Monday, December 17, 2007

O, Tannenbaum

A couple of weeks ago my cousin Andrea called with a story about Christmas tree shopping. She and her husband live in L.A. and had gone out to buy a tree that afternoon.

Andrea: "So we're out there looking around at the trees and there were, like, 50 crappy trees and only, like 5 of the good ones. You know the ones... the GOOD ones. The ones that look like Christmas trees are supposed to look. So I asked the guy why he had hardly any good trees and he said, 'Aw man... you have to get those in Portland.' So I called to tell you that I'm totally jealous because you've probably got LOTS of good trees up there in Washington!"

I'm guessing that by "good trees" she's referring to Noble firs, because I grew up in L.A. and we only ever had one type of tree (that wasn't fake) and that was a Douglas.

Yes Andrea, we have LOTS of "good trees" up here. In fact, we have a couple of them in our yard. One of them fell down in the last wind storm, so being the resourceful and "green" guy he is, Chris went out in the yard and cut the first 8 feet off the top of the tree and put it in the tree stand for me.

Interesting. Apparently cutting the top 8 feet off a large, fully grown tree does not produce the same result as cutting down an entire younger, smaller tall tree. Who knew?

I don't care that it looks funny. I dig it. It was free and in our own backyard, so there was no driving around with a tree lashed to the roof. And I'm sure Andrea is totally jealous.

Maybe it will look better once we get some lights and decorations on it.

Yes, that is MUCH better. Pass the egg nog, Charlie Brown.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Um... What?

Monday morning I had just gotten out of a meeting when Chris called. "Hey, I'm home and I have, like, 15,000 pounds of steel that I need to move and Ross isn't home. Can you come help me?"

Um... what? Is this a joke?

Clearly, not a joke.

Yeah, that's a 4000 pound steel beam. The other 11,000 pounds were lashed to this crappy trailer...

... which was hitched to this piece of crap truck. Note the lack of a rear window.

Three hours later, after much navigating and praying that nothing would come loose and crash in or on anything.

All done. I was pretty impressed with Chris' forklift skills, but I was kinda pissed when I remebered that his good buddy Karl drives a damned forklift for a living. Why didn't Chris call him over to do this instead of leaving me there running through all the catastophic scenarios? I had this running loop of my mom saying, "This is not OSHA certified! Where are your steel toed boots and construction hat!"

For those of you wondering what we're up to here... this is a bridge crane that Chris bought off a buddy of his, on behalf of our neighbor Ross, who had said he was interested in it. Good neighbors are hard to find, so we buy the good ones off with cookies and metal.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mailbag! Mailbag!

From a valued "Car Farm" reader:

From: My cousin, APB
To: Mistress of the Car Farm

1. please blog more about yourself and your job
2. please blog more about your garden and the blackberries

thank you. more photos too.

YAY! I love getting fan mail!

Test Drive: 2007 Ford Edge

About a month ago my 2004 Explorer (aka: the Dirty Rez Runner) broke down in the middle of the parking lot at work. No joke. I backed it out of the stall and then - nuthin. Translation for the dummy light read "Electronic Throttle Contol. When this light comes on the car is in 'limp home' mode. Go to your mechanic as soon as possible." Yeah, no Sh** Sherlock. I wasn't able to even limp home, let alone get to a mechanic. And furthermore, my mechanic was off fighting fires in California at the time!

In any event, I had the car towed to my local Ford Dealer for repair. They were out of true loaners by the time I got there, so they hooked me up with a 2007 Ford Edge off the lot.

Not bad! The Edge is what you call a "crossover SUV." Basically, its an SUV that's built on a car chassis (instead of the standard SUV truck chassis), so it rides, drives, and sits on the road more like a car, but still has the cargo space and all terrain capacity of an SUV.

I knew all of that off the top of my OWN head, no help from Herr Leiderhosen.

I'd actually been kinda eyeing the Edge from afar, so I was stoked to be given one for while to test out. The first test: Will the dog kennels fit?

