Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thrifting with Nancy in 2014

Yeah, I figured it's about time to get this one up as well. I am just recovering from the birth of my granddaughter, Thanksgiving cooking, and viral bronchitis—all in the same week. Lots of writing going on here, since I don't have to cook anything and can't babysit (don't want to spread cooties), so I've been able to get a bit more blogging done. After a long hiatus, my third post in a week. Whoo hoo!

So here we go...

First off, it's been a tough year for me to get out, since I have been part time to full time babysitter for my youngest grandson, who just turned 1 on September first. I've had him off and on since April, when he was just able to sit up with support and could lift his head when on his belly; and now he's standing, cruising the furniture, and taking cautious little steps. He's a busy boy, and by the time he leaves, I'm pooped. I've also babysat at his home too. 

And now Zack has a baby sister, Terralyn Rose. I'm going to be really busy!

So anyway, thrifting was a rare pleasure on days when I had coverage by other folks and appointments or errands to run. I did get out a few times though.

Back in June I had an appointment, and needed to run errands. Since we were going by the thrift store anyway, we popped in for a bit. I found a couple of neat items.

 This little battery operated gadget plays three classical music excerpts: Für Elise, Piano Sonata #11 by Mozart, and I'm not sure about the third one, but it's familiar. Zack loves it because of the spinner thing with the beads, and it's light and easy to pick up in one hand (and toss out of the playpen). Best 99¢ I spent all year.

 I thought about keeping this one, but passed it along to a friend who is into both yarn crafts and spirituality. I'd likely never get to read it anyway, but it looked interesting. I too practice crafts as sort of a meditation ritual. When my hands are being creative, my mind relaxes. I'm more the crochet type though.

Saw this little monkey lunchbox and knew it was going home with me. I passed it along to DDIL. So perfect for carrying a spare bottle and babyfood.
 The interior was very clean, I doubt it was used much

I have an old cloth case like this with the spring opening, and I have used it for years for hauling around crochet hooks and projects.

Passed this one along too, though I was tempted to keep it.

I have a lot of yarn, so this went to the same friend as the above case and the knitting book. It was just such a cheerful red, and the only yarn in the shop that day. I couldn't just leave it behind...

I will usually grab food storage containers whenever I see them, because I send lots of people home with food. We love to cook here, and people enjoy eating. These got a lot of use this year.

I didn't get out thifting again until until August. It felt like a holiday! Besides babysitting, I'd been up to my neck in gardening and putting up vegetables, and of course, writing.

Sometimes, you just need a day off.

 Baby clothes!

It's good to have spare stuff on hand because accidents and spills happen, and sometimes a fella needs different duds. 

Not everything I feed Zack gets safely from mouth to tummy. If he doesn't like it, or the bite is too big, it lands on the shirt. I keep some clothing changes here.

These look wrinkled because they haven't been washed yet. Everything used or new, gets washed before worn. If he's like me and his mom,  certain detergents and bleach will cause skin irritation.

I picked up girl's leggings by accident, but no biggie. For one thing, Zack doesn't care, and he now has a baby sister who can wear them some day. There are times he hangs out in jammies all day long. I can relate!

The girly beach towel is simply for changing blowout diapers on (protects the bed) or wiping the dog off when it's raining. Sometimes I spread one over my pillow if I go to bed with damp hair.

Wish I had been able to find more of those blocks. Zack and his brother both enjoy playing with them. I keep them in a big plastic jar, and he loves to take them out and put them back inside. The spotted one is a bug, and it rattles.

Kitchen stuff, it's always welcome. The canning funnels are nice for pouring dry stuff like rice, pasta, or cereals into jars without making a mess. We have mice, so I don't leave much food in cardboard hanging around for long.

Containers just get used a lot around here. Some of my old ones are shot, or the lids are broken and the bases got relegated to the garden shed.

Who could resist such a pretty cookie mold! Looks nice hanging on the wall. Maybe someday I'll make something with it

One more thrifting outing in September, and that's been 'it' for the year 2014 (so far—there's still a month left). I enjoy this so much, maybe it's best I don't get to go too often!

 The barn-shaped curio shelf was my find of the day. It's over two feet tall and almost 3 feet wide at the base. Since I live on an old farm, I just could not pass up this $1.99 special. I am collecting well-made plastic farm animals to fill it, and maybe a die cast tractor or two. I can see this up on the wall, and the 'toys' inside can come down for the grandkids to play with. Maybe Grandma will play with them too, because plastic farm animals were something I begged Santa to bring me every year. 

Some picture frames that now hold family photos. The little house is up on a shelf with two bottle brush pines I got on sale after the holidays a year or so ago, and a ceramic shed that I thrifted last year. I'm into decorating on the cheap ya know...

These two heart shaped spongeware baking dishes now live in my cabinets and the corked jar is around here somewhere.

A freezer container, oh how exciting...

It's been in use ever since I brought it home. I used to have a bunch of these,  back in the day.  They were never cheap!

More rug yarn! I've been collecting it now for a couple of years. The idea is to crochet a big carpet for the living room, if we ever get this renovation done, and I can actually use it full time as a living room.

