It has been a bit of a rough time around here.

It started a little over two weeks ago, when, due to the vagaries of scheduling, I wound up working nine days in a row. My ninth day was a week ago Wednesday, and by the time I finished my shift, all I wanted to do was go home, take a shower, and relax for the rest of the evening.

I arrived home to discover that city workmen were re-paving the sidewalk in front of my house. All well and good (who doesn't like smooth sidewalks?)...except that one of the workmen came up to tell me that they had broken the water main leading to my house, and all my water was shut off until it could be repaired.

Oh, joy.

Fortunately, my neighbors agreed to let them run a hose from their front spigot into my main line, which worked pretty well...except for a few hours when my neighbor needed to use the spigot to water the front yard and didn't know how to turn the connection to my house back on afterward. Nothing like using the bathroom and then having to steal water out of the dogs' water tank to wash your hands because nothing is coming out of the faucet. ~_~

The repair work was finished by this Wednesday, so that problem was cleared up without too much fuss. Then another issue arose on Thursday, when I was making a batch of whole wheat naan to eat with curry for supper. I rolled the dough into balls and set it on the dinner table to rise while I went out to water the front yard (which was incredibly dry after going the entire time without water - I couldn't connect the garden hose while the line was being used by the hose from the neighbor's house).

I came back inside to discover that my crazy beagle had latched onto my tablecloth and dragged it down to pull everything on the table over to where he could reach it. He had eaten four of the naan dough balls by the time I caught him. As it turns out, dough will just sit in a dog's stomach and block it up. He ended up at the emergency vet, where they spent all day Friday trying to figure out what to do to get rid of the mass of dough.

By Friday evening, they had concluded that the only way to get the dough out was surgery. Luckily for Benny (not to mention my bank account), when they were taking the final X-rays for the surgeon, they saw that after sitting in his stomach for 30+ hours, it was finally starting to move. They were able to forgo surgery and let the dough work its way out naturally. I was able to bring him back home Saturday afternoon, where he will be treated to a diet of bland food for two days to let his stomach recover.

Crossing fingers that this week will be less eventful.
Game I Viewed:
Yokohama Deluxe
Status: Funded

This game by the same designer as Trains and Rolling Japan was just released at the Spring Tokyo Game Market in May, and now Tasty Minstrel Games is running a campaign to bring a version of it to the rest of the world. They are adding lots of custom wooden bits for resources and redoing some of the art for clarity. I'm not backing, since I bought the original version in Japan and I don't need two copies of the same game, but I would recommend it.
Benny is apparently under the impression that any item within his reach in the yard is his to eat. A couple weeks ago, I made the mistake of harvesting a few carrots in front of him, and he suddenly realized that there was even food under the ground, free for the taking. I came home from work one day to find that big pits had been excavated in three of my garden beds, where he had tried to get at the carrots and potatoes.

I hurriedly re-planted any of the items he had uprooted and watered them in the hope that they might survive. I wrapped fencing around the bed with the carrots and threw chicken wire over the potatoes to keep him out.

The cherries on my tree have all been ripening over the past couple weekends as well, so I spent a number of hours picking, inspecting, washing, pitting, and freezing several quarts of them. My strategy of enclosing the tree in a tent of insect netting worked fairly well. I did have a small amount of insect damage, but not nearly as much as last year. It also protected the tree from a certain hungry beagle, who liked to lie in the shade of the tree and casually strip the fruit off the lower branches.

This past weekend, I noticed that my beans were starting to get to the tender snap stage, so I spent several hours putting up more fencing around the most valuable experimental plots. Just in the nick of time, too; I came home today to find that one of my non-fenced beds of beans had been trampled and ravaged. Thankfully, it was only my plot of beans for eating that I planted around the experimental corn, so it's not a huge loss. If I'm lucky, the plants may even survive and keep producing. Clearly I need more fencing.
Game I Backed:
Hero Realms
Status: Funded

This fantasy re-theme of the Star Realms deckbuilding game will have an expansion for a cooperative (or solo) RPG campaign. I backed it to get the campaign, but I'm not thrilled with the way the project is being run. For one thing, anyone who wants the campaign is forced to back at the highest tier ($72 plus $10 shipping) and get a bunch of extra stuff, like $20 worth of Boss packs that aren't used in the campaign. For another thing, the campaign isn't completely designed yet, so there are no rules or gameplay examples for backers to make an informed decision. I'm considering dropping to a lower tier and picking up the campaign expansion when it's released for retail sale.


