Friday, December 10, 2010

Addicted to Chaos

Sometimes I am.

Part of the reason I am an addict of mayhem is because I moved into a home that needs myriads of repairs, repairs that need to be done while I live there with 3 kids and a lovely wife.

Don't get me wrong, I dig my house, but I've come to the conlusion that I am a perpetual project starter, but not a project finisher. I get bored by the end game. In the back of my head, I think, "Well that, I can finish that whenever. It will only take X________ amount of time." Then years go by and I am left scratching my head wondering why there are 30 projects that still need completion.

As I write a new year is one the horizon. My goal for this upcoming year is to do as much work as I can to my home. I need to. The place looks a lot better than when I purchased it, but it still feels undone, unfinished, and consequently chaotic. Uncle Sam, you can't pay me back fast enough, because I have a lot to get done around here. Give me my check and say go. This shit needs to happen.

If it wasn't that I was so easily distracted, I could finish each project in the house and be done with it. But it is not so. While in the midst of one thing, another demonstrates a more urgent need. If only I could rip it all apart and put it back together at once, life would be a lot easier. That and a lot of money. Well, easier said than done.

Like hunting for your own food, I think it is a manly thing to build your own home, to rework it yourself, from the bones out, as necessary, as desired. I get juice from Lowe's when I don't have the stress of a project and commensurate lack of funds looming over my head. I just stand there and feel the power, but even then, they lack stuff. Stuff for fine woodworking and rough cut lumber. But overall, they kick ass. Yes, I am rambling.

In a word, I have found it is harder for me to finish what I've started than to start anew. This needs to be remedied in the coming year. Whatever I begin, I finish. It must be done.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sticking with Leupold

I had been waffling on the idea of keeping my big caliber rifle, selling or trading it in favor of finishing my AR build or buying a Mossy 590, something basically, that would see a lot more active duty and use than a big bore rifle.

The 300 WSM (Winchester Short Magnum) is something of a niche caliber out this way, with most devotees sticking with the more popular 300 Win Mag or more frequently a .308. This is why, I think, I have not been able to move this gun very easily at a reasonable price online. You gotta want a 300 WSM in a Remmy 700 SPS, just like I did.

But the WSM is a good caliber by all reports. It will get it done in the field. One reason I have not shot my gun is because I had not yet invested in some serious glass.

There has been a recurring discussion over at Wethearmed.com regarding optics and best bang for the buck, with the end result recommendation of going out to a gun store and looking through as many scopes as possible to get a feel and sense of what you are paying for in each price range.

To my happy surprise, I found that Gander Mt. in Winchester has revamped their weapons area, which now includes a small section of dummy stocks and mounted scopes. It's a brilliant idea, IMO, since it allows the consumer to look through at his leisure all the available scopes without having to pester and feel pressured by the guy behind the gun counter.

To my surprise, I liked Leupold's top end VX-1 the best. The glass was shockingly clear and put everything in nice relief. I'll be purchasing the VX-II in 3-9x40 since that is the top end of what I can afford come tax time. The new VX-IIs are actually the world class vx-IIIs of a several years ago, according to what I have read on the interwebs.

It was also recommended to the check out Nikon. Nikon was nice and clear but not to my taste. I actually preffered the VX-I over Nikon's Monarch and Buckmaster. Maybe that's because I couldn't see them out in the field, but alas, that was to my surprise after everything I've read.

Anyway, I just wanted to put that out there as food for thought. I will also be purchasing a Harris bipod for the rifle and maybe a few other goodies. But right now it's time to think about Turkey.

Happy Thanksgiving!

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Words from the Past

First, and most importantly, a brief announcement: Kieran Nicholas Marmalejo was born on November 14, at 6:09am, weighing in at a healthy 8 lbs. 6 oz. and 20 and 1/4 inches long. We are glad to have him and I am very proud.

He's a few days old now, and I am up while everyone else is asleep. This week has been wonderful, but it has been an adjustment too. It's 3 on 2, or, if you prefer, a 3 and 2 year-old verse the home team, or something like that, with a baby brother in reserve. The one thing that has been becoming increasingly and now crystal clear over the past several months is that time is at a premium.

While reflecting on this, and on my many projects, interests and hobbies, I recalled a post I wrote sometime ago on renovating the bathroom, a process which is finally reaching it's conclusion.

The one thing I want to highlight is that as things become more complete, life becomes more sane. Our exterior life is often an accurate reflection of our interior dispositions. Even though things are often crazy around here, when I see things getting organized and getting done, I breathe easier. I see the "tranquility of order" and long for some of that myself.

I just wish it would stay a little longer when it does arrive.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rats 1, Nick 0

A year seems like a long time, but the number of items we own often go unused or get brushed aside for a year or longer. My shed is a good example of this.

My shed has mostly been a pathetic disaster of personal items, tools, debris, and who knows what else. Today I took a hard line and began emptying it wholesale. Before I knew it, I had a vast pile of scrap, unused items, and the remnants of a rats' nest. In fact, I could hear the damn things squeaking away every so often as I shoveled their home into Glad bag oblivion.

It was quite a mess. But I was not depressed. Actually, I was fairly juiced because I am starting to see the vision for it as a functional workshop, notwithstanding my rodent problem. In cleaning it out, I created a ton more space, making ample room for the Jet table saw, the Craftsman radial arm saw my dad passed on to me, and my recently acquired Rockwell drill press, which I bought today for a steal ($60!).

In fact, my wood scrap problem has gotten to the point that I have enough wood for functional workbench and and series of shelves. My strategy in dealing with the rat/mouse problem is to remove all goat and chicken grain from the workspace and make the area very spartan. Mice and their ilk tend to love warrens and locations that resemble them. Hopefully, between thoroughly cleaning and emptying the place and putting down poison, this problem will remove itself. Time will tell, but at this point, I kind of expect at least some mouse and rat activity.

The remaining half of my strategy involves keeping everything stored away neatly, in tool boxes, or hanging along the wall, as appropriate. At least this way if the vermin do come, my tools have some protection from their dung and cleanup will be fairly swift. This is the hope anyway. Since I am not made of money, I have to make this space work, like it or not.

I do take some solace in looking at my neighbor's work shed--which is a third the size of mine, but piled in a quasi-organized fashion from floor to ceiling with tools and anything else you might need for building just about anything. If he can make his shop work for him (he does all of his sawing outside), then I can certainly make mine work for me.

Anyway, I am inspired at the moment with my progress. Hopefully, my strategy will deter or kill the emmisaries of the mouse kingdom. If it doesn't, nothing will change, but at least amidst the wasps and mouse dung, I'll be able to find my tools.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Lessons from Furniture Making

So I have been really into working with wood for a couple months now. I mean, I've been watching numerous podcasts regarding how to make furniture from scratch and it has helped me immensely in my day job as a maintenance guru and also to understand wood and working with it a whole lot better.

As I've mentioned elsewhere and here I think, I am working towards a hand tool only shop. I say that, but the reality of what works comfortably for me, I think, is a blended shop, which is a mixture of power and unplugged hand tools.

I don't think I could give up the convenience of a Power Miter Saw, for example, or a circle saw. My saws are sacred to me. Cutting 2x4s to length, spindles, trim, or whatever, in easy, accurate, and repeatble fashion on my Hitachi Miter Saw at work is the cat's pajamas. Ripping stock on the table saw opens up doors that previously didn't exist. Throw a router, jig saw, some clamps, a compressor and nail gun in there, and you are set up to conquer foreign lands.

In fact, this is my exact set-up at work. I have a large rolling workbench (which I will soon outfit with massive rubber-tired casters) that supports all my goodies. I call it "rolling thunder" and I put it into action for the first time yesterday. I am going to add custom storage onto it, but it is essentially up and running. It is designed so that I can show up basically anywhere at work and be ready to dominate at a moment's notice. When it is not being transported to a distant location, it is in or outside the garage as a functioning workbench, doing all the same tasks it would do elsewhere.

But the more hand tools you incorporate in your work, the better you become, I think. It makes you become more innovative when you learn how things are/were done without the help of power tools. At least it does for me. For example, with the use of quick clamps and 2x scrap, I quickly created an as-need planing stop on my bench for measuring boards to length with a template instead of tape. This is a faster and more accurate way to go. As I was clamping, I realized I had leveled-up in work. This is not something I would have done instictively a year ago. I'd still be scratching my ahead.

Anyhow, I hope you are well, alive, and kicking.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

It's that time again

Time to fire up the woodstove, that is.

We recently cut down 2 black locusts, which were perilously above our house. Thankfully, they came down without a hitch, and now I have a ton of future firewood to cut, split, and stack outside. Black Locust actually burns well green, meaning it will hold a flame and produce heat, but not as much heat as if it were seasoned, of course.

