A Better Motorcycle Windshield

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I Love to Ride IN Comfort

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 I love to ride motorcycles. Every time I go for a ride it lifts my spirits and makes me whole. Those of us who ride, ride for our own reasons. I ride for the feeling of freedom and for the thrill. I love corners. There is nothing like the feeling of taking a corner too fast and thinking that you’re about to die and then you don’t. I don’t actually take corners too fast on purpose, but if you ride you know what I mean.

As I get older, I like to be as comfortable as possible when I’m riding. For my V-strom, I made a custom seat that fits me better and gives me better support. When I bought my Volusia with an $800 Corbin seat and I can ride it all day in comfort. My dual sport, Honda XR650L came with a $600 custom heated seat. My hind-end has got the comfortable seat issued covered, so to speak.

Another area that I like more comfort as I have aged is protection from the wind. It puzzles me to see guys running down the highway at 75 mph with ape hangers and no windshield or windscreen. They may look cool, but I know that they are not comfortable. It takes a serious grip to hold on to your handle bars with wind hitting you at 75 mph, not to mention bugs in your teeth and the road debris that gets flipped up and hits you in the face. That kind of riding is not for me.

My stock V-strom windshield is known for not offering good protection and for those of us who are a bit taller, head buffing and wind noise can be a problem. When I bought my Vee I knew that I would be using it for long trips, so I needed to solve the wind issue. After much research I found that I had two choices, buy a bigger windshield or add to the windshield I had. I didn’t want to buy a larger windshield because I use my Vee for dual sport riding and I was afraid that a larger windshield might get in the way in tight trails and would be difficult to see the rough road directly in front of me when the shield got dusty. I decided to add on to my stock shield.

In my research I found an add-on shield that would probably work, but it’s not ideal. The one add-on that I liked was designed to attach to the top section of a stock shield, extending up over the top a few inches. The thing that caught my attention was that it was engineered to catch the wind that was flowing up the stock shield, compressing it, accelerating the wind and shooting up and over your head. I like the concept and the physics of it told me that it would work, so I decided that was the one for me. The problem was that, like I said, it wasn’t ideal. I wanted to add some width to my stock shield too. I’m two foot across the shoulders, so being a homegrown engineer, I went to work designing and making what I thought would be ideal for me.

The first thing I did was cut a pattern out of cardboard. I wasn’t sure what shape would work best, so I cut and trimmed the cardboard until I felt good about the shape. Next I searched my shop and found a piece of plexi-glass that would be the right thickness and size. Using a scroll saw with a fine blade, I carefully cut the plexi to the pattern.

Once I had the plexi shaped and the edges sanded round I heated the plexi with a heat gun and formed it in the curve of my stock shield. I also wanted any wind hitting the new section to be diverted up and over my head as much a possible. To accomplish that, I heated the upper five inches and when it got pliable, I used gloves and a tightly rolled towel to curve the top of the new section forward slightly.

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Showing plexi-glass cut to pattern heated and formed to shape

When I considered how I was going to mount the new section to the original windshield I felt it would be important not to drill holes in the original windshield and to mount it with plastic bolts. I didn’t want to compromise the original shield and I used plastic wing nuts and bolts so if I crashed, the bolts would break and in theory, not the windshield. I figured out how to use two of the screws that held the original windshield for the two top brackets and two screws in the fairing on each side of the windshield for the lower brackets. I made the four plastic brackets out of, say it with me, plastic barrels and bought two plastic bolts with wing-nuts. I carefully marked the new shield so I knew where to drill holes for the bolts in the lower brackets, the four small screws in the upper bracket and carefully drilled through the plexi-glass.

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Showing plastic brackets mounted to bike with factory screws

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Showing new shield mounted to brackets with four small screws and two plastic bolts with wing nuts

After I got the new addition installed and gave it a run down the road, I notice that at 60 mph, or faster, that the plexi-glass compress too much, leaving only a small gap between the two shields. To solve the compression problem I added two medium size suction cups under the upper brackets. With the suction cups in place, the wind could only compress the new shield so far before the suction cup stem stopped the plexi-glass from compressing too much. The nice thing about the plexi compressing some was that the faster I went the smaller the gap between the two shields got and the faster the air flowing between them moved directing it up and over my head.

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The new addition to my windshield worked great. Riding down the road at any speed the new shield completely eliminated the wind hitting my head. No more sore neck from head buffing and the wind noise was cut by at least 60%. The new windshield combination looks unusual or even funky, but I gave up cool for functional a long time ago.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Portable Computer Stand

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Computer Stand that does it all.

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Several years ago my tool belt became so heavy with tools that it started to hurt my back and hips and I didn’t like carrying my computer around or leaving it sitting someplace in the home. I needed something better to carry tools and my computer and something I could keep with me during home inspections.

On a flight to Mexico I was looking through a Sky Mall catalog and noticed a roll around podium. It kind of looked like a music stand with wheels. Instantly the wheels in my head started turning and within a few minutes, about 150 miles at 500 miles an hour, I designed a computer-stand/tool-carrier I could use on my inspections.

