Friday, October 17, 2014

How to Make Char Cloth

Char Cloth

Trying to start a fire with a spark from flint and steel can be pretty challenging.  It's hard to catch a spark and hard to work it into an ember.  An age old way of doing this is to use char cloth, Here's how to make some!

Cut some 100% cotton cloth into small squares, these are about 2"x2"and put them into a small tin or can, something fireproof.

Punch a small hole in the top of the can.  This lets gasses out, but not enough oxygen in to make fire in the can.

Heat the can on a fire.  This is a camp stove, but any fire will do.  This step should be done outside as it is pretty smokey.  You are "burning " the cloth without oxygen similar to how wood becomes charcoal.  The gas escaping the tin will burn and that's OK, it's methane gas.  Heat until it stops smoking then remove to cool.

Launch some sparks onto the char cloth and you will see small red glowing areas.  Gather up the the char cloth and the materials you mean to start on fire (here it's wood shavings from the pencil sharpener and newspaper).  

Blow and blow and blow on the bundle, the char cloth becomes redder and hotter as the embers grow. Careful...

The bundle will burst into flame!!!  We were doing this project really late at night and didn't want to have a bonfire so Dancer just set it into the barbecue grill.  To make a fire, set your bundle down and put small sticks, leaves, etc on it  Continue to blow on it and soon you'll have a raging fire

Festival of the Voyager - Fur Trading Post

Helmets Required were on the road again, this time to learn about fur trading.  Here they are donning the fancy headwear of the time.  The fancy hats of the time were all made with felted animal fur from North America.  Any of the hats here would cost several years pay for an average person.  They are a good looking bunch!

We have been to a lot of pioneer exhibits but not fur trading so we learned a lot on our tour.  Here we are in an Indian winter house.  Brrr, the wind had to be just howling through the walls of these houses, I am surprised they all didn't catch their death of cold and not make it to the spring.  All we had to contend with that day was mosquitoes so thick we almost had to swim through them. 

Dinner was a tailing gating sandwich party.

Until the howling wind and driving rain arrived and then we moved it inside.  Of course as soon as we were done eating the deluge stopped.

We went back into the festival for the dance where lots of people we wearing costumes, including loin cloths!   The kids did some dancing, some of the dances were so fast thy were just a blur! It was a great evening watching them dance and wondering (and hoping!) if the loin cloth wearers had something on underneath.

Frugal Chicken Feeder

As the chicken are getting bigger they are eating more and more.  Chickens are a messy bunch, scratching and kicking their food everywhere and wasting a lot of it.  Dad made this feeder for free.  He took scrap wood and made a base with a lip that went all the way around it and didn't leave much room on the sides for scratching.  He cut notches out the bottom on two sides of a plastic litter pail so gravity can pull the feed down and they can't get to it all at once.  It has a nice top that keeps the feed dry and the chickens from pooping in it.  At the time he made this it would hold enough for about two days worth of feed so we only had to feed them every other day.  A win win for everyone.

What a Day!


Helmets Required took to the banks of the Mississippi for some fishing and lunch.  Lots of people hang out down there and have fires so we just go down, find a fire pit and start up our own.  This day we made hot dogs.  There is something about cooking food over a river fire that makes it so much more tasty.

Dancer caught a couple red horses.  It is thrilling to pull these big fish in.  

The boys climbed up and down the banks and over the rocks they don't usually fish.  The river is still quite high making the banks much narrower than usual.

Dancer and I went for a walk when we got home from fishing.  We were just about back home when we heard a cat meowing.  It sounded like a big cat that might be in trouble so Dancer started to call to it, after all it is odd for a cat to meow and meow and meow from the woods.  She kept calling and it didn't sound like the cat was getting any closer and we really started to wonder if it was caught in a trap or something.  She called a few more times and this little tiny cat, I would be surprised it it was even a pound and a half, came racing up the ditch towards us.  It must have been lost in there and it took a while to find its way to Dancer's voice.  It was more than happy to have Dancer scoop it up and carry it home.  When we got it home it made itself right at home, so it was obviously domesticated.  We called our one neighbor that sort of lived by where we picked it up but it wasn't theirs.  A couple days later we saw a little one just like it that had been hit on the road so there there most have been a litter that was dropped off.  The cat acted right away like this living arrangement is going to work for it long term so now we have Chicklet.

With all the excitement of a new kitten we found that it had gotten dark out but the chores hadn't been done yet.  Spark ran out to do chores so he could get back in quickly and some how fell down hurting his leg.  This sent us to the ER to have it check out.  

He came home with this and crutches with the instructions to follow up on Monday.  There was no evidence of a break but when dealing with growth plates they said it can take a while for these things to show up on X-rays.  He spent a few days on the crutch and it kept feeling a little better every day so we skipped the follow up.  A couple weeks later and he was as good as new.

