Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Barn Rebuilding

I've been hitting the barn project pretty hard the last few days. I had to replace two of the truss pieces that were damaged by the circular stair. If you look close at the bottom photo, you can see the top of the pieces where I had to fit them in. They were joined from the factory by metal gusset plates that have little spears punched into them. I was surprised how difficult it was to get those off. I figured I could peel them back and slide a new 2"x6" in and hammer them back home. No way can you roll them back and still expect to use them again. I ended up taking the Sawzall to them. I cut the metal plates along the joint line and then just cut the new piece on the same angle and there we were. I made some new plywood gussets and screwed those in to keep every thing nice and solid.

Since the strength of that corner was compromised by cutting through two of the trusses in order to fit the staircase in, I beefed everything up real well and got things as squared up as possible. I put a rim joist along the outside and tied it in on a couple of the other trusses. I also headered off the inside as well. The bottom chord of the outside truss will have to be replaced, so I can use the squared up corner to locate that.

I got everything out from underneath except the pile of sheet metal for the sides. I don't think it was damaged, so I might be in luck there. I just need to get it pulled out and piled up someplace out of the way, then I'll be ready to start with the moving process. I've got access to four mobile home axles that I'm going to bolt to the bottom of the roof section. I should be able to tie on to it with my tractor and pull it forward about 12' and there I'll be. Unbolt the axles and put the lifting cradle under it. Sounds easy enough. I don't have the rim clamps or bolts for the wheels, so I ordered 40 clamps today. They should be here in a few days. I can pick the bolts up locally.

I've got a couple of other things on tap this week as well but I'm going to try and get as much done as I can before the heat rolls in at the end of the week. I'm not going to Oklahoma, so that's not an issue. I need to measure up the front steps so the next time I head to the lumber yard, I'll be ready on that project as well. I've got a couple of little things inside I plan to knock out when it's hot outside - stay in the A.C. and take care of the inside work. I also need to mink proof the chickens. I planned on a nice easy summer just puttzin' around on projects. Seems like it never works out the way I want it to when it comes down to working on the fun ones. I do need a street bike, however. This was going to be the summer to put the finishing touches on the Honda or the 900. Maybe both. It's not looking too good right now but the shop at school is usually pretty cool, especially if I leave the door open from the classroom. Maybe I can get the 900 over there and work on it during the heat of the day or in the evenings after I get a little more done on the barn.

The weather man is talking close to 100 on Friday still. Stock up on water and sport's drink and don't over do it. I'm going to try and take my own advice on that as well.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


I worked on the barn most of the day today. Took a break this morning and went to the gym but got back on it after lunch. Things progressed well. I got the top lifted up a little higher and pulled a bunch of stuff out from under it. I got all the ladders and scaffolding gathered up and put away. I started taking the remaining wall sections apart, pulling all the nails out of them and stacking the lumber up. I knocked off about 4:30 and went for a little bike ride to see how the chest was performing after all the work on the barn and the gym. Not too bad as it happens.

So I go in the house, get cleaned up and about 6:00 I head out to the chicken coop with some scraps for the chickens. I'm feeling good. It's a beautiful day, I got a lot done on the barn and I got a little bike ride in as well. I get out to the coop and a mink is inside the fence. It had already killed 8 of the 10 little chickens. Just bit their necks and then tried to drag them through the fence. We've never had any trouble with minks in the past but we damn sure have got trouble now. I boarded up the remaining two little ones and the old rooster in the coop and, sure enough, I looked out there later and the mink was trying to dig under the board and get inside to finish the job.

I've seen minks in the ditch at the other end of the property but I don't know how this one figured out that we had a fresh batch of little ones. I've got two outside cats and there's a feral one that started showing up here not too long ago. Apparently cats aren't much of a deterrent to a mink. I'll get some finer mesh wire and string around the bottom of the fence next week. I'm not sure how good a mink is at climbing. I might have to go all the way to the top, which is about 5 foot. The top is already covered to keep the hawks and owls out.

Man, I feel terrible. I understand the law of the jungle and all that but it's also my job to look out for my stock. I've had chickens for quite a few years here and I've never lost a single one to a critter. I tightened things up around the bottom of the wire the other day before transferring them, so I thought I was good. I might have to go chicken shopping after I secure the fence. Might do a little stakeout and sniper action after I let the other two back out in the yard first, however.

