Thursday, March 31, 2016

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

You might remember that last year I showed this tree mishap where a man was crushed in his bed when the limb came down.  This pin oak had been topped many years ago, either by man or storm, and rot is present in the limbs coming out from the old damaged area.   The failure to recognize the threat resulted in a needless death.

Click To Enlarge

I recently drove by this spot again and was surprised to see the mobile home had been patched up, the tree had been cleaned up just a little bit, and the new wound had been painted!  Someone thought that made it all better, I guess. I can count six more limbs that are likely to come down, plus the top, which is also attached to rotting heartwood.  When I looked at the photo I was a bit surprised to read the sign on the back glass of the pickup truck.  I wonder if the landlord told his new renter the history behind the patches on this domicile.  Does the tree trimmer living here recognize the problem?  Does he sleep in this end of the mobile home?   I found out a long time ago that it's better not to insert yourself into these situations unless you have been invited, but this does make me cringe.

PS: Today I did tell someone who asked for advice to YES, Definitely take down a tree before it killed someone!...and they are having it taken down tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

They're Everywhere, They're Everywhere!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has published a new map showing the known distribution of Emerald Ash Borer (EAB).  I think it is safe to say that the bugs are between the dots on the map showing trapped beetle locations, and if you believe that there aren't any between St. Louis and Kansas City you should not talk to any bridge salesmen.

The mapping was done with traps like these over a period of several years.  It's a pretty good method, catching bugs with a sticky substance, but I have been critical of the application.  The adult borers are active in April and May, but the traps are not picked up until Fall, so bugs have lots of time to be destroyed by the elements.  The traps are placed and picked up by student interns from the University of Illinois and for a few years the researchers have been saying that it appeared the bugs were centered along the Interstate highways.  I have seen a lot of these traps that were not picked up by the Fall interns, but the people running the program in Champaign don't know where the pickup crews don't go.  I saw good evidence of EAB just a stone's throw from an uncollected trap a few years ago, and that spot is still not on the map.  Anyhow, these are beetles with wings, with an abundant food supply, so you can bet they have spread.  An expert in EAB told me recently that we can expect to see the big ash die-off begin in Southern Illinois this year, and I think that is good information.

The Illinois Department of Ag posted one of these signs with every trap, and it educated the people who were curious enough to stop and look.

This is an Emerald Ash Borer, in a collage by the Forest Service.   This picture shows the insect (a Buprestid beetle), ash bark, the larval galleries, and ash crowns in the process of dying.

I have yet to see one of the little blighters in the wild.  Folks call me and want me to look at the brightly colored insects they have found, like this native Buprestid beetle,

and this Six-Spotted Tiger Beetle. These little critters are wild-goose-chases for me and they cause many interruptions.  Take a picture and send it to me, or call the University, or the IL Dept. of Ag.  There will be plenty of the real EAB beetles in April and May this year, and we should expect to see ash trees dying from the top down.

There is nothing that can be done on a large scale, though you may be able to save important individual shade trees by injecting them with insecticides to kill the larvae.  There are a few contractors in Southern Illinois who are equipped to do that in the Mt.Vernon-Marion area.  EAB is not going away, and you will have to inject a tree every other year to maintain it.  Whether or not that is worth the money will have to be up to the individual owners.

See images of EAB HERE.

Forest Service info HERE.

Emerald Ash Borer Poster HERE.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Ruger's Auction To Benefit The USA Shooting Team

I never cease to be amazed at Ruger Auction prices. A Speed Six going for at least $1400!

Yup! This week Ruger is auctioning a Speed Six in 9mm, and the bidding is up to $1400 the night before the hammer falls.  The bidders are made of stouter stuff than I am, but go have a look and read all about it.  Don't get mad, just be amazed, and be glad that Ruger is being so generous to good and worthy causes.  Click Here to read about it and to place the winning bid!  This fine revolver will sell mid-day, Wednesday, March 30, 2016.


Sunday, March 27, 2016

How Are Your Marbles?

I might have lost a few along the way, and some others might benefit from a good polish.

