Archive for April, 2012

Jeepers, how about them peepers!

Monday, April 16th, 2012

Spring Peeper

Although England does have some highly-talented avian songsters, during our stay in Europe I missed the nightly spring peeper concerts that we take for granted in the Eastern US.  When we spent our first couple nights in the cabin earlier this month, we were treated to a couple of epic amphibious recitals that really felt like home. Then we had a couple of frosty nights, and at least 2 weeks without rain, which brought the nightly performances to a halt.

Saturday’s half inch of rain was welcomed by both our new grass and our frog population.  The spring peepers were out in force. Although the single loud low “brreeeeeppppp” call hadn’t returned, the several “creek creek creek” callers were back (Leopard frogs?  Kirk and I found a chilly lone leopard frog near the spring during the first week of March.).  It was a night to sit out on the new porch swing and not miss not having TV.

Just before Midnight, Elizabeth noticed a small brown frog clinging to the glass of the downstairs cabin door, and on the theory that where there’s one peep, there’s more, we opened the door and found at least a dozen sitting on the cement pad, sitting on door thresholds, or clinging onto a plastic chair. Several had tiny but smug grins, punctuated by the faint outlines of insect wings.  The little fellow at the top of the page was suckered onto the sliding glass door. An inch long at best, he was one of the bigger ones.

Duck, duck, goose

Wednesday, April 11th, 2012

Canada Geese

55 Acres of woodland crawls with animals, most of which are nearly invisible during the summer.  Our little half acre pond is full of swimming and wriggling things, but the tight approach path mostly discourages larger water fowl. 

Given that most aquatic birds continue to fly right on by, seeking larger watering holes that aren’t located in deep wooded valleys, I was motivated to grab my binoculars one morning last week when it turned out that a mallard drake was attached to an expanding ring of ripples.  He paddled around on the far side of the pond by himself, and given that ducks tend to be social beasts, I wasn’t surprised when a second one splashed down.  What did surprise me was the crest on the its head. This was no mere mallard. It turned out to be a female wood duck. I haven’t seen a wood duck down here since I was a kid, and I immediately regretted not following through on my plans to turn some of the scrap cedar cabin trim into a wood duck nesting box (punctuate those 4 words as you see fit).

Could this be some sort of illicit liaison, with the amorous  amphibians taking advantage of the relative seclusion of our small body of water to spend some time away from the beady spying eyes of their quacked up families? As it turns out, there is a reason they call mallards dabblers, but in this particular case, the female woodie treated the male with studied indifference, climbing up on shore and poking around while he continued to float placidly in the pond without any apparent sign of arousal.

Geese are much less subtle than the ducks, like Bombay taxicabs, seemingly unable to move without honking.  We frequently hear their calls as they fly overhead to the larger pond next door, but several times last week, a pair of geese dialled in some extra flap and made the steep descent to take a gander at our pond.  One day they spent a good two hours on the far side of the pond, floating around, snacking on God knows what, and standing on top of rocks, honking.  Although they did make one or two follow up visits, the female was eventually heard to say “I want to be closer to my flock, and besides, something smells funny, here.” Not wanting to get his goose cooked, the male agreed that there were other sites that had better exposure, and that was the last I saw of them.

At this point in this blog entry, I was going to start rhapsodizing about raptors and the beauty of blackbirds, but a pair of geese has just now landed in the back of the pond and is noisily advertising its presence. While I can’t verify that it’s the same pair that was here last week, they are in the same spot as shown six days ago in the photo above, directly across from my office window on some mossy rocks on the east bank of the pond.  They’ve done a bit of grazing, both below the water and on land, but mostly, they are just standing on rocks, honking, which seems rather purposeless.  I suppose they would think the same of me, if they could see me sitting at my laptop.

