Tulipy Commute

Skagit Valley is a pretty dang nice place most of the time, but for about a month in Spring, it's super nice. While much of that is due to the emergence from the rainy, short-dayed winter, them purty flowers that show up all over the flats contribute nicely. Normally, I barely see the fields of yellow, pink, and purple from far off on the highway. This year, however, I get to see them up close almost daily!

In a slight divergence from my normal schedule, the last couple weeks I've been hauling gravel, shoveling dirt, and building with rocks (which is typically more of a fall occurrence.)* As always, I enjoy the work and income but lament the loss of free easy days. But that's beside the point. The place we are working requires a commute through the tulips. The first week, the daffodils were just peeking through. Now they've mostly been topped and some tulips are in full swing. Next week, when we're scheduled to finish the job, everything should be going great guns!

The tulips are one of those Skagit County events I take for granted. The last time I truly took advantage was 7 years ago (posted here*). This year, not only do I have the lovely commute to admire them from, I will also be doing the tourist thing when a friend comes up specifically to see the tulips.

For those of you who haven't experienced the glory of the acres upon acres of color, here are some photos from local superstar photographer and ex-blog du friend-er David Clumpner. (You can look at his wedding photography website here.)

Saturday April 12 2014File under: Anacortes, work

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More Housesitting Features

I've often said that my chosen profession, housesitting, is the best job one could have. And it is. I get to stay in nice houses, snuggle on animals*, always shop at new and different grocery stores, and make a little money on the side. But every now and again, there's a different perk, one that I would have never expected going in. I get to see so many neat and different house features.

Sure there's differences in architecture, design, and even stuff as little as appliances. And all those are neat. But recently I came across two house features that I just loved.

Feature 1: Magic sucking wall dustpan*

Central vac was something I only learned about through housesitting. And in my long career, I've come across it enough times for it to become common enough. But this extra use of central vac was just too dang neat. Basically, you just sweep your pile into the wall and it disappears. No more dustpan. No more leaning over. Just sweep and you're done! Not that I'd ever have central vac, because I can't imagine it is very efficient, but I can appreciate a neat feature when I see one.


In movies, it isn't uncommon for the dectecive to snoop around until he finds the secret book on the secret bookshelf that, when pulled, reveals a hidden room*. But those don't exist in the real world, do they? They do! At my current job, THERE IS A HIDDEN ROOM BEHIND A SECRET BOOKCASE! The story goes that the builder/first owner of the house had kids so built in a bunch of neat features like this. Besides the book shelf, there's another mini-room only accessible via crawling under a bed. So neat!

Yeah, housesitting is a pretty dang neat way to pay the bills (or avoid them). I know on all jobs, there is always something new to learn or discover. But with housesitting, you can do it all in your skivvies!
Thursday March 20 2014File under: work

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Sucked Back In

Two weeks ago, with a stomach full of all-you-can-eat Chinese food and dirty, cold, and wet, I came home from work a happy dude. Why? Because it was the end of my work for the season. For the past couple years, I've been doing a month or two of mason/landscaping work in the fall to refill the coffers, strengthen up my lazy back, and justify such unwise endeavors as all-you-can-eat Chinese food buffets.

After two weeks of much enjoyed time off, with a little of this (Chautauqua Board retreat) and a little of that (chillin' with my homies, I find myself back on the job. I'm thinking this stint will be a short one, because my pile of to-dos is not so tiny* and working outside in the winter in the Northwest isn't as much as you may think.

But just as the weather, hard work, and lack of free time reminds me of why I don't like working, the camaraderie, sense of purpose, and the scrilla reminds me why I do. So I guess it all comes out in the wash. Which reminds me, I should go do wash.

(In my occasional self-portraits series, here's me looking ever so happy to be back on the job.)
Thursday December 13 2012File under: work


Working In the Rain

Today is the first day I can ever remember taking a significant portion of work off due to weather. Every now and again, we'll knock off an hour early if it really starts coming down, or take an extended lunch to let a system pass, but today, we knocked off at 12:30 (and would have left sooner if the dump truck hadn't have run out of gas).

