Thursday, July 3, 2014

Me, Certifiable

Back in March, I took a class that I hope will kinda change my life: a two-day seminar on archery instruction, at the end of which I received my Level II Archery Certificate.  I have always loved archery, and though I'm no Howard Hill, I am comfortable with a bow, and comfortable showing folks how to draw and loose an arrow.

The certification course, taught by Nico Gallegos of Ohlone Archery (a great guy), was extremely informative for my own form, and also a great confidence booster.  If you are a bowhunter, I highly recommend getting at least a Level I certification from this man, and/or lessons from him.

When I got home, I talked with my wife, who, it turns out, is enthusiastically supportive of this attempt at a sort-of small business, teaching and coaching archery.

Yes, that means I was granted permission to purchase all kinds of archery gear and accoutrement.  I picked up three bows -- two PSE's (a Razorback and a Razorback Jr.), and an OMP -- two dozen arrows, three bag targets, and some PVC pipe and toilet bases for stand quivers. 

I also bought a nice fletching jig and feathers (not vanes), and my daughter learned how to fletch.

Shooting the light-drawing bows (20lbs. at 28" draw) has also done wonders for my own form, as I am able to draw, think about individual parts (anchoring, expanding, etc.), and correct prior to the shot.  I should have bought one years ago.

To stay close to my love for the atavism in archery, I carved a few leather shooting tabs and leather arm guards, but I also bought a couple of armguards and a tab, to provide some options for students to try out.

Next, I made a deal with our local taekwondo dojang, Southport ATA, run by two amazing teachers and also friends, David and Anna Jung.  They jumped at the chance to provide a space for me; and really, what better place to arm children then at a martial arts school?

My first seminar went well.  7 students showed up, most between 10 and 12 years old, (though a couple of dads also shot), and most of them black belts, which made a huge difference!  These kids had great physical awareness, and required only a little tip here and there.  They all quickly took to it, and were smacking the targets in no time.

David was also happy with the seminar, and offered to give me one day per month.  And, with a good city Parks and Recreation department, a local outdoor range, and some enthusiasm, the opportunity exists for me to grow.

I must admit, I am still extremely nervous.  I'm good enough at archery, and I've been doing it long enough, to teach the basics, but still, I haven't been up in front of a regular class in eight years.

My confidence has been helped a great deal by a few people these past few months, however, and I feel I'm up for the challenge.  Nico, the Jung's at Southport ATA, and, of course, my wife, have all provided the boost I needed.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Writer's block, so... more on gardening and other backyard pursuits

Still no piece on hunting with the nephew, I just can't seem to get it out on paper.  However, I have done quite a bit on the back yard, and I've started back into archery again.

First, a pic:

This is how real estate folks sell houses: a panorama shot of my back yard.  Images are closer than they appear.

Yes, the barren grass stands out, but what I see are improvements:  thriving trees and vines, a pond that is still mostly keeping it together, and a straw bale with a target in it. At right, the spectre of the shed looms...

The biggest good news for our yard is that the boysenberries are growing vigorously, the pomegranate survived my hacking at it over winter, and the fig is finally producing, keeping me from cursing it.  It already has figs the size of my thumb. (Tom, I have great hopes for your figs, too!)

We've also put peas into the ground.  Typically, this is getting close to being too late in the year, but I think we'll get a few in a couple of months.

One of the more labor-intensive activities was tying up my boysenberries.  I'd neglected them over the winter, and they needed to be raised up off the ground, untangled, and some of the old vines removed.  I'm no expert on pruning them, so I erred on the side of caution and kept all the vines coming up that were close enough to be tied onto the trellis.

Two years ago, I'd cut river reed from one of the nearby levees, drilled 5/8" holes into some redwood 2x4's, and trained them up.  Over time, the river reed (Arundo donax, a local invasive) had deteriorated, and so I pulled out the old cross bars and considered replacing them with some hardwood 5/8" dowels from the local big box yard store.  One trip and a price of $2.85 per dowel convinced me that a quick trip out to the levee to cut my own new river reed would add a nice touch of rustic charm to the back yard.

