Monday, April 26, 2010

Redneck Yardwork

Well this weekend we threw a bbq with one of Natalie's coworkers. But before we lit up the grill I had some yardwork to get done. I'm finally not sick and able to get back to work so Friday night I bought a wrecking bar. I woke up a little late on Saturday, after 9 since I was still recovering, and went out to the backyard. I have a piece of concrete that was probably from a volleyball net or something and I tore it out. That was an easy 5 minute job, 50-75 pounds of concrete. So then I went to the front yard with high hopes that it would be just as easy to get rid of the concrete from a basketball hoop that used to be there until Wilma destroyed it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

10am, sunny, hot, and muggy. Good time to work hard right? Well this concrete was a lot deeper than the one in the back yard. I dug all around it trying to pull it out with the wrecking bar and I was getting really frusterated when I couldnt find the bottom of this thing. Finally after digging three feet down I found the bottom but it was so far down that I couldn't pull it with the wrecking bar. On top of that now the bigger problem was that it was a good 250-300+ pounds of concrete. How to get it out? I was tired and laying on the drive way ready to pass out. My neighbor saw me working on it and had to give her two cents. This would be the neighbor that her husband is always saying stupid things, I'll need a whole other blog for that. Well she had to tell me maybe I should just leave it there. Yeah right. Spend all that time to give up, not! I was pulling it out for a reason, obviously, and I am not French. I am not a defeatist. I don't like having a patch where grass won't grow. So I kept working on it until finally I moved enough dirt where, to my surprise, I could actually push on the concrete and tilt it in the hole.

So I did what any good redneck would do. I decided to use my head, and by use my head I mean use my truck. So I grabbed three of my ropes and tied it up to my bumper and my hitch. Now I should have made a ramp to pull it out easier so I wouldn't be pulling against a wall at a 90 degree angle but I was tired and just wanted to get that thing out. So I tied it up and gave it a try. The first attempt one of the ropes broke. Not because of the weight but because of the rough edges on the rock. I didn't even have to think after that, I knew what I had to do.

I went to the garage and got my old snow chains. I thought I would never use them again, I haven't used them in nearly five years. I hooked up both sets of chains to the concrete and then tied the rope to the chains and ripped that thing right out. Couldn't be any easier. I love my ten year old redneck truck. Well now I only have one more problem, a 300 pound chunk of concrete on my driveway. I was talking to a friend at church yesterday and told him I need to find someone with a sledge hammer. Normally I would just buy one. Always good to have more tools. But with the baby coming soon I don't have the 40 bucks. So my friend tells me he has one I can use. He bought it and it's never been used. Why? He said he saw it and decided maybe one day he can use it. I like his thinking. So by mid week this project will be 100% complete and cleaned up.


I spend the rest of the weekend relaxing with only small chores in between. BBQ and swimming. My pool is so warm I spent three hours in it Saturday and I even went swimming last night.

This morning was an interesting one. We rushed out the house because there was a tornado warning in our area. After a hot weekend it was a cool morning, just 67 degrees. We get to work in Miami and it's 81 degrees with a real feel of 86 (muggy). Yeah, the rain hasn't hit here yet. We'll see what the damage is when I get home, hopefully the wind won't destroy anything. We are close to 300% of our normal rainfall for April though, this April has been like a normal June as far as the rain goes, we'll see what the summer has in store for us but I'm guessing this year will go in the record books for rain.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Back From Vacation

Well I've been back from vacation for just over a week now and it's kinda been a rough week. I got sick on vacation, two weeks ago and still haven't recovered. When I came back my plants had all grown like weeds and the weeds, they grew like, um well really fast weeds I guess. So even though I had been sick all of last week I was out working in the yard everyday after work. I finally finished my new garden area by my new drain and filled in around the drain with pebbles, then covered with birds of paradise and windmill jasmine (pictures on my next post). Then Friday I got the rest of my plants from California in the box I shipped so I had to plant all of those. Everyone knows one of my favorite things to do is garden. I even helped my sister with her garden while on vacation. So not even feeling like crap could keep me from working on my yard all week.