Working in the northwest during the fall and winter, you wouldn't get a whole lot done if you only worked on the nice days. And there is an element of pride to getting things done rain or shine. But working in wet clothes and cold gloves isn't a whole lot of fun either.

In celebration of an unexpected half-day off, I built a cozy fire (that doubly serves to dry out all my gear), made a pot of soup, and zoned out. Yeehaw for rain delays!

(Oh, and for all you clever clever folks out there that reply to my work stories with "You work!?!?", I'll have you know that I'm in the home stretch for the year. Another 2 weeks and I get back to the way life should be: sleeping till 9:07 and lots and lots of computer time!)
Monday November 19 2012File under: work


60-Hour Work Week

It's not often that I can say I worked a 60 hour work week. In fact, I don't think, outside of volunteer work*, I've ever put in that many hours in a week. This past week, however, I worked 60 hours hauling gravel, weeding, spreading bark, building trails, painting, planting, driving a fully loaded truck, crawling under the house to do plumbing, and more. And while I am pooped, I'm happy.

In terms of jobs, you couldn't really ask for a better gig. We spent the week just outside Mt. Rainer National Park*, working on a million dollar cabin right along the river with beautiful grounds complete with waterfalls, private forest paths, and beautiful stonework everywhere you turned (my personal favorite being the spiral outdoor shower*). My boss has been going down there for a week or two per year for over 25 years and to see the culmination of all that work was amazing. And to participate in the storied trip was a real opportunity.

In our few off hours, we played horseshoes*, frisbee golf, poker, and ate well! It was dude time. There was even a surfer movie and some Simpsons. The combination of working and living together in a place where it is all about the work* really suits me. And with the overtime I logged and the spare change I put away, I could see doing it every year, if I'm lucky enough to be asked back.

Yes, work comes in all shapes and forms. A week working under the sun in a beautiful place with a bunch of cool dudes is one of my favorite forms.
Tuesday May 22 2012File under: work

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Herding Cats

I now know where the term "herding cats" comes from and all too well what it means.

I'm at a new housesitting job this week where 2 cats are my charge. In the housesitting realm, I consider cats to be the easier of the household pets–no walking, no scooping poop (unless they are indoor only cats), etc. The instructions read "At night, bring Gus into the house and put Baily into the garage. They might need some coaxing with a can of tuna."

The first thing I realized when I went to bring the cats in for the night is that I didn't know which one was which. Hmmm... But worse, there were 3 skittish cats running around the yard to choose from. So not only did I have to pick which one went where, but I also had to deduce which ones to herd in the first place.

In both instances, I let fate decide. I got the opened a can of tuna, placed it just inside either door, and lied in wait. The first cat* to fall for the tuna-in-the-house trap got to spend the night in the house. Same with the garage. I mean, each should know where they belong, right?

Wrong. Since that first night, I ran into the neighbor at frisbee* and he let me know which was which. It turns out that I got the right cats but the wrong places. Alas. But since I've known, garage kitty has wised up to the tuna baiting, so I'm going to need to develop a new strategy anyway.

Yep, house/petsitting is a good job. But it ain't always easy.
Wednesday June 9 2010File under: work

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Productive Time on the Road

I just got back from a nice little week-long jaunt down through southern Washington and Portland. But besides being a great trip, I can say that it was productive as well!

First stop was in Olympia to help Jule finish up work on his stone patio (with a little extra landscaping thrown in for good measure). The whole thing turned out great* and even left some time for family meals, some frisbee golf, and a trip to the theatre.

Next stop: always wacky Portland. The plan was just to hang out, see friends, and of course get in as many pub quizzes* as possible. The result, however, is that I somehow talked my way into helping Andrew and Gretchen build the lovely pathway you see here. We gathered the broken concrete for free via craigslist so the only cost was the sand. I think it turned out awesome! (North agrees. I couldn't even get him to look away from the path to get a decent picture*.)