Sweet! I had to put part of the 60/40 bench seats in the back to make room for the larger kennel on the left, but I was otherwise impressed with amount of space back there.

Of course, they set me up with the Cadillac version. Leather interior, heated seats, navigation system.

I am SO getting heated seats in my next car. It also had rear backup sensors, which are pretty handy for parallel parking, getting out of my driveway, etc.

Overall, I was pretty impressed with the Edge. My only real complaint is that, because the way the windshield sits, all the air from the defroster got re-routed to my eyeballs, thus drying out my contacts.

Yup, the car had my name on it:

SEL = my initials. Seriously, how can you not give a fair amount of consideration to a car that sports the same initials as you do?

In the end, however, the Dirty Rez Runner's break-down only cost $250 to repair, so even with 95,000 miles I was able to get him out there to drive another day. I know he doesn't look like much, but I've been able to pretty much beat the crap out of him for 3 years and he doesn't act a day older for it.


Chris in his Halloween costume.

Too bad he wasn't here on Halloween...

Friday, November 23, 2007

I Thought The Sign Said "Free Beer."

There was an ad in the paper this week that the Enumclaw Work, Sports and Outdoors (WSO) would be having a "spotlight sale" Friday night. I made a mental note of it because WSO is where Chris gets all of his Carharrt gear that he wears in the shop. Its good, but it aint cheap, so if there's a sale on it I'm there.

Ho-ly Wah.

The place looked like one of those bridal bazaars where they sell bridal gowns for 75% off and the women tear each other apart going after gowns. Except these were dudes. And they were going after hunting gear, John Deere t-shirts, etc.

It was an eye-opening experience for me. Part of me was like, "Oh, THIS is a big deal out here?" The other part of me said, "Oh, how far I have fallen..."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

More Power!

Enumclaw is, allegedly, an Indian word for "place of evil spirits." * I question this claim because wherever I read it couldn't trace it back to a particular tribe or dialect -- highly suspicious. In any event, it is the place of evil spirits because of all the wind we get here.

Unlike the Indian name claim, I can vouch for the wind. Our neighbors say they have clocked winds up to 90 MPH. Last winter we had this massive windstorm in December that knocked out our power for 2 days. Bad time to find out that your generator doesn't work. This time, however, we're prepared:

Our diesel generator/welder. When you start it, it blows big black clouds of diesel fury out the side. Reminds me of the 1983 Peugeot "Turbo" diesel sedan I drove in high school. That car sucked at everything except blowing massive diesel farts all over the guy behind you.

I also find it amusing that its a combination welder. I have visions of a snowstorm in December, the power goes out, and Chris saying something like, "Hey, are you ok having no power for like, 3 hours? Because I want to use the welder out in the shop." Hopefully welding and generating power are not mutually exclusive.

They Take After Chris

I came home today to find the dogs watching "Pinks," a show about drag racing, on the Speed channel. I didn't leave the TV when I left, so they must have turned it on.

Clearly this is Chris' influence. If they took after me they would've been watching re-runs of The Daily Show or Gray's Anatomy.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Me and the Fur Heads

As I'm sure the readership is aware, we have two "kids" -- Australian Cattle Dogs (aka: Blue Heelers). They are rowdy, untrained, and apt to break out in a game of tug-of-war at any given time.

Here we see the Heelers at rest. This was a rare, rare moment where they were relaxed and just hanging out. Tick is laying beside me, ever the good dog.

Goose, on the other hand, appears to have taken to heart all my empty threats to turn her into a hat.

She looks like she's practicing her "mink stole" position. It made me feel a little like this guy:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Local Gangs

The gang of elk were in the backyard again today. Its hunting season, so they're hiding out in our backyard because, as Chris says, "If they don't sell it at Safeway, we're not eating it." Funny, they sell salmon at Safeway but I can't get him to eat it...

Also, I think they know that we still have half a cow in the freezer, so we're good on meat for a while.

