Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Ready Your Weapons!

FINALLY!  I can feel comfortable making Halloween-related posts.  Not that I haven't been plotting, planning, scheming and collecting all year, because I have. Oh, I have. My first finished project for adding to our haunt stash is repainting some cheapo Dollar Tree weapons. If it weren't already apparent, I get excited about Halloween. I get excited about DIY and craft projects.  Thus, I barge ahead when I'm finally ready and sometimes forget to take before photos.  That is the case here, but I think that you can see enough of the original finish in some of the in-progress shots to get the idea.

If I had a before shot, this is where it would be.

I picked up two weapons at the Dollar Tree; an ax and a flail (labeled "Ball and Chain").  C'mon, "flail" sounds way more nefarious and deadly.  The flail needed a lot more work than the ax.

First, I ran some #000 steel wool over the surface, then I primed with UG30, my go-to sticks-to-anything primer. I'm sure most or all high-adhesion primers would work.  UG30 dries almost clear which is why you can't see it in the photo. What you can see though, is that the whole flail was a light bronze/dark brass colored plastic  (right side of the ball and handle in background).

The white stuff is some decorative painting material by Proceed; Rough Irregular Texture.  I covered the ball and the top sections of the handle with that.  My hope that after it was painted it would give the impression* of rough cast iron .

After the texture dried, I painted all the "metal" parts with black craft paint I had on hand. I wish I'd had something much less glossy on hand.

I painted the handle with a light tan color as the first layer of a three-layer process to make it look a bit like a leather-wrapped* handle. After this dried, I decided that the very end should be black, but I did not go back and add the texture before painting it. Remember what I said about getting excited?

After the tan paint, a layer of burnt umber glaze was added, then pounced off with a paper towel.

The very last step was a quick coat of  Modern Masters Dead Flat Varnish to cut the shine.

Once it was dry and hung out on the house one of all those ridiculous nails we're stuck with, I thought it needed a little something more. A little something to make it seem more authentic, scarier.  That little something would be some blood!  Oh, and hair!  YEY!  EWWWWW!  But really more YEY!

The hair detail just tickles me, because I love little surprise details and because something is broken inside me. 

The gore is made from another Proceed product called Clear Transparent Glazing Gel tinted with red oxide, burnt sienna, quinacridone magenta, and carbon black acrylic paints.  The hair is from a package of "whiskers" I picked up ages ago on clearance and some craft store.  I used the same whiskers to make the hair on my $1 Mummified Woodland Fairy Prisoner prop last year.

Even though I originally set out to repaint the whole ax, too, I realized that the handle was pretty good* already.  I just dry brushed a little Modern Masters Metallic Paint in Brass to the double-headed eagle on the top of the handle to make is show up a bit more.  But the blade was chrome-bright and looked more like a hood ornament than a deadly weapon.  The blade got the same steel wool and UG30 treatment as the flail.  When the primer was dry, I coated it with black glazing medium that I pounced off with the paper towel.

And finally an already-cool-looking ax that my mom got me last year at the Urquahart Castle on the bank of Loch Ness in Scotland!  How cool is that?

I am going to find a better way to hang this, but without putting a hole in it for a thong.

*One of Halloween's best traits is that it's a nighttime celebration; fun had in dim light. This means props and costumes can be a little less than perfect and still be impressive. It also means that sometimes they have to lack subtlety in daylight in order to be seen well in twilight.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I Did This Summer by Bigfoot

by Bigfoot

     My summer activities fall into two categories: 1) checking out some local things in the Bitterroot Valley and Missoula and 2) traveling to and from and staying in Bend, Oregon.  

     One thing I got to do this summer in the Bitterroot Valley was check out some local breweries' tasting rooms which I hadn't been able to go to before.  One interesting thing about alcohol laws in Montana as compared to Oregon is that in Montana a business serving alcohol does not have to serve food.  This is especially case in tasting rooms which have a 3-drink limit.  It also means that dogs can work there and that you're welcome to bring your own food from home or from a local restaurant.

Here I am at Blacksmith Brewing in Stevensville.  The brewery is housed in an old smithy that then became an industrial laundry.  

Lolo Peak Brewing is newly opened in Lolo and claims to be adding a kitchen this autumn.  The beer is okay and the atmosphere it really good.

     Another thing I got to do this summer was go to the Paul McCartney concert in Missoula!  It was held at the University of Montana's football stadium and was supposedly the largest music event ever held in Montana with 25,000 in attendance.  Whoa.  Missoula's population is under 70,000 and the "Missoula Metropolitan Area" has less than 112,000 people, so 25,000 is a big chunk!  Of course, people traveled from out of the area to attend and rumor has it that hotels were booked up before the tickets even went on sale.  I stayed with friends in Florence, so I didn't have to sleep rough just because I got my ticket at the last minute.

