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Which way did he go? Where has he been? Where is he headed? So many questions . . ..

Archive for the category “Writings”

A Season of (Dis)Repair


The van popped its timing belt on US-101.  Good news is that the 3.3L V-6 used in that model is a non-interference engine — which means that when the belt went, the pistons did not bash into the valves, destroying the pistons, the valves, the heads and pretty much the whole engine.  Being a mini-van, it’s going to be a enough of a challenge to change the timing belt.

  • Also needs:
    • Two new tires
    • Front brakes
    • New muffler
    • New serpentine belt
    • A tune up
    • Don’t need, don’t need, done, done &  done!
    • Not bad – considering it’s on the high side of 220,000 miles.


The van is out of the shop.  Tires and brakes were not as bad as we thought – we’re good for thousands of miles yet on both.  She runs like a dream, and Omer changed out the top and bottom main seals which will take care of the (slight) engine oil leaks while he had the engine apart to replace the timing belt.   The spark plug electrodes and the distributor contacts were so eroded that it’s a wonder that she ran at all.  He also says that the compression is good on all six cylinders — so, we ought to get a lot more miles out of this engine.  🙂

Unfortunately, there’s bad news to got with the good — there’s some body damage from a wind storm that occurred while it was waiting to go into the shop.   Omer is going to see what he can do about popping the fender out when we take it back to have the vent window motors replaced.

Truck needs:

  • Oil change & lube job
    • Done!  Also had the differential flushed.  Much happier little truck, now.
  • Need to take it to a detail shop so they can determine which body drain is clogged and flooding the cab before any *more* electronics die.
    • <rant removed>
    • My lovely bride applied a thin bead of caulk to the rear window seal, as an experiment, and the leak issue is now solved. =:)
  • Remember to thank God (and our neighbor, Jo) for the truck.
    • Otherwise — I’d be walking to work. 24+ miles, each way, uphill – both directions – in the rain, most days. <humble><blessed><thankful><happy>
    • This is an ongoing exercise, and one that I need.  I too suffer from the American malady of always wanting more & better.  That little truck fills the bill in that it’s paid for, it gets me from Point A to Point B and back again — reliably, it can haul what we need hauled, and it’s fairly economical.

House & Yard

  • Need to replace the toilet in the front bathroom with one that will actually flush – and, hopefully – do it without overflowing. #EWWW
  • Need to get the fan replaced in our bathroom.
    • Done!  So nice to be able to shower in our own bathroom again. =:)
  • Need to replace the fence gate that’s being held up by prayer, the trash & recycle cans, and a short chunk of re-bar.  (The neighbors will be thrilled – it needed to be replaced when we moved in — a decade ago.) #ItsAboutFlippinTime
  • Really need to tear the deck off the play house and re-do it.  Before someone falls all the way through it.
    • Need to replace the door on the playhouse.
    • And at least the portion of the floor where the @#*! squirrels chewed through it to give themselves an escape hatch to evade the dogs.
      • Consider using cold-rolled 1/4″ steel plate.  Yeah, it’s hard on drill bits — but, it ought to slow down the squirrels, somewhat.
    • Probably should also install hardware cloth at the eves, so they can’t get in that way.
    • Do a thorough post-rodent clean-up.
    • (Find out if it’s legal to squirrel hunt with a flamethrower.) #GoodCleanFun


  • Repair the drawer that was broken in the package on the cabinetmaker’s bench
  • Support the bottom shelf so you can actually set something on it without it falling out of the dados and hitting the floor.
  • Build an assembly table.
  • Build some decent & useful sawhorses.
  • Build a shaving horse to make oars, masts, sprits, etc.

And, oh yeah:

The dryer died last night . . .

Ed, Brenda & I tag-teamed that puppy.  Field-stripped it, (You have to tear dryers down to the bones to do anything.), replaced the broken belt, the thermostat and the breaker.  Then, we put it all back together. It dries! =:o)

Good thing we got our taxes done.

Like The Man Said:

  • Be thankful for needing car repairs.
    • It means that you haven’t had to walk everywhere.
  • Be thankful for home repairs.
    • They mean you haven’t been living out in the weather.
  • Be thankful in all things.
    • For God has been taking care of you — all of your life.
      • Whether you’ve been paying attention, or not.



