Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Toy Chest

Early last fall I promised my son and his wife that I would make a toy chest for our grandsons. Delivery would be on Christmas day.
....Well last week I could no longer procrastinate on my promise; so work began using the few, crude hand held tools that I had in my unheated log barn. After about '45 thousand cuts (... and recuts)' I put together the 'toy chest barn' pictured below.
Despite cold feet and fingers, it is fun to see the mental image transform into a physical stucture which I hope the boys will enjoy.


Barn - 48" long x 24"wide x 30" at the barn peak.

Silo - 36" high (top of staves) x 6.5" wide. to the top of the staves.


Lift the roof panel off on the facing side and back lean-to section of the barn. I decided against hinges, thinking that little fingers could be pinched.

The barn doors can be slid open or closed.

The silo cap can be lifted off and the top 12" can hold some more 'stuff'. The bottom 24" contain two structural support disks.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Sweet It Is!

Yesterday I extracted and bottled 30+ pounds of honey. Since I don't have a honey extractor that removes honey from the comb by a centrifuge action, I followed the suggestion by a fellow hobbist beekeeper. I purchased two 5 gallon plastic buckets. Drilled 20 plus 3/8th inch holes in the bottom of the top bucket lined with a nylon, 5 gallon paint screen. This bucket was then placed ontop of the bottom bucket, with a large hole in it's lid. The bottom bucket served as the collecting bucket. A faucet from my scrap plumbing pile was added and wha-laa!

... let the honey extraction begin

The plastic frames loaded with comb honey are scrapped into a collecting pan.

The scappings are added to the top bucket to begin a 24 hour gravitational separation of honey from the wax. The honey drips into the bottom collecting bucket.

While the jars filled, I designed a label.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupy ?

With the recent removal of 'Occupy Wall Street' in New York City parks, I wondered how much of the materials removed will occupy our local landfills?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Timely Reads

Just finished two interesting books that are available in our local library system.

Because I Love You -The Silent Shadow of Child Sexual Abuse by Joyce Allan is a memoir documenting the authors' search to understand her own sexual abuse by her father and his extensive abuse of so many others, including her own children years later. Her journey to restore some sense of normalacy to her life involved decades of interviews with family members, employers, and follow up leads suggested by others in the search to uncover and understand the extent of child sexual abuse by her father.

The other book currently on the NY Times Best Seller list is A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard. In 1991 when Jaycee was just eleven years old she was abducted on her way to school and for the next eighteen years she describes how she copped with the physical/mental control by her abductors. Jaycee endured sexual abuse, isolation, boredom, pregnancy and the loss of those milestone events in our lives from elementary school through adulthood.

Both books are excellent reads, especially as the events at Penn State currently unfold.

Friday, November 4, 2011

... another 'trinity'?

Yesterday, I took a break from raking and stacking my leaves to rake and stack my parent's leaves. I tarped, stacked, soaked and tramped down 16 piles of yard leaves into a compact 6x6x6 foot pile of leaves that will rot down into finished compost, which can be used to amend their garden soil.

Of course with the repetitive raking and leaf stacking process I had time to reflect on the three piles that were generated.

I think the captions will illustrate where my thinking wandered off to this time. on the photo and you will obtain a full screen view which may be easier to read.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Once A Pond after more Time

The electrical lines have been run and the rain water drain pipes connecting barn and house run off to the pond have been connected. A pump & scimmer circulate water several hours a day.

A short video looking east across the pond.

The fish spend most of their time at the pond's deep end.

Another video clip from the other side of the pond.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Once A POND of TIME!

Each fall we bring our fish in for the winter. The problem is that some of these fish are getting too large, so I decided to construct a pond where they can over winter as well as add another demension to our landscape.


What a lot of work.

Below is a photo dialogue of the construction to date.

Over the past year I have been redigging and enlarging a smaller pond that did NOT work.

This pond is 40'(l) x 18'(w) x 1.5-4'(d).

The line represents the expected water level. The pond was first cover with a protective underlayer and then a thick, heavy rubber liner that had to be tugged into place.

