Sunday, November 22, 2015

The hairy eyeball

It's the first weekend of our nine-day Thanksgiving Break. Thanksgiving, as in in thank heavens we don't have to go to work for nine whole days!

I began as I meant to go on, with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Roo and I shared, as we always do. Here she is with fried bread and egg yolk. Yum.

Then there was the slight problem of making the Thanksgiving Break to-do list. Usually we've had a snowstorm by this point in the year, but so far not this year. There remains the possibility of doing a few more winter prep jobs that could use to be done, that would make our lives a little easier when the snow does fly. Choices, choices.

Before any of those could begin, however, there was a plumbing leak to fix. I'd gone down to the cellar to get the bacon out of the freezer on Friday afternoon -- planning ahead for Saturday's celebratory brekkers, of course -- and noticed that there was water on the floor. Tracing this to its source, I discovered a disconnected drain leading back to the kitchen sink. For gosh-knows-how-long, we'd been draining our kitchen sink into the dirt beneath the kitchen crawl space.

Now, of all the attics and crawl-spaces and basements and cellars this old house possesses, this is my least favorite. It's so tight, I can hardly move under there. Very claustrophobic.

Here's the way in, about one foot tall by two feet wide. The plastic helps you wriggle a bit and keeps you from getting too filthy, although it also crumples up and gets in the way. My chest essentially takes up all the available room in this opening. It widens out a little inside, but the drainpipe from the extension, a four-inch PVC main drain, has to be wiggled over before you get to the plumping.

Here's a selfie taken as I wiggled out for the last time. The tool caddy to the right gives you an idea of scale. And yes, my nose is very close to the springboard.

You can see the offending pipe at the very back of this shot, right behind the four-inch drain. This is the drain that I have to wiggle over every time I go down there. You can only do this bit belly down. My butt snags on the hemlock sub-floor board splinters each time I do this, and there's always a moment of panic when I think, "Oh shit, I'm really stuck now! I hope I don't have to call the fire brigade! That would be embarrassing."

You can also see that the kitchen floor joists are hundred-and-fifteen year-old pine logs that run the whole twenty-eight foot length of the kitchen. This makes the floor very springy. Gosh knows why the original builders, the Amsden family, did that. If they'd used them the other way, the joist length would have only been fifteen feet and the floor much less bouncy. Maybe they didn't want to make all those extra cuts. The sills are six-by-eight hemlock, built to last -- if the previous owners hadn't allowed the kitchen sink to essentially drain down through the inside of the wall for several years. We had to rebuild the kitchen floor before we could move in, and a large section of the west sill and wall before we could add on the extension.

In the end it took two half-days' work and about sixty dollars of plumbing parts and cement to fix what could have been fixed for ten bucks and ten minutes anywhere else in the house. I came out after each session underneath the house bruised and mentally battered and a little shaky from claustrophobia.

I also managed to gas myself with plumber's PVC cement, by spilling a whole pint container onto the dirt Saturday towards the end of the session. The smell even penetrated to the house through the cellar, so if we all get cancer next year, we'll know why. Luckily this was the cold-weather stuff, and so it set up overnight, so I was able to remove it today, along with a conglomeration of wasted parts, shown in the shuftie above.

Then, to add insult to injury, just five minutes after the start of the second session down there today (Sunday) I got a big old clod of dirt in my left eye. I had to finish the job, though, and so even though I needed to rinse my eyeball, I kept on at it until I was done. What misery!

But imagine what it would have cost to hire a plumber to do it!

I still need to seal up the entry to the crawl space with banking and insulation for the winter, then check the other crawlspace under the extension for humidity and mold and other problems. But I'm just going to sit here in my comfy armchair and recover from all this for a while before I do any more around-the-house jobs today.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Grey November days

October was brilliant, at least what I remember of it. November is shaping up to be a bit cloudier and greyer, so far. The clocks were put back and it's now getting dark at 4.30 pm, earlier on the cloudiest days. Yesterday was Veteran's Day, and we had the usual ceremony at school. I got a free lunch of swordfish steak and mashed potato, nice for me. Childcare was closed, so Roo accompanied me for lunch and to the ceremony, although she was too noisy for the latter and so we walked off a little, away from the crowd.

Life remains very busy, but not nearly as much as it was last week. We're counting down the days until our Thanksgiving week's holiday.