It's an ambitious project, but we have that big old fireplace in there, and I picture the grandkids sitting on my handmade rug, playing with their toys, or watching a video and eating popcorn. Yeah, we're laid back here.

We also stopped at a local craft store that day in September too, and I was very judicious about what I bought. The place had been for about a year and a half, and I just never got the chance to check it out. Part of the reason is because I need a 12 step program to handle my craft supply addiction. They sell yarn too. I start feeling giddy as soon as I get through the door.

I had a budget that day, and I pretty much stuck to it. OK, I went $9 and change over, but that's not too bad for me. I smiled the rest of the day, so it was worth it. I have a thousand beads and trinkets, but one can always use more. Life is too short not to surround yourself with sparkly things.

I love to work with beads and charms. I like to make all kinds of interesting amulets, talismans, and doodads that have meaning to me or the recipient. I was feeling rather esoteric that day I guess.

The little buttons are for doll eyes.

I also thought about those expensive big bead bracelets they sell at the jewelry counters. So I got a few trinkets with that in mind.

Those skull beads are just so unusual! 

The basket was half price at $3.50. I love baskets, my house is full of them.

I bought two skeins of yarn that day, which I never took a picture of, because I got right down to work making this baby afghan. I worked while my little grandson was playing with his toys and occupied, stopping to change diapers or pick up things he tossed from the playpen. While he napped, I wrote. I gave it to his mom in the hospital after his baby sister was born. 

No woman has a right to look that good after the birth of her third child! Love you DDIL!

Now there's a story behind this on my writing blog, which you can read at your leisure (scroll down)  so I'm not going to repeat all that here. It suffices to say that this collectible piece comes close to matching something on one of my book covers, and because I chatted about it at the checkout counter, I may have created a new fan. I used my discount coupon on this one.

I've mentioned in a previous post this week, about my mother's diagnosis of Vascular Dementia. Yes, we worry about that, and it's evident when she can't recall from one conversation to the next whether her new great grandchild is male or female, or that I am the actual grandmother and not the aunt. But she doesn't love the new baby any less because of her confusion, nor do we hold it against her. We are fortunate and thankful that we are all still together this year. I had the entire family out here for Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday, 4 generations under one roof. These are times we will not forget as the years roll on.

They had to come, I baked 11 pies! Two pumpkin, two apple, two blueberry, two peach spice, one coconut custard, one sugar free chocolate silk, and one last minute strawberry rhubarb. Took me all day Wednesday, but I did it. Because I can. Because it's good to send people home with food, and to show them that good things can be created, not just bought. You can purchase pies and baby blankets, but not the time and the love that goes into making them.

So as the sun sets on November, and the last month of the year begins tomorrow, I leave you with these thoughts...

These days, while not everything in my world is pleasant, I am happy with my life. I love what I do, where I live, and the family around me. Yet this is nothing like I visualized life would be. I've made my peace with that, and I am content to just let it all be what it has to be.

Thrifting is an inexpensive way to pass the time. If I spend over $20, I've had an expensive trip. Most times it's barely over $10. Yet I come home with a few trinkets, a peaceful mind, and a smile that lasts the rest of the day. People go to therapy to feel that good. Oh sure, that stuff is cluttering up my house, but there are worse things you can do with your spare time. Someone else's castoffs have become my treasures. The money I spent went into programs that benefit disadvantaged people. That makes me feel good too.

Whatever you do in this world, go out now and then and just have some fun. Life is not about all work, or all play, but a healthy balance. That's my theory and I'm sticking to it!

Happy Hunting,


Year 15, Week 43, Day One (week 740)

Year 15, Week 43, Day One (week 740)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
11-27-14 Thursday
    56 degrees early morning, warming up quickly after the sun came up, getting to the high 60s. I was indoors all day long so other than the strong winds, I did not notice the weather other than the sunshine. I forgot to look up in the short time I was outdoors going to our family dinner. This weather report is brought to you by the City of Sunrise Department of Tourism.
    Dinner is at three and I only have to travel a block away to get there. Since we are having dinner in a condo, there is no carving today. No other “messy” projects either.
    Being home, I decided to dig into a closet in my train room. There was something on the bottom of the pile I needed to get out. I found some great memories and fun things. I now have an empty space in that closet floor that needs to be filled.
    I have some small wood carvings in two bins. I decided I would swap out two bins in shelving and place them in those spaces. I looked into several bins and found a couple that could be yard sailed. One had a whole bunch of model railroad track in it. Another had some computer parts I accumulated.  That open floor space in the closet is still empty and my wood working is in a place I can get to them quickly and easily.
    In my diggings, I found some old drawings of a model railroad plans we considered building. The layout these were part of had already been started when these designs were done, but we were exploring the rest of the layout. What we eventually built something had nothing to do with these drawings. That layout eventually was ripped out years later because the shed it was in was notoriously dirty (tracks have to be surgically clean for electric to pass from track to engine) and my brother needed the shed for stuff that would eventually be used in his job.
    These memories eventually lead me to write a post about model railroading, the first in a very long time.  I have enough scale cars to supply an auto factory, enough scale trucks-and-trailer rigs to have every train car with a truck on it.  I have train cars and engines in dresser drawers, not counting what I have sitting some place on my layout.
    This was the first Thanksgiving that we had only our immediate family together. We did not have a bunch of friends and farther relatives there. We had enough food for everybody who ever came to our one of our gatherings. Everybody went home with leftovers.  The dinner was fantastic.
    I am off from work tomorrow. I plan to work on carving on my ornaments and to dig through the two bins and see exactly what I have and see what I want to keep.
I will see what I actually do tomorrow.

