Saturday, December 19, 2009

Christmas Cards

Time to send out the Christmas Cards. The younger generation doesn't seem to be too interested in the tradition, but I won't let loose. We include a family newsletter that I try not to get too braggy or annoying. Digital pictures are easy to add. Then I use my calligraphy tools to add a personal touch on the addresses. It keeps my hand in shape, and is a satisfying project . . . a simple pleasure of the season.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Hunting, Day 4

It's the middle of my fourth day deer hunting. Lunch break at home. Didn't see any critters, of any kind. I made this sketch this morning in the field. I just continued sketching my rifle and noticed all the turkey tracks in the snow. They're EVERYWHERE. Been a quiet day in the field, but I was able to listen to the flock of turkeys wake up in the ravine not far from me. Some times I think of all the things that need to get done at home. Xmas shopping. Sending out cards. Working on some bookbinding. So much to do. But setting out for a few hours makes it all slow down ... and I always like a snowy landscape.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hunting, Day 2

Busy time of year. Holidays and hunting season means typical routines, like sketch journaling, get interrupted or modified. I was finally able to make a sketch on my second day of white-tail deer hunting. So far the deer have made it untouched (my luck the last couple years). Haven't seen any yet, but we have tracks all over the place. Today was a beautiful day to sit and watch nothing. It's enjoyable to be settled in before sunrise, in the cold, to watch the fields wake up. My good old turkeys strut by and mosey along. They don't mind me and I love to watch them. Broke out the sketch gear and did the whole page from my ground blind. Kept the water brush in shirt pocket to keep it from freezing. It all works fine, even with gloves. Finished drawings may be another story, though. I'll stick to sketching.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Porubsky's is a Topeka tradition. It was founded by a mother/son combination. The grandson of the son just received a grant to film a documentary on the store and tavern. I've eaten there twice (open for lunch only these days). I wanted Wilma to experience it so we went to eat there before we went to see the film. This place is known for chili and simple sandwiches. Unfortunately, they were out of chili, so we need to go back later. But we ate the cold plate, which is a plate of bread, cheese and meat and you assemble. Very small place but rich in community history. The store is on the left, tavern on the right. It's a small Russian German immigrant community with the major local employer being Santa Fe railroad, yards and maintenance shops. The mother and son are both dead now and the future of the store and tavern is uncertain. The culture that created and sustained it has changed so much that it probably won't make it in the long run.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Business Travel

Note: This post has a landscape orientation for the first two pages, which makes it tough to post here. You just need to jump pages to read the text.

I had a trip to Denver for a meeting with other engineers from other companies. The meeting itself wasn't very sketch-worthy, but I had one night on the town and went to an outdoor gear store and a couple coffee houses. Our first jobs after we got married were in the Denver area, 27 years ago, so it's like a visit with an old friend after a long absence. The mountains to the west had their white dusting of snow, typical for this time of year.

As with any place we've lived, there are things I miss and things I don't miss about living here. Guess I need to focus on the good things about where ever I'm at.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Engine Work

Small job on the Corolla. Took a while before it dawned on me that the temperature guage wasn't indicating proper temperature. I diagnosed the thermostat after looking it over. Never replaced one before but it's a smaller job so I took it on. Now I have great joy watching the temperature guage move up to medium and I know all is well because of something I fixed. Just like when I apply the brakes I know they are mine, too. The simple joys of a weekend mechanic. Didn't even need to use one cuss word on this job, either.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Just For Fun

Had some fun over the last week. Entered a promotional competition at Starbucks for their new VIA instant coffee product. Made a 2-minute video and posted it on and ( and titled "Using Starbucks VIA in the Kansas Wilderness"). Also entered a recipe for a hot drink I put together ( and titled "Wilderness Latte"). No way I'll win in a national competition, but it was fun doing it and I got my 5 minutes of fame by having it visible on the Starbucks website.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Walkabout 2009, Part II

This is the second half of the travel journal. The sketching worked well
because it forced me to slow down, which wasn't a bad thing.
I'm not in as good of shape as 40 years ago
when I started this backpacking thing. There's no hurry. I usually get in trouble when I have flashbacks of the energy levels of youth and try to do it now. Gotta keep grounded and hike smarter, especially since I'm solo. Don't need any overuse injury complicating things. And this trip showed me the enjoyment level is just as high as when I covered twice the distance. Actually more enjoyable because I'm absorbing more of what I see and smell and feel.