The orchid in the photo was a gift from a long lost relative that is blooming again. The people of Minot, N. Dakota are experiencing terrible floods. Likewise, China. There is still lots of cleanup work locally from the big storm that hit here, life in the food chain remains brutal, but the flowers still bloom and the weather today was the best of the year. It's hard to make sense of it all, sometimes.

More rain in the forecast that's going to be followed up with some hot temperatures. In fact, the weatherman said close to 100 degrees next Friday. As Tom Waits sang, all this crap "is puttin' the Vise Grips on my mental health".

Friday, June 24, 2011

Chicken Wrangler

I got the chickens moved out to the chicken coop today and cleaned up the basement. I like chickens but they do smell. They seemed to settle in rather quickly to their new home. I only have one of my Black Javas left and he's pretty long in the tooth. He didn't seem too interested in the new girls one way or the other. So now I just keep pouring feed and water into them until they start laying. That'll be awhile but as a chicken fancier, I'm good with that.

I started working/thinking on the barn reclamation project today. I got the check from the insurance company but it has to be endorsed by two banks and the wife and I. The one bank was easy - the other one we'll have to wait and see. As long as the money's coming, I can wait them out.

I went to the lumber yard and the steel supplier to price out some material to make up a cradle to lift the lid back up. I've got a rough idea of what I want to put together to make it happen. I started jacking it up to see what it will take to get underneath it to be able to put the lifting cradle under it. A couple of floor jacks and some concrete blocks seem to do the trick pretty easily. I need to be able to roll it about 12 feet to clear the front wall. I've been giving that a little thought and I think I've got a plan. If I can roll it out of the way, I can have it on a concrete pad and it'll be up in the air high enough to work under it safely. It also means I'll only have to have the wrecker guys come out once. It's going to be interesting but I like a good challenge. If the rain finally holds up for a little bit, I might be able to get most of the lifting done this weekend.

Looks like I might be going to Oklahoma next week for a couple of days. They're flying Jimmy out for a press conference for his upcoming fight with the Comanche Kid. I'm getting to be quite the jet setter.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Mower Repair



You can tell it's finally summer, it's mower fixing time. I hit something a few weeks ago and it poked a hole in the deck. It wasn't as bad as the hole would indicate. The deck was paper thin in that spot from a combination of rust and the abrasive action of the sandy soil I have. Other than taking it off, taking it over to school and dragging all the tools out, it was a piece of cake to fix. I cut a piece of 16 gauge and formed it up pretty close to fitting, then just worked in down while tacking it and welded it up. I could have made the piece a little longer. The bottom fell out in one spot but easy to patch up with a MIG. Just increase your stickout length a little and trigger it in. I usually run the machine a little on the hot side but I'd rather fix a little spot that got too hot than have things fall apart because it was too cold. Even though I ground the deck down prior to welding, MIG welds have a tendency to come off anything that has rust on it. The tack welds will lift the rust off the base metal rather than sticking.

While the deck is off, I got a couple of new belts to put on and I sharpened the blades. I ordered a couple of pieces for the steering. The teeth on the steering gear located on the bottom of the steering shaft are worn out. I ordered a new shaft, the bushing that holds it in place and the mating gear it goes into. I got a new air and oil cleaner for it the other day to throw on as well. I should probably get a new spark plug while I'm at it. Hopefully, that will do it for the rest of this year. I bought the mower in 2003 and it's been pretty reliable but it's starting to show it's age. I'd like to get at least another year out of it, just to get my money back from the new parts I put in it this year, if nothing else.

I cleaned out the chicken coop today so I can transfer the Golden Comets to their new home. I got a little time in between the rain drops to shovel some poop and add new straw. I always wear a respirator when doing that chore, which is pleasant when the humidity is 100%, but I don't need to come down with "chicken handler's disease". Tomorrow is moving day for the little darlings come rain or shine.

