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.

THE MAN SPEECH

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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A mower to tow behind your ATV

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Converting a riding mower to an ATV tow behind.

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Some friends of ours own some wilderness property next to our property up in the Elkhorn Valley. They don’t spend as much time up there as they use to when their kids were younger, so I take care of their property along with ours. I don’t mind because they let our family use their fire-pit and ¼ acre meadow. That gives us about ½ acre of meadow to expand onto when we need more room.

One of the maintenance items that I like to do a couple times a year is mow the meadows to keep the grass and weeds down. I used my riding lawnmower for a few years, but then our friends gave me an old Craftsmen riding lawnmower keep up at the property so I wouldn’t have to use my nice mower when I needed to mow. The old mower ran pretty well, but the steering gear was going out. I brought it home a couple of times and fix it, but it kept going out.

My oldest son, Justus, has a home on a couple of acres near Estacada Oregon. The property is mostly on the side of a hill and very slopped. His father-in-law gave him a MTD riding lawnmower to mow his pasture. Unfortunately, it didn’t have enough power to mow up the hill that was at one end of the pasture and it tended to want and tip over when driving horizontal to the slope. He called me one day and asked me if I would help him make a mowing deck out the riding lawn mower. His idea was that he would tow the mowing deck with is ATV. I wasn’t sold on the idea of tearing the mower apart and mounting the motor on the deck to run the blades, but I’m always up for a project, so I told him to bring it on over.

After he got the mower here, we scratched our heads and talked about different ideas to accomplish what he wanted. I finally suggest that we remove the back wheels and fender, add a tow bar and just tow it backwards with his ATV. After he could visualized it and I convinced him that the mower would cut backwards as well as forward, he was all for it.

Here is how simple it was. We removed the belt and pulleys that drove the back wheels. We then removed the back wheels, axle and fenders. The steering wheel and seat were not longer needed so they came off too. We locked the front wheel so they wouldn’t move left or right and the mower would tow straight.

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Basically, we remove everything that will not be needed and to make the mover as lightweight as possible. When we had it stripped down to the essentials; motor, mower deck, front wheels, gas tank and battery, we bolted on a 4’ long 1-1/2” square bar that would attach to the ATV. Like most ATV, his had a hole in the back towing plate, so we welded a small rod on the tow bar that would drop through the hole. We make the bar long enough that when you turned a sharp corner the back wheel or the ATV wouldn’t hit the mower.

To use mower, you simple hook it up to your ATV, turn the key and start the mower, lower the deck to the desired height and mow away.

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After we built his mower, it occurred to me that I could do the same thing with the mower I was using up at the property. The steering was going out anyway, so a tow behind was a great solution. I did the same basic things to Craftsmen as we had done to Justus’s MTD, but my mower didn’t have a good battery, so I cut one end off an old set of jumper cables and attached them to the mowers battery cables. Then when I wanted to use the mower I just hook the jumper cable clamps to the battery on my ATV.

They worked great, but Justus now has a tractor with a mower deck that he attaches to the back and the motor in mine lost all the oil one day and blew up. But it’s all good. It was still a fun project.

Motorcycle trip check list.

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I try to take three or four long motorcycle trips each year. I got tired of trying to remember everything I might need to pack, so over the years I have developed a packing list for my trips. I don’t pack all this stuff, but I like to use the list to decide what I will need on a particular trip. I hope the list will help to make your trips more carefree.

Most of the things on the list can be purchase in any town, so don’t fret if you forget something. I have a friend I ride with that only packs old worn out jeans. He wears them until they are dirty and then just throws them away. The last couple of years I have gone to wearing mesh riding pants. They save me lot of room because I don’t have to pack more than one pair of jeans and a pair of shorts, depending on how long I’ll be gone and if I’m only riding with guys. If I’m riding with guys, I don’t care if my jeans will stand up by themselves at the end of the week. If I’m riding two up with my wife I have to really pack light so I evaluate each item and decide if I can go without it.

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MOTORCYCLE TRIP PACKING LIST

o    CAMERA, MEMORY CARDS AND BATTERIES

o     GPS AND BATTERIES

o     MONEY, ID, CREDIT CARDS, AARP CARD

o     INSURANCE CARD AND BIKE REGISTRATION

o     HANDKERCHIEFS

o     WATER ABSORBING HANDKERCHIEFS

o     COOLING VEST

o     PHONE, CHARGER &  WORK SCHEDULE

o     GLASSES

o     SUNGLASSES

o     GUN AND PERMIT

o     MAPS

o     DRIED FRUIT

o     WATER

o     HANDI-WIPES, AND HAND SANITIZER CLEANER

o     OIL, TOOLS, AND TIRE GAGE

o      FLASHLIGHT

o     TOW ROPE (TO TOW HARLEYS)

o     GLOVES

o     EAR PLUGS

o     HELMET, DEWRAGS AND FACE SHIELDS

o     LEATHERS AND BOOTS

o     BIKE CLEANER, PLEDGE WIPES AND RAGS

o     DO SAFETY CHECK

o     TEE SHIRTS- ONE PER DAY

o     LONG SLEEVE TEE SHIRTS- ONE PER EVERY 4 DAYS

o     JEANS- ONE FOR EVERY THREE DAYS

o     NICE PANTS/SHORTS

o     UNDERWEAR, SOCKS, AND TEE SHIRTS- ONE SET PER DAY

o     COMPRESSION SHORTS

o     SLEEPING CLOTHES

o     SWIM SUIT

o     WALKING SHOES & SANDALS

o     FIRST AID KIT

o     SUNSCREEN

o     MEDICATIONS

o     TOILETRIES

o     WATER MISTER

o     MP3, EAR PHONES AND CHARGER

o     I.C.E. LIST

o     CARDS, GAMES and BOOK

o     RAIN GEAR

o     EXTRA KEY FOR BIKE

Stay Cool This Summer

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Power ventilator for your attic will keep you cool.

