New entry in my Kilt blog 9/21/2011

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Squirrel

Picture taken through a dirty galley window. I don't know who is watching who.
This is one of the many tree rats that live here. They look so cute but they are mean, vicious and bad tempered. Like people they are mean to each other as well as others. Drives the dog pack crazy.

Today was a day of maintenance which meant ironing my aloha shirts and two kilts just washed (hey, just because I'm an old hippy doesn't mean I don't like to be neat and clean), feeding the worms and cutting grass. Cutting grass also means murdering another million or so ants. I was not impressed with the movie "Ants".

The best part of this morning was no fleas. I believe we have exterminated a whole generation of those minuscule beast. They were living on our blood and I resent that.

Autumn is here in full force. I used heat this morning and air conditioning this afternoon. I didn't need either but I'm such a wimp and so spoiled.

My room mate, date and bride SWMBO looked oh so very nice today.

If I can get finished tidying up the garden tomorrow morning I think that instead of maintaining, building or inventing something I'll go for a bicycle ride. All depends on when my eyes will focus. They don't do well early.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Old Fools Journal: On Being Watched

Each time I ride by this corner I always have the feeling that I'm being watched. I thought at first that it was the pesky little yapper that lives in the yard behind the tree. Now days that dog either ignores me or gives me a little nod when I give it a salutatory bell ring. Even when the yapper is not there I still felt watched.

This last week I finally saw the face in the tree trunk. The tree is watching. Spooky.

Perhaps if I give it a greeting it won't seem so spooky. Being a self proclaimed Druid in a "grove of one" I am generally on good terms with trees.

So today being a nice day I thought to go to the local general store and restock my chemical warfare weapons of mass destruction heretofore referred to as WMD's. My last attack with boric acid on the back porch netted a haul of dead fleas that made the swept up boric acid look like salt and pepper. As it turned out I should have stayed in bed.
In trucker terms this is called a gravel bucket and if my head was as far up my butt as this drivers I would have ended up under those trailer wheels when he tried to right hook me today. Fortunately I saw him in my rear view mirror and knowing the competency and mentality of the fine southern gentlemen that drive these vehicles was already on the brakes and headed for the ditch. I think this moron was not even aware of how close he came to having an encounter with the state police over the dead bicyclist under his truck. It did provide entertainment for the witnesses but I think that was more like "look at that dumb ass out here on a bicycle on our car road". He sauntered into the pawn shop across the street probably to hock his watch so he could buy some of the cheap porn movies they advertise. 10 for only $9.99 each.As I was leaving the "deadly chemical store" it started to rain. I headed for the corner convenience store looking for shelter but as luck would have it the wind was from the north so what little shelter there was didn't help at all. Rolling with the punch I decided to go inside and have lunch. Lunch in this case would have been their really fattening hot-dog, which I like because they are sinfully delicious, or a "Subway", which is a poor substitute for a po'boy but I like them just the same. I couldn't get in because just then lightning struck, the power went out and everybody was coming out. Finding a place sort of out of the wind I took out my emergency plastic bag put everything that I didn't want wet inside, buried it in my semi-waterproof back pack and headed for home. I wasn't going to get any wetter, it wasn't cold and my bicycle with it's full fenders was performing flawlessly. The brakes were even working when wet.

It's a good thing they were. As I was passing the corner at the bank a very large gray car shot across the lane I was in making a mad dash for the spot I was about to be in. Brakes worked. So did mouth. Many bad words!&%#@^*!!mothe*r#%$@#son*f@Bi89t3h!! It was so close that I recognized the passenger through the windshield. I contemplated following them and venting a little more but thought better of it and proceeded towards home. Pretty soon I see a large gray car easing up next to me and a very concerned young lady with her head out of the window apologizing profusely. I ask if she had heard what I said and she had not so I said thanks and went on my way. The excuse was "we didn't see you". If I had been a pedestrian they would have seen me but being on a bicycle made me invisible.

