Pete's random thoughts

Tuesday, March 15, 2005


What a weekend it has been!

On Friday, I drove my old Chevy down into town to meet the straight truck with six crates of flintlocks. They were piled pretty high, but we made it back up the hill safely. Paul was there to help, and Wendell stopped by as well. The snow was really beginning to fly, so we muscled all six crates into the shop to open them inside.

It was our first look at the new Ketland pistol and the new Cookson fowler. All I can say is WOW!!!

I don't mean to overshadow the outstanding job that was done on the Ketland project, but the fowler is just plain awesome! It's taller than Wendy. It balances so well that when you aim it, it will just seem to hang there motionless in the air. It's long and slender, with a very comfortable feel to it. So far only five people have seen it. Something about a gun this long just makes you want to giggle like a schoolgirl.

I called Jeff to come and see them, I wouldn't want him to miss "the unveiling" of the Cookson. Of course he stayed and talked until his wife to say he was about to miss dinner. You put a few reenactors together in a room full of flintlocks and there is no way it will be a short conversation!

Charlie came up on Saturday morning. Left his house at 7AM, got stuck twice trying to come up the hill in the storm. At some point, Brian (lives down the road) stopped by and helped pulled him out with his truck. Brian is a nice guy who would go out of his way to help a stranger. He's been very good to us in our first winter here.

The snow got worse and worse, so we just left Charlie's truck in town and came up to the house in the Suburban. He and Gracie stayed the night. Caleigh was very glad to have Gracie to play with, even though she had her first earache on Saturday night. It is truly amazing how much disorder and noise a 3 year old and a 4 year old can create.

Sunday came and the storm ended, so Charlie and Gracie headed home.

Monday morning and it was time to get moving on getting stuff prepped, packed and shipped. When all of a sudden, we get a call from the post office! They wanted me to get down there ASAP to pick up a very noisy cardboard box full of day-old baby chickens. Peep-peep-peep-peep!!!

There were a total of 54 in the box. One died in transit, and one died late this afternoon with a "pasty butt" problem. (it's a bird thing, I won't go into details) There is quite a mix of birds, some layers and some meat birds. I had ordered a 25-pack of assorted meat birds ($15) and a small flock each of New Hampshire Reds, Barred Rocks, Black Giants and Araucanas. Araucanas are the chickens from South America that lay colored eggs, I thought they would be fun. The hatchery also threw in free "exotic" chick of their choosing. I'm pretty sure it is a Brahma, the chick looks sort of like a sheepdog and is the only one of it's type in the flock.

I built a brooder for them using a musket crate. It's lined with wood shavings and contains a feeder full of "chick starter" and a 1-gallon waterer. There is a "brooder lamp" clipped to the box to keep the temperature at 95 degrees in the middle of the box. Each week, you are supposed to raise the lamp a little to lower the temperature in the box by 5 degrees.

By the time the little peepers are old enough to go outside, it should be spring. I'm going to build a coop for them out of recycled musket crates. It's probably be the only mahogany and rosewood chicken coop in New Hampshire!

We may also build a few "chicken tractors". They are portable enclosures that you keep the birds in so they can forage bugs and grass off of the ground without wandering off into the woods to be eaten by something other than me. Sort of like a semi-free range setup.

In the meantime, I'm accumulating pallets every time I go to town with my truck. Dan's Max Saver puts them out behind the building for people to take. Some folks burn them as they are almost always made of good hardwood, but I plan to use them to build a pig pen. I have figured out where to get feed, now I need to figure out where to get a couple of feeder pigs. That project will have to wait until the snow melts.

In the meantime, Caleigh is running around here singing "Old McCaleigh had a farm, ee-i-ee-i-o, and on this farm there were some chickies, ee-i-ee-i-o, with a chick-chick here and a chick-chick there..." etc. We had a discussion about pigs this morning, she wasn't shook up about the fact that you actually eat real pigs, she was kind of shocked at the idea that you can actually eat the pig's nose and feet. No vegans in this house!

Recently I told her that she can have a fish tank when she gets a little bigger. I told her that she can watch them swim and can even get to feed them all by herself. She replied "Then we get to eat them?". It was a proud moment for me!


Thursday, March 10, 2005

New shipment is on the ground!

I just checked the tracking numbers at British Airways and found that the new shipments of muskets, pistols and (some) bayonets landed in Boston at Logan Airport tonight.

