Friday, September 28, 2012

Time Keeps On Slipping Into the Future

Who would have thunk it? I've been so busy working on the house that my blog actually ran out of posts and I have belatedly discovered that I didn't have a post for today. Well better late than never I guess.

Work has been pretty dull I guess which is why I haven't been blogging much about it. I finished up the nursery for the little one expected to arrive in another ten weeks. (Time really does fly fast!) After that, I moved onto Little Abbey's room patching walls, painting, fixing the electrical system and most recently gutting and rebuilding her closet. It was 40 years old and showed it and was just a single shirt away from all falling down in a heap.  So I redid it and got all the shelving and clothes rods installed today and purchased some new closet doors which I now need to spend the next day painting. After that, I'm going to take a break from painting for awhile and do some other woodworking tasks.

I think I am going to build some built in shelving for Little Abbey's room and perhaps a little study desk to do homework on. Then I really need to build some sort of workbench for the garage to do all these larger projects on top of. My one little bench against the wall and underneath the overhead storage cabinets just doesn't cut it for those. The new bench will be a bit lower and either on wheels or light enough I can drag yet heavy enough to provide a nice work surface. I also am going to build a butcher block surface for our kitchen counter out of some exotic wood that I picked up. We had a rolling butcher block island at our last house that we really loved cutting up veggies and doing our baking on and we don't have that at this place.

Also, before I start on the last bedroom upstairs, the master bedroom, I want to build some built in closet modules to put in our two side-by-side closets and give it a more modern look. I saw it on one of those home improvement shows and want to do it for myself. After that, I have to do a little bathroom work on the two bathrooms upstairs and then I can move onto the basement. That might wait a bit for other little fix-it projects that always seem to crop up.

Case in point. Last week my daughter and wife saw a chipmunk crawl underneath the garage door into the garage. I wasn't surprised as the poor concrete work in the garage has caused a high point in the center of the door and drops off an inch and a half on both sides of center.  A previous owner tacked up some strips of wood and added some door seal to the bottom but the strips had square ends and the seal had rotted away in areas leaving large holes. So I custom made some tapered shims to fill the gaps and installed a brand new rubber seal so now even an ant will have to squirm to get inside. I still have yet to tackle the busted outdoor spigot or the whole house humidifier with the cut wire going to who knows where, both of which I would like to fix before winter flies.

One last thing, leaf color here is starting to pop. I'm guessing the peak will be here in a week or perhaps two at the latest. I'm loving it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Box Fulls of Trophies

While diagnosing my previous blogged about phone problems, I traced lines heading up into my attic and decided the time had come to take a peek. I set up a ladder, climbed up and stuck my head into the attic. What greeted me was a mound of debris on all sides of the opening.

I have spent the last five weeks stuffing my garbage can to the max and had begun to make a dent ridding our house of all debris without making a special trip to the landfill and paying extra to dispose of it. Now suddenly I was back to where I had started plus some.

So I started tossing the stuff down the hole and into the garage. There was a ton of carpet and linoleum remnants from every previous floor covering ever put down in the house. There was a huge box full of frisbees, a wheel of fortune like spinning wheel plus a myriad of boxes full of assorted junk. At the back of all this were three boxes piled high with trophies of all sizes.

After getting it all down on the garage floor, I looked through the trophies which were awarded over a span of nearly twenty years from the late seventies to the late nineties. Every single one was for running events so whoever earned all them was a heck of a runner. Unfortunately, there were no names etched into any of them and because I have yet to receive our property deed yet showing the previous residents, I have no idea who they belonged too.

I ended up deciding that I wasn't going to wait for the deed to see if I could track down the owner. Instead due to the shear amount of debris and not wanting to fight it again for the next two months of trying to rid it gradually in our weekly garbage, I packed our van floor to ceiling and disposed of it at the landfill and recycling center having to pay for the privilege at the former.

