Friday, November 29, 2013

Scanning Negatives

I finished scanning the pile of slides that I have been working on intermittently since about two years ago. Although I love seeing them again in a format easier to view, it was a lot of work getting them into a digital format. I thought that would be the end of it but when digging out the scanner box recently while cleaning out our office, I came across an attachment for the scanner to scan in negatives.

For awhile between the age of slides and I obtained my first digital camera, a space of probably over a decade, I put everything on prints. Although prints were easier to view, I found that I viewed them less often than I did the slides. The biggest reason is because they stayed in the envelopes that I got back from the developer and were never organized to weed out the bad ones.

My trip down the Grand Canyon in the spring of 2000 was the exception to the rule though because that trip meant so much to me. I carefully organized the photos and labeled the back of them as to what part of the canyon there were taken only to have the ink on the back of the photo smudge onto the one below it. I also gave away my copy of some of the prints to friends I met on the trip. The result was that I ended up with a smaller stack of ink smudged prints that I never looked at.

Finally thirteen years later, I have found the solution to my problem with the negative scanner. I am beginning the process of scanning in all the negatives so that I have digital copies of all the pictures in their pristine condition and I hope to once again arrange them and make them into some sort of album that I can once again look through easily and share with others.  Modern technology is just wonderful.

The above picture was taken early on in the trip when I hiked up this steep canyon behind camp one afternoon when we stopped fairly early. It was an extremely steep hike and I ended it on top of this large flat boulder about 100 feet below the band of cliffs that prevent people from climbing up or down the side canyons in the area. The reason I stopped short of my goal was that this boulder which probably weighed several tons shifted when I stepped on the downhill edge of it and I figured that was far enough. Any further and I might accidentally send some huge boulder bouncing down the canyon and through camp and I would be persona non grata for the rest of the trip.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New Life For a Fallen Giant

In a city cemetery down the road from my place, a giant old oak tree succumbed to oak wilt like many of my trees have done. I have split my trees up for firewood but the city got a grant from a local historical organization and decided to do something different. They had a ten foot tall civil war solider carved into what remained of the stump. I stopped by the other day and couldn't resist taking a few pictures of it. According to the newspaper it was around 250 years old. I'm guessing the big one that I had removed next to my house last year was a little younger at about 200 years old.

I couldn't resist playing around with my panoramic feature on my new phone. I still like it but wish I was on some sort of moving trolley so that the whole picture didn't appear hinged at the middle. Funny thing though is that while taking this panoramic photo of the civil war soldier, I notice for the first time the fellow to the left of him in the distance that had an entire cannon mounted upright on his tombstone. (You can see it sticking up in the air!) I didn't have time on this trip but sometime soon I am going to have to walk over and see who he is. He must have some sort of military background I'm guessing and I'm sure there is an interesting story behind his grave.

Monday, November 25, 2013


I found this picture of the farm house where I grew up in recently while scanning some old slides. I lived in this farmhouse until I was probably 12 or 13 years old and have many fond memories of it. The enclosed porch on the left side of the photo is where I recently blogged about my dog Pepsi habit. The open porch on the right has two doors entering into the house, the nearer one to the office and the far one to my younger brother's bedroom. On the gable end facing the camera, the upper window was in the room where our ping pong  table resided. There was probably only a foot of space on each side of the table and maybe two feet on each end before one hit the wall so I learned to play ping pong up close to the table, a trait that served me well in future years in ping pong tournaments.

This farmhouse has seven bedrooms though there were only my parents, younger brother and I. For the most part, the upper story was closed off all year round. If we wanted to go to one of the two storage rooms or ping pong room during the cold months of winter, we donned jackets and gloves. We heated the house with a wood stove during the winter and cooled it with box fans in the summer so it just made sense to keep near the core.

After my grandfather died, we moved a mile north to his farm because all the grain bins, equipment sheds and such were over there and it was more centrally located. My parents rented out this house for a few years but as rentals go in rural areas, the renters never took care of the place. Eventually it started to come apart at the seams and it was bulldozed in and set on fire. Now if you drive by all you see is a grassy area where it and the outbuildings once stood and a few of the old trees. The driveway doesn't even appear to be there but is under all the grass and weeds. Every once in awhile when I have the time, I like to drive over there and sit in the driveway envisioning the photo at the top of this post and remembering my childhood.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Kingdom of the Spiders

A while back we got to talking about scary movies at the family supper table and I was regaling everyone with stories of some that I had seen in my youth. Actually I was boring my daughter and my wife had never seen any of them. I like scary movies though there were two in particular that were disturbing enough for my young mind that I had nightmares about them after seeing them. The worst one was the girl with no mouth from Twilight Zone the Movie. It took me many nights before I could finally rid her image from my brain.

