Friday, May 26, 2017

Tornado Alley Chicken Dinner

Before the storms hit, I had to make a dash to the local grocery for two things I'd forgotten. Partner in Grime was driving back from O'Hare where he was arriving after a week on the road and I wanted to make him a nice "not Subway" meal.  He looked at my purchases, lemon juice and foil, raised an eyebrow and said: "so, making batteries for supper?"

Most of you have seen at least the lower front of his shirt over a dinner table. For those of you that haven't met him, Partner in Grime is my husband and my partner in grime, but also that fellow I share a last name with (trying to look all serious for me, vinegarand yes, he has blue eyes)
No batteries for dinner!  I was going to try and make supper out of just what was on hand (emergency rations not counting).   I had a few chicken breasts.  There was also some odds and end bits of frozen veggies, some leftover chicken stock, and the usual herbs,and vinegar.

Plus, with the tornado sirens going off to our south, I needed something that could get interrupted with no ill effect.

Champagne Balsamic Chicken - It's not the most photogenic dish in the world, but it was really good.  I made it with a champagne balsamic vinegar I picked up at Artisano's  the last time I was in Indianapolis  and hadn't tried yet. For those that don't live in Indiana, they ship, and if you order something get a 1 or 2-ounce sample of the applewood smoked salt, ghost pepper salt (hot!) and espresso sugar.

It was pretty simple, cooked on the stovetop in my favorite Red French Oven (you can use any big, sturdy pot.

In the pot mix:

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup champagne balsamic vinegar (or any good quality balsamic)
3/4 cup plus 3 Tablespoons chicken stock (or canned broth)
3 generous teaspoons of jarred minced garlic
2 dashes of sea salt
1 bay leaf
1/2 heaping teaspoon mixed dried herbs (I used a mixture of chives, basil, tarragon, chervil and a tiny bit of dill, but just tarragon or basil would work).
a couple grinds from the pepper mill

Add 3-4 skinless chicken breasts and bring to and maintain, a low boil.  Cook for 15 minutes, flip chicken pieces over then reduce heat slightly and cook at a gentle simmer until internal temp is 165 F. on a meat thermometer, (around 30-40 minutes for the pieces I had), keeping lid OFF so that the liquid is reduced to better caramelize the chicken pieces, still leaving enough for you to drizzle on other things.

When the chicken is about 160 degrees F., remove the bay leaf, lower the heat slightly and put some bread in the oven.  What's good?   Popovers, always good on a cold, blustery day.]

The popovers were 1/4 of the cost of packaged frozen rolls and much tastier. Between gust fronts, they went in, as those are a little more temperamental cooking wise, but they were worth it, tall, buttery custard-like texture inside, flaky layers on the outside.
Dinner was easy and good, the chicken staying really moist and the garlicky champagne balsamic sauce, absolutely wonderful drizzled over the sweet potatoes (there was also broccoli). Even better, we didn't have to hunker down in the basement when the sirens went off, watching the radar and seeing the cells with rotation potential going well south of here.

I hope all of you out there are safe, warm and happy and if you're going to play chicken, do it in the kitchen, not with the weather.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Glad I Wore the Browncoat

I thought with everything going in the world the last day or two we could use a smile

A dear friend of mine had a post up a while back about how she met her husband on Twitter and how he proposed. I actually met my husband on the Internet.  It wasn't a dating website or anything like that.  I was writing for various magazines and had a very popular blog dealing with tools and firearms and cars and other popular "guy stuff" (since closed due to post election trolls) and he was a fan and his Dad was Secret Squirrel, someone I knew well.  My name came up and an introduction was arranged. Due to our age difference (25 years) we were just "best buds" online, and talking on the phone for several years. Then we met in person and well, that, my friends, was that.  We were married two years later. The journey was chronicled in The Book of Barkley but for my bestie gal friend Sam, tonight is the chapter of the proposal.

