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Tuesday, April 20, 2021 No comments

Action shot

A few weeks ago, one of the other parents on Mason’s soccer team sent some pictures they took during the game to the group text. I cropped some extraneous stuff to get this great shot of Mason booting one:

Here it comes!

His team is now 3-1 on the season, after the two-week Spring Break hiatus. We went to Blue Ridge (about an hour’s drive) on Saturday, and they did pretty well. This is the first game that they dominated when the other team had girls (I don’t know why, except that I’d guess that any girls in the boys’ league are solid team players, and these girls were no exception). As goalie, Mason let a ball get by him in the first half (one that he should have handled), but his team was up 5-1 at the half. Coaches like to put Mason in goal in the first half, and striker in the second half (he’s fast, and not worn out in the first half), and he scored three more to make up for it (they won, 8-1). It’s amazing, how much better they’re playing this season. For the players that left, the replacements brought a chemistry that makes them all a better team. They’re passing better, defending better, working together better. We’re seeing improvements even from game to game.

One of the more hilarious moments of last weekend’s game: both teams had kids named Avery and Cash. “What are the odds?” the opposing coaches joked. Our own Cash joined the team just last week, had one practice, then played his first soccer game on Saturday. He’s a natural in the backfield as a defender. His primary sport is competitive swimming, so stamina isn’t going to be an issue! (We also have a Mason, Grayson, and Kason. All we need to round out the team is a Jason.)

The only low point was when Charlie (not my Charlie) got an elbow to the head in the first half. He had banged his head the day before, so this was the first time I’ve personally seen the league’s concussion protocols invoked. He sat out the rest of the game, with an ice pack on his head—a pity, because he was doing pretty well up to that point. He was better today at practice, but said he didn’t feel 100%.

The head coach is giving the team a “clinic” on Friday evenings, for the guys who want to try out for the middle school soccer team. Dizzle told me the team is “not very good,” but I think Mason and several of his teammates would definitely be assets. They might surprise the rest of the league this winter, the way the Sounders are surprising the rec league this spring.

A couple of team quirks: first, they sing “Happy Birthday” to any teammate who arrives to practice late. Today, while practicing penalty kicks, a few of them started singing the national anthem. The head coach and I decided that it might be worth trying during a real game, if the opposing team gets a penalty kick against us. Worst that could happen, the ref tells us to knock it off.

So yeah, we’re having some fun this season. I think we have a rematch against the team that beat us, and we might even surprise them.

Sunday, April 11, 2021 1 comment

What I did on my Spring Break staycation

Mason was out of school, this last week, and I’ve decided to try taking days off when he’s off—just in case we get the chance to do something together. But I had a week, and there was no rain forecast for the first half of it, so I decided to try getting as much stuff done outdoors as possible. I had seriously considered taking the Starflyer down to the pond for the first half of the week, but realized it would clash hard with all the stuff I wanted to deal with.

First, this year I wanted to have a container garden (mostly). The farm has plenty of plastic tubs laying around, the containers for minerals given to the moofers. There are several places in the back yard where dirt piled up against trees, and much of it is loamy stuff with some clay deposits. I dug out enough to fill four tubs, drilled drain holes in the tubs, and stuck container-friendly tomato plants in them. A late frost whacked them pretty hard (despite our covering them with plastic sheets and leaving buckets of water underneath as heat sources), so I got replacements and stuck the frostbit ones in the ground… along with two jalapeƱo plants. The bottom shoots, that were covered in mulch, survived the frost. Maybe if this happens again, I’ll just pile mulch over the plants as well. Or, I’ll just wait for that first April frost next year.

Buried treasure
Next, I tackled The Boy’s old car (a black Integra, which inspired the name for the Blackuras, a street racing gang that draws Blink’s attention). The left rear brake caliper was stuck, and the car had sat in its spot for several months. When I put it there, the stuck tire picked up a piece of gravel, and you can still see the arcing “chalk” mark it left behind. So I bled some brake fluid out of the caliper, and tried prying it apart with heavy-duty screwdrivers and a prybar, without luck. What worked was smacking the moving part of the caliper with a hammer until it loosened up. After cleaning it out, and finding some interesting stuff (including a portable charger) I moved it to the new equipment yard and made a mental note to replace that caliper. Like my old Civic, the floor of the trunk is rusted through, so some Dremel and pop-rivet work is in my future. I hope I can get Mason interested in fixing it up a bit, then when he’s old enough to drive I’ll give him the car. (Although he’ll probably want my Miata instead.)

Good as new!
With the car out of the way, there was plenty of room to roll out the worn out washer and dryer that we replaced earlier this year. But first, the landscaping trailer the wife had bought some years back needed some serious electrical work. The plug was gone completely, both taillights were smashed, and so were two of the four marker lights. Fortunately, Tractor Supply had me covered. A $25 kit included taillights, two marker lights, a license plate mount, and the entire wiring harness—in other words, everything I needed for the electrical part. The marker lights were stud-mount, which meant I had to drill a 1/4" hole in between the old mounting holes. Since I live in the South, I learned that WD-40 works quite well as a cutting oil. I spent much of Monday afternoon hacking on the trailer. Once I finished the road (driver’s) side, the curb (passenger) side went pretty quickly. I plugged it into the farm truck, and realized the reason I wasn’t getting taillights was because the truck had a broken wire. The kit included some splices, and I didn’t need two of them, so I used one to fix that.