I talked to the insurance guy about the barn this morning and I should be getting a check pretty soon. If it's not raining too much tomorrow I'm going to try to get out there and do a little head scratching to come up with a plan. The house mover never got back to me like he promised, so I think I'm going to write him out of the picture. That basically leaves two options. Take it all apart and start over or try to rig some type of cradle under it and lift the top back up onto new walls. We'll see what I come up with.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rolling Pin For The Missus

Turning a Pad Foot

Edinburg Dam

Indiana Live Steamers

I spent the weekend at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking learning spindle turning on the wood lathe. I learned quite a bit and had some fun at the same time. The instructor, Mark Sfirri, was very good - quite knowledgeable, good sense of humor, and most importantly, patient with dumb asses like me with a thousand questions. I didn't really know much about the school but it's really first rate. It's not cheap, but when you think about it, real education rarely is. You either have to pay in time or money.

I was able to save a few bucks by taking the little camper and spending two nights at the Johnson County Park. Twenty bucks for two nights and the bath house was clean and air conditioned. It was about twenty miles away from the school but a nice commute for two mornings. There's a barbeque place down the road a little bit with the Boss Hog pulled pork sandwich. The park is also the home of the Indiana Live Steamers railroad club and a model railroad club. They're also hosting a duathalon in July. I'll have to keep that in mind. If I'm healed up next summer, I might try that. I think it's 2 mile running, 20 miles on the bike and then 2-1/2 miles running again. I was looking for one of those prior to my affliction. The park is outside Edinburgh by Camp Atterbury. Edinburgh looks like an old town, maybe a little down on it's luck, but it would be a nice place to spend a day shooting a few black and white pictures. I filled up the tank on the truck just north of there for $3.48/gallon, which was thirty cents less than the cheapest station I went by before hitting I-65. So it was all good.

So I've now done a little spindle turning. I made a little baseball bat and the rolling pin plus a few other little practice pieces like the pad foot. I feel much better about having to teach it now that I've had a little professional instruction. I learned about grinding the lathe tools, so now it's off to school one of these days to see about that. The Marc Adams school has a one day bowl turning class in October I might sign up for. If I can show the students how to do simple spindle turnings and bowls, that should be enough for the class I'm going to teach. One of the guys I talked to at lunch mentioned a class about making cabinets. Said that would be good to show the boys. Actually, I picked up the full catalog from the school and there's all kinds of stuff offered that I'd be interested in taking. As always, I'm interested in learning more things than I have time for. Maybe when I retire.

Busy week on tap again. I hope the rain stops long enough to get a few things done outside. I had another big chunk of a tree come down in the last storm after I had everything else cleaned up. The chickens will be leaving the basement this week and heading out to the pen. The Missus gave me the run down on what she wants for the new front steps, so I need to give that a hard look and draw up a plan. There's always grass to cut and the mower needs some work. I'll just keep forging ahead until the jobs get done or vacation's over.

Friday, June 17, 2011

IVY Tech +

Had an enjoyable day at IVY Tech today. They hosted a get together for dual credit instructors, that is, people like myself who teach classes at the high school level that have signed an articulation agreement with IVY Tech so the high school students will receive college credit. They had all the teachers seated at tables according to classes taught and they had IVY Tech people at every table as well. There were some nice introductory remarks and then we all had a chance to talk over what ever was on our minds. We had some very good discussions, much of which centered on what the state mandated changes are going to do to us. It wasn't just a bitch session, however. I learned a few things about IVY Tech and what they're doing, had a chance to talk to a couple of younger teachers in my field, and got a chance to just talk a little shop - nice to be able to hear what others are doing. They fed us lunch, we talked some more and then went on a tour of the facility. I also got the door prize for driving the farthest - about 70 miles one way. That's dedication there, Mitch.

This was posted at Bookpuddle:

Don't you know that love isn't just going to bed? Love isn't an act, it's a whole life. It's staying with her now because she needs you; it's knowing you and she will still care about each other when sex and daydreams, fights and futures -- when all that's on the shelf and done with. Love -- why, I'll tell you what love is: it's you at seventy-five and her at seventy-one, each of you listening for the other's step in the next room, each afraid that a sudden silence, a sudden cry, could mean a lifetime's talk is over.

Nice, huh. Shop Teacher Bob's an old softy at heart.

And, how 'bout them Bruins? They're my second choice to win the Cup but I would have worn my Bruins sweater today if the weather had stayed cool.

