Filling in the space (and weeks of making cutting boards)

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Cutting boards made by the Curtis boys (all three of us).

It has been a while since I’ve written.  I would love to pretend it was because I have a crazy exciting life, and I’ve been too busy living it.  But sadly, that isn’t the case.  I have been busy, but not that exciting.

I spent this month making cutting board after cutting board.  My cousin got married two weekends ago, so as a wedding gift, I made him a set of drunken cutting boards, inspired by projects on lumberjocks.   They turned out pretty nice (for my first try).  Unfortunately I forgot to take pictures of them (I didn’t want to post before the wedding, in the odd chance that he actually reads this blog).

I decided that cutting boards would be a good way to use up the wood cut-offs I have laying around the shop, and a good project to do with the boys.  I took all the interesting short pieces of lumber laying around, cut the boards to 18″ long, milled them to the same thickness, and cut them into strips of varying width (1/2″, 1″ and 2″).  I then let the boys pick out the strips they wanted to use and they glued up the boards.  I made sure that the boards were narrower than 8″ when glued up so we could flatten them quickly on the jointer.

I had enough strips for Will, Ben and Ben’s friend, Anthony, to make boards. I also made two myself (with the remaining wood).  One is a little bigger (pictured above), and the second I gave to a friend at work.

I’ll have to write more later about the wedding trip to Bowling Green, KY, visit to Mammoth cave with dad and Barbara, and a stop over in Louisville to see a friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years.  I would love to share all the pictures I took on my trip, but the camera stayed on the counter where I forgot it.

It is nice to be home and back working on the workshop.  It is making progress.  I’ll take more pictures tomorrow night (maybe).

An electronic free day…

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The average young American now spends practically every waking minute – except for the time in school – using a smart phone, computer, television or other electronic device, according to a new study from the Kaiser Family Foundation

Those ages 8 to 18 spent more than seven and a half hours a day with such devices, compared with six and a half hours five years ago, when the study was last conducted.  And that does not count the hour and a half that youths spend texting, or the half-hour they talk on their cellphones

-Tamar Lewin (January 20, 2010, The New York Times)

It seems crazy how much children use electronic devices these days.  And it isn’t limited to just children.  I find it easy to spend too much time on my iPhone.  I can check Facebook, play Words With Friends, and read my email throughout  the day.  The boys can easily get lost playing on their computers or on their Nintendo DS game systems.

It doesn’t seem healthy to spend that much time playing on electronics – there is little thought and creativity required when playing video games.  I have given up video games several years ago; I found it too easy to get lost in the games and spend way more time than I wanted playing.

We decided as a family to take a small step.  It wouldn’t be fair to ban the boys from video games, while the adults were still allowed to play on their iPhones.  So now, most Saturdays are electronic free days.  That goes for both adults and children.  We try to be reasonable.  One can use the phone (how else for the boys to arrange to have friends come over and play).  The computer is allowed for homework (not really playing) or writing on blogs (writing requires creativity – and is a challenge for the boys).  We also are flexible.  If the boys are exhausted from running around all day outside – we can put on a movie or the TV for a little bit late in the afternoon for everyone to rest a bit.

So how are we doing on with our electronic free day?  I notice a difference in myself and the boys on these days.  We all sleep better at night when we have been both physically and mentally active during the day.  I have lots of time to get things done – including more time playing with the boys.  There is a lot less fighting between Will and Ben.  Of course we aren’t perfect.  There have been times where I check my email – yesterday while Will was at soccer camp for 90 minutes for example (next time I’ll bring a book).

Now time to put the computer down, and head back out to the workshop to build some more walls (either that or mow the lawn)…

… And a good finish (or a fun afternoon with a hike to the Hellcat wreckage)

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The boys behind the remains of the Hellcat wreckage

The weather was nearly perfect today.  Maybe a bit windy.  But a nice sunny day makes correcting a rough morning much easier.

This afternoon, after soccer camp and piano lessons were complete, the boys invited their friends over to play.  I was also able to make some progress on the garden while they played.

I had finished cleaning out the raised beds yesterday (with Will, Ben and Justin’s help) – thanks to a load of horse manure compost from the Sawyer Family Farm.   I’ll see if I can grow more than just weeds in the raised beds this year.  The first bed will be a mix of flowers and vegetables.  The second bed has 27 strawberry plants (plus some random perennial flower that Ben or Will picked last year and didn’t die) – I started radishes in the last 3 feet of the bed that is still free of strawberry plants.  The third bed I planted with a cover crop of buckwheat yesterday.