Honorable Mention:
The Duchess
Status: Funded

This is a gaming table that is being manufactured at a standardized size so that it can be offered at a lower price than a custom table. For a solid piece of furniture, it's an impressively low cost, even including shipping.
Games I Viewed:
The Pirate Republic
Status: 35% funded

This pirate game can apparently be played either competitively or cooperatively. I think the art is fantastic, but it seems pretty focused on combat. Also, unless it has a serious surge in the last 48 hours, it doesn't appear likely to fund.


Massive Darkness
Status: Funded

This is a gateway-level cooperative dungeon crawl. I was interested in it because the company producing it (Cool Mini or Not) has had many successful projects in the past. However, the gameplay looks exceptionally bland and simplistic (kill monsters with dice, pick up loot, level up, repeat), which is disappointing.


Hope
Status: Funded

Cooperative science fiction board game that prides itself on using hexagonal tiles patterned to give a 3-D illusion (like Q-bert cubes). The art is interesting, but I'm not thrilled by so-called cooperative games where players "have to coordinate their movements to defeat" the enemy but "only one player will be granted all the honors" in the end. That defeats the purpose of being cooperative.
This weekend, I put in a number of hours working out in the yard. I did some emergency weeding in the front on Sunday. I'm happy to see that I have a good collection of carrots getting ready to flower there. My plan is to let the carrots grow "wild" in the front, then collect the seeds and plant them in the raised beds in the back yard for eating. I just harvested some of the carrots I planted this way in the spring, and now I have to figure out what I want to do with them. Soup? Or carrot cake? Possibly roasted together with some potatoes and rosemary? Enchilada stuffing? So many choices.

Today I spent a lot of time pruning in the back. I cut off bunches of vines from my grape trellis (not that it shows) and wisteria. I also pruned back the crabapple trees and hacked the dead branches off my sakura to give the new baby branches room to grow.

I harvested a handful of blackberries, so that season is beginning. I'm going to give the cherries a few more days to turn a deeper shade of red. The first plums should also be ready in a few days. I need to pick at least one of the kale plants in the back yard, but before that, I have to wash out all the bowls I've been using for making bread, so I have something to put the kale in.

One of my grape vines has all its fruit near the ground, and I don't want the dogs eating it, so I set up a tall fenced perimeter around the whole plant. I'm hoping they won't consider it worth the effort to dig underneath.

The bee hive seems to be doing well. Sometimes I like to stand near it and watch the activity at the entrance. It's interesting to see the workers returning with their little leg pouches full of pollen. They haven't done anything in the honey super I set on the top a few weeks ago, so I assume they're still working on filling the two brood boxes.

It's exciting to spot all the flowers on my bean plants. The color of the flowers is one of the first signs I have of genetic segregation among some of the hybrids. It doesn't really mean anything, since I don't actually select based on flower color, but seeing sibling plants, some with white flowers and some with purple flowers, is at least an indication that I will get good variation among them.
It was quite the overwhelming weekend for me here. It started on Thursday morning, when my neighbor went into labor and I got to watch the dog while she was at the hospital. Taking three dogs out for a walk together is quite the challenge. (Though, really, my two are the ones that cause all the trouble.)

Friday I packed up a wheeled case full of games and headed to the next town over for the start of KublaCon. I started by grabbing a table and studying the rules for some of the games I had brought, since I hadn't played all of them yet. I didn't do a lot the first day, but I did join in a game of Pandemic: The Cure, and someone was willing to try out Yokohama with me. I also browsed the dealer's room, where they were running demos of Colony, a new game coming out based on the Japanese game Age of Craft (which I own and have been playing as often as possible). Colony re-themes the original game and makes a few rules tweaks to improve the experience. I got the demo guy to give me a rundown of all the differences between Colony and the original.

(I asked if it would be possible to play the game without the attack cards--spoiler alert: it is!--but he was like, "They're pretty much the only way to slow down someone who's in the lead." I told him, "In my groups, if someone is in the lead, we tend to say, 'Yay, good job!'" He seemed befuddled by this notion.)

On Saturday, I went early to stake out a table near where the math trade meetup location would be. However, since it was in the hotel atrium (away from all the "looking for players" flags), I didn't have much luck getting anyone to join me for games. Instead, I played a couple things solitaire, including Clacks: A Discworld Board Game. That was an interesting puzzle game that can be either competitive or cooperative/solo.

