Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Home (on the Range) Improvements

When I first purchased Home on the Range I was surprised the house had been on the market for a year and a half. The setting out in a rural community was beautiful, and the price a lot less than I expected. Then I walked in. Let's just say it needed some "updating". The landscaping was beautiful and the house itself, spotlessly clean, but the decor was dark and Victorian, and though there were some good windows, they were all covered up with heavy wooden valances and dark drapes.

Then there were the surprises. Home improvements done by others who, let's just say, should have left well enough alone.

But I persevered. Ripping our drywall, making rooms bigger, windows released from the heavy valances to open sun, new drywall, new tile, wood moldings, paint, fixing up a sun room which is now my office and Barkley's favorite nap spot on the little love seat therein. I did most of it myself,but after the initial frenzy when I first moved in, the work has settled down to bits and pieces of updating. New tile in the kitchen this last Spring, this next Spring a new roof and updated shop if the money's there. I plan on totally gutting the kitchen, but for now, paint, new tile and ripped out the flower wallpaper. It's definitely better than it was.
PINK KITCHENS. Always a crowd pleaser.
Much better.There's a huge formal dining room where I have a glass topped table big enough to feed a crowd but I prefer my little breakfast nook if it's just one or two people for supper, or a nice Breakfast on Saturday as the sun comes up over the pond.It HAS been a project.

For example. Guest Room #1. Well, here's what I started with. Yes that is PINK and RED
That's a little better. No pink cabinets. Big bed, grey walls.

Then there was a nice little living area off of the kitchen. Dark flocked pink wallpaper, low ceilings and dark. It about took C4 to get that wallpaper off of there.
This is better. 20 foot ceiling, at it's peak over the kitchen, part of a wall knocked out, and wide open. A door to the back deck with glass for more light.
The pink and dark living room? (No picture, it was THAT dark) there on the other side of the wall above? A wall cleared out, a perfect spot for Christmas with those I love.
And of course the guest room bathroom,. The vanity took up most of the room, making it look even smaller and yes it was pink with a cheap plastic counter. Think Barbie's not so dream bathroom.
But I could picture it taking shape, with odds and ends that I picked up with a vision in mind. A mirror, to hang over the vanity,that was made out of a beautiful piece of furniture to with a marble top and sink were added.

The floor made a huge difference, a synthetic tile that looks and feels like stone under the feet. The sink and mirror and lighting fixture, I raised up a few inches, as I'm tall, as are most of my friends. Not a noticeable difference unless you're a guest trying to shave in a mirror that's too low. The toilet and tub were in good shape, Just a general clean up and some fresh paint.

The walls are a Sherwin Williams color called Leather Bound, that, with the texture of the walls, look like rich warm amber leather. You can't quite tell the true color from the picture above, it's actually darker and richer than what that appears, but you get the general idea.

Then artwork. A leaf which I collaged over a piece of old fabric, hand stenciled and framed.

The lighting is subtle, with amber frosted glass, some dried flowers and some big soft towels. Old fashioned yet comfortable.

Still, I'm really pleased by how it turned out, especially since I did the whole thing for just a few hundred dollars.
When that room was done I could really feel how tired I was as I gathered up the fabric that will make the shower curtain up, a rich dense tapestry of material of browns and reds and golds, shining in the sun, I admired my handiwork, work that took up days, with as much breath and punishment, vision and euphoria as such a project entails. I was almost happy to have it done.

Hard work yet rewarding work. A good shop and a home that's self sufficient in times of problems is good. And tools. Did I mention tools? :-)

But enjoy hard work and the many things we learn about ourselves as well it. Small things, a house of new dreams.

I wonder if I should inform the neighbors

click on photo to enlarge

Monday, September 28, 2009

No Fruity Oaty bars???

Fruity Oaty Bars! Make a man out of a mouse!
Fruity Oaty Bars! Make you bust out of your blouse!
Eat them all the time! Let them blow your mind...
Ohh! Fruity Oaty Bars!

Fruity Oaty Bars Jingle - Firefly -the Serenity Movie

Well I'm not sure if they're quite the same as Fruity Oaty bars, but mention some chocolate cappuccino cheesecake bars made with Oreo Cookie crust and King Arthur flour's cappuccino baking chips and someone might bust out of something.

You've been warned.

Sunday, September 27, 2009


In attendance was the usual gang with Shooty Buddy and Mad St. Jack showing after the photo was taken. Old Grouch, Roberta X , Tam - View from the Porch, Joanna, Wayne, Shermlock Shomes and his bride, Rob, Mycroft Holmes and myself

A Belgium brewpub, Brugge Brasserie in Broad Ripple was the scene for the afternoons gathering. With, of course, name tags. I'll let you figure out who was who.

