Pete's random thoughts

Monday, March 13, 2006

"Date day"

Today is a holiday, but only in this family. It is "date day". it marks the anniversary of Wendy and Pete's first in-person date.

We first chatted online on my birthday: January 7th, 1999. Chats turned to a reluctant phone call, and several long stories later, we met in person for the first time on March 13th, 1999. She was living at her work in Lynn, MA (an apartment came with the job, nobody would live in Lynn on purpose). I lived in Lowell, MA which is nearly 40 miles away. If not for the internet, we would never have met.

Between the phone and the computer, we had probably talked for hundreds of hours and sort of knew each other really well before we came face to face. Interesting how little wires run through the side of your house can make such an impact on your world.

Our first date was to be a trip to the Peabody-Essex museum in Salem, MA. We never actually went inside, instead ending up driving around, talking, going out for Thai food, visiting a historic cemetary etc.

The rest is history, or at least living history. We got married at Fort #4 at the end of July after spending two weeks living in my Dodge van as we made our way to Louisburg and back for the 1999 Grand Encampment. Basically, her third living history event was our wedding. Since they wouldn't give her two weeks off to get married and go on her honeymoon, she quit her job to go on the trip.

Caleigh was born in September of 2001, and I lost my job as a mechanic while on family leave to take care of the new baby and recovering Mama. That's when I took the family's part-time sutler business that we had been involved in since 1993 and went full time with it, resulting in the MVTCo you know today.

It all started with a single email sent to

Busy day for scammers

Sometimes I get them in dribs and drabs, other times I get them in big bunches.

It's just after 2PM, and already today I've gotten 6 Nigeria scam "offers" in my inbox. Amazing.

Just heard of another scam that is a problem to anyone who sells stuff online, especially ebay. There is a person or group of folks in South Carolina who are printing out fake Western Union money orders. By the time they are discovered, the stuff you sold them on ebay has already been resold by them. Because of jurisdiction issues, it's hard to do anything about it since technically the crime happened in SC, and all of the victims are in other states. The article I read said there are potentially thousands of victims at this point.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Calf update

A couple of people have asked how the calves are doing, particularly the sickly one. Th sad news is that he didn't make it. He was runty to begin with, and the scours were too much for him to handle. We tried, but not much could be done for him. It's a risk I was willing to take. At least here he has a warm, dry place to live for his few days that he lived as opposed to being shuttled around on livestock trailers from dealer to dealer. It was heartbreaking to watch the little guy fade away, but I knew what I was getting into when I brought him home.

Rocky the Holstien, on the other hand, is doing quite well. He had a bout with scours, but responded well to treatment (pepto bismol, cutting his milk ration down to nothing, feeding pedialite and plain yogurt) and recovered like a champ.

Here's a picture of Caleigh giving him his morning bottle, and here's one of him patiently waiting for me as I approach with the morning grub. Bumper, the white goat, who is sticking her head out of the cattle panel bleating at me, is less than patient.

Mud season is here!

As of Saturday, mud season is officially here. In New England, there are five seasons instead of the normal 4. Between winter and spring is a brief interlude called "mud season" during which the dirt roads, yards, and unpaved driveways turn from frozen earth to a mud that varies from in gooeyness from sod that just sort of moves under your feet, to soup, to roadways that have the same basic properties as unbaked cornbread batter.

There are methods to driving in it with a two wheel drive vehicle. Basically, keep your wheels on the high spots between the ruts and don't stop for any reason.

After the frost is gone from the ground once and for all, it will dry up. The town will grade the roads. Life will be back to "normal".

If you were thinking of coming by to visit over the next few weeks, be sure to call first for a road report! Although we have a neighbors who regularly go to town with a Saturn, a Buick sedan etc. they are seasoned mud drivers and know the tricks to keep from sinking. Four wheel drive vehicles will have no problem. If you decide to "wing it" and come by with the family sedan, remember: don't stop in the mud or you will sink! Ground clearance saves mufflers.

Wedding ring lost and found

So last week I was moving a stack of assorted papers around down here in the shop and heard a clatter of something small and metallic hitting the floor. There, on the floor just under the front of the fridge was a silver Claddagh ring. A big one at that. It wasn't mine, I don't have a Claddagh ring. I rarely even wear my wedding ring. Where had I seen this ring before?

In my experience as a mechanic and before that as an electrician, I learned that rings can get you into trouble. They get stuck in places you can't get out of, short of gnawing off your hand. I'll admit, my high school ring did save my fingers once when the screws holding a very heavy transformer broke, causing it to fall straight down against the steel frame of a machine that I happened to be working on. The transformer wedged in the opening it was falling through when it jammed against my class ring. If not for the ring, three of my fingers would have been sheared off.

I do have a few rings that are fun to wear sometimes. I've got some sort of silver religious ring that was my Grandfather's when he was young, I can see it in a family portrait from 1928. Whatever the saint is on the front is pretty well worn off, maybe it is the Virgin Mary? I'll have to do some homework as to whet church they belonged to in that era, and maybe I'll be able to figure it out.

