Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bagworms?

I was out in our back yard a week ago and struck up a conversation with the guy next door.  He was out playing ball with his young son and I was on a mission to inform a particular spider that he would have to build his web somewhere other than our back porch.  We got to talking about work, the weather, church groups, and other sorts of neighborly subjects that are fairly commonplace for backyard discussions here in Oklahoma.  Soon he looked at our pine tree that is adjacent to the fence bordering our yards and made a simple observation.

"Looks like your tree's got bagworms," he spoke with all the confidence of a guy who's had his own yard for more than a little while.  Not even certain which tree he was talking about, I just sort of agreed more out of politeness than anything.  He pointed to the evergreen (you will notice, no doubt, that in referring to it by such a generic term that I obviously have no idea what particular type of evergreen it actually is) and, specifically, to the brown pinecone-like things that were hanging from the branches.

I had noticed these things before, but being the not-gardener that I am, figured it was just a bunch of pinecones.  I mean, they looked like pinecones, but the fact that our tree was also kind of dying never really made any connection to me between the two phenomenæ.
Not a pinecone. Who knew, eh?
Our neighbor said that they weren't so bad, really, and all we had to do was pick them off and throw them away.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, turns out it kind of was.  :)  This evening my wife and I were out in the yard for an hour or so with gloves on, picking the little buggers off our tree like it was the week after Christmas.  They were kind of gross and a tad squishy, and even though I didn't see any actual worms, I didn't exactly go looking for any either.  We're also supposed to spray the tree with some stuff called Sevin, which my dad used to spread around the yard when I was a kid to keep the bugs at bay.  That'll be tomorrow, though, and hopefully in the coming weeks and months our little tree fella will find new life once again.
Don't worry, little tree...soon you'll be good as new!  (hopefully)
I didn't do an official Bagworm count, but it was probably over 100.  Yech.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ponca City, here we come!

So over Labor Day we decided to take a trip to Ponca City, the (formerly) booming (not quite) metropolis 45 minutes north of here.  I mean, when you got a whole day off and a full tank of gas, where else are you gonna go?  We spent most of the afternoon at the Marland Mansion, the home of a former Oklahoma governor and oilman extraordinaire.  This was the second mansion my wife and I have toured--the first being the James J. Hill House (by "house" they mean "ginormous castle") near downtown Saint Paul--and like before, it was cool to see how rich dudes rolled back in the early 20th century.
44,000 square feet = 1 cool house.
Pulling up to the mansion itself was a tad intimidating, and kind of gives one a sense of perspective.  I thought, and still do think, that our house is pretty nice.  It's got a couple bedrooms, a decent yard, and a kitchen roomy enough for two people to cook dinner at the same time.  What more could a guy want?  A lot more, it turns out.  Like a T-shaped swimming poll of olympic proportions in the backyard.  Or seven bathrooms.  Or a boat launch accessible via tunnel from the lower-floor dining room.  Or owl statues built into the walls.  I guess when you own 1/10th of the world's known oil reserves, you can pretty much buy a house that puts the house of your dreams to shame.  And hey, why not?  Mr. Marland was also quite the philanthropist who was also known for giving his workers free stuff like food and health care, and took very good care of the town of Ponca City too.

Not pictured: gigantic piles of cash.
The tour was pretty fun, and I cheered a little bit on the inside when our tour guide gave a bit of a verbal smackdown to a couple of emo-type high schoolers who were tagging along in the group.  Mostly it was just a nice way to spend a gorgeous afternoon.  After we moved away from Minnesota my wife and I realized there was a lot of stuff to see and do that we never took the time to experience, so we have tried to make a conscious effort to get out and see more of Oklahoma while we're here.  Not that we plan on leaving any time soon, but whenever we do we would rather have lots of marks on our mental checklist rather than empty blanks waiting to be filled in.
Me, experiencing about 0.001% of the property.
So between the mansion and the Cann Memorial Gardens, we had a pretty nice time up yonder in Ponca City.  Next up?  Who knows.  Maybe Enid.  Maybe Ada.  Maybe Picher (the most toxic town in America!).  Or maybe we'll find someplace here in town to check out that we haven't yet seen.  Like Calvin and Hobbes said, it's a magical world...

