Thursday, August 30, 2007

Keeping pets in check

Owing to the fact that I have been out of touch since May I thought that some of you might be interested in our pets update. The photo is of Randy [the Goldendoodle] and of Boo [the Black Lab] frolicking in the snow, this past winter. You might remember that Dale and I partially raised Randy after Daughter and her son went shopping and brought him home to us as they lived with us at the time. You might also recall that Randy ate two pair of my glasses [$500] and he and I had a couple memorial mornings after he devoured a bag of apples two nights in a row. [I'm a really slow learner, as you might have already deducted from the fact that it takes two times for me to learn]. You may even want to go and reread earlier posts as I reported these events. Boo and I never got to fully bond as he came along after Ellen and Mike married and then eventually moved out of our rather cluttered digs taking dogs and Sam with them leaving us Simon [the Shiatsu]. The next photo is of Boo swimming in the Westfield River, just what a Black Lab would be expected to do, fetching a ball.
The next photo after that is Randy swimming in the Westfield River doing what you would expect a Goldendoodle to do. I don't think Randy likes water.

Moving those two dogs and trying to provide for them has been a real adventure for Ellen, Mike and Sam and their escapades should yield several really great postings. Boo is the escape artist but once he gets out he doesn't go anywhere as he waits for Randy to join him. When the two are out together the great adventure starts and we all go out looking. Stay tuned.

We couldn't stand being alone in the house with only Simon so we got Purrsey [the Siamese rescue cat] to keep us entertained along with Bridget [the 1/2 Shiatsu and 1/2 Yorkie]. As I speak, Bridget is chasing a plastic ball, that makes music as it rolls, around my office, crying at it and growling at it. Purrsey is outside killing mice and squirrels I guess. He hasn't quite lived up to his expectations. My wife used to hold Purrsey, pet him and tell him "Your the most beautiful cat in the whole wide world". Since he started killing things and bringing them home, I have not heard her saying that?

Anyway, now that I am up to speed with all of you and the animals I can start telling more stories

I'm sad to report that we had to put Simon down two weeks ago. He was 14, almost stone deaf and blind. He had become obsessed with being locked in the dog run [40'x50'] and was doing everything he could to escape. On his last escape he hurt himself very badly and was in pain so we sadly and tearfully made the decision. He is missed by all of us.

Growing Grass the Ted Way

"What is so important about watering?" you ask. "Everything"! Here at our old cemetery we are slowly running out of room for graves and so we get creative about getting more grave sites so we grow them. Our cemetery, in 1843 was laid out in a grid or grave plots holding 12 to 16 graves with each row two plots wide or 40' wide and about 300 feet long, bounded on each side by a road called a carriage path. Today cemeteries are laid out with roads hundreds of feet apart as they found that there was little use for such close roads and it was a maintenance headache. We are slowly removing those roads and converting them to grave sites and prolonging the life of our cemetery. Over the years these carriage paths have been pounded down, first by the wagons and carriages that traversed them and now by trucks and cars. First we must bring them up to the grade of the surrounding land so they no longer look like roads. We use the excess dirt and gravel from excavating graves for burials to do this. After the gravel is leveled and compacted we bring in about 6" of topsoil, level, compact, seed and cover the future graves with mulch. We use Scotts seed and their mulch product which contains more seed, starter fertilizer and chewed up paper dyed green. The mulch provides a very important benefit in that it holds the moisture and also provides shade for the new germinating seeds.

The first picture is day #5 after planting and it is a huge relief when you see that. The first grass seeds germinate and push up through the earth in 5 days if you do everything correct. If you don't see them in five days it probably means you have not been keeping things wet and the grass seeds are dying. That happens to me a lot because of the demands of the job and sometimes we just can't get back to water. New grass requires to or three trips back, with the garden hose, each day to be successful. Sometimes we have to rely on mother nature to supply water to the newly seeded graves but rarely does that happen. Just because the little shoots of green show you have grass growing does not mean you can stop watering. More seeds, different varieties and depth are still germinating and still need just as much water for at least another week. The second picture is of the same area but on day four and you can see in the background that we are also working on the continuation of that road for more graves. This area will hold about fifty graves and the next area will hold about 150 graves. It took about 30 minutes to water this road 2 to 3 times a day. The next road will require about an hour and 15 minutes each time. Time to get my grandson Sam on the payroll for some money towards extra games for his Wii. Thought you might be interested!