Late this afternoon, after all the boys’ friends had arrived, we decided to hike into the woods to find the Hellcat wreckage site.  This is the third time that Susanna and I have been to the site (and the second for Will and Ben) – but we have yet to find the wreckage site for the other aircraft.  Maybe we will search for it one of these weekends when it is just Will and Ben with us.

I have been getting some smaller projects completed in the workshop.  It has been a week of making cutting boards – pictures will be posted later when I actually take some.  I’m also making progress on framing in the new set of stairs to the second floor of the barn (and I need to remember to return the come-along to the Sawyers the next time I visit their farm – and to think I was just there yesterday – maybe I’ll remember to bring them to work on Monday – of course I’ll plan on riding in on Monday, so won’t put the equipment in the car).

Tomorrow promises to be another beautiful day – a chance to get lots done around the house.  And yes, I’m passing on going to church (sorry Susanna) – but I do admit to going with Susanna to church on Easter Sunday (I know, I’m not sure what was wrong with me last weekend…)

A bumpy start

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Will taking a water break at soccer camp.

Will has soccer camp at 9 on Saturday mornings. That means getting going a little earlier than we are used to on Saturdays. Waking up is never the problem – even when the boys sleep in they are up by 7 (a normal morning is up at 6).

We were having a great morning until Will decided he wanted to go to the toy store and buy some plastic toy after soccer camp. It is frustrating when the media and popular culture teach our children to want want want. Our kids get way too much pressure to consume and consume. Toys are cheap and disposable. Our kids cry when they aren’t allowed to go buy junk – but if they are – they cry when they have no money left when they find something they really want.

Why spend money on a cheap plastic toy gun when you can head into the workshop and make one from scrap wood (that would have gone in the fire pit anyway – and just decomposes when lost in the woods)?

Oh well, just venting. I can’t change society – just do the best I can with Will and Ben.

Anyway, I hope 90 minutes of soccer will allow him to focus on things other than acquiring new toys.

Another completed project (bicycle storage)

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It’s not fine woodworking, but does count as a finished home improvement project. And I finished the project the day I started it. Of course actually keeping the garage clean is itself a never-ending project…

Completed bike rack

I’m just happy that I had time to do a project today.  The morning was spent with me rushing to get Will to soccer camp (somehow I was thinking it started at 9:30 when it started at 9 – makes for an interesting morning) and Susanna taking Ben to a birthday party.

After Will’s soccer camp, we swung by the Sawyer family farm to pick up our supply of fresh eggs and home for lunch.

I have been trying to find a way to keep our bicycles organized in the garage.  Susanna had cleaned all the toys and junk out of the garage earlier this year, but still the bikes cluttered the space.

I made the bike rack from lumber I had sitting around.  The top and bottom is made from a 10-foot long 2×4.  The two ends are separated by 29-inch long 3×3 posts that I had been planning to burn if I couldn’t find a use for them.  The boys and I found four pieces of 2×4 lumber that I was able to cut to 32-inch long sections to make the posts to support the bike tires.  I ripped the 2×4 posts to 1 1/2-inch wide and then attached them to the front of the bike rack (a little over 6-inch space between the posts for each bike, and about 12 inches between bikes).  Note to self: pre-drill the holes for the screws when drilling though a narrow piece of lumber before attempting to attach the first post to the frame and splitting the wood.  But on a good note, I did learn after only two screws split the wood (so I’m getting closer).

The cleaned out garage bay (at least for now)

I was able to get the garage bay cleaned out and the bikes put back in time for a homemade pizza dinner and movie.  There is room to put at least one additional bicycle on the rack if I cleaned out the stuff on the back left wall of the garage – maybe another day.

Total cost for bike rack: $0
Overall thoughts about the project: a quick 1 hour construction project – not the fanciest, but it is in the back of the garage, so not too visible – and with the condition of the garage, no reason to build a fancy bike rack from the hardwood I have in the woodshop.

The movie tonight was “Despicable Me.”  The boys had never seen the movie and loved it; I must have seen it on a flight at one time and loved it the second time around.

A crazy day of (lots of) kids

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The boys taking a break on the bridge
The boys had the day off from school today. The first day of spring break for them.

It started out crazy last night. Will wanted his friend, Shane to visit this weekend. Of course, he called later in the evening, and the only time he could visit was last night (for a sleepover). He got here last night at about 8pm, and left at 7pm today.