As I passed the tree it didn't say anything but it did seem to have a more somber look.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Old Fools Journal: SNAKE

Last night about 1930 I stepped out my door headed for the house to dine with my bride and this was waiting for me. It wasn't actually waiting but more like passing through. It was very dark and the outside light was not yet on. Snakes (this kind and the two legged kind) are one of the reasons we have an outside light on at night. It was moving or I would never have seen it. We don't ordinarily bother with snakes other than to just shoo them on their way. We identified this one as a cottonmouth or water moccasin. Pick the name you like. That in itself was still not reason enough to dispatch it but It displayed a very aggressive attitude when we tried to turn it away from the back porch where the dog pack and their cats hang out. I could not have that. Neither I nor the house mistress wear shoes and are bare legged except when it's cold. We sent this one to the great snake pit in the sky.

This time the executioner's tool of choice was a short handle garden shovel. The last time it was an axe. Remind me not to piss her off, to be courteous at all times and never ever threaten her young. Competent women really turn me on.

It was 32inches long. When it opened it's mouth to strike the inside was very white thus the name cottonmouth and they open very wide and strike very fast. They swim and they climb trees. They are not your friend. We knew snakes were plentiful here when we bought the place as there was one larger than this one on the roof when we came with the real estate agent. I assume that it fell from the tree that overhangs the house. Either that or there are flying snakes.

In the four years we have lived here we have seen maybe a dozen or so snakes but only three that were venomous. Most were small, slippery and fast. Once we had a big black one under the house for about 24 hours. It near drove the wiener dog (Sparkle Plenty), that claims that space as her own, bonkers. I've noticed that we don't have any mice or rats around. One was a rattlesnake four plus feet long and thick. Another was about a three foot copperhead (we think) that was just passing through. We wished it a good journey and let it pass. This one and the rattlesnake did not seem to be inclined to run so they were a threat.

All this blather about why we killed the snake doesn't make me feel any better about it.

On a lighter note check out the short movie excerpt over at The Accidental Hermit website about Richard Louis "Dick" Proenneke. As a user of muscle powered hand tools I found it very uplifting.

It's happy hour. I think I'll go have a glass of wine with the executioner.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Old Fools Journal: A Plague of Frogs

I guess it would be a plague of frogs if you don't like frogs but I like'em (taste like chicken). The princess likes'em too and this one would be in her hot little hands if she was here. This guy or girl as the case may be (I wonder how you tell) is doing mosquito larva patrol. He/she is residing in a temporary pond in the wallow dug by Suzy our watch pig(dog) this summer.
I'm in the water and I'm under this stick so you can't see me.

This frog is only about 2+ inches long (too small to eat). We have had so much rain of late that the ground some days is covered with half inch frogs. Not complaining. It beats cockroaches. We are expected to have record numbers of mosquitoes this fall. We already have record number of fleas.
The watch pig having a snack or biting her nails.

It has been raining everyday here in southeast Louisiana so many outdoor things are just not getting done. At least I could get out this morning and tend my tomatoes and the rain has caused the ants to push their hills high enough to be easily seen. I have to murder at least 10 million ants a day or I have to move.

I did get into the shop today. I have been avoiding it because of an infestation of fleas that I have been unable to knock down. Yesterday I did the scorched earth approach and so today I could get into my shop without being drug to my knees but they are still there. The dog pack stopped scratching so much and started going where I wanted to go so that was my sign. Who says those dogs are not useful.

So I got into the shop and what did I learn. While burning an autograph into my hand crafted walking sticks (primitive art you know) I learned that it doesn't take long to detect that that you are holding the wrong end of the burning iron. I have worked as a blacksmith horse shoer and I went to school to learn the craft and have papers to prove it so you'd think I would not need further training but there you go. I believe that "think" is the key word. The man that taught me to shoe horses (Delroy was his name. Isn't that perfect?) once walked over to my forge and picked up a hot shoe that I had just remove from the fire. Ten seconds before he pick it up it had been glowing red. It was in the spot that we were all trained to put hot shoes. If a shoe was in that spot it was hot. He, of course, turned it loose and then turned to me and said "didn't take long for me to check that did it?". We never mentioned it again. Hell of a guy.