At the math trade, I met up with someone who was interested in trying Yokohama, so I made an appointment to meet up with him later in the afternoon and teach it to him. Then I ran into someone I had introduced to Machi Koro back when it first came out (2 years ago), and he told me that his group still loves the game. He invited me to come play at his table. I ended up joining him for a game of 51st State: Master Set. I had never played it before, but it is essentially a re-theme of Imperial Settlers (one of my Top 5 games)...or, rather Imperial Settlers is a popular re-theme of the original 51st State, and the new Master Set is an updated version with tweaks inspired by Imperial Settlers. In any case, even though I had never played before (and the others had), my experience with Imperial Settlers helped a lot, and I wiped the floor with them. I later went on to keep my Yokohama appointment, after which it was getting late and I had to go home.

I got home to find that my neighbors had returned from the hospital with their new baby. They invited me over for a few minutes and let me hold him. (They kept trying to take pictures of the dog and baby together, but the dog didn't want to hold still long enough for them to grab the camera for a good shot.)

Sunday, I went back to the convention early, and I was fortunate to run into a group that I had played with last year. I essentially stayed at the table with them all day long, and we switched back and forth between playing their games and my games. They were excited to get the chance to play some of my Japanese games, particularly Hedgehog's Dilemma. We also tried out Neko Yashiki, which is a game about trying to coax as many cats as possible out of a vacant lot and into your yard, although it took me longer to figure out the rules than it did to play the game.

I thought about going back for some final gaming on Monday, but I had so many tasks piling up at home that I decided I couldn't. Instead, I used the day to get work done around the house, such as sweeping and mopping the floors and giving baths to the dogs. In the afternoon, I put a tent of insect netting up around my cherry tree, in the hope of protecting it against the fruit flies that damaged a lot of the fruit last year...not to mention birds and dogs.

And that's another thing...it turns out that the dogs have been eating all the fruit they can reach in the back yard. I caught Benny stripping unripe apples off of my apple trees, rummaging for berries in my raspberry patch, and reclining under the cherry tree gulping down everything on the lower branches. I caught Rei stealing a strawberry and even nibbling on the corn leaves. Those two are stinkers. I found four ripe currants on one of my plants (new this year)...I don't know whether that was all the plant produced, or if there had been more but the dogs already ate them.

I also found that my sakura tree is trying to survive by sprouting a couple tiny new branches. I'll keep watering it to see whether it will make it through the rest of the year.

The rest of the garden is doing great. The beans are starting to climb up their poles, the squash and tomatoes are starting to produce flowers, and the figs in the front yard are swelling. I've already begun picking rhubarb, and the blackberries are just around the corner. I even have some huge kale plants that I should harvest pretty soon, before they start to bolt in the warm weather.
It has been an incredibly eventful few weeks for me, and I am still trying to get caught up.

Golden Week 2016 )

I had quite a lot of house work and yard work and other things to catch up on after my vacation. The garden needed tending, and I spent some time replanting a few things that either hadn't sprouted or had gotten damaged after sprouting. The weeds in some areas of the yard are out of control, but I would need a solid 2-3 days to clear them up, and I have too many other items on the agenda to devote that much time to weeding.

I added another box to my hive, filled with frames that the bees can use to store honey. They haven't started using it yet (it's still pretty early in the season, and they're concentrating on raising more baby bees), but eventually it will be their winter food storage.

One of these days, I will actually start unpacking...
Game I Backed:
Darkest Night: Second Edition
Status: Funded

This is a cooperative fantasy game in which players are heroes in a realm nearly submerged in darkness by an evil Necromancer, and they must travel the map to find items to defeat him. I was interested in it before, but I never bought it because the rules required the use of 4 heroes, regardless of player number. The new version not only includes a lot of expansion content, it has updated rules that allows for different numbers of heroes.


Game I Viewed:
This War of Mine
Status: Funded

This cooperative game is about the non-combatants during a war, and how they must struggle to survive amid many hardships. Apparently it is based on a popular video game. I think the idea of the game is fascinating, but I doubt anyone in my game groups would be willing to play it due to the dark theme.
It's a Vegeta communion wafer!

Are you going to eat your midotaka body of Christ?

They're together forever in my stomach now.

I conglomerated you all together into a giant robot of Denise's friends.

We should go shop socking.

...Because Mister Donut was blinding us...

Our place isn't good to play games in...unless the game is "Try to use the bathroom successfully."

Death by coin locker!

Denise, vegetable healing!

Jim is writing my kind of fanfic. First they're in love, then something happens, then they're in Super Love.

This is supposed to be a date. Don't make me punch you in the face.
--Just like our wedding...

Captain Hook's fishy orgy?

That burger was my destiny!

We need to fix our country, so that men feel okay wearing a kitty hoodie.

My little flag is there...you just can't see it.

Am I flat enough?

This is the sadness of making the kitty-miyaki.
--You have to eat his face!

This is the flavor that's gonna save our marriage!

