Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I Don't Know Why...

I don't know why people make choices. Friends, living arrangements, life partners, professions,.... So many choices to be made. What about hobbies? What causes a person to choose an activity to fill unscheduled time? Many seem to choose challenge as criteria. Can I do it? Can I climb that mountain, ride that bull, win that race, on and on and on. There are worlds and worlds of activities out there, for many of which we have no concept. Take paintballing, for example. Every June thousands of participants converge on 600+ acres in rural Oklahoma for what is billed as the world's largest scenario paintball game.

Yes, thousands from across the US and around the world. People from Germany and Australia have attended, among others. I wouldn't know about it except that Brian has worked as a staffer out there for years during the event. His rock crawler is used to keep an eye on what goes on back in the woods and to get lost stragglers in at night. He is kind of an all-around guy who does all sorts of things for the owner. This past June over 6,000 checked in during the week long event. Three semi-truck loads of paintballs were used, millions of 'em. The participants must purchase paintballs of a certain color at the event. Entry fees, camping, food and drink at the restaurant, vendor rental space, and equipment sales make the event a major source of income for the owners. Ya gotta give the guy credit for figuring out a way to produce income from land that is agriculturally marginal at best.

In addition to the pipe and railroad tie conglomerations used as points of defense, a number of structures are scattered about for the games. This is a picture of one of the structures put up in an area representing a village. It's used in the D-Day game, as well as in others such as Blackhawk Down. That's a lot of concrete block set for a game.

This other structure represents a church in the same village. Just a few guys, Larry among them, got together to pour the concrete on the second story. Again, a whole lot of work to play a game it seems to me.

So, there's a place, a game plan, a whole lot of participants, and a desire to run around and shoot little balls of paint at a pretty fair velocity at each other. As I said, I don't know why....
In addition to the prospect of bruising from paintball strikes, players deal with bugs, including the ever popular chiggers; poison ivy and poison oak; sometimes unbearable heat; and occasional rain. And this is FUN! A great time! Worth the trip!

I don't know why.

Boys and their toys....

The D-Day Adventure Park is also the site of several motorsport events. Most recently the annual Bike and Jeep rally was held. The above vehicles are little-modified examples of wheelin' rigs. These are probably roadworthy, as is our Cherokee. Yet it is amazing the places they get driven. Why? To see if ya can, I guess.

These guys are barely recognizable as Jeeps. Most start out as Wranglers, but the current machine has little of the original Jeep left. Huge tires with bead locks require beefed up axels and so forth.
The object seems to be to drive in the most unlikely place and not break down. Our Cherokee is just meant to get us to the places to watch the big boys make attempts. I honestly think some of these rigs could drive up the side of a house and over if there was no overhang to stop them. There is a social aspect to it too. These guys wheel in groups, which is a necessity to help out when someone breaks down or turns over.

You can see how a person might roll down one of these hills. They wheel at night out here too. Adds another dimension, I guess. I wasn't there, but Brian rolled his rig Friday night. The thing about it is that they aren't going fast, and Brian and his passenger wear five-point harness. That's in addition to the cages added to the stock vehicles. As a matter of fact, Brian fabricated the cage on the yellow jeep in the foreground. That jeep used to be painted like a black and white cow before this owner repainted. Anyway, after working with electricity and amonia, racing motorcycles, and riding hurtling- death-machine four-wheelers, rock crawling is one of Brian's safest hobbies yet.

Also Friday night, some guy was out in the park by himself (not wise--rookie mistake) and he broke down. After wandering around in the woods for awhile, he made it back to camp. Problem was he had so disoriented himself that he wasn't sure where the jeep was. He also had a motorcycle and wanted to go on the poker run, so he just went and decided to find the jeep later. Go figure.

This orange and blue tiger-striped rig is Brian's. It's actually not the most recent incarnation, which has some added features including a longer wheel base. He does all of the work himself, so it's a more affordable hobby for him than it is for most. I heard that most rigs range in price from $16,000 to $150,000. Yep, it's a significant chunk of change. Why do it? I don't know.
On a much more somber note.... Why do people put themselves in harm's way? It's clearly an element of many hobbies. People permanently injure themselves or lose their lives in hobby- related incidents. On Saturday there was a fatality accident at the event. Things got really bad really fast. Jeeps and trucks were running down through the mud in an area marked off for the activity. The boundaries of the run are separated from spectators by big concrete pipes lined up as a barrier. Bleachers are set up for spectators. Past the bleachers some rigs were parked with their front tires up on the pipes. There were people who decided to sit on the pipes thinking that the worst that could happen was a splattering of mud. That would have been the worst had all gone well. Unfortunately that wasn't the case. A fast mud-truck entered the lane revving the motor and showing off. He started through with pedal to the metal, got turned sideways, and evidently thought he could ride it out. He didn't let off on the gas, the truck jumped the barrier, and it turned over on some spectators. I knew someone had to be dead out of that deal. A young woman originally from Guam on her first visit to the park lost her life. Five others were injured, one seriously. He was med-flighted out with a broken leg, shattered pelvis, and a head injury. A couple of others left in ambulances. Really bad deal. It was the first incident of that kind of seriousness to occur out there. The events have been going on for years. What was different? Carelessness, I suppose.
Why did it happen? Why those people? I don't know. Maybe just because....

