Tuesday, April 27, 2010


As I was walking to my car after work today it started to snow!  It was cold, windy, and blustery.  Who would have thought it was late April, particularly after the early spring we have had.

Luckily, we know better than to work in our gardens this time of year.  We can expect frost as late as Memorial Day.  I'm not too worried about the bleeding hearts, peonies, silverlace clematis, sweet woodruff, hostas, tiger lillies, sedums, and any of the other low maintenance plants in the yard.  They seem to take care of themselves.

One benefit of cold weather - the Japanese knotweed doesn't like the cold.  Maybe this cold snap will knock the knotweed back (even only for a week or two).

The garden won'y be planted until Memorial Day weekend.  I'll turn the beds over one more time in the next few weeks to get ready.

Saturday, April 24, 2010


I saw my first trillium today.  I had went for a ride and saw it sitting by itself in the sun by the side of the road. I always liked trilliums.  They seem to appear unexpectedly.  I need to grow some in the yard.  They are quite ephemeral, but beautiful.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Spring Colors

My wife and I were talking yesterday about the onset of Spring.  I noted that the trees were starting to leaf out.  My wife was looking out the window towards Spook Hill.  She noted how the leaves of the trees looked like fall leaves - as they were leafing out they were multi-colored.

How was it that I missed this?

When I drove home from work today I made sure I saw the colors of the trees.  Of course there were whites and pinks and plums associated with flowering fruit trees, but the leaves took on many colors. pale reds and brown, light yellow-greens, all shades of soft green.  They were like the fall colors - just muted.

Sometimes you don't see things until someone helps you to see them.

Thanks Nana!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Near Miss

I went for a quick ride after work.  Usually, I worry about traffic and debris in the roads.  I was just 1.5 miles from home, when out of the corner of my eye I see two brown shapes running towards me.

"Dogs!", I thought.

One of the shapes ran out in the road right in front of me, the other veered away.  The one in the road was just about 8 feet away.

It was a deer!

It continued across the road and bounded over a fence into a trailer park.

Jeez, you never know!

By the way, the deer statue above was made in commemoration for John Deere.  Before they made tractors, John Deere made bicycles.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Why Didn't I Do This Before?

When we were at the auction yesterday, they were auctioning off some older mountain bikes (actually, the most interesting bikes were the vintage 1960s English Triumphs (Raleigh) - but that is another story).  There were also some mid-90s frames on a wooden bike rack.  I did not bid on the bikes or frames and components.

I awoke last night and realized - I can make a wooden rack to use when I work on my bikes!  Why did I not think of this before?!

After working out,  I went to the workshop and slapped out a stand.  I took me about 2 hours.  No, I didn't have a plan - just started to collect some 2 x 4s and 1 x 6s for the stand.  I just slapped it together with woodscrews.  Voila (not a masterpiece - but very satisfying none-the-less).

I used to use my turbo trainers as a repair stand, but an upright stand is so much easier and useful.  I had to clean my chain and adjust my front derailleur on my road bike.  The stand worked great.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Noisy, Dirty, Scary Things

Rotary Engine

I am reminded of a scene from the classic movie "The Quiet Man". John Wayne's character discusses buying a tractor with his wife, played by Maureen O'Hara. Her response was something to the effect that such machines were noisy and smelly.

There were a lot of' 'serious' machines at the auction today. This included rototillers, edgers, lathes, table saws, a few tractors, outboard engines, lawn mowers, and assorted rotary engines.

There were over 1 dozen engines. These would have been affixed to wheels and used to drive belt-driven equipment. They were being sold by an estate of a gentleman who was a collector. The seller told me her ex-husband got hurt by one of the machines (the one pictured) when it sped-up while he was turning the starter handle. It took out a few of his front teeth and cut his face open.

There were also Gravely walk behind tractors. These were gasoline-powered rotary machines that you could hook to snow blowers, mowers, etc. attachments. The snow blower pictured below looks down-right lethal. Not much of a shield around the blade. From the label, this was most likely a 1960s vintage machine. Gravely started to build equipment in the 1920s and the 2-wheeled walk behinds were made into the 1970s.

Gravely Tractor with Snow Blower

I did put an absentee bid in for an anvil. The wife and I saw some large crocks and decorative items we also bid on. Needless to say, I didn't bid on any of these impressive / aggressive machines (though there are serious collectors and enthusiasts for such equipment).

Hand tools look a lot safer . . .