Then Saturday we had an appointment to take the car in to get the windows tinted. We have tons of parks/natural areas so we decided to check out this place called Tall Cypress Natural Area while we were waiting for the car. Not the best boardwalk we have walked, but it was nice, quiet, and free. The boardwalk was only 4/10 of a mile, so it was a short one. It's undergoing a renovation, if you would call it that, they are ripping out all the invasive/non native trees to restore it to it's natural state. I think it would be more interesting though if they let a few gators go in one of the swamps. The only real wildlife we saw were butterflies and tons of dragonflies.

Well after that we had a little more time to burn before getting the car so we went to Lowes to get paint for Adriana's room. I also got myself a raspberry bush which I planted right away. It's five bucks for a small container of raspberries at the store but the bush was only ten bucks so it will pay itself off tenfold next month. But once I start a project on the yard I also find more to do. So I took my strawberries in the containers and put them all in my new garden area which looks really good.

Sunday was the first day since I have moved into that house that I have sat around and pretty much done nothing all day. My cold came back with a vengeance Saturday night so I ditched church and laid on the couch all stinkin day. And two days later, I still feel like crap so I don't trust doctors anymore when they say to rest.

But I did snap a couple pics around the yard. Sunday I was taking out the trash and noticed my Gardenia finally bloomed so I picked a flower. A couple months ago I didn't know if this plant would even live. I was having trouble with it. The leaves were turning yellow and the buds kept falling without blooming. So I did some online research and learned that Gardenias are tricky and even the experts can kill them off. We have the perfect climate here for them, but the native soil (white sand) es no bueno (too alkaline). So I started pouring epsom salt around the plants to increase the magnesium sulfate. Then I had to bring up the acidity in the soil. So I started putting coffee grinds that Tia Fior was donating to me around the plant. Then I started pouring vinegar on the soil around the plant. Sounds crazy, I know, but it worked. My plants are rebounding and I picked a really fragrant white flower from it Sunday (picture of Natalie sniffing it below).

Then Monday after work I noticed my Yellow Iris had bloomed. This surprised me because I had just brought it back from California. I took some Calla Lillies and Yellow Iris from my mom's yard and transplanted in mine. I thought for sure that it wouldn't bloom after the transplant but it did(the purple one didn't, buds fell off). So there's a picture below. I also took a picture of my Delphinium. Why? Because it looks so stinkin cool. It's growing like a champ and looks much better than that stupid thorny berry bush I tore out of that planter.

So here's a couple pictures I took this week

I find it odd that this area has tons more ferns than fern forest. Hmm...

An airplant

A dead bird I found

This has got to be the brightest red ant I have ever seen.

Yellow Dragonfly

My Yellow Iris

My Delphiniums

Natalie sniffin my gardenia

Fact:Gardenia is in the coffee family.
Does that make it a cannibal if I put coffee grinds on the soil around it?

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Much Needed Vacation

Well, Natalie and I finally got a much needed vacation. The last time we had vacation was in October, right before we went into contract on our house. Since then we've been busy with moving and house projects, all the stuff I've been putting in my blog. Natalie is getting close to the point of no flying so we had to take vacation last week. I can only go so long without seeing the family, especially all the niños, without going crazy. So here goes a long blog....

So April 2nd, at 3am, after getting just 2 hours of sleep I had to roll out of bed to go to SoCal. My dad picked us up Friday from the airport and took us to lunch. Then he dropped me off at my sister's house to see all the niños. All of them except Jeremy, he was with his dad. We did our normal Good Friday business. We made benotts and dyed Easter eggs for Sunday's Easter egg hunt.

Coloring Easter Eggs
Dominic showing off his stickers

Raelynn showing her egg

Aubrey being a goof


I put stickers on the kids cheeks. Aubrey is showing hers off
And Raelynn's

Cody's "wuzzup" face

In January Grandma died, in March Grandpa died, something like 18 days short of making it until my visit. So on Saturday my dad took us to Grandma and Grandpa's old house to go through some stuff. After that Natalie went to a baby shower that my sister threw for her. While she did that Jerm, NickNick, my dad, and I went up to my Grandpa's ranch.

Baby Shower
Mom made the cake

Mom and Raelynn

Natalie con Cody

Of course Sunday was Easter. So we did an Easter egg hunt, had a ham, etc.... I bought these toys for the kids to keep them occupied while we hide eggs. They are paratroopers.