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mama, don't let your babies....

Grow up to be cowboys...

The boys came out Thursday for two days of riding horses and four-wheelers, fishing at the pond, and hanging out with Poppy and Grammy. I worked Thursday, so Poppy was in charge. Thankfully, it wasn't as hot as it has been. Friday morning we got up to go pony riding before the flies got too active. I told Gage that Lucy, the black pony, would follow Flicka, the chestnut I would ride, on the trails. She sometimes pokes along when we lead them back to graze the clearings, and then she rushes to catch up. I warned him that she might just decide she was too far behind and speed up suddenly on her own. She wouldn't run off or anything, and Gage should just hang on. I wasn't considering Gage's "need for speed." He was holding her back and then encouraging her to catch up. I only saw her trot fast. Heaven help her when Gage discovers cantering. She is not likely to be a happy pony. After we rode around a while, Lane came walking along the trail and joined us. He asked his brother if he could ride the pony.
Lane has a bit of an equitation history. Back when he was about 3 years old, we took him to a Pecan Festival at a nearby town. There were pony rides for kids. Lane said he wanted to go on the ride, so we paid the man and chose a likely looking mount. We sat Lane on the pony, and the screaming started. No ride gonna happen! Last year when I led Gage around on Lucy ( I wasn't sure if she had been ridden outside of a pony ride situation), Lane asked if he could get on her. He is more inclined to do stuff if his younger brother has done it first. So, I put a larger saddle on her for him. He got on her, she took about two steps, and Lane said, "OK, that's enough! I'm done!" He did get on her again this spring after I had a boy from the school take the pony and ride her for a few weeks to be sure she was safe. Gage had been riding her around the yard, and all went well. I didn't change the saddle, and Lane climbed aboard. He's way too big for the pony, so I asked him if he wanted to ride Flicka ( she's POA, about 13 hands high, which is about 52"). He declined, but did ride Lucy around a bit. Fastforward a few months....
He kept asking Gage if he could ride, and Gage would only say, "Maybe..." Lane followed us around awhile, all the way up to the 10 acres. I asked him if he wanted to ride Flicka, and I would walk back. Imagine my surprise when he said ,"OK." I guess he had watched enough to decide that she wasn't crazed. He mounted up, and I just walked along at her head. I had told him that it would be easier for him to ride a larger animal, but I guess he thought I was messin' with him. Me?? Anyway, had to get pictures of the groundbreaking experience.
Friday night I went to a class reunion of one of my students' classes, the class of 1989. I had known these kids from their 8th grade year until their graduation from high school. There were 18 in the graduating class. This was why I loved the small schools. In large urban high schools such as the one I attended, teachers and students aren't particularly close since one generally has students one year, and then they move on, depending on the subject matter. I taught English, where this would most often have been the case. At small schools, I had the opportunity to have students year after year and watch their progress. They were definitely "my kids." The reunion was great! I really enjoyed seeing them and their families.
Saturday morning we met Brian as we were on the way to Larry's sister's pool party. Brian had finished some work on his jeep and was on the way to do some wheelin' to check it out. Next weekend there is a bike and jeep rally at a nearby off-road park. Check in for pictures of the rigs! No pictures of the adult entertainment, though. Soooo sorry..... It was great seeing all the friends and family, especially the nieces and nephew "all growed up." The party wasn't as wild as some have been in the past. Probably due to advancing age of the attendees. Hey, it is what it is....

Sunday, July 12, 2009


OK, blooms. Who would guess that a 6' tall plant with huge, gorgeous leaves would produce single, tiny 1 1/2" blooms that only last a day or so? Not even in clusters! Just single,measly blooms. Who would guess? Well, probably someone who did a little research and discovered that these lovely plants are aggressive weeds hated by farmers. Seems they are velvet leaf plants. Sounds pretty, right? I'm not a farmer who is concerned about nutrients being removed from the soil, but when I read the part about seeds remaining viable in the soil for 60 years.... These seeds must have been in the soil when it was hauled in and became active after I tilled this past spring. Anyway, went out and chopped the tops off them this morning--don't want any more seeds! Another horticultural experiment concluded.

