Monday Morning Hike – Millbrook Marsh Nature Center

I’m spending the first part of the week in State College, PA for work. I didn’t have to go into work until later morning on Monday, so took the time to do a short hike at the nearby Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. My work days are long and tiring sitting in a room, so it was nice to be able to get time outside, even if it was cold and mostly overcast.

Covered bridge near the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center, State College, PA

Saturday Morning Hike

This morning Will, Izzy and I took Hoagie on a short (2-mile) hike in Groton at the Candlewood Ridge property. It was cold and damp, but at least not raining today. We all needed to get out of the house for a bit. The Candlewood Ridge property is very flat and a very easy hike, but a little more crowded than some of the hikes farther inland.

After our hike we headed to Lee’s Toy and Hobby to window shop. Will and I are looking at model trains, and Izzy is looking at everything and anything; we are talking about trying to setup a train in the basement. I’ve been trying to get out walking more and dragging the rest of the family as often as they are willing.

Hoagie enjoying our rest stop on the trail in the Sand Plain at the junction of the red and blue trails.
Candlewood Ridge Trail Map. We hiked from the southern parking lot and did the short red loop off of the blue trail.

Welcome to 2023

I used to write a long post at around this time each year to reflect on the past year and think about what I wanted to do in the upcoming year, but haven’t in several years. I’ve also stopped writing regularly in this blog over the past few years. I’m not 100% sure why, but I think it is probably in large part due to my ADHD (I get bored with things). But I figured I should give it a try today.

What do I think I want to accomplish this year? I started ended last year with a new job at work and I think that will take a lot of my focus. But I also have some personal goals:

  • I want to get outside more often and do more hiking and exercise. I started the year off right with hikes yesterday and today.
Izzy and Hoagie taking a break on our hike this morning.
Izzy and Hoagie taking a break on our hike this morning.
  • We picked up paddle boards at the end of last summer and are looking to get on the water more as the weather warms up in the spring. I have been trying to explore more local trails; getting Hoagie out has certainly helped encourage me to get out more.
  • Will and I passed our amateur radio tests in mid-November. I’ve been building a shack in the basement. With the cold weather, I find it hard to get motivated to spend a lot of time in the wood shop. Plus it gets expensive to heat. I think that if I spend a little more time in the basement, I’ll be able to keep the basement a little cleaner.
My workbench in the basement. It will be my electronics workbench and ham shack.

I have a few family goals as well:

  • I’m planning a long vacation to Sweden with Susanna and Izzy in August. I plan on getting some time to just settle in and explore the area. We are planning on retiring to Sweden, so I need to figure out what I’ll do there when I retire. And yes, I have a few years before I can retire.
  • I’d like to rebuild our front porch. We don’t use it much, so it has fallen into disrepair. The stairs are starting to rot and the porch ceiling is in terrible shape. I’d also like to ensure that the posts aren’t rotting and possibly replace the porch floor.

In general, I’d like to spend less time staring at my phone and more time actually living life! I do think I should try to write here more often. It helps me focus a bit.

My always faithful and willing hiking companion, Hoagie.

Pictures from Rottnest Island, Western Australia

I’m back in Western Australia working. This is one of my favorite places to visit; I’ve been here over a half-dozen times. Yet, in all the times I’ve been here, I haven’t visited Rottnest Island, home to the quokkas. We have the weekend off, so my colleague, Rachael, and I took the early morning ferry to the island Saturday to explore. After walking aimlessly a bit, we returned to the main settlement and caught a free quokka tour and then got on the hop-on hop-off bus for a tour around the island. We asked to get dropped off between normal stops so we could hike to the Oliver Hill Guns. After the guns, we hiked to the Wadjemup Lighthouse, and then caught the bus to the west end where we could see the seals swimming by Cathedral Rock. We took the bus back to Thompson Bay where we ate lunch at the bakery with the quokkas wandering around at our feet and then caught the 2:30 ferry back to Fremantle.

We only saw the quokkas at the main settlement; they are naturally nocturnal animals except for the handful that have learned to look for food scraps during the day where the tourists are hanging out. It was well worth the visit, and I could have spent a few more hours exploring the island.

