Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Honey-Do List

A shelf of pictures on an otherwise empty hallway wall.

Having just (a decade ago) finished building a new house, I wasn’t in a rush to start driving holes in the walls to hang pictures.  Maybe the elapsing of  a bit of time would help us prioritize pictures, decide where to hang them to best advantage, or do anything to avoid plastering old holes just to drive more.  At any rate, Jean had framed pictures sitting in closets, under the bed, and behind doors that she wanted hung rather than hidden.  Finally it was decided that our picture hanging efforts would begin with a review of gallery hanging systems, or what they call “the art of hanging art.”  I’m not one with any real need for hanging art, but the idea of being able to move, change, or rearrange pictures without having to spackle and repaint the walls had real appeal for me. 

The five shelf brackets hold the shelf securely to the wall.
Our first solution was found at the House of Antique Hardware (https://www.houseofantiquehardware.com/picture-hanging-hardware), which offers a system that I had seen in a library a long time ago.  A specialized molding, shown in the link, is added to the walls of the room to create a wall picture hanging rail.  Then, there is a wide selection of ‘S’ shaped hangers that hook over the rail.  Using a 65-pound-test clear, braided fishing line that is all but invisible allows you to hang almost any size picture from the railing anywhere and at any height.  The rail becomes a permanent highlight of the room’s appearance, while pictures can be moved, rearranged, or removed for painting, without having to touch the walls or molding ever again. 

The second solution was for smaller pictures and those in the 8X10 to 11X14 size.  We have a hall that runs half the length of the house leading to a guest bath and bedrooms.  It was clear except for a thermostat.  I decided a shelf would display them nicely, and a railing on the edge of the shelf would keep them from falling off in any one of Oklahoma’s up to 600-or-so fracking earthquakes we get a year, or being knocked off while someone is carrying something down the hall.  Again, they could be changed or rearranged without having to punch holes in the wall.  The railing, what is called a fiddle rail, has a maritime historical background.  It puts a railing on the front of a shelf or counter top that is high enough to prevent contents from falling except in the worst of sea conditions, while at the same time not limiting continual access to the books or implements normally stored there.  The fiddle rail is set on top of a series of turned wood spindles, which represents the hardest part of the assembly.  The antique Victorian wall brackets are no problem.  They just represent drawing a design pattern and then some time sitting in front of a jig saw.  Getting all 66 (in our case) spindles in place between the shelf and the rail before the glue starts to set, however, is the tricky organizational feat. 
Between the pictures of kids and grandkids on the shelf is a picture of
the chime tower at Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, PA.  It was
on a bench between the tower and waterfalls that my wife and I became
engaged 55 years ago.

There are several ways to attach the wall brackets that the shelf sits on.  The method I used has several advantages.  A keyhole bracket fitting is easy to find at almost any hardware or home improvement center.  If the wall bracket is wide-enough, say an inch thick or more, an inset can be routed into the side going against the wall that will make the metal fitting invisible.  With lumber of ¾-inch, an inset is cut in the edge of the wall bracket that will just barely be detectable.  These are hung on screws in the wall that can be adjusted in and out to the correct length to make the shelf secure.  With this method, not only is it convenient to just lift the shelf off the screws to repaint the wall, but it is also great for renters who would want to remove the shelf and take it with them when they move.  Now my wife can display pictures anywhere and everywhere, and I never have to touch the walls.  Not only does this shop job check another item off the honey-do list, but it helps keep tools and skills sharper for the next canoe project.


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Paddle Art

This is a paddle that was used by both of our Oklahoma granddaughters when they were much smaller.  When they out grew the paddle, it collected dust in the shop.  I was inspired by the paddle art done by Sanborn Canoe Co. of Winona, MN.  In fact, you will see this design comes from the one titled ‘Scout.’  Using the paddle the girls had started canoeing with just made it all that much more special for us.  I personalized its design a bit more by doing two things.  On one side I wanted to add a Native American design, and this one of the grizzly bear claw comes from the Pacific Northwest.  I also wanted to preserve the paddle maker’s logo on the flip side, and the beavertail designation.  The logo had been used and abused to become worn and scratched, so I looked up the original design on Google, and did my best to repaint it.  If you want to get an artisan paddle, check out Sanborn’s paddle site at: https://sanborncanoe.com/collections/artisan-painted-paddles.  I really was drawn to this design for some reason, but was told that the colors clashed with our décor, so I guess it will go in the office.  I guess that shows how silly I am, because I didn’t even know we had décor.  That’s what happens when you don’t live in a log cabin. 

I had a time finding the logo on line, because it doesn’t appear under Beaver Paddles or beavertail, but Caviness Woodworking.  The company does oars and paddles that ship all over the world.  They became the largest paddle and oar manufacturer in the business, and have put paddles in almost any boating or paddling store from Walmart on.  Caviness was started in the 1940’s in Calhoun City, MS, by Jimmy Caviness.  They started making brooms and furniture, but with the large number of lakes around Calhoun, gravitated into paddles and oars.  They have been so successful that they are now being run by the 5th generation of Caviness’.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Gift of Beauty and Memories

Credit: Arni Photography

We’ve enjoyed Kenneth Arni’s wonderful photography for years.  He travels a good bit, but his day-to-day operations are from his home at Fenwick Island, Delaware.  Most of his work runs from Bombay Hook, DE, south to Chincoteague, VA.  My wife and I follow him on Facebook, and the first thing you will see here in the blog’s right column is Arni Photography, where you can view his work.  His greatest treasures include wildlife, avian, and landscape photography.  There are so many of his pictures that we’d love to have to enjoy, but we’d have to live in a gallery.  Finally, we encountered this shot above from a Chincoteague marsh, with frost on the grass and glaze ice on the still water, and a beautiful sunrise.  Christmas was rapidly approaching at the time, so I decided this picture on our own living room wall was to be our gift to ourselves.

The Chincoteague Marsh matted and framed on our wall.

Chincoteague strikes a chord with me for two reasons.  One, if you enjoy oysters, Chincoteague is the gateway to heaven.  My parents were friends with a couple in Chincoteague.  The man was an oysterman.  A couple times a year we would head down there to visit, and one of those trips would always be in late fall or winter so Dad could get a several gallons of oysters.  Two gallons were always for us, and the balance would be for whoever wanted to chip in for fresh bivalves.  For a young kid, the ride from Delaware to Chincoteague, on the Virginia Eastern Shore, was a road trip that never seemed to end.  There were two compensations, however.  The oysterman’s wife always had the table straining under a load of food that made the dining room look like Thanksgiving.  The second was that my brother and I always got turned loose for the day.  How much trouble could two young boys get into in a marsh?    

The Chincoteague Pony, also called the Assateague Pony.

The second reason was to see the Chincoteague ponies.  A small channel separates Chincoteague and Assateague Island National Seashore Park.  The feral herd of ponies, which are actually horses, but called ponies because of their small size, live on Assateague.  Since food is in such short supply on this spit of sand, there is a round-up each year so some ponies are culled from the herd to prevent starvation.  The source of the ponies is a topic of historic disagreement.  Some say the ponies swam ashore from a Spanish galleon that foundered offshore in a storm.  Others believe that the first colonists kept them on the island to avoid the livestock tax they would have to pay if they were on the mainland, but that leaves the question of how the colonists got them.  Maybe both stories are true.

Oyster tongers at work in the shallows.

Our favorite story comes from the oysterman’s false teeth.  Perhaps unlike the pony stories, which can’t be proven, this story is true.  Oystermen, especially tongers, live a very close hand-to-mouth existence, so when he got a new set of ‘store bought’ false teeth, it was such an investment that it was a huge deal.  His wife had urged (ordered) that he not wear the false teeth on the boat to avoid the risk of losing them overboard.  We don’t know why he was defying orders, maybe he just forgot to take them out, but he was standing on the side deck of the boat working his tongs over the side.  The teeth still didn’t fit exactly right, and he was coming down with a cold.  One sudden sneeze was all it took to send his upper plate overboard.  He spent most of the afternoon tonging more for teeth than oysters.  They not only represented a big financial loss, but he would catch holy hell from his wife every day from now ‘til death do us part.’  The rest of the story was picked up on the opening day of oyster season the following year.  He went out to his favorite spot to start tonging.  He dropped the tongs over the side, worked them, and pulled them up into the boat to dump the oysters on the sorting board.  There, in the first tong of the year, was the upper plate of his false teeth.  Domestic peace at last.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


Osprey are lighter in color than most raptors.  They are brown over most of their slender body with a white head and breast,  a brown band that extends from their back, through their yellow eye, to the prominent black beak.  They are commonly found where their perch gives them a good view of their hunting waters, such as the top of a post, tree, or navigational marker where they love building huge stick nests so they can hunt from their 'living room.'  They have rebounded well since the end of DDT pesticide use that had killed their populations off to endangered levels. 
During their 15-20 year lifespan, they can fly 160,000 miles during migrations.  The oldest recorded osprey lived to be 25 years, 2 months.  In 2008, one 2-3 year old bird was observed to fly 2,700 miles from Martha's Vineyard, MA, to French Guiana, South America.  They are excellent fishermen.  Their success rate is 1 successful catch out of every four dives, and often as high a catch rate as 70%.  Their hunting time between catches averages 12 minutes.
All their eggs do not hatch at once, but are spread over about 5 days.  Seniority ranks their place in the nest, meaning the first born get fed first.  In good hunting waters, all the chicks survive, but when food supply is more scarce, the younger chicks may starve to death. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fort Cobb State Park

Just off one of the coves in the southeast part of the lake is an island
that is just covered with birds---seagulls, cormorants, pelicans, Canada
geese and more.
The weather last night had huffed and puffed, but this morning wasn’t bad.  The temperature had only dropped to 48, and while the wet pavement belied an earlier shower, what we had now was a fog ceiling that had dropped almost to the ground.  Sky and water were colored lead grey, and there was every hint of more rain to come.  The wind was at least calm.  While I waited to see which way the weather was going to go, we took time for eggs, bacon, and toast for breakfast. If we couldn’t do anything else, we could eat.

Wave on wave of geese filled the sky.
I was re-reading a sailing classic called “Princess” by Joe Richards.  Princess was a traditional full-keel, gaff-rigged Friendship sloop designed by Wilbur A. Morse of Friendship, Maine, in 1880.  Morse built them until 1910, but they have a cult following that has continued their construction to this day in both wood and glass, and an active Friendship Sloop Society keeps them alive.  Richards had found a neglected 25-foot “Princess,” and after a significant refit on her, he decided to put his career in New York as a commercial artist on hold, liquidate his worldly possessions, and head off on a quest to find a patch of ground on some Caribbean island.  He was 31 years old.  The year was 1940.  As he headed south, he was to discover only a few days into his trip that the world had decided to go to war.  By the time he reached Florida, Joe and Princess would both be swallowed by World War II.

The beautiful and historic Friendship Sloop during their annual
gathering at Friendship, Maine.
I met Joe quite by accident many years later.  I was driving east from Leipsic, Delaware, toward the coast when I saw this boat sitting in someone’s front yard.  I knew instantly that it was a Friendship Sloop.  I did a U-turn, went back, and pulled into the drive.  As I walked around its stern on the way to the front door of the house, the transom declared her to be Princess.  I walked up and knocked at the door.  When the elderly man answered, I asked, almost unable to believe my own words, “Are you Joe Richards?”  He said he was, and invited me in.  What an unbelievable thrill to meet a stranger who I already felt like I knew and had a bond with through his book.  He made tea, set out some cake, and we sat and talked boats and adventures for four hours.  As I said my goodbye and thanked him for his hospitality, he told me to bring my book by so he could autograph it for me.  I never did.  Go figure.  And now Joe and Princess are both long gone.  I think of him every once in a while, and it was during one of these times that I went back to my office and pulled “Princess” down off the shelf again to relive the experience.
After reading a bit further, we had an early lunch.  Jean heated clam chowder while I got Ibi off the truck, onto its dolly, and loaded.  The sky refused to allow the sun to even lighten the sky, so I threw my foulweather gear in the stern just in case.  I was underway by noon.  The air was still light, and I paddled south toward the dam and Sunset Cove.  I wasn’t making miles, but spent a lot of time trying to get a few photographs.  After I turned back north, the sky finally cleared to reveal the sun and a beautiful, blue fall day.  With ‘V’ after ‘V’ of Canada geese flying overhead and the fall colors, I could easily have been mistaken in thinking I was back on the Chesapeake.  If only that was true. 
This is a very special state park.  Fort Cobb State Park is open all year.  Even during the winter, RV sites have running water and electricity.  Unlike most parks that seem more and more intent on eliminating primitive camping, Cove Drive goes out of the north end of the park and follows the shoreline for two miles from Caddo Hill to a dead-end at a locked service gate.  Every hundred yards or so is a nicely isolated campground right on the shore of the lake.  Each has room for parking, a concrete picnic table, a pole for hanging a lantern or tarp, and there are three enclosed pit toilets within easy walking distance.  There are trash dumpsters every few sites, but there are always some people that seem to have trouble finding them even though they sit right on the edge of the drive.  Most of the sites are single camp locations, but there are also a few with room and provisions for two or even three sites provided for in a group camp.  Camping is $14 per nite, winter or summer.  Best of all, the shoreline undulates continuously like teeth of a very large saw blade.  Unless the wind is out of the southwest, there are sites to provide for smooth water and easy shore launching.  If the wind is southwest, Eagle’s Nest campground on the west shore of the lake, also open all year, is a good option from its protected cove in Farmer’s Slough.  Please protect your right to camp by being a clean camper that carries out all that is carried in, and properly disposing of trash.  Thanks.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Fort Cobb Images

Canada Geese
Killdeer on the shore.
Juvenile heron taking great advantage of his natural
camouflage in this dead wood.  From a greater distance,
he was nearly invisible.
Juvenile heron about to take flight.
Cormorants hung out to dry.
This is an unfortunate combination of dense fog
and a bit of backlighting, but he looked good
with his right foot on a fish having breakfast.
An osprey.