Monday, September 30, 2013

Fencing, Round Three

The summer is getting on, and before the snow starts flying I have more fence work to do. This time it's the long stretch between me and my neighbor. Like all the rest, it is in sad shape. Observe this lovely lean it has developed:

And yes, that's a broken-down triangle tower that is being used to help brace it. My neighbor provided some impetus to not let this job lapse into next year by pointing out that the fence is unlikely to withstand a broadside from a snowblower. Fair point.

In some ways this section is more straightforward than others I have done. This section has no gate, and the starting and ending points are not constrained by large immobile objects like the foundation of my house. Nope, it is just one eight-foot long section after another. Unfortunately, it's a whole bunch of sections, about 80 feet all told, which means a whole bunch of posts and trim work. Half of the fence is nice, manageable 4' tall spaced picket. The back sections, however, are 6' tall privacy, which are really heavy and unwieldy. All in all, a large (and expensive) job. The joy of home ownership!

Like a fool I decided to do the installation myself, as I did with the others. The reasoning for this is simple: the fencing system I am using - with metal channels supporting wood panels - is uncommon enough that no one around here works with it regularly, and I would rather not have this job be their proving ground. Plus the cost of installation (I could not actually ever get a firm quote - based on the unfamiliarity) was frightful.

If the job were left to just evenings after work and the occasional Saturday, it probably would never get finished. So I decided to make a concerted attack on it and see how far I could get. Last weekend I picked up most of the materials from my supplier. This week I took Friday off and got to work. As Brynna was heading off to school I was pulling out some rotting posts.

The locations of the new posts did not line up with the old posts, meaning that each hole was started from scratch. My progress was hampered several times when, 6-12" down, I would thump into roots.

Goodness only knows where they came from. They aren't close to any substantial plant. I suppose it is possible they belong to the old maple tree, tens of feet away. As I dug holes closer to the stump, the roots became more frequent and thicker.

By the end of my first work day, Friday, I had put in almost ten hours and managed to set just four posts - less than halfway. I was beat from post-hole digging, hauling dirt, and mixing and schlepping concrete. Still, it was a start.

Saturday morning my neighbor picked me up with his pickup and trailer, and we went to pick up the materials I hadn't picked up already. These were the 6' fence panels, four of them, which I could not readily load onto the top of Hilary's station wagon last weekend. I next hung the 4' tall panels. The first one cornered to the first set of fence I installed last summer.

Late in the day, after sinking another post, I installed a "sloped" panel to transition from the 4' fence to the 6'. The first post of the 6' section I doubled up the post to create a box beam. This is not, according to the manufacturer's installation guidelines, strictly necessary. But I'm an engineer and wanted some additional rigidity.

By this point it was about 4:30. I had designs on going further and sinking another post before calling it quits, but figured that my efforts would be better spent making dinner. Here's the extent of my progress at the end of the second day:

Nice to see that I can hew to a straight line!

Day three, Sunday, I woke up pretty sore, but still determined to keep at it. My progress slowed right down when my post hole digger thumped into a tight clump of tree roots the size of my forearm. It took until lunchtime to clear that and dig the first hole of the day.

I managed a second post in the afternoon before packing it in. I could perhaps have soldiered on, but I was beat. The next hole would have brought my closer to the tree stump, meaning a high likelihood of encountering more tenacious roots to saw through. Plus, I was out of concrete. The 6' panels are too heavy to maneuver into place single-handed, so I called it quits for the day. Instead, I did something nice and relaxing, like washing and hanging the laundry. Then I went grocery shopping, followed by a swing past the hardware store for a few more bags of concrete (80 lbs each) and gravel (50 lbs each).

So three full days of work, and about 3/4 of the fence installed. Not bad, I suppose, but I'd hoped for more. Of course, once the fence itself is installed, there will come a long period of trim work to cover over the metal posts. It'll look great when it's finished, but there's a lot of work still to come.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Trip Report: Belknap Mountain Hike, September 29

Today, a crew of four—B, my dad, Jasper, and I—set off to climb Belknap Mountain. This same quartet climbed Belknap just about exactly four years ago, and that trip report (showing a much tinier B!) can be found here. Today, of course, she did it under her own power—just under 2 miles roundtrip.

Four years ago:

And near the start of our hike today:

I need to get better at these hold-the-camera-out-and-point-it-back-at-myself shots. Alex usually is in charge of those (he was stuck at home replacing our fence).

B is fascinated by cairns.

So she built this little one on a rest break!

Jasper always likes to be right in the middle...even if that puts him right in the way. We went up the Green Trail today. There's no map at the trailhead, and no reason to choose Green vs Blue vs Red vs White, but we always pick Dartmouth when we can.

Here's B atop the fire tower, with Lake Winnepesaukee in the background. Great views out across New Hampshire and into Massachusetts, Maine, and Vermont! I brought my Scudder's White Mountain Guide and got a good sense of what was what.

We came back down the Red Trail. In fact, B virtually flew down—Dad and I were rushing to keep up with her and Jasper was getting quite a bit of exercise going back and forth between all of us! She even passed some much bigger kids. Right toward the end, she found this big stump (lightning strike, maybe?) to climb on.

Then she ran on ahead again, and by the time Dad and I came down the hill into the parking lot, she was leaning casually up against the car, looking like she'd been waiting for hours.

We had a lovely walk on a beautiful fall day. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have Alex with us!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Quote of the Day

Someday I will Google myself to find out who I used to be.

Garrison Keillor at the start of today's Prairie Home Companion

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Library Card for Brynna!

I haven't posted the pictures from B's first day of school yet...but something even more important has happened. (I'm only sort of kidding.)

Brynna has her own library card now!