Year 15, Week 43, Day Two (week 740)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
11-28-14 Friday
54 degrees early morning, 69 as the high, mostly blue sky with some clouds. It was sunny all day long. There was a strong breeze that early morning took away any heat you had, but as soon as the sun gained some height, the warmth matched the wind and was comfortable. This weather report was brought to you by the City Of Pompano Beach Department of Tourism.   
    I was feeling the little work I did yesterday and was looking forward to a day of just sitting and carving. When we got back from breakfast, mom said, “I have a project for you.” Argh!
Her project was to clear off the work bench and rearrange it. This is not a difficult job. It just takes time. It really takes time.  I would have taken some before-after pictures but I left the camera at home.
I worked at one end and started stacking stuff on a folding table I use for my work. I got quite a ways when mom got out there. It took a little bit to get her to concentrate on sorting through stuff and tossing stuff. That was the hardest part.
    Since we were in process, I continued to a tall dresser that is covered with a tarp and being used as a platform for grinders and sanders. It was covered in stuff also. It had a nice coating of dust in the folds of the tarp. We found an old leather satchel under the tarp. It was in bad enough condition to be tossed.
    Everything was moved, cleaned, and either put back or tossed. I moved a bunch of stuff to a new location while I was at it.  I put a sheet of plywood on top the tarp and now have two grinders in position for use, along with my disk sander. It is now quite usable.
    When we were done, you could actually see about a quarter of the work bench surface was visible and Mom’s garbage can was full. The day was almost done too.
    After lunch, a good rest, and final clean up, I set down with the model railroad tracks in the bin. I took the curved tracks and formed a circle and counted the pieces needed to get the complete circle, which I counted twelve sections. I then sorted through the tracks and bound together fourteen sections, just to make sure they had enough. I had half of shorter sections and half the longer sections. I will tell people to alternate them.  I was going to also include straight sections the length of the diameter of the circles, but found I had nowhere near enough straight pieces. What I did, then was to put them together in separate bundles of four.
    I used different colored yarns for each bundle, the straights had bright orange, the curves had bright green, the pieces made up of smaller sections had another color.  I can tell at a glance what they are getting.
    I dug into the bin with electronics. I kept out some things and left the rest. Most of this I got at a yard sale years ago where the person was tossing a whole bunch of electronics. I should have gotten the other container she had but it seemed like so much as it was. I am positive that the stuff I did not get was more interesting...
    I am not sure what is going on tomorrow. We may be doing a yard sale. Mom is not sure about it, though. Most people are out at Black Friday sales and won’t be interested in yard sales. Then again, if we don’t do the yard sale, we will be missing a beautiful day and possible sales.
    What I really want to do, which I can do if there is not a yard sale, is to get some of  my Christmas ornaments finished. Some are about done, some need a lot of work. I also want to take a whole bunch of chargers and see if I can get them to work with my drill set. The cords of the existing chargers are bad. We have a whole bunch of charger and I want to see if I can find some with the right ends and power and see if I can get the chargers working again. It will get my battery powered  drills back into use.
    When I got up this morning, I was feeling a little bit of the work I did yesterday, and today I did a lot more. There was nothing hard about anything I did, but there was just a lot of it. Walking here and there, picking up these few things and place them there, stick them there, turn back get something else. Just a lot of repeated movements  It added up. I am really proud of what we accomplished. Mom wore me into the ground one more time. I have no idea where her energy comes from. I did not inherit it.
    This week was the anniversary of my dad’s passing. I cannot remember the year he died, but he died two days after Thanksgiving that year. 
    Last weekend was Mom’s first anniversary of her marriage to my new dad.
    Mom had not done very much in the back yard after her marriage. She was too busy with things they were doing together. This month, Mom decided to get involved in fixing up the back yard and the past two weekends fixing things that required two of us to do. The back yard is slowly coming into shape. I figure she will have it all together by the end of next month.
    Looking in my train room, I realize I have a lot of work to do in there. A bunch of stuff was stacked on top the layout to get them out of the way while I was working. I need to clear it off completely. I usually spread a sheet of plastic on top of it and use it for painting my Christmas cards each year. I need to clear the pathway around it to make sure I can work efficiently. Where can I find another multi day weekend to get that work done?
    I also have to spend several sessions cleaning track so the engines can run. They hate dirty tracks. So much to do, and so little time to get it done.
    Well, My schedule tomorrow is completely up in the air.
    I will have to see what I can get to do tomorrow.
Year 15, Week 43, Day Three (week 740)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
11-29-14 Saturday
51 degrees early morning near my house, 56 degrees at Mom’s house ( about four or five miles closer to the ocean), 60 degrees at around eight, 75 degrees as the high. Sunny all day with some clouds off and on. Strong breeze all day long. This weather report is brought to you by the City Of Pompano Beach Department Of Tourism.
    Mom just was not sure if she wanted to do a yard sale today. It is still the Black Friday shopping and most people are at stores shopping the low priced deals the stores are offering. We just was not sure if it was going to be worth the effort. After breakfast, when we still were up in the air but could do the sale if we put our mind to it. The decision finally came down to me.
It was a beautiful day and it is hard to miss the opportunity.  After the work I did yesterday which I was not fully recovered from, and the fact that I had a number of projects to do that required time and concentration, I decided that it would be best if we don’t do the sale. We figured out later that there was not the normal traffic on the road so our sale likely would not have done well anyway. We did stop at a couple sales but they had nothing we needed.