According to lore, these particular elk are not really native to this area. They live in the mountains, not down on the prairie. Apparently Weyerhaeuser brought them here in the 1930's to eat help thin the vegetation around trees, making it easier for loggers to access timber. They were raised in pens until they were old enough to be on their own, at which point they were released. All did not go according to plan, however, as Weyerhaeuser soon realized that the elk were doing more harm than good because they ate tree saplings and damaged trees. Weyerhaeuser abandoned the elk program, but they've sustained themselves ever since.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Business, not so usual

In addition to all the t-shirts from other fire departments he traded while he was in California, Chris also brought home a massive cold. Lucky for him, he installed a TV in the bedroom before he left for CA, so he can lie in bed and watch TV while he rides this thing out.

Goose also has a cold she either picked up at day care or at the groomer. I'm leaning toward the groomer because the folks who run the day care are pretty OCD about cleanliness and vaccinations. She's fine, she just sneezes a lot. And no, humans can't catch canine colds.

Friday, November 2, 2007


Chris got home, finally, about 4:30 this afternoon. Tick was absolutely beside himself with excitement. His little tail-nub was wagging so fast it looked like hummingbird wings.

Tomorrow its back to business as usual.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moving At The Speed Of A Turtle

I was pretty excited when Chris told me he was heading back from California. This was at noon Tuesday, so I figured he'd be home in about 2 days. I realized I was totally wrong, however, when he called at 7:30 last night to tell me that they'd gotten as far as Santa Clarita (just north of Los Angeles) before stopping for the night.

Santa Clarita is a mere 155 miles from San Diego. They drove to Santa Clarita at 22 MPH?

The trip back seems to have been complicated by the following factors:
  1. FEMA (or something like that) requires that they stop for a break every 2 hours. So they pull off, get gas, get coffee... in all their little stops probably cost them about 30 min. every time.
  2. The other rigs in this caravan want to take their sweet time getting back.
Apparently they stopped twice in the first 8 miles. I think one guy was hungry, and another guy wanted to buy t-shirts or something (isn't that what they invented the internet for??).

I think they left Santa Clarita at about 7 this morning. If they drive until 7:30 tonight and limit their manadatory stops to 30 min., they should be able to get to Redding tonight. Which will put them to Seattle late Thursday if they drive like hell. Then he has to take the rig back to Vashon and clean it before he can home.

He's going to be SO cranky when he gets back...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007


Chris just called to tell me that he's NOT going to Prado Dam -- he's coming home! It took them 32 hours to get from Federal Way, WA to Lake Arrowhead CA. From where he's at in San Diego now, I imagine they'll have about a 34-35 hr. drive home.

FYI for Ryan's family: Chris said that Ryan was out on the Harris fire today, but that he (Ryan) might be going home tomorrow because Ryan's team got to California the day after Chris'.

On The Move

Chris' team is moving from San Diego County up to the LA/Orange/San Bernardino County area. Specifically, they're headed to Prado Dam, a recreational area near Corona, CA. That's about 20 miles from where I grew up, so he's headed back to my old stomping grounds.

This morning's progress report is a change from last night. Last night he thought he was going to be put on another 12 hr. shift on the Harris fire (southern San Diego area). Now that he's moving up to Prado Dam, it looks like he'll be sent to the Santiago fire in Orange County.

The LA Times is reporting that the LA County Fires are all about 90-97% contained, including the fire up in Lake Arrowhead. The Witch fire (northern San Diego) is 95% contained. The only ones left are Harris (75%), Poomacha (northeast San Diego - 65%), and Santiago (65%).

The Times also said that "officials" are worried that the Santa Ana winds might start up again Thursday or Friday. Chris verified this, adding that he thinks they're going to be kept at Prado as a contingency plan. The Santa Anas are the main reason these fires got out of control last week. They're hot, dry, gusty winds that come from the eastern desert, as opposed to the usual cool, moist, onshore flow we get from the ocean. If the last of the still-burning fires isn't out Thursday and the Santa Anas return, the fires could get out of control again.

