Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Movin' On Up

I always marvel at the nests doves construct. They are usually a loosely built pile of sticks and don't look sturdy enough to use for a home, and a place to incubate eggs.

This dove (Maybe the same one as above.) has latched onto an abandoned robin nest from last year. One can only wonder about the conflicts in the minds of her offspring when instinct tells them to pick up and stack sticks to build their own home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cray Hit and Miss Engine

Keeping that Barn-Fresh look on a restored gas engine is an important trend in the hobby. When I first took a liking to these engines back in the 60's, everyone wanted to make them look like new, and there was a lot of patina rubbed out forever. Fortunately, some engines still are found hidden away that show their age very respectably when they are put back into operation. This Cray engine was on display last summer at Evansville.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Servicing Your Ruger Mk III Pistol

I keep seeing comments online about the difficulties that folks have trying to reassemble the Ruger Mk III after it has been torn down. These videos by Ruger Firearms should be a great help to you if you have one of these pistols.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Here Comes Monday!

Back To The Old Grind!

Not My Victrola

EMGColonel has posted a stack of Frank Crumit records! Ukulele Lady is one of my favorites ever since I first heard the song on Arlo Guthrie's album Hobo's Lullaby. We have posted this song as performed by Vaughan DeLeath, and somewhere in my stack is a dance version by Paul Whiteman. Down below is Arlo in his 1972 version, courtesy of kph38. UPDATE!! You can't cheat on unexpired copyrights. YouTube has pulled the Arlo Guthrie version of Ukulele Lady, and that is no surprise. Click on the link (above) for Hobo's Lullaby and you can still buy this record.

Planning Your Falling Cuts

Click To Enlarge

One of my landowners needed a chainsaw lesson recently, and this stump turned out good enough to share with you. The first cut aims the tree, and this cut should end when the length is 80% or more of the tree's diameter at breast height. The tree will fall at a right angle to the front of the hinge, and there is a line on your saw's power unit for you to use as a sight.

The second cut should match up exactly to the first cut, and there should be 70 to 90 degrees between the two cuts so the hinge will not be broken until the tree rotates to the ground.

Cut number three is a bore cut to build the hinge. You can punch through parallel to the front face if you are good, but it is safer to angle back slightly so you don't accidentally blow out your hinge.

Press the dogs into the bark, lean around the tree so you can see the end of the bar, and carefully rotate the saw until the far end of the hinge is the same thickness as the near end.

After you have the hinge completed, cut toward the back of the tree, but stop before cutting the backstrap and have a look around for safety. This cut can be done in halves on larger trees. Cut out on the heavy side of the tree first to avoid having the tree sit down on your bar. If the tree is balanced, or has back lean or weight, you will need to pound in a wedge before you release the tree.

Cut number 6 can be done in various ways to fit the situation. For trees with forward weight I usually continue straight out the back and make my escape. A downward cut through the slab wood, or a root swell prevents your bar from being trapped if the tree sits down on the stump when you cut the back strap. If you are going to be wedging, make cut number 6 horizontally a couple inches below the stump level. This will leave a tab hanging down off the log which keeps your wedge from coming out sideways as you pound it in.

These steps do not constitute a complete falling plan, but this is the part that puts the tree on the ground.

More Info: Click 1, 2, 34.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekend Steam

Bidone 1967 lives across the pond, and does a very professional job of posting videos of steam and gas engines. He put this one up a few days ago, and it is well worth watching.

Bidone leaves nice comments on my engine videos, and I wish I could tell you more about him, but I don't speak German. Here is info from his profile on YouTube: Im Sommer besuche ich viele Stationärmotoren-, Oldtimer- und Landmaschinentreffen. Im Winter geht es in den Zoo.Nebenbei bin ich noch Geocacher.Immer ist meine Kamera dabei und hier seht ihr meine Filme.
-Geocaching-Oldtimer-alte Traktoren und Standmotoren-natürlich Videofilmen und Schnitt

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Environmental Tip You Can Use!

River birch bark makes great tinder when you really need to start a fire (as does juniper bark). Keep some packed away with your emergency supplies for those times that you must have heat.

Southern Illinois University's Hottest Program

Dr. Charles Ruffner of SIU runs a rare and wonderful program for forestry students at Carbondale, Illinois. In addition to classroom instruction in the control and use of fire, Dr. Ruffner teaches his students how to handle fire in the field, conducts prescribed fires, fire research, and makes sure that his students are qualified to go on fires with the US Forest Service.