The other one was one about tarantulas taking over a town but darn if I could remember the name of it. I finally gave up and hit google but all I could find was one about tarantulas in a plane. Finally I decided that perhaps it didn't have tarantula in the title and searched for spider movies. At last I found the title Kingdom of the Spiders starring William Shatner. Had I even remembered he was in it would have made finding it much easier but since I was probably only five or six at the time, Shatner didn't mean anything to me. Still doesn't for that matter!

Once I found the name, I also found the movie on Youtube and just watched it again for the first time in three and a half decades. Although it is very formulaic, it was still enjoyable to see the movie that haunted many a dream when I was a child. Still, it didn't haunt as many dreams as the face of the girl below!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Lay of the Land

With my new found toy, I can finally take a picture that more accurately shows the lay of my property, something I have found impossible with my other cameras. My problem was that I could never get enough area in the field of view to provide reference for the topography.

In this picture the morning after our first snow flurry, I stood on the highest point of the property right by the corner of my garage and shot a panoramic photo. Starting on the left hand side, you can see the nose of my oldest and most beloved cars because it was the first new car I ever purchased. The side street that we live on runs along the ridge in the left corner of the photo. My property begins at the road and drops off slightly to a fairly level small bench where I've thought if we live here long enough, I might build a small shop over there. Below the bench the ground drops off steeply into the 'big ditch' that starts at the very left side of the photo and runs to about the center of it.

The thicker area of trees in the background of the photo is left as a screen of sorts to shield our property from the main road that runs behind them. It is effective in the summer and gives us the illusion of being totally secluded. During the winter months when the leaves our off, you can see the road and the neighbor's house across the valley but it still doesn't feel like living in a fishbowl like our other house did.

As the land rises up in the middle of the photo is levels off onto a large bench on the right side of the photo. There you can see some of the pipes from the septic system and that stack of wood is a 'tower' built by my oldest daughter with the leftover scraps from my log ripping project in our outdoor firepit ready to be burned the next time we have a fire. On the far right of the picture is the beginning of a concrete retaining wall that holds back the dirt next to the house so that we can have a walk-out basement.

Behind me is the house and a large front lawn between it and the side street that continues away from the main road at a diagonal following the ridge top and forming our slice of this world into a large triangle.

I have a lot of future plans to develop what you can see in this picture. Where the slope is the steepest next to the driveway and where my front lawn drains into the 'big ditch', I would like to build a retaining wall to allow easier mowing since right now it has to be done by weed eater and even then it is hard to stay standing on the slope without sliding down. All the water from up the street runs down through that big ditch and it is eroding at a pretty fast clip. I would like to get some large boulders and rocks to line the bottom of it to slow down the erosion and give it a more aesthetic appeal.

On the large bench at the right of the photo I would like to build a garden in another year or two when the littlest is old enough to allow me the time to actually get outside and garden. We would also like to move the firepit from the flattest and nicest part of our lawn off towards the slope down to the big ditch where it is out of the way and on terrain we probably wouldn't use for anything else. I would like to plant a few fruit trees and some spring blossoming trees like redbuds, etc. along the perimeter of our property to provide more screening and to give it some more appeal in early spring until the leaves come in.

That is pretty much the dime tour or my backyard. Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Swimming Lessons

On a recent overcast day with a cold wind blowing, we were facing a day indoors sheltering from the elements or doing something else. We chose to do something else and piled into our vehicle and hit the road. Our first priority was lunch at a favorite place that is in an old mill built along the river and situated just off screen to the right in the view of my header picture at the top of the blog. It is a good place to eat but also a good place to pick up a gift certificate for a birthday coming up.

With bellies full and birthday shopping done, we decided a drive through a nearby state park was in order. It was past leaf color time and most of the leaves were on the ground anyway but it is a nice little park with some trails for hiking along the river that we have frequented over the years. On the backside of the hills along the river lies the lake in the above picture. It is the place where I learned to swim as a youth and holds lots of memories.

These days public pools are everywhere and thus children like my daughter learn to swim in clean sanitized conditions. My daughter was amazed to learn that I learned to swim in the same lake where fish, snakes, turtles and other critters also lived. Back then, it was my only choice. During the summer, I would board a school bus for the half hour ride here along with hordes of other rural kids and we would spend half a day at the beach seen in the background waiting for our level of swimming lesson classes to be called. If I remember right there were four levels and classes were around 45 minutes long. So if you were a beginner or an lifeguard level, you had almost three hours of time to kill before your lesson or after it.