CHAPTER 38 - Simple Evening

It was supposed to be a simple evening. It was an early day at work, but I was home in time to get a quick shower and get dressed up for a dinner date. EJ had been overseas for a couple of weeks on business and was flying in to see me for a quiet evening.  We enjoyed the evenings like this, making dinner together, both of us loving to cook.  Then we’d play an old fashioned board game or take Barkley for a long walk. EJ would play with him, talking to him as if he were human, while I got a bubble bath. Then we’d curl up on the couch, Barkley usually shoving his way between us, to lounge against us until everyone was sleepy.  Weekends we’d play with the tools in either his garage or mine, building on things stronger than wood.

Somewhere over the course of a friendship of many years and a bonding over bad knees and bad dogs, EJ became a big part of my life.  I’d missed him a lot while he was gone, our talks of the future becoming more serious.  Tonight, I was wondering, would he pop the question?

But first, I had to feed Barkley and take him outside to potty.
My neighborhood is a quiet one, with both young and retired couples.  I have a police officer on one side of me, a young couple on the other.  All of them are great neighbors. The young couple has a rescue dog, a smaller yellow lab/terrier mix. Barkley likes to bark at him out the front window but is mostly ignored, despite his attempts at engaging the hound by leaving his calling card on the front bushes.

The block was quiet, so in a hurry to get ready, I let Barkley out to do his business.  After that, he sniffed everything, then trotted in through the garage and went into the house, off leash, just as he'd done several hundred times. He'd patiently wait in the kitchen for his treat, while I cleaned up the deposit and a few others made earlier in my yard in the dark. One thing about a ninety-pound dog, if the barking does not scare burglars away, the land mines in the yard might. As based on volume, they might think you have a grizzly bear on premises. So I kept one of those big long-handled scoopers that is open on one end and has a secondary shovel-like thing to help gather everything up.

But as I finished that up, lo and behold, the neighbor arrived home with baby and dog in tow, the dog jumping out of the car off leash to go into his house.
I wasn’t sure I could get all of his landmines in the scooper in one trip, but with careful balance, I did. It really was the perfect plan. Until Barkley heard the dog from deep within the house and rushed out the back door, out the open garage door, racing over to the neighbor's drive to finally meet their dog.

I rushed over to collect him, wielding a pooper scooper that had more crap in it than most political campaign commercials.  Barkley was over in the dog's face with the typical Labrador retriever “hi there, hi there, hi there, play with me play with me play with me” like some demented door to door magazine salesman.

The neighbor dog did not like Barkley in his space, trying to make friends on his turf, and immediately launched into “bark bark bark bark” complete with crazed eyes and snapping teeth inches from Barkley's face.

It was all show; the teeth were not making contact though they could have, but Barkley was freaking out, never having been set upon by a weird stranger (if he'd on-line dated as the rest of us have, it might not have been so traumatic). So I lunged for his collar as my neighbor pulled his dog away, one arm stretched out, the other swinging up, not realizing what I had in my other hand (yes, you can see this one coming).

Pooper Scoopers make a dandy catapult with the right angle and force.

The load of dog poop went up, and then, as gravity is likely to make it do, it came down.

Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat! Splat!

It was raining down on their driveway like a bad day in Beirut (so glad my coat is brown).

The dogs are now suddenly friends, sniffing and wagging tails, the neighbor apologizing profusely as he takes his dog and the baby from the car seat and goes inside to get the family situated.

Barkley back inside with the door firmly closed, I got paper towels, a plastic bag, a broom and water to clean their driveway, which I was doing, hair disheveled, looking like I was a very sore loser in a game of Poop Paintball.

Just then EJ rolled up, all dressed up, more than for typical travel, with a bottle of expensive wine.

I think about all he could have said if he weren't laughing so hard, but what he said was, "Would you like red or white wine with that?” - Brigid

(By the way - I said yes)

Saturday, May 20, 2017

True Blued - The Ruger Vaquero

Handgun hunters, pistol competitors and cowboy action shooting folks are fans of the single action,  ideal for slow, deliberate shooting.  I was first exposed to them in the form of single action revolvers watching Westerns growing up. As a kid, I'd rather take a bullet than watch the Brady Bunch and the Partridge Family, which were what was "new" on TV when I was little.  So I'd curl up with Loony Tunes and new and rerun classic Westerns, with a few  ears of Gunsmoke and  Bonanza thrown in the mix.

