Sunday, March 28, 2010

A new house providing weather information

The story behind this post started over a year and a half ago when Clint and Marianne drove from San Clemente, California to Oklahoma for a visit and then to spend Thanksgiving in Dallas watching the Cowboys play football in Roger Stauback's private box.  On their way they made a stop in Palm Desert to see an ex-neighbor, Grandma Cherry.  Grandma Cherry had moved there from San Clemente recently and was living with her brother.  You can meet Grandma Cherry here. Apparently Grandma Cherry's brother has a hobby of making bird houses.  Now these are not just little bird houses that you hang on your tree.  No these are bird condos built multiple stories tall.

Now, Marianne knows that I have lots of bird feeders in my yard and consequently, lots of birds hanging out in my trees.  And Marianne has bought me a couple of bird houses in the past, one that looks a bit like a television...
and another that looks more like a bunker, a concrete bunker.  In fact this one is made of concret, so a bunker is a good descriptor.
But I didn't have a condo, much less an Oklahoma cremson and cream colored bird condo.  So they bought one, put it in the car and drove onto Oklahoma for a visit with Max's dad in Tulsa. Max and I were still in San Francisco, without a yard or trees or a place to put a bird house.   But Max and I would be driving that direction in December on our way back to Ohio, so why worry about sending it all the way to Ohio when we would be coming through Tulsa in only a few weeks?  So Marianne unloaded the condo in Max's dad's garage telling them to give it to us when we arrive.

We did drive through Tulsa with our little Honda Civic Hybrid absolutely packed to the gills with all the stuff that we couldn't get  the movers to haul.  That amounted to all the stuff we would need before the movers arrived plus six cases of wine we got at our favorite winery in Sonoma.  So our car had room for Max and me in the front seats and that was about all.  This bird house was about the size of 1.5  wine cases and very oddly shaped, not nice straight corners and edges.  So it was either leave some wine in Tulsa (not on your life), or leave the bird house (not exactly what Max's dad wanted us to do), or try to make room.  So I pulled most of the stuff out, moved the seats up a little further for the final 700 mile drive and rearranged everything again before finally getting it all in the car.  We got the bird house home and put it in the garage, off in a corner because I didn't know what to do with it. Every family needs a Marianne!  Especially if that family has a Don.  Don is the supreme example of orderly, conservative, pragmatist.  And Marianne is a perfect foil for my Don.  I just love to begin a Marianne Adventure with Don.  We're all in for a surprise-especially probably Don and Marianne.  It's Don's mumbled- "and she wants to do what?" that is my alert that the fun is about to begin!

Now what does all of this have to do with weather information?  As most of you experienced, this was one tough winter.  We got a lot of snow that slowly melted during the day and refroze during night forming lots of very big icicles.  My in-door out-door thermometer had a probe hanging out of my kitchen window and it became encased in a long string of ice.  I tried to get the ice off, but instead broke off the temperature probe.  Now I only had an in-door thermometer.

So I went on line and decided to buy myself a new weather station, one that tells me not only current, maximum and minimum in-door and out-door temperatures, but also humidity, dew point, wind speed, barometric pressure, wind chill, and measures rain.  Now you're probably wondering if any individual household actually needs this much information.  Well the answer is a resounding YES.  Now- when we sit for those long, long, long meandering conversations of the newly retired/unemployed we can talk about humidity and dew point and barometric pressure- not just temperature.  I highly recommend it for all couples with much, much time to spend together!
Now the only question was where to put it so it could detect the wind (had to be up high), would catch the rain (couldn't be under a tree) and wouldn't be affected by direct sun.  I decided it needed a tall pole with some sort of platform to hold the weather station and shield it from the sun.

And then Max suggested:  "Why don't you put it on top of the bird condo?"  What a great idea!  That would solve two problems.  That's my job folks.  And I'm good at it.  I'm just sitting around coming up with new ideas to keep my Don entertained- and useful- and busy!  You really don't want a Don pacing around the house when you're trying to have "zenful" moments!
So I went out and bought a 12 ft treated 4X4, some sakcrete and some treated plywood and got to work.

The 4X4 got put in the ground with the concrete and the plywood got put on top with a bracket.
Once I got the platform on I had to haul the condo up onto the top.  In this picture I'm on an 8 ft ladder.