One of my frequent ways to kill time was to hit the snack shack up on top of the hill for some goodies and then to walk around the entire lake on the trail. If I walked at a good clip and didn't dilly dally too long I could make it around in about a half hour. But with the woods full of things to look at, I'm guessing I mostly took about an hour to walk around the trail in my flip flops and swim trunks. Once the youngest daughter gets a bit more mobile, I hope to take everyone around that trail one more time for old times sake.

Near the parking lot and boat ramp next to the dam, stands an old gnarled tree that always captures my attention. It is a fine tree and I couldn't resist taking yet another photograph of it.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My New Favorite Thing

I have tried panoramic photography many times in the past. Most of the time, probably 95% of the time, I take a series of photos with my camera, download them and then they gather electron dust on my hard drive. The other 5% of the time, I attempt to cut and paste them together with the software that came with my computer but they never turn out. Most of the time it is because I don't have software to do this automatically. I have to go by eye which is cumbersome and doesn't always work out. I suppose I could buy software that does it for me but because it is something I don't need very often, I can't ever seem to justify the expense.

Last week I upgraded my phone. My old phone was finally starting to break down and buttons weren't always working. Also, the way they bill those things, you sign a contract for two years to pay back the phone. At the end of the two years when the phone is completely paid for, one would assume the price would go down to reflect that but one would be assuming incorrectly. I even offered to buy the phone outright to get a cheaper rate but they wouldn't have anything of it. So since I am tied to paying for a phone that is already paid for, I might as well get a new phone when I am eligible.

All this is simply to tell you that my new phone has a panoramic setting on it. I simply start on the left side of where I want my photo to begin, hit the button and slowly swing the phone to my right using the horizontal line they provide as reference to keep the picture level. When I reach the right side of the area I want to photograph, I hit the button and the entire picture is complete. The above picture was my first panoramic photo I took using the new phone and its software. It was my second attempt. The first attempt I didn't pay attention to the arrow and tried to scan from right to left and only ended up with two fragmentary pictures at both ends.

I should tell you a little about the picture itself. What it shows is is the area of the big bend in the river shown in my header photo at the very bottom of the bend. It is known as Ely's Ford and is where the Mormons crossed on their way from Nauvoo, Illinois to their new home now known as Salt Lake City, Utah. The leaders of the church on the initial trip actually crossed at other points in the county but the majority of Mormons whom followed behind crossed right here. Right at the ford is a little park where one can picnic on a nice day and following the river around the bend to the northeast is a nice trail that I have hiked many times to the county seat also seen in the header picture. With young kids, I haven't hiked the trail in several years and this day was too cold to take the little one out for long so I just took a picture and enjoyed the view for awhile. In another year or two, when our youngest is more self dependent, I plan to make that hike once again. But until then, I have a new toy on my phone that I need to do more experimenting with.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Young Mozart

I haven't done an update post on Baby Abbey in awhile so I thought I should remedy that situation since she is nearly a year old. Time flies when you are having fun and I must say, the second baby was a lot more fun than the first. Don't get me wrong, I love Little Abbey and enjoyed her babyhood too but I guess I was always on edge that I wasn't doing things right or I was spending a lot of time learning about parenting as I went. This time around with Baby Abbey, I am much more relaxed so I guess that translate into having more fun. After Little Abbey graduated from diapers and reached a stage where she didn't need so much effort to raise on a daily basis, I often wondered how people had two or three children at a time in diapers. Now after having a second one, I understand. As parents, the first baby trained us on how to do things and what things worked so when the next one comes, we are old pros at it.

Baby Abbey is growing teeth, babbling and furniture cruising. Developmentally she is about three months earlier on about everything than Little Abbey was. I'm guessing Little Abbey's hard entrance into the world along with 10 day hospital stay had something to do with that. I though Little Abbey might be walking outright by now and she is close but just not quite there. She has now weaned herself from the wife despite our best intentions and so now she just eats what we eat and washes it down with formula milk.

Probably the best thing I love to see is how Baby Abbey reacts when her sister Little Abbey gets off the school bus in the afternoon. It is clear that even though we have nurtured and cared for Baby Abbey for the first year of her life, her life revolves around big sister. Fortunately, Little Abbey at age seven now, adores her little sister.

Now that the basement family room area is fixed up with the bookshelves and fireplace, we spend a lot more time downstairs and Baby Abbey is enjoying the opportunity to explore more world. In the photo above, she also shows that she can play the piano just like her big sister can.