Field stones were collected to line the pond. The stones will protect the liner from UV light and will provide a biofriendlier pond environment. To date 45 wheel barrow loads of field stones were hand loaded from a hedge row 0.3 miles away. Each load was dumped, rinsed, reloaded and then at the pond - hand placed to create a solid layer of stones.

This was alot of work!

Over 200 ft of 4" drain pipe in the hand dug ditch will channel rain water from the house and barn to the pond. A morning view of the pond.

An evening view.

I love the reflections!

An electrical line, a pump and further landscaping will need to be added to complete the job.

... and add the fish to their new home!

Monday, October 3, 2011

... Picking Up PawPaws, Put'em In a Basket

We have two PawPaw fruit trees (Asimina triloba - in our back yard and this year we had a bumper crop of these lumpy, fat fruits. A ripe pawpaw has a 'bananna/custard' flavor. We have been eating fresh pawpaws and spitting out the large seeds. Not wanting to let the fruit spoil, I decided this morning to look up a bananna bread receipe and make a couple of loaves of pawpaw bread, substituting the pawpaws for banannas.

It smells and tastes good!

The childhood song below was my first introduction to pawpaws.

Maybe it is familar to you too.

Where, oh where is dear little Susie?
Where, oh where is dear little Susie?
Where, oh where is dear little Susie?
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch!

Common boys, let's go find her.
Common boy, let's go find her.
Common boys, let's go find her.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch!

Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ‘em in her pocket.
Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ‘em in her pocket.
Pickin’ up paw-paws, put ‘em in her pocket.
Way down yonder in the paw-paw patch!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Aging ... the worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play...

Jason baked a birthday a chocolate cake for my 65th last weekend.

The cake theme emphasized my never ending interest in composting worms.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Rainy Day Forgery

We've been repairing the log barn eves trough this past week. Transporting the water from the barn eves trough to the wood shed roof required bending the eves trough to diagonally run onto the shed roof. Since we needed a bracket to anchor the eves trough to the shed, Jason cobbled together a forge using scrap plumbing materials, an orphaned air matress pump and the buttom section of our old bread maker from the scrap metal pile. The coal and pieces of iron were both found in one of the abandon dumps in the greater Marbletown area.

Below is a little photo essay of the process.

The unbraced eves trough

The coal

The forge

Putting a bend in the bracket

Hardening the steel

The installed bracket now holds the eves trough in place

... of course it would have been the consumption oriented American thing to go make another purchase at the big box store.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Straw Potato Harvest

I harvested 52 pounds of straw potatoes today (22 lbs of Yukon Gold & 32 lbs of Katadin), generated from my orginal planting back on May 7th. Five pounds of each potato variety were cut up and placed in a shallow trench. The potato rows were covered with a layer of finished compost (2009 yard leaves). When the potatoes emerged, I then banked them with a thick layer of old hay bale slices. As you can see in the short video clip below, I was able to 'tickle' the potatoes out without using a potato fork, which usually stabs and injures many potatoes.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

'...corn as high as an elephants' eye'


....despite the hot, dry weather,

the sweet corn IS as high as an elephant's eye!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cleaning up and Making Mulch!

Having planted over a thousand trees since building our home here in 1983, a number of the trees have survived and thrived! Each year pruning, trimming, natural die back, high wind & snow damage results in a continuous supply of brush that are collected and stacked around the property. Once a year I rent a chipper. The wood chips are blown into the back of my pick up truck. I can then centrally locate the chips into a single pile on the old basketball court.

Later on the wood chips are distributed to the various beds around the property to hold in moisture, reduce the proliferation of weeds as they rot down and generate a rich, organic soil in which shrubs and perennials thrive.

(Coffee bean burlap bags are experimentally laid down as a weed barrier before being covered with the wood chips.)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Take a Hike!

Earlier this week, I along with seven other Finger Lakes Trail volunteers and two work crews from the Monterey Correctional Facility constructed two bridges on the Finger Lakes Trail in the Birdseye Hollow State Forest (Steuben County). The bridges were constructed out of white oak planking, fastened to utility poles that crossed the main creek. Boulders were located and skidded into place to create a retaining wall on the main bridge's east bank and stream run gravel was bucket brigaded to each of the bridge's access points.

