Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Big Tree Bites the Dust

Yesterday was kind of a sad day. A friend came over with a big bucket truck and took down our 100+ year old poplar. He brought along three or four sharp little chainsaws, and all the branches were down in about 4 hours. The main trunk still stands, surrounded by piles of small branches with big branch logs laying on top of them in a jumbled, tangled heap.

Annie and I are tree lovers. We live in the desert, and have tried to nurture every little twig that might want to grow. So we were kind of sad yesterday.

You say, 'hey, quit whining, you are the ones that ordered the hit'. That is true. We asked Paul to come out and execute our tree. And if I had to do it over again, I would. Make no mistake, as they say in 'You've Got Mail' this is business, not personal. You have to go the the 'mattresses' The reason that I would do it again is that it had to be done sometime. I have been watching the roots for several - many, actually- years and have never had a good feeling about the mushrooms that grow at the base of the tree. To me, this says 'rot' and when you have such a big and heavy tree so near your house, rot is not what you want at the base of the tree.

A lot of memories have been made in and under this tree. When Daniel was about 5 or so, I built a treehouse in it. The younger kids would sleep in it, and I think the older kids brought their special friends home to have a little privicy and probably smooch a little, far away from Dad and Mom's watchful eye. Very tricky.

You can see in the picture above, what one of the stumps did to our porch roof. It was the stump that had all the carving on it.

It just barely brushed against the porch, and WHAM, it was smashed pretty flat. I probably should include some pictures of the rot around the roots, but it is late and I am tired.

We live in a world where we mostly rule the forces that surround us. We are the kings and queens of climate, transportation, and sustanence. Our power largely derives from the abundant use of fossil fuels. In a few generations we have forgotten fear or even respect for the environment around us, and the forces that it can wield.

For instance, we think concrete is hard, even durable. I thought an open part of our back porch roof was solid and strong. This is not true. That might be strong and well adhered compared to my puny muscle, but let me tell you, not to the force of a falling tree. When Paul would drop a log from the top, it would hit on a nest of smaller branches, but it still struck the ground with great enough force that Annie and I felt the shock wave standing on the concrete patio. The porch? Broke to flinders is a heartbeat by one of the logs just clipping it. Wham.

So the tree had to come down. I'm still kind of sad to see it go, even though the miserable thing sent suckers up in our yard for years, and shaded our garden so that it's production was greatly reduced.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Poem on Parents

I found it! There you go.


By Shirley Howard

Shirley Howard, “Parents,” Ensign, July 1974, inside front cover

My father was a carpenter
and stood on sawdust carpets
as he fashioned wood.
He taught us lines
must measure true,
to use three nails
instead of two,
and he had a special rule:
we read before
we started school.

My mother,
on the other hand,
was always-ever in demand,
planning programs,
making floats,
rearranging words and notes,
and she gathered
stars and flowers
to adorn us in our brighter hours.

They were different,
yet the same,
for one designed the picture,
as the other made the frame.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Built to Last - Al's Way

When I was about 7 or 8 - Grandpa built a camping table. He laminated a couple of pieces of 5/8" plywood together for the top, and constructed an ingenious set of folding legs that would allow the table to be folded flat and put in the back of a station wagon.

We used it on a few campouts, and so it might not have served exactly the purpose that he built if for, but it was used a lot. Made before outdoor furniture became common and easy to buy, it held the food for our family and friends as I grew up. Memories are sometimes more of a comfort than an actual historical record, but in my memory I seem to remember eating a summer meal out in our 'breezeway' in the house on 32nd on Wheatridge. Grandpa had roofed the open space between the house and the garage, and walled and screened it in so that it was a cool, pleasant place to eat in the heat of the summer. It was summer and we were all around the table and Grandma was bringing the fried chicken in to serve it. Now, if you have ever had Grandma's fried chicken, you know that the house, the table, the utensils - everything - was transformed to a little higher plane. I've been trying to make chicken as good as hers for more than 30 years and have failed every time.

This old table, that has so many memories was something that they couldn't take with them when they moved from the farm. So it found a home here with us. It had been out in Grandpa's shop and served as a workbench of sorts, so it was pretty much at home under our porch.

We have had a few meals on it, but the paint and the wood on the top was not in the best shape, and it was hard to get clean. Plywood suffers from checking when it is in the sun. The dense parts of the wood expands and contracts at a different rate than the softer parts of the wood, and so after a while it pulls apart, and pulls the paint apart too. You can sand it and repaint it all that you want to, and you won't fix it. Boat bottoms do this as well, especially if they are stored bottom up to the sun, and then water gets in at the checks and soaks the plywood and the boat slowly rots.