Now that I have the opportunity to spend more time at home with this baby, I get to experience all the things first hand now and really see her as she grows and develops more and more personality. I missed a lot of that with Little Abbey and I regret that all the time. This time I am making amends and I wouldn't change things for the world.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Tree Killer

After completing the autopsy on two of my dead oak trees, i.e. cutting and splitting them up for firewood, I really couldn't find anything that I thought might of killed the tree. In the upper branches where there were some hollows created by old limbs that blew off in storms, I found some ants and other critters in sections of the tree but in the main trunk, they were solid throughout.

Solid except for some areas like what you see in the above picture. The wood as a round would look solid throughout but when I was splitting it, sometimes it would split through areas like above where you see the yellow honeycombed stuff that was hard to the touch. I'm not sure what I am looking at and perhaps someone out there might know. In the entire tree, I came across maybe a dozen sections of wood with this stuff in it and the picture above was the worst of the lot. It is almost like a layer of wood inside the trunk formed differently.

So as of now, the cause of death is yet undetermined but not in vain. I have enjoyed many good fires already with wood from last year's tree deaths and when this wood gets seasoned more, I will enjoy it too.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Another House... More Garage Door Problems

Long time readers will probably remember me blogging about several problems I had with the piece of junk garage door that we had on our old house. I had hoped that selling that house would make it someone elses problem but unfortunately, the garage door in the house we moved to is only worse.

Coming back from trick-or-treating (though it is only treating these days) with the oldest daughter, I pressed the garage door opener button in the car only to see the garage door open about a foot and stop. This has happened twice before since I moved into this house so I knew what to do. Fortunately my wife was home at the time so I could go in through the front door instead of squirming though the mud (after two solid days of rain) to get under the door.

The garage door is a solid wood door probably installed when the house was built nearly fifty years ago. It is a beast in the weight department and has also seen its better days. On both previous times the garage door hasn't opened, one of the solid wood panels has split causing the wheels that ride in the track to bind. I have fixed them by scabbing on another piece of wood with screws to get by. I say get by because we plan to add on a new garage to the house and turn the existing garage into more living space and I don't want to put a new or even install a used garage door when I'm only going to have to tear it out a year from now.

Unfortunately when I got into the garage, I quickly determined that a split door panel wasn't the problem. I also ruled out it being a door sensor problem too. Everything looked fine but the garage door would only open up about a foot and then act as if it was bound up and stop. When I manually disconnected it from the drive chain, I could move it freely (but with a lot of effort as the door weights a ton) so I couldn't find what was binding it. So after a couple hours of trying to figure out what was wrong, I decided to call a professional.

He took one look at it and saw the problem which is why I suppose he is a professional. The springs were way undersized. Not only did it make it hard to lift the door manually, but it also overloads the motor causing it to shut off after raising the door a foot. To fix the problem it was going to set me back $300 for properly sized springs or the alternative was spending $1000 on a new door to fix our non-standard door opening only to tear it out a year from now when I build a new garage with standard door openings. So I agreed to the new springs option.

As the professional was measuring and weighing to size correct springs, that was when I noticed the writing on the wall beneath the springs in the above photo. As it turned out, it was the correct spring size that someone had probably written there after replacing them 23 years ago. Unfortunately someone put in a new door opening system more recently before we bought the place and the guy who did so not only did the job extremely cheaply (according to the professional) but he put on extremely undersized springs purchased from the local box store.

The new properly sized springs are installed and are actually the ones in the photo above. They were twice as long and the wire gauge was much thicker. Now instead of grabbing on with both hands and heaving with about 75% of my available strength to press the garage door overhead and then hold it there while groping for a stick to prop underneath it, I can easily open it with one hand and it stays up by itself. As  you can see in the photo, I scratched out the old date and put the new date underneath so if the addition plans fall through and we end up selling the house to someone else first, perhaps they might have some better information that I did.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Walking the Sloughs

Continuing with our walk along the river in my last post, we also walked along the sloughs of the old river system that was cut off after the river was straightened and "improved." It was peaceful and beautiful though all my photos are flawed due to an unnoticed raindrop I picked up along the way.

As we were walking on the paved trail, there were plenty of squirrels to be seen but this one below was extremely aggressive in seeking food from me. In this picture he is only about three feet away from me as I crouched down to take his picture. With the trail following the slough on one side and a large park on the other, I have no doubt that this fellow is used to eating well from the hands of humans.

