Thursday, May 10, 2018

Spring is here. A-sa-pa-ring is here.

Life is Skittles and life is beer.

It's a song.

I love the spring.  All this new life and growth and warmer weather.  It's a fantastic time of the year.

Here are some updates:

First off, snakes.  Not too many at all.  Two, in fact.  But nice ones.

The Midland Brownsnake (although I recently learnt that it's just "The Brownsnake" now, since there are no discernible differences in traits between and locations; there are no subspecies.  It's just The Brownsnake).

Another Brownsnake from the same place; different day.  A little smaller, but I'll take it.

The American Bullfrog.  Quite a big one - just about eating size.  Taken from the same pool that the snakes were found in - the second snake I got was small enough to be a feasible meal for this chap.

American Toads.  Five of them taken out of the same pool a day later.  As I took these fellas literally across the road to release them into a ditch, two more toads - an American and a Fowler's - found their way to the pool.  It's more dangerous at this time of year, since they can get more easily trapped in the lower water of the pool.

The Mississippi Mud Turtle.  I found this one in a large, shallow puddle in my front garden.  I was wearing my water shoes at the time so, as it smugly cruised into the middle of the puddle, I called its bluff and waded in.  I put it in the boys' water table so they could see it - they loved it.  Kid 1 a little more apprehensive than Kid 2, but it was a fun hands-on session.

We have rabbits.  They're cute to watch, and if they reproduce too quickly, they'll be tasty to eat.  That's a win-win.

As well as the budding wildlife, I'm also doing some projects.  Nothing new there, really.  Two of them:

I picked up this old hatchet head for a dollar at a yard sale.  It was pretty rusty, but a nice bath of white wine vinegar and a scrub down with some wire wool got that sorted super fast.  I then hit it with 120 sandpaper (a little coarse for this job), with the intention of using fine wire wool after that to clean up any of the sandpapers scratches.  Of which there are many.
A good friend told me that I should use a buffing wheel on a bench grinder instead, so I'll be heading round to his place sometime soon to do just that.  Get this baby nice and shiny smooth before having another friend sharpen it like never before on his whetstones.
I think they're still called whetstones.  I've only ever read about it.
Using a whetstone for an hour in D&D will make your blade fine and give you a +1 to damage with that blade.  Fact.

I've been taking commissions for a few weeks/this past month.  I read recently that it's good to have three hobbies: One to keep you creative, one to keep you in shape, and one to make you money.  This is kind of the "keep creative" and "make money" hobbies rolled into one.  I'm having a pretty fun time making them.
People are sending me their clothes (usually jeans, which are actually the easiest thing to work with), and then I simply make them into these dolls.  It's a nice way to cherish your old clothes without having them take up and wardrobe/closet space.

Of course, along with the hobby topic, I am still as immersed in D&D theory as ever.  With no time to run games, I've taken to listening to a podcast for DMs (Dungeon Masters' Block) and I've started to design my own world.  I think it'll be fun and fascinating to be able to open up a completely original storyline based in my own world in this game system.

That said, here's my world.  I've made several copies of it so that I can mark all over it with notes about the countries, cities and populations, races and clans, etc.  I'm very excited.  This is the first world design I've taken on since my Masters, so it's going to be nice to get some dust off the ol' cogs.

And Kid 1 is super into drawing out maps right now, too, so we sit down and map things for ages.  Here he is putting some more countries and trade routes on one of mine.  It was very fun to work with him on this.

That's about it for this update.  It's hard for me to think of a more viable way to use this platform, since a lot of what I post in on Instagram and there are fewer people, it seems, who are interested in longer forms of information.  I'll keep pushing and seeing what it is that really makes me tick when I write about it and what responses I get and thoughts about posts in the future.

It's nicer to be able to post a few pictures at a time with separate updates and information for each, even though they're mostly on my Instagram feed.  But it'll also be nice to find something that I can keep on here exclusively, so if you have any ideas, please let me know.

