Lisa has gone to work , extra early today; such a good woman. The sun at this time of day only serves to produce a rumor of warmth which will prove false when I go out to plug in my tractor. It is morning on my day off.
I am working nights and so I truly get only one day off. Wednesday started with the end of my shift and Friday will end with the beginning off my shift so Thursday is mine. I am truly dug into the couch as I watch a public broadcasting special on Bill Holm. Lisa requires only one blanket to watch television but I require three; an afghan we receive for our wedding, the blue blanket Lisa gave me when we were dating and a green blanket which I pull down from the arm of the couch. When I am alone, I also cover all three with Lisa’s nice quilted blanket. We are out of Rye grain now and so the corn stoves sit quietly. It is a good reminder to me that the hard work I do to keep the stoves at work is well rewarded with a warm house. This morning I have the thermostat set high but it still feels cold without the stoves’ deep sustaining heat from an actual fire.
I rarely sit on the couch alone. Magoo (one of tthree cats) is my baby and sits under my arm and snuggles. I have permanent elbow pain from holding him in the crook of my arm. Twitch usually sits towards the end of the couch on my feet and Laine chooses whatever spot allows her to gaze fondly upon Twitch. We are a happy group. If I’ve planned well, the phone, the remote and my coffee are close enough so that I do not disturb one prop in this serene painting. This morning I choose an English muffin to eat so that is there too. As I grow older, I have less and less use for gravy or jelly but more need for butter. My muffin has a pat plus some pressed sorghum which tastes like honey. It both looks and tastes dark which makes me feel like it is a healthy topping although this is probably false.
My morning ends with the reality of life. The end of my twilight coma begins with a “People” magazine. I believe that we could improve our culture greatly by simply buying each edition of “People” magazine and throwing it away along with its tales of actors, reality stars and other celebrities. I still read it. The magazine reminds me of the big, shallow world out there and that I must do the basic and practical things that average people do to strike a balance in the world with the “People” people.
I must dress and work. I haven’t actually made the commitment but know I must soon. There is time, however, once more; under the four blankets, beside Magoo, above Twitch and Laine and reach for the coffee and remote.
I am never more susceptible to illness than during the changes of season; today I am sick. I can suffer through thirty below temperatures and hip-deep snow but give me one week of thawing and I will get sick. I am writing this letter with one blanket wrapped around my legs and another over my head and shoulders which makes me appear as a cone-shaped Bedouin. You might want to pour some hand sanitizer on this letter prior to reading it.
I’m not sure I have my mind wrapped around the spring thaw yet. We started winter with plenty of ground moisture, the water content of the snow received was pretty high and then spring came along and melted our snow quickly, yet there seems to be less flooding than last year. Maybe all the preparation and flood mitigation is working, however it seems like it was a perfect situation for spring flooding. The culverts opened quickly so much of our cropland has already drained. It’s funny, but even the rivers have gone done and there isn’t the constant din of “Peabody-award winning” coverage of the flooding on local television.
Last week I wrote about a gate crossing I built for my four wheeler. There is nothing like a woodworking project to find out who reads my column. I have had several people stop and ask questions about the crossing and how it was built. Anyway, I left my four wheeler parked on the crossing for the last week so it seems to be build tough enough for my purposes. I could probably build these for resale however I would lose money because of my overzealous use of ten dollar per pound torx-head screws.
How’s the remodeling project going, Dave. I know you and Mary have done an amazing amount of work on your home in Carrington, North Dakota and are both probably ready for it to be done. We are Nelsons, however and would be lost like retired oxen if we had no projects. I’m sure after you are done “re-imagining” your home you will probably find something else to change. We are finishing up a few things around here and I am already worried about finding replacement tasks.
I purchased a new vehicle, Dave. I look a little creepy behind the steering wheel as my new ride is a van. One man, driving a van, reminds me of scenes from the “Silence of the Lambs,” or other equally unsettling images involving lonely roads, hitch-hikers and a lone gunman. I stopped to get coffee this week and as I removed my amber shooters glasses and stepped from the van, a young person seated alone in the car next to me locked her car door. I drive a van because it is all wheel drive, there are no reasons any more sinister than mobility for my ownership. Everyone can just relax.
I hope next time we speak it will be spring planting, that would be a nice reward for a hard winter. Until then bid the wife and kinder hello
I am not suggesting you build this weekâ€™s project. This is a project that should probably be made from steel and by someone who knows what he or she is doing or at least has some liability insurance. I am simply telling you what happens behind the closed doors of our shop and what may be of interest to you. This is project gate crossing.