We don't need no stinkin'. . .
A Firefly fan. Mr. Cobb??
It's a brewpub as well so plenty of "medications" were available.
The "Other" Wayne
Our favorite Alpha Geekette
A Heinlein fan. . .
Guess Who?
No, this is NOT backwards in photo editing.
Turn around slowly and no one will get hurt. .
Then there was the food. Succulent tenderloins you could cut with a spoon, crepes, cheeses, sandwiches and of course what B.B. is famous for. . .

Would you like fries with that?

The dipping sauces include sweet chili, horseradish, homemade ketchup, roasted garlic aioli, blue cheese, hot curry (the group favorite), herb pesto, sea salt and sherry vinegar, Dijon/maple. . .

The beers are handcrafted. I'm on duty tonight so iced tea for me :-( But this hoppy Ale went along with some incredible stew and sure looked good.

A good time was had by all. . .

Fixing Trust Issues

I've mentioned several times on this blog that I have a Blackhawk holster for my Sig P226. It's not as sleek as many other holsters I own, but for the clothing I wear outdoors, it was a holster that a number of people recommended. This particular holster is unique in that there's a locking mechanism that keeps the gun in place during other than just strolling movement, as well as acts in preventing someone else from grabbing it.

Cabela's says "Thumb breaks can slow your draw and get in the way when you re-holster. But you won't experience those drawbacks with Blackhawk's patented SERPA Technology™. It engages the trigger guard as you holster your firearm and secures it until you release using the normal drawing motion with your trigger finger alongside the holster.

I noticed when I bought it how SECURE it was. It just flat out didn't budge and though it was a tad bulky I was happy with it. Until a weekend ago.

I went to a LEO range with a colleague and decided to do some "draw from holster" with it.


That's right. Facing off to Mr. Paper Bad Guy. I went to do a quick draw and it wouldn't come out of the holster. I checked the snugness of my belt. I checked the angle. Everything was normal. Same gun, the only gun I carry in it. I tried it the way I always do. Nothing. The gun would not come out. On about the 4th try it came out, reluctantly After that it worked, but not every time. I had Rangebuddy try it as well next time out with it. He's an ex Army Ranger and is as knowledgeable about weapons and their accessories as anyone I've ever met. He's quite familiar with Blackhawk. It stuck on him too.

A jam, equipment malfunction or a misfire on the range is frustrating. Hunting it will certainly ruin your mood. I'm sure more than one of us has been out there, muzzle loading or shotgun hunting for whitetail or Elk. You''ve been up since well before dawn, treading out into the woods across the sheen of first snow as quietly as you can, like walking on buttered glass, trying not to fall, trying not to make too much noise . You've waited, and waited, belly empty, bladder full, for that perfect shot. Still, you feel that old lift of your heart, that pristine feeling of new adventure, as if on your first day, as if you'd never lose it, no matter how long you've done this, the best of it all, the risk, the humility the pride. And you wait, until that perfect moment, the target clearly identified and in range and you pull the trigger and there's nothing but the snicker of metal against metal and nothing happens. The shot that wasn't lingers in the thick streaming air and your breath exhales as your 12 pointer and the does he was chasing bound away to the next county. It's not a good feeling.
But I don't carry this holster and this weapon for the range or for the hunt. I carry where I am the prey, and a"click click" instead of a "boom boom" may be the last sounds I ever hear.

I've worn this holster for over a couple of years, not daily certainly, but on regular weekends out in the city, drawing from it enough for practice until I found it easy to use. The SERPA button is very lightly sprung, I'm guessing by known weights of single action trigger pulls it's probably just a little over a pound. Point being, it's light, and doesn't require must of a conscious effort to operate it, no tugging or strength of hand, so I never noticed any impediment to a natural, instinctive draw stroke.

The holster has not been exposed to any heat or conditions that would warp it. It's not dirty. I wasn't doing a one-handed reload where I might have inadvertently inserted the gun in the holster facing backwards (when you do that I understand the tension device in the holster can lock behind the front sight, locking the gun in the holster.) I don't pull up on the weapon at all before or while pressing the button. I drew exactly as I've drawn it hundreds of times, having bought a couple of these over the years.

The SERPA button just stuck.