I had a pretty good seat, too.  Not up front, but plenty close and with access to a VIP box with food and beverages... all for FREE!
Seeing a Beatle perform was not the only non-beer excitement I got up to, I also got to see the tail end of the 102nd Annual Creamery Picnic Parade in Stevensville complete with Shriners in fezzes driving wee cars.  

We lucked into the end of the parade route when we walked from our car to the Stevensville Library book sale.  Never miss a library book sale if you can help it.

     While traveling to and from Bend, Oregon, I tried to get there as fast as possible, but made sure to stop at some of the more interesting rest stops and sites for necessary breaks, especially places I didn't visit last time I was spending time in Bend.  Ahem.  

Overlooking the Columbia River from the Oregon side, on I-84 somewhere between the I-82 and US-97 interchanges.

There is a very windy rest stop near Sprague Lake in Central Washington along Interstate-90.  This particular trip was very moody weather-wise.

I  kept meaning to stop at the Mountain Identifier on US-97, but would either say "next time" or not notice it coming up and zoom by.  On my last trip, I ended up having to take US-197 in order to meet an old pal in The Dalles for breakfast and was disappointed in myself for having put off this opportunity.  What a nice surprise that US-197 has its own Mountain Identifier!

The view from these spots is great for seeing the mountains, at least a half-dozen of them.  This view is sort of southwest-facing, but the Mountain Identifier does nearly 180 degrees of identification of Mountains.

     I was so busy in Bend, Oregon that I didn't get to do much site-seeing or attend to much that was photogenic.  There was a lovely view from the job site, however, and I would frequently eat lunch while taking it in.  Verizon ate the photo of that.

On my last trip my colleague forgot to pack her work shoes, so we had go get her some.  Of course, even on Saturday our workday starts well before shops open so we did what we could wearing sandals, then drove over to the mall.  We got there several minutes before they opened and walked around.  We came around a corner to this beast and I had her get a shot of me with it.  Pretty impressive for a mall Mexican restaurant.

El Rancho Grande was not open for business at 9:55a on Saturday.

Another interesting thing on my last trip was that my colleague had a wedding reception to attend in Portland, so we took a couple of days off to do that and so she could see some more of her friends and family.  Days off are not something we did really, so even driving 3 hours each way was worth it.  First thing she did was meet her friend at Ikea.

She was very excited to get in there and pick up some things like wooden hangers, shadow box frames for her foreign  toothpaste collection, and some other odds and ends.

     After that she ran some work-related errands and hung out with her mom on the Westside.  That night, though, she drove back into SE Portland to meet some great friends at another great friend's restaurant, Taqueria Nueve.  All her friends were very welcoming and didn't mind that I tagged along, but I tried to just sort of blend into the background and let her catch up.

Everyone raved about the food, as she knew they would and the staff did a great job of accommodating a party of an unknown number of  people showing up at various times.  The drinks were also delicious and thanks to Dale's permanent status as the Designated Driver, my colleague was able to partake of a few margaritas.  Thanks to her mother, she was able to retrieve Khan the next morning.

   Again, I held back while she caught up with some her long(est)-time friends and "newer" friends, too, but I could not resist getting one photo to document my time there.  Of course the happy couple had a professional photographer there to document their special time and we all couldn't resist getting all meta about it.

My colleague was wearing a dress so she didn't lay on the ground like the pro who is not naked despite what it looks like.  If only there had been another photographer stander behind her to capture the whole moment to take the meta to another level.
   Now that I'll be spending the autumn and winter in the Bitterroot, I hope to get out a bit more to the local sites.  There are more breweries here and in Missoula to visit, after all.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

YES, I Am Still Doing My Blog!

So where I have been all summer?  I've spent most of the summer working out of town is where I've been all summer.  Or at least more of the summer than I have been at home.  It was supposed to be the summer of getting the yard into starting-point shape and building a woodshed, but it was the summer of doing lots of rewarding decorative painting for great clients instead.  Not a huge sacrifice, but I hope it isn't like that next summer.

Some of the work I got to do in Oregon:

Five (5) finishes viewed from one place!  The ceiling, the far wall, the niche, the round wall, and the mouldings on the top and bottom of the round wall.  Whew!  Thank you O'leal & Associates for another great project!

Faux distressed leather ceiling. Can't wait to see it with the chandelier!

Two (2) finishes here: Venetian plaster walls and ceiling (not shown) and aged brass rope moulding on an unfinished lighting feature.