The kids getting ready for their Easter egg hunt

San Diego Zoo

Monday we went to the San Diego Zoo. I have been looking forward to this for a long time. This is rated the best zoo in the country. It was looking like Natalie and I might be going to the zoo alone but my dad paid for all the grandkids so that the whole family could go together. The only problem about the zoo that day, cold rain for a good hour or so. Reminded me why I wanted out of SoCal. I hate cold rain!

Everyone talks about the gardens there and it's no mystery why. It's very hilly so we didn't get to see everything but we saw a majority of the stuff. I found out after we left there was an amphibian exhibit that we missed though :( I think everyone knows, frogs are my favorite.

I thought this tree looked cool

Maurina & Cody

The kids in the petting zoo

Natalie&I with the kids in the aviary. Gotta love my cheesy smile
Inside the aviary. Reminds me of El Yunque, the rainforest in Puerto Rico.
The tram ride

View of the aviary from above

View from the tram

The biggest ant farm I have ever seen. They also had huge bee hives, which I didn't get a picture of.

These things looked fake, like statues, only they occasionally blinked.

The Meerkats were all hiding. But once we came up they all got together for a family photo.

This camel was grossing us out

Baby flamingo

Tuesday we were tired so we pretty much sat around at my sister's and parent's house. The little ones came over to my parent's house Tuesday night and we had a slumber party. I bought them ice cream and filled them all up with junk. Then we attempted to watch the movie "Up". It was a funny movie but I was fading in and out so I missed several parts and the ending.

Planes Of Fame Museum
Wednesday Cassandra took her family to Knott's Berry Farm. Natalie had to go to Corona to work for a couple hours (University Of Miami pretty much paid for our whole vacation and she only had to work a couple hours) so I took Chris' kids to the Plane's of Fame Museum in Chino for some Uncle Joe time. That's the best part of being an uncle. Take the kids, give them a bunch of soda and spoil them, then send them home to drive my sister nuts. :) Anyways, the museum, they have a bunch of famous airplanes in this museum. A lot of the airplanes have been used in movies and stuff. My favorite airplane of WWII is there, which is why I decided to go there in the first place. It's called the Vought F4U-1A Corsair. The one they have was used filming the series Baa Baa Blacksheep in the 1970's. The F4U had an 11:1 kill ratio against the Japanese Zero which earned it the nickname "Whistling Death".

While at the Museum I didn't just walk the kids around. I gave them an education too and they actually learned something. The kids thought the fuel tanks were bombs so I had to show them the difference between fuel tanks, bombs, and missiles. They thought that the engine's exhaust and the airplanes air data sensors were guns so I showed them the differences. Then I showed the kids how to identify what country makes which plane by looking at the markings. I was impressed two days later when I was watching The History Channel and I asked Jeremy to identify a the plane with the Swastikas and Iron Cross and he said "That's the Germans". I asked him about the red dot and he said "That's the Japanese". Pretty impressive for a six year old. I also taught the kids about the different turrets and their purpose, the difference between a fighter and a bomber, and I showed them why some airplanes, like the Corsair, have folding wings. They even had little models there so I could show the kids how the airplanes go on the elevators on the aircraft carriers and get lifted to the decks.

The first plane we saw. It's got a sweet paint job. The kids though the engine's exhaust were guns and asked why they shoot backwards. Now they know better.
Boeing P-26 Peashooter
Me and the kids in front of the Corsair

Vought F4U-1A Corsair from Ba Ba Blacksheep with it's wings folded up
Vought F4U-1A Corsair from Ba Ba Blacksheep

I found this plane interesting for a few reasons. 1)Three tiered wings 2)Check out the guns. Mounted and movable for the pilot with sights. 3)No canopy 4)Wooden propeller.
Fokker Dreidecker/Triplane DR.I
Fokker Dreidecker/Triplane DR.I

Jungle crash display
Mitsubishi Betty G4M1
Messerschmitt Komet Me 163

Dominic, Raelynn, and Me in front of a WWII Sherman

WWII Japanese tank. Check out the size of this thing. It's no wonder they got blown to bits by the Sherman.