    I did see at a yard sale a ceramic flower pot that I would like to make in wood. It was a long necked squash. It was set on its side in a way where the neck was held up on an angle. There was a hole for your plants on the side that was up. Something like this, if done on the lathe, would require turning on two axis. One for the hole in the squash, and one for the shape of the squash. One could then carve in the flutes, if that is the type of squash one wants to make. I will keep it as an idea.
    When my brother dismantled his model railroad, he gave me all the trees he had made for it. He had a Christmas tree that he was retiring and he cut the limbs off at various lengths. Some he put a base on and screwed them in place on the layout. Others he drilled a hole in the plaster scenery and stuck them in. Close together, they look like some form of pine or fir tree forest. I brought the bin to Mom’s house and sorted through them on length and type of base. There were a few other trees that I kept that were commercially sold trees.
    I grouped them and put them in baggies. I figured this was the best way to offer them in the yard sale, One buys a bag for a price. 
    I had a bunch of other stuff in a couple boxes that I had grabbed from my house and sorted through them at moms. A few things I kept and other things I have for the sale. Between several bins, like things are scattered. I figure that if we do a yard sale next weekend, I will be able to get things properly sorted when I put them away after the sale.
    Mom and I accumulated a whole bunch of chargers and power supplies for various devices. I picked through them with the idea of using the chargers to replace the bad ones for my drill set. I took a sixteen volt charger with the right polarity and right end and plugged it into the battery station for my drills, and stuck a battery in. After about an our, I found that It did charge the battery, but It would take a whole lot of time to fully charge the battery, far longer than a normal charger. I kept that charger, but did not bother to look for anything else that would work. It is good to know it will do the job if given enough time. If I lose more chargers (cords go bad), I could dig out something else that might work.
    I dug out my mittens and socks Christmas ornaments, and trimmed off any wayward paint, and then drilled starter holes and added eye hooks so they can be hung. I then glued in the “presents” in the ends of the socks and mittens. I found out several things. One is that I did not have enough of each color for all the ornaments. I then found out that only a few had enough room to hold all the presents the colors offered. Instead of four presents, most got three presents in them, and I had to split a few to make them fit, having the bare wood against another present to hide them (I ended up with some extra presents left over) I added extra glue around them when I had them placed and let them dry. When I put them into the baggy, they were set, but not fully dry.  I signed each one so the ink will have time to dry. Tomorrow I will give them a coat of varnish to finish them up.
    I whittled on the mice, making adjustments. I have two blanks I have not touched at all. The ones that were started needed their ears carved and I got them acceptable. I still have a little touch up on some of them with the knife. I used a drill and formed a pocket and glued in blue seed beads to make the eyes. I will have to see how they look tomorrow as to whether I have to do anything else. I might use a black pen to darken the hole in the bead that I had out like the pupal of the eye.
    I signed them on the flat bottom. After a tiny bit of knife touch-up, they will be ready to be varnished. They get no paint at all, just varnish. They will essentially be white mice. I think I know what I can do for a tail, but not totally sure. Someone suggested that I put a ribbon and bow around their necks. I have little decorative bows and might attach them. I will think about it. It would say more about them being for Christmas.
    I did some touch up carving on the chimney ornaments. I will paint them tomorrow and get them done. The two that I had already painted needs some touch-up paint to finish them off. If I get these completely painted, and everything varnished, they will be ready for presentation. I have to see what I can do tomorrow.
    As the day wore on, I could tell I had not fully recovered from the work I did yesterday. What made it worse was that several times, I was thinking that it was Sunday, and disappointed that the weekend had escaped me. Then there was relief when I realized it was Saturday and I still had time.
    It will be interesting to see what happens tomorrow.
Year 15, Week 43, Day Four (week 740)
(January 17, 2000 was my first carving day.)
11-30-14 Sunday
    69 degrees early morning, 74 in the early afternoon, strong gusts and strong breeze, mostly blue sky with lots of fast moving clouds that never seemed to darken the sun until the afternoon.  This weather report is brought to you by the City Of Pompano Beach Department Of Tourism.
    A great weekend is one where you go back to work to recover. For me, by this definition, this is a great weekend...
    I remembered I had some craft supplies in the tool box within the shed. The tool box is covered with stuff and hemmed in by wood. So I decided I had to get into the tool box.
    I set up the folding table to give me more room to place things and so I did not have to bend very much when moving things. The stuff on top the tool box came out first. Then the wood stacked up by the tool box since I was not about to have the wood fall down and have to pick it up. It would be better to move them in an orderly fashion.
    When I got the tool box out, I saw that the bugs have been having a field day on the sheets of plywood up in the roof of the shed. The floor was covered in bug droppings. I moved more stuff and then swept the floor. I put the bug droppings in mom’s compost bin. I figure it will help there.
    Satisfied I had gotten as far as needed (later I realized I should have checked a shelf that had stuff on it, but by then it was too late everything was back in place and there was no way I was going to take everything out just for a look). I started putting things back. I changed the arrangement some. Some plastic coffee containers came out and also some broken gourds I was given a long time ago. I really had no projects involving them and over time, they got damaged. Those made some extra room in there so things could be placed where they need to be.
    I stacked things on the bottom that I knew I would not be digging into soon. I put the wood back in a slightly more orderly fashion. If I concentrated on making things and only depended on the wood I have, I could work for a decade before I would start needing wood again. Now if I choose a project and look around, I have nothing at all to work with.....