I appreciate it.


Sunday, April 1, 2018

Bathroom break.

Small update on the bathroom and some more stuff.

Got some of that tasty, tasty grey primer on there.  We double-coated the ceiling with cheaper latex primer, then covered it with a good bathroom paint - protected from mold and all that.

The grey was another cheap primer; for three of the walls, we've gone with black (which really pulls the room in), and then for the other wall, a red.  With sparkles.  Between three boys and one girl in the household, I'll let you figure out who wanted the sparkles.

Also; we've been doing some exploring and adventuring on our property, so here are some pictures of that:

An assortment of Pill bugs - the boys love these guys.  Kid 1 not so much, actually.  He's interested when they roll up into a ball, but he's done when their seven pairs of legs start creeping around.

I was pretty happy when wifey dug this up.  This is the larval stage of the Tiger Beetle - I've wanted to find one of these for so long!  They dig and hide in holes with their soft bodies anchored by small spines on a lump at the back of their body.  It sits with its hard head plate covering the opening of the hole, and when prey comes by and either steps on it or touches some of the small hairs on it, this larva juts out its huge jaw and grabs it.  It's a pretty mean beast - the adult is formidable, too.  It's an all-round incredible invertebrate.

We went for a walk on our field - the brush-hogged grass flattened nicely for us to make a path out of.  Kid 1 was nervous about the spikes - we have some brambles along the side of the field - but we made sure he was on my shoulders for those parts.  We ventured into some of the undergrowth around the sides of the place - we have a few structures that are far overgrown.  It's going to be interesting to dig them out and have a look at how old some of the buildings are, but I've also seen some much more recent rubbish that's been discarded over the last few years.  I can't wait to get the metal detector out in some of these parts!

This little medicine bottle has been here a while - I'm not sure how long, but it's got close to a closed ecosystem inside that's been thriving, evidently.  The soil supports the moss, when the moss dies, its nutrients decompose back into the soil.  There is moisture added from the opening of the bottle that goes into supporting this little micro-environment, too (so it's not completely closed).  I thought it was pretty interesting and, against all I hold true and dear, decided to leave it there instead of taking it to the Mancave to observe.

There are coyotes everywhere around here.  Everywhere.  This is the second deer fawn skull I've found at the back of our property in the last month.  I've got no problem with coyotes - in the spring, when all they've eaten for months is fresh kill or frozen carrion, their meat is fine for chili.  But through the summer, when they're eating carrion that's been sat by the side of the road for a few days in 90F+, then the meat gets a little... well... interesting.  The bad kind of interesting.  Or so I'm told.

Anyway.  Time for me to go again.


Sunday, March 11, 2018


We're re-doing the bathroom.

Here's the only before picture I had the foresight to take...

We had already stripped the wallpaper, and we were just about to get the popcorn off the ceiling.
The ceiling is now smooth and the walls are spackled and textured.  We have a little more to go with that and then we'll be painting up the room.

It's going to be fun.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

The grind.

I'm (still) in the midst of preparation and execution of applying to teach; I had only wanted to teach High School, but after talking to a good friend of mine who teaches Middle School, I feel confident that I would enjoy teaching either.

That, and I found that the published salary schedule for an area much closer to home is probably feasible in terms of supporting the family if I were to apply (and be accepted) to a position there.  We based buying our house

My longer-term goal is to work on my Masters in Education/Teaching and also a Bachelors in Biology, with the intention of teaching Art and Biology, and (for the Masters), just having another Masters.  Why not?!

I'd love to get to a place where I can teach art and inspire creativity to future generations, but also support field trips to the National Parks and museums.

Honestly, I'd love to combine the two and take art students on trips to aquariums and zoos and have them draw the animals there, but I know that I'd have a hard time, myself, with focusing on the drawing and not just sitting and watching the animals for hours...