Dr. Ruffner is conducting the final briefing before we ignite a prescribed burn on private land near Marion, Illinois. The fire program at SIU prepares these students like no other program in this country. Many of the students use their training to fight western fires during the summer in order to finance their schooling.

ATV fire buggies are a big improvement in fire fighting and prescribed burns. Before ATV's we had to carry five gallon fire packs, which are bad for the back and your shoulders. You can move a lot faster with an ATV, patrol more effectively, and you carry three or more times the water to the action.

The students learn many valuable lessons under the tutelage of Dr. Ruffner, USFS personnel, and other experienced fire fighters. Below this transmission line you see a big patch of phragmites, which will put up huge volumes of heavy, black smoke capable of creating arcing, which can kill people, and knock out electrical service to entire regions. To the right of the phragmites you can see a patch of broomsedge, which is easily ignited, and very flashy. Light flashy fuels are very dangerous to fire fighters, and the broomsedge has the ability to carry fire into the phragmites, so these facts are taken into account when you design your tactics in a prescribed burn or in a wildfire.

When we lit the hillside next to the broomsedge we had already dampened the edge and posted two ATV's, plus several students with hand tools. It turned out that the broomsedge did catch, and we put out several small spots within seconds. Recognizing the hazard in advance prevented trouble.

This video segment ends abruptly as I spotted the ignition in the broomsedge. It doesn't take much of a spark to ignite dry grass.

One of the Fire Dawgs patrolling the fire line.

Much of fire fighting is mundane and non-exciting, but very necessary. One of the important skills is locating hot spots as the fire line cools down, and making them safe. The ability to easily utilize water on wildland fires is a great advancement .

The Fire Dawgs are all cooled off and ready to go back to the classroom. They are a hard working and very professional bunch of students. Kudos to you, Dr. Ruffner!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Arboreal Activists

Mt. Vernon, Illinois Tree Board members and other community volunteers gathered Tuesday to package 2000 tree seedlings for distribution to students in Jefferson County. Mt. Vernon has been very active with their urban forestry program for more than twenty years, and part of their strategy is to place lots of new trees in the city and outlying areas every spring. Potted trees will be distributed to city residents on Saturday at Veteran's Park.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Don't Miss Mr. Completely's April e-Postal Contest!

You have one more weekend available to shoot Mr. Completely's April contest, so print out your targets and schedule time for a family outing to the range. Remember, some lucky person will win a $50 gift certificate from Cheaper Than Dirt just for entering; and you get bragging rights for shooting with the likes of Mr. C, Merle, Sailor Curt, and a host of others. The only way you lose is if you don't enter.

PS: I should have gone for the easy points. I threw away points by trying for the 12 and 13, plus I missed the 9 on the first try for that circle.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Here Comes Monday!

Back To The Old Grind!

Not My Victrola

The True Blue Studio recorded and posted "The Little Old Log Cabin In The Lane" a couple years ago, but Pax41 has much better equipment than the TBS Brunswick, so it is well worth listening to again. Pax also includes some nice photos of Alma Gluck, and the young lad must be Efrem Zimbalist Junior. I remember him from "77 Sunset Strip," but the younger visitors here will probably associate him with his daughter rather than a prehistoric TV show.

Time For New Jackets!

The Mrs. and I were invited to the annual FFA banquet in Cisne last week, and we were surprised with an honorary FFA degree for promoting forestry education with the agriculture students in our area. This will be a great wall-hanger, and now we can wear those sharp looking blue jackets with the corncob, plow, and owl.

Many years ago we took some high school students from McLeansboro to a forest soils conference in Kentucky. One of the students was a senior girl who was all set to go into forestry when she entered college. At the conference our students met forestry students from the University of Kentucky, and they were a bit on the rough side. On our return trip to Illinois the girl announced that "I'm not like those people." She ditched her forestry plans and went into Pre-Med, and now she is a reconstructive surgeon. You never know how your work will pay off.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Steam

Most steam traction engines have no braking system at all, but they can be stopped quickly by closing the throttle, reversing the engine, and re-opening the throttle momentarily. This video shows the technique being demonstrated at the Wisconsin Histroical Steam Engine Association Steam School. Their next class is scheduled for September, and they only have room for fifty people, so don't delay in signing up if you need to learn how to operate a steamer.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hot Times This Spring

I think that when people think about fires they bring up mental images like this one. You see some of this on prescribed burns, but more of your time is spent watching less exciting sections of fire line.