 I had looked in the tool box and was reminded that a while back, I had removed the stuff I was looking for. So much for HALF A MEMORY!!!! I remembered I had put it in there, but did not remember that I took it out. It is in my house, but I have no clue where.
I got everything put a way and closed up the shed, and then took a nap. That was a lot of work that my body is not designed to do. The nap helped but not as much as needed.  Of course, I forgot to take “before” pictures and did not bother taking “after” pictures.

I went back out and settled on my Christmas ornaments. I trimmed the mice and the chimney ornaments, making sure they were quite clean. I then took out my paints and worked on finished the chimney carvings. Black, red and white paints “carefully” applied. I had to do some touch-ups on a few spots where drips or finger prints showed. I sanded the bottoms again to make them clean and flat, and signed them.

Last week, I dumped over a can of Wipe-On Poly Varnish when cleaning up and the lid came off. It had only a little varnish left in it and I saved that.
It was time to varnish the ornaments. I varnished the mice first and that mostly used up the varnish. I had dumped the varnish in a gallon baggy and then swished the mice all around in it, making sure they were coated and soaked. I then set them out to dry.
I had found a small can of varnish and dumped some of that in there and varnished all the other ornaments. It turned out to be very slow drying. I had placed the ornaments on a sheet of old plywood and moved them around periodically so they would not stick, and would dry on all sides. When it was time to go home, they were still tacky.
I set them on a small plywood sheet scrap and put them in the back of the truck so they could dry safely on the way home. I left them on the plywood and will let them dry over night and hope they are ready in the morning.

This was the most active weekend I have had in years. We have results to show for our efforts, and My body has let me know I am too soft for this kind of work. I would say I am out of shape, but round is a shape.....
    If the weather is any good next weekend, I am looking at our having a yard sale. I had doubled the stuff I have to show off. That means twice as long a setup. I do have more ornaments to carve and there are some other projects I need to do.
    I will see what I actually do next weekend.

 Model railroad trees. These were made either from a Christmas tree or a wreath. Hopefully someone else will make good use of them.

A Clean (?) work bench, after a garbage can worth of stuff was removed.

Except for some eye hooks, these are finished ornaments. The mice may end up with tails and possibly bows around their necks. I am not making those decisions at this time.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Railroad Archeology

Watching the small rails.

It has been a while since I said anything about Model Railroading. Between physical problems, time and the railroad slowly getting stacked as projects get delayed or stopped, I have done little with the railroad.

My Mom has been doing some yard sales to get rid of some Christmas stuff she accumulated. I’ve been putting stuff out from my house that I had extras for or have never used. Over the years, I accumulated a whole bunch of Model railroad buildings (HO scale) from other yard sales. At one many years ago, the guy basically shoved the box at me when he saw I had even the slightest interest. I’ve yard sailed most of those buildings since they were filling up a shelf in my train room. I kept the buildings my brother and I made.

I was digging in the closet to get to something in the bottom of the pile, looking at anything that was of any interest. Really fun project, to say the least. Some findings will be yard sailed, some will be kept. Some will be yard sailed later.

I found some railroad designs for layouts my brother and I drew up and considered developing when he had his railroad in a shed in his back yard.
At the time, he had a two foot by eight foot yard he built by modifying a design he saw in a magazine. At one point, we had the railroad go all the way around the shed. While his yard remained the same until he finally ripped it out to use the shed for other kinds of work, the rest of the layout changed over the years.
The plans I located were showing some of our ideas over time. These designs reminded me of some other designs we considered and later rejected. The big problem at that time was my brother was the one laying tracks and getting switches working. I had no skill at that time. Since he had to do all the work, only a little could get done.
Some of these designs were pretty good, some are too complicated, especially for the space we had.

When we started in Model railroading, we were thinking you needed five track main lines and fifty track yards. We also thought there had to be switching puzzles where one had to zig zag back and forth to get cars where they belonged. It took us a long time to learn to think small and simple.
We saw in a magazine where they were building a small railroad step by step. At the end, they showed how to operate it. That article showed us that a really small and simple railroad could be fun. We have since figured out that a single oval track with two sidings inside, can make for really interesting operation.