The kids showing off the airplanes guns
Curtiss Warhawk P-40N
Fieseler Storch Fi 156C
I found this jet interesting because it's rare to find a jet with the jet engine on top.
Heinkel Volksjager He 162A-1
Northrop Flying Wing N9MB
NickNick and Jerm in front of a 500 pound cluster bomb.

Grumman Bearcat F8F-2

Hanriot Scout HD.1

Boeing Fighter P-12E/F4B-1

Thursday was another lazy day until Thursday night we went to Cassandra's to watch a movie. Then something weird happened. In three years of living here I have only had my alarm go off twice, both times when I was in SoCal. The last time was last year, Valentine's Day weekend, when I was putting chains on the car tires going up to Big Bear. It was a false alarm and a mystery what set it off. Last time it was a motion detector auto dialer so I had to call the police myself and call Phil to check out my apartment. Well Thursday the same thing happened only now I have a monitored alarm. So I get a call and I tell them to send police. Police find nothing. Yes, another false alarm. Why does this only happen when I'm out of town?

Friday morning I was watching the kids and I painted Raelynn's nails. Here she is showing them off.

Grandpa's Ranch

So the first Saturday I was there, then again Friday afternoon (would have been Grandpa's 74th birthday), we went up to my Grandpa's property. He called it his ranch, although it was really an orchard. 385 acres of oranges, grapefruits, and avacados. My dad and I used to spend a lot of time up there. We would go fishing up there, hiking up the canyon to catch newts and frogs, and we even went camping up there. 90% of the time when my dad and I had "father/son time" it was spent at Grandpa's ranch. Everyone in the family talks about how they miss how the ranch was in the past(it's up for sale), but I really doubt anyone can miss this place more than my dad and I, since we were the only ones that were up there all the time.

The day I turned 18 I bought a shotgun and when I got to pick it up a few days later my dad took me up to Grandpa's to shoot it for the first time. Anyways Grandpa was selling his land a couple years ago. He was the last one to sell off his property. In the 80's getting up to Grandpa's we had to go through miles of orange groves. Then in the 90's it was reduced to just a mile and a half or so of groves before getting to Grandpa's. Finally after Y2K everyone else had sold off. Grandpa was in escrow so they cut down all his trees. The market took a dump and the land never sold and now it's robbed of all the trees. Everything is completely different than it was just a few years ago. The roads have changed. A creek runs through Grandpa's property. It comes out over a road and into a big reservior. Well the road where it used to come out is gone. Streets have disappeared, new ones have been created, houses are now built right up to Grandpa's property line, the whole area is transformed.

I found this picture on google maps. I used to have one from years ago but much to my disappointment I can't find it. I'll keep looking though. This one is a couple years ago though and shows before they ripped out the section of Skyline Drive and while they were in the process of tearing out his groves. In the picture to the right of the reservior, directly below it, and some of the section to the left and left bottom of the reservior were all oranges. Avacados lined his gate by skyline drive as well as the hill on the right side of the picture. The grapefruit were all to the left of the reservior as well as the whore house and the well. Where skyline meets W Foothill Parkway (formerly Chase), that stree is gone and we now have to go up Rawley. It's all really weird to me seeing the changes.

From the North Side of Grandpa's looking South towards the Cleveland National Forest.

Looking West towards Orange County. A couple hundred yards out is where he grew his grapefruits.

Now that the land is unsupervised, people have been offroading up the dike of his reservior

Looking towards Orange County

I found this flower on the dike of the reservior. They have been growing there for years, I think they are Gladiolus. I pulled a dozen or so out of the ground. I planted some in my mom's yard and took the rest home and planted them at my house. My mom has some flowers but they are yellow so I exchanged her yellow ones for the purple and took both home along with some of her calla lillies. Nothing like free plants :)

From the top of the dike of the reservior. A road goes around the whole reservior on the dike. My aunt's ex husband used to like in a small camper on the little hill below the reservior. My grandpa also used to have a small house down there. By the time I was a small kid the house was abandoned and infested with rats. Finally in the early 90's, I think, Grandpa has the house torn down. Just to the left of that were naval oranges. From the road, by the reservior, looking towards Hagador. This was all orange trees. You can see where the road turns. We came in on the road to the left and had to make a big u-turn around all the trees to get to the reservior.

