Spring is Here

The rains came with warm weather and the days are beautiful. The flower gardens are doing very nicely and the corn field looks all green now. I enjoy sitting on the porch looking out at my world. My wife Donna is the one who creates the flower gardens that I enjoy so much. In the photo of our home, you can not only see the beautiful flowers surrounding it, but also me sitting in my favorite spot.

The Garden
IMG_8206

Spring 2015

Dust Storm
This is a different kind of spring here on the prairies of Minnesota. The last two days were warm, temp up in the 60′s and 70′s. The winds started from the south on Wednesday AM with gusts coming up to 40 MPH by afternoon. The wind shifted to the west by Thursday with gusts in the high 40′s by afternoon. The wind would come in gusts that would shake the trees in my yard and farm grove. Clouds of dust would swirl across the bare fields some times moving cross ways to the regular wind. My Wife and I sat for a time on the porch watching but when the dust swirls came it would make your eye water and cover everything with a fine layer of dust. That does give your coffee a different flavour so we retreated to the inside.
I will have a couple of days of work picking up the tree branches laying on the lawns and in the farm grove but experts say exercise is good for an old man.

Winter Wind

exercise ahead

exercise ahead

This is often what it looks like in the morning when the wind blows across the flat farm land. We didn’t get any new snow but the wind gusts were up to over 40 MPH the night before I took those pictures. You can see how it swirled around the house and swept some arias clear. These pictures were taken a little over a week ago. We had one more 6 inch snowfall after that with high winds but I didn’t take more pictures. Keeping the driveway open becomes strenuous exercise. I use a walk behind snow blower which works great when the snow is only a foot or two deep. The deep drifts require some work with the shovel.
The wind had dropped down to around 20 MPH when I took the pictures so it is still a white world in the open fields as you can see in the background of the photo.
Looking in the past, March is either the month when we get lots of snow and blizzards or warm spring weather. I have vivid memory’s of both.
It is the 3rd of March today and we had 17 degrees below zero last night.It has brightened up outside and the temp is up to 12 above zero Fahrenheit. That is -27 Celsius last night and -11 Celsius now. The forecast for the coming week isn’t good but I am still hopeful.
I am looking forward to the green world that comes with spring.

An Old Man and Old Toys

It was 16 degrees below zero the other morning so I decided to avoided being outside for the day. I started sorting through some old Erector Sets I had tucked away. When I was a young boy they were my favorite toy. We had no TV to watch and radio didn’t totally fill your mind.  With the Erector Set I would be totally occupied.

My oldest brother was 18 years older than me and he had left Me a fairly large Gilbert Erector Set. I also received two or three newer sets. A very small one to start with, when I was about six, then bigger ones as I got older. These I of course saved.  Then in my adult years, I would stop at Garage Sales and invest in Erector set parts or partial sets if the price was right. Then these would be brought home tucked safely away and forgotten.

I have spent some time before sorting and cleaning parts, but I still have a way to go. I dug out a batch of stuff that morning, as you can see in the photo below.
I wasn’t quite in the right mood for sorting and cleaning. As I looked at the parts, I started to see a truck.

Erector truck among the parts

Erector truck among the parts

It was like being back in time. I had only my imagination to guide me. I put pieces together and dug through the parts for ideas. I did back up a few times to do things a bit different. By dinner time I thought it was looking pretty good, so I brought the camera out.
When I was a small boy there weren’t many toys in small town stores. The last page of the Gilbert Erector Set instruction book had a list of parts you could order. So one year with my birthday money I searched the list and ordered The hood and radiator. I don’t remember ever ordering anything else but I am sure I did. Mail order was fun. It was exciting waiting for the Mailman to come by every day.
This picture shows the red hood and chrome radiator on the truck. The hood has a lot of patina. I used it many times, not only on trucks and cars but to cover the electric motor on stationary set ups. I have never seen it in a set but it must have been once.

On the right side of the picture are plastic boxes where I have sorted out small parts. This is my attempt to bring some order to my collection. Many times the Erector parts I bought were mixed with other toys or just in bags or old boxes.

Erector Truck in Progress

Erector Truck in Progress

The picture below is where I did the assembly work. I can sit in a comfortable chair and I have an electric heater under the desk by my feet. It is an excellent spot on these real cold days. My fingers aren’t as nimble as they once were. Putting in the small bolts was a bit more time consuming than it used to be. I wish I had taken more pictures but I hadn’t planned ahead. I would assemble pieces and then take the truck back to the table with all the parts and search for what else i could add or change. It really was enjoyable just following your imagination.

Erector Truck in Workshop

Erector Truck in Workshop

The picture below is where I displayed it among my other toys. I can enjoy it more here then when it was just parts tucked in a box.