Still, it will suffice for the early part of the season. I called my first order in on Friday and it should be here about this weekend. It's a mix of hardwoods: ash, walnut, locust mostly, with possibly a little bit of oak. I may decide to call in a cord of fully seasoned oak at some point to get us through the coldest months, but it will just depend.

I meant to have wood brought to me at the end of the last heating season, to dryout and be ready for the winter, but alas, my funds didn't allow it. Next year, perhaps.

Heating with wood is a mixed bag in some ways. There's nothing like a fire to sit around, but the romance wear's off somewhat when you have to go outside with a chainsaw in the snow to make a piece fit in your stove, or when you are ass-tired or sick and have to start a fire from scratch. It can be a royal pain, but in the end, it's still pretty awesome.

Back when we lived in our D.C. apartment, the heat was controlled by an old steam system and a boiler. This heat was easily ideal. We never froze, but if the power went or gas out we would have been shafted mega. It never happened while we were there but it could have. Still, snuggling up next to those radiators was pretty damn wonderful.

My own opinion on the best system is that self-same steam heat--through radiators--combined with a woodstove. It also depends on the design of the house. Stoves do better when the heat can rise upwards, but radiators are more effective with a sprawling or awkwardly laid out home. We have a propane furnace as well to fight off the sub-zero weather, but I would gladly trade it for those radiators, especially when it comes to the bill.

So, yes, it's heating season. I'll be spending my weekend stacking wood and kindling to get us ready for the cold. I've learned my lesson well last season that you want your wood ready and your house sealed against the cold.

Until next time, peace out!

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Of Planes & Workbenches...



Ok, you know you need at least a refresher post when you are sick of seeing your olde post.

After finishing John English's book on Hand Planes, I picked up Christopher Schwarz's book, Workbenches: From Design and Theory to Contruction and Use. Both were good reads and served as a fitting entry point into the realm of hand tools.


English's book is simple and straightfoward. He covers all the planing and scraping tools, with a history of major brands and offers his respectable opinion here and there. His book was an eye-opener and pleasantly illustrated. I'm sure that there are other books out there that are as just as good or better, but this one just happened to be on the shelf at my local Borders.

Schwarz's book, however, is an entirely different matter. It is profound, a book that makes you reconsider everything you know about woodworking and workbenches, even if you knew nothing in the first place. For the woodworker, the workbench is the most important tool in the shop, but a work bench is one of the most important tools in any shop.

You can do an amazing amount of work with a well-appointed bench, and Schwarz's book shows you how and is an excellent starting point for bring your own ideas to bench design. In addition, the book offers two plans for two distinct benches, which, in my opinion, are alone worth the price of the book. These benches, (one of which is pictured above), are not just serious tools, they are works of art as well.

In the book Schwarz poses the question, "Do you really need a massive, old-school workbench in your shop?" All I can say is, no, but after reading his book there's something wrong with you if you don't want one.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Monday, September 06, 2010

Labor Day Ramblings



I am a morning person. I tend to get things done more precisely and efficiently in the mornings than during the day. Perhaps that's why my body decided to get up at 4:33 AM today. My mind is fresh. My inspiration, unthwarted. And my energy, at peak.

My obsession with woodworking has continued unabated. Each day I wake up, and each day I wish I was working in my own shop, sharpening tools and creating furniture, cabinets, and other useful things. While I do not eschew power tools, I find myself increasingly drawn to using hand tools predominately. I am saving up for a set of chisels and a book on hand planes. As mentioned previously, I am also brainstorming on building a shop out back exclusively for working with wood. In the meantime, however, certain house projects demand completion and are front and center.

We are all recently returned from Myrtle Beach. What an awesome place! We stayed at Myrtle Beach State Park, which, with the exception of the occasional jet taking off, was an oasis of tranquility amidst the commercialized insanity. The ocean water was refreshing and revitalizing, and wiped away months of stress in minutes. We all left extremely chi'llaxed, especially me. I got a new lease on life, a new focus and new perspective. Don't get me wrong, the world is still going to blow up, the SHTF is on the horizon, but I can at least be a peaceful (Glock-wielding) person.

Before we left for the trip, I completed our walk-in outdoor chicken enclosure. It works great gives greater peace of mind over our chickens (hitherto they were free-ranging toward the road). With that, the core of the infrastructure for our goat-chicken set up is done for the year, notwithstanding some painting, reinforcing and fine tuning.

I am going to head out now and grab some more coffee. In the meantime, do what inspires you and enjoy your Labor Day.

Over and Out,

--Nick

Sunday, August 22, 2010

200th CraZy Post!

I've been getting the juice for wood-working and doing sizable projects at home. At work, I am refurbishing old, graffitied lab tables, turning them into like-new stained and sealed masterpieces. Masterpiece might be a bit of an exagerration, but they are, in fact, turning out far more superior than I expected. Which is good. This work has provided me with plenty of inspiration, and this brings me to me weekend adventure.

After deliverying a trailer load of trash to the Bentonville landfill, an ordeal in and of itself, I made plans to visit our local Rockler dealer in Winchester, McFarland's Mill. Their shop has a good dose of all the miscelaneous items you could need, and sells some serious hardware, too. But main reason for going was to peruse their rough cut timbers for a couple of wood-working projects. Clare, my lovely-wife, has been asking me about making castles for a long time, and so after giving the task some consideration decided to see about obtaining some real hard wood, not Lowe's grown in China items.

I also have it in my mind to try my hand at making some cutting boards after recently re-watching a how-to video over at the Wood Whisperer.

Anyway, walking into the hardwood room was just awesome. I was expecting more wood to be in stock, but what they had was really cool, albeit pricy for what I wanted. They were out of purple heart and the lone piece of rock maple they had remaining was just too pricy. Instead I snagged a couple of smaller pieces of dark walnut and a nice 2-inch thick slab of cherry. The grains and colors are stunning, and when they are sanded an finished, hopefully they will be mind-blowing.

My first prototype is that of Rapunzel's tower, to be sold in my wife's gnome shop (pics to come), provided it meets with her approval. Right now she is impressed, but I am far from finished. I too am pleased at how things are turning out, but as with any project I am desirous of more tools to work with (what tool junkie wouldn't be?) to make the process easier. Right now I have enough wood I think to do three towers and two cutting boards. Now I just need a jointer and a planer and I'll be rockin'.

That said, what I really want to do now is save up the cash to erect a 20x20 wood shop out back. Right now I have a mouse-infested barn that it is more well-suited to farm equipment and hay than my feeble attmepts at fine wood working. Going out there and finding mouse droppings and twigs on or around your tools is frustrating as can be, not to mention the hornets that tend to take up residence, or the rat I saw Friday night. Yeah, it's enough to make me scream sometimes.

So, that is the plan. New building which hopefully will lead to lots of side work and fun projects, and hopefully growth in skill.

Godspeed. Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

P.S.--Buy your preps now before the world blows up!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Get It Done!

So, this weekend I put the hammer down and went full-speed ahead on one of the mandatory, pre-winter, pre-baby projects that had hitherto been looming on my mind's horizon for months: re-insulating the exterior wall in our bedroom and deleting the old front door to the outside.

Last winter, and the winter before that, I froze my arse off. I swore to myself this last time that I would do whatever it took to replace that old door and whatever was behind the drywall with with beautiful R-19 insulation. It's nasty to install, but the pay off is well-worth it. I believe what was pre-existing was R-13, so I swapped it out for the good stuff. I was going to go with R-39, but aside from being pricy, there simply is not enough room for it to expand in our walls, so I stuck with the standard R-19

The project went remarkably smooth. I took a few pictures after the demo was done, but since they strike me as hideous, I will not post them. After installing the new insulation, I covered the interior of the wall with 1/2' OSB plywood, per my mountain-man carpenter neighbor's suggestion--a piece of advice he has followed himself in his house with great success. In fact, last fall, using this technique, he renovated his bedroom, which sits on the north side of the house and consequently gets blasted by the prevailing winds, and stayed warm all of last winter.

I've already noticed a difference with the A/C window unit we have in there. The place stays COLD until you open the door. Nice ice box cold. I'm hoping that come winter it will stay nice and toasty warm.

Installing plywood before the drywall is more work, but it the results are better: the room feels more solid (it is); the room is much quieter; and the extra layer or ply helps with the R-factor, or adds another layer of insulation, sealing out undesireable weather.

Anyway, I just felt the need to get moving on this, even in the midst of my 31 other projects I have going on around here. Slowly, but surely we are becoming more organized and slight more sane-seeming. Possibly. I don't know, but it sure feels nice to have this one off the shoulders and off the horizon.

