When It Rains, It Pours!

August 1 started out like this.
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I woke up and saw the pink sky and I thought “August is going to be better.” Took this picture and noticed that the field in front of the house still had a few water patches but the pumps were doing their job and the level was receding. Of course we still have the surge in coronavirus cases and our cancelled month in Europe but best to be optomistic.

I had planned to do more hurricane damage repair in the garden but because of all the water the mosquitoes were fierce. When it’s wet is a great time to pull weeds and stand stuff back up. Thankfully the house was OK. We had happy hour on the porch, glad we were protected from the mosquitoes. Then we had a nice dinner and went back out on the porch.
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I had been checking the weather because we had already had round two of thunderstorms the day before but not enough to raise the level in the field. Sigh of relief all around.
IMG_2994Both of our weather apps said there was ZERO chance of precipitation and it was cooling off nicely. When I say cooling off, I mean to around 80 degrees. Better than 99 and the sun was going down.

Around 7:30 PM all that changed. The sky was getting darker and it started raining. Hard. We thought it wouldn’t last long but we were wrong. The storm dropped about six inches of rain in less than an hour. The ground was already thoroughly saturated from Hanna and the water level rose quickly. I’ve always said that weathermen (weatherpeople?) are the only ones who can be wrong most of the time and still keep their jobs.

IMG_3043.jpgIn no time flat, the field was covered by about eight inches of water and the road was covered. The garden is flooded front to back. We hadn’t moved our bikes off the porch and the car was still parked on higher ground. The bus is stored offsite in a place where they say it has never flooded. The water was rising so fast that we were worried that neighbors who had brought their cars back wouldn’t be able to see the road to move them.

This morning I put on my rain boots again and took a little slosh-around through the park. I had planned to go up and swim my laps but the mosquitoes were still around (of course they were!) and it was almost unbearably humid. And it was pushing 95 degrees by noon so I decided it was an indoor day. We are thankful that we have power and water.

They are pumping water out and at least the county isn’t pumping more into the park. For now, anyway. A friend just down the road from the park said they didn’t get much rain and the roads were clear. So maybe it will go down sooner rather than later. In 2018 it flooded with very deep water in the park that lasted a couple of weeks. People had to evacuate because you couldn’t get around. That was when friends unloaded our trailer for us. In the dark and pouring down rain. . We are high and dry in the house with no damage. We have lots of food. At this rate we’ll probably have to go to the liquor store before we need groceries.

A friend of mine recently posted a photo a day of artwork they have in their house. I liked the idea and decided to do it too. Then I realized that we may need photos for insurance purposes so that is an incentive too. Will start on that tomorrow.

Is it time to start drinking yet? Asking for a friend.

 

Hurricane Hanna Aftermath

It has been a week since Hanna hit us as a Category One hurricane. We weren’t sure what to expect but our park is on very low ground as is the entire surrounding area. We did all the preparation we could. Moved almost everything off the porch, packed a “Go” bag in case we needed to leave, moved the car to higher ground, brought our bikes up from the driveway. There wasn’t much we could do to prepare the garden, it would be on its own.

Saturday the 26th the theme song could have been “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” Except it wasn’t, as it turned out. After dinner, we pulled our chairs to the back of the porch and waited. And waited. The rain started coming first and then the wind picked up. They said gusts up to 90 MPH. And my weather app showed that the eye was going to pass right over us. That happened about 10:45 PM.
IMG_0409The wind blew and blew and we were lucky that everything held tight at our place as far as the house was concerned. Friends were on Facebook reporting damage. Some friends right down the street posted “We just lost our carport!” When the carport blew, it took off some of the roof and they had a waterfall in their house. Another couple across the field also had their carport blown off and it was bouncing around on their roof. Not a good situation.

We watched the electrical explosions in the distance, lighting up the sky with blue lights. We lost power only briefly and our water mostly stayed on. We had filled containers for drinking and a bucket in the shower in case it was longer term. At one point we watched our flagpole come crashing down, taking out a couple of branches of the flame tree with it. In the morning we discovered that our martin house had come down. There are three in the field and two got taken out. There wasn’t much flying debris that we could see… Why do hurricanes and tornadoes always seem to hit at night? And in trailer parks, which we basically are.

