Pete's random thoughts

Thursday, April 27, 2006

New duckling!

Well, he worked at getting out of his shell for nearly three days, but about 15 minutes ago we hatched our first duckling!

He's (she's?) all black, with black feet and bill. It was the only fertile egg out of 7 duck eggs that were in the incubator.

It is some sort of mixed breed. We have two kinds of ducks out there, Pencilled Fawn Indian Runners, and Cayuga-Campbell crosses. The little squeaky black thing could be the latter, or a mix of all three breeds.

The only way we'll know is if it walks upright. Runners walk straight up and down, like the AFLAK duck from the TV commercials.

We'll let him dry off for a while, then take him out of the incubator to play with him for a while before putting him in the brooder to meet the chicks.

So far, we've hatched out two batches of guineas, a batch of chickens, this duckling, and now I'm working on a batch of Narragansett turkeys.

Nothing is exciting as watching eggs hatch. I don't think it will ever get old.

4 AM...wake-up call....

Something woke me up this morning at 4AM.

Took me a few minutes to figure out what the sound was.

Then it struck me..."is that a rooster crowing?"

Roosters don't crow at dawn, roosters crow whenever they feel like it. It's a hormone thing, all about impressing the girls. It might impress the hens, but it can put you on the fast-track to being the "guest of honor" at dinner though!

The one that was proclaiming his manhood in the predawn hours is a relatively young one. He managed to escape from the chicken pen, and hasn't figured out how to get back in yet. As a result, he sleeps up in the hemlocks or something. When the others crow at night, they don't seem as loud because they are inside the chicken house, but this guy sounds like he is right on top of the hill behind the house.

Silly rooster.

Friday, April 21, 2006 of those days...

So after I spend maybe an hour or more on the lathe making a custom part for John L's doglock, I'm nearing the end of the project and wouldn't you know it - the stupid thing went out of balance and bent! Now I gotta start from scratch.

On a brighter note, we got more than a dozen eggs today, and as of this morning I've lost 24.5 pounds so far on my 18th century diet in just over 9 weeks. That's an average of 2.5 lbs per week, without any real sacrifices on my part. My weight is at it's lowest point for at least the last 15 years.

"The Regulars fight and do mischief at Concord"

This is an odd time of year for me now that I'm up here on the frontier. It's a time when I'm excited about spring's arrival and time to get planting, but at the same time, there's a part of my life missing because back in Middlesex county this is the time of year that the whole reenacting world is abuzz about the events of April 19th, 1775 since it happened right there.

Now that I'm 100 miles away, I'm observing the anniversary of that time a little differently, since it would have affected me differently in this place at that time. Back in Massachusetts, the area we lived in received word that "the regulars are out" and marching on Concord around 8AM on April 19th. (all of the surrounding villages got the word in the 1AM timeframe, our messenger must have stopped off at the tavern for some antifreeze...)

At that time and place, folks were already up and working. The farmer who owned the land that my house was built on 120 years later was plowing his fields and when he got the message, he left his plow in the furrow, hitched his team to a tree, and headed off to the drama that was already unfolding in Concord. The scene at Lexington Green had already taken place, the British had arrived at Concord. By the time the guys from my neighborhood reached the battle, the "shot heard round the world" had already been fired across Concord's North Bridge. They took place in the first major ambush of the retreating British troops at a place called Merriam's Corner.

Up here in New Hampshire, we were a bit removed from the drama. We didn't hear about the Lexington and Concord events until the 20th, but when we did, it caused an appropriate uproar.