For the next 75 miles I put together a materials list from items I might have in my shop or would have to purchase. The list included:

  • A five gallon bucket with a lid.
  • One 3’x3/4” pipe.
  • One floor flange that would screw to the top of the pipe.
  • A plastic gun case that my computer would fit in.
  • Some foam rubber for the computer to sit on in the case.
  • Some fine chain to attach the case base to the lid and keep it from opening too far.
  • Some miscellaneous nuts, bolts and screws.
  • A used office chair base with wheels.

When I returned home from vacation I rummaged through my shop and put together the parts. I ended up buying the 3’x3/4” iron pipe and, the chair. I picked up the pipe at our local ACE and stopped by the thrift store to pick up a small office chair for a couple of bucks.

Starting with the bottom, I removed the base from the chair. It was ideal because it had five feet with little plastic wheels. Some chair bases have four feet, which might work fine, but I figured five would give the stand more stability.

The 3/4’” pipe fit loosely into the center of the base neck, so I used some electric tape to take up the gap and make the pipe fit snug. I also drilled a hole through the base neck and the pipe and put a bolt through with a nut on the end to make sure the base would not fall off when I carried it up stairs.

The bucket lid would have worked fine, but my wife had one of those seat lids that you put on a five gallon bucket so when you are gardening you can sit comfortably on the bucket to pull weeds or whatever. The lid also came with an apron that goes around the outside of the bucket to put your tools in. I had never seen her use them, so I stole them out of the garden shed.  I drilled a ¾” hole  exactly in the middle of the bucket bottom and lid.  The bucket was pretty stable, but to stabilize it more I cut a round ½” piece of plywood, OSB, and drilled a ¾” hole in the middle to match the bottom of the bucket. With short 5/8” screws, I screwed down through the bottom of the bucket into the round piece of plywood. The bucket and lid slide down the pipe to the chair base neck. As a final touch, I sprayed the bucket with black spray in bed-liner.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

OSB plywood attached to the bottom of the bucket.

The tool apron seemed ideal for my purposes, but it needed to be on the inside of the bucket, so I reversed it, attaching  it with some small screws, and removed the excess material at the top. The apron fit nicely on the inside of the bucket and now I had pockets for my tools.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

Tool apron on inside the bucket.

For the plastic computer/gun case, I cut a piece of 1/4” plywood panel to fit into the case to make it more ridged and to give me something to attach the floor flange to.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

Showing floor flange attache to the bottom of the case.

I screwed through the bottom of the case up into the ply wood and mounted the floor flange to the bottom of the case with nuts and bolts. I cut the piece of foam rubber to the shape of the case and laid it in the bottom of the case, covering the screws and bolts. The foam protects the computer and elevates it in the case it to a nice height for typing.

Showing 1" thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

Showing 1″ thick foam used in bottom of case to cover plywood and hardware.

To keep the lid of the computer case from opening too far, I added two pieces of light chain, bolting them to the lid and the base with very small nuts and bolts. I thought it would be nice to have a pocket attached to the lid to keep pens, pads paper and some small tools in. I had salvaged the material off a camping chair which included a netted pouch that hung on the back of the chair. Cutting a piece of 1/8″ panel the shape of the lid to back the pouch, I attached the pouch to the panel with some hot glue. To hold the pouch in place place I stretch a small bungee cord across the lid, attaching it to the chains on both sides.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

Showing pouch in lid for storage.

My new computer has a real sensitive touch pad and will jump the curser all over the screen if the pad is even lightly touched even after I made adjustments to the pad’s sensitivity. My solution was to add a small platform made of 1/4″ hardboard and two mouse pads cut to fit and glued to the hardboard. The platform fits across the front  of the case and there is a small cutout attached to the bottom that fits snugly in the the handle to keep the platform in place.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing stand with computer and mouse pad platform.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

Showing bottom of platform with cutout attached.

I have been using the computer stand for several years now and love it. My clients are continually telling me that I should patent the idea. They usually ask me whats in the bucket. I tell them, “beer and ice,” and then show them the tools. Occasionally I have to touch up the black spray in bed-liner and oil the wheels, but it is holding together very well. The stand is incredibily stable and has never tipped over.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Lose weight by being taller

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Fun With Film, Digitally Speaking.

They say that the camera can add ten pounds. The thing is, I don’t need any help looking larger. I’m sure that an additional ten pounds on some people would be flattering. I know a couple of people that need to gain ten pounds, but they are few and far between and no,… it’s not you. If they can make a camera that will add ten pounds, I have to ask, why can’t they make a camera that can subtract ten, twenty, thirty or even forty pounds?

As I thought about it, I realized that even though a camera can’t make me look thinner, I knew how  to edit any photo to make me look thinner.

I’m sure we’ve all heard someone say, or have said it about ourselves, “I’m not over weight, I’m just too short,” or “according to my weight I’m really six inches taller” or “I don’t need to lose weight, I just need to be taller.” Well, that’s probably true, if we could stretch ourselves taller we wouldn’t be over weight, so why not just make ourselves taller in our pictures. It’s pretty easy to do using basic programs like Microsoft Paint.