Tuesday, we loaded the washer and dryer onto the trailer, plus the furnace we replaced last year and a lawn mower with a bent crankshaft (I hit a small stump… it’s FAR Manor, why are you surprised?), plus the aluminum cans we’d let pile up for years, and took it all to the scrapyard. Mason and Dizzle rode along, and had great fun launching the lawn mower off the edge of the concrete. The only snag we hit was when they went to cut the check—it turns out that The Boy (who shared my first name, although he mostly went by his first middle name) had brought loads to the scrapyard. When they said, “Lawrence?” I assumed the wife had used my name for whatever reason. But she had been there as well, so I had them re-cut the check in her name. It all goes into the same accounts, after all. So we returned to the Manor, $41 richer (and more importantly, less crap laying around). They promised to set me up with my own account, next time.

But the trailer was not quite finished. It has a mesh ramp, that doubles as a parachute when towing it. When it was new, it had spring-loaded pins that would hold the ramp up for traveling, but they broke. Bobcat just flopped the ramp onto the trailer when empty, and used rope to hold it up when loaded. I used ratchet straps, but I really wanted it to be properly functional. Back to Tractor Supply… I found some long 1/2" pins that would do the job. To get everything back into alignment, I used a four-pound maul (the flat end) to bang things into place. Yes, percussive maintenance is a valid way of fixing certain issues, and quite satisfying. It was even more satisfying to have two such opportunities in one week. “This is how we fix problems at FAR Manor!” (Or as one of my college friends was fond of saying, “Don’t force it, get a bigger hammer.”)

By Wednesday, I was pretty stiff. Monday had included soccer practice, even though Mason’s team had two weekends off, and the head coach (I'm the asst. coach this season) knows exactly what motivates his players: a scrimmage. Last season, we did a series of scrimmages against the parents, and the parents pwn3d them because they weren’t passing. Something must have clicked between last season and this one, because they’re mostly holding their own now. They’re passing better, and are 1-1 vs. the parents and 2-1 vs. the real teams. (They were like 1-7-1 last season, and never beat the parents, so this is already a huge improvement.) To toot my own horn, I took the assistant-coach position so I could advocate (guilt-free) for more passing drills… I’ve observed that, at least at this level, the team with the better passing game wins at least 85% of the time. The head coach came up with some drills that emphasize passing, and it has helped a lot.

Mason’s team has practice on Mondays and Thursdays, and we were planning a parent-team scrimmage. I was slightly less stiff, but there was still a lingering muscle pull in my right leg (just under my butt). Monday, I pulled the left side, but slightly less. I joked about needing a butt replacement, but mostly held up my end. Of the three who played goalie on our side, I was the only one who didn’t let a ball get past (OK, that was mostly luck). Now the rain was supposed to come in by Thursday, but retreated to Friday except for an occasional sprinkle.

But when Friday came around, the rain retreated again. Now I have to admit, Charlie thought this was wonderful. It meant he could spend more time outside, and we did some “throw disc” long after I figured it would be far too wet. I didn't do much, but that helped a lot with the stiffness issues.

Yesterday morning, our friends came by with more chicken. Last time, we got six. We gave two to Daughter Dearest and Sizzle, two more to the preacher (who returned one smoked, yum), and the others went into the freezer. This time, they brought about two dozen. Since this was a freebie, and there was no way we could deal with that much, the wife started making phone calls while we broke out the vacuum sealer. She hit upon a great idea, to stuff a couple of them in the Instant Pot and then de-bone them. I found some suggestions online, and we bagged up the rest for both us and several others. We had chicken casserole for supper, and at least two more chicken-based meals bagged and frozen. Meanwhile, I have to figure out where I put my beer-can chicken stand. I used it once, and it turned out very well.

The rain finally arrived, and pretty much went all day. I had planned for more rain days, and a few improvements to the homemade worker’s paradise, but there was one I knew I could tackle: I wanted a shelf above the coffee station, to keep things that didn't need to be on the table all the time. I’d found some shelf brackets a few weeks prior, and a wrecked bookshelf provided the actual shelving. A nail head poking out of the paint told me where one stud was, and I measured to find the others. I had to run across to the detached garage, during (of course) one of the heavier rain periods, to grab a pack of wood screws. I had to reposition brackets a couple of times—I think the studs weren’t placed evenly—but eventually all the screws found something to bite. I only had to take off and flip one bracket, that I’d put on the wrong way.

A little yard work today wrapped things up. I went after the smaller (diameter) stumps that dot the back yard; I focused on those because they’re not so easy to see. Some I sawed out, some we dug up, several got the loppers. There are a couple dozen larger stumps, but they’re easy to spot and shouldn’t give a lawn mower a fatal surprise. If next weekend cooperates, I’ll rent a stump grinder and have at 'em.

So, back to work tomorrow. I’ll probably spend most of Monday weeding emails.


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