This fire had lots of soft maple leaves where we started, and it skunked along for a good while until we got into oak leaves, which have a higher oil content.

Yesterday I was on a section of line with a creek, which served as a natural barrier. This section required quite a bit of hand labor because of accumulated debris which was lodged in various places along the creek bed. Most of it was a nice, wide fire line, though.

This area had lots of storm damage and snags, so quite a bit of time was spent taking down problems like this one, which can spread fire to the wrong side of the line.

There is usually some collateral damage in prescribed burning. This nice white oak had multiflora rose and honeysuckle around it, which held lots of leaves; and it was an impressive hot spot.

The combination of a moist duff layer, and the vegetation greening up can make a spring burn extra smokey. You learn pretty quickly to work in clear air as much as possible to avoid a CO headache the next day.

This is what we like to see. The line is black and cooling down.

This is something you do not want to see. Both sides of the line are black, and regular patrolling while the burn progressed caught this little breakover before it was a problem. Some quick line building with a leaf blower cut it off and tied the line back into the creek. The video below shows a few shots from a fire in Pope County, Illinois. Titles have been added for your viewing pleasure.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Try To Control Your Excitement

Spring tree planting season can run from February clear to July in Southern Illinois. The field being planted in this video was underwater until June last year, and success is not guaranteed when the trees go in the ground on a site like this one. The soil here has a high clay content, and it is chunking some as the planter runs, leaving air gaps in the top of the planting slit. We need dry weather to finish the job, but we want rain right away when we are done to seal the trees in. We have seen flooding do an excellent job of sealing the planting slit, too, in years past. This project is 165 acres, so it will take about ten days to complete; we probably will have a rain delay before it's done, and that will be okay. I had a nice comment on YouTube after I posted this video. I was surprised, because I figured watching a tree planter would seem about as exciting as watching paint dry for most people. We'll see if we can post something a little more dramatic tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

This Should Not Be Difficult

This white oak sits next to a nice home, and it is dead from the left side of the picture all the way to the sounding axe. The bark is about ready to fall off, but the tree still leafs out, so the landowner was reluctant to make a decision to take the tree down. This is a fairly common problem with homeowners who do not want to give up a tree that they treasure. I once had a lady ask me to identify only her trees which were the "Most Dead" because she couldn't stand to have them cut down.
Out behind the house this dead hickory (and a black oak snag) stand directly over a swing set that the homowner's grandchildren play on. I finally convinced the man that these two had to go to keep his grandkids safe, and then he decided that he would get rid of the white oak threatening his house, too.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Having One Of Those Days Every Day

This white oak popped up after being released by a harvest in the mid-1950's. Unfortunately, it is just a stone's (or trash) throw from a township road, and it came up right through the middle of a discarded tire. The landowner is doing some work in his timber, so he is going to save it from a slow strangulation, just in the nick of time. I see a lot of interesting discarded junk when I am out and about, but old tires in the woods are always ugly. It wouldn't be right to leave you with this image in your mind, so here is a closeup of a little flower like the ones growing around the tire.

That's better, isn't it?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Some Mondays I Feel Hardly Able

Back To The Old Grind!

Not My Victrola

Courtesy of bsgs98 on YouTube. Recorded by Paul Whiteman, July 26,1927.

Alive Because They Were Armed

This news video was posted by Xavier, and after you watch it, be sure to watch the second one, too. Criminals don't fight fair, and they intentionally seek out those who they think are safe targets. Elderly, infirm, or impaired people need to be able to defend themselves against thugs, and I am glad to see in the news that more law abiding folks are arming themselves.

This video was posted on No Quarters Blog, and the news guy quoted a good point made by the victim that "owning a gun is a good idea, particularly for elderly people." Anyone can be a victim of crime, and preparing yourself before you are a victim is necessary if you want to survive encounters with thugs like this lady met.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Steam

This YouTube video was shot at the 2009 Pawnee, Oklahoma show*, and it shows us a time honored game of steam shows, the Slow Race. The winner is an unusual engine, a return flue Minneapolis with a tandem compound engine. One of these is pictured in the slide show for this year's National Threshers Association Reunion, which happens in June at Wauseon, Ohio. I might have to schedule a weekend and go over there to see that beauty.