Now Part of the Fleet

Now Part of the Fleet

Snow Storm 4 PM January 26, 2014

I couldn’t resist taking another photo today. The wind has come up to 35 MPH with the gusts reaching 53 MPH. The temperature on my thermometer has dropped to 0 degrees. As you can see by the picture below one wouldn’t want to be out in an open aria.

This pictures and the one below were taken from the same location. Both are looking north past my grove, down the county black topped highway. I am quite sure the road is not blocked by snow, but it would be very difficult to stay on the road judging from the visibility.

The forecast is for a low temp tonight of 17 degrees below zero. That puts the wind chill at a -40 degrees.

4 PM  26 January 2014

4 PM 26 January 2014

Winter February 26. 2014

This is winter on the prairie of west central Minnesota. It warmed up and snowed last night. It is hard to tell how much because the wind this AM is gusting to 35 MPH. They are predicting the temp will drop to 17 below zero with wind gusts as high as 55 mph tonight. I think that will only make a difference to the fuel company as my plans are to stay inside.
Walking out into the full wind is almost unbearable to bare skin, but the grove of trees around my house and farm buildings help make it possible to be outdoors at least a little bit if you dress right. Having grown up on this farm and spent much of my life working outside, going out of the house is something I need to do at least some each day.
You can see how the world looks white and gray, it has a beauty all its own. The neighbors seem far away and the only sound you hear is the wind.

Winter Wind

Winter Wind

One must keep doing something, so I have been going through things I had tucked away over the years. I have saved many old books, magazines and papers of all sorts. I guess I planned to read stuff again but never had the time. Things would get packed away, tucked out of sight in the attic or in my shop and then forgotten.
I have been taking boxes of stuff out and going through it on these cold days. Much is just destined for recycling, but some I just can’t throw out. I open the boxes in my shop where I have room to go through things as you can see in the picture below. You can see the mix of stuff on the table and I have already put plenty in the basket under the table to recycle.
The Air Trails magazines I bought with hard earned money in 1952 and 53. I wore them out reading them and building models from their plans. The set of plans is for a model of a J-3 Piper Cub I built, it is well worn but I can’t throw it away. The model train magazines from when I became interested in HO trains. I also spent a lot of time with electronic magazines. Then by 1957 when I earned my drivers license, I became interested in Hot Rods and a few of those magazines survived.
The list goes on and on. I have saved a few. The early radio, electronic, snowmobile, very early computer and old farm magazines bring back a lot of memories.

forgotten

forgotten

Some of the things that turn up are interesting. Most everybody that dabbled in electronics years ago remembers Lafayette Electronics. It was a fun place to buy parts and things you couldn’t buy in a rural town. It is gone now, like so many things I remember. I bought my first VOM Meter from them and I used it for many years.
Why these checks got saved I just don’t know, they probably got tucked away to use in my next order and then were forgotten.

Sorting Treasures Today

Sorting Treasures Today

Strange Things in My Junk

old dialer A
I found this old add while cleaning up the old papers I have tucked away. It dates from 1978 which in some ways, doesn’t seem that old to me. Looking at it, has made me think how much the world has changed in many small ways. This large add on device was made to do what your phone does all by itself now. The cost to the small retail shop was the $139.95 with a recommended retail of $199.95. That is way more than I payed for any of the phones I now use. The home phone is handy with every thing built in, but the cell phone is so amazing. You are always able to get in touch from any place at any time. I feel much safer when I am alone in the farm woods with my chainsaw or working out of sight around the farm.
In 1978 there was no internet, or home computers, I could go on and on listing things I use everyday that weren’t around but I think I better go back to going through my old papers and junk.

Winter Has Come

The Sun Dog is Out

The Sun Dog is Out

The snow came yesterday on the Minnesota prairie. It was mild at first and snowed heavily. As the day went on it got colder and the wind became stronger. It was beautiful to see everything white. By late afternoon the snow fall lightened so it was just flurry’s, I then cleaned 6 maybe 8 inches of snow off my driveway. The wind had become strong and it was not comfortable out side as it became dusk.
This morning the sky was clear out and a beautiful blue color. The temperature was at 0 Fahrenheit and the wind was still gusting to 35 to 39 MPH. It was so beautiful outside I just couldn’t stay indoors.
The bright light to the right of the sun in the picture, we always called a sun dog. They would be seen one on each side of the sun when it was very cold and clear out. I learned that they are caused by the reflection of ice crystals in the air. I couldn’t resist taking a picture because they were very bright today.
The road in the picture runs due south. You can see how low the sun is in the south. It was a Little after 11:42 AM when I took the picture.You can see High Noon doesn’t happen here this time of year.
Also note how the fields have been swept almost bare in spots by the strong winds. I am standing in the windbreak on the East side of my large farm grove, so the snow is not drifting close to me. The wind is from the Northwest and you can see down the road where the snow is sweeping across where the windbreak ended. Yesterday afternoon the trees had been loaded with snow now they are clear. I started to walk to the west side of the farm woods. As I got closer to the windward side I had to turn back. The snow had piled in deep and I hadn’t dressed warm enough to bear the cold wind. I went back inside, so thankful I don’t have to work out in this anymore.