This was supposed to be the summer when we worked to get the yard area of the property back to a good starting point for the next few summers, but my being gone so much pushed that off a year.  I'd hoped to build a new wood shed nearer the house, but ran out of time.  Our temporary firewood storage is pretty much the same set up as before, but with newer pallets and, most importantly, much closer to the house and on the same side of the house as the wood stove.  It's near where we hope to build the shed next summer.

We had also hoped that there was still time to get a drop box/dumpster delivered so we can finally get rid of some of the stuff* that the last owners left, but Eric really hurt his back while doing fire wood chores on Labor Day and I can't move a lot of this by myself.. I'll recycle what I can, but recycling is a whole lot more complicated here than in Portland. I guess this will be a project for spring.

Rumor has it that they just ran out of time for getting rid of 30 years worth of saving, storing, and maybe a little hoarding. Considering what was around the place when we saw it with our real estate agent, they got rid of 95% of it. Still, it's a drag we must pay to get rid of their stuff.

Full disclosure: The dog butt (upper left) is ours.

Regardless of the dumpster project, I must stain the fence.  It's a lonnnnnng fence, but at least it's just posts with a top rail... and I'm alllllllmost done.

If and when we get more fencing installed, I'll make sure I have a couple of weeks after the posts are set and the rails installed to stain it before the field fence goes on.

The posts are approximately 8' apart, with a 16' rail on top.  I figured a 16' section took 20-25 minutes to complete.

I realize this is a lot of pictures of a pretty simple fence, but dang it,  it's A LOT of fence and it's taking A LOT of time so finish.

Mostly the fence is in the open, but there are a few places where it runs through vegetation. like these lilacs.  I don't know how much extra time these sections took and I guess that I don't want too.  Oof.

The section to the left of the walk-through gate is the last part: about thirteen 16' sections.

I hope to put together a post or two of the activities that filled in the cracks of summer... stay tuned.

* And by "stuff," I mean "crap and rubbish."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Do This, Don't Do That. Can't You Read The Sign?

This was by driveway, after prying it off the plywood to which it was mounted I painted that plywood and reused it for the new sign.

It seems strange that the fact that there are houses on almost every five-acre area around here and that most of these places have a fence in some condition or other around them aren't indication enough that the property is private and therefore you can't hunt on them without permission.  Still everyone has clearly posted "No Hunting" and/or "No Trespassing" signs as well as blaze orange tape or spray painted fence posts and/or trees.

The new sign is vertically oriented.  While it would probably be more effective to have some blaze orange in there, I like how this is more subtle and tasteful than it used to be.

However, unless you spend kind of a lot of money on your sign, they're pretty ugly, which should be an oxymoron, but isn't.  We've never liked the looks of the signs that were on our property and we didn't like the tone of them much either.  Sure we want people to realize that our driveway isn't the road (a real thing that happens, by the way) and that our property isn't theirs to just wander onto at whim.  And since everyone seems to post signs, I wondered if not posting them would be an implied invitation.  So, I started hunting around the interwebz and found these.

I used the same material I make decorative painted sample boards to mount the other two.  I used galvanized picture wire to attach them to the gates.  Bonus: I got to use stuff we had around!

We like the color and the imagery.  The words are true enough, if even a bit snarky.  At $6 a piece*, they were a great value and suited our needs just fine.

See the pretty deer and the busy beavers?

We have three of them, one near or on each gate.  We'll still install some orange tape around the lower pasture on the fence lines were there aren't gates and replace the orange placards removed with the old fence along the National Forest border.

Yeah, yeah. I know I've got repetitive photos going on, but I just am so pleased with how these look so far.  So here's not lower pasture version.

* There is a quantity discount at several levels!  Nice!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Odds & Ends: June 2014 Edition

Delia has several "bush forts" around the property where she hangs out chewing sticks, getting shade, and doing dog stuff like taking a break during games of fetch.  If she's taking too long during fetch, I'll usually walk over and reach the Chuck-it launcher in there and fetch her ball myself.  One time I spotted this!

This is about 3' off the ground in one of Delia's lairs so I kind of hope that the parents realized this was probably not the best spot for wee babies and abandoned the nest for a new location.  

I've been working for a neighbor who has a big-boy version of a slot car track that he's building for a big international* race in November.  Starting in April, I've been painting lines, curbs, bit lanes and such on about 100' of track on a 10' x 20' table.  This is a craft project that staggers even me just a little bit.

Based on 4 or 5 tracks in Europe and the US, this track is supposed to otherwise be consistent with the 1960s for all the decorative details and the cars that will race on it.

This gig has a great commute!  Since they showed me the shortcut, I can walk there in about 5 minutes.  I usually do this in the mornings and noticed the sun hitting this old property border fence with it's lush moss coat.  Our forest doesn't have moss like the forest I grew up with so it was a nice little moment to start my day with a moss siting.