Back To The Old Grind!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jesus, The Missing Years, John Prine

How can you not love this song? "Jesus was a good guy."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

It Looks Like A Keeper

Last fall this Ruger 77/44 followed me home from the Benton Rural King store.  They had closeout tags on a bunch of their guns, and this .44 Magnum carbine was one of them.  It was the last one of several that they had stocked and they were letting it go for a used price.  I put a Bushnell 1.75-4X shotgun scope on it and sighted it in with some old handloads.  It seemed to be pretty accurate.

I just loaded up a bunch of Nosler 240 grain JSP bullets with a moderate load of 2400 powder and adjusted the scope for the new loads.  In three shots I was on the 1" square at 50 yards, so I put up a new target and fired three more rounds.  All of them went in the same hole, so I quit right there before I could screw up a good thing.  I foresee many varmints in this little gun's future.  It already has one groundhog under its belt; a head shot at 30 yards, out the kitchen window.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Pruning For Quality: Lateral Branches

Click to Enlarge.

So far in this little pruning series we have corrected stag-headed trees and fixed steep branch angles and forks.  Those cuts make for sound, long lived, and merchantable trees.  Merchantability may not be your goal with your yard trees, but you do want strong trees that do not break up in storms.  The next priority is to remove lateral branches.  This will allow timber trees to grow higher quality wood, and your yard trees need this treatment so you can walk under them, and mow under them.  Try to do your pruning before the lateral branches reach an inch in diameter.

Make the first cut about 4 inches away from the trunk on the under side of the branch. The second cut comes in from the top and takes off the weight of the branch.  The third cut removes all of the stub while leaving the branch collar intact. The purpose of this order of cuts is to prevent bark from tearing down the side of the tree.  If the weight of the branch is not too much, you can hang onto the branch and make only cut number three, but be careful.  The bark tears very easily during springtime.

Use a sharp saw, and oil it when you are finished.  Do not lay your saw in the bed of a pickup truck, or other places where the teeth may touch metal.  I like to wrap mine in cardboard when they are not being used.  A small chainsaw scabbard is a good cover.

I like to buy only the blades and mount them in an axe handle so I can use both arms when I am sawing.  That makes a big difference in your sawing ability when you have a bunch of branches to prune.

After you have taken off the live lateral branches your final pruning priority is to take off dead branches.  Again, leave the live tissue in the branch collar alone when you are taking those off.

Ruger's Auction To Benefit The USA Shooting Team

This Stainless 22/45 Hunter (2007) is just like one that resides in our gun safe, so I can vouch for it being a first class .22 pistol.  These 22/45's will fit in a holster for 1911's, and ours is on my hip when I am out and about the homestead.  The pistol Ruger is selling this week was sent out for T and E, so it has a few rounds through it, and it is wearing an Aimpoint sight that wears a bigger price tag than the Ruger.  The bidding is up to $655 on Tuesday night, but there is still room to make a good deal if you want one of these high quality sights and the pistol.  This fine combo will sell mid-day, Wednesday, March 23, 2016, and 100% of the proceeds of this auction will go to benefit the USA Shooting Team.  Click Here to place your bid!

Monday, March 21, 2016

Tuesday Torque: Coolspring, 2013

Reddryder posted this video.  There is so much to see at Coolspring that Reddryder is like a kid in a candy store trying to take it all in.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Crankin' It Up With Our Old Buddy Bart: Moran and Mack, Sides 1 Through 8

We have had a little time off from the Brunswick, so today we did eight sides in one session for you-all.  Lots of good laughs in these records.

Put An Edge On It!

Back To The Old Grind!

Sharpening a buzz saw is a skill that I have not learned.  I will have to ask for a lesson the next time I see someone doing this.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Not My Victrola: New Ben Hur Movie!

