Monday, May 30, 2011

Some Gave All

Billy Ray Cyrus always got a bad wrap because of his hair.  I think he was unfairly labeled for the commercial success of Achy Breaky Heart.  He's actually a very talented artist.

He certainly nailed it with this one.  Thanks to those who "Gave All."

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Backing 'er waaaay down today!

Yesterday was was a day in which "back 'er down" was nowhere to be seen.  After an event for work I finally got in bed around 2 AM.  I was greeted by the kiddos at 6 AM.  We left for family pictures around 9 AM.  Drove to South Carolina for a couple of hours and took some great pics with the wife's family.  Loaded up again with the oldest son and beat it back to Statesboro, GA for a birthday party at 1:30 PM.  We bowled, played laser tag, played arcade games, etc for over three hours.  Took it to the house, got a quick shower and pulled out again at 6 PM.  went back to South Carolina to drop off the oldest son.  (Wife and little one had stayed.)  Hung out and ate dinner and headed for home once again.  Finally got showered and in bed around 11 PM.  Geez Louise!  What a day!

Today though is going to be way slower.  In fact it will be one of the laziest of the year.  For a race fan like myself today is the biggest racing day of the year.  At 8 AM the Grand Prix of Monaco will go green.  This is the most prestigious race on the Formula 1 calendar.  Around Noon the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be on the tube.  Finally later in the afternoon NASCAR's longest race, the Coca Cola 600 will cap off the evening.  This guy is watching them all!  I'm not sure that I'll actually do anything constructive at all today.  I might go outside and pick beans between Monaco and Indy, but I'm not going to get really motivated about it.

Y'all take it easy,   (I sure am!)


Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Garden Update May 24

Two empty rows to the left of that pole were the tater beds.
The pole is actually a raised sprinkler to get above the corn.
I'm starting to sound like a broken record when I talk about no rain.  Actually I feel bad for moaning about it when I see flooding happening along the Mississippi River.  We've totaled about a 1/2 inch of rain in the last 10 weeks.  Dry.  On top of that the last three days have been over 100 degrees too.  Sandspurs love no rain and 100 degree days.  Other stuff.....not so much.  I've been letting the water sprinklers rip though.  That's kept everything steady.  We are actually harvesting things now and the results are pretty decent!  So far we've put up 10 quarts of snapbeans, given away about five more and eaten some as well.  The squash are putting off like gangbusters.  I knew they would.  I believe you could make squash in bed of shattered glass.  The tomatoes are doing decent but these last few days have been tough on them.  Of the 72 plants we set, only 5 have died so far. Not too bad.  All of the plants have fruit, so as long as nothing funky happens we'll be picking maters soon too.  About half of the corn is tassling and it looks pretty decent too.  Sweet potatoes are looking healthy and starting to drop and run.  The sugarcane is struggling bad.  No water.  Gotta have water to make cane.  Same with the watermelons, though they aren't too terrible.  Just not as healthy as I'd like right now.  There is still time before the 4th of July though :)  The cucumbers are struggling as well.  They are the biggest mystery to me.  The first year I planted a garden I made bunches of cukes.  The last three years have been absolutely paltry.  The only think I can guess is that they loved the area where the sandspurs were.  If nothing comes this year, I'll plant them in that spot again next year and just pick carefully.  There is one about three inches on the vine.  I'm nursing that so that I can have at least one this year.

This weekend was spent digging potatoes.  What a crop!  I estimated that we ended up with around 160-170 pounds.  I filled my storage rack and still had an entire queen sized bed sheet full to give away to friends, neighbors and coworkers.  Taters for all!  I hope the sweet potatoes do that well.

From the opposite end.  Freshly hoed tomato plants

What made really made the day special was to work in the garden with the boys.  Despite the heat they were there with me.  We had a great system in which my five-year-old would pull the plant, I would dig and my two-year-old would pile them in the middle of the rows.  Keep in mind now.......this wasn't my was their plan.  On top of that, the two-year-old had a fit to make sure that every one was in a container of some sort be it a plastic bag, bucket, box or even his pants pockets.  It was interesting that they never once complained that it was too hot.  It was bright and 101 degrees at the peak.  I made sure that they had plenty of water and sunscreen (wish I had put sunscreen on myself...ouch) but they never once complained about any discomfort.  They were out there working because it was an opportunity to hang with Dad.  I'm sure being able to root around in the dirt had something to do with it too, but they were as well behaved and attentive as I've ever seen them.  They were happy.  Despite being hot, nasty and tired they were happy.  I could learn a lot from that...........