The cure for this is to sand everything down as smooth as you can get it, then paint the surface with a thinned epoxy or polyester resin, then apply a piece of fiberglass cloth to the surface, then more epoxy or polyester resin. The glass cloth hold everything together, and that is the end of the checking problem. Andrew's boat, Aflac had this problem, and that is how I fixed it. Now all my boats get a coat of fiberglass, and they don't leak.

Sooo.... that is what I did last week to the table. It took a little work with the belt sander to get it back to sound wood. One knot hole had to be repaired, but the cloth went on smoothly and a nice smooth surface is the result. Today I painted it, at least one coat. We painted it the same color as the house, so that we can store it against the wall.

If Grandpa built this table when I was 7, then it has lasted for 50 years, and is still in good shape. I'm sure that he never had a thought that his table would still be in good shape, and serviceable in 50 years, but that is just the way he built things. There was the wrong way, and the Al way. And that was the right way. As I was crawling under the table today, doing the touch up paint, I could see that it was put together mostly with screws. 'Glued and screwed'...... that was the way it was.

I've been looking for a Fathers Day poem that I heard once. Only one line sticks in my mind. But that was about being taught to 'use three nails, instead of two'. I guess it sticks there because it was so much the way that Grandpa did things. That kind of thoroughness had it's downside - I've never knowm anybody that broke as many bolts as Grandpa did, getting it really tight. And I am sure that I'm not the only one that tried to open up one of his wire fence gates and then not be able to get it closed again because Grandpa had used a fence stretcher and a come-along to get it tight enough to close. Grrrrrrrrrr.........

But it is a good example, and a good way to live your life. He told me once that it didn't matter too much what I did for an occupation, but to be the best I could be at what I was doing. It's good advice, and he set a good example for all of us that follow. So look down the road 50 years, and use both glue and screws. Build it to last. That's Al's way.

Facebook Quiz Answers

Since there have been several comments that my quiz was hard I thought I would give you the answers and a short explanation. I really didn't try to be tricky.

1. What country?

Russia- very interested, but don't speak Russian and think it is messed up politically and economically.

Argentina - also very interested. It has great promise, could be a wonderful place to live. Maybe I could learn Spanish

Canada - well, there you have it. Beautiful, prosperous, fairly squared away politically and economically. Lots of area and not too many people.

Australia - just too far away.

New Zealand - ditto. If you take out the whole of having family, friends or history, NZ is probably #2.

2. James Garner. Rockford Files. Maverick. Maverick 1 - which you don't even remember. Support Your Local Sheriff/Gunfighter. OK, maybe lame, but he makes me laugh.

3. 13. Friends going to movies, meeting friends of the opposite sex - surprise - at the movie. What a coincidence! That's what I tried to tell Grandma anyway. She didn't buy it.

4. Baseball. Yeah, I know it's lame. Football would be a close 2nd. Basketball and root canal's are close for me, but I like the drugs, so maybe root canals 3rd.

5. Green. Then blue. Yeah, I know I'm not supposed to be able to see green so well, but mostly I'm thinking of the real green that you see in plants, grass and trees.

6. Taiwan 2007, Austria in 2006, Mexico 1993, Germany 1992, Germany 1984, Canada 1958.

7. Alan. Ok, so I was trying to be tricky here a little. Not such a good job. You all knew.

8. Crowds, then the crowds in the airplanes and knowing how maintenance decisions are made, Heights and close places, sometimes. Skyclimbers, yes. But crowds always. I'm not smart enough to know if the FR is doing the right thing or not. I suspect that their policies are designed to take from the poor and give to the rich, but this is a time honored pass time, and as Scarlet O'Hara commented once, 'It's a darn site safer than the other way around'. Rhett laughed.

9. I'm glad none of you missed this. Annie.

10. Scientist. Possibly when I was about 6 I thought of football or being a pilot.

11. Denver. Wheatridge was pretty little then. I don't think they had a hospital.

12. Oreo/grasshopper.

13. Hiding. Sometimes disguised as being helpful. Kitchens are great places to hide as generally there is work there and many people find a reason not to go there.

14. 11:00. Earlier is better and the goal, but I generally don't make it.

15. Gardening. I sort of had to work back on this. It answers the question of what do I spend the most time doing? I do like to build and sail boats, but I don't do much of it.