Saturday, April 21, 2012

Fawk my HOA

For years now my yard has looked like hell. It's nothing but weeds and they let everything go and only mow twice a season and I get in trouble when I get out there and mow. Officially, I live in a town home. Mine is disconnected but there are some up the street that are connected. I share this strip of land with my neighbor who also has been disappointed by our HOA. Her Grandson owns his own landscaping business and for Christmas he told her he wanted to transform her lawn. She checked with us and, of course, we supported it. He drew up the plans and we submitted them to the HOA on March 1st. The plans were approved and they started work this week.

Here you can see Todd tearing up the weeds and the top layer of soil. You can also see how my lawn pretty much looked. Totally whiskey tango.

So long weeds and shitty soil.

I am amazed at how Todd was able to look at this relatively small strip of land and visualize something. Because of my HOA, Todd stuck to the script.

Between our houses, we have these retaining walls. We have bitched about these for 6 years now and finally got the ones between our houses done. The ones on the other side of the house are still a wreck of non-pressure treated lumber that is now a pile of sawdust. Todd put one boulder on the first tier and river rock. I love river rock. He also put river rock under both the porches and connected them. I love Todd.

This is how it looked when I got home Friday. The bare spots you see will have new soil on Monday and will also be hydro seeded. Todd's also going to put a new fence in to replace the old one. Here's a big shout out to the a-hole that lives up the street from me who came down to bitch about how it looked. He thought the boulders were too big. Luckily, I was at work when he decided to stop by or I probably would have lost my cool and fed him a dog turd. He was telling Todd to move trees and boulders around and Todd played along for a bit until he got mad. I probably would have jumped in the front loader and dug a hole just big enough for his body. Those are spruce pines and the one in the foreground is some species of small maple that is supposed to smell really good when it blooms and look amazing in the fall. In about a week we will get some flowering shrubs too. My curb appeal just went north. Every time the d-bag from up the street comes by, I flip him the bird. It's only a matter of time before I get a letter about having 3 functional and non-redneck vehicles in the driveway. It's also only a matter of time before he asks me to look at his old bicycle too and I throw it

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Getting my shit together

Well I'm done with the worst/hardest parts of the renovation. We've been in this house for 6 years now I think and so I know what works so to the outside person it might not look much different but some key things did change. Like I said before, this is a compromise between a lot of things. Half of the garage is dedicated to...stuff like the canoe, some retro bamboo furniture that will eventually find it's way onto a wraparound deck once I build it, a treadmill that I've had about 9 people tell me they'll call tomorrow to arrange a pick up, and some bikes and other crap. The rule for the other side of the garage is that it has to remain open enough to pull a vehicle in to work on it and still be able to close the door. I also need to be able to ride a trainer if need be, tie flies, and just hang out.

So the basic dimensions of the bench had to stay the same but I wanted it to be more sturdy and it really had to be more comfortable to tie flies at. I also have been wanting to get this Prentiss vice I found in my father in-laws stuff mounted up. This thing is so nice. It was cool to take it all apart and breath some new life into it. It should be good to go for another hundred years. I still need to sort a small issue with the bolts to mount it up but it feels much more solid than my made in China vice did. I ended up using particle board for the bench top because a 3/4 sheet was on sale for 10 bucks.

This was the first side I started putting together. The tying side got raised by about 3 inches and the side with the vice got lowered by about 2.5 and I only used a backsplash kinda thing across the tying side since I got another tool box.

Here's the whole thing. I think a bomb could go off and this thing would survive. Eventually I will put shelves up on this back wall. In order to make the tying are more comfortable I had to lower the shelf and that sucks because it's harder to get stuff in out from that area but it had to be done.

Eventually I'd like to cover this side of the bench in a steel top.

The tying area is much better now.

It was fun but I don't want to do it again.

