Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Three Times Each Day

There is something I do three times each day and more often on weekends when I'm home. First thing when I get up each morning, as soon as I get home from work and last thing before I go bed I check the amp-hours meter in the kitchen to monitor the batteries in my electrical system. It has become an enjoyable habit.

The meter in the photo below tells me the batteries to my electrical system are 96 percent full. I leave the meter set on percent full but it also displays voltage, amps, days since charged full, days since equalized and other pieces of information.

Today was sunny without clouds. When I arrived home from work at 5:45 I saw 100 percent. I checked the days since charged -- .15 days or about three and one-half hours earlier. By roughly 1:15 PM the batteries were full. I checked the high voltage, 29.3 volts, and reset the value to the current voltage so I'll know how high the voltage climbs tomorrow. Next, I took off my coat and hat.

Amp-hours meter below the control for the inverter. These are mounted on a wall in the kitchen where they are clearly visible from any location in the room.

If commercial electricity were made available I'd say "No, thanks." I enjoy being independent, being responsible for myself, maintaining my system, watching the weather and monitoring my usage.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Four Degrees

When we got up this morning it was four degrees.

After work today I stopped for a load of water and a tank of gas.

As I began putting gas in the car he made his way toward me. I anticipated a request for money but I was mistaken. "I need a ride to Tuba City." That's a distance of almost 80 miles and it was already half dark.

"I'm sorry. I'm not going that way." His next statement surprised me. "I'm drunk." I knew that but didn't expect him to volunteer the information.

About this time a man and his wife came out of the building and walked to the truck parked on the opposite side of the pump I was using. He began to speak to the husband but the husband smiled, pointed to the opposite side of the truck and said "Over there. Over there." The drunk walked around the truck and the husband looked at me an laughed. "I like to scare the women."

His wife got in the truck and refused to open the window so the drunk came back to our side and asked the husband for a ride to Tuba City. Pointing to the bed he said "I'll ride in the back."

The husband looked into the truck, laughed at his wife and said to the drunk "I'm going to the county jail. Want a ride?" The drunk was quick. "I just got out of there." He turned and walked away raising one hand in a jesture that wasn't intended for anyone in particular.

When I drove away he was approaching another vehicle asking for a ride. I had my coat zipped high and my collar up. He was dressed in a light jacket, no hat, no gloves.

About two weeks ago Julie received an email announcing the death of the janitor in her building. He died of exposure. He was employed but homeless.

When we got up this morning it was four degrees.

Sunday, November 15, 2009


We have two cats, possibly three.

Back in the summer Julie responded to an advertisement about two female cats. The pair had been trapped on the university campus on a snowy morning in February. The lady who trapped the young cats took them to a vet to be neutered and discovered they were already pregnant with their first litters. She kept them until the kittens were weaned, had them neutered and sought homes for them.

When Julie brought them home I took one cat, Lexi, out of the carrier and put her in a large cage. She was frightened but not aggressive. The second cat, Streudel, clearly communicated I would lose blood if I attempted to touch her.

After a couple days in the cage we turned the cats loose in one room and kept the door shut for a few days. Julie would go into the room and sit on the floor and read a magazine out loud without making extended eye contact with them. She worked diligently to socialize them. I installed the cage outside the window with a cat door so they had access to the outside and could experience the sights, sounds and smells of the area. After another period of time we opened the door to the hallway and gave them access to the house.

They remained hidden whenever we were home, either behind a futon or under our bed. That was an interesting problem for them. When we got ready for bed they had to wait until the lights were turned out or risk slinking out of the room as we read.

After another period of time I installed a cat door and shelf in the utility room 5 feet above the ground and moved the cage to that location. Julie began feeding and watering them in the utility room. Finally, the night arrived. We opened the outside door on the cage. Streudel left immediately but Lexi waited two more nights before leaving.

Two weeks passed before we saw them again. Food in the utility room was being eaten each night so we knew they were coming in regularly. Occasionally we would see one of them in the yard. But, if they knew we saw them they would flee and hide.

