or becomes unable to care for her possessions herself.

Now let's think about me for a minute. I work full-time, live 4 hours away from Frieda, have a baby, have a car that is not road-worthy, and am doing home renovations. My sister is following her woodworking dream in Ontario, 3,000 miles away, and cannot pop in for the weekend to help. Does Frieda really think that I am capable of taking on her stuff and maintaining work-life balance? Yes, I think she does.

My sister, wise beyond her years, counselled me to be silent (Sorry Beans, I seem to need to learn it my own way), but I thought that I should tell Frieda as respectfully as I can, that this isn't on. I then foolishly went further and asked her to consider getting rid of one empty house per year, in order to make things easier for me later on. Not to do it, just to CONSIDER doing it.

Now she says that I am being 'unhelpful' and that I am 'trying to control her'. I should have seen this coming. Now I'm just ducking her while she's still in town; if she goes home and forgets about it for a while maybe we won't have to have this conversation again for a year or so (until the next user manual gets published).


Stat Counter Fun

I have been having some of the fun that others occasionally mention, by looking at who visits my blog and how they get there, using a stat counter. The weirdest search engine string that got someone here was 'green pepper architectural [something]' (damn, I forgot the last word - it was a few weeks ago). 'Elephantine breast' was another string someone used today or yesterday to get here. Ick?

The most common words used to find my site are 'squirrel' strings, of course. Today, it was 'squirrel drinking out of a straw', and earlier this week it was 'graduating squirrel'. Every few days someone searches for the string 'dancing squirrel', and finds me. It took me a long while to figure out that maybe it was the same person each time, using a convenient string of search terms to get here on purpose for a good read about life in Saskatchewan. I was starting to wonder how many people are aching to know about dancing squirrels!

This stat counter thing is excellent fun.

Countdown to D-Day

The D, in this case, is for "Deck" or "deck and fence building project".

Today is Jim's last day before holidays start, and I'm off starting on Saturday. We're excited about building a new fence and deck in the backyard, and we're relatively ready. Jim even splurged on a cordless drill for me, so I don't have to pretend I'm tough by battling with the heavy half-inch drill.

The only problem is THE RAIN. It's been raining every day for about a week. It rained so hard the night before last that the contractor-sized wheelbarrow that we have was empty before bedtime and full to the brim when I got up (it may have had some help from a leaking eavestrough, but still). Let me just say, IT'S WET OUT THERE.

Jim is worried that I will get bored mid-project and start a side project while we're working on the deck (I do have a history of doing this - he calls it annoying; I call it multitasking...). To get me totally behind the project, therefore, he has been putting me through deck-building-school at the kitchen table once a week. He has taken me through the whole process - upper deck, lower deck, concrete footings, sonotubes, stringers, steps, fence posts, rails, pickets, hardware, rebar, you name it. I have long had this idea that I couldn't possibly design a deck on my own (and I'm still not doing it - he's got it all thought out), but by the end of 'school', it all makes logical sense. On paper, anyway. I'm still one of those people who couldn't add 5 3/8" to 7 7/16" to save my life... And let's just wait and see if I can run a chop saw without a trip to Emergency.

In related news, we just got a little bit of backpay from our contract settlement at work, which will help to pay for this giant architectural erection. It's all good.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Los Patrones

I don't usually ref-grunt on my blog, but I must say that I love the code names that we have for some library patrons around here. My current favourite: "Harry Potter Gone Wrong". This is the code name for a young extremely androgynous person who uses the Internet computers, who looks like H.P.

The "Moon Lady" doesn't come here anymore (possibly deceased?), and I haven't seen "Lemur Boy" for quite a while (he used to train his big, lonely, staring eyes on some of our young female shelvers)(one can only hope he fell in love). We still get the occasional visit from "Mr. Personality", who claims to be a canonical lawyer and likes to get you to do research on questions like "Do you have any legal information/municipal regulations on how to take old City buses and use them to farm mushrooms in?" Our old friend, "Mr. Plate Techtonics" may have started taking his medication because he's rarely really annoying, and "The Guy that Fights with His Shoes" hasn't been in for a really long time.

A recent e-mail from a colleague makes me think that "Harry Potter Gone Wrong" might be a girl, since she was staring lovingly at "Internet Dwayne" for long periods and he's known for flirting with most females. I'm still not completely sure on the gender though.

In other news, we just got telephone headsets on the reference desk, for ergonomic reasons. They are fantastic. I can give good library service, not get telephone-while-typing neck, and pretend I'm an air traffic controller, all at the same time.

That's my report from a fairly busy Saturday on the reference desk.

Friday, June 10, 2005

La La La Ronge

I said that I would tell you about La Ronge. La Ronge was lovely. Our hostess had the whole weekend planned for us, and it was excellent northern hospitality.

She hosted two dinners while we were there, gave us a tour of town and of the public library, arranged to have us tour the new provincial PNLS facility, and generally had lots of good chats with us over glasses of wine. We were very well behaved, I must assure you, though, as I was asleep every night by 10:30 p.m. One other touristy thing: we even stopped at the general store, which has animal skins in the back that you can touch (there are still people up there who live by trapping). 9The squirrel skins were rather disturbing, for obvious reasons, but I'll get over it.)

