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Archive for July, 2012

Jul 10 2012

Just Cut the Flapping Bits Off

Posted by Mugs @ 3:25 pm in Family

Excessive yard work creates excessive yard waste, and excessive yard waste creates the pile. Most houses have the pile both inside and out. On the inside, the pile consists of bills, magazines, and junk mail. On the outside, the pile consists of leaves, sticks, and vines. After I spend a day pruning, raking, bagging, and dragging, I am too tired to get rid of all the yard waste. Therefore, the pile starts and then it grows and grows and grows. Our pile location is on the side of the garage on top of what would be a very nice parking spot for a boat. Unfortunately, there is no Manry Clan boat, so the pile grows there instead.

The pile had been growing since last fall and by early summer, nearly blocked the entrance to the back gate. People with foresight keep an old junk pickup truck around or have a hill out back for getting rid of things. Some Melochs find it handy to toss things over the hill. Regrettably, the Manry Clan has no old truck nor a hill out back. We must borrow our friend Mike’s old truck for a trip to the dump. Mike is ever hospitable, always willing to help someone out. He is a machinist by trade and a mechanic by necessity. Most of his vehicles run on a wing and a prayer and a clutch.

My meager ability to drive a vehicle with a manual transmission is well documented. I was forced to teach myself to drive a stick when I bought a car sight unseen in Germany. I met the guy at the provost marshal’s office, handed over the money, and he handed over the key. I then walked over to the car to discover it had a manual transmission. I would not recommend anyone learn to drive a stick through trial and error.

Although I am most thankful to Mike for the use of his truck, I know it will not be a smooth ride for me or my sons. The seat does slide quite a bit forward, and if I stretch my leg as for as it will go, I can get the clutch to the floor. As I’m driving along, I shout warnings to the tailgaters that if they insist on pulling up close behind me at a red light on an incline, they will regret it.

Not wanting to use up all Mike’s fuel, I stopped at the gas station to top it off. After two attempts, I finally had the truck lined up the correct way. Then, I opened the gas tank, started filling it up and gas poured all down the side of the truck and onto the ground. I looked towards the back of the truck and thought, “Oh yeah, two tanks.”

Gabe accompanied me for the first dump load: composting bags of leaves, old shrubs Josiah wrestled out of the ground, and grapevine. He walked out to the truck with a bag of beef jerky in his hand which he felt was appropriate for the occasion. The trip went fairly well in my opinion. I didn’t hit anyone when the truck rolled back towards them, and I only stalled out 4 times trying to get the truck into reverse. However, Gabe did not view our trip to the dump quite so successfully, and he refused to accompany me for the next load.

The task then fell to Josiah.

The second dump load consisted of more yard waste, the old porch railing, the new railing’s metal packing material, and a giant antenna which had tormented Gabe. Initially,  when the antenna was knocked down by the wind, it scraped back and forth across the siding next to Gabe’s room making a scary screeching noise. The noise kept Gabe up at night, but I thought it was just a tree branch. Finally, I climbed out his window with a pair of pruners to look and discovered the antenna swinging from a cable.

I needed more than a pair of pruners.

Getting the antenna onto the truck bed proved difficult. It stuck out of both sides and the back. Realizing I couldn’t drive with it that way, I dumped it back off the truck and told Gabe to try to bend it smaller. His measly attempt proved fruitless.

“Don’t we have a sledge hammer somewhere?” I asked from the top of the pile on the back of the pickup.

“I don’t know,” he replied in a disinterested voice. He then walked over to the garage, grabbed a shovel and began swinging it at the antenna. The only thing this accomplished was making me mad.

Fearing we would not make it to the dump before it closed and hot and sweaty from the 90+ degree heat, I jumped off the pick up truck and began bending and smashing the antenna with all my might. I might have yelled ‘Hulk Smash’ at one point, but I can’t remember for sure. Afterward, we loaded the antenna back on top of the pile and secured it down with a net. Not being able to find a flag to attach to the pole sticking out of the back of the bed, I grabbed a parachute man from the garage and tied him on. It took me awhile to get the truck started again. The whole foot on the brake thing had slipped my mind. Even with the pole and parachute man sticking out the back of the bed, people still tailgated me. I stopped at one light and thought, “If this pole goes through your window, maybe you’ll finally learn to back off.”

(I saw a funny bumper sticker once, it said, “Keep honking, I’m reloading.”)

I made it through the light without rolling the pole through their window and then things got very noisy under the hood. I pulled over at the Wawa and called Mike. Not wanting to have to back out of a parking space, I just pulled straight across five spaces near the air pump. Josiah was unhappy with this blocking maneuver, but he wasn’t the one who had to put the engine in reverse.

“Mike, your engine is making a noise,” I said. I held up my phone to the hood.

“Open the hood,” Mike replied.

