An Odor Found

If you recall from the end of my last post, Operation Parkify, I drew your attention to some tree branches overhanging the stream.  It might have even made you wonder why I would leave those branches hanging over the stream if my intent was to beautify the surroundings.  Well, there are two reasons for that.  One is to help prevent unwanted trees and limbs from making their way down to another project I’ll be posting on in the future.  The other is due to what was found on those branches.  I am only going to put this particular picture on the front of this post and let you make your own decision whether you want to figure out what is in it and whether you want to take the jump to see the better pictures.  Warning, not for the squeamish.

Sooooo, if you want to see more, hit the jump

Continue reading An Odor Found

Operation Parkify or What Was I Thinking

So this is a shot of our wooded lot when we bought it a few years back.  You will notice it is pretty rugged and was essentially virgin land that had never really been touched beyond the occasional hunter.  I can’t tell you how many times we got lost while checking out the area before we made the decision to purchase it.  We have always liked the country and this was a pretty big step up from our previous 2 acre lot in a country setting subdivision.  As it turned out, we were even a confused on the lot boundaries.  After numerous Google satellite searches and distance estimates we thought we had a pretty good idea of the back boundary which you can somewhat tell from the picture was a stream hidden amongst the trees, thorns and weeds.  A few days before we agreed to acquire it, we were questioning the previous owner about the lot lines and found out the stream was actually in the middle of the lot and not the end surprising us both.

The first couple of years my focus was on the house and the immediate landscaping.  Due to an opportunity to take a little extra time off from work this year, I decided to embark on sprucing up the stream area.  This idea was sparked after our trip out to Yellowstone this year.  With two week of vacation and just about every night after work for two months I worked on exposing the stream by cutting back the wild, trimming up the trees, yanking out the thorns and raking up all the brush so I could mow without damaging the blades.  This was a great 13 pound weight loss program if you are feeling the belt tightening over the holidays.  Armed with nothing more than a chainsaw, lopper, trimmer, steel rake and wheelbarrow I plodded happily along.

The amazing thing is just how much the stream has widened with the ridiculous amount of rain that has fallen this year.  Unfortunately, with the rain came a record horde of mosquitoes.  I can’t remember how many cans of Deep Woods Off that were drained during this effort but a wall of citronella torches kept most of them a bay until the sun started dropping under the trees.  Here is another shot from a different portion of the stream.

So what do you think, was it worth all the work?  It is definitely not a Yellowstone, but it is a nice place to take a stroll and unwind after a hectic day at work.  It also provides a nice setting for some bird watching and if you know this site, you know I am all about the birds.   In fact, one afternoon I was taking a break close to the right side of this picture when all of a sudden there was a swooshing noise and huge shadow crossed over me heading for the middle of the stream.  It turned out to be a Blue Heron who plopped down into the middle of the stream to fish for some frogs.  For about 5 minutes I just watched this majestic bird do his thing before he noticed me standing about 10 feet away.  Out came the huge wings and away he went leaving me in complete awe.  It’s times like these that make the work worth every bead of sweat.

Note:  besides showing off my lot, I  actually had a side motive for this particular post.  Take a mental note of the branches that are across the stream towards the top of the last picture and check back for the next post.  Warning though, you might be shocked a little if you are squeamish.

A Big Thanks on Thanksgiving

I think I now know why wife and I do not have kids.  It’s really quite simply that I would probably end up accidentally maiming or killing them due to some completely bizarre situation I would have never suspected or assessed ahead of time.  Why have I come to this conclusion?  Well, this Thanksgiving I about had a heart attack by the stupid actions of a toddler.  Linda’s side of the family was down for Turkey Day and Christmas present exchange.  We alternate between the families on the Thanksgiving and Xmas holidays so we just do both at the same time on the year we have Linda’s side for Thanksgiving.  Having no kids, our house is really not set up well for children and my nerves are really not dulled enough to handle a whole day of them.  So, after the presents were given to the kids, they began running one of the kids new trucks across our wood floors.  They are supposed to be durable, but just in case, I introduced them to our wide open basement.  After a little while I took a stroll down there to see how it was going.  One of the kids then asked if he could use my treadmill.  I was not too keen on this, but decided to indulge him.

Now to set the situation.  We have a Spirit folding treadmill that sounded like a good idea when we were purchasing it many years ago.  Not until we made it home with our purchase did it occur to us that the unit folds TOWARD the controls.  This means that the tread deck ends up raising vertical in alignment with the electronic console.  You may have already pictured this, but if you put the treadmill facing the wall it will raise up in an ideal manner leaving room free for other uses when not training.  Now if you do not want to stare at a wall the entire time you are jogging, you might decided to face it away from the wall to maybe point to a TV (which is how ours is set up).  Now, you can try to distract yourself while spending hours running nowhere.  This setup means you will take zero advantage of the folding capability unless you just like staring at a large piece of metal sitting in the center of your room.  Have you guessed the drawback of this type of setup?  Let’s kill the suspense. To maximize the room space, you typically set the back of the unit near a wall, which in our case is a cement block wall, until we get around to finishing our basement.  I like to think of this as merely incentive to keep my pace up.

