My Summer Project – Firewood

I don’t even have a fireplace or wood stove.  What I do have is a yard full of sliced up giant oak trees:

rounds2 rounds1 rounds3

All I have to use to split all of that oak, is a 4.5 pound splitting maul, a six pound sledge hammer, and a pair of steel wedges.  I’m finding that the wedges are most effective when used as a pair, working along the same crack, alternating blows on each wedge.  It keeps the wedges from wanting to jump out of the expanding crack, and usually drives them right through.

Even the big blocks are easier to split when I can first split them in half.  However, there are still some that will not yield to my wedges or maul.  I call them the “untouchables”, and am collecting a pile of those blocks, which will be freebies on Craig’s list to whomever has a hydraulic splitter and wants them.

But, here’s what I’ve done so far, by hand:


That longest row is 0.73 of a cord, the second row is 0.4 of a cord.  Each new row will be a little smaller, as that is the shape of the piece of ground where I am making the stacks.

Now, after that cures for a year, I could easily sell the lot by the cord.  But, I think that may miss out on a work opportunity for the boys.  I foresee an arrangement with a local market to keep a rack of bundled oak firewood stocked.  I’ll need to make some sort of a display, and figure out how to weigh the bundles, and of course, get a strapping tool to make the bundles.

But, the boys can run it.  I’ll set them up with an email address so the store owner can order a refill when the stock runs low.  The boys can weigh the sticks to be bundled, and help me to restock the display at the store.  There are lots of lessons to be learned in that exercise, I think.

Anyway, I’m doing it for the exercise and strength training.  That’s right, my back is reminding me I’m not forty years old any more.  But, it hurts less each day.

Liam’s New Shoes

Liam reads

As you can see, Liam can read, and this is his first paperback.


Liam' shoes

We got him some new pants, but they needed a belt, which I re-sized this evening.  And, here he is, with his new pants, and his nice new boots.  Real boots.  He really likes them.

Liam's Shoes


Liam's Boots

I really like them.  I never had boots that nice when I was a kid.

early July pics

hamming it up at the playground.


Harry playing at the park in Mons

together at Madame Muriel’s.

He’s an old man

getting some help from Dad

Liam’s amazed at Harry’s mad skills.

so, so close!

heaven in a bowl

I made a new meal tonight. Or rather, I made a meal I haven’t made in about two years. We really enjoyed it the first time, as I recall. But somehow I never got around to making it again. This time I changed and simplified the recipe, so it would fit with our no-oil lifestyle. Oh, my goodness. Jesse literally said, multiple times, “This is the best thing you have EVER made!” I’m not quite sure that’s so, but it was absolutely delicious, and SO simple. It’s one of those meals that’s literally on the table in about ten minutes, but better than anything I’ve ever ordered in a restaurant. For the pleasure of your tastebuds:

Soba Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms and Snow Peas


  • 1 pack of shitake mushrooms
  • 1 cup of button mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups of snow peas (I used a bag of frozen)
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, grated
  • 2-3 cups of vegetable broth

Pour 2 cups boiling water over the dried shitake and let them rehydrate, about five minutes. Place the vegetable broth in a medium saucepan, drain the mushroom soaking liquid into the saucepan too, so you save all the delicious broth. Rough chop the shitake.

Place all the mushrooms in a frying pan with about 1/4 cup of water, the soy sauce, and the giner. Cook over medium heat until the mushrooms are softened, about five minutes. If using fresh snow peas, add them to the pan as well. If frozen, nuke those babies according to package directions.

Meanwhile, bring the broth to a boil, add your package of noodles and cook until al dente, just a few minutes. Add the vegetables to the saucepan of noodles, give it a toss to combine, and get it to the table pronto. I like a bit of spice so I added crushed red pepper to mine. Delicious and elegant!

3 months

October, eh? That’s only…. three months ago. Not so bad 🙂  Expect to see more posting over here. I’m seriously contemplating letting my personal blog die and just moving it all over here. In the mean time, here are a few pictures to help you catch up.

Renaissance man

Yeah, that’s me.  Two topics of interest that illustrate my claim.

