Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I grew up in the South. We didn't get a lot of snow and when we did it was cause for huge joyous celebrations. One flake and businesses closed, grocery stores ran out of milk, bread, and toilet paper, and children all over town started watching anxiously for accumulation.

In WV we have plenty of snow. Enough for sledding! We found a particularly good hill the other day.



Monday, January 11, 2010

Driving to Town

This past weekend, my husband and I had to go into town to get prescriptions filled. I took a few pics. This is the most snow I've seen since I've been here. We had more a couple of weeks ago but I was out of state visiting relatives.

Here's a beautiful scene snapped out the window on the way to town. This might become my desktop background, despite the fact that it's not too clear.

The creek is doing its best to freeze over nice and solid. I've never been ice skating on a pond or a stream. I would love to try it! Skating on a stream is especially attractive to me, because I'd get to see the area from a new vantage point.

Icicles!! There were much more impressive ones than these, but these were convenient and we were going slowly, so these got photographed.

After we arrived in town, the back of the truck looked like this. It's interesting how clearly the wind patterns show up in the drifted snow. Now I understand why, when I forget and leave my back window open on the highway in the summer time, all those leaves and/or hay blow out of the bed and into the cab!

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Power Outage

We had a big storm come through here Wednesday the 11th. We lost power for three days, almost to the hour. It was pretty fun, actually, and very relaxing. It was very quiet and we could hear the coyotes on the hill with crystal clarity. Our place is pretty quiet, we don't have sirens or traffic or manufacturers near us. Still, losing power for an extended time does give one the opportunity to realize how much noise is created by the fridge, freezer, computer fans, well pump, and other daily power activities that happen in the background without our being conscious of them.

The easy stuff - we sat by the window and read a lot during the day, we got some stuff done around the place outside once the weather settled down, we lit candles as night fell, we ate canned soups, chili, and similar heated on the gas cooktop.

The manageable stuff - we ran the generator occasionally to keep the fridge and deep chest freezer cold, and during these times we filled water containers for the rabbits and chickens, for ourselves, and made coffee in the coffee maker. We filled the bathtub so we'd have water with which to flush.

The stuff that concerns us - the gas pressure here is poor and the gas fails when demands are placed on it. Our generator runs on natural gas but we only got 7 to 15 minutes out of it at a time before the gas would fail. In extremely cold weather we'd be unable to drip water to keep the pipes from freezing, even if we put out the pilot lights on the two heaters and the hot water tank.

We're re-committed to getting the solar panels up and the control panel in place, so we can run the freezer, fridge, and well pump off of solar. The batteries are in place and the rack is on the roof, so much of the work is done. We have the materials to do the rest. And so it goes.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Scenic View

One of the things I love about West Virginia is the natural beauty of the state.

This is a view from a drive we take occasionally, headed west on Hwy 47 into Smithville. The new metal barn, the well tended pastures and fence, the cemetery behind the barn, and the church off on the hill always make me feel peaceful.

As always, you can click on the photo for a larger view.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Car Show in Elizabethon, TN

When I went to visit my Dad in May, we took one evening and went to Elizabethton, TN. During the summer, all summer long, the town of Elizabethton closes its main street on Saturday evening and folks bring their hobby cars in various states of renovation. There's lots of showing off and the car owners talk about how to get this or that done, and where they've found good suppliers for various parts. There's no admission charge and the atmosphere is relaxed and friendly.

I really liked the old cars. My favorite old cars are the ones with huge fins. There weren't very many "fin" cars there the day we went, but there were a couple beautiful old cars. The one in front is a Packard with a swan hood ornament from probably the early 1940s. I don't remember what the other car is but I think it was also a Packard.

My husband really likes the old Shelby Cobras, so I had to photograph this little gem!

There were some hot rods, too. My favorite of the hot rods was this unlikely Ford Pinto. Look how tall they've stacked all that engine stuff! I don't even know what that stuff is called, but it's impressive. Look at the back - it has little "training wheels" so it can't flip over backwards when popping a wheelie. On a Ford Pinto!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Sawing Lumber - part III

The last of my sawmill (and related) photos.

My Dad puts the cut off rounded sides of log on this table/bench/shelf thing he made. Rather than having a solid top like a table, it's an open structure with occasional supports going front to back. He has it marked at intervals, and he uses his chainsaw to cut through the entire stack of scrap and make them regular lengths so they fit well in his wood stove. Clicking the photo for a larger view makes it much easier to see how it works. Simple, yet ingenious.