Feral Cat.

Then a strange thing happened about a month ago. Streudel came in one evening while we were fixing supper. She came into the center of the room where we could see her and began meowing. Julie began taking back to her without approaching her and she continued to meow while looking at us. She appeared to need something.

Two nights later it happened again. Then in became fairly regular. About three weeks ago Streudel came in and Lexi was behind her but Lexi immediately turned and fled when she saw us. We haven't seen Lexi since that evening.

Now Streudel comes in every evening. Over time she has became more relaxed. She hides under one chair when afraid but more and more she lets us walk by within a few feet. One night last week I was preparing to feed her and decided to to offer food on my hand. She came within two inches of my finger tips, sniffed my hand then retreated to the safety of her chair.

Tonight she's sleeping on the futon. We walk through the room and she opens her eyes and watches us but doesn't raise her head.

I've never touched this cat and may never touch her because she has to take the lead. She will have to touch one of us first, in fact several times, before we'll reach out to her.

This is exciting! No need to watch animal programs on TV. We have Streudel to watch, her growing acceptance, her interaction with Maggie, her discovery of the basket of cat toys.

We're not certain what caused her to some in. It appears she needs Maggie and they are bonding. But, often she will come to one or both of us and begin to meow as if she needs to socialize, to interact, to connect.

I've been tempted to set up a web cam in the utility room to see if Lexi is still about. We can't tell from the quantity of food being eaten. Is she still alive? Is she coming out only at night? Has she left?

Last Friday morning we saw a coyote pass just outside the fence. He was looking toward the house but didn't appear to be especially interested other than being cautious. In the late summer we took Maggie to the garden and set her down inside the fence. I saw a rattlesnake but she was oblivious and was rolling in the grass three feet from it. I watched hoping she would notice it to see her reaction but she never saw it. There's always danger but we have three safe places for the cats when outside. They may not live into their teens but, hopefully, they will have good lives living free the way they were born.

(Footnote: Prior to releasing Streudel and Lexi we stopped feeding birds. That has been an interesting experience. I'll have to write about that sometime.)

Friday, November 13, 2009


Today has been a mixture of wind, rain, sunshine, sleet and rainbows. It's been a great day to walk.

We were eating breakfast when I looked out to the northwest and saw a beautiful rainbow. Later in the morning when the temperature was 50 we walked east below blue skies with clouds and rain in the west. Our route was a triangle with a handle; start east, turn north, turn southeast, turn west toward home. By the time we were on the last side of our route a brisk breeze was blowing into our faces, the blue skies were a memory and small scattered drops of rain kept us cool. Invigorating!


Since I've committed myself to increasing speed, distance and carried weight I've noticed an improvement. I don't have a problem with blood pressure but my BP has dropped slightly. On the end of our route to the east I was getting my heart rate up to the high 150s but that is no longer happening. The last time I walked that route I reached 149 and it was my fastest time.

I've been carrying 30 pounds in a day bag that hangs from my shoulders but I'm afraid to increase the weight since the bag was not designed for much weight. I could put weight in my backpack but I want the weight on my shoulders and a backpack carries the weight on a hip belt. A weight vest is the solution, preferably 50 pounds. Being unable to locate a vest in town I've resorted to the web and found some good prices. However, shipping is $1.50 per pound. That's more than the cost of some vests.

Julie and I will be in Amarillo the week of Thanksgiving. She located a store that carries a 40 pounds vest and phoned them. They have none in stock but have requested one from another store and may get it in. Since we'll travel through Albuquerque I'm going to check stores there for options.


Last May I drove to work, parked, stepped out of the car and felt a sharp pain in my right heal. My feet never hurt so it was a surprise. I ignored the pain for a few weeks assuming whatever was wrong would heal itself. It never happened. I searched the web, found a likely diagnosis (that I can't remember) and learned that the solution was stretching. I began stretching once or twice daily and the pain lessened and basically disappeared. When I began carrying the weight it returned but wasn't too painful. I've continued to stretch and to walk and it's almost healed.