The ram, a new one bought from our friend Meg, is in with the ewes. He's a handsome little guy, but only a year old, and lacking confidence, so we may not get too many lambs next year. With Roo to look after, we may not be too upset if we get fewer lambs. There's just too much to do around here in any case. Something has to give.

I harvested about two thirds of the spuds, took three lambs to the butchers, and got both the lamb and the pork back from the butcher and into the freezer. Quetzal, the fat, dry ewe that hasn't produced a lamb for two years now, was slated to go to the butcher, but I had no help that day, and she fought me and won, and so got a reprieve. Our home-made livestock trailer isn't very good, and it makes it very hard to load animals if they are big and if they fight. I need a real trailer, but we don't have the money for one right now. Maybe next year.

Last Sunday I made a lamb leg roast, had leftover lamb cuts for a few days, and then made scotch broth with the remains. I think I got about ten meals out of one leg roast.

The sheep got out because I left their gate open one morning, and ate all the carrot tops and most of the Brussels sprouts. Our neighbor Hamilton saw them and put them back in. I was able to get the snow tires switched over on the two drive-to-work cars, as well as get them and the truck sprayed with the Fluid Film rust-proofing product, so they're all ready for winter now. The snow plow is on the Land Rover, and of course the Rover car itself is serviced and ready for snow. The tractor still needs an oil change.

Roo is now walking a lot, and likes to go off exploring on her own. This can't be permitted, of course, so we follow at a safe distance. She likes to wander down corridors, so when we're at the college together, and if no-ones around, we let her do so and follow along. It's funny to see her stump off so willfully. Here I go! Off to see what's going on down that way. She gets so mad when you try to take her hand and guide her back to where you want her. No! I'm going this way, not that way! Leave me alone! She reminds me of her mother.

Here are some of the veterans in our family that I was thinking of on Veteran's Day:

My paternal granddad, Arthur Holden Watson, Private, Northeast Fusiliers, WWI

Grandad again: private, ROAC, WWII, with my mother and grandmother.

My dad, Gordon Womersley, Private in the Royal Signals Regiment, 1953, with his brother Stan, also a private in the Catering Corps.

Me (second from left), with the troops of RAF Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team, 1985. 

My father-in-law, SFC Dick Phillippi, LZ Oasis, Vietnam, 1969.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Breakfasts with daddy

Funs stuff happens while mommy is still sleeping. We get to eat Cheerios, for instance.

 It's fun to get them out of the bag yourself.

 Muffins are fun too, even when we're woken up by a sore toof.

Cleaning up, though, is not so much fun.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Long weakened

Here's a group of the best pictures sent by my sister Carol after she and partner Wayne came to visit. It looks like we had a good time, although so much has happened at work and home since then, we've forgotten that we did have a good time.

Apparently we spent a lot of time on the swings.


And we went to the fair. That must have been nice for us.

We ate apple crumble...

...and were even at the lobster pound. What tourists we were. Proper grockles.

Since then, Roo has officially walked. She can now walk short steps between myself and Aimee or between a supporting piece of furniture and one of us.

The first time this occurred was around Tuesday this week. Happy walk-day, dear daughter.

She also says words. Sort of. She likes the word "up", meaning "pick me up, mommy (or daddy)". And the word "ot", for "hot", is now useful when food is too hot, or we want to keep her away from the woodstove.

In other news, work.

The four letter word.

Notwithstanding the rush of midterm grading, there has been a further rush of "essential", late meetings.

I have around a twelve-credit teaching hour semester. In addition there are my administrative duties, and the need to make lesson plans for three classes and a lab. Ordinarily, I teach a night class Wednesday, teach early classes on MWF, meaning I have to be there by seven or seven-thirty to prep, and must be on campus at least four weekend days this semester. I also get up at four or five am each morning, sometimes earlier, and use most of that time to get writing, lesson planning, or grading tasks done.

Once you take into account all the early morning prep and grading and office work, all this would amount to about a sixty hour week, were I to stay on campus until five pm.

Instead, I've felt justified in clearing out of there by around two pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and around three-thirty pm on Fridays, thus recapturing some of my time, and getting me down to a "mere" fifty hour week, a number I can live with.

But these late meetings are eating into this scheme for sanity. In addition, they make for some long days in daycare for Roo.