The manufacturer's website said The ‘Serpa Active Retention’ design consists of a plastic L-shaped component which functions as the release button [from the outside of the holster] and as the lock [which engages inside the trigger guard]. The short leg of the L-shaped lever pivots inward [toward the pistol], while the locking tab pivots outward to release the pistol from the holster.
My hand is as large as far as finger length as that of most men, so it's not the length of my index finger. It might be a piece of grit of something that not noticeable to the eye or just a defect in this one piece that showed up over time. Frankly folks, I'm at a loss as to explain, but I won't be using this holster for concealed carry any more. I'm not going to badmouth Blackhawk. Look, we all have issues with things, people, products etc. But I'm not going to put a label on someone or something for the entire interweb to see just for one problem. I still think they have a fine product overall. Certainly this one has worked for me for a LONG time. Anything made by man, even by the best of companies, has the potential to fail. Anything mechanical can fail. Looking at it closely I couldn't see any defect, scratch, dirt, etc. Nothing that would explain the failure when used in the same manner it's always been used. But I do know I will replace this one for concealed. I don't think I'd trust my life on it now.
I replaced it with the the Sig Arms/Sig Sauer Paddle Holster. They make one of these for the P220, P226, P229 and P250 models. It's polymer and fits over the waistband (which may be nice as I'm not a big belt fan) It seems to fit pretty secure and drawing from holster with it went off without a hitch. Sig advertises is as "one of the fastest drawing holsters you can find." and, like the Blackhawk, advertises "an easy to use retention system which holds the weapon secure. To access the pistol, simple depress the holster retention lever and draw the pistol from the holster. " The holster is fully adjustable for cant. I'll let you know how I like it after some range work.

I hate to let the Blackhawk sit. I've counted on it a long time. Trust is a two way street, if you ask for it you should give it back. And this old holster let me down.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Pathways to Home

In a week I'll be loading up the truck and heading West to visit my daughter and do some hiking and outdoor adventuring with my best friend. Barkley is staying behind with a good friend who tends the place when I'm gone. He loves her and I know the place will be in good hands. I'm looking forward to both the drive and the trip. I've not had a "real" vacation in over 5 years, tending to my folks on my time off as they had a few health issues. Plus I love the Rockies. I've spent a fair amount of time there over the years since Brigid Jr. moved there with her adoptive parents and my pilot friend Deb got married to a local and built a cabin on the side of a mountain 15 years ago. Myself? I've lived all over the place over the last 20 years.

This is the longest I've lived in one place, though I'm settling into the land with thirsty roots. I won't retire in this home. The city is growing too close. At one time I thought I'd build back in Montana, but the Midwest has claimed me, and the song of the Plains is a siren to the gregarious loner in me. For now, this is what I need, close enough to where I can fly out for work, or make it into a city office in less than an hour. In a few years, a self sufficient and smaller home on a whole lot of land, big enough to hunt on. This fits me for now. For most of my life, I couldn't imagine living anywhere for more than a few years, and it's not because the desire isn't there. It's just been the life I have led. I guess the wandering spirit runs in my blood, passed on my from Air Force father to me. Seems like ever since I got a control yoke in my hand I've been wandering across miles of land . . . across rivers and towns. My Mom would have preferred I marry a hometown boy and stay in the tiny town in which I was raised, but once I tasted adventure, I was born into that gypsy life and have never really known another.

I have probably moved a dozen times in 20 years, chasing a flying dream for a while, then, back to school, then another school, then internships and a promotion in another city. St. Expurey said "he who would travel happily must travel light". And this adventurer did travel light, living on a boat, and small apartments for those first years, my books my biggest possessions and my photos of friends and family around my bed my only company most nights.There have been so many flights, so many moment that shine in my memory, milestones along the uncharted airway that made up my life. In the early years, I remember not just the airplanes themselves as I instructed to pay for college, but the feel of the cotton shirt I wore, the smell of my students aftershave, the song that was playing inside when I ran in to check the weather again. It seems as if all my early years were reflected in the window of those moving airplanes. I see my reflection, my past, through bug sprayed glass that tints the world bright.

The airplane, the destination and the years changed, as did the landscape of my career, but what was inside was always the same, drawn back to the sky as a way of release. The firm tension of the throttles, the ever varying display of numbers on gauges that ranged from the antique to the technically sublime. My memory just remembers my hands, clasped on the yoke, a testament to their refusal to be separated for long. The voices of the controllers reminding me that I was of the earth, the window reflecting the satisfied smile of being exactly where I wanted to be. My friend or a copilot with me, chatting with me of his or her life, our plans for the weekend, our dreams for the future. It might have been Fall or Spring, morning or night, but the feeling deep within the remembrance always stays the same. My life's journey have have changed and if I didn't have roots, there was that one constant. That of my reflection in that little plane window, still enraptured by a cockpit's illumination of a dream. No one could take that from me.