Good enough

Is NEVER good. I haven't been happy with my workbench in quite a while. I originally threw it together right before we moved into the house and it was never great. Over the years, I have figured out where I need things and this has resulted in things getting moved and things getting added and taken away and this has resulted in many holes in the bench top and the uneven legs. I cannot stand having holes in the top of the bench. The addition of some new tools finally was enough to re-do things. I started in on it Friday after school and worked most of the day yesterday. This is how I left it in the afternoon before getting cleaned up to go on a date with Heather. I still have a decent amount of work left but we got 6 inches of snow last night so I will have plenty of time today. It's still not going to be perfect because it's a compromise between fly tying, being able to work on things and have tools taking up space and I had a real hard time meeting the requirements for it all.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Here's to your health

Late last week I had my blood work done to check my cholesterol levels. I haven't gotten the results back yet but I know they're going to be high. It's the only thing that would explain the plaque build up they found in my artery. I'm sure it's not just in the left Carotid. Thanks to my kin. I'm still not riding until I get the results back because, at a minimum, my doctor is going to probably be putting me on Lipitor to clean my plumbing. I was a little worried about being able to do something like Colorado Trail or Tour Divide but my doctor didn't seem all that worried. Of course, a chunk of something could break off and make me a vegetable but it could also happen while walking to the fridge for a beer. They are also going to check my testosterone levels because, even with my CPAP/fighter pilot costume that I wear at night, I am still a total bitch in the mornings. My co-workers pretty much know not to speak to me before I have an hour to throw coffee down my pie hole and wake up. My kids generally know not to rock the boat until then either but every once in a while someone wants a shot at the title. The biggest difference it's made is that I no longer take 3 hour naps after work anymore. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little pissed off about being 39 and having all these issues but at least I'm not wearing a diaper yet. So I got that going for me.

More vice

I came home today and wasn't quite satisfied. I never am with most jobs. I wasn't able to figure out how to get the handle that you see here (which is actually connected to the long threaded rod) out of this sliding jaw. I think about stuff like this all day long while I'm working. Removing it would allow me to clean it up a bit more and the threads really needed to be greased badly.

This is what it looks like inside. It's almost like a Castle Nut but 2 of the ears (at opposite sides) are punched down into what appear to be little recessed areas in the handle. I thought maybe this was a threaded nut and having the ears pressed down was a way to hold it in it's position.

I started in on it with a big hammer and a punch trying to unscrew it. I broke one ear off which was fine since I figured that the tolerances would probably allow me to use different ears after all these years. Then I broke the other ear off. Then it started spinning pretty freely but did not appear to be walking off at all. WTF? Maybe it's reverse threaded? Nope.

No threads at all. I finally got it out and the threads lubed. This is old world craftsmanship. It's so simple it's impressive. The clamping force is all done by the female threaded nut on the other arm. Without this "Castle Nut-like" fastener, the handle just unscrews. The fastener backs out (with the handle) and hits the inside of that moving jaw and then backs out the entire jaw. It doesn't even need to be all that secure. I suppose if push came to shove I could stick the tip from a MIG welder down in there and weld a big fat washer to the handle just before it touches the jaw and it would do the same thing. This thing is super cool. A friend thinks it will rust now that I've hit it with a wire wheel but I think it'll be fine. It's so dry up here. Besides the rat rod look is pretty sweet.

My vice

The bench vise I have had for the last few years is a cheaper made in China model. It's been ok and I'll hang on to it in case I ever need 2 vices or need to hold onto pipe (it has pipe jaws) but I think I want to use this one unless Heather decides that we need to sell it but it's got some cool history. I think it was probably my father in-laws fathers originally. I decided to take it apart the other day and start trying to breathe some life back into it. There's about 6 parts to the whole thing. Here is the sliding jaw and the handle/threaded rod.

This is the non-moving jaw and the female threaded nut on the inside of it. You can see that the actual clamping areas of the jaws (although really square and flush when closed) are thoroughly rusted. I soaked them in penetrant for days and used an impact driver and they wouldn't budge. I actually found a guy who would make me a set of these but it would mean me drilling out the set screws for these and I really didn't wanna go that far. I wasn't sure if I wanted to do a full on restoration/paint of this or just clean it up a bit.