Aimee, for her part, is teaching an introductory Biology class with a high grading load. So that makes for two overworked parents. Most weekday evenings we just feed ourselves and her, play a little, and then collapse in front of the TV to watch Sesame Street with her, before her bedtime at 7.30.

On weekends whichever of us has least work to do looks after her, while the other grades or does some farm work. We just had a long weekend of four days that followed this pattern entirely (hence my bad pun for a title).

Our poor kid is getting shortchanged here, so something will have to give. However, with just over a month until Thanksgiving, and only a couple of weeks after that to do, I can see my way to the end of the semester and winter break, and should have fewer classes in the spring.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Falling accidentally into fall

It's fall, and we've been letting it happen to us without much of a fight. Not that we could do anything if we wanted. Snow will be here soon enough, and it's best just to enjoy the wind and rain and blowing leaves and, of course, those wonderful New England Indian summer days, when we have time, that is.

Here's a couple of shots of the Womerlippis goofing off. One of the advantages of having a kid is that you get to visit the park and have a swing set in your yard, and you can play if you like. Roo particularly enjoys the swing set we built for her this spring. She also likes the Belfast City Park. Here she is on their big swing earlier this year with Aimee.

School is busy, though and grading season is upon us. The midterm grades are due later this month, so we need to get all our grading done. Grading is a brain-sucking chore that spoils your weekend and ruins your family life. Sometimes I wonder just how much time we spend grading. If that time were to be added up then divided across the summer days we have off, including the early morning and late night office work we also have to do, would we even break even?

A British left-of-center newspaper, the Guardian, has been reporting research that shows British school teachers work between 54 and 60 hours a week. If you count the time we spend working at home, it's easily that much.

In other news, my sister and her partner Wayne came to visit. This was the first time Aunty Carol had set eyes on her niece. They seemed to have a good time, and, among playing with Roo, managed a couple of tourist outings.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Busy Brits

It's been a busy couple of weeks since the airshow, and indeed, this is going to have to be quick, since I do not really have time to write anything long.

What has happened of suitable import for diary notation?

We've been back at work now for four weeks. We are now back in a routine. Roo even likes her childcare. To begin, she cried and cried, but has gotten used to it.

We had an infestation of stable flies in the house. Pretty nasty, actually. There were hundreds of them hovering outside the garage and deck doors and you'd inevitably let a few in when you opened each door. They went away when the humid weather did. It's now officially fall outside. Aimee got mad at me for swatting them annoyingly.

We put up another few quarts of roasted tomatoes, then started giving them away. We have way too many tomatoes, and way too little time to do anything with them now we have a baby to look after.

The pigs went to the butchers and then came back all packaged for the freezer. I made the usual deliveries to pig club members. Bacon and eggs and ham have already been sampled. All very good.

My sister is Somewhere in New England and due to materialize in Jackson, Maine today sometime.

Now I have to go to work.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Air show

This Sunday, for an early birthday treat, Aimee bought us tickets to the State of Maine Air Show at the former US Navy air base at Brunswick, Maine.

Actually, back in the day, this base originated as a training unit for Royal Navy flyers during World War II, but that's a whole other story.

A former Royal Air Force aircraft engine fitter or "sumpy," I like aircraft, and always have. We toured the static displays for the first half-hour or so, and that was fun enough for me, but then the flying began, with a display by the P 51 "Mustang", one of only 150 or so still flying.

I was impressed that the commentator got the history right. The Mustang started out as an RAF plane, designed for that service by the North American aircraft company in 1940.

Here's the Mustang taxiing in front of a couple of "Blue Eagles."

Roo loves to point at things, and recently has been pointing at airplanes as they fly over the farm. We are on the flightpath from Bangor International Airport and get aircraft flying low overhead while landing and taking off. Here she is pointing at an aerobatics aircraft.

She seemed to like all the smaller, piston-engined planes.

The highlight of the day was the F22 "Raptor," the USAF's new "stealth" fighter bomber. having worked on F4 Phantoms during the 1980s, I knew what to expect in terms of engine noise. This kind of aircraft makes an enormous amount. We had ear defenders for Roo, but it was still a bit much. 

Here's the Raptor with bomb bay doors open.

And here's Roo in a model jet.

Unfortunately, all the noise from the Raptor was a bit much, and we had a good cry. then Mommy and Daddy decided enough was enough and took us home.