Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Alexander, NY Steam Show

For many years I've been a fan of steam shows. This year we attended the show in Alexander, NY for the first time. Great fun and it's right in our back yard. If you're the type like us that "lives in a museum", as my stepdaughter puts it, the flea market alone is worth the admission price. You can find anything in these flea markets. Want a cookstove that burns wood, coal, or has electric, yup it was there. Tools to work on just about anything, sure thing, it's there. How about something different to work up the garden and pull a wagon around? Cute little tractor on the trailer should fit the bill. And if the wife gets upset, buy her the purple hit and miss engine behind it. How many of her friends could have a purple engine? She'll be the talk of the garden club. Plan on spending two days there. You'll need one for just the flea market and another for the displays. Most of which are functional and working. This threshing crew worked in spite of the rain. The wet bundles made that old steamer get down and talk to ya! Smell the smoke, watch how much labor it took to feed your grandparents generation, then remember this was a major step up the technology ladder from what they had less than a hundred years before that.

But, remember to keep an eye on your wife. If you don't you might find yourself in the middle of a big cheese caper! But, I'll let her tell you about that.

Keep the weekend after labor day free, and I'll see you there next year.


Friday, August 29, 2008

What I'd give for some ice in my whiskey

For three years I've been a patient man. My wife loves her restored 1930's vintage ice box. And she should love it. She did a wonderful job restoring it. However man did invent mechanical refrigeration for some very good reasons. Don't get me wrong, an ice box gets the job done and gets it done well. However it's been a good many years since the ice man drove his wagon down our street. Also for some reason block ice can't be bought at all anymore here. That means nearly 25% of our freezers space was being consumed by ice making. Don't forget to add ice, or you'll be throwing stuff away. Also don't forget the byproduct of ice in iceboxes is cold water coming out a hose in the bottom. Forget to empty that bucket and you get a cold puddle on your floor. Not a pleasant suprise at midnight when wearing just socks. And if you like a good bourbon on the rocks before bed, forget the rocks. You won't have cubes handy with an icebox. Back in 1942 my appliance repair man grandfather, was given a slightly used Norge refrigerator by his emplyer as a wedding gift. An event that was given special note by my grandmother in her wedding book. Not a suprise given such things were rationed and hard to get during that wartime. Shortly after wars end my grandparents aquired a new Westinghouse which did daily duty until the mid 60's when it was replaced by a modern self defrosting Frigidaire. as long as I could remember my grandparents shopped monthly and kept the overflow in the old Westinghouse in the cellar. Just before my meeting Pelenaka, grandpa passed from this world and grandma went to assisted living. I begged for the old Westinghouse. It had been around from my earliest memories. It sat in storage for three years. Then it was saved by a side of beef. Yes a cow saved my beloved antique fridge. You see my wife is about the best bargain hunter I know. And she found a deal on meat, alot of it. Suddenly there was no room to make ice for the ice box. If you count the great grandmothers grandma nursed in thier elder years. Pelenaka and my children will make the fifth generation of the woodsrunner family served by this old timer. Considering grandpa always kept it in top shape and serviced, hopefully it will serve a few more. I don't know what my grandparents paid for it. But, it has to have one of the best depreciation rates ever. BTW, that picture was taken hours after being pulled out of storage. Pelenaka did her thing and it looks almost new now. Here's to having ice in your whiskey. Woods

It's about time! Maybe someday I can make a living at it.

In my late teens I aquired a blacksmiths outfit cheap at auction. Sold that stuff years ago. It's hard to explain such things being used as living room furniture to girlfriends and landlords. Back in may Pelenaka and I attended a local auction in an attempt to aquire an anvil. I ended up walking out with a bunch of old woodworking planes and a phone number in my pocket. The phone number led to this late 1800's vintage Peter Wright anvil. She weighs in at a near perfect 124lbs. I promptly built a stand from a couple old treated 2x10's I had kicking around. Someday I'll replace the stand with a more stable one built fron a 6x6. I didn't have any 6x6's in the scrap pile though. When I went shopping for a forge and blower, it was serious sticker shock time. Back in 1980 I bought an anvil, leg vise, forge and blower for under $100.00. The blower alone brings that much now. I used my money to buy the best quality anvil I could find. Any real blacksmith should be able to build the rest. I had an old all metal typewriter stand in my shop. A friend had an old GM truck brake rotor in his scrap pile. $3.00 for a hair dryer from the thrift store. $6.00 for a foot switch from Radio Shack. Had some pipe fittings in my supplies as well as the angle irons. Total with the fire cement and fire bricks came to less than $60.00 I've gotten 3/8" square stock to white heat, surely hot enough to weld at. The only real disadvantage is the steep sides of the brake rotor makes taking the fire apart difficult. Not impossible, just difficult. It will do for now. Hopefully what I have here will allow me to earn enough smithing to upgrade as I go. With luck this will eventually turn into a homestead business.

