Saturday, September 2, 2017

A Saturday Adventure - Building a Space Station

Last Saturday Alten and I headed up to the Armstrong Air and Space Museum to participate in an learning event focused on the International Space Station.  Using big boxes we envisioned and build modules for the mock ISS.  Alten and I built a mechanical systems module, an airlock, and a robotic arm.  They were all awesome.
Then Sunday Margo and Isaac joined us, and together we added a food storage module.  Other kids built kitchen, bedroom, library, and hydroponic modules.  It was great.
 There were also videos running about life on the ISS, electronics experiments, food raising demonstrations, and other cool examples of the complications of living in space.
  Check out the facebook page for the Armstrong Museum  (go down to the August 29 post) and the mobile photos part of the facebook page for more of them.  We'll post our own here when we get them off our phones :)

Monday, August 7, 2017

A Saturday Adventure - Dayton Mini Maker Faire

Margo has a summer job (which warrants its own, separate, post).
Isaac helps Mama set up the market booth
One of the results is that she's occupied at a farmer's market on Saturdays, leaving the boys and me to our own devices.  Usually this has amounted to the three of us getting up, playing some, bumping over to the market for breakfast and a hug from Margo, and then...  The boys and I go have an adventure.
We're all happy to see each other
Dancing in front of a Flip Dot display

Last Saturday was the second Dayton Mini Maker Faire at the Carillon Historical Park (which also hosts another favorite of ours, Rail Fest).  We went last year and had a great time, so this year it was solidly on our schedule.  Last time Oma came along, this time it was Opa's turn.
Mini Maker Faire is an opportunity for anyone who makes anything and/or wants to encourage anyone else to make something to come and share their passion.  There is blacksmithing. There are robotics clubs.  Model rocketeers. Code and circuit enthusiasts.  R/C naval battle reenactors.  A swing dance club.  Car butcherers.  The Dayton Amatuer Radio Association.  Astronomers.  People who make steam engines that spin around and blow bubbles.  A guy with a steam-powered bicycle.  Clothing artists and cosplayers. NASA was there. You get the idea?
The neatest part is that all these exhibitors come and are just overjoyed to explain how much they love the thing they're doing, and their enthusiasm is contagious.  
Here's the multimedia tour of our experience...
This fellow, Norman Gibson, built this street organ himself, complete with the articulated dancing animal band inside.  He also made the punch music for it.  It was amazing.  Alten almost had the strength to get it up to full speed.
I didn't take photos the whole time, so I'll have to narrate the part about the train.  For those who don't know the Carillon Historical Park, it has train track, laid and maintained by the Carillon Park Rail and Steam Society.  A small train track, with small trains.  Small, in this case, is 1/8 scale.  7 1/2" gauge track (that's how far apart the rails are).  But the thing is, the trains are made to be ridden on, which makes it awesome.  And the ride lasts seven to ten minutes, which is awesome, too.  They have tunnels, trestles, switches and all.  It costs a dollar to ride, and the lines, depending on the event the train is running for, can be very long.  Like an hour.
  So when we walked up to the depot and the boys saw the train running with no line at all they were jubilant.  I have to admit, I was excited, too.  We got all the way up to the track before I saw on the schedule that rides were from 1-4 pm.  We were there two hours before it would start.  Alten and Isaac were not completely heartbroken.  They decided the next best thing would be to sit on the hill by the track and watch the engineer running the train.  An attendant nearby told me the engines had to be tested, and the track had to be gone over to make sure all the switches were in order and the tracks were cleared.  So Opa and I stood near the boys and chatted.
  When the train came by it stopped at the depot, and the engineer came over.
 "Do you folks want a ride?  It's not time yet, but I'm going over the tracks right now and I could take you around.  There'll be some stopping while I move branches and things, you'll need to just sit tight while I do that."
  Wah!!!!!!!  It was great!  We got to take the trip a little slower than usual, pick up another person who was trimming brush in the back, take on a few more cars from a siding...  It was a very special way to ride - I felt like we were getting a bonus experience in seeing some of the CPRSS's maintenance work.
  Of course, we also came back in the afternoon to ride for the fee :)
Moving on, we had to spend about ten minutes on a jewelweed-seed-pod-popping break.  Good, honest entertainment, believe me! This also involved some running up and down the sides of the old canal.
We met our friends Will, Lydia, and Eleanor to get something to eat.  Top on the girls' priority list was riding on the train and sliding on the slides, so we did both of those things then.
It is true, the train runs many times over the summer and the hill of tunnel-slides is always at the park, but to the girls those things trumped any "maker" activity, and the boys had already had a full morning of going exhibit-to-exhibit.