Until next time...

Over and out,

--Nick-Dog

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Thirst for Adventure














Quenched.

This morning I was up at 2AM, restless as can be. I've been fiending to spend some serious time in the woods for the past week, and today these moments had arrived.

The pics above are from the hike up to Buzzard Rock. It's two miles one way of moderately difficult terrain. Appalacia's infamous rocks line the trail in parts, making it the hike a bit more challenging. According to hikingupwards.com, the ascent is a mere 650 feet, but there's a lot of up and down along the way.

This was THE perfect hike for today. Before the trip, I emptied my milsurp bug-out bag (which needed to be cleaned out anyhow) that I keep in the vehicle, added 2 liters of H20 in USA made Nalgene's, some trail mix, the foldable doggy bowl, a banana, and some sugar cookies neatly packed in tupperware, this last ostensibly for the dog.

Leia and I were out of the house at 6:01 and at the trail head at 6:09, while my family was still asleep. Having not been out on a trail by myself in a long time, I was bit apprehensive first about plunging into the forest alone, just because. I was reassured, however, by the legally concealed Glock on my hip and my canine companion's enthusiasm and lust for adventure. After the initial adjustment to the change of scenery, I was overcome by the peace of the mountain and the Eastern Forests and energetically pursued the climb.

Leia and I made it to the first summit and overlook at the right moment. Even though she was tired, Leia did not want to stop until we made it, which was remarkable. She didn't want to continue upwards from there, though, so we copped a spot and pulled out the supplies. I gave Leia a sugar cookie, and she promptly buried it, which made me laugh. I gave her another, and she buried that one too. I guess these were gifts to the mountain, unless she plans on coming back to retrieve them later. Makes me wonder what I have buried in my yard.

One awesome thing about the trip was that it was still very cool under the forest canopy, making the temperature ideal for a hike. At the top, the steady breeze was chilly on sweat. I was wearing one of my fly-fishing Gander Mountain long sleeve shirts and jeans, but I wish I had a warmer garment.

>After snapping a few pictures and basking in the moment, we began our descent to civilization. As always, I was impressed with Leia's ability to pick her way through myriads of rocks, and I was heartened to see some skip return to her step as we began the up and down portion which signaled that we are on the last half of the trail.

We made it out to the Jeep by 8:01. I was impressed. Clare and the kiddos would just be waking up, and I satisfied my desire to be alone amidst nature and the denizens of the mountain.

A couple of reflections before I close. My work boots, which are stiff steel-toed Red Wings, from there Made in China Worx line, performed awesomely. I mean these things delivered better than anything I've worn previously on a hike; they made the troublesome stones along the trail much easier to navigate safely and kept my ankle well-supported during the occasional slip. Overall, I'd wear these things again in a heartbeat, but I am interested in seeing what Red Wing has to offer in their line of actual hiking boots.

Traveling light and traveling smart cannot be overemphasized. As always on a hike like this, my thoughts drifted to those intrepid souls who thru-hike from Georgia to Maine or elsewhere. Ultra-light is the way to go, especially since that frees up room for more ammo. But seriously, for things like a bug-out bag, where what's in your bag is your life, each item, at some point, needs to be carefully selected, especially if you have to travel through mountainous terrain.

One last thing. Waking up ass-early and getting out doing something awesome before the day starts is the way to go. Sometimes you just need to get off your internet ass and do something. I am really glad I did.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goats et al

Et al. It's an abbreviation we use in English for the Latin term, et alia, which means "and all that other stuff" or "everyone else."

Goats: It' s been an interesting couple of weeks. I spent my 100 degree days pulling goat fence off a mountain and then installing it on our property, only to have the goats escape and make a mockery of my work. They are peaceful animals, but they don't take to prison well. We are going to have to build a serious fence using cemented posts because the metal stakes aren't cutting it. Between that and cutting out some of overstretched deer fence, we should be ok. Give these guys a whole the size of their head, and you've got problems...

Back: In the process of the above, lifting 80 lb. bags of concrete with bad form, I pulled a muscle in my lower back, which has been bothering me for nearly two weeks. However, today I discovered the magic of Aleve, and I'm back in business as they say. So I chose to buy some for the home pharmacy. This way when the SHTF, and I am outside finishing my survivalist compound, and pull a back muscle, I can pop a few pills and still be ready for guard duty. Seriously, this stuff is rockin'. I went ahead and purchased the generic. Same stuff, lower price.

D&D Diversion: So being kinda laid up and all, I took a stroll down memory lane with Google and downloaded the 1988 Dos version of the game, Pool of Radiance, not to mention the code wheel, Adventurer's Journal, and clue book. Despite it's age, this game has it all: imaginative plot, cool tactics, and personality. The player really feels he is knee deep in another world. Maybe it's because this is the first real fantasy game I ever played. Perhaps, but it's still the best, even with it's several shortcomings.

SurvivalBlog: I've been tuning into SurvivalBlog.com, for lack of anything new and intelligent out there on the forums. SurvivalBlog.com is one of the best resources out there, in my opinion, for articles on SHTF scenarios. Not everything captures my interest, but enough to get me to come back a couple times a week. I imagine their archive is a mine of data and worth perusing. Anyway, once you understand the basics of preparedness, it's all about how far one takes it from there. We are at the (wannabe) homestead level, though it leaves me pulling my hair out when my neighbor shows up to announce that he has my goat...for the 9th time.

But better than survivalblog, is Backwoods Home magazine. Probably the same characters frequent both, but Backwoods is THE best, IMO, source regarding homesteading. They are serious, and seriously cool and more insane than me at that.

Latin & Classical: I've been tuning in to Classical music on the way to work. It helps calm my nerves on my commute after listening to how O and the democrats are destroying the country every day. It's this November or never. We need some authentic hope, and real change. I also want to give Latin a serious go--for it's own sake, because I am really challenged by it, and could fancy myself one day teaching it--but making that a reality is a steep climb. I need to finish my desk first, which requires me to finish my office area in the loft. Process. Process.

That's it in a nutshell, for now.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tactical Milking Goats

Clare and I hooked up with two goats this past weekend. One is in milk, the other will be ready this fall to get pregnant, with kid(s) to come in the spring.

The way this all transpired is a Godsend. Truly. We weren't even planning on goats until next year, but not only did we get the goats, but we also received the fencing, hay, feed, and all the other miscellaneous stuff that goes with them. It's pretty crazy to be honest, but cool from a back to the earth and S&P (survival and preparedness) perspective.

It makes me wonder, though, about what's coming.

It could be that this was just a fortunate stroke of goodness that came our way. OR, it could be like God saying, BE READY. For what, I'll leave that up to you.

Either way, I like the goats, and I am really glad to have them as part of our homestead.

I'll be picking up the remainder of the fencing tomorrow, and start installing the fence around their pen and the chicken coup. This is all crazy to me, but it's really neat to be out there with a couple of new buddies while I work. Between the chickens and the goats, I have plenty of company.

That's it. I mean, we have goats now. We just need to catch up with this decision and make the necessary changes in our lives to accommodate them. Once we have that done and the garden finished it will be sweet sailing, I hope. But, as always, there will be more to do and more projects to complete.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

PS--Stop waiting and buy your guns.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Marlin Glenfield Model 60


I've been waiting to purchase one since last Fall, and finally scored a sweet deal yesterday with a cool chap on www.vaguntrader.com. No waiting in line (except on I-95) and no fuss. The gun was exactly as described and it was nice meeting another gun dude. Purchased new in 1976 by the man's father, this was left on the gun rack for years and saw perhaps 100 rounds down the tube.



The condition of this firearm is like new, albeit with a few repaired scratches, and the etching and coloring on the stock is simply beautiful. This is your a-typical backwoods .22 from the 70s. The scope is a Redhead Outlook with a 3--9x40. It's a cheap optic, but it will do for now. For $130 for the package, I really couldn't pass on this deal, especially for a rifle in such pristine condition.

Anyway, pics to come, and hopefully lots of shooting too.

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Of Dark Elves...


The last few days I've been more listless than I can remember being in years. Normally, I feel a sense of purpose, a personal drive, which carries me through my day. But this torpor is difficult at best to endure. So I found myself seeking an escape--nay, motivation--and gravitated to some books I've been meaning to re-read at some point. The Dark Elf trilogy, by R.A. Salvatore. Of all his works, these are the most inspired. After 20 years of just seeing them on the shelf, I was pleased to find that the story still completely delivered. Drizzt Do'Urden is a bad ass of epic proportions, and his story as related through this trilogy is intense.