The TV Western reigned supreme in the Fifties and Sixties. Unlike the post-war world in which they flourished, you could tell the good guys from the bad, and none of the guns were fully automatic. My favorites were Rifleman, Wanted Dead or Alive, and of course Have Gun Will Travel.
Even if the closest I've been to cowboys in the last few years are the ones that might wander over to the range when I make lasagna, I'm very fond of revolvers.  So when I was offered a chance to try out and review Partner in Grime's Ruger Vaquero, stampeding cattle couldn't have kept me from the range (well at least until it quit snowing).

I already have a revolver (or maybe two :-) but adding another one, with a price I can justify, when I already HAVE a couple, in today's economy,  is not something I'm adverse to. So here it comes, the Ruger Vaquero, introduced in the early nineties, becoming one of the more popular handguns used in the ever popular sport of Cowboy Action shooting.

It's also popular with others like me, who want a reliable and hardworking firearm for the outdoors or home defense. But it's not just any Vaquero, it's the NEW Vaquero.
You see, not long back, Ruger announced a major redesign of the popular firearm, coming up with the name "New Vaquero".  I'd hoped it was not like "New" Coke, where marketing came up with the concept without actually thinking about the taste of the target audience.  The one reviewed is the .357 version of the new Vaquero, though I understand it also comes in a .45 colt cartridge version, coming in bright stainless or blue case colored and varying barrel lengths from 4 and 5/8th or 5 and 1/2 inches (at least for the .357).

These are serious, hardworking guns, ( picture old cowboy action movie with tanks), feeding heavy loads that would have some firearms crying like a 3rd grader. Ruggedness and durability are keystones of Ruger firearms, an American company with a reputation for producing guns that can withstand heavy use without action parts breaking down like a cheap rental car.

The New Vaquero is built on the same size frame as Ruger’s beloved original .357 Magnum Blackhawk, the frame of which was discontinued with the advent of the new Model Black hawk in 1973 which was built on the same frame of the larger caliber revolvers out there. (Confused yet?). That 1970's version was NOT a small firearm, though it's a truly outstanding piece to own.

The New Vaquero has that small original frame size, making it much lighter and easier to handle than the original Vaquero.  I'd compare it, size wise, to the Colt Single Action Army revolver and similar replicas found on the field at Cowboy action shoots.  The Smaller size in a six gun that will likely last forever.  What's not to like?

What first caught my eye was the grip frame.  Not only is it pretty, it's a joy to handle,  making your Glock grip feel like shooting a cast iron frying pan). This is as close to a return to the grip of the original XR3 grip used in the 1851 Colt Navy revolver as I've seen, though it's made of steel, and much better than the new and improved XR3-RED grip that debuted about the same time my folks debuted me (not yesterday).  The grip panels are that familiar checkered pattern, with the iconic Ruger Eagle molded in.

If you put new and old Ruger  Vaqueros side by side you might notice a redesigned hammer that has a slightly longer swept back shape, with noticeable serrations, making for easy cocking. The action is flat out smooth, the trigger pull s as crisp as a Western morning, at just a tad less than 3 and a half pounds out of the box. The trigger, being Ruger, is further forward and wider than other revolvers I've shot to compare it with, such as a Colt SAA in .45 and a Cimarron Mod P., BP frame, in .357

The ejector rod button has also had a little tweak, more of a crescent shape than a round shape. It's easy on the hand and the eye, with the ejector rod housing made out of steel, just like the grip frame.

Sights - There's not a difference this untrained eye can see between old and new version, consisting of a squared notch rear and a rounded front sight, unlike the Blackhawk, which has an adjustable sight. I like the fixed sight though, good for intuitive shooting and you learn to shoot well by compensating your aim.
You can always ruin a good gun fight at the corral with a lawyer.  But there are a number of states requiring firearms to have certain "safety" devices. Ruger has incorporated a key activated action lock into the new Vaquero. I won't even get started on why I don't think those are necessary for a lot of  responsible firearm owners, but at least it's designed so it's fairly discreet and doesn't clunk up the lines or frames of this firearm as many of them do (some of them being  the equivalent of  installing a cow catcher on a Triumph Spitfire) .