I was unable to do this. I could not get the latch to release. Finally, Josiah was able to trigger the release. I held up the phone again and looked to see the fan belt partly shredded.

“It’s the belt, Mike,” I said.

“OK, I’ll go get a new one and bring it to you,” he replied.

I turned off the truck, bought two slushies for Josiah and I, and we sat in the shade and waited. After awhile my phone rang.

“How much belt is left,” Mike asked.

“Somewhere between a half and three quarters,” I answered.

“The dump”s about to close. You should have enough belt to make it there. Just cut the flapping bits off. I’ll meet you at the dump with the new belt,” Mike told me.

“Really, just cut the flapping bits off?” I asked.

Conveniently, Mike had a pair of scissors on the dashboard that I used to cut the flapping bits off. When I had picked up the truck, Mike warned me not to slam the hood completely closed, because if I did, he would have to use a crow bar to reopen it. I closed the hood and thought I had latched it just enough. I started the truck with much trepidation.

Then, I pulled out onto highway 1, started driving towards the dump and the hood flew completely open, blocking my vision. I slowed to a stop, got out on the passenger side and attempted to close the hood. It had completely jammed. I could not get it to budge. With cars flying past on 1 and me standing on the bumper, I decided I needed to move father off onto the shoulder. I inched the truck forward with Josiah walking slowly in front of me. I could just see his legs. He and I took turns trying to close the hood to no avail. I thought about smashing the jammed hinge with the lug wrench that was behind the seat, but called Mike instead.

“I’m not going to make it to the dump,” I said. “I’m on the side of road with the truck’s hood completely jammed open.”

While we sat and waited for Mike, no one stopped to render aid. I figure they all thought, “If you drive a junky old truck like that, you deserve to be broken down on the side of the road.”

Mike arrived with his grandson, beat the hinge with the lug wrench, and had his grandson jump down on the hood while he worked to get it closed. When it finally closed, he drove off with a load for the dump, a dented hood and a fan belt with the flapping bits cut off. “You had enough belt to make it there,” he told me as he drove away.

Josiah and I got into the van with our empty slushy cups and drove home. Thankfully, the engine knew me well and was smart enough to do all the shifting itself.

Jul 08 2012

Garden Flowers

Posted by Dale @ 3:34 pm in Nature

Jul 07 2012

A Fish Full of Flowers

Posted by Mugs @ 6:22 pm in Family,Nature

Although the blazing hot weather came to visit two weeks ago, the majority of June was quite pleasant for gardening. I spent the month of June and the first week of July digging in the dirt. Today, when the thermometer hit 98 degrees at noon, I came inside and declared myself done with gardening. That is, of course, until asters arrive at the greenhouse.

It all started out so simply with just one plant. For Mother’s Day, the kids bought me a new rose. I should have planted it immediately, but I couldn’t think of where. Then, for our anniversary, Dale bought me a Japanese Maple.

A wise person would say: “Plant two things and be done.” Unfortunately, when it comes to gardening, I am far from wise. I think,”These could be the start of a new flower bed. It’s time to dig up more dirt.”

I love the researching of plants, the shopping at the greenhouse, the putting plants in the ground and watering them in. However, I am sorely lacking in any kind of vision for overall design. This lack of vision always results in me moving plants from here to there and back again.

I knew I needed someone else to design the new flower bed, so I called in the Manry Clan in house designer: Gabe.

Admittedly, prior to the flower bed design, his resume consisted of: winning best in show for his class at the art fair, and designing free things on roblox (an online game) for other kids to use. Still, I know talent when I see it.

We started our flower bed design by placing the Japanese Maple on the front yard across from a rose I planted last fall. Next, we used paper bags to lay out the shape of the bed. I moved the bags here to there until Gabe said, “Hey that looks like a fish!” Thus the inspiration for a fish full of flowers happened.

An excessive amount of relocated sedum became the head; a slate path became the first set of scales; the white rose, gaura, and dusty miller became the second set of scales; my three roses that hurt my eyes (including the new one), celosia, lantana, zinnia, and portulaca became the gills; endless summer hydrangea, rozanne geranium, russian sage, penstemon, and ageratum became the fin, purple fountain grass became the last set of scales, and the Japanese maple became the tail.

Some plants were residing elsewhere in the garden and had to be relocated to their new spot, and other plants were chosen by Gabe at the greenhouse. Gabe would not relent to my hodgepodge choices and “this is pretty close to the correct color” assertions. He wanted his color choices precise and the plants lined up in rows with paths in between. The “hurt your eyes to look at them” gills will be a painful sight when the orange/smoke/pinkishy/yellow roses bloom. Gabe is most fond of annuals and I could only sneak in a few perennials here and there.

After everything was planted to Gabe’s liking, I covered the remaining area with paper bags and mulch.

I should have stopped.

