Winter Camping and Seed Starting

One of the skills I’m working on this year is winter camping.  I’m most comfortable in a hammock, so I’ve been working on making my own gear for better hammock camping.  I had other commitments this weekend, so a camping trip wasn’t possible.  However, we had another snow storm today, so I put on my winter camping backpack with everything I would take for a weekend camping trip and went for a “hike” in town.  I live near a large park with many hiking trails and campgrounds so I headed out the door, hiked to the grand view terrace of the park and came back for a total hike of 5.37 miles in about two hours.  I learned the pack weight is reasonable, but sweating is still going to be an issue.

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Last week, I started some celery seeds and started on a grow light setup.  The seed package says they need a couple of weeks before they sprout, but I’ve found in my research that the grow lights will speed that up.  Funds are tight this week, so I dug around in the garage and found materials to finish rigging up the lights.

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It’s not pretty and it’s not a permanent structure, but it’ll get the job done.  Not bad for some used PVC pipe and fittings, a little 550 cord, and some 3/8in. bungee cord I ordered by mistake last year.  Here’s another perspective –

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I couldn’t have done it without some knots you might not use in everyday life – a Prusik Loop and a Clove Hitch.

That’s all for this week.  Keep learning and trying new things!

Building a Raised Bed and Seed Starting

We’ve had some nice weather lately and a long weekend, so it’s time to get out in the yard and get some things done!

First on the list – prepare the ground where the raised bed is going.  I’m adapting a method I learned from Jack Spirko and incorporating wood into the ground under the bed.  The idea is that the wood provides several benefits:

  • it absorbs water and slowly releases it back to the plants, reducing the need to water.
  • as it breaks down, it improves the soil by adding organic matter.
  • it provides a place for helpful fungus to grow underground which aids the plants in the bed.

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Since I’m moving up from a container garden, I’m keeping this raised bed at 6ft by 2ft.  I dug about eight inches down where the bed is going in an area that once held an 50ft tall elm tree.  The elm was dead when we moved in three years ago so we had it cut down and there’s still a lot of trunk and roots in this area.  So I’m building a woody bed on top of a woody bed in a sense.

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This is where I stopped this week.  The rest of the bed will be filled by re-using the soil from last year’s containers and probably adding a couple bags of soil from the garden store.  On to the seed starting!

It’s too cold to start my seeds outside, so I’ve got to start them inside the house.  However, there’s not enough sunlight coming in any one window in our house due to the layout.  Solution?  Build a grow light system!  In keeping with the theme of doing-it-myself, I dug back in my memory archives and pulled up those mad electrician skills I learned twenty years ago.  Twenty dollars of parts from Lowes and I’m ready to begin.  Here’s the basic layout-

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The octagonal boxes are where the lights will be mounted.  The rectangular box is for a switch.

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Wiring up the light receptacles.  Not shown is the plug end I put on the end of the cable.  The next part of the project will be to hang the light system on a height adjustable system.  This will allow me to keep the CFL bulbs close to the seedlings as they grow.

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According to the calendar I put together, it’s time to get the Dell Early Celery in seedling pots.  The wooden PotMaker makes great little seedling pots from newspaper.  The nice thing is the newspaper breaks down and adds organic matter to the soil, so transplanting is a breeze.  I’m planning to put nine celery plants in the square foot allotted for them, so I started 18 seeds and will plant the strongest ones in May.

That’s all for this week.  Thanks for stopping by!

Marksmanship and When to Call the Pros from Dover

Kind of an up-and-down week.  One of my goals for this year was to get out shooting competitively more often and improve my marksmanship.  With the ammunition shortage going on right now, I’ve had to rely on reloading to get enough ammo to do to practice.  One of the local sportsman’s associations hosts a Civilian Marksmanship Program (www.odcmp.org) shoot on the second Sunday of each month.  I’ve been to these a couple of times in the past year and a half and they’re a laid-back and enjoyable event.  The guys that show up are friendly and very helpful, loaning equipment and giving advice if asked.

Squeezing in some time each night, I managed to get enough 30-06 cartridges loaded last week to be ready for this Sunday’s shoot.  I’m using a single-stage press and don’t have the fanciest equipment in the world, so I have to take my time and be meticulous.  In the middle of this, the drain line for our kitchen sink clogged Thursday night.  It was my fault for running too much down the disposal, so I knew I had to fix it.  Friday afternoon, I was at the local Ace Hardware picking up some Drano and ran into a plumber who is an exceptional salesman.

Now, I’ve done sales before my Navy career, so I can appreciate someone that does it the “right” way.  All this guy did was ask about my problem.  Then he handed me his business card and said if the Drano doesn’t work to give him a call, they only charge $89 to clear a drain line.  No pressure, no dire predictions that the Drano wouldn’t work just a low price and no BS.  I really appreciate that.

Well, the Drano didn’t work, but I wasn’t completely deterred.  I picked up a twenty-five foot drain snake, dismantled a couple of sink drains to get better access to the drain lines and did what the plumber would most likely do.  I found the clog, but only ended up breaking the snake.  This is when I knew I needed professional equipment and a professional to run it.  I pulled that business card out and within a couple of hours the drain was clear.  Will I call a plumber first next time?  No.  I’m still going to try to fix it myself.  Maybe with better equipment next time.

Back to marksmanship! Sunday dawned cold and windy, but thankfully it hadn’t snowed so I drove out to the range and waited for the match.  This CMP match was shot at 200 yards and the course of fire consists of ten, slow fired shots from a standing position, ten rapid fire shots from kneeling or sitting, then ten rapid fire shots lying in the prone position followed by twenty rounds fired slowly from prone.  Out of the three CMP shoots I’ve attended, this was my worst.  I need to get better at discerning the wind’s direction and compensating for it.  The twenty slow-fire prone shots were my worst.  Thinking back on it, I did have trouble getting the sights on the target.  My target picture tended to have the sights low on the target and it was a bit of a struggle to get them high enough.  That and an increase in the wind probably explain why most of those shots ended up low and to the right.

Back to the reloading bench to get some more practice!

A Week of Continuing Ed.

OK, first I apologize for taking so long to get back to you.  It’s been a week since my last post, but it’s been a busy one.  Most jobs these days require you to do some form of continuing education to stay abreast of what’s going on in your field and that’s what I was doing this week.  While I’m technically an analyst, I don’t get to do a lot of analysis day-to-day.  So a full week of reviewing analytical techniques, examining cognitive biases, learning a few new tools, then spending two days doing a full capstone project was very useful.  By the end I felt like that kid on The Simpsons – “My brain’s full, can I go home now?”

During my Navy career, I learned a lot of theory about electrical motors and watched some truly talented technicians work on industrial sized motors.  My Skil circular saw crapped out a few weeks ago and I was about to chuck it out when I stopped and decided to at least take it apart to see what was wrong.

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Pretty quickly I found the motor brushes were destroyed and that’s why it wouldn’t run.  No brushes mean no electricity getting to motor windings means no roundy-roundy as we used to say.

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A quick web search turned up a place called eReplacementparts.com where they had the replacement brushes I needed.  It only takes removing two screws to pop the new ones in and it was good as new.  In the picture below, you can see two empty slots where the brushes go.

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Here’s the new brushes installed.

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And here’s the saw back together and running like new.

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To recap, I brushed up on some old skills, learned some new ones, and saved a nice chunk of change by repairing a tool instead of buying a new one.  Oh, and the Super Bowl is on.  A good week.