Then the condo had to be centered and we had to make sure the platform was level before we attached it to the platform using a number of heavy screws.

The finished bird condo weather station with the rain gauge extended off to the side and the temperature and humidity placed on the underside.

And finally the view from our bedroom window so I can at least see if it's windy when I get up.  Of course I could also just look at the trees, but that's just so low tech.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Basketball Madness-Bluffton Style

We made our annual trip to Bluffton, Ohio to visit our niece Kelly et al AND WATCH BASKETBALL! And what fun!  Now as we write this blog we're watching Ohio State try to eek out a win over Tennesee.  But I tell you- watching Bailey and Darby play in upstate Ohio beats this game any day. 
But first things first- we arrived in Bluffton on MY BIRTHDAY- So of course this was a good enough excuse for a party!

And it goes without saying that this was a real hit with Anthony!
And our girls, Deseree and Darby (granddaughter and grandniece!) never fail to entertain!

Poor Anthony!  The BIG GIRLS couldn't resist their baser impulses!

But don't you dare worry a bit about Anthony!  Bluffton is THOMAS THE TRAIN HEAVEN!
But enough about the PREGAME FESTIVITIES!  This was about BASKETBALL!
The first game of Saturday was Bailey's- in the semi-finals of the season ending tournament.  AND THEY WON!  What a thriller- but no nail biter- they led the whole game!  For those of you who don't know Bailey, that's her in the red asking for the ball.

And below setting up the inside defense...

Below here going for a rebound

and below shooting...
Bailey was amazing- all over the court- really in the face of the opposing team.  The opposing team had never lost- but then they'd never stood up against Bailey either!
And then we were off to Darby's game!  And that game was a real milestone of the season.  Darby made her VERY FIRST BASKET of her career as a basketball star (like her Grandpa Bill and her Uncle Don)!  And her team won their very first game of the season.  What an exciting day! 

Darby has turned into a tenacous defense player.
And I should not fail to mention that the coach for Darby's team is non other than her beautiful mother- and our niece- Kelly!

  And something that I almost didn't believe, below is Bailey watching Darby's game and just playing around with a basketball.  Then she stood up a held the basketball with one hand.  I worked and worked to do that and finally was able to when I was a junior in High School, three years older than Bailey.
And of course the stands were filled with cheering fans!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Retirement/Vacation Phase 4

Well, if you've been following these blogs you might think our trip to the west took weeks, maybe even months rather than the 13 days we were gone.  But we packed enough in the trip that we might have been gone for weeks... Well maybe not.   I think maybe we just wanted to keep the trip going for a while, and if we had finished these blogs all in one week, it would have been over sooner.  At least now we get to go back and do it all over again in print and pictures.

But before we leave the trip behind we'll finish with the great hike we took with Brandy and Mikayla to Red Rock Canyon just west of Las Vegas.  Will didn't home from his business trip until late on Friday- so he decided to sleep in- go figure- rather than hike the 7 miles at Red Rock.  Don't understand that- huh?  Who would have thought that a 9 month old would be a great hiker?  But then again, her hiking is akin to traveling in a giant RV with all the comforts of home and a staff of servants.  This "backpack" could only be improved by also having a refrigerator built in.

So we packed the truck with the dogs, the baby and lots and lots of gear.  It's amazing how much "stuff" it takes for a little one so, so little. 
And we headed out...

And we just basked in the beauty of the place!  I have to say that people who think the desert is drab or boring, either have never been there or never looked around if they were there.  There is so much to see in almost every direction if one just takes time to look.

Below is the reason they call this Red Rock.  It's difficult to tell from this picture, but these sandstone formations are enormous.  I took this picture from about a mile away.
This was our view at the start of the hike.  Our destination was just about to the base of those mountains.

And I thought you might like to see my view!  It's not that Brandy and I were jogging or anything.  Max just walks at a different pace, usually regardless of whatever pace we had.  I think she just likes to keep an eye on us.

Yep you got it.  I bring up the rear- Always- I just wouldn't know what to do way out in front!
But they would pause- and wait- and wait- for me to catch up!

I caught up!

And then Mikayla needed a diaper change- have no fear- we have gear!  As I said, this "backpack" has everything a kid would need.  In this case it was a fold out changing pad, nice to have to keep her soft tush off those rocks.

And we stopped for a bit of a snack..
But I have to tell you- Mikayla is an absolute doll!  She loves this "hiking" adventure!