The secret to this process is water, water and more Water!!! You don't want to flood those little seeds but if you don't keep them damp, they DIE. Our topsoil is Brown when dry but it is Dark Brown when it is damp. We keep it Dark Brown and we always send it to bed at night dark brown cause overnight is when the grass grows and to grow it needs water. My last tip is do not fertilize, do not put down a crab grass killer. A little bit of starter fertilizer [the bag must say STARTER Fertilizer] is OK but fertilizers usually have other ingredients such as weed killer [Scotts Plus for example] and this kills the tiny, tender shoots of grass. Read the bag!! So ends Ted's secretes to a new lawn!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Vintage Base Ball

I have just watched my first Vintage Base Ball games and loved it. As a family, we are members of a group called WOW whose duty it is to promote Westfield and bring non-profits together in that effort. We chose to participate in this Vintage Base Ball thing ever since reading the book. My wife and I participated in all of the 4 games of the first weekend as purveyors of band-aids and cold packs to all that needed them.
We had one lady cut her toe as she got out of her car and needed band-aids. We had a player attempt to catch a ball between two fingers instead of with his hand and broke a finger (ice pack time). There were other minor scrapes, cuts and boo-boo's but I won't bore you with the details. The slow times, during the games, were filled up with a Barbershop Quartet, a strolling banjo player belting out tunes from the turn of the century, Keystone Cops tossing out drunks [pretend] and rowdy patrons. A group of Suffragettes made a few appearances to broadcast their temperance, tolerance, and women rights messages and a few "dandies" strolled around adding to the flavor. The Westfield Boys and Girls club donned period attire to hock programs, food and drink. The game was played by the equipment and rules of the late 19Th century. It was quite a spectacle and all of the games were well fought to add to the enjoyment.
In the tinted photo above are daughter, son-in-law and grandson dressed in 1890's dress as they ready to head out and volunteer duties on various parts of the game.

We had Jim Bouton, pitcher [1962-1968 NY Yankees, 1969 Seattle Pilots, 1969-70 Houston Astros, 1978 Atlanta Braves] as the organizer of the event. Jim had started the Vintage Base Ball Federation and they were the sponsors of the playoffs and the World Series. Our own local team The Westfield Wheelmen were one of the World Series contenders and on the 1st week
end they played a demonstration game against Bill Lee's Green Mountain Boys from Vermont. You baseball fans will remember Bill "The Spaceman" Lee, lefty pitcher [1968-78 Boston Red Sox, 1979-82 Montreal Expos]. Bouton pitched the last several innings for the Wheelmen and the Wheelmen beat the Green MT. Boys quite handily even without Bouton pitching. The Spaceman lived up to his billing as he became upset with some heckling from the Wheelman dugout and very accurately threw a pitch into the dugout, bouncing off the back wall, next to the heckler and a bit of a nose-to-nose confrontation ensued but without punches. Bill Lee is in the right-hand picture in the green, Jim Bouton is in the black vest standing behind a vintage era cop who had just come out to stop the game because it was being played on Sunday. He gave in to the fans protests, finally and allowed the game to go on

When Jim Bouton was asked "How is vintage baseball different from the modern game?" his reply was: "In vintage baseball the games are a half hour shorter because there was no Velcro in the 19th century. And there are other modern improvements it does without. Besides no batting gloves, there are also no helmets, wrist bands, elbow pads, sunglasses, logo shoes, pajama pants, gold chains or earrings. No arguing with the umpire, stepping out of the batter's box, calling time out, charging the pitcher, posing at home plate, curtain calling, chest bumping, high fiving, pointing to the sky, or kissing jewelry. Just base ball." This was a tremendous endeavor with thousands of man-hours from the volunteers, thousands of dollars from Jim and the Federation, as well as much from the various sponsors of the games. Jim's goal and that of the Vintage Baseball Federation is to build a permanent base ball stadium in Westfield and we sure hope that works out.