10.12.2017

Kiss My Grass, Part 3: The Trees Have Eyes


Read Part 1: The Beginning

Read Part 2: Speak To The Trees


Picking up where I left off in Part Two, we were on a self-described and self-directed three-year tree plan. The business of removing and trimming trees is not cheap. I didn't want it to take ten years to accomplish. I wanted to move on to other improvements and expenses. Three years worked out for us and kept the expense pretty consistent from year to year. Plus, I wanted to have it done before I started modifying the yard with landscaping or structures. I DO have a plan even if the plan gets changed a bit over time.

Our remaining five trees were in need of some attention. They weren't unhealthy, but our reasoning went beyond aesthetics. It's never a bad idea to remove dead or damaged limbs before they remove themselves. When trees are in close proximity, they can crowd each other and cause parts of the tree to become a dead-zone or cause the tree to lean as it grows. There are many reasons to trim a tree and they applied to us. One reason in particular that I was fond of was letting more direct sunlight reach the grass below.

I didn't really consider how much shade we would lose before we removed the cottonwoods. I don't regret having them removed; it was just never a thought that passed. All of the cottonwoods were on the north side of our property. All of the remaining trees that we kept are on the south side of our property. While the cottonwoods didn't provide a large amount of shade, the remaining trees do, so essentially, I look at our yard as having two different "zones," like it's two different climates. The dry, sunny half and the shady, wet half. Part of the point in trimming the trees was to make it a little less shady and wet. However, it doesn't help that the neighbor to our south is obsessed with covering every square foot of ground with a tree. I wish I was exaggerating. Maybe I am a smidge, but only a smidge.

Once again, we decided to have it done during the winter months (February 2016). We chose the same company that removed our trees the prior two years because of their price, and we figured that the "third time was a charm" as far as damaging anything goes. They were only trimming, after all. They did manage to bend some of our southern neighbor's wire fencing and left pieces of trunks leaning up against their chain link fence. WE didn't do it, the tree company did, but that old, cranky man still holds a grudge to this day. Oh, well. He could have asked the tree company to remedy it, but I guess it didn't matter enough to him—at the time, at least.

Having it done in the winter should have solved the whole "making-ruts-in-the-yard" business, and it did in the backyard. The front yard was a different story and is still a bit uneven in spots. I was a bit surprised by this, but if I recall correctly, that winter didn't get terribly cold. There was plenty of snow cover and the ground was frozen, but not like some years, not like the year it was below zero for three months. The front yard hasn't been a high priority for me yet, so I haven't concerned myself with fixing it. Someday, according to the master plan.

This time around we decided to keep all of the trimmings. My plan was to chip what could be chipped and cut the rest into firewood. In hindsight, I wish I would have had them take the chippable wood. Not only was it a pain to sort but the renting and transporting of the chipper was a pain as well. Was it worth it? Did I save time or money? Definitely no and probably not. Learning experience expediently sorted and filed. However, I am glad we kept the rest: the sticks and logs that make good firewood. As of this writing, I haven't processed all of the wood that we harvested. I have cut and stacked enough of it to last us a while. I've even considered doing some more decorative or functional types of things with the remaining logs, but I make too many plans already, and I'm in no hurry with that area of doing.

This time around with the tree company seemed to be the least eventful. I DID have to keep an eye on them towards the end. Every time it looked like they were finishing up, I would have them continue to take more branches down, to make it look visually pleasing to me. Also, I was going to get my money's worth, and I didn't want to get the trees trimmed again for years to come.

The tree company owner, upon inspection of our tree closest to the street, found a crack. From that tree, they took one more gigantic arm off than they had planned originally, which increased the cost a little. Taking down the arm didn't solve the crack issue completely but helped with extra weight and any twisting-like pressure coming from the now missing arm. The owner offered to come back at a later time and install a bolt to help with support and healing if the crack got worse. Fingers crossed, so far so good.

When the tree company was all done and had left, there were two large piles of trimmings. I worked off and on sorting through them: One pile for logs, one for branches, and one for chipping. It took me months to finish, and as I stated before, I haven't even finished yet. It wasn't until August of last year (2016) that I chipped. If I had the luxury of working solely, tirelessly on that project, sure, it all would have been done much sooner. But, currently, the largest logs (technically the size of trunks) are up off of the ground on pallets, the branches remaining are in a pile out of the way, and the cut wood is stacked in a contraption I built that winter to store them safely and off of the ground. I have since considered building a roof for the firewood holding contraption. Anyway, it took a while, but I'm in a good place with all of that.

So concludes the story of our trees up to the present time. Maybe I'll have more to say about it in this series, but for now, fin.

And here is a video and some pictures.


video

I don't think the tree was supposed to go that way.

The backyard before we did any work on it. The poplar that fell on its own next to the one we eventually cut down. The backyard cottonwoods before they were cut down.