As our self-appointed “Mayor” said, if this was just a Category One, and we ever hear that a Category Two, Three or Worse is on the way, we would definitely take off in the bus. We strongly considered it but the bus was pretty well stripped, stored offsite and the roads outside the park were flooded.

We went to bed but didn’t sleep much. The next morning we assessed the damage at our place and were lucky that the garden took the brunt of it. I did lose my spectacular castor beans in the back and the smaller red ones in front, the ground just got so saturated with 12 inches of rain that they couldn’t hold up. We also had to stand several small trees back up and stake them up. Not quite done with that project yet.

The castor beans. Before and after. On Monday we got out the pole saw and went to work. They had grown for two years with no frost and the trunks were thick. The stumps were even thicker. Good thing there were only six plants. We wanted to get them off the grass as soon as possible. That turned out to be a good thing and the tree guys started picking up the downed limbs on Friday. That turned out to be a very good thing…

It was still raining on Sunday so we put on our rain boots and took a swing around the park to view the damage. Two missing carports, sheds destroyed, lots of units missing skirting, tree limbs down. The pool was very full, the pool house roof was blown off and a smaller shed nearby lost its roof.

The water level wasn’t too bad, not up over the road. Until…

The areas outside the park were underwater and their houses aren’t built up like ours is. There is a reservoir right down the road from us and that is where the problems started to show up the following day. Cher, our friend who lost the carport posted a dire warning after we thought we were going to be in the all-clear. The county was running pumps outside our park and basically flooding us. The water level was rising and we were afraid that we would encounter water levels like 2018, when the water stood about a foot deep in parts of the park for a week!

Everybody got on the phone and called the county. They finally came out, took a look and left. The pumps started running in the park and the owner’s husband went out and bought another one. The water rose some more but that second pump seemed to make all the difference. A few houses had shingles blow off, causing water damage inside but we were lucky.

I started doing a quick iPad watercolor sketch of the view from the porch after the water started receding.

Notice that in the third one, the field is green again. Not just blue and green. And the road was dry and passable.

But stay tuned…

Batten Down the Hatches!

Hurricane Hanna is coming…

It hardly ever rains here in the Rio Grande Valley. We may get a quarter of an inch at a time. Not too long ago we got three inches! But we have seen the pattern; we want rain, just not the entire year’s rainfall at the same time. We are in a very low lying area and prone to flooding.

Now the hurricane is approaching and we are in its direct path. It has just  started raining. The main problem with this storm, they say, is that it is slow moving and will definitely cause flooding. The storm center has moved south from Corpus Christi with Edinburg in the eye of the storm. Haven’t we had enough excitement this year with the corona virus and all the related problems?

The park has been flooded before and the last time it did, the water stayed about six inches deep for a week or more. People who were here had to move to another park since they couldn’t drive in or out. I just did my monthly run to the grocery and liquor stores so we should be fine provision-wise. We replaced our air conditioner with a split system when we bought the house so nothing to damage underneath it. And we are abut three feet off the ground.

Since we’re not traveling this summer, we will experience it firsthand. We have done what we could to prepare, tied down anything outside, moved our car to higher ground and moved most things off the porch. It has just started raining and we could get as much as 15 or 18 inches! Yikes! I’ll take five or so, maybe we will get lucky. They have been working on the drainage ditches outside the park and they are empty since it has been so dry. Let’s hope they do their job. The park has the pumps in place to move the water; I just wish they were bigger.

I took some pictures of the garden in anticipation of the storm. We’ll see what the AFTER pictures look like. IMG_2933aThe castor beans in back of the house. They are fairly open so maybe the wind will blow through them. If not, even though they are so big, they are lightweight and fairly easy to handle. And I have lots more seeds.

Wish us luck and not too much rain.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over…

Yes, we’re all tired of being in quarantine. Those of us who are actually quarantining, that is. Our park is pretty much cleared out and understandably so; it has been 100 degrees and over for the last few weeks. We would love to be in the cool mountains of Colorado, visiting friends at the lake or just exploring the country in the bus. Our two international vacations have already been cancelled and refunded (mostly). We are staying put for the duration.

