Archive for January, 2013

Y1Meg. {what a time it is.}

Greetings from Frogtown.


Julie is in the Kitchen near the end of a day long cookie baking orgy. Niiko is laying on the floor with icing on her nose. She seems to get some satisfaction from helping with the cleanup.


I am in front of a much too large Christmas tree, trying to put together another Frog Tale.. Its been nearly a year since the last one.


Not like nothing interesting has happened.  Julie got sued by her dentist and got promoted to 4th degree black belt. I made some schmore sticks and went up in a helicopter.

We planted, weeded, and harvested some edible things.

And the Gilson has had more than a few fascinating malfunctions.



Not that I haven’t tried. I have six or seven Tales wandering around the computers & my brain. They just won’t congeal. The harder I try – the less keyboard goes. Frog Tales have become a seagull around my neck. Stories -stories everywhere – but not a word to write.


Like the pressure has become unreal. Wright something funny.  On purpose.  Being funny isn’t fun. It’s a lot like work. 


Frog Tales are another idea that got out of control. 


They started off as simple letters to Justin, trying to maintain some sort of relationship.  Word processing and email made the process easier for me, especially since my spelling is abominable and my handwriting defies analysis.


Ahhhh. Then I discovered that I could cheat. I could cut and paste letters to Justin and use them to fulfill my correspondence obligations to other family members. 


I got lazier and soon was just changing  “Dear Justin” to “TWIMC”


From there it was a short step into syndication.


Not that I feel completely guilt.  I think it would be delightful to be able to send everyone a completely unique analysis of  life at Frogtown. Certainly all our family and friends are unique and deserving of special individual attention.  But that is totally unrealistic.


But so is coming up with something that everyone will find amusing, informative, full of wisdom, and wit. It takes a lot of chutzpa to think that anyone would find them so.


Maybe I should be writing an analysis of the last hour, week, year, decade, century, millennium, megennium…. like the other journalist are doing.


The most significant events at Frogtown:

            We bought it.

We built a house that is the color of the sky.

Niiko came to live with us.

I fixed the Gilson.




Or profitcizing about the coming year, decade, century, millennium, megennium…



We will live happily here a very long time.

            I will write some more Frog Tales

            The Gilson will break  – again





We wish you all the very best in the coming megennium


Love and Peace,


Dave, Julie, Leo, Flannel Dog, Don Gatto Niiko


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Snow! What? And the Seven Dorks. {Gilsoned… again.}

The Beagles are Back!

The Beagles are Back!


Let’s rewind some.


New Years Day, Sheldon and Michele came over to show us pictures of their latest dive expedition. To Bon Air!  Julie & I drooled a lot over them (the pictures – not Sheldon & Michele).

Michele also brought some great food and we all got stuffed.


Michele & her daughter were going to drive to Florida next day.  Sheldon & I checked forecast – Major storms warning along her route.  So Michele moved up departure to 9 pm in effort to beat it.  She made it to Kentucky before seeking shelter in motel.


“This is the most January January I’ve seen in years.” – Suzen O.

About 8 inches of powder. Wind chills about –10.


I thought I was all ready for the storm.  The tractor was in garage, gassed up, chains on, and it’s battery on the charger. Pam sprayed on the blade.

When the snow eased up – I set out to clear a path.


1. Droopy

I took a quick pass up and down the drive then cleared off the area next to the garage.  I noticed the blade was sagging to starboard. One of the trunnion pins had disappeared. No point in looking for it in the snow. It would show up in the spring and I had a spare in garage for just such an occasion.

I discovered that the snow blade’s frame had bent, so the spare trunnion wouldn’t go in. The holes were about ¾ inch out of alignment.


Time to quit for the day.


Next morning, I got the frame off and tried hammering it back into shape and torquing it with various levers and things. The frame is quarter inch steel plate.


Six hours later, it was within half an inch.


I quit for the day.  It snowed several more inches over night.


The next day I made another quarter inch of progress, in only 3 hours.  I had the frame C clamped to an I beam and was using 4 feet of 2 inch pipe for about 20 to 1 leverage, resulting in approximately 23.1307440 kilo newtons of force.


Safu and Judy stopped by with some supplies.  Safu wanted to play – so I showed him the problem.  With his extra energy we made the last ¼ inch – and I was back in plowing business.


As soon as they left – I got right to it.  I made about 4 passes at the drive, and was nearly ready to stop for the day, when the Gilson beat me to it. The motor was still going but no movement in any gear.   The drive belt was broken. I shut it down and walked back to the house.


It snowed more. And the wind blew.  Wind chills of –20.


