My Darling B needed a garden shed for all her shovels and rakes (and implements of destruction) so we bought a kit to make one from a local hardware store and I put it together in the back yard about fifteen years ago.

When we bought it, I asked the guy at the hardware store what I had to do to prepare the site for the shed. Did it need a foundation? At least some gravel? Nah, he said, just set it on the ground. I knew the guys who work at that store were contractors, so I believed him.

Well, he was wrong. So very wrong. At a minimum, I should have set the shed on some cinder blocks to keep the shed from sinking into the ground, which is what it has done over the years. It has sunk so far into the ground that it’s almost impossible to open the doors because the bottoms of each door drag on the ground.

So a month or two ago after shopping for a new shed, I went out to our shed to get an idea how much trouble it was going to be to demolish, and as I was looking it over I thought, damn, this thing is in pretty good shape after all these years. It would be a shame to tear it down just because it’s sinking into the ground.

The ideal solution would be to somehow lift the shed up and put it on concrete blocks. Okay, but how would I, myself, lift a garden shed up high enough to do that? It weighs something like 1,500 pounds. I’m kind of a wimp. Lifting things has never been my forte.

So I did something I’ve been doing a lot lately to problem-solve: I opened up YouTube to see if anybody else has had this problem and, if they had, see what they did to fix it. This is not always the solution to my problems. People very often make YouTube videos to show you that the simple way to fix a problem is to use a very expensive tool that I don’t have and will never buy. Other people present solutions that I would charitably call “unwise.”

Unsurprisingly, YouTube is chockablock with videos of people lifting their garden sheds, or tool sheds, or two-car garages up off the ground. I watched about a half-dozen of them and decided I could probably lift our garden shed with the help of a couple of bottle jacks, a couple pieces of stout timber, and some lag screws. After a quick trip to the local hardware store I returned home and got busy, knowing if this failed I was down about seventy-five bucks but if it worked, I could save our garden shed for a song.

First, there was the prep. I had to break out the weed-eater to cut back the day lillies that have taken over that corner of the yard. I have been very aggressively attacking those lillies over the last couple of years but they have established themselves so securely that I fear at this point the only way to eliminate them will be to dig every last one of them out down to the roots. Or call in an airstrike. I hear that works, too.

With the overgrowth trimmed back I moved away all the buckets of gardening stuff, all the wooden stakes, all the rocks and other gardening detritus that has collected along the side of the shed over the years. After I had cut and hauled and swept away to gain clear access to the side of the shed, then, and only then, could I begin what I had originally started out to do: prep the shed so I could lift it. And I was already hot and tired. This was going well.

I purchased two bottle jacks to do the work of lifting the shed. Bottle jacks are very small, simple mechanical devices which can lift ridiculously heavy things. I bought the smallest bottle jacks. Each one was rated to lift 12,000 pounds; together, the two I had could lift about 24,000 pounds, so there should be no question at all that they could safely lift our 1,500-pound garden shed.

But to lift the shed, I had to get the bottle jacks under it somehow. Fortunately for the success of this project, “under it” is a relative term. If I bolt a thick piece of timber to the side of the shed and slide the bottle jacks under the timber, technically they are “under” a structural part of the shed. I only have to make sure that the timber and the bolts are strong enough to bear the weight of a 1,500-pound garden shed. I don’t have the engineering experience or education to calculate that, so I did what I usually do: I overbuilt the shit out of it. I felt pretty confident that a piece of timber four inches thick would bear the weight if I fastened it to every one of the frames of the shed with ten screws six inches long and as thick as my finger.

With the timber solidly screwed to the shed and the bottle jacks in place under the timber, I slowly began to extend the jacks to find out what was going to happen. If the timber wasn’t thick enough, the jacks would snap them like chopsticks. If the timber was thick enough but the screws weren’t strong enough, they would break, possibly all at the same time, and wouldn’t that be exciting? The final point of failure was: if the frames of the shed were rotten where the screws held the timber, the screws would pull out. I was very gratified when none of these things happened and instead the bottle jacks lifted the shed from the ground just as easily and gently as you would pick up a carton of eggs from a grocery store shelf.

I had to lift the shed almost eight inches to make a gap between the ground and the shed big enough to slide a piece of timber underneath to rest the shed on. Now that I know I can lift the shed and do it relatively easy, the next step is to get a few more pieces of timber for the shed to sit on and some paving stones to put under the timbers to keep them off the ground and level the shed. Then I have to get everything out of the shed and tear up the floor so I can step inside to arrange the paving stones and timbers without getting under the shed, because that would be stupid.

And I have to empty the shed, tear up the floor, jack up the shed, and get inside to arrange the timbers while the wasps that live in the shed are buzzing around my head. I didn’t mention the wasps yet? There are wasps. I think they’re wasps. They might be hornets. I hope they’re not hornets.


I had a hankering for a big plate of tater tots after work, and the one place that serves the very best tater tots in town is the Vintage brewery, where they also happen to sell their very own house-made beer. We were lucky enough to drop in when they were serving the most delicious barrel-aged imperial stout we’ve had the pleasure to drink in quite a while, a concoction they call Rye BA Max Stout. So good!


After a long Friday banging away at the keyboard to (nearly) finish up the projects that have taken us all week to get through, it was finally time to clock out and start to enjoy the weekend a little bit.

We went back to the Muskellounge and Sporting Club for a couple of beers and some snacks. Probably should’ve stuck to the beers, because the lunchbox with cheese and sausage really wasn’t worth the money we paid. On the other hand, the hot pretzel was delicious and I would not hesitate to share one with My Darling B again.

