New entry in my Kilt blog 9/21/2011

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Trees and Walking Sticks

Back in March I mentioned that I had made a walking stick. I guess when you have to have a dedicated walking stick it's time to admit that time and gravity are catching up with you. Over the years I have needed one from time to time for various reasons but for the last 20 years I have used a well polished ash spade handle. It had a weak spot down by the spade and broke there in a fit of work. It has doubled as a “dog ball” bat as well. “Dog Ball” is a game you play with an aggressive dog that doesn't know it's place and wants a bite of you.

We live on a half acre on which there is a Grove of six old live oak trees.They are located on the west end of this 100ft(30.48m) by 200ft(60.96m) piece of land in a semi-circle around a very small house (690 square feet or 64.1 square meters). The eastern 1/4 acre has a row of seven hack berry and two wild black cherry trees along the northern side and the rest is given over to garden and grass. She Who Must Be Obeyed has planted 7 or eight dwarf fruit trees, a redwood and a pear tree. We moved here for the existing Live Oak trees.
The surface roots of the tree I sleep under. They extend underground for at least 50 feet. It drinks my water, I enjoy its shade.

The trees all pruned themselves during hurricane Gustav and the wild black cherry broke off at about 10 feet above ground. For the last eight months we have been living with these dead falls hanging over our heads. Last week I got a wake up call when one of the broken limbs came down. The scary part is I was on the property and within 50 feet of that tree at all times and I didn't even hear it. It was big enough to kill.

Raw material

The tree man came last weekend with his equipment and the cutting began. Painful for me to watch but it was necessary. After it was done the trees looked a lot better and actually seemed kind of perky (tree huggers imagination).

I have come to love the wild black cherry. It blooms enthusiastically from April through May with beautiful white blossoms and lots of them. I figured that the one broken off below all of its limbs was a goner but it sprouted little tiny limbs from the trunk with a profusion of leaves and seems to be in the business of surviving. I hope it does. I have left the over sized stump with hope. The other one didn't suffer as much damage to its leaf bearing limbs and I'm pretty sure it's OK. I've not tried the cherry's as they are very small and stringent. Some people here think they are poison but I have read that Native Americans used them to make pemmican and they don't kill the birds.

From these trees I got enough raw material to make some simple outdoor furniture and many canes or walking sticks. I have it stacked and drying. I could see a lot more promise in that pile of brush but SWMBO was having one of her regular fits about the brush pile and everything else she could think of so I had it hauled off. What a waste. I need to be stronger.

The long one is my staff (a druid needs a staff). I keep pounding it against the ground but I don't even get a wisp of smoke much less thunder and lightning. A strange thing about these is that people want to touch them including me. A dear friend when he saw the middle one ask me if it was magic. He was joking of course but I'm so happy that his imagination is still alive and well. It certainly looks like it could be magic.
This tree is Amanda's (my princess) tree. It has a platform by me with stairs for her tree house. It has a knotted rope swing that is also access and a swing. I hope to make it more complete before I die or she grows up. The aluminum ladder? Why not it gets used too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Oboy, Tamales

I don't know exactly how long it has been since since Ms Donna, my bride, better known as SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) has made tamales but it must be close to 20 years. Now for those of you that have never tasted homemade tamales with ingredients adjusted to your taste you don't know what your are missing.

These are the first batch so they are not perfect but most people would not know. I am the official taster and these need salt and Cayenne so I only ate two. They are full of pork that was stewed in so much cayenne chile that I had a hard time tasting the broth but it still wasn't enough. That will be adjusted tomorrow.
This is the remains of the stove mess but she had a real accident here and I missed getting a picture. I also missed the picture of the table with all the corn shucks soaking and other stuff. It ain't simple.

These tamales are pork and the masa is made with the pork broth heavily seasoned so that it is not bland and this is traditional hand food just like tacos. These are steamed in corn shucks and tied with strips of corn shucks in the old time way. If they are right then you can peel off the shuck and it will stay together for the short time it takes to stuff it in your tamale hole.

There are all kinds of tamales, pork, beef, chicken, turkey and some of my favorites are the fruit tamales. Fresh strawberry or apple tamales are great. SHE says I like mango tamales as well but I don't remember. Probably so.

I wonder why she (SWMBO) is doing this. Does she feel guilty for being such an ass this last weekend? It doesn't matter, I have tamales and all is forgiven. Men are so easy, especially Old Fools.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Bicycle Chic

I can't help myself. I have kissed the prettiest girl in the world and in fact I have kissed the two prettiest girls in the world. This is one of them. She is the youngest of my princesses. The older one doesn't know she is still my princess but I know. Being with either one is like being on drugs, it's such an uplifting experience. Such a foolish old man. Now you the know the reason for Old Fool.

