We’re taking a break from running around. We’re road weary. Our Montana excursion totaled 2,400 miles. If we had driven East we’d be in Syracuse. It’s time to stay home for a while, and tend to some chores.
Even before the chores, we took time out for charitable work. We attended Whistlestock, a benefit concert at the Marin Center to support Whistlestop, a council dedicated to the wellbeing of Marin’s senior citizens by sponsoring meals, classes, transportation, and entertainment.
The ticket included outside seats and music by Pure Prairie League and Jessie Colin Young. We got an extra treat when Jessie’s flight out of Phoenix was delayed. Tommy Castro happened to be in the audience. He rounded up an impromptu group of musicians and filled in for an hour with his infectious gotta-dance style of raucous rock and blues.
We also gave charitably in the fight against breast cancer by attending last week’s Pink Fest at Vino Godfather on Mare Island. We listened to an afternoon of music by the West Coast Blues Society, sipped charitable wine, bought charitable raffle tickets, and contributed to the local barbecued rib contingency. We danced. It was better than tv.
I’m also feeding the birds. It’s my new humanitarian hobby. It’s also a money pit. I thought I’d get off easy, a cheap $10 feeder and some discount seed. That’s how it started.
It was nice. I’d lounge on my back deck and soon little finches, sparrows, and other small birds would swoop in to munch on seeds. My yard became lively and chirpy.
The circular feeder ledge was narrow to keep big birds at bay. The little fellows were happy and their numbers increased. Then the blue jays came. When a blue jay dropped in all the little birds would disappear. The blue jays ruled the yard and set about trying to problem-solve the seed situation. They discovered that they could land on the perch if they kept flapping their wings, so they’d land and use their beaks to shovel as much seed onto the ground as possible before losing their balance. Next a half-dozen jays would be on the ground feasting. My feeder was going empty every couple of days. I had to Prime order a 20-pound sack of no-mess seed.
To divert the jays I bought two suet cages, a stack of cakes, and another iron pole. It occasionally worked. Jays like suet, but they prefer seed.
I’d let them eat seeds if they weren’t such slobs. Next I bought a different feeder design, a simple square tray that hangs from a cord. Pour seed in it and step away. Any size bird can feast by standing on the rim of the open hanging tray. I figured my problems were solved.
Then the squirrels showed up. They just knocked over everything and ate it all. Now I got squirrel baffles coming in the mail. I also bought a third feeder design. This one is a transparent plastic house with small holes at each end. Lift the roof, pour in the feed. Only little birds fit inside. It’s been hanging for a week now, but the little birds haven’t touched it yet.
A retired guy can’t fill his whole day with bird feeding, so I started another project in the garage. I’m making an end table. On the Oregon coast I bought a 25-inch slab of myrtle wood. It’s got exquisite grain and bark on the sides. I’m applying epoxy resin to it and designing legs out of iron pipe.
To avoid return trips for missing pieces, I hung out in the pipe aisle at Home Depot screwing together different configurations of nipples, elbows, tees, couplers, and flanges to match the irregular width of the wood. I built the whole table base with split feet and a collar tie there on the store floor, then dismantled it and checked out.
The slab is currently drying between coats. Applying coats of anything — epoxy resin, urethane, stain, paint — onto anything — floors, furniture, fences — is a great retired-guy activity. Apply, let it dry, reapply. Each day for three days I applied one coat of urethane to my table bottom. Then I rested feeling a great sense of accomplishment.
Applying epoxy resin is both a challenge and a respite. Once the first coat is applied, one must stand vigil with a torch or blow dryer for a few hours and blow on any bubbles that form to pop them. Then it needs to dry for up to 72 hours. Subsequent coats usually don’t form bubbles, but the drying time is the same. I love drying time.
For exercise I’m using a mattock and shaving all the grass off my front yard. It’s slow, steady work swinging that pick and not swiping a chunk out of my ankle. Up will go a stone retaining wall, succulents, wood chips, and a stingy drip. Gotta fight that big water bill.
As I have written previously, I come up with the day-to-day activities. Susan plans anything that’s more than a week away. She plans so well and so early, that I tend to not pay attention to the details until just before departure, even though she tells them to me, repeatedly.
I hear we’re taking a cruise this fall somewhere to the south.
Steve Gibbs is a retired Benicia High School teacher who has written a column for The Herald since 1985.