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SitRep

Christ I haven’t done one of these in a long, long time. Let’s do this thing.

We got a dog. A “Whoodle” (a cross between a Wheaten Terrier and a “Moyen” Poodle). She’s amazing and wonderful and a terror.

No goats yet. The garden and the dog and the transition back to in-person school and work were enough of a change that adding a pile of farm animals to the mix seemed a bit much. Still on the long-term plans, but need to do a shed and pasture fencing and whatnot first.

New garden was good- with more improvements to come. Larger, better use of compost and water, and more variety still. Corn! Herbs! More flowers! More fruit trees! Berries!

“New” bike is excellent. Walt was a pleasure to work with during a very difficult time, and he built a bike that was everything I could ask for. It was built for the type of riding I like, and boy does it excel at that. I’m still learning how to really exploit what it can do on the trail, but I’m also trying to shift to riding in flats on that bike.

I’ve been spending more time listening to music during work, and that means starting to spend time paying attention to the both the music I have and how I listen to that music. Short version: I’m going through my records and I have record players out again.

Gardens.

Alright. Let’s start at the beginning.

Shortly after the lockdown happened, we started trying to spend more and more time outside as a family. We can add to that the initial food-instability we were feeling, and before I knew it my better 3/4 bought a garden-in-a-bag off Amazon. A mylar envelop showed up full of tiny bags of seeds- labeled, sort of. They said things like “Pumpkin” and “Tomato” without any information about type or needs. Ok.

So: We knocked together 3 4′ x 4′ raised beds, filled them mostly from our compost/yard waste pile, and jammed the seeds in. A bit of watering and off we went.

The results were… crazy. Nearly everything came up (minus the Chives and most of the Basil), and we had huge yields. Arugula, lettuces (red, romaine, and butter), peas, broccoli, cauliflower, cucumbers, red cabbage, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, jalapeños, banana peppers,  cayenne peppers, bell peppers, carrots, watermelons, cantaloup, radishes, and pumpkin all came up. And we got results from everything except the brassicas- the cabbage moths got those. All that from three tiny raised beds. Oh, and when we found some sprouted onions and potatoes in the pantry, we planted those, too. And they grew (the onions eventually went into a pot roast we made).

Besides the food, the time in the garden was very good for all our health. There was always something to putter with- weeding, picking, spotting new growth, and watering. It was relaxing and it was outside. It was amazing. It looked and smelled beautiful.

On the heals of that success, we’re ramping up for next year. Here’s the current plan:

  1. New seeds. We’ve bought seeds from a serious supplier, and we’ve picked some stuff we’re really excited to grow. Hopefully better varieties than last year. Plus we’re planning more onions, potatoes, and we’re planting an apple tree too. At least. Maybe a kiwi or fig tree, too.
  2. More beds. We’re upgrading to 6 4′ x 8′ beds. And we’re keeping the original three small beds as an “experimental” area. There are some allium bulbs planted there already, for example. Also, I’m going to rip up 50% of our large front yard. That’ll get seeded with a bunch of native wildflowers and be the space for the pumpkin plants (and maybe the watermelon) to run rampant.
  3. Much earlier indoor seeding for some plants. Tomato, melons, pumpkins, and peppers will all get started much earlier indoors under grow lights. We ran out of season before we got full yields, and this should help with that a lot.
  4. Planting flowers as well- to hopefully attract more pollinators and spice up the joint a little, too.

We’ll see, I suppose, if all these plans work out. It’s a lot (the fencing alone is a project), but I’m hoping the eventual relaxation it affords is worth it.

Holy Hell It’s Been a Year

Look, I’m just going to skip over a bunch of the last year because the last thing I need to is to relive this horror-show. It’s been/is bad, people. Real bad. I’ve tried to make some amount of lemonade out of this truckload of rotten lemons. It’s been hard.

A couple of highlights:

  1. The gravel bike is done- minus maintenance. Tubeless tires, a new Chris King headset, lower gears and a new crank (46/29 chainrings!), and so on. It’s such a fun bike to ride, and I’m super happy I took the time to really build this thing out. I still have a tendency to take it on overly-technical trails, but let’s be honest: I was going to do that on any gravel bike.
  2. I finally sourced a new handlebar and stem combo for my road bike. I needed to shorten the reach and raise the bars a bit (from a hyper-aggressive fit) to ease my aching back. It’ll be the first change I’ve made to that bike in ~20 years (besides consumables).
  3. I ordered a new mountain bike. Fully custom/bespoke, it’s a Waltworks steel hardtail. Custom sizing, custom geometry, custom everything. I’ve built a number of custom bikes over the years- and while I’ve been constrained by budget before, I’ve never been so constrained by availability. Sourcing parts was really difficult on this one. I’m still building it- wheels are backordered and the drivetrain is en-route, but the frame/fork and some parts are here.
  4. We made a makeshift garden last spring that was a massive success- we grew more things in a tiny space with more success than I’d ever imagine. Heck, we grew watermelons and cantaloupes and pumpkins and peppers and greens and all manner of things. So: we’re quintupling the garden size for next year- and we’re getting better seeds and starting things earlier and and and. Pretty excited here. The calming effect of hanging out in the garden cannot be overstated- it’s been a massive benefit for us all.
  5. We’re likely doing a few goats this spring. There are a lot of reasons, and it really deserves it’s own post, so I’ll do that as we get closer. Likewise the garden, really.
  6. More hiking. We’ve been pushing to get outside as often as we can- and walking in the woods has really helped the whole crew here manage some of the stress. We’re looking to keep doing this all through the winter.

