Wednesday Roam — Water Wars and Aggravation

Some weeks it doesn’t pay to get out of bed.  It has been one step forward and two steps back here at the home place. Not all bad but just a lot of aggravation.

I’ve lived here for over a year and a half but my learning curve is still bothersome. There are several “systems” that are new to me — things I never encountered before that are major components of how things work. I had no idea of what an “evaporative cooler” was or how radiant heat worked when I moved here. I never had a well or a septic tank before.

I grew up in a place that got around 40 inches of rain each year and no one had a need for a sprinkler or irrigation system. Here, we get about 8 inches of rain and it is common to have some sort of irrigation system. I’m the fourth owner of the place and the first owner, way back in the late 1990s, installed an expensive sprinkler system. They had horses and were hoping to grow grass out of the sandy soil and sagebrush.  Twenty years later I come along and try to figure out what they had installed. My neighbor says the system hasn’t worked in ten years….or at least was not used for that long. The original owners left in a huff when the city told them that they not only could not install lights around their horse corral for night riding but they were not allowed to keep horses on the property over night in the first place.  Seems like they didn’t check the zoning rules before they built the house and brought in the horses….or figured they could bluff their way through.  It didn’t work.

So, here I come. I figured out how to turn the sprinkler system on but only one sprinkler worked and it sprayed water on the gas meter.  That made no sense to me.  I would periodically go and fiddle with the system controls and ponder why it didn’t work. My neighbor said I should have a manifold somewhere.  Manifold?  I searched the yard and found nothing other than what I figured was the access to the well and pump.  Finally I got the system working just by resetting the controls and starting from scratch.  This was just dumb luck because there is no manual or instructions to speak of and no map telling me where the sprinklers were. Suddenly I had things popping out of the bare ground and squirting water around the front yard. the little drip spigot by my fig tree started bubbling water. I suddenly saw potential.  Maybe I could get the fig tree to do something!!!  Maybe I could get the yard to have some living plants other than sage and saltbush!!!

I was happily planning out the future. I bought a few plants.  I discovered a second sprinkler system that is a manual sort of thing connected by a hose to the well hydrant. I raked and cleaned up the yard and removed the dead debris.  I planted a red osier Dogwood over by the driveway. I planted some blazing star bulbs and planted some native wildflower seeds. I turned on the hose/hydrant system to provide some water for my new plantings.

Nest morning I realized I forgot to turn off the hose/hydrant system. That was not good but I should be more careful. Live and learn. “Don’t get distracted and finish what you start” should be my motto.

I noticed that the goldfish pond was low so I turned on the hose and added some water to the pond. It was down about six inches and it’s a big pond so it takes a while to add the water. I went inside to get another cup of coffee. About midnight I remembered that the pond had been filling. YIKES.  I ran outside and turned off the water. Happily, the fish were still there. The pond was quite large and the fish were swimming places where they had never been before but that was okay. They were having a great time. My pump and filter system was under water…not good.  I pulled out a couple buckets of water but realized I’d be at it all night if I was going to use a bucket.  I went to bed.

Next morning I figured out how to drain the water using a large funnel and a hose at the waterfall where the pump returned the water to the pond. It took most of the day to get the water level back down to where it belonged.

Meanwhile, every day I was doing more raking and planting and the sprinkler and drip system seemed to be fine. Then one morning I noticed that two sprinklers were running at 9 AM when they should be off. Why is that? Apparently they had been on all night because there was a lot of wet mud and puddles of water. I tried to turn them off with the controls…nothing happened. I reset the controls back to zero….nothing happened. I unplugged the controls….nothing happened. Hmmm. I have rogue sprinklers.  Since I have no manual or instructions, I went to the trusty Internet.  There were lots of pictures of sprinkler systems and manifolds. I figured I needed to go out and take things in hand and turn off the water access to the whole system. Inside the manifold box there should be a valve that cuts off the water. I went out and got into the only box I could find and it didn’t look anything like what the pictures showed on the Internet….but there was a valve with a handle that did look like what they were showing in the manifold pictures. With some difficulty and some WD-40, I managed to get the old valve turned and the sprinklers died down to a dribble. Ah…success! Things were looking up. I called the local sprinkler company emergency service number (this was a Sunday) and they said I probably got it fixed temporarily and they could send a repair guy next week.  Great.

A couple hours later I realized there was no water coming into the house.  The valve turned off the flow of water from the well.  So I was back out in the yard and re-opening the valve and the sprinklers came back on but only at a low trickle.

There has to be a sprinkler manifold box somewhere. I got my rake and started scraping away some old brush and — Surprise! – there was another box under an old sage bush. The box hadn’t seen daylight in years. So…I opened it up and recognized what I had seen earlier on the Internet…except there was no shut-off valve. Of course….why would I think that there would be a shut-off valve? There was water inside the box…not good. I took a couple pictures of the box with my phone and jumped in the car and drove to the sprinkler store….which was open by that time.