This experience got me to thinking about how some old men walk. I've noticed men who shuffle or take short steps. Their legs remain slightly bent at the knees and are never fully straight. I decided to accentuate my steps, to step out long, to fully extend my legs until I feel the muscles and tendons stretch.

I enjoy walking. It's addictive.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I finished the connection, snapped the circuit breaker into position and turned it on. The house went dark and silent. That was a surprise!

I glanced at the east wall of the new utility room that I had just wired for electricity and saw the problem. A jumper wire was inserted into an outlet causing a direct short.

Last weekend I pulled two wires to the breaker box. The wire from the east wall was through a knock out in the back of the box and the wire from the west wall was through a knock out in the front or west side of the box. Logical.

Today I prepared to connect the wire to a breaker but wanted to confirm my memory and that I had the correct wire. I formed a jumper and inserted it into an outlet then used a meter to check the continuity of the wire. My memory was correct.

About that time Julie told me she had lunch ready. I checked the second wire, turned off the multimeter, changed out of my dirty work clothes and forgot the jumper in the outlet. After lunch I returned to work and discovered my mistake when I turned on the breaker.

When I was young I wouldn't have made that mistake.

Jumper wire.
The jumper wire.

As I get older I'm learning to adapt to declining abilities. I'm not as strong as I once was. I don't trust my memory and make an extra effort to commit things to memory or write a note or email to myself. My reflexes and the speed with which I process stimuli aren't as fast. When driving I compensate by taking routes that avoid left turns across traffic.

My hearing is becoming a problem. Last week I was in a conference room that had been reconfigured so the tables were in a large U-shape and the participants were farther from each other than necessary. When someone on the far side of the room joined the discussion I caught less than 50 percent of what was being said. No big deal. Really. Most of what is said or broadcast isn't important. I can get by fine without hearing all of the noise pollution that masquerades as information, music and entertainment. Except...

Except for Julie. To often I'm asking her to repeat herself. That would be frustrating to me if I was in her position. So I'm getting close to the time when I'll get hearing aids to help me adapt for the sake of our relationship.

In recent years I've begun to watch older people. I'm looking for those who age and adapt gracefully so I can learn from them. I'm looking for bad examples, for those who deny a decline in abilities and those who give up without trying to adapt. I want to avoid their mistakes.

When the electricity shut off and I found the cause and told Julie that I had forgotten to remove the jumper she replied "I'm getting worried about you, honey." I told her not to worry because I was cautious enough to check my memory by using a jumper to identify the circuit. Then I realized I had made another mistake. I bought a GFCI outlet for the first outlet in the circuit, the one that will be behind the washer, and forgot to install it rather than a regular outlet. So, I'll change that outlet this weekend before I complete the west wall.

Don't hear any of this as negative. I like my age. I'd rather be 62 then any younger age. I enjoy life more now than ever.

Actually, it's fun watching myself make blunders. Sometimes I find an experience about which to write.

(Footnote: Three breakers failed to trip. The one I turned on, the main breaker to the house and the breaker in the utility building in line between the inverter and the house. The inverter detected the short, set an error code and shut down before a breaker could respond. I found this interesting and logical. The fix was to turn the inverter off and back on at the control panel. Almost as simple as resetting a breaker.)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

For a Friend

A single tiny white Bouganvelia flower highlighted by three pink bracts. Two pink flower stalks below the white flower have not opened as yet. (Larger version)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Up Close

Friday I took the photos of the flowers in my last post. Saturday I walked into the bedroom and the Christmas Cactus had more open blossoms. The first blossom had changed; it was open wider. I took a photo of it in the morning light to compare with the photo from the previous day. That evening I found the petals rolled back toward the stem.

Christmas Cactus in the morning.
Christmas Cactus in the morning.

Christmas Cactus in the evening.
Christmas Cactus in the evening.