Growing Up Country — On Island Time

Chapter 2 – The Barn

East of the wide spot in the ditch stood our barn.  It was the largest surviving barn on Lopez at that time.  My Grandfather Weeks had hired a man to build it in 1905. He came to the Island that Winter, selected the trees he would use for the frame, cut them down, yarded them to a clearing in The Woods and cold-decked them there. They were allowed to dry in the cold deck for a year. Then he returned to the island, hand hewed the beams (Mostly 12”x12” beams 20-40’ long.)  He then assembled the barn’s timber frame, collected his pay, and left for his next job.

Pa & his brother Bertie installed the floors, siding and roof.  Of course there were five large barn doors to be constructed and installed, as well.  The only windows I recall were in the milk barn, the horse barn and one in the granary.  I am assuming that Pa & Bertie – and probably several other Island men and boys – provided the “grunt” labor (heavy lifting) for the project.  Sixty-five years later, when they were turning The Weeks Farm into Lopez Village, they thought they could just run a long cable around the barn and pull it down with a D-9 Cat. That Caterpillar tractor just dug a grave for itself in our barnyard. They had to hire a crew to come deconstruct our old barn piece-by-piece. I’m told that there are parts of the timber frames in three ski resorts in Montana, Idaho and Colorado.

For a young child, the driveway of the barn was a wondrous soaring space of gigantic proportions. It was forty feet from the driveway floor to the top plate that spanned the eaves of the barn, and another twenty to the peak of the roof. The driveway is the part of barns built during horse farming days where they could back wagon loads of hay and grain into the barn for unloading in inclement weather — a very serious consideration when you live in the Great North Wet. (Please pardon me on my use of that pun.  The chambers of commerce in the Pacific Northwest got into the habit of referring to the region as “The Great Northwest.”  I’ve just gotten into the habit of calling it The Great North Wet, because – at times – it seems more descriptive. Kind of like how “flutterby” is more descriptive than butterfly . . . Have you ever seen a butterfly on a stick of butter?  I’ll bet you’ve watched them flutter by though, haven’t you?).  The driveway was open to the roof so they could use the horse-drawn hay hoist and conveyor (Also known as a “hay trolley.”) to unload the hay wagons.  I’ve seen one of those work, and they are a marvel of ingenuity.  The forks would be lowered into a load of loose hay by backing the team connected to the hay trolley via the draw rope.  Once the forks were sunk into the hay enough to make a load, the team would be driven forward, which would raise the forks with their load until they contacted the trolley body on its track mounted to the underside of the king beam at the peak of the roof, then that lifting motion would be translated to horizontal motion, moving the trolley along its track until the forks were tripped to drop the hay.  The team would then be backed, slacking the draw line, and the counterweight (Usually a bag of rocks.) would draw the trolley back to the starting point over the wagon. The hay trolley is a very impressive piece of engineering deign.  It was a very efficient and ingenious device for lightening the workload of farmers. In under an hour it could unload an entire wagon load of hay right into the hay mow. That same load would probably take half a day to unload and pitch into the mow by hand.   If you want to know more about hay trolley systems and how they worked, follow this link:

Hay Trolley at Progressive Forage

East of the driveway was the hay barn, which was also open from the driveway floor level to the roof. There was a wall that divided it from the cow barn, with a floor-to-roof doorway in the middle so you could pitch hay out of the hay mow into the feed bunkers in front of the cows.  There was a six-foot wide passageway from the driveway to the cow barn.  It had a deck over it, and when they farmed with horses, that was where they stacked the horse hay.  Horse hay is always of higher quality than cow hay, as horses are more finicky about their food and need more protein than the cows do so they can do their work. Cows just need to make milk, which they do naturally in the wild, anyway. Horses have to be taught to carry riders and draw loads — it’s not at all natural for them to do so. We’re just lucky that God made them amenable to humankind.