The orange tape is an indicator to passersby that the property is private and no hunting is allowed.  There are other methods, but this one is common and all of them are blaze orange at least until the sun fades them.

Speaking of cheery, unexpected plant life, I spotted these pansies sneaking throw an hole in the side of the silly truck bed flower bed that came with the house.

We're not entirely immune to the "rustic charm" of a pick up bed for a flower bed, but someday this one will find a new home on the property.  It seems just sort of plunked down and isn't really a color that suits our tastes.  Or my tastes anyway.

It's not just the plants getting all reproductive, either.

This little eggshell was laying on the edge of the driveway the last week of the month. What might be the other half of it was on the balcony underneath one of the birdhouses.

As June ends we're definitely going from our green season into our browning season.  There are still lots of wildflowers, but they're not carpeting the yard and forest like the Balsams did. 

 I don't know if this is native or not, but it's certainly an impressive size.

* Yup.  Racers mail their custom, hand-built slot cars from all over the world to race.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Parking Recreation

I hadn't noticed until a friend in Missoula pointed it out, but locals aren't what you'd call "good at parking."  I don't even think it's a blatant disregard for the lines in the lots and on the sides of the streets, but rather seems like the lines just don't register in the Montanan consciousness.  I mean, usually they get close - they're going vaguely diagonal in the same direction, but they aren't putting their car actually between the lines designated for a car.  This works just fine in the winter months when you can't really see the lines, but seems weird the rest of the year.

So when I drove into the local super market parking lot on Wednesday and noticed that they'd repainted the lines, I wondered out loud to myself if having fresh, bright, new lines would make a difference.  And then I parked facing right at this.

Maybe they let the dog park?

When I came out of the store that car was gone, but when I took my cart to the cart corral this guy pulled in a few spots up from me.  Nice and centered from left to right, but front to back not so much.

As I was driving out, I saw this one. Soooooo close and yet not.  It seems like it takes some extra attention to back into a spot, just not attention to where that spot stops and starts.

Yes, that is the view from the super market parking lot.  The Bitterroot Range in its springtime glory.

Let me say that none of these particular cars were parked up close to the building and that this parking lot is huge, so the drivers weren't really putting anyone out.  I'll also say that the majority of the cars are parked reasonably within a designated spot and that most of the time it doesn't look like that taking-two-or-more-spots-because-my-car-is-more-important-than-society's-rules-and-common-courtesy douchery.  It just seems like you see a lot more careless parking.  That's some kind of freedom there, boy howdy.

Note: I was not driving while taking any of these shots. The car was not in motion and I impeded the progress of no other drivers or pedestrians.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Spa Treatment

There she is on the delivery trailer about to get hoisted up onto the deck with a crane!

The other day Eric drained and refilled the hot tub in anticipation of Juan's visit* last weekend.  When we went to start heating it up it wasn't working.  It was a very basic model when it was new in 1999 and the mysterious codes on the display weren't helping us decipher the issue.  Even with the generic owners manual we didn't know what was going on.  So, I called the number in the manual which lead us to a spa business of a different name.  They came out on a service call and gave us the bad news: the shell (the fiberglass part that holds all the water and all the people) was failing and leaking and the plumbing was leaking and some other things were leaking.  We could spend a fair chunk of change to "put a band-aid on it" or about 2.2 times as much to fix it better, but the shell would still be failing.

This is the box the top came in.  I was assured that sporks were fine to use.

It was pretty exciting to watch the crane take away the old one and plunk the new one down on the deck.

So, instead of risking having that tub utterly fail in the middle of winter when we couldn't get a new one delivered and the old one hauled away and instead of throwing good money after bad we got a new spa!  It's still not the fanciest spa on the market, but it's quite an upgrade with about five times as many jets, a control display that makes some sense, new cover and cover lift, a low-maintenance cabinet (case? siding?) or whatever it's called, AND in a couple of weeks will have the saline filter-thingy.  And the spa guys (Chris & Ron) were the opposite of the tree guys as far as being here when they said they would be, returning calls and texts, etc.  YEY!  Let's hope that keeps up for our chemical needs and most importantly the installation of the saline thingy.  Did I mention the Aurora-Borealis-in-a-tub LED lights?

*Juan was the first to visit us twice and thrice!  As he's spending the summer not too far from here, I bet he'll beat everyone to fourth, too.  Not that it's a contest, but Juan's winning.

Juan Happened III: The Filthiest Corn Hole You've Seen
With Juan comes warmer weather, so we busted out the corn hole set.  It gets pretty dusty without a lawn or pavement to play on.