This is another shot of the non-moving jaw. There's a quarter inch pin that goes in from the bottom of this jaw and hold that large nut in place after it's slid in from behind. There's a shim in there too so it fits tight. So simple.

This is after spending some time on it with a wire wheel. At this point I was really unsure what I wanted to do. Initially, I was going to paint it. But...I actually like the antique patina look that it has. It looks used. It's got a lot of stories. It's a tool that's gonna get used.

Here it is as of yesterday.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I don't think I ever posted any pictures of some of the snakes I had to catch on the property back in Missouri last week. All rat snakes. These are all black rat snakes but I did also have a really pretty red rat snake too.

This one was not happy with me. All of these snakes were spotted above us on the rafters in one barn. They are amazing climbers. I did find some huge skin behind an old fridge and I am glad I didn't find the snake it belonged to. It would have been a very big snake.

I don't mind snakes when I'm out hiking, camping, or fishing but it's a little different when you're reaching into boxes in an old barn. I kicked myself several times for not having done this job in the winter like I said I would.

Gone Fishing

About a week ago I was lucky enough to get an invite to a very nice day of fishing on some very private water at the North Fork Ranch. The Ranch is located in Shawnee which is about 13 miles west of Bailey on 285. It sits on the North Fork of the South Platte River. The staff has done an amazing job with the section of river that runs through their property and they manage it super closely. Yesterday we were the only ones on the water except for the Ranch dog who checked on us routinely to make sure we were being ethical and to get scratches behind the ears. You can't even look at the water without a guide and our guides for the day were Kay and Luke who work out of The Hatch (located on 285 in Pine Junction which is just east of Bailey). If you choose to stay at the Ranch, you will work with their guide (Kevin) but the Ranch also works with some shops to bring on clients but then you not only pay the shop guide fee but also an additional $100 rod fee that goes straight to the ranch. Normally, this would have been a steep bill for a dirtbag like me but huge thanks to my buddies Scott and Steve for thinking of me when a slot opened up in their trip.

We were able to get on the water at about 9:30 and worked until 4:50 before calling it. Right away I was blown away with how many fish were on the property and how big they were. This stretch of the North Fork has got to be a challenge to manage because the folks in government in Denver do not see fly fishing as a viable economic benefit to the state. Water flow is strictly based on how many people are thirsty in Denver (and not to support trout habitat) and that just plain sucks. Because of this, the entire North Fork (which flows out of Dillon Reservoir up near Frisco) pretty much freezes up solid in the winter. There are a few deep holes on the property and the staff will corral the fish before the freeze and relocate them to those holes or they will die. They also have a large holding pond on the property and they relocate many fish to it as well. Of course the rule is barbless hooks only (and they will check) and catch and release goes without saying. Someone who plays and handles the fish appropriately is very much appreciated.

The South Platte drainage amazes me for it's diversity. Bailey is a 55 minute spirited drive for me but the aquatic life is 180 out. When I fish the South Platte we use very small flies (20-24) and 6x fluorocarbon tippet (it's like hair) because the fish will slide out of the feeding column when presented with anything different. You have to play them gingerly with that gear. I rigged up how I normally would but with much bigger flies. I started with an egg pattern and dropped a 14 Prince Nymph off it after Luke suggested it and I gave him the stink eye. I broke off the first 8 or so fish I got into and lost 2 flies each time. I spent a lot of time rigging up. I finally got frustrated after seeing 22" Rainbows make a pretty simple run and bust me that I cut my 5x leader way down and ran single fly with no tippet and a San Juan Worm and landed my first one of the day. From 10:30 until about noon I caught countless trout in the 20" range on weird (for me) flies like huge Pheasant Tails, bead heads, Prince Nymphs, Copper Johns, etc. and 4x tippet. They were not shy at all and you could put it on them right away to get them in line.