*The Oklahoma Steam & Gas Engine Show
All roads lead to Pawnee the first full weekend in May for three days (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday) for one of the largest displays of the giant machines at work in the country ... The largest in the southwest.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wind Powered Wedging

I get to cut down some interesting trees in my line of work. This ash tree was three stems grown together with included bark, and one of the stems had been broken off in a storm. When faced with a tree like this you can either handle each stem separately, or tie them together and drop them as one. The latter method is quicker and easier if you are able to do it, and in this case I was able to wrap the stems with a couple of chains and binders.

Note the sawdust flying away in the wind. This tree was weighted heavily against the direction it needed to fall, so after setting up the hinge I cut out half of the back, pounded in a wedge, and cut out the other half of the back. Before I could pick up my hammer I saw that the tree was lifting off of the wedge with every wind gust, so all I had to do was push the wedge in, wait for the next gust, and push in a bit more. Easiest wedging ever. The hardest part of this job was removing the chains after the tree was on the ground; that required quite a bit of sawing and disassembly work of the tree.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010


This old farm house is just about melted into the landscape, and I spent a few minutes looking at it the other day and tried to reconstruct a bit of the history. The trees that have taken over the yard look to be about forty years old, so the home was probably abandoned in the 1960's. One of the cisterns is on the left side of the photo, and the pipe sticking up tells me that the family had running water in the house.

Most of these old home sites have flowers, and to me, that means that the farmer had a wife. The house had a floor in the loft, and if there were kids, their bedrooms were probably up there.

This part of the country was electrified around 1950, and there is a base for an electric meter visible on the corner of the house. The old cream separator tub tells us the family had a cow. There is no way of knowing if the family bought a new-fangled electric separator or if they continued to use the old hand-cranked one. I couldn't see any sign of the remains of the barn, maybe it burned long ago. Nature is doing a pretty good job of reclaiming this spot.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sighting In A Scoped Rifle...

Courtesy of RugerFirearms. Good advice for the uninitiated, and a good review for old hands.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Colorful Easter

I hope that all of our blog visitors had a great Easter weekend. Our weather was perfect, and we spent lots of time outdoors enjoying a lovely spring day. The flowers are off to a great start this year. This one is a baby iris.

Daffodils, of course.
The hickory buds are popping.

Peach Blossoms.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Mr. Completely's March Contest Scores Are Posted!

Mr. Completely has the scores processed for the Seein' Stars contest, and you can look at them HERE. Mr. C had 41 entries, which is a new record. Be sure to enter the April contest, hosted by the Conservative UAW Guy.

Mr. Completely's April e-Postal Contest; Hosted by...

The Conservative UAW Guy. Click the link to read the rules and download the target. This will be a fun contest, and you will need to know your limitations in order to come up with the right tactics to maximize your score. Be sure to include family or friends in a range trip and introduce more people to online shooting contests.

Weekend Steam: 1904, 16 HP Advance Engine

The nearest engine in this lineup is a 16 horsepower Advance engine that I saw auctioned near the little town of Wayland, Iowa, nearly 40 years ago. The Advance and a straight flue, overmounted Avery were both listed in the estate sale for a Mr. Swartzendruber, and my dad and I went hoping we might pick up a steam engine cheap.

Both engines needed extensive restoration work, and the Advance had a bad crown sheet. We learned a little about steam enthusiasts that day. Both engines started at Dad's upper bidding limit, and they went up fast. Wayne Kennedy bought the Advance, and has been showing it at Mt. Pleasant, Iowa ever since.

The Avery ended up in Illinois, and Wayne still keeps track of it and its current owners. That is Wayne in the straw hat. He is an accomplished machinist, and a real steam expert. He is one of the instructors every spring at the Old Threshers' Steam Traction School.

I have always liked the art work in the Advance trademark. Mr. Swartzendruber had a neat setup for making sorghum molasses at his farm. Instead of the traditional wood fired evaporating pan he had a pan with a layer of pipes in the bottom that were fed steam from one of his engines. He also used a steamer to power the sorghum press. I am sure others have made similar evaporating pans, but that was the only steam heated one that I have seen.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fairbanks 208

Pumping units are all over the Southern Illinois oilfield, so this is a common sight for me. Much of the country does not have oil wells putting away, so I thought it would be good to share one with the True Blue vistiors. That is a Fairbanks-Morse 208 engine, and it burns gas from the well head. These engines have a closed crankcase, with a splash oil system, and Timken roller bearings instead of the plain babbit bearings you see at antique engine shows. The radiator on top of the cooling tank serves as a condenser for the coolant that boils off. The pumper (person who checks the well every day) checks the oil and antifreeze as part of his routine every day.