They're Back

Actually, they never left. We have quite a few rabbits hanging around our property. We see them every morning over by the gazebo or near the house munching on clover. They are pretty used to us. We can usually walk right by them (within 10 feet) without them hopping away. During the day, you can usually find one under a boxwood by the gazebo.

We love to see the critters, but they do cause damage. We have had put small wire cages around the silver lace clematis and the peonies. As the summer comes on, we notice that that flowers on the Asiatic lillies seem to get eaten.

You can't fight nature. A little bit of wire is a lot better than not having the critters.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Get'n Ready

Auction Grounds

I went for a good ride this morning. It was supposed to rain today, but the weather looked like it would hold out. It was a nice morning. Light winds from the south. I had a good ride.

I passed by our favorite auction house. There is a big '3-ring'auction there tomorrow. They were lining all the stuff up outside. We are excited. I'll have to go to their website and see what they have.

On this route, I pass by an old silo that is in a field by itself. It is a small silo. The sumac and Virginia creeper are taking it over. The silo looks like the leaning tower of Pisa - it is leaning a lot!

Leaning Silo

I got done with my ride (35 miles, 19.6 mph) and then went to the Husqvarna delear for a bracket they had ordered for me. I had a cracked sway bar bracket which is used to help support the mower deck. I put the new bracket on, sharpened the mower blades, removed the snow plow, changed the oil, and installed the mower deck and the front bumper. Wouldn't you know it, as soon as I started to give the yard its first mowing that it would rain.

I was thinking that if I didn't go for a bike ride, I could have got the mowing done. However, I'd rather ride (and besides, I wasn't planning on mowing until Sunday)!

I put the second coat of finish on the gate leg table. I will let it dry today. I'll put the table upstairs in the sitting area as a stand for the TV and VCR / DVD player.

Tomorrow we have 2 auctions to got to. The big one in the morning, and a small fund raiser for the local historical center in the early evening. Wish us luck and "good buys"!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Other Bikes in my Life . . .

Yesterday I posted about all the road bikes I have had. Down deep I am a roadie. Road bikes and road racing is what I really like, but I have dabbled in mountain bikes.

My first mountain bike was a Miyata Ridge Runner. I bought in in the mid 1980s.his was the early days of mountain biking. It was a simple, 18-speed rigid frame with friction shifters. I have to admit that the bike was a hoot! The first day I took it out to the trails behind my apartment, I had a blast. It was like being a kid again. I rode it thru puddles, over logs and rocks, thru the mud and brush. I laughed my head off the whole time. I kept the bike until the early 90s. I gave it to my brother for a favor he did me. We replaced the brake and shifter cables, but it still rode fine.

Miyata Ridge Runner

In time, I bought a Trek 830 Mt. Track when we lived in Vermont. It had a rigid frame, but was a 21-speed bike with indexed shifting. I rode that bike for a quite a while. I had bought my daughter a Trek 800 Antelope. I still have that bike. I rode it a lot when we lived in New Jersey (I swapped the tires with slicks). It was my 'urban assault' bike. The Trek 800 now sits on my turbo trainer for riding indoors in the winter.

Trek 830 Mt. Track

I sold the Trek 830 and my Denti road bike around 2000. I then bought a Mongoose D50 full suspension mountain bike. The D50 was a low-end full suspension bike. It was heavy, and the full suspension did not have any lockout, so the bike suffered a lot of sag when standing on the peddles when going uphill. I had swapped the tires to semi-slicks (allowing me to get a couple of mph faster on the road).

Mongoose D50i Full Suspension MTB

Frankly, mountain biking was never my thing. It is fun as a change of pace, but I always likes the speed of the road bikes. If I could drive a Ferarri or a Jeep, give me the Ferrari!

I gave the Mongoose to the son of a friend of ours in Vermont in 2003 and bought a Klein Quantum road bike (which I still have).

I bought a Haro V4 hard-tail mountain bike a few years ago. I ride it in the early season when the roads are messy. I also ride it occasionally as a change from road riding. Mountain biking can be a nice change from the road as it requires different skills.

Haro V4

When we lived in Vermont we used to go to a used bike shop called the Old Spokes Home. It was a great shop. There were very old bikes, and gently used bikes from all decades. I picked up a 1970s vintage Hercules (Raleigh) British 3-speed. I ride it around on occasion when going into town or when the wife and I go for rides (we should do this more, but we are not a matched pair when one considers riding speed - it is hard riding with an ex-bike racer).