In reading what people are posting on the web about solo backpacking, one said that it's not better that going with a group, it's just another form of backpacking. It's still fun to go with a group but it's a totally different experience because you're always interacting with the others. That communication is fun but distracts from experiencing what's around you. I think that says it well. That's also why it blends so well with sketch journaling, which is also about absorbing what's around you. They were made for each other.

One last thing I wanted to note here. When Wilma and I took a week in July '08 to see Glacier National Park I created my first travel journal. It was a combination of pre-trip, trip, and post-trip sketching and photo transfers. I like that approach for big trips. But another approach is to have a goal that when the trip is over, the journal is over. I wanted to try it, so for this trip that was the goal. The sketches you see are done live (one from memory) or not at all. The only exception is the map (which took some post-trip analysis) and a couple factoid inserts. My conclusion: the "sketch now or never" is OK if you're in control of your time, but I don't think it would work for trips with others. That said, it sure is nice to be finished with the journal and not drag it out.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Walkabout 2009, Part I

Last year I took a 2 day/2 night solo bicycle trip to stretch my legs. It was backpacking the two prior years. This year I decided to try backpacking again. I like to have something to plan for and to exercise for. That gives me a chance to be in fair shape one week out of each year. It's a goal. Maybe I'll be in fair shape two week out of a year in the future.

Since I sketch more now, I'll pack my sketch gear. Had to reduce some, though. The graphite pencils and erasers and gel pens didn't make the cut. Only the watercolor pencils and Pitt Artist pens. The journal is the one I just made from Roz's class in Minneapolis. Looking forward to trying the new paper, and to carry my own handmade creation.

This day's post is the first half of my travel journal. The other half will follow. The trip went well. With no long distances planned and only myself to accommodate, I'd stop hiking when something struck my fancy to sketch, and I could hang around camp to get sketching in. Works well. Missouri has some beautiful country out there.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Minneapolis Weekend

Had a great long weekend in Minneapolis. Roz was offering a bookbinding class thru Minnesota Book Arts (web addresses in my journal page). The wife and I pulled an extra day off work and had a look see. Quite the organization and city. Quite the teacher. Now I have my first hand-made hard cased journal with a new paper to explore for sketching. Roz says it's good stuff so I'm itchin' to try it. More later

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rodent Wars

Well, it's that time of year. Rodents attack us so I attach them. War. They've invaded our garage and the Taurus. Today I washed the Taurus, removed back seat, vacuumed the mouse turds and nesting material, and shampooed the cloth interior. The darkened mouse piss wasn't fun to wash off the seats, but at least it didn't penetrate into the seats. It cleaned up well. I know . . . TMI (too much information), but this is my daily life. Can't figure out why they got into the car, though. It's spotless with no food source. Maybe they just like Fords.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Walnut Valley Festival

This is our annual festival. It's probably the biggest outside music festival in Kansas. Mostly music I'd call Americana: bluegrass, folk, celtic, singer/songwriter, etc. Good mix. We probably missed a couple in the last two decades or so. Kids went in diapers thru high school and loved it. If they weren't grown and on their own in other States they would still be attending. Didn't camp this year, though. Traditions change. I just love the fresh food smells and constant music from the four stages and campgrounds, strolling through craft booths and meeting old friends. If I had more time I'd try harder to get into jams. Plenty of them but I like to see the stage acts first and for a one day visit there just isn't enough time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wheelbarrow Workout

Too much yard work lately! Just no time for fun stuff. The grass needs to slow down someday. Maybe when the snow flies. I have a bike ride in a couple weeks with a brother and my daughter and her boyfriend. Happens every Fall. That's one reason I do like this cooler season. Things to do outside.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Brian's Wedding

Finally finished my journal for Brian's wedding. Whatta weekend! Going down a day early seemed like it would have kept things at ease, but we were busy the whole time. Neat to see all the family coming together for the occasion, as it's a 5-9 hour drive for our side of the family. All went well. Brian and Michelle both like live music so we had plenty, with the two dads contributing (brought me joy). I also got to jam with their college friends at Bee Tree Park in the evening. Still doesn't seem like he's old enough to be a married man, but he's no younger than I was at the time.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Good Omen

Our son is getting married this weekend! Big time for the 'ol family. We drive 5 hours to St. Louis and spend a 4-day weekend there. Just seems like yesterday we were changing his diapers. Wilma needed a new purse for the occasion. Once I saw it, I knew I needed to sketch it. She's got good taste. She found it after a long shopping period and it was desperate for a while. This one is a little larger than she wanted but it will be more useful for other times, too. It worked out great. Hope the wedding goes the same way. I'm not worried about the marriage. Our son picked a really fine young woman to marry. Looking forward to getting to know her better.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Stop Growing!

