Thursday, August 30, 2007

Tree Stumps = Pain in the Rear

Two summers ago I struggled with two dead trees in my back yard. We had them dropped to the ground and Erin, Reuben, and I chopped them up and moved them to the woods (link to story).

Last summer I removed the first of the two stumps. If I wasn't so stubborn and cheap I would have paid $50-100 to have both stumps removed professionally but I wanted to do the job manually with nothing more than an axe, a shovel, and hand saw. I've taken out stumps before but nothing bigger than a 6" tree or large bush. These trees were both 18+" in diameter.
The first stump was pretty bad. I dug around it but couldn't get at the roots because they were too far down. So I hacked away at the stump top with an axe until it was near ground level and then trimmed it the rest of the way with a hand saw until I could just barely cover it with dirt.

I saved the bigger stump until this summer. My plan was to gradually whittle it down with an axe by starting early in the spring and just hacking away for a few minutes every night. Unfortunately, after a few attempts I stopped making progress. The wood just didn't want to nicely break away. After 4 months of chipping away I was still left with this mess.
Then I had the great idea to burn the stump. I was pretty nervous about it since I knew it was illegal to burn anything on the ground in Kentwood but I decided to take my chances.

There may have been a small grass fire or two, but I put them out right away...unless I wanted to take a picture first.
During the burning I had to bear the overprotective motherly concerns of my neighbor. A barrage of questions like:

"do you know how to control a fire?"
"do you have a hose?"
"what will you do if it gets too big?"
"are you drinking plenty of water so you don't get dehydrated?"
"do you have your inhaler with you in case your asthma gets bad because of the smoke?"
It was miserable. No, I won't burn your house down and yes, I have been around a fire least once or twice.
The burning helped somewhat but was probably a bigger risk than it was worth. So after an hour I stopped burning and went back to my hacking and sawing.
Eventually I made it down to ground level and covered it up with some nice topsoil and seed.

It was WAY more work than it should have been but I feel better about myself knowing I did it all with brute force and a little fire. After the burning fiasco my neighbor had a stump grinder look at it - he quoted $30. I felt slightly foolish...but at least I still have my pride.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Weird Weekend

Unfortunately I spent most of the weekend at work trying to finish up our new product so it can ship this week. Actually, I worked each night this weekend until about 4 a.m. so my body was all messed up.

On Saturday Erin and I managed to get up to the cottage for awhile and enjoy one of the last days of the summer. Jason and I did some supertubing and then Erin, Molly, and I took a leisurely ride around the lake. I wasn't in the mood to be lazy so I made the most of it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Camping weekend

Erin and I don't go camping very often. We aren't against it, we just tend to spend all of our free weekends at the cottage. Well this past weekend we travelled to Houghton Lake, MI for some camping with our friends from Kelloggsville. The weather was very odd for mid-August. The first night it dipped into the low 40's and both Saturday and Sunday struggled into the 60's, so we spent the majority of the weekend just hanging around the campfire which was plenty of fun.
We had no shortage of food.
Nate brought his family's boat so we launched it on Saturday and everyone endured the cold air to enjoy tubing. Houghton Lake is the largest inland lake in Michigan but is only 10 feet deep most of the way around with some very shallow spots and a maximum depth of 23 feet.
Here the girls are enjoying a ride.
After boating on Saturday we played bocce ball and then got a little picture crazy.
The pictures started out as nice posed shots of the girls, guys, and the whole group.
But then someone had the idea to do a jumping picture. We set 5 different cameras up on a 10 second timer and then set them all off at once. We tried to time our jumps so that we would all be in the air when the cameras flashed but it was much harder than we anticipated. The experiment was very dorky but much more fun than I imagined.
This is the best one. Basically everyone is off the ground or just barely touching. With our average hang time in the group, I consider this picture a major accomplishment...actually it was nearly miraculous.

On Sunday we went to the nearby Higgins lake and launched the boat for a joy ride. Higgins lake is also very large but much deeper. Sunday was windy and the waves rivaled Lake Michigan so the joy ride was a lot of fun.