I'll close by reiterating what was in my last post as well as the theme for today's meeting. Get some training/marketable skills. Vocational classes, IVY Tech, wherever. Not sure what to go into? How 'bout this? IVY Tech is now offering a class in servicing the big wind turbines. Lots of things out there. You just have to go for that brass ring.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Motorcycles and Voc. Ed.

I came across a pretty cool blog - Life with Tin Toys - the photo link will take you there. It's got lots of motorcycle stuff with nice photographs. I haven't had a chance to dig too deep into it and a lot of it is written in Italian but since I'm trying to learn a little of it, that's a plus for me. It also features a lot of vintage and racer stuff that hopefully will inspire me to get busy on a couple of things around here. Won't be today, however. I've got a meeting at IVY Tech for dual-credit instructors.

I finished the screen door for the shop and the hired guns finished the roof and gutters. Just in time for the storm that came through yesterday morning, I might add. I need to work on the front steps next. I get those done along with a little painting and the outside of the shack will be in pretty good shape. I've still got some things to take care of inside but there is progress being made.

My buddy Kevin sent this along. It's a short editorial about the prejudice associated with vocational education. It's definitely worth the read. It's also evidence that in spite of everything that has been going on in education this Spring, the pendulum, if not starting to swing back the other way, has at least slowed in it's arc towards insanity. Mike Rowe is a very strong advocate for the working man and what that means to this country.

Last week's Time magazine stated 47% of Americans said their household couldn't come up with $2,000 in 30 days without selling some possessions. Being the cynic that I am, my first thought was maybe they should give up the satellite dish, the fancy cell phone, cigarettes and beer. Or better yet, maybe they should have payed attention in high school. Vocational education is optional but everyone has to take economics. Maybe everyone needs a little refresher in the definition of opportunity cost. Get some skills, get a job and save a little money for a rainy day. Live within your means. These aren't new lessons but if 47% can't put together two grand in 30 days, you know many of these people are of retirement age, particularly when it said households. People my age damn sure should know better than to put their full faith and trust in the government to take care of them. The government made IRA accounts available to people something like thirty years ago. Take some responsibility for you own well being.

We need to once again become producers of things. When you manufacture goods, you manufacture wealth. Someone needs to be able to pay for the war effort, the interest on the debt and Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Only people with decent jobs pay taxes. Only people with decent jobs can afford to have a satellite dish, a fancy cell phone and money in the bank as well.

Read what Mike Rowe has to say and sign the kids up for some shop classes.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Screen Doors

Got busy on the new screen door for the shop today. Since I'll be teaching woodshop next year, I went to school and made the door over there. I got a chance to use a few of the tools and see what was what for hand tools and supplies. I need to spend a day cleaning and organizing and then put a list together. I've been digging out some project books here at the house to start putting a few ideas together. I have a copy of the curriculum from the last couple of guys who were in there. I need to spend a little time looking at that before the first day of school.

Tomorrow I'll finish up the door for the shop and work on one for the gym as well. The Missus picked up a couple of screen doors for a couple of bucks each and I need to figure out how to hang at least one of them. The gym is in a steel building and the door frames are not made to accommodate screens. I'll cut the door to fit the opening and take it from there.

It's going to be a little bit of work getting the woodshop (and me) all up and running, but I need a new challenge and some more experience with woodworking tools. I should be able to squeeze my wooden boat project in there somewhere, which will be fun. Maybe a boat and a canoe. I want to tackle the Northern Forest Canoe Trail someday before I get too much older. 740 miles from northern Maine to Old Forge, New York. Camping, portaging, paddling - could be quite the adventure.

Now that most of the storm damage is cleaned up here, I'll tackle a few of the jobs around the shack while I'm waiting to hear what's going to happen with the barn. I should be able to start working on a few of the fun projects before too much longer. I need to get my fishing tackle out. I bought my license and the place I'm staying in Southern Indiana for the forestry tour has fishing. I didn't get out once last year. There's just no excuse for that.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Time to Relax ---

put my feet up and catch my breath. I got the yard all cleaned up and mowed except for the downed tree. I got things straightened up best that I can for now around the barn. I took apart the remnants from the walls that I could reach, pulled all the nails and stacked all the lumber out of the way after the insurance adjuster came out and took pictures. I called a guy in the house moving business about lifting the top of the barn back up onto new walls. He's supposed to come out the beginning of next week. I also talked to the wrecker service here in town. They have a couple of BIG wreckers. I did a little math and the top part of the barn weighs somewhere in the neighborhood of 6500 lbs. They would have no problem picking that up with the one big momma they have. Depending on what the mover says, I might be looking at building new walls and setting the top back in place again. That should make for a couple of interesting blogposts.