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Refurbishing a Tractor Part 3 - The Before and After Pictures

The final installment of my three blogs documenting the process of refurbishing a Ford Jubilee for the Kiwanis Club of Statesboro.  Part 1 gave a brief  description of the cleanup and all of the wacky things that were wrong.  Part 2 expanded on that and gave a little talk about the cleanup process and the mechanical repairs.  We finally got to the point of painting.  the first order of business was attempting to salvage the sheet metal.  You can buy and entire hood and side legs for this tractor for about $1000.  However, that was my total budget for this project.  That meant getting out the grinder, hammer and giving it what I call "violent encouragement."  There were areas that had been welded back together and other areas that had rotted away.  It wasn't pretty and it didn't really fit back together properly.  Dad and I aren't really very talented body work guys.  We could have taken it to a body shop, but again......budget.  We did a lot of banging and bending until we got it in place and somewhat straight.  When we started the tractor did not have a grille.  We found one, but the original mounting tabs had long rusted away.  We needed something so I went digging.  When we moved my youngest son to a bed, I disassembled his crib and kept some of the parts.  (see my May 15 garden update for the potato drying rack that I made from the base)  I dug through and found two brackets that worked perfectly!  A shot-coat of ford medium grey paint and they were good to go!  I would like to have done a $3000 restoration, but then folks would have felt guilty for using it.  By putting $1000 into it it gets it looking decent, running great and ready to work.  It's going to get dinged and scratched.  It's going to have things break again.  That's okay.  That's what it's for.  It's meant to work.  so now the before and after pictures..........the old Ford came a LONG way!

Front Before
Front After
Rear Before
Rear After
Left Side Before
Left Side After
Right Side Before
Right Side After
I had a blast refurbishing a Ford for the first time.  can't say that I'm ready to give up on my trusty John Deere's, but it was fun to learn the nuances and differences with another brand.  We returned the tractor to its home Saturday.  I was a little sad, but happy that I could get my baby back in the shop out of the elements.  Next project...... making my Dad's lifelong dream a reality.  We're restoring a 1949 John Deere M like the one my Grandfather bought new when Dad was a kid.  He says it might be his last project.  I hope not, but if it is, I'm going to make the most of it.

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Update May 15

Still no real measurable rainfall.  I did get about 1/4 inch on Saturday night, but that still take us to only about a half inch cumulatively in the last 6 weeks.  It's dry, but early last week I started running the sprinklers full bore.  I watered for 3 hours each evening and 2 hours the next morning every other day.  It made a difference.  Today I was able to pick a five gallon bucket full of snap beans and the blooms that I noticed as I picked are numerous.  I'll be picking beans again mid week and likely next weekend too.  It's great!!  We also dug some more potatoes.  We focused mainly on the dying plants today.  I'm very pleased with the crop so far.  we've been able to keep the potato bugs at bay.  Last year's killer were mole crickets.  Two applications of granular Sevin knocked those back easily.  The potato crop is as healthy as good as we've had this year.  We have small tomatoes on the bush and watermelons on the vine.  Several corn stalks are starting to tossle.  Cucumbers are struggling but some are starting to drop and run.  same with the sweet potatoes.  For a plot that is deathly dry it's actually yielding.  What if I had had some rain?  Would have been my best garden ever...that's what.  There is still time.  If it's God's will the rain will come.  I took several pics and I figured that I would make that the bulk of this weeks's update:

It's hard to tell what's in that picture, but it's deer tracks.  More specifically the digging done by a deer who got the piss shocked out of it after trying to enter the garden.  After two months of chirping, the fence charger finally got some use.  Hopefully it gets some more use.  I suspect the watermelons will be very inviting.

Speaking of watermelons....we have a few on the vine!  This one is about the size of my thumb, but it's a start.  This is where watering becomes critical or they will all get bullet-nosed.  I'll define that term in a later blog.  I'm sure I'll have an example ;)

Saturday morning was spent staking tomato plants.  I put baskets around the ones that get the most sprinkler water and used bamboo stakes for the rest.  That's The Murph in the background.  He was helping ;)

This is my "engineered" potato drying rack.  It is the base of my youngest sons old crib.  I covered it in screen and suspended it from the rafters in my shop.  Perfect for letting the taters get air from all sides.  Already had the base and the chain.  Total cost was $3.49 for the screen.  I do hit my head on it all the time though.  Doh!