I saw on the 'net that a new Ben Hur movie will be released during the summer.  There have been three previous Ben Hurs; 1907, 1925, and 1959,  Both the 1925 and 1959 movies are considered masterpieces, and I hope the new one is too.  The Ben Hur Chariot Race predates all of the movies.  It was published in 1894.  It came to my mind immediately when I read the news of the new movie.  I doubt that it did for anyone else.  Maybe next time.  I doubt the director called Joe for his musical expertise. Pity.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Pruning's Second Priority: Forks, Bad Branch Angles, Included Bark

Strong branch angles are wide, almost 90°.  As branch angles become more acute, they grow weaker.  Forked trees, and forks with included bark are at high risk for breakage, and of course forked trees may not be merchantable as logs, or they will have a shorter merchantable length than unforked trees.

Forked trees are hazardous to property improvements, as is this hackberry that threatens a house.

Pears are all about bad branch angles, and you can't fight them.  Plant your pear trees away from your house so you can enjoy them without worrying when they will break and fall on you.  With pears you can only prune out branches that interfere with one another.  You can't correct their form to what we would like.  We can learn from the damage up close on pears, so study what happens when included bark, weak angles, and wind all come together.  [Better Idea: Do Not Plant Bradford Pears At All!  Remove the ones you have and replace them with a better tree. Bradford Pears are nothing but trouble, and they reproduce like crazy in our natural woodlands}

It happens in timber, too, and it is up too high to correct it.  High risk trees like this one should be harvested early, as soon as a harvest occurs after the defective tree reaches a merchantable size.

Maples are always poplular for shade trees, but they are more prone to breaking apart in their joints than any other tree.  This broken tree was ready to fall on a house, and the owner still was looking for a way to save it.  Don't fret over problems like this.  Just take it out before it gets you.

This was a handsome pitch pine with included bark in a high fork.  A strong gust during a thunderstorm whipped it and broke out both sides of the fork.  The dark area at the top is a patch of the offending bark that weakened the tree.

Prevention is the key, if you can reach it.  Cut off one side, first leaving a stub to get the weight off without ripping bark, then make a second cut to get rid of the stub.  Try to do your corrections before the fork passes 2" diameter.  I prefer 1" so I don't have to pull on the saw for long, but a 2" wound will heal quickly enough to keep rot out.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Pruning Begins At The Top

Folks are getting out and doing yard work again, so a little pruning advice is always good.  You need to evaluate your young trees from the top down.  A tree with a mis-shapen top is never going to be a good one and pruning side branches won't correct it. Go to the top and select one fork to be the leader.

Use duct tape to bring it upright and clip the tops off the other leaders you have taped it to.  That will destroy their dominance.

Other forks that are not taped up can be cut off at their bases

Now you have a good tree.  Clip the long stubs off in a year or two after the straightened fork decides to stay in position.  Don't do any additional pruning at this time, because you have shocked the tree enough for one growing season.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Ruger's Auction To Benefit The USA Shooting Team

Ruger's auction this week is a Red Label shotgun manufactured and engraved in 1995.  It is a 12 Gauge, with 3" chambers. It will sell mid-day, Wednesday March 16, 2016.  100% of the proceeds of this auction will go to benefit the USA Shooting Team. CLICK HERE to read the full description.  Click Here to view additional images.  $1980

Next week Ruger has thrown a sleeper into their weekly auction, and regular readers here might pick up a bargain.  It is a 22/45 Hunter that was sent out as a T and E gun, and returned, so it has been shot a bit.  It is wearing an Aimpoint Micro R-1 sight, which lists for more than the Hunter pistol did.  Aimpoint no longer builds that model, but Midway still lists it for well over $500.  Check it out and do your calculations.  You might get a deal.  UPDATE: Oops, everybody caught on.  It's up to $655 on Wednesday night already (3/16/16).

Monday, March 14, 2016

Tuesday Torque

Randy Deweese followed this engine for more that thirty years, and he finally brought it home.  He fired it up the first time the day before his recent crankup.

Video by ILEngineGuy

Video by RobGill.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Not My Victrola: Duke Ellington, 1927

East St. Louis Toodle-oo. Uploaded by bsgs98.

