Complications

Have you ever noticed how sometimes even simple tasks can snowball out of control with complications?  I was taking something to my workshop and I noticed that the right-front tire on my pick-up truck looked low on air pressure.  I made a note to check that when I was done with what I was doing at the time.

When I got to it I took an air pressure gauge out of the truck glove box and checked the tire pressure.  22 pounds: yep, that’s low.  I checked what I could see of the tire to see if I could find any damage or foreign objects embedded in the tire and found nothing obvious.

I have an air compressor.  It’s not a great compressor: it’s probably an antique, although I recently bought a new hose for it because the old one dry rotted and crumbled, but it will fill up a car tire.  Eventually. Continue reading “Complications”

Canine Street Gangs

Yesterday evening I heard what sounded like a small pack of coyotes moving through the area, yapping and cutting up like a canine street gang making their presence known and threatening to hurt anyone who got in their way.

When I let my dogs out for their bed time potty run I made sure all the floodlights were on and I went out with them carrying a strong flashlight.  I hoped that lights and a human presence would be enough deterrent if, indeed, one or more coyotes were in the immediate area.  My yard is fenced, but most fences mean little to coyotes.

Later, as I was sitting in bed reading, I heard a single blast of what sounded like a shot gun.  Very near by.  Then it got real quiet. I was cautious again this morning, but it sounded like that pack of punks learned a little respect for humanity.

Is This Even Possible?

Is it possible that coyotes are in our area?  We’ve not had them before.

Oh yes!  I know people who have personally told me of their own encounters with coyotes.  These people live along O’Neil Road: just to the north west of us, and in Bridgeport: just to the north east of us.  My neighbor says he saw one walking up our driveway towards the woods one morning a while back.  So, yes: this is a real threat and a grave concern to me.

Dealing With Coyotes

According to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency, this is how to deal with coyotes:

  • Do not feed coyotes!!  When coyotes begin associating humans with food they loose their natural fears and may become dangerous.
  • Eliminate water sources.  These areas attract rodents, birds, and snakes which the coyote will prey upon.
  • Position bird feeders so coyotes can not get to the feed.  Coyotes may also be attracted to birds and small mammals that have been lured in by the feeder.
  • Do not discard edible garbage. Coyotes are opportunistic and will eat any table scraps.
  • Secure garbage containers.  Use trash barrels with lids that clamp down tight even when tipped over.
  • Do not place trash cans out the night before scheduled pick-up.  Placing cans out in the morning before pick-up will give coyotes less time to scavenge. They will not have cover of darkness.
  • Do not leave barbecue grill outside and uncovered. The smell of the grill and the contents of the grills drip pan attracts coyotes.
  • Feed pets indoors whenever possible.  Remove any leftovers if feeding outdoors.   Store pet food in areas not accessible to other animals.
  • Clear brush and weeds from around property.  This deprives the coyote’s prey (small mammals and birds) of protective cover and deters coyote from hunting around your property.
  • A fenced yard may deter coyotes.  The fence must be at least 6 feet high.  Preferably the bottom of the fence should extend 6 inches below ground level.
  • Do not leave small children outside alone if coyotes have been frequenting the area.
  • Do not allow pets to run free.  Provide secure housing especially at night.  Small pets (cats, rabbits, small dogs) are favorite prey of coyotes.
  • Discourage coyotes from frequenting your area.  Harass them by throwing rocks, shouting, and making loud noises when one is seen. [shotguns work too!]
  • Learn more here: Coyote Control

The Swarming (of Ladybugs)

Huge numbers of ladybugs are swarming as they seek shelter from the coming winter cold. But these bugs are more than an annoyance: they are invaders from another continent.

Every fall since we’ve been here we have experienced an increase of activity in “lady bugs”.  Early on it was so slight we barely noticed but in recent years it has been increasing in intensity.

Why Do They Bite?

My guess on this is that because all forms of ladybugs feed on aphids and the larval stage of several insects (thus earning them the status of beneficial garden insects) at this time of year these large concentrations of ladybugs cannot find enough to eat and turn to biting other creatures (like me) trying to obtain sustenance.

Actually the American Lady Bird beetle is not known to bite, but the Asian Ladybug does.  It is not toxic,  but not only is the bite painful, some people are allergic to it.

What’s the Difference?

Visually, the two are very similar and the untrained eye may be fooled. Both are similar in size (though the Asian beetles tend to be a bit larger than the American) and shape.  Both can be from yellow to red in color.  Both have black spots.

But there are some consistent differences that make it possible to tell them apart.

  1.  The Asian beetles have variable spots: anywhere from 0 to 20.  The American beetle has 9: 4 on each side and 1 spot just behind it’s head that is centered and bisected by the split in its elytron (wing covers).
  2. The Asian beetle has a black and white “head” with the black part forming an “M” or “W” shape.  The American beetle’s is primarily black.
  3. The Asian beetles are known to bite, the American beetle is not.
  4. The Asian beetle seeks shelter by invading our homes in fall, the American beetle is more reclusive and seeks shelter by clustering in sheltered locations outside.

Why Are Asian Beetles Here?

The Asian ladybugs were brought into the United States by the USDA and Forestry Commission to relieve the hardwood forests of many disease carrying aphids, mites, and scale insects.  But, the Asian species of beetle proved to be hardier and stronger than the American species.  The two compete for the same food sources, and the Asian species carries a parasitic fungus that kills other species of ladybugs.  Now the American Lady Bird Beetle is on the endangered species list as, once again, something imported is killing off the native species.