“Yep…that’s a manifold box and you have water in it.” he said.

“Yeah…where is the shut-off valve?”  I asked.  “I have sprinklers going and can’t turn them off.”

“Did we install it?”

“I have no idea….it’s twenty years old…probably not.”

So we were not really getting anywhere. He wanted to be sure he wasn’t to blame — CYA.  Finally we took the picture on my phone over to the spare parts bin and found something that looked like what was inside the manifold box.  He showed me how to turn off each sprinkler valve until I found the right one.

Okidoke. Maybe this will work.  When I got home my daughter had arrived so I enlisted her help in my battle against the rogue sprinklers.

“Tell me when they go off” I shouted. I started fiddling with the sprinkler valves inside the box. Almost immediately I heard screaming. She was drenched. She didn’t know which way to run.  That is probably the last time I’ll get much help from her…

But…we got the sprinklers turned off, eventually.

As a payback for her help I took her for a short hike up in the foothills. She has been wanting to find out how to find the trailheads and parking areas to access the trail system. It was cool and windy but we had a nice short walk. We had a nice dinner and I think she almost forgot about getting wet.

Here are a few pictures of the foothills trails. It is spring and things are starting to bloom. Maybe next week will be better.  The sprinkler guy shows up on Friday.







Perils of Genealogy: Part Three

 Nuts and Bolts… “I yam what I yam, and that’s all what I yam.”  – Popeye

Well, actually I hadn’t planned on writing a Part Three.  I figured I had pretty much left everything on the table with parts one and two…but, nooo.  You might recall that I briefly referred to DNA testing for genealogy back in my earlier post and that I was mildly interested but not all that enthusiastic about having my DNA tested.  Well, my daughter and I decided that we would get the tests as sort of a Christmas present…sort of like what you get if you really don’t need anything.

We did our thing…spitting in a test tube…and sent off the little packages and waited for our results.  We used 23andMe for the tests but there are other companies. It cost us about $99 each.  About six weeks later we started getting results back.

I figured I knew pretty much what the test would reveal but I was interested in my daughter’s results because she would have half of her DNA from me and half from her mom.

Here is roughly what I expected…

  1. That my results would show me being primarily Germanic with some fairly large parts Irish and English and Dutch.
  2. I expected my German or central European roots to include a little Ashkenazi Jewish traces.
  3. I didn’t expect any East Asian, Chinese, Japanese or South Asian traces.
  4. I didn’t expect any Sub-Sahara Africa traces or even any North Africa or Middle East traces.
  5. I didn’t expect any Native American traces.

OK — so the results came back and here’s what I got…. But first, here’s part of what they say about the analysis “This analysis includes DNA you received from all of your recent ancestors, on both sides of your family. The results reflect where your ancestors lived before the widespread migrations of the past few hundred years.”  So they are talking about “recent” ancestry going back maybe a few hundred years…maybe as far as 7-10 generations.

99.9%      European

Northern European

33.4%      British & Irish

10.4%      French & German

1.1%         Scandinavian

0.0%       Finnish

27.8%     Broadly Northern European

16.5%      Eastern European

Southern European

1.3%       Balkan

0.0%      Sardinian

0.0%       Italian

0.0%      Iberian

0.6%     Broadly Southern European

0.8%     Ashkenazi

8.0%    Broadly European

< 0.1%  Middle Eastern & North African

< 0.1%  Broadly Middle Eastern & North African

100%  Kenneth Hartke

That’s not exactly what I expected….

  1. I’m much more British and Irish than I expected (33.4%). Indeed, that is the largest part of my DNA pie.
  2. The designation “Broadly Northern European” is my second largest part (27.8%) and is probably my Dad’s Germanic heritage since his family came from the Baltic coast of Pomerania which is now, after WW-II, the north coast of Poland. “Broadly” means that there are traits that seem to be common to people over a broad region. Since the German population of Pomerania was expelled from that region once it became part of Poland, I can see that that population would now be largely assimilated into northern Europe and a specific DNA location would be hard to determine.
  3. I have 16.5% “Eastern European”, which could also account for some of the Pomeranian ancestors but includes more eastern regions such as Ukraine and western Russia and goes clear to the Caspian Sea. I have a mystery person in my ancestry who might be Bavarian (if you believe his naturalization declaration) or he might be Ukrainian if you believe family rumours….so Eastern European makes some sense.
  4. “French and German” makes up 10.4% and includes almost all of Western Europe from Denmark to the Pyrenees and east through Switzerland and most or all of Germany. Really? I only 10.4% from that region? This was a surprise because I have a long French Huguenot line, lots of New Amsterdam Dutch, Hanoverians and Hessian Germans.
  5. OK – well I also have 8% “Broadly European” so maybe that is just a mix of European traits that would account for some of those folks.
  6. I’m also a smidgen “Balkan” at 1.3% and a smaller smidgen “Scandinavian” at 1.2%. I expected a little more Scandinavian. Sweden was in control of Pomerania for a while and what about all of those Vikings running around Ireland? We must have been running faster.
  7. So now…near the bottom of the list is .8% Ashkenazi. That is less than I expected and…surprise, surprise…it comes from my mom – the Irish and English part of my ancestry. I’m also a tiny bit “Broadly Southern European” (.6%) maybe Italian or Iberian…and less than .1% “Broadly Middle Eastern and North African” which again, comes from my Mom and is apparently Druze or Kurdish. Actually, anything under 5% is really just a hint and could even be a fluke

Well, that was all very enlightening, I guess. It will take me a while to figure all of this out. My results also reported that I am 3% Neanderthal. Wow…3% is a lot of Neanderthal and above the average. I’m at about the 88th percentile but there are some few people testing at about 4%. That apparently is a European thing for the most part.

Long Lost Cousins  – Howdy, my name is Ken and we are kin.

Along with your test results you get a list of other people who have tested and are your DNA relatives. I have about 935 people identified as related to me based on our DNA tests. Holy Chromosomes – Who are these people? Well, I waded into the mob of people who I expected to greet me with open arms. I found a second cousin, once removed, who I didn’t know but I know his Mom from long-ago family reunions. I also found a sixth cousin – mostly because I recognized his surname in my family tree and he was in this mob of cousins. I’ve contacted and shared with about a dozen people and have a few hints and possible connections but nothing more concrete than that. It seems like most of these people are asleep at the wheel and don’t respond to emails. I have about twenty contacts sent out with no responses.  Must be a family trait.

Of course, my daughter is in that mob….we share about 50% of our DNA with the rest coming from her Mom. In theory and pretty much in practice – with each generation you lose another half of your DNA package from a single relative. You get about 25% from each grandparent. Great-grandparents contribute only 12.5% and going back another generation you get 6.25%. By the time you go up your family tree line and back down to a fourth cousin you are sharing only a very small percentage of DNA… less than 1% — maybe just .65% or even less than half of that. I was just contacted today by a fourth cousin (projected) and we share .25%.

I found that matches on my ‘X’ chromosome are going to be related to me through my mother. If those matches are male then they are related to me through their mother.  That tends to be helpful in finding how we are related. One of my projected fourth cousins in adopted and has no knowledge of any biological family. He is matched to me on my ‘X’ chromosome so he is related to me through my Mom. He also is related to another of my male fourth cousins through the ‘X’ chromosome so now we have two related female lines pointing to this adopted male cousin. It is plausible that we may be able to tie him in to the family at some point.  (Run away, dude, run away as fast as you can!)

I have another fourth cousin who is African American and her family has been in Alabama, Mississippi and Texas for as long as she knows.  My ancestors – as far as I know – never lived south of Missouri. This is a pretty solid DNA cousin connection with .25% on two separate chromosomes. She doesn’t match with any of the other DNA relatives that I’ve shared my information with but fourth cousins can be pretty far flung and numerous – people had big families in prior generations. If you counted up each sibling and half-sibling of your parental lines for five or six generations and then consider how many kids each one had or could have had, you have, potentially, hundreds of cousins running around.

Another DNA cousin has a family name of Connor or O’Connor, along with a bunch more, and he is Irish with roots in County Kerry. I didn’t, at first, recognize any connections but my ancestry goes back to County Kerry and I recalled having seen the name Connor listed as sponsors at baptisms in the local church for my Scollard and Moran relatives.  His Connors or O’Connors are probably my Connors or O’Connors once we figure this connection out.

There are two haplogroup designations that you are identified from your DNA. One is your mitochondrial haplogroup which is passed down from mother to mother to mother – all the way down directly from an ancient prehistoric female relative. Mine, from my Mom, includes that tiny Kurdish, Druze and Ashkenazi DNA along with a bunch of other European and Irish/British DNA. You also learn what your paternal haplogroup is – passed down through your male line, father to father to father. My paternal haplogroup is a common European designation but it seems to be more of coastal people than mountain people, originating, they think, along the North Sea and then spreading eastward toward the Baltic Sea and also across the English Channel. This is all very murky and lost in the eons of prehistory. There is plenty of scholarly debate going on about these ancient origins.