This crooked walking stick is called "Gustave 5" and how do those art people that call this primitive art or craft or whatever they call it know I'm primitive?
Why I am making walking sticks I don't know. I seldom use one but the wood just seems to want to be one.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Tiny Houses

We live in a small house. In my opinion it's too big to be classed as a tiny house but there seems to be a variety of definitions of tiny house. Here is a young man that turned his tiny house life style into a business. This guy is married and is building (or has built) another tiny house for his wife. I believe he has discovered the secret of a successful marriage.

Our house measures 690 square feet (64 square meters) and has multiple rooms so to me it is a small house. There is one large room (half the house) that is the kitchen, dining and living room. There are two bedrooms and a small bath that make up the rest of the house. A 1951 retired Greyhound GMC highway bus converted to a house car sits under the oak tree in front that gives another room of about 240 square feet (22.3 square meters) of floor space and about 300 cubic feet (8.5 cubic meters) of under floor storage. The bus is my lair and is probably why SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) and I are still together and actually like each other some of the time.
The old bus needs a little paint among other things. Picture is from the tree house deck.

There is a storeroom/workshop with about 1800 cubic feet (51 cubic meters) of storage for seasonal things and things that should be thrown away. A 12 by 24 foot (3.65m x 7.3m) back porch that holds a lot of things that should be thrown away and gives refuge to the dog pack. The wash room is added on the back and is unusable when it is raining (36 ft sq)(3.34 sq m). It's sort of like an outhouse, you have to go outside to get to it. This is all on ½ acre (20000 sq ft or 6096 sq meters) of land that we share with armadillos, lizards, turtles, raccoons, squirrels, ants and snakes. The alligators are fenced out. There is an 8 by 10 foot deck in one of the trees. We live on and in all of it however our covered indoor living space is 690 plus 240 sq ft. Ah what luxury. I'd say that 300 days of the year we take happy hour outside in the yard/garden.

Compared to some of the tiny places I have lived it is luxury. One of my ex-wives and I lived on a 40 foot sailboat with her three daughters, a 40 pound dog and a cat. That didn't last long but I think that is mostly because we were on a mooring and had to take a dinghy to do anything ashore. I moved them into a rental house but I stayed on the boat. It didn't make any difference we still split. I kept the boat another 18 years and lived on it for 13.View of the waterfront and the Yacht. (Drainage ditch and broken pirogue). From the tree house deck.

Once I lived in my future ex-wife's driveway for about 4 months in a 10 foot pickup camper. It was about 400 cubic feet (37 cu. meters) but in that I had a table that would seat 4, a six foot settee on which to take a nap, a head I could close off, a galley and lots of storage. It was the equivalent of about 80 sq. ft. (7.4 sq. meters) of floor space. It had everything I needed and was completely self contained. That wasn't bad at all. Later I tried an 8 foot pickup camper but that was too small and it was really just camping out but it was better than a tent or lean too. It is amazing what you can do with 2 feet.

My first house was 1350 square feet (125.4 sq m.) plus an attached two car garage. It was view property in a nice neighborhood 1/2 mile from Torrance Beach. It had a completely private Olympic size pool and It cost less than many of today's new cars. That was a mansion compared to what I now have. The largest house I ever had was 2100 square feet (195 sq.m.) on 77 acres on the west slope of the Sierra Nevada's east of Sacramento, California in what is called the gold country. It was a palace in paradise so of course I screwed that up. It was far too good for the likes of me.
Here is a picture of the little house SWMBO and I built in Loreto, Baja Sur. It's really just a palapa with house like qualities. It's on a lot very near the center of town and about 1000 ft. from the Sea of Cortez. It had been started as a outbuilding for the house next door. It had a crumbling concrete floor, almost three walls and no roof. We moved that 15 foot trailer in and started working. We lived in that trailer the better part of two years. It was quite comfortable. The house was even more so then it became time to get the hell out of Mexico.