I'll tell the NH story of this time and date by stepping back and letting Abner Sanger tell it. He was there. Abner was a farmer/laborer living in Keene, NH in 1775. He kept a great journal which is currently in publication. Keene is about 30 miles south of here.

from Sanger's journal:

April 19 - This day morning is fair and clear. Jeremiah Stiles comes and begins to hew barn timbers. I fix away to town, the first time I have been to Keene Town Street from the last days of August 1773 to this. I do down. The first place I go into is Rugg's and Abijah Wilder's, then to Josiah Richardson's, then old David Nims's, then Eliphalet Briggs Jr.'s, then to the saw mill with Zadock, then back to Dr. Tiffany's, then up to Benjamin Osgood's until the sun sets. Fair clear and cool. Then to Eliphalet Carpenter's, then to Joseph Brown's by dark, then to young David Nims's. I stay all night. Cool, this day is fair, cool and windy. The Regulars fight and do mischief at Concord.

I suspect Abner went into town to settle up account books, since he stopped in to see so many people. It was just another New England day. His line at the end about the Regulars was obviously added later, when he transcribed his notes into his journal.

April 20 - This morning clear, cold and frosty. I am at young David Nim's. I get up and spend the morning with said Nims and talk about reckoning. His child is sick. I eat breakfast. Then I go to Breed Batchelder's. Grows cloudy. He comes in from work. I borrow his manuscript of surveying. Then I come off. I come to old Eliphalet Carpenter's. Looks like rain coming up. Said Carpenter requests me to his sugar boiling place and help him bring down ashes from it. the wind rises very high. We're in danger of trees falling on us. rain comes up. I go to dinner at said Carpenter's. Afternoon rain descended. I set out home. I get to old Wheeler's. I get Mrs. Frink's "Gentleman's Library", then into town by Baker's. Now is the news of the fight with Regulars in Concord, Lexington, Menotomy and also of people being killed. Keene town is in an uproar. They warn a muster. I go to Baker's, Dorman's, Williams's office, Wadsworth's and to his shop, old Gideon Ellis's, then to Israel Houghton's, then set out home to John Houghton's. I meet El above the Bellows's house going to hear the news. This night fair and clear. I am at John Houghton's. Cool night.

I'm not sure at this point if Abner visits all of the named people in April 20th's entry to spread the word about the hostilities, or if he is still "reckoning" his accounts.

April 21 - This morning is fair, cool and clear. The town of Keene musters in general. A number enlist to go off to fight Regulars. Then all that enlist retire home to make ready to march on the morrow. Captain Wyman is chosen captain. Sergeant Thomas Baker is chosen lieutenant. Jeremiah Stiles is chosen orderly sergeant. Isaac Esty comes to said Houghton's and offers me his gun to go fight Regulars. I accept it and go up to El's at Mother's and make ready to go to said Houghton's overnight. Lawrence and Eb Billings is there.

It is now two days after the engagement on Lexington Green, the word of the battle has reached the NH countryside, and the locals are readying to respond to the crisis. But first, they need to gather at the muster, elect officers, and round up equipment. Abner has to borrow a musket! It seems that by 1775, things have relaxed from the days of the French wars to the point that the militia is no longer in a state of readyness. He doesn't pick up the borrowed musket until the next day, April 22nd, three days after the start of hostilities. The local militia marches as far as Winchendon (the NH/MA border) on the 22nd, finally reaching Cambridge on April 25th, six days after the events at Lexington and Concord. They stuck around Cambridge for five days, and were given the option to either enlist or return home. Abner chose the latter and was back in Keene on May 3rd.

No statues to them, no great poetry about them, just farmers, millers, shopkeepers and craftsmen whose lives were interrupted by politics and violence. Life on the farm was often far more pressing to deal with than global politics and the abstract concept of infringed rights. We aren't much different today, only today we have TV, radio, the Internet, and cars that could take us from here to Concord in two hours.

What would we, as modern Americans, do if we were in their shoes?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Chick update...

I had to forgo working on our taxes today to go "fetch stuff" from the feed store and a neighboring farm. Couldn't put it off, we were out of hay, low on most feeds, and out of gamebird feed.

