Monday, January 15, 2018

A Cold One

The middle of the continent has been cold today, and for another couple days to come. Nothing like what the east coast has had lately, but cold, nonetheless. I haven't managed to keep the woodpile restocked. So, it was time tonight to restock. That takes the wheelbarrow and a lot of cloths.

Last winter I was finally tired of getting cold while shoveling the driveway, so I bought my first pair of insulated bib overalls. I've always wanted a pair, but I'd look and the high price and just keep walking. After the past few cold snow shoveling workouts I had my justification.

 Tonight was the first time to use them, and they performed marvelously! The outside temperature was 5 degrees F and with a 17 mph wind the wind chill was -14 degrees. With my biking balaclava and a hood pullover, heavy expedition-style gloves and heavy coat, I was comfy. I always like the challenge of getting the layers right for the temperature at hand. No need for a base layer since I'd be working and could just go inside if I get cold.

I love the cold, as long as you can dress for it. I took a 4 mile hike on the Landon Trail this past weekend, right after the snow hit. Trudged through 4" of snow to get to the Wakarusa River bridge. 20 degrees F. It was a nice time to be hiking.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Electrical Work

I don't like ALL handy-work but I do like electrical work. I like the tools, and the process, and the finished result. Part of the appeal is that it makes me more that a typical office worker. More than a pencil pusher. I can actually DO something useful. Over the years the list of electrical projects has grown and with each one I learn a little more. If speed was needed we should just hire an electrician but if time is available I'll take them on.

In Wilma's sewing room she needed another outlet and to have a cable TV outlet extended. I thought about how to do it for a while. For way too long. The TV cable was easy, but the 115V outlet took some time to figure out. I thought I could install one in the middle of an existing run but it proved impractical. Then I noticed an outlet close that I could tap into. Once I had a plan, it went fine. The back of the wall is open studs so I didn't have to fish it in. I HATE to fish in through studs. With that in mind, I guess I should say that I like electrical projects as long as they aren't too difficult.

So, this project is done. When I saw the tools all laying around, I knew I had to sketch them. It's late at night now, and I was sketching. When Wilma figured what I was losing sleep to do, she gave me 'that look'. That's OK.  I got the itch . . . I need to scratch it!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

January Sketch Crawl

Time to try a sketch crawl with Urban Sketchers Kansas City. I've heard of them but with Lawrence being closer and having their own chapter, I've been going on their outings. They've been quiet since November, though, and I'm getting the itch to get out and sketch.

The outing was centered at The Link, which is the elevated walkway joining Union Station with Crown Center and a couple motels. It's a fun area, so we drove to KC for the crawl. Wilma hit the shops as I sketched. Seems like a fine group. Their membership is over 220 now and they were organized, with maybe 20 in attendance.

Outside temperature was a windy 20F. The walkway was warmer than freezing but still cold. It was a nice sketch time. Plenty of young families because the main traveling display at Union Station is Legos, so the kids love it. We walked through the Union Station lobby to absorb the sunlight coming in. It's a spacious lobby that still has the old feel. The active restaurant and the coffee shop and Science Center and traveling display keep it active.

I used my Lamy Joy with the new Fine nib upgrade. Liz Steel likes this combination and I can see why. The extra 'give' make for a very pleasant sketching experience. Great ink flow. I like the variable width of line. Not extreme like a flex nib, but still it's better than a stiff nib or a fiber point pen. I'll probably rotate between my Pilot Nikoma Falcon and this Lamy.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Holidays 2017

I've had a quiet spell as far as sketching goes. I finally took the time to sketch a black walnut shell that I've been keeping since Thanksgiving. This will represent the holidays for me. I was the favorite uncle for this holiday visit and took my great niece and nephew to the park a few times to play and walk around. We collected some black walnuts we found and I showed them how to take the husk off and break them open and pick out the nut meat. They had now idea you could eat something you found on the ground. We spend time coloring, too. We don't get to see them more that once a year, so at their young age every meeting is a big new experience. That broken nut shell represents a lot of family time.