My Birthday Gift

A New Project

A New Project

This is the new LED light I received from my son for my Birthday this year. I decided the best use would be for a light at my workbench. You can see in the picture the nice antique bench light I have been using.  I have liked the position of the old lamp but it had a drawback in the fact the metal shade would get hot enough to burn your hand after a bit of use. As a matter of fact the plastic in the lamp sockets would fail after a 2 or 3 years of use. The 100 watt light bulbs I have been getting lately would also come apart where the glass bulb is bonded to the base. I had scored back in the early 1990′s on a batch of these lamps at an auction sale. I had sold some, used many, but now I was coming to the end of them.

The project was to mount the new LED lamp in a handy way. The lamp I was using at my desk made it appear that this could become a bit complicated. I dug out a  bench light that had failed, so I wouldn’t destroy my working lamp. I was glad the pack-rat in me had tucked this one away.

The Planning

The Planning

I had anticipated a job that would require the fabrication of brackets. As you can see from the next picture with the light housing removed the job became very simple.

Disasembled

Disasembled

Mounted

Mounted

Finished Mount

Finished Mount

I knew I had it made when there was a extra hole in the center of the LED bracket that was just the right size. You can see how the cast pins that fit into holes on the old light housing fit on each side of the LED mounting bracket.
This holds the light very straight, almost like it was designed to fit.

Shelf Mount

Shelf Mount

I just had to show the shelf mount I made a few years ago to replace the clamp on unit. It was simple a washer welded to a piece of tube, than drilled to fit the lamp base. I also drilled a hole to screw the bracket down. The clamp on bracket would work loose at times. It also took up room that you can see I need.

The Finished Light Unit

The Finished Light Unit

The last Picture shows the finished unit. I really like the bright white light for working at my hobby things. As the years slip by I find that I need more light to see small things and this really does the trick. My son did an excellent job of picking a useful gift for an old man. Thank You Jeremy

An Adventure in the Old Days

 

Rod the Mover 1963

Washington DC 1963

 

Recently my old friend Sid VanVugt mailed me this old photo. He took the photo in 1963 on a venture we thought would be easy money.

It brought back memories that had been hidden away for a long time. It is of an old adventure Sid and I shared. I will relate what I remember.

My brother-in-law Bob Johnson had accepted a job with the CIA in Washington DC. He got quotes from a couple of movers and the CIA agreed to pay that amount. The quotes for the move were quite high and I made the statement that I bet I could do it a lot cheaper and better with a U-Haul truck.

It seemed like an easy way to make a few bucks, load the truck, drive out there, and unload it. I talked to my old friend Sid and he agreed to join in the deal.

We loaded the truck at their house in Apple Vally, MN with my wife Donna and my sister Louise helping. That was a bigger job than I had anticipated, but Sid and I were on our way by 10 that evening. We took turns, one driving the other sleeping. By three AM we ran into heavy fog on I 94. That was some of my hardest driving. One other thing we hadn’t anticipated was the truck had a governor on that limited the speed to 54 mph. This was in my days when speed was a highly desirable event to me.

One other thing was we were towing a 1953 Plymouth sedan with a rented U-Haul clamp-on tow bar behind the truck. The old car had a lot of wear and tear on it. Often when we would start from a stop, the car would zig and zag against the tow bar. We figured out that if we held the steering wheel steady till we were rolling along, then all would be fine. One of us would open the drivers door, hold the steering wheel well running alongside, let go, shut the door, let the car go by, then run up the passenger side and climb in the truck.

This wasn’t bad till we came to the toll roads with lots of stops. We had some strange looks but mostly laughs from people.

I think it was in Ohio when we were told to pull over just after we paid our toll. A young Highway Patrolman pointed out we had no safety chain on our rented tow bar. When I said I would pull into the next town and buy one, he said he would arrest me if I moved the truck without a safety chain. He than stated that we could not leave the vehicle there even for a short time. With this he left in his patrol car with a chirp of rubber from the tires. We couldn’t drive it and we couldn’t leave it, and this was before cell phones so you couldn’t call for help.