Sunday's bounty.  Cooked a pot of beans and bagged 4 quarts for the freezer.

The day ended with a true home cooked meal.  Veggies from the garden and deer tenderloin.  The deer was on the money.  I recently learned about marinading it in milk for 24 hours to help tenderize it.  Worked like a champ!  The kids loved this meal because they helped harvest it and because it tasted good.  not usually a deer fan, the wife even liked it.

It was a great weekend.  It started out hot and humid and ended cooler and breezy.  We got a little rain.  The kids got dirty with me in the garden.  Murphy dug his first potatoes.  Mama Bear ate deer meat.  Davis is riding his bike without training wheels.  The Ford tractor is almost done.  Wow!  Hope next week is as bountiful and fruitful!

Y'all take it easy,


Friday, May 13, 2011

The Great Solar Experiment

Six 15-watt solar panels along the side of my shop
It's been about a year since I bought a solar panel array.  I was eager to begin experimenting with them, but alas.  Life got in the way.  Well, I'm happy to say that I finally got around to it!  I know very little about solar power, but I have read a lot about it thanks to some really wonderful DIY projects and documentations online.  The equipment that I have isn't really top of the line.  I felt like it was just right for experimentation though.  Solid stuff at a reasonable price.  If everything works out I may upgrade in the future.  For now I'm using two 45 watt kits from Harbor Freight.  I was able to snag them for $129 and $99 respectively thanks to the outstanding coupons that HF offers regularly.  Some of their stuff is cheaply made, but for light duty stuff and price Harbor Freight is pretty awesome.

First things first.  Where to put them?  The house is out of the question, so somewhere at my shop was on the top of the list.  I had reservations about putting them on the roof as I'm not even sure that this whole deal will pan out.  I know that to maximize the gain that I needed to get the most sunlight.  That would mean putting them in an unsecured area and having to run wires back to the shop.  More wire = energy loss.  I wasn't interested in moving them around either.  I decided on mounting them at an angle on the west side of my shop.  They will not get full sunlight all day, but they will be right on from around Noon or 1:00 until sunset.  Good enough for me at this point.  How I was going to secure them presented yet another challenge.  I finally found some random brackets at Lowe's that could be easily anchored into the brick and cradle the panels at an angle.  Rubber coated tabs were used, two to the panel, at the top just in case a ferocious wind were to come at the wrong angle.  All of the wiring ran behind the panels and into a small two inch hole back into the shop.  I filled the gap with some silicone and the outside was done.

MacGyver type power source consisting
of two deep cycle marine batteries and a
750 watt inverter.
I setup a battery bank and the charge controller inside the shop.  Not sure if I'll keep everything as it is, but it is out of the way.  It also allows a place where it's out of the reach of little boys who might be curious.  Right now I'm working off of two deep cycle marine batteries that are parallel wired.  I've been using this setup for a couple of years for tailgating and camping.  The basket that holds them features a 750 watt inverter on the side.  We were able to easily run a TV, converter box, powered antenna and a fan off of it for 6 hours during some of our tailgating adventures.  It should be able to run some florescent lights and the occasional drill and saw with ease.  This will also be the spot where I recharge my alternating batteries for running the electric fence around the garden.

The challenge at this point is to try and figure the best (and safest) way to work a switch mechanism.  We need the power to the grid to be off when running on the batteries.  Likewise we need the batteries, panels and inverter to be cut off when we have a need to run the shop off of regular electricity.  I have an idea about how to do it through the breaker box, but I need to do some more studying.

This has been a long time coming and I have had a lot of fun with it.  It's more of a science experiment than any real foray into solar power.  However, if I can figure through some things I might be interested in going to the next level.  Once I get everything figured out I'll post another update.

