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Thursday, 28 October 2010

In the 'hood

My wardrobe has been absorbing US styles and items since 2004, my first visit Stateside and discovery that US clothing is much cheaper and more comfortable than UK equivalents. In fact I've had US items in my wardrobe since 1984 when I first got a baseball jacket (red with white sleeves and a M sewn on), football jacket (Philadelphia Eagles), and Philadelphia Eagles cap, at great expense as they were imported, but since 2004 I've been adding American jeans, t-shirts, and boxer shorts (mostly made in China or Bangladesh).

One item of US apparel worn by almost all ages here in Eugene is the hoodie, a long sleeved thin jacket with a hood attached. I had one or two in the UK, but have added four or five more. The hood is very useful now that we are subject to heavy Fall showers, to keep rain from dropping down the back of one's neck. A hoodie can be washed at home, doesn't require ironing as a shirt usually does, and can be layered between a t-shirt and jacket. I still have a number of button-down shirts in my wardrobe, but the hoodie is thicker and easier to maintain.

Cat Nipped

A couple of days ago, as soon as we came downstairs in the morning, Beth noticed that our younger cat Ghost had a slight limp. It was very slight, so we checked for a possible burr or thorn stuck in there. Uh oh, I though I felt something move, possibly a broken toe, and he grumbled (but only slightly).

Fortunately it was my day off, so as soon as the Vet opened (7:30am) I rang them and booked an appointment, and took him in at 10am. He didn't want to go, and it took three goes to get him into the cat basket, even with a sore foot. The vet examined him, shaved his foot in a couple of places, and discovered matching puncture wounds that suggest he was bitten, probably by another cat. A bite from a raccoon or nutria would have been much worse, she told me. There was no break (checked by x-ray) but a fair bit of swelling. He got an antibiotic shot, and two other treatments we do at home. Both the Vet and Nurse said he was a very well behaved cat, submitting to treatment quietly, perhaps resignedly.

The first treatment is a twice daily dose of painkiller, just 0.15ml squirted into his cheeks, which is absorbed through the mucus membranes. Of course he doesn't like that either, but with Beth holding and me squirting the syringe it's soon over.  The second part of the treatment is supposed to be an Epsom Salt bath of the foot, to reduce the swelling. So far we are batting zero on that one, as he is still lively, with several sharp extremities. The painkiller makes him sleepy, but not comatose. Beth and I will be trying again tonight.

Two days on, and he's been kept indoors all this time to reduce risk of further infection. He wants to go out, being such an active outdoors cat, but with our various cat flaps and screen doors we have so far managed to keep him confined, and he seems to be accepting of his lot. I'll be taking him back to the Vet for a check up next week.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

A Walk in the Woods

Commercial Pumpkin Patch

Monday, 18 October 2010

Go Ducks!

Our local College Football Team, the Oregon Ducks, are currently ranked #2 by BCS computer ranking, and #1 by USA Today Coaches Poll, and #1 in the Harris Poll, in the whole of the USA, with a 6-0 record.

That's a very big deal as there are 119 college teams, organised into dozens of different leagues, and this is the first time in Oregon's 115 year history that they have come #1 in two of the four main polls.

It only takes one loss to fall from the top of the tree, but for now we're very happy in Eugene to have such a successful team.

Go Ducks!

Saturday, 16 October 2010


As we reach mid-October the nights have started to become chillier, with sub-40F for the first time since we've been in this house. As a consequence we've started using the central heating, which leads me to make a few comparisons with UK heating systems.

The majority of UK houses are heated via a boiler and radiators. The boiler (usually fuelled by gas or sometimes oil) heats water is a semi-enclosed system, which then circulates round the various radiators in the house. The radiators slowly heat up from the water, and whenb theyv are good and hot (hot enough to be uncomfortable to touch) transmit heat to the air in contact with them. The heated air then circulates by convection, and eventually the whole room is warmed. Some heat is transmitted directly to the room by radiation (hence the name), but not much.

All that takes time, so it takes 20 minutes to half an hour before the air in the room starts to feel warmer.

In a typical US house, a furnace (usually located in the basement or garage) heats air directly, which is then circulated round the house via hidden ducts under the floors, behind walls and ceilings. Instead of radiators, which take up space and prevent the placement of furniture against walls where a radiator is located, there are flat grills on the floor, wall or ceiling, which vent air into the room. In strategic locations there are also exhaust vents which carry air out of the room to ensure good circulation.