For those who don’t understand model railroading, it is one thing to run trains around a track like slot cars, like many beginners do, especially children. It is another thing to emulate the way a real railroad would run. The real object of a model railroad is to get one engrossed with it for a period of time. Most model railroad builders spend their time being engrossed in fantastic, realistic, scenery but not on how the trains run.

In essence, there are two methods of operating a model railroad realistically. One is to operate on schedules where trains have to be at certain places at certain times. The other is picking up and dropping off cars in front of businesses. Of course, advanced modelers will combine these two acts.
I have experimented with both on my model railroad. The main part of my railroad layout is a four foot by eight foot platform with two ovals, one inside the other. There is only one crossover (switch arrangement that allows you to go from one oval to another), and there are some tracks that go out from the oval and leads to a nine foot switch yard.  There are also some tracks pointing into the center of the inner oval where cars can be placed. There is a spot on the front of the switch yard that allows one to emulate a barge port where railroad cars can be added and removed from the layout.
Properly loading and unloading the barges is a whole operation in and of itself. The switch yard is another operation of its own. Then you have the main layout.
In our general operations, the yard is simply to store trains to be sent out when needed. Many times it is only to store railroad cars and engines so they are out of the way. The barge then provides the trains for our operations.


 My model railroad layout in my house.  We changed the yard slightly from this design, but it is close enough for discussion. The siding on the bottom left was never hooked up. It was to provide trains from the other end of our railroad. We also discussed putting a yard in the closet but  that idea sort of died also.

 The simplest layout. The oval itself allows you to get to the other end of your train for the sidings facing your engine so you can work the siding.  We did an operation on this, picking up one car from each siding while running in one direction, then reversing  the train and picking up  the other cars going the other way. It was an enjoyable 45 minute operation.

I have had scheduled operations where three trains would be run in sequence where the “local” would arrive first, get completely out of the way, the general train (opposite rush hour if passenger) arriving and getting out of the way, then the express or rush-hour train arriving. Then they would leave in reverse order. With the freight trains, the local would move the cars for the other trains
We found we preferred to be mainly just be placing cars in the sidings in front of the proper businesses. It is one thing to let the “conductor” decide where the cars are going and what cars to pick up. We found, though, that if you designate what cars will be picked up and dropped off and where, a simple train servicing each stop can be a real challenge.  One can spend a couple hours just working one train, one person working the throttle, the other hooking and disconnecting the cars. That, is what  model railroading is about. Being engrossed for hours.

We originally placed my model railroad along the north coast of the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. We visited there later and found that reality has nothing to do with model railroading. Our selected cities were wide spots in the highway. Since we have no room for any scenery, and our railroad is flat anyway, we realized the railroad could be just about  anywhere in the country.

The real key for Model railroad operations is the rules you choose to use for operations.
We have eight individual sidings on the inside of the inner oval. They are interconnected to a run-a-round that allows the engine to get to the other end of the cars.
With the oval railroad, we can have the whole inside oval as one city, each run-a-round area, one on each side, as separate cities, or each siding as individual cities.
One can run actual distances. I cannot remember the exact figure, but a three foot wide oval is something like a third of a scale mile (your mileage may vary)(HO Scale is slightly larger than 1/8"=1'-0" scale but 1/8" is close enough to where one does not have to always use a scale rule to get your figures). One could figure out how many laps one has to run in order to get the actual distance and actually run from city to city to drop cars off. One does not have to model an entire city, just the area you are allowed to work. There might be other railroads in the city, and there might be other trains scheduled for other sidings. What you are modeling are just the places your train(s) will stop.
When one operates at scale miles per hour that real trains would run (only a few trains run full blast, most tool along at a fairly low speed), one could spend several sessions running one train across your “empire”.
Switching at scale speeds, creeping along, becomes a real challenge as any mistakes (going straight rather than turning off for example) take a long time to undo as you have to slowly return to where you make the mistake, and then do what you intended to do. One quickly concentrates totally on what you are doing, and time really zips by.

I ran across some of the “car cards” we used for our operations. I have two printed versions at my finger tips at this second. At first, and later on, we simply wrote what cars were in the train, then look over the layout to see what cars “needed” to be picked up. We would then right them down on a list.
One printed (printed on printer paper) car cards I did lists all the cities on the layout, and all the businesses on the layout. It also had a sketch of the layout and the letters where they would go. The engine would be noted on top and the direction. We then had a second set of cards, one for each individual type of car (box car, work car, tank car, flat car...) and listed the city where it was going. We would then write on the car card a description of what the car looked like. At the bottom of the car card, would list what the car would do next, such as “go to the yard,” or “go to the barge port” or “go to next city.”
One big problem we found with the individual car cards is that while one is switching, one ends up laying the cards out over the edge of the layout so you could see what cars needed to go where, and be picked up, and keep track of where you are. If one blocked (placed the cars in order that they will be dropped off) the cars, there is more moving paper around. It actually was fairly realistic in that the conductor had no decision as to what was picked up or dropped off and the real railroads were known to be awash with paperwork.
For practical purposes, the way we ended up operating was to list the cars in the train on one paper with where they were going. We would have simple rules for what cars would be picked up each time. Since we had some railroad cars that did not work well on our layout, and some would “fall off” or have some other accident, one simply put the type of car and swap it out if needed with the same type of car.