Slowly the situation is becoming clearer although you might have jumped to a conclusion that is slightly different than reality.  Having already decided to keep control of the situation, I stood on the side of the treadmill and made sure he held on to the front bar.  I started it at walking pace and then brought the speed up slowly until he had to just barely jog.  At all times the hand was on the kill switch in case something went wrong.  The kid in fact did a great job and I was just about to end the activity when all of a sudden another kid (who I thought was upstairs with his parents) comes along the opposite side of the treadmill and JUMPS on the treadmill.  The last time I checked, humans were suppose to be the smarter species on the planet having the ability to rationalize a situation and take appropriate action.  Apparently this attribute develops MUCH later than previously thought.  Let’s see, the person on the treadmill is moving his legs yet staying in one place… the floor he is on is actually moving as well… I am smaller so obviously it is okay if I jump on it… Non-Sequitur.  Sure enough, the new kid goes winging back to the wall and proceeds to become quite acquainted to the black mat.  My fingers smacked the kill switch while my heart missed at least 3 beats.  While grabbing the kid out of the gap I looked him over for any signs of damage and only noticed he managed to clean a little of the tread on his pants.  My attention to his situation triggered into his conscious resulting in the attention demanding scream and tears.  With the heart back in the proper rhythm, we walked up the stairs and found his parents who treated the situation with little fanfare, confidently informed me the kid was fine and told him to relax.

I am guessing kids are more durable than those without believe.  You probably also get a good idea of how a kid that age thinks and can assess a situation from their quirky point of view.  This ability is probably learned over time, but without exposure to life with kids, let me tell you, it is darn STRESSFUL.  Kudos to all you parents out there molding their little pieces of clay into successful young adults – and from the other perspective a new meaning to Thanksgiving Day.

Random Acts of Kindness

There are those times that an observation brings a smile to my face.  Generally these involve some mishap or fail that provides a chuckle at another’s expense (I’m not proud.. but often they deserve it).  Every now and then one of these is a result of someone doing something nice for their fellow man.  Over the last few weeks I have encountered three such situations giving hope to the fact our society is not completely doomed (well, beyond the threat of becoming a socialist country).

The first of these episodes came at a boutique ice cream shop in Peoria Heights (can’t remember the exact name, but something like Emocks and Bollas but that is a complete guess at the moment).  Linda and I were waiting for two me-centric high school girls to complete their order.  One of the girls had already received her single dip cone and was busy chatting about how much her friends like her fashion statements when gravity reared its ugly head resulting in the scoop of ice cream leaping off the cone to the floor.  I thought she would just leave it there, but she did clean up her mess.  Although there was some poetic justice there, what brought the real smile to my face was the owner saw this event and asked for her cone back so he could replace the lost scoop.  So not only does this place have excellent ice cream, the management is truly attentive to their customers.

A few days later Linda and I were winding down from a long work week at the Par-A-Dice Casino in East Peoria.  It was unusually packed likely due to a local MMA event they were hosting at their hotel.  To my surprise, the casino had also purchased the rights to the UFC Fight Night event and were broadcasting it on all their TVs.  This was a huge bonus for me since I really wanted to watch the Tito-Griffin rematch.  I had taken a seat at a video poker machine with a good view of the TV.  At some point, three men came up and took up roots in the aisle way and proceeded to carry on a 40 minute conversation about their recent divorces and get rich quick in real estate plans.  One was even bragging how he tapped his own phone to catch his wife and for some reason learned how to make a taser gun.  That caught my attention and I was eagerly awaiting this explanation. The reason never arrived because midway through this discussion an older lady came rolling up in a wheelchair.  Rolling is probably a little more generous of a word for she was truly struggling to pull herself forward with one leg and trying to navigate the people in the aisle – of which the threesome I was mentioning was posing a significant obstacle.  One of the three noticed her and alerted the other three to make way while commenting to her how well she was navigating.  She took a differing opinion to this comment and responded on how bad she thought she was doing.  As a complete surprise to me, the guy proceeds to ask her where she was going and upon hearing the response said “Well, let’s go there, I’ll push you over there”.  He really didn’t give her a chance to respond and proceeded to get her to the desired destination.  I decided that the issue just might have been with his ex… but that taser thing still intrigued me.

And lastly, I had to run to WalMart on Allen Road today to pick up a peeler and baster for my wife.  She is having her family over for some juicy bird tomorrow and accidentally broke her old one.  Ever since they reset this store we have been unable to find anything we need without traversing through most of the aisles.  Yes, I realize this is the intent having spent my youth employment at Jewel where we reset the store every 6 months in order to maximize product visibility.  As a consumer, this process absolutely blows.  Well, associating the peeler with food I managed to walk up and down every single food aisle without success.  Swallowing my male pride I asked a worker if she could possibly point me in the right direction.  Expecting to get a row number and continue the quest, she startled me with “Let me just put this back and I’ll take you to them”.    At which point, she proceeds to walk me all the way to the other end of the store (away from the food).  On the walk she asked me if I was finding everything else I needed.  I figured the baster was with the peeler so the response was a definitive YES – some of my ego regained.  About 3/4ths of the way there, I noticed the Kitchenware signed and indicated I could make it the rest of the way.  Having none of that, she told me under no uncertain terms she was committed to getting me to the peelers.  And directly to the peelers we went and you guessed it, I thanked her with a smile.

