Sunday, March 11, 2018

Setting Up The Workshop Vise

The workshop at the river house is smaller than the one at the old farmhouse, but it's layout is efficient.  Plenty of room for my tools, and good space on the workbench.

What I needed was a good wood working vise.  I wanted one that opened very wide so I could hold larger decoy  bodies, but one that I would also use with bench dogs.

I chose a Yost F10WW front mount bench vise.  It is comprised of the cast iron mounting plates and the screw drive.  You attach the vise to the underside of your bench and then add your own wooden jaws and handles.

Unlike all metal vises, you can install the metals parts to your bench, and then cuts the boards for the jaws to fit it to the bench.  In my case, my workbench is simply framed in 2x4s, so I added a few additional 2x4s to support the vise screw drive.

You can see the mounting plate for the movable jaw is pre-drilled for the movable jaw, whereas the fixed jaw will just be screwed to the bench.

I got some 1" oak boards and glued 2 together for the movable jaw face.  Another piece of 1" oak board was used for the fixed jaw face.

I had to drill holes for the screw drives and guide plates in the jaw faces, and then assemble the jaw faces.

I added a 1" oak dowel as the handle.

This vise opens about 10 inches.  Wide enough for any project.

It holds very well.

The next step is to mount the bench dogs...

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Flight of the Monarchs

There are those things you understand at a high-level.  You read something, stick it away in your memory.  A fact you can recite when you are called upon to answer a trivia question.

But to actually see and experience something you only read about - now that is different.

The wife and I were sitting on the dock last weekend.  Autumn has been very mild.  It is mid October and I am still wearing shorts and sandals.  The late morning sun feels so nice.  We see a monarch butterfly fly across the river.  Then we see another.  And then another.  In a short period of time we see at least a dozen monarchs flying across the river.  They are heading south.  I knew that monarchs migrate south - but to see them was so special.

We walk to the edge of the woods.  Monarchs are following the treeline south to the river and then cross.  We see a few get diverted flying around some pokeweed, but they then seem to remember their task and fly south across the river.

To know something is one thing.  To experience it is the real gift!

Friday, October 13, 2017


It has been three years since we had a vegetable garden.  We were spending time between our river house and the farm house and we did not have the time to manage gardens in two places.  We have been growing herbs, but no vegetables.  Fast forward to the present.  We have decided to sell the farm house and live full time in the river house.  Life will be so much easier (though calling this blog the Barn Board will have less relevance).

I moved all the raised beds to the river house two years ago.  I filled the beds with soil over the last few weeks and have been getting  them ready for next year.

I tried a new way to create trellises for next-year's pole beans.  I just used T-posts, zip ties, metal screen fencing and some wooden cross members.  They were so easy to set up and are very sturdy.

The autumn has me 'leaf farming'.  Last year's leaves are well decomposed into a beautiful compost.  I will fill both bins over the next few weeks as the leaves fall from the trees.

The compost is dark and rich.  It is full of worms.  I'll be moving it to the new garden beds soon.

I'll be planting the garlic in a few weeks (it gets planted in the late fall).  I then have to wait for next Spring for the rest of the plants.  We are so excited to be growing fresh vegetables again!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Cloudy Days

May has been cool and wet.  That said, it has not been a time to ease up in the gardens.  There has been a lot of weeding, especially on the river bank.  We put in over 80 Asiatic lilies and want to make sure that the ever-present interlopers don't block them out.  It seems I am always filling the wheelbarrow every weekend.

Then there is the transplanting.  I have moved a bunch of lavender plants, transplanted some iris and tiger lilies to the riverbank, moved some thyme plants to the herb garden, moved s few stray peony plants to a more centralize grouping, and rearranged some hostas to keep them together by type.

We put in a new sage plant (they never seem to last more than a few years).  We tend to overwinter some rosemary plants indoors (they just bear through the dark days of winter).  I left one outside in the herb garden and and it made it through the winter and is doing well.  I moved a second one outside/  We put our basil plants in the ground as the fear of frost is gone.

The wife wanted some four o'clocks and marigolds.  I am not much of an annual flower person (the idea or replanting something I can't eat seems like a big drain on time). I started them from seed and finally dug a small bed and put them in.

The compost beds have been turned over and the decaying leaves are now consolidated into a single bin.