So far, DNA testing has provided a lot of information that is interesting about my personal genome – where I come from and how much from different areas. It has enabled me to locate distant relatives I didn’t know I had. It has given me some hints on family tree road-blocks and revealed possible new family names I didn’t know. But it also raises a bunch of new questions and you begin to realize that there is so much of the puzzle that is missing or disguised. There are hundreds of adoptees who have been tested and are searching for biological family links. Sometimes they make a connection but sometimes it is just a hint. At some point, once some bureaucratic roadblocks are satisfied or removed, I will be getting genetically identified medical information. I know some diseases run in my family but this will show if there is a genetic link or whether there is a higher risk for some diseases and lower risk for others. I guess that will be good and useful information although sometimes it might be better not knowing.  All in all, I’m glad I did this but it will take a while to see how helpful it was.  Stay tuned…there might be a Part Four someday.

Wednesday Roam — On Being Linked In

I bought a new — never before used — vinyl record yesterday. First, let me say that I’m not a Luddite — at least not a card carrying member. I like a few of the modern electronic conveniences. But — from where I stand…or sit, I’m often taken by how much people around me are constantly connected to some sort of electronic device. I know — it’s a common complaint.

I’m halfway through my 60s and can member the first time I saw and heard a transistor radio– some kid smuggled it in to grade school and it was a primitive thing by today’s standards….or by standards of 30 years ago, for that matter. I’m not a complainer….just an observer….but it is hard to carry on a conversation with someone who can’t take their eyes off of a four inch green.

In the midst of this connective-ness, I have recently become aware of how much I have gone down that road.  Oh yes…it is a slippery slope, brothers and sisters… Just in the last few months I’ve joined the ranks of the electro-masses.

I have a lap-top and a tablet and an MP3 player and a few other things. I got rid of the steam-driven desk-top computer — the Mother Ship — at my last move. I’ve been on the internet (Lordy!!) for more than 30 years— long before GUI…if you know what I mean. So, in a way I was there all along. In the beginning, where I worked, I was the gatekeeper for the internet access. You had to come to me to get a password and authorization to have the privilege of gaining access to the WWW. We had no microcomputers. Access was through a labyrinthine set of portals and commands on the mainframe computer. It was like a secret compartment in the “big box” and I had the keys.  People were very nice to me then but there really wasn’t much reason to be on the internet. It was mostly academics and scientists and a few tech savvy people communicating in dull text messages or posting lengthy documents that few people read. There was no commercial content. Even getting an image of something was a novelty.

I’ve had a cell phone for ten years or more but it was a mobile phone and nothing more. It was an old flip-phone and it served me well. I once tumbled 30 feet off of a cliff and landed on the flip-phone in my hip pocket and we both survived. We were a little worse for wear but we were OK and the phone might have kept me from getting banged up more than I was. Later, I fell into my goldfish pond and the flip-phone tried to die but I was able to resuscitate it and it went on for another year or so as if nothing happened. It was a good friend.

In December of last year I got hearing aids…something I needed for a while. Here was an electronic gizmo that worked fine and did what it was supposed to do. But wait…as they say on TV. I can have more than just a hearing instrument — in fact I did have more. I can be wired for sound. The hearing aids come with a discreet little gadget that hangs around my neck concealed under my shirt that has several buttons and a microphone that controls the programs in the hearing aids. Yes, they are programmable. They also will talk to my mobile phone using Bluetooth so that when I get a phone call all I have to do is push a button under my shirt and I get people talking to me through my ear pieces and they hear me through the little microphone…all hands free (almost). So now you can see me wandering around the mall or grocery store talking to myself. But wait…that’s not all! I can listen to music or podcasts, too, or get an app that checks my batteries and controls the programs even better… but not with my flip-phone. I need an iPhone.

For several weeks my little old flip-phone was trying hard to live up to expectations but it would overheat during telephone calls. It got so hot that I could barely touch it and it finally passed out…ending the phone call. OK…it lived a good life but it was time to step up and get the iPhone.

It was a frustrating month when I got the iPhone because it really didn’t work as planned. While it was great in theory, it was a mess in everyday usage because the new app and Bluetooth were picking up signals and chatter from the iPhone and feeding them into my ears every 45 seconds. I think they call that instability and I was becoming more and more unstable as time went on. Finally we (I had four other people trying to figure it out) accidentally found the solution. It had nothing to do with a hammer or a flushing toilet. There is a little known setting on the iPhone that changed the way it communicated with the hearing aid app and the associated Bluetooth connection.  All is well…mostly.

So here I am now…  If I was having an out-of-body experience and looking down on myself, say in my local coffee shop, I’d see that I’m probably staring at my tablet screen with my iPhone sitting on the table and my thingy around my neck monitoring my ear pieces and telling the iPhone what the status is while waiting for your all important phone call.

Oh…That vinyl record I bought is Annie Lennox singing some old songs…some vintage Patsy Cline, some Hoagy Carmichael, Billie Holliday, “I put a spell on you”, “Summertime”….yes, very nice. And it plays on a turntable with a stylus and I can hear it fine…without the iPhone.