How will I be able to sleep?

This is our largest shipment ever. It includes Long Land Besses, 3rd models, ship's carbines, Bakers, Charlevilles, 1717s, blunderbusses, Murdochs, Sea Service pistols, Heavy Dragoons, and of course the three new models!

The three new ones are: the Ketland Trade Pistol, the French pattern 1773 pistol and the Cookson Fowler.

OFr years people have been asking for a "trade pistol". These will be our first civillian type guns. My only fear is that people will assume a "trade pistol" is a generic flint pistol with a serpent sideplate sort of like a Northwest "trade gun".


In the vernacular of the times, a trade pistol was any pistol meant for the "trade" (commercial sales) as opposed to a military contract. One of the most prolific makers of them was the Ketland family of gunmakers from Birmingham. I have a particular affinity for Ketland made guns since I own an original Ketland fowler (suspected to be an officer's fusil). I've had the chance to examine many original Ketland guns in private collections and museums. They are the '57 Chevys of flintlocks. Lots of them around, and easy to spot at a distance. The "trade pistol" type evolved into a specific pattern that several gunmakers copied. Many were Birmingham made, but spuriously marked "London" on the barrel. Our reproduction is supposed to be marked as such, but I won't know for sure until I open the crates and see the finished product. I have seen photos of the prototype and it looks great! It has a swamped brass barrel, very cool.

People have been asking for a French pistol as well. So we did it. I picked the 1773 pattern as shown in Neumann's "Battle Weapons of the American Revolution" since it predates the revolution and has a belt hook. People love belt hooks! We got in a sample of this pistol earlier this winter and it looked great. The sample was snapped up by Steve L. for a NPS program in NYC. The lock is marked "St. Etienne" and it is brass mounted. I was going to keep the sample, but ended up selling it.

Pedersoli came out with a French pistol last year, it is not a RevWar period gun, it is Napoleanic, and typically overpriced. Ours is more correct for RevWar, has a better lock and almost half the price!

The last new model is the one I expect to make the biggest waves. The Cookson Fowler!

This is a New England style fowling piece, the original being made by a Boston gunmaker named Cookson in the mid 18th century. the cool thing is that he built it using recycled parts from an earlier gun. It has the typical sharply cuvred stock as copied by yankee gunmiths from the French fusils. The barrel is three staged and a whopping 51" long! The lock is a Queen Anne style flat doglock with a flat topped frizzen. The sideplate is a flat serpent (engraved) which is the early type. There is decorative carving around the barrel tang and a brass thumbpiece. As a fowler, it is not cut for a bayonet and there is no stud. It has a thin blade front sight, typical of a New England gun. The prototype weighed in at 9 1/2 lbs, not bad for a gun this big!

There are 10 pieces in the first production run, I get to keep the first one. All together 7 of the first 10 are spoken for and nobody has actually seen one yet. Finally an alternative to military muskets for those of us who do a civillian impression! The gun will retail for $595, which is what I paid last year for a fusil de chasse kit. I am currently researching a correct plug bayonet that would fit the time period. These cost me $30 more than a Long Land, and will therefore not come with a free bayonet like the military guns.

Now comes the rest of the process. My brokers will submit a stack of paperwork nearly 1/4" thick to US Customs. Customs and possibly the US Agricultural Dept. will probably want to inspect them, they will read "muzzleloading guns" on the invoice and check with the BATFE. In short, a whole assortment of people with badges gets to see them before I do! Some people would get frustrated, I know they are just doing their job. Their job is to keep contraband out of the US.

Once they all give an OK to the shipment, my Customs broker will arrange for the crates to be shipped here via truck. When we were located in Massachusetts, I would go into the airport myself to pick up the crates with my pickup truck. Now it's a 6 hour round trip. With gas hovering around $2 a gallon, and considering it would take a whole day out of my time and probably two meals on the road (not to mention wear and tear to my old truck) it works out pretty much the same to have them trucked here.

The ironic part is that the delivery truck can't come right up to the shop like we planned since the road is posted with a 6 ton limit for the duration of "mud season". I'll give a better description of "mud season" once the snow melts and the road turns to pudding. Now what happens is that the truck driver pulls in to the "Jiffy Mart" parking lot and calls me on the phone. I drive my pickup down to town and we transfer the crates to my truck for the trip back up the hill. It's exciting every single time, and I hope it always will be!