The yard is just about as I want it.  The last big chore is to fill the raised beds to get the vegetable gardens going.  I need about 5 yards of soil brought in.  This will take me some time over the summer.  We will then be ready for fresh vegetables next year.

"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace."

Monday, January 2, 2017

Winter Walk

We have a few inches of snow on the ground.  It is still cold.  The weather will warm as the week progresses and we will see a slight thaw (we seem to have a short thaw in early January).

I drive to the meadows for a walk.  We have been traveling over the holiday.  Airplanes, trains, hotels, security lines, the beds of relatives.  I long to just be outside.

It is windy.  The cattails are already bedraggled.

The ponds are all frozen, though I don't think I will try to cross them,  I stay on the main trail.  I see other footprints (runners and dog walkers I assume).

I pass the feeder stream to Black Brook.  It is ice covered.  It veers to the west through a marshy area. With the cold weather, the marsh is mostly frozen.  As I wander the main path I come to the turnoff for the Esker Trail.  It is not a prepared trail.  In the Spring and Summer is is a marshy path.  With the cold weather (and since I am wearing my waterproof muck boots), I decide to venture in.  I don't see any other footprints.  I try to walk on the path where I see the remnants of last summers grass and weeds poking through the snow.  In places I walk across frozen puddles.  The ice slumps under my weight and I break through in a few places.  The water is not deep, but I'd rather keep my feet as dry as possible.

Soon the trail leaves the marshy area.  The trail continues west.  It come to a "T".  I can go right to follow the Esker trail, or left to go on the West Wood trail.  I will have to cross a wet section again, but if it was like the Esker trail, it should be no problem.  A walk in the woods would get me out of the wind for a time.

The trail is blazed with orange surveyors ribbon.  It is easy to follow.  I pull my hood off and stand still.  I hear nothing.  Not a bird.  No sounds of creaking trees.  It is so quiet.

The trail went south but soon heads east.  The area is marshy, but makeshift bridges have been placed.  I see animal track now follow the trail.  They too seems to be looking for the easiest path through the wet areas.  I walk on the bridges as first, but them just walk in the animals tracks as the ground is mostly frozen and the footing is easier.

I unexpectedly come to a creek.  Across it is the main trail.  I start to contemplate how I can cross it.  I see a few snow cover trees lying across the creek.  I'd hate to slip and fall in.

I walk upstream and soon realize I have no problems - there is a proper bridge.

As I follow the creek I see signs of a bank beaver lodge.  The creek is not dammed, but there are signs of beaver chewing the trees all about.

I cross the river and a open field.  I soon come to the main trail.  I see no footprints in this section.  I the Spring the trail here gets flooded (1 to 3 inches of water).  Last Spring I would ride my mountain bike through the water - what a workout!

I turn onto the Oak Tree trail.  A lone oak stands on a slight ridge.

The wife and I walked this trail in the late summer.  It was ablaze in yellow.  Not it is colorless, brown and grey.

I get onto the main loop and soon find more footprints.  I am heading back to the parking area.  Most people stay on the trails close to the parking area.

I wish for at least 6 inches of snow for snow shoeing, or a good foot for skiing.  These trails would be great for skiing.

It is now midmorning.  The sun is low in the sky.  My shadow looks so long in the snow.

I head back to the car.  I have not shaken off all the stress from my travels, but this walk went a long way to bringing balance back to my life.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Two of my early childhood memories had tiger lilies in them.  In one, we were visiting my Dad's family in West Virginia.  I was outside with my sister and I remember a wall or fence flanked by tiger lilies.  I was sunny and the bright orange was so vivid and just stuck in my mind.

I another memory, I was about 5 and we were living on Pine Grove street.  There was an empty field by the house and it was full of tiger lilies.  They seemed as tall as me, and the field was so full I was sure you couldn't walk through them.

The field, like the house is long-gone.  There is now a little shopping center and muffler-repair place where we lived.

Still, I cherish tiger lilies.  As they bloom in early summer, it takes me back to a time long gone, to places that do not exist anymore.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Nature Hates Me, Well Maybe...