An old crook that lived in town showed us how to cut the fan palms into shingles and install them. SWMBO and I built that roof from a pile of 2x5's, 1x12's and a keg of nails. It never leaked. We finished the concrete wall that's out of sight on the right side too. Our shower was outside under a palm tree, so was the water heater and the washing machine (wringer type) was under the olive tree. Sounds like paradise but believe me Mexico is not paradise.
SWMBO at her work table 1989 Loreto, BCS. The Oregon Knotty pine we managed to get came out nice.
The high ceiling gave us a since of space in this small house.

We have lots of small houses here in this area, in fact our next door neighbor lives in one about half the size of ours and I have pictures of at least a dozen more.This is the only Tiny House I have found around here. I found it in town on one of my bike rides about 5 miles from home. I have tried to catch someone there to ask about it but no luck.

I like this

As I got older I finally realized that I like tiny efficient places. It doesn't matter if it floats, is on wheels or is fixed. I'd love to try an airship and an undersea structure of some kind. If I ever decide to build again I'm going to higher ground and building underground unless of course I find a cave. (A missile silo would be OK). As you can see I don't suffer from claustrophobia. Houses should be shelter from the elements and be incorporated into the outdoors to make up a home. The modern American concept is to enclose as much of the outdoors as possible, modify the climate in it to suit and only go outdoors to transfer to an air conditioned vehicle to go to another enclosed space. I find that terribly limiting.

Note: SWMBO and I lived in this old bus for over two years when we came back to the U.S. and I never saw it as uncomfortable. However, I don't believe she cares for it now. Oh well.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Hub Do-Dads or Keeping the Hub Clean the Lazy Way

For years I have used a piece of leather around my hub to keep the stray grease and road grime off. I've done that since I was a child. As you can see the one above is worn and quite old.
So while in the dollar store the other day I picked up these extra large pipe stem cleaners. They call them chenille stems. I had no idea what I was going to do with them. It was one of those "oh look at all the pretty colors, I want" moments. I have those moments but usually in the grocery store.
This hub is an oiler and this do-dad keeps things clean when I get a little overzealous oiling.

Now before I get chastised for the rust and corrosion I want you to know that it has been 5 years give or take a few months since I rebuilt this bike. It is 33 years old and these are the original parts. It earns its keep working not showing. I plan to strip it down and repaint this fall.

I love my bike and she loves me.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Old Fools Journal: More Knives

These are knives with history. The top one with its original sheath was issued to my dad early in World War ll. It is a PAL RH 36 issued to him by the U S Navy. He was a photographer's mate in B-24's. He was one of the "first in" photographers at the Bikini atomic bomb test site. You know that was where the USA evacuated the entire population of an atoll in the pacific so they could attack it with a nuclear weapon and make it uninhabitable for decades. I understand the reasoning but I'm still not happy about it. Anyway Pop went in there and carried this knife and he came out with stories. I believe he came out with radiation ailments as well.

The second form the top was his dad and my grandfather Merlin's. It is a Remington RH 30 and the sheath has UMC imprinted on it. I believe he must had gotten it in the Army WW2 but I don't know. He was a hunter and used it as a hunting knife. It has a small nick in the blade very near the point that Pop told me he put there when he was very young. Like all boys he thought knives were for throwing so he picked it up and threw it and like all us boys he had about the same luck. In an instant he had put a deep nick in the point and of course it didn't stick in anything but he said his dad never said anything about it even though he witnessed it. He just looked at him and said nothing. When Pop told me this he still felt guilty. It was the worst punishment Merlin could have given.

The third from the top is a 1950's sheath knife sold in the Boy Scouts of America shops. I have had it since 1970 I think. I have variable memories about where I got it. It has been with me everywhere since the 70's. It's been on numerous camping trips and for a time I used it as a diving knife. It's simple and strong. Not great but adequate.

