Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Holly Days

Season's Greetings from snowy Washington County Maryland

May everyone have a delightful holiday and a very good new year.

Staying warm, just north of Boonsboro,



Sunday, December 20, 2009

My Fall Project

Stare at the next two pictures for a few minutes.  They're not optical illusions that will suddenly pop into focus, I just want to drive home what a disorganized mess and underutilized space my garage has been for the last four years.

Little more than a concrete block and stud-wall dumpster.  A pretty oppressive space in which very little could be accomplished safely.

Now that I'm living alone, and always on the lookout for projects to occupy the hours, I decided to finally take on the garage and make a functional shop out of it.  I have all the tools I need to not only do the project but also to establish a great hobby woodworking setup.

The first step was to start organizing things into four categories:  1. Stuff to give away 2. Stuff to recycle  3. Stuff to keep  4. Stuff to throw away.

Then I started building storage shelves, first by dismantling the very impractical ones above and reconfiguring the materials into floor-to-ceiling shelves (below).

In a textbook example of working bass-akwards, at that point I decided to wall-in those shelves into a large tool closet.  One of the things that made the original space so unsightly was the visual clutter, a tool room would go a long way to alleviating that problem.

As the tool closet, pictured below, was taking shape I decided that rather than simply clean the place up and turn it into a woodshop I'd also create a fun environment to spend time in.

 That's when the place became Victory Wood Working my very own defense plant circa 1942.

So, here's a nice "before" shot...

Two weeks ago the door opened to this, the "after" shot:

The studs were covered with hardboard and painted, wiring was modified, wainscoating installed and moulding milled out on my table saw.  I think I brought the project in for less than $300.00, using mostly scrap lumber and paint I had on hand, and my own elbow-grease (who else's?)

I also made wall-mounted tool chests for each of the major bench tools to contain the various bits, belts, fences, etc. peculiar to each machine.

There's plenty of reproduction posters from the era exhorting my workers to buy bonds as well as to work safely.

The place even has a functioning time-clock.

There's calendars, magazines, tool manuals, and even Sawmill Worker's union buttons, all from 1942.

To see a short Youtube on the whole process including "before" and "after", click here.

Sometimes, staying busy's the best medicine, especially when the result turns out to be so satisfying.

Well, break's over, and its back to work for me.

Getting back to...

 enjoying life,

just north of Boonsboro.



Thursday, December 17, 2009

Another brilliant but too short day at the battlefield


and shadow...

the work continues...

at the Joseph Poffenberger barn...

just north of Sharpsburg.



Wednesday, December 09, 2009

A Snowy Illumination Day

On Illumination morning the Valley awoke to a blanket of snow.

Upon arrival at the Battlefield the Park roads were already being cleared by the Maintenance Division,

and the Park looked absolutely beautiful.

Volunteers had been out already for hours laying out the Luminaria.

Without these many hundreds of dedicated and hardy volunteers, this program simply wouldn't be possible.

The grids of luminaria were taking shape as the snow continued to fall.

One girl had the perfect shelter under a large golf umbrella.  It kept off the snow but it was still quite cold.

I saw a group of much warmer Boyscouts with steaming cups of something good...

Being doled out by an adult leader.

Their work done for another year, the volunteers piled up empty cartons for pickup by maintenance folks.

And I went looking for a hot meal of my own.

Regardless of the season, Antietam National Battlefield is a place of great beauty and meaning.  Come join me...

just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Landscape Turned Tiny: project update

Let's all  travel to Sharpsburg Maryland to visit  Antietam  National Battlefield, or at least a miniature version of that remarkable park.

As our bus arches over the historic Upper Bridge the transformation occurs (don't be alarmed)...

as we make it to the other side of Antietam Creek, no worse for wear, just a great deal smaller.

At four inches in length our basswood school bus doesn't provide much legroom, but we're very near our destination...

just up ahead...

a very small, and not particularly "in-scale" rendering of my favorite National Park.

As the bus pulls up to the Mumma Education Center in the background, I've continued on to Sharpsburg to get lunch (miniaturization always makes me hungry).

The Mumma house and barn were burned by the Confederates during the 13-hour battle of Antietam on September 17, 1862.  The Mummas were able, however, to rebuild within a year.

A happy ending for the Mummas.  This spring I set up shop in that very Mumma barn to create this enormous map.

The map and all the various components will be part of a new education program for elementary school kids on mapping and the history of the Antietam Creek Valley.

Perhaps afterwards their teacher will take them up into the observation tower.

Not this miniature one, but...

this one.

