My Three Sheds


The workshop

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The greenhouse is where the old bird flight used to be.

If you have been reading my blogs lately you have noticed reference to the sheds that are in my back yard and which I have spent the past couple of weeks cleaning up. After more than 20 years of accumulation and also having some surplus energy, I felt that it was time to perform this onerous task.

Basically, I have three sheds, well two sheds and a greenhouse which is not used to grow things but to store them, hence the redesignation. The yellow shed I built when I first moved in 32 years ago not as a shed but as an aviary as I was an avid parakeet and finch breeder. I brought my stock with me when we moved and for about 6 months, they lived in my garage in a hastily built flight that measured about 12 x 12 x 8 tall. This was home to the parakeets and other exotics while the finches lived in cages. As soon as I had completed the Aviary, which on the one side had outdoor flights but not on the other side yet as this is where I planned on the flight from the garage to go. There were flights on both sides indoors so I moved the birds into their new home.

When I had built the flight in the garage, I built it with a steel framework that I welded together and covered it with 1/2 inch  hardware cloth with the intent of hooking it onto the side of the new aviary for additional flights for the new bird tenants. It was pretty heavy and cumbersome so I rounded up a few neighbors and their bigger kids and between us, we all got around it and hoisted it into the air to carry it out to its new location. Someone broke into a song and before we knew it, everyone was singing as we walked. I think the song was “Heigh Ho” from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was very fitting.  What a way to meet the neighbors. The flight fitted perfectly and I completed the work to give the birds a place to stretch their wings.

I kept birds until I got divorced and then somehow, all of the fun had gone out of it. I sold off most of the stock and opened the doors to let the last few fly free before the rats who by now had colonized under the aviary, got to them.

At that point, it was time to rethink the direction my hobbies were going and that is when I built the first pond. The aviary was by now an eyesore with no bird life in it and I decided to turn the main part of the building into a bigger shed and at the same time, build a greenhouse where the old flight used to be. The truth is that I get a bigger kick out of the planning and then the construction than I do out of the finished product hence the use of the greenhouse as a storage shed for all of the plumbing parts and other things that it takes to maintain 5 ponds. To be fair, I did use the greenhouse to over winter my outdoor potted and container plants for a few years and then it kind of deteriorated into a catchall for anything needing a dry place. The potted plants have ended up in my bedroom for the past few winters. The main part of the shed was nicknamed the Yellow Shed for obvious reasons much to the disgust of my choice of colors by my neighbors. It is used to store the ladders and mechanical equipment like the mowers, blowers, weedeaters and things with gas driven engines and other such stuff.

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Inside the Yellow Shed (1)

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Inside the Yellow Shed (2)

The main shed is a 24 feet by 12 feet Morgan Building that I bought at the same time we moved in knowing that I needed a workshop and a place to store the myriad of hand and electric tools that I own. All my life, I have been a tool man spending the first 4 years as an Apprentice Bricklayer back in England. I was very observant and quickly branched out into all of the other trades learning as much as I could about how other people worked and what it took to build things knowing that all of that knowledge would serve me well further down the road. I put it all to good use in Fort Plan in New York State having had a small construction company for a few years when we first arrived and Supervising Pipeline Construction and Construction Management in my later years. Now at 81 years of age, I still love to plan and build and figure out ways to get over problems and I am still very good at it.

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Back to the sheds. Over a period of time, 20 plus years or more, all of the storage sheds filled to the brim and remembering where everything was, let alone ever getting to it, was becoming a real nightmare. A lot of it was really useful stuff to somebody and a lot was junk. Being the packrat that I am, nothing that even looked halfway useful was ever discarded or thrown away, just in case… An example is the 1/2 horsepower pump that is now churning away on the 5000 gallon pond and living a very useful life not to mention saving me several hundreds of dollars at least for a while. It had been buried both figuratively and practically and if I hadn’t decided to have this major shed clean up, well…I also located several other tools that I felt sure I had left out in the garden. I do have a pile of metal that I need to take to the junkyard and a lot of stuff has either been recycled or sent to the trash dump.

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So now, I have 3 comparatively clean storage areas which includes a workshop that I can actually perform work in with everything, well almost everything, in its place. Now all I have to do is remember what is in which place…Now where did I put that wrench?

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My 50th Anniversary.


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Queen Mary

Today, March 13th,  is another one of those special days and this one can only happen once in my lifetime. On this day, fifty years ago, I and my family like so many others before us, set foot on American soil for the very first time.