Anyway, I normally eschew the realm of fantasy, not out of animosity for the genre. Far from it. I keep it at a distance because I know my weakness. I could be consumed by it. So on a very limited basis, I allow myself the occasional foray to the realms of the imagination, this time to the Underdark, to the forbidden world of the Drow, (aka, Dark Elves).

Indeed, it has been less forbidding than my own backyard.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stuff on my mind

It's been a bit since my last post. Last Monday we arrived back from our annual trip out to Chicago. It was great to be out in the Midwest, but it is great to be back

On our return trip, I was tested in ways I did not expect.

First, after a pit stop at Cabela's in Wheeling, I swung into the nearby gas station. As I parked, a sketchy-looking female emerged from behind the building near the dumpster. We made eye contact, and I watched her swing behind my minivan. As I exited the vehicle, I checked my six to see her coming around to ask me a question. I did not like this--my own van was possibly being used as interference for a second person to sneak up on me from behind. Subconsciously, I put space between myself and the van so that it would be harder for a second person to close the distance quickly for a surprise attack. The doors to the van were locked and the key was in the ignition. I angled myself so that my strong side was away from the girl as she made her request for money. I said no, watched her walk away, and then entered the building.

While standing in line to check out with my waters. I watched another sketchy fellow enter and purposefully give me a hard look. I met his gaze and concluded my business passing him on the way out. My only thought is that he was either just another jerk out there or her accomplice. Either way, I got in the van and continued on the trip.

The thing here is even though I reacted pretty well, I was not on my A-game and it bothered me. I was 10 hours into a 14-hour trip. I just walked out of my favorite store. And I was on vacation in unfamiliar territory. Positionally, I was at a distinct disadvantage. But I was at least not clueless about being attacked and I was ready to drop this chick without having to draw my weapon.

What could have happened? Nothing, or a full blown mugging attempt. If someone approached from behind and I looked she could have produced a knife or gun and attacked. It could have been ugly, with my family being right there to watch. I'm just glad everything worked out. This had me silent for quite awhile, running over the events in my mind. When someone circles to backdoor you, you know something is up.

Secondly, Clare began choking on a seemingly innocent pretzel while I was in the driver's seat doing 70 on I-79 South in WV. With no room to pull off on either side it was a husband's nightmare. In a catch-22, I swung into the median as quickly as I could, and then once things were slightly more stabilized I juiced out of there a half mile ahead where I was able to get onto the shoulder.

Pulling onto the shoulder on an interstate is always a sketchy thing. It't the last place you want to be, but sometimes you gotta deal with existing circumstances in a hurry. We got Clare changed quickly and headed out to finish the trip.

When we finally arrived home, I opened the door to an odiferous dwelling. The smell of rotting, molding food assualted my senses and we discovered that the freezer door opened, that everything melted inside and began growing mold. A total mess, which we cleaned the next day. Things appear to be running better now, but it was not exactly a friendly welcome home greeting after a long-ass trip.

Since I've been back, I've had a new lease on life and getting things on our homestead in order. My goal is to accomplish one significant improvement to the house or property each day, so we can see some progress. Also, my boss is leaving for a new assignment and this has provided an unexpected sense of liberty. The new guy is coming to be sure, but the game will be different and likely there will not be so many items on the table at the outset.

Transitions and odd connections seem to be occuring all around me right now, as if the pieces on God's chess board are being aligned. It could be nothing, or not. I don't know, but I think this is a good time to polish the gun and buy a few extra magazines. Let us remember that July 4 is a terrorist holiday and that we need always to be on guard, especially when we think it's time to celebrate.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Range Report, Day 1

Today, I visited Willow Slough shooting range in NW Indiana with my 14-year-old nephew, Kevin. I called ahead to make sure we could shoot, as he is a minor and I'm from VA. Everything checked out, and we arrived 20 minutes early to burn some lead.

The range was clean, and the range officer was straight up, but the kind of chap who has a bumper sticker on his truck that says "9 out of the 10 voices in my head say 'Pull the trigger.'" We signed in and followed the rules to letter.

We shot from 25 yards. I emtpied two clips. I am really pleased with how well I was controlling the gun in terms of recoil today. The sights were back on the target each time focused on the 10 spot. I put one in there, but I'm not sure if it was more luck than skill. That being said, I am feeling my grip is much better. 13 out of 34 shots, after not shooting for a year, hit the paper. My load was the ubiquitous Remington 115 grain in 9mm. Adequate for shooting the side of a barn, but not to much else. Either that, or I just really don't know what I am doing and need some solid instruction. Either way, I'll take the instruction.

I am totally juiced about heading out to the LCC tomorrow with Martin S. with 4 different loads. The Remington, Federal 115 gr., Blazer Brass 115 gr., and Lawman in 115 gr. I am thinking the Lawman will be the superior round, as it is the closest to the Speer Gold Dot, which has been highly accurate. Anyway, we will see. I will get back to you after WE BURN SOME AMMO!!!!!

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Tacticool Toolbag Primer (Revisited)




I make my living fixing stuff. I love it. I love what I do. If you would have asked me 15 years ago if this would be my profession, I would have told you "No way in Hell, Jack!" Honestly, it's crazy how things change.

Tools are a passion of mine. Growing up in and around my Dad's garage, especially when I was told to clean the dang thing, I looked at a lot of tools and learned about them and what they could do. By being around my dad and brother fixing stuff I learned through osmosis and sometimes instruction on how to repair or build things. These guys built skyscrapers. There is nothing they could not handle, and they always had the best tools for the job.

I may very well have become an iron worker if my dad encouraged it, or would have joined the military if I wasn't dissauded at a young age. But as life has it, the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. The life of a preparedness-minded maintenance dude agrees with me.

Anyway, above is my emergency response bag. This is the one I have at home. I have one at work that is nearly identical with some minor differences. At either location, I can handle 85-90% of maintenance problems that arise. Everything from electrical to plumbing to carpentry to whatever. Usually, there's a tool in the bag that will do the trick.

I got the idea for the tacticool electrician style bag from our excellent HVAC guys, who have to climb on roofs and other places every day to do their job. We all have tons of tools, but the essentials are left in the bag for when duty calls. Excitedly, I put one together at work and then began building one for home about three years ago. The contents are, in my opinion, essentials listed below for your consideration:

1.) Hexnut drivers (Standard). You never know know when you'll need one of these. I keep these on hand because they are solid and keep me from running to grab the ratchet set too often.

2.) Screwdrivers. An obvious must. I prefer Klein Long Shanks. These are #2. At work I also have tiny small #2s for the occasional tight spot. And tiny regular and philips screwdrivers for opening electronics, repairing glasses, and what not. Also included above is an awl. It's the pointy thing next to the screwdrivers.

3.) Volt Tester: It tells you if an outlet or wire is hot. Above is a red GB instruments product. It works, sometimes. In the future I will purchase one by Fluke, because I simply don't trust the GB.

4.) Multimeter: Reads voltage, amps, etcs. As one electrician told me, always double check with the multimeter to see if a wire is hot, even if you've used a volt tester first. You just never know.

5.) Tape: I keep electrical tape on hand, as well as white and yellow tape for water and gas plumbing respectively. I don't carry plumbers putty in the bag, simply because if I need that, I usually need a whole bunch of other stuff, and I keep that in a seperate dedicated plumbing tool box. Also good to have if you are working with gas is some of the gas-bubbly. It's basically a liquid that you put on a fitting, and if it bubbles up, you know you have a leak.

6.) Safety glasses: The ones above are tinted. It's good to have a couple laying around. Don't risk jacking your eye if you can't find them. That's why it's good to have more than one, especially when working with wood.

7.) Wire Strippers: A necessity if you are working with wire. Mine are Kleins

8.) Drywall saw: When you need it, nothing else suffices. Similarly, I keep two box cutters in the bag, in case one gets misplaced.

9.) Extra screw driver: Just in case. Has multi-sized heads.

10.) Mini-Crow bar/nail puller: Perfect when you need to bash something. Or get out a nail you can't reach with a hammer.

11.) Hammer: An absolute must. I prefer a 16 ounce Estwing. Well-worth every penny, especially when you gotta do a lot of pounding.

12.) Spark igniter: I keep one on the bag in case I need to access a torch. I don't use it much, but it looks bad ass hanging there.

13.) Pliers: Sidecutters, Diagonal cutters, and needlenose (both long and short, if possible). I like Klein's. Channelocks are good too.

14.) Adjustable Wrench/Channelocks: I grew up just calling them Channelocks, because that's what my dad and brother owned. You need 2 different sizes. 12 inch and 8 inch. That should handle most issues related to plumbing, unfastening, or what have you.

15.) Flashlight: Duh. Sometimes you will need to see in a place where it's dark. I have a simple mag lite in the bag, although I should probably eventually switch it to an LED maglite.