Sometimes the wood is flat on both sides but the edges are too wiggly and non-uniform to be suitable for lumber. Or sometimes it's flat on both sides but of an odd thickness, due to shaving off the "extra" in order to get all 2x or 1x thicknesses. He uses these odd pieces to make "stickers" which are used for garden stakes or for stacking wood. The stickers can be of non-uniform width, but they have to be a consistent thickness.

Here is a stack of 1x lumber of varying widths. This lumber will be used for siding on sheds or board-and-batten construction. To stack wood, Dad places cinder blocks, rocks, or whatever on the ground and then puts cross-pieces of wood in place; he'll lay the lumber on these cross-pieces. This is to keep the lumber off the ground so it stays dry and doesn't rot or get infested by insects. The lumber stack isn't exactly level; it slants ever so slightly toward one end. This facilitates air flow and drainage of any water that should get into the stack of lumber.

He puts the cross-pieces of wood at about 30" intervals. Then he lays a layer of lumber on the cross-pieces. Then he puts stickers on the layer of lumber directly above the wood cross-pieces. Then a layer of lumber, a layer of stickers, etc. until all the lumber is stacked. It's important not to get the stickers too far apart, and to get them placed directly over one another so that the lumber doesn't dry in a warped fashion.

On top of the whole structure he puts old tin roofing. He overlaps it, with the top piece being on the "uphill" end of the stack (remember, it's not quite level). Then he weights the tin down with cinder blocks or rocks to keep it from blowing away. Lumber stacked like this will stay good for years if the weeds are kept out of it.

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Monday, August 11, 2008

Sawing Lumber - part II

As always, you can click any of the photos for a larger view.

Here the log is in place and the first cut is being made. Getting the log positioned properly is, to me, the most tedious part of the whole thing. A log that looks straight can turn out to be surprisingly crooked when you try to line it up for cutting. All those lumps and bumps where branches used to be get in the way and have to be dealt with, too. It takes some turning and jostling to get it lined up so that your cuts go straight down the log and produce the most lumber possible.

The log has been turned so that the flat side is flush against some vertical dogs. Wooden wedges are seen holding the log in position for the second cut. These first two cuts are critical. After this cut the log always lies on a flat side and things square up pretty well. Dad said the first log he cut, it took him a couple of days just staring and turning, turning and staring. Now he does several in a day. He sees a lot when he looks at a log.

Here the wood is being cut to two inch thicknesses. In all these pictures Dad is using a 2x2 (more or less) to help push the blade mechanism forward. Lots of times he just wedges that stick between his hip and the mobile portion of the mill and walks slowly forward. He's figured out a lot of little tricks to make the sawing less strenuous on both him and his sawmill.

Pure magic! 2x4 lumber from a tree trunk.
You see how those boards are raising up? I didn't know this but trees have a lot of internal stress and as you cut them, they like to twist and turn. So when you see warped lumber it's probably not that the sawmill did a poor job cutting the lumber, it's more likely due to internal stress within the wood itself.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dad's Sawmill - a close up view

You can click on the pic for a pretty darned large version (2272 x 1712) where you can see the letters and what I'm describing.

I wish I'd thought to take more photos of how this amazing machine actually works, but this will have to do.
A - This jar holds either water or kerosene, depending on what kind of wood is being cut. More about this later.
B - A 5 gallon plastic bucket hanging by a rope; it catches excess sawdust and has to be emptied regularly.
C - A square plastic box that holds fuel. The little cylinder on top is where you open it to put fuel in, and the bent wire thing is the fuel gauge. It's on a float inside the fuel tank and you can poke on it and bob it to see how much fuel you have left :)
D - A silvery yardstick. This is used to calibrate the height of the blade so you get 1x or 2x or 4x lumber. My Dad had to make special marks on it with a permanent pen, to allow for the kerf (the part of the wood that gets eaten up by the saw).
E - These horizontal logs/branches are at the bottom of the step-like area on the hill (the hill is to the right of this photo) where the logs are rolled down and onto the sawmill. They roll down the hill, across these pieces of wood, and onto the metal frame of the sawmill.

Under the log you can see the metal structure that supports the logs (Dad welded it around a construction I-beam), one of the wheels (it's a portable sawmill), and on the ground you see what looks like scrap wood. The scraps are triangular and are used to wedge the log in place while it's still round and the first cuts are being made.

Although it looks cluttered, every bit and piece serves a purpose. The only part my dad didn't assemble is the gray part that shields the saw blade and has the big wheels in it that propel the saw blade.