Here is a picture of me on a trip to Glacier two years ago. I look kind of wide at 240 lbs and 6′-1″

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Here is the same picture. I’m the same weight, but in this picture I am 9′ tall. Thinner, right?

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And finally, here I am in the same picture, only now I’m 240 lbs and I’m 12′ tall. Looking good, right?

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By now you are probably wondering how you can do this. It’s simple.

1. Find the picture you want to “Improve” copy it and post it someplace easy to find, like your desk top.

2. Right click on it and click on edit.

3. Your computer will probably open your selected photo in paint. If your photo is too big to fit on the page, click on the view tab and reduce the size by clicking on the magnifying glass with the negative sign until the photo fits on the screen. If it fits on the screen, skip to #4.

4. Click on resize and when that opens be sure to make you un-check the “Maintain aspect ratio” box.

5. The “Horizontal” box should say 100 and the “Vertical” box should say 100. Now we are going to change the 100 in the “Vertical” box to 150, or 200. Be sure that you only change the “Vertical” number because if you change the “Horizontal” to 200, well here I am twice as wide. Not flattering.

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You can use the “Horizontal” setting and not use the “Vertical”, but make it a smaller number than 100, like change it to 50.

6. Now all that is left to do is to close the screen, save your changes, post your new picture on Facebook and wait for the compliments to roll in.

Anyway…for what it’s worth and for the fun of it.

Making a Hawaiian Sling

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For the Love of Snorkeling.

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I was fortunate to spend the last two and half years of my college experience in Hawaii. (That’s right, I have a college degree, a BS in Vocational Management.) I loved Hawaii. I loved the ocean, the weather, the beaches and I love to snorkel. Back then I could hold my breath for three minutes and free dive down to forty feet. I feel at home in the water and sometime I wonder if I wasn’t a sea snail in a previous life. Or fish, I could have been a fish.

In Hawaii I had roommates that were Hawaiian, Tongan, Chinese, Nigerian, Australian, and Japanese. It was my Japanese roommates that taught me to night dive. Night diving is snorkeling at night with a waterproof flashlight and a Hawaiian Sling. A Hawaiian Sling is a five-foot, three pronged spear with a loop of surgical tubing on the end. To use the sling you hook the rubber tubing over your thumb on an outstretched arm, you grab the shaft by your other hand and pull it back toward your chest, stretching the tubing. With the hand that has the rubber tube hooked around the thumb, you grip the shaft tightly. When you are ready to shoot the spear you let go of the shaft and the spear rockets forward, powered by the stretched out rubber tubing. It’s simple, but deadly.

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Around midnight at least once a week, my diving buddies and I would drive to a stretch of beach that had a coral reef about fifty yards off shore. I still remember the feeling of fear and exhilaration when I would walk up to the rocky shoreline, look down at the black water and wonder what the hell was I thinking, turn on my light and dive in.

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We would fish for an hour or two, diving down to the coral caves and spearing fish that were napping for the night. On our nighttime forays we would collect fish, eel, squid and lobster.

When I left Hawaii, I left night diving and spear fishing behind. I still snorkel every chance I got, but on the mainland it’s illegal to spear fish in rivers and lakes.

A couple of years ago we were invited to vacation with some good friends and their family in Mexico. We had vacationed in Mexico several times in the past, but always at a commercial resort. On this vacation we stepped out of our comfort zone and stayed at a private home in a little town, El Cardinal, on the Sea of Cortez.

The home was a beautiful, custom built, Spanish style home with a swimming pool and very large covered patio. The estate sat on about two elevated acres that overlooked the sea below.

As a big fan of snorkeling, I was in heaven. A reef ran from the beach out into the sea. It was some of the best snorkeling I have ever experienced. On one swim I snorkeled over a school of fish that was so large and so layered that I could not see the sea floor. After that encounter the grounds keeper offered to lend me his Hawaiian Sling, or Mexican Sling, whatever the case may be. Unfortunately, when I snorkeled with his spear I didn’t see any fish that were edible.

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After that vacation I decided that I needed to own another Hawaiian Sling. I wanted one that would break down into three pieces so that it would fit in my suitcase, so I started shopping on line. What I found was that they are pretty proud of slings that come apart. So, as usual, being a cheap guy, I decided that I could make my own.

I realized that I needed some kind of rod that would screw together so that it would come apart, but it had to be strong and flexible. My college Hawaiian Sling was a one-piece fiberglass rod, so that’s where my mind went first. I remembered from my fifteen years working as a retail manager in a home improvement center that we use to sell three-foot rods for cleaning chimneys. The rods screwed together to form a single rod long enough to shove a brush down a chimney to clean the creosote out of the flue.

I decided that I would need two of those fiberglass rods, a 3’X1/6” round steel rod to make the three prong end and two feet of heavy duty rubber tubing. Once I procured the items at Ace I was ready to make my spear.

The rods were three foot long so when I screwed the two together they were way too long. I wanted the overall length to be about five foot. That meant each rod could be two foot and the tip could be 12”. I cut one foot and the female end off one rod and a foot of rod and the male end off the other. The female end I would use to make the spear tip, but I needed to reattach the male end back onto the other shortened rod. I cut the male end off the one foot piece of scrap rod and drilled the fiberglass out of the fitting. Using JB Weld, I epoxied the male end back on the two foot piece of rod that had a female fitting on the opposite end. JB weld is great stuff, but to make sure the glued male end wouldn’t come off I drilled a small hole through the fitting and rod and put a small nail through the hole to pin them together.