We broke for lunch at noon and something happened (barometric pressure change is all I can think of) and we saw a lot less fish set up and nymphing was tough. I spent some time talking with Kay about streamer fishing and she suggested I switch. Normally I would never think of fishing a streamer unless it was night, early morning, or really cloudy but she said they would hit it. Things had already been more strange than what I was used to and Kay had impressed me enough that I trusted her judgment so I made the move. I started in and quickly had a big Bow come up from the deep to take an ugly ass white pattern. I landed two more just like that and then pitched it to the far bank and let it swing all the way back and had another follow it the entire way before crushing it in the near shallows. I had fish set up below me where I would just swing it in front of their face and work it until they got pissed enough to kill it. Streamer fishing is my favorite and it saved the afternoon so I was really glad that Kay told me to switch. It was really special to see Scott and Steve rig up with streamers (they had never done it before) and they both put on a clinic after a tennis lesson from Kay. At about 3, things really took a turn for the worst and the fish got weird. I could actually hit them with a streamer and they wouldn't even spook. So something happened and I ended up chatting with Kay most of the rest of the day about fishing and cameras. Super fun day. If you are looking to hire a guide I would highly recommend Kay. She will work her ass off to make sure you enjoy your day. You can get in touch with the shop and they will take care of the rest (even outfitting you with all the gear if you don't own it). If you wanna chase big fish she can set it up. If you just wanna catch a lot of smaller fish, she can handle that too. She might even bring you cookies but I think that was just special for us. The one negative thing I will say about Kay is that I never got to see her fish. I have several guide friends and know that they are trying to earn money so there have been a few times I've hired them to fish with me for the day with the stipulation that THEY FISH. I fish alone a lot because my friends that truly get it have a life of their own as well (with kids and wives) and it's sometimes hard to get out together. Sometimes it's hard to find people that like to fish as hard and as much as I do so hiring someone is always an option. I saw Kay carry rods and sometimes even paused to say, "Is she gonna hit it?" But Kay, the consummate professional, never did. She is now another guide that I may call and throw out the offer to make some cash on her day off to go fish. Thank you Kay for a killer day.

The slide show this time is a little longer than normal. I took out a lot of pictures so hopefully it's not boring to watch. Enjoy and thanks for checking in. Now get out there and do something fun this weekend.

Monday, April 2, 2012

I took the day off today so I could return the trailer and get a few things done in the garage after sleeping in. Because of all the new tools, air compressor and other stuff we brought back, I had to rearrange the garage again. I really like this Quaker grease can so I started messing around with it before I got done with what I originally started on.

It cleaned up pretty nicely.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Heather and I were back in Saint Louis last week trying to get some stuff done on the property. It was an exhausting week that did not allow much time to see friends but we got a lot done. We also found some really neat stuff. These are some of my favorites.

This is an autographed picture of John Wayne that was written for my father in-law.

This box of Lionel trains was really neat to go through. My own father had a set just like this and he gave me the locomotive and transformer. We never got along so I sold them both a few years later to get the money together that I needed to get my 1968 Camaro insured and on the road.

I found this in the barn. I think it's awesome. I'll get it cleaned up. It's never been open.

We quickly peeked into another barn on the property and found this. This was given to the family by the Falstaff Brewery and it hung in the bar in the 1930's or so. I brought this home and am going to try to bring some life back into it. My sister in-law has a bar in her basement and it would look cool in there. If she doesn't want it then I may hang it in the garage or sell it.

This is a neat piece. It's a bench vise made by Prentiss. I believe this one is from the very early 1900's. It's in great shape and the jaws close nice and flat and the handle is straight as an arrow. Not sure what I'm going to do with this. It's a #52 (non-swivel base model). I've seen these sell for a decent amount. I may clean it up but I kind of like all of the patina on it. I may keep it and use it but it is huge.