This is looking from the other side of the sawmill, at the blade going around a big wheel. This is inside the gray plastic shield (temporarily removed while the blade was being changed). See how the sawdust wants to build up on that little black roller? A buildup of sawdust causes the blade to stretch and slip - and it can break, too! Dad says it's spectacular when a blade breaks. And very dangerous.

Remember the jar marked 'A'? There's a hose running from the jar to this roller. Dad drips kerosene or water on this area to wash it clean. Kerosene for sappy softwoods like pine, water for hardwoods like oak (or Weekend Farmer's walnut :)

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Sawing Lumber - part I

My Dad has some logs lying in his field. Folks in the area know he has a sawmill and when they clear land sometimes they bring him the logs. They do this because they don't need the firewood and it's a good way to get rid of the logs... and besides, they like my Dad :)

First you have to figure out what type of lumber you're going to need. 2"x4"x12'? 1"x3"x10'? Then you go hunt up a log that's about the right length. We had figured out what lumber I'd need to build a chicken coop, and we marked the appropriate logs with red spray paint. We measured twice, just to be sure.

Then my Dad dragged the logs over to the sawmill with his tractor and the tongs.

This photo is taken from the hill to the right of the sawmill building. It shows some extra logs to the left of the ladder (foreground), and the area where my Dad rolls the logs down the hill to the right. The area where he rolls the logs has lumber laid out on it, to make sort of like a staircase. He rolls the logs one or two levels at a time, and uses bits of stump or other scrap wood to stop them from rolling all the way down at once.

A log is amazingly heavy. It could break your leg or crush you before you even knew what was happening. So you want to keep it under control.

Also, if the log rolls down the hill all in one fell swoop, it gathers speed and can roll onto the sawmill and right off the other side of it. Or jump partway off and get lodged awkwardly against the sawmill. It would be a royal pain to fix that kind of a mess.

So, my Dad has created this staging area and it works great. Click the photo for a larger view, where you can see the engine/sawing part of the sawmill and the metal frame that the saw rides on down there in the shadows of the building.

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dad's Sawmill

This is the building that houses my Dad's sawmill. Like his garage, it is a pole structure and he built it himself with wood that he cut on his sawmill. The sawmill lived in the field until this structure was built.

The left-hand bay currently houses a flatbed trailer. The right-hand bay houses the sawmill. It's on wheels so it can be towed, and my Dad made it himself. The only part he got already assembled was the blade housing. He welded the I-beam and a bunch of parts together, and attached the axles, and put on a motor, and a bunch of other stuff I don't pretend to understand. It's a COOL thing. I didn't really appreciate it until I got to help him saw wood with it. Well, he sawed. I stayed out of the way and dumped the sawdust bucket when it got full.

The big white barrel halves hold sawdust. Behind them is a big fan, to blow the sawdust away from you while you work and help you breathe; it also keeps you cool on hot days. The sawmill itself is back in the shadows (click for a larger view) but you can see some of it, orange and black and white. To the right is a clever shelf thing with some scraps of wood on it. I'll talk about the clever shelf thing in another post.

The sawmill building is built next to a hill (to the right of the building in this photo) so Dad can drag logs over with his tractor, then roll them down the hill and onto the sawmill. He can do everything from start to finish by himself.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Logging Tools

My Dad has a sawmill. When I visited in May, we cut some lumber. These are a couple of the tools we used.

This Peavey was my great-grandfather's. Dad has a couple of them. They're used to maneuver logs.

A "cant" is a squared off log. A "cant hook" looks like this but it doesn't have a pointy end (so you can't stick it in the ground and tell it to wait for you). A peavey is a cant hook with a spike on it.

These tongs are used to haul logs with the tractor. You just open them up, put them on the log, and then when the tractor pulls they close automatically. It looks simple but they're big and heavy and I was pretty retarded looking the first few times I tried to get them to hook and unhook.

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Monday, July 28, 2008

Road Trip

I went out of town for a long weekend this past weekend. My travels took me across the New River Gorge Bridge. I've been across a few times, but this time I decided to stop and enjoy a view of the bridge. It was about 5:30 in the evening, the air was visibly humid, my lens wasn't exactly clean, and the sun was in my face. But I snapped a photo anyway.

This is the second highest bridge in the US (876 feet) and the largest steel span bridge in the world. I didn't even know it existed until I drove across it because MapQuest said that was the best way to go.


Friday, May 23, 2008

Visit with Dad

Yay! I can post photographs again! Thanks, Blogger!