Another operating situation I had written on a piece of paper that I ran across, was to use a set of dice and have a list that stated the conditions that certain things would happen when certain numbers came up. You roll the dice and it would tell you that *there are hazards in one area * the weather is messy * you are having problems with one of your engines * your train is loaded higher than expected. Each of these would require you to handle your train differently along the route than normal. A hill might require you to break up the train a couple times to get it up a hill. One might have the train run slower in an area than normal, and so on.
This addition to an operating system forces one to think about each section of the railroad as you run on it. If one is running laps, if one has a map of your route, one could do laps to a certain point and roll dice to see what you are dealing with.

Since my brother and I usually used the railroad together, one of us would be the engineer, using the throttle controlling the speed and direction of the train. The other would give directions, flip switches and work the couplers to disconnect the cars. It really makes for an enjoyable time for both of us.
We originally planned to have a view block, a sheet of plywood, down the center of the layout with scenery painted and built up on it to make each side a different place entirely. We found, though, that it was more enjoyable to be able to see each other and see the train when operating from the opposite side of the layout. The way we wired the inner oval was the back half had its own controller so that train can be used without messing with the front side, but it could be switched to operate from the front controller so trains could run all the way around the layout.  This made it easy for the engineer to be out of the way of the conductor when operating.

Digging through the closet was interesting. I have found parts and pieces I forgot I had or never knew I had. I will have a lot of work to sort through all this stuff and get them into some order, if that ever happens....
The best part was it was digging through memory lane, planting a little bit of excitement in the railroad again, even if it is as an “arm chair” model railroader. 

It is fun to be a railroad archeologist....

Monday, November 24, 2014

2014 Hansen Garden Bounty

We had a banner year for the garden, no two ways about that. Here are just some of the highlights...

An overview of the garden at its most lush. This was taken in August. We got tons of food out of it this year, and were able to be generous with family and friends. My freezers are full.

Backing up to July, some shots of produce waiting to be processed or eaten. I was kept quite busy!

Broccoli and cauliflower. I had some enormous heads of cauliflower this year!

My favorite summer squash—old fashioned crookneck. Pick it small.

Tomatoes and peppers were both prolific. One of those peppers looks 'nosy' to me. The yellow tomatoes are Lemon Boy, and I highly recommend them. They have a great taste, a lovely color, and are very juicy. A real winner.

Three kinds of zucchini, Black Beauty, a standard green variety, and Golden Zucchini, which had a great taste and was easy to spot. 

White pattypan squash is not my favorite. It was supposed to be Sunburst Scallop but wasn't. I gave most of it away. It sure was prolific though, and the folks who got it, really loved it. It gets big overnight, so pick often and small. Yeah, I know; this isn't small.

We had plenty of cukes to eat and share. I gave some to friends of the family, and got back some yummy pickles! I don't have time to make those anymore.

August brought more of the same, when it comes to abundance. The garden grew lush and I was often overwhelmed with things to put up.

Yep, more cukes, peppers, and one of my favorite tomatoes for snacking, salads, and stuffed appetizers, Juliet. It's a large oval cherry, much bigger than grape tomatoes, with some solidness, but a lot of flavor. I was really thrilled to find one plant in my travels. It was bounteous.

We had the the best cabbage crop ever, both green and red. I made cole slaw several times and stuffed cabbage casserole, which is far easier than classic stuffed cabbage. A lot of the cabbage got chopped, bagged, and frozen for winter soups and casseroles. It keeps very well for cooked dishes.

Oh yeah, more tomatoes. Those orange cherries are one of my all time favorites, Sungold. They split easily, but you can't beat them for flavor. 

Yeah, it's a little yellow and has some bug bites on it, but cauliflower in August—especially heads this size—are not supposed to happen. Cauliflower is a finicky about weather conditions, and it far prefers cooler weather. This year it was accommodating. Color might not be supermarket white, but it sure tastes good!

Broccoli side shoots this size so late in the summer is kind of unusual too. We picked into early October, and then ripped the plants out. They were still producing a few here and there, but we were sick of picking them!

Had to put up the wax beans separately this year, because not everyone here loves them the way I do. All the beans were pole beans (this is Kentucky Wonder Wax) and all were plentiful. This is one picking from the only pole that had them. 

Green beans were half Kentucky Wonder, mixed with McCaslan, Blue Lake, and Kentucky Blue. Lots of numminess there. This is a very small picking, we were filling shopping bags at the height of the season. The pole bean plants came out a week before the broccoli, because they had slowed down and we were sick of picking them anyway. 

Yep more cauliflower, this was the very last picking. Nothing to be ashamed of here. 

Well into September, we were still going strong on the garden. I was tired, but then I had been babysitting four to five days a week for most of the year, from a couple hours to all day long. It's a miracle that I got as much done as I did! 

Yeah, more bell peppers. We got some lovely big ones and I made enough stuffed peppers to feed two households. They were much enjoyed. These beauties make me proud!