Still enjoying the backyard despite the disappointing flora. Early morning is the best time due to the continuing heat. It also helps to run a fan. The latest addition to what Brian calls the "subdivision" is nearly completed. Back when the house was being built, Larry chose a location for the dog pen...right off my future patio. Not my idea of great, but had to let him have some input. Then came the patio. Not the best thing to sit around facing a dog pen while dogs whine and bark to be let out. The pen was moved to the location I had originally hoped for, leaving behind a nice concrete pad just crying out for a potting shed/cook shack.

Larry's sister Judy had given us a sliding glass door and a front door that she had replaced in her house. We had those and some lumber saved up to recycle. Buy some siding and roofing metal, and it's good to go. Recycled only half of the sliding door glass. The rest will get used at some point. I guess when a person lives in town, there really isn't room for much in the way of outbuildings; but when living out on acreage, there is greater temptation to acquire stuff, which needs to be kept somewhere. I don't know where the whole "subdivision" thing came from. Besides the house, we just have a 40'x30' garage. Oh, and an 8'x12' chicken house. Well, and a 15' square shed for some of the overflow. Then there is the 8'x 12' cabin down by the pond, and now the addition to the back. That's only five outbuildings, not a "subdivision." Surely he isn't counting the two carports.

The other night on America's Got Talent there was a guy who said he had been a chicken catcher. Everyone laughed as if it were a joke, but that is an actual job. I guess no one thinks about it when purchasing that fryer at the grocery store, but those chickens don't just obediently march to their deaths. I guess I wouldn't have had occasion to think about it either, except that there is a chicken farm about two miles south of us. Those big ol' chicken houses hold thousands of birds. Trucks carrying cages come at intervals to haul the birds off. How do you suppose those chickens get into those cages? CHICKEN CATCHERS! We have had to do a bit of chicken catching ourselves lately. Well, chicken and turkey catching actually. We got some chicks this spring because our hens are getting older and not laying eggs so much. We keep about a dozen free range chickens. We got a dozen or so chicks and raised them in a cage. When they got big enough, we turned them loose with the older birds. At night the older birds go into the chicken house, and we close the door. Safe and sound for the night. No worry about marauding 'coons, 'possums, or bobcats. Trouble is the young birds don't know to go in. Takes a couple of weeks of training. The first few nights we go out after dark, locate them, catch them, and put them into the coop. Later they can be kind of herded that direction at dusk, and they will gradually go in on their own. They have all gone in on their own for the last few nights, so I thought we were past chicken catching. Well, we have been giving eggs to a guy up the road for a few years. He has a grandson who is allergic to "store bought" eggs ( I don't know; that's what his mother says). Anyway, he had been saying he was going to bring us some chickens because he knew a guy who had some. He had been saying this for quite a while until it became so much blah, blah, blah. We went ahead and got some ourselves, the aforementioned recently released chicks. Yesterday the guy showed up with 10 young hens. They may be just a bit older than the ones we just turned out. The coop will be overcrowded until the predator feeding program kicks in (that's how we refer to the loss that occurs with free ranging chickens). I guess in a week or so we'll release these new birds from the cage and start chicken catching again. Ahhhh, the country life....

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Paint It!

In the last posting I included a picture of a tabletop that I had painted---reuse, recycle. I have painted many surfaces in my house and thought I would post some examples, as well as a few of my more conventional paintings. I designed my home with a home computer program and hired a Menonite building group to put up the structure and dry it in. Serving as contractors, Larry and I hired a plumber for the rough in, HVAC guys, and sheetrockers to rock, mud, and tape the place. We built all of the interior walls and insullated; our son, Brian, did the wiring; and Larry did the finish plumbing, installed electrical fixtures, and ,as he says, followed directions. We also took a cabinetmaking class out at the local Votech center and built our cabinetry. It's a homebuilt home, which is not so tough to do when living in a rural setting. You see, there are no requirements for building permits or inspections out here. Everything meets code when it comes to mechanicals, but no one had to approve anything. It's like the old days when folks just decided what they wanted and built it.
Because we were on a very limited budget, finish work was done over a period of time. When we moved in, we had temporary kitchen and showering facilities and no interior doors. With the use of Home Depot and Lowe's six-month-no-interest credit, we went every six months and got about $600 worth of supplies. We paid it off as we used the materials and then went back for more. Our 2,653 square foot home was built with proceeds from the sale of our previous home, a $30,000 bank loan, and pay-as-you-go finishing. It was also paid off in 5 or 6 years.