I've got a couple of things already lined up for next week but I'm going to try and get out in the shop a little. Maybe get my screen door in place and get things cleaned up if nothing else. The roofers got started on the house. I hated to farm that job out but in light of the barn and chest deal, I'm glad I did. The acupuncture seems like it helped my chest but the lady said I should plan on quite a few more sessions as well as some dietary changes. I'm not so sure about all that. I think I'll see how I hold up to the barn project. I really don't want to be running up to the clinic twice a week putting a hole in the middle of the day, not to mention the money involved. Hell, it's been hurting for a year. No point getting in a hurry now. Plus, I think I actually figured out what's wrong. There's a name for it and everything.

Looks like we might get a little bit of decent weather this weekend. Hope you get a chance to enjoy it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Things Are Looking Up

After leaving the gym last night I took a little side trip through the subdivision to the west of me. It's a rather up scale area that's been around for a while with lots of big trees. I had heard that it was hit pretty hard in the storm the other day and sure enough, it had been. Mother Nature doesn't seem to care whether you live in the double wide or the big spread, apparently. I ran into one of my former students with a tree service and made arrangements to get my downed tree taken care of. So that's a good thing. I also received a couple of comments on the blog and some phone calls of concern and support. That's another good thing. I was also able to ride my bicycle a little the last few days with out chest pains. That's a real good thing.

I had a couple of acupuncture treatments last week and it seems to be helping. I couldn't tell anything after the first one but after the treatment on Thursday, I woke up Friday morning feeling like a million bucks. Part of it might have been the fact that it was the last day of school but regardless, I felt pretty darn good. I over did it a little Sunday maybe. I used a bow saw to cut up some of the big branches that had fallen in the yard and that made me a little sore but I still was able to go for a short bike ride Monday morning with no pain. I'm going back for two more sessions this week. I'm not sure if this is a fluke, a short term, or long term solution. As long as I can start riding my bicycle again, I'll be a happy camper.

I received a couple of comments lately from other "shop" teachers - one teaching at the high school level, the other at the college level. I've received a couple of other comments in the past from other teachers, I remember one from North Carolina teaching machine shop specifically. From what I've seen, all of us have a lot of things in common. First of all, We're all makers of things. We all like things with wheels - cars, bikes, planes, trains - we might like some things more than others but basically gearheads. We're all pretty opinionated but you would expect that from people who are passionate about what they do.

Where am I going with all of this, you might ask? Not sure. We no longer have professional development time at my school any more. In fact, they ran a couple of people off this year who I had never even spoken to even though they had been there a year. I used to be able to get together with the other shop guys in my co-op once a year but that too is long gone. Other than eating lunch and gabbin' a little after school with a few of the guys in my department, I basically teach in isolation. That's not good. Not good at all. Is there some type of "shop" teacher forum or does someone have a blog that's linked up to a bunch of other guys and gals doing the same type of thing that I do? I've stumbled across a few good education links but I'd really like to know more about what people are doing and how they're dealing with all the legislative happenings across the country. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

The best thing going this morning is the fact that my colleague, running buddy and good friend is leaving my school and pursuing his PhD. We have done a lot together over the last twelve years and I'm going to miss him. He was always a good sounding board and commiserator. Several of us went out for lunch on Friday and I was thinking the rest of us were like POWs in the old war movies. We were all cheering because Kevin made it through the wire. In bocca al lupo, Kevin.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Big Blow

Track Clean-up

Downed Elm Tree

Downed Barn


Saturday morning I get up and cut the grass in the front yard, fart around a little and head for the gym. I ran a little short of time and didn't quite get everything mowed, so when I finished up at the gym I just put on a dry shirt and headed home. Because I was going to do some more mowing later, I didn't bother taking a shower. About 4:00 pm I was just about ready to go back outside and finish up when the wife comes running into the house screaming to get down the basement. And then it started. Rain, wind and hail. Wind like Hell wouldn't have it. I could hear all kinds of things blowing against the house and a couple of big noises. It turns out one of the noises was the elm tree behind the house and the other was the new barn. I could see the barn from the basement window as well as the wind and the all the crap sailing by the house. Some of it went the against the prevailing wind, which was kind of scary. Especially when the prevailing wind had to be about 80 miles per hour.

