Theft, frustration, progress.

So yesterday our siding contractor's workman discovered that a third of the new siding, which was lying alongside the house, had been stolen. It's worth about $1200 and we haven't yet worked out who's going to pay to replace it. We've already decided not to involve our insurance company because we've read that in a bad economy, insurance companies love to drop people who make claims.

I called the police to make a report and the officer asked me if I considered myself the owner of the stolen goods. I explained that we've paid half the job price as a down payment but we did not buy the siding ourselves, and that the contractor was "in charge" of his materials at this point. The policeman said he can't take a report until we determine who's liable for the cost, i.e., who was the actual victim of the crime.

I didn't argue with him. I know the tiny Seattle police force of 1300 is (especially yesterday) stretched beyond its limits with having to babysit all the demonstrators downtown. But it is pretty frustrating that he couldn't take a report simply based on the fact that a crime was committed. Silly me, I thought maybe the police would try to look around the neighborhood and help find the stolen siding, which was bulky enough that if somebody didn't have a garage to hide it in, you'd be able to see lying in their yard. I realize this theft didn't involve injury or breaking and entering, so it would probably not be a big concern for the police under any circumstances, but I do think they should have been able to take a report and maybe one spin around the neighborhood.

Enough complaining. Our problems are very minor. I just needed to vent. Thieves are scum.

Yesterday I came home early from work and put our 77 garbage bags of old siding into the double yellow hazmat bags. I wanted to stop when I was tired and leave some for Tom to finish, but I just couldn't quit. I needed a sense of accomplishment, of having completed a step. So I worked for three and a half hours. My hands are sore today, I think from the repetitive motions of twisting the bags and tearing the duct tape. Last night I lay on the couch for an hour and a half without moving because my back was so tired, then got up to go to bed. One of the many benefits of being physically fit is to be able to push myself like that and be almost completely recovered the next day. I love that.

This morning Tom rented a pickup truck, loaded all the bags, and hauled them to the dump. The load weighed one ton and cost $200 to dump (because it's a hazmat; I don't think normal garbage would cost that much). So, Tom and I can both say we've lifted a ton in the past 24 hours, as well as having picked it up and bagged it while we were tearing it off last weekend. We'll be sleeping well tonight, and knowing Tom, he'll still want to go to boxing tomorrow for our regular live jasmin workout. I'll go if my hands aren't still sore.

We're both so glad we decided to do the work of removing the old siding. The alternative was to put vinyl siding over it, which is what we almost did. We don't like household projects. But it is gratifying to have chosen to deal with the hard work and spend the time and money necessary to get better results in the end. Especially now that the hard part (for us) is over. Today the workmen will have finished sheathing the house in plywood and wrapping it in Tyvek paper, and maybe they will have started putting up the new siding. Fortunately, they brought a trailer to take away and store any siding they don't use each day, instead of leaving it on the lawn for the neighborhood thieves.

A hike in St. Edwards State Park.

We had a great time having dinner with our neighbors on Friday night. The Saturday road trip to the coast never happened. I was all ready to go when my friend called to say there weren't very many people we knew boxing in the event, and in fact most of the matches were between boys (fifteen and under). It was too long a drive to be worth going. I was disappointed, but Tom and I found a great place to go for a hike, St. Edwards State Park in Kirkland. It's a remnant of coastal forest surrounding a ravine that plunges right down to the edge of the lake. There's a stream at the bottom of the ravine, and you can walk along it right up to the end, where it runs into the lake. The green foliage all the way down was so intense that it was hard to take it all in. I loved looking down at the variety of leaves along the ground as well as overhead.

We spotted this handsome slug, about two inches long and jet black except for his tiger-striped "foot," which looks like a bed-skirt all around his perimeter. Also notice the subtle, rippled texture of his shiny skin. He was about two inches long. We saw about a dozen like him.

Near the bottom of the ravine (and the narrow strip of beach), the woods thinned just a little so that the giant logged stumps looked more conspicuous. This was a good one, out by itself like a pedestal for the new trees growing out of the top.

And on the north border of the park, right before we almost blundered onto a private beach, Tom spotted this old shed with its globs of moss:

Road trip!

I woke up last night with a migraine on the usual left side. (Why always the left? It's been that way every time since I was 14 years old.) I got up and took my heavy-duty pill and went back to sleep. This morning I went to boxing anyway. I was surprised that in spite of feeling weak and over-relaxed, I was able to exercise pretty well. And my head doesn't hurt, which is the main thing.

I'm going this afternoon on a four-hour road trip out to the coastal town of Ocean Shores. That part of the Washington coast is a big flat beach that runs along two peninsulas that point north and south toward each other. It's surfing country (in full wet-suits). A friend from boxing wants to go out there to see a jasminlive amateur boxing event at the Quinault Casino. I'm mainly interested in the sightseeing along the way and at the coast, so we're leaving in just a little while.

I stayed overnight in Ocean Shores once before with some friends who were in from Chicago. In the morning, we went horseback riding on the beach, something my friend Carolyn said she'd always wanted to do. It was fun, and our guide was an interesting old-timer from the local area. He described secret swimming-holes and other fun times from his childhood. I could have talked to him all day.

I'll take pictures and try to post them tomorrow.