16.) Metal File: Especially handy for plumbing with copper, or working with any type of metal for that matter.

17.) Adjustable mirror: These things are like two bucks at Autozone. They are very handy for inspecting unaccessible spots. This is the most recent addition to the bag.

18.) Tape Measure: Another essential. I also like to have a small level in the bag, but right now it's on my framing belt.

19.) Wood chisel: At work I also keep a metal pin/chisel as well for the unexpected, but for home it's just not practical. Has many good uses.

20.) Screw Tackle Box: This thing is great and keeps commonly used items organized. I always keep plenty of wire nuts, self-tapping metal screws, washers, and drywall screws in minel. I also have a miscellaneous section with a a hodgepodge of oddball screws, nuts and nails. You just never know when you are going to need something, and there is a special victory in not having to run to your shed or Lowe's to grab it when you find it in your bag.

One last thing: You need a good solid, 18volt cordless screw gun. I carry it seperately, as well as a small "bit" book, that contains multiple bits and drivers. Definitely a must have at some point. I am among the masses who needs to upgrade

My final advice is to not skimp on your tools. As for me, I had a few already, bought the bag, and then dedicated $20.00 from each paycheck to load it up until I was satisfied. I didn't take long before I was ready to rock.

Other tools make there way in and out of the bag as needed, but the ones listed above are the ones I view as essential to have on hand. A tool bag such as the above is also nice because it's easy to carry into battle and you can see what you've got at a glance. Stuff falls to the bottom from time to time, but if you love your tools the way I do it's refreshing and inspiring to reorganize.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Knee Deep...

I've been MIA from my usual haunts this week, as I've been standing knee deep in insulation--blown-in AND batts--at work, not to mention rest of the debris. We are doing an office retro-fit and I am everything from day laborer to project manager on this job, from dawn to dusk.

It will be good to get this one out of the way. There's been a lot of build up over this project, and once it's over, life as a maintenance guy, I hope, will become somewhat normal.

Anyway, I wanted to post up and say yo, what up.

Peace Out, homies.

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Hitting the Spot

I've had it in my mind for a week or so that I would be returning to West Va. for my birthday, specifically to Lost River State Park.

What I did not intend until the last minute was going the long way, and by long I mean roundabout. The scenic route. The one you take only when you get lost or are going somewhere else. Yes, that would be the route I took.

I gave the map a cursory look on Google, but neglected to zoom in. The road Atlas I looked at while at the truck stop was little better. In fact, I thought I had gained clarification. Only when I stopped to ask for further clarification just short of Orkney Springs did I realize the breadth of my (mis)adventure. I recalled a certain unmarked fork in the road, where I zigged instead of zagged and chose the path less traveled. We nearly turned back, but my intrepid and understanding wife, wanting me to get it out of my system and have a good birthday, convinced me otherwise.

I'm glad she did. I enjoyed our return to the park immensely, despite the length of the trip. The cool thing is we got to see parts of Va. we've never seen, much of which was simply breathtaking and some of which was reminiscent of "The Road." The stretch of 42 from Woodstock to Basye is one to remember for sure.

Anyway, Lost River is my favorite state park, an isolated oasis of tranquility and beauty. It is way the hell out for sure, but worth it in spades. I can't say enough about this place, and many others in West Va. So in keeping with the spirit of keeping a place like this unknown and unsullied, let me just state for the record that West Va. sucks and Lost River is the place where unwashed rednecks hang out with banjos.

Godspeed,

--Nick-Dog

--

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

In case you haven't noticed...

The world is circling the drain.

Greece goes belly-up and the DOW drops a grand? 1.5 trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. Bailouts here, there, and everywhere. Here a trilion, there a trilion. What the hell is a billion anymore, really? And we are supposed to be pissed about CEO bonuses?! Give me an FN break.

If there was an event to signal that the light has gone from hazard yellow to "Oh shit!" red, it was the Greece/Dow plummet. At least for me. Either way, the fact is that every first world economy in the world is in the red, and the world is starting to notice. Our own country is bankrupt. The full faith and credit of the United States is presently a fiction that others choose to believe so things can chug along as if nothing is wrong, but the fact is that the system is so corrupt that eventually the only way left to go will be a systemic collapse.

Combine the above with the fact that terrorists are still on the hunt and hell bent on destroying America, and our problems don't get any smaller. If you've ever been at sea, this is the moment you say to yourself, "We're in the shit!" You realize that you are in the middle of the rough sea, with no end in site in any direction. Yet you chart your course nonetheless and weather the storm as best as possible.

This morning, even the local conservative radio host, Christ Plante, who is awesome, was asking the question, how are you preparing for the seemingly turbulant times down the road? I wish I could have listened to the whole show, but the bottom line is that people are taking notice and taking matters into their own hands. One caller in particular said "I'm making sure my guns are clean and I've started my first garden." That's a good indicator of where we are at present.

Friends, now is the time to get your shit together, if you haven't already. Now more than ever. Now is the time. Once the economy collapses, that's it, there's no hitting the reset button and no turning back. Right now, in other places in the world, a collapsed economy is the daily reality, along with corruption, starvation, oppression, and disease.

People who say it can't happen here should remind themselves of ancient Rome before the fall, or of Byzantium, when the empire struggled to maintain its borders against their enemies (some of whom we are fighting now, mind you). While times may change, the human predicament most certainly does not. Barbarism is not bound by place or time, and extended times of peace and prosperity are the exception rather than the rule.

A new dark age looms on the horizon. Now is the time to overcome.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Some good news...




I looked again more thoroughly at the gun laws. It appears that the law I cited about shooting within 100 yards of a road was either a) an older law that has since been overturned/re-written; b.) in reference to a state law that allows individual counties to outlaw shooting up to within 100 yards of the road.

So this means I can shoot on my property.

I will still further research this and perhaps make an anonymous phone call to the county or to the sherriff.

This makes me very happy, as I sorely missed looking at the .22 hanging above my door and feeling like I could go out and shoot.

Also in good news, I finished the book project I've been working on. More about this later, if it actually gets published, but this means I have some money coming my way to spend, in part, on guns.

I would like to purchase a scope for the rifle (.300 WSM) and a new/newly used shotty. My budget scope is a Leupold VX-II for about $300. I need to do a little more research, but I
don't really see a need to shoot out farther than 500 yards (at this time). I could easily spend 2 or 3 times that amount, but it's hard to justify right now.

If I go this route, which seems probable, I am looking for an 8-shot Mossy Persuader, with the butstock. Something very tacticool. An end of the world pump gun. This will round out my arsenal nicely.

(Also on the docket is a .22 Marlin 60, whenever I can find an old school one around here. I will snap it up when I find it.)

Peace Yos,

--Nick-Dog

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Severly F'n Pissed



Above, 10 acres in West Va. for $29,000, about 1-1.5 hours from here.

Yes, that's right. Here's why:

"Don't start! Tell him if he does it again I'll call the law!"

This was the response I received, shouted from somewhere on my northern neighbor's property, from the crackle of a the Marlin Model 80 .22 rifle.

Unfortunately, the law is on her side. In VA, you need to be at least 100 yards from the road to discharge a firearm. I was initially advised by my other neigbors, who are actually closer to our house, that it is ok to shoot on the back 50 since "no one around here really cares." Heavy D, however, who lives to the north is now suddenly upset by my occasional shooting.

These are the same people who shout all the time outside yelling at their kids/relatives/whoever for the whole damn neighborhood to hear. And now duddenly, my May Day salute is offensive.

There is a diatribe of expletives that wish to spew forth from my mowth/fingertips, but I will spare you the details. You see, it's not that they had a problem with me shooting that bothers me. It's that the manner in which the threat was delivered was totally disrespectful. If she had come over and said, "Hey Nick, I know we live in the country and all, but I am really uncomfortable with you shooting here, could you please stop?" I would have been more than cool and would have appreciated the vote of confidence.

That and they have had plenty of opportunities in the past to address me about their concerns. So, WTF? Now it's a problem? Passive aggressive doesn't fly with me. Not one bit.

"Then stay the hell away from my pears" is how I should have responded. Yes, they have confessed that they pick pears from our trees, occasionally.

So anyway, you can imagine that I was pissed by being corrected in this fashion. As so often is the case, it's not what you do, it's how you do it. Writing this out for the world to hear/read makes me feel better.

I am now dead serious about taking action to buy cheap rural land in west va, on which to hunt, zero my rifles and hang out as I see fit. There are no ranges in my locale to speak of, except the Izaak Walton League. But you have to be a member, you can't take friends, etc. In fact, most ranges out here tend to fall under the members only category. It's kinda gay, but understandable.