Ah, the rustic charm that comes from being a tight-wad... a river-reed trellis.
But my favorite "improvement" was the purchase of a straw bale for use as an archery target.  You see, I've been meaning to start up again, but couldn't bring myself to grab my gear and make the five mile drive to the archery range for the three or four shots I'd be able to physically make before wearing out my atrophied muscles.  Pretty pathetic, I know.  But the target in my back yard, plus signing up for a certification class to teach archery, have lit a fire under me, and I've been shooting nearly every day for the past ten days.  I'm even up to nine or ten shots a day.

Squirrels, beware.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

General updates around the house (or, of irons and fire)

Something to keep me coming back to blogging, and while I work on a larger piece on hunting planted birds at a club with an armed 12 year-old, here are some updates to my house and garden work:

-My friendship with Hank and Holly continues to pay dividends -- in the past two weeks we've had roast duck, duck legs and dumplins, and duck coconut milk soup.  Soon, I expect my children to start quacking.

-I realized, while thinking about making spaetzle for the first time but just making dumplings, instead, that chicken and dumplins (or in this case, duck and dumplins) are basically fat, Okie noodles.

-We've had quite a bit of rainy weather, but I've still been able to work up the nerve to glue up a handle and recurve tips for what I hope will become my wife's flatbow.

-I've also picked up a very old project I've put off for far too long:  my in-laws knives.  I used a Dremel tool and a grinder to design some knife blades a number of years ago, but never could get good enough with gluing up and carving the handles.  Well, last week I took out the old odd pieces of hardwood I'd been carrying along with me picked out the chunk of purpleheart, cut it and glued it. It was quite a morale booster.

-Last and most definitely not least, we picked up some plants for the garden:  tomatoes, garlic, onions, strawberries, a bell pepper and some marigolds.

Soon, I hope to hammer out a great story of my adventures with the armed 12 year-old.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Quick pic of the stitching pony

For Hippo -- here's the stitching pony in action (actually, I was just modeling it).

Monday, February 10, 2014

Inside job

With no chance to work on my workshop, I can still work in it.  Sadly, the roof leaks something awful, which means I have to push all the big equipment (lawn mower, rusty band saw, etc.) out of the way of the drips, substantially cutting into my workable space.

Also, in a rat-killing frenzy a few years back, I pulled out all of the homemade shelving the previous owner had installed.  The shelves were hideously ugly, and even worse, had many cracks and crevices perfect for storing rat droppings and old walnut shells, but now all I have is a poorly-made (but not by me this time!) work "bench top" and the ribs of the walls on which to hang things.  I put up a couple of pegboards, which are a little bit handy, but not by much.  Mostly, stuff is stacked or lays on the floor -- not conducive to getting any work done. 

Last night, however, I made a quick mental check of materials, and realized that I could bang out a quick version of a tool I've been needing for quite some time:  A leather stitching pony.

A stitching pony is a third hand for leather workers.  It is basically two long pieces of wood to make a clamp, vertically attached to one long piece of wood as a base.  One of the vertical pieces is attached by a hinge, and the other is just screwed into place.  A bolt with a wingnut runs through the two vertical pieces, and leather is glued to the ends, making a soft clamp for holding pieces of leather while you sew them together.

Here's a picture of mine:

Admittedly, not my best work.  I used one long 2x4 piece of redwood, because though I knew I had two good pieces of 1x4, it turns out I really don't know what I know (now THAT would blow Don Rumsfeld's mind).  I ripped a 16" piece with my rusty bandsaw, and attached the pieces to the base with screws lying around in the shop.

Attaching the piece to the hinge was a bit trickier because, of course, I didn't have screws short enough to not poke through the other side.  This here:

 is my solution.  I cut the ends off the screws with my rusty Dremel tool.

Next, I realized that I didn't have a bolt the right size, so I took a trip to the local hardware store, after all, for 5/16" bolts, wingnuts and a 5/16" drill bit.  I was going to do at least one thing right.  I picked 1.5" bolts, so that I wouldn't have a bunch of extra bolt hanging out the side.