A totally healthy cottonwood branch deciding it had enough.

A pile of concrete from the hidden sidewalk. Perhaps a portal to another world has been lost forever.

My oldest two kids picking "flowers" in the backyard before we did any work on it.

               
My daughter helping. There was a lot of sand underneath the mega-leaf pile.

Notice the smoke in the background from the days of almost endless burning. It was actually less than two weeks.

                
A pile of cottonwood trunks from the backyard. It is over 6 feet high. 
The front yard cottonwoods moments before their demise.

We have A LOT of pictures that I could have posted. I'll be honest, I grabbed some that were easy to get to. I can see myself posting more pictures as the series moves forward. If I would have thought out this series a little more from the beginning, I would have added pictures in the prior two posts as well. Maybe, at some point, I'll update them. C'est la vie.



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10.04.2017

The R&D Workshop No.4


✤ Intro

It's been a while since I've written one of these updates (April). Mostly, there hasn't been too much to update anyone on. Those of you who are in the category of being interested in knowing, that is. But, here we are already in October, and it's hard to believe that I'm not at least a little further along than I am. Even when I try to be realistic with my expectations of productivity, things work out in a way that still makes it hard to accomplish realistic expectations. The more I lower my expectations, the less I accomplish. Perhaps, I should be doing the opposite?

I have no doubt that what I wanted to accomplish by the end of September will take until the end of October and so forth. I've been trying to put a positive spin on it and remember that last year at this time I wasn't able to do much of anything. Those familiar with the series, "Sump Chump," will immediately understand. Still, that was then and this is now, and I'm working on figuring out a way forward. Taking it day-by-day is getting me nowhere.

So, what have I been up to? Where am I now in relation to where I left off?



✤ Homestead

As the year transitions into fall, I'm working on finishing up any outdoor projects and tasks that I still want to get done. It doesn't feel like this past summer was nearly as productive as the previous four, but sometimes memories of the past can get murky. Still, I HAVE accomplished odds and ends types of projects around the house and garage, and I'm not so sure that trying to list them all here would be productive or interesting. Though, some of it could make its way into a post somewhere.

We did have a fire pit and patio constructed in our backyard that you can read about.

Having the riding lawnmower this summer has helped save some time. You can read about that, too.

Beyond the mowing and yard clean up yet to come, the winterizing of certain things, figuring out how to attach the snow-thrower to the tractor and what parts I need to buy to make that work satisfactorily, cleaning the garage a few more times, cutting down some branches and trees at my mother-in-law's, and whatever else I don't know about, can't think of now, or would rather not list exhaustively, I have one project in particular I want to complete before winter comes. This project includes the shelves that I've already started building for my home studio. I also want to hang my guitars on the wall and do some additional sound treatment. I'm counting those three things as one thing.

The faster I can accomplish all of that and the unknown (amongst all of the other happenings and chores of life), the faster I can get to what I always want to start focusing on once the kids are in school. Making crappy music. Crappy for my contributions, at least.



✤ Web Sitting

AKA, The Itch That Became A Scratch

I got the itch again. The same itch that I talked about in the post, "I Keep Getting Caught In The Web," and the same itch that caused the changes I made this year that I talked about in the post, "New Site, Same Idiot." I've got a problem, sort of. I've got an enthusiastic passion is maybe more the case; it's at least a more positive notion.

What it comes down to is that I've been tinkering with my non-music-project websites, trying to make them more mobile friendly. If you follow my blog religiously, then you probably aren't surprised by this. My blog site, where you are reading this, is pretty mobile friendly, and I've done as much as I think I can to make the emailed version the best it can be with the current Blogger capabilities. And while my blog site isn't as mobile friendly as other sites out there, I'm still pretty happy with it. For now. Blogger has released four new themes/templates that are really modern, responsive, and mobile friendly. This release had been making me rethink things. If that wasn't enough, I've recently discovered a treasure trove of sites that offer free Blogger themes. *Sigh* There are plenty of reasons to NOT "go third-party," but despite those reasons, I've decided that sticking to official Blogger templates with modifications is enough for me.

So, I have been working on a slightly different approach to my hub-site, grahamsedam.com, since that site didn't work as well with mobile as I had liked it to, and it was the perfect candidate to try out a new Blogger template. In the recent past, I also made changes to my music's "home page," including its address, sound.grahamsedam.com. I'm sure I'll change it up again or "evolve" it sometime in the future. I'll talk more about my sound site in the next "Workshop" update.

Lastly, I do have to admit that I've been getting Word Press curious. It's a curiosity that has grown over the last year, since I've restarted my blog. However, the new Blogger themes are keeping me satisfied at the moment. That's a good thing. Nothing seems to ever be complete, and I've pretty much embraced that. I'll be adding to and changing some of what I have up now; I have concrete plans on how to evolve my site (grahamsedam.com) from where it is. In the end, everything is a work in progress.



✤ In Closing

The school year is here, and in the winter, all things are possible. You know, because the teachers are watching two of my kids most of the day and that gives me more TIME. Or, at least, the illusion of time. It's hard to argue that what I WANT to do is more important than my wife, kids, or opportunity to earn extra money. Sometimes, it has to be. I deserve that. However, I set expectations that can be hard to attain. Either I lower them or figure out how to make it happen. And on that note, I should wrap up this post to go work on those shelves for the studio. I received a text and a call recently about an overtime opportunity this week. Head down. Move forward.

In the next R&D update, I'm planning on focusing more on the music—where things left off in April, where I'm at now, and perhaps, my hopes for the rest of the year. Also, I'll get into what's going on with my sound website.

Until then, be the thing you want to be.



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9.19.2017

Social Media OVERLOAD


The title to this post shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. Heck, the few people out there who've somehow abstained from social media understand this. Why? Because social media is woven into our culture now. It didn't take long. It's addictive. It's NOW. It's a great promotional tool. It's many things. It's whatever you want it to be.

While the internet has given everyone the potential to share to the world, it has also created a vast ocean of stuff that can be hard to navigate, believe, or keep up with. A bit of advice: You can't keep up and you were never intended to. Every social media service and website has every intention to try and keep you logged on and plugged into their site indefinitely. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

In the mobile world, if someone clicked on a link, it used to open in their browser of choice. Now, that person technically stays within that social media platform every time they do so—unless you tell the link to open in a different browser. Someone's going to collect that data, I guess the social media conglomerates figure it might as well be them. Regardless, even if all of that data collection was unintentional and really was just to better our experience, the mere accumulation of content each site collects offers a person the ability to surf for hours, days, or somewhere damn near infinity. For some people, it takes a strong willpower to just walk away from it.

This post isn't about how evil social media is, has become, or has always been. I'm also not trying to preach about proper social media habits. This is MY blog so, really, I'm just speaking my mind about social media, and where I'm at with it in my life. In a way, you could consider this a continuation of a post I wrote many months ago entitled "Finding Zen With My Inter-Presence."

Although it's not a constant thought in my mind, I do think about my online habits, good or bad, and my participation. Sure, I could walk away from it all at any time, and that's a healthy thing to do now and then. I know there are people that force themselves to take month-long breaks. I'd rather find a different approach that feels less drastic and is more strategic. I'm all about "strategery" and keeping things fresh.

I know I've said it more than once, and I've heard it before from a friend—everyone's on Facebook. Regardless of the merits other social sites foster, Facebook seems to appeal to a majority of people. OR, my theory, Facebook is in a feedback loop. Everyone's on Facebook because everyone's on Facebook because every... You get the picture. Twitter seems to come in second. No matter what website you go to, I have found Facebook and Twitter to be THE two consistently used outlets for that website's social media strategy. Depending upon the demographics that come along with that particular website's content, other social media icons will accompany (after) those of Facebook and Twitter.

I have plenty of websites and profiles on the internet for personal reasons and promotional reasons. I have to ask myself whether or not trying to maintain them is worth it (to me at least). So, I have given myself the task to either use them or delete them or at least make myself think about what I'm going to do with them—streamline is the bottom line. I have plenty of profiles on sites for the different music projects I'm in, but half of them are pretty much dead and useless. And of the other half, what's the point in keeping them if they aren't frequently being used? Perhaps I'm wrong, but I know if I come across a profile that hasn't been updated in a long time, I have to wonder if it's been abandoned. I know I would feel less inclined to engage and take an interest in it. The heart of social media and the web itself is engagement.

Also, I have to ask myself, am I simply duplicating my efforts or enhancing them? I feel like having a profile on ReverbNation, a music social site, is pretty redundant and is akin to having a dedicated, standalone website. That works great if that's my go-to site, but what am I accomplishing if it isn't? Sure, there may be a few people who happen to come across my profile page and are introduced to my music, but do I want them to spend their time there, getting to know that project on a site that doesn't get updated very often? I'd rather they be directed immediately to the official website for that project. However, would they even bother going deeper if the project appears abandoned? Also, ReverbNation stands to gain more when people stay on my profile at their site, but I'm only interested in the user discovering my music there and then just visiting my website from there on. The goals aren't the same and seem a bit misaligned. ReverbNation is best suited for a musician or band that plays live shows and is trying to get signed. Since neither apply to me, why continue having a profile? My lack of engagement with that SOCIAL site automatically makes it mostly useless. *Well, use it then.* Keep reading.