On a side note, once the attic was once again empty of extra debris, I saw that it was fairly well insulated though the insulation was probably original to the house. I also saw that phone wires snaked everywhere along with other electrical wires. Sigh. Now someday when I have nothing left on my list of things to do, I have added that I need to spend some time in the attic neatening up everything and getting it all up to code... my code. I suspect that will happen by fall of 2014 or spring of 2015.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Operator Would You Put Me On Through

Within a couple days of moving into this home, the local bundle company for phone/internet/television showed up to hook up our bundle. At the time I hadn't had any time to really check things out and was slightly embarrassed when the utility room was just a snarled mess of coaxial cables and telephone wire, not to mention bromex electrical wire. The technician basically hooked up the televisions I wanted and left the rest of the coaxial cables tied in a neat knot dangling from the ceiling. He spliced into the phone system in the ceiling of the room that became our office and pretty much didn't touch the tangled mess in the utility room. I knew it would eventually bit me in the ass and it eventually did.

It started out one Sunday morning when we realized that none of our phones worked. Not sure why, I poked around and tried swapping phones and locations but nothing worked. Sunday was busy and so I didn't get a chance to do anything about it until Monday. I first called the bundle company and got the standard response that the first available time someone could come out was between eight and noon two days hence. Normally I would be pissed at having to take a half day of vacation to wait for someone to arrive but since I am not working (in a nine to five sense anyway) these days, I was relatively okay with this.

I spent several hours troubleshooting in the case I got lucky. I found out that I was getting a signal if I plugged a phone directly into the modem provided by the bundle company but it wasn't getting to the phones. Thus I suspected that something had happened with the wiring. I emailed a friend knowledgeable in such things and he pretty much reaffirmed my suspicions. By late in the evening on Monday, I had found a place in the utility room where while I was diagnosing another issue, I had inadvertently set a metal step ladder on a junction of telephone wires that were twisted together and now pressed into each other and thus shorting things out. I thought I had found my problem.

On Tuesday morning, I went to the local store to buy a junction box to clean up in the mess in the utility room and when completed, I discovered that I still had no phone service. Disappointed I started tracing wires to see where things went and that eventually led to me ripping out tens of yards of dead phone circuits running this way and that. I eventually had the whole system pared down by late in the evening and hooked back together but still no dial tone. Bummed, I gave up.

Wednesday showed up and eight o'clock rolled around. While waiting for the bundle guy to show up, I tackled other projects and watch nine, ten and eleven o'clock roll past. By a quarter till noon, steam was boiling out my ears at knowing that I was about to be stood up after waiting for four hours for them to show up. At five till noon, he finally called saying he would be there in a couple minutes. Twenty minutes later he arrived.

The guy was a really nice guy and followed me as I walked him through what I had done over the last three days while waiting for him. I followed him around peppering him with questions on how the system worked and how to trouble shoot it so that the next time, I'm fairly certain I can do so. The problem I had was that he went out to the box on the outside of the house, which was a huge snarled mess, and checked all the wires. He identified two wires as having shorts and after questioning one of those wires since it literally wrapped ten feet around the corner of the house to a previously working phone jack, he rechecked it only to find out it did indeed work. So I'm not sure I have any dead wires. With everything back together now and working, he buttoned things up and putting permanent crimped connectors to tie everything together, the system quit working. He opened everything back up, uncrimped his wires again and pulled another wire off the system. With everything back up and working, he told me he was going to leave the wire off since he didn't know where it went too and everything was working. If I ever found where it was needed, I could simply hook it back into the system. I told him that wasn't acceptable since everything had been working just minutes before and why didn't he humor me and hook it back into the system to ensure that it did indeed work. He did and everything worked. He buttoned everything up and recrimped the ends and everything went dead once more. I finally convince him that his crimped connectors weren't piercing through the insulation correctly or perhaps worse, cutting right through the light gauge wire and was causing the problem. He uncrimped them one more time and twisted the ends together and now the system was up and running once again.