East St. Louis used to be a happenin' place.  I used to have to drive through it in the 1970's before the Interstates were completed.  Had a couple of uncomfortable encounters at traffic lights and on the road.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Weekend Steam: 5550

The T1 Trust is going to recreate the most modern steam locomotive ever made.  The Pennsy Railroad scrapped the fleet of them in 1956.  Here is the casting of the first driver being poured.

The T1 Trust needs engineers, and donations. Building this loco will cost about $10 Million, and the projected completion date is 2030.

Photo from promotional e-mail by T1 Trust.  Make a donation, get a blueprint!  I wonder how much you have to chip in to ring the bell...

Video posted by T1 Trust:

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I just checked YouTube and my account passed Four Million Views today!  I have a small channel in the YouTube scheme of things, but I have more than 600 videos, and more than 1200 subscribers.  I get around 2000 views per day over there.  This blog just passed 500,000 views since we started it in the Fall of '07, and it varies from 60 to 300 views per day according to Blogger's count.  Statcounter shows lower than that, but I figure Google knows how many clicks their sites get every day, so I go with their numbers.  We keep the blog going because we enjoy our own product.  We like doing chainsaw and shooting videos, and we still have a big stack of old 78's to share with our visitors.  We keep this blog safe for families to view, and you can look at it from government offices without raising an eyebrow among the supervisors. We started another little blog last year, and if you look down the blog list you will see it listed.  It is mostly music from various YouTube channels, and if you find a song that makes you happy, it wasn't meant to do that!  The name comes from one of my all-time favorite punchlines from a dark joke.  When you feel like having dark thoughts it is a good place to go.  Comments are not enabled over there.


I snapped this photo a bit over two years ago.  This barn was obviously doomed when we saw the tin roof coming off, even though it was a much better building than our old barn that we have been jacking up out of the termites for thirty-some years.  The taxes on old barns like this really aren't the problem in Illinois.  An old building that does not contribute to the farm is taxed at a very low rate as an encouragement for farm families to preserve a bit of their history, but there is still upkeep to take care of, and a coat of paint every few years is an inconvenient expense.

Well, we still have a stack of lumber in our barn for doing repairs, and I hope we can get back to the north side this summer and replace some of the bad wood.  After we finish with the walls we need to come up with a strategy to deal with the rafters and roof.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Just Don't Do It

A really stupid, goofy practice being promoted by some of the wildlife writers out there in the world is what they call "hinging".  They are telling their readers to cut trees leaving them attached to the stump by a live strip of bark and sapwood, and just exactly what benefit they think it serves wildlife is beyond me.

I think they believe they are making bedding areas and keeping mast production up in live horizontal trees, but they are causing good timber to be wrecked while they are endangering the lives of their readers.  Cutting trees without a proper hinge is a recipe for disaster, and trees really do fall on people when they use bad chainsaw techniques.

When you wipe out the overstory you need to know what regeneration is available on the floor to take over, and of course, that is not addressed with this practice.  Fifty years or more of timber growth is wiped out when people do this, just before the trees become small sawlogs.

I had a request from a landowner a few years ago to walk his newly acquired timber with him.  He had a really nice, high quality stand of white oak pole timber at the south end of his property, and he had wrecked it this way before he called me to evaluate and advise him on management. He was really proud of what he had done until I looked at it.  If you have been hoodwinked into doing this, the first thing to do is take a chainsaw safety course so you will stop doing things that will kill you.  Then walk through your disaster with a forester and figure out a strategy to begin growing timber again.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Ruger's Auction To Benefit The USA Shooting Team

Ruger has posted another rare beauty this week.  It is a No. 1 Light Sporter in 7 x 57 mm, made for Mr. William B. Ruger, and so engraved on the receiver.  Go Read All About It, and see if you can get a bid in edgewise.  This fine rifle will sell mid-day, Wednesday, March 9, 2016.  100% of the proceeds will go to benefit the USA Shooting Team.


Monday, March 7, 2016

Tuesday Torque: The Mailbox Engine Runs!