The cow barn was actually a shed structure attached to the mid-plate of the East wall of the hay barn. It stretched clear across the East side of the barn, where the horse barn only went half way across the South side. There was a eight-to-ten-foot wide driveway that ran along the outer wall for the cows to come in the door at the North end of the cow barn and move to their individual place.  The “herd boss” (Alpha Cow) always took the first stanchion next to the South door, and the other cows selected their stanchions in the herd pecking order.  So, why did Alpha Cow take the South stanchion?  It put her furthest from the door in the North end of the barn. Instead of the cold Northeast wind, she’d get the body warmth of all the other cows blown her way.  Cows are intelligent – just not in all the same ways we are. There was a 12” wide, 6” deep gutter built into the floor behind the bedding/areas for the cows.  My brothers would pitch straw bedding approximately 6” deep between the stanchions and the gutter for the cows to lay on when they weren’t being milked.  Even though there were no wild predators on the Island, the cows always were in the barn at night, so they were out of the weather and safe from any marauding dogs.

The cows were milked via “bucket milkers” which consisted of a churn with a tight fitting lid.  On the lid was an air-powered pump and regulator assembly that provided the suction for the four teat cups that were attached to the cow’s udder.  The same system is still in use, except they now pump the milk straight to a bulk refrigeration tank instead of to the reservoir of a bucket milker. Where we only had to clean & sterilize the milker, modern dairy farmers have yard-upon-yard of milk pipe they have to clean & sanitize, plus a multi-thousand gallon milk tank. Can you guess what happens to those thousands of gallons of milk if any part of the system is contaminated?

From the South door of the cow barn there was an elevated walkway that was about six feet off the ground at the barn and about ten feet off the ground at its far end, which was about eighty feet away.  This was where the manure was moved from the cow barn and added to the manure pile.  It made an excellent – but smelly – castle parapet in a young boy’s mind!

Most of the activity in the barn took place in the cow barn, since ours was a dairy farm, with the cows being milked twice a day.  My brothers would pitch down hay into the feed bunkers in the morning, then milk the cows.  If I remember correctly, we only had two bucket milkers. The drill was wash the cow’s udder, then attach the bucket milker to the air line, turn the valve to charge the regulator, then the teat cups were applied to the cow’s udder.  We had one cow who would let her milk drop as soon as she heard the air hit the regulator on the milker, so they had to be quick.  Once the first cow was hooked up to the milker, whoever was doing the milking would move to the next cow in line and get her started on the milker. Once she was hooked to the milker, it would be time to go check the first cow and see if her udder was close to empty.  If it was, it was time to take the milker off, strip the last of the milk from the cow’s udder into a clean pail by hand milking, empty the milker and the pail into one of the ten gallon milk cans, cap the can, rinse the milker and pail and move to the next cow in line. By the time the third cow was hooked up, it was time to check the second.  This process was repeated until the last cow had been milked.  Then it was time to turn the cows out to pasture for the day, take the milk and the milkers to the water tower.  The first floor of the water tower was used as our farm’s milk house. This was where the milkers were cleaned while the milk was run through the separator to separate the cream from the milk. The milk went into clean ten gallon cans, and the cream went into clean five gallon cans. The cans then went into a concrete tub cast into the floor that had cold well water circulating through to keep the milk chilled until it was time to put the cans out by the edge of the road in the driveway next to Dad’s shop. Then it was time for my brothers to get cleaned up and ready to go to school.

I’m pretty sketchy on the details, because I was too young to help with the milking.  I have lots of good memories from tagging along after my brothers.  They let me “help” wherever I could, but I think I was probably pretty much in the way.

Growing Up Country — On Island Time


Around Christmas time last year, Brenda bought a book for me to fill out for our grandchildren. It was called “Grandpa, What Was it Like to Grow up in the Country?”   That put the wheels to turning, and this series of articles will be the result. My intent is to put them together into a printed book when they are complete.

Brothers & Cousins:  PLEASE

If I get something wrong, please drop me a line and let me know what facts I’ve gotten wrong. Please provide the correct information and I will update the erroneous post – and its source file. If two people agree that I’ve got the facts flummoxed, but they disagree as to the correct facts, it’s up to them to find a convenient bear pit to work out the specifics. Fair enough?