This is one funky year. Usually about one month is cool and wet. Not this year. I'm just in a daze . . . month after month . . . seems like every night it's either raining or I'm mowing. I do love mowing, but enough is enough. As my meters indicate, this really isn't a big thing in the scheme of things, but it's still frustrating. It's cutting into other things to do. I had this sketch pretty much done before I thought of the Zombie angle. The last time I mowed (gee, it was two nights ago because it rained last night) I felt like I was in a daze and just going through the motions and I thought . . . Zombie!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Brake Job

I had a chance to expand my mechanical skills last week. As typical, it started as an afternoon job and expanded into a week-long ordeal. Just my luck. But it was enjoyable. I like jobs like this that are physical as well as technical.

The shape of the torque plate (the bracket that hold the caliper and disc pads, the foundation of the whole brake system) struck me. A rather slim yet hefty cast iron 3-D casting of precision and strength. The rough finish was tactile. The color varied slightly by varied aging processes. Then I think of the energy it takes to produce such a part. Energy to mine the iron ore, energy to smelt, energy to heat to 2730 degrees F to create liquid metal to cast. Then energy to mill, drill and tap. And this is just one of thousands of parts on a car . . . one car in our mini-fleet of a typical American family. We really ARE a country of energy hogs. And it's like dieting. It's easy to figure out it's time to loose a few pounds (OK, like 25 pounds) but yet another to do anything about it. I like my cars.

...100... This is my one hundredth post! I'm putting this in smaller font. Don't want to distract from the REAL post here. It sounds like I'm bragging, and I guess I am. But it means something to me to have sketched and journaled and posted one hundred times. That means this just isn't another fad with me. I get distracted sometimes by a flaming interest of the day. Looks like I'm in a routine here and this is now part of my lifestyle. I like that. And this made one LONG post of 351 words (I used Microsoft Word to count because I was curious). But it’s my little kingdom and I can do that. I am grateful to all those who have visited my blog over the last 1.4 years and hope some will always find it interesting to stop by. I’ll always be checking out your sites, too.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Some Days Are Diamonds

The critters have been active lately. The rat came over to me from the field being baled and just looked at me from about three feet away. The tree I was cleaning up was close to the property line and the baling in progress. I stared back. I think he wanted to file a complaint. Not my land being baled! More drama in our Tiger Pit (basement egress window, see Tiger Pit tag for other journal entries). This particular vole wasn't as wild as the previous one and I easily removed him with my scoop-lift-throw technique. They're so darned cute with their stubby little tail. After he landed, he started moving rapidly toward me. Keep in mind I'm in the Tiger Pit, with my eyes about a foot above ground. Here comes the vole, right at me! I'm at eye level with him and he's looking bigger and bigger. Then he jumps toward the rim of the Tiger Pit. I'm feeling pretty trapped and start to wave him off when I finally see that his burrow is along the edge of the Pit. He had me going there. If it was the deer mouse I would have put up a white surrender flag.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Loss of a Loner

We had some spooky wind earlier this month. It made the house moan for only the second time in the 12 years we've been here. When it was done, I walked around the yard to see what the damage was. Our big trash bin was moved half way around the house. A two wheel dolly was slid across the driveway apron. The attic access panel in the garage ceiling was sucked into the attic. That was about it. . . I thought. Then I looked further from the house and saw we lost our original singular tree on the land. We've planted plenty of trees from day one, but this was the only original tree we had. It was never 'beautiful' but it had a royalty sense about it because it's been here so long, all by itself. So this weekend I'll be using the chainsaw to cut up what I can for firewood and haul the rest to the burn pile, and the land will begin it's next chapter without its lone sentinel.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Cabbage Convert

More garden produce sketching. We had some good looking cabbage this year. A little cabbage goes a long ways, so a couple heads is enough. Wilma cooks up a big batch of bierocks and freezes them for quick meals. Can't beat them! Once in a great while I'll find a restaurant that gets close to their quality, but not often. This is a dish I got introduced to when I married her. Glad I did . . . both.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Pepper Harvest

So far this summer I've had two batches of these chili peppers, a.k.a. Anehiem or banana pepper. It's not my German heritage that got me into these things. I guess I've adopted them. It's not universal for the household, either. Wilma can tolerate them in small doses. That's meant preserving them in small portions so I can play with them for Saturday lunches, etc. My favorite is to make a smothering sauce to serve over burritos we buy as fund raisers for school kids around here. For as good as these peppers are I have yet to run across another person who grows them and processes them. Can't figure it out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Felony Banjo

Ok, maybe not a felony, but it's my blog and I can sensationalize for the fun of it. At a family camp-out I was jamming with a family friend into the Quiet Time, entertaining our families. Ooo . . . criminals! We violated the Rules and Regulations of a federally owned campground. That's breaking a federal rule. A rule is almost a law, so this was almost a felony. What bugs me is that I tolerated loud boom boxes all day and that was legal. We play live music and we're shut down. Oh well. We'll be at it again at our next holiday camp-out.