Well me and Sid dug around and found a set of tire chains in the trunk of the car. That would qualify as a chain, Maybe. The bolts to attach it was the real problem. The only thing we could find was some 3/16 stove bolts that clamped the legs on a kitchen table. They had a big problem, the bolt heads and the nuts would slip through the chain. Digging further we found four washers that would keep the tiny bolts from falling through the chain. The one end of the chain I hooked to the truck in a way that the small bolt was well hidden. The other end, on the car was in plain view and that had me a bit worried. Calling this a safety chain was really stretching reality. Sid declined to drive saying that I was always luckier dealing with law enforcement.

I barely started out when the patrol car with siren and lights cut sharply in front of the truck. I stepped out of the truck and met the cocky young officer. His first and only statement was “all right where is the safety chain”. I didn’t say a word I just walked back and pointed. The look on his face changed to astonishment, then disgust. He did a military about face, stomped quickly to his car and peeled out. He left two long black marks on the road, then cranked the wheel sharp, jumped the median and headed in the other direction.

Bob had mapped out the route for us and most of it was on four lane roads as most of the interstate highway was complete. I do remember we did cut across Pennsylvania on a two lane road in the mountains. It was the middle of the night and Sid was driving. I will mention that we had learned to get around the governor that restricted speed if there were hills. It was simple, just push the clutch in and coast down hill. I woke up and the truck was shaking in a way I had never felt before. Sid had pushed the clutch in, the hill had been steeper and longer that he expected. The speedometer showed well over 80 from what I could see. Engaging the clutch at that speed would have over revved the engine and probably destroyed it. The brakes were hot and pushing on them was like pushing on a wall. They would not slow the truck down.

At the bottom of the hill was a small town with a 30 mph speed limit. Our road crossed another highway with a traffic light at the corner. It was red as we approached. We were lucky, there was no other traffic in sight. We roared across and up the long hill on the other side. The truck came back to normal, we both took a deep breath and waited for flashing red lights as we rolled on, but they never came.

It was maybe noon when we rolled into DC. We were following Bobs instructions but the traffic was heavy. It seemed a bit confusing and the rig we were driving made switching lanes and turning more difficult. It was at this time a Volkswagen with Minnesota license plates passed us. It was Bob, a beep of the horn and a wave and he recognized us. We breathed a sigh of relief and followed him to the apartment believing the worst was over.

The apartment buildings were huge to us. The apartment was on the second floor, I was glad it wasn’t on the third. The worst was the road only went to the parking lot. Which was three buildings away. We started carrying but progress seemed slow.

The buildings were new and we spotted where construction equipment had driven up to the front of Bobs apartment building. we both thought why not us. we didn’t know it had rained for three days before we arrived. Needless to say I got stuck bad. I had to go to the apartment managers office and explain what happened. She was not pleased. She did allow me to use the phone to call a wrecker to pull us out. By the time the tow truck arrived Bob had finished work, which was a good thing. The truck winched us out without problems except for the clearance lights on the side of the truck box that scraped off on a tree. You can see the mud on the tires in the picture.

The tow truck driver would not accept pay, he insisted I ride back to the shop with him and pay in the office. Bob and Sid were unable to keep up with him in the heavy traffic. I payed the bill and waited a bit then headed off walking in the direction of the apartments. I walked several blocks, the neighborhood was looking rougher and rougher. I was feeling uncomfortable and was noticing people staring at me. The only thing I could think of to do was to keep walking. I was so relieved when the VW pulled alongside. When I climbed in I was told that I did a foolish thing to walk in a strange neighborhood alone.

We ate supper with bob and spent the night in Bobs apartment. We started early and spent the next day carrying the many boxes and pieces of furniture up the long sidewalk than up the stairway into the apartment. Fortunately Bob arranged for the heavy antique piano to be placed in a first floor storage unit close to the truck. I don’t think We could have gotten it up the stairway.

I felt so relieved that evening when we returned the U-Haul truck. All the clerk at the business did was glance at the truck and write the mileage down and sign off the papers. The job was done.

Back at Bobs apartment we cleaned up to go out and eat. I had another problem I had forgotten to take my suitcase so I was left in the clothes I had been wearing for three days. We went to a Italian restaurant that was full of fancy dressed people. I am sure that most of them thought I was a street person being given charity. The menu was mostly in Italian or so it seemed to me. Bob ordered for me. This was the first time I had ever eaten long spaghetti and it proved somewhat of a challenge. It was very good and I was hungry so I managed.

The flight back that night was a problem too. Every plane going to St. Paul was full. Bob finally found us a flight that got us into Chicago at 3 AM, with a connection on a smaller plane to St Paul. The second flight was delayed a couple hours. I remember walking around the huge airport afraid to sit down for fear of falling asleep and missing the boarding call. I remember little of that flight except sleeping soundly and the attendant waking me to tell me we were in the Twin City’s.