Now that the coronavirus has been successfully politicized it is getting worse. My blame is squarely placed on the government, which denied its existence or severity early on. Until today, over five months too late, the president wasn’t wearing a mask! If only he had paid attention to his own Center for Disease Control early on. Cases are rising. We haven’t even made it through the first wave and cases are surging upward. Florida had 15,300 new cases today. In one day… But they’re opening Disney World, beaches and other attractions. Once they opened the bars. cases began rising exponentially here in Texas, where we have some of the highest numbers. They quickly shut them back down but plenty of damage done.

Our county in the Rio Grande Valley has one in ten of the new cases per day. We have been really careful about going out or being around people here who are not taking it seriously. There aren’t many activities here in the summer which is a good thing. I have been swimming my hour of laps daily and it is actually amazing to have not just the entire pool, but the whole pool area to myself. We have limited our trips to town to about every three weeks and they are always taken with utmost precaution, masks, gloves,  glasses, wipes and limiting contact. Thankfully, most of the people in the grocery stores are wearing masks but social distancing? Not so much. I had to ask a person twice in the checkout line to stay six feet away from me. And forget those arrows in the aisles meant to be one-way and keep shoppers apart.

Our national response or lack of it has made us a disgrace around the world. Every country except 20 have banned Americans from entering and several of those have mandated quarantine for 14 days. New Zealand has absolutely no cases anymore and they are back to life as usual. What did they do? Mandated quarantine for four weeks, two Covid cycles. Mortgage and rent relief for three months with 80% salary guaranteed. They trusted their leaders and health officials and the leaders trusted the people to do the right thing… and they did. America isn’t recovering as quickly because we value individualism over collectivism. Nobody here wants to do anything that is a minor inconvenience to them in order to protect their neighbors. And don’t get me started on the conspiracy theory people who think that mandated masks are a goose step down the road to government taking away all our rights. Just wear the damn mask.

What did we do? A one-time payment of $1200, a letter from Trump, who wanted his signature on the checks but had to settle for a letter, and Small Business Loans, most of which went to rich corporations, churches (!) and otherwise spread around to Trump’s cronies and rich people. And churches don’t even pay taxes! Why are they getting anything? Just another chance to reward their rich friends and run for re-election. Any mask or quarantine mandates have not lasted long enough and are announced unenforceable. And now they are having Zoom meetings to see about opening the schools. If you can’t have the meeting in person, you shouldn’t open school. Another re-election tactic that will backfire terribly.

But in order for this to get under control, everybody has to take the precautions, not just some of us. Even though some in government say that 99% of the people who get it survive, there can be severe consequences, blood clots in every organ, kidney failure, stroke and heart issues. Who wants their health severely compromised like that? Not me.

I know two people personally who have had the virus, a friend from high school and her husband. He had what they called a mild case while hers was deemed Moderate. She made it clear that she was very sick with pneumonia and other complications and even after recovery tested positive after two months. And I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about the folks who brag about not wearing masks and going to bars, parties, restaurants and beaches and are now dead. Smart move. I guess they get a Darwin Award.

We are lucky though. We have our house, which is nice and clean,  and the garden to nurture and observe. Unlike some, we have food and money and liquor and we actually like each other and enjoy our company. Jim is getting in lots of ukulele practice although he is bummed that he can’t participate in the jam sessions. We have sheltered in place all this time; why blow it?

Batten down the hatches. The first “wave” isn’t over, death rates are up and cases are rising. We’re not even close to the second wave yet. As we added to our daily mantra after Jim broke his arm in 2015; “Be Smart, Pay Attention.” Words to the wise.

And the Crepe Myrtles are still blooming. The elephant ears are getting big and the cannas are over my head. There is still art, music and natural beauty in the world even if you have to look a little bit harder.
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Here We Go Again…

We had the bus in storage at a place in town but we didn’t have access to electric. We brought the bus back to the park for a few days to plug in and charge the batteries. Then we took it back. We were on the waiting list at another park to have a site with electric and we finally got the call that they had one for us.