The lock itself is hidden beneath the grip panels with the key having a built in screwdriver to remove said right grip panel. One the panel is off, the key is used, well,  like a key.  (If you need instructions on using a key you are probably one of the folks the lawyers think own firearms). Insert, rotate to lock. Use it or ignore it, as necessary.  The keys that come with it look like handcuff keys, though a handcuff key won't work in it (not that I tried that or anything).

Ruger has instructions for drilling a small hole in the right-hand grip panel to access the lock without removing the grip panel, going as far as casting a little dimple on the inside surface or that panel so you know where to drill.  I cringe at the thought of drilling into any piece, but unless Abby Normal the Lab grows opposable thumbs I'm not worried about locking it.

One actual useful safety feature is that the New Vaquero still has Ruger's transfer bar safety that allows the gun to be safely carried with a full half dozen rounds in the cylinder. This makes a vary nice personal defense weapon for that campsite or shop or work bench if you are ready to pony up and replace that 9 mm water gun for one shot stopping.

Ammo - You need to look for .357 Magnum .357 Mag and .38 SPL.  If you reload, you might wish to avoid those directions that say "Ruger Only" in the handloading manual. The cylinder walls of the New Vaquero are a bit thinner than those on the Original Vaquero's and .45 Blackhawks (though they are tougher than those on the Colt SAA) and a heavy load like the +P .45 Colt loads might be a bit much. (they are fine with loads to SAAMI specs). If in doubt, check with the maker of the ammunition in regarding suitability for the New Vaquero (I'd recommend calling Ruger, but not all manufacturers have a tech rep available, you're more likely going to get someone that will read the manual to you, and I can do that). If  I've got the gun like this with me for self-defense (shop, woods, etc) my loads are GDHP .38 spl. +P with 19 158 gr. 357 Hydra-Shok as back up.

I'm not sure if it's part of the overall redesign of the chambers, but they  seem to align better with the loading gate for easy loading and unloading of the cylinder (come on, you've all had that six gun that when you rotate it til it clicks it's actually gone too far and have to rotate the thing completely around again to align the chamber with the reloading gate, all while the bad guy targets are snickering at you). With a cylinder index button that's spring loaded and a retracting cylinder hand, the New Vaquero chambers like the old pre '73 Rugers.
Bonus Points for Pointability.  Accuracy is excellent, not all owing to this shooter, but a combination of weight, grip and chamber throats that allow the bullets to seat easily but snugly. With the longer barrel, it balances well, and to me, is steadier to aim, than the shorter barrels.  Recoil is minimal, even if you don't consider the .357 loads. With varying loads, you are still going to get a good point of aim grouping at 25 yards all day long unless you are using really lightly loaded bullets, which aren't going to do that well in any revolver anyway.  With a good load, your bullets are going to bitch slap one another for the same target hole even if you're not an expert shooter.

I love the Blackhawk, big tough boy that it is and I  found the original Vaquero a pleasure to fire.  But if you want a slightly smaller, lighter, and easily affordable revolver for fast and accurate cowboy action shooting, or simply taking with you to the garage late one night for a cowboy action Lucas Wiring project, this New Vaquero is for you.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Second Amendment - A Deliberate Belief

Stars wash from the sky as the world and its mistress sleeps.

The sun is just up over the horizon, as the gear is loaded into the truck.  If you want the best spot at the gun range, you best get up early.  The afternoons are a flurry of volleys, excited laughter as a youngster takes up the sport for the first time, range officers going into full point on someone who isn't monitoring their trigger finger.

But mornings? Mornings are quiet, just myself, a friend from work perhaps, hair mussed, clothes sort of wrinkled from snagging them fresh from a laundry basket, we do look a sight.  The air is cool and sluggish, the lanes down which we would shoot, extending out into shadowed distance.  A couple of targets had fallen over into the sand, where they sunned themselves like sleepy predators on the silvery shores of a foreign land.  Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!  The air was still, but it was not the stillness of peace. We were ready, a couple of savages with Savages, a stranger not knowing might think.