The last one is a Western blade that had a grip made by my first wife's dad in high school I believe. At least that's the story I heard. It is an excellent knife and since 1959 I have carried it off and on at various times when I needed a sheath knife. I made the sheath from a later girlfriends discarded purse. I never met the man it had belonged to as he passed on before I met his daughter but I never handle this knife without thinking of him. It is a perfect size and balance. The blade is a perfect size for cleaning game, fish or just cutting up dinner. It is showing signs of age but it holds an excellent edge and will still be around long after I cease to need it.

Sheath knifes don't hold the same fascination for me as do pocket knives. Perhaps it's because they don't have any moving parts or maybe it's their lack mystery. With sheath knives what you see is what you get whereas with a pocket knife you don't know until you open it. Don't believe me, then give a boy a pocket knife and watch him. He will open and close that thing a hundred times looking for the secret.

Kitchen knives are another thing all together. I can get by with one knife in the kitchen but do I want to? No not ever. In the little galley in my bus I have eight sharp knives and in the house kitchen there are at least eight if not more. Below are my favorites for various reasons.

The knives below all have 3/4 or full tangs meaning that the blade goes well in to the grip.

The first I like because it is the perfect size paring knife for me. It's stainless steel, It has a good edge but doesn't hold it long so requires frequent sharpening. The best part is it's so cheap that I buy them 3 or 4 a time at only one dollar apiece. SWMBO (she who must be obeyed) with all her abilities doesn't do well at sharpening knives so I try to keep several sharpened and available. For me a knife that can peel a ripe Kiwi fruit taking only the peel, not dropping that resulting slippery mess or cutting myself is the right size and sharpness.

The second knife is not really a kitchen knife. It belonged to my grandfather Merlin and I believe he used it as a skinning and cleaning knife. It is a Mora made in Sweden and according to my dad predated him. So it's pretty old. When he gave it to me he said that it was last sharpened by Merlin and that he himself had never used it. I couldn't stand it and immediately moved it to the kitchen. It was razor sharp. It's still razor sharp and I have used it only honing it occasionally. SWMBO has used it cutting chicken joints apart. It's not stainless but it doesn't rust. I ask my dad if he every tried throwing this one and he just winced. The old man had a good since of humor.

The third knife is my workhorse doing 90 percent of the work in the bus galley. It was made in Japan in the 1960' probably and is stainless with a full tang. I don't even remember when I acquired it I've had it so long. I can't remember not ever having it. It's thin an flexible and holds an edge reasonably well. It's big enough to cut watermelon but thin enough to slice the toughest old radish paper thin. When using it to make sandwiches I can cut the crusty sourdough bread, slice the corn-beef paper thin and spread the mustard. I haven't seriously sharpened it in over a year only giving it a regular honing. Even though it is the most used if I could only have one kitchen knife it would be the next one.

The forth knife is an "Old Hickory" that I bought at the hardware store in Hermosa Beach, California in the late 60's if my faulty memory serves. I doubt it cost five bucks. It is a high carbon steel blade with a 3/4 tang and a wooden handle. It takes an excellent edge. For years it was the only sharp knife I used in the galley on my boat so I know it will do everything from cleaning a large Mahi Mahi to slicing olives. Because of its size it sometimes is a little inconvenient but it will do every job. I even used it outside the galley once duct taping it to the boat pole and using it to cut kelp away from a fouled prop.
This picture is of a couple of geniuses cleaning a Mahi Mahi with the above "Old Hickory" about half way to Hawaii.

The last knife is just the latest in a long line of bread knives. I am a bread maker and am always looking for the perfect bread knife. This is the best I have had and I only recently acquired it at the thrift store. I paid all of 50 cents for it. It just amazes me the jewels that people throw out. I have another in the house kitchen that works very well also. They both will slice new soft just baked yeast bread right from the oven. Even my meat knives won't do that. It has to do with the serrated blade and I am not going to explain it because I really think it has to do with magic spells and not physics. I hope to still have it when the Great Spirit kneads me into dough.