We left England in the grand old ship, the Queen Mary who herself was reaching the end of her active life.  After seven days at sea and  like so many before us, we sailed past the Statue of Liberty into New York. We docked at the famous Pier 22 to be met by my Mother who I hadn’t seen since 1946, twenty one years before.

That marked the beginning of my life here in America which has had its ups and downs as most people’s lives do. I have never been back to England but have wished that I had, many times but it seemed that there was always something that prevented my return. Maybe there is still time…

Life in America has generally been very good to me. I did not do so well on the marital and family side of things having been married and divorced three times and have lived a single life for the past twenty one years. That is one of my regrets but it is water under the bridge as I can’t change the past.

On the other hand, I did well in my working life and am comfortably off and most of all, am still in very good health able to go on long hikes and work around the ponds and in my garden.

Would I do it all again if I could wind back the clock? I’m talking about the decision to emigrate to the USA. The answer is probably yes. I still miss a lot about the English lifestyle although my memories are fifty years old and things have changed considerably. The one thing that has not changed is the constant rain as almost every time that I watch the English Premier League on the television, the crowd has on heavy coats and it is always raining. That I do not miss.

I became a citizen ten years after I landed mostly for the work opportunity but I am still very British at heart. A part of me will always belong in England and there is still time for me to go back to visit one last time. For now. I’m looking forward to the next 50 years.

One thing I do know,  the Texas sun beats the English rain…

Remembering…


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It seems to me as I grow Old
I remember things that I was told
years ago when I was young
things Fathers say to a son.

Most of them are in my mind
thoughts remembered of all kinds
about girls and guns and football games
and growing up and carrying his name.

Hunting tips and fishing lures
what to take the best of cures
for drinking too much and feeling the pain
that happens when you lose the game.

Words of wisdom of the kind
to help get past a difficult time
that being old and knowing so well
things that only time can tell.

Did I listen to my Dad
as he passed along what words he had
to help me as I grew old
knowing that I couldn’t be told.

Probably some words got through
saving me from mistakes anew
but others forgotten at the time
and the consequences were all mine.

When I look back at what he said
and think of the life that I lived instead
with things my way without a thought
of the things that He had taught.

One bad thing with being young
is we knew it all when we had fun
even though we heard the word
to us they sounded so absurd.

Now I am old and time passed by
I think of the words he did cry
and now understand just how wise
for he was not telling me lies.

If I had only been as smart
to listen and heed with my heart
life would have been a much simpler task
for those whose lives touched mine in the past.

My Dad is long gone from this life
away from the trials and the strife
but I remember the things he told
although too late for I’m much too old.

Todays Thoughts


dsc_4746I spent some time just looking out of the window
thinking mostly about the fact that I spent all day
in front of my computer fussing with a blog page
on the other website I maintain
for the Austin Pond Society.

I could not get the page to do what I wanted it to do
and I was getting frustrated
luckily, I am blessed with infinite patience
when it comes to working on a computer
so much different than when it comes to people
who can irritate me no end.

Not all people of course but just a few
those that support Trump for instance
or those whose ideas are really poor
and yet they will not listen
because they know it all and cannot be told.

I patted my dog on the head and talked to him
it was as though he knew that things were not going well
and he looked at me with his big brown eyes
as though to say, don’t worry
I am here for you.

One of the other dogs came over looking for attention
he licked my hand to tell me that everything is OK
I made a fuss of both of them and felt much better
all of my frustrations just disappearing
with their calming effect.

I had plans to do some work outside
but the computer problem took all of my time
and it was late before I had it solved
but I walked around the yard looking at the ponds
and figured that I could do the yard work tomorrow.

That is the beauty of being retired
there is no urgency to perform any task
as long as the task does not have a deadline
I can do it today or tomorrow
either day is just fine.

Most deadlines are self imposed
so even they can become flexible
depending on the time of day
and the urgency of the task
and the mood I am in.

Now that I have solved the computer problem
at least for this time around
I can turn my attention to the simpler things in my life
Like feeding the dogs and the cats
and then feeding myself.

Sometimes the most mundane of actions give the most pleasure.

 

 

 

Thoughts on a Cloudy Day…


dsc_4626I sat staring out of the window
but not really seeing
my mind was a thousand miles away
in some far off distant universe
a thousand thoughts going through my mind
but not concentrating on any of them
it was a though my mind was in re-wind
with countless times and places
and people, many people with faces
all staring back at me.