On the flip-side, you have a site like Twitter that could never be a replacement for a full-fledged website. It fits a niche and does it really well. In my opinion, it may just be THE perfect companion to a brand's website. Every time you make an update to your website, send out a tweet with a link. Got anything on your mind that doesn't make sense to post or plaster on your site? Send out a quick tweet. Anything change or new? Tweet it. Sure, the character limitation can be hard, but it's also freeing. The point is, it's an efficient way to tell people that something has changed or developed, take notice. Unlike other social sites, Twitter seems more like a personal guide to surfing the web, not a replacement. It's kind of like an interactive bookmark for things and people you like and want to stay updated with and entertained by on the internet. My stream of thoughts, not the only thoughts.

If you've noticed I haven't mentioned Google+ then kudos to you. G+ gets overlooked consistently from what I've seen. I'm not really sure why. I think the site does a better job of bringing people together, who wouldn't otherwise know each other, through shared interests. The groups available to join are nearly endless. G+ seems more like a community compared to Facebook, which can feel click-y and snobby at times, even with people you know. G+ certainly has its trolls though. They are everywhere. Even I can be a bit o' one me self.

I don't think Google was or is concerned with being the number one social site. Mostly, because they don't need to be. Sure, I don't doubt they'd like to be number one, but I think they saw the future, and they just wanted to be an option. Besides, preferences always develop and Google is too well known to fail that easily. Facebook and Twitter HAD to excel; their companies didn't DO anything else. That's why they're working hard to become more than just what they started as. Google has a pantheon of products. You simply click a button on a Google account you're already logged into if you want a G+ profile, like putting on your other shoe. You have to make more of a conscious decision to join Facebook or Twitter, like buying a new outfit.

So, my strategy going forward will be to continue making my social media presence leaner on the amount of sites and meaner on the content I contribute. And considering my stupid brain keeps coming up with new, stupid projects and enterprises, I have to find ways to keep myself contained on the internet. So far, this site has helped me do that more than you could know, more than I understand.

Now, I guess, I'll get to the point that inspired this whole post. *Really? It's taken this long?* Yes. I guess it's important to mention that while I've had a profile on different social media sites, including Facebook, I hadn't necessarily been very active on any of them. For years, I had looked at Google+ and Twitter a fair amount, only interacting on Twitter minimally. Then, for a long period of time, I just didn't bother with any of them. It wasn't until the beginning of last year (2016) that I actually started interacting with people and doing the "scroll." Most of my social time since has been spent on Facebook, because you know, everyone's on Facebook. I've thrown some Twitter in now and then when I've needed something different. I haven't touched G+ since... Hmm. I think I'm uncovering a social media equilibrium equation... Off to the lab!

I seem to have misplaced my lab.

So, that point I was getting to.

Last fall, a little less than a year ago, I noticed that I felt like I needed to look at Facebook throughout the day to stay caught up, so I didn't miss anything, which is exactly what Mark Z and his cohorts want. Keep in mind I had a lot less friends as well. Rather than get on for mere enjoyment, or to see what people are up to, it started to feel like a chore. I mentioned this to a friend the week before Christmas last year, and the act of saying it out loud really hit home for me. That's when I decided a tectonic shift in my teeny, little world needed to take place. This would piggy-back upon the changes I had been and would be continuing to make with my web presence, my future internet strategy. *You are so lame!* I love you, too.

Last year but mostly last fall, I started following pages on Facebook. I would add one once in a while if it peaked my interest or curiosity, knowing I could delete it any time I chose.  It got to be too much, so with not much thought, I decided I was going to try to make my personal experience on Facebook about people. That's the only reason why I'm on there. Like I said before, everyone's on Facebook. Of course, I'm still going to follow the pages I have created for my extracurriculars and those of my friends as well. I'm supportive of all of their efforts and want to help promote them. That's the kind of person I am. This should help decrease the amount of content I'm subjecting myself to, but as that grows, I end up in the same spot. With closed eyes, I repeat the mantra, "You can't keep up and you were never intended to."

I have tried and failed to compartmentalize my use of the different social sites. I have tried to stay vaguely adrift to the happenings of all I have a profile on. I have failed. You probably have, too. But, you know what? I've gotten to the point where many of you social media veterans have already gotten to. I stopped trying. I scroll through my feed when I feel like it, whichever platform that happens to be on, and I contribute when I'm inspired. I know. It's SO simple.

Regardless of all the words that have come prior in this post, social media is about connecting with people, and I like that. It's a connection you can make on your own time, and it's as intrusive as you want it to be. I try to be aware of how much time social media is taking away from the other things going on in my life, the things that I want desperately to accomplish, or the people I have right in front of me that I want to give my (mostly) undivided attention to. It can be difficult to step away sometimes. Other times, it's easy; I want to get away.

Oh, by the way, I'm on Instagram, now. Only ONE account, though! I'm resisting the Snapchat the kids are so big on. (Sigh)

*You are still lame!* I know, and I still love you.



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