SitRep/Ongoing/Research

Here’s where things stand, currently:

The gravel bike has seen some work- it has “new” wheels (with ceramic rim sidewalls- next best thing to disc brakes!), a “new” cassette (11-32, for more hill-climbing low end), re-fitted fenders (which currently need a new adjustment, give new wheels and tires), and a new stem and bars. Stem is 10mm shorter and 40mm taller, bars are 40mm wider (at the hoods, more so in the drops). HUGE change to the nature of the bike- it feels a lot more balanced and capable. It needs a “new” rear derailleur installed to really make use of that 32t cog, but it’s in the parts bin already.

I’ve been sewing a bit again. The gravel bike will likely get a front rack/basket combo for longer rides (to better keep weight off my back/out of my jersey pockets), so I needed a basket bag. Sure, there are loads of people that make really nice well thought out bags for just this sort of thing. But why buy one of those when you can hack together a mediocre version yourself? I’m currently on a second prototype- and it’s not too bad. Simple, mind you. But not too bad.

Iv’e also started working on a pattern to sew bike caps. I’ve always liked these, thought they seem to have gotten somewhat harder to find these days. I couldn’t find a pattern I liked, so I made my own based on some measurements from a cap I’d bought. The first draft surprisingly came out wearable (thought there’s obviously still lots of room for improvement). I’m super excited about these for some reason.

House-bike infrastructure needs some work. I’ve added some bikes and tools to the fleet recently, and I’ve not updated storage or workspace to take that into account. The garage, especially, needs some love to really be workable as a space.

I’m working on a custom yearly reference book for myself. I’ve toyed with this idea for a long time- and I’ve made analog attempts before, but I think I’ve finally settled on form. I’ve had some success in the past using POD services to output one-off books for myself. That’s been collections, custom texts, portfolios and whatnot, but I’m working on what feels like a cross between a photo book and a commonplace book. I’m likely going to use Blurb to print a copy or two (not for resale!), and then I’ll start compiling next year’s copy. It’ll be full of reference that I’ve created/aggregated/compiled during a given year, and it’ll function as a research time capsule. Pretty excited about this one.

Update and Sitrep

Let’s see where things stand.

We did our first big trip with the family out west this summer to the Tetons, Dinosaur National Monument, and Yellowstone. I was initially worried about crowds at Yellowstone, but our trip was excellent. A totally, unmitigated success.

There are several new projects at work to stand up- two new Master’s programs, several smaller grants & stand alones, and a slightly higher degree of support for some existing programs (some instructor turn over and whatnot).

Bike projects about- I’m starting the long-term prep for a potential go at the D2R2 ride in August 2020. I’m currently considering the 100k option (which, like all the routes, is mostly unpaved, unmarked, and very hilly). The full-banana is a 180k option, but there’s an ungodly amount of climbing, and I’d rather start somewhat more conservatively on a first attempt. Anyway, that means the gravel bike (which has so far been mostly assembled as a proof-of-concept) will need to be brought up to full-spec. Drivetrain changes are sorted, but fenders, brakes, and rider fit need some ongoing refinement.

I’ve made some progress with the studio- though not as much as I’d like. Summer was, predictably, super busy, and there weren’t as many opportunities to invest large blocks of time as I might have hoped. Still- a bunch of stuff put into storage, some better organization, and I’ve opened up a good amount of floor space. I’m pleased it’s a much more efficient space to create in- that’s a major priority for me- but I think the next phase will further improve it’s function (and aesthetics)

I’ve been teaching myself to braze. Joining metal together is a powerful skill- it allows you to build things that mostly aren’t possible any other way, and brazing is (I think) the lowest cost entry into that world. I’ve brazed aluminum before, but that’s a much lower temperature (and much less strong) process, so I really wanted to get into brass brazing steel. It’s super fun, and I still have loads to learn, but it’s rewarding and maybe even useful.

Updates

I’ve updated the layout of this site- I’ve made the home page of the site static, and I’ve moved the Blog portion to the left side menu.

I’ve been updating my status blog for three months now, every day. Honestly, I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue to do that.

I’m itching for a couple of larger building projects for the studio. The full-sized rack mount, a turntable stand (with aux gear) on casters, some large format art storage, and one or two other smaller bits. It’s so close, and I’d just like to get this phase sorted all the way.

There’s a long-term project I’m spending some time prepping for, too- travel with the family. That means a bunch of gear, so I’ll be busy designing/building/testing some of that in the coming months.

SitRep

Still here.