La Ronge is four hours north of Saskatoon, and the town itself is interesting for a number of reasons. It is in the middle of a national/provincial park (can't remember), which makes municipal development/land use more complicated. It is also closely surrounded by indian reserves, which makes development look oddly unplanned. As we drove through town, she would say, "Now we're on the reserve," and then two minutes later, "Now we're in town again," and then, "Oh, now we're on reserve land again." We popped in and out and in and out; it was very odd.

The people were incredibly friendly up there, and we had a great time. I'd recommend it, if you have the time to drive up. Where I live, by the way, they call "down south". Heh.


My cat used to say 'maroo' whenever he seemed overwhelmed with life.


It is one week until my holidays begin, so of course I am in pre-holiday clean-my-desk and don't-leave-ugly-shit-for-other-people-to-deal-with mode. And more things keep popping up all the time. I have an interview next week for that job that I still don't know if I want or not. I think - suddenly - that we should plan a lecture series on aboriginal history for the fall, and need to make a budget submission about it (to access grant money) before I go. Why can't I sit and be a bump at these meetings? I think I shall take on 'being a bump, occasionally' as a goal to set for myself. Bumps statistically live longer and drink more gin (I'm sure of it).

Aside from my squirrel leanings, I often think of myself and my genetic forebearers as tiny birds who fly crazy, have wildly fast heartbeats, and burn themselves out and die at an early age. It is my destiny. I can yearn to be a bump, but to no avail.

Flutter, flutter, whirrrrrrrr.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Twenty Years

I got a phone call tonight from someone that I haven't spoken to or see since high school. 2006 will be the 20 Year Reunion of my home town's graduating class of 1986. (I didn't graduate in Lead.r, but I went to school for most of my youth with that group of people).

Wow. Since I didn't graduate with them, I am so impressed that they thought to include me in the reunion invite. I am dying of squirrel curiosity to find out how people have changed and how they are the same.

The organizers are running it in conjunction with Lead.r's annual "Wild West Days", as well as with the Germans-from-Russia Heritage Festival (biennial event). This way if only 10 people show up, there will still be a dance (oompah band?!?) and a pancake breakfast, and the organizers don't have to wear themselves out planning all sorts of big events. Some smart thinking there. I was really pregnant the first year they held the Germans from Russia festival, or I would have gone to learn how to make German farmer sausage, the way it's meant to be made.

The most fascinating thing about tonight's conversation was that the woman I talked to (my old classmate) has a Lead.r accent. I didn't even know there was a Lead.r accent, but she sounds distinctly like one of my cousins from down there. I always thought it was just the way my cousins talked. When I was from Lead.r, none of 'us' had an accent but my cousins still had a residual German thing going on that they 'must have brought in from living on the farm'. Who knew we all talked that way. I must conclude that if I had stayed in Lead.r, then, I would still talk with an accent that I didn't know existed. Whoa.

By the way, I saw a billboard recently where "Whoa!" was spelled "Woah!" A billboard. Out in public. Reminds me of the accidental Canadianism I saw last year in a PowerPoint presentation at a library conference: "eh voila!"

The Shortest Gardener

Sprout has been helping in the garden recently; I think he has Auntie Bean's green thumb. Hopefully some day he won't find himself working at Home Despot too...

Posted by Hello

The wheelbarrow was fun enough, but he was nearly beside himself the day the rototiller man that the neighbour hired let him work the plough (with Daddy's assistance).

Posted by Hello
It rained all day today, so I haven't been buzzing around gardening in the dark. Tomorrow should be a good digging day, though, with damp, soft soil. I shall meet my sworn enemy, Campanula (a.k.a. the evil purple bellflower), I shall prevail. It shall feel my wrath, yea, I do swear.

Lurk Gleanings

La Ronge was great, and we were not at all badly behaved. More on that later.

I am still nursing my Sprout, and I recently subscribed to a listserv for lactation consultants, La Leche League Leaders, pediatricians, and other professionals. I am, reasonably, lurking, since I am only an expert in my own little mammary sphere. The lurking is fascinating.

Most of what comes past me is not particularly applicable or notable, but occasionally there is a fascinating nugget. Today, I learned that human breast milk is sometimes used as one of the medical treatments for ulcerative colitis. This means that if a person of any age has ulcerative colitis, the doctor might try giving them pumped human breast milk as a way to treat that inflammation. Coincidentally, I am also skimming a book at home by a naturopath, who claims that our north american digestive systems quickly become shocked by our diet as soon as we stop having mother's milk. Maybe he knows what he's talking about, based on this colitis fact.

The other fascinating (although I'm sure upsetting to the mother) thing I learned is that some women have no holes in the nipple for the milk to come out. This means that the baby nurses, the breast fills with milk, but the milk can't come out! Breastfeeding is such a wild and whacky thing - every situation is different. I am stunned and amazed. And so I continue to lurk.

Sprout and I had a funny little chat this morning about what 'mammals' are. Cats are mammals because the baby kittens drink 'mook'. Dogs are mammals because baby puppies drink their mommy's 'mook'. Squirrels are mammals...etc. He stated at one point (he objects to being called a baby, and I still occasionally slip), that he is "the biggest, biggest mammal ever". I said, "No, that would be a whale, and a whale is the size of our house. Are you a whale?" "No. I'm [Sprout]."