2. Dopey

Next morning we towed the tractor back with the pickup. I drove the pickup, and Julie steered the tractor.  I swear I never got above 50 mph.


The belt is pretty straight forward to replace – 34”x 3/8. In stock at auto supply in Stockbridge.  I was pretty sure they’d have one, cause I had replaced it late summer.


I was back at plowing in under two hours.


After 20 minutes or so – I started loosing speed, and then stopped.  The belt was still in tact, although it was smoking hot. It was slipping like mad on the drive pulley.  I nursed the Gilson back to the garage, by hooking my foot under the clutch pedal and pulling it up.  Just enough tension to move.


Back in the garage it became evident that the source of the problem was the variable speed pulley.  It is a split pulley. The drive ratio changes by moving the halves closer together or farther apart, changing the effective diameter.  But something was buggered up so that the one half that moved was sort of flopping around.


Getting the damn thing off was a major exercise.  Not at all clear from “manual”, which was more of an exploded view and parts list, than a helpful maintenance guide.  I could loosen the set screw holding it to the shaft, but there wasn’t enough clearance to get it off. Eventual, I removed the rear wheels, disconnected the drive shaft, all linkages and unfastened the rear end from the main frame. And then jack up the rear end – or was it the frame? – I forget.


This whole thing really pissed me off! Who ever designed this thing never picked up a wrench in their lives.  No excuse for making something this hard to get at. Especially something that breaks this much. Just lousy engineering.


Anyway, I got it off. The key way inside had broken and it didn’t seem like there was any hope of making it functional.


It was time to knock off for the day.

It didn’t snow. But the wind blew, causing drifting. And – 30 wind chills.


Not wanting to wait a week or two for Monkey Ward to send me a replacement (if they even had it) – and God only knows how much money, I decided to check out boy store in Gregory for a fixed pulley.  I figured that 4 speeds is good enough.  They had a 4.5” pulley that I guessed would be about equivalent to the max of the variable.  I could have gone large, but I remembered Tim Tailor on his hopped up garden tractor.


Re-assembly went pretty well.


One pass at the driveway.  Something wasn’t working right.  The drive belt was vibrating like mad.


Time to quit.


More wind, cold, maybe even some snow.


The problem was the lower pulley.  I got that off.   It had a torque spring hidden inside.  I suppose the reason is to take up some of the jolt when you pop the clutch.  The spring was busted.  The closest the Boy Store in Gregory could come is a 7” pulley instead of 7.5” .  I figured – what the heck – a 9.3% increase in speed won’t be all that bad.  Heck, I might even get the driveway done faster.


It took two more trips to Stockbridge,  to get a new drive belt that would fit.


Back to plowing!


3. Whoopsie

It is necessary to get up some speed to ram into the snow piles.  What had been light and fluffy a few days ago, was now set up like concrete.


With the new fixed pulleys – when I pop the clutch in 4th – its a neck snapper!


So I take a bead on a big drift and zip.  Only this time I nearly go off the stern. I’m hanging on to the steering wheel tight with both hands, and my foot won’t reach the clutch.  My butt is hanging off the poop deck. .  Like what happened to my seat?


After all the snow piles on the sides and a smooth glazed floor,  driveway is a lot like the bobsled runs you’ve seen in the Winter Olympics.   I have some small comfort that there is a stout mailbox (a 4×4 post in 4 feet of concrete – to deter vandals) to stop me at the end.


I took my right hand off the wheel to shut off the engine. The steering wheel turned left and so did the tractor.  The raised blade takes the top of a drift, before embedding in the embankment.  My crotch clears, barely, the gear shift knob (Yeah, though I slid through the Valley of Death – I fear no Evil!), and my belly absorbs most of the impact against the steering wheel (whoof!).  Carbs! Who needs air bags?


All this from a bolt that must have vibrated loose.   Something of a bitch to get it back in.  Not enough clearance to get a socket on it, and with a wrench you can only get 30 degrees of turn – then flip the wrench over for another 30.   More stupid design.



4. Sloppy

But as I backed out of the garage – the steering wheel spun around. And around. And around.  But I didn’t turn.


The bolt holding the steering wheel had snapped at the end of my last ride. An Easy Out and some WD40 to get the stub out. A ¼ 20 bolt and I again have control of my destiny, or at least my immediate destination.



5. Shaky

Back at the garage, I notice that there is an engine mount bolt missing, and two others are loose.  I’ve lost one before. Not sure if the loose engine is causing extra vibrations or the extra vibrations are causing the engine to come loose.   The tire chains on the 4” limestone make for rough ride, along with abrupt starting and stopping.  In any case, it’s time for Loc Tite.