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Through the top end of the other rod I drilled a 1/8” hole and put a short piece of cord through it and a tied the rubber tubing to each end of the cord forming a loop.

I drilled the fiberglass out of the female fitting that I had cut off so I could make the three pronged tip. To make the tip I first cut the three foot steel round rod into three, one foot pieces and sharpened the ends to a point. I inserted the other ends of the three steel rods into the socket end of the female fitting and welded the fitting and steel rods together. Now I would be able to screw the spear end onto the male end that I glued and pinned back on the fiberglass rod.

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I made a carrying case for the spear out of PVC pipe with a cap glued on one end and another cap that slips on the other end and I cap the spear with a short piece of rubber hose so I don’t hurt myself when I’m not using the spear.

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I hope that with the written description and the pictures these instructions will be clear. I’m not sure how many people will want to make their own Hawaiian Sling, but anyway…for what it’s worth.

The Gravity Hinge

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The Lazy Farmer’s Gate.     

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Several years ago I was inspecting outside of a house and opened a gate to the back yard. After I walked through and let go of the gate, it closed by its self and self-centered at the latch post. It kind of surprised me so I had a closer look. What I found was that the bottom hinge had two pivot points. I had never seen anything like it and have never seen it since, but I liked it and was so excited, because I knew it could make my life easier.

Living on a farm, like we do, and having livestock, grandchildren and pets, like we do, there is always the possibility that something or someone will escape the fenced yard or field and end up on the road. Our farm has a perimeter fence all the way around it and the farm is crossed fenced, sectioning off different pastures. All gates open into our yard witch is located in the middle of the property. All gates open to the yard except the one at the long driveway out to the road. So if a donkey or a steer escapes a pasture through a gate that has been left open, or if they learn to unlatch a gate, which they have, the animal will be in the fenced in yard, but if the gate to the driveway is open, they could end up on the road.

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Okay, quick quiz; If there are three cowboys in the cab of a pickup truck, which one is the smartest?

Answer; The one in the middle because he never has to get out to open a gate.

The problem with having a gated driveway is that you have to get out, open the gate, drive through, then get out and close the gate. That is way too much work for a lazy man like me. To make things worse, when you live in the Willamette Valley, 70% of the time when you get out to open the gate, you’re going to get rained on. This is why I was so excited to discover the self-closing gravity hinge.

The premise of the gravity hinge is that the two offset pivot points of the bottom hinge will cause the gate to swing up as it swings open. Because it swings up as it opens, gravity will pull the gate closed into a level position. Very cool, I must say.

Showing how the gate swings up at the end when it is open.

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The idea is simple, but there were other factors that I needed to consider for our driveway gate;

  1. A 3’ garden gate is much smaller and lighter than the 16’ stock gate we have at the driveway, so the bottom pivot hinge would have to be much heavier duty.
  2. The gate latch had to be self-latching and when pressure was applied, self-unlatching.
  3. There had to be a way of stopping the gate from swinging too far open and popping off the bottom hinge.
  4. There had to be a bumper on both sides of the gate so it could be opened with a car and so the metal gate wouldn’t damage the car’s bumper.
  5. There had to be a soft bumper on the latch end of the gate so if the gate closed before a car could get through, the gate wouldn’t damage the side of the car.

I’ll address each of these issues one at a time.

  1. The hinge had to be heavier duty. The problem was that I couldn’t find the hinge for sale anywhere. So I made the two-part hinge out of steel plate and steel rods. I had no definite idea of what size I would need or how far apart the offset pivot points would have to be for a larger gate, so I guessed. A home grown engineer guess no less, because as it turned out, I was right on.                                                                                                                     Here are two tips on how to you make the two part hinge. In the part of the hinge that attaches to the gate , drill holes where the pivot rods will be. Insert the rods down through the holes ¼” and weld them in place to the plate from the bottom side using that ¼” that is sticking down through for the weld.

Drill holes slightly larger than the rods in the post side plate that will attach to the post then using a cutting torch or a steel cutting blade, cut from the edge to the holes.  (I hope my pictures and descriptions are explanation enough of how the hinge is made and works.)

Both parts of the hinge have to be very securely attached to the gate and post. To attach to the gate I used the female part of the original hinge, and bolted down through the plate and through the eye of the female part of the hinge. Then I drilled and bolted through the gate frame.

To attach the post side of the hinge I drilled two holes through the hinge, through the post and through a plate on the backside of the post.