So at the end of the day, I'm not sure what went wrong. The crimped connectors originally put on the system and the same one the technician had used had worked for a month. Perhaps my accidental shorting of the line in the utility room and caused one of the original crimped connectors to quit working. I don't know. All I know was that the system is back up and working and the price was right since his services were free, well besides the monthly rate I already pay. The silver lining is that should something every happen again, I'm fairly certain I can trouble shoot everything and get it back up and working, as long as I don't use any of their crimped connectors.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Stanley Steamer

These days when you hear Stanley Steamer, at least here in the States, you think of the carpet cleaning outfit that advertises their catchy jingle on television from time to time. Unbeknownst to me, at least until this past Monday, there are cars that had that name long before. I saw the add in the newspaper and needing a break from my painting I got cleaned up and drove down the river a ways, the same river in my header which I currently live on, to see what they were all about and to try out my new SLR camera that I received for my birthday. (Canon Rebel T3 for those interested.)

There were about a half dozen steamers in the parking lot and a few more that I saw later on in front of a house as I drove away. This red one really captivated my attention not only because of the beauty but because is sat off from the rest and didn't have nearly as many people up against it blocking my viewfinder. As you might expect from the name, these cars ran on steam and were built circa early 1910's. I think the one in this picture was a 1914 model.

Underneath the front, a burner hung that was run off kerosene and would heat the water in an array of small tubes creating the steam. This car held 28 gallons of water in a tank which would be good for about 25 miles. The kerosene could go almost 300 miles between fillings. This car didn't have one but another one had the factory siphon attached to the running board where the driver could periodically stop and pick up another 28 gallons of water from a stream, horse trough, etc. Top speed of this one was about 55 mph though it couldn't maintain the steam pressure to maintain that speed for long. One person claimed that a modified Stanley Steamer had gone 190 mph at a Daytona race track once. I know I wouldn't have been riding shotgun in that had I been there.

The excitement of the day was some poor chap driving a huge 35+ foot motor home and pulling a full sized SUV who chose to come visit these on a dead end street. It took lots of jockeying on his part, lots of moving of the steam cars and crowd to get that guy turned around and headed back the way he came.

For native Iowans such as myself, the location of the showing is rather obvious due to the house in the background but for those unfamiliar, I'll explain. That house in the background was also the background of a rather famous painting by Grant Wood entitled American Gothic which showed a dentist and Grand Wood's sister standing in front looking rather stern. The dentist in bib overalls and wearing a suit jacket was also holding a pitchfork. These days the original painting can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago. Here at the house, there is a museum out front where you can view thousands of parodies of the painting and even dress up in the same clothes and make your own picture.

I didn't know that there was a Steamin' Hot Tour this year to celebrate the Stanley Steamer but all these cars had this sign strapped to the back. The drivers were all going to make a few more stops and then end up at the Old Threshers Reunion which is a big deal that occurs annually in these parts of Iowa. It is your one stop shop for all things steam and belt driven.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Second Closing Nightmare

After closing on our new home, a process that was plenty painful, I shouldn't have tempted fate by thinking that the worst was over. Shortly after we were finally moved in, we were told by our mortgage broker that the closing on our old home may take a week or two longer than planned. That was the last time we talked with her for the next month and a half.

What we did hear during that time was from the real estate agent we used to sell our house who kept forwarding us long email strings involving many other people. Near as I can piece together, the buyer of our old house sold a muscle car for a down payment but after the loan was in progress, it was discovered that technically the car was his father's car and though it had been given to him as a gift, there wasn't any documentation. Loan one fell through and we signed our second contract extension.

A second loan was started but something happened there. Either the now upset buyer was riding the loan broker too hard or that loan broker screwed up on the loan but it too fell through and this time, the whole thing was given to another loan broker, the same one who screwed up the loan on our new house three weeks earlier. After a week of silence, we signed a third extension to our contract.