But who sees us and what we look like matters little as that first target goes up. We are here to hone our skills, to help each other learn, to put a piece of liberty on a small piece of paper one round at a time.  At home are rounds of higher caliber, fancier guns, but for today, we simply wish to work on our skills, and for that, a quality firearm and a few boxes of small rounds will suffice.

Ammo is organized, ears and eyes at the ready.  The firearms are clean, cared for with a diligence that goes beyond neatness; it's the recognition that this is a tool that may not only put food on the table but in its essence, may someday have to defend our life.  I'll let dust bunnies gather under the bed to the point they need their own border collie to round them up, but you could perform minor surgery on the bench where I care for my firearms.
I remember the very first time I pulled a trigger, 12 years old, under my LEO Mom's supervision, and after years of watching gun safety. I remember the target, a soda pop can. I remember the hesitant deliberation of the hand, the tightening of the muscles in my stance, knees slightly bent, leaning in, that seemed to convey twice the weight of what my childlike body held. And I squeezed and hit the top rim of the can, knocking it off its perch. It took ten minutes for the smile to leave my face.

I've had days I couldn't shoot a good group on a humpback whale. I've had various tiny chunks taken out of my hand because I wasn't paying attention to those small calibered creatures that bite.  I've made mistakes both on and off the range, like anything else in life, learning and growing from it.

But the confidence that learning to safely and responsibly handle a firearm gave me, has never left. You learn to discern, by instinct and practice from where the threat will come. You learn to respond in kind, clamping down your teeth as your finger pulls back and your heart flies out of your chest with a volley. Everything narrows down to that heart, that finger and that target, and the mere incidents of what is around you, fades to shadow, the inner truths hidden there in the smoke that lingers after the sound is gone.
As the rifle goes up to my shoulder, I thought of my first whitetail hunt, taught the craft by those that loved me, passing down a tradition of survival and preparedness. I field dressed the animal with coaching but no hands on assistance, there in the fading light, my hands consecrating to us that which was, by God's will and man's patience, accepted as a gift.

I grew up that day, in more ways the one, having learned and watched and waited, until I was ready to handle my firearm, ready to use it as a responsible steward of the land, looking at the deer on the ground, the first worthy blood I had been worthy to take. Sacrifice with grace, for which we are both thankful and repentant.

The sound of the first bullet across the range breaks the silence the lay upon that recollection, memories growing quiet as the smell of powder and lead fill the air.  This firearm is not the weapon, it is only a tool.  Man is the weapon, because the mind of man is capable of anything, equally good and evil.  It is all there, in  that mind, trepidation and joy fear and worry, valor and rage, stripped down to the basic garments that cover us all.  Sometimes it waves a hand in greeting. Sometimes it goes for the throat without provocation and for that I am ready.

I have heard every argument as to why not. The bad guy will take my weapon from me. I am not strong enough as a female to defend. I will be a careless steward of this responsibility and someone inocent will get killed. I have heard from a fellow I went out a date with, in the defense industry, that said "well, you're in law enforcement so it's OK, but civilians should not be allowed to have firearms (last date). I have heard them all, whispered and shouted, but this firearm, and the skills which I practice, are a speech that can not be silenced. It is, and will always be, my deliberate belief.

A few boxes of ammo later, it's time to go, as others arrive, needing a lane to shoot.  A whistle sounds, the range has gone cold, the silence sudden, everyone stopped  in silent immobility as firearms are laid down, chambers are checked. Safety is first, on that, we are one.

Bit by bit, the conversations start back up, greetings to those that have come in. Some of the usual group are gone, taking up their daily obligations not having the chance to get a week day off as some of us do, payback for the occasional duty roster from hell. We talk about all the fun they are missing, but it didn't stop us from having some fun of our own, one perforated piece of paper at a time.  Then we leave, but not in the posture of retreat but dawn out into the sun, standing ready and so very alive, drawing in the world in one long aspiration.
As I look back at those who remain, I see the next generation and the best generation, side by side.  I see fathers and mothers and neighbors, blue collar, white collar. We all come from different backgrounds, with different wants and needs, but we all have something in common. That is the belief in our fundamental God given right to bear arms, not just for the hunt, but for the defense of our Land and the welfare of our family. We are not gun "nuts" or "extremists", we are law abiding, ordinary citizens armed with the steel of eternal  vigilance. We are simply shooters, and our grouping is tight.

