Friday, March 26, 2010

Vanishing Landscapes...

Old Mojave Homestead - March 11, 2010
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Peggy watches the sun set from a crumbling Mojave Desert homestead along the Palmdale Road near Victorville, California during one of our rare road trips.

The picturesque old stone houses and wide open vistas in this part of the Mojave are disappearing quickly now as huge shopping centers and sprawling residential subdivisions creep across the landscape, burying the living desert, and it's history, beneath an unsightly scourge of human excess.

However, even the profound ugliness of rapacious growth and the grotesque spectacle of modern commerce are only temporary aberrations along the timeless course of life's evolution.

The light of the sun warms us with optimism at each dawn, and provides the opportunity for thoughtful introspection at the end of every rare and precious day, when the fireball of our solar system rolls beyond the horizon, often spreading a blazing display of color across this most beautiful of planets.

Death & destruction are cyclical and constant, yet life is a self-renewing resource, and time is on its side... long as billions of stars continue shining their warm magic into the far corners of the universe.

Brief moments out of the vastness of time and space are all I have to share with you, miniscule observations from a tiny speck of the cosmos, but what a wondrous little speck it is.

No wonder it's currently overpopulated with almost seven billion consumers...

...this too shall pass.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

First Day Of Spring!

Procreation is in the air, and, the water...
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

During our first walk of spring today, Peggy, Dallas, and I came across this pool of Spotted Brown Trout trying to make it upstream to suitable spawning grounds.

We have seen trout in this pool before, during early spring of previous years, but it still takes my breath away when we come upon them.

These beauties were at least 14 to 16 inches in length.

Today is one of only two times during the year in which the day and the night are of equal length, and, once again, I bow in humble respect to the wonders of nature.

A Joyful Vernal Equinox to you!

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Our 1915 Singer Red Eye Treadle...

Click on arrow in the bar above to watch the video © 2010 jim otterstrom

Peggy treadles away at our 95 year-old Singer Model 66 Red-Eye.

This reliable old machine was purchased something like 20 years ago from a local antique & junk shop for $75. It runs like a top, purrs like a kitten on steroids, and consistently sews a perfect stitch.

We also have a 1917 Singer Model 99 Hand Crank "portable", which also runs perfectly. The 93 year-old hand-cranker was found here at a Big Bear thrift store, where we gave $50 for it maybe 18 years ago. For my money these are two of the best purchases we've ever made, as these Singers seem nearly indestructible, and all you need to run them is a tiny bit of muscle power. I don't think technology gets much more elegant than this, I could wind bobbins all day just to watch the bobbin winder work!

Last summer we downsized our bed from a king size to a queen size (when we found a like-new second-hand mattress set for free) and, in this video, Peg is altering one of our old king size sheets to fit the new mattress.

Peg still has her fancy Viking electric machine but she's really enjoying working with the treadle right now, and getting some practice on it, because she wants to use it for her upcoming sewing project.

This post also seems the right place to share with you this post, at, about Anne Kusilek, a professional quilter and sewing machine collector who, since 1990, has done all of her sewing on human-powered machines. Did you check out Anne's custom sewing table with five machines mounted above five individual treadle bases? An inspiring post and a beautiful collection of machines too!

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

New Pine Floor & Door For The Sewing/Crafting Room

First, We Tore Out The Carpeting... Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Our current project is the renovation of the sewing room.

Before we could start on the fun stuff we had to tear out our vintage 1969 lime green carpeting and pull up the foam padding to reveal the plywood sub-floor beneath. Then we pried off the nasty carpet tack strips at the perimeter and pulled out all the staples which held the padding in place. Once that was done we had a clean slate to work with.

To keep it simple and affordable, and to avoid using exotic hardwoods or synthetic laminates, we went with standard 1x12 pine planks from our local lumber yard.

We used Taylor's 2071 Tuff-Lok solvent-free floor adhesive to adhere the boards to the sub-floor, and then nailed the planks down, three nails across, every two feet, with square shank copper boat nails to add beauty and help prevent cupping of the wide planks.

Yes, pine is soft, and it does wear faster than hardwood, but in my opinion it wears beautifully.

We made the decision to use pine planks after looking at photos of wide-plank pine floors in old houses, some of them over 100 years old. That's durable enough for our purposes.

Square Shank Copper Nails Add Beauty & Durability
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

Laying these floors is a pretty simple straightforward job. We measured and cut all the boards first and laid them in place to make sure everything was square, then we picked them all back up again, and glued & nailed them down one at a time. I pre-drilled the nail holes in the planks to prevent splitting and the 3-inch long 8-gauge copper nails (from Faering Design) go way into the thick plywood sub-floor.

We did the living room floor by the same method nearly 5 years ago and it's still as flat and solid as the day it was finished.

A New Pine-Panel Door Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

We also relpaced the beat up holllow core door with a pine-panel door to match the floors.

The door isn't the pre-hung type so I had to buy door jamb stock and build the casing myself.

I've hung a lot of doors in my time but this one was a bit of a chore because standard door jamb sets are too wide for our walls. They're milled to fit 4x4 framed walls with drywall on both surfaces, but our cabin doesn't have drywall, only a much thinner wood paneling, on the interior walls.

So I had to rip about 3/4 of an inch off the jamb stock to make it fit properly, not really difficult, just a little extra work.

The New Floor & Door Together
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

This is how the entrance to the room looks now with the door installed and a preliminary sanding done on the floor.

The Semi-Completed Floor
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

This photo shows the floor before the preliminary sanding so you can still see the pencil lines I used to lay out the nailing pattern. I have since sanded off the pencil lines and any obvious stains or rough spots in the wood which still needs to have a finish applied and baseboard installed.

Nearly Completed Door
Click on photo to enlarge - © 2010 jim otterstrom

The pine panel door as it looks from inside the sewing room.
The trim molding has been applied, the finish nails recessed with a nail set, and the holes filled with wood dough. A little more sanding and it's ready for a few coats of satin clear finish.

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