And from the looks of things lately, they’re gunning for us next!

Moonie and the Weird Snake

So the Moon Pie was barking at something outside the fence of the play yard. I went to see what the fuss was about.  Figured it had to be some critter or other, and if it was something dangerous I’d better shoo it away from the dogs.

It was a snake.   A weird snake with a HUGE triangular head.

Rattle snake?  I’ve never seen a rattler with those markings.

It wasn’t moving, maybe it’s dead.   It wasn’t coiled, so it shouldn’t strike.

I looked closer.

Ohhhhh …

It’s a grass snake eating a toad.

A toad that doesn’t want to be eaten.

This could take a while.

We went inside and left it to its dinner, while I tended to ours.

Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair

Our pick-up truck’s check engine light came on and it started running rough at idle a couple of days after we got it home from the purchase.  Also, I started hearing a hissing sound in the dash.  And the air conditioner stopped working.  All at the same time.  To me there was only one answer – and it was one I figured I could fix myself (for a change). On the Chevy S10 and the GMC Sonoma the air direction control uses vacuum to pull bellows driven valves inside the dash to direct air to the feet, dash vents, or windshield. I ordered a new Air Flow Control Unit from GMPartsDirect.com a week or so ago and it arrived a few days ago, but it has since been raining or Marie had the truck because her Subaru was in the shop. Today I spent most of the morning replacing the Air Flow Control Unit.
Air Flow Control Unit
Continue reading “Accomplishing A Minor Auto Repair”

Keeping Cool On July 4th

We cool our house with a small window air conditioner.  It’s actually rated to cool a single, 10 foot by 10 foot room, but it’s in our 12’ x 15’ bedroom (not counting the Master Bath and Marie’s walk-in closet) and we pull cool air out into the rest of the house with a fan that blows down the hallway toward the kitchen and living room.  One would think that this would not work at all.  But it does!

That one dinky window AC does keep our home comfortable (comfortable for US, maybe not for those accustomed to living in a meat locker) because when we built our house we prioritized strength and insulation over square footage.  Continue reading “Keeping Cool On July 4th”

Battlefield

Yesterday I spent a good portion of the day doing battle with a contingent of honeysuckle and bramble vines that had invaded a stretch of fencing I was trying to remove from a now little-used patch of our property.

Many of the vines were inexperienced, but what they lacked in tenacity they made up for in numbers.  And their base was protected by a thick layer of dead leaves blown against the fencing.  I cautiously probed with pruners (for there was a threat of Copperheads lurking there), slicing and snipping the myriad vinelings to free the bottom of the fencing.

Some vines were more experienced and tenacious, but with a proper concentration of force my pruners handled them.  A few were battle-hardened veterans.  These sent me trekking across the property to bring in my heavy loppers.  Even these stalwart defenders fell when such powerful weaponry was brought to bear.

In the end, though scratched bloody and soaked with sweat (which stings in those injuries) I victoriously dragged that length of fencing out of the battlefield where I could clean as much of the plant life from it as possible and roll it up for use elsewhere.  As I put away my implements of war I was weary but satisfied in a battle well fought – and won.

This morning I find that insidious agents dispatched by the enemy Bureau of Pollination have infiltrated my sinuses and are engaged in combat with my mucous linings.  In addition my upper legs, hips, and lower back are staging a revolt for the abuses they suffered yesterday.  But, such are the wages of warfare.  I shall placate my rebels with drugs until they forget the abuses they suffered and resume their normal functions.

The battle was won.  The way is open to bringing my riding mower in to quell the attempted overthrow of that area by the indigenous species, which are attempting to re-take that sector of property for their own.  That must not happen, shall not happen.  That sector will remain under my control.  I must see to that for the good of the empire!

The Power of the Dark Roast

I got up this cold, cold morning and found that while we still had water flowing, the internet was not. So I went over to my workshop intending to take a hair dryer to the router, melt the blockage, and get the electron flow moving again. But it turned out that there was nothing wrong with modem or router: our LAN is working perfectly, it’s just that my laptop does not feel like being conversational this morning.

So I settled into my chair, set my mug of hot, black coffee in its place next to the laptop and began working on a local writing task.  The scent of this invigorating elixir was, apparently, enough to change the laptop’s mind, for after a few moments of typing, it went “bing!” alerting me that new e-mail had arrived.

Coffee is great stuff, isn’t it?

The Rolling Browns

Power outageDespite being right next to TVA, the nation’s largest government owned supplier of electricity, our region has been experiencing rolling brown-outs and even power losses because of the cold in areas where too many people are using too much power all at once.  Primarily this effects that “everyone is getting ready for work” time slot.  The power utilities have asked us (us as in everyone, not just Marie and I) to be mindful of our power consumption between 6:00 am and 9:00 am until we get through this extra-cold spell.

We (Marie and I, this time) are doing our part: Continue reading “The Rolling Browns”

Telephone Telefollies

telephoneHave I mentioned lately how much I dislike the telephone?  This is not a phobia or even anxiety over the use of a phone, and not aimed at any version of the telecommunications device in particular.  It’s a dislike of the device in general.

Most people openly wonder about my sanity because they LOVE their telephones and spend 73.6% of their lives talking on their cell phone, or playing games on their smart phone, or checking Facebook or e-mail on their phone.  I don’t do any of the latter and avoid doing the former.  I just don’t like telephones.  Cell phones in particular.  My friends berate me for my refusal to join The Collective. Continue reading “Telephone Telefollies”