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Pork Paroxysm

Last weekend I had the pleasure of hosting my brother's bachelor party, and even though the phrase bachelor party probably conjures images of somewhat questionable conduct on the part of all involved, that sort of thing was not at all what this one involved. Mostly it consisted of a dozen or so guys watching the Huskers beat the snot out of Western Kentucky while eating far too much chips, salsa, bratwurst, popcorn, and the like.  Afterwards we played a few rounds of Rock Band and called it a night.  And while a good time was most certainly had by all, the highlight (or lowlight, depending on how you look at it) of the evening was our attempt to create and cook a Bacon Explosion.  Part meat, part spice, and part artwork, the Bacon Explosion was to be our Sistine Chapel--the piece de resistance on an altogether excellent night.  And while the final result was somewhat open for debate, at least we got a cool story out of the whole deal.

Things got going with the initial preparation of the Bacon Explosion itself, the foundation of which is a layer of woven bacon.  I actually wasn't present for the weaving of said bacon, but I must say, my brother Andy did a fine job if I do say so myself.  And I just did, so there.

After that came more layers of bacon, seasonings, sausage, cheese, and more that combined to form a gigantic roll of meaty meat-ness.  Like I mentioned earlier, I wouldn't exactly classify this whole thing as delicious, but it sure was an experience to put together.

video

After finishing all the preparations, we headed out to the grill to slow-cook the meaty monstrosity for a couple of hours.  Technically it should be prepared in a smoker, but absent that instrument of culinary confectionery, we resorted to the old standby of a propane grill.  And while I wouldn't say that idea didn't work, I would be hard-pressed to say it actually did work.  What we ended up with was part carbon, part meat, and part gooey cheesey meat-like substance in a malformed log shape.

Ready for grilling.  Mmm...delicious?
Several of the guys tried eating this, and a few actually succeeded in downing their portion.  Me, I was content to nibble on a scrap of bacon and call it good, as was my friend Evan.  It was a fun thing to try, but I think next time I'll stick to the plain ol' burgers and bratwurst that are more typical cookout staples.  At the end of the day, though, we all had a great time--especially my brother, which is really all that matters anyway.
My brother, the lucky bachelor, with his bacon trophy.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Changing Colors

One of the things we have learned since moving in to our house last year is that no improvement project is ever as simple as it seems, or takes as few trips to the hardware store as we think.  And for the most part it's all good, since even the biggest problems we encounter pale in comparison to the problems that a lot of people have to deal with in this world.  At least we have a house, and we try to keep that perspective when something doesn't work out quite like we hope it will.  Same goes for our cars too.  I mean, we have not one, but two, fine automobiles in good working condition.  So if a door handle breaks off and it takes far longer to put the new one in than I thought it would, well, no big deal, right?  Anyway, even though it's not always easy to keep that sort of attitude when things don't work out quite the way we hope, we try, and I guess that's all you can hope for sometimes, eh?

Painting In Progress. New light fixture
will go above the mirror, which
takes up most of the space on this wall.
Anyway, we've been doing a re-painting project in the bathroom that has become a little more complicated than we would have liked, but hey, it's all good.  Having never painted a room of our house before, it was a little daunting getting everything in order before we even lifted a hand for the first brush stroke.  What color paint?  What size drop cloth?  What brand of blue painter's tape?  Latex or oil?  Rollers, brushes, or both?  That's not to mention the prep work that had to be done in the bathroom itself, like removing fixtures and taking things out.  But a few days ago after everything was in order, the borders taped over, and the circuit breaker shut off*, we carefully began Painting Project Numero Uno.

All in all it was a success, despite a few misplaced drops of paint here and there and a couple bits of blue tape stubbornly stuck to various surfaces yet.  The room looks much better than it did, and we are slowly putting it back together the way we want it too.  And so all's well that ends well?  Yes, but not as such--or at least, not yet anyway.  The light fixture above the mirror needs to be replaced, and this is where things are starting to get complicated.  It's going to involve some drywall cutting, a tad bit of re-wiring, and the installation of a new junction box too.  And like the time I installed the mount for our TV in the brick fireplace chimney, I have no real idea what I'm doing here and will probably just figure things out as we go (with more than a few phone calls to my dad, who could probably build an entire house with his eyes closed).  Oh, and we also need to find a new light fixture, which is a daunting project in and of itself.

Anyway, I think we're in pretty good shape and I'm sure in a few days we'll have a new-looking bathroom all painted and re-lit and everything.  And besides, even if things don't quite work out, what's the worst that could happen?

*note: grabbing bare wires without performing this step is not recommended, as I found out firsthand :)