This "rear view mirror" is also part of the backpack.  Gotta make sure all is well in the back seat.

And then close to the end we stumbled upon a group of wild burrows..

Don and the dogs...

But then finally our trip had to end- and we boarded our flight to the east.  And discovered that winter was still awaiting us!

Welcome  Home!
On the upside, the parking lot had folks there who helped us clean the car off and get it out of this snow bank that built up around our car while we were gone.  But we did get off the plane with only light jackets totally unready for the 20 degree weather, ice and snow.  But it was good to get home and even better now to finally finish this blog.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Retirement/Vacation Phase 3

I have a "To Do" list- I do, really I do!  But then somehow I do something else. And I've been meaning to finish our story of our adventure west.  Don is waiting- he has started his part. But then I get distracted. But I'm focused.  I promise.  I'll stick with it.  This story will be told!
After the time with Clint and Marianne and our BABES, we were off to Las Vegas- and Brandy and Will and the newest of our BABES. 
This short vacation that Max and I took out west seems to have been significantly shorter than these blog posts that describe it, but then again, I'm retired for now, so what's the hurry?

Twenty-nine Palms is pretty much in the middle of nowhere which isn't so bad for a place where the military wants to train Marines for deployment to Afghanistan.  Our drive there from Las Vegas using our GPS took us on I-15 west and then south for a while and then back east again.  Marianne suggested a more direct route that took us almost straight east to Vegas and directly across the Mojave Desert.  One nice thing about crossing this desolate but beautiful terrain is that there are not many curves in the road.

This road didn't really have curves unless it came upon some of the mountains that rise out of the desert.

But other than these mountains we were pretty much alone with the desert.  I've never spent much time in a desert- much more of a personal history in the "wetter" ways of the land- Hawaii, Lousianna, then to the dryer Oklahoma, and now here in Ohio- where it rains enough to grow the very tall trees that Don so loves.  But the desert- now I've not much experience with the desert.  But oh my does Don ever love the desert! So I always look out upon this world colored by his awe.  I do think probably you can only find true quiet in the emptiness of the desert with it's absolute sparseness of life- both animal and plant. And you start noticing tiny little details- of landscape- and plants- in the absence of the "abundance" of other places.
So we set across the Mojave desert.  Then as we rose in elevation on the Cima Road that crosses this desert we came upon a large Joshua Tree forest; in fact it is the largest known Joshua Tree forest .  It sits atop an enormous dome of granit the rises out of the desert and apparently provides a climate that the Joshua Trees thrive in.

On our arrival in Las Vegas all attention on the terrain was refocused on one little girl, Mikayla.  Unfortunately, our initial introduction to Mikayla was somewhat tramatic.  This little girl was beginning to recognize strangers and suddenly her backseat kingdom in the car was invaded by a strange woman who wanted to be best friends.  Mikayla insisted on formal introductions before any such friendship could take place and subsequently screamed in anguish all the way from the car rental drop to Brandy's house. Now that was one very, very, very long car ride!  As I sat beside Mikayla, her mother started the car and Mikayla started sobbing, deep sobs, sobs with real tears.  And she kept it up the whole way.  I was more than just a bit concerned.  Here I was, half way around the world to see this little one, the little one who had adored me just a couple of months ago at Thanksgiving, and now I was welcomed with sobs.
Fortunately, once appropriate introductions were completed, she very quickly realized that she had this grandmother wrapped around her smallest finger, a situation which continued for the duration of the trip. We got out of the car, Brandy took Mikayla from the car seat and said "Mikayla, your Grama is here to visit" and she looked up at me- eyes still a bit misty and red from all the tears- smiled- and we were inseparable for the rest of my visit!
This is NOT a picture of Mikayla during our ride home!

But this adventure wasn't about sleeping babies...

And Mikayla is crawling- so quickly she'll decide that maybe the cords to the TV or computer or outlets or the dog's water bowl are so, so, so much more interesting than these toys!

And of course there was BATH TIME- the time of unending joy!  I'm with Mikayla on this- I love the long, long, long lingering bath/shower!

And the weather is Las Vegas was amazing- perfect- 65 to 70 degrees- no wind- perfect blue skies!  What a reprieve from winter in Cincy!

And Will cooked an amazing brisket in his smoker!

Daddy and his little girl!