Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm Movin' On

Live from New Digs Guitar Shoppe, High Lonesome, NM... this just in. I have electricity, I have humidity, I have music, I have 3 major work benches and 2 smaller ones and I'm IN!  It's been a week since we put the building on the ground, so I guess that's not bad.  It's comfortable out here.  I've got a great view, music, and with windows cracked and my portable swamp cooler running, it's cool. 

Here's the main shop area. That's my neck reset station center-left.  I'll be adding shelves to it ASAP.
Two parallel benches.  I'll probably use the right one for electrics
The T-bench will be my main fretting station
Power tools. 

The shipping station.  Gotta get some blinds on this window.

The Boy's Corner.  That's my portable swamp cooler.
It's holding humidity well and I'm happy about that.  All that's left to do now is skirt the building.  I have some T1-11 I've been saving for years that I'll use for that purpose.  It needs to be painted and then I'll use Z-flashing on top and bury it a couple of inches to keep mice out.  But, no big rush on that...Alright!!!  Time to get to work!!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Snakes Alive!

Well, we had an exciting day here on the ranch.  First thing we got was a report that our cattle had busted down a fence into the neighbors, taking down 10 steel posts.  He got most of them out easily because our new cattle are still a little wild while his are feeder trained and so all he had to do was honk his horn and our cattle went running while his came to the truck.  But why?  It takes a lot of force to bust down 10 steel T-posts.  One reason might be the 6 elk hanging out on the mountain.  Another might be lion or bear or even just lightning.  It wasn't very long after that, that Excitement #2 occurred.

We have 4  horses and 1 one them came up missing around lunch when they normally come in for water.  Given the report of stampeded cattle and the possibility of a lion, we were concerned.  B2 jumped on an ATV and went to look in the creek while me and D2 took another ATV and checked the east end of the pasture.  I didn't see anything except a coyote but heading back I saw B2 heading for the house.  I figured it was either snake-bite or some major calamity like stepping into a rock hole or something.  We headed back and sure 'nuff- horse was snake bit and down by the creek.  We went down there and the horse- last week's Reserve Grand Champion in the county fair- was staggering along the fence heading to the house.  She had a badly swollen head and nearly shut eyes, but we slowly got her up to the house and before long our neighbor and horseman Philip showed up.  Not long after that, Mark, the vet arrived.

Head's badly swollen with bloody pus from nose

From the side

Giving her shots and medicine
Mark gave her some penicillin to fight secondary infections, something for swelling, and then DMSO cream for additional swelling.  Philip suggested spraying cool water over her nose and she seemed to like that.  By evening, she was able to drink a little, so that's good.  We're not nearly out of the woods yet, but she should recover.  I've seen snake-bite before, but this was the first the kids have seen it.  I hope they watch their step a bit more now.

In other news, I moved my guitar benches out of the house and into the new building.  I won't get power until tomorrow, but there are a few things I can do that don't require power and it's going to take a few days to get organized in the new shop anyway, so I decided to just go ahead and get moved.

An empty work bench...
...becomes an empty corner and the end of an era in our household.
Out in the shop, I've got 3 benches set up with 2 auxiliary benches.  There are shelves on all of them.  I'm only taking 1/2 of the building for the actual benches.  Another wall has the power tools and the west wall has cases, boxes, and shipping stuff.  Still plenty of room, but I want to do my best to keep it from getting too cluttered.

On the falconry front, the prairie falcon is inside tonight.  She'll get her transmitter pack re-attached in the morning as she chewed it off 2 weeks ago.   She's also doing really well and has tamed down dramatically.  I've cut back on actual flying while I got my shop in shape and I also need to do some re-organizing of the pigeons.  I'm a little short on pigeons and there's no big hurry to get the falcon flying- plenty of time during the winter.  Instead, I'm using the time to train both falcons to tolerate handling better.  Right now, I can enter the prairie's mews and she'll jump up on my fist, take the hood, and is just 100% calmer than she was a month ago.   The peregrine's getting trained to the lure.  He's already tame and all I'm doing with him is making sure he knows what the lure is, and then just doing the same routine of picking up, hooding, and then feeding.  I hope to have my pigeon loft under control and both birds actively flying in the next 2-3 weeks.

That's about it for today!  I'm hoping to get electrified tomorrow and I also need to go check the rest of the north fence.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dirt Road Truckers

I don't know if ya'll'un's know or not, but I work on guitars a lot.  I've been working out of a room in my house- a central room, too- for the past 12 years.  Every year I wish I had a dedicated shop building out away from the house where I can expand and just get away from household traffic and noise.  Every year I do the economics of heating, cooling, securing, lighting, etc a separate building and every year I decide to stay in the house.  Over the past 3 years, though, my ranch duties have increased and I really need some office space and that central room that's full of guitar stuff would be just right.

Over in a nearby town, 40 mi away, there was a little leather good store running out of a Morgan building.  About 9 months ago, I noticed a "For Sale" sign on the door.  Two months ago, I finally stopped and got the number.  Long story short, I bought the building.  It's 14' x 24', full finished, insulated, wired, and lighted and should make a fine guitar repair building.

Getting this beast here was a challenge!  After numerous phones calls and questions- the vast majority of which were made by my secretary/financial adviser/cook/wife- I/we finally rounded up a 24' flatbed trailer and a guy who moves mobile homes for a living.  Today was The Big Move.  We met in town and the first thing we had to do was fix a loose ground on the borrowed trailer as I had a very weak left turn signal and- surprise- many of my turns, including the critical one off the highway to home were going to be left.  So, we fixed the light in the hardware store parking lot, bought some patio blocks to set the building on, and then headed over to the building, 11 mi away.

Trailer lights are good
Once there I got to watch a pro in action.  We used high-lift jacks to get the building started and then switched to some really nice jacks with a big wide foot.  There were two of these on each side and we just cranked 'em up 20 turns at a time, stopping once to move the jack arm to a different position.  This equipment made this move possible and I don't think I could've done it any other way.

I'm being cranky here

Couple of hours later, the building was 4' off the ground and we carefully backed the trailer up underneath it and set it down.   We put a Wide Load banner on the building and truck, a bunch of flags and then it was off down the highway.  Let me tell you, if you've never hauled a 14' wide load, it's something else.  My right side was whizzing by the road signs, seemingly just inches away.  In town, my professional had me drive right straight down the middle of Main Street while he held traffic back behind me.  Traffic was really light and we made it thru without incident.

Thankfully, traffic remained very light all the way home.  I have to give it up for my truck.  When we first got this '97 Ford F250 Super Duty, I hated it.  It was rough and stiff and just painful to drive.  But 3 years ago we put a flatbed on it and that just totally transformed it.  It's still rough, but the flatbed is SO nice as far as putting stuff in and it dramatically improved the feel of the truck.  And the truck itself has been very reliable with just a few minor issues- a water pump and a clutch.  At 97,000 miles, it pulled this huge load down the highway just fine, although I was keeping it slow at about 40-45 mph.

At home, my main gate is 13' 8" wide.  The building is 14' wide.  So, the solution was to take the fence down and drive out in the pasture and in thru the back gate which was 15' 3" wide.

You can get an idea of the size of this thing
Wide Load!
After some discussion, we finally got the thing backed up and started the process of cranking it off the trailer and onto leveling blocks.  We also had to repair some missing insulation.

Fixing insulation underneath
And, hours and hours after our early morning start, the building was sitting on cinder blocks off the ground,  level.  I'm impressed with the space inside and am looking forward to moving into it and freeing up a room in the house.

It won't be this way for long!

I'm getting excellent natural light.

And a pretty good view, too.
Filling up already!  Box/case rack, power tools

T-bench in place. 
This is the bench I take to Kaufman Kamp and Acoustic Music Camp. 
I'll have 3 benches in here when I get done- 2 are still in the house as I DO have work to do.

 Next step is to put flashing around the bottom and wire it up!  Stay tuned.

Update, 8/20:

2nd bench added.  This one's kind of my "electric" bench
Tubes and electric guitar  parts
Bridge blanks, bridgeplate material, copper shielding, pickups, etc

It's not ALL work, though!  This will be the boys corner.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Workin' on a building.

An old bluegrass gospel tune, rephrased:

I'm working on a building
I'm working on a building
It's a non-square building
It's a non-square building
I'm working on a building
For my birds, for my birds

Something like that anyway.  We spent most of today working on my hawk house.  I've been working on it all summer and it was time to get the roof up.  You can't go partway on a roof and then quit, not when you're going to put live birds in it.  Today was The Big Push- we had to remove the temporary roof, put cross-pieces up, and then put the metal down.  I got the first 2 parts done, then took a break to unload 2 in-coming cattle trucks loaded with 202 head of cattle.  That's getting our cattle season into a little bit better shape.

After getting them unloaded and out into the pasture, it was back to work on the hawk house.  We had some trouble with the wind trying to lift the panels off as I was getting a test fit, but after some perseverance, we were ready to stick 'em down.  Here' are some of Georgia's shots from today:

Makita tools rule.  Check out my tan line.

Getting the cross timbers in place
Artsy shot thru the bars

Water.  It's good stuff

Let's review the hawk house progress!

Getting started

All the panels up and temporary roof

Metal on the front
At day's end

I was a little off square but by setting the rear edge "just so" and taking the opportunity to trim the front, I was able to make it look pretty good.  Good enough for birds, anyway.  Just need to get one more side on, some trim, some flashing and then I'll be finished!!!

Please note rain clouds in distance.  We got a nice little shower from them.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Off To A Rocky Start

As I noted in my last entry, my youngest son is showing an interest in rock climbing.  We did a couple of large and fairly easy boulders as a warm-up and then he started bugging me to do another climb on the rocks in our NW corner.  So, the other day, we headed back there to check on the pasture and do a little climbing. 

He did 6 different climbs up this face, using just about every inch of the rock.  He did this one first, then over the little overhang to the left, then across the large crack to the right, and different routes up the front.  He's naturally  good and I saw some progress as he got used to the rock- he was switching feet and just using his hands and feet together much better.

The traditional "peak" shot
We had fun.

Next up is a picture of grass.  Just grass. This is good stuff for us ranchers.

Grass.  Green grass.
Falcon-wise, I'm just working with the prairie falcon, trying to get her into a routine of circling a bit, then catching a pigeon.  Last time out didn't go so great.  I'd fed her a bit in the morning and I think that took the edge off her appetite by the time I finally got out in the evening.  She circled us a few times but lost interest and landed on a pole.  I did get her back, though, and she did behave better on her pigeon, so I guess we made a little progress. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Excitement and Changes

It's been exciting around here the past couple of weeks.  First, though, the changes.  I heard thru the grapevine that a certain biologist and a certain group of organized birders were upset at some of the photos I posted of the peregrine falcon take.  They felt that I had "compromised" the nest site.  In spite of the fact that this is a legal, defensible activity, I understand their concerns.  I thought I made a good attempt at not giving away exact locations and, yes, if you were standing under the exact cliff you could probably find the nest ledge, but really, at that point, all you'd have to do is lift your binoculars up- just like we did.

It's easy to get nest locations and I sure didn't think I was giving away anything that you couldn't find in a dozen other places. For instance, if you pick up a copy of "Raptors of New Mexico" you will find not only nice pictures of nest cliffs for all the raptors, but the county given, landmarks shown, and in some cases, the nest site circled on the photo!  Another "for instance" is that you can sign up for birding tours and get taken to some of these sites.  But, whatever...there was some concern and so I locked my blog down until I had an opportunity to go thru and cut out some references and pictures.  I also made some phone calls and talked to some people, reminding them that I did spend 11 years as a raptor biologist, am published in peer-reviewed journals and symposium proceedings, and so forth.  Instead of spreading dissent thru the grapevine, all these folks really had to do was shoot me an e-mail and say "Hey, Bryan, have you considered....?"  All I was trying to express with the photos and descriptions is the work, preparation, skills required to take a wild peregrine falcon, along with the sheer excitement of the thing. It's kind of A Big Deal and is probably a once-in-a-lifetime thing for me.   In any case, though, some sections have been modified, photos removed, and we're back up.   It should go w/out saying that if I missed something and you're concerned about it, you should let me know.  And, hey, if you organized bird-watchers want a presentation on falconry from a life-long raptor enthusiast and fellow birder, let me know.  You know, I originally got into falconry because I didn't know anything about it and I thought it would be good to have actual first-hand experience if I wasn't gonna like it.

Speaking of the falcons, they're doing great!  I started flying the prairie falcon and her training is coming along well.  Yesterday, she circled overhead and climbed a bit before getting her reward.  She's getting steadier in the field and on the whole, I'm looking forward to catching a duck or two with her this winter.  The peregrine's fully feathered now and is just starting to get trained.  He's a playful bird, for sure.  His personality and the prairie's are 180 deg opposites.  She bates away but takes the hood very well- never even scratches at it. He bates to me, lands on the glove and chups but hates the hood.  I carry him from the mews to house and he rows the whole way. She never rows. He picks at his food. She rips it apart with a vengeance. She sits on the edge of the perch calmly, he stands in the middle of it, looking over the edge. And so on.

Wendy- the prairie falcon

The biggest news is that it is raining and the grass is growing.  Just look at the difference in the grass in the above photo versus some of my earlier shots!  We've rec'd 2-4" of rain in the past 3 weeks and it's just great.  I absolutely appreciate the rain more after the drought we went thru.  The thought of it not raining at all is a fearful one!  Let's see some rain pictures!!!

Rain comin' down!

A rain gauge doing its job


A rainbow at the end of the storm
And now that it's raining, we're stocking up on cattle.  It's possible that we'll have a long summer and be able to graze until Nov.  If so, then we can salvage this season and make a living.  I have 3 trucks coming in today and another 3 tomorrow.  My neighbors are also getting cattle and that caused some excitement the other night.  It had just rained 0.8" and their truck couldn't make it to their pens to unload.  So, they asked if they could store their cows in our pens for the night.  We ended up unloading the truck in the dark, in the rain, in the mud.  And no one complained.

Ships in the night
I originally tried to cut down on my guitar business this summer, but I learned a lesson.  Never turn down work if you can do it.  I've now picked it up again and am stocking up on work.  I'm also in the process of getting a real, actual, stand-alone shop so that I can move out of the house (where I've been working for 11 years).  In addition to giving me a dedicated shop, I can use my existing "power tool building" as a badly needed pigeon loft and I can free up the room I've been using, turning it into a ranch office.  Stay tuned!

Youngest son, Derek, wanted to try rock climbing and so, several weeks ago, we stopped off at REI during a blood transfusion run to ABQ so he could try on kids harnesses.  We ended up buying a Black Diamond Whiz Kid and it arrived this week.  So, of course, it was off to find a suitable rock.  Derek took to it like a monkey to a tree.  We all had fun.  Pictures by David:

Whiz Kid in action

Up the rock!

Welcome back!