The third loan was in progress but all we heard (forwarded in emails from our real estate agent) was that the bank or underwriters were waiting on this documentation or another. The fourth extension was signed. Now just a week shy of two months after we were told it might take a week or two longer, our real estate agent called to say that the closing day was set for the following Monday. We showed up and I nearly bit my tongue in half when the loan broker opened up the conversation by laughing and asking if we thought we would finally get this thing closed.

All through this ordeal my wife and I were basically unemployed for almost a month and making payments on two mortgages plus all the associated costs of moving and repairing of our new home. Had I not been a real conservative fellow, I could have been in real hot water by the time my wife gets her first paycheck in a couple weeks. Also, during the market disaster of 2008-2010, instead of investing in declining or stagnant stock market, I paid down our loan quite a bit. As a result, despite only owning that home for eight years, I had a huge amount of equity in the place. Equity that I only received yesterday in the form of a check. I hope this does it for me dealing with mortgages and loan brokers for the time being. If it isn't, I am certainly not going through that bank anymore.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Drastic Measures

For almost three weeks I have been battling this mole with no success. I poked holes along the five feet of tunnel along the front sidewalk and dumped poisoned pellets that were supposed to resemble grubs down the holes. The mole responded by digging out the pellets and turning the five feet of tunnels into ten and then fifteen.

Another trip to the store for more poisoned pellets and more days spent fruitlessly dumping it down more new tunnels. Occasionally the tunneling would stop and I thought I had one only to have it resume a few days later. I researched moles and how to rid them and came up with lots of advice. Use poisoned pellets was perhaps the most common method. Using ultrasonics and castor oil seemed to be the most effective but all they did was cause the mole to relocate to a different part of the yard. The advice was to keep expanding your area until the mole was outside of your yard. This would probably work well if you hated your neighbors and had a relatively small yard but with two acres and good neighbors, I switched to different ammunition.

Round three began with gummy worms that supposedly moles loved to eat even if they were chock full of poison. For ten bucks, I could get a pack of eight worms and they were guaranteed to be effective according to the literature. After 16 worms, I finally thought I had the mole but as I came back from the bus stop with my daughter a couple days later, I saw new activity and even worse. The mole had insulted me by digging the gummy worms out and leaving them on display on top of the mound of dirt guarding his exit. Get the garden hose I said to my daughter with clenched teeth.

I dug up a tunnel and then five more openings around the perimeter of the activity. I stuck the garden hose down the first tunnel and cranked open the water valve. Twenty minutes later and perhaps a couple hundred gallons of water that I poured down into the bowels of the parched earth, I started topping out the holes with water. I suspect there must have been a massive den underneath my sidewalk that was now a giant swimming pool or new aquifer. As I topped up the last hole with water, I began to see some dirt movement. I grabbed the shovel and bid my time not wanting to risk the thing slipping back underneath the sidewalk. I kept the water going in the nearest hole and at last, I saw a snorkel of a mouth appear out of the pool of water sucking in air.

I wasn't sure how to make my next move. The snorkel mouth was right next to the hose and I was afraid any stabbing slice with the shovel might result in a damaged garden hose. I thought about my options for a minute or two and had decided to try and get my shovel underneath the mole and flip him and the hose nozzle out. I grabbed the shovel and the little devil finally made a blind dash for it across the sidewalk. As you can see, he made it about half way before he found himself between a shovel blade and a hard spot. He didn't make it.

I filled up the rest of the holes along the sidewalk but no other survivors made it out that I saw. On a role I pulled the hose around to the side yard where I had thought I had vanquished the mole there until a day ago. I dug up three tunnel entrances and pumped water down them for another half hour. I filled two of them up but the third never did fill. I could hear the water gurgling down into the bowels of the earth endlessly. I finally gave up on that one. I never did see any moles in that complex so I'm hoping that they were just a summer home for the one that lived underneath my sidewalk. I filled all the holes in and tamped them down. Now the waiting begins again.