  1. When you have animals that are smart enough and grandchildren that eventually get smart enough to open a gate latch, pushing a gravity hinged gate open is no challenge at all. I needed to make a latch that would open under pressure, but not too much and not too little pressure. The latch also needed to allow the gate to swing closed and self-latch. It’s amazing how my mind works and when I say amazing, I mean simple. My solution was once again, plastic barrel. I cut a piece of plastic about 8” wide and about 24” long. I then took the piece of plastic and wrapped it around the latch post and screwed it in place with about six screws, two on the back and two in each side. It’s like two arms reaching around the post and holding the gate closed from each side. Now when the gate closes, the gate will swing back to the latch and push one arm until it pops into center. The arm on the other side stops the gate from swinging open the other way. See, simple, but effective.
  2. Stopping the gate from swinging too far open was easy. I just drove two T-posts in the ground parallel to the hinge post and about five feet on each side of the post. To pretty them up I cut two pieces 2” plastic irrigation pipe about 5’ long and slipped them over the T-posts.
  3. To make the gate bumpers for each side of the gate I cut the same 2” plastic irrigation pipe 16’ long. Then I zip-tied them horizontal across the gate on each side of the gate at car bumper height.
  4. To keep the gate from possibly denting or scratching a car I cut a piece of that tubular foam pipe insulation about 2-1/2’ long, wrapped it around the latch end of the gate just below the latch and zip-tied it in place. Then I carefully wrapped the foam tube with electrical tape to protect it from damage and weather.

So this is how it works. You drive right up to the gate and stop. Take your foot off the brake and let the car idle forward against the gate. The gate will push against the far-side arm of the plastic latch until pressure on the gate causes the gate to pops by the arm and swings slowly and fully open. As it swings open, you simply drive slowly through. The trick is to drive at a speed so that you avoid hitting the gate again, causing it to fly open, hit the gate stop and come bouncing back against your car. When done properly the gate will slowly swing open, you’ll drive slowly through and the gate will swing close and latch.

We have found that it is best to open the gate and tie it or latch it to one of the gate stops if we know we have company coming. If we forget to open the gate, most drivers will make the cowboy sitting in the passenger seat get out and hold the gate open while they drive through.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

INDESTRUCTIBLE LIVE STOCK FEEDER

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IF THEY CAN BREAK IT, THEY WILL.

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Farm animals can be rough on a farm. If you could have a farm and not have farm animals, life would be so much easier. They damage stalls, kick holes through barn walls, tear apart feeders, knock over sprinklers, and destroy fences. On occasion we have made the mistake of not neutering calves. As the bulls grow from cute little calves to 1,200 pound bulls they destroy everything they can get their horns on. We had some twelve-foot tall cedar trees in the field that I had planted and nurtured along for eight years. A bull bent them over and broke them off at the ground. They’re not that smart but they are very strong. We’ve had them decide to take a walk about the neighborhood and push right through the field fencing. The last bull we had knocked one of our donkeys down and was mauling it with its head. That will be the last time any of our calves grow up to be bulls.

Bulls are not the only ones to do damage. Horses lean over fences to get to the grass on the other side, even when the grass they are standing on is better grass. Horses and donkeys also chew on wood and can chew a stall rail completely through in no time. Goats rub against fences, pushing them out and climb on fences, pulling them down. We have solved a lot of animal damage problems by installing an electric fence around the top of our field fence, but it hasn’t eliminated all of the damage.

Three years ago I built some feeders out of plastic barrels.  I cut the barrels in half the long way and used tree poles for the frames and legs. I built them to be “indestructible.” They lasted almost a year. The horse and the donkeys chewed the pole and kicked them apart. The steers and bulls, rubbed their heads and horns against them, tearing them to pieces. I repaired them several times, but in the end the only useable parts were the plastic barrels. So, through this scientific process of elimination I discovered that the only thing the animals couldn’t destroy was the plastic barrels. If you have read any other of my blogs you already know that I am a big fan or plastic barrels.

Now that I knew what the animals couldn’t destroy, I revised my feeder design. I only use plastic barrels, nylon ribbon (used by power line workers to pull heavy wires through long runs of conduit) and large screws to attach the feeders to the stall rails.

To make the new feeders, first thing I did was cut a hole in the side of the barrel, we’ll call the front side, so the animals could comfortably put their head into the barrel to eat the hay. I smoothed the cut edges down so the animals wouldn’t cut themselves when they stuck their heads through the holes.

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Livestock, especially horses and donkeys, will waste a lot of hay by shoving it around in the feeder, looking for the sweetest stems and leaves. Much of it will end up on the ground, get walked on and polluted. To solve that, most feeders will have a net or slat system that holds the hay up off the bottom of the feeder so the animals have to pull a little out of the net at a time to eat. To install the nylon slats I drilled half-inch holes in a line across the front top of the barrels and across the lower back. Then using the nylon ribbon, I wove it into the feeders from the front top holes to the lower back holes. Any nylon rope or heavy twine will work; just don’t use something edible, like hemp.

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I drilled small holes in the bottom of the barrels so when I cleaned the feeders water would drain out quickly.

The final step was to mount them in the stalls securely so they wouldn’t be torn down. I mounted the barrel feeders in the corner of the stalls using ½” lag screws and washers. Bolts would also work. Of course you have to mount the feeders at the right height, lower for small animals and taller for large animals.

We have used these feeders for two years now without any sign of failure. They have withstood donkeys, a horse and yes, even a bull.

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Anyway… for what it’s worth.

ATTIC INSULATION MATTERS!