I visited my Dad in Tennessee last week. This was the view I woke up to each morning (click to view larger version). I remember when I was a little girl and my grandparents owned this property. Nobody lived on it but I'd go with my grandfather to check on the cattle and I'd skip flat stones on the pond. The pond developed a sinkhole a year or two ago, but after significant effort involving (I think) boulders, bags of cement, and bentonite, it's beginning to hold water again.

My Dad keeps a small herd of Angus cattle. Last year, due to the drought, he sold off all but four cows and a juvenile female. This spring all four cows calved. I love seeing the calves frolic. It's amazing how playful and energetic they are when young, and how slow and complacent they become when they're mature.

Whenever I'm at my Dad's, I end up taking lots of photographs of "the view". Here the cattle are heading to the pond with "the view" in the background.

We had some good adventures while I was there. I look forward to posting about them next week.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Road Trip

Over the holidays, I went "home" to Atlanta and spent some extended time with my extended family. As with all long road trips, some of it was boring and some of it was entertaining. I'll share a little of the entertaining bits.

This is the infamous peach in Gaffney, South Carolina. I think it's a water tower. Sure looks like one. Didn't we have glorious weather for driving?

There was a building I wish I'd photographed. It was a metal warehouse type building with large lettering on it, easily legible from the interstate. It said "Richard Simmons Drilling". Please, someone pass the brain bleach. It really does exist, you can Google it if you don't believe me.

One of the more amusing place names we saw was at Fancy Gap, Virginia. We enjoyed fantastic views from the interstate along this portion of the trip.

We also went past Bland, Virginia but in attempting to photograph that exit sign we didn't time things well and ended up with a snapshot of grass alongside the interstate. Bummer.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006


It's been so busy I haven't posted (though I did put up 4 half-pints of ketchup, nine quarts of potatoes, and 7 quarts and 4 pints of green beans), so I thought I'd skip the milkweed we found on our Explore and jump straight to the super duper surprise. Milkweed can wait until later. I'm so excited about this post I can't possibly put it off any longer.

When we bought this place we were told there was supposed to be an old cemetery on the property. We both thought it was mentioned in one of the property descriptions but I just read through them all and didn't find it; perhaps it's in a description in one of the old deed books.

ANYWAY... the prior owner said they'd never found the cemetery. Well I don't know if they were looking for modern style tombstones or what, but we found the cemetery. It is on a hillside, gently sloping. The area is nicely shaded and has been overgrown with woods, though the trees there are almost certainly younger than the graves.

The graves are body-sized piles of fairly large rock. They're not perfectly arranged and some of the rock has been scattered or knocked aside over the years. It doesn't show up too well in the photos (clicking to view large may help) but when you're standing on the hillside it's blatantly obvious that you're in an old graveyard. We found one child's grave and four adults' graves.

We have no idea when the cemetery was established or who is buried here. That would be a great research activity for a rainy weekday... when we're not working and the court house is open. Guess it will wait until after retirement.


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Let's Go On an Explore

This weekend, we had a lot of things to do: build a feeding hutch for the rabbits, pull weeds in the garden, do laundry, mow the grass... so of course we opted to blow it all off and go exploring. We rode ATVs because both of us have knees that give us trouble after a little time on uneven terrain. The ATVs are amazing - they can go in unbelievable places. They make great little work horses around the place, too. For example, we pulled part of the old chicken run down with a tow strap and one of the ATVs. My husband rode the yellow Rubicon and I rode the green Bayou.

One of the first things we discovered was a small blackberry patch. We were ecstatic. We've been looking for blackberries since we moved here and haven't found any. We munched a while and then, newly fortified and optimistic, we continued our journey.

This is a view from near the highest point on the property. It's so beautiful and peaceful. The terrain is too hilly for tilling and for the most part it's not grazed. Thus, there are trees everywhere. Houses just disappear and it feels like you're in the middle of a wilderness. If you close your eyes you'll hear lots of birdsong, cicadas, and wind in the trees. You'll feel the breeze tickling the hairs on your arms and you'll feel the warmth of the sun on your skin. There are hardly ever any engine or human sounds. Sometimes a tractor, or chainsaw off in the distance, or maybe the south neighbor chasing a lost steer back into his pasture. Those are the exception. Most of the times when we go up to the "Thinking Spot" it's just us and nature.

I'll blog more about our outing over the next few days.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Archaelogical Finds

We are having the old farm house sided in vinyl siding. Should be much less drafty next winter, and of course less maintenance.

The crew that is doing the siding pulled this out from under the house. I just had to laugh.


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