Hercules British 3-Speed

It is amazing to look at how the technology of bicycles has changed over time. Now bikes are made with carbon fiber and titanium alloys. There are now computer-controlled shifters and power monitors. I can't wait to see what the future brings.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Two-Wheeled Memories

I was thinking the other day that I have owned more bicycles than cars. For those of you who follow my blog, you know I like to ride. I even did some racing (but that was over 20 years ago). Still, I like to get out and feel my legs moving me along, know I am breathing, and see the world passing by.

I learned to ride in second grade. I guess that would be sometime in 1968. I don't remember that bike much - a simple 20" boys bike of the day (pre-banana seat days). I got a cool banana seat bike around 1970. It was metallic green with a green seat. It was chopper-styled, with a 14" front tire and a 20" racing slick in the back. It had chrome fenders. It was very sweet.

A Chopper-Styled Banana Seat Bike (mine was green with fenders)

When I graduated from 6th grade (1973), I got my first 10-speed. Actually, I got my second 10-speed also. My first 10-speed was stolen from our yard a few weeks after I got it. It was chained to the clothesline, but the chain was cut. I was sad, but my parents went out and bought a new bike (I wish they were still around to tell them thanks - we didn't have a lot of money). I rode that bike everywhere. My brother and I would ride our bikes around the neighborhood and over to the shopping mall on Sundays (malls were closed on Sundays back then so the parking lot was empty and we could ride in any direction without worrying about cars). It was a Sears bike (Mom worked at Sears and could get a 10% discount). It looked a lot like the one below:

A Sears 10-Speed, circa 1970s.

My next bike was a Peugeot. I got it when I was in college. It was a touring bike. I put toe clips and straps on it. I started to really get into cycling then. I would average 60 miles or more a week.

1980s Peugeot Touring Bike (mine did not have the rack)

When I went to graduate school in 1983, I left my Peugeot with my brother. I bought a Lotus sport / touring bike. I bought my first set of cycling shoes ( a pair of Detto's), my first set of cycling shorts, and then started to get into racing (time trialing and team triathlons - I did the bike portions). By then I was riding over 100 miles a week.

1980s Lotus Sport / Touring Bike

Detto Shoes

I decided to upgrade my bike about a year later. I bought a 1984 Bianchi Limited. It was an entry-level racing bike. I had the bike shop swap out the touring rear derailleur with a low end Campagnolo racing derailleur. I loved that bike. By then I was riding over 150 miles per week. By then Greg Lemond was making a name for himself.

1984 Bianchi Limited

Campagnolo Derailleur

I rode the Bianchi until 1987. I was now averaging about 200+ miles per week and was in the prime of my racing form. I could ride like the wind. Riding was my life. I had cycling posters on the walls of my office at work. Ride to live, live to ride!

In 1987 I was involved in a cycling accident, and my beloved Bianchi was busted up (I was pretty banged up also, but I healed). I still have the jersey I was wearing in a frame.

Bianchi Jersey

I decided to get a new, custom bike, so I picked out the frame (a black Mino Denti frameset), Matrix Ico-C wheels, Campagnolo hubs and head tube bearings, Suntour Superbe Pro derailleurs, and other bits. The bike fit me like a glove, but the Matrix wheels would never stay true (early generation aero-shaped alloy wheels). The black frame was accented with a white saddle, white handlebar tapes, and lots of chrome. It was a beautiful bike.

Mino Denti Frameset (mine was black with chrome)

I did more mountain biking and grew away from road biking in the 90s. By 2000, my Italian frame was getting aged. It did not have indexed shifting, it needed new wheels, and could do with new freewheel and chain. I sold the old Mino Denti. I bought a new Klein Quantum in 2003. I have been riding on it for the last 7 years. It has been a great bike. I put new wheels on it last year (they had developed cracks in them). I try to ride 100 to 150 miles a week in the summer. I don't have the speed I used to twenty years ago, but can still ride over 20 miles per hour.

Klein Quantum

One of these years I'll upgrade. Actually, I might get a cyclocross bike (it would be good in the winter). I have a 1970s era British 3-speed and a Haro V4 mountain bike. Maybe I'll do a post on all the mountain bikes I have owned (4 counting the one I own now). I even had a unicycle as a teenager! Like I said, I have had more bikes than cars . . .

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Blooming Time

As I was out and about the yard, I came across a number of signs of spring . . .