Honest! It followed me home! Can I keep it?

Part of the big tool deal turned out to be this old cider/wine press. Around the fourth of july these two elderly sisters called me and asked if I would be interested in thier late fathers tools. Too bad thier fathers tools went through a basement flood and didn't have much value. Except to me. I'm the guy that has devoted his life to keeping older quality stuff out of the junk pile. I threw a offer at them and told them I'd be interested in the cider press under the junk pile in the garage, and a couple other items for an additional money of course. They took a few weeks to think things over and I'd forgotten all about it. Then one day the phone rang and we met to talk things over. This time I took my photo album with me to show off my handywork. After looking at my other cider presses they decided I should have the cider press included with the tools. I can picture this thing refinished in food grade gray powdercoat with black legs. Unfortunately there isn't room in the workshop to keep it. There is only one wine/cider press allowed to have permanant residency on this homestead. I do know another urban homesteader that's been hounding me for a cider press. And he's an electrician! I can fix anything, but, if I can I hire out electricity. So, A swap has been propsed. My workshop may get electricity yet! Besides that this 100+ year old house needs some things fixed that are beyond my abilities. He gets cider and wine, I get peace of mind knowing my home won't burn down in the middle of the night. Sound like a plan to me! If any of my readers has information on Juicy Fruit brand fruit presses, I'd appreciate it. I'd like to know more about this thing.

Honestly, I only wanted a couple of them.

Last fall I came accross an old Bailey #4 plane in a thrift store for $4.00. This past winter found me leaving the hardware store job to return to the machine trades. With this job change came the opportunity to aquire rough sawn hard woods used for packing crates. There are several pieces of hickory, basswood, and oak out in the shop now. So, I figured I'd go out and find myself a jointer plane. By the time the summer was over my shop wall looked like this! To aquire the big wood bodied Stanley jointer plane I hade to buy the compass plane, and a millers falls #17 block plane. Then a month ago I picked up all the hand tools in an estate in the next town over. That got me the Stanley 78 plane , a Stanley 9-1/4 block plane and the greenlee drawknife. Then one day I found myself in a antique shop, for $10.00 I couldn't help but buy the Stanley #80 Cabinet scraper hanging vertically at the left of the photo. Another unintended collection I suppose. Just like cider presses and yankee screwdrivers. I'll save the yankee screw driver story for another day. They can be seen to the right of the photo.

Friday, May 30, 2008

A thought or two for our presidential candidates.