6. Sticky

Somehow I managed to back over our manual snow shovel.    The scoop is poly-something and it cracked in couple places.  The smart thing would be to buy a new one.

I decided to mend it.   Epoxy and fiberglass.  And 5 nights work.  It might hold up through the winter – although even epoxy doesn’t adhere well to poly-whatever.


7. Slippery

After several years and some experimentation I’ve got putting the chains on down pretty good. The first time it took me hours – spreading the chains out on the ground and trying to back up – straight and then trying to tighten them enough to close the links.


Now only ten minutes or so. Jack up one side. Let all the air out of the tire. Then put the chain on and re-inflate. Do the other side.

Which is good, because some of the links bent and I had to bend them back with vice and Vicegrips.


But I wasn’t satisfied with traction.  The wheels would spin too easily, even with my weight. On them

I had some weights – for the tiller attachment.   I bolted them on where the trailer hitch is. It is only about forty more pounds, but since it is aft of wheels, it seems to improve traction.   Down side is that they hang down reducing clearance.  I keep a small snow shovel bungee’d to tractor – just to dig it out.


I finally got us pretty well dug out.



That night we get a call from Judy – have we seen Shrapnel & Little Dog?  Been missing for hours.


Not a good thing. It is going to be another cold one.  Forecast was a sub-sub zero night. To –40 wind chill. Not good at all. None of us get much sleep as the wind howls.


The critters were still missing in the morning.


I figure – what the heck – Niiko and I should go back and check the back towards the stream. I get all bundled up and strap on my cross country skis.


The snow is deep and untracked.  So deep that Niiko has to leap through it.


In the far woods we come across some tracks that could have been made by a beagle.  The paw prints are so far down in the snow that I can’t tell which way they are facing. They run perpendicular to the path.  By watching Niiko I figure out that her track have a similar feature. The leading edge is at much shallower angle than the trailing edge.  I conclude the tracks are headed  west – back towards Judy and Safu’s.  Unfortunately, they head off the path and into the unknown.


The snow is even deeper, with a crusty layer that gives way just after you put your weight on it.  Very slow going, and snow gets up under my gaiters and works it’s way down into my socks.  The trail takes us through briars,  low brush, high brush, up and down hills and around the swamp.


Niiko & I discuss the reward for bringing the animals home safely.  I guessed a home cooked meal, and a ticker tape parade through down town Gregory.  Niiko was hoping for a box of dogie treats.


We lose the tracks a few times, the last time at the end of Safu’s runway.  It’s a long slog down the runway into a stiff head wind.


Close to exhaustion I rang the door bell.  Lots of barking from inside.


“Oh yes. They’ve been home for a couple of hours. They spent the night at the Hanawald’s – under a trailer.  Come in. Come in. You look like hell. What are you doing out there?”


“Just taking Niiko for a walk…”


I called Julie to come and fetch us home.  A hot shower and right to bed.


And then weather turned balmy.  Sunny with highs in the 50’s.

And some rain. A thunderstorm or two. And all the snow melts.


This has been the most April January I can remember.


Actually, on average, the average has been pretty much average.

Now we’re into February.  Who knows?


Get out and enjoy the winter wonder land,


Dave, Julie, Leo, Flannel Dog, Don Gatto Niiko, & Audrey III




-The following is an unpaid advertisement-



>Luke Turner, a friend called Justin Wright, and maybe more folk. Some of >you know who I, Luke Turner, am, but some don’t. >>You who do not recognize me are fellow Starling Consulting employees >(and now you know who I am).



>I invite you all to a free, public showing of my visual art in downtown >Olympia, Washington on Saturday, Feb 13 1999. The show also includes the >art of my friend, Justin Wright, not all of which is visual. Get ready >for a multi-media kinda thing. Well, audio-visual, at least. Fear not; >we have no smell-emitting equipment (yet). Yes, yes, I want to have >music so that I at least can dance.


>Most of the pieces will remain for viewing through Feb 18, but Feb 13 is >the opening party when all the fun happens.


>Officially, nothing is for sale. (Officially…)



>At an “art-club” called “Arrowspace,” which is the upstairs of a thrift >store called “Dumpster Values”



>Nevermind the art. You might not even like any of the art. This is an excuse to get out of the house and pay nothing to be regarded as slightly fashionable and alternatively cultured. Eat the wine and drink >the cheese. Be pretentious and tell the artists how cool they are. And if you are not part of the sceene, bring a friend so you can murmur about how  pretentious everyone is being. I hope to be a little pretentious myself. This will be a show in more ways than one. Enjoy  it.