It was a long day that ended in the wee hours of the morning after sitting in ER.  I was happy to fall into bed, there had been enough excitement for one day.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

RIP Vidalia

Dad and I were going for a walk this morning and there was a black thing on the road down by the field access.  I saw the stray black cat down there yesterday and thought, "Oh no, he must have gotten hit on the road."  When we got closer though we saw that it was our dear Vidalia.  Not sure what happened as she is scared of cars.  We figure her to be about 13 so perhaps she gotten confused and panicked when a car came and ran in the wrong direction or maybe she didn't hear it.  I was surprised as well that she even crossed the road because it seemed that she was always either at the deck door or the front door every time I would look or go out.

Vidalia came with our house.  She belonged to the daughter of the people who owned the house before us.  She got the cat when she lived here and when she moved to her own house took her with her.  Vidalia didn't care for the move so back she came to her original house.  When the owner decided to sell they asked if we would mind if they left her because of her moving history.  We even put her on the purchase agreement as a joke.  When the bank came out to do their inspection they came back with, "Everything looks fine except we could find what this Vidalia was."  We laughed at told them it was a cat.  Yes, we had a fun realtor.

She has always been an outside cat, only coming in when it was really, really cold outside.  Over her career as an outside cat she has caught hundreds if not thousands of mice, voles, chipmunks, rats, rabbits and other pesky critters in our yard.  In the last few years she has had trouble hunting and Kacheekers, our other outdoor cat and the only other cat she ever liked, would catch something, kill it half way and put it out for her to hunt and eat.  Although lately she had been having trouble chewing her catches.  He also spent hours grooming her and sleeping by her.  He is quite lost this evening.

We buried her down at the end of the corral by the swamp.  Good by Vidalia, you were a good hunter and we will miss you.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

State Fair

There was lots of llama brushing and hair blowing to get Nora ready to go. 

Loaded up the two llamas were going from our county. 

Dad touched the butt.  This actually got people there excited.  Settle down people, it was one finger print. 

Spark and friends were in a cooking contest.  He also showed a bonsai tree.  As he was carrying it the mile plus back to the car, a lady asked where he got it and he gave it to her.   I wonder if she carried it around all day. 

Dancer and Nora lined up for the costume competition. 

We stayed at a motel with a two story tall mermaid on the roof.  Rather odd for our part of the country.

Dancer doing public relations with Nora.  
Fun, fun time but happy to be home until next year!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

National Dog Day

Nikki soaking up some rays.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Somebody's Knocking

Knock knock
Who's there?

Llama who?

Llama in!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Desdemona VS The Chicken Coop

Short on stall space because our darn goats can't get along and all be together, we tried putting Desdemona in the chicken coop.   It didn't take her long to knock the door off and attempt her escape to eat tasty bushes around the yard.  We saw her when she got this far and foiled her plans.

Dancer got out the drill and thought she reinforced the door.  They say if a fence can't hold water it won't hold a goat, well the saying is true for chicken coops too because she got out a couple more times before we had to find her other housing.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Explorers Exchange

Our county has a 4-H project where kids from another state come to visit us one year and we got there the next year to learn about what their area of the United States is like. The 4-Hers stay with a host family and we cram about as many things into a week as humanly possible.  This year our county hosted a group from Wisconsin.

We started the week with a potluck, softball, volley ball and swimming.  

The next day we visited a sculpture park.  This elephant is made out of over 900 lawn mower blades.  The artist is the man in the light blue shirt.

His sculptures are all over town.  We were able to go back to his shop and see how he makes his sculptures.

Another interesting thing about the artist is that his daughter is an astronaut.  I am nervous when the kids go off in the car, I can't imagine watching them blast off into space.

Our exchange 4-Her.

This was my favorite one.

We brown bagged it in a park.

We climbed up to the top of a peak that was the highest elevation in the area.  It was a cool day, the girls were huddling for warmth.

Visited the rune stone museum and Big Ole.

Next day was stop at the stick houses that are at a local arboretum.

Canoeing and swimming.

A tour of an Abbey.  There was much more to the church than meets the eye.

Had some down time playing cards and

enjoying a bonfire.

A historic theater that my dad went to when he was a kid to watch 10 cent movies.  Now it hosts plays, dance recitals and musical groups.  This day we also went to a huge flower garden, thrift shopping and a concert in the park.

A tour of a pioneer park.

Coyote hat, that would keep Spark warm in the winter doing chores. 

Haunted Hill.  This is a place where you park on the hill, put your car in neutral and your car goes backwards up the hill.  You keep going faster and faster, we had Spark going along side the car and he was running at a pretty good clip before we put the brakes on and let him back in the car. 

The worlds largest twine ball.  This use to just sit in someones front yard but now it is encased in glass and has a museum devoted to twine ball souvenirs.

Some volleyball before lunch.

A candy shop.  This is a taffy caramel wrapper from the 1940's.  The guy said that if they had to keep wrapping all the candy by hand that they would have closed up their shop years ago because it is a time consuming job when they sell a couple thousand pounds a month.

We also visited a dairy farm where they milk with a milker and one where they use robots to milk.  To bring milk from beginning to the end we also toured a milk processing plant.  The plant we went to makes all the cheese that goes on top of Doritos among other things.

The last night the kids watched a movie outside.

And before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.