Pete's random thoughts

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Got my compass today (and some chickens)

He showed up at nearly 7PM, but the uPS guy brought my reproduction surveyor's compass today. Jeff and Louise had stayed for dinner after work, so Jeff and I had a chance to take a look at it before they left.

It's a pretty good copy of an early compass, they only way it would be better is if it had a wooden box instead of a brass one. There is a small problem with it in that the vernier is not lined up with the compass points properly, but I'm pretty sure I can adjust it if I am careful. We took a look at the photo of Samuel Lane's compass and stand that I've got here in a book, and roughly figured out how to build one using the same techniques that were used in the 18th century. It's an odd shape, the head of the tripod isn't sheet iron like you would expect, it is a wooden ball that has slots cut in it for the legs. It doesn't have adjustable legs either, you compensate for a slope by spreading one of the legs further apart than the others. Funky. Next week the 1/2 chain should arrive and we'll be in the surveying business, 18th century style.

On a louder note, thi morning I took a ride up to Unity, a town to the north of here. A friend of a friend had a surplus of critters and wanted to get rid of them. I came home with 31 assorted chickens, 4 rabbits and 4 fancy pigeons.

The rabbits went into the rabbit shed that Jeff pretty much finished off today. The pigeons did too, at least for the next few days until I can decide what we are going to do with them. We may keep them, we may give them away, we may just eat them. Caleigh was pretty excited about them, so we may be keeping them.

The chickens, however, are another story. I locked them up in the chicken house for the day so they will imprint on it and go back to it at night. There is food and water in there, and I stuffed a couple of our existing birds in there with them tonight to show them the ropes. I think I'll try letting them out in the morning to see what they do, or I may give them another day in there. Once they figure out that this is theri new home, they will go back in every night. The trick is to get thme to understand that this is home now.

Pete Knight dropped off a folding gun rack that Paulie and I will be taking to the gun show in West Lebanon, NH this weekend. It's a copy of one that Paulie had fished out of his attic. It holds 10 muskets, but folds up fairly small. With the two racks, we can display 20 long guns plus some accessories on a single gun show table. We had wanted three tables, but there ws only one available unless someone backs out.

He's going to use the same basic design on a new permanent gun display rack for here in the gun room. It will hold them securely and allow enough space to make a better display of them. It's a pretty big and constantly growing collection. Who knows what may follow me home from the show this weekend! As you are probably aware, I'm a fan of WW2 bolt guns. So far, I've got 4 different Mausers, 3 different Enfields, and WW2 era rifles from Japan, Italy, Hungary, Germany, Russia, China and the US. That doesn't even get into the muzzleloaders, both repro and original.

I outgrew a standard gun rack long ago and went to a big metal cabinet. When I outgrew that back in Lowell, I converted a closet to a gun storage area. One of the charms of this place was the concrete walled subterranian room that serves as "the gun room". One of the first things we did upon buying the house was to add a steel door and a dehumidifier, thus creating a perfect gun storage room. Now with better racks on the way, it only gets better!

Happy Thanksgiving all!

If you are ever in the area and want to come check the collection out and maybe even shoot a few of them, just give us a call and come on over!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Slow day in Nigeria

It must be a slow day in Nigeria.

It's 2PM, and so far today I've already gotten 4 Nigeria scam emails.

Since March of 2005 (when I put this particular computer online) that makes 844 of them.

Went contra dancing last night

We've been trying to get to a contra dance since before we were married.

On our honeymoon, at Louisbourg, we found our way to the dance just as it was ending. When other opportunities have presented themselves, something has always come up, like having to leave whatever even to go to the store, chase a toddler etc. Even when the dances are held at events at #4, there is always something that comes up, like eating dinner through the first half of the program.

Last night, we managed to go to the contra dance that is held every third Saturday of the month at the function hall owned by the UU church in Walpole, NH. Walpole is just down the road, it's where I get animal feed.

A little side note: my ancestors who settled this valley in the 18th century were farmers in Walpole, Westmoreland and Chesterfield, the three towns immediately to the south of here. There is a very real possbility that they went to dances in Walpole too, only two and a half centuries earlier. They would have gotten there either on foot, in a sleigh, or in a wagon, probably not in a 1991 Buick with 300,000+ miles on it. If they'd had one, they would have.

Side note #2: When i stopped at the convinience store in Walpole for bottles of water, they were selling T-shirts that said "Walpole, NH - What happens here stays here, but nothing ever really happens here". Funniest shirt I've seen in a long time!

Anyway, back to the dance: There was a live band, with fiddles, guitar, base, an electric guitar and a clarinet. An odd mix for folk music, but whatever works! Like most contra dances, there is a beginner's workshop beforehand. Wendy had never really done it before, caleigh certainly hadn't, and I had never done "modern" contra dancing. Over the course of the night, people kept streaming in. I tried to count couples in the lines and folks sitting out the dance in the chairs along the wall and my estimate is that there were around 100 people crammed into that room.

Modern contra dancing is different from historic contra dancing, but you can see it's roots. Years aog when I headed up a milita group back in the Merrimack Valley, we had weekly contra dance lessons and a dance party at the end of the season. Those lessons were all based on dances knows to have been used in the 18th century. It was fun, and I'd like to do it again. We're thinking of talking to the folks that run the school where Caleigh takes gymnastics lessons to see if the would be interested in such a project.

Wendy was sick, she's been fighting a bronchial infection since our trip to the wedding in Maine back in September. Bronchial infection means you can't breathe deep, which means you get winded quickly. That means one dance, then sit out the next few to catch your breath. With contra dancing, that makes it hard to keep up as each dance has a little more complicated moves that the one before it, and if you miss a couple of dances, you are a bit behind everyone else.

Sooner or later we will beat the bronchitis, and finally, after all of these years, we will get to dance all night!