This was the first time I had seen a mole in person and up close. I'm impressed with their over sized front paws. According to the net, they can dig up to eighteen feet of new tunnels a day in their search for earthworms. I believe it.

Friday, September 14, 2012

We interrupt this project for another project

I've been going non-stop for over a month now working on our new house. I can't believe what a time sink it has been with all the things to fix, repair, paint and make right. If I had been gainfully employed for nine or ten hours a day elsewhere, I think I would be crying on how many years it would be for me to get to everything. Instead, I am closing in on getting through the entire upstairs the first time. By that I mean getting things fixed and painted to make it look decent but not sinking a huge amount of money into things until we determine what changes we want to make and where.

Needless to say, I'm getting burnt out a little on everything and so I decided to take a break on that project and work on another project. Unlike our last house, this house has some walls that just scream artwork. What you see above is the stairway leading downstairs and the rather large exposed wall behind that. It just screams artwork to me. Unfortunately, I'm too cheap to spend thousands of dollars on large original artwork to cover that wall and besides, I have a hard time finding anything to suit my tastes. So, with my wife's blessing, I came up with a solution.

I went down to the local big box lumberyard store because that was my only choice and I plunked down ten dollars of my hard earned money to buy the lumber seen above.

I cut it up into the correct length, width and added bevels to the corners.

Years ago I had been at an estate auction and bought a box full of clamps. Inside were a dozen bar clamps, half of which could extend three feet and the rest about five feet. Way in the bottom were four corner clamps. I got the box for fifteen dollars and the auctioneer bawled out the audience immediately afterwards to wake up and telling them that I just got the deal of the century. I think I did. But those clamps had been sitting in my toolbox all these years gathering dust until now. I pulled out the corner clamps and quickly assembled the frame you see above lying on hideous carpet slated to turn into hardwood sometime next year.

Around that frame, I stretched some pre-primed canvas and stapled it to the back side. The overall piece is three feet by six feet in dimension, a pretty darn big painting to be. My wife, braver than I, has volunteered to paint that canvas into something incredible so that I can hang it on the wall in the space mentioned above. I can't wait. For those interested, it was a very easy project to do especially with the corner clamps. There are several good videos floating out there that show you how to tuck the corners to make it look all professional. The only thing I would recommend is not to use pre-primed canvas. It wrinkles really easily and with the primer already on it, those wrinkles are hard to get out. You can still see where those wrinkles were even though they are no longer physically wrinkles there.  I'm hoping with the application of paint, those will disappear. Next time I make another frame, and I'm sure there will be a next time because I plan to give it a try someday maybe this winter, I think I will use unprimed canvas and just prime it myself after it is stretched.

Now back to my previously scheduled project of non-art painting of the hallway trim around no less than six doors. Ugh!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Mole Motel

Back when we had first seen this house, I had noticed that there was a mole problem on the east side of the house. I could see numerous mounds and signs of tunneling near a dead black cherry tree over there. I didn't get overly concerned because I have dealt with moles in the past. But the east side of our house isn't visible to the road or even to us for the most part and I let them be even after we moved in.

Then last week I noticed that the mole, or perhaps another mole, had moved into the front yard on the south side of the house and judging from the excavation, was building a hotel under our front sidewalk. Not wanting to have moisture and then freezing/cracking problems later due to a sidewalk now over a mole motel instead of solid dirt, I decided to draw the line. I bought a couple containers of mole poison and set off to poison the sucker. Each day, I would go out to inspect for new signs of activity only to see tunneling along another three feet of sidewalk complete with huge mounds of dirt every foot or so. I would poke holes into the mounds down into the dens which extended quite a ways under the sidewalk and dump in more poison. This continued everyday for a week until the damage now extended down more than a dozen feet of my sidewalk.

Somewhere along the way, during my war against the mole, I decided that if a mole this hard to eradicate was a sign, I needed to get rid of all moles and went after the one in the side yard. I'm not sure if it was the same mole that had just left for my motel sidewalk or if I got him in the first shot but one dose of poison took care of that problem because I haven't seen any activity out there since. Out front, this will be day two of no activity if I haven't seen any new diggings by nightfall.