The slides are pretty cool, but much more fun to slide down if your rump fits the curve.  Mine doesn't quite, so I watch.
Our last stop was the rockets.  There is a Miami Valley rocket club, the Wright Stuff Rocketeers, who will inform you where you can meet them if you want to see the BIG rockets go up.  They have a very large field somewhere off east of here for that kind of action (after the crops are out).  They stick with the little motors at Carillon Park, but it's still awfully entertaining.
I'd like you all to note that I captured this rocket in the very act of launching.  Thank you, thank you.  Oh, please, enough applause!  You're embarrassing me!
Though we didn't buy a rocket to build and launch (you can do that there), the folks running the field let us partake in the action...
The man in the gray shirt was showing the kids how the primer is attached, and explaining how creatively the launchpads were contrived to meet the various needs presented by changing conditions and different sized rockets.  There was some serious thought put into them.  Will, impressed, took some photos of his own.
After watching a number of rockets get launched, we ambled back to the car.  And that was that!  We had a fabulous time.  And next year we'll go back.  Maybe as exhibitors!  

Monday, June 20, 2016

Isaac Rides!

More video and commentary to come on this one, but here's the evidence.  We're on the Wolf Creek bike path, which takes us 2/3 of the way to and from church of a Sunday morning. (We pack the boys and bikes in bike trailers for the road part).
Now Isaac is starting himself, and he and Alten enjoy racing.  They take turns winning.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

A Blanket Update for Early 2016

Whew!  I've resorted to vague and noncommittal titles to avoid disappointing myself and others.  But it's been a while since I posted anything at all, so I'll go for it.
 We have finally moved into our garden house.  It is good to be here!  We moved in June of last year, the culmination of a year and a half (maybe more, I've kind of lost track) of sporadic labor.  The prerequisite for the transition to living here was a working bathroom, and the toilet went in the day we moved.  It was hot, and we had help.  That's all I remember :)  The move was followed by a few weeks of a strong sense of dislocation for the boys and me.  Which was, in turn, followed by exceeding happiness.
  In this house, just about anything can be broken without it being a disaster.  I do ask that the boys go on the porch or put a board on the floor before they "scrap".  This is a practice of hitting toy cars, construction equipment, agricultural equipment, etc, with hammers until they break apart, then adding them to the scrap yard somewhere on the floor.  They use trains and dump trucks to haul things to and from the scrap yard as they feel inspired... 
 I had thought that living here would allow me to get a lot more work done on the house, but more often we use the time I have at home playing until the boys go to sleep, than cleaning and doing dishes until the most necessary stuff is finished.  Then we go to sleep.  All the same, we do get things done.  At the best of times, the boys help me.  For instance, we got insulation blown in the walls back in November.  I cannot imagine how they made it for over a hundred years in this house without it, by the way.  The only downside to the process was the 250+ holes in the interior walls.  I try to wait to work on them until the boys are interested, then I go get the setting compound, a few containers and mudding knives, and all three of us go at it!  Alten and Isaac get the low holes, I get the high ones and clean up their patches.  And Margo does something quietly by herself.  Fun for the whole family!
Alten and Isaac also both enjoy tiling.  They put on their ear-protection for the wet-sawing, mostly just watching me work, then they help me organize the tiles and stick them on the walls.  Where are all the photos?  I don't know, but if I can find some I'll put them on.  This photo of the nearly-finished bath will have to suffice for now.
In the eight-plus months we've been here, I have had many opportunities to reflect on the joy of friends and family who have come to help.  Some of them many times, some of them taking on pet projects they wanted to finish themselves.  What a gift!  At the risk of forgetting some, I'll try to list the folks who have participated in no certain order:  Roxie and Bob, brother Jacob, two Bens, a Jonathan, Glenn and Linda, Dick and Erma, two Dads, brother Matt, brother Chris, sister Ragan, Bob and Rachel, Lisa, Lori and Brian, friend Chris, Zach, Mary Sue, and many more, no doubt.  If you read this and I've forgotten you, tell me and remind me what you did.  I'll beg forgiveness and add you :)
We've been learning all about heating with wood, cooking with wood, living in the moment with young children, and trying to figure out what else really matters.  We are walking the line between comfort and simplicity, and are learning a lot about ourselves and our perceived needs in the process.
 To be continued!  As always, I hope more posts will follow quickly on the heels of this one.

Friday, August 7, 2015


Here's a quote uttered this morning by Margo:
   Wow.  I haven't gone to the bathroom alone so many times in one week for five years!
That's a testament to the fact that children do, in fact, get older.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Menace of the Midwest