Friday, November 17, 2006

Planning a little event for next month

I was talking with Charlie L on the phone the toher day. We were talking about all of the fun little events there were to go to at this time of year once upon a time before politics and budget cuts at state parks and historic sites tore things apart.

Big events are cool to be a part of, but some of the best times I've had were at little venues with small numbers of people and a very small schedule of events.

I could sit back and long for the good old days, or I could do something about it. I'm more of a "do-er" than one to sit around and grouse about stuff, so I decided to put together a little weekend long event at our place. If just Charlie and I show up, that's enough to have fun. If a dozen people show up, that will work too, I'll just have to schlep more water out to the spot I've picked for our camp.

The event is to be a surveying trip, 18th century style. The plan is to survey and mark the boundaries of my land here, and make a decent scale map for planning purposes. We'll be using period equipment and techniques to do the actual measuring, and staying in a brush lean-to that Steven and I will build on the bluff overlooking our crude shooting range. We'll cook period trail food, learn a few things, and hopefully have a good time.

Sometimes I work so many hours that I forget how much fun it can be to burn your food over a campfire, then go to bed for a cold, wet night of shivering under the stars. You have to have your fun where you find it!

Interested in coming to survey and camp with us? Click here to read a quikie little web page about the weekend.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chipmunk update

This morning Wendy woke me up around 6AM to tell me that Marble Cat had the hapless chipmunk cornered between two boxes in our bedroom. It was screaming, the cat was going insane.

After at least four days of adventure, the little guy is back outside where he belongs! I had Wendy keep him penned up in the deadend canyon he had gotten himself into, put on my leather gloves and grabbed him, then wnt running out the door onto our bridge to let him run off into the woods.

Wendy and Caleigh both seem to think there is another one in here, and as I sit here and type this I can hear something squeaking over by the door down here in the shop...maybe I'll catch two chipmunks today!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Rodent stocking program

OK, so we have two cats, mighty hunter cats, ferocious tiger cats. There is no better way to spend your time as a cat than by hunting small rodents out in the woods. Well, maybe there is. For instance, you could hunt small rodents inside, where it is warm and dry.

We have a cat door installed in our bedroom door so they can come and go as they please. This was done to allow them to attend to important cat business without scratching at the door and making us get out of bed every hour to let them in or out.

There was a flaw in our plan.

The two cats have worked out a plan in which they capture small rodents out in the woods, bring them in through the cat door, and turn them loose in the living room to hunt later. It's a daily occurance.

They bring in field mice, moles, voles and chipmunks. Sometimes Freddie the Cat will kill one and eat it. Well, at least most of it. Marble Cat just like to torture small animals, so he catches them, wounds them, then lets them crawl away so he can pounce on thme again. I've gotten pretty adept at capturing terrified small animals and setting them free back in the woods, but as I write this, there is a young chipmunk hiding out under the bookshelf next to Wendy's desk. He's been in the house for at least three days, but we haven't been able to catch him. She's on the phone with a customer right now; I can hear her talking about a ranger's only a matter of time until the little critter makes a run for it, runs over her foot, and she'll let out a scream.

Too bad pheasant stocking programs don't go as well as my cat's rodent stocking program!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Starting to shape up around here!

It snowed last night, just enough to cover everything and remind us that winter is just around the corner, and that I really have to put some effort into cutting and stacking a whole bunch of firewood ASAP.

Things have really been shaping up around here lately. We've been fortunate enough to have Jeff and Louise working here a couple of days a week and it's really making a difference. Louise has been sorting through my mounds of paperwork and invoices to get all of it into order in-between packing and shipping guns. Jeff is kind of like an elf: I turn my head for a moment and one of my half-completed projects is magically done! He's rearranged the tool room to be efficient for left-handed people (he and I are both Southpaws) and even finished up projects that I had forgotten that I'd started!

So far this fall, the collective "we" have finished the roof over our bedroom, installed a new thimble through the wall into the woodburning chimney, installed an antique wood/coal stove that came from Louise's Dad's cellar, made several trips to the dump and/or the "swap shop" with "stuff" from the garages, started work on a pig house, acquired a plow for my Jeep (free!!!) so we won't have to pay someone else to plow out the parking lot this winter, and so many other smaller projects that I can't type them all here.

The current project is to finish off the storage shed that will contain household "cold storage" stuff. It is being built pole-frame style and has a 4' high loft for off-season storage of the of the zillion or so tent poles that our marquee tents require. Most of the framing is done and maybe 75% of the sheathing, but the steel roofing is scheduled to arrive next week. More of the materials than I'd like to see were purchased, but some of it will be done with recycled materials. The project will be complete for around $800.

I've started doing the homework on expanding the front of the building to add on display space for our "museum", a small classroom area for firearm education classes, and a more logical entrance to the shop than the odd way it was built for the original owner of the building back in 1989. I've already discussed the project with the building inspector who took the time to come out here to check out the situation.

We'll be doing the building in phases: first the slab, then the framing of a deck for the second floor, then closing in underneath it to complete the shell. With the always uncertain weather here in New England, we need to think through each step in the process to be sure that we don't have walls torn open when winter decided to hit.

I've got several ideas for how to lay out the interior of the addition, but nothing concrete yet. Last week we went down to Brattleboro and picked up a 12 foot long antique glass-topped display cabinet that will have to be worked into the design. It will be a great thing to display our artifact collection in a chronologically linear fashion which will make them easier to understand.

We are already working on plans for the spring: native village stuff like wigwams, ranger hut, guest cabin/sugar house, etc. I've promised Wendy that I won't begin any of them until the current projects are done! Before any of it gets planned in any detail, we need to spend a day or two out there with surveyor's tapes and compasses to draw a decent map of the property to plan it all out properly. What a great adventure!