As the final target is to have warm air in the house, it seems a much more efficient method to heat the air directly, than to heat water to heat radiators to heat the air.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

At Home with Martin Milner 2

Chapter 4: The Garage

My car usually goes in the garage, unless I'm home after 11pm on a weekday and Beth's already in bed, in which case I park on the drive. The Master bedroom is above the garage, and opening the garage door would wake her up. To the left is our chest freezer, with my bikes behind it and Beth's recliner bike on the right. The white cupboards on  the right wall and end wall hold various outdoor stuff like sports equipment and bicycle gear. In the top right corner is a door to the side driveway, and top left is the door to the utility room. We have catflaps in these doors so Elbie and Ghost can come and go whenever they like.  A friend asked if we ever have problems with racoons trying to get in, but we haven't yet. The furnace that heats the house and hot water in at the back of the garage, with air filters we are supposed to clean every month or two.

Chapter 5: The Utility Room

This small T-shaped room forms a link between the garage and the kitchen, the top of the T being a passageway, while the leg holds the washer, dryer, bottom of the laundry chute, and several cupboards and drawers. We store odds and ends like batteries in the drawers, and washing liquid and other cleaning materials in the cupboards. It may be that this is intended to act as a dry larder as well, being just off the kitchen, but we haven't used it for that yet. This area has its own extractor fan to remove any warm moist air created the washerm, while the dryer vents to the outside through a pipe that runs under the house. There are a surprising three different light sources in this small room, because it's also set up as a place to grow seedlings.

Friday, 8 October 2010

At Home with Martin Milner

Chapter 1: The Driveway and Front Garden

Our front drive is a familiar sight by now.  All the houses in our area have parking for at least two vehicles out front, but with our house set back a little further from the road than many we could fit more, if necessary. The lawn is still patchy despite my efforts to feed weed & seed, though you can only see the patches when it's been mowed.

Chapter 2: The Porch

Tucked behind the lawn is our front porch. A lavender bush gives a little added privacy, though front porches aren't really designed to be private. Beth's tomato and cucumber plants are past their best now, but just hanging onto their last fruit. To the left is our flagpole, and I rotate a Union Flag, US Flag, and England Flag whenever I think of it. Just to the left of the house is an arched door, which we use when gardening, as it's the easiest route to get the mower onto the front lawn.

I sit on this porch some evenings when I'm home earlier than Beth and she's due soon, and we'll be using it on Halloween. The pumpkin is not one of mine, though mine are starting to develop and there's still hope at least one will be good for a Jack-o-Lantern. From the porch we can see all the way to the end of the road, so it's a great place to wait for deliveries, the mailman or visitors.

Chapter 3: The Side Driveway

Beth parks her Mercury here when she's home, and there's parking for a bunch more cars or even an RV if we had one. The post in the left foreground is there in case we wanted to hang a gate on it, but for now we like the open space. There is a slope on this driveway to help drain off rainwater, and from the change of surface we deduced that the area nearer the 2nd garage is newer, probably laid after the garage was completed. The big flat side of the house soaks up a lot of heat in the Summer, warming the Family Room, Master Bedroom and Office.

At Home by Bill Bryson

Ever since my brother Brian introduced me to Notes on a Small Island I've been an avid follower and reader of Bill Bryson's books. Those that were published before NoaSI I have in paperback, and those after in hardback. All of them I have in digitalised audio book form on my iPod, some copied from tapes.

So I was delighted to learn on Monday (via my wife and PBS radio)  that he had a new book out, entitled At Home: A Short History of Private Life. I immediately bought the book and Audio Book, and have been listening and reading all week.

I can thoroughly recommend this latest effort, but for the purposes of this blog I'll stop there. However it has reminded me that Beth and I are coming up to a six month Anniversary of settling into our new home (officially 15th October), so I thought I'd celebrate with another phototour round the various rooms and outdoor areas, to see how we've settled in, and if we're keeping it tidy.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Our Water Feature

We're heading into Fall, my first experience of Fall in the US, and Beth's first since 2003. At present we're still getting hot afternoons occasionally, our Fuscia is still flowering, and barely a leaf has fallen on our property, but in an adjoining street some trees have started dropping their leaves. Pictures below.

This temporary fountain appeared in our front garden a few days ago. It used to be a sprinkler but the sprinkler broke, so off I went to Jerry's, our local DIY store, to get a new sprinkler head.

Ta-daa. Back again, and the part was only about $2.50, so not bad at all. The sprinkler heads come in 1/4, 1/2 and full circle patterns, this one being a half circle. 

I dug down around the old sprinkler head and unscrewed it, revealing the top of the underground tube. I screwed the new one in place, replaced all the mud and dirt round the sprinkler, and then it was time to test it.

Ta-Daa again. No problem. I was really expecting this to be a much trickier job, or at least more expensive, but in fact it took about ten minutes and $2.50, so I had time for a cycle ride.

Early October, and at last the leaves are starting to fall. The Willamette Valley is a very lush and fertile area, and we are blessed with a lot of trees. This also means a lot of leaves come Fall, and the first leaves are falling. This seems a little late compared to London, but I think the seasons here have been running late generally, possibly due to Global Warming.