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IS YOURS  DAMAGED AND DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH?

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I’m a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection of Salem Oregon. Part of my job is to inspect the attic area of homes for possible issues: roof leaks, electrical dangers, proper venting, ducting, chimney leaks, animals, mold, insulation, anything that may negatively affect the home or the people living in the home. Over the last fifteen years I have seen it all.

A couple of years ago I inspected a nearly new home for a lady. Three months later I got a call from her telling me that her master bedroom was cold, much cooler than the rest of the home. We scheduled a time for me to go over the see if I could figure out why. When I got there I could clearly feel what she meant, the room was much cooler than the rest of the home. I checked the airflow from the heat duct and it was good and after checking windows and doors I found no visual reason for the cooler temperature. Fortunately I have an infrared camera that I use to inspect homes, so I got it out of the toolbox and fired it up. As I scanned the walls and ceiling I discovered a large area of the ceiling that was showing a cooler surface than the rest of the ceiling. This was a little disturbing because when I inspected the attic during her full home inspection the insulation in the attic was perfect.

I asked her if anyone had been in the attic since I had inspected the home. At first she told me that no one had, but when I showered her through the camera the cooler area, she then remembered that the cable guy had been up there to install a cable for her wall mounted TV.

When I went up into the attic to investigate I found an area, about one hundred square feet, where the insulation had been disturbed. There was even a small area where I could see the top of the ceiling’s sheet rock. The cable guy had moved insulation to try and find the top of the wall so he could drill a hole to run the cable for the wall mounted TV.

Some time ago I was inspecting a home where the seller was at the inspection. As I got ready to go into the attic, the seller told me proudly that they had two years earlier, spent a lot of money to have the attic completely re-insulated to a R-38, about sixteen inches of blown-in insulation. Unfortunately, since that time they had a home security system installed, the phone company had added phone lines into two of the bedrooms from the attic and the cable company had added cable to all of the bedrooms from the attic. The new insulation in all areas of the attic was completely destroyed.

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A couple of weeks ago I inspected an older home with a newly remodeled kitchen. When I did my infrared scan of the home I knew what I was going to find when I went into the attic. There was no insulation over the kitchen. The contractor had pulled it out of the area to install new light fixtures and add more outlets in the kitchen.

Recently I inspected a home out in the country. It was only ten years old, so it had been insulated to an R-38. When I inspected the attic if found that squirrels and raccoons had found their way into the attic and for ten years they had been making it their home. The insulation in the attic had been completely destroyed. The animals had trampled down the insulation throughout the attic. The insulation was still there, it hadn’t been moved out of place, but it was compressed, eliminating all the small air pockets in the insulation. The fluffiness of the insulation is a big factor in its insulating properties.

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On a more personal and embarrassing note, I had done some minor work in our attic over one of our bedrooms. That next winter I noticed the room was much cooler than the other bedrooms. I looked in the attic and found that I had forgotten to repair a four square foot area of the insulation when I was done with my work.

If I had to put a percentage number to it, I would have to say that at a minimum, 75% of attics I inspect have damaged insulation. The issue ranges from major damage to as minor as someone forgot to put the insulation back over the ceiling access panel. To whatever degree the insulation is damaged in your attic, it does make a difference in the comfort of the home and the cost of heating it.

Just because the temperature throughout your home is relatively even doesn’t  that you don’t have damaged insulation, it all might all be damaged equally throughout.

A couple of summers ago I inspected a home for my daughter Rondi and son-in-law, Mark. When the weather got cold I got a text message from my daughter saying that her house was freezing and she wanted to know why. I text back, “Read your inspection report”. The home only had about three inches of insulation in the attic. I had told her this when I had done the inspection and clearly stated in the report that the home needed more attic insulation. Of course, me being her dad, she didn’t pay attention to what I told her and they hadn’t read the report. Being a loving and caring dad, I helped Mark, insulated the attic up to the standard of a R-38.

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If you haven’t got my point yet…ATTIC INSULATION MATTERS! If someone goes into your attic, make sure they agree to fix any insulation they damage. If you look in your attic and see that the insulation is damaged or that you don’t have enough insulation, do something about it. If you’re not comfortable going into your attic to fix the insulation or add insulation, hire a professional. Good attic insulation will pay for it’s self fairly quickly, but more importantly, your home will be more comfortable, you’ll spend less money heating it, you’ll be using less energy and you’ll be helping to save the environment.

Anyway…for what it’s worth.

Hops garden/Fire pit.

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Hops-not just for beer!

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When we first started building the project now known as The Farm it was just a grass seed field with some trees and an old shack at one end. We have come a long way since then. We started by building a pump house for the well and to store tools. Then we built a garage, a house, a barn and last year, a shop. We have fenced and crossed fenced, planted lawns, built gardens, planted trees, dug a pond and maintained it all to the high standards of my loving wife. This place takes a lot of work, it takes a lot of time and sometimes I think we should move to a small house with a small yard. But the truth is, I love this place and I plan on living here until the day I die.

Over the last few years we have made an effort to make The Farm less work by reducing the size of the lawn that needs to be mowed, reducing the number of animals we keep and even hiring help with yard work. Even with the goal of making The Farm less work, I sometimes get a wild hair and we take one step backwards.

