Give Me Enough Rope

Longtime readers will know that our household is ruled by cats. This means that some household chores have higher priority than others. One of the odd chores that has to be done every few years is re-wrapping the scratching pole with rope.

Re-wrapping the cat scratching post with new rope
Re-wrapping the cat scratching post with new rope

Yes, the cats use the pole, usually more than they use other soft surfaces around the house. The result is a shredded mess of sisal fiber hanging from the pole. Eventually it gets bad enough I just cut it away and re-wrap the pole in rope.

Conveniently a 50′ package of 1/2″ rope from the local hardware store neatly does the job. Just an hour spent cutting the old rope away, then wrapping the pole neatly with a drop of glue to secure the end down inside the tube… Done, with happy cats busily clawing away at the fresh rope.

How long will it last?

May 18th, 1980

Living with an eruption of our local volcano through much of last year often brought to mind previous memories. The 2019 Kilauea eruption was the second eruption of my life, the first being the 1980 eruptions of Mt. St. Helens.

The eruption of Mt. St. Helens taken on the morning of May 18th, 1980, photo credit USGS
The eruption of Mt. St. Helens taken on the morning of May 18th, 1980, photo credit USGS

St. Helens was just another of the pretty mountains that dotted the horizon through much of my childhood. I could see it from my bedroom window, at least in the winter when the leaves were off the trees.

When the mountian started rumbling in the early months of 1980 everyone wondered if it will erupt. No one expected it to do what it did.

We did not hear the eruption, somehow the sound skipped over those nearer the volcano. It was the television news that first alerted us.

Seeing the reporting I ran out of the house and down the street a little bit to where I could see past the maple trees. There was nothing to be seen of that pretty mountain, just a dark line in the sky rising from where the mountain stood. West of the line it was a cloudy NW sky, east of the line is was just black.

After the eruption we could no longer see the mountain on the horizon, with 1,500ft gone from the top it no longer stood above the ridgelines.

Building a Wall

The project that has consumed my weekends for several months is complete. The wall is finished. I poured the last bags of concrete this weekend, I stacked the last rocks into place.

Retaining Wall
Fitted local stone makes up a small retaining wall,

It is done!

Thus I have spent many a weekend digging, more digging, hauling soil and rock, then pouring concrete. I found that about ten bags of concrete was a good work session, about as much as I could do in one go. It is also as much as I wanted to load in the vehicle, 600 pounds a heavy while safe load for the Explorer.

Other work sessions were simply fitting rocks. Selecting likely rocks, spinning them about and finding reasonable fits, tossing aside those that did not fit. With a single layer added to ten or twenty feet of wall I could then spend the next work session pouring concrete and cementing that layer of fitted stone into place. Rinse and repeat.

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The Last Load

For weeks now I have been digging. Pickaxe, shovel, wheelbarrow, hard manual labor, and it just gets harder.

One last load of dirt and rock to remove from the work zone.

I am digging away at the slope behind the garage, solving longstanding drainage issues, creating a nice level walkway, building a small retaining wall.

The first stage was digging out all along my garage, reworking the slope, pulling the soil away from the foundation, giving the water somewhere to go other than right along the wall. This involved a couple dozen wheelbarrow loads of soil and rock removed and about thirty feet of two foot retaining wall… Done!

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Steve Coe 1949-2018

Today I learned of the passing of Steven Coe, an amateur observer well known and admired in the Arizona community and elsewhere. He had been having health issues on and off for the past few years, but would usually bounce right back and you could again find him out in the dark with a telescope somewhere.

Steven Coe
Steven Coe set up at the 2004 All Arizona Star Party
I spent many nights observing with Steve and the rest of the usual gang at star parties in Southern Arizona. Nights at Sentinel or Farnsworth Ranch, he was nearly always there, one of the most dedicated visual observers in the community.

Go to the new moon events in southern AZ, wherever they were that month, and you would find Steve, AJ Crayon, Tom Polakis, and the rest. If everyone was there, it was going to be a good night. They were very memorable nights indeed.

If you saw Steve setting up at a star party you always wanted to setup nearby, you would learn so much just listening through the night. You were always welcome at his eyepiece, and what I saw there was so often something I had never seen before. A distant quasar, or some obscure gem of a nebula not found in the usual guides. Steve knew so much about the sky, and would cheerfully share that knowledge.

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Mowing the Lawn

Two days in Bellingham, not the original travel plan, but that is what happened. Not that Bellingham is a bad place to be stuck, quite the opposite. This is all the better as I have relatives in Bellingham. Thus I am spending a couple nights at my uncle’s place, actually pretty nice.

My uncle's magnificent back yard and garden...  aka the lawnmower obstacle course.
My uncle’s magnificent back yard and garden… aka the lawnmower obstacle course.
What to do for the day? Several possibilities were considered, but practical matters needed to be the priority. My uncle has a beautiful backyard, a yard and garden of stone terraces, raised vegetable beds, a stream running through the middle. It had been neglected a bit while he journeyed with us along the Inside Passage.

Thus I agree to help deal with that situation. What needs to be done?

Mow the lawns? I can do that.

It is then I make a realization… I have not mown a lawn for a dozen years. Not since we sold the house in Tucson. When moving I had given away the lawnmower. Our Hawaiian hale has no sod, the yard is gravel, shrubs and fruit trees. If I find a blade of grass I pull it up by the roots, it is a weed.

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At Anchor

We are done voyaging for the day. The anchor lies deep below the boat, a heavy chain descends from the bow into the dark depths. Switched off, the steady thrumming of the engine is silenced after a long day.

The Nordic Quest Under Aurora at Helm Bay
The Nordic Quest Under Aurora at Helm Bay
The boat floats upon dark still water, the deep green of the spruce forest surrounds the little cove we selected for this night’s anchorage. Otters play in the bight across the cove, the call of a loon echoes over the water.

Cheery lights spill from the salon, inside dinner is eaten, the dishes are done. It is just a bit to early to retire to the bunks below. Instead cards are scattered about a cribbage board, the game too close to call.

A radio recites a weather forecast, charts are consulted, a plan a sketched out for the next day. Down this channel, across that passage, a stop the hot springs, and a couple possibilities for the next anchorage are plotted.

Tomorrow will bring another day of voyaging, there are hundreds of miles to go before Bellingham, a journey along the Inside Passage is not yet done. We have plotted the next day’s course. After we pull the crab pots we again turn south, tomorrow…

Stray

Arriving back to the house late I realize something is under the lanai. A loud rustling of leaves and a jingle betrays something bigger than one of the neighborhood stray cats.

New Year Fireworks
Neighborhood fireworks signal the arrival of 2015
I pull the flashlight from my pocket to start looking about when a dog emerges. A very friendly shepherd mix appears in the flashlight beam. Deb reminds me that this is the Fourth of July, and that this dog may be panicked by the fireworks that are still crackling through the neighborhood.

Fortunately this dog has good tags, one tag includes an address just a few blocks away. Deb gets me a leash while I hold the collar, scratch between the ears, and make friends.

A nice evening for a stroll. This stray dog is very well behaved, walking alongside me up the street. A few fireworks are still going off and I worry about the dog bolting again. My guess is that some human accompaniment is all that was needed.

As I arrive in the cul-de-sac indicated on Google maps I see five houses, which one? I did not need to pull out the flashlight to check the addresses, the dog tugs me straight for one particular front door. Sure enough, the same address that is on the tag.

It is the right house?

Yes. I got hugged.