Gary and Peggy's Crank-Up was a record setting event.  They had more than fifty guests show up; most of them came to see the finished Bessemer engine because they have been following its restoration on SmokStak.  Up until Saturday this engine had run for only a few minutes, and that was corrected with a couple of long runs that warmed it up really well.  During the second run the engine settled down and ran at a steady pace, without the hunting up and down in RPM as it did at first.  It is a hard engine to crank over.  It's a big engine, and it has good compression with the new bore and new piston rings.

Here is a second video that shows a few of the other engines Gary pulled out of his shed for the day.

Went To A Dog Show...

Pat had the pleasure of cuddling with a 4 month Schipperke pup who may one day be  a show ring champion.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Not My Victrola: Nora Bayes

Video uploaded by RReady555.  This song was usually recorded as a dance record, so hearing the lyrics is a real treat.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Weekend Steam: Speedy Sawmilling

One of the frustrations of steamshows is watching a sawmill that is not set up right, and being pulled by an underpowered engine.  I have watched saws chew their way painfully through logs, and it is no fun.  This mill starts out with a secret.  How does this Baker engine rip through the wood so fast?  You will see when the camera swings right after a few cuts.

Mr. Completely's March 2016 E-Postal Contest

We are starting the 2016 E-Postal contests with a confidence builder.  This is a simple target requiring just ten shots, and it will sharpen your sight alignment and trigger squeezing skills for the rest of this year.  There are three circles; start with the center, shoot one to either side, return to center, shoot the other side, and return to the center.  Repeat for a total of ten shots. Everyone should have a perfect score!  Twenty five feet is recommended, but shoot whatever distance you are able to shoot at your range, or whatever distance makes you confident.  Click Here, or on the picture for the link to the pdf target.

Send scans or photos of your targets to truebluetravelinman (at) gmail (dot) com by April 4.  Use the name you want to see on this blog when scores are posted.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Beautiful Barn, Beautiful Quilt

I drive by this nice barn quilt regularly, but I am usually in a hurry, and there is usually a gray sky.  This week it had blue sky and a minute to pause for a pic.  It's a joy.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Let's Review Firearm Safety With Hickok45

Reviewing firearm safety is a good idea anytime, but since we are making changes to the firearm storage and readiness in our home it seems like an extra good idea at this time. Safety courses, concealed carry training, and lots of shooting at a range with safety officers were all important factors in safe and legal gun handling during our recent break-in. The steel shooting we do at Carmi gave us the confidence we needed to stand ready while the perpetrator was beating up our windows and doors. We have featured these videos by Hickok45 before on this blog, and Mr. Hickok's instruction is always worth watching again.

Extreme Wedging

I've been cutting trees in a campground just about every week lately.  Most of the trees have died from a combination of horned oak gall and the drought we had in 2012, and many of the trees are really big.  They require boring and cutting from both sides, plus boring out the center through the open face.  Many of them are on the edge of the woods, and we have been wedging them over into the woods when possible.  This snag was wanting to go into a roadway, and we pushed it the opposite direction.

Wedging bad back-leaners requires a systematic appoach.  This one was started with 1" wedges, then 1 1/2" wedges, then stacked wedges; first a 1" and 1 1/2" combination, then two 1 1/2" wedges stacked.  Next I placed an oak shim on the stump and wedged up with a 1", and finished with a 1" and 1 1/2" stack on the shim. You have to keep the roadway blocked off while you do trees like this, because you are always assuming that the hinge may fail and the tree will go the way gravity wants to take it.  We won all of them today.  I also turned down four trees that need to be taken down by bucket truck or track-hoe.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Ruger's Auction To Benefit The U.S.A. Shooting Team

Ruger is offering another of the U.S. marked Mk II pistols built under a contract with the U.S. Army during the 1980's.  This one was built on July 13, 1984.  It is a new gun and has not been fired more than the normal testing after it was assembled more than thirty years ago.  This pistol will sell mid-day, Wednesday, March 2, 2016.  100 % of the proceeds of this sale will go to benefit the USA Shooting Team. CLICK HERE or on the photo to place your bid.

Three Thousand, Nine Hundred Seventy Five Dollars.