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Leaving Las Casitas

We moved it right before the end of May. It had rained a few inches in the previous days including that morning. When we got to the new storage spot the site they had us on wasn’t concrete, just grass over caliche. It was kind of an awkward back-in due to a large rock strategically located in the way for Jim’s turn. He got off the caliche and the bus sunk down in the grass. OOPS!

When we got stuck in our park last year, we had to call Coachnet to get us out. Urk. We didn’t want to have to do that again. They guys at the storage park were very helpful and one of them said “I’ll get the boards.” Apparently this has happened before. They shoved them under the tires but the wheels were still spinning. Once that starts happening you’re usually screwed. One of the guys at the park went and got his big ol’ pickup and a heavy duty chain. I was skeptical that the pickup could pull the bus out but with Jim on the bus accelerator and the truck ahead, they did it! Nice and slow. Then Jim made the turn and we made sure he got on the caliche this time. Whew!

It was close but worked out fine. Kind of like the time we almost got stuck in Grandview at the Elks. The bus is much heavier than the average RV. We did figure it out and we’ve gotten stuck and needed a tow three times in the ten years we’ve had the bus, in Oregon where we high sided, At Marni and Eric’s and in our park.

It is stored for the year now. If we take any trips it will be later in the summer if/when things settle down with the coronavirus. I know things are opening back up but there are also more new cases PER DAY than ever. This week it hit 22,000+ new cases in one day in the United States. Not exactly going in the right direction… Yet.

And we were offered a refund for our European trip in August, including airfare. Second cancelled vacation of the year. We shall see what happens.

Before & After Inside & Out

So what have we been doing during the pandemic? We are stocked up on food and liquor. We have a good sized farmer’s market down the road and their prices are great! Avocados? Three for a dollar! Nice sized too. Roma tomatoes much better than in the store also cheap. Next time I go I will get some fruit too.

A friend of mine on Facebook is the daughter of one of my professors I had in my BFA program in college. She posted a picture of a serigraph he printed in 1965 and described it as a quintessential piece of mid-century art. And she was right. Since our house is small, I wasn’t sure where we could hang it but the price was right so I bought it.

The framing cost way more than the print! The framer is great though. She is a little ol’ Texas lady, Sylvia, who is always perfectly coiffed and made up. Every transaction with her is a personal one and she always comes up with good suggestions. The actual framer, Max, is the one who actually does the work but she runs the show. When I took the print in, Sylvia wasn’t there so I explained to Max what I wanted. They didn’t have the mat color I wanted so before I went back I stopped at Hobby Lobby and found the perfect match. Saved me some money there, ha! Of course, the price had to come from her so I went back the next day for the sticker shock. She picked out a better frame color than black, I gave her my deposit and it was ready the next day!

BEFORE AND AFTER:INSIDE

I replaced a painting I did in 1980 with Mr. Rugolo’s serigraph from 1965. Mr. Rugolo was a great teacher and from him I learned the concept of a happy accident.

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It looks great though and it’s nice to change things up.

BEFORE AND AFTER: OUTSIDE

The outside changes took a little longer… We had three inches of rain not long ago and down here, rain as almost always accompanied with wind. Two retama trees in the back of the garden were showing their age and sprawl and one of them sustained many broken branches. It was already way leaning over from the last flood so it had to go. The other retama was more upright but had broken branches stuck high up in it and it was hanging over our neighbor’s house and ours. We wanted it thinned out but still shaped like a tree. When you cut them it takes a few months to develop their feathery offshoots. When they bloom in the spring, they are spectacular.

The park was having a lot of tree work done and the park owner knew we wanted some work done; Juan did some for us a couple years ago. Several days went by. Juan was still working in the park all week so I left a note on his truck as a reminder and then spoke with him. This went on for a week. Finally on a Friday, he told me he would be back at 3 PM to estimate and do the work. He never came back. When I told the park owner that the first guy never came back she said he told her he would be back on Monday for us. But he never told me that. So I started calling around to get other estimates. Two companies came out and I was convinced that either one of them would do a good job. Only problem was that I forgot to ask if they were insured. Here in Northern Mexico stuff like that isn’t always routine and the park requires vendors to have insurance. Of course.