The synergistic results of all our efforts are pictured below.

Main Bridge (38' span)

Bridge crossing the west overflow stream bed (20' span)

Take a Hike!

If you care to see more photo's of bridge building in progress go to the following FLT photo gallery site:

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"RAIN!" ...lemonade.

Despite the almost daily showers or periods of rain over the last weeks, I am taking advantage of two rain generated "lemonade" opportunities :

1. Excessive lawn clippings...

...make great mulching material between the rows of peas

2. The appearance of morrel mushrooms

Friday, April 29, 2011

...So You Want A Water Garden?

The appearance and sound of the man-made rock stream off our back porch is very nice, but...

... in the spring the stream bed and tanks must be cleaned out.

The clean up involves removing rocks and accumulated, decaying materials to the compost pit.

Tanks are drained.

...tank walls are scrubbed and a 10% bleach solution is used to remover the slimy algae coating.

...followed by rinsing and flushing out the system. are then refitted back into position

Four hours later the ciculating pump can be turned back on and the fish returned to the tanks for another year's enjoyment.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Kenyan's Win Again ...'birthers' complain!

Having run the Boston Marathon multiple times in the mid to late 1970's, it was with interest to hear that once again the Kenyan's won the marathon in record time last Monday (4/18); out running the 4th place finish of the nearest American runner.

I was also thinking that President Obama's father was a Kenyan and that several current presidential hopefuls have recently questioned the American President's Official Birth Certificate and consequent right to hold the office of President of the United States of America. Here is my attempt to make a cartoon analogy, paralleling Boston's Annual Partiots' Day celebration with the 'birthers' complaint.

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Mycological/Gastronomical Experiment

Today I innoculated several red oak logs with mushroom plug spawns obtained from Fungi Perfecti ( The recently cut oak logs were obtained from a local tree trimming outfit and allowed to set for a few more weeks before today's innoculation. Holes were drilled into the logs between 3" and 4" apart in a diamond pattern. Spawn plugs were hammered in and then sealed with parafin.

Slaming the plug spawn into the logs.

Sealing the plugs and open ends of the logs with parafin.

The innoculated logs were then set in a wooded area, out of direct sunlight. I will have to monitor the mushroom logs and keep the area damp during those dry periods this coming summer.Mushroom varieties

Left side: Reishe & Pearl Oyster logs

Right side: Shiitake logs

.....check back in September

Sunday, March 27, 2011

...quote from 40 years ago

In last Thursday's Finger Lakes Times under "Days of Yore" a section that recalls interesting events locally and/or nationally 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years ago on this date I noticed an interesting comment made by then President Nixon in 1971. Needless to say it spawned my lastest editorial cartoon shown below.
It was fun to do and I sent a copy to the FL Times, should they care to post in this weeks paper. Enjoy!

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Just got on to the computer this morning after working on school things:
  • correcting papers
  • thinking about this weeks' topics (Biology - reproduction topics /AP Biology classes - ecology topics) and all the subtopics(mitosis, meiosis, gametogenesis, & hormones/keystone species, interspecific competition, energy flow, niches, etc) that will need to be addressed this coming week.
  • thinking about a variety of ways to present subtopics that will appeal to those who don't get it the first time through (notes didn't work, so maybe a crossword puzzle? ...another white board illustration? analogy, ...Hmmn?? what else could I use???).
  • thinking about what materials I will need ... physical/hands on stuff (yesterday collecting pill bugs), internet resources (WXXI - TV On Demand), familar practical examples for kids (plant cuttings on your mother or grandmother's kitchen window sill).
  • sketching out how I will access whether or not students understand the concepts to be covered this week (multiple choice?? response questions?? ... scoring and weighting questions? ... and then the grading and logging of computer grades.)
  • the constant reaching out and inviting students back to the topic of discussion from their "little brush fire conversations"
  • ...the distractions: ipods & the daggling wires to ear plugs; hands under the desk to text and/or read text messages --- so you give another reminder to put them away, while having this mental image of placing the device on the floor and crushing it

...and then I looked at my current computer desk top background photo taken last October while backpacking the Long Trail in Vermont.