The reservior. The water used to come all the way to the road when it was high. To drive up to the reservior we used to make a big loop, like a horseshoe. Come up the road where the houses were, drive up towards hagador, then turn and take the road back to the reservior.

This is above the reservior. This is where we used to camp. At night there is a great view of the city lights from here.

Formerly known as avacado hill. Where all the brown grass is, that was all oranges. On the hill were the avacados. They are seperated by the creek. Grandpa always talked about building a house at the top of the hill, but never did for some reason.

The bridge that crossing the creek that seperates the avacados and oranges.
From the canyon (Hagador) looking north towards Corona. This picture, at most, shows 1/3 of Grandpa's property. He used to have beehives where I took this picture. Grandpa's property ends all the way down by the houses.

Top of avacado hill

Back in the 90's we built this dam. We had 6 inch pipe that ran the backed up creek water to the reservior, almost a half mile away. A big flood wiped out the west side of the dam years ago and the creek has been flowing around the dam. My dad decided to block the water from flowing around and restore it flowing through the dam. Why? I guess because he was bored. It serves no purpose now but he wanted to do it.

Hagador Canyon. They used to mine up there probably 100 years ago. If we hike back far enough, along with marijuana plants and other stuff, we find caves, underwater caves, old mining cars and tracks. I've made it pretty far back, but never far enough to find out where the water starts. On one hike I took with a friend I came back with close to 40 California Newts. I am very skilled in not only spotting, but also catching frogs and newts. My friends go with me and pass right by them, and when they get spotted, they aren't able to catch them. I'm a natural at catching these creatures. I'm also quite skilled at catching poison oak. I've probably had it 3 or 4 dozen times in my life and had it on every body part imaginable. I've had swollen eyes from it and probably the most annoying was having it in my ear due to the fact that the oil would drip in my ears while laying down. Probably my favorite thing to do as a kid was hike up this canyon. My dad liked going up there to fish, I liked going to hike and catch frogs and newts. So we usually did both. The first hike I ever remember taking up there was when I was around 5. I can still point out to this day the spot on the trail where I was scared and stopped because of a rattle snake.

Hagador Canyon

View of the city from the canyon

This is up by the canyon and the beehives. This is where the younger naval orange trees were.

The reservior

The road going past the whore house. One day, in the mid 90's, my dad was driving with me past the whore house, just around the corner at the end of this picture. My dad went to make a 3 point turn on the road and backed the back tires of his truck off the side of the hill. His rear differental was resting on the edge of the road and the tires where hanging in mid air. We spent a couple hours trying to get the tires back on the road, my dad even lifted up the back end of the truck but we couldn't get the truck out. It was hot that day, about 105, and we ran out of water. When my dad told me to fill up the water jug I didn't fill it up all the way. We kept running to the whore house to get wood planks and stuff to try to get the truck out. Eventually we had to start picking grapefruits and suck out the juice so we wouldn't dehydrate. Finally hours later my grandpa pulled up in his Jeep and pulled us out. A couple weeks later at the dinner table my dad told my mom that he was teaching me to drive and I was the one that got the truck stuck. I don't know if it was because he was embarassed about it or just because he was being him and joking around but I played along and my mom believed that story until we finally told the truth a couple years later.

On the right used to be all orange groves. On the left side of the road Grandpa had avacado trees along his fence.

The old well. This well drops, probably a good couple hundred feet. We used to be able to throw rocks down it, hear a couple pings as it goes down, then a couple seconds later it would sound like a bomb when it hits the bottom.

What's left of the old whore house. Back in the 1880's, way before Grandpa owned this land, the whores were kicked out of Corona so they built a small whore house up here. It really should have been saved as a landmark but thugs would come up and vandalize it. By the 90's it had just two walls supporting the structure. Grandpa used to store old sprinkler parts and stuff in there but it was a rat infested mess that no one ever went into. Well according to my dad, a few years ago when they tore down the house, they found out that it had a basement that no one knew about. In the basement they found a really old chest with old clothes from the 1800's in it. Grandpa let the guys doing the demo take it, really he should have kept it and sold it to a museum.