One of the first things we did when we were building this place was to make a fire pit out in the field by the pond. Over the years the fire pit has become a place to burn all the branches that get trimmed off the fifty some trees we have planted around the yard. A couple of years ago my wife mentioned that it might be nice to have a fire pit closer to the house so we wouldn’t have to haul the marshmallows so far to roast them.

I’m sure she envisioned a small ring of stones with a couple of benches around it when she mentioned it to me. However, my brain doesn’t work that way and the simple idea of a fire pit grew into “The Hops Garden/Fire Pit.”

Once we agreed on where the new fire pit would be built the creative side of me was awakened and I went to work. I had a vague idea of what I wanted the end product to look like, and since it wasn’t brain surgery, I decided to let the creative juices flow and see what happened.

The location of the pit was near one corner of the yard, exposed on two sides to the open field. I wanted the pit to be a little more private so if I decide to dance naked around a fire, the neighbors wouldn’t complain. I also wanted it to be shaded so that in the late afternoon we wouldn’t be sitting around a fire in the hot sun. So here is what happened.

The place we agreed to put the pit was on a long hump of ground that covered out septic field. My first task was to level the area by hauling in dirt with my tractor. It took several loads and a lot of shoveling and raking, but I got the area level.

After the area was level I built a metal sculpture or column that would serve as the centerpiece of the hops garden/fire pit. Like most projects, I work on a very small budget, so the column was made from three 20’ pieces of rebar that my son Marcus helped me braid together. I cut out a half dozen large leaves from sheet metal and welded it all together. Eventually the hops got too heavy and I added a ¾” length of black iron pipe to keep the the plants from bending the column to the ground. The base of the column is planted in a foot of concrete and weighted with rock.

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I wanted an arbor like entrance to the pit area, so I welded together an arbor. It too was made from rebar. To give it a good stable base I used concrete to set it in place.

My idea was to plant hops around the perimeter of a large circle, 36’ across, and train them to climb strands of wire up to the top of the column that was in the center of the circle. To accomplish this, I drove a dozen 7’ T-post around the perimeter of the circle and ran three strands of heavy, 10 gauge, galvanized wire around the circle of T-posts, one at the top, one midway up and one a few inches from the ground. I then started stringing lighter weight wire from the bottom wire up to the middle and top wires and then to the 5’ metal circle at the top of the column. I spaced the wires about 12” apart so there would be plenty of wires for the hops to climb.

There was a sprinkler head near the outer edge of the new garden that would be blocked from view by hops once the hops started to grow. I dug a trench from the sprinkler to the center column and then laid black poly pipe in the trench, added a 90 degree elbow and ran more black poly pipe to the top of the column. I removed the sprinkler, attached the poly pipe to the system and put the sprinkler head on the top of the pipe at the top of the column. I adjusted the sprinkler so that when the sprinkler system came on the sprinkler would water out to the perimeter of the garden.

Next I removed a 12’ circle of grass around the center column and filled it with pea grave and bordered the circle with concrete edging to contain the gravel.

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The Willamette Valley is known for the production of hops, so finding hop starts was easy. I purchased three varieties of hops to add a contrast of green to the garden. The first year hops will generally grow about 6-8’, but once they are established they will grow 20-25’ long and they will grow about a foot a day. To add color to the garden I planted purple morning glories.

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We had purchased several years ago, a large concrete bowl that we used as a water feature in a garden near the back deck. One year during a very cold winter it cracked and would hold water any more. My wife wanted me to get rid of it, but it occurred to me that it would be the perfect fire pit, so I moved it to the garden.

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We have enjoyed the new hops garden/fire pit for two years now. When the hops and morning glory have climbed to the top column the garden becomes a very large green, shady tent where we can enjoy a fire closer to the house and where we don’t have to carry the marshmallows so far.

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What Makes a Man?

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My dad was a good man. To make ends meet, he worked two jobs most of the first seventeen years of my life. He was a policeman, working day shift, swing shift and grave yard, so even when he was home during the day, he was sleeping much of that time. He was also a good friend. When someone needed his help, he was there for them offering his skills and talents to help them with their projects. He was a skilled builder, sharing his talents by helping family, friends, neighbors and acquaintances design and build homes, barns, shops, and sheds. Rarely did he accept money for his work.

Between being a cop, moonlighting, sleeping during the day and helping other people, the time he was able to spend with my brothers and I was limited. The time we spent with him was precious and he made it quality time.

I loved my dad. My dad was a man. He was a man not because of his age, not because he sired three sons, not because he was a cop, not because he could shoot a gun better than most, not because he was tougher than rawhide and stronger than an ox. My dad was a man because of all those things and because he was a good citizen and took that responsibility seriously.

Robert Duvall, one of the greatest actor of all time, starred in a movie in 2003 titled Secondhand Lions with another great actor Michael Caine. In the movie, Duvall’s character found opportunities to help young men, who were being delinquents, get onto the right track to becoming men by giving them the “Man Speech”. During the movie I waited with great anticipation, wanting to hear this life changing speech, but each time Duvall started to give the speech the director would cut to another scene.

