Halloween Left-overs

This year I was optimistic about the number of kids that would come trick or treating. After all, COVID has quieted down in our area and everybody is anxious to get out. A month before the event my grocery store ran a sale of Halloween candy. I bit and bought a bag of 250 pieces of Snickers, 3 Musketeers, Twix, and M&Ms. Guess what? The crowd was minimal. I don’t think we had fifty kids come to the door. Of course it helped when my neighbor two doors down set up a giant air slide that he uses for his grand kids and I saw several kids pass by my house and make a b-line to the slide. Thank you Sue, but next time give me a warning. Now I’m stuck with all my favorite candies tempting me to kiss KETO goodbye. The system doesn’t work if I eat KETO breakfast, lunch, and supper, but snack on candies in between.

I worked a couple of hours this afternoon troubleshooting my pond pump which mysteriously stopped pushing water to my water fall. I pulled it out a couple of days ago when the temperature was in the low sixties, today it is in the thirties and a few hours ago it was snowing. Not very good weather to be playing outside in water, but it was a great day to play inside with water. I disassembled the pump and found nothing that would stop the impeller. I plugged it in on the bench and the impeller spun. After putting it back together I had two bolts left over and no nuts. I searched for a few minutes and thought maybe I have some of these nuts in my cache. I have hundreds of nuts, but not the kind I needed. I moved every tool, and part I had on the bench but found nothing. I scanned the floor around my bench with a spot light, nothing. Then the brain kicked in and started retracing my steps, I did walk the parts to the slop sink to clean them, so I scanned the sink, nothing. Then the light went on above my mind, look in the drain. Yep that’s where they were.

A second assembly later I declared the pump ready for a test, indoors that is. I left off the 90 degree elbow with the check valve, and put the pump in a five gallon bucket with water to test in my basement slop sink. The water shot up and gushed forth. Next, I thought why not see if the valve is the problem. I reassembled the elbow with the valve, and then thought long and hard about plugging it in. Do I venture ahead and test with the possibility of having to clean up four gallons of water, or do I drag the thing up the stairs to test it on the patio. I chose the patio. It took a few minutes to get it in place, but that was easier than mopping the basement from a man-made flood. I plugged it in, and water gushed out of the elbow, Great, I thought then it turned off. What? Why did that happen? My mind raced through a checklist of possibilities and then it dawned on me the bucket was empty. In that instant of turning the pump on it emptied the bucket. Whew! Problem solved.

I carried the bucket and the pump back to the basement and refilled the bucket with water. The manufacturer recommends storing the unit submerged in water to keep the seals from drying out and causing the oil to leak. Even though I am satisfied that the pump is healthy I still have a problem. The water fall no longer works, The next step will be to look for things that may be plugging the plumbing. If I live until April and I remember where I left off I’ll tackle it then. Right now I’m dreaming about wintering in Arizona where the only way I know if it snows is when the mountain tops above 7000 feet turn white.

Just In Time = Almost Too Late

Today I am reminded of my training as an engineer in manufacturing about the Just In Time principle. What reminded me? A flower I planted from seed. I have planted this flower every year for the past ten years with good success, that is, until this year. Maybe the seeds were affected by COVID, but the end result didn’t happen as it should have. I planted the seeds in late May and within a few days they germinated and began to grow. They grew, and grew, and grew, but only the foliage. There was not a flower within sight for well over four months. I distinctly remember that the package stated seventy days from germination to flowers. It is now the third week in October and the damned plant finally began to show flowers. It is a simple Morning Glory. My recollection is that in prior years I enjoyed these blooms beginning in August. What happened this year is strange. All I know is that we are about two weeks away from a killing frost and there are still only a few blooms showing in a mass of foliage. Disappointing to say the least. At least the plant met the deadline of blooming before a the frost shuts it down, or Just in Time.

In the manufacturing world of the eighties and nineties Just in Time manufacturing was a system used by the Japanese car companies to streamline their assembly process. The company I worked for was steeped in the study of these concepts. Basically, just in time means that parts arrive at the assembly line minutes before they are needed to put into the unit. Why waste providing warehouse space to hold parts before they are needed. Put that together with the labor required to unload and stock the warehouse and then to unload it again when it is needed. The factory floor is less cluttered with inventory meaning a smaller factory is needed, and the company doesn’t pay for goods to sit around waiting for a time to be used. It works and does save money, but at the price of too many employees’ nervous systems overloading when a car is coming down the line and you still don’t have the next part needed. Therein, we coined the phrase “almost too late.” The Japanese system relies on parts manufacturers being located within a one day drive from the assembly plant. The vision is that raw materials flow from the ground to the steel mill, to the component manufacturer to the assembly plant in a smooth uninterrupted flow, just like water flowing through a pipe from the well into your glass.