Y'all take it easy,


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Pledge of Allegiance

Image: Wilson Info Clipart  
I've noticed something interesting about the Pledge of Allegiance over time.  Let me first say that yes..... I have seen the Red Skelton video and I am versed on the history of the phrase "under God."  What I've noticed is the difference in delivery of that portion and how it varies between certain groups.
In 1996 I had the opportunity to participate in an American Legion program called Boys State.  The program is a week long exercise in which rising high school seniors run a mock government at the city, county and state level.  I loved the program so much that I continued on serving as a counselor for 8 of the past 15 years.  (I hope to get back on board at some point, but my own kids complicate it a bit)  It was there that I first heard the pledge of Allegiance recited with "one nation under God" spoken as a whole, continuous, complete verse.  I had always heard and been taught that it was broken into two verses:  "one nation ................................ under God.  No pause for the members of the American Legion!

Fast forward 15 years.  After joining our local Kiwanis Club I hear the same delivery from this group of men and women.  No pause.  I wonder is it an age difference?  Were children of the 40s and 50s taught to recite without the pause?  We also have a LOT of veterans who are Kiwanians.  Maybe it's something that they share as servicemen and servicewomen?

Nothing earth shattering.  Just thought it was interesting.  I recite it without the pause.  Any time that I'm in a group of younger folks or non-veterans I get odd looks.  There's always one or two others in the group who do the same though.  I think it's pretty cool.

Y'all take it easy,


Monday, May 9, 2011

The Internet is a Heck of a Tool!

Earlier this afternoon I had a visit from a from gentleman from Minnesota.  That's right.  A good natured fellow named Jim made his way all the way down to Southeast Georgia for some old rusty farm implements (we like to call them treasures.)  Jim and I got hooked up through another gentleman, Larry, via an antique tractor Web site called Yesterday's Tractor.  Granted....he was in Georgia on other business, but still.  The dude came From Minnesota to buy a couple of sets of old harrows!  Pretty impressive.  I'm very thankful that he did and it was a pleasure being able to chat with him for a few minutes about the passion that we share.

That got me to thinking about how the internet has changed so much in terms of meeting people.  I'm not talking about dating or any of that stuff.  Just normal interests that used to be shared locally are now shared nationwide and even worldwide.  Facebook is only the beginning.  I've been able to reconnect to friends whom I would otherwise never have seen again.  I even reconnected with a high school classmate who is now in Hawaii.  I might not come back either if I were in Hawaii.  There are also relationships that I've formed with folks that I have never met.  I share the antique tractor hobby with folks from as far as New Zealand thanks to online forums.  Craigslist and eBay have brought buyers and sellers of just about anything together on a computer screen.  Thanks to a Kurt Busch fan site I have formed cyber friendships with folks from Missouri, Wyoming, Washington, Deleware, Texas, New Jersey, Michigan, California and even Canada.  I do at least have the opportunity to possibly meet some of these folks at a race one day.  Hey guys and gals.  Hope you're reading tonight :)

Then there is this Back 'er Down blog and the few folks who read here.  My stats show that there are folks from all over though most don't really comment.  They're span bots for all I know, LOL.  I'm getting nothing like some of the professional bloggers, but I do get my fair share of traffic for a novice :)  It's still pretty amazing that are a few folks like to read what I spew.  The world of blogging has opened my eyes to a lot of like minded writers.  I became a fan of a lot of different writers and it gave me the comfort to start writing about various topics.  It actually feels pretty good just to write.  No pressure to gain readership.  No worries about deadlines or space constraints.  I just blab about whatever I'm thinking about or whatever I think needs to be said.  It's pretty cool.  The internet gave me those folks and the internet gave me that opportunity.  I may be singing a different tune when Skynet becomes self aware and the machines take over, but for's cool.

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Garden Update May 8

Dry, but hanging in there.....
In my last update I mentioned that it had been a month since it rained.  We got 1/4 inch the next afternoon.  Nothing since.  About a quarter if an inch of rain in the last six weeks.  That's it.  The interesting part is that middle and northern GA is getting slammed regularly.  The mighty Missisip is overflowing.  In Kansas though, they're in a bad drought.  Thank goodness for sprinklers.  Everything is pretty much being maintained with the sprinkler water.  Nothing is experiencing any really good growth.  We picked a mess of small squash and some potatoes yesterday.  Sent the squash home with Dad and the potatoes will be included in Mamma Bear's Mothers Day feast that the boys and I will cook later this evening.

