Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Likely survivors of the apocalypse

We are told that cockroaches, of which there are over 4,000 species, are the consumate survivors, able to go six weeks without feeding, able to withstand the radiation levels present at Hiroshima, and able to orbit the earth in a Coke can, the oxygen within being sufficient for several weeks.  They were contemporaries of the dinosaurs, and I'm sure the dinosaurs were creeped out also when they saw them in their kitchens .
When the first human survivors cautiously emerge from whatever shelters have kept them safe, they will already find junk mail in the smoking remains of their mailboxes, that is if it hasn't already found its way to the mail slots of those shelters.
We would humbly suggest another likely survivor of global catastrophe - Liriope spicata, also known as lilyturf or monkey grass.  
"What could go wrong?" we asked ourselves as we pushed a half-full wheelbarrow of the innocuous-looking plants home from a neighbors yard.  Little did we realize that the "pips," as the divisions are called, were quietly giggling, excited for the chance to conquer another sector of Earth.
We planted them carefully, and even watered and fed them, and they quickly spread under the pine trees in our front yard, soon offering a cool shady carpet, where before there had been only brown pine straw and pine cones.  "This looks great!" we chortled stupidly.  
However, things are never quite that simple, and the monkey grass began sprinting for the open. Paula created a no-man's land between the grass, which was quaking in its little green boots, and the monkey grass, which was shaking its fists, chanting aggressive slogans and trying to leap across the RoundUp-sprayed border.  
This worked until we left for five years.  With no one patrolling the border, pump sprayer at the ready, the Liriope escaped.  The grass was no match, and the maintenance guys that we had hired to keep the lawn in shape just gradually retreated before the onslaught.  By the time we got back, half the lawn was infested.  
We quadrupled the strength on the RoundUp and went to work, sacrificing a lot of the grass in the process.  Sure that control could only be achieved with a physical barrier, we a concrete mowing curb installed.
"Nice try, suckers!" I heard through the screen window lying in bed one night.  Investigating further in the morning, Paula found  that numerous rhizomes had already passed under the concrete and were heading for New York City.
"Quick!" I cried, and rushed to Lowe's, who gleefully sold me as much 4" steel edging as I wanted.
Over the next week, using a wide brick chisel, a sledge hammer and a Sawz-All for the pine roots, I cut a narrow trench behind the mowing curb and banged in the steel edging in.
I tell you I heard, with a Liriope accent, "Sucker!" as I trudged wearily away, shoulders, arms and knees aching after a week of work.  I awoke in a cold sweat that night, realizing that a 1" gap was left between the steel edging and the concrete curbing.
Home Despot opened at 6:30 AM, and actually 6:25 AM if you bang hard enough on the sliding glass doors.  
I ran inside and bought mortar and sand, and by the end of the second day, we had filled the gap.  
However, we noticed that the neighbors were no longer smiling, but were nervously shying their kids away from our yard and telling them not to talk to us.  
Anyway, for the moment we only hear angry whispered mutterings from the Liriope spicata, as it plans its next move.  
We sleep with a full sprayer of 8X-strength RoundUp next to the bed, ready to spray first and ask questions later.  
We hope that you have better luck with your ground covers, and if you see monkey grass, don't listen to it!
Dave & Paula

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Hurricane preparation

As you're well aware unless you've been Rip van Winkle-ing or haven't paid your cable or internet bill lately, Hurricane Irma has shown herself/itself to be a huge dangerous and deadly tropical cyclone, basically destroying several Caribbean islands, and now heading through Florida.
Hurricanes are predictably unpredictable in their wandering about and in their strengthening and weakening.  A map of hurricane tracks over the years looks like a two-year-old got hold of a map and a box of crayons,
These storms generally don't come very far inland before losing steam, but we have had several make it all the way to Raleigh, the most recent in 1996, when Fran knocked out power for eight days and phone service for two weeks and generally made a mess.
So we do take hurricanes seriously here, and generally check things before they might hit.  We bought a generator a long time ago because of the frequent ice storms in the winter and hurricanes in the summer, and it has had its share of use.
During Fran's aftermath, we used it to keep the freezer going, thereby rescuing the neighborhood's shrimp, and fragments of wedding cake,
as well as charging some cell phones.  While we did save some of the neighbors' steaks and chicken, a lot of folks had a quicker solution.
One neighbor came over, coffee pot in hand, and asked if he could borrow some power.  "Yeah," he said, "it's been a couple of days now, and my wife's getting a little 'jumpy.'"  .
Another neighbor's basement sump pump shut down when the power went out, so we ran an extension cord over there also.
We also have stored food, headlamp batteries and camping stoves.  And if the water supply turns off,
though I admit that bathing in Sprite, though tingly, is a little problematic.
It's good to have a couple of tarps on hand for trees or branches through the roof, water damage being a biggie.
Some items seem a bit weird at first glance, but on second thought are understandable.  Our daughter, who lives on the North Carolina coast has kids of 10, 9, 7 and 4 years of age, and she has several audio book CD's of Harry Potter, and batteries to run the boom box.
Chocolate must be obtained and hoarded in case of such an emergency.
There are some things that a lot of people used to use that are good to have in emergencies.  They are called books, I think.  
So there are many considerations when hurricanes are threatening. 
We hope that although you prepare well for them, they veer off somewhere in the Atlantic.
Dave & Paula

Sunday, August 27, 2017

We can't get rid of them!

