Saturday, April 19, 2014

Old stuff

The warm weather this week put me in the mood to break ground. I went out a few days ago to till up a spot at the back of the fence.
The tiller sprang to life but then coughed and sputtered as if it had mechanical emphysema. I stepped to the shed to fetch my tools and cleaned the spark plug but when I tried to crank it I got the same result.
I checked gas, cleaned the filters and kicked the tires a couple time just to show I meant business, but
nada.
This is not my first planting season so I knew it was the old gum in the carburetor routine. My tiller is so old that Methuselah bought it used from an antique dealer and sold it for scrap to an ancestor (150 generations back) of the gentleman who sold it to me.
I've been using my local parts supplier for many years. Some of the parts they stock are marked with hieroglyphics instead of part numbers, so I felt sure they'd have a carburetor for my tiller.
When I walked in yesterday and asked for a rebuild kit or a replacement carburetor, the clerk asked for the model of the tiller. When I told him,  he and the guy a few registers down snickered audibly....which is NEVER a good sign.
That usually means that the price of the part is way beyond what I could get by knocking off a liquor store....I'd would have to donate a kidney.
When he told me they could have one of their old machinists build me a new carburetor, I walked out shaking my head.
I brooded about it for a while, but then I decided to have a shot at working on the carb myself. What could it hurt.
So after coffee and our morning walk, I put on my coveralls, fetched my tools and set to work. I removed the carb, disassembled and gently cleaned it as if it were a newborn baby that wasn't allergic to cleaning fluid.
When I put it back together and reinstalled it on the tiller, I had no idea if it would work or not. I filled the tank with gas, crossed my fingers, and pulled the crank-cord. It sprang to life and ran as solid as the day the cavemen built it. I was so happy, the twirling tines tossed freshly tilled earth into my teeth.
It feels good to fix something that not even I thought could be fixed


Friday, April 18, 2014

It's just a phase

No matter what you're going through in your life, if you can simply breathe and just hold on, it will
pass.
One thing I've learned through the years is that life is a series of phases.
When looking at the bigger picture and consider the earth is about 4.54 billion years old, my life wouldn't represent a blip on the radar of time.
Jilda often labels her life phases in haircuts and colors. The photo to the right was taken during a time when an enthusiastic hair stylist convinced her that a shag haircut would be right for her. She realized it was a mistake before she got home. It never looked good to her, but I thought it looked fine.
Unfortunately she did get a poodle cut once, and I can tell you our home was not a happy place until her hair was straight again.
I always kept my hair fairly short but when I was drafted in 1971, Uncle Sam shaved my head as slick as a cue ball. I told myself that when I got out I would wear my hair as I pleased. And I did.
The length of my hair caused friction between my dad and me.
He didn't approve, and I wouldn't change so we didn't talk to each other for a few years.
Thankfully it was a phase, and when I married Jilda in 1974, he was so crazy about her, the he forgave me. She has a way of winning people over.
These days I don't have an option on the length of my hair unless I wanted to let one side get REALLY long and comb it over to the other side.
That's not a phase I'll be going through.



Thursday, April 17, 2014

Inch by inch

Tomorrow is Good Friday and hopefully winter is behind us. This year has been one of the coldest winters in memory.
When the weather gets cold, work around our small farm comes to a standstill, so by the time the weather breaks, I have a todo list longer than my leg.
We need to refinish the kitchen floors, repaint the inside of the house, replace the couch and then start on the outside projects.
When you look at the entire list, it can be disheartening and overwhelming. I burned up a calculator trying to tally up what everything would cost. But then I took a breath and broke the list into smaller chunks.  All of a sudden things look manageable.
I had a meeting in the county seat today and on the way home I stopped at Home Depot and ordered a new hood for the stove. Our old hood is over 30 years old. and stopped working long ago. When it comes in next week, I'll be able to tick one of the items off my list.
Tomorrow we'll pick up a gallon of paint and start with the kitchen.
This afternoon, I spent some quality time sitting on the bench by the firepit and contemplated life and whatnot.  It felt good not to be bundled up like a cocoon.
I hope it gets warm where you are soon.









Life Changes

This is a pre-post, post

Hey Folks,
 I'm putting together my latest book which is a compilation of my "best of" columns. I'm looking for a few reviewers.
 If you have a little time and would be interested in reviewing the book before it hits the shelves, I can send you a PDF version.
 The reviews will be on the back cover and some of the inside pages.
Thanks for your consideration.

Rick


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pitbull eats mobile home

My grandmother loved reading the National Enquirer. Even at a young age I knew that a pitbull had not eaten a mobile home. When I pointed this out to her she just laughed and said, "Probably not." But I have to admit, the headline made me read the story.

At any rate, in my blog questionnaire last night, I asked about headlines. Most everyone agreed that while captivating headlines might pull in a reader unfamiliar with my work, but most of you felt my titles were fine. 