So anyway, that's my beef. All I needed was an excuse to bug out to West VA. Now I know I have one.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Monday, April 26, 2010

My Wilderness Instructor Belt Has Arrived!!!!

Yippee Kai-Yay Muthas!!!!!!

I finally received my much needed, much desired Wilderness Instructor Belt. It is THE SHIT. Tensile Strength over 4 ton+Made in the USA+Bad ASS=EPIC WIN.

I love my new belt. I shoulda bought this long ago. Well worth it in every respect. My gun is happily situated on the hip, and my Corona is happily situated in my mowth.

Over and Out, Suckas!

--Nick-Dog

Friday, April 23, 2010

Further Thoughts on Renovations

A look at old houses.

As you may know, I've become something of a construction enthusiast over the past couple of years, analyzing various homes in terms of their potential vs. their problems. I get juiced when I see a project in the works on an old home, especially an old country home. Beautiful houses are not made for magazines. They are made to be lived in.

Here's some thoughts on evaluating an old home. It's just a list of things I'd like to keep in mind before looking at a home as an investment. I just can't help it--I really dig real estate.

Ok so you think you've found your new home/project. You like what you see. First thing to really evaluate is the foundation. I recently did a walk through on a rehab in Strasburg. A really pretty house with gorgeous refinished original wood floors, new drywall, electrical tidied up, new appliances in the kitchen, steam heat, wood stove, etc.

And then I walked downstairs. The basement was dark and dank. I could see the moisture on the walls and the rust on the pipes. Bad sign. This doesn't mean walk away, but it spells trouble for the future and this issue will have to be addressed. If you really like a home, you have to be willing to live with it's foibles. If you are going to try and pass it off as a flip, then well, you need to make sure the rest of the house is so nice that the people who buy it are willing to overlook the basement.

In addition to mold, moisture, and rust. Look for cracks along the walls and floor and evaluate the plot of land the house sits on in terms of drainage. If it's on flat land, as this one was was, flooding of the basement may be an issue. French drains and a sump pump are really the only solutions, the latter being the back up plan.

BTW, the house was originally on the market for $99,000. Asking price for this newly renovated dwelling is $167,000. They did a nice job. I'd say it's worth about $150,000 tops.

2.) Planning your renovation. Maybe the wheels are spinning and you can see massive potential in the house. This is good, but the voice of reason, the skeptic in you must win the day. I mean if you are already looking at a potential fixer-upper, you are already an optimist. When you are planning renovations, even off the cuff however, the realist in you must carry the day. Think it will cost $1500? Double it. Think it will take you a month? Consider it three. Think you will realistically work on the place after your 9-5 and on weekends? Cut that time in about half. Now you are getting a more realistic picture, if you are like me, who has to learn the hard way.

3.) Assess reality, not fiction. Look at the whole picture. If a home is out of whack, you need to love out of whack homes. This means that if you see the ceiling drooping, or the floor sagging, or the wall out of plumb here and there, that's what you'll be working with unless you decide to delete old walls to add new ones. When you work with the imperfect, life is always harder and the project will take longer. In some ways, the results will seem more natural in the end. It just depends.

4.) That brings me to my next point. Don't expect everything to simply come together in the finishing touches. It's still going to look out of whack to some extent if it's an older home. You just don't want it to look ghetto.

5.) My final point is to start with a plan, not an idea. Yes, yes, I know, ideas spawn plans. But before you break out your tool box, know exactly what you are going to do each and every step of the way. Have a drawing. With details. You don't have to be an architect, but a drawing does so many thing an idea in your head does not. It organizes your efforts and gives you a realistic "picture" of the final product. Some people even build models. Whatever gives you your vision, don't start unless you have a drawing, and one that includes not just placement of furnitures and built ins but also tracks your plumbing and electrical.

There are many more items I can add, but this will have to do for a moment. The house shows all get rendundant after awhile. At somepoint you just say F-it and whip out the hammer.

Peace Yo's,

--Nick-Dog

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Hitting the Reset Button



Time for a new post.

Last weekend was a supreme occasion for me. I woke up early Sunday morning, checked out Netflix and clicked on watching Conan the Destroyer. I haven't seen this movie in years, but it was a superb way to begin the day and, crazy as it may sound, put a whole bunch of things in perspective.

First, the movie. Arnold in his prime. The dude is massive and imposing, and the point is duly made throughout the film that he is the strongest mofoe anywhere. He's brutish and thugish and has no compunction lopping off heads at will. I love it. You just can't get this level of vintage brutality these days.

Many prefer Conan the Barbarian. Indeed, it is a more intense and dramatic film. The soundtrack is the arguably the greatest that has ever been produced for any movie at any time. And there's some wicked battle scenes. The Destroyer is good, nay, very good, but not quite the first film in all its epic originality. Some people call this stuff campy. I call it great.

"Time enough for the earth in the grave."

Watching this film was so much fun, I can't tell you. It was like hitting the reset button on my life. A little Conan puts it all into perspective. Seeing him blast that camel on the top of its head with a clenched hammer fist made everything feel better. I can't describe it any better than that.

"Oil the Sword. Feed the Horse." Words to live by, my friends.

Peace Out, Homies.

--Nick-Dog

Friday, April 02, 2010

Smithwicks & Slugs

On St. Patty's Day, I found myself at Walmart aquiring a 6-pack of my favorite Irish brew. I also added a couple 5-packs of rifled 2 3/4 12 gauge slugs to the basket. A perfect combination, but it had me thinking: every time I stop at Walmart, I am going to pick some 12 gauge slugs or buckshot. It's an easy way to stockpile ammo without feeling the hit to badly. In a time of crisis, you have what you have and that's it.

Sun Tzu--or someone bad ass--once said, "The great general is not the one who wins 100 battles, but avoids 1000."

I mentioned this recently when talking about my own modus operandi with a fellow martially-minded person. The art of avoiding trouble is every bit as important as learning how to exit or neutralize trouble when it occurs. I find if you think ahead you can avoid all but the realisitically unexpected events, such as Billy-Bob and Tyrone skulking through your backyard with a pocketful of xBox. At that point, one should be so ready that the surprise is on them.

Being ready. Vigilance. Alertness. This is what seperates the warrior from the wannabe. The warrior lives by intention, not by luck. He welcomes luck, but strives to not be dependent on it. Instead he is aware. He who is aware can win many battles by seeing them before they happen, and cutting off his enemy at the pass. Whether it's avoiding the critique of a cranky boss or the jerk-ass driving 25 in 5mph zone, being aware in the present moment can be the difference between a good day or bad one, between business as usual and ending up in the hospital.

We should never underestimate the importance of our own awareness. It is the most critical skill of the warrior, one that needs to be continually refined, practiced, tried-out, honed, lived, and polished.

There are many stories repeated by students of O'Sensei, the founder of Aikido, who told his students to try and surprise him, if they ever found the opportunity. Despite many of them trying, even while he slept, none of them suceeded in doing so. He would stir from his slumber, sensing their intentions. Or walking down an alleyway alongside the dojo, he would feel them waiting behind a corner and change course. Such is the mark of a true master.

The most important skill of the warrior is a supreme awareness. But when that fails, start blasting.

Over and Out,

--Nick-dog

Monday, March 29, 2010

Talking Shop



(The Mazarrati of Saws: Wenzloff & Sons, Dovetail and Carcass saws from www.wenzloffandsons.com)

I've been spending my free time reading up on wood and wood working. It's been an inspiration for me to get my ass in gear and work on making our mini-barn into a small shop.

The first thing I did was purchase a JET bench tablesaw. I don't have room for anything larger, so this will have to do. I plan on building an outfeed table for it, but for now, as I get the place into the semblance of order, it's in the box.

Next I ripped out the prexisting cabinetry and counter top. There was no salvaging it. The cabinets had no back to them, allowing mice to make their homes in this thing and making storing your goods securly (from mouse dung) an impossibility. Now I am in the process of installing 1/2 plywood panels along the walls to insulate from varmints. I am using screws so I can add insulation down the line if I so choose, but right now my main concern is keeping mice at bay.

Now that I have a single wall basically done, the next step is to build my first bench. My current plan is to create a base cabinet on either side with an interior shelf in which to store my power tools and other goodies. It will not be a perfect or glorious bench, but it will get the job done. An 18th century wood workers bench would be cool and all, but right now I simply need a clean, functional location to build and repair stuff.

For the woodworker, there are two types of shops: plugged and unplugged. I've been tuning into the posts and podcasts over at Logan Cabinet Shoppe for the latter. As for a more commercial endeavor, www.thewoodwhisperer.com, is a great site too.