First, is how I shave.  Daily.  I have been using a Gillette Atra razor since I started shaving in, I don’t know, roughly in 1979.  It uses a pivoting twin blade cartridge that, in later years, was available with a lubricating strip across the top of the cartridge (for whatever good it did).   Here’s what the handle looks like:

Gilette Atra

The one on the left has spent its life in my mobility kit, and then in my travel bag.  The one on the right I’ve used for some 25 years.

I realize now that we fell victim to clever marketing in 1979 in buying this razor when the standard double edge safety razor that dad used was just as effective, if not more so, and the blades were very much cheaper.  This was Gillette’s genius.  As were the standard double edge safety razor blades, for that matter.  But, who’s got the time to use a straight razor to shave every day?  I have one, mind you, but it needs honing, and I don’t want to spend the money to equip myself to do that job.  So, back the the double edge safety razor…

There is a company in Solingen, Germany called Merkur that still manufactures new safety razors.  Beautiful things, they are.  I bought a Futur, in chrome finish.  (Update:  I just found out the Futur is made of Zamac, a German acronym for what we in North America call pot metal, or white metal.  Couldn’t even use brass…)

Merkur Futur

It takes a bit more technique than the cartridges require.  The result is worth the time to learn how.  See Badger and Blade for more than you ever thought possible to know about shaving.

For lather, I long ago ditched the canned stuff  (when I bought my straight razor) for lather made with a nice badger hair brush.  Here’s mine:

Col Conk Pure Badger

I suppose I should descale it from time to time…

I just got what is reported to be the holy grail of double edge razors, the Pils stainless steel razor, also from Germany.  $250.  Which sounds ridiculous, and it probably is.  But, if it is better than the Futur, I’ll sell the Futur.

Pils Rasur


Pils Rasur

Pils Rasur

Truly a thing of beauty and precision.  The proof will be in the shaving, though.  That will be another entry.

Next item on the agenda, watches.

When I retired from the US Air Force, I bought an Omega X-33 chronograph to mark the occasion.  I’d wanted a Speedmaster for years, and this one seemed a better choice than the mechanical Speedmasters.  Here it is, just before I sold it:

Omega X-33

What’s to say about an Omega watch?  They are stupid expensive, and do nothing better than a decent watch a tenth their price.  I’d already had mine repaired once for $400 when the crown collapsed, a failing common to that model.  Just before we went on holiday last month, the original bracelet came apart, hence the cheapo leather band (which looks better, I think).  This one had an insanely loud alarm, which I will miss.  Aside from that, I am glad I replaced it.

With this, the Marathon GSAR:

Marathon GSAR

Marathon GSAR

Marathon GSAR on my wrist

Marathon stainless steel bracelet

No easy trick taking pictures of your own wrist, the geometry is off.

This watch is an automatic winding mechanical watch.  Waterproof down to 300 meters (at which depth I will be long dead).  It has tritium capsules for the hour hand, minute hand, and hour markers, which glow from radioactive decay of H3 tritium, which releases beta particles that excite the phosphor on the inside walls of the capsules.  Very cool indeed.

There are no batteries.  Just need to have it serviced every few years.  I expect one day that very massive steel bracelet will eventually fail, and I will probably replace it with a nylon or leather strap for a fraction of the cost.  I kept the rubber strap it came with, of course.

Old fashioned razors.  Mechanical watch.  They go well with my slide rules and mechanical typewriter.

A true renaissance man (he posts on the internet).

our new bathtub

Ready for it?

As excited as I am?

Here you go!!!


OK, so technically we do have a bath upstairs now, we are not allowed to use it. I KNOW! Trust me, I KNOW. It’s only the shell of a tub. We have to wait four to six weeks for the casing and the shower door to come in. We have to wait a few days to use even the shell of the tub, because the cement is still setting. Apparently, tub installation is done much differently here than in the states. Who knew? Not us, apparently. If I’d known, I sure as hell wouldn’t have planned to have a new tub/shower installed during the summer.

Twenty four hours from now, we can finally start using it. I’m FIRST!