This program is the brainchild of Ranger Christie, who was my first boss way back when I started at the park as a volunteer.  Now, as a Ranger, I'm her number-one arts and crafts guy and all-around flying monkey.

I happily agreed to fabricate all of the components for this project and began in late spring.  Painting the map was really fun, but even more so was working with the basswood.

I still have about a half dozen elements to fabricate and by spring this program should be ready to trot out for the kids who travel here in those full-size school busses.

Come on out to Antietam sometime and experience the real thing, in 1:1 scale.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, October 25, 2009

You meet the nicest creatures at the battlefield

Today this foundling appeared at the Visitor Center in a cardboard box. I took him down to the pond at the Roulette Farm which he seemed to prefer to the box.
Come see the nature,
Just north of Sharpsburg
Ranger Mannie

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Worth a Thousand Words

Currently being without a camera makes it clear to me that this blog has always taken a visual lead, that is, the prose supporting the photos rather that the more traditional photos supporting the prose.

I like taking pictures, and this digital revolution has made photography inexpensive, easy, and almost as essential as any of the five senses.  That my camera died of exhaustion is no surprise really when I consider that it has been on my belt and in daily use for nearly two years.  The Canon Powershot has also freed up my videography, making it easier to shoot video on the fly with very adequate sound and picture quality considering the compactness of the camera.  Lest this start sounding too much like a commercial I end by simply saying that Canon is a pretty swell little camera. 

Had I a functioning camera yesterday I could have taken some shots of two tour-hour Ranger-led tour.  In lieu of a photo merely visualize cold weather coupled with a light, saturating rain.  It was ragged and bone-chilling.  I ended up telling the whole battle story from the warmth and comfort of the observation room and then inviting those who wished to join me for a drive around the park with stops at the iconic areas of the battlefield for additional narrative and conversation.  I actually had about 25 true-believers go the distance with me for the following hour out on the field.  Considering the  rotten weather it turned out to be quite a delightful time.

Every season I find myself incorporating a new theme or element in my talks, and this year I've hit upon one that has really resonated with my audience.  After I greet everyone and lay out the goals for the two hour tour, I offer this observation;

"Now I know that a good percentage of this group is made up of true believers - life-time students of the Civil war, another percentage represents the real good sports who've come along for the ride, and I'm also fully aware that among you are the outright hostages who'd much rather be elsewhere.  My aim, for all of you, is to make this the best two hours of your day".

The good sports and the hostages really seem to enjoy the recognition; which they really do deserve.  Not everyone shares our passion, but thank goodness they can suffer ours with such good grace.

And that grace is something I wouldn't be able to do justice to with even with the best of cameras.

Maintaining focus, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie 

Monday, October 12, 2009

This time I mean it

Okay. Now my camera is actually, really, and finally dead.

I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Busman's Holiday!

When it's Sleepytime Down South

Today (my day off) I traveled to Antietam National Battlefield (no surprise) to hike the Three Farms Trail.

The weather was breezy, the sun was warm, and the short grass on the hillside behind the Park's Farm beckoned.

What a wonderful place.

Hitting "snooze", just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Rangers Game!

Ranger's night out

Recently I went to a hockey game with Rangers Brian, Alann, and John (Hoptak).

Though It was between the Capitals and the Blackhawks, I kept calling it "the Rangers game" cuz, well, we're all Rangers. I thought it was pretty funny but the guy sitting next to me thought I was lost or something. Anyway here are highlights with color commentary:

There was lots of really bad, really expensive food at the arena. John got a funnel cake:

which I think he regretted.

Speaking of food, the Capitals are lead by a young Russian player named Ovenchicken (or something like that). Comrade Ovenchicken is very good at what he does which involves skating. Oh, did I mention all the players are on ice skates? Did I also mention this was my first hockey game?

Everytime Ovenchicken scored, which was every few minutes, Alann would say: "Hey, take my picture" and then he'd do this:

It helped to add to the general excitement of the crowd, Alann's very good at modeling appropriate behavior for others.

The capitals (capitols?) won 103 to 2 sending the evil Chicago Blackhawks home in tears of humiliation.

And I had a very fun night out with some very fine friends.


p.s. I can now also check "hockey game" off my list of things to experience.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Today at the Blogger's Gun...


l to r, John Hoptak, Brian Downey, Harry Smeltzer, Craig Swain, Ranger Mannie, A.P. Hill

"a gathering of beagles"

Friday, September 18, 2009

An overabundance of sergeants

Duly noted...

all grasshoppers appear to be non-coms.

From the field,

Ranger Mannie