This sketch also represents the holiday because of our families traditions of having walnuts around with the nut cracker and picks. Wilma and I both had this in our youth and still have it around in our home during the Winter. I was raised with home-grown black walnuts that mom and dad would spend HOURS processing so that mom could add them to banana bread, cookies and cakes.

From an artistic standpoint that nut shell jumped out at me. There isn't one straight line in the whole structure. The shading expands quite a range of values and textures. It just had to be sketched. I've been keeping it around and finally took some time on New Year's Day to finally memorialize it. This was my first sketch with the upgraded fine nib in my Lamy Joy. Much better feel!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Boots, Blades & Bobcat

It's Springtime! Things are coming alive and I can get outdoors more. Recent rains have set consecutive days of rain records. I need to hike in a local wetland and finally have an excuse to buy these waterproof boots. The wetlands are REALLY wet and my Goretex-lined hiking boots just aren't up for walking through standing water for a few hours. These boots do the trick.

Then it's time to mow. After changing the oil, the oil filter and air filters and lubed the Zerc fittings, I started the beast. My little zero-turn is 12 years old now, and I had plenty of oil-burning smoke until it heated up some. That will take some work, but not today. These are the old blades that I'll take in to be sharpened. With two sets of blades, there is no hurry for these do be sharpened, which helps the shop in their busy season. I mowed the first cut. The war has begun.

It's time to plant a few geocaches in the Topeka area. My next one will be on Burnett's Mound, which is in Skyline Park in the city boundary. Recent rains have made the hiking trail very muddy. Luckily an old road is fine and I can hike to the top, but I study the hiking trail for tracks. BINGO! Tracks of a young bobcat are plain as day for about 20 yards. I've only seen one of these little cats in my life but I've seen the tracks much more often. They are evasive but living with us.

PS  I heard my first Northern Mockingbird this past weekend. I've seen a Killdeer in Topeka but not here on our land. They've nested here the past four years and we're looking forward to their migration return.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Beats a Chainsaw

The rancher across the road from us is doing some fence maintenance. He's taking over the operation of his parent's cattle ranch and the fences haven't been maintained properly for several years. One particular stretch, probably a half mile, is overgrown with hedge trees (osage orange) to the point where you can't even get to the fence posts sufficiently to fix the barbed wire. In my younger days this would just mean breaking out the chainsaw and most of the family members and clearing out trees, one at a time. It takes weeks. Not today (if you have the money).

One day a bulldozer and an excavator show up. In the course of about three days the half mile of osage orange trees has been taken out and stacked for burn. They haven't rebuilt the fence row yet, but the worst is over, and it looks sharp. They've already reworked the fence along the road with nice 5-strand tight barbed wire. He knows how to do it right.

When the tree-clearing was finished the dozer was taken to its next job, but the excavator is still there. Last night was a warm night (for March) and I had some time after supper to walk over and sketch this beast.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March Sketch Crawl

Today was sketch crawl time for Lawrence Urban Sketcher. We visited the KU Spencer Museum of Art. My first visit. We had a good showing of sketchers and met in the Student Union for a little food and talk afterwards.

This sketch doesn't really exemplify a typical art exhibit. I was drawn to this exhibit, though. The heart wants what the heart wants. The artist made up a story about an escaped (stolen) lab animal from KU. He had the office desk of the lab researcher, letters explaining the escape, lab tools everywhere, and then you notice an incubator with a weird looking animal in a glass globe. Then you notice the lungs expand as it breaths! And it's all made up. I walked around to all the other arts exhibits but came back here to sketch. Due to typical art museum paranoia we were told to use pencils only. I used my fountain pen. I sure love my flex nib.

The Urban Sketcher scene around here is very active and in a state of flux. The longest-running group in the area is organized by Kate Johnson of Excelsior Springs (Kansas City). As that group is fading away, another unofficial group started in Lawrence, headed by Gail, which I've been attending. Then an official Lawrence Urban Sketcher groups started in Lawrence last year. Our two groups have been meeting together lately. Then last week was the kickoff sketch crawl for the newly-created Kansas City Urban Sketchers group.  It's a busy time for urban sketchers! I think they're onto something.