Were they ghosts of my past
come back to haunt me
or fond memories of times long gone
in younger years
or are they memories of pleasant times
when youth was taken for granted
and we would never grow old.

My dog jumped onto my lap
shaking me out of this reverie
bringing me back to the present
and as I look out the window
I can no longer see the myriad of faces
of people from long ago.

Instead I see lush green foliage
sadly in need of trimming
waiting for Mother Nature
to inflict her frozen sword
and I see rain, not heavy but still rain
under the cloudy skies of a December day.

The USA Election


dsc_4181I have been a citizen of the United States since 1976 and was very pleased and honored to be allowed to become one. Although there are no immediate rewards for citizenship other than a sense of pride, when the elections roll around and there always seems to be something that requires my vote whether it be at the local city or state level all the way to the most recent National Election.

I have always tried to vote whenever the opportunity arose because I felt it to be a duty as a new member of this great country. I have never usually ever got involved with any of the people that I voted for. Some were people that I knew of, others were people recommended by friends and many were Democrats that I ticked if I voted along party lines.

This past election was the first that I got actively involved at least in the sense that I sent money to the Hillary Clinton Fund. Quite a bit of money as it turns out. Voting in any election is a bit of a gamble as you hope that you are on the side of the majority. This time around, I was way off on my predictions although I have to admit so were many other people. That doesn’t make the loss any easier but at least I can be proud of my choice.

I am a bit concerned that with  both the House and the Senate and now the future President under Republican control, some of the issues that have been passed over the last 8 years will all get undone and replaced with other more expensive methods. I suppose that I should not worry for myself as there is not too much that can be affected by many of the changes that will be forthcoming, just as long as Social Security is not affected that is, but things like climate change and clean air and programs to save the Wilderness and National Parks are also likely to be targeted. Big business will have much more say under the new regime and even though I hate to say it, all of the promises that Trump has made to the “little” guy and his supporters on his way to his victory will probably end up as just words with very little action unless there is some benefits to big business. His claim of bringing back jobs are really all pie in the sky as so many of them have been lost not to overseas competition but to the advent of computerization that has replaced the need for manpower.

I half jokingly said that I would move back to England if Trump was elected. There are several things that go against that one being the awful weather that they have over there. It was one of the main reasons that I came over here in the first place when I was given the opportunity. Way too much rain and cold for my liking after living here in Texas for these past 40 years. I have grown accustomed to very mild winters and long hot days of summer and wearing shorts all the year long. At almost 81 years of age, I am a bit long in the tooth to be moving and starting over although I am still sorely tempted to find me 10 acres of land in the back of beyond and build a small cabin and spend the rest of my remaining days living my dream. I could build my own trails and walk whenever I wanted too without getting in my car.

As for the election, this will be the last time I ever get so heavily involved. For me, the gamble didn’t pay off and my side lost. What was forecast as a several point win turned out to be a landslide for the other team. True to form, my candidate surrendered gracefully but I know she has to be bitterly disappointed as are her followers.Now, all we can do is wait and see what happens and whether Donald Trump will come through for all of the people that make up these United States.

BTW, this is still the greatest country in the world and although I am still very British at heart, stiff upper lip and all of that, I am also proud to be an American.

Time is Wearing Things Out…Part 4 – Microwave Oven.


dsc_4353Just when I was congratulating myself that we had survived the 3 things that have recently gone wrong at my house, along comes number 4.

When we (I was still married at the time) moved into this house, 31 years ago, one of the first things that I had to do was to install a microwave over the electric oven. The house had been designed for it and there was a recessed space already built into the cabinets. There was no outlet close by but the house had been wired for one. It was a bit awkward because of the tight working space but I managed to install an outlet box in one of the overhead cabinets. These type of hanging microwaves have a frame attached to the wall and then the oven sits in that frame and is secured by a couple of long bolts from the top.

For 30 years, the old GE microwave has given me very good service over its long life. That is until Friday evening when I was warming my dinner and all of a sudden, smoke began pouring out all over the place. I quickly turned off the oven and opened the backdoor to let the smoke out. I expected any minute that the smoke alarms would go off but with the help of a fan, I cleared it all out.

Quite obviously, the microwave had reached the end of its useful life and I would have to replace it and I had to resort to the stove top and a frying pan to warm up my food.

