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Summer Camp & Adult Beverages

by Richie
Summer Camp & Adult Beverages

This summer we welcomed part of our expat family for an extended visit. They live in Europe and haven’t been back to the US-of-A in a while. So home seemed a little foreign. “The cars are so big!” they said as soon as they stepped off the plane. Other American habits struck them as odd, like our super air-conditioned buildings and the constant drone of background noise from TVs. 

A two week stay at Summer Camp was on the girl’s agenda. They came halfway around the world to get dirty and sweaty at a good old-fashioned American camp in the woods.

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Hueston Woods State Park

by Richie
Hueston Woods State Park

Hueston Woods

Oxford, Ohio
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What a surprise to find a good place to nest for a couple of days!

We don’t judge state parks too harshly – they do the best they can. Many were planned decades before giant RVs became popular, most are sorely underfunded, and we’re just happy the land has been dedicated to recreation at all. But Hueston Woods State Park was a delight in every way. We weren’t expecting a whole lot, but found a whole lot to do and see here.

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Red Hot at the Reds Baseball Game

by Richie
Red Hot at the Reds Baseball Game

Reds

On the hottest day of the year (so far) we took my dad to a Reds baseball game at the Great American Ball Park in downtown Cincinnati.

The temperature was well into the 90’s, the humidity about as high, and we sat in the blister section in full sun. Mom was the only smart one and stayed home. She had seen a baseball game back in 1977 – been there, done that!

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Following The Waterways – Mohawk, Niagara, Finger & Buckeye Lakes

Vermont-NY State Line

After a weeklong visit in Vermont, we headed west and settled in for a good long drive toward home. It’s a 1000 mile trek, and I looked for an interesting route that would take us home without having to scale too many mountains. We ended up following a course of waterways, starting with the Mohawk River in New York State.

waterways

Mohawk River

It’s my habit to pick up a road map at every state line we cross. Each Welcome Station has a nice pile of official state maps waiting on the counter. It’s one of the small courtesies still offered to travelers for free. There’s something about a paper map that’s just deeply satisfying – the creases of the paper, the colors of the lines, and the staggering size of the unfolded map. You can see the whole state at once in fabulous detail without having to scroll a tiny electronic screen. A paper map gives you a sense of your place in the state; where you’re going and how far you’ve come. And the detail offered in a paper map just can’t be found anywhere else. Google Maps will happily show where you can spend money, like the closest Starbucks or Arbys. But only the Official State Map will lead you to the Shrine of Saint Kateri.

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Farewell to Ringling Bros Circus

by Richie
Farewell to Ringling Bros Circus

RinglingThe Greatest Show On Earth. Really.

c6

After 145 years, we are bidding farewell to Ringling Bros and Barnum & Bailey Circus. This was the big one – the combination of three famous traveling shows into one giant extravaganza. A real three ring circus. It was P.T. Barnum who said, “A sucker is born every minute.”  And who isn’t a sucker for a big flashy circus show?

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Easter Parade

by Richie
Easter Parade
Goodies at the Folk's House

Odds & Ends

 

Middletown, Ohio

We’ve spent most of March recovering from the flu. Influenza A, specifically. Can’t remember the last time I felt so rotten. And it came on so suddenly. There was a little cough, then a couple of hours later, Oh, I don’t feel so…KABOOM!  The A-bomb hit. Down we went for a week with fever and chills. And after that another two weeks of trying to get back on our wobbly feet.

Feeling fit at last, we packed up the new coach and headed up to my folk’s house in Ohio for some Easter fun. Many swell events were planned – casino night, shopping trips, relatives coming in from Vermont, big 65th anniversary celebration. We were all ready for a big party week. 

But when we arrived on Saturday we found Mom prostrate on the couch and Dad dealing with a nasty cough.  Influenza A-Bomb.  Ohhh Noooo!

So we let the folks rest and puttered around their driveway for a few days. Spent an afternoon power washing their back deck, and Dad was game enough for a couple of dinners out. Poor Mom never made it off the couch. By Tuesday the decision was made to call off the Vermont visitors and sadly we motored home early, our fridge still full of swanky hors-d’oeuvres we never got a chance to share.

EASTER2

 

Coco is finally becoming a good camper. We had a tough time with her last month on our trip to Florida because she was cutting her adult teeth and it made her a miserable booger for the whole two weeks. But now she’s older and all those big white teeth have come in – she’s getting closer to being a Nice Dog. She spent the time at my folk’s house happily poking around their back yard fending off the feral cats that have taken up residence under their deck, and napping in a pile of old potting soil instead of on the lush green grass.

COCO1

 

Back at the farm there’s some big changes happening. We decided that it’s time the farm earned some income for us. Tim’s folks used to raise cattle and grow tobacco, but these are labor intensive ventures we don’t just want to commit to.  Livestock are difficult to deal with – you’ve got to tend to them a couple times a day and constantly Run the Fences to patch up holes, which means that you can never take a vacation. Not our style. Especially with a brand new RV waiting in the driveway. 