Corn is up about 3' or so.  Everything looks good except the tomatoes and cucumbers.  They aren't dying, they just aren't really doing anything.  Sandy soil and only 1/4 inch of rain over the last 7 weeks will do that.  I'll just have to nurse it along until we get some of that.  No need to moan.  We can control a lot of things.  The weather ain't one of them.

Y'all take it easy,

Squash will grow regardless of conditions

Watermelons doing surprisingly well.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Regal Fever and the Best Known Cure

Oh boy did I have Regal Fever!  For the past two weeks.  It was bad.  Not a "Back 'er Down" type of move AT ALL!  Thankfully I'm over it now thanks to a good conversation with my Dad.  We never even focused on the car, but the message was still there.  Funny how it all works out sometimes

It all started when I was a teenager.  My first car was a 1987 Oldsmobile Cutlass.  It was a great car that served me well all the way through college.  (There was a six month span where I blew the transmission out of the olds and drove a 1973 Dodge pickup....The Orange Monster....That's a whole other blog)  While working in downtown Savannah the car was stolen.  Broad daylight.  Hot-wired.  Recovered three weeks later.  Completely stripped.  I never got closure for that whole situation.  So here I sit 10 years later.  I've paid the bills and I have some money.  I got a little giddy at the prospect of getting another Cutlass.  Then I just started getting greedy.  I figured that if I was going Cutlass shopping I should just go ahead and look for it's smoking hot older sister, a T-Type Buick Regal.  I found several, but I found one in my hometown, with 27,000 original miles.  GASP!  I came very close to pulling the trigger.  Despite everything I've done saving money over the last couple of years.  Despite the fact that I know I need it like I need a hole in my head.  Despite the fact that it would get 12 miles to the gallon.  Despite the fact that it was a dumb idea.  I was ALMOST ready to pull the trigger!

Luckily my old man came over for a visit.  He's always good for a reality check ;)  He never said "Don't buy that thing."  We did get into a conversation about life, our economy and our country.  We talked about the early 80's and how he lost his farm and how things were when he was a little boy.  We talked about the fact that smart people hold their money in situations like these.  I don't know if he talked about all that on purpose or not.  We talk like that all the time, but it struck a different chord this time.

I had rationalized in my mind that if I bought this car that I could eventually resell it and at least get my money back.  (I rarely buy anything that isn't for sale two days later.)  That might have been the case, but it was pushing it just a little bit.  This particular car would be targeted for resale to a collector....... that guy with money......who would probably be holding onto his money if things don't get better soon.

The stock market has me a little concerned right now.  I have some in it, but I want to keep some of it at hand.  I feel a need to put my cash in some tangibles right now.  So the question really became where can I put it to be safe and get a possible return.  Been doing it with tractors for years, but tractor buying time is in the late fall and early winter.  Gold is past my comfort zone.  If silver comes back down, maybe I'll get back into that.  I see third-world militias on TV all the time riding around in early 80's Toyota pickups.  Those are some tough little suckers.  Maybe that's where I need to be.  I finally decided that a pristine 87 Regal probably isn't the best place right now.  A good solid $1,000 Regal maybe.  I could turn that for a Donk conversion in a heartbeat.  The collector market is just a little too shaky right now.

I still want T-Type.  One day I'll get one.  Just isn't the right time.  Glad I have that visit last night.  Dads continue being Dads no matter how old you are :)

Y'all take it easy,


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Farewell To An Old Friend

A part of this blog is to help me write and verbalize to myself the silliness in "accumulating stuff."  Sometimes I get attached.  Today we let go of our 1954 John Deere 40.  It had been for sale for a while, but today was finally the day she left.  It has served our family well for almost 19 years.  The real reason that I had such sentimental ties to was the very first tractor that Dad and I restored together.  It was also the first tractor that my oldest son drove....just earlier this year.  It was the tractor that allowed me to learn the proper way to use and care for these old machines.  Hard pill to swallow.

However......the reason that we sold it makes the pill a little easier to get down.  We recently purchased a 1949 John Deere M.  My grandfather bought an M brand new in 1949.  It is the tractor on which Dad learned how to drive, how to garden, how to work.  He always wanted one of his own.  Now he has one and the restoration can get underway.  It was a bittersweet process.  A tractor that I've grown to love is gone.  However, we now have an opportunity to allow my Dad to realize a lifelong dream.  Making that a reality it totally worth it.

Y'all take it easy,