The next day, I was in luck as The Home Depot was holding a special sale on appliances which included microwaves. I wandered up and down the aisles finally settling on another GE that had a recessed turntable AND two different shelf spacings and was on sale for $148.00. I really liked that idea as in the old one, if I placed something like a cup on the turntable, I had to take the shelf out to give enough height.  Turns out that the one I had chosen was the only one they had and it was a display model. It didn’t have any nicks or dents so I decided I could do without the box as long as everything else was there. The clerk summoned help and another guy came over and unscrewed the oven from its place on the stand and put it in my cart. I paid for my new oven and made my way home all prepared to install the thing.

As I mentioned, it had been 30 years when I installed the last one and I couldn’t for the life of me remember what I had done way back then. So I made a cup of coffee and sat down and read the instructions just to refresh my memory. That helped a lot and it all came back to me of what I had done to install the original oven. I scouted around and found the two screws that were holding the old oven in place and also located the vent hood behind a panel and undid all of the duct tape that covered the joins to the oven. I found the electric outlet I had installed in one of the cabinets and unplugged the old oven.

At that point, I really could have used some help in getting the old oven down. It is not that it is that heavy but it is off balanced with most of the weight on one end and it was in an awkward place with me working off a step ladder. Not only that, it was right over top of my electric oven which has a glass top or whatever that material is and if I dropped it, there really would be a mess. I put some heavy covers over the oven top to cushion the weight of the microwave and without giving it any more thought, took out the screws, leaned the oven forward, lifted it off of the holding track and lowered it onto the top of the covers. That was the worst part as it was comparatively easy to lift it off the oven top and onto my dolly to take it outside.

It turns out that the track for the new oven is almost identical to the old one so I was saved one step of the process by not having to exchange the two. The next thing was to make sure that all of the existing holes would all line up and after some measuring and remeasuring, decided that I needed to do some work on the lead cord outlet hole in order to not pinch it when the new oven is screwed in tight. Luckily, I have all kinds of tools including several keyhole bits that can drill large holes through wood. It took a while to drill the hole where I needed it. At one time, the drill bit came loose and fell out of the drill and I still haven’t been able to find it several days later. I switched to a different one to finish the job.

Satisfied that all of the holes would line up when needed, I turned my thoughts to the oven itself thinking about the steps involved in lifting it into place. It would have been a simple job with two people but as there was only me, I had to get ingenious. The new oven is not quite as heavy as the old one. Whether that is because of a change of materials or different design, who knows but I was grateful for the few less pounds. My problem was that I had to lift the oven up fairly evenly so that I could hook the bottom of the back over the clips in the already attached frame and that is with one foot on a step ladder and the other on the counter top. I gave it some considerable thought and wandered out to the workshop for some ideas. I spotted an older cooler that I use to transport fish when I do fish rescues. This one is old enough that it made of metal unlike the modern ones that are made of plastic. It had a perfectly flat top and was almost the exact height from the top of the electric stove to the frame. If I could first lift the oven onto the cooler which was already placed on top of the electric range, I knew I could reposition myself to put the new microwave in place.

I must have wasted 10 minutes re-thinking and worrying about my plan until I said to myself,”What the hell” grabbed a hold of the microwave, lifted it and placed it on top of the cooler. It was lined up perfectly so I lifted it again and it slipped over the frame exactly in the right place. I pushed back hard against the wall making sure that the electric chord was not getting pinched and put the first bolt into the top with a few turns of the screw to make it safe before turning my attention to the other bolt. With it secured, I tightened them both down so that the microwave now fit snugly against the cabinets. I stepped down and admired my work and it fit to my satisfaction.

All that remained was to  align the oven top to the ductwork and screw them together followed by duct taping the joints to complete the seal. I replaced the panels off the cabinets that I had unscrewed, plugged in the new oven and reset the time. I had to try it out so I heated a cup of water with an English Breakfast tea bag and it worked perfectly. I sat and looked at my work as I enjoyed my English cuppa.

Clean up was a cinch as I collected all of my tools and bits and pieces as I took them all, along with the cooler that had proved to be such a godsend back out to my workshop real pleased that it had gone so smoothly. It was not the installation that I had been worried about but I was concerned that I might not have been able to lift it into place by myself due mainly to the awkwardness of the situation There is still hope in the old dog yet…

Let’s hope this is the last thing for a while. This is getting expensive….