Fish Flower Bed

Fish Flower Bed

But now, I had holes in my flower beds from things I had moved. (Great tip I discovered from a crazy rose guy: If you have to move a rose other than in early spring or fall, remove all the flowers and leaves. It tricks the rose into dormancy and it will recover faster. This tip really worked. Twice before, I have moved roses in the heat of summer and they wilted and moped for the rest of the season. The roses I moved this year after removing the leaves have leafed out and are setting buds.)

To further my madness, I went to the library and checked out gardening books on perennial gardens and how to plant mixed borders. Then the lilies in my existing front bed bloomed in all their mixed congested clashing colors. This hodgepodge mess would no longer do now that it was positioned next to my orderly fish garden. Each year I have sworn to dig up these masses of lilies in the fall and chop them apart, but in the fall I can never remember which ones are which color. “I’ll just dig them up now when I can see the color easily,” I said. I dug them all up while they were blooming and chopped them apart for a new flower bed in the backyard.

Unfortunately, in my exuberance I dug up some maroon and yellow lilies that were supposed to stay in the front bed and planted them with the apricot and pink/peach lilies I moved to the back bed. For a week, I would wake up, look warily out the back window and discover another maroon/yellow lily where it should not be. Each day, I had to go dig up the lily and move it back.

I should have stopped.

Then I read that stella de oro lilies should be dug up and divided every two years. In the front bed, I had bright yellow ones on one side and dark yellow ones on the other side. Because this would no longer work with my color coordinating flower madness, I dug up the dark yellow ones and edged my backyard beds with them. Josiah spent the entire time digging holes for me in the blazing heat.

“It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great grandfather.”

Digging Holes

Digging Holes

My ability to edge a straight line of lilies is somewhat suspect and leaving enough room for a walking path gets lost along the way. When Dale reminded me of this criteria, I attempted to correct my error and ended up digging three different holes to plant one lily.

I should have stopped.

But I had become so fond of my purple fountain grass that I began to read up on grasses and how to incorporate them into the landscape. My books proclaimed the great value of grasses and shrubs to anchor a bed. I called and talked to Mom about my great grasses idea. “You don’t like grasses,” she replied indignantly. Admittedly, in the past I may have held grasses in disdain, but I have now changed, and become more open minded about mixed plantings. “Why can’t I change my mind? You’re always bringing up things I said in the past!” (This quote has been spoken by every child over the age of 12 to her mother at some point in her life.)

Therefore, I bought some grasses to demonstrate my open mindedness. The grasses were mostly dead, so they were cheap. This resulted in more hole digging by Josiah.  After he dug the holes, he spent a day pulling down my neighbor’s grape vine which had overrun the side shrubs. Thus commenced the great tug of war battle of the ages.

“His muscles and hands weren’t the only parts of his body that had toughened over the past several weeks. His heart had hardened as well.”

Furthermore, my iris were annoying me with all their “I’m done blooming, now I’ll be an unsightly mess for the rest of the summer” attitude. I was forced to dig them up and move them elsewhere.

I should have stopped.

But, Abby needed more driving hours and when we were driving, we just happened by a giant greenhouse containing all the plants of the world and free popcorn too. Finally, I could look at all the plants the library books said were highly recommended for growing with my grasses in my new mixed plantings.

I filled in my new backyard bed that had started with the lilies and my circle of grasses. I covered the remaining area with paper bags and mulch. Blaze was happy about this action, for it reminded him of one of his favorite games from long ago: “Find the paper bags and shred them up!”

Shredded Bags

Shredded Bags

I should have stopped.

But the pond was its usual green slime mosquito breeding mess and I had had enough of it. I drained it and pulled the liner out of the ground and washed it with dish soap. In the process I went to battle with the black widow spider. Our pond was a black widows dream. She would tuck herself up in the underside edge of the plastic pond and scurry between there and the piles of slate used for edging. I had to flip each piece of slate with a shovel and smash any black widows on sight. Gabe and Zeke helped in this pursuit. Zeke killed one black widow. I killed 14.

Ponds are great, but the maintenance is a nightmare. We had all grown weary of pond maintenance and in a unified Manry Clan vote, Dale put the pond on the side of the road with a “Free” sign attached.

Now, there was a large hole in the backyard. Dale suffered in the heat hauling dirt to fill it in. He then built me a lovely fountain. (Blaze thinks the fountain is his giant water bowl.)



I should have stopped.

But now the area around the new fountain was a perfect planting bed and “Really, I know I’ve never gotten tickseed coreopsis to survive the winter…but I’m sure it will work this time…and look it’s on sale…and it will be lovely next to my new blue fountain…”

Jul 04 2012

Zeke Loves a Parade

Posted by Dale @ 5:08 pm in Family

Zeke decided to participate in the Aquia Harbour 2012 Independence Day Parade.