If I do see activity, I'm not sure what I will do. I have thought about sticking a garden hose down one of the holes and flooding the sucker out but as dry as it has been, I'm worried that it might take hundreds of gallons of water just to moisten the dirt enough where it can hold water. Perhaps I'll just cave in and put a sign out by the road advertising vacancies in the mole motel. I would just need to find out what to do with the grub worms that they would inevitably pay with.

Author's Note: The moles came back on day three and I have been battling them for yet another week. Yesterday I went out and bought poisoned worms that are gummy in nature and tried those. Hopefully those work better than the white pellets that they are evidently immune too.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Seeing Things For the First Time

It constantly amazes me how our brains work when it comes to real estate. Sometimes I see things but more often than not, I find myself wondering how on earth I missed things. Let me give you an example.

When we first looked at this house before making an offer, there was a broken window in the dining room that the owner assured that he would get fixed before we moved in. When we made our final inspection, the window (an inner storm window) had been removed from the frame and was leaning against the dining room wall and the owner assured me that it was getting fixed before we moved.

When we moved, the broken window had been put back into the window but was still broken. I wasn't surprised so I removed it and took it down to the local glass shop to be fixed. It was just a single pane of glass with an aluminum edging all around it. I thought it would be fixed by the end of the day by reasonable shops.

After two and a half weeks of repeated calls and being told at how difficult it was to fix, I finally was able to pick it up. But when I got home and tried putting it in the window, it wouldn't fit. I took it out and measured it and found that the diagonal measurements were 3/16" off, i.e. the window wasn't square. After debating what to do, I put the window back in and after some finageling, got it to a point where it was just shy of fitting by about a 1/16" in one corner. The window being long and skinny had a lot of flex to it so I thought that if I were to get a putty knife into the corner and flex it just so, I might be able to get it into place. Long story short, the window broke again.

So I took it back to the shop, explained how it wasn't cut square and was told that I would get it back by that afternoon. I did receive a phone call an hour later from the owner who said that it should have flexed into place and that it not being square shouldn't have made a difference at all. In the end, he said he would fix the situation and this time send one of his men to insure that it was installed correctly. Another two weeks later, the man finally showed up.

First thing I did was measure the newly fixed inner storm window to see that it was 3/16" out of square leading me to believe their glass cutter isn't cutting square. The man sent with the window struggled with a putty knife to get the window in just like I had and several times I winced at the sounds of crash under stress but eventually he did get it in place and intact. I was happy to have that job done.

That was fixing something I had seen right off the bat before we had even bought the place. Several days after that window had been crossed off my list, a squeegee with telescoping handle appeared at my door step. It allows me to clean the windows on the north side of the house with ease instead of trying to suspend myself off the back side of an extension ladder and lean in enough to clean all five feet of the windows. It worked well but in the process of cleaning all the windows, I discovered that I have not one but two more windows that are broken. One is another inner pane on the garage that is cracked and the second one is in the soon to be nursery and is the outer pane. It is completely gone except for a few jagged shards still clinging to the sides of the casing. It is the more serious of the two since we do plan on heating the nursery this winter and because it is the outside pane, all the moisture can rain in on the inside pain and rot the window wood and/or leak to the inside of the house. *Sigh*

Now I am on the hunt for a different glass repair shop.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Call Me Chicken... Perhaps

Over the years I have written a lot of blog posts on the subject of my family ancestry, not because I expect my readers to be extremely interested in the subject but rather in hopes that one day, someone with the answers I seek might find the post and write me an email. A few days ago, this very thing happened though instead of being along one of those branches I know a lot about, it happened to be about the branch that contains my biggest brick wall.