So much for background... on with the painting aspect. Of course, we painted all walls in a more or less conventional way, but there was a need to finish the floors. The house is built on a concrete slab. I saw a Christopher Lowell Show on which he painted floors and thought "Why not?" It wasn't as if very much of the house was conventional, so...
Let's start with the bathrooms. The tub was across the road with a bunch of junk, and the owner let me have it for $10!

The wainscoating was a gift from a friend who had a sawmill in Wyoming and brought a pickup load of Ponderosa pine tongue and groove paneling. We used it here and there throughout the house until the last of it went into this bathroom. The floors are painted, as they are throughout the house. Because it was new concrete with no finish, I didn't use any primer on the slab first. It is porous material, so I didn't foresee any problems with paint adhering. I determined what I wanted as a pattern and colors and laid it out on the floor. I used 1/4 inch masking tape from an autobody shop to tape off what would represent grout lines. The original concrete appears to be grout. I just used interior latex wall paint, although the man at a Sherwin Williams store told me I couldn't use that as floor paint. I hate it when someone tells me I can't do something! After painting the desired pattern, carefully pulling up the masking tape before the paint dried, I applied 6 coats of high gloss water-based polyurethane. I did have a bit of a problem because there was fiberglass added to the concrete for strength. Strength is good, but the little hairs of the fiberglass became prickly with the addition of the polyurethane. Not good for bare feet. I did have to sand it off after three coats. That was the only way I came up with to get rid of the prickly stuff. The finish has been down for 8 years now, has never been waxed, and remains just like new. What was originally meant to be temporary until I could put down tile or something has become permanent. It is attractive, I think, and easily maintained. I have just a bit over $500 invested in the flooring finish for the entire house!
The other bathroom had its own issue. No problem on the flooring...just paint it! But the shower was another matter altogether. I have a 3'x8' walk-behind shower. How to finish it out.... Fiberglass panels? No- would have to be custom and wasn't the look I wanted. Tile? No! would have to clean grout lines! What to do, what to do....
Paint it! The floors were painted the same as before. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" But, the shower walls had other challenges. I decided to start with greenboard to cover the walls of the shower. Of course, the helpfull guy at Lowes told me I couldn't use greenboard in that application. OOOOOH! I hate being told that. I just told him, "I think I can!" and hauled it home. I installed the greenboard and taped and mudded the joints. Then I painted it with Dry-Lock paint. Hey, if it can be used in swimming pools, why not a shower? After the Dry Lock, I painted it all a lovely sky blue with regular latex wall paint. Then I got out the acryllics and painted clouds, trees, and flora. Why not? Add about 8 coats of polyurethane, caulk the joints in the corners, add poyurethane molding pieces to finish, plumb, and shower!

It has been in service for about 7 years now.
I have had to repaint the
floor of the shower. Too much standing water,
I guess. I repainted it using marine, oil based paint. So far so good. I clean with vinegar and water solution and it seems to holding up well. Not bad for a $250 investment. I figure it's an acceptable risk to try something unconventional that costs little more than a few dollars and some time. I'll get tired of it sometime and do something else.
The rest of the floors in the house vary in color and design, but the process is the same. I have decided that what was intended to be a stop- gap sort of thing until I could afford floorcoverings will become permanent. It is so easily maintained. When you live out in the sticks, a lot of stuff gets tracked in, particulary when it rains, and a little sweeping or mopping makes it as good as new. I have recoated the high traffic areas with more polyurethane since the original coats, but that costs no more than applying a quality wax. There have been a couple of nicks in the floor because of small pebbles coming in on shoes, but a little touch up and poly takes care of that. Kitchen flooring has worked out well too...just paint!

I have really enjoyed the entire process of making my home my own and recommend it to everyone. You have to know that people have made their own dwellings for centuries, and they weren't all geniuses. I say "go for it!"

I have also painted furniture. Buy something dirt cheap at the swap meet (rural folks' garage sales) and paint it. The lamp table was the base of an old desk, I think, that I got for $1.50; and the dresser was more expensive--$20.

I also do more conventional painting. Here's a small gallery...

As a hobby, painting isn't very expensive to get into, doesn't take much space, and is FUN!
Even if you live outside of Podunk, as I do, there are instuctional programs on educational TV. I have found programs on PBS, BYU, and local university channels. I set the DVR to record them and paint along when I have a chance. Once you have some techniques down, find your own subject matter and go for it. I like acrylic painting, but you can find shows on other media and adapt to whatever you want to do.