If  you have an announcement or something you’d like to share with other readers of FrogTails – drop us a line.




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Muckraking Journalism And puppy dog tales

I’d like to address the accusations that these communications are merely muckraking journalism.   Journalism has much higher standards of  accurate and unbiased reporting.  But in all candor, while some factoids originate from unimpeachable sources – like Google, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! – and some names and places may be virtual real; for the most part (for legal reasons too numerous to go into), Frog Tales and other similar works by this author, should be classified  Semi-Non Fiction.  We try to maintain the standards and integrity set by a famous radio call in show host and his loyal followers – the Ibid Heads.

And as long as we’re digging into the why and what for’s – Tales are highly irregular, and come out only when I’m moved.


Back to the tail.


Ever since Peabody came to stay with us, she has been fascinated with the toilets. Karma, like others of the dog persuasion, regards them as just convenient drinking bowls with a never ending supply of water.

Peabody, on the other hand, waits patiently till I’ve finished reading, then sticks her head over the rim to watch the effluents begin their journey to the septic field and places beyond. I think it is the swirling motion that so intrigues her; her head moves in a spiral motion as she visually tracks the objects of her attention.


January has been exceptionally cold here at Frogtown.  Seems like folks are always talking about how the weather is different than it use to be. Hotter, colder, wetter, drier, foggier, less foggy, more sleet, less sleet…  just the way our brains remember the past.  Precision isn’t as important as perception.

But NOAA, on the electric internet, reports a 14% increase in heating degree days for this January. We have had a lot of really, really cold days and nights in the sub zero range.  Not wind chill. Actual temperatures.  Uh-huh.   Snow fall has been greater, or at least more persistent.  Last week there was between one and two feet accumulation.


Karma and Peabody are exuberant, of course.  Chasing and wrestling in the snow is something they insist on doing at least 4 or 5 times a day. Great fun for them. Its weird though. They won’t do much, unless Julie or I are out there freezing and watching. They need an audience to perform.


My brother, Paul ( that may or may not be his real name) left his red (which may or may not be the actual color) Ford (which may or may not be actual make) pickup truck here at Frogtown while he’s off doing top secret stuff in Iran (which may or may not be the actual country), make a lot of money and trying to keep his head on.  I think he found the job in a classified add in Mechanic of Fortune magazine.


My job is to periodically start the truck and drive it around the field, to keep the battery charged, the tires round, and the juices flowing.  I go 6 times clockwise and 6 times counter clockwise to keep things balanced.

So with all this cold weather – the last time was a wee bit more involved.  We, the dogs and I, had to trudge through boot topping drifts to the pickup point.  They had fun.   I had the foresight to bring a snow shovel, so I could open the driver side door. After climbing in and buckling my seat belt – It’s the Law – I turned the key.  Got a 3 or 4 cranks – then nothing.  Next time 2.5 cranks – and nothing.  Then 0.75 cranks.

Not a good thing.


I trudged back – trying to stay in my previous boot tracks – to get the tractor, and some jumper cables. Peabody and Karma bounced along with me, making new tracks of their own.  I have the Tangerine Dream Machine (TDM) parked outside the garage with a oil pan heater plugged in .  This is the first year the heater has been needed. The tractor started without too much difficulty and only 3.42 pounds of diesel particulates belched.

Getting the two vehicles with in range turned out to be another exercise. The snow was just too deep, even though the TDM has all wheel drive and big nubbly tires.  The answer was get up to ramming speed and plow 2 or 3 meters, then back up and do it again.


Eventually we got over to the truck, Karma and Peabody running circles around each other.  And that’s when I discovered the pickup’s hood was frozen.  I don’t mean cold (even though it was). I mean it wouldn’t open.  Ice had accumulated in the seams, sticking bonnet (that’s British for hood) to the body.  The solution was to drizzle some windshield washer fluid in the cracks and bang on the hood with a tire iron till things came loose.

{Paul, (which may or may not be your real name) please refer to paragraph # 1 regarding my hyperbolic writing style}


After experimenting with red to red vs red to black and a few minor electrical discharges, I got back in the truck, buckled my seat belt – It’s the Law – and turned the key.  I was rewarded with 0.3 cranks.  Back out – jiggled the connections at both ends and watched a few sparks.  Then I figure I should give the Kubota a chance to transfer some of its electrical essence to the red Ford 150 (which may or may not be the actual color, make and model).  I trudged back to the house – trying to keep in my original boot prints – for a cup of hot cocoa.  Karma and Peabody took off into the woods for a hot pursuit of a squirrel.