Chapter 1 – The Farm

Map of Lopez Island, Washington

Lopez Island, Washington

The first sixteen years of my life were lived on Lopez Island in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. My family had been there since 1850, establishing the farm where I lived my first ten years. It had belonged to my Grandfather and my Great Grandmother before him. It’s now known as Lopez Village.

When I was small, it was a 65-acre dairy farm bounded on the East by Fisherman Bay Road, on the South and West by Lopez Road. I know exactly where the North boundary line ran, but I couldn’t give you a measurement from either of the South corner stakes to fix it on a map to save my life. It was the North boundary of the original quarter section (160 acres) that was homesteaded by my Great Grandmother, Irene Weeks.

About 20 acres of the farm were in two woodlots – “The Woods” and “The Burn.” – with another five in the barn and house yards, so there was about 40 acres that were in pastures for the cows. Everything is approximate — because everything seems to be a lot bigger, and a lot farther, when you’re nine years old than it does when you have achieved your full growth.

The land sloped gently from The Burn – which ran across the North property boundary – toward Fisherman’s Bay to the South. Our house set in the Southwest corner of the property with a small field between it and Lopez Road which made a ninety degree turn at our Southwest property corner and ran North along the West edge of the farm. I believe it was built around 1901 by my Grandfather Oscar (“Pa”) Weeks and Great Uncle Bertram (“Bertie”) Weeks, but I’m not certain on that. It would be considered a one-and-one-half story house, as the two upstairs bedrooms were really in the attic. I never did sleep up there. That was where my big brothers slept, and I don’t think my folks wanted to put me up there by myself after my brothers left home. I believe the close calls we had with chimney fires in the manufactured chimney that replaced the brick chimney after the 1964 earthquake made them nervous. I can remember standing out in the rain in a Nor’easter watching balls of burning creosote shooting out from under that chimney cap onto the cedar roof and being thankful for the rain. Nor’easters were always an occasion in that house, anyway — since it was heated with wood burning stoves and completely without any form of insulation. You had wallboard, single pane double-hung windows and shiplap between you and the gale.

Literally steps from the back door of our house was a shed-roofed building that had three separate parts, each serving its own purpose. Closest to the house was the woodshed which had storage for about two months’ firewood and kindling. On the North wall of the woodshed was the entrance to the “root house” this was an insulated room where home canned fruits and vegetables were stored along with potatoes and sometimes carrots from the garden. To the North of that room, was the carport/garage. Dad always stored his spare tractor tire at the back wall of the garage so he could just put the front of the car up against it. When I was small, Mom had a Bantam hen that would always nest in Dad’s spare tractor tire when she went broody. When we pulled in with the car, she would stick her head up and glare at us as Dad drove the car into the garage. That never failed to get a giggle (or six) out of me! There was just something about that tiny chicken facing down a 4,000 pound car that tickled me. There was always a woodpile between the garage and the woodshed – piled right up against the West wall of the root house – because we always needed more wood than would fit in the woodshed.

When I was about five or six, Dad, and two my older brothers, Gene & Bob built a large shed North of the driveway facing the road. That was where the tractor, the truck, and any boats that we had about lived. There was often a “backup” woodpile or a stack of logs waiting to be sawed up for firewood there, as well. Between the house and the big shed was where Dad’s smokehouse lived. Dad did a great job of smoking hams, bacon and, of course, salmon in that little smokehouse of his.

Up until about 1964 or ‘65, just to the Southeast of the woodshed was where the “little shack out back” lived. Then, we got indoor plumbing and the little shack went elsewhere — until it was needed on Mom’s property on the East side of the island. Beyond the outhouse was Mom’s garden plot (almost an acre on it’s own) and on the North side of that was the chicken house with the Russet apple tree to the East of it. Beyond the Russet tree were a couple of plum trees and further East was the pig pen.