So instead of ranting about taxes as I had planned on today, I'll talk about farm stuff. The guy we get hay and shavings from alos raises Hereford cattle and his own crossed pigs. I've reserved two piglets from this batch, and I got to see the little day-old piglets today. I should have brought my camera! Cute little buggers, maybe half as big as a cat. More supposed to drop in a few days. After taxes are done, I'm going to take Caleigh to visit. He's also got donkeys, jackasses, the coolest billy goat I've ever seen, oxen and who knows what else!

Here's a chick update. So far, we have had 14 of them hatch, but we lost one today. It's navel hadn't closed up properly, and it had some kind of herniation thing going on. Still, it's a pretty good survival rate so far. We just have a $39 styrofoam incubator from Agway, but if you are attentive and turn the eggs twice daily and be sure the water is kept full, it does all that a hen would do.

Here's a pic of our baker's dozen of chicks, taken yesterday:

I just unloaded a bunch of hay and a couple of hundred pounds of feed. Now it's dinner time!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Chicks are hatching!

Most of yesterday and part of today was spent unpacking the latest order of guns and bayonets.

Today we have spent a bit of time hovering over the incubator watching chicks hatch. There are 2 dozen chicken eggs in there and 7 duck eggs. By candling them, I feel that only one of the duck eggs is fertile, but the chicken eggs seem to be about 75% or more fertile.

We expect things to be hatching over the course of this week, based on when they were put into the incubator. But last night, they started to "pip". Pipping is when the chick uses it's "egg tooth" to make the initial crack in the shell. The egg tooth later falls off. Sometimes you can hear the eggs peep as well.

We moved the incubator out of the shop and upstairs into the house so it would be easier for everyone to watch. Early this afternoon, Caleigh noticed the first little black chick laying next to a broken egg shell. As I write this, there are four stumbling around in the styrofoam incubator and a bunch more pipping that will probably hatch by morning.

These eggs came from our own chickens, and are the first wave of sustainablility of our flock. What kind are they? Who knows! They are the product of an assortment of heritage breed birds and represent true "dung heap fowl" as would have been found here on the frontier in the 18th century.

OK, I gotta get back to work and prep the brooder to keep the little peeps warm...then I gotta work on my taxes as April 15th looms directly ahead!

Here's a pic:

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Easter egg hunting practice

Easter is still over a week away, but there's no better time than the present to practice hunting for eggs.

Take today for example. Caleigh and I go out to the pens to check for eggs together. Today, there were 6 chicken eggs in three different nests. One turkey egg sitting in the middle of the pen near the feed trough, one duck egg in the duck house, one duck egg on the duck house, one guinea egg sitting on the ground under the water spigot, and one guinea egg randomly placed in the walkway to the chicken pen.

The chickens put them in the nest boxes, but everybody else seems to be getting egg laying advice from the Easter Bunny.

On a more serious note, I went into town today to meet the truck from Boston since the road is still posted "6 ton limit". The crates that I picked up contain our resupply shipment of four kinds of musket, four kinds of pistol, and brass barreled blunderbusses. Back to work...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Did some plinking today

I haven't gone shooting just for the fun of it for a while. Since it is 7PM and still light out, I thought I'd take some time for myself and harass the swinging targets over by the treeline.

I dug around in the cabinet and came up with my Ruger MkII target pistol. it's got the short bull barrel, a 32oz trigger job (by me, it could have been lighter but 32oz is the limit per competition rules), Wolff springs, Volquartson oversized grips, and a home-made "speed hammer" (lightened to speed up lock time). On top of it sits an older Aimpoint red-dot scope attached via a B-square mount. The grips, scope and mount are black and the gun itself is stainless. Pretty sharp looking if I do say so myself!

The swinging targets are set along the treeline with the rising kill behind it as a backstop. They are a 40 yard shot from my deck. There are three of them set up on a bent rod. The targets themselves are blaze orange, and made of some kind of self-sealing rubbery material. When taken out of the box, each one had a target paster in the center, but that is kind of dumb because they were gone with the first rain.

I've hit them with military rifles, .22s and assorted muskets and they are still as good as new.