Last stop on my productive week on the road was a trip up the Columbia River for a "business meeting"*. While the meeting was productive, the train ride really took the cake. The views as we cruised along the Columbia were spectacular!

It is a nice feeling to combine seeing good friends and traveling around with being productive. Maybe I'll have to try that again soon*...
Sunday May 16 2010File under: work

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I Love My Job

I love my job. For those of you who don't know (or are saying to yourself "You have a job!?!?"), I am a professional housesitter*. While technically the focus is usually on pets, since I do the plants, mail, papers, etc., I think "housesitter" encompasses the job better than "petsitter".

Why do I love this job? It's always different. I get to shop at different grocery stores, see different views, hang out with different pets, get to know different neighborhoods, and ride different buses, just to name a few things. And while housesitting requires you to be around the house as much as possible, it still leaves time for me to do my thing: make and do crosswords, draw comics, read, watch t.v., make websites, etc. But what I like most of all about housesitting is that I can see the direct result of my work. There is no middle man between me and the people for whom the service is being rendered, and they always appreciate it so much. That, the being able to directly help someone out, is what I love most about my job.

Do you know someone who needs a housesitter? I'm always looking to take on new clients and move into new markets*. And the jobs don't have to be in the northwest. I'd be happy to do a stint in Delaware, California, or Germany. Just get ahold of me and we'll work something out.
Monday April 12 2010File under: work

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North Sound Connections

Remember that North Sound Transit Guide I put out a while ago? (If not, read about it here or check it out here.) When it started making the rounds, the buzz it created opened a door that has led to my latest resume addition: North Sound Connections.

Essentially, this is a trip planner for Northwest Washington (north of Seattle) that covers all sorts of transit options: public bus, amtrak, ferries, airporters, etc. It offers sorting and filtering to help narrow down the choices and google maps integration to help pinpoint transit stations. Scheduling information is only available on those routes that are compatible with google transit, but hopefully more scheduling integration is on the way.

This is a tool that can really make a difference, and being able to be a part of creating it makes me feel very proud. Not only does the positive social and environmental impact of this project make me proud, but the technical aspect as well. This is by far the largest technical project I've tackled on my own. And now that it's done, all my worries about my ability to manage such a large project are somewhat eased.

Yes, a project that's good for the world and good for me–I'm really lucky to live a life that affords such opportunities.
Wednesday April 29 2009File under: work, transportation

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Adventures in Housesitting

As most of you know, I'm an occasional housesitter. For round about 3 months spread throughout the year, I watch people's house, pets, plants, mail, etc. When I describe the job to others, I make it sound like the best thing in the world, and usually it is. There are those times, however, when things go awry and you realize why it is called a job and not a hobby. Yesterday was one of those times.

First off, I recognize that in the grand scheme of things, this would barely be considered a blip on the grand bad-days-at-work scale. There was only a short time when it felt like disaster and now all is back to normal. But when things usually go so smoothly, a minor detour from that can feel like a lot - a minor detour, like say, losing the dog.

Technically, the dog lost me. She was outside playing, like is her wont, and all of the sudden, she was no longer outside playing. (I blame the bad influence of the husky she was playing with.) What followed was a frantic two hours of running through the woods on her favorite trails, calling the owner of the husky to see if he had seen them, and shouting the dog's name until I grew hoarse*. Then a neighbor called to say that she was hanging out in his front yard. I went over to pick her up and that was that.

As if that wasn't enough, on my way to turn off the lights to get ready for my much needed night's sleep*, I see a little bird perched on the ceiling fan. So that's what has been driving the cat bonkers. I briefly contemplate how to capture the bird to get it out of the house, but since nothing occurs to me, I just sleep with the door closed. I figure he will either go out the way he came in or present me with an opportunity to release him.

Yep, so that was yesterday's adventure in housesitting. At least there were no flat tires, carjackings, or crazy truck drivers. But who knows what today will hold.
Tuesday February 3 2009File under: work

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