 - Brigid

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Woodworking - There's no App for That.

Over the years, since this blog was created in a sprawling semi-rural home that was the original Range back in 2008,  I've received some odds and ends in the mail from my readers. No, I don't give out my address to strangers, but a few of my readers that have become friends offline have it. When one of them recently said - "do you and Partner want  a few ShopSmith bits that were among my Dad's tools?" (the Shopsmith itself long gone) - the answer was a quick "yes!" So one day before Partner went to the UK on business, a box arrived with those bits and a drill as an "extra".
 Oh!  A live center!
You have to be careful to not damage the top - we cracked up with what had been put on it to keep it from hard in shipping.
 A hand cranked drill (Armstrong drill :-)
 You can't have too many arbors for shop blades

 Shaper bit.
 And a screw in center for turning wood.
Thanks, Mr. P!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Goose Wars

I can't speak for other parts of the country, but if you live in the upper Midwest and near water, you WILL get a visit from your Canadian neighbors of the loud honking variety.

The original Range was on a large retaining lake.  How beautiful I thought, Dad will love this, the home purchased at the time he was going to live with me, at least for a while, post stroke.

The yard was fenced so Barkley couldn't get into the water unless I opened the gate, but I so enjoyed sitting out on the deck in the evenings looking at the water.

Until my neighbors showed up that first morning there, honk honk honk honk honk honk at the crack of dawn.  It was like living next to the LA Expressway.

The Canada Geese had arrived.
I know a lot of people love geese.  They feed them, they buy life sized plastic or cement ones for their porch they can dress up like the Village People.  I liked geese too, until they moved in next door. If you've not lived around geese I'll sum it up.

(1) noise that just increases every year as the population swells
(2)  goose poop, lots of goose poop (up to a 1 1/2 pounds a day per goose).  It's not just, well, icky, there's always the risk of zoonotic disease that could be vectored to humans.
Funny Sign at "Goose - The Restaurant" in Indianapolis

Now that you've decided you'd rather not have them around, be sure to check in on your local laws and ordinances before you take steps to get rid of geese AND remember that Canada geese are protected by the migratory bird act and can't be killed without permits. But there are more humane ways to encourage them to look for another place to hang out.

Migratory Geese are easier to shoo away, but geese that have claimed your area as their residence, returning year after year to raise their young, will aggressively protect that nest.

Before you do anything: Assess the situation.  If you're seeing the geese just in the spring or fall, they're likely only using your spot for a rest stop during migration. If you’re seeing geese in the winter, you’re likely providing habitat for a migratory population.  According to the Audubon folks, don’t try to evict each and every goose, but rather strike a balance. (I learned a long time ago that if one takes nature completely out of the equation you are going to come out on the short end of that particular stick.)
Selecting Grass:  Geese like young shoots to nibble on.  If you choose a mature tall fescue and allow the grass to grow a bit more(about 3 inches)  they may look for tastier fare across the street. Removing chunks of your turf lawn and replacing with taller native plants and bushes is also a great geese control tactic. Avoid Kentucky Bluegrass, it's like waving a large prime rib at your local carnivore.

If you  have a pond or small retaining lake on the property, avoid mowing to the water’s edge. Instead, plant native vegetation that does well in moist environments. Canada geese avoid using areas where plants obstruct their view of the surrounding area.
You can also install wire around the pond to deter the geese. The Audubon info recommends stringing one one row 6 inches off the ground by the water's edge, and another 6 inches above the water three feet into the pond, to keep geese away from their popular water spots on your property.

If you do an online search for goose deterrents, there  are also chemical repellents that have been used such as Methyl anthranilate or Anthraquinone. But for most homeowners, especially this one, the chemical approach is not an option.
Hazing: Not just for bored spoiled college students any more! Hazing is an assortment of noisy or colorful means that serve to frighten the geese away.  By themselves, they usually don't work (why the neighbor with the fake coyote usually finds it surrounded by two dozen geese every morning).  You have to sort of mix it up, for after a while they just get used to it.