All of this to say this; I'm still working towards it.  I have a friend who is sending me some material to study so that I can book my exam to qualify me to teach in this State (the same friend who teaches Middle School), so that's the only bigger thing that's coming up.  I have this month and the next two to book the test, pass the test, and apply for a position.  For reasons that I'll probably learn once I've applied, I can only apply as a Non-traditional teacher (Bachelors degree or higher with no actual teaching experience) in February, March and April.

As well as that, we're remodelling one bathroom, planning to remodel the den, as well as looking forward to getting some food sown and grown.  And I only have until the end of the month until hunting season is closed - deer, rabbit and squirrel - so I'll have to get a groove on to get some meat in the freezer before then.

Anyhoo, here's a couple of drawings.  The top one is a Fat-Tailed Narrow-mouthed Toad, and the one at the bottom is the Six-Legged Giant Toad.  They're pretty fun.


Sunday, January 21, 2018


If I haven't said it before, I'll say it again: I live a lot of my life in theory.

"I could do this project and it'll turn out like so."

"I could do that thing and this will be the outcome."

"I could do another idea and it'll look like this."

In theory, everything is perfect.  I like to think that I'm good at stuff, so a perfect outcome is the best thing I could have.  So why move from the safe theory of perfection and dare risk doing something that looks stupid?

But as well as this frozen-in-time, always-imagining, in-my-head life that binds me so infuriatingly, I also have a completely opposite alter ego that emerges at ridiculous times.

Sometimes, this alter ego is a huge help - the other day, I got a burst of inspiration.  I fixed up Kid 1's chest of drawers and changed a light bulb.  10 minutes.  Not a big deal.  No reason at all to have kept one of his drawers broken for a few months.

But for those few months, what I could do to fix it up was perfect.  Actually doing it helped me realise that I probably have a lot going on that I can do very readily and fairly easily.  All it was was replacing a few screws here, undoing and re-tightening some connections there.  Boom.  Good as new; functioning drawers.

The other day I started putting a table together in my mancave out of some bits of wood that we have in our den.  The day moved on, and now I have half a table in my mancave.  It doesn't hold anything, rather, I have things holding it up.  And they'll be there a while as long as this state of inner-thought perfection remains.  Because I can see what it's like and I know what I want it to be like.  Which is perfect.

I wrote out the manifesto of the Cult of Done in my sketchbook a while ago, and I plan to do the same in every sketchbook from here on out.  Here are some of the points that have been helping me lately:

- Pretending you know what you're doing is almost the same as knowing what you're doing, so just accept that you know what you're doing, even if you don't, and do it.

- The point of being done is not to finish, but to get other things done.

- Once you're done, you can throw it away.

- Failure counts as done. So do mistakes.

- Laugh at perfection.  It's boring and keeps you from being done.

That last one more pertinent than the others right now, I guess.

I watch a lot of YouTube videos by very creative people.  Craftsmen, cameramen and photo- and videographers, adventurers, travellers, scientists.

I listen to a lot of podcasts by very creative people.  Gaming, science and medicine, comedy, church sermons.

I have a lot of input and I simply must find an outlet.  If it's something small that I can work on in work, all the better.  Something to satisfy, at least, the feeling of hunger that lack of creativity starts to bring.

It's a weight.  A big weight of frustration.

Like many others, I wish that there were more hours in the day.  But we're all on the same timeline and it's up to me to choose how to use these hours to the best of my ability.

All of this to say that I have some more ideas that I want to work on and I've made them small and easy enough to replicate to do at my work desk...

We'll see how they go...


Monday, January 8, 2018


Walking from the airport to the car as my dad pulls around to load our things, the air is wet and there’s a crisp smell of freshness fighting its way through the car and airplane exhaust fumes.
Although you can’t see the rain falling, you’re getting wet as you move through the slick streets and damp pavements.
It’s just... there.
Driving home, the windshield wipers are on, even though all you can see is fog in the near distance.
This is my rain. 
No soft pitter-patter on the roof, no real sight of even tiny drops falling; but water appearing on the windows as we drive through this cloud.