Lady, and gentlemen. Thank you for your interest in running our country. While you all have pretty impressive resume's, I would like your attention on a few matters. I understand running for "change" is a very populist thing to do. Would you please be a little more specific with your ideas. Such ideas may have merit. However I would like to point out that every election year "change" is a major running point. And I agree a few things may need changing. You also must understand something. The only things I don't percieve as broken are the very few things that people in your profession haven't managed to "change". Secondly I think it's about time you thought up a practical energy policy for my country. I don't care about ever being able to buy gasoline for .89 cents a gallon ever again. However I would like to see someone come up with a long term plan. Rather than pandering with talk of dropping the gas tax for the short term how about a practical idea. Chew on this thought. Years ago you caved in to the lobbyists from the auto companies and gave tax breaks for small businesses to buy trucks. Now we have day care owning soccer moms and corner deli owners driving SUV's so big their parking spaces require a zipcode. So it became fashionable to have a four wheel drive monstrocity parked in your driveway. How about you now turn things back around. A major problem is most people are so upside down in thier vehicle getting rid of it will push them even closer to bankruptcy. A new taxation idea. How about if someone were to trade in thier gas guzzler you let them write off the depreciation loss on thier income tax. On top of that should the replacement vehicle be built here in the states and get 35mpg or better, let them write off the interest over the life of the loan. Or if they are one of those rare people that pay cash give them a serious tax incentive. Say a $1000.00 write off for the purchase. Make it so people can't afford not to have an efficient vehicle in thier driveway. Also maybe it's time you stopped paying industries to look for solutions to problems. As long as looking is more profitable than finding there won't be any solutions found. The US government has spent tons of money subsidizing research to industry that would profit from the technology if found. Of course while American companies still scratch thier heads, the Japanese (Honda) has announced they will be leasing Hydrogen fuel cell cars in California next year. Sorry, not not ten years from now, not twenty years from now, next year!! Maybe we instead of pledging money for research we announced there would be a $2,000.00 tax incentive given to purchasers of hydrogen (or biodiesel, electric, or methanol) powered cars, half the new cars sitting on the dealers lots would not be gasoline powered at all. Also, considering that the airline industry has now about priced itself out of reach for most travellers. Isn't it about time we promoted Amtrak? Trains now travelling at 20% of thier capacity won't use much more fuel if they were running at 80% passenger capacity. Also while your at it, get those idiots at the post office to put the mail back on the rails. Shoot rail travel might even become profitable enough to privitize once again. Did you know there was a time when railroads owned things called train stations and paid property taxes on them. They were also the pride and joy of most comunities. You could tell alot about a town by looking at it's train station. OH! did I mention in most cases the railroads paid property taxes on train stations. Unlike airports that are owned and run at a loss by governments. And if you've seen one airport, you've seen them all. Of course I know that I'm holding my hand on my butt hoping that one day I'll be able to ride one of the old premier passenger trains, in all it's glory again. But, if a time existed it could happen, it's now. Just thinking.... Woods

Thursday, April 3, 2008

A book recomendation

I rarely read fiction. So when I pick up a piece of fiction and blast through it in three days it must be good. So I can highly recomend the book "World Made By Hand", by James Howard Kunstler. This novel set not too far in the future tells the tale of a small upstate NY town after the collapse of our modern society. This book is well written and presents a scenario that just might be possible given our current state of affairs. I enjoyed this book and highly recomend it.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Thought for today and every day

I recently came accross a quote that I felt inspired by. I thought I would share it. From the book "The Seven Lamps of Architecture, The Lamp of Memory", (pub 1849). Authored by the Englishman John Ruskin (1819-1900) "When we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for present delight nor present use alone. Let it be such work as our descendants will thank us for; and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them and men will say, as they look upon the labor and wrought substance on them, see this our father did for us." Those word my friends are words to not just build and work by, but to live by as well. Woods

Friday, February 1, 2008

Important lessons from breakfast

The meal we most often take for granted. Also the one we are most likely to skip. But, even the humble breakfast has lessons in it. Last fall my little information network brought me word of a local potato field being harvested. The good news was the farmer was more than happy to let people into his field to glean what his machinery missed. Now modern machinery misses alot, especially at the ends of the rows. Big machines don't turn around that easily and rows are straight. That means the last 40-50 foot of row is usually left in the field. In my mind the healthiest way to spend a day is in the great outdoors. I gathered up my two stepdaughters and headed out with every bag, box and basket we had. The first round lasted about an hour and we went home to unload. After this the older of the two girls anounced she was tired, but, the youngest begged to go back. Who am I to look a 11 yr old frugal gift horse in the mouth. Of course we went back. Twice! Now a Chevy Aveo doesn't hold alot. And surely there are better vehicles more suited to truck duty. But, my wifes little econobox has never paused at a load. The day netted about 400lbs of potatoes into our cellar and about an equal amount either given to friends, donated, or culled. The next day, I taught the girls to make potato pancakes from scratch.
The following weekend we visited our friends at Harper Hill Farm. The girls got the full tour and even got to go into the henhouse to gather eggs. We came home with several dozen huge eggs. That sunday before church the girls got a lesson in omelette making. They were some of the best omelettes I've ever eaten. As you can see in the photo, we also made home fries from our gleaned potatoes. Not shown is the cider pressed from apples found in abandoned orchards and purchased as culls from local farmers.
My children will never confuse a supermarket as the origin of thier food. They will know where it comes from. And having expended the sweat to aquire it, I doubt they will ever take it for granted. They even giggle at the idea that other kids think food just comes from the store.