As romantic as a traditional, hand tools only shop (for woodworking) sounds for some, for me it is impractical albeit cool. Not just because of time, I suppose, (and my general impatience) but also because non-stop handsawing and similar motions aggravate an old injury I have in my right shoulder muscles. I guess I could learn to be left-hand dominant, but that's another story.

Anyway, my hope is to use this space for projects around the house, but also to produce furniture for the home that will stand the test of time. Not the MDF shit we all have in our houses. And yes, possibly the occasional Etsy sale in my wife's shop.

I'll also have a location where I can clean the gun and meditate on the art of the warrior. But those thoughts will have to wait until a subsequent post.

Peace Out,

--Nick

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Dios "Pariah"



She served me well.

I have finally parted with it, after my 3rd post. It was only a few miles short of 265k miles on the clock when I signed over the title. Can you believe that?! Wow. And I got $1600 for it, basically sight unseen. The buyer didn't even take a test drive. In a word, I got away easy.

Honestly, I think the car was about to explode. No, seriously. I have treated it well and took care of it, but with that many miles you simply never know what's going to happen next.

That said, I wish them the best. Me, I'm happy as a clam. I get to graduate to the Jeep Wrangler as my daily driver and look for a new vehicle for my lovely wife. And I no longer have the Mustang to worry about. It's crazy, but even though I was pretty confident in that car--more confident than most--it's a weight off of my shoulders. I guess subconsciously I was worried about it more than I realized.

I delivered the car just north of the District, driving through some of my olde haunts in the process. Even though I am happily bugged out to the country, I thoroughly enjoy the feeling of being in midst of D.C's non-K Street precincts. There's a pretty lively beat, even if you do have to roll up your windows. And while I took 2 buses and 2 trains to get to Vienna, the western most point on Metro orange line, I enjoyed the thrill of the adventure and the fact that I didn't have to drive to navigate through the city on my way back.

To be sure, I love country life, but it is a fitting swan song for my car to have made its final race with me through D.C. Thank you, "Pariah." You've always beens good to me...except that one time before New Year's. But it was probably for the best anyway.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Going to Seed? WTF!

You know, it's been a strange week. A really strange week. I have to ask myself if I am losing it or what. Almost.

First, my wife gets some fabric and I actually feel some sort of excitement over it. Yeah, seriously. Maybe it's due to the mad success of her Etsy shop, or just to the fact that gnomes are inherently cu..., I mean interesting.

Secondly, for the first time in my life I am excited about seeds. Garden seeds. That is, organic, heirloom garden seeds. I am barely a gardener, though I've been successful with Bonsai. But when our neatly packaged seeds arrived from Etsy, I was overcome with inexplicable glee. Not because they will serve as the basis for my anti-Obama survivalist garden, but because they are seeds qua seeds. Real seeds that offer power to individuals to feed themselves, year after year. Very cool!

Also strange is that I have firmly commmitted myself to sell my Mustang. Even though it's only a "car," this war horse has been a HUGE part of my life. When everything went to shit long before I met my wife, at the end of the day it was me and my Mustang heading off into the sunset, flipping the bird to our enemies. Defiant and stylish, this car has been a boon. I could not have asked for a better car, but now with 263k on the clock, it's time to move on and pass the torch of Black Mustangdom to someone who has the time and the cash to bring it to its proper glory.

That and the fact that we are heading for continued and even more difficult economic times. A gratis car project sounds cool and very American, but only if you have the extra cash and a home speed shop. I have neither and cannot justify the expense, when looking at all of our house/property plans. I cannot see restoring a car for 5 another years or more. I don't know if I'll even be interested in something like that. Probably, but the timing will have to be right.

The flip side of all of this is now I will be driving the Black Jeep TJ, and that my friends is a good thing.

The final element of my crazy week is the mania, which has gripped this house. I can't escape my crazy kids at any hour of the day except four in the morning and even then I am pushing it. I am waking up at 3 and 4 AM and not able to fall back asleep. I guess this is what happens when you have so much to do, but no where near enough time.

Hopefully, when Spring comes this will all change and everyone will be peacefully playing in their respective dens. But I am not counting on it. Not in the least.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Friday, February 26, 2010

Apocolyptic Winds at the Weekend's Precipace


When it gets windy, there's whispering and howling on our front porch. Tonite it's been screaming as we endure the up to 60-mph wind gusts. It is an eerie sound, and I am brought back to the movie, The Road, despite my complete desire not to go there. But if I do, I want more shotgun shells and a cool shotgun bandolier/scabbard for the weapon.

Who am I kidding? I want thay anyway.

I've been following the political-economic situation uber-closely for months. Probably too closely. I should probably spend my time being more productive. One thing I cannot quite get over is how back in late 2007, the media kept asking the question "Are we in a recession? (x1000)" when the average American was living way high on the hog. They were trying to do their part to fabricate the crisis we already in, not that we needed any help. But you hear what I'm saying. The economy was hopping, but they wanted Armageddon on Bush's watch.

I just wanted to get that off my chest. Moving along...

I am ready for Spring, whevever it decides to come. And speaking of springs, we have opted to invest in a Berkey Water filter soon in hopes that we will actually be able to drink our own tap water without grimacing. This means that my monthly jaunts to the spring down the road will now be only occasional, providing that the Berkey works as it should. I love the trip and all, but it's very time and gas consuming. It's also a therapeutic excuse to escape and go back to nature and was highly enjoyable. I may end up going back more often than I think, if I get withdrawl or something. We'll see.

Ok, this is just an early morning post to get the day started. I am a master procrastinator and should be finishing up my book, which = another shotgun and several cords of firewood. On that note, I better get going.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Timber Frames

I am presently reading The Timber Frame Home by Tedd Benson. This book is terrific, but not light reading. Benson is a part-poet, designer, and builder who argues convincingly about the awesomeness of timber frame homes: their sturdiness, architectural appeal, and longevity. He introduces the novice to the numerous facets of design and nomenclature, and in doing so, brings the craft to life.

Presently, I am dreaming about adding a modest addition to our house, which will increase our home's living area and give us room to grow. Our house is cozy and we love it, but eventually we'll need more space. I am planning now so that we can work towards something that is not only functional, but hopefully beautiful.

The other side of this is that one day I would like to build a modest-size, cabin-syle house from scratch as an investment and then sell it. It would be small in scale, but beautiful. In fact, it is much easier to build from scratch than to work with an existing, imperfect structure, but that's another topic. A couple of custom houses and I think I could retire comfortably. But to be honest, I don't know where I'd find the time.

Speaking of which, I think I better get something done on our house...

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wintry Musings



When it's all said and done, this has been a great--and I mean fantastic--winter.

There's something really special about being in the snow plastered mountains, particularly the Snow Covered Blue Ridge. I mean the mountains are excited. I had that feeling passing through Markham on I-66 on my way home two Thursdays ago. Their anticipation, if you can call it that, was palpable, even as the weathermen continually upped the snow fall amount by the hour. Anyway, my point is, the place is renewed, the way being bathed in snow can only renew you. Sounds weird, maybe, but if you ever played in a thunderstorm you know what I mean.

Out here we don't get a lot of snow, usually, so when the storm of the century arrives, it's really a major event. I also feel more settled into our home than we have ever been, and I am excited for our following years here. As we complete the infrastructure, it will be easier to kick back and enjoy the seasons. Maybe it's the snow, but I love it here and feel more a part of this place and this area than I ever have been. And that's saying something.

The last couple of days, despite the cold, which doesn't bother me that much provided I'm bundled well, I've made sure to get our snow dog out for a walk. She is more excited than I have ever seen her, too. I mean, this is the weather she was meant for and she just wants to roll around, snuggle, and worm her way into the powder. It's great to see her in her element. These dogs have an inner spirit that is so pure and true it's awe inspiring. Huskies are high maintenance, but it's because they are so completely alive.

This morning I had a particularly challenging time starting the fire. Last night, I had it cranking. All the lights were off, and sitting in front of this thing looking out the window to the sky, I could see most of O'Rion with his tell-tale belt sparkling through the tree. It was a supreme moment, and one of the reasons I love life in the hollar.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Snowpocolypse 2010



So we've been getting slammed by the snow. Somewhere between 24-30 inches from the initial storm. As I write, the next storm is making landfall, bringing us another 8-20. We'll see. Mother nature is relentless this year. The Farmers' Almanac predicts snow every 4 days for the month of February. So far, they've been right. That feels kind of eerie, to be honest.

I've been snowed in as a consequence, since the Fed Gov't is closed and I run on its schedule. My main concerns have revolved around keeping us well-supplied and warm, not to mention dug out. This last includes the roof, which was a Herculean task even for a house as small as ours. Knowing that there would be roof collapses around the region due to the snow, I did not want to be on that list. I burned a lot of calories in the process and am grateful for my neighbor and his tractor for assisting with the driveway.