Brick houses stand proud just feet from the narrow, winding roads, whilst pedestrians negotiate the paths and islands between traffic.

Familiar sights that have become so alien over the my years of absence - the pelican crossings; the pedestrian-focused footpaths and railings; cars parked half on, half off the road; the shape of the little red man on the walk/don’t walk lights.

I look out of the car window across a field. There sits a lone house surrounded by a handful of bushes and small trees; a hedgerow trailing away, splitting up the land. Of course, we can’t see the extend of the property because this raincloud lies across the place - obscuring the view but... completing it. The picture wouldn’t be the same if you could see it all.

Shop signs and road names greet us like old friends. The glow of the storefronts illuminating the roads as the mist keeps the early morning look and feel well into the later morning hours.
Everything is waking up as we arrive.
We’re just in time.

Following smaller cars at higher speeds while being half the distance away than we would back stateside, we wind through the motorways and B-roads to get to town. My small hometown humbly hosting a population that rivals the second-largest city in our state.

We pass the shop I used to walk to for lunch. We pass an old college I once went to.
A mile later, we’re hitting the edge of the town proper; a few furniture and appliance stores, a music shop and an alcohol store. Very much outskirt business outlets, but still important enough to greet you on your way in on this main road. 

We squeeze between parked cars as we approach the house; the roads still wet and the water still running down the sides of the car. As we open the doors and unload, the rain hits you very softly from every direction you move. Suspended there and waiting for you to interact with it.

Unloaded and settling down, we collapse onto various couches and floor spaces. The boys break out daddy’s old toys and get to work.

Granny Mops cooks up something “small” - only a handful of sausages, a dozen pigs in blankets, a pack of bacon, a full tray of potato cubes and half a loaf of bread. Eggs would have joined the party if Kid 1 was’t allergic.

We chow down. 
There’s a hundred things we want to do while we’re here, but there’s no rush.
We’re home now, and that’s all that matters.

23 hours after we set off from our house in the States, we’ve made it. Tired and hungry, we’ve done it. Ready for a good sleep and some good breakfast, we’re here. 

Kid 1 looks up at me, curious. “This is home?” he squeaks, with an expectant smile that warms my heart. 

“Yeah, Spud,” I smile in return. “Yeah, this is home.”

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Hunt.

I live a frustrating amount of time in theory.

That is; I plan and I plan; I think, rethink, write out and collect all the things that go into something that I want to do.  But never cross over into that area of practise.

Carving a spoon?  Sure, I'll get a lovely little Morakniv hook knife, gather some decent looking pieces of wood, follow a few spoon carving Instagram accounts, get a small saw to whittle down some larger pieces of wood that could work.  And then I kind of fizzle out.  Sometimes I start it and then something else comes up that takes my attention away and I just never quite get into it again.  After what then feels like a bit of an anticlimax with the project, I'm left a little deflated and uninterested.

Sometimes, a project finally sees the light of day, though.  And sometimes still, it sees some semblance of completion.

I use the spoon example before because that is one such project.  The outcome was a chunky, clumsy mini-ladle thing that has no practical use but, my goodness, I finished it.  A bit of paint on it and everything!

A project that has seen work but not completion is my board game (see last post).  It's on the long journey to completion, but it's much further than a lot of projects get.

This past Saturday, I went hunting!

This is where the theory/practise thing comes in.

I'd done my hunters' education classes, passed them, bought my hunting license (one deer tag this time around - while I'd like to think of myself as a cunning gamesman and outdoorsy-type, I am under no illusion that as a 31-year-old in Arkansas who has never hunted before, it was going to be difficult to find anyone with the desire to take on the challenge of teaching me.  Most of my friends have been hunting since they were in single digits; here's me, 20-odd years later, with nothing but ... yeah... theory).