Dude, I'm like a news reporter today!! Like Katie Couric, only younger and hotter. Maybe I missed my calling; I should've been a "legal correspondent" they bring on for legal segments! Its how Star Jones got her start...

Monday, October 29, 2007

Can You Hear Me Now?

Chris got sent out to babysit again today, but he's in an area that gets little to no cell service. He didn't even know where he was, so I can't fancy up the blog with photos or links to google.

Babysitting Millionaires

Photos of some of the places Chris was babysitting on Saturday. He took them on his camera phone; I'm pretty impressed with how well they turned out!

I don't know why the photos got smaller towards the end.

Somehow I have the feeling that Chris' million-dollar home would consist of a single-story, one room shack attached to a massive climate-controlled, wharehouse-type structure he would have as his shop/car storage.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Its A Family Affair

Chris ran into his cousin Ryan over at Gillespie Field, the campground/base camp for all the firefighters down there. Ryan is on the strike team for Whatcom County. I'm surprised they managed to find each other; there are so many firefighters down there that Chris had to wait 40 min. to shower. He hadn't showered since Monday night, before he ever left his station. I'm surprised he wasn't able to jump to the front of the shower line just based on his body odor.

Yesterday, Chris and his team were sent down to Jamul to babysit a few million dollar homes. They were treated very well by the grateful residents of these homes. There was a never-ending supply of cookies, brownies, cupcakes, etc. At one point they even brought out warm brownies and vanilla ice cream for everyone... Chris was in heaven.

Chris is on a 24 hour break right now, but he'll find out tonight what tomorrow's assignment will be.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Party Like A Rockstar

This afternoon Chris' team got moved from Lake Arrowhead to Potrero, just across the border from Tecate, Mexico. He LOVED Lake Arrowhead; mountain air, pine trees, warm weather.

And he's going to HATE Potrero. I've never been there, but I can tell from basic geography (and Google satellite) that it is in the middle of the desert. Chris hates the desert. This should be interesting.

In other news, Chris reported that the firefighters are treated like rockstars everywhere they go. When they stopped for gas this afternoon they were practically mobbed. People were thanking them, trying to buy them food, wanting to shake their hand, wanting to take a photo with them, wanting their autograph. He was really surprised and, I think, a little flattered.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lake Arrowhead

I got to talk to Chris a while tonight. They got in to Lake Arrowhead this morning at 5:30 am and proceeded directly to nap time. (You try to ride 24 hours in fire engine). They should be up on the fire tonight.

In other news, the dogs got to go to doggie day care today. This was their first time. Usually Chris is home, or I can come home at lunch to break up their day. This week, however, they spent Mon-Wed cooped up in the house.

Here's the thing about having dogs: more and more, its like having kids. Take doggie day care. Growing up my family had dogs, and when we weren't around, the dogs just roamed the house. Now, a "responsible" pet owner should be taking their dog to doggie day care.

There's a scene in the 80's classic "Baby Boom" where Diane Keaton is sitting in the park with her inherited kid and all the other New York moms are talking about how their child is learning French in pre-school and the pregnant mom points to her belly and says something like, "He's been on the wait-list since my first trimester." Doggie day care is the new pre-school.

There are levels of doggie day care. Its like Montessori pre-school vs. regular pre-school. Some places consist of an outdoor facility and an indoor facility and the dogs can play and roam freely. The place our dogs went today, however, is all structured and endeavours to create a "balance between mind, body, and social development." So, our dogs day consisted of group play, leash walks, traning, food puzzles, a rub-down, and a nap.

WHAT? A rub-down and a nap?

So, now doggie day care is the canine equivalent of a spa day? Chris is out battling fires, I'm beating my head into the wall with the BIA, and our dogs are at the spa. What's wrong with this picture?

I have to say, though, that I think I got my money's worth. Since I got home tonight there's been no fighting over toys, no incessant pleas to go throw the ball, and no barking. They've both been totally mellow and tired all night. Based on that alone I forsee more trips to doggie day care for the dogs...