The common dandelion.


Dainty Violets.

Ground Ivy.

Most of these plants are common, and the violets, ivy and dandelion are pretty invasive and sometimes considered to be weeds. I am not obsessed by perfect lawns. Grass is boring compared to any of these plants.

However, the warm weather has brought out the Japanese Knotweed. Though the knotweed is only2 inches tall now, it can grow to 6 feet or more. I've already sharpened up the scythe. Bring it on . . .

Emergent Japanese Knotweed.

Project Updates

I had recently posted about stabilizing the bank at the creek. It was a lot of work moving stone and building up the embankment. I still have some more work to do. I'll wait for another warm weekend to work in the creek.

I also put a coat of stain on the gate leg table. I'll probably need to take some steel wool to the top to get it real smooth and finish it.

Gotta make room for new projects . . .

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tasks Interrupted

We have an old sidewalk going from the driveway under our deck toward the back door. I had decided to break the concrete up. It was always a nuisance mowing around the slab. I decided that I would use the concrete chunks to help stabilize the bank of the creek.

I got out the sledge hammer, a pry bar and a pick. I started to bang away on the side walk. I started to make a deep groove in one section of the concrete. I then got the pry bar under the slab to see if I could lift the piece. I then discovered that the slab is reinforced with wire mesh. I'll need to rethink how I break the side walk.

I did learn something. I had heard that you can get worms to come to the surface with deep thrumming noises. As I was banging away on the slab, I noticed a bunch of worms had come to the surface. I guess the story is true!

I then decided to work on my tractor. I remembered that I had noticed a broken sway bar bracket. I went to the tractor store and ordered a new part. I did remove the wheel weighs and put a new air filter and gas filter in, but still have a number of tasks to do before I can mow the grass (sharpen blades, change oil and filter, install new bracket, remove the plow, install mower deck).

I then went for a bike ride. It was windy and cool, but the sun was out and the trees and bushes are starting to leaf out.

I guess I have something to do next weekend!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Horseshoe Update

In my previous post, I noted I found an old horseshoe. Based in my research, it is a fullered draft horseshoe with heel calks and a toe grab.

This was a shoe for a working draft horse with features in it to add traction (heel calks and toe grab).

The grooves along each side are the fullers. This is an older shoe (modern forged shoes do not have this feature). Pretty cool!

I really need to get a metal detector and work around the barn!

Busy Day

We continue to have a very warm Spring. It was over 80 degF today. I spent a lot of time working in the yard. I changed out the clothesline (the old line was getting pretty worn). I then finished removing the fencing which was about the barn. It looks a little bare now, but the post were rotting out as well as the rails. It didn't take much time to take it all down.

I raked out the hosta garden. I did some touch-up painting around the barn, and also raked out some of the other flower beds. I built up a rock foundation around the well head to put an older pump head over the well head. It looks a lot better than a modern well head.

We have had some erosion on the creek. I spent a few hours stacking rock on the back to limit the erosion. While working on the bank, I found a horseshoe. I need identify it (if you know what type of shoe it is, let me know).

It was nice to be outside, but after several hours of working outside I was getting tired. I walked over to the creek to sit on the bench I put there last year. I startled a pair of mallard ducks. They flew just a few yards down stream, but stayed around a while.

We'll be grilling outside tonite. Enjoy the warm weather!

Auction Finds

Yesterday was my 'off-Friday'. We went to the local auction house. It was a good auction (at least for "mantiques"). We picked up a 6 gallon crock. Surprisingly, we saw it a few months ago. Back then, the crock went unsold (minimum bid was $10. Had I known the wife wanted it, I would have jumped on it. It came up ago, so I bought it, The colors were good, though there are a few chips and a slight crack. I got it got $25. The wife loved it.

I took a toolbox with some braces (drills) and assorted tools. It also went for $25. We also picked up a few pitchforks ($15). I needed some for the compost piles. For $15, you can't beat the price.

And what would Uncle Tractor do without a cast iron tractor seat. It is a Eureka 128 (you can see the name Eureka cast into the seat). It was repainted a solid red. It might be a reproduction (at $15, no big deal), though is a nice decorative item (I now have it hanging in the barn). Tractor seats are collectible. Maybe I'll start collecting them!

We also put an absentee bid in for some red / white toile plates for our daughter. I am sure that we did not bid enough - but you never know. We'll see in a few days if we get a call!