This is not really a knife but I have been looking for a suitable and interesting ice pick for a long time and today I found one. While it doesn't have any moving parts or gears I find it interesting in a steam-punk sort of way. Thrift store again 10 cents American. When I laid it down to photograph it this shaft of sunlight came though my window and lit up a two inch wide spot where I had the pick. How weird is that. Spooky but nice shadows.

For those who have read this far I'd like to share this website Pandora. If you like music but no one seems to play what you want try this. It's free and it is so easy.
This post was written to the music of Vera Lynn and other singers music of that time (WW2).

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Pocket Knives

Here are the ones I can find. I remember others I just can't seem to locate them. I probably put them in a convenient safe place and will never see them again. I've got to stop doing that.

I started carrying a pocket knife in the second or third grade in school but that's so long ago that I can't rightly remember exactly when. Apparently the boys in grade school in those days were not as murderous as they are now because all the boys had knives and no one was stabbed, slashed or otherwise disfigured with one. More than a few desk were carved on however. Receiving your first pocket knife was a rite of passage for a boy. Knives were not invented to kill anymore than screw drivers were but both have been used to do so.

Except for a short time when I was in the US Navy's boot camp I have carried one. I'm lost without it. I wrote about that in a prior post on basic tools. That was about fingernails this is about your basic man made utility tool. Pocket knives come in all sizes and shapes but I think that the basic single 3 inch (or thereabouts) blade is sufficient. It will clean you nails (and cut them too if you keep it sharp), cut an apple, sharpen a pencil, tighten that little screw in your eye glasses, open a letter or box, extract a splinter, cut the chewing gum off the sole of your shoe, clean a fish and about a million other things. There are tools for all of these things but do you have them with you? You would need one big utility belt or a wheelbarrow to carry them around. One pocket knife will do it all.

The pocket knives I use vary in size and utility depending on where I'm going, what I'm wearing and what I'm doing.
Some of these are specialized as the Buck knife with the marlinespike and the pipe knife with the pipe cleaning tools but they all have in common at least one knife blade. I still use both of these. The buck knife saved my leg and maybe my life at least once when I carelessly caught a pant leg in the anchor winch but that's another story.
The three knives on the left belonged to my grandfather Merlin. All except the little one forth from the left are made by Case. The first one has a specialized big blade probably for removing fishhooks. The second has a cigar sized notch in the handle and it was for clipping cigars. The third is just a three blade knife that has been so heavily used that the big blade is noticeably smaller from sharpening. There is also evidence that it may have been used to check for charge in a car battery. Its just long enough when open to reach across the terminals. The forth is a Schrade Walden (no.272) and was never carried. It came in the celluloid box under the blade of the first knife. My grandfather called it a "gentleman's pocket knife". The forth is a Case. It was a Christmas gift and it is a fine piece of craftsmanship.
This little knife I bought in 1959 in Sasebo, Japan for 100 yen. That was about 27 cents (USD) then. Some of my crew-mates called it Japanese junk and said that it would rust but I knew that the Japanese had been making fine blades since before the Europeans had discovered fire (exaggeration but close).
I carried it everyday for about 35 years when I decide to retire it. I have lost it numerous times and I was afraid that one day I wouldn't find it. Besides, I needed a bigger sturdier blade for the job I was doing at the time so it was retired. This knife was really handy when I bought it as there were no twist off caps or pull tab cans in production yet and it took care of both chores. It has opened a many a beer, both bottle and can. Many a meal has been consumed using only this knife as a utensil and on several camping trips was the only bottle/can opener in camp.

Nowadays I am more likely to carry a very thin single blade if I think I won't need a tool at all and a multi-tool if I think I will. I prefer a lock-back if I'm whittling or carving having had blades accidentally close on my fingers. In my youth we called it whittling no matter how sophisticated the finished product might be.

I think I'll go carve some lunch now.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Confused and Embarrassed

I try to stay away from discussions that will end up questioning someones intelligence either mine or someone else's. On this the eighth anniversary of Al-Qaeda's attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City I am making an exception because of my own confusion.