... despite how ridiculous I feel for taking them.

15 Minutes of Fame

The local NBC affiliate, channel 5, has a reporter named Jim Foreman embedded with Chris' strike team. They aired the first segment last night. The guys ARE NOT stoked about this, but its pretty interesting for the folks here at home.

If you are in the Seattle area, tune in to the 11:00pm news. Last night it was the first story they ran. I don't think Chris was in it.

They've also put the video up on the King 5 website:

Change of Venue

Chris' strike team got moved from Chino to Lake Arrowhead - Rim of the World high School. They got sent there because the focus has turned to the Grass Valley/Slide fire in Lake Arrowhead.

As a side note, check out Google's mapping of the L.A. and S.D. blazes. (You may have to zoom in to see the individual icons and what they mean)

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Very cool. God save Google.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Strike Team Update: SNAFU

One of the rigs in Chris' convoy has broken down on the freeway, somewhere near the Oregon-California border. The whole convoy is stopped while they figure out how to get the rig fixed. I know you're asking yourself, "How are they only as far as the OR-CA border when they left Seattle last night?"

  • A fire truck has a 50 gallon gas tank
  • The trucks are each carrying 750 gallons of water. (What, they can't fill up when they get to CA? No, see next bullet)
  • The suspension on a truck is made to be driven with water. If they drove it empty, it would rattle the truck apart.
  • 50 gallons of gas + truck and water tonnage = gas-ups every 150 miles.
Yes, they're driving to Chino in 150 mile increments. I'm no Mathlete, but I figure that's about 3 miles to the gallon. I think Al Gore just fainted.

Assuming they're in Medford, they've got another 700 miles before they get to Chino. At 3 miles per gallon...

Off to California

Monday night Chris' strike team was mobilized to head down to the fires in California. ("Strike Team" = emergency firefighting crew). After waiting around all day for the mucky-mucks to get the paperwork together they got their marching orders. They're off to Chino!

* Chino is about 10 miles from where I grew up in L.A. Home to dairy farms (manure! It'll be just like Enumclaw!) and the State Penitentiary for Men.

The good news is that Mama Brewhouse will be nearby to supply emergency In-N-Out Burger.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Its a well known fact that dogs LOVE Halloween. Tick CLEARLY loves being made to look like a weiner.

The hot dog costume didn't quite fit, so he changed it to a spider.

Goose-a-saurus? Tyrannosaurus Goo? Veloci-Gooser? Raawrh!

Consoling each other over the humilation of being made to look like a weiner and the Geico lizard.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Humpy Salmon

When my youngest brother Colin was little we had this song to get him to eat. This was all during the summer we lived in Alaska, so all the songs ended up being about Alaskan wildlife.

"Little Baby Colin
Lives in the sea
All he eats are butter clams
Just for you and me."

The first line actually started out as "Little baby otter," which would explain the butter clams. (What 6 mo. old eats butter clams?) On the way back to L.A. we stopped to watch the salmon spawn.... Humpy Salmon!

So, when I came home from work today I took a look in the creek at the back of the property and what did I find? HUMPY SALMON!

Yes, the salmon are spawning. No, he's not dead. He's alive, he just accidentally "beached" himself in the long grass while trying to jump over a log in the water. After it became clear that he couldn't un-beach himself, I went over and pushed him back into the water.

PS: I now feel TOTALLY vindicated for allowing Americorp come out and rehab the salmon habitat back there. There ARE salmon in that stream and, as of a recent court decision, their health and habitat IS more important than your magic cow small farm tax write-off, mr. jerkoff neighbor who lives behind me.

Lawson Moves To Washington

My friend Amy (Engstrom) Carlson always jokes about how she's going to write a book called "Lawson Moves To Washington." Kinda like "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," only in the wrong Washington and the politicians are replaced by cow pies.

Eh... now that I think about it, most politicians are cow pies anyway.