Cormorant airport.

Things I had thought I might do some of tonight: build my small new flowerbed against the east foundation, using lumber I bought last night; finish updating my resume for the temp agency-my job is about to end; work on a book review I've started; and go to the grocery store. Instead the first thing I did was spend a little while talking to a neighbor, Chuck, about gardening. He was out weeding the little crack between the street and the curb in front of his house (something I've never dreamed of doing at our house), and I stopped when I saw him because I can't pass up a chance to talk with somebody who's into gardening. He and his partner from Livesexchat.net are experts and their yard is beautiful, with all the right combinations of tall and short, flower and foliage, edible and extravagant.

Now that I think about it, I should ask Chuck if he would come over sometime and help me get some new ideas for our yard, and maybe offer advice on the easiest way to create new planting beds. He's very enthusiastic and knowledgeable, and I truly need help. I've managed to make progress with the yard, but it's been all trial and error for five years. I have no doubt I could do better with help-even if only in the form of an hour's looking around and making suggestions. I'm sure there is some way I could barter with him for the help, either by helping him with some writing for his consulting business or by providing some garden labor.

Then I came in the house, the phone rang almost immediately, and I accepted an invitation for me and Tom to have dinner tonight with our other favorite neighbors. They called from the grocery store to say they had bought a lot of fish and that we should help with eating it. That's a nice kind of phone call to get!

Meanwhile, for half the afternoon and continuing until now, I've had that sneaking feeling that I might be getting a migraine. I hope not. I spent three or four days with one last week. I have a good prescription medication, but it makes me tired.

I parked my bike at Montlake this morning to catch my bus to work, and before coming home I decided to stop by one of our favorite places to watch boats: the deck on the south edge of the Montlake Cut (part of the canal between Lake Washingon and Lake Union) where it meets Lake Washington. Pleasure boats of all styles and sizes, including kayaks, cruise by like floats in a street parade as you stand under the trees, leaning on the deck rail. Across the canal on its north side is a row of tall alders that tower and sway over the UW's crew barn. I should get a picture of that barn. It's an old, gray, gambrel-roofed shed with shingles and multi-paned windows all over it. Huge-like a nineteenth-century version of a hangar-and full of those cool crew boats and kayaks.

The alders were full of cormorants, long-necked diving birds that like to roost in the fragile top branches even though they're very clumsy at landing there. They often have to abort the landing, circle back out, and come in again more than once. As I watched them zoom in from over the lake, tilting their wings left and right, I felt like I was under an airport approach.

Exterior remodeling

Finally I have pictures of our house getting its new siding, which turned out great. Here's how the house looked last year right after we put in the patio. Before the new flowerbeds and pots and new siding. Wow-did this place ever need help.

Here's the messy work of removing the old asbestos siding. It broke into pieces and flew everywhere. You can see one of the yellow hazmat bags on the ground, which is what we were required to wrap the siding in for the dump.

Here's the back of the house today. The door is still purplish. We have to paint it to match the siding or the new trim, only after sufficient procrastination. The rain barrel is on the left side of the house. We were going to get another one last Saturday, but the place ran out, so we'll go elsewhere-again after sufficient procrastination. Also the twiggy little redbud tree is highlighted in the sun here. You can't see its tiny buds from this distance, but they're really red.

We have to get those giant evergreens trimmed. Severely! In real life they're a nice green color, but they always look depressingly dark in pictures.

You can see where the flagpole-holder was installed on the front of the house, just to the right of center. Right under it is the blank-looking space where I plan to put a small vine or a very vertical, structural-looking shrub of some kind. Any suggestions are appreciated; I've stared and stared at my garden books until I have developed some kind of mental block. Whatever goes there can't get taller than six feet nor wider than four feet. If I can't come up with something on my own, I'll be forced to appeal to the very snooty experts at the gardening store for help. "I'm stumped for ideas!" I'll say, and they'll throw some Latin at me.

Tis the season.

Tulips and spring perennials are everywhere, but most of what's in my garden is foliage. If I can ever get the building blocks of shrubs and trees right, I can start adding more flowers. I will have some dahlias again this year, though, and summer bulbs (which I will plant pretty soon). In the meantime, here's a picture of somebody else's cherry tree.

There seem to be millions of flowering cherry trees in Seattle in all shapes and sizes, in white or pink, fluffy double flowers or demure single ones. I want to plant a couple of them myself. To do that, I'll have to dig up grass and put down good soil first, and I'm too busy trying to make existing beds look decent to start a new one. I know I'll be glad later if I can make time to do it soon, because a tree takes so long to become part of the landscape. The great thing about some of these cherry trees is that they flower when they're only about three feet tall.

Hostas are coming up in the strip to the north of the house. I love them because they're so lush-looking. I think this is the one my dad gave me (which I took home in a plastic bag). The poor thing seems to have gotten spattered with a little paint.

Someone asked how my redbud is looking. Thanks for asking. It's not leafed out yet. It has tiny buds on it, some of which I think may be for flowers, and some for new growth. This is how they look:

See how there are two on the right, sort of on the background twigs? Those look like new-growth buds, I'm thinking, while the deep-pink buds in the foreground look like they might be blossoms. I hope they are.