A flock of Canada geese is annoying, but a pair is charming, and its nice to think that we might see them on a regular basis. As long as they don’t bring all their friends.  A nesting pair might be fun, although geese get aggressively territorial when they have young. Our pond doesn’t seem like the sort of open wetlands that they prefer. The design and care means that it isn’t surrounded by water plants, so I don’t think it has any suitable nesting material.  The Killbuck bottoms south of Millersburg are dotted with dozens of large mounds of vegetation, most of which are punctuated with a standing goose this week.  Maybe this pair is just using our pond as a quiet place to get away from the flock.  Butts up!

Every Castle Needs a Throne

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Toilet in upstairs bath

After a busy 5-truck day last week,  involving plumbing and an amazing amount of window hardware, our Amish carpentry crew pulled the plastic coverings off the windows, and we had our first night’s sleep in the cabin.  We are still waiting on some plumbing fixtures and shower doors, but at least we’ve got a working trio of toilet, sink, and shower in the downstairs bathroom. After a noisy startup, our old washer and dryer have settled into their new Ohio home and have been busy cleaning tractor mud from my one pair of work jeans. Other than a balky dishwasher, another transplant from Virginia, the kitchen is operational.

Elizabeth has done an amazing amount of cleaning, unpacking, and nesting.  Days of sweeping, vacuuming and scrubbing, including hiring a pair of women with mops for a day, and putting my mom to work on a couple shower stalls, has mostly removed the thin, and sometimes thick, veneer of construction dust, mounds of glop, and piles of wire trimming.   One week ago, it was an empty building, full of cardboard boxes and dirt. Now it feels like a home.

A new place requires a huge amount of screwing. I mounted a couple of poplar 1x3s to the utility room wall (without breaking any cement screws this time), and after trimming it to size, attached a pegboard.  Then I hung up a paper towel holder in one of the relatively few gypsum walls.  There still seems to be an infinite queue of towel racks, toilet paper rolls, mirrors, lights, and electrical plates that needs to be hung, so I’ve got lots of drilling and screwing to look forward to. At least the plates already have holes.

A couple years ago, we developed a taste for metal switch plates.  We like being well-wired, and lots of walls have 2 or even 3 outlets on them.  Even before finishing all the outlets in the basement level of the cabin, our Amish electrician had bought out all the white metal outlet plates in a 3-county area.  A quick count shows that when the a shipment of plates arrive, I’ve got over 2 dozen to screw in. The electrician already hung the ceiling fans and most of the lights, so I’m not on the hook for that (Electrician: “Do you know how many light switches there are in this house?” Elizabeth: “60?”  Electrician: “65.” Elizabeth: “Is that a lot?” Electrician: “Yup.”)

Elizabeth found a swing in Coshocton that matched the color of our porch, so she sent me down on Saturday to see if it would fit in the back of the Subaru. It came with a chain, which solved one problem,  but not with something to hang the chain from.  After I managed to squeeze the swing into the back of the wagon, I went to the lumberyard in Coshocton to see what they recommended.  They talked me into a pair of screw eyes and a pair of springs.  I wasn’t sure if comfort dictated suspension, but he seemed to think the springs would be the perfect interface between the eyes and the chain. (“Do you have something for those eyes to screw into?” “They are going into a 6×6 beam.”  “That’ll do.”)

Porch Swing Spring

Dad and I decided to start with one screw eye to see how it went.  So I climbed up on a step ladder, drilled a hole, screwed the eye in using a screwdriver as a lever. Then I climbed down the ladder and we stared at it. And then we stared at the puzzle represented by the spring unit.  As it turned out, the suspension mechanism did interface nicely with the chain, although it meant pulling the chain thru the center of the coil spring, hooking a metal loop through it, and then pulling the loop and chain back through the spring.  As far as the other end of the suspension unit went, there was no way the entire cabin was going to pull through it.  There was no way the screw eye was going to pull through it. The solution turned out to be a pair of S hooks between the eyes and the springs, but the hardware store hadn’t sold me any of those. Dad found a pair in the barn, and now we’re hanging easy.

Newly Installed Porch Swing


[If you want to see all the entries for the cabin building project, they start here. The next Building the Cabin entry is Finishing the Cabin.]