Inquisitive quokka at Thompson Bay Settlement.
Unsuccessfully tying to get a selfie with a quokka.
The trail to the Oliver Hill Guns
The view of the Wadjemup Lighthouse from one of the Oliver Hill guns.
Wadjemup Lighthouse
The west end of Rottnest Island
Quokka looking for food at lunchtime. Thompson Bay Settlement.
Juvenile quokka sleeping in Thompson Bay Settlement.
Quokka at Thompson Bay Settlement.

Busy, Busy Weekend

I was hoping that things would slow down with the end of summer break and Izzy back at school. It didn’t feel like it today. Susanna is quarantined until early next week, so I get to run the show for the weekend. I’m trying to finish off a not so major, but really needs to be done, house project; I’m replacing the roof over the sun porch. I’m also watching Izzy and trying to keep the house somewhat clean. I recognize that it is too easy to get wrapped up in doing chores and projects and forget to enjoy life. I don’t think I did a good job balancing chores with fun over the past year, and I’m trying to do better.

Isabella and Hoagie in a rare moment of calm onboard the large paddle board.

This morning I focused on chores . I changed the oil in my car, did a bit of cleaning around the house, assisted Izzy in cleaning her room, and ran to Home Depot to get more roofing supplies. But the afternoon was set aside for some family fun. Of course with Susanna being sick, and Will out for the day, family fun was just for Izzy, Hoagie and me.

Izzy waiting to jump in the lake while Hoagie just tries to figure out what is going on.

I loaded up Will’s tandem paddle board and life jackets and we headed to Amos Lake here in Preston. We inflated the board and pointed the bow out into the lake and I paddled. It was only my second time on a paddle board, but the tandem is so wide, that stability wasn’t a problem, even with Hoagie wandering around. The board is just very slow, but we didn’t really have a destination. Isabella eventually found the courage to jump in the lake, but Hoagie never really relaxed.

Isabella swimming next to an adequately stressed Hoagie.

The weather was nice; sunny and nearly 70 and the lake was pretty warm. We got home by early afternoon. Izzy was able to head across the street to play, and I was able to get an hour working on the roof.

Tomorrow, Will is taking Izzy to The Connecticut Renaissance Faire and I’ll try to get some more time to work on the roof.

Saturday morning on the water.

Today we spent a family day on the water. Will and I had launched his boat earlier this year for a trial run and didn’t hurt anyone, sink the boat or run into anything. The boat had been out of the water for a while getting some painting and maintenance done, and not sinking at the dock was an improvement over the first time we launched the boat, so it was a successful relaunch. The sail earlier this summer wasn’t without issues, and we learned a lot of lessons; mainly about rigging the boat on the trailer. Today’s launch was much smoother. But we forgot some things, so the plan will be to make a checklist before the next outing.

Underway under a light breeze in the Thames River, New London, CT. Picture by Susanna Curtis

Susanna and Will had tried paddle boarding after she had returned home from Sweden and both had enjoyed it. Will picked up a used board and we got Susanna a new board this week. We brought Susanna’s board with us to the launch and we all headed out into the Thames as a group. We launched from the New London boat ramp (the Groton ramp is closed this season). There was almost no wind, so we all drifted towards Long Island Sound with the ebb tide. Susanna paddled circles around us, Isabella swapped between the boat and the paddle board, and I even took a try on the paddle board.

Susanna and Isabella leading the slow drift downriver with the tide.

The wind picked up around lunch time and we slowly sailed back up to the launch, towing Susanna (and Izzy) behind on the paddle board. Once we got upriver of the launch we let Susanna go and she paddled back to the dock, apparently falling in once (which we all missed). We recovered the boat, stepped the mast and returned home by mid-afternoon after a successful day on the water.

Isabella digging ice cubes from the cooler.

We drifted as far south as Electric Boat before the breeze started and we were able to head back upriver towards the Interstate 95 bridge and the boat launch. We sailed past the Connecticut Maritime Heritage Festival in New London and saw a few sailboats out in the light breeze and a few more powerboats and ferries and three US Navy security boats returning to the base. Overall it was a quiet day on the water without much traffic.

Towing Susanna upriver against the outgoing tide. Electric Boat in the background.

Sunday morning hike

I was finally feeling up for getting back out for a short hike this morning. I took Hoagie to the Benedict Benson Preserve to hike the yellow loop trail. It is short, around a mile and a half long, but I figured it was best to keep the loop short today.