I watered some dormant plants in the garden and watered the covered bed. Poking up through the mulch were twenty onions about two to three inches tall. Two weeks ago we planted onions and garlic. In the bed are salsify, parsnips, beets and carrots that are tolerating the cold nights. On below freezing mornings there are frozen drops of condensation on the inside of the plastic. This is my first winter with the covered bed and I'm interested in how it will function in January.

Last weekend we planted radishes, arugula and two varieties of lettuce in containers in the sun room. Three of the four varieties of seeds have germinated and young plants are standing about an inch tall.

Our hibiscus plant was due a pruning so we cut it back and pruned a large palm. Last winter our cats decided the palm was a toy and did some serious damage that required radical pruning. It's recovered but doesn't look as good as it did a year ago.

Zebra Plant blossom from the side.
Zebra Plant blossom from the side.

Zebra Plant blossom from the top.
Zebra Plant blossom from the top.

We have 10 windows in the sun room. We had put blinds on five windows to protect furniture and plants that can't tolerate direct sunlight. We decided to install blinds on the five remaining windows so we can better control the light and temperature. We couldn't find blinds the correct width and the store couldn't cut the ones we selected so I tried an experiment with one vinyl blind. I aligned the ends of the blinds, clamped the bundle with my hand and ran it through a table saw to remove one inch from each end. Perfect! It looked as if it came from the factory. We cut and installed the five blinds.

Blinds installed in the sun room.
Blinds installed on the western half of the sun room. The room is finished with the exception of the tile for the counter. Hopefully, we'll install it before Christmas. I took this photo Saturday morning just before we sat down for breakfast. (Larger version)

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Memories In Bloom

Last spring I was at a local lumber yard when I saw this Bouganvelia and, on impulse, bought it as a surprise for Julie.

Pink African Violet.
This large African Violet was a gift from one of Julie's co-workers who was moved to Virginia because their son was seriously ill. Within a week of moving he died.

Christmas Cactus.
This Christmas Cactus, also a gift from Julie's friend, had one blossom open this past week with several more blossoms developing.

Blue African Violet.
A few years ago Julie and I bought this blue African Violet on a weekend trip to the Superstition Mountains. Recently I propagated it with a leaf cutting.

Zebra Plant.
Julie bought this Zebra Plant at a local nursery. It was intriguing to watch these fading blossoms develop, grow and open.

Sunday, November 01, 2009


The first activity Julie and I shared was walking. She came into my office and asked "Do you still walk each evening? Can I walk with you?" I replied yes to both questions and we set a time to meet and walk. During some of our first walks I struggled to keep up with her while listening to her talk with ease. Over the years she's asked me to slow down only a few times. My male pride has prevented me from ever asking her to slow down regardless of the pain I felt.

Recently I decided to set a goal of walking daily for speed with a target of 5 miles with a 30 pound pack that I plan on increasing to 50 pounds. We've been monitoring our blood pressure and resting heart rate for a long time but I decided to monitor my heart rate while walking. I bought a monitor that displays rate and percent of maximum heart rate. According to theory my maximum rate is 158, 220 less my age of 62.

Today shortly after we started walking I was having trouble keeping up with Julie's pace. I was a half step behind her so I increased my pace or so I thought. Perhaps she increased her pace but I couldn't catch up. I checked my heart rate and it was 132.

Our route is about two and one-half miles round trip. We walk to the national forest fence which is higher in elevation than our house. The closer we get to the fence the steeper the grade becomes. The firm ground becomes small loose cinders and the walking is much like walking on a sandy beach.

As we got to the shifting ground I began to catch up and then I was a half step in front. Julie faltered a step and I started to slow down to let her catch up but she waived me on. My heart was up to 140-some. I pushed hard to get to the fence and assumed I was leaving her behind. I couldn't hear her behind me because I was breathing so hard. When I arrived I touched the post that I always touch and turned to find Julie right behind me.

I checked the monitor: 157 beats per minute, 99% of maximum heart rate. Julie checked her pulse: 114.

I'll say it loud. UNCLE!