Recent headlines during COVID citing the computer chip shortage are prime examples of a just in time system that failed. How any auto company allowed that to happen is beyond me. It is, however, easy to visualize happening when the chips are a part of a JIT system and the company making the chips suddenly has a huge shortage of manpower down with the virus, and it is non-stop for a year, meaning that the shortage continues as more and more employees get the virus as time marches on. Henry Ford’s original idea of building a process that was vertically integrated so that his company made every part of the car, without involving outside suppliers solves this problem. The trouble with vertical integration is that the factory becomes so frickin huge it is impossible to manage. It also means that one company has to be expert at making thousands of discreet components all of which require their own experts. Separate companies specializing in discreet components can become very adept at making starters, radiators, brakes, etc. Even body parts like fenders, and hoods require experts in stamping and processing large sheets of metal.

In a phone discussion with a Ford employee this morning I learned that at this time Ford has more cars to sell than any company on the planet, and Ford is building more cars than any other car company. I can testify that the Ford dealer in my town finally has new cars and trucks on the lot.

Face Off Behind Joe’s Pond

The schedule I had for today was light. I didn’t make a to-do list and decided I’d make a day out of it anyway. The only thing I had after waking up was to deliver a package to the UPS store. After a very leisurely breakfast and after reading the final page of a book titled “First Steps, How Upright Walking Made Us Human”. It was time to attach a shipping label to the homemade box that contained my grandson’s old skate board and to drop it off at UPS. With that singular chore completed I decided to attack the overly grown stems of the shrubs behind Joe’s Pond. Every time I walked on that path the spindly stems swatted me in the face. The path is not intended to be a unwholesome activity. It is meant to give the guest another perspective of the pond and its surrounding habitat. Instead it has become a face slapping arm waving experience. Not to mention the many mosquitoes that are awakened at the scent of warm blood moving through their homeland.

I’ll give myself thirty minutes to cut this path free and that is it, I said to myself as I gloved up and lifted my lopper from its cradle on the garage wall. Oh, I’ll take the hand clipper and a kneeling pad too, and so I treked into the garden behind the house to perform the surgery necessary to make it enjoyable again. I stopped about twenty feet short of the target. There are some plants here that I’ve been hating all summer, I’ll just pull those out before getting started on the simple mission. Down on my knees I went to begin yanking the flowers that were weeds. Then there was the unwanted grass that crept beyond the stone border and invaded the perennial bed engulfing the lonely rose bush. I had a pile of detritus within a few minutes and needed to dispose of it. A short trip to the side of the house to pull the yard waste container into service was necessary. Then I headed for the mission target. Instead, I wound up along the stone border again extracting the weeds behind the marigolds. These ugly plants gave the garden a ratty look so I redirected to this target instead.

Eventually, I arrived at the path behind the pond to cut the unwieldy shrubs that impede an enjoyable stroll. Except, there happened to be a huge amount of the same weed that invaded the part of the garden I just finished weeding. This obnoxious plant was making the backside of the pond look horrendous. How can a person enjoy taking this path when all these invasive waist high critters blocked the view of my orderly perennials? They surrounded the boxwood and the Juniper tree behind the waterfall. “Go for it Joe,” the little voice inside my head shouted. I did go for it, and was doing a bang up job too. Then out of somewhere came this damned bumble bee the size of a golf ball whizzing around my head. Like a novice, I began swatting it away from my head. Anyone who gardens knows that bees don’t like to be disturbed, and if they are, they certainly don’t like it when the one disturbing them begins swinging wildly with a vengeance. I made a direct hit and knocked him to the ground. His response was one of immediate recovery and he flew up straight for my face. Again, I swung at him and pushed him away but now he was really mad. He landed on my arm just above my glove and I swished him off, but not before he gave me a stinging sensation that hurt like hell, and felt like fire. Finally, my senses returned and I ran away. He chased me for a short distance and then disappeared.