I know I will be more than ready to turn the classroom over to the regular biology teacher whom I am filling in for while she is on maternity leave until spring break in April.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

75 Salads and Still Counting!

Salads topped with shredded carrots from last summers' garden. It has been fun harvesting lettuce, kale, broccoli & collard leaves from the green house since November. With a mulch base under the growing beds and a garden hose circulating water into the basement to a copper coil heat exchanger mounted over the furnace and then back into two water filled, black 50 gallon drums; the green house has been more productive than last year.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Crossing the Icefall

About 3am, Sue notice water dripping down the wall by the door of our back porch. We have had no real ice melting thaws since late Decemember, so water was coming in due to ice build up in the divide where the east/west roof, merges with the north/south roof. While removing snow with a roof rake and salting the ice, I was entranced by the how similar the ice on the roof was to photos I have seen of the Klumbu icefall that Mt. Everest climbers must cross in order to reach the summit. So out came the camera and below are two photos. One is a googled, pirated image of the Kkumbu icefall and the other is of my roof with penciled in figures.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Interesting Book ... check it out.

Just finished reading 'The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks' by Rebecca Skloot - a N.Y. Times best seller. I first heard about the book in an interview with the author on one of NPR's 'talking head' shows. I was interested in the interview and made a note of the book because during my teaching career days, I had introduced my students to karyotyping (...examining chromosomes) by ordering "HeLa" cells from Cellserv, a biotech company in the D.C. area. Students would prep microscope slides; drop fixed "HeLa" cells from various heights to 'splat' onto microscope slides; followed by staining in an assembly line process; then zooming to 1000X under a microscope to observe and count chromosomes. They could see banding on the various shaped and sized human chromosomes; as well as count the number of chromosomes in cells.

The "Hela" cells we used in lab, were cultured from the original cells removed from Henrietta Lack when she was being treated for cervical cancer in the 'colored only' section at John Hopkins in Baltimore. She died from the cancer a few weeks later in 1951. Her cells were prolific growers under laboratory conditions and have been used in cancer research & teaching for many years. The extended Lack's family recieved virtually no explaination or recognition of the significants of this cell line that has and continues to contribute so much to our understanding of cancer, genetics, tissue culture, etc today.

After reading the story of the Lack's family, I personally was struck by the importances of good education and racial equality; two comodities readily denied the Lack's family over the decades.

It's a good, fast read and available in the Pioneer Library system.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Low Budget Good Deeds

Yesterday while finishing a 12.4 mile walking loop, I noticed a letter in the snow along side of Blue Cut road. I stopped, picked it up and found it was from a local resident, stamped and addressed to someone at a correctional facility in NYS. I have no idea who the individuals whose names were on the letter are and tucked the letter into my wind breaker pocket, then proceeding on towards home. While starting up the hill on Marbletown road out of Newark, I stopped to visit with an elderly man trying to reattach his mailbox with bare, white fingers in the 20F temperatures. He was having a difficult time threading the nut & washer through the mailbox mounting frame to the stove bolt with numb fingers. I helpped him complete the job, but not before my fingers became very numb too. He thanked me before I finished walking the remaining 1.5 miles home to dry out the letter and get it into Monday's mail pickup.

PS - "Who was that masked man? ...Hi! Ho! Silver!"

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Looking Back at 2010

Another year has come and gone. While out walking today I thought about the year past and made the following estimates about the occupation of my time over the last 365 days. I would like to think that my preoccupations around the home and our travels were environmentally friendly. With the completion of yesterdays' walk into town to pick up a few non-domestically produced items for our New Year dinner today; I completed my goal of walking/backpacking 1500 miles in 2010. [I also cashed in $37.50 worth of returnable cans/bottles picked up along the road side in and around Marbletown.] Checking the odometers of my rusty truck (... missed 'cash for clunkers') and our car, I noted that we drove a combined total of 14,039 miles; less than the USA average for a couple in our age group*.