I fired a few mags full of CCI Standard Velocity .22 rimfires. Part of the fun is to see if I can get all three targets swinging before the first one hit stops moving. It's been a while since I played with this particular pistol, and it was no surprise to me how much that little red dot bounced around, but I still think I did pretty good.

I've considered joining the local gun club, but I found out that they don't have an indoor range so therefore no pistol team. Maybe I'll find one around here, who knows. Until then I will just have to remind myself to go out and play now and again.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Paulie's Lock

Yesterday I mentioned that I was working on a couple of locks.

Here's the story on one of them.

Paulie Garritoni walked in here one day last week with a funky old blunderbuss that he had picked up at a gun show for cheap. It was a middle eastern gun, with the really short butt that made it look like a sawed-off shotgun, 18th century style. The stock was solid, the barrel questionable.

The real prize on the thing was the lock.

A lot of folks make fun of middle eastern/African/Turkish guns because of their sometimes outlandish decorations. What they don't realize is that many, if not most, of them are built by recycling British parts. I've got an original snaphaunce in my collection that has done some time in Turkey as you can plainly see by it's decoration. If you look past the decoration, you can see an original 17th century English proofed gun!

Paulie's blunderbuss is Arab built, but the lock is a late 17th century original! My mission is to make the lock work again. Shouldn't be all that bad of a project.

Here's some pictures of it:

The front

The back

The cock screw is obviously modern. There is pitting all over, but nothing to keep it from working when rebuilt. The biggest part of this job will be to fabricate an internal bridle for it to support the ancient tumbler instead of relying on the cock to do it. Fortunately, when the Arab gunsmith built the blunderbuss, he had to make a new hole in the lockplate behind the cock. What this did is give me a spare hole to mount the bridle to. I'll probably have to drill into the tumbler and put a pin in it for it to rotate on against the bridle.

Take a look at the sear, it has a step in it which made it a stronger part since it could be made of a thicker piece of steel than would fit into the half-cock notch.

I love this stuff!

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Wannabe gunsmiths

Today I'm repairing a few locks.

The one I'm working on at the moment was returned because it wouldn't stay in full cock. The guy called up and left a rude message on our voicemail, then sent a rude message to Wendy's email. Typical bully crap, where he felt the need to seem powerful and important. Long story short, I asked him to send the lock back for repairs.

As I took the lock apart, it became very obvious to me why it wouldn't stay in full cock. HE MESSED WITH IT! You can see the plier marks where he held the tumbler and ground the working surface of the full cock notch. Why? Who knows! Maybe tried to give it a trigger job? The full cock notch is now at an angle, with the face of it no longer parallel to the axis of the tumbler shaft.

For whatever reason, he worked his magic on the half cock notch as well, entirely eliminating the lip that holds the sear from slipping forward when you pull the trigger. In effect, what he did was to stop the full cock notch from being functional and turn the half cock notch into a full cock notch.

I can fix this. It's simple locksmithing. What annoys me is that this guy screwed up the lock, then tried to blame the gun for what he did. He had just enough knowledge to get himself in trouble, then tried to pass the buck-and did it in a rude, bully-like way.

I'll be the first to say that the only real way to learn to fix guns is to fix guns. Sometimes you mess up, but that's par for the course. Where this guy went wrong was to mess up, then lie to me and say that the gun was broken.

Why can't some people just be honest? Did he think we were not going to notice radical changes to a tumbler?

Here are some pictures of the tumbler as returned to me:

In this one, you can see the goofy new angle that was put on the full cock notch, and the ruined half cock notch

Here's a different camera angle, showing the weird new angle the full cock notch is at.

A different view of the same thing, only more clearly showing the file marks on the tumbler from the attempted gunsmithing.

And another.

If he were just honest about it, and had told me that he was messing with it and got in over his head, I would still have fixed it for him. The reason I'm so annoyed with this situation is that he instead tried to bully us into fixing it to cover up his mistake. ANYONE who wants to hang out here and learn how to work on flintlocks is welcome, so there is no reason for this kind of sillyness.