I've never had an eargasm like this before.
The garden is coming along nicely, for the most part. The sad news is that it looks like my efforts to save the sakura tree have failed. The poor thing only has about three leaves on it, and the rest is essentially dead. I'll have to find something to replace it next winter.

In happier news, it looks like my milkweed plant is finally going to produce flowers this year. I'm looking forward to collecting seeds from that. Also, the beans from my variety trial are all sprouting, which is exciting. I can hardly wait to see what results I will get this year, particularly from the Four Corners Gold x Rio Zape cross. All of the tomato and squash transplants seem to be surviving, so that's good.

I'm working on putting up a wire fence around my cherry tree, so that I can drape the insect netting over it like a tent. I only got about halfway done this weekend, though, so I'll have to do the rest this week. Last year I put bird netting directly on the tree, but that has two disadvantages. First, the netting gets tangled up in the tips of the branches, making it hard to remove to pick the cherries. Second, the neighbor's dog would run underneath the tree and get caught in the netting where it dangled, then rip the netting trying to get loose. I'm hoping that using a wire fence as a framework will eliminate those issues.

One of my apple trees is showing signs of producing a good crop this year. That's pretty nice. The other two trees are kind of struggling, probably because their location is kind of shady under the bottlebrush tree. They should perform better when they grow bigger. The mulberry tree in the front yard is covered with berries that should be ripe in a couple weeks. I should probably put netting over that one, too, because the birds ate most of them last year.

The bees are doing pretty well, from what I've seen. They have about half the brood box filled with comb now, and the queen is laying eggs.
Game I Backed:
The Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game
Status: Funded

In this game, players get individual decks based on the Dresden Files fantasy novel series and attempt to take out foes and solve mysteries before a final showdown. I backed it instantly based on the cooperative play and my enjoyment of the series, but I'm considering dropping out because backers essentially pay full retail price PLUS shipping and don't get much in the way of special bonuses in return. I may as well wait until retail and buy it then.


Games I Viewed:
Vivarium
Status: 49% funded

Players are different species of animals struggling for survival. I love the art, but I need to look more closely at the gameplay.


Cavern Tavern
Status: Funded

This fantasy game uses dice as workers for a "dice placement" mechanism. The theme and the custom dice look interesting, but I'll have to examine it more closely to see if it's any better than Kingsburg, which I already own.


Honorable Mentions:
Chalice Champion
Status: Funded

These metal coasters have a protective railing that prevents glasses from tipping over accidentally, so people don't have to worry about drinks spilling on their games. The concept is intriguing, but they are rather expensive.


The Game Canopy
Status: Funded

This custom bag is designed specifically for carrying and protecting board games. However, it is extremely expensive, accessories like the shoulder strap are extra, and shipping is a hefty additional charge.
My bees arrived this past week, and I spent some time getting them established in the hive. Right now, they are in a brood box (a place for the queen to lay eggs) with a feeder (filled with sugar water) stacked on top. The bees will spend the first few weeks making comb for the new eggs. Only after that part is established will they be able to turn their efforts toward making honey. The good thing is, my bottlebrush tree is in full bloom right now, so the bees have plenty of flowers to forage right here in the yard.

I spent the weekend getting the garden switched from spring to summer. I harvested the last of the loquats and all of the spring potatoes. Then I cleared out the raised beds and planted my summer crops. This year I'll be growing four types of tomatoes, three types of squash, flour corn, summer potatoes, and of course lots of beans (27 different selections).

Now comes the loooong wait until everything starts producing. The whole garden is covered with cages and bamboo stakes and fencing. I'm hoping that will be enough to keep the dogs from digging in the raised beds.

My blueberries are starting to ripen, so I'll have to put new netting over those, and the cherries should be turning red in a couple weeks. Last year, I lost a lot of my cherry crop because of a type of fruit fly; when the fly lays eggs in the ripe cherries, it punches little holes in the skin, and so not only do the fruit end up with fly larvae in them, they start to rot due to the holes. This year I'm going to try covering the tree with insect netting to keep the fruit flies out. Hopefully that will do the trick.

I have a lot of pruning to do--the grape vines and wisteria in particular need to be cut back--but I'll have to work on that project next weekend.
It has been an eventful couple of weeks. I returned from Georgia on April 1 and got a chance to see all the changes in the month since I left. My dad had done a ton of work in the yard, including adding raised beds, laying down paving stones, constructing a grape arbor and several trellises, and building rustic log furniture out of the remains of an old maple tree that I cut down soon after moving into my house. (For reference, it used to look like this.)