Southwest of our house was the Lopez Island store (Founded by my Great Great Uncle, Hiram Hutchinson and later run by his sister, my Great Grandmother Irene Weeks.) and across the road from us to the West was the Lopez Post Office. Across Lopez Road from the Post Office stands the Pickling Pear tree that Hiram Hutchinson planted in 1862.  About 1/8th of a mile East of the store is the Lopez Community Church, and South of that is Lloyd Weeks’ barn. Southwest of the church is Lloyd’s water tower. The entrance to Fisherman’s Bay is just Southwest of the Lopez Store, which is now known as the Bay Cafe. I still remember it as Lopez Store. It was what was known as a general store back then. They had a little bit of everything, but the Lopez Store was mostly groceries and household sundries. If you wanted hardware, fabric, clothes or any number of other things, you needed to go to the other end of the island to Richardson Store. Lopez Store was run by Mr. & Mrs. Carpenter at that time (Their son runs the current Lopez Store.), and they were always very nice to me, even when I was being a pest.

To the Southeast of our house stood our water tower. It was built by Pa and Bertie, who also built the one next to the church and the one in the Bouchet’s yard. (That would be the property to the Northwest of the old house — I don’t know who owns it these days.) They didn’t have windmills on them, as they would have if they had been built a decade or two earlier, instead they used the same type of pump that a windmill would have driven, but it was powered by a single-cylinder (“one-lung”) gasoline engine running a pump jack that turned the circular motion provided by the spinning flywheel from the engine into reciprocating vertical action to move the pump piston. They would run the engine until the water tank would overflow, then they’d shut off the engine until the tank ran dry. (The overflow was always on the side of the tank toward the well, so the man running the engine could see when the tank was full.) The tanks were large, so they only needed to do that about once a week. Gravity provided the water pressure for the system — which is why they built the tower. No electricity meant you had to find other ways to do things.

Southeast of the water tower was my Dad’s shop. That’s where “The Old Plymouth” was stored. It was a 1927 Plymouth sedan that my folks had inherited from Pa. It was black over emerald green, and I thought it was the most beautiful car in the world! Unfortunately, the barnyard mice thought it would be a great place to live, too. Dad disconnected the battery so there was no danger of an exit via the closed doors when a certain youngest son decided to “go for a drive in Pa’s car.” Dad’s shop was always a place of fascination for me, because Dad did the most interesting things there. Dad was described as a “canny” man by the other islanders. He might not have had a lot of money or a lot of schooling, but he had a knack for taking the used-up and cast-off and turning it into something useful. Brother Gene inherited that skill from him. I have some of it — but nothing compared to Gene and Dad. Dad always had wanted to be a mechanic, and I think he would have been a great one. He could just visualize how something was made and how it should work when it wasn’t working. When it came to carpentry, green poles, beachcombed & salvage lumber, hand-split shakes and recycled nails were just fine, thank you! He knew how to use his mind so well that his hands were put to the most efficient use.

There was a large drainage ditch that cut across our NW pasture and through our farm yard to reduce the amount of water in the ditch along the county road, which provided a seasonal creek and many hours of diversion for all five of us boys. It was a great place to build dams that created ponds. The ditch widened from about four feet wide where it entered the barnyard to about twenty feet just above the water tower, then it choked back down to about six feet wide where it entered the big culvert to cross under the road West of the driveway gate next to Dad’s shop. It dumped into Fisherman’s Bay somewhere on Cousin Lloyd’s place. The ponds we created in the ditch would freeze over in the Winter. My brothers used to skate on them — but the Winters were colder when they were young. I can’t remember the ice on those little ponds getting thick enough to support my weight.

East of the wide spot in the ditch stood our barn. It was the largest surviving barn on Lopez at that time. But that’s a topic for a chapter all its own . . .

It’s a Brand New Blog!


Dawn Breaks in The High Desert . . .

So, what’s this blog about?

Life, parenthood, marriage, faith, ADD work, and everything . . .

This will be my general-purpose “learn to blog” blog.

It may be as dry as the high desert in the picture above. This photo was taken by my beautiful bride below Little Water Mountain in Utah, and that’s a LOT of dry!  But there’s interesting even in the dry . . . Fossils, scorpions, rattlesnakes, sage hens, roadrunners . . . You just need to open your eyes and drink it all in.

Please bear with me as I slog through the learning process of becoming a blogger.

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