Friday, October 31, 2014

Projects In the Bank

Last week I cut down two dead oak trees and then cut up two dead oak and one dying black cherry tree. How does that work? Well when you cut down dead oak tree number one and a fork of it directly hits a spindly black cherry tree which turned out to be half rotten at the base, I got a two-fer. The second dead oak tree came down without a hitch. Since I still have a five year supply of firewood if I get crazy and burn it at twice the rate I have been, I really didn't need the wood. Because these trees were on a very steep slope, I carried what was easy up near the road and gave it away the next day and what was hard I let roll down to the bottom of the hill. A week later, my wife asked if I would make her some more wood block plant stands like I did last fall and this spring so I went down to the bottom of the hill to cut the logs that I will eventually use for that project.

While I was there and my chainsaw blade was still very sharp, I decided I would cut some of the wood for future projects to be determined. It seems a shame to waste such nice wood though it would eventually decay and fertilize the rest of the trees around it. So I cut a stack of disks from the tree and hauled them back up to my garage. While I was doing that, I noticed a couple logs with excellent colonies of fungus growing on the bark. Up until a year ago, this wouldn't have caught my attention but due to my pen making hobby and learning of the beauty of spalted wood, I went over to check it out.

Spalting is where fungus growing on the outside of a log discolors the inside fibers in unique patterns which when made into projects later on, provide beautiful results. Lighter colored woods like maple work well and though I haven't heard of anyone doing oak, I found that the wood had spalted quite nicely. You can see an example in the picture above. So I cut the spalted part of the log into small sections that I can cut into pen blanks or something else at a future date when it dries.

On my previous attempt to make decorative blocks for plant stands, the wood checked pretty good as it dried over the winter. It still looked fine and added character to them but I wanted to see if there was a way to prevent that. I did some research and found a substance online that is said to do quite well for preventing checking though the examples are mostly smaller boards and such. It looks very much like a white latex paint and you apply it to the end grains of the wood for it to be absorbed. It promotes slower drying out the end grains which is supposed to reduce checking. So I applied it to all the end grains of my future projects and blocked them up on my workbench so they can dry out over winter. The last time I harvested some spalted wood in my ditch, I cut it up right away without useing Anchorseal and tried drying it out just with a fan. It checked badly so that I didn't end up with a single usable piece. I hope this way works better though at this point, I don't have much labor or money into it so I won't really be bummed if it doesn't.

I did the same on my two future plant stands. The directions says not to put it on face grain because it might stain it. Since most of the pictures shows them applying it to small pieces of wood or logs with bark still intact, I'm not sure how it will work with these. If it does, well I've learned something. If it doesn't, well I've still learned something and I've got two more plant stands with character. Its a win win kind of deal.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mickey Mouse Money

Awhile back on this blog I posted some World War II era photos showing the bombing destruction of Manila after the war. These were given to my wife by one of her clients. Well the same client dropped by my wife's office again and this time brought her some World War II era money from the Philippines. I thought there were pretty cool so I scanned the front sides to post here in order from least worth to most worth.

The money issued by the Japanese after they routed the Americans and took over the island was called the fiat peso. They made the previous pesos illegal in an attempt to stop the guerrilla movement. As the title of the post suggests, the locals called it "Mickey Mouse money."

At the time, 75 Mickey Mouse pesos was equivalent to 35 U.S. dollars but due to inflation, locals were often seen carrying huge sacks of money to buy what they needed. Some examples that I found were that 75 pesos were needed to buy 1 duck egg or a box of matches cost about 100 pesos.

The Centavo shown at the top of the post, which is about the same size and quality as Monopoly money, was from the first issue of money in 1942. The 1, 5 and 10 were issued a year later in 1943 and due to rising hyperinflation, the 100 peso note was issued in 1944.

The monument promently displayed on all the fiat pesos is the Rizal monument which is a Filipino hero to many who was executed by a Filipino firing squad in the Spanish army in 1896 for conspiracy.

This final note is a 5 yen note which I'm pretty sure was also issued during the war by the Japanese for use in China and Hong Kong. I'm not sure what they called it there but it certainly is a little bit more complex than the Mickey Mouse money used in the Philippines.

Monday, October 27, 2014


When it comes to my lawn, I'm pretty much live and let live. Back when I had a postage stamp sized lawn, I made an attempt to keep the weeds to a minimum and fill in bare spots with grass seed but with a couple acres, it just isn't feasible or desirable on my part. I did seed down the dirt around our new sidewalk and driveway but that was more to prevent mud from being tracked on them than for beauty reasons.

I tell you this to justify telling you that when it comes to insects in my lawn, I let them live if they don't bother me. However, the local flock of turkeys that call my back yard home don't share the same attitude. In fact, they are down right hard on the local insect population. Twice a day, they traverse my yard from one side to the other pecking up insects as fast as they can move their necks. I've watched them grow from young poults into full grown turkeys indistinguishable from their mothers who have herded them around all this time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Cloudy Skies

I mentioned in a previous post about sitting out on the deck one evening enjoying life and turning my gaze upwards. In a matter of a half hour, it seemed as if the skies changed three or four times. Because film is cheap these days, especially since my camera doesn't use any, I didn't mind snapping away and committing them to my computer's hard drive. I thought I might throw a few of them in a post to share to the world, or the two dozen people who read my blog for reasons I may never understand.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

An Iowa Harvest

Even though farming in the 80's pushed me to pursue other avenues of livelihood and is why I became an engineer, I still miss it and dream of returning to the farm someday. Fall is my favorite time of the year mostly because the dreams of harvest become a reality. Whether or not the seeds were planted in good shape, whether or not we got adequate moisture, heat and sunshine, whether or not we missed hailstorms and late season winds, all matters not anymore. The cards have been dealt and all that is left to do is harvest the grains and see what hand you've been dealt.

To continue on the card analogy, this year the farmers in this region have been dealt a full house with ace's high. The crops are spectacular which makes harvesting slow. The only problem is that corn is as cheap as it every has been which is like everyone else being dealt nothing in their hands and folding early so there is nothing in the pot. At the end of the day, you rake in what chips you've won and keep on dreaming for that day when you've got the hand and everyone else at the table is thinking the same thing... but are wrong!