Nate and I made one of the world's largest pancakes with M&Ms. It was fantastic.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bloem Wedding

This weekend was the wedding of my college roommate Michael Bloem. He and Sarah got married in Springfield, Illinois. It was a sweltering weekend but a great time.
Friday night was the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, and hanging out. Saturday morning Michael treated us all to a round of golf, probably to ease his nerves a little.
The wedding was very well done and went quite smoothly. Afterward we took a joy ride around Springfield in a trolley and then took a bunch of pictures. The wedding party was huge - 8 bridesmaids, 8 groomsmen, 2 ushers, a ring bearer, and a flower girl so we lots of options for pictures and I'm sure there are a lot of cool and unique ones.
The reception was a blast. The dance floor was always full and we all got into it. After about 10 minutes of dancing I made a bold prediction to Eric that YMCA would be played within 15 minutes. He said "do you want to bet on that?" I was confident so we bet a drink on the timing of the classic wedding song. Somehow he talked me down to 10 minutes. Exactly 15 minutes later YMCA came on! Scammed by Eric, but the song was a little more memorable this time.
Here are some other humerus pictures from the night.
Michael's grandma was totally into the dancing.
Does it look like there's an unintended participant in this picture? Nosy Amy.
Timm just doesn't look natural with Eric's daughter.
He looks better with Matt.For the 20th wedding in a row Erin made the comment to me that she wants us to have another wedding. Yeah, probably not.
...but it is still fun to go to friends' weddings. Congrats Mike and Sarah!

Monday, August 06, 2007

Brown County

This weekend my parents took the whole family to Brown County, Indiana for a weekend away to celebrate their 30th anniversary. It was a fun weekend of relaxing, chatting, hiking, eating, and playing games.

We rented a house in the hills of southern Indiana. None of us really knew what to expect but it turned out to be a sweet house with a hot tub, pool table, fussball table, and lots of room.
On Saturday we drove to Brown County State Park. My dad is still recovering from his broken leg so he came for the ride but had to wait in the car as we did small hikes. The 6 kids did the "rugged" 1 mile hike that the park boasted.
After that we enjoyed a nice lunch with a view of the densely wooded park.
After another short hike around a lake we spotted the fire tower at the high point of the park. It was pretty tall and you're allowed to climb it so we had to stop. It swayed as we climbed but it was definitely cool.

The best part of the weekend was just hanging out as a family. We did some grilling for dinner Saturday and then had rousing games of Taboo and Up and Down the River. The men cleaned up on Taboo. On Sunday we did more chatting, eating, and shopping in the nearby tourist town of Nashville, Indiana before making the drive home.

Happy anniversary Mom and Dad!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Happy Birthday Erin!

Yesterday was Erin's special day. Her birthday week is always comical. Whenever she wants something she just says "It's my birthday, it's my birthday!" And of course, I'm expected to comply.
We had a nice evening with Josh, Josh, Jenny, and Sarah and Erin beat everyone in Settlers of Catan.
Year 3 of my cake creations for Erin was once again very comical. Every year I've made a fatal mistake, but at least I've never made the same mistake twice. The first year I tried to take the cake out of the pan before it cooled down so it fell apart. The second year I put the chocolate chips and M&M's in too early so they settled to the bottom and stuck to the pan and again it fell apart.

This year I got a "checkerboard" cake kit. In theory, you make three layers with circles of different colors. When you stack them and cut into the cake it is supposed to look like a checkerboard (not possible in reality).
The kit has directions for making the cake mix from scratch. I thought I'd speed the process by using chocolate and vanilla cake from a box. What I didn't take into consideration early enough was how much to make. I used 3 whole boxes. After mixing up the batter I realized 3 boxes should make about 6 layers of cake, and I only wanted to make 3. Being me, I didn't want to waste any batter so I tried my hardest to stuff it all in the 3 cake pans. They were quite full.
I succeeded, but upon heating cake batter rises...a lot. After 10 minutes I peeked into the oven to see all 3 pans dripping over into the bottom of the oven, and then burning on the bottom of the oven.
I spent the next half hour doing damage control to limit the burned smell in the oven and also snack on the batter that overflowed and baked on the base of the oven. In the end I didn't ruin the 3 pans and kept the burned odor away. However, each layer was ginormous (by the way, ginormous was added to the dictionary this year) so I had my work cut out for me to stack them without destroying the cake.
The cake turned out respectable and I dare say better than years 1 or 2. FYI, don't fill cake pans too full.

Happy birthday Erin! You get better every year.