Some of these are of the noisy, pyrotechnic type. If you have close neighbors though, these devices will be as annoying to them as the geese and they might not be legal where you live (so you might think twice about that propane cannon going off every 10 minutes).

Some recommend helium balloons, with large "eye spots" tethered to be about 10 feet above the "goose free area".  Like this one, THIS one would scare the heck out of me.

There are some things others recognize as "go away - danger", geese are no different.
Others recommend flags in safety orange, placed around the yard, visible from all points (but once the birds land where there are flags and start dinner, they are no longer effective).

Frankly, for lack of anything else, running repeatedly and vigorously out the back door in your Wonder Woman pajamas with red hair streaming, waving a broom and yelling like a banshee is quite effective (though you won't get invited to any more block parties).

Barrier Fences: this would work best on a breezy sunny day, and isn't easy to install but might be worth a try if everything else fails. Using half-inch Mylar tape (or silver and red bird scare tape which is available in some stores) you stretch the twisted tape, 1 to 3 feet high, using stakes around the area you’re protecting. For every 100 feet, the tape should be twisted four or five times. When the wind blows across the tape, it rattles while flashing from the reflected sunshine. The flashing and the rattling frightens the geese but if they've already flown into the yard, forget it.  You also need to make the fence long enough so the geese just don't walk around it, into your yard.
Simpler fencing  can be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, plastic snow fence, corn cribbing, chain link, netting or a picket fence.  An effective barrier for walking geese uses durable material with opening no larger than 3 x 3 inches that is at least 30 inches high. (check your local ordinances before constructing though).

What about a doggie deterrent?  A dog who is on a fixed length chain or zip line, or within a fenced yard is no deterrent.  The geese soon realize he's not going to be able to get at them.  A dog running loose will deter birds but it's not necessarily safe for the dog who can get in harm's way if allowed to roam free (not to mention getting you a fine in some more suburban areas).

However, the occasional swim in the pond can do wonders.

Finally - Don't feed them.  Sure they're all cute and all but it's like public assistance, give some people a free handout and they'll never leave and get a job.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Bob Owens - Gone West

Many of you have heard the news that well-known gun blogger and second amendment activist Bob Owens died within the last 24 hours, suddenly and tragically.  I was a guest blogger on one of his first blogs, Confederate Yankee, and found him a joy to work with and someone to look up to as a budding writer.

I am not going to post details that are available elsewhere, but I got a note from his wife via Facebook. I know she appreciates everyone's caring thoughts and supports. I believe there is a Go Fund Me to support a college fund for his two young daughters.  If I get a link to that I will add here.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Breakfast Screw Up and a Story on Screwdrivers

How can you screw up a pancake? Well you can.  

After a hard week, I had a serious craving for them. Work had me where I could sleep at home (albeit briefly) the last few days which was good and we woke up to temps in the low 30's with sunny skies. A perfect morning for pancakes. I was seriously tired, (when your eyes look like Chinese flags even VISINE® is not going to help) but was determined to make them, turning down Partners offer to make some eggs and toast..  I decided to try a new recipe using some self rising flour.  Once on the griddle, I noticed how, well, thin, they were.
They weren't puffing up at all. Partner looked in on them and said "are we having French crepes?"

No, Flatjacks.

I looked at the counter at the two flour containers.  *%#@  I used the NON self rising flour.  I was making hardtack.

OK, I can make another batch, except I was out of eggs and butter and though the store is just a 10 minute drive, it IS cold out.  To the Internets!  I found a vegan pancake recipe on a blog, made with no butter or eggs and the picture looked like regular pancakes.  I made them as instructed and they looked like the picture.  But let's just say, assuming they have a long shelf life, they'll be perfect for the first aid kit to pack wounds. Absorbent, not edible.  Another failure.


Attempt #3, with fresh butter and eggs from the store (and look, bacon fell into the cart!), went much better.
But I realized, until I catch up on my sleep,  it's best to putter around using the simplest of tools.  Perhaps like 3 or 4 new screwdrivers that showed up on the Range last weekend.