At home, I put it all together, and glued leather pieces to the jaws.  After glueing the leather, then placing an example piece in the clamp, I realized I'd bought bolts too short.  So much for doing one thing right.  One more trip...

Thus, the 20% markup on my projects.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Anxieties. And weather.

Last week, I'd set my stern gaze upon the workshop, to begin drywalling this weekend, panic attacks be damned.  Though a small job, I am often beset by paralyzing anxiety at the thought of these endeavors.

One of my many obstacles to a project this size is the idea of the cost.  You see, I have a hard time spending more than $10 on any project (and most of them clearly reflect this quirk of mine), but there's no way around it, drywalling is going to cost in the range of $150-200.

I know I need a real interior to my workshop.  It will help keep out the inevitable attempts by rats to take up residence, and it will create a nice space, encouraging me to work.  Also, I know that when I complete a job like this, I get a serious morale boost.  Investing that kind of money pretty much guarantees I'm going to finish it, too, because I shudder to consider the alternative (shudder).

Still, I can't seem to get down to the store and get it over with.  Typically, for a project this size, I first go into the store and draw up a bill of materials, looking for the cheapest, but also making sure I've gotten everything in my calculations.

In the case of drywall: walls, tape, nails, and mud for materials; and nothing I don't have for tools.  Not bad.

The dimensions aren't daunting, either:  two five-foot walls, two eight-foot walls, and one sixteen footer, with heights of six and one-half to seven feet.

My next obstacle is usually figuring out a way to get materials to the house.  In this case, the cars simply won't carry 4'x8' gypsum panels.  My Dad's truck has been hit-or-miss lately, what with it being a 22-year old truck with over 600,000 miles.

I could buy a trailer for the Subaru, but then I'm looking at more than doubling the price of the project (feeling my chest tighten).  Additionally, I don't have any protective storage space for a trailer.  Perhaps I should buy one of those heavy-duty canvas garages, one of which I saw at Harbor Freight along with the trailer (a dream, and a terrible one, and now I'm short of breath and my shoulders are creeping up towards my ears).

So now, in my head, I've calculated the actual costs, added 20% for a typical overrun (mostly for gas, to pay for the dozen or so trips I'll have to make back-and-forth as I remember things, and for the cheap things I first bought, as they break and I have to replace them with slightly more expensive versions), and I've added approximately $400 in auxiliary equipment I'll need just to maintain what I've got after I'm finished.  My project has gone from $150 to nearly $650 in one brief anxiety attack.

I need to take a deep breath.  And wait a bit.

To get over these attacks, I usually have a series of short conversations about the proposed project with my loving and supportive wife.  This series typically lasts about 3 years.

This time, however, I've got a considerably shorter time frame, because I already put it out there in public, and I've made a resolution (I'll take Dad's advice on resolutions next year, I so solemnly resolve).

So think, man, think!

I finally came up with a fun, quirky, some might say red-necked solution to the transportation problem:  I need additional OSB panels for the floor of the attic (also on the list of resolutions -- if only you'd given your advice earlier, Dad!)... so, I'll just strap a panel to the rack of the Subaru and strap the gypsum panels on top of it.  Then, it's just three short, bumpy miles home.  I'll be that guy you get stuck behind on the road; I won't care, either, so just relax and enjoy the pace.

My plan fully fleshed-out, I re-set my stern gaze upon the workshop, clutching my dollars in hand (figuratively), and prepared to make the leap today, to actually buy the materials for the job.  It being the worst drought on record in California, I was sure to have a wide open sky under which to...

And of course, it's raining.  Four inches, they say, in two days -- about one fifth of our entire annual precipitation.

This rain is absolutely critical to our State, so I shouldn't be upset.

Take a deep breath.  And wait.

I guess its on to more interior labors:  A stitching pony for leatherwork, and maybe some additional floor space added to the attic.  

There it is, just waiting.  And getting wet.  And, slowly rusting every tool I own.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Just to show you my amazing brother in-law

In case you thought, in my earlier post, that my brother in-law was crazy for bowhunting for pheasants, here's a little video: