Pete's random thoughts

Monday, November 21, 2005

Sorting through old papers

When we first moved here we basically camped out indoors while working on the new place. We slept in our camp bed, ate TV dinners cooked in the oven because we hadn't brought our microwave or dishes, and had very little "stuff" underfoot to deal with.

Then in December of last year, we rented a big UHaul truck and brought all of the "stuff" from our Lowell place. Where did all of the boxes go? Why where stuff like that always ends up when you move: the garage!

I've decided that I want my garages to actually be garages. With that in mind, I have embarked on an adventure into the pile of "stuff". When I go on a mision into the garage, I bring my flashlight to get a better estimate on what is in the boxes, sometimes a drink, and always my cordless phone becasue invariably, when I get myself wedged in behind a "stuff" pile, Wendy will chose that moment to call me on the intercom. So there I'll foot on a box of antique bottles, the other on a storage box of who-knows-what with a box of books balanced on my hip, answering a tech question for Wendy while she answers an email.

Some of the "stuff" will go right to the "swap shop" at the dump. The swap shop is a building where you put things that you no longer want, but are still good and you don't want to just throw away. Kind of like a free rummage sale. I get some good books from it.

A good portion of the "stuff" is actually just plain old trash and not worth keeping to anyone, so it gets tossed into the back of my truck for the next dump run. There are a lot of books (a pallet, at least). Some of the books are quite valuable, I just haven't gotten around to selling them yet. One of the more annoying things to see out there are boxes of assorted papers, notebooks, etc. (kind of a subcatagory of stuff: "paper stuff") Tonight's diversion was to sort through several boxes of this class of "stuff". Filled up a trash bag and found all sorts of things.

Here are a few examples:

-More than half a dozen partially used notepads, these will go on my desk to get used up once and for all

-Five issues of old science fiction magazines that someone had given me, I used to read them between runs when I was a bus driver all those years ago

-A bag of musketballs (gee, what will I ever do with those?)

-The printout of my hearing test that shows exactly what tones I can't hear anymore (ALWAYS wear your hearing protection when shooting)

-A stack of "congratulations on your new baby" cards

-The three ring binder that I used to keep records in when I first started this business back in 1993

-A bundle of 8-track tapes (there is a working 8-track player here in the shop)

-Some newspaper clippings about historic stuff

-A series of communications about an incident that happened at a Highland event we ran a few years ago, I had rented a stone castle for the weekend, and one of the redcoats found his way to the attic and managed to stick his foot through the ceiling, the castle people were not amused

-A big stack of resumes from when I was laid off and trying to get another high-tech job in the early 90's. PC's were new to me then, and my friend Dave printed a copy in Hebrew, one in Arabic, and one in the picture alphabit font called "dingbats"

-A framed photo of myself, Al, Mac and Bob back in the old days when we had a militia group. We've all gone our separate ways now. I also found the document from the Adjudant-General of the Massachusetts National Guard that gave us permission to form a colnial militia.

Sorting through this crap is a good thing, because it is one step closer to reclaiming my garages. At the same time, it's a fun little walk down memory lane.

Judging by the pile of "stuff" in the garage, I still have a lot of walking to do down that lane!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Building projects

Over the past week we have been working on fixing this place up in addition to getting a big order in and out as soon as possible.

We had almost everybody working this week. Jeff did a ton of prep work, Chester did some too, and Steven was introduced to it. Kristen started sewing hammerstalls and is cranking them out at a pretty good pace for a beginner. Louise came to pack one night. Kristen's 5 year old even got in on the act, sharing "special delivery" duties with Caleigh.

Special delivery is how Caleigh earns her allowance. Wendy's office is upstairs, and the shop is downstairs. Paperwork constantly needs to be shuttled up or down. Invoices come downstairs, the order is packed and weighed, then our copy of the invoice is sent back upstairs with the weight and dimensions written on it so Wendy can print out the UPS label, which in turn needs to come back down here. For each "special delivery", she earns a coin. I give her the choice of penny, nickel, dime or quarter and she knows enough to pick quarters most of the time.

When Chester and Steven were not doing shop work or packing, I put them to work doing some repair and pre-winter yard cleaning. I have a lot of work like that lined up for them. This week they finished off the bridge we built that goes from our bedroom to the woods. All that remains to be done is to finish the railing, but I'm not sure what I want it to look like yet. The fun part of me wants to make a rope railing, but the practical side of me wants to just use wood.

After that, I gave them hammers and set them to work dismantling the mound of plywood crates that the muskets come in. The plan is to salvage the plywood to sheathe outbuildings with and use the cleats as kindling. Later on, I'll have them start on a shed, a goat barn, and maybe a larger sized barn for general use. We'll want a shed for motorcycle storage too. With 9' pallets as framing and plywood sheathing, there is no end to the stuff you can build!

Yesterday I replaced the rotted door frame that leads to the shop from the outside. In the process, I lowered it a couple of inches which should make it easier to step in. During the warm weather, we use the sliding door by my office, but it tended to stick last winter when it got really cold. There is a step to get in through the "regular" door, but it didn't seem to be affected by the weather.

Click here to see a picture of the place on the day we stumbled onto it.

The door I just replaced is the white one. The slider I am talking about is the one under the little porch. We plan on closing in under the deck on the right to be able to weld and heat treat outside so as to minimise airborn soot etc. indoors. It's an oddly designed house, it was specifically built to be rock shop on the first floor and a residence on the second floor. The front door to the house part is in the back and the shop entrance is in the front.

Not to digress, but the white Mustang out front is Wendy's. A convertable was handy for hauling Long Lands to UPS back before we had a daily pickup account with them. Here's a picture from March of 2004 of our little Mustang in action.

The door and frame came from freecycle. We get a lot of building stuff from freecycle. Sitting out in the temporary shed is 14 bales of shingles. We've also got doors and windows stacked outside to use in several future project. Today I went over to Springfield and picked up a cast iron sink that we'll be installing down here in the shop so we won't have to go upstairs to wash up (and get yelled at by Wendy for tracking shop crud upstairs). Freecycle is a great thing, it has saved us THOUSANDS of dollars in building materials. We also got two wood stoves and gave away a bunch of stuff, including a wood lathe. We even got a kitten and a rabbit from it. Go to and look to see if there is a freecycle group in your area.

Much to do, winter is coming and soon all of the half-started outdoor projects are going to be covered in snow. OK, enough typing, time for dinner!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

First the boiler, now the water heater

OK, so Chester and I went to Lowell yesterday to load up my trailer with assorted "stuff" from the cellar. After that, I took him out for Cambodian food, his first time! I like that stuff, but am out of practice in digesting it. He opted for something safe: noodle soup with shrimp and beef. Not me, I had the "beef with spices", the spices being 6 or 8 chilis cut into chinks cleverly hidden inbetween the bell peppers. I used to eat that stuff all the time, but since I moved to NH my tolerance has lessened a bit so I was paying for it with a bit of a stomach ache this morning.

It's not bad enough that the boiler cooked itself in Lowell, but here in NH the water heater seems to have sprung a leak. If it is original to the house (and it appears to be) it is around 16 years old, which unfortunately is a typical service life for a modern water heater.

The water covered the floor in the utility room, spread under the wall to the machine shop and then from there to my office, where it soaked a box of papers. At least it didn't flow into the gun room!

So tomorrow I'll head over to Springfield VT to the plumbing supply place to get a new one and spend part (most?) of the day swapping it out. In the meantime, we are expecting a full house tomorrow, with Jeff, Chester, Steven and eventually Louise working to get the current shipment prepped, packed and shipped.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Building shelves tonight

I'm planning on making a run to Lowell tomorrow to pick up some assorted stuff from the cellar. This will lessen the chance of anything being damaged when the plumbers come to replace the boiler. I lived in the house for 11 years and never had a problem with it, and wouldn't you know it, just as I'm about to sell it, the float switch that would have cut off the burner if the water got low stuck shut (I assume) and the thing overheated.

The person I had hired to take care of the place and fix it up had simply walked off of the job and not told me, so the way I found out was when the appraiser came through to approve it for the buyer's mortgage. Oh well, what fun would life be if everything went smoothly?

Tonight I'm cleaning up this mess of a shop and putting up more shelves. One can't have too many shelves! I'm trying to come up with an efficient gun rack system to safely store my gun collection in such a way that it can be seen, but not be in any danger of falling over and dinging them up.

Since half of my collection are military surplus rifles, I've been looking at military surplus weapons racks, but they seem too bulky and heavy and wouldn't really work because there is a big dimensional difference between a Mosin-Nagant, a Carcano Cavalry Carbine and New England Fowler. None of these are quite the same as the current issue M16 that the racks were designed for. I guess I'll have to design my own!

In the meantime, I'll show you a few pics of some of the stuff in my collection.

This picture is a bit dark, but give me a break, it's after 1 AM here. It shows three blunderbusses. Starting from the left, there is a Spanish miqulet that has been converted to percussion. It is an original circa 1790. There are more detailed pictures of it here. In the middle is an original English gun from the Christie's auction. It has a mid 18th century British military barrel but has been restocked circa 1820. When the Brits would scrap their guns, they would sell the barrels off at public auction and it is not unusual for civilian guns to have old military barrels. On the right is a brass barreled reproduction. It is the first gun Wendy ever held, back when it belonged to Bob W. He traded it in at a local gun shop and I scooped it up at a gun show. Gotta "keep it in the family"!

This one is a demilled BREN from WW2. It has been demilled by taking a cutting torch and making three slashes through the reciever. There is a BATF approved conversion for these that will allow me to rebuild this as a semi-auto, but for now it is just a non-functioning display piece. BRENs were the standard light machine gun used by the British forces in WW2. They were used a squad automatic weapons, antiaircraft, and were also mounted on an elaborate tripod for sustained use. It is in .303 British caliber and has a quick-change barrel. Since the magazine is located on top of the reciever, the sights are offset to the left, so when you aim it, you are actually looking along the side of the weapon.

I know it looks silly wrapped in packing tape, but the way this one is demilled, it won't stay together by just assembling the chunks of reciever on the operating rod like the BREN. It is a FN-D, which is the final version of the classic BAR. By the 1950's, the BAR of WW1 and WW2 (not to mention Bonnie and Clyde) had evolved a few improvements, such as a quick change barrel. This version of it is chambered in the standard NATO .308 round and uses FN mags. It has a finned barrel. This particular rifle was used in the middle east conflicts.

Now let's go back to WW2. Here is a 1919a6 Browning machine gun posing next to a Soviet DP-28. The 1919 is a product of John Browning's mind, a design that goes back to WW1 only modernized by switching to an air cooled barrel instead of the heavy water jacket of the 1917 pattern. The 1919a6 version included a bipod, carry handle, and detachable buttstock so it could function as a squad automatic weapon and not need a tripod (and a second man to carry it). If you watch "Mail Call" on the History Channel, it's a 1919a4 that Gunny has mounted on his Jeep. For land use, these used a cloth belt (can be seen clearly in "Band of Brothers") but for aircraft use they used disintergrating metal links. Since a linker to use cloth belts is pretty expensive, most Browning enthusiasts today use metal links. This particular gun, after doing it's duty in WW2, was sent to Isreal where it was converted to use NATO .308 instead of the original chambering which was .30-06. I have all of the parts in hand to rebuild this display gun into a semi-auto, now I just need to find the time.

The gun behind the Browning, with the pan magazine on top, is a Soviet DP-28. This was chambered in 7.62 x 54R. The buttstock is shaped somewhat like a pork chop and has a built-in oil reservoir on top. It loads from the pan magazine and drops the empty cartridge right underneath it. It is a very efficient mechanism that has a unique bolt locking arrangement. As the bolt slams forward, carried by the operating rod, two wedges are driven out of the side of the bolt into machined pockets in the reciever. This one will take a bit of engineering to convert to a semi auto, but for now it is a unique display piece. The shortcoming of the design was the mainspring, which is located under the barrel where it would overheat and lose it's temper. This particular gun is a Polish parts kit assembled on a demilled Soviet reciever that is dated 1944. Under this gun is a complete gunner's tool kit in original pouch and a canvas cover for the gun.

I've got more LMGs, I just haven't had a chance to build enough shelving to display them yet. One of them is an amazing piece of German engineering, but I won't say what is yet, it's more fun to keep you guessing.

Maybe I should photograph all of my military stuff and create a "virtual museum" from our website's links page. Sounds like a good winter project!

Saturday, November 12, 2005

New Philadelphia

So I'm sitting in the bathroom this morning reading Archaeology Magazine to try and wake up, when I read an article about a town in Illinois that was built by a former slave who 17 years after purchasing his own freedom. In 1836, "Free Frank McWorter" bought a 42 acre parcel and sudivided it into 60 x 120 foot house lots. It was a typical planned community, with roads laid out in a grid.

To make a long story short, the town was open to whites, blacks and people of mixed heritage in an era when slavery was still an issue elsewhere. The town thrived, only to be crushed economically in 1869 when the railroad bypassed it, the fate of many frontier towns. It was unincorporated in 1885 and the last resident left in the 1930's. What is significant about the town is the way it was founded: by a freed slave.

What bugs me about the article is that there are strong hints of modern views tainting the interpretation of the archaeological finds there. There are two camps in this battle: one side wants to celebrate the story of a slave who plans ahead, buys his own freedom, saves enough money to buy land enough to start a town that had racial freedom as one of it's ideals, and uses the proceeds from the sale of lots to buy freedom for ten other family members. The other side of this has people who are out to prove that the only thing of importance in the New Philadelphia story is that it was built by a free slave, and that after that, blacks were still treated as second class citizens.

Archaeology is supposed to be based on science and facts. How the facts are interpreted is when things can go wrong. As an example, here are exerpts from three paragraphs in the article, they came one after the other:

Overall, the artifacts indicate a good quality of living for a frontier town...porcelain ceramics and a pewter toy set were among the finds. Sherds of contemporary English pottery reveal New Philadelphians' ability to acquire imported pottery from merchants along the Mississippi. It has been found in lots owned by residents of all races, indicating a similar access to markets and trade.

But ethnic differences between households will be informative as well. These will probably emerge from the faunal and botanical remains. Last year, a refuse-filled cellar on the the property once owned by the Butlers, an African American family, yielded nearly 1,000 faunal remains that show a dietary pattern called Upland South: lots of pig, chicken, and very little beef...

...the dietary remains are slim, says Terry Martin, who is back at the Illinois State museum, where he and students are analyzine the faulal and botanical remains..."We haven't really gotten any large faunal samples..."

What I see in the middle paragraph is an attempt to make a statement based on the adjenda of the author. The concepts are introduced with the words "will" and "probably". The first paragraph tells us that the physical evidence shows affluence being fairly equal across racial lines, based on recovered trade goods. The last paragraph says that there really haven't been enough dietary finds to prove anything one way or another. But the second paragraph dares to suggest that the lack of beef in the Butlers' diet suggests that there is a different standard of living for them.

Let's think about this a moment. You have a 60' x 120' lot. Can you keep chickens there? Yup, a bag of grain goes a long way. Can you keep a pig or two there? Yup, another bag of grain and your kitchen slops. Can you keep beef cattle there? Nope, not without hauling in all of it's feed. A century and a half later, what will remain of your meat animals in an environment that has very rich soil? Some bones. When you eat chicken, it is cooked on the bone, that's how it comes from the market. Some cuts of pork are on the bone as well. Only the most expensive cuts of beef are on the bone when you bring them home from the market.

This article really tweaks me because it is such a good example of "acadamia" twisting around our history. It's bad science and bad research.

Free Frank McWorter rose above his circumstances and performed an amazing feat. even by his death he continued to free others with his estate that was used to buy the freedom of six more people. By trying to prove that Free Frank's town was just another segregated frontier place, the hate-mongering left wing "intelectuals" out there are just insulting his memory.

Once upon a time our group was called upon to give a presentation on the Lewis and Clark expedition to a local school. Since it was out of our usual sphere of reenacting, I did some research on just what exactly 5th graders were supposed to know about it. The Federal guidelines said that they should know about how the Corps of Discovery were sent west to take land from the natives and how one of the goals was to spread racism because Clark brought his slave along. Revisionist BS!!!! Of course, we just did our own thing, and were pleasantly surprised when we got to the school and the kids were ready for us with all sorts of good technical questions.

History is full of both good things and bad. We can study them and learn from them, but when we change the facts and ideas to align with 21st century values we are just lying to ourselves and the people who we seek to teach. It is a disservice not only to our listeners, but also to our forebears. For some odd reason it is in vogue to bash heroes. Lewis and Clark are famous enough to stand on their own, but Free Frank is not and deserves better.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Veteran's Day

The "Great War" ended in 1918 "on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month" with an armistice between the involved nations. The next year, the peace was made official with the Treaty of Versailles.

The world at the time did not recall any such carnage to compare to the years of bloodshed they had just gone through. It was a very interesting time for our world, we were in transition from the slower paced life of the 19th century and about to jump in over our heads to the manufacturing age. WW1 brought us from massed infantry tactics into a more modern, lethal age of trench warfare, automatic weapons, fighter planes and poison gas. A new Hell on Earth that was so traumatizing that they thought we would never repeat it.

In our collection, we have a letter home from a soldier who was "over there". In it, he describes to a friend back home who works for B&M Railroad how rough life is and how complete the destruction is. He declares that if the workers at home would see the things that he had seen, they would never complain about trivial things again.

As I write this, I'm looking through a magazine intitled "The Illustrated War News". It is dated September 19. 1917. The front cover has a photo of a French bicycle soldier who is wearing a wicker backpack. The pack is a portable carrier pigeon coop. They were still communicating with carrier pigeons, yet killing each other with airplanes, machine guns and tanks.

Inside the magazine there are a wide assortment of illustrations showing various scenes from the war. The centerspread is a scene of an unnamed battlefield. The ground that so many fought and died over is nothing but a vast expanse of mud, shell holes, flooded trenches and a bombed-out factory off in the distance.

On November 11, 1919, President Wilson proclaimed the first "Armistice Day" with the following words: "To us in America, the reflections of armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…". We were to honor our veterans with a two minute halt to commerce at 11AM.

In 1921, Congress declared the day to be a Federal holiday. They voted to establish a "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier" in Arlington National Cemetery of that year and did so with a ceremony held on Nov. 11th.

Who would have guessed that the "War to end all wars" had a sequel? World War Two came and went, with the Korean Conflict close on it's heels. Apparently the "Great War" was not enough to scare the civilized world into not repeating it.

With a whole new generation of veterans to honor, the old Armistice Day was officially changed to Veterans Day in 1954 by President Eisenhower. "Ike" had been in the army during WW1, but he was kept stateside to train troops the new machines called "tanks". The training field was on the hallowed ground of the Gettysburg battlefield, where there had been 58,000 American casualties in three days in 1863. Later he would go on to be the Supreme Allied Commander for all forces in Europe.

We must never forget what our Veterans have done for us. This thought extends to ALL veterans, from the colonial era through the present day. When I was a kid, it seemed like all of the older guys in the neighborhood had fought in WW2. Most of them are dead now. My daughter is four years old, and it is doubtful that she will have a chance to have a meaningful conversation with a WW2 vet by the time she is old enough to remember it. It is now our resposibility, as historians and collectors to teach the next generation of Americans about the sacrifice that was made for us by those that went before. It inspires me to organize our collection of military artifacts in such a way that it can speak for itself someday.

War is an unavoidable byproduct of human nature, and we can only hope that our future will never again see the horrors of the kind of war that we have seen in the 20th Century. America is THE world's superpower, and may we never again have to see the devastation of WW2, the "total warfare" of WW2 or anything else on that scale, and may we never forget the men and women who made our security possible.

Remember that tonight as we go to sleep in our warm, dry beds that there are thousands of Americans deployed around the globe in a new kind of war, a war on terrorism. Some of them will die today. We owe a debt to every person in uniform, and the next time you bump into a soldier, remember to thank them for their service. Hold the door for them, offer them your seat on the bus. Say "thank you" and mean it. Remember that they are the front line of our freedom, that part of their job description is to lay down their life for us and that far too many have had to do just that.

Monday, November 07, 2005

More guns on the way!

We got word over the weekend that there is another shipment of guns on the way. Six crates. Fowlers, Besses, Bakers, French muskets, blunderbusses, an assortment of pistols, an assortment of powder flasks (I don't even know what these look like yet). Bess bayonets too, which brings us a little bit closer to being caught up on bayonets.

My guess is that they should be here by the end of the week, provided that the unrest in the EU doesn't get out of hand to the point that the airports close.

On another note, we are expecting Chester and Steven to sign on soon, which should make things more efficient around here. It's been hard to keep up without Chris.

The first thing I will subject them to is finishing up the move from Lowell. There are only a few things left there, but we need to do a general clean-up of the yard of downed wood etc. that is required for the closing to go down on schedule. It should have been done weeks ago, but Nikkie bailed out on me and just left it undone. Didn't even tell me that she quit! I thought she was more mature than that, but I guess not.

News from the farmstead: yesterday the guineas decided to wander away and not come home to roost. In the morning, they were making their normal racket outside the door, but by the time I got the feed buckets filled and went outside, the adults had wandered off, leaving just the babies. By nightfall, the babies were gone too. This morning when I got up, there was still no sign of any of them and I assumed they weren't coming back. We had to run over to Springfield first thing in the morning, and when we were ready to leave, here came the guineas, making just as much noise as ever. It was just the adults, but at least they made it home. Maybe they have found a better roost out in the woods, and hopefully they will bring the babies back next time. Silly guineas!

Friday, November 04, 2005

It's official, I live in NH

Today's mail brought my permanent NH driver's license. The state is apparently a little paranoid about people applying for NH drivers licenses but staying, so there is a waiting period of six months before you are actually considered a citizen. In the meantime you are issued a temporary license.

The downside to that is that until you get the permanent one, you are considered a non-resident and you therefore have to buy NON-resident hunting and fishing licenses (at a much higher rate).

There are lots of funny little things about NH, and the waiting period to be a citizen is only one of them. In the end, it's all worth it.

The ironic part is that we actually moved here in July of last year, I just never got around to transferring my license. If I had been on the ball, I could have been a citizen since January!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Is this from the 1830's?

A typical moment in this household...

As I'm typing the last post, Caleigh comes downstairs into my office. Unbeknownst to me, she wanders over to the wall-o-books and picks up an 18th century naval dirk (restored) and comes up behind me.

She asks: "can I play with this Daddy?"

I saw what she had and said "uuuhhhhhh....NO!" and explained why.

Then she wanted to know what exactly a dirk was. Was it a sword?

In her little hands, it did look like a sword.

I told her that it was very old, hundreds of years.

She said "Oh, it is from the 1830's or something?"

I said no, that it was from the 1700's.

Her response was simple: "Oh, that's cool".

She put it back, briefly looked at the other one, and then distracted herself with a brochure from Storyland, an amusement park in the Lakes Region.

Doug's lock

This afternoon was spent doing some repair work on a few locks and a pistol.

Of particular note was Doug H's lock. It is off of one of the early 3rd models, back when they were 2-2 1/2 lbs heavier with a bunch of extra wood on the forend. The lock needed the frizzen rehardened (back then they were using a lower carbon steel) and some general tuning. It was acting weird, the frizzen was hanging up even after I reshaped the bearing surface (where it rides against the spring). My next thought was that perhaps the frizzen screw was too tight because there was a Ted Cash type flashguard mounted on it. I loosened it to no avail.

Hmmmm....what could it be? I looked closer as i snapped the lock and found the problem. There was a burr raised up on the end of the mainspring screw that the frizzen spring was hanging up on partway through it's arc. Just that little bit of hesitation was all that was needed to make the frizzen slow down enough to "stall" if you will. Odd, first time I've seen that one.

I polished off the burr and it was fine. Now when you snap the lock, it not only snaps sharply, it creates such a shower of sparks that it's like the 4th of July! The sparks actually make a sizzling sound for a second as they burn out.

Sometimes it's the littlest thing that can cause a problem, and you gotta look at it from another angle. That's the fun of this.

On another note, Valentina had a total of four babies. One was apparantly stillborn because she tossed it out of the cage. The other three are thriving and will look like her: white with brown ears. The dead one had plugged nostrils, so it was either stillborn or she didn't know you are supposed to clean them up when they are born. It was probably the first one. On the other hand, she had cleaned it up, but may not have done it right the first time. Practice makes perfect, and I'm sure Lightning (the male) will oblige.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Valentina kindled this morning

So I get up before Wendy and Caleigh and go about my morning chores without Caleigh, she'll have a fit when she finds out. I wanted to do it alone his morning because it takes 1/3 the time and we have to get going relatively early to head down to Massachusetts today.

After letting the dog out, I tossed a handfull of food to the guineas to shut them up and keep them around. They are learning to forage and I worry that if I don't give them a little food they will lose interest in us and wander off to greener pastures. It seems to be working.

Next stop was the chicken coop. Since the goat shed still isn't built, the girls get tethered out in the yard to cut the grass and clear brush during the day, but still bunk with the chickens at night. When I go in, I bring a bucket of chicken feed and a couple of flakes of hay for the goats. First I hang the bucket of feed from the turkey perch so I won't have to deal with everybody trying to climb me while putting the hay in it's bag. Somehow this morning I ended up with a NH Red hen sitting on my shoulder for the whole process like a short, fat parrot.

The hay goes into a nylon rope bag that keeps it up off of the ground and allows the goats to pull it through. It gives them something to do as well becasue it just hangs from the turkey perch and thus swings around a bit.

Once that is done, I dump the chicken feed into the trough and stand back! On the way out, I stop at the henhouse and check for eggs. We are only getting a couple per day right now because they are molting. It went from a dozen plus to one or two almost overnight. The hens look kind of ratty as well since their feathers are falling out to be replaced with new ones. It's triggered by the shortening day.

Next stop: fill up the duck feeder. The new ducks aren't really getting along with the runners. They still seem to be in dispute over who owns the kiddie pool. They posture and parry, like a duck version of "West Side Story"...a turf war as the black ducks move into the white duck's neighborhood. What drama!

Last stop: make sure the rabbits have food and water and check to see if Valentina had had her babies yet. As I walked into the shed, she was sitting in front of her feeder munching away on pellets. She had pulled out a lot of her belly hair to line her nest with yesterday, and there in the middle of the nest in the hay was at least three, maybe more hours-old baby rabbits! Pink and hairless, maybe 3" long and 1" wide with little hairless rabbit ears. She covered them up with more hair and went back to her feeder. It looks like she knows what to do with them, and it is supposed to be warmer for the next few days so I think it will work out well.

It's getting late, so I'd better go wake up Wendy and Caleigh so they can see them before we leave.

Good job Lightning and Valentina!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Stamp Act turns 240

On November 1st, 1765 the British Parliament signed into law the "Stamp Act". it was a tax code meant to defray the cost of the Seven Years War, known as the French and Indian War here in the colonies.

TO the Yankees, this act was seen as unfair taxation. The law placed a tax on paper items like newspapers, playing cards, legal documents and other items that people used on a daily basis. Basically, a user fee. Today these taxes are concealed in the end cost of the product, but in 1765 they affixed a stamp. Ironically, the stamps were red. I have several period newspapers in my collection and the stamps are the color of blood stains.

Ultimately, the uproar over the stamp act (called the "intollerable acts" here in the colonies) would lead to disent and civil unrest. To make a long story short, the most notable of the civil unrest incidents was the Boston Tea Party, during which three shiploads of tea owned by the East India Company were destroyed. This is just one of many events that led up to the American Revolution and our ultimate separation from Great Britain.

You can read more about the Stamp Act here:

A great weekend

Ok, so it wasn't a reenactment weekend, but it was still a pretty good couple of days.

Charlie came up with Gracie, Jamie and Little Charlie to go to the Halloween event at the Fort. Mostly they wanted to go on the hayride. I personally could give or take the Halloween event at the Fort because it always bugs me to see a historic site done up in a goofy way, but it was a good excuse for Charlie and his brood to come up and visit. Caleigh had a ball with the kids, and we always like to see Charlie.

On Sunday, we went down to Putney to meet Lili the sheep girl for a tour of her farm and to pick up some surplus ducks and a cockerel. I learned a lot about sheep, and really liked her. Caleigh and the other kids had fun on the swings, and later got into the whole farm experience. The barn was cool, probably had it's roots in the 18th centruy, but has been repaired and upgraded over the years. It was sort of neat to look att he framework and see a mix of hand-hewn beams and modern laminated beams.

The ducks she gave us are gorgeous! Shiny black with green highlights and white chests. Almost like you crossed a penguin and a duck. They aren't quite getting along with our runner ducks yet, but they are getting there. With Charlie's help, we managed to get the new duck pen all ready before their arrival.

We also managed to get the outdoor rabbit hutches finished. The hutches that came with them had a wooden and plastic floor, neither of which are very practical. The new wire hutches are made by Havaheart (the live-catch trap people) and only cost $26 each. If I did the math right and Lightning did his job right, Valentina should have her litter of bunnies on Wednesday. One thing is for sure, she's enjoying her new digs.

Today I shipped the last of the orders from my "outbox". Unless Wendy has a stash of invoices up in her office, that means I'm basically caught up on orders. As soon as it went out on the UPS truck, we got ready for trick-or-treating.

Caleigh dressed up as a princess this year, specifically Cinderella. With shoes and a tierra from Wal-Mart and a hand-me-down bridesmaid dress from Gracie, she was looking good for under $10. First we stopped at Jeff and Louise's house, but they weren't home. I did get to see Jeff doe that he shot yesterday (more on that later). We then went to visit Faye and the other Jeff, who were home. After that, we went downtown to go trick-or-treating. Since we had gone visiting before hand, we didn't get to visit as many houses as last year, but it was still fun.

To us, it isn't about the candy. Halloween means you get to go ring someone's doorbell and meet them with no real excuse for doing so. This year, we met some really nice folks. One family let Caleigh use their potty and invited us in to chat a while. They own 200 head of cattle and the husband is a farrier for a living. I'd like to spend some time getting to know them, as I'm sure I could learn an awful lot of things I couldn't learn anywhere else.

We later met Dan, of Dan's Max Saver. It's the discount and tool store that we use as a landmark when giving directions to our place. Interestingly, for folks coming from south of here, we use the abovementioned guy's cattle as a landmark too!

To round out today's report, we got a call at 9PM last night from Jeff. It seems he got himself a deer this year! Without going into particulars, let's just say it's been a while. It is a doe, he shot it on the back section of his own property. He got it with his club-butt fowler that he built himself, it is all scratch built, he even hand-forged the barrel. The doe dressed out at 118lb, if memory serves me. It's hanging from a gambrel on a hoist that protrudes from the loft of his blacksmith shop. Tomorrow I'll go get a picture and find some way to tease him about it. I think I'll wander into the shop and say "My pet deer wandered off this weekend, have you seen it?..."