Bigger Than Its Size

These things are never planned and never hit at a good time. Our hard disk drive failed. We had time enough to get our files backed up. We're back up and on-line now. From an engineering perspective these drives are a modern wonder. From a customers perspective, they are a real pain to replace, and the mass marketers of PCs aren't set up for good customer support. It's a long boring story of what it took to swap out drives. Most of us have been through it. The worst part was loading the drivers. The origin driver CD wasn't current enough. The Dell on-line driver download utility doesn't work (their words). Bla..bla..bla. I learned a lot but lost a lot of blogging time. I'm back in the saddle now, though.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Stay Tuned

We have a hard drive crashing at home. It's a prolonged death that we thought was a virus or spyware or malware. Took a week to diagnose and it's dying. Still under warranty and the replacement HD is in the mail. It will be a while before I can post again. This is an illegal post from work (against company policy) but I wanted to clarify that I'm not slackin'. More sketches to come.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Old School Baling

When I was out running errands I caught my second cousin Vernie out baling with his son. What struck me is this is the type of baling rig I earned spending money on when I was growing up. Mostly fond memories, some not. Smooth thump-thumping of tractor, diesel exhaust smell (not bad, it grows on you) clanking and banging of the baler, dust, swaying stance on wagon. Then, if it's alfalfa, a sweet smell (and HEAVY bales). Most baling today is the large round bales. More mechanical - less human labor. I chatted with them. They still cut the square bales because horse owners like them. They can feed them out easier. And horse people pay well. They're used to spending mass hordes of money . . . they own a horse. I asked to snap a picture and went on my way. Decided to try a WC paper sketch rather than my usual Moleskine sketch journal, w/pencil, Pitt pen, WC pencils and color pencils.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Long Weekend in Ely

The week before the July 4 holiday Wilma and I took a 4-day weekend to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota (OK, it's a little crazy driving 746 miles for two night in a cabin, but I'd do it again). Had an offer we couldn't pass up to visit friends who were up there for a longer stay. I've been up there a couple times for canoe trips but Wilma hasn't yet. Good chance to show her what this beautiful country is like. Ely (pronounced e-lee, for anyone who cares) has just over 5200 people and is a tourism town today. In recent times it was big in steel, and it's in transition. The transition hasn't been easy. They call themselves the "end of the road" because of their closeness to Canada, separated by a wilderness of lakes, streams and forest. Big things are canoeing/fishing in summer and snowmobile/dogsleds/cross country skiing in winter.

It's a neat town. The outdoor supply stores are serious and it looks like they are all individually owned (no chains). Outfitters. Wide assortment of stores. Great restaurants. Their radio channel, FM 94.5, WELY, is public radio that plays an eclectic selection of music(?), has local commercials(?), and sets a mood for the place. It has an Internet stream at, along with the other radio station at (blues, jazz and eclectic). Both cover local issues and you get a real feel for the town. I listen some at work on my PC.

As a coffee addict I love their Front Porch Coffee. The weather is much cooler than Kansas. Lakes are clear and plentiful. A canoe on your car roof is considered normal. Company was great. What more is there?

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Some Kind of Wild Flower

I've been working on assignments for Kate's class. When I only use a brush, it's not pretty, but I'm learning. This is one of the assignments and I could use a pen. This is my first watercolor wash, too. Just learned what that was last week.

The back half of our property is a prairie hay field and always has been. There are three or four types of wild flowers that come up every year. This is one of them. I'll need to do some research to see what they all are. Probably will need to sketch all of them over time. It's addictive. The more you learn, the more you want to learn. Maybe I should have just been a couch potato.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Dad's PBJ Sandwich

Decided to take a night off my homework for Kate's Watercolor Pencil class and do a regular journal entry here. This started as a challenge in another journal group I'm in (LoveThisJournal) but I wanted to share it with my bloodline, some of whom follow my blog. I was a teenager before I learned that everyone doesn't eat this sandwich. I thought it was a standard. Then I was perplexed that most people, when learning what's in the sandwich, actually found it disgusting. Go figure!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Who's Winning?