I have written tons of blog posts about Joseph Baker and my search for knowledge on him and his ancestors. Some of my more recent posts on the subject are:

On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part One
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Two
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Three
On the Trail of Joseph Baker: Part Four
Bakers, Chickens, Proctors
Crossing Paths
Talking With Chickens
Across Oceans and Continents: Part One
Across Oceans and Continents: Part Two
Bakers Chicken

I have taken several trips over the years in my attempt to turn up a clue that might solve my brick wall ancestor Joseph Baker but have struck out every time. So for the last couple years, I have focused on his collateral group of people who would have known him when he was alive and have found several interesting stories. One story was that two of his younger sons were 'adopted' out to the Robert Chicken family after Joseph's untimely death at age 35. One of the sons changed his name back to Baker but the older one kept the name of Chicken. I have been in contact with a couple of these Chickens and gently let them know that they technically were Bakers and not Chickens and showed them all my proof. It made for interesting discussions.

Then a few days ago, I got the email from a third Chicken who found my blog and reached out to say hello. In the course of the hello, she happen to mention that she had Joseph Baker's immigration information, a piece of information I have never been able to find. So I mentioned that I was skeptical but would love to see what she had and that is when she dropped the bombshell. Joseph Baker may have changed his name to that from his original name of Joseph Chicken.

This immediately sent the hairs on the back of my neck to tingling for many many reasons. First off, it makes a lot of sense and explains so many things. Having traced the Chicken family in America as part of my collateral family group, I remembered that there was a Joseph Chicken in that group that disappeared from records about the same time my Joseph Baker appeared in them. It explains perhaps how the two Baker boys went to live with Robert Chicken (who would be Joseph Chicken's brother) after Joseph Baker's death. It would explain why my 3rd great grandmother Frances Ann Bolton, born in America but ended back in England after her father's death in the California Gold Rush, came back to America to marry Joseph Baker. The answer is that she knew him as a Chicken when he lived just down the road from her in Wisconsin before the Gold Rush.

So many things about this bombshell theory just feel right to me and at last, I think I may be on to something for the first time in nearly five years of searching. But I've been burned so many times in the past by believing things that I want to believe without proving them so for now, I will just call this a theory that needs proving. The person emailing me theorized that Joseph Chicken changed his name to Joseph Baker for the obvious to us connotations of being named Chicken when fighting in the Civil War. I wasn't sure that the coward/chicken connotation even existed back then and still don't know that answer but quickly found Joseph Chicken's Civil War records. I have requested them but as you may have remembered from my earlier blog posts, it is a long wait to receive them. Regardless, even though he may not have changed his name because of the war, he may have had good reason to do so later.

So now comes the fun/difficult part. All these myriad of records and places I have searched over the years looking for Joseph Baker need to be re-searched again for Joseph Chicken. A couple months ago I blogged about a trip I made up north tracing the path of Joseph Baker's life after he came to Iowa. I had planned to swing up to SW Wisconsin where his wife to be lived if I had time but never made it, mostly because I wasn't expecting to find anything on Joseph Baker there. Now I'm kicking myself because if this theory proves to be true and Joseph Baker was actually Joseph Chicken, not only did he live there for many years, but he probably got married there and thus left records behind. I suspect another trip will be in order.

Once again, my genealogical trail of breadcrumbs has been found and I may learn some interesting information on my family tree that I would never have known had I not blogged about it. I guess that dooms you my reader to more posts on my family tree.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A New Knee On Life

On a post a little over a week ago where I mentioned one of the reasons for hiring the lifting part of our move done was because of a bum knee. I'm not sure I've explained my knee thing before and so I thought I would do just that.

I was 18 years old and helping my father put the finishing touches on a concrete project we were doing on the farm. This meant I was doing a lot of balancing on forms with a hand trowel crouching down and smoothing out rough spots where the bull float couldn't go. While kneeling down at one particular spot, I tried to stand only to find my knee 'locked' in a bent position. I couldn't stand up and there perched on a narrow form over a sea of recently poured concrete, I was in a real pickle. I ended up forcing my knee to straighten and in doing so, heard a loud pop followed by excruciating pain. But somehow I managed to get off the form without messing up the concrete and crawling all the way up to the house on my hands and knees.