As I may have mentioned previously, we came to know (and mostly love) 451 missionaries during our time in the Peru Huancayo Mission.  We keep up with many of them on FaceBook, to which we were asked by the Church to subscribe after the mission.  That's fun, seeing them get home,
have kids, 
get fat, lose their hair (he, he), etc., though there are occasional heartbreaks that they also share with us.
We've been to several weddings; unfortunately, our location on the East Coast of the United States makes that difficult.
Unless the wedding is in Australia, and then no problema.
We've been honored that a handful have dropped by, even way back here in North Carolina!
OK, so we forgot to take a picture when one visited, but Photoshop saved the day, no?
I admit that several were passing through on their way to the beach or other places anyway, and would have been spanked by Paula if they had not stopped by.  However, others have gone to not inconsiderable bother and expense to see us. Most recently, (former Sister) Jane Goodfellow came and visited for a couple of days.  
We ate barbecue and hush puppies, which were eye-openingly appreciated by our visitor, as well as collards and shrimp and grits, the latter being another hit.
We hiked in a local park forest,
and did the eclipse, or at least our 95% of it, on the front walk.
Sister Goodfellow bonded with the fish in Paula's garden.  She gave them fish food, and they nibbled on her toes.
The last day she was here, we attended the Raleigh Temple.
A great visit by one of our adopted kids!
We hope your kids and their visits are as pleasant.
Dave & Paula

Friday, August 4, 2017

They're only young once, so scare them now!

We have ten grandchildren, six of whom live overseas, lately Tajikistan, and four others located on the coast of North Carolina.  The stars rarely align to have all of them around at the same time; being together could also be referred to as a perfect storm, depending on your point of view.
This happy event occurred this week, as the distant ones are in the States for three-plus weeks for home leave, and the in-state gang came up for a couple of days.
Paula and I took the older three from each family to the mountains of North Carolina for a couple of days, leaving their mothers back in Raleigh in the delicious state of fewer kids, no husbands and available babysitters.
We spent a night at a quiet, traditional motel; at least it was quiet until we got there.
and after eating at a drive-in restaurant that had been a drive-in since before such things were 'nostalgic' or 'retro,'
we watched them swim and scream and yell until an hour of which their parents would certainly not approve.
In the morning, after a hearty breakfast of Marshmallow Matys and doughnuts at the motel, (c'mon, what are grandparents for?) we drove to the Nantahala Outdoor Center on the dam-controlled river of the same name.  They terrorized the outfitter store until the rafting shop opened, then donned wet suits
and stood for a photo as the now-official Rat Squad.
We lucked out, and our guide was a patient and fun older gentleman who does this part-time, and who perceived each kid's character and engaged them in the management of our trusty inflatable craft.
The final rapids is knows as "Nantahala Falls," and it was a thrilling ride!
And yeah, on the way home we stopped at Wendy's and ordered seven "Dave's Combo's" (Paula had a righteous salad) and made weird combinations of sodas from the cool drink dispensers.
And yeah, we dusted off the almost-never-used video player in the car and watched The Incredibles and The Princess Bride on the ride home.  "My name is Inigo Montoya.  You killed my father; prepare to die!"
Like I said, what are grandparents for, anyway?
We hope that you get to spend quality time with yours, too.
Dave & Paula

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

The two words I don't want to ever hear again

We have lived in the same house for 32 years, and have made some improvements along the way. A particular door in the kitchen has bugged Paula for a long time, and for the last, I dunno, ten years she has suggested replacing it with a sliding pocket door to get it out of the way.
Not suspecting a thing, in March my brother-in-law and I took the wall apart during his visit, and quickly realized that a load-bearing post had been jury-rigged into it during some work 27 years ago.
OK, so we'd have to put in a 'header' above to take the load. After considering a steel beam, or putting the wall back together and bailing on the project, we settled on a double-thick 11-inch laminated beam to take the load. The guy at the lumber yard that helped me put it on top of the Odyssey kind of sneered when he said, "Kinda heavy for that kinda car, huh?" I muttered under my breath as I got back in the pilot's seat, "Real men drive minivans, buddy."
I jacked up the ceiling, a friend helped me cut and place the beam, and we got to wield sledge hammers and other real-guy tools.
However, with the load of the upstairs hallway now distributed differently, the minimal sag in the floor on either side looked a little more pronounced, so...
After two days in the 30" crawl space with a hand trowel, about 50 buckets of dirt dragged out and 40 buckets of wet cement and rebar dragged in,
 I had made four good footings,
on to which were then placed four beefy house jacks.
I then got the local steel supply space to cut me two seven-foot lengths of five-inch steel I-beam, which my beautiful assistant and I dragged under the house ("One, two, three, lift!").
and finally hoisted up on the jacks.
After a month to cure the concrete to maximum strength, I jacked the floor level,
and could finally hang the pocket door hardware, and then the door itself, a big ol' 36-inch solid core thing, which weirdly had been made in Chile.
A man's got to know his limitations, so Edgar The Sheet Rock Guy came over and did the honors.
After that, it was a couple days of trim and paint and thresholds, and then insetting the pulls.
So, after only four months, untold blood, sweat and tears, and I-don't-really-want-to-know-how-much-money, the project was finally done.
I now have authority to advise any and all that if your wife utters the words, "pocket door," it's time to feign sudden deafness, break your own arm, or call a good divorce lawyer.
I hope that your home-improvement projects are less complicated and of shorter torture duration.