It took some doing but I finally scared him enough for him to scamper up a nearby tree. Still he kept an eye out on me in case I changed my mind.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Bridge City

As I stated in a post a couple weeks ago, I have lived around the river pictured above nearly all my life. But with my last move a year and a half ago, I now live the closest to it I ever have at about two miles up on a ridge near the river. My goal is to eventually live on or within view of the river before I retire from this life.

The town we live on the edge of carries the nickname Bridge City for the reason you see above. Being a town that straddles both sides of the river, by necessity it needs quite a few bridges. In the picture above, I am standing on an old railroad bridge now converted to a pedestrian walkway. Upstream you can see two bridges, a dam and another bridge. Not seen is yet another railroad bridge upstream and another vehicle bridge behind me as I was taking this picture. The picture at the end of the post shows the old train bridge that was my vantage point for taking the first picture.

As I mentioned, we have lived here a year and a half but on this gloomy day that was occasionally spitting rain, this was our first time to walk along the trails along the river. I'm not sure why we haven't done so earlier but I can make a couple excuses. I didn't know they were as extensive or as scenic as they were until recently and it requires a drive just to reach a trail head to get onto it.  Now that I've realized that the drive was well worth it, I will have to walk it more often and in better weather.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Two years of drought have taken a toll on my trees and above is number 26 that I have cut down. Actually I just completed cutting down number 25 and 26 but didn't take a picture of number 25. I have three more within the mowed boundaries (many more in the unmowed portion) that are about three quarters dead and probably won't leaf out next year but I'm leaving them up for now since I have more than enough firewood to get me through this year.

This tree was a pretty good sized tree about 20 inches in diameter at the base and leaning over the gorge dividing the halves of my property. Because I am not a technical chainsaw person by any stretch of the imagination, I enlisted the help of my brother who is an expert in the field. We ended up felling the tree up the gorge to the left in this picture using a well placed notch and some wedges. It didn't take long to cut up the tree but was a chore since we were always scrambling along the 45 degree slope and also it took two people to keep the rounds from rolling down into the ditch when each cut was completed.

Because I have plenty of firewood, I decided I would try something different and saved a four foot section of the trunk along with a couple longer sections about 18 inches in length. The two shorter sections I later used my chainsaw to cut into large squares that are going to become some rustic plant stands near my fireplace. The longer section I wanted to try to saw some planks out of for another project or two perhaps.

Cutting the two plant stand rounds into squares went relatively easily but cutting planks out of a log using nothing but a chainsaw was pretty tough work. I only have a 16 inch bar on my saw so it wouldn't even go all the way through the 20 inch diameter trunk. I ripped the section in half fairly cleanly and then sawed each half into quarters. I wanted all the oak to be quarter sawn so the quarters I planned to cut from one edge and then the other to alternate them to get that effect. The problem was that without a ripping chain for the saw, getting two cuts roughly parallel was nearly impossible. I managed to cut several planks out of two of the quarters before my chain was as dull as a butter knife.

When I had bought the saw last fall, I hadn't bought something to sharpen the chains with thinking that I would do so later but I haven't yet done that. So I got out my second spare chain and put it on the saw. Five minutes later the chain came off the sprocket. I tried putting the chain back on but a couple of the rivets in the links were frozen up for some reason and the chain appeared to have gotten really hot. Also, the chain wouldn't slide into the bar in a dozen different places. Suspecting that I had a big problem, I quite for the evening and went inside.

The next morning, I took the saw apart to clean the oil ports but they seemed to be functioning quite fine. I lubricated the chain and rotated the links around the rivets that seemed stiff and got them to work again normally. On closer inspection of the chain, I was that when the chain came off, the drive gear had burred the inside parts of the chain that seats in the groove of the bar which is why I couldn't get it back on. I took my dremel tool to it to file off the burrs and that problem was solved. I also read the instruction manual for the first time and found out why the chain had fallen off to begin with. With any new chain, they recommend only running for a minute or two before retightening it and repeating for several times until the chain is broke in and stretched out. I like a dummy had assumed chain didn't stretch.

With the chainsaw back up and running, I decided I had enough of trying to freehand planks from a tree with a crosscut chain and just hacked the two remaining quarters into fireplace lengths. I was able to successfully smooth out two of my slabs from the day before into 2" thick boards about 12" wide and 4 feet long using my planer, jointer and tablesaw. The rest was two warped or not parallel enough to even come close to being useable and were kicked outside to become firewood. If I ever try this again, I am going to get one of those devices you can connect to your chainsaw bar to turn it into a portable sawmill of sorts and also get a ripping chain.

Burning some of the debris the next day before all the leaves fall turning everything into a fire hazard.