The Missus missed the last step when heading down the basement stairs and banged herself up a little and the power was out for about 26 hours but other than that, everyone in the neighborhood was OK. I probably had the worst damage due to the barn going down but with all the trees that went down in my little hamlet, most of the houses were spared but garages and sheds were hit pretty good. Lots of trees down and roads closed because of the trees themselves and the power lines they took with them.

I don't know what I'm going to do about the barn. The building trades instructor stopped by on the way to the open house for the house they built this year. After seeing all the damage on his drive up from his house, I think he sensed there might be a problem. He didn't have time to talk but we'll get together and see what we can do. Besides the one tree that went down, a couple of them are leaning now. One of them has started pulling out of the ground quite a bit and the other has a few cracks in the dirt around the base.

The preparedness plan went well for us. With no electricity, we have no running water, lights, air conditioning, etc. We had plenty of water for the animals, drinking and toilet flushing. I wish I would have taken a shower as soon as I came home from the gym, but I do have a shower bag that I would have hung up tomorrow and got myself hosed off. I bought it after having to go three days in the Mississippi heat and humidity on a bike trip without a shower. We have several flashlights and a scanner to listen to what's going on. I'm going to buy another battery operated radio - maybe one of those crank jobs - to keep down the basement. I filled the crisper drawer of the refrigerator with ice to help keep things cold in there and we never opened the lid on the big freezer. I've got a motor drive welder that needs work. It has a 4500 watt generator on it. I'm going to quit farting around and take it in and see if someone can get it working. If not, or if it is going to be cost prohibitive, I think I'm going to spring for a generator. It's supposed to be in the 90's in a couple of days and the Missus can't take the heat. As long as the generator is big enough to power the little window AC unit and pump water, that would be plenty. Wouldn't even have to do both at the same time.

So we're safe and sound, and every time I went outside to take a whiz I picked up branches for a while so the backyard is mostly cleaned up, other than the tree, of course. All the neighbors are in good shape and firewood will be plentiful. The trains are running again and we'll all have stories to tell about the big storm of 2011.

Thanks to all the people at REMC for getting my electricity back on again, the county workers for clearing the roads and the police and firemen for running your asses off the last couple of days to keep us all safe while you're out in the biggest storm I've ever experienced.

Helluva way to start a vacation!

Friday, June 3, 2011

In Vacanza

I made it through another school year. That makes 35 total. I've had a few rough years along the way but this one was rough in a different kind of way. Much of what occurred didn't really have a direct effect on me, even though there was enough of that, but rather it was all of the crap that was going on in the various state legislatures. Since the laws have been passed, there's not much I can do about it now except wait for the pendulum to swing back the other way. I probably won't be in the classroom to see it but it'll come back around. Regardless, it's time for me to stop dwelling on the subject and move on.

I'm going to have the opportunity to use my little camper pretty soon. It won't be a nice beach setting like the one in the photo above but I've got a couple of excursions lined up. I'm going to the woodworking/spindle turning class and the forestry tour. The little camper and I will be able to get back on the road for a couple of days each time and should be just the thing to get my mind right. Traveling, learning new things and skills, - just what the doctor ordered. I'm also heading to Oklahoma with Jimmy for a fight in July. He's scheduled for a 10 rounder against the "Comanche Boy".

So the summer, for me at least, is officially here. I've got some plans for work, travel and goofing off, in no particular order. Spend some time outside, spend some time in the shop, spend some time at school, spend some time with family - just enjoy myself and keep working towards the goal of having everything pretty well ship shape for retirement. Also, I'm planning on working a little more on my Italian while I'm in vacanza. I'm not sure how or when but I'm planning on going back.

National Donut Day by the way. I'm thinking skip the donut and go right to the beer, myself.

Enjoy the weekend.