I received several incorrect diagnosis as to what happened over the next six months as I had the same thing happen two more times. Once kneeling down to start a weed eater and once while kneeling down to put in a tent peg high up in the mountains and miles from any road much less doctor. That last one really scared me as I hobbled out of the mountain using a stick for a crutch wondering if I was going to make it back to the car. Finally it was diagnosed as torn cartilage in my knee joint and the torn flap kept getting folded back in the joint causing my knee to lock up. When I was forcing my knee to straighten, I was actually tearing my cartilage even worse. I had surgery to 'fix' the tear which meant that they just trimmed the tear out of my cartilage making it smaller.

The doctor had said it would take two to three weeks to return to normal and it took around 52 weeks. My leg would swell up and get very stiff and sore at the drop of a hat and take weeks to return to normal. But eventually everything healed up and life returned to normal. I felt normal. They about six years after the first surgery, I was mountain biking with some new clipless pedals and ended up dismounting rather suddenly on the downhill side of my bike and hyper extending my operated on knee and tearing the cartilage again.

This time however, I got it 'fixed' with more trimming by a different doctor and was about back to normal after two to three weeks as promised. I say about because it never really did get back to normal. By this time I was down to significantly less cartilage in one knee which means anytime I ran or did stuff that impacted my knee, the cushioning effect of my cartilage with less of it meant my bones were in effect hitting each other. It would cause me knee to swell up and get painfully stiff for weeks on end and every now and then fracture off a bone splinter which would puncture the fluid sac around the knee joint and create huge blister like bulges. All of it was very painful.

I have been to doctors over the years but have gotten varied responses. One said that my knee looked like a 60 year old and would probably be replaced. Another said that it looked healthy and that I shouldn't have any problems even if it hurt right at that moment. Most were somewhere in between. Over the years I have learned how to deal with it. I don't run anymore for sure and when I jump, I land on my good leg and not the bad one. I reduced my attacks of swelling to maybe a few weeks a year and just learned to live with some residual stiffness in the joint. But over the last month since I've been laid off from my former job, my knee has gotten much better to the point that it feels normal again for the first time in a decade even after the pounding it got from the move which would have taken me weeks to recover from.

I'm not sure why but I suspect that it is due to my change of jobs. I went from a job that required me to stand on concrete for extended periods of time doing tests to sitting in a chair for extended periods of time working on a computer. There wasn't a lot of walking between those two things. Now that I've been laid off, I've spent the last month of my life working on a house which means I am walking from here to there, up and down stairs and ladders and am rarely stationary or standing in one spot. I think this is strengthening the knee joint up in ways that exercising them on a bike doesn't do. It certainly will make me think long and hard about taking another similar job to my last one.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Graffiti of Madison County: Part Two

One last blog post on the remnants of my camera that I finally downloaded before I get back to my life in general. Shortly after we moved, we took a break from unpacking and spent a day showing my mother-in-law the sites of Madison county, Iowa, namely the famous covered bridges and the birthplace of John Wayne. The bridges are picturesque and nice to see but what really seems to amuse me whenever I visit is the graffiti on them. Now before you get up in arms, let me explain. Someone or organization paints the first ten feet or so of each entrance of the bridge white and seems to encourage that people leave their mark their versus on the unpainted wood throughout the rest of the bridge. This way someone can repaint from time to time and things will look back to normal. Lots of people leave their mark on the painted surfaces but unfortunately people still graffiti the rest. But back tot he topic at hand, I love to read what people have written down. Most whimsical, some humorous, some sad. A little of everything. I took lots of photos of the graffiti and posted some of the better ones here for your reading pleasure.

Not graffiti but I get a kick out of how the tree knots wore slower than the rest of the planks leaving a textured surface.