The weekend started off rather routine. But then I found where the wood bees have been chewing up our deck. They've been flying around lately, but I never saw them land anywhere. I went into attack mode! I didn't say smart mode. Limited revenge, but a little research and some shopping around and I have a game plan to continue this war on a more thought-out basis with poison. Then, Sunday night, I had more critter problems. This time it turned out better for all involved. If you remember, in my April 22, 2008 post, I had another vole and I drew my approach to removing them from the Tiger Pit (basement egress window well). Those little buggers are fast, and really cute. Somebody needs to run a psychological profile on a vole. This one, too, had quite an attitude. Not like the timid mouse. Now I just need to get the wood bees under control.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Last One In

We forced ourselves to make reservations this year for Memorial Day to start camping. Always comes too soon, but if you don't make plans, things don't happen. The mud daubers were at it again (see last Sept.7 "Camping Time"), causing mischief and mayhem with their nests. Very enjoyable time, though. Forgot salt, pepper, cinnamon, bug spray, and forgot to check charcoal (but we had enough). Thought we had water and electric services but only had electric (had half tank freshwater and it was enough). Not bad for first camp of the year. But we got labeled as "Last one in".

PS: I'm taking Kate Johnson's Watercolor Pencil class for the next 6-8 weeks so my posts here will be less frequent. But they'll continue.

Friday, May 15, 2009

More Business Travel

Spent a couple days in Tulsa on business, in the downtown area. They were getting ready for their MayFest celebration, but it wasn't going yet. From a travelers perspective, downtown is dead after 5 p.m. I walked around for supper and found nothing. Not many people, few cars. So I walked back to the hotel to eat. The misty overcast funk didn't inspire me to sketch anything, either. On the drive home, though, I found a little oasis in Chanute, KS. I love small towns that are putting some effort into staying viable. Their downtown development efforts were visible. Made a nice place for a supper break . . . and a sketch. For dessert I had their yogurt shake (Tornado) with crushed Captain Crunch cereal. New combo to me. Mmmm! They even have a web presence at I sketched as some storms blew by, then headed home.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Garage Shopping

It's not every day you can go garage shopping instead of garage sale shopping. In a couple years we'd like to have one built. Time to get up to speed on what the options are and how much we need to budget for. A local dealer is based in a small town 20 miles north of here. I've wanted to spend an afternoon in the town, anyway. Holton has the traditional town square in the middle with retailers around it. A few places to eat. A quilt shop for Wilma. My only regret is that they DID have a nice coffee shop. Not anymore. We ate lunch there, too. We like local non-chain restaurants, where the locals eat and talk to each other. This place didn't disappoint us, either.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Just One More

I make no apologies . . . I'm an outdoor gear nut. A recent mail order sale, mixed with an already fairly new tent being too small for all needs, caused me to buy another tent. They are my little castle in the wild. A touch of security that really isn't that secure. But I think this one will do the trick. We'll see. It can hold my duffle bag and my banjo along with me, so that makes it close to perfect already. I set it up in the living room to check it out and decided to do my first sketch of it before I took it down.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Gardener's View

This post is for Wilma. I'm not the green thumb . . . she is. I enable her hobby, and gladly. That means roto-tilling and eating, and maybe some help picking and processing. I like to watch the whole process. We had some weather problems yesterday. As a result, I was out this afternoon, sitting on a 5-gallon bucket, sketching the withered remains of a tomato plant while another storm was blowing in over my head. When it started raining again, I came in to finish the sketching as it stormed outside. Hook cloud seen just southwest and headed for here, but will probably miss us. Needed to wait for the lightning to move on to upload this blog. And through the process I learn something from Wilma's perspective . . . a gardener's view.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

First Crop

Love this time of year. The air warms up, rain storms begin, everything greens up. Our first produce this year is the asparagus and it's growing well. Wilma has been picking enough this week that we can freeze some for later, too. Rhubarb won't be far behind.

We had our first tornado watch and warning this afternoon. Tonganoxie, northeast of here, had one touch down. Kansas Speedway had to shut down the NASCAR truck race and had a few vehicles blown over and farm building damaged. It begins. Wilma just planted tomatoes (grown from seeds inside over several weeks), tomatillos, peppers, cabbage, etc. Sad to say the rain, wind and hail did a lot of damage. We'll know more when it dries out some.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Killin' Weeds

I can't help it there's been a lot of stuff to sketch lately. It's been a dry spell lately, but I figure I sketch when I see stuff, and I cool it when I don't. We finally had a calm dry evening so the wife and I jumped at the chance to spread weed killer for the dandelions. It's an annual ritual. I question the results, but we have piece of mind knowing that we did all we could to keep the weeds under control. Done 'till next year.