To some people all those changes would have been upsetting. But the adventurer in me looked on it as simply new landscapes to a life that broadened. Certainly, not all the changes I chose, but I found crying about it didn't make it easier, it's easier to pack what remains and look onward. So I looked at each new move, each progression in my career, like a new page, a chance to experience each day, each sky in all its glory. Another suitcase to unpack, full of memories of adventure. Besides, I wouldn't know what to do with a full size bar of soap anyway.
So what if at an age when my friends had 3 kids and their mortgage half paid, I was grasping the second dream of my live, living out of boxes again. Boxes in which somewhere was my favorite Led Zeppelin tape. I could still crawl in the cockpit of a little plane once in a while, watching the day in yet another new state slowly unfold above the clouds. The sun casting a pink haze over the sky, long before I could actually see its rays, as the ridges that rose from the land took on a glow you can't see from the ground. For just a moment I could block out the sound of the Air Traffic Controller, and I could hear life whispering to me in the sound of a Lycoming engine. For that moment in space I could feel the depth and potential of my whole existence. No matter what my troubles were, fretting whether I'd done the right thing with a total career change mid thirties, or the time spent away from my parents and siblings - when the earth turned on its axis one more time and I saw that sun rising over the nose of my airplane, it was universe reminding me of all that I did have. Amongst which was yet another day aloft, breathing deep the freedom of choice.

Choices, like when I moved to a place I had never been, a place where my grandparents were born, when I found suddenly found myself single. Packing up books and a 12 point deer mount that sat on the front seat of my car wearing a baseball cap, eliciting honks from truck drivers and waves from little kids as I embarked on the journey. I drove two solid days, to arrive in the middle of the night in a place I'd never set foot except for a brief job interview. Miles and hours spent watching the landscape, silver grain elevators, red winged birds, gold winged motorcycles and farm trucks all blending into a bright diorama of my new life. From my view point in that tiny car I was sitting tall, this new land rushing past me, racing at me, then away from me, the bug spattering on the window and the chatter of the DJ in my ear. I watched a dozen cumulus clouds erupt, mass assassination of mayflies and the disappearance of a slice of cherry pie at a tiny diner and the trip was just beginning.
It's still ongoing, though I've been here a while now. I've healed in this place. Though adult when I got here, I've grown up in this place. My home has gone from an apartment with all the coziness of a dental lab to a sprawling, warm, wood and art filled home on a bit of land. I sit here tonight after a couple of days on the road, with a cold beer, watching the sun set on a pond. MY pond. My land. And despite setbacks and a couple of tears along the way, it's spawned new faith, and strength in the countless days marked with bitter cold and radiating warmth, monotonous wonderful days of work and friends, gunfire and laughter, water and sky. Countless days here, now receding like ancient glaciers that once crept down upon this place, leaving the land flat in their wake, leaving an ancient mark upon my heart. A gypsy heart that's taking root.

I may someday decide to move, but my heart will have a place here always.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Photo Lab- a day in pictures.

It's the start of a three day weekend, but after a VERY hectic week there's not a whole lot in me as far as words. But there WAS a camera laying around and an empty kitchen.

The day starts very early, the light still dim outside, hunting for matches to light a fire. As one of my friends said "you have to like a gal that has stripper clips of SS109 Steel Core penetrators in her kitchen junk drawer".Then breakfast. A BREAKFAST CASSEROLE of cornbread stuffing, veggies, a dash of crushed red pepper, spicy sausage, cheese, eggs and sour cream mixed together and baked up tall and fluffy like a souffle. I think this will do.
Go ahead, enlarge the pictures. I know you want to.
The rolls? Crescent rolls smeared with a touch of jalapeno pepper jelly and cream cheese and then rolled up. A nice cool/hot pairing to the casserole.

Now time for play with the toys. That's a new 357 Marlin with stainless steel. Looking at this all I can think of is the quote from Army of Darkness, Boomstick Edition which I watched last night.

I'm the guy with the gun"

Or while hawking the latest in stainless steel.
"Name's Ash (cocks rifle). . . . Housewares".
But now it's time to get some work done. There's brass to be polished.
Guns to be cleanedYardwork to do.
Books to read.

Doesn't every girl have a 5.56MM M16A2 rifle maintenance manual lying around in a pink binder?
And one VERY patient black lab that wants me to put the camera down and take him to the park that has the deep creek he can jump into during his walk.

Whatever YOUR weekend brings, I hope you have a "Garand" time.