So we’ve leased about 60 acres to a Land Cropper. This is an outfit that leases empty fields to work the soil, sow crops, and reap the harvest. The deal is that we earn a portion of the profit for providing the land. To maximize efficiency the Cropper has been bulldozing around the margins for a couple of weeks now, eliminating scrub brushes and overhanging trees in order to maneuverer his giant equipment in the most direct path. He’s also installing drain pipes in a couple of swampy areas to improve the run-off.

One of those areas is where Tim’s grandfather moved the path of the creek from one side of the field to the other. That’s what they did 100 years ago. Get yer mule and plow and move that gol-durn creek bed. Well, that creek has been looking for its original path ever since, and it made a giant swamp in the middle of prime Bottom Land where many 4-wheelers, trucks, and tractors have been stuck in the mud up to the wheel wells. So it was fascinating to see the solution the Cropper came up with when we returned from Ohio today – twin drainage ditches dug deep and laid with pipe. Betcha that old creek finds a way around that too!

FARM

 

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Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil – SOFA

by Richie
Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil – SOFA

smith 1

Troy, Ohio
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Once again we have made our annual pilgrimage to the Blacksmith Convention in Troy, Ohio. It’s held about the same time as more devout pilgrims are heading to Mecca, but unlike the Hajj there are fewer casualties at SOFA.

Here at the Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil meet, avid members (who I affectionately call The Dirty Pants Club) can swap tall tales of rusty iron conquests, watch demonstrations of advanced smithing techniques, and select goods and bads from an array of bearded venders. And so the warm and sunny afternoons this weekend were spent ambling around the fairgrounds in search of tools for this antique trade. A long list of rusty supplies was procured and stuffed into the motorhome, including a spanking new 110 lb. anvil that even I thought was pretty cool.

s-ANVIL

 

smith2

The keynote speaker for the conference, what little he actually did say, was a lean and lanky gentleman from Alabama who demonstrated foundry casting. He and his team poured a couple hundred pounds of fiery molten iron into a casting mold to create a signature anvil for SOFA. It took a whole day to cool, and was presented to a long-time member of the Ohio club.

found2

This large gathering of Smithy’s is located at the Miami County fairgrounds in Troy – a vast and sprawling complex of white-washed buildings, horse barns, and trotter practice tracks. SOFA takes up the entire north side. At the main gallery in the center, artists and pretenders can display their hand-forged items and compete for rewards and recognition. Tim was feted with a Third Place ribbon, a cash prize, and a round of applause for his entry of Assorted Door Hardware.

DSCN7050

I lucked into an estate auction on the far end of the fairgrounds on Saturday. The departed was a gentleman from Dayton, and obviously a Mad Scientist of the highest order. He had amassed a collection of radio parts and equipment from the 1930s thru the 1960s that was unparalleled in scope and size to anything the auctioneer or audience had ever seen. I’m talking oscilloscopes and Geiger counters and naval telescopes and tables filled with every voltage meter ever invented. There was a device inside a steamer trunk with such strange knobs and tubes that I was sure it was a time machine. It was the best auction I’d ever seen and I happily stayed for hours. Bought a bunch of cool old stuff, including a brass telegraph key from 1876 that may turn out to be a very special artifact indeed. It will all be catalogued and placed for sale at my Etsy vintage store soon – www.Booth88.etsy.com

auction

 

And if you’d like to peruse Tim’s prize-winning blacksmith items, you can visit his store at www.dancingmantis.com

 

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Forge Ahead!

by Richie
Forge Ahead!

 

Troy, Ohio
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blacksmith

 

Tim is forging ahead with his plans for a new blacksmith shop at the farm. So we’ve made the trip up to the annual Southern Ohio Forge & Anvil Quadstate Roundup, one of the largest blacksmith conventions in this part of the country.

This is our fourth trip to SOFA, and we always begin the weekend with a stay at my folks’ house, camping driveway style. It also happens to be close to my birthday, so we celebrated with Mom & Dad – and big double thank you for the birthday gifts!!

 birthday

Noon on Friday found us lumbering into the Miami County Fairgrounds in Troy, Ohio, where we will camp for the weekend. Tim scurried out to do a look-around at all the vendor wares. He was on a mission to purchase a new forge, and this is the place to buy one. If you’re interested in blacksmithing as a hobby, this convention has all the rusty iron implements you could ever need. There’s dozens of sellers lined up along the gravel drives, and they’re all willing to make a deal.

Tim came back within the hour – a hot red forge procured on the first go-round. So now we can relax the rest of the weekend, since the primary mission has already been accomplished. forge

Tomorrow Tim will spend the day watching various experts do demonstrations. I’m going to leave the crockpot cooking in the motorhome and backtrack south to the Cincinnati IKEA store. My folks are going to join me for some shopping and they’ll have no trouble finding me, as I’ll be in a big blue truck with a bright red forge strapped on the back!

 

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