So I called another company. You have to make sure they speak English both on the phone and when they come to estimate. My Spanish isn’t good enough to conduct business with a contractor. When I asked if he was insured he said, “Of course.” He spoke English, came out and seemed knowledgeable and competent. When he texted me his estimate, I texted back WHOA! He was over twice as much as the other two. We talked him into a discount but he was still much higher. By this time I just wanted it done. We set it up for him to come on Monday and he texted and said it would be Tuesday. Northern Mexico again. I tried to get him to commit to a time but never heard back.

Then he called Tuesday morning and said he would be here Wednesday at 8:00 AM. What to do? He assured me they would come.

So at 8:00 AM I was up at the office waiting so everything could go smoothly. At 8:45 I called him and said “Please tell me that you’re still coming.” He said he was and he would be here in 20 minutes. Forty five minutes later he called and said fifteen minutes. Finally they came. Except the English speaking estimator wasn’t with them but a guy he brought to the estimate, Raul, was.

It is pretty close quarters in the garden and they understood that no plants (or houses) were to be damaged. The guy with the pole saw and the chain saw was a master. Retama is a very hard and thorny wood. The complete removal of the one tree went fine. He placed his ladder on the branch he was cutting with the chain saw and it came down in pieces. Then he used the pole saw from the ground. The second tree was a little more problematic but they handled it like the pros they obviously are. Even the overhanging branches were brought down safely with no mishaps. He would cut almost through the branch then catch it with the saw and bring it down. Raul gathered the brush and hauled it to the trailer. One large branch near the neighbor’s house required Raul to stand on the very top of the stepladder (the one that says NOT A STEP!) and catch it.

BEFORE:

DURING:

AFTER:

We need some sod behind the garden but that’s not our department. Once it gets laid though, I will keep it alive.

Next big project? On Thursday we are having a bunch of dirt and mulch delivered along with edging for the front by the street. When we get some cooler days I will tackle that. It’s been very hot for this time of year, around 95-100 degrees every day. Tuesday it is supposed to be down to 80. And maybe some rain, which we could really use.

Around the garden:

Love in the Age of COVID-19

We have been sheltering in place since about March 12. Even though the park was still having events like the Olympics and Happy Hours with little emphasis on social distancing, we decided early on that we really didn’t want to catch the COVID-19 virus. The park did quit serving meals and the end of the season was fast approaching.

Since the United States still hasn’t ramped up testing there was just no way to tell, especially early on, how widespread it was. Before lots of people started getting sick and dying. Jim was able to find us each a N95 mask online before supplies ran out. A lady in the park made us cloth masks to go over them. I knew I kept this fabric for some reason…
IMG_2496I asked her to use the guitar playing part for Jim’s mask since he had received his new electric uke just in time before South Africa shut down. Thank goodness he has had it and been able to play during the quarantine.
IMG_2502I went on my first pandemic shopping trip on March 7 and it was crazy. You had to wear a mask to get in the store and I wore gloves too. An employee was sanitizing the carts before bringing them back into the store. I usually bring in a cart from the parking lot but after I saw that I have waited till I was in the store to get a cart. I stocked up to the tune of almost $300 but lots of people were hoard buying and some things were scarce like meat and of course, toilet paper and paper towels. What good is toilet paper going to do you if you don’t have food?
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I also stocked way up on liquor. Jim dropped me off because he had to take the cats to the vet for their annual exam and shots. Of course he couldn’t go into the vet, he handed over the carriers and waited for them to bring them back. They were there for over an hour so I had plenty of time to shop.
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The stock situation was a little bit better the next time I went on March 22.  They actually had paper towels and toilet paper but with a limit on how much you could buy. Some people weren’t paying any attention to either the limits or the six feet of separation required. This time I spent about $150 on food, including meat which was hard to find the first time. I’m keeping a Quarantine Diary.

Then they started talking about “opening” up the states by Easter. What a disaster that would be! Case numbers and deaths were still rising and testing still was lame so it was anybody’s guess how many were infected. As the numbers kept going up, Texas, including our county, ordered a shelter in place order through April 24. I went back to the grocery store on April 23 just in case they really did make that boneheaded move. Meanwhile the numbers were still going up until the United States had the most cases and deaths of any country in the world. Winning!