I guess it was the question that brought back the memory of the pitbull headline so I thought I'd try it out here :)

I had several comments that were insightful. One being the color of my font. I had assumed it was black, but Diana said it looked gray to her. When I looked at the advanced tab of my template, sure enough it was gray. So I changed that and I also bumped up the size a little.
She also said that when I comment on her blog, the notification email she gets was set to blogger.no-reply. Which meant, she couldn't simply respond to the email, which is a pain.
So, I Google'd how to fix it and made those changes as well.

I also changed the banner at the top. I think I'll play with these for a while until I find one that suits me.

Martha  suggested I make the post area a little wider and the sidebar a little more narrow.
When I looked at it, I thought this would be a good tweak too so I did that.

I had several other suggestions to consider.  

I'd talked about the dogwood tree in our front yard before. It was here when we moved in in 1980. Through the years it's grown steadily. It's a huge tree with weepy lower branches that drag the ground, and, it turns the west side of our yard into a blooming white cloud for a few weeks each spring.

Someone asked recently just how big the tree was, so before our walk this morning, I slipped the tape measure into the pocket of my sweatpants. When we walked the first lap, I had Jilda hold one end of the tape measure while I wrapped it around the base of the tree. It measured 60 inches (5 feet) in circumference. From outer branch of one side to the outer branch of the other, it measures 44 feet.

This tree is the reason we battle with the power company each year when they come through trimming trees. It's a battle worth fighting.



Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Blogging feedback ~ how do I get better

I've been spending time studying the pro bloggers and one of the tips I've picked up is the importance of titles.
I usually spend all my cycles trying to come up with a topic and by the time I post, which is usually just before I go to bed, my brain has the viscosity of bubblegum that's been stuck behind a headboard for a few years, so there's not a lot left for thinking of clever titles.
Since the idea of clever titles has escaped me, I began to wonder what other areas need improvement.
So here's a question to the people who've read my blog for a while:

1. Are my titles weak or should dig deeper when it comes to my titles?

2. Is the length of content too short? About right? Too long?

3. The design of the blog - Is it noisy? Cozy? Or needs more work?

4. Do the pictures - Add or detract?

4. Should I get out of blogging and start selling used cars?

Any feedback you have on the questions above or other tips on how to improve, I'd love to hear it.
Please, no vulgar language or I'll smite thee.

Thanks.
R

Wild white honeysuckle behind my barn today.


Monday, April 14, 2014

Life lessons from the pear tree ~ My Column from Sunday's Paper

I’ve had some setbacks in my professional career over the past few months, and I guess it’s only natural that I would ask myself some hard questions.

Like: Why am I even trying to succeed in this business? Wouldn’t it be easier to aim lower?
Or, I gave it my best shot, why don’t I just quit?

I went for a walk as I often do when I need to think, and I saw something that answered my question and made me smile.

One of the first fruit trees we planted here in 1980 was a Bartlett Pear. The fruit in late summer was the size of a softball. I have pulled hundreds of pears from the tree over the years, shined them on the pant leg of my blue jeans and bitten into them. 

Each time the warm juice dripped down my chin making my beard sticky. There are few things on this earth as sweet as a sun kissed pear.

A few years ago a type of blight attacked the tree. I spent the summer clipping out all the bad spots, but rather than let the cancer spread to the other fruit trees on our small farm, I decided to cut it down. It was not a decision I took lightly, but I thought it best for the better good. I flinched involuntarily when the chain bit into the green wood of the trunk.

I thought a year or two later the stump would rot so that I could kick it over and plant something new in its place.

Well, that little tree wasn't ready to quit. Last year it put out new limbs from what was left of the stump, and it grew. It was a gnarly little tree, but I gave it an “A” for effort.

One morning this past week when I went outside to walk, the little tree had several branches with blossoms white as cotton balls. 

I drew the phone from my pocket and snapped some photos of the ugly little tree.

Then the answer to my professional dilemma appeared in my head like a Polaroid photograph.

Here I was, ready to toss the typewriter because I’d received a few rejection letters. 

Quitting would have been easy. I knew when I started that success wasn’t guaranteed, but my ugly little tree made me realize that you only fail when you fail to keep trying. 

Successful people often have to keep chipping away even when it seems the odds are against them.

I’m reminded of the old saying, “If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.”

It’s only when I become like the little pear tree in my back yard and simply refuse to give up that I have a fighting chance to not only survive, but thrive.

So this spring I am thankful for that little pear tree. Not only will I have the opportunity to taste its sweet fruit again at summer’s end, but I also have it to thank for the valuable life lesson it taught me.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Apple blossom

We had lunch in Homewood with our good friend Jan Andrews who is visiting from Michigan and then afterwards we had our monthly songwriter's meeting.
The weather has been stunningly beautiful, but a chance for colder weather is moving toward us which makes us nervous this time of year.
We did get a chance to walk after coffee this morning and I snapped a photo of an apple blossom. The tree is in full bloom this year. That often happens after a cold winter.
This will be a short post tonight, but I'd like to say thanks for the new followers that have stopped by over the past several days.
Have a great Easter week.
Apple blossom shot with iPhone and Hipstamatic app.

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