Friday, October 24, 2014

Costumes for Everyone!

Trick or treat!  Here's Mavis the Blue Wizard at your door begging for candy.

I picked up this hat in the bins years ago 

And good ol' Ramon, bustin' out his classic Viking disguise.  He'll take mead, thank you.

Monday, October 20, 2014

I'll Trade You.

We were invited to a Harvest/Barter Party and boy, was it cool!  Not only were there lots of interesting and friendly people to visit with, but it was a beautiful day on a great piece of property in the valley.  "What's a barter party?" you ask?  I'd never heard of this either, but I am sure glad that I have now.  Basically, everyone brings things we have grown, harvested, caught, canned, baked, frozen, or made that we might have more of than we need or want and then we all barter for what others have brought.  Also it was potluck.

At first I was stymied about what to bring. Eric suggested baking up some sweet treats, but it seemed like maybe longer-lasting things like canned good or freezable foods were more on-target.  We didn't have that.  Then I floated dog treats by him and he agreed that was a good idea.  Something a little different and when I last made them to share with his coworkers many raves were issued.

The tags say "BACON BONES & BATS For DOGS" with ingredients listed on the bag in case of food allergies.

I tend to overdo rather than under-do if given enough time to over think and so I became less convinced that dog treats were enough.  This is despite the invitation saying that any amount is more than welcome.  So with a just few days to spare, I said to myself, "Eff it, I'm making gin" and went out early the next morning to pick up supplies.

A 1.75 ml bottle of vodka yielded <4.5 pints of gin once "processed."

Plus, I got to use some new stamps I picked up recently to make labels!  One of the few requirements is that all barter items are clearly labeled with what it is and who brought it, so I was required to make labels.

On the day of the party I reread the invitation and worried we weren't bringing enough.  It's our first time, we don't want to look stingy, right? RIGHT!?  Annnnnd since, my friend Tiffany at Fizzy Party, had just sent me a fun "scare package" full of Halloween crafty stuff, I decided to whip out a few handmade Halloween cards (stationary was on the list of popular items from previous years).  I didn't take pictures of all four unique cards as I was feeling pressed for time, but here's how I presented them on the table.  All four were bartered in exchange for a one-pound bag of hand-raked, fresh cranberries that another guest had picked up on a trip to Wisconsin.

Of course, I had planned to take a few photos of the tables laden with produce, home-canned and homemade goods, but we were having too much fun visiting, enjoying the weather and views, and paying attention so we could learn how it worked for me to hassle with photos. Sometimes you give up documenting the moments to actually live them.  You'll just have to imagine an large, clean, brightly lit garage/shop with 3 or more tables and some sawhorses with boards on top stretched down the middle, all covered with colorfully table clothes and loaded up with great things.  There were fresh, dried, and canned fruits and veg, frozen meats, knitted and sewn things, various forms of alcohol, baked goods, handmade cards (in addition to mine), glass art, seeds, bulbs, and roots.  I'm sure I'm forgetting some things, too.  It worked like this: the host and hostess started by introducing themselves and describing what they had to barter and then we just went around the tables, kind of in order.  We were reminded that it was okay to say "no thank you" if you just didn't want something and encouraged to not get our feelings hurt in such cases.  Last rule: once you've bartered an item, remove it from the table. Then we were set loose to barter!  For us, the first three pints of gin went quickly, then there was a bit of a lull.  Next the dog treats started going and then I traded the cards for the cranberries.  Just when I was thinking we'd go home with gin, I was approached about the last jar.  Then the last of the dog treats found homes in quick order and we were done.  Prior to beginning, Eric and I discussed items we were interested in and then both bartered around.  Eric started us a little pile on the edge of the building, as did everyone else.  Our little pile got kind of big!

Anyone who makes anything knows how much fun it is to share and how great it feels when someone appreciates what you've made, perhaps especially if they make things, too, and know the time, thought, skill, talent, etc. that can go into making. That was the most fun,but it still was really fun to come home with all these great things made and grown by others.

The oldest person we traded with was Mabel, aged 90, 91, or 93 depending on who's telling.  She wanted some gin and we wanted her to have it, so we have maybe more heirloom tomatoes than we need, but we'll find a way to use them.  The youngest person was a fellow who mumbled his name into his companion's knees and who I would guess was about 4 years old.  He wanted dog treats and had made chili kits containing herbs, spices, a couple-few finds of beans, and a recipe card hand decorated with colored markers.

If the hosts do this again next year, I hope we're invited. I'm already socking away ideas of things to take.  I bet I know quite a few people who like this idea and I hope some friends back in Oregon and beyond will organize something like it.

Who wants dog hair?  We have more than enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?

Since the fence went up there are a lot fewer opportunities for spotting scat.  For one thing, fewer critters are just wandering onto the upper property during the night.  For another thing, we are not having to walk around the woods with a dog on leash 2-8 times/day.  Also, I was gone so much this summer that leisurely walks in the woods just didn't happen for me.  I thought maybe the "Whose Poop Is This, Anyway?" feature may have been unintentionally shelved, at least for awhile.  THEN, I went just on the other side of the fence to take a photo of the orange square (you're welcome) and spotted this!

It's got the little swirly bit on the, uh, trailing ends that seem to indicate coyote.  It was found in a spot of flattened down grass, which seems like a deer thing, but I don't know why deer would be so near the fence.

So, there you go.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Winter is Coming. In the Meantime There is Autumn.

Autumn is here.  In general, we have lovely days, cool nights, but with the occasional rainy spot here and there.

Autumn road. New fence on the right, old fence on the left.

And with autumn comes hunting season with which comes with blaze orange.  As I've mentioned before, it seems odd that the facts that there are houses every 5 acres that often have fences and that there's a BIG sign at the bottom of the road stating, "private road, no trespassing, etc." aren't enough to indicate that ya' can't hunt here.  Most of the neighbors have "No Trespassing/No Hunting" signs, orange tape tied to fence posts, etc. so we believe we should do similar.  You've seen the signs on the gates, but because the old owners had some small squares of plywood painted orange and posted on the old fence we thought we'd just repaint those and put them on the new fence.

New orange square on old fence.

Because there's lots more fence than the two existing squares can cover and (mostly) because some of the neighbors seem to mark the heck out of their borders, I made a few more orange squares.  I didn't have plywood, but I did have the material I make sample boards with already cut into 8" squares, masked and primed.

They originally were screwed into the old fence posts, but I wanted to refrain from unnecessary holes in the new fence posts (just more opportunity for water and bugs to hasten their demise) so I just used the hole that was already in the ply wood to attach them with wire. The washer gives the wire something to run through.

Also the fence staining is DONE, thank you very much.

It's already getting that lived-in look, by which I mean pooped-on look.  There's no telling whose poop this is, anyway.

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."