We took the isolation order seriously but some people didn’t and continued to hold happy hours, jam sessions and dinner parties. We really miss the socialization but we had already invested quite a bit of time staying in; we didn’t want to blow it. And new people were coming into the park, some from cruise ships and from parts unknown. There was no guidance on quarantining themselves, making a tenuous situation even worse. By this time we knew there were asymptomatic carriers, unlike the Governor of Georgia. Who knew which person that might be? A few other couples are also in total isolation and although we feel like we’re missing out we still think that is the best tactic. Hopefully we will have some friends left when this is all over. At least we can go outside and exercise. Spain was locked indoors for over a month, you couldn’t even go outside!

We know this isn’t easy for anybody but feel fortunate to have money to spend, a place to hunker down and no loss of employment. Of course our investments are tanking but our financial person says we will be alright. More winning! We are also thankful that we bought our little house when we did. The garden has been a lifesaver for me, giving me something to do. We spend every evening on our porch watching the birds and talking with friends through the screen door at a distance.
IMG_2545The cats have been going outside, even Astrid! They are good and usually stick around the catnip plant. Then they sleep for the rest of the day. Life hasn’t changed much for them.
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We’ve been practicing yoga on the porch, walking and swimming laps for exercise. The weather is really starting to heat up here but it is unlikely that we will be able to travel in the bus this summer. We’re not sure about our trip to Europe in August either.

I am working on transferring all my web content to one place and that is a work in progress. Check out www.wendelyncrosby.com for a look. More coming soon.

We are really stocked up on food and the big question every day is “What should we have for dinner tonight?” We’re making lots of Mexican since we missed out on our trip there in March. It turned out to be a good thing though because right when we were supposed to be there we found out that Mexico was banning alcohol sales and the little village we were going to barricaded off the town and won’t let anybody in or out! Whew! We had our flights refunded and our deposit returned. We will go later, maybe for our 30th anniversary in October.
IMG_2516IMG_2531We have a good routine going and plan to continue. Get up, have breakfast, read the papers, let the cats out, play music, exercise, garden, then retire to the porch when it cools off. Texas has opened up as  of May 1 so we expect the case numbers and deaths will continue to rise. What are they thinking? I thought they said they could open up when cases went down for fourteen days straight but they are still going up. I know, it’s the economy stupid! But restaurants can only have 25% capacity. Social distancing has to be maintained. Hair salons and gyms not open yet. It’s nowhere near safe to open;  I fear the increase of infections will be astronomical. Over 60,000 people have died already in less than two short months. It’s more important now than ever.

Be safe, stay vigilant, be happy, be healthy.

And wash your hands! Again.

Vacation is a Virtual One…

We should be sitting on the beach right now, margarita in hand. Our trip to Mexico got cancelled due to the corona virus. We hope to be able to rebook sometime soon and we kept our deposit at the little hotel we stay in in Xcalak.

We have driven all over the Yucatan peninsula for many years, visiting every Mayan ruin we could find. A map:
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Not all of them are on the map. A complete (I think) list:
Coba
Tulum
Ek Balaam
Kinik Kal Mo
Chichen Itza
Uxmal
Izamal
Itzama
Dzilbalchaltun
Ake
Mayapan
Ozkuntok
Uzmal
Kabah
Sayil
Labna
Xlapak
Kinichnaak
Chakmultun
Knichna
Dzibanche
Kohunlich
Becan
Hormiguero
Xpujil
Chicanna
Calakmul
Palenque
Edzna
Oxkintok
Escarcega
Balankanche
Chachoben
Rio Bec
Balanchen
Xtampak
Yaxchulan
Kuklichan
A few pics from various sites. Makes me want to go back!
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And from our cabana in Xcalak which is where we should have spent the last 10 days. You could see the sunrise from our cabana each morning.

I still wear that dress. All my clothes are vintage; I’ve just owned them the whole time.

So we wait out the coronavirus. We are fortunate to have a good spot to hunker down in. Jim’s practicing his electric uke on the porch and we have the garden to play in.