Garage cleanup – spring 2023

I wish I had a “before” photo so you’d have some idea what kind of a mess I was facing when I started cleaning up the garage Sunday morning.

After working in the garage on and off all winter, and more often in the last few months, there were scraps of wood piled up on every flat surface, leaning against everything that stood still, and scattered on the floor. You couldn’t even *see* that set of shelves next to the window. And there was sawdust *everywhere*.

But after spending most of Sunday cleaning up, and a couple hours after work on Monday, I finally got it to look like this. And though I know it looks like kind of a mess, it’s a lot easier to move around in there now and I know where everything is, so it’s a huge improvement in my book.

Not shown: the work bench is behind me in this photo. That’s a mess for another long, rainy weekend.


The little maple tree out back was not so little so we had to cut it town.

It started out as a helicopter that sprouted in what looked like a pretty good spot for a tree, so I put a cage around it to keep the bunnies away and remind me not to mow over it.

It might have been a good spot for a tree if the tree had grown straight up. Instead, our little maple split into four trunks that spread out and began to overhang the electric service. On very windy days, this made me very nervous.

So an arborist came by on Sunday and cut it down, and now there’s nothing left but a stump and a pile of brush by the curb. So long, little maple, and thanks for the shade you gave us.

Pleasant Valley Sunday

“Pleasant Valley Sunday,” sung by Carole King, who co-wrote the song with her husband, the lyricist Gerry Goffin. Until today, I only knew this song as a top ten hit by The Monkees. What a treat to find this recording.


image: a succulent houseplant, genus unknown, in a decorative pot on a windowsill

I really thought this little guy was a goner. He was all shriveled up, most of his leaves had gone limp, some had even blackened, and I had no clue what was wrong. I usually kill houseplants by forgetting to water them, but I’d been watering this guy about every ten days, which ought to be enough for a succulent.

In desperation, I bought a bag of potting soil and repotted him in fresh soil. That was about three weeks ago. Before the first week was over he was no longer dying. He didn’t look great, but he wasn’t dying. By the end of the second week he was looking a little better. Still not great, but better. And this week he virtually sprung back to life. His stems and leaves are plump and green and he’s standing up proudly, reaching for the sunlight. I trimmed off all his dead leaves and he looks almost like he was never on the verge of death. There are a few iffy patches on a couple of his leaves but if you didn’t know he’d been almost dead you wouldn’t know what the patches were from.

the camping thing – progress 5/6/23

Every day I try to do at least one thing to make continual progress getting The Camping Thing ready for the season. Some days it doesn’t seem like much, but on a day like today when I can see what the end product is going to look like, the feeling of satisfaction is pretty great.

Today I hung the overhead storage lockers — I’m not sure what else to call them. They’re the open-faced wooden boxes on either side of the van near the ceiling. I stuff clothes and towels and a few books in them, and they’re handy for keeping odds & ends like flashlights handy when I need them for something I’m working on.

They used to stand on poles that were attached to the bed but that’s not practical now, so after lots of head-scratching I figured out how to hang them from the grab handles built into the van. I’m not sure how much weight the grab handles will bear but I’m not all that worried. All I ever put in them is clothing and towels, so they don’t have to bear much weight.

I still have to connect the wiring that you can see dangling from the bottoms for the lights and charging ports but that should be fairly easy. And someday soon I want to add doors. The open front doesn’t work for me as well as I thought it would.

Yesterday I brushed a coat of poly on the plywood sheets that will bridge the gap between the boxes up front, and the day before that I installed two gooseneck lamps up front — you can see them just inside the archway — and wired them. If the gooseneck lamps seem like overkill, that’s what I thought, too. I wasn’t going to install any lights at all. I figured I could use flashlights for the few times I might need a light in the van at night, but I added the two gooseneck lamps at the rear because I was copying a design I saw on YouTube and it turned out that was the best feature I could’ve copied. I use those lamps all the time: not just when I’m reading after dark, but when I’m rummaging around in the fridge or searching in the storage boxes for a knife.

Two or three days ago, I’m not sure which now, I installed the battery and wired up the circuitry that connects the battery to the charging box and to the bus bar that distributes power to the various accessories in the van. Moment of panic, there, when I connected the battery and got a warning light on the charger. I don’t know what that was from, because it went away after I started the van to see if it charged the battery. Everything worked fine, and the error light went away. Anxiety averted.

I also made the electrical connection to the arch, so all the lights up there work, and today I connected the circuit to the fridge, so in theory I could jump in the van today and drive away for a weekend, but I won’t be doing that this weekend. In reality, there are still quite a few things I want to do to finish getting the van ready, so I won’t be going anywhere for a few weeks yet.


Lead paragraph of a story in The Irish Times: "Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls in each window and has an insatiable desire to hear about and discuss clown-related news stories. More specifically, for the Irish, it's like having a neighbour who's really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown."

For as long as I’ll live, I’ll never understand why Americans are so ga-ga over British royalty. I know people who set their alarms to wake up early so they could watch the coronation of King Charles today. I suppose it’s the same as being all wrapped up in celebrities like the Kardashians, but frankly I don’t understand that obsession, either.

Some people would point out that it’s the same as the way I’m obsessed with astronauts, to which I would rebut, uh, no, it isn’t, because astronauts actually do something. You may not be interested in what they do, you may actively dislike what they do, but they’re not getting paid just to be famous, which the royals certainly are.