Hoagie was also feeling better. When I took him out last weekend (before I came down sick), he seemed tired and was walking pretty slowly. Today he was back to himself, running ahead exploring.

Hoagie enjoying the woods.

The trail was nice, quiet and well marked. There are a few bridges over some streams, but at this time of year the streams were dry. We did find the rusting carcass of an older car sitting in the woods covered in spiderwebs as it slowly dissolves into the forest floor. We didn’t see anyone else on the walk, but the lack of spiderwebs everywhere save the top inch of my head, suggested that it had been hiked by someone just slightly shorter recently.

Detail of car rusting into the forest floor, Benedict Benson Preserve.

A long week (with COVID) and some small projects

It has been a long week already, and it is only Tuesday. It feels like Thursday at least.

I started feeling symptoms on Saturday night and tested positive on Sunday. Luckily it has so far been mostly mild, but I have had no energy. I’m stuck isolating until Friday at the earliest. It has been a long journey since the first lock down in spring of 2021, and I was hoping that it had passed me by. My luck ran out this week, though as far as weeks go, it wasn’t too bad of a week to get sick and have to isolate. Will is mostly in his room in the loft above the garage. Ben is at his mom’s house. Susanna and Izzy are six hours ahead in Sweden. I get the whole second floor and my workshop to myself all day. I just haven’t had energy to do much for the past few days.

Today I’m starting to feel better, though my energy is ebbing by the time I’m writing this. It is almost time to give into watching YouTube and Netflix for the night.

My weekends started out well. I got up early on Saturday and took Hoagie for a walk. It was hot, so I picked an easy 2 mile hike in Ledyard, the Pine Swamp Wildlife Corridor Loop. It wasn’t a very nice trail, and there was a section that I had to pass through some construction by the local power company. I’ll be avoiding that trail again.

The not so scenic Pine Swam Wildlife Loop.

Over the past few days I was able to finish off a few smaller projects that I had started last week. I didn’t get any work done on the house, but I was able to get some time in the workshop. I completed the sides and brass reinforcement on the holder for my #4 smooth plane. I also made a simple holder for a try square that I put above the chisels. I’ll probably make additional wooden holders for my other squares.

New storage for my #4 smooth plane

Most of what I did when I got tired of sitting in bed and watching TV was to just clean the shop a bit. And yes, I am bored. My workshop is probably more organized than it has ever been. there is hardly any crap left sitting on my tablesaw. My goal this week is to entirely clean the junk off the horizontal work surfaces and put everything into a home.

Slightly improved hand tool storage.
Finished Cutting Board

Another quick workshop project (hand plane storage)

It was way too hot and humid to climb on the porch roof and work on the house tonight, so I decided to finish another very quick workshop project and use up some of the cherry I pulled out for the chisel rack. I built a shelf for my No 2. smooth plane. The nice thing is that I used the No. 2 plane to smooth the lumber after milling.

No. 2 smooth plane on it’s new shelf

The shelf is made from cherry with a piece of what I think is likely teak for the front edge. The teak is reclaimed from an old boat project that Ben and I started years ago and never finished (and eventually cut up the boat and disposed of it). I reinforced the glue joints with 1/8″ brass rod. The whole project was finished with shellac and a final coat of wax.

Shelf installed above the new chisel rack

I have some more space above the chisels, so will make a few more over the next few days. I’ll laser engrave a label on the front of the shelf for the next one; I didn’t think of it until I had already glued on the edge trim on this project.

A quick workshop project finished (chisel rack)

Tonight I finished a quick workshop project, my upgraded chisel rack. I had previously milled the cherry rack and back board, and cut the slots for the chisels in the rack. Tonight, I finished the groove and attached the rack to the back board. After the glue dried, I finished the project with two quick coats of spray shellac and let it dry for an hour or so. I removed the old rack and installed the new one. The English mortise chisel (pig sticker) doesn’t fit properly in the rack, but it works for now (2nd from right on the picture below).

I have the other half of the cherry board still; I just have to figure out what I want to build with it. Maybe a second chisel rack to allow me to grow my collection of chisels. It is a bit of a sad collection of chisels at this point and not a very coordinated set. But it matches my ADHD (I have Japanese and western style chisels, just in case I get bored with one style). I just need more.

Chisel rack installed. My new saw till is hanging on the right side of the picture.