She is on a 1979 Schwinn made in Chicago. It is in the process of being restored and upgraded. Everything on it is original except for the front wheel, chain and the seat. I'm changing the wheels because the 24 x 1 3/8 Schwinn tires are just to difficult to get. The back wheel in the picture is original and I have no idea how old the tire and tube are but I'm guessing 20 years at least. Too bad that 24 inch bikes were killed by the stingray because it is a great size. It fits this 10 year old perfectly, it fits her grandma and it fits me.

She likes being a girl.

Looks good on a scooter too.

I,m pining as she is gone again and I do not know when she will return.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Gone Fishing ll and an update on Elmer the air compressor

Tuesday April 15. 2009

We did it again and that is the second time this spring. It was a sunny, not so warm day and windy again. The fishing wasn't so important as it was all about the “Princess”. The pictures tell the tale. Between the two crab nets and the two fish she caught she was pretty busy. I, having a sinus and ear problem, was of absolutely no use other than for putting up the hammock and taking a nap. Sufficient on the first and outstanding on the second. There was some excitement when I gave the hammock a test flight as the fine Chinese rope broke and dropped me like a stone. It was only about 8 inches to the ground and it was soft dirt and grass so no harm was done. You can't trust anything from China.

She is much better at casting than I am and more diligent about the crab nets.

If it were up to me the crabs would get a nice lunch while I took a nap. These little blue crabs here are sort of like peeling and eating a Valencia Orange. They are just too much trouble for what you get.

She let this one go but eight or ten of these makes a nice meal.

Catching fish is not all that important but “going fishing” is.

There was hammock time.

Then there was this tree.

Update on Elmer, the air compressor
I guess I was working on it in my sleep a few nights back as when I woke up I had the answer. As soon as I could stand to be up on my forked end (I'm not much good in the mornings) I took it apart again and removed the reed valve. The reed valve is the the part in the drawing outlined in red. It is a paper thin piece of spring steel. I polished it with fine steel wool (000). The seat I cleaned with my thumbnail and some more fine steel wool. It is pitted and there were minuscule bumps of carbon on it but I got it clean before my thumbnail wore out. There is nothing cost effective that I can do about the pits. The seat is pretty rough and needs to be perfectly smooth. I then put it back together (breaking only one head bolt) and started it up. It worked. There is still some blow back at the intake but the pressure comes right up to 110 pounds faster than it ever has. It should be good for another 50 years. So what do I do with the new compressor I have ordered?

Your are looking at the bottom of the “head”. The “Air In” and “Air Out” holes are on the other side and go into their respective manifolds to do their business. The dotted lines indicate internal passages.The “Piston” is not actually the piston but is a slightly depressed area the size of the piston. The clearance is about the thickness of the reed valve. It is a very simple and effective design. This is about half size.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Making Bread

Todays Bread

I make bread at least once a week. Sometimes its pans of rolls and sometimes it's a loaf. Today I wanted a loaf. It's made with unbleached flour and milled flax seed in place of any other fat except for the fat in the one very small egg from a very small Easter egg chicken and the low fat milk. It has some local cane sugar in it. I make bread as food as opposed to the the kind you get at the store which is really an edible paper plate. Sometimes that's OK but mostly I want bread as a food. It's a weakness of mine and
I make all kinds. I can live on bread and water and get fat.

Yes that is real butter. It came from a cow. There are no vegetables in it except what went through the cow. Another weakness. I live on less than 1400 calories a day and I get to choose what kind.

That was not all I did today but more about that later. My Princess is supposed to be coming Sunday (l'll believe it when it happens) and I'm downright giddy. Old men can be giddy can't they?

I'll make sweet rolls Sunday.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Pedal Powered Airships

For you steampunk fans, Victorians, pedal power obsessives and airship freaks this is for you.
These Callier chocolate commercials are Jules Vernian in concept and make you want more commercial.. They remind me of “The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne” series which, in my childish way, I loved.

Hotair airships with pedal power and chocolate the magic drug. What more could you want?

When I posted this in my bicycle forums blog yesterday I thought I had a real scoop but this morning whilst catching up on reading one of the many blogs I am behind on I found it in Voyages Extraordinaires as well.

This is from their welcome message.
"Voyages Extraordinaires is a weblog for people of intelligence and good breeding who enjoy Victorian-Edwardian Scientific Romances and Retro-Futurism, Victoriana and Neo-Victorianism, Voyages Extraordinaires and Imperialist Romances, Gothic Horror, Pulp Fiction, the Golden Ages of Hollywood and of Travel, silent and early films, points suprêmes and real life adventures into places exotic and historic."
Give it a visit. They come up with some very good stuff.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Old Fools Journal: A Tool Bites the Dust

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

I know better than to attach living qualities to inanimate objects but when it comes to my tools I find it difficult not to. They are living things and the life I feel in them is just as real as when I place my hand on my dogs head and feel it's life. I have many old tools some handed down from my parents and grandparents. I have tools from others that I never knew that have passed tools on to me but I know of them and I feel their life when I handle their tools. My grandfathers handsaw, my first wifes father's handsaw, the hammers with the well polished handles that are older than I am, my dad's mechanic tools, my mothers skillet, long guns that were passed from my grandfather to my dad then to me are examples. I hardly have a tool that doesn't have a history and I have many. I never touch these tools without remembering where they came from and who has handled or made them in the past. I don't have names for them just a quiet mental acknowledging of their origin. Which brings me to a dying old friend.