  • I’ve moved most of my sitrep style posts elsewhere- I couldn’t help but feel they weren’t doing that much help here, and I thought they might be cluttering things up, here. Maybe I’m wrong, but I like the separation regardless.
  • I’ve been working on some custom visual reference books for myself. There are some things I really do prefer analog for, and this is one of those times. Sure, I could have a folder on my computer stashed with all manner of visual notes/inspiration/reference, but… what about when I’m out and about? What about when I want to scribble a note on a picture, stick a flag postit on an image, or otherwise interact with the content? No. I’m laying the would-be-content of those folders out for full color printing. I’ve done a short run 2019 version already, but I’m working on the longer form “timeless” version. They aren’t meant to be precious- these are designed to be used. Not for sale, either.
  • Bike projects are slow right now (what with this being New England and the winter and all). The I’ve got a couple of upgrades/changes to make to some of the bikes, but I’ll save those for another time.
  • Bag development continues. The shoulder bag prototype has seen some heavy use and has suffered muchly. That’s a good thing, here, as it reveals weak spots in design and construction that I can take into account in the eventual re-design and construction of the final product. I’m glad I’ve not rushed this, as I’ve had time to come up with a couple of innovative changes that will make the bag much more functional in my day to day use.

SitRep

Updates, I suppose.

  • I worry my riding season might be over- the weather has been rubbish, I’ve been sick, and there’s been very little time. I’d like to get another ride or two in before the year is over, but… we’ll see.
  • My prototype bag has been in heavy use now for a few weeks- and, oddly enough, it’s holding up (thus far). I still haven’t ordered final fabrics, but that’s ok, as I need (at least) a few more weeks of testing before I’d even think about finalizing. Still, I’m leaning towards the X-Pac V42 for the body of the bag- with something much lighter for the liner.
  • Studio 3.0 has made much progress, strangely. I still need to build the new rack mount cabinet to hold gear, but a lot of organization has been done and things have moved along nicely. Obviously, some odds and ends linger, but I figure I’m 2-3 good efforts away from v3 being finished.
  • I haven’t put out a newsletter in… a while. I’ve had one pretty much done for weeks, but I’ve just not had the… I dunno- energy? to send it out. I don’t know if that means I’m done with sending them (I’ve been putting them out pretty regularly for three years or so now), or if I’m just stretched too thin emotionally to stomach the inevitable unsubscribes that follow (regardless of how good the newsletter is). And yes, I know I shouldn’t take unsubs personally.

 

SitRep

And so.

  • The new prototype bag I’m building has been stuck at a half-done state for a week now- I’ve been waiting for fabric samples and zippers to come. Those showed up yesterday, so it’ll be time to put in the top, zipper, handles, and strap- and start testing this thing. Leaning towards X-Pac for the final bag, but nothing’s set in stone yet.
  • I’m barely riding right now- it’s gotten very wet and pretty cold, so it’s not been too possible to get out much. I hope this isn’t the end of my season, but that’ll depend on what the weather does. I just started debating a group ride this weekend- I’m uncertain about it. I went last year and didn’t have a very good time. I’ll take some of that blame, as I seem to have gotten in the wrong group- but it wasn’t an overly friendly group. We’ll see if I go this year.
  • When I put in my fabric order for my bag, I’m going to get some other cuts as well- new seat rolls (I’ve been running prototypes of these for a season, and it’s time to finalize). It’ll be fun to have some new stashes of high tech fabric kicking around.
  • I’m still shooting/editing/posting lots of videos. I dunno why, really- maybe it’s taking some of the place of writing these updates? Some sort of public record of what I’m up to? Regardless, I’m enjoying thinking about how to tell these (little) stories, and that’s good for my brain.
  • I finally finished setting up my PiHole kit from Adafruit. Seriously: think about getting one. It’s a much better browsing experience.
  • Things will likely get quiet here for a bit (what with the craziness of the holidays and whatnot), but rest assured: I’m still on that grind (is that a thing people still say?).

SitRep

Better late than never.

  • I’ve been putting up YouTube videos much more regularly. I’m doing a variety of topics (bikes, making, literature…), and I’m trying to keep to something of a release schedule. Gotta keep the creativity moving. No idea what my end goal here is.
  • As part of that effort, I’m working on a new bag for commuting. It’ll be a shoulder bag (or a soft briefcase), and I’ve got the basic design sorted. It’s time to build the prototype out of cotton duck cloth (10-12 oz), and we’ll see how the design works. Then I’ll have to build a finished product out of the actual materials (which I still haven’t settled on).
  • My mountain bike continues to evolve- recently, that meant a pair of flat pedals and a dropper seat post, and now I’ve pulled my stem back from 100mm to 60mm. We’ll see- that puts it much more inline with modern bikes (in terms of total reach), but that doesn’t mean I’ll like it.
  • I’ve been recording many/most of my newest videos with external audio- I’m using a lavalier mic run into an iPhone in Voice Memo mode. Honestly? Better than it has any right to be. And since I’m editing in iMovie for simplicity and speed, even syncing two cameras to an audio track isn’t too bad.
  • I kinda want to buy a serger. Maybe.
  • I’m tired.