Was there ever any doubt about what is the most disturbing animal in the natural world?  Of course not.  As Isaac can tell you, it is the White-Tailed Deer.
This morning I was playing with the boys, and noticed the plastic bag that holds the trains we're borrowing had a big hole in the side.  I suspected Alten had been a bit impatient in getting them out, tearing his own opening instead of using the existing one.  So I put the question to him: "Huh.  I wonder how this bag got a hole in it between last night and this morning.  Do you know?"
It was Isaac who spoke up. "Deer did it.  Deer poked hole in bag with hoofs.  Deer tore hole in bag with bellies."
Just one more manifestation of his fascination with the destructive tendencies of deer.
Usually, though, he expresses worry about the deer coming to eat him.  "Deer in field," he says.
  "I don't see any deer out there," I reply.
  "Deer in field," he maintains. "Deer eat me."
  Margo is great at the back-and-forth.  "Deer are herbivores.  They eat plants.  Are you a plant?"
  "Tell the deer you aren't grass, and that they can't eat you."
  "No eat me! No I'm grass!  Not deer food."
 This exchange happens with some frequency, but this morning was the first I'd heard it expanded to other destructive habits.  We don't really know if deer are a stand-in for worry in general, or if he has an actual aversion to the animal.  Often it seems like he's teasing about it, other times he seems genuinely worried.
 Just wait till he learns about the agricultural and environmental damage they do.  Get that boy a bow!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hive Update, Fall 2014. Bees This Time.

I have hives.
Alright, lets see if we can get at least two posts in this year.
I wish I had the time and focus to fit all the experiments I tried on my bees in the last two years here, but I'll just have to go with a synopsis:
I split my 2012 hive in 2013, after it made it successfully through its first winter.  I did it too early, though, basing timing more on my recollections of the previous Spring than what I was seeing in the hive.  It took both hives the whole season to get in good position to survive winter, and even then I fed one of them a gallon of sugar water.
This Spring, 2014, both hives had survived a brutal winter.  I waited till I saw swarm cells (queen cells indicating overcrowding and the hive's readiness to swarm) and moved the frames with swarm cells from both colonies to a new split.  The split didn't take. Did the hives end up swarming?  Who knows.  They're placed at a distance from my everyday routine so I wouldn't have seen them.
I put on honey supers, then added more as they filled, ending up with one super on one hive and three on the other.  The hive with one only filled it 1/3 or less.  The one with three put away a full 2 1/2 supers, so that was good.  The full tally was around 68 lb of honey and twelve ~4 oz pieces of cut comb. The cut comb was an experiment on its own, but I remembered it so fondly from youth that I thought it would be worth a go.  (The cut comb story will be a later post.)
The honey harvest was good experience, though harrowing at moments.  The basic idea is to take the honey supers off, clear all the bees from them, and put them somewhere the bees can't get into them until you extract the honey from the frames.  As you can imagine, the time consuming part is getting the bees out.  Last time, back in 2012, I had two supers.  I went through them at the hives, frame by frame, sweeping the bees off with a feather and putting them in another box with a lid.  Didn't take too long.
This time I had four supers, and one of two colonies that seemed a titch aggressive.  Mom was interested in helping, and brother Chris wanted to see the process (the harvest photos are thanks to him).  My plan this time was to take the honey off a super at a time, carry it about 20' away from the colony, then go through frame by frame.  I thought some distance would be good, since the bee activity would only increase at the site of the hives.  So I'd take out a frame, carry it closer to the hives, shake most of the bees off, hand the frame to Mom who would sweep the remaining bees off with the feather, then she'd give it to Chris who would put it in the bee-free box and lid it.  It would have taken soooo much longer to do it myself, and time turned out to be of the essence.
Trading off
We did the one-super hive first, then moved on to the three-super hive.  Of the latter, the first one and a half supers went great, then Mom said "It seems like there are a lot of bees at the hives."
I wish we'd gotten a video of it.  Thousands of bees in the air above the hives, like a hurricane.  I waded in to put the lid on the hive that still had a super on it, just in case the bees were trying to rob it out, then we finished processing the second to last super.  By the time we were done, all those bees had settled on the outside of the hive, covering it nearly completely.  And we still had to pull a super off.  I figured if I waited, the bees would just
The photographer taking a peek
become more irate at having lost their stocks, so I waded in again, smoking everywhere, and got the last super.  No trouble, just some added anxiety.  We cleaned out that super much further from the hive area.
We hauled the supers full of honey back to the shed on a Flexible Flyer my Aunt Jean gave us, and brought the two experimental comb honey frames inside to deal with.
One had very little of anything on it, so we spooned off the comb and ate it right there - Mom, Chris, Margo, Alten, Isaac and I.  Then we cut up the full frame with dental floss, let it sit for a day or so to drip the extra honey off, then stuck it in the freezer for a day.  That kills eggs of anything that might hatch out, namely wax moth larvae.  Sounds gross, I know, but that's the way things are.  I am told that wax moths inhabit virtually every hive in existence, and a healthy colony of bees keeps them in check.  But after you remove the honeycomb from the bees, nothing stops them.  Except the freezer.
And boy, is that comb honey tasty!
Daddy scrapes cappings off, boys eat honey off of every surface
We took the four supers over the next day to our friend Steve's, where he has an extractor and a larger number of supers of his own.  Half a day of extracting later, it was all finished and bucketed!
So for three years of beekeeping I have two years of honey to show for it, and no dead colonies.  Not too shabby!