Now what do I do? I was rubbing my arm at the site of the sting hoping the hurt would go away, it didn’t. I opted to go back to the garage and to retrieve my lawn rake. I thought if I stretched and raked the pile of weeds away from the Juniper I could gently continue my task of clearing the path. Before I could retract the rake he was after me again. That’s not going to work at all I said to myself. We humans have a very large brain and it was time to put it to use. After all the brain of the bumble bee has to be the size of a grain of salt. It was just a nano second before I concluded that I would attack the path from the opposite end and work my way back toward the Bumble Bee residence. The final pile of weeds lay on the path next to the Juniper. I stretched the rake toward it hoping I could finish the job and go in for lunch. Just as I began retracting the rake he appeared again from under the Juniper and was buzzing around the rake. He hadn’t figured out where I was, so thankfully I was safe for the moment. I dropped the rake and will complete the job tomorrow.

Illinois Natural History Survey entomologist Tommy McElrath points out features of a female bumblebee captured at Trelease Prairie. The hind legs of the bumblebee sport bulging stores of yellowy orange pollen.

The half hour job took two hours by the time I faced off with the bumble bee and finished lopping off the spindly long branches that caused my unhappiness. At least thirty minutes were spent cleaning up the mess I made except for the tidy pile behind the Juniper shrub where Mr. Bumble Bee resides.

Garden of Joe’s Eden

What the hell, why don’t I share something personal for a change? This blog is about me and my life, and not about generating huge readership numbers. Although I enjoy seeing stats that indicate that people read my writing. Most of the visitors and followers are interested in doing business. They join me just too generate numbers that will move them into monetization and money. Nothing wrong with that, but my aim is to generate catharsis from my own life decisions that back fire or worse yet don’t even make a dent. At least when I make a decision that sets me back I know I made change. It is the decision that doesn’t yield any form of movement that destroys me. They are wasted ideas and cost energy and time.

Today, I opened an email to myself which contained a group of photos that I took randomly about my garden. I love the colors of nature, they inspire me. Just a few evenings ago I looked out the kitchen window and saw a unique lighting situation that produced some really intense colors.

Two days ago I looked out and saw a sight that I will probably never see again. There was a swarm of dragon flies flitting all about the yard swooping, diving, soaring, and looking like purple martins having a feast on mosquitoes. One never knows what nature will gift me with next.

Here are some of the photos that turned me on:

Not Anxious To Get Out

Close up of female hands pull out weeds from ground garden.

A few months ago a day like today was considered fabulous. After six weeks of warm weather this morning feels like the middle of January. My agenda calls or a day in the garden yanking native perennials from the annual beds. As I have said before, there is something special about neat and prim flower beds. After this post it may be warm enough to head out into the back yard and do the job. When I awoke the temperature outside was sixty degrees, Oh me what will I do? Put on a sweatshirt and stop complaining like a wank.

The idea of sitting in the house today while reading a book sounds very appealing, but that is not to be. I know that once I finally shoe-up and head outside I’ll stay out until the last evil weed is in the big blue yard waste bucket. I’ll be out by ten and in by noon. Oh yeah that could mean more food! and coffee too!

I love the garden, but hate the work. When it becomes I love the work but hate the garden I know I will have achieved a new level of consciousness.

Yesterday, I fell completely off the KETO wagon at the OASIS Twenty-fifth anniversary cook out celebration. OASIS stands for Orland Area Sight Impaired Support a group of people who are blind, partially blind, or going blind who band together to discuss the trials and tribulations of living in the dark. The Frankfort Lions Club has adopted OASIS as our project to help the sight impaired of the community. Back in 1926 Helen Keller (blind, deaf, and mute) at a Lions Convention challenged the Lions to become the “Knights of the Blind.” Lions accepted the challenge and it remains a pillar of our service. Since then we have added several more pillars to keep the house from falling down, Hunger, Environment, Sight, Diabetes, Childhood Cancer. These five are in addition to the pillars of community, disaster relief, and world-wide disease. There is never a time when we don’t have someone or something to be helping. Sometimes it is monetary assistance, and at others like this OASIS event it was with our presence and hands-on assistance. COVID slowed us down a bit on the hands-on assistance type projects but requests for monetary help kept coming. At the same time we were stifled in our ability to raise money. Thankfully, all that has changed and we are ramping up activity to one hundred percent of normal. In other words, if you see a Lion in front of a store with a bucket, please drop a few bucks in. If you see an ad for a Lions pancake breakfast, please go have breakfast.

Time to go pull weeds.

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