She wrote her name on the application:

Received her card from the librarian, along with a little bag that the library is giving to all kindergarteners, with a book to read and a coloring book and a welcome to the library letter:

And checking out using her own card for the first time:

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

B's Fifth Birthday

Brynna had a birthday a few weeks ago, and we had a lovely set of celebrations.

The actual event was mid-week, but we bookended things with a pair of parties.

Kicking off the festivities, we hosted a lovely family get-together (sorry, no photos, too busy laughing!) and then the weekend after had a little gathering in the park with a few friends. B requested a teddy bear party, and Deen obliged with a lovely cake. It turns out that when you go to the party goods store, you can buy all sorts of character-driven plates, cups, tablecloths, etc. but if you are not having a Dora party or a Star Wars party or a Disney Princess Party you are pretty much out of luck. No generic teddy bears (CareBears, yes) or horses (My Little Pony, yes). We did track down some teddy bear plates in the baby shower aisle and ended up using those.

Here's B eating with her friend C:

The cake:

Blowing out the candles:

Very pleased with her new baby doll:

Jakey helps her get it ready to go:

 And they're off (yes, comes with a little backpack/baby carrier)!

 Checking out the cards:

Horse figurines:

A wonderful time was had by all. Amazing that we have a five year old in our house now!

Monday, September 16, 2013

A Boston Scavenger Hunt with Aunt Donna

Still catching up on reports of our summer activities! In July, we went to Boston for a scavenger hunt with Aunt Donna. I found a link with clues via the Appalachian Mountain Club's Outdoor Kids website, and we adjusted as needed.

We headed into the city from Malden. Fresh off our trip to Washington DC, B was an expert on the subway!

Here's this cool horse statue as we got off the T in the Back Bay.

We snacked and planned at Au Bon Pain and then set off looking for lions. This is actually a photo of the lion statue outside the Fairmont Copley Plaza, we found it before the library lions so we just called it good.

Slow and steady wins the race!

The Boston Public Garden, home of the swan boats.

Ducklings! (We actually had to stand in line for 5-10 minutes in order to get this picture.)

On the carousel near the frog pond.

This one isn't on the scavenger hunt list but Donna knew it would be a big hit!

Looking forward to lots more Boston fun as Brynna grows up. We haven't really gotten into the historical aspects yet—she'll need to be a little older! There are some great historically-focused Boston Junior Ranger badges that she can earn in a few years.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Capitol City Tri Race Report

In mid-July, we participated in the second annual Capitol City Triathlon, organized by some good friends. There is nothing better than a home-city race! In fact, knowing that the traffic and parking situation was going to be crazy (there was a NASCAR race the same day), we just got on our bikes and rode over to the transition area. Super-convenient! 

This race came after several weeks of crazy travel for us, including our trip to the Southwest and a trip B and I took with my folks to Washington DC, so we weren't exactly at the peak of our form! 

Until the night before the race, there was some controversy as to whether there would even be a swim. There had been lots of rain and the Merrimack River was running high—so high that there had been several drownings in the preceding couple of weeks. Things calmed down enough in the few days prior that the state allowed the swim to go forward with a shortened and slightly modified course. This was very good for Alex (an excellent swimmer) and bad for me (who would just as well skip the swim).

Alex went in with the first wave, had a fast swim as always, and was back out and headed toward transition in time for me to cheer for him before starting my own swim. Here he is, looking hardcore, coming out of the water:


At the beginning of my race, I was happy just to be moving upstream in the water as I swam, rather than getting swept back by the current. We stuck close to the bank on the way up the stream, and then were supposed to go around two turn buoys and head back. Except, sometime in between Alex's wave and mine, one of those corner buoys broke free and floated away. This forced my wave to make a turn that put us directly against the strong current and caused a terrifying hamster-wheel like effect for me where the buoy didn't seem to be getting any closer as I struggled to reach it. Once I finally managed to go around the buoy, I zipped very quickly back down the river with the current. Here I am, extremely relieved to be approaching the boat ramp to get the heck out of the water:

Then we were off on the bike—very familiar roads! The photographer (also a friend) caught a couple of great shots of Alex zipping along:

 I kept hearing that there was one woman out in front of me, though despite riding hard, I could never find her. Then, with about a half mile to go on the bike, I saw her...already half a mile into the 5K run! So I knew I wasn't going to be catching her. She turned out to be training for the world championships—totally out of my league!

I had a decent, though not great run, and got passed by a couple of women from the wave behind me, to end up fourth overall and first in my age group.

Alex also had a very successful day, second in his age group. The awards were the best ever—local honey from someone who participated in the race! Yum. We had a wonderful time with all of our teammates, and our tri team pretty much dominated the podium. 

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Diana Nyad

H and I do a fair bit of swimming - probably more than 98% of the population out there. But we aren't marathon swimmers; a typical open-water swim for us is only about a mile or so, and is over an done with in 30-60 minutes. Marathon swimmers, like marathon runners, are a different bunch, and put in a lot of time training and executing.

And then there's Diana Nyad. I think it is fair to say she's in her own category. This past week, she finally succeeded, on her fifth attempt, in her goal of becoming the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida* - a distance of 110 miles! It took her over 53 hours from dipping her toes in Havana to coming ashore at Key West, meaning that she managed an average pace that is close to my own open water pace. But she managed to maintain it (and no go stir crazy!) for over two days.

Simply amazing. There is no other way to describe it.

Here she is in October 2011, recounting the first of her recent (failed) attempts:

* A very short list of people have actually already done the swim from Cuba to Florida. Those swims, however, were accomplished with the help of a shark cage to, obviously, guard against sharks (and, probably, would provide protection from the jellyfish that so plagued Nyad. Nyad's successful swim was also fastest. Nyad's swim is the definitive performance, I would say, if it holds up to scrutiny.