It was a good movie, but it left me disappointed that we never got to hear this profound speech that seemed to change the lives of the young men who were privileged to hear it.

My dad never gave me the man speech, he lived it, his life was an example of it. Most of the profound lessons I have learned during my life were lessons taught by him. Sometimes those lessons were voiced, but most of the time they were taught by example.

I wrote a series of western books, “Where the River Bends”. In the last book Justus, the main character in the series. was asked by his new bride, Gracie, to briefly describe his dad. The character of Justus’s dad is based on my dad. (You write what you know.) Justus thought about his dad for a few minutes and then started to describe him and the lessons he had taught Justus. When I was done describing Justus’s dad, I realized that I had written the “Man Speech” that Duvall must have been giving those young men in the movie. The following Man Speech is based on my dad’s life and the lessons he tried to teach his sons.

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Being a true man is a responsibility that some grown boys choose never to accept. To be a true man you may have to choose to take the more difficult road. To be a man you must believe that courage, honor and virtue mean everything and when faced with the choice, honesty is what you will always choose. A man can live without contract because his word is as good as his bond. A man believes that there are more good people in the world than there are bad and that good will always triumph over evil. A man will always leave things better than when he found them and when borrowing something, he will return it in better condition than when he received it. A man knows that taking care of what he has is more important than having more. A man helps his neighbor because he wants to help and for no other reason. When a man agrees to do a job, he agrees to do his best even if he is working for free or for very little money. He knows that what he does will not be perfect, but that what he does will be closer to perfection if he tries to make it so. He will treat everyone as individuals, trusting and respecting all races, religions and gender until they prove to him that his trust and respect is ill placed. He knows that loving his family is more important than what they do wrong and he always love them unconditionally. A man will strive to always do better and be better and in this pursuit, he will never falter. These are the qualities a man should do and believe in because these are the things worth doing and believing in.

I’m 58 and still question my manhood, because I know that the things I have accomplished in my life does not make me a man. What will make me a man is taking responsibility for my life, living the lessons my dad taught me and becoming a good citizen of my community and this world.

Homemade “gitfiddle”.

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I wanted to be a rock star!

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When I was in junior high school, known as middle school now, I learned to play the guitar. Like most young men of the sixties, I wanted to be a rock star. My older brother, Leif also bought a guitar and we would practice different cords and simple songs. I can remember lying in bed and playing the base part for In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida, by Iron Butterfly over and over again. Some how I thought that if I played that short rip over and over again it would magically make me a great guitar player and rock star. Clearly, I was wrong.

I practiced a lot on my own, with my brother and I even got together with friends at school and jammed, but my progress was very slow. I could tell fairly quickly that I did not have music in my soul and if I did, it wasn’t coming out through my fingers. I was a pitiful guitar player, but I never gave hope up until I was fifty.

When I was fifty, my youngest son, Marcus, started playing the guitar. In three weeks he was a better guitar player than me. At first I tried to learn stuff from him, but I was like a monkey trying to read a map. I love my son, but he was the one who crushed my dream of becoming a rock star. Oh yes, even at fifty I still harbored the glories hope. Within a very short time he was so good, so much better than me, that I realized I had been harboring a ridicules dream and I put the guitar aside for good.

Although, I could not play the guitar with him, I still wanted to be part of the guitar experience, so I suggest to him that we make a hard body, electric guitar. He loves playing the guitar and he loves a good project, so he was an easy sell. We did some research and decided that Alder, Mahogany or Maple would work well. One afternoon we took a drive up the canyon to a mill that offered varieties of wood for sale. We found a nice piece of Maple that we thought would work well. The price was $80.00, so we drove to Home Depot and bought some cheap fir.

Marcus did most of the research on how professionals make guitars and I figured out how us non-professionals would make one. Of course we had to buy pots and pickups and controls and turning tuner things, but we managed to find everything, most of it in our little town of Stayton at a small place that repaired stringed instruments.

I don’t remember all the details of how we put the guitar together, but here are some of the things I do remember.

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The first thing we had to do was glue a bunch of 2X2s together with one 2×4 in the middle for the neck. After the glue was dry, we cut out the shape of the guitar, designed by Marcus, and rounded the edges with a belt sander. To stiffen the neck so it wouldn’t bow when the strings were tightened, we reinforced the neck with a metal rod. To install the electronics, pickups and pots we routered out the face of the guitar. To cover the electronic we cut a piece of plexi-glass a shape that would cover it all. Marcus carefully painted the word “gitfiddle” on the back of the plexi and then we sprayed the backside of the plexi black. We paint on the back of the plexi so that when strumming the guitar, the pick wouldn’t wear off the paint. F.Y.I, gitfiddle is the redneck way of saying guitar.

The fingerboard we made out of some oak I had sitting around and the frets were made out of welding rod. We decided where the frets would be located on the fingerboard, we guessed, and we cut fine groves with a hack saw to insert and glue the welding rod frets in place. We installed the turning tuning things and did some other minor details, fire it up and it played.

Marcus said he liked the tone, it looked pretty cool and it sound very good, but only when he played it. Fun project!

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