I like to check our little group of cattle pretty often. These trips are made on a four wheeler which means I have to open the gate each time I cross. I spend much of my life building things to remedy that which irritates me; opening gates is an irritant.
I started my project by cutting a twelve foot 2 x 8 in half then cutting each end at a 45 degree. These ends were then screwed together to form an upside-down â€œvâ€ or truss. I laminated the junction with two pieces of plywood that were both glued and fastened with screws over the junction of the 45 degree angles. I always use screws as they hold better and I can remove them to fix my numerous mistakes. I placed the trusses on top of 2 x 6 boards that would serve as skids to move the whole structure.
I placed the two mounted trusses facing each with about five feet apart between them, then started at the bottom and began spanning the distance with 2 x 4 boards. I placed the boards about five inches apart and quit after I got to sixteen inches high. At this point I fastened a 2 x 6 across the distance created by the â€œvâ€ of the truss. This board was where I fastened more 2x 4â€™s to create a flat plain at the height of sixteen inches. The whole idea is that I will climb the ramp with my four wheeler to sixteen inches, then land onto the plat plain before driving down the ramp at the other end of the â€œvâ€ truss. The cattle wonâ€™t climb the boards because they are oriented the narrow way, on their edge. The 2 x 6 that creates the base for the flat space is also buttressed by one pier at itâ€™s middle point.
This is a simple project but one that would be dangerous if not properly constructed-consult an expert. I adhere to a few simple construction techniques that have served me pretty well that I will share. I glue and fasten most boards, plus I use an unholy amount of screws just to make sure nothing falls apart. I never rely totally on screws to hold anything. I try to build like post and beam carpenters in that I place wood in such a way that one piece will hold the other up and that the fasteners are just there to keep things from wiggling apart. A good example is that I place blocks of wood between each 2 x 4 step to keep them from twisting. I also ran a 2 x 4 along the bottom of each side of the junction where the truss and step met so that the fasteners do not bear the considerable weight of man and machine. I also ran a board at a 45 degree angle along the backside of each ramp and the flat plain too eliminate any flex. Finally, laminating the junction of two boards with plywood and glue is a technique that Ross Cota from Red Lake Falls, MinnesotaÂ recently taught me (thanks, Ross.)
I donâ€™t know if you have cattle but it seems most folks have a four wheeler. I hope this little project is something you can have made or at least makes you think of what can make your atv more enjoyable. I enjoyed this project and it cost less than $110 so I can probably afford to enjoy it again.
Lisa and I go to a movie maybe two or three times a year. Therefore, each visit must count; we don’t go to movies featuring young vampires in love, Miley Cyrus or any other film that leaps out and identifies itself as mediocre or contrived. This week, we did go to a movie, a good one-“Crazy Heart.”
“Crazy Heart” is the story of Otis Blake (played by Jeff Bridges) who has taken the stage name “Bad Blake.” Blake is a country music singer who over the course of fifty seven years has drank too much and wasted too much time. He is at the end of his road. Blake avoids being a cliché in that he isn’t mean nor does he feel sorry for himself; he is really just a survivor. Otis Blake also writes great country music, although that talent lies comatose from his excess use of alcohol.
I think Blake is like most addictive personalities in that his life is empty so he fills it with something easy to find; whiskey. He has the talent to do more with his life but has lost his emotional drive. The Blake character is in need of a God-smack, that thing which puts all of us back on track. The life-changing smack comes along in the form of a woman (surprise!) named Jean Craddock. Craddock (played by Maggie Gyllenhaal) offers love with the condition that Blake not drink in front of her child. Their romance is engaging and honest although made dark and anxious by Blake’s alcoholism which Craddock describes as “living with a rattlesnake.” The relationship Blake develops with Craddock’s child is tender and sweet but overcast by his addiction. Still, all three spend time together in an honest and flawed way that most anyone with some life-experience will find familiar.
I love country music; not the kind that comes as a result of winning a national talent show but the stuff that comes from living life. Bad Blake writes and plays the music of life; in all its disappointing glory. It is the music that can save Blake. It is the love that Craddock offers that can make Blake remember the music. The songs featured in this movie remind me of those written by Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings, among others. I was told that Jeff Bridges was instructed to listen to the music of “the Highwaymen” in order to gain historical perspective of the part he played so I guess that makes sense.
“Crazy Heart” is a movie worth watching, particularly if you like the music. There are a couple of short scenes of adults doing adults things, however they’re pretty tame. The plot moves at a slow pace as it is character and dialogue-driven; no explosions or chase scenes are featured. The characters are engaging and interesting and I found myself hoping they’d all find happiness. It was a great show and made me want to hold Lisa’s hand; more than enough reason to go.