Thursday, May 27, 2010

Sit Down a Spell

My mission yesterday was to finish an idea I've had for a few years: to build a bench beside our firepit. I wanted to use rustic wood and not finished lumber, so my project started at Tom's Cypress, a cypress lumberyard in Waldo. I selected a couple choice planks,  couple stump/knee pieces, and two limbs (that I ended up not using at all) for $172, and hauled them home in my pickup.

The lumber sat for two days before I could arrange some time to devote to the task, plus I was rolling over my approach in my mind and making sketches to be sure I didn't screw up. I did not want to have to buy more stock. Then on Wednesday, I gathered my material and tools to see what else I needed.

I thought I needed a couple large flat-headed lag screws, but a trip to the Melrose Ace Hardware showed me that there was no such thing. All the big lag screws had hex heads. So, I came up with an alternate plan using nails, glue, and screws that I had on hand and moved on to laying out the bench.

After positioning the pieces and deciding on a plan, I fired up the chainsaw for some cuts to the supporting posts. This went a lot better than I had imagined, so I was feeling pretty cocky as I began the assembly phase. I placed some Gorilla glue on the top of the bench supports and drove two large nails into each support. Then I mounted the back to the supporting posts with four screws. This step took a while because three of the screws broke in the process. Predrilling holes for the screws probably would have been a good idea, but I lacked a bit long enough to do that, so I blundered on.
After assembly, the angle of the back and the levelness of the bench were acceptable, so I was relieved and proud that it had happened without a major failure.

Spyke and I tried it out for a few minutes and then I recruited her to help me finish it. First we stained the bench and back, and then we let it dry for 4 hours. The stain really brought out the red color in the grain and made a big difference in the appearance.
As soon as the stain dried, we applied one coat of clear satin  polyurethane sealer to help the bench withstand the abuses of sun and weather. It is now ready for prime time. The only thing it needs now is some friends to sit on it and a flickering campfire in front of it while we watch the the lake at sunset.
So come on over and sit a spell.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I Love Squirrels

My recent acquisition of the Squirrelinator, an air rifle that can deliver a pellet about the size of a peppercorn to a precision target 30 yards away at speeds up to 1000 fps has caused some of you to call me a squirrel hater. I just want to set the record straight.

The grey squirrels that live in our area are cute little critters with grey-brown fur, long beautiful tails, and a personality that seems at times adventurous, playful, brave, and pesky. To say that they're cute understates the image of one of these small animals perched in a standing position, large black eyes wide open, nibbling on a seed held in their human-like hands while occasionally flicking that huge bushy tail. There is something artful about the rhythmic ripple that their body and tail make when they hop about.

We've all seen the videos of their cunning (Mission Impossible), flying skills (Squirrel Launcher, Squirrel Catapult), or even their water sports (Twiggy, The Water Skiiing Squirrel). But the fact is: squirrels are notorious thieves. They are so clever at thwarting obstacles, that an entire industry exists to provide ingenious squirrel baffles for birdfeeders. Last year, nearly the entire crop of figs from our single fig tree were eaten by squirrels just a couple days before each fruit was ripe enough to pick (I guess they like 'em a little tart).

My father was a successful hunter and trapper of many types of animals in southwestern Iowa, so I'll confess, I have eaten squirrel, and may do so again some day, but their meat is not particularly tasty; it resembles rabbit except it is a little tougher, and there isn't a whole lot of it to begin with. Kind of like quail - it takes many to make a family meal.

In our neighborhood, there many berry bushes, oak, magnolia, and fruit trees, so the squirrel's plate is quite full. Perfect place to raise a family - and so many do. Many, many do! But there are also foxes, owls, hawks, snakes, coyotes, and who knows what critters, who all love to dine on squirrels. I'm happy to provide them with a little assistance.

I do love squirrels and hope they enjoy their spot in Nature's grand scheme. I just love Spyke's Habitat Fig Preserves much, much more.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Squirrelinator

Yesterday, I bought a solution to my problem of stolen figs:
Genesis Remingeon Air Rifle 1000x
My new Remington Genesis 1000x .177 cal air rifle with Crosman 3-9 x 40 scope will be providing fresh-killed squirrels to the local wildlife for a while. It weighs 7.8 lbs and spits out pellets at almost 1000 fps with the pointed lead Crosman pellets I'm using.
It took me about 10 shots to get the scope zeroed in - it was way out of whack when I first mounted it. I had to turn the vertical 3 complete rounds and the horizontal 2 complete rounds to get it close enough to fine tune. Once I did that, I took a couple shots at my rubber target and got it on second try. Then I packed it up and put it away to await an opportunity.
About two hours later a squirrel ventured out into the open in our back yard. I loaded the rifle and took two extra pellets, in case I got an extra opportunity. I crept out the side door, but the squirrel had scampered away. I wandered around a bit and then saw him at the base of a tree about 30 yards away. I took aim and POP - got him on the first shot!
I really wanted to get a rifle with a wood stock only because I liked the look better, but they were typically about 2-3 lbs heavier. The gun guy at the Gander Mountain store was only slightly helpful and said that a few of his customers had said they were quite happy with the Remington Genesis. In reading reviews, a couple gun critics said that the Gamo Shadow is a more accurate rifle (not sure which model they were talking about), so if you are looking for something similar, you might consider comparing these two. Based on some magazine ads that I'd seen in the past couple months during my initial search, I paid about $100 more than I had expected to get the rifle and a few accessories, but that first kill was so satisfying that it was worth every penny. And, this is a rifle that will provide me many years of service with proper maintenance, so the 250 bucks are now just a passing memory. A small price to pay for decent fig crops in the future. If all goes well, you can expect to taste some of Spyke's Habitat Fig Preserves at the Jamboree.