Based on these events, it seems that I am now -3 on the pay it forward scale.  I better be checking the corners for old ladies needing to cross the street.

A Social Appointment

Last week I headed out to my barber to take a little off the top.  Actually I am not sure if barber is the correct term in my situation.  While growing up I usually went to male hair cutters and they were typically addressed as the barber, but when I went to to the “Luck of the Draw” locations while in college (living on the cheap then and equated every dollar spent to the number of slices it could buy at the local cardboard and grease pizza place) I had a lot of women cutters that generally referred to themselves as stylists.  The difference there is they were into the hair wash and blow dry process which differentiated them from the o’l chop, gab and pay barbers at the Men’s Room in Springfield (yeah, it was actually called the Men’s Room).  My current “barber” is a lady, but beyond a quick spritz to wet down the hair, doesn’t subscribe to the dunk and blower approach – which fits me perfectly.  I should check her card sometime and see what title she gives herself.  So why am I boring you with details on my hair?  Actually, I had an interesting observation while I was getting my mop spruced up.  About halfway through my cut an older man came in and sat down in one of the waiting chairs.  He must have been a regular, because he exchanged greetings with my barber and another individual waiting for me to finish.  This intrigued me slightly because there generally isn’t a wait line since she only takes appointments and not walk-ins and the part I appreciate most is she is always on schedule.  As I got up to pay, my barber commented that his appointment was not until later.  He acknowledged this and responded he just thought he would be early today.  I think she was still a little surprised and checked the schedule book while taking my payment.  As she gave me the change she confirmed with the guy that his appointment was not until 1:30pm (it was 11:30am when she finished with me).  That internally jolted me a little based on how jam packed my days usually are.  He was likely retired, but said “I can go and come back if you want me to, but figured I would just come and visit awhile”  She quickly responded that is was perfectly alright and joked how it was a great place to catch up with everyone.  As I shut the door I started rationalizing this scene as I quickly headed to the car to get to the next meeting at work.  I kind of felt sad for the guy who has nothing better to do with the extra two hours of the day.  Isn’t there an immediate family member or relative to visit with, some event or site to take in instead of spending two hours waiting for a 10 minute hair cut?  I decided I felt bad for the individual but glad he had enough initiative to seek out some social interaction as opposed to just sitting at home staring out the same window or worse watching sensationalist news.  Here’s to hoping I have activities to fill my hours when I decide to jump off the employment train.  Maybe I’ll be blogging about the largest ball of tinfoil I found on my quest to hit every national park before my ticket gets punched.  It will be interesting to see how retirement life is for the tech savvy generation.

Wire Tek 1001 = 2 Demon Spawn Moles = 0

This is the face of pure evil.  Sure, they may have cute and cuddly fur but just take a look at those claws.  Those are the claws that have been causing me heartache for the last 3 months.  I have dealt with moles before at my other house, but those were not nearly as sophisticated and cunning as these country moles are.  Usually they take a feed tunnel and run across my yard.  This is not the case with these hybrids.  Instead of a straight tunnel which I can somewhat deal with, these devil creatures double back on themselves shifting a tunnel width out each time.  The result is a huge patch of raised dirt that looks like you just put down fresh sod.  Another aspect of these particular moles is they are not very territorial.  I thought a given mole would stake their territory and the other moles would have to find some other location to terrorize.  At my old house, this meant I only had to deal with one in the front yard and one in the backyard.  My new yard is more of a free-for-all that I am guessing is just to maximize my frustration.  I have become pretty proficient at using the spikes, however, it always takes a little prep work – first you have to drive the spikes all the way in to make sure nothing impedes their descent – second is to shave some of the dirt off to maximize the kill depth zone and then positioning the trigger at the proper height to allow the spring catch to just barely sit on the lever.  Then you sit and wait and wait and wait only to get annoyed by many fruitless releases.  Eventually you get a kill shot.  I was complaining to a friend of mine how annoying this new breed was when he offered me his new traps called Wire Tek 1001:

Although I tend to focus on bad products and service, this invention is awesome.  Basically, you put the two scissors in the ground parallel with the hole.  When you step down on the lever at the top, the contraption collapses on top of the mole tunnel while the scissors open up in the hole giving the mole the false impression that the passage is clear.  My friend recommends and lent me two in order to put one at both ends of the tunnel (or the in and out portions of the pushed up sod).  Following his recommendation I planted the traps.  Get this, within two days the trap was sprung and sure enough one dead mole was sent back to the land of fire and brimstone.  I was getting ready to return them when another tunnel popped up in the yard…to the Wire Teks.  This time it made the kill in less than 24 hours.  Fantastic.  Needless to say, I have two of my own on the way now and highly recommend it to anyone dealing with a similar issue.

There are few animals I have no problem killing… moles happen to be on this short list.  Note, I am constantly reminded of this by the stuffed mole toy my nephews/niece felt obligated to get me some years back.  I think I will return this little prank with Underoos for this Christmas!