Perry took me hunting.  He's a friend from church and he's also my boss right now.  I'd talked to him a fair bit about it and about how I've been trying to get out and go, but just didn't know where to start.  He said he'd take me to where he take his grandson... You know those kids that have been hunting since they were in single digits?  This is why.

We turned off the main highway and three blocks after that, turned onto a country road.  That was it.  That's how accessible it is down here.  We wound down smaller and smaller roads and trails until we hit a point where Perry was justifiably concerned that his new pickup truck wouldn't quite handle the terrain.

We got out and put some layers on.  It was about 24 degrees Fahrenheit.  -4 Celsius.  It didn't really feel that bad.

We'd seen two does jump across the road on the way up, which Perry said was a sign that they were already moving to feed after bedding down for the night.  Not too good for us, since our aim was to beat them to the trails they follow after they wake up.

We walked up the bumpy trail; the crisp air scratching down my chest with every breath.  I loved it.  Such fresh air so early in the day.  We don't at all live in an urban area, but we do live on the highway.  I thought I knew what fresh air tasted like, but this was incredible.

We scouted the opening in the woods - this is where the deer walked through on their way from their beds to their main sources of food - they would stop and graze here once the sun had evaporated the dew - about three hours from when we arrived.

We found a tree and sat down at the base.

And this was it fro the next three and a half hours.  It was wonderful.

We watched the morning unfold in front of us.  The birds woke up, the smaller animals started digging and wrestling through the brush.  Just before the sun cast a golden glow over the treetops in front of us, the temperature dropped a little.  That was a fun little fact I learnt as I sat there!

The warm light cascaded down the trees as the birds' chorus rose - the first warmth of the day bringing them to life.

Behind us, an empty snort rang through the woods;

"We're busted," smiled Perry.

Apparently, when a deer catches your scent, it huffs the smell out of it's nose, for want of a better description.  Not long after that, it makes a hasty retreat in the opposite direction of that scent.

Now we weren't busted for the whole morning, but certainly by that single deer.

So we waited some more.

The hours flew by - I couldn't believe how fast time went.  And I had no doubt that guys who spend days at a time alone in the woods to hunt probably don't really realise how long that actually is.  I could have set there all weekend, with how those first few hours felt.

We called it a day just under four hours in.  I had work, and since Perry is my boss, I probably wouldn't have got away with being ill that day...

He showed me some other spots that he hunts and took me to where he has a tree stand up.  Told me I was welcome there any time.  Except the first few days of the season!

As we headed back down the country roads to get to the highway, a doe walked out in front of us.  About 30 yards out, side on to the truck.  A textbook clean kill position and distance.
She stayed there for a couple of minutes - much longer than she needed to to make us consider how long it would take us to set up a crossbow - and how quietly we could do it.

As we discussed this, she ran off back into the woods, and a couple walking their dog appeared at the corner.

That was about as close as we got to harvesting anything that day, but I'm almost glad.

See, now when I go out hunting, I've been before - I've taken in as much as I can on that hunt, and I'll most likely take in a little less next time, in favour of focusing on the animal itself.  That barrier between theory and practise has been broken - and I'm very happy about it.

I also learnt that it was probably best not to have got anything on Saturday, anyway - Perry had ball game to watch at noon, and I had work at four; if we'd taken the deer at 10, let's say, we'd've waited at least 30 minutes before even starting to track the deer.
After that, the area we were hunting in does not allow you to take any bones (apart from the horns) out of the area, so we would've had to have deboned it in the field.  If not, it would have been a few days in a shed, hanging up to drain.
The fact that my family are leaving town this week would have meant that I wouldn't have been around to process it.

So it really was all about the experience this time around.  Watching the morning unfold around me was awesome; learning more and more about hunting in general was much appreciated, and I have now, officially, been hunting.

I'll take some meat home next time.  But I'm happy right now.