I've also got a couple of 18th century rings that came from archaeological digs. Those are fun to wear at living history events. One is a siple band with some of it's gilding still on it, another is copper with a pattern, and a third has a paste stone on the front, with traces of the gilding left on. The stone has deteriorated away to almost nothing.

My wedding ring is a sterling silver reproduction of an 18th century ring that is in the Peabody-Essex Museum collection. The museum is a great resource to study trade and New England's maritime history, but that's a whole 'nother post. Wendy and I were to go on our first date to the museum, and I bumped into a guy at Ticonderoga who makes reproduction silver jewelry. It was the perfect ring to get at our 18th century wedding! I just can't get in the habit of wearing one though.

What I don't have, is a Claddagh ring. Especially one big enough to fit around my thumb. Where had I seen it before? Then it dawned on me! Paulie wears a silver Claddagh! And Paulie, well, he's a pretty big boy...

He had gone off to Maine to a gun show and I didn't know how to get ahold of him. Yesterday I ran into him down at #4, and sure enough, it is his wedding ring that he didn't even notice had fallen off. It seems that this is not the first time he lost it either. Another time it turned up in the woodpile at the fort.

I generously offered to pin it to his finger, much the way you would pin the brass tip onto a wooden rammer. It would only hurt for a minute, provided there were no infection. He declined.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Smashed crate

Thursday afternoon a shipment of muskets and bayonet arrived. I had to go across town to the truck driver's house to meet him becasue our road is now posted with a 6 ton limit, and will remain so for the duration of "mud season". How we work it during this season is that I take my pickup and meet the straight truck somewhere to transfer the crates to my truck for the ride up the hill.

When I got to the guy's house, I was horrified to see a crate of Enfield muskets totally smashed. You could see that it had been dropped on it's end, probably from a loading dock. Whoever smashed it too the time to put another band around it the long way to hold the big pieces together. I photographed it in it entirety to document it in case I had to file a claim. A crate of muskets represents a lot of money!

Once I got got home, Wendy and I unloaded the truck, since Steven had gone for the day. We discovered another crate that had been pierced with the blade of a fork truck. Now I was really getting scared...

As we unpack the crates, we inspect them for damage, measure the bores and log them in to our inventory book. It's a bit tedious, but it is still a thrill every time I open a crate. Like Christmas in March!

Miraculously, there wasn't a single gun damaged even though one crate had been punctured and another had been completely smashed.

This batch of guns has a nice feel to them. I can't put it into words well, but some guns just "feel" better than others. The finish on the wood is a perfect color, the shape and form of the stocks are just right. All in all, a shipment that scared me at first when I saw the damaged crates is turning out pretty nice!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Stupid rabbit - healthy calf

We had bred "Barbie" the French Lop rabbit last month. Crossed her with "Lightning", our buck rabbit. Not huge, but not small either, both good sized for a family meal, with smallish to medium bone structures. She was due to kindle today.

I gave her a box to nest in and a pile of hay to line it with, but she didn't seem to know what to do with it. The day after i gave it to her, the box was turned on it's side and the hay was strewn about everywhere. It worried me that perhaps she wasn't going to be a good mother. Then yesterday I watched her running around with a mouthfull of hay, which is something they will do before giving birth as they are instinctively preparing a nest. Typically they will do this for days before birthing.

The last couple of days, the Momma rabbit will pull out a bunch of hair from her belly and line the nest with it. Barbie didn't, which really made me suspicious of her abilities.

This morning, Caleigh and I went out to check on them and change their water and found five (well, 4 1/2 - she started to eat one) dead, frozen babies. The nest box was on it's side, hay was still scattered everywhere, and there was a big pile of belly hair in the corner (not where the pile of babies was, of course!).

It seems like her mothering instincts kicked in after the babies were born, and she started making a nest for them postpartum. When it is in the single digits at night, there is no time to lose for little hairless baby rabbits while Momma putzes around trying to figure out how to build a nest!

I think I will wait another month to breed her again so the nights will be warmer. The fact that she eventually pulled out her belly hair and tried to make a nest gives me a little hope that maybe she can figure this out. If she doesn't, she is a good candidate for rabbit chilli.

"Valentina" is a great mother, albeit a little on the small side. Hopefully, she will pass on whatever gene makes them good mothers to her daughters. Selective breeding is important to a good end-product, and a Momma rabbit too stupid to take care of her babies just uses up food and gives us nothing in return.

On the plus side, Rocky the calf is doing well, he mimicks the goats and yesterday I saw him munching on alfalfa hay with them. His poops are starting to look like real cow poop. He had been a little scoury from overeating, but I cut out milk replacer for a couple of days and gave him some pedialyte and plain yogurt. What happens is that only the first of the calf's four stomach chambers is functional at first, and if they overeat, the lower stomach chambers can't digest the extra milk so they get diareah. It can kill them. The pedialyte keeps them hydrated and the yogurt introduces healthy bacterial culture into their stomachs. It's all pretty fascinating.

OK, gotta get back to work. Today I'm working on Gordon F's doglock.