Look at that interior, that is a wonderfully thick walled pepper. We cut them into strips and pack them in bags for winter meals. They are only good cooked, but I always have them on hand when I need peppers and the price is outrageous. If you want to dice them, do it while they are still somewhat frozen. Fry them separately at first to get the water out from freezing.

Plum tomatoes did well too. They are always late but produce in several flushes before the short plants give up the ghost. I rinse and cut off the stem end and any bad spots, and freeze them whole in bags. I can put them up in winter, after the holidays when it's cold out, or just use them as is. A quick rinse under the hot water faucet in a colander and they will squirt right out of those skins. My late and dear friend Bev, who used to live in this house, taught me that trick. 

Oh yeah, more white pattypan. Like Mickey Mouse's broom in The Sorcerer's Apprentice, it just kept coming. It looks rather alien, don't you think?

For variety, some frying peppers. The yellow ones are sweet banana, and they have been very reliable here. 

Love these guys fried up in oil with onions, and then piled on a sandwich or burger. Yum!!!!

Even late in the month of September, we were still getting plenty from the garden. We managed to dodge a few minor frosts and the bounty went on. 

Ugly little crab apples from a tree out on the western side of the house. The tree is sort of homely too, but it blossoms beautifully. The good crab apples get washed and frozen, and I intend to make jelly or something if I ever get enough. Lots of wormy ones this year, unfortunately.

Oh yeah, more peppers. LOTS more peppers. Did I mention the garden kept me busy?

More cukes and tomatoes. We were getting a little sick of them by this point, but we ate a lot and gave many away. I forget the name of the dark tomato, the plant was a gift. Some of those reds were under-ripe, but the weather was getting iffy, and little creatures were taking big bites out of them if they ripened on the vine.

Yep watermelon, we pick a half dozen this year. No prize winners for size, but they sure tasted good. I know, this one needed a good wash. I snapped it on the wrong side.

And into October, we still had things coming in. Most notable were the winter squashes and potatoes, which I somehow lost the pictures of. But I do have a couple of the pumpkins!

 We gave away four other regular pumpkins, but this is the harvest from just two hills of plants. Wow! They were stubborn about coloring up for some reason. I don't recall the variety, but it was good for carving, and I have grandsons, so that was the idea.

 We also had one clump of the Dill's Atlantic Giant. We got three; one rotted and something ate into it, but two were about this size, around 60-70 lbs. No prize winner but it had to be lifted into the car by the tractor bucket. It got donated.

And now, just some random beauty shots from around yard and garden. Because, it's not all about food...

Scarlet Celosia Plumosa in a little box, setting the porch on fire all summer long. This stuff really lasts if you don't overwater it.

This pink Oriental lily was so heavily scented at night, I could smell it in the house, 30 feet away. A welcome addition to my yard.

The chipmunks regularly raided the birdfeeders of black oil sunflower seed. The feeders are all up by the house, but they ran across the driveway and yard, and down into the garden to 'hide' them in the soil. We had clumps coming up everywhere.

I never planted a single sunflower this year, but I sure moved a few. We had a whole area of them. This big beauty fed a lot of fall birds.

Pretty snazzy looking for a volunteer plant. The bees sure loved them! I hope they reseed.

Yeah, it got pretty weedy out there, but heck, this was late in the season, in the area right after the fence, and just before the potato patch and the running vines of squash, melons, and pumpkins. This was the tallest stalk of the bunch. The plants had multiple heads of small happy-looking sunflowers. Like a beacon, I could see it from the house, which is like 500 feet away.

Now you know why I do this to myself every year. Good food, good exercise, fresh air, and a far less troubled mind all came out of that garden. When you consider that I also write, babysit, cook, and (try to) keep house, it's a lot of work! It's worth it to me. Someday I may not be able to do all this stuff, but for now, I will tackle whatever I can. I hope my grandchildren grow up watching me make little plants come out of the soil and become dinner, and they at least learn to appreciate the bounty of Nature. We are so blessed to have a country place and the ability to grow our own food. I have been a gardener now for 41 seasons of my life. That is a legacy I can pass down to all who want to learn from me. We will never go hungry if we take care of our land, and look out for each other.

All things come to us if we take the time to learn a few simple rules, and pay attention to both successes and failures. Nature is a good teacher, if a bit harsh at times. I didn't put anything special in this garden, most plants got one feeding of an organic fertilizer during the heaviest part of the growing season. We use all our grass clippings as mulch to keep down weeds and keep the soil cool and moist, and we let them stay and decompose, enriching the soil. We add compost whenever we have it. The rest is day long sunshine, generous watering when needed, healthy soil full of natural nutrients, and a lot of hard work and patience. You have to be out there on a regular basis to see what needs doing. If you are successful, you will fill your own belly as well as those of others you hold dear.

To work the soil, to plant a seed, to stay and watch it grow into flowers or edible things, is my idea of a reverent spiritual experience. Seasons come and go, things die and more things are born, changes large and small happen over time, but life always goes on somewhere. To become such an integral part of the green, growing world; to witness this miracle happening season after season, is to understand the truth of eternity. What we do lives on past our own time. In my garden, I grow memories for those who come after me.

Oh, and they taste good too. How can you go wrong?

Always Thankful,