Loosen Stubborn Screws With a Wrench

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When something is broken or not working I have to fix it. I think there’s a physiological term or medical term for it, something like fixoholic. If my tractor is not running or broken, it gives me a knot in my gut and depression sets in. Rarely do I hire a professional to make the repairs. Well, at least not until I’ve tried to fix it and have made it worse. Over many years, yes I’m old; I have tackled repairs from rebuilding a Fiat motor to repairing a mechanical pencil. Am I an expert, no, but I am getting better. I’ve learned a lot because I try to learn a lot.

Over the years I have accumulated many tools, but I don’t have everything and I am always discovering tools that I need. Recently I bought an impact screw driver and an extraction bit set.

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So many times in the past when a screw would not budge or the head slots were stripped out, I would have given my eyeteeth for both or even one of those tools. Even after days of applying penetrating oil some screws will not break free. I have struggled for, wasted, many hours of my life trying to remove stubborn screws. I have gone as far as taking a fine metal saw blade and re-slotting a screw, which actually works.

The other day I was reading Handyman Magazine. There was a good article on how to remove a stubborn nut or bolt. The article didn’t offer me anything new really, but I did pick up one tip about using heat on the stuck bolt and then spraying it with cold water. The expansion and contraction is supposed to break the rust and allow the bolt to come out or the nut to come off. We tried it on my son’s car, trying to remove the nut on the bracket that attaches the strut to the axle. It didn’t work, but none of the other six methods we tried worked either. Anyway, as I was reading the article I realized that I had never read or seen the method I use to remove stuck, stripped or stubborn screws.

What I have learned about removing stuck screws is that after you have tried with all your might to remove a screw, don’t keep trying and strip the head slots out. But if you do keep trying and you damage the head slots a little, STOP and try this.

One day I was trying to remove a screw from a break fluid reservoir on a motorcycle and was damaging the head slots. I couldn’t push down hard enough to keep the screwdriver point in the head. I realized that what I really needed was help to keep a lot of pressure pushing down on the head so I could turn the screwdriver and not have it pop out of the head slots and damage them, but there was no one around.

I love clamps. It’s like having more hands to hold stuff. Over the past three years my clamp assortment has gone from a dozen clamps to three dozen clamps. I have a variety of sizes of “C” clamps, I have those clothes pin type spring clamps, some quick grip clamps, I have strap clamps, and 4’ long pipe clamps. Sometimes I go into my shop just to sit and admire my clamps. Did I mention that I love clamps?

So, I’m trying to get this screw out and it occurs to me that I could use a clamp to apply pressure to the top of the screwdriver. The best clamp for my purpose was a quick release clamp.

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Here’s an important tip, use the shortest screwdriver you can and with your grinder, flatten the end of the handle so the screwdriver will be more stable under the clamp. Here are the two screwdrivers I use most of the time when applying the clamp technique. Note that the tops of the handles have been ground flat.

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To do this method, place the short screw driver in the head of the screw and clamp it in place with a lot of pressure and turn the screwdriver. It’s really easy, if you have a grip like a gorilla. I don’t, so I use an adjustable wrench to turn the screwdriver. Most screwdrivers have handles that have six sides so they are easy to grip and as it turns out, to put an adjustable wrench on.

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I have used this method of removing stubborn screw several times and each time when I hear the screw pop loose, I get all giddy inside.

Anyway… for what it’s worth.

PANNIERS MADE FROM SCRATCH

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Luggage Racks For my V-strom

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Like most people, my life has been made easier by computers and yes, better. In my job as a home inspector, WIN Home Inspection Salem, a computer saves me time and corrects my terrible spelling. A computer provides most of our TV viewing pleasure and keeps me in touch with friends and family. I know for a fact that I would have never written a dozen books if I hadn’t had a laptop computer. Most of my life of being a do it yourselfer has been spent in trial and error. I have spent many hours and lots of money making mistakes because I didn’t have the knowledge to do it right the first time. Now I just go to my computer and Google how to do what ever it is I want to do and I can find it on Youtube. Exploring the internet with my computer has kept me learning and growing like nothing else could have done. And even though I curse them sometimes, a computer has opened the world to me and enhanced my life. God bless you mister or misses computer inventor person(s).

Next to the computer, used plastic 55 gallon barrels would have to be #2 in making my live easier.

After I realized how much I enjoyed dual sport motorcycle riding on my Honda XR650L, I decided that I needed an adventure bike. An adventure bike is a step up from a typical dual sport in that it is comfortable enough to ride long distances on the highways, but when you see a dirt or gravel road that looks interesting, off you go. After a lot of study I decided that the Suzuki V-strom 650DR was the ideal bike for me. I couldn’t really justify the expense of an $5000-$7000 bike. Since I like to work on motorcycles I decided that if I could find a wrecked bike that was mechanically sound I could probably fix it up and make it, at the very least, interesting looking. I had just published a book, The Reincarnation of Joe Rocket. In the book the main character had fallen on hard times and his buddy, Two Stroke, bought him a V-strom that had been wrecked. He spent a couple weeks fixing it up and then rode it from Washington State to Maine. It occurred to me that if Joe Rocket could fix one up, I could too. I put an ad on Craigslist and a week later a guy emailed me saying he had a totaled V-strom that he wanted to sell. The bike was a 2010 with 4500 miles on it. Long story short, the bike looked brand new, except for a broken left front turn light and the shifter lever. There were also a few small scratches that I would have never noticed if he hadn’t pointed them out to me. The guy had been rear ended, tapped, at a stop sign and tipped the bike over. Since the bike was virtually new, he wanted everything with even a minor scratch replaced. By the time the insurance company added it all up, the bike was totaled.  I bought it for half the price of a new one and within thirty minutes I had fixed the turn signal light and shifter. So much for a fixer upper project. I love this bike.