With summer on its way I wanted to share some great advice on how to keep your home 10-15 degrees cooler on hot summer days. As a home inspector, part of my job is to inspect attics. In the summer attics can reach temperatures in excess of 150 degrees! During the day the insulation in the attic starts absorbing the heat. By evening your insulation is very hot, and because of its properties, it holds the heat for a long time. In late afternoon, that heat in the insulation starts to radiate through your ceiling into your home and continues to radiate late into the night. During those hot days, the ceiling in your home becomes a radiant heater, much like the radiant ceiling heat they use to install in homes in the 1970’s. The problem is you can’t turn the heat off. But you can prevent it.

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The solution is an attic power ventilator fan. An attic fan mounts on the roof, or in the attic behind a gable vent. The fan has a thermostat mounted in the attic which activates the fan when the attic starts to get warm, about 90 degrees. The fan pulls or pushes the heat out of your attic, bringing in cool air from the eave vent, keeping your attic and insulation much cooler.

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Even if you have A/C, the power ventilator fan will keep your home cooler and take much of the pressure off the A/C system. Those who have A/C know that on very hot days the A/C does not keep your home cool, especially if you have a two-story home.

My experience is that an attic fan will also extend the life of the three-tab roofing on your home. With a cooler attic your roofing doesn’t heat up and the life of the roofing is extended anywhere from 5-8 years, depending on care and conditions.

Attic fans can be purchased at most home centers and they even make solar powered fans. Having an attic fan installed is about one tenth the cost of having A/C installed. If you are handy, you may be able to tackle all or most of the project yourself and save some money.

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Do yourself and your home a favor by installing a power ventilator fan now before the summer heat is here.

 

Lance Larson

WIN Home Inspection Salem

 

 

 

ATV: From ugly duckling to swan.

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Last year I had three grandchildren. This year that number will double. That’s a lot of pressure on this grand dad because it’s three more grandchildren that I have to try and buy their love by providing them with ATVs as they reach the “appropriate age”. Out growing an ATV is like outgrowing clothes, when a child out grows something, they get a bigger size and their smaller size is handed down to a smaller child.

A few months a go I found a good deal, $120, on an ATV that I thought would be a good size for my oldest grandson. His little brother was showing interest in riding, so I wanted to be prepared to…, buy his love. The guy that sold it to me thought it was a 70cc, but after I got it home I discovered that it was actually a 90cc. A little larger than I wanted, but, you know, gift horse.

The ATV ran, but it had the wrong size air mixture screw in the carburetor. There were other things wrong with the bike; there was no seat, no foot platforms, no hood/battery cover, the back fender was cracked in a couple of places, the plastics were very oxidized, the air filter was missing and it was ugly.

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I started by making a seat platform out of a piece of a plastic barrel from a paper pattern I cut and fitted. The platform had to have two small tabs at the front and one larger one at the back that would clip into the frame brackets to hold the seat in place. IMAG0404

I next made the hood/battery cover and two foot platforms out of plastic from a barrel.

After the seat blank was finished I started with the cosmetics. The oxidation on the plastic had to come off, so I attached a circular wire brush to my drill and went to work. It took some time, but the spinning wire brush took the loose plastic off and I was happy how much better the plastic looked. IMAG0410

For years my boys and I have experimented with different ways to repair cracked plastic fenders and other plastic parts of bikes and ATVs. Nothing we tried really worked. I knew that had to be something that would work so I scratched my head and looked around the shop for a better idea. My youngest son had left a can of plastic dip in the shop several months earlier. Plastic dip is liquid plastic that you dip handles of tools in, like a pair of pliers, to coat the handles. The can was half empty and when I opened it and found that the plastic dip had started to stiffen, but was still useable. I felt like I would need something to reinforce the repair before applying the plastic dip and remembered that I had a roll of fiberglass tape used for taping drywall joints. The tape is 1-1/2” wide, woven so there is 1/8” gaps between the strands of fiberglass and is sticky on one side. Perfect. I taped the cracks in the plastic from the underside and slathered the plastic dip over the tape. On the topside I filled the cracks with paintable silicone caulk and smoothed it out.  After it dried it was very strong and flexible. So far, after a summer of riding, the repair has held with no evidence of failure.

Have I ever mentioned that I love spray on bed liner in a rattle can? I do, so I sprayed all the plastics with it. The stuff is so great for sticking to everything and offering a good base for paint. IMAG0414

The next step was to cover the seat with foam and black vinyl and to paint the plastics.

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Many years ago I learned the importance of having an air filter on motor. I bought a Fiat when I was seventeen that had no air filter. I tried to retro-fit different filters onto the carburetor, but nothing really worked. I finally gave up and ran it without an air filter. It wasn’t long before the motor loss power and started to burn oil. So lesson learned and the last item of business was to make an air filter for the ATV. I discovered, after much trial and error, that an 1-1/4” PVC coupling fit snugly over the carburetor’s throat. Then all I needed was some foam, something to hold the foam in and to epoxy it to the coupling. I used a sippy cup to hold the filter foam. I cut slots in the cup to allow for air-flow and assembled it. IMAG0412

I put it all back together and the end product turned out pretty sweet. Someday I’m going to have to get the proper air mixture screw because the motor loads up with gas if it’s ran at full throttle, but for now the throttle governor is set at the slowest setting possible and will stay there for a few more years

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