This old friend is a tool that would be considered more modern in that it is electric but when I tell you how it came to have life you will see why I have feelings for it. You see it is an air compressor but not just any air compressor. Its an air compressor called “Elmer” named after its creator Elmer. Elmer was 83 years old and retired from a multitude of trades but he was first and foremost a maker. Elmer had just acquired some new tools, a new automatic shutoff hacksaw and a newfangled argon gas wire feed arc welder. He needed something to build.

At this time we were living in Mexico (my bride and I) and we had stashed the old Greyhound bus I call Rose in Quartzsite, Arizona for us to have a place in the U.S. Rose is a retired Greyhound Bus converted to a motor home (house car) but that is another story I'll tell at another time. Elmer spent his winters in Quartzsite.

While there on our annual visit (1989 I think) to the United States Elmer and I were going over some of the stuff in my old pickup truck that we had picked up in California to take back to our house in Mexico. One of those item was a electric motor from the 1930's or 40's shown in the picture. It was given to me along with a bunch of other old stuff that was in the workshop of a house another old friend had just bought. It was said to have been stored in that shop for at least 35 years. We hooked it up and it ran fine. It is of a type that has two sets of brushes. It starts under load with one set then once up to speed retracts them. It has incredible start up torque. It's really weird to listen to it shift gears. Elmer saw that motor and decided that I needed an air compressor. He really wanted to build something that would use his new automatic hacksaw and welderPretty soon we were in his van running around the desert to various junk piles picking up parts. He found the compressor pictured here in an old friends dump. The old friend said that it had been laying in that dump at least 50 years and he had no idea when it was really discarded. Turns out it was the compressor from possibly an ammonia refrigeration system or worse a sulfur dioxide system (early refrigeration used some really bad stuff) and as far as I can tell maybe from the 1920's or even earlier. It is a small but substantial cast iron piece of machinery which is another way to say that it is beautiful.

At the next dump we found an old dump truck and remove the air brake tank. It was small enough to fit into the automatic hacksaw. It was too long but that is what the automatic hacksaw and the welder were for. Rummaging around in the parts piles and junk bins he came up with all the rest of the paraphernalia that is necessary to make an air compressor work. Soon I had an air compressor with parts some of which were older than me and not one copper penny had been spent. Elmer was a maker and there was no junk just parts that had not found their purpose yet.

It worked and it has worked for more than 20 years. The legs rusted off the tank and it developed a leak but no problem. For a long time I just let it leak and I propped it up with a two by four. Eventually I mixed and matched the only parts of my dad's Craftsman compressor that lasted. That was the tank and gages. In the time I have had this homemade contraption two craftsmen compressors were worn out so I have two tanks equaling 12 gallons.

Now It's just tired. It looks good, it looks strong but it is tired. I have taken it apart, cleaned, adjusted and said magical incantations but it just won't pump air. I miss the sound already. On start up the motor growled then faded to a growling hum and then it just made a “pah-ca-ty pah-ca-ty” sound. Old and rhythmic music to my ears.

A new pump is on the way but I have not forgotten the old one. It may take some time and I may have to do some creative parts matching but I'll bet that I can make it work again. If I can't I'll paint it bronze and make it into a garden ornament

Friday, April 3, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Steam Lives

Friday April 3, 2009
For those "Steam Junkys" out there this has probably already been seen but there some that don't get the "steam" in steampunk. Steam engines were the major movers in the so called industrial revolution and they still play a major role in our lives today. Think fossil fuel power plants and nuclear power plants. Steam provides the muscle in both. There are solar arrays that produce steam as the muscle. There are still steam trains, cars and pumps in use today around the world. The whistle on your tea kettle is steam powered. (what! You don't have a tea kettle? shame.)

This little 8 minute movie will get you steamed up if you like big steam driven machines or even if you just like big machines in general.
I so want to ride in this.

I have an image burned into what's left of my memory of standing on the viaduct over the railroad tracks on 3rd Street in Little Rock, Ark. We used to walk across that bridge from our house to my grandparents often but this time was different. It was night and the trains were running. It was early in WW2 and there was a lot of train movements day and night. As we stood there a steam engine pulling a great long load of freight passed under and we could look down into the open cab. The image of that open fire box was permanently etched into my brain that night and I think it instantly turned me into a steamhead. It looked to a small boy like the fires of hell. I didn't know what hell was but I loved fire. (too much, got me in trouble). Of course there was steam all around, you could smell it, feel it and the engine moved in a haze of it. Every time I see any train the memory of the sound, smell and that bright red fire returns.Not to mention the whistle. I have 16 train whistles in my sound file now down from hundreds. I got carried away. Remind me to tell you of my whistle making adventures. What fun.