By my third cup, I figured the vehicles had enough intercourse. I trudged back, trying to stay in my boot prints.  I climbed back in, bucked my seat belt – It’s the Law – and gave the key a clockwise twist. Zero point zero cranks. Notta.  Even the instrument panel was dark.  “Ah, Poop!” I exclaimed.  I climbed back out, after first unbuckling my seat belt – Its Mandatory – and returned to the disconnections.  I messed around some with the mega roach clips.  And Then I had an revelation.  One of the bolts holding the red 150’s (which may or may not be the color and make) battery cable (ground side) was loose.  Not just sort of loose.  Like hanging on by a thread. Not even finger tight.


I trudged back to the house – trying to keep in my much larger boot prints – for a wrench.

Back with my head under the hood – having been careful to follow in my own foot steps – I snugged up the bolt to factory spec. 5.35 foot pounds.

Returning to the cab, I bucked my seat belt – It’s the Law – and gave a mighty turn of the key.   THIS time the Ford’s (which may or may not be the make) engine spun smoothly, and the 150 (which may or may not be the model) returned to the living, as much as any machine is alive anyway.


That was then.  This is now.  ( a temporal tautology) We are currently in the middle of a February thaw. Thirties, forties and heading towards the fifties.  Which means all that accumulated precipitation is going through state changes.  Solid to liquid. And then wandering off to where ever water goes. Down hill somewhere.


I have a friend in Alaska. I won’t mention her name due to privacy concerns. She reports that up there, a thaw means cleaning up the yard. Since they have dogs – forgotten things surface. The past becomes the presents.   There are similar issues here at Frogtown. Deana  and I have commiserated about the joys, although we’ve never compared who’s was a bigger Herculean task.  That wouldn’t be in good taste.


This morning, Julie looked out the kitchen window. “Time to clean the poopy pen” she told me. This was meant to be interpreted as a direct order, not an observation or suggestion.


I got dressed in old grubbies and put on my boots.  “You’ll want to put on Yak-Trac’s. It’s going to be icy out there”  she said.


Yak – Trac are a goofy looking cats cradle of fluorescent rubber bands and springs, that one puts over one’s boots to improve the coefficient of friction.  “Naw” I said as I head out with pail and shovel, humming that ol 1955 Tennessee Ernie Ford tune (written by Merle Travis, if you care)  “You Load 16 tons and what do you get?”


Which brings us to why I never sing.  Grannie, my mom, and Beulah, her mom, were very musically inclined.  That genetic talent seems to be highly recessive in my case.  Non existent.  I suspect it was a great disappointment to my mother, although she never came right out and said anything about it.


I was first made aware I was tonally challenged at the age of 9.  I had been forced to attend St. Andrews church during my youth, by cruel and uncaring parents. It was boooring. I had better things to do with my Sunday mornings. There were lots of chemicals in my Gilbert Chemistry set that needed my attention.

About the only thing redeeming was the “goose blood” (GB) served after the service.  I learned much later that the secret formula for “goose blood” was 15% ginger ale and 62% Kool Aid and the rest undisclosed chemicals .  The flavor of the Kool Aid varied week to week.

It was while I was swilling my 3rd paper cup of GB (we were only allowed one) when I was accosted by George Hunschey, organist and choir master, and long time friend of my mom.

“David” he said. “Hymns are composed of three parts.  Words, tone, and rhythm.  You seem to be able to mangle all three simultaneously. Perhaps it would be best if you didn’t join in.”

I was only marginally disappointed.  I reasoned, incorrectly, that if I wasn’t allowed to sing, that would only support my argument that my attendance in church wasn’t required.

George must have read my mind – he had a suggestion, “Think Milli Vanilli”


All right – I’m busted. Mill- Vanilli  was ’80-’90 funk rock duo, while the conversation with George took place during Tennessee Ernie Ford’s era, and he did his own singing. Never the less (and always the more) I have remained silent about this epifany for half a century.  I think I should continue to do so, in the interest of reducing noise pollution.


Fast forward to the 00’s


I’m standing there in the pen, with my shovel – doing my American Gothic impersonation.  Heavy sigh. I begin filling the pails.  Peabody pokes her head out of the flap. She sees me disposing of the fruits of her labors. I don’t know if it was joy or disappointment that I was removing the fruits of her labors. She became flushed and excited. Barking and jumping up and down.  I backed away from her, not wanting to get paw prints on my work clothes and that’s when I realized the wisdom of Julie’s advice on coefficient of friction.


Well – that’s it for now.

As my old swim coach use to say “Time to hit the showers.”

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