My government decided in it's total lack of reason, wisdom and judgment to take revenge which in itself solves nothing and makes no ones life better or safer. However I can understand it. What confuses me is taking revenge against a country (Iraq) that had nothing to do with the deed, had nothing to do with the training of those involved (Afghanistan) and none of the participants were from (Saudi Arabia). It's sort of like kicking the dog because I'm pissed off at my wife. The words that were spouted justifying that total lack of reasoning were the same as using "jus' cause" yet the American voter decided to keep those pulling that "FUBAR" in office proving that you can fool all the people some of the time. At least you can fool a majority of the voters some of the time. For that I am embarrassed.

There were legitimate reasons for attacking Iraq without needing a bogus one. There were very good reasons to go after the perpetrators of that attack but even I knew they were not in Iraq. Going to Iraq was good for business going to Afghanistan was not. Attacking Canada would have been as reasonable and a lot more convenient.

Anyone, American or not, with any sensibility was deeply affected by that senseless deed in New York. The killing for the sake of killing without goal or gain but just for the killing will never be understood. It is insanity and I'm afraid that a large part of the human race is afflicted.

*I don't know the author of the eagle picture but if I find out I will give credit*

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Finding Beauty by Limiting Your Vision

This view from my little galley window is of this babbling rushing brook winding its way through the greenery and tree roots. It is actually a good example of finding beauty anywhere by squinting down. When I look down from my little window that has seen over a million miles of roadside scenery this is what I see. This tiny little piece of natural growth and water that came from the sky.

I am sure that others would see it as well but I think not many. Most would see what is the broader picture below just a ditch carrying off rain water. Except for the trash left by the street zombies that I'll pick up tomorrow, I find it beautiful as well but for different reasons. It is a fresh rain washed smooth roadway surrounded by greenery that makes it possible for me to use my bicycle more than ever before. What's more it has this little tiny piece of natural beauty alongside. Few notice either.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Iron Putty

This is an excerpt from The Boy Mechanic, volume 1, copyrighted 1913.
A good filler used as a putty on iron castings may be made as follows: Take, by weight, 3 parts of stiff keg lead, 5 parts of black filler, 2 parts of whiting, 5 parts of pulverized silica and make into a paste with a mixture of one part each of coach japan, rubbing varnish and turpentine.

OK, I got it. Now, where do I get "stiff Keg Lead" and what is "black filler", "whiting" and what the hell is "coach japan? I can manage pulverized silica, rubbing varnish and turpentine although I am a little shady on rubbing varnish.

How much have we lost in less than a 100 years. This book was meant for boys but today I only know 1 or 2 old men that would know where to even start.

These days I only know one or two that know not to mix ammonia and bleach or how to mix sulfuric acid and water.

Dew point? What's that? I don't know anyone who knows that dihydrogen monoxide runs rampant on the planet and no one seems concerned.

Then there are those Americans that think that if their children hear a speech by the President of the United States that they will turn into Zombies. Good Grief haven't we reached the lowest common denominator yet?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Old Fools Journal: The Staff of Life

Monday was bread making day for me this week. Not because we needed bread but because I wanted rye bread. I have to travel to get any fresh bread other than french bread. French bread is baked daily in our local grocery and it is delicious however I love breads of all kinds. Bread to me is food, unlike SWMBO (she who must be obeyed), to her it's just an edible paper plate. I sometimes eat the junk white sandwich bread from the store and it's OK but mostly for me it lacks whatever I need to satisfy my need for bread. This time it was a want for rye bread.

SWMBO says it is good and had some with butter and her homegrown homemade grape jelly. If she says it's good then it's good.

The pictures tell the tale.

Mixed before kneading
After kneading
Doubled in size
Divided into rolls.
Doubled in size Again
Baked. I have already chewed on the one in the bottom right hand corner.
Only 1/2 cup of rye flour to give it that rye flavor without making it heavy and plenty of whole caraway because I like that taste. Now for some potted meat and horseradish mustard.