Today is Easter. It’s 100 degrees here, the height of spring.

Happy Easter. Summon all the gratitude you can; we’re all gonna need it.

 

It’s Finally Here! It’s Beautiful! And Sounds Great!

When Jim started playing his baritone ukulele in the band here at our winter park, he plugged in his acoustic and it bumped up the sound. But as he got more practice and skill, he wanted to be able to play leads that would require a different sound.

After much research (of course!) on November 25, 2018 he contacted a reputable South African ukulele maker, Brian Fanner,  and started a dialogue that would continue for many months.

Initial email:

I’ve been playing a Pono Nui Baritone acoustic for four years. I’m trying to add lead riffs and lead uke to my skills. I’m looking for a solid body electric uke to aid in my lead playing skills as I find the Nui acoustic nylon just doesn’t have the right sound. Do you have a similar scale electric baritone? What might the cost be? I’m in the USA.

Thank you for your assistance.”

After much emailing back and forth about specifications and dimensions and types of wood, he finally took the step on March 6, 2019 and said “Go For It!”

March 6 email:

“Here is my understanding of what you are building:

Custom 23” (tenor guitar scale) baritone solid body electric ukulele. The woods are curly maple on ash for the body wings – front and back. The neck is laminated maple and wenge. And the fretboard is maple with ebony inlays. A volume, bass and treble and blend pots and 2 single coil p90 style pickups with wood covers. Truss rod neck. No pickguard. I’d like the output plug on the edge of the body, not on the face. Chrome Strap buttons. Hi gloss natural wood finish.

I prefer the fret block at the 10 fret (D with standard dgbe tuning) rather than at Fret 9 as I have seen on some guitars.

Please add anything I may have missed or misunderstood.

What do you plan to use for bridge hardware? A pic would be helpful and a pic of the back.”

A similar ukulele to show Jim what it would look like: From March 2019.

Brian warned that it would be a “longish” build since it would basically be a prototype. When asked, he said that meant about six months. That would coincide nicely with our arrival back at our winter park so he could begin practicing and playing it at the monthly band gigs.

And so we wait…

Jim emailed occasionally to find out what the progress was but he was really careful to not pester him. Didn’t want anything to get held up. Often it would be days before he received an email in return.

April 14, 2019

Hi Jim

I have done some changes. The nut (at the headstock side… the bridge piece is the saddle) is currently 34mm which would leave 9mm between stings with a 4mm fretboard overhang and the bridge string spread is 36mm. 12mm between strings. This is quite a lot narrower than your acoustic but I feel still wide enough. 16mm is very wide almost like an electric bass sort of spacing. This is kind of like comparing a nylon sting classical to an electric guitar so I’m not sure its of much worth. I just wonder how you will get along with that. One issue is if it gets wider at the bridge the strings will not fall over the pickup pole pieces. I would need to redesign the pickups if it gets much wider there.  Check out the attached pic from the design. It is Just a basic design.. not much detail.
Brian

Then in September Jim got another email.

Hi Jim
Well… I had a minor disaster at the 11th hour machining the pickup cavities when the bit broke and made a nasty tear out :/. Hence the inlaid curly ash ‘pickguard’. I think it actually really improved the look of the instrument so perhaps it was a good thing. What do you think? I hope you like it!
So I will do the frets today and have it in the booth for finishing then just to fit it all up with hardware.
Not too long now.

Brian Fanner


Then in early November 2019 he got this email from Brian:

Hi Jim

Sorry for not getting back to you. Truthfully, I am just putting it off as it’s bad news. The neck just didn’t work out, I’m afraid. Multiple issues. I think building through necks si something I won’t take on for customers going ahead. Too much room for error as a prototype build.

So looking ahead. We have a nice body for a bolt on neck for which I have a laminated blank. This might actually be another happy accident, in my opinion.

I’m not sure how you feel about it though. If you just want a refund at this point, I completely understand. But I think as a bolt on it’ll be really nice. I’ll still sculpt the heel in nicely Alternatively, cut a whole new one from scratch. The programs are done for it. But I’ll finish this one as a bolt on regardless.

What do you think?