I had sold my cruiser, 2002 Honda VTX 1800, the previous winter, so the Vee was going to be my all around bike. I would use for long weekend dual sport trips and my week long road trips. For long trips I needed some kind of  saddlebags, or for a adventure bike like the V-strom, panniers. Panniers are usually aluminum boxes that mount to each side of the back fender area. They are made of aluminum to be almost indestructible and watertight. I never liked the idea of big metal boxes mounted to the back of my motorcycle. I guess I have had too many close encounters with trees and boulders and knew I would end up tearing them off my bike or denting them beyond repair. As I searched the web for something I thought would work for me, I found nothing I liked or could afford. I kept thinking, why don’t they make a flexible plastic holder that you can just slip your luggage onto? Then I though, “Hey, I can make that!”

I needed to make a rack that would withstand crashes and that I could mount my plastic luggage holders onto. During searches on the web I had seen many different racks that would mount on my V-strom, but I felt I could do better or at least, as well. I made a rough sketch of what I wanted, found a 10’X3/4” piece of conduit in my shop, bought some 1/8”X 1” metal flat stock at ACE, got out my conduit bender, fired up the welder and went to work.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

Showing complete rack with my stovepipe tool box attached.

The first thing I did was bend the conduit so it would attach to the passenger foot peg frame bracket on one side, bend around the back of the bike just under the tail light and attach to the other passenger peg frame bracket. I carefully flattened the ends of the conduit and drill holes for bolts through the flattened part. The frame brackets for the passenger foot pegs on the Vee are large and there was plenty of room to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate the conduit, bolt and nut.

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The Vee comes stock with a substantial back rack that sits over the back fender. It’s bolted on in four places, two bolts attach back rack and two more bolts forward about mid seat. In my opinion, it is always a good idea to use the factory bolts and brackets when ever possible to attach something not stock to your bike.

I cut and bent to fit, two pieces of flat metal stock that would bolt under the back rack front brackets and reach down to the conduit. For the back support, I cut and bent one piece of flat stock that ran from the conduit on once side, up and under the back rack and down to the conduit on the other side. Because of where I had to run the flat stock under the back rack, the bolts for the rack didn’t line up with the flat stock. To make the connection to the bolts I welded two small ears to the flat stock that would reach the two bolts.

Showing rack bolted under the bike's rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing rack bolted under the bike’s rear rack at mid-seat.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike's rear rack.

Showing the two ears I welded on to fit in the two back holes of the bike’s rear rack.

The next step was to cut two short pieces of flat stock that would attach horizontally between the two vertical flat stock on each side and would give me something to hang my plastic luggage racks on. Once everything was cut, bent and fitted, I welded it all together and sprayed it with black spray in bed liner.

Now with the rack made and mounted, I needed to make luggage racks. After drawing some sketches of what might work, I made a pattern out of cardboard. I had in mind that I was going to use 20” carry-on luggage to fit in the luggage racks.

Now what I needed was a big flat piece of plastic. Here is something that you might not know. If you cut the top and bottom off a plastic 55 gallon barrel, then cut it down one side, heat it up with a weed burner blow torch until it is so soft it will lay flat on a shop floor and put a piece of plywood with some heavy weight on the plywood over the plastic until it cools, you will end up with a large piece of flat plastic.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

Showing my pattern with measurements.

After cutting the plastic to the pattern, heating the plastic and bending it to the proper shape I riveted so it would retain the shape and make it strong. To attach the luggage rack to the metal rack, the luggage rack needed a bracket system that would easily clip onto the metal rack and wouldn’t accidentally come off over rough road. Of course I used plastic barrel to make the brackets. The bracket is a kind of  “Z” shape and the top bracket is a flat piece riveted along the top. They are just wide enough to fit between the two vertical supports on the metal rack and slip over the conduit on the bottom and the horizontal bar at the top. To keep the plastic racks from bouncing off the metal racks, I made a “L” bracket out of plastic, then cut a slot through the back of the luggage rack and “Z” bracket attached on the back. The slot was cut just below the top horizontal cross piece on the metal rack. I attached the “L” bracket with rivets to the luggage rack so that the short part of the “L” bracket will slip through the slot, under the horizontal cross-piece and though the “Z” bracket. The plastic “L” bracket is kind of spring loaded and stays through the slot until you’re ready to remove the luggage rack.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for "L" bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing brackets on the back that slide onto rack. Note the slot in the upper bracket for “L” bracket to slide through and secure the luggage rack to the metal rack. Note that everything is riveted and hot glued on.

Showing "L" bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

Showing “L” bracket that slips through the slot, over the horizontal rack bracket.

20” carry-luggage is pretty typical and I was able to find one at Goodwill for a $5. The other one I bought a matching one at Walmart for $20. I removed the wheels on the bags and they slipped perfectly into the plastic luggage racks. I added two straps on each luggage rack to hold the bags securely in the racks.

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The carry-on’s looked pretty good, but they weren’t waterproof or dust proof. We had acquired some bright yellow material that school crossing flags are made out of when we owned a screen printing business and I had some left over. Using that and some water resistant material I bought at a fabric store, I sewed together some slip on covers for the bags (see top picture). That’s right, I sewed. Gentlemen, if a sewing machine is not part of your power tool assortment, your assortment is not complete.

I have used the racks and panniers for three years now and they have worked great. They are light weight, durable, flexible, inexpensive and not too bad looking. I never remove the metal racks. They act as rear-end crash bars and have saved my bike from damage more than once.

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.

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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