He also worked on assembling my beehive. Once I get the combs installed inside, I'll move it out to the concrete pad where all the maple wood used to be. I would have done that this week, but it's been raining.

The wisteria and cherry tree are in full bloom, and the plum tree has a good number of baby fruit. In a couple of weeks, I'll be ready to harvest the spring potatoes and plant my summer crops. What I find quite exciting is that I planted a bunch of the seeds I collected from the potato fruit I picked last year, and now I have a pot full of baby potato seedlings. I'm looking forward to seeing what kinds of tubers they will produce.

I planted runner beans all along the chain fence so that they can climb it like a trellis. They should have pretty flowers in early summer.

Brooke arrived at the airport on Tuesday, and I spent the rest of the week walking her around and getting her accustomed to the place. She seems eager to get started.
Game I Viewed:
Aeon's End
Status: Funded

This is a cooperative fantasy deckbuilder that introduces a new deck mechanic: Players don't shuffle their discard piles, they simply flip the discard pile over to make a new draw deck. Instead, player turn order is randomized with a deck of turn cards. I'm strongly tempted by this one, which reminds me of Shadowrift, except with less fiddlyness. I still have nearly four weeks to decide.


Honorable Mention:
Rahdo Runs Through... Year Five
Status: Funded

Game reviewer Richard Ham is once again funding his video series, with lots of different rewards for backers.
Games I Viewed:
Watchmen of Destiny
Status: Funded

This is a card game about assembling and equipping your own personal army of heroes. The key feature is that the characters are all adorable animals. I would be really tempted by this one, except I'm trying to save up my game budget for GenCon.


Zephyr: Winds of Change
Status: 46% funded

The key feature of this card game is that it has transparent character cards that can be placed over different background cards for a modular experience. Also, it can be played solitaire.
This past week was tense, as the handlers practiced various issues to increase the chances of passing the exam. We had a game night on Wednesday (borrowing our instructor's copy of Dominion) to de-stress before the big day. The test was on Thursday morning, and we all passed, yay!

Brooke relaxed after the exam with a belly rub.

During our final week of training, we will work on more advanced matters, such as getting the dogs acclimated to an airport environment and working with other dogs in the room.

In other news, I am making good progress on my sweater. I have separated off loops for the sleeves, so it is now wearable. All I have to do now is continue repeating rows until it's the right length.

On Friday I will finally head home, where my parents have been getting a lot accomplished in my absence...and my dogs have been getting into mischief...
This week we ran through our practice exam. The trainers intentionally make the practice run as hard as possible to bring any potential problems to light. Brooke found enough targets to pass, but she had excessive false responses to non-targets, so that is something we can work on over the next few days.

I'm making progress on my knitting project, which is encouraging. It's actually starting to look like clothing.
This week has gone by quickly. I boarded a plane early Monday morning and made it safely to Georgia. There were some technical difficulties when checking in, but everything was eventually resolved, and I was able to dump my stuff in my hotel room.

I went across the street for some supply shopping at Wal-Mart. The first thing I noticed was that there were SO MANY plastic bags. Apparently they are still in use here, and I haven't seen many people with their own bags. In fact, when I took some of the bags that I got on that first trip back on another visit to reuse them, the greeter asked me if I had something to return.

The beagle class started right away on Tuesday morning. We had three days to meet the four dogs picked for us and submit ranked preference lists before being assigned official primary dogs on Friday. Amazingly, we each got our first pick. I will be working with Brooke. She's a small female that works very similar to the way Benny did.

Saturday, I decided I should do something productive with my spare time. I did bring a few board games (I even had a bit of a game night with my classmates on Friday, during which I taught them Forbidden Island), but I didn't have space in my luggage to bring a huge selection, so I am trying to ration them. Instead, I decided to teach myself to knit. I visited a number of nearby shops to pick up some reference books and materials, then spent all afternoon practicing. I think I'm making good progress.

This week, we will be acclimating the dogs to the airport environment and preparing for our certification exam.
There was a bit of a delay getting my solar panels installed. They're all on the roof now, but the service can't start until the inspector comes by and approves the installation. That's been scheduled for Monday.

The other big news is that Benny retired this weekend. His last day of work was on Saturday, after which I brought him to my house to get acquainted with Rei and the neighbors' dog. Early indications are that Benny and Rei will get along rather well. I had all of today to get Benny settled, and then tomorrow morning I will be taking off on an early flight for my four-week beagle replacement class. My parents will be dog-sitting until I return.

I won't be taking a computer with me the way I did last time. I'll just have my Kindle for internet. I plan to pack a few solitaire board games to keep me occupied in the evenings.
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