We also had the neighbor, Justin, over for the afternoon, Ben’s friend, Anthony, and the 6 year old girl from across the street (Amanda). In all, there were 6 kids from the ages of 6 to 9 here for several hours today. It is fun to have friends over, but we all agreed that it is also nice to have them leave…

The boys (and girl) spent the day running around outside – they built two forts in the woods behind the house, went on many missions to kill zombies, skeletons, giants, and other monsters (as well as rescue missions). We built wood swords in the morning (to give a full day of playing). I did change the sway bar links in the Jeep, but gave up on the rear shocks (just too much effort to herd the cats so to speak).

So I’m pretty tired. Susanna was at work this evening – she should be home shortly – and I’m sure she will be quite exhausted as well.

So here is hoping the boys will sleep in tomorrow.

Pictures from the house

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Will doing homework on the patio while Targa keepswatch (earlier in the year). I had to cut myself out of the picture - I had way too goofy of a look on my face to publish it.

I finally downloaded pictures from the camera.  Last week wasn’t nice enough to do homework outside.  But the week before was.

I am making progress on the workshop – I posted about that over the weekend. It is also time to start working on the yard.  I ordered strawberry plants a couple of months ago – they arrived today.  Tonight I picked up some hay and planted 2/3 of the new plants.  I’ll pick up some more compost this week and plant the rest.  Hopefully I’ll do better with the raised beds than I did last year.  It is easy to plan too big of a garden and let the weeds take over.  Anyway, here are some pictures of the projects in progress:

Corner of the workshop - reorganized. Just don't look at the rest of the shop.
The raised beds. The middle bed will have the strawberries. Not 100% sure about the other two.

A weekend of small projects

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Ben getting ready to pick up a crab at science night at PVMS

We started the weekend off with a Friday night event at the boys’ school.  It was science night.  There were lots of activities for the boys to do, and lots of exhibits to see.  Of course, the most popular event of the night was the soda rockets (drop a couple of Mentos in a 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke… and watch the mess – and yes it was done outside).

The weather Saturday was not very nice.  Cold and rainy.  But with a little coaxing (and some help), the boys cleaned their rooms.  And no surprise, the neighbor, Justin, came over to play for most of the afternoon (after rooms were cleaned).  Surprisingly there wasn’t too much conflict…

We also fixed Will’s bicycle on Saturday.  He had gotten the derailleur wrapped up in the rear wheel a week or so ago, and the new one arrived in the mail on Thursday.  It only took one trip to the bike store (we messed up the cable when we were trying to install the new derailleur) – but now seems to be working.  I’m sure it will need adjusting after a day of riding or so.

Today I had hoped to spend time and try to straighten out the barn.  I have borrowed a come-along and chains from a friend – but the weather threatened rain all day – so I didn’t feel like I should start that big of a project (which requires some outside work – I think – though now I mention it, maybe I can get it to work from the inside…. nah.. probably not).

I tried to get the tractor mower started (maybe get some mowing done before the rain).  Nope… battery dead.  So put it on the charger (note to self – take off charger before bedtime – it should be charged).  Couldn’t get the push mower running either.  So changed the spark plug, still didn’t work – next will try draining the gas and refilling.   I’m pretty sure it was a good plan to not try a big project today.  I was a bit frustrated by lunch time by the lawn equipment.   So instead of being frustrated about not working on the barn,  I focused on smaller projects (the never-ending joy of owning an old house).

I did successfully vent the dryer outside (the old vent had gone out the same window the new furnace power vent now occupies).  That project went pretty smoothly.  I replaced a pane of glass in one of the other basement windows with a piece of plywood (with a 4″ hole for the vent).  I even painted the plywood to match the house.

Earlier this week I was going to replace the concrete pad for the front post of the barn.  I got the concrete and post support earlier this week.  Then I started digging to try to dig out the concrete pad.  It is apparently a pretty big pad, and I didn’t feel like digging it out (nor did I have enough concrete to replace it once I dug it out).  So today, I added a 5th slab to support another post for the barn.  This one is pretty close to the front of the barn.  I think the ground is relatively soft near the front of the barn, and the posts have been sinking over time – so I’ll share the weight on an additional post.

The rest of the afternoon was spent working on the workshop.  It is getting closer.   I move some shelves and cleaned out the corner that the new stairs will occupy.  Now to try to straighten the barn.   Maybe that will wait until next weekend.