I sometimes think Nature has it in for me.  I don't mean that Nature is waiting to drop a tree on my or summon up a tsunami.  Rather, Nature seems to throw me a bunch on unwanted and unneeded challenges,

Case in point - wayward robins.  Yep, this past stream we had an overly lonely robin that kept flying into our bedroom window or sitting on my gas grill and looking at its own reflection.  The incessant banging and the pile of dropping on my grill was a real pain.  I had to convince the robin to keep away from the windows.  How?  I pasted a picture of a fox on the bedroom window.  I guess the eyes looking back at the robin was enough to unnerve him.

As to the grill - I put one of those owl decoys on the grill.  No more robin issues.

Of course the Canadian geese have decided to use our yard as a diner and bathroom.  We were getting 30 to 60 geese wandering around.  At first it was a thrill to watch the young geese with their parents, but a quick walk into the yard (and the droppings) meant I would have to take more action.  We put a small plastic fence along the property line and a small wire fencing along the river bank to stop the geese from wandering onto the property.  So far, so good.

I still battle the knotweed at both the farmhouse and the river house.  We don't have a lot at the river house, but I have to stay on top of it.  At the farmhouse we have reached a stalemate.  It hasn't spread, but I just take out my trusty scythe and keep it in check.

That being said, nature decided to fight back.  I was weeding the plants by the river bank.  One week later I developed a severe rash on my arms and legs.

Poison ivy maybe?

Nope - we think it was wild parsnip.  It has been over a month since I was weeding.  The swelling and rash is gone, but I still get itchy when I get too hot.  A real bummer as I like to be out in the sun.

I still keep weeding, cutting, pulling and scaring off the weeds and annoying varmints.  The battle continues.

I still like Nature a lot.  I just wish Nature would cut me a little slack...

Sunday, May 15, 2016


There are those plants whose coming I really look forward to.  We have a dogwood tree at the river house.  The previous two winters have been so cold that the flower blossoms did not make it.  This past winter was quite mild, and the dogwood blossoms made it through the winter.

Why do I like them?  We had dogwoods trees in the yard when I was growing up.  The blossoms always seems so fragile.  In the fall we would have red berries to add color to the other autumn colors.  After college I lived in the mid-Atlantic states and the dogwood and red bud trees would grow native as under-story trees, adding the first hints of color in the Spring.

My other favorites are trillium.  I would find them on sunny riverbanks on Otter Creek in Vermont and in the woods along quiet country roads.  I see them about here in the Finger Lakes.  Our river house has a few of them in one of the flower beds.

I look forward to seeing these old friends year after year.

Sunday, December 20, 2015


It is a fine, late December day.  The brilliant sun and mild temperatures meant that I could work in the workshop at the river house.

I have been working on a mallard decoy.  I watched the Canadian geese in the river for inspiration as I worked on the decoy.

I have spent a few hours here and there shaping the head and body.  The cork body was mostly shaped with a rasp, while I had to carve and sand the head.

After a few hours of hand sanding, I had the head ready to be fitted to the body.  I ground the head off a long deck screw and screwed it into the base of the head.

I glued in the tail board and screwed and glued the head.

Next step is a final sanding and then onto filling in the small voids in the cork body.

Given the coming cool weather, it will take some time before I can finish this project and get the decoy painted.

I need to figure out if I want to paint this as a drake or hen mallard . . .

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Steelyard Scales

I was cleaning out the garage and came across a few items I bought years ago at an action.

I had picked up a few steelyard scales.  These were very popular for hundreds of years (they are also known as Roman scales).  The items to be weighed hangs below the fulcrum on one side, while you slide a counterweight across the long arm on the other side of the fulcrum.  They came in either a single range, or you could flip the scale over and hang from an alternate fulcrum to read on a different range.

I have 2 of the smaller scales.  These look to be made the same.  Neither has a mark.  You can weigh items from 10 to 50 lbs . . .

. . . or down from 0 to 10 lbs.

One scale has a little surface rust and uses cast hooks for the fulcrums . . .

. . . while the other had a black painted surface with rings for the fulcrums.

As you flip the scale over to use one range the arm is graduated for the lower scale . . .

 . . . and when you flip it over for the higher range it will be graduated for the higher range.

Surprisingly, these were accurate to within 1 notch.

I also have a larger one which can be used for much larger weights.  I still need to check this one out.

The wife has some packages she wants to mail out.  These would work great to help estimate the postage!