Frogs and tadpoles...... Now that there are no fish in the reservior it's loaded with frogs. I have never seen so many frogs in my life. It's like something off Discovery Channel. Millions, if not tens of millions, of frogs and tadpoles. On our first trip up there my dad took hundreds of them home. They were all tadpoles at that point. Then on our second trip there was a mix of frogs and tadpoles. I was walking along the shore and thousands and thousands of frogs would jump into the water. Just a bunch of black dots.. So on our second trip we took hundreds and hundreds more of the tadpoles home. By Saturday, the day I left California, the tadpoles were turning into frogs. My dad now has hundreds of frogs running around in his flowers, grass, etc....

A small area with hundreds of little frogs. This is what the whole shoreline of the reservior looked like.

Wild Flowers

Videos of the frogs jumping

Dad's 50th Birthday Party (He's not 50 yet)
Saturday was a long day for me. First off I started getting sick Thursday from the kids. It hit me the hardest on Saturday. I woke up early Saturday because I had to pack some stuff and have it shipped to my house. Then I had to get a bunch of other stuff done before the party. By the time we got to the party I wasn't feeling good at all. I ate the dinner but wasn't able to eat the cake and ice cream for fear of what would happen on my flight out that night.

We stayed at the party until close to 9. I had to be at the airport at 11 for a 1am flight. Fun stuff.

Anyways the week before the party my dad became a facebook celebrity. A couple months ago when they were going through my grandma's stuff my dad decided that he needed to lighten the mood. So he took some of my grandma's jewlery and put it on. My dad used to have earrings 20 years ago. Well he was able to open up the holes and my cousin Patty snapped this shot which ended up on her webshots page. My dad had me download it to put as his facebook profile picture and everyone loved the picture. So, that explains the other pictures from the party.... He decided to be funny at his party and dress up for everyone.

This is the picture that Patty took.

Well not only did my dad put on a bunch of jewelry, but he had to make a towel cape too. Before doing presents everyone told their favorite story about my dad. When my dad was a kid he made a cape and told my Aunt Sharon that it gives people magically powers and could make her fly. He had her convinced and she was about to jump out the window when my grandma walked in and stopped her. So my dad made himself this towel cape at the party so he could be "Super Bud" while everyone told their stories.

My sisters and I had to get a picture with Aunt Suzi since we haven't seen her in years, well I haven't. In case you can't tell since she looks like she could be my sister, my 42 year old Aunt Suzi is the one next to me in the black shirt.

Some people even brought props for their stories. My Aunt Peggy brought props to tell her stories about how my dad took the clothes off all her barbies and gave them lesbian haircuts. Here is a picture of Aunt Tina telling her story about my dad's 48 rabbits.

Me and Natalie

Me and my 92 year old great grandmother

Me and my family. Yeah I'm not smiling, I was pretty sick that night.

My dad and his brothers and sisters

Dad and Natalie

At the party I realized that Raelynn is a con artist. I asked her if she loves Uncle Joe and she said no. Then a while later she wanted me to push her on the swing. I said nope, you don't love Uncle Joe. So she comes over and hugs my legs and says she loves me. I push the kid on the swing for ten minutes and then we I take her off the swing I ask if she loves Uncle Joe and she said no and ran away.... Hmmmm.....

After the party I had probably one of the miserable flights I have ever had. When we finally landed in Fort Lauderdale at 11am my forehead felt like it was going to explode from all the sinus pressure and loss of altitude. Then I had a miserable drive home.

When I got home I decided to do a yard check. Due to the warm weather and rain my plants took off last week and I was pretty excited about the progress with my yard. Not only that but my flowers worked and brought in all the butterflies and dragonflies and stuff. I snapped this shot of a Monarch Butterfly Caterpillar that is attacking my Butterfly Weed. I noticed one of my Butterfly Weed plants was looking good and the other was bald. Further inspection revealed caterpillars on it.

Natalie went right to sleep when we got home, after a shower of course. I slept for maybe an hour but didn't want to sleep all afternoon because then I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I was woken up by a massive thunderstorm. A little early for this kind of weather in April but I'm not complaining. The storm drain by my neighbor's house got clogged and I walked outside and noticed the street was flooded. Once the rain finally stopped and the water receeded I went outside and planted all my flowers I brought home with me from my mom's house. We'll see how well they do in this South Florida Climate.

The rest of my pictures that didn't make it into this blog are on my webshots page.