VDOT has done a great job with the main roads and with our road, though I believe someone in the neighborhood works for the state. That may have helped. The town's roads are still in piss-poor condition, making trips hazardous and slow.

Guns: I picked up some 2 3/4 rifled slugs yesterday, as part of my committment to keep the shotgun well-supplied, in addition to another box of .22. I will be purchasing a bandolier or two for shot shells in case I need to leave in a hurry. I have some money coming to me soon as well, and am considering creative ways to allocate it. I have an AR build I need to finish and need a scope for the rifle. Other considerations include an additional shotgun or Glock or Marlin Model 60. Given the recent re-appearance of .223 on the shelves, I am leaning towards finishing the AR and stocking up. So many guns too little money. Maybe I'll just buy a chainsaw instead.

Wood: In a month or two, I will be investing in 4 cords of hardwood for next winter. Four cords seems to be about right for a winter, with some to spare. I've found an awesome wood-source via craigslist and I've been really pleased so far, especially with the Ash. If I let it season an additional year, so much the better. It's one more thing off my mind, and if the SHTF, I'll be good on wood for a winter.

Garden: One of things that will be center stage this spring will be the focus on a garden of raised beds relatively close to the house. We are turning to Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds for our supply, as Southern Seed Exchange associates to closely with the left for our liking. Baker Creek is on the front line of fighting large corps. and providing people with the tools they need to maintain their own self-sufficient garden. Getting our garden mostly right this year is truly key. Once we've established a good mode of operation, it will be easier to continue from year to year. But right now we are starting from ground level to get this thing up and running. I look forward to it.

Chickens: Our other goal this year is to add chickens. The coupe may need to be re-worked, but I am largely confident in chicken ownership. I am considering a new .22, which I mentioned above, to keep out predators, such foxes and bobcats. An AR might do the job just as well, though.

There are other house projects after the bathroom on the horizon as well, but the above is the main focus. Once this stuff gets done and it's more just a matter of maintenance, it will be time to celebrate and continue on from there.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog

Monday, January 25, 2010

Anthems

I wanted to post up something a little more positive than my last post, and it's about Anthems or theme songs.

I have been expanding my appreciation for country in recent weeks and have been basically waiting for "Bonfire" and "Out in the Backwoods" to come on the radio.

I am not a full-blown twangified hick, although Clare is certainly worried I'm heading in that direction. I just like to rock out and hear things that resonate with things I hold dear: guns, knives, fire, trucks/jeeps, and life in general "out in the sticks." I mean, when a song begins with the lyrics "Rifle in a gun rack hanging in the back glass/ buck knife on my belt..." that pretty much has my complete attention right there, and sums up how I want to be set up in general...

I like country, but bluegrass is my absolute favorite and preference in the americana department. I mean, I could really get into some serious bluegrass, preferably on some dude's cabin porch out here, but I'd likely have better luck finding a bonfire.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Sunday, January 24, 2010

MFL 2010

This past week went by steadily, but looking back on it, it's a blur.

My dad came out for the MFL, which took forever to start. We started walking early through the crowds, as our legs were stiffening up as we waited for over an hour for things to get underway. We were at the foot of the ascent up to Capitol Hill when the March met up with us. We joined in just behind the front-line banner carriers as people shouted down Roe.

I think it was a really good experience for my dad to see this political action first hand, as he is a Knight of Columbus and the Knights are greatly responsible for assisting with March's organization and pro-life activities in general. For me, it was just another march. I surprised an old acquaintence by saying hello and fortuitously met up with the group from Holy Family, where I work. I kept an eye on my dad, let him wander as he chose and kept the trip on track flawlessly. Skill and the grace of God made everything go like clockwork and we were some of the first ones out after we did our due diligence in front of the Supreme Court.

A couple of observations. First, each year the march is more and more made up of young adults. The older pro-life leadership has failed to overturn Roe, but their persistence in action has effectively passed the torch to the next generation.

I worked for the pro-life movement for two-years in the area of education and inspiration. I have personally witnessed the great deal of in-fighting amongst pro-lifers, to my dismay but I suppose not to my surprise. Each organization says they are or represent the grassroots, that they have the answer or way to overturn Roe, but yet cannot unite except at the March. This is where each of them tries to make their presence felt in such a way as to show that the March is their enterprise and they are leading it, or are essential to it being 'the true march.' Not all groups act this way, the best do not, but the majority act as if it's their show.

So, as I waited and waited for the walk to ensue, I saw various representatives of said groups purposefully scutter to and fro in the vain attempt to seem important and have presence. But knowing a bit of each of their stories first-hand I remain unimpressed, not because of their intentions necessarily, but because of their weaknesses. Were they there for themselves or for the cause?

You see, in the off-season these .orgs have to raise money and seem important to stay afloat and do their 'work.' My experience has been that the 'work' is often the battle over territory, power, influence, and money amonst pro-lifers. They vie against each other for the pro-life pie--the pro-life donor--and yet somehow remain influential amongst their enemies.

Every organization has to survive, but in the world of pro-life non-profits there is little if any peaceful coexistence. To call it 'cut-throat' would not be an exagerration.

Anyway, so seeing these people, brought these grim recollections to mind. The fact is, the power of the pro-life movement is with education and with the youth, not any particular association, although I would certainly agree that each has their place. The fact that there is a march and one increasingly filled with young people is a testimony to the power of the message and the Holy Spirit, not to any one group.

For my own part, I was happy to stand to be counted but be the gray man. Change begins with the individual, not with a group. History is almost always made by the minority. While the March is a damn important event, it's even more important to be an agent for God on the homefront. I would financially and personally support a local CPC before most .orgs.

And with that I leave you with my reflections, for whatever they are worth. Change begins at home.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Poised to Strike

What's up, peeps?

Sorry for the lack of consistent updates, but as I intimated in previous posts, I've been hella busy. I have had my shoulder to the wheel since the beginning of the year and "have filled the unforgiving minute with 60 seconds of distance run." So you'll excuse me, I hope, if I am temporarily inconsistent with my ramblings.

I have spoken with some of you about the need to be prepared, here and there. Preparedness is about being centered and stable, not being a bunker-dweller. I realize that sometimes I may come off as the latter, but in my own mind, I consider preparedness is a lifestyle that acknowledges that the S can HTF at any moment, and it's best to be as ready as possible.

The key to handling any conflict is awareness: Knowing your enemy before he knows you. Seeing conflicts and conflict patterns before they happen. Going with your gut and making calculated decisions based on your intel and an honest/realistic assessment of all situations. This is hyper-dramatic sounding, perhaps, but the art of staying safe and protecting your kiester isn't magic. It's a skill, and it's something that has to be consciously developed and practiced on daily basis over time.

Being prepared is about developing good habits that will aid you in a crisis situation. If the S has already HTF and you're running to the store to fill your cupboards and gun safe, you're too late. On an individual level, it's about putting your gun on and off the same way every time. It's about being organized personally, so that if the alarm sounds in the middle of the night, you are already in the best possible position to handle that situation: your boots, car keys, clothes for the next day, gun(s), and every day carry items are at the foot of your bed, ready to go. In 60 seconds, you have all of your absolutely essential shit already there and you aren't caught off-guard. You are in a position to help yourself and others.

On a national level, it's about seeing the interdependence of the numerous systems we rely on to live our daily lives, and knowing that if any of those systems fail signficantly or goes away, our own lives and those around us will be severely impacted. With the present administration and state of affairs in the world, the crisis looms large, but all is not lost.

I have so much to say on being prepared. It's been on mind since I made my first gun purchase in Sept. 2008. What can really happen? Where is our country headed? What can be done? Am I ready to handle a crisis event in my own life? And so on. Yet there are many who say it better, or articulate my own thoughts.

I don't know what the future will hold. My gut tells me the roller coaster has only just started, and that it's best to have one's shit together sooner rather than later. Check out the www.thesurvivalpodcast.com if you are looking for ideas to do just that. I am scrambling to put life on the homestead in order myself, but honestly I need to do that anyway, whether or not the SHTF.

Peace Out,

--Nick-Dog

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Proper Way to Catch a Shark

A short one.

I had an interesting dream last night. I was fly-fishing for the first time out here on a Virginia creek, possibly nearby Passage Creek. Within moments, a hostile 6ft shark took the bait and I reeled him in. He was pretty viscious and wanted blood. As he came to shore, I was several feet away, pulled out my Glock 17 and emptied most of the clip into the shark's head, leaving an extra few in the magazine for possible future hostiles.

The moral of the story? It's always good to carry.

Over and Out,

--Nick-Dog