Brian Fanner

So basically, he had multiple problems making the neck work and in the end, he had to cut the old neck off the body! In truth, it really doesn’t matter if is a through neck or a bolt-on. It should play the same and maybe in the long run its better to have a neck that can be easily replaced. So we told him to go with the bolt-on and proceed.

Later in November 2019.

Hi Jim

I’ve got back to a whole instrument again lol. We started laying down paint this week. I think it is much better now. I could set up the neck angle and the truss rod adjusts at the heel so it’s much stronger at the headstock side. The neck also has a nice shape. Much nicer than the one that went pear shaped. I’m going to try my best to get it out in the next week or two.

Best

Brian Fanner


December 18, 2019

Hi! It’s all nice and shiny. I’m having problems with the wood pickup covers that seems unresolvable so I have these plastic covers now. Vacuum formed in the kitchen. The wood ones are too weak where the bolt holds it on. So they are going to probably break sooner if not later. My current holdup is the paint is still a bit soft. But I’m going to start wiring it up so long.

January 9, 2020

Sorry for slow response. I was in and out of signal. Trying  to get a bit of digital detox this holiday.
Ok so current situation… basically done bar the wiring and back cover plate. With regards wiring… I’ve somehow managed to misplace the blend pot I got for you. So weird as I had it with all the other components and now its just gone. Perhaps just go with a 3 way toggle, volume and push pull tone knob so you can get an out of phase sound? Otherwise I must order another blend pot… personally I think the toggle will be better. Unless you are constantly using one sound its easier to do pickup changes on the fly with a toggle switch… not so easy with a blend.

To do the backplate I’m just waiting on a part for my cnc which is now broken again. Just a minor thing but it’s not functioning and I need to cut a template for the backplate using it.
Otherwise there is light at the end of this tunnel lol. How will you tune it up?

Brian

And then Jim got word in late February that it was ready to ship! Woo Hoo! He even paid extra to have it shipped within a week. At first the package tracked fine from South Africa to Europe. Then it appeared to be stuck in a distribution point in Europe. For several days it didn’t budge. What now? He contacted Brian and they followed up on the shipping. Even though the tracking didn’t seem to progress, it kept saying it would be delivered by end of day March 6.

And it was! The FedEx truck arrived and he removed a ukulele size package! And, as it turned out, it was delivered exactly a year after Jim gave him the go-ahead to start the build. March 6.

All in all, it was an exercise in patience, trust, communication and restraint. It paid off big time!

Castor Bean Seeds For You!

I am sending this letter to my gardening friends. If you would like to have some seeds, please leave me a comment with your email and I will get your address and send you some.

Dear Gardening Friends:

We are in the middle of a Shelter in Place order here in Texas due to the corona virus so I wanted to bring a smile to your face this spring. I am enclosing seeds from my very prolific castor bean plants for you to plant in your garden. I am thankful that our house has a small garden to play in, helps me keep my sanity.

The black, larger seeds are the green variety in the picture above left. They are even taller now (maybe 30 feet) than in this picture, but we didn’t have a winter freeze the past two winters. When I grew them as an annual in Kansas, they easily reached 15 feet tall. The stems and branches are thick but lightweight making pruning and handling easy. They have a large green seed pod. The speckled seeds are the red leafed variety in the right picture. They don’t grow as tall as the green ones and have no flower but the attractive red seed pod. The ones in the picture are about 10 feet tall.

Plant directly in the ground where you want them to grow; they don’t transplant very well. The picture of the green variety above is just six plants. Plant them a couple feet apart and they will fill in nicely. The red variety makes an attractive see-through screen. Plant them about a foot apart. Both stand up well to the wind we have here in south Texas. Keep moist until the seedlings emerge. After that, they require very little water; it never rains here and I don’t water them.

IMPORTANT! The seeds and all parts of the plant are poisonous. They are where castor oil comes from and also the poison Ricin. Dogs and cats will not eat them but keep away from kids. I have grown them for years and never had a problem. Handling them is no problem, no need for gloves.

Once you successfully grow them, you will have more than enough seeds to keep you in stock and pass along to your friends. I am going to post on the blog too so tell your friends and I will send them some too.

Enjoy!

Wendy