The screwdriver, the tool that likely every household has at least one of.  It has long genealogy, with Archimedes considered to have invented the screw in the third century B.C.with others saying it was Nebuchadnezzar II who did. Actually, what Archimedes of Syracuse invented was designed to transfer motion (as in the continuous worm of a worm and gear assembly), rather than to fasten two things together, so I'd say he didn't really likely "invent" the screw, though no one really knows for sure.  What we do know is that  around the first century, screw shaped tools became common,  with early  screws were made from wood and were used in wine presses, olive oil presses, and such.
If you have enough books, you'll find there's historical records on everything, tools, cars, party boats (which according to famed tool guy Red Green, date back to Cleopatra and the crew of the Exxon-Valdez). But there is a ton of information on the Roman Era and the many developments in tooling and building that came about during that time. Romans had most of our other hand tools and also invented the stiffened backsaw, whose blade is reinforced at the top. This prevents straight-through cuts, but in combination with a miter box, can be useful for cabinetwork.

Cranks showed up in the The Middle Ages, as did the carpenter's brace.  The handsaw, too, is even more ancient.  Archaeologists have found metal-toothead Egyptian saws dating back to 1500 B.C., with  broad blades, some as long as twenty inches, curved wooden handles and irregular teeth.
A soft metal was used, copper, which required the saw to be pulled, not pushed to keep it from buckling.  Since during the pull you can't bear down on the cutting stroke, sawing wood for the Egyptians must have been about as much fun as plumbing.  The Romans used iron for the blades, making them stiffer.

The Romans also added something to the world's toolbox of cutting tools that was beyond ingenious for its time. The frame saw. A fairly cheap narrow blade is held in a wooden frame and is kept taut by tightening a cord. Wooden frame saws worked so well that they continued as the most common type of saw well into the 19th century and if you look at your hacksaw in the garage closely, you can see the principle is still alive (though if your spouse catches you in the shop fondling and staring at your hacksaw he or she  may cut off the beer supply).
The first metal screws used as fasteners date back to the 15th century. They had square or hexagonal heads and were not turned with a screwdriver, but a wrench. Screws also appeared as a spinoff from Renaissance warfare, keeping the parts of a matchlock rifle linked. The screws of the 16th century were hand-cut which is both expensive and less than reliable, but they were needed for timepieces as well as armaments. At the end of the 1700s, screw-cutting lathes were developed, making screws more widely available and consistently sized.

But when did the "screwdriver" show up on the scene?

Scottish crafts manuals from around the time of the American Revolution give screwdrivers as "turnscrews"; the same word in French, tournevis, turns up in 1723. .But the origin of the screwdriver itself is obscure and not widely mentioned in texts even though screws were evident in many applications during this early period.
Now, there are multiple types of screwdrivers, cabinet screwdrivers, stubby screwdrivers, electricians screwdrivers, spiral ratchet etc, and assorted tips, Parallel tip, Pozidriv,  Phillips, Clutch, Robertson.

Some handles and shanks can take multiple tips, and one of them here, even has a magnet built into the shaft.  You might laugh at the Ronco Food Dehyradator/Flashlight/Auger but combination tools have been around since ancient times, the two oldest woodworking tools being the ax (timber!) and the adz, with its blade turned ninety degrees, which is then used for dressing the timber.  The Minoans in Crete were using it  long before the Romans started getting that bigger tool box.

Some of the modern screwdrivers have the head as you see in the pictures here, others have a bulbous head, which  provides a little better grip, with a greater area of surface contact between paw and tool, but that's just my preference.
But the other day, there was a Sears Hardware going out  of business and well



Need I say more.
Just a few were picked up, with one deciding difference.  Something you all may know, but I didn't catch on to immediately.

Square versus round shank.  What's the advantage of the square?
You can place a wrench on the square shank so you can apply torque with one hand and downward pressure with the other which is more effective than simply trying to twist the handle, especially when you don't have the upper body strength of most handymen (but more than Justin Beiber).

It's also more effective in stripping out slots on screws on 1960's British Cars.

And that is your HOTR range tool lesson for today. See, I've mostly figured out a screwdriver and Lucas Wiring (I think Lucas is difficult because Britain is an island and they have to import their electrons :-)   But that's a story for another day.