Total working time is 20 minutes, total pay attention time 2 hours. Pay attention time is that time of rising and time in the oven. Total time in the oven is 25 minutes. The reason I make roles is time in the oven is about half and also for portion control. Each roll is 1 to 2 ounces.

Making bread is a religious experience, if it's not you are doing it wrong. It's also easy, after all it is only flour, liquid and yeast.

Making bread is fattening if you do not practice restraint.

Now I'm off to make sawdust.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Road Side finds of the past

I wouldn't want you to think that I just started picking up stuff along side the road while riding a bicycle. I picked this up about 60 years ago only it was in the middle of the road. I didn't exactly pick it up I more like dug it up.

This was back around 1949 or 1950 before Rodney Parham Rd. (named for Judge Rodney Parham) west of Little Rock, Arkansas was paved. I was riding my Hawthorne bicycle down Rodney Parham Rd following the road grader one summer day when I saw just the handle of this pistol sticking up. Searching around I found a large square nail and started digging. I remember that I had a devil of time with it as the grader had scrapped down to hard clay and impacted gravel. When I finally got it out I couldn't believe my eyes. It was my first firearm. It predates my Red Ryder BB gun.

I believe it is a flintlock as it has a powder well around the nipple on top but it may be percussion cap. I do know that a pre-teen boy has tons of imagination and that the speculations I had then ran rampant. I never look at this pistol without the full memory of that day coming back. The warmth of the sun, smell of the dirt and the feel of this piece of history laying in my hand. The grader had scraped down to the native road bed so I think it was probably dropped there and not hauled in with the gravel but who knows.

I have fired it. How you say? Well back in the old days before we were protected from everything by the do-gooders we had fire crackers, powerful fire crackers. The kind that blow you fingers off. So naturally I poked one down the barrel, poked in a rock that fit on top of it next to the fuse and lite it being careful not to look into the barrel. I must have done that hundreds of times. It wasn't very accurate at least compared to the pipe cannon that shot marbles.
Innards. I understand how this piece works. Pull trigger and BANG that is if it's loaded. It's small therefore concealable.
Overall length is 6 3/8 inch, overall height (without hammer) is 3 inches bore is about 38 caliber and the barrel length is 3 and 3/8 inch. Would this be a 19th century Saturday night special?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Old Fools Journal: Road Side Finds

On my Saturday trip to the local store to buy vitals for the dog pack (and their cats) I chanced across a trash pile and ask the owner if I could pick through it (I have no shame). It was a good find.
7 eight foot 2x'4's = $21.00
1 eight foot 2x2 = 2.00
1/2 pound of deck screws = $6.00
1 five gallon bucket = $5.00
1 thirty gallon trash can = $14.00
1 German stainless folding knife = ?
1 six pole electrical switch = $3.00+
1 4x4 foot sheet 5/16 plywood = ??
assorted short pieces of short lumber = ??
One audio circuit board from which I am already removing parts that I want for projects that are on hold needing parts.

Prices are conservative if I had to buy new but $51 for 30 minutes plus a teacup of gas to pick it up in SWMBO's (she who must be obeyed) pickup truck. Another 30 minutes pulling nails and it's still $25.50 and hour. I'll work for that and I will use all of this stuff.

The bucket is for my bucket garden. The plywood is already covering my worm bin which the rain has been washing away. I am completely out of deck screws so now I can get on with a project in progress without going to the store. I was going to cut the trash can off and use it for a planter but it's in new shape and we are about to need one.

In Euell Gibbons "Beachcombers Guide" he said (this is not a quote but is from my pitiful memory) that if you want to successfully beachcomb then pick a wealthy area because there is more good stuff. What I do is akin to beachcombing.

This is not a wealthy area although the neighborhood I found the trash pile in is far better than the trashy neighborhood I live in. It is more of a low wealth area. Poor people discard good usable stuff so that they will remain poor I guess. Even with the aluminum can pickers collecting cans you will at any time of day find aluminum cans on the streets and in the ditches.

It was a good days haul and all because I ride a bike.