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    Saturday, June 09, 2012

    The Mechanics of Being Popular

    You probably can't read my badge but it is labelled "SPEAKER". Speaker Yep, I was invited once again to speak at Popular Mechanics Home Safety Show on my experiences preparing my neighbors for hurricane's Rita and Ike. It had doubled in size this year and also spread to New Orleans and Arkansas. However, I only spoke at the Houston show. This year the biggest-name speaker was Mykel Hawke, star of assorted survival shows. I didn't get to hear his presentation but I did get to talk with him afterwards. He's an amazingly wonderful, nice, giving fellow. I was expecting him to be kind of stuck up/Hollywoodish but the man blew me away with his kindness. Sersiously, this guy rocks! MeandHawke The people I really wanted to see were Dr. Bones and Nurse Amy of Doom and Bloom. They have some of the best emergency/preparedness medical advice on the web. DoomandBloom There were all sorts of rescue vehicles on site for people to crawl over, through, and even under. As usual, I liked the boats best. Boat2 Boat Misseswether on a boat! MissesAboard A long day finally over. Entrance It was a good show and next year's should be even bigger. Hopefully I'll get to talk again. If I do I'll be sure to give my camera to someone so there will be pictures! Adventure! Excitement! Gobs of Free Swag!

    Monday, May 28, 2012

    Drag Racing Spring Creek

    It's been almost two years since I had Firefly in the water. After a hard week (plus one easy but LOUD night) I finally decided enough was enough and put Firefly back in the water.

    Approximately 4" of water.
    SpringCreekShallow

    The flow rate was only 59 cfs but I was hoping that was enough to paddle in. It wasn't, except in very rare occasions. Basically, I'd have to rate this as my WORTST ADVENTURE EVER! I'm currently sunburned, my back is a mess, and my legs keep cramping up. Towing my kayak through 11 miles of sand and mud really did a number on me. Most of the time I was in a panic because I had to get to the takeout at Jesse H. Jones before 4:30pm otherwise I'd have to carry Firefly a half-mile down an asphalt trail to get her to the parking lot. Running through quicksand trying to beat the clock while dragging a boat is not fun. Things seemed okay at the launch point at Riley-Fuzzel road. SpringCreek1 Misseswether and the Wethergirls dropped me off and hung out a bit while I secured everything. Misseswether even came down to the water's edge...while wearing her usual high heels! There's an underwater "gully" here that was misleadingly easy to paddle, so it seemed like it'd be a good adventure. Less than 50 yards downstream I hit the first sandbar that I had to drag the kayak over. After that it was paddle one minute, drag three minutes, repeat for 11 miles. A few shots from times I could paddle: SpringCreek2 SpringCreek3 SpringCreek4 Normally it's only an hour's paddle from Riley-Fuzzel to the takeout at Pundt park, but it took me almost two hours of slogging to get to this point. I almost called the girls to come get me but I kept hoping it'd get better. I'm pretty dumb that way. PundtParkLaunch One cool thing that did occur was finding some dodder plant (Cuscuta californica). This parasitic vines is actually edible and it's high beta-carotene content gives it an orange color and makes it taste like carrots. Dodder I also saw this dragon, which was cool. SpringCreekDragon As far as wildlife goes, I found one snapping turtle, assorted other red-ear slider turtles, a bunch of alligator gar, plenty of tadpoles...and had to beat away one water moccasin with my paddle. That freaked me out. It kept coming at the kayak! Eventually I made it to the intersection of Cypress Creek and Spring Creek. For years a huge, white tree trunk stood sentinel at this point. I was afraid hurricane Ike had brought it down like that storm had so many other trees along Spring Creek. I was right, it was gone. This made me sad. No sentinel. SpringCreekCypressCreek Once Cypress creek joins Spring creek the water finally was deep enough to paddle. However I was stiff, sore and late so I couldn't enjoy it. I had to paddle-paddle-paddle as hard as I could to get to the takeout before closing. Paddle-paddle-paddle! SpringCreek5 I made it. As usual there was a family fishing right at the base of the takeout point so I had to try and get between all their fishing lines to land Firefly. They were annoyed with me, I was mad at them. It's not a fishing spot, folks!! Rather than deal with them I dragged the kayak up the hill and waited for the Wethergirls to arrive. Misseswether doesn't like driving my truck, especially not down a tiny trail filled with hikers and bikers. Rescue! The adventure from hell was over! SpringCreek7 For those of you who'd like to copy this trip: SpringCreek6 Adventure! Excitement! Hell!

    Saturday, May 26, 2012

    iPhones destroyed the mosh pit.

    Long time, no see. Sorry about that, I've been insanely busy. Luckily a friend saved me from this life of labor in one of the best ways possible: RAMMSTEIN!! Yeah, the peaceful rhythms of the natural world being calm, but sometimes I need flamethrower-wielding German psychopaths rocking out in a post-apocalyptic industrial wasteland.
    Yes, the concert was in German. It didn't really matter.

     Ready to rock! Of course I had to wear my Zombie Squad t-shirt! Rammstein1
     The show was amazing. I've seen U2, KISS, Neil Young, Stone Temple Pilots, and many other concerts, but these guys (literally) blew all the others away, at least when it came to excess use of pyrotechnics. There were times when I was concerned my cell phone would melt and I was half-way across the arena from them.

     Stage goes BOOM...over and over!! Rammstein7

    Back when I was up in Albany, NY I occasionally would hit the mosh pits of some dive bars with live thrash bands. Those days are long over to me, but I was curious to see current-day moshers. Turns out, there weren't any. Everyone just stood there down in the pit...holding up their cell phones to record the concert.

    See the small lights? iPhones. Lots and lots of expensive iPhones. Rammstein2 Rammstein5

     Most people were in leather and combat boots and politely arranging themselves so as not to block anyone's view. The guy behind me had brought binoculars and was offering them to everyone around him to look through. People were saying "excuse me" as they moved down the row to their seats. Times have changed.
      Rammstein8
    Half-way through the show Rammstein movved to the center of the arena. They tried to get a pretty girl to come up on stage with them but she refused. No matter, they continued to rock like I've never seen rocking before! I lost count of how many encores they did, but it was at least four. After the last one the crowd roared, stomped, and clapped for more but the house lights came one, the amazing show was over. I pulled out my ear plugs. Hey, I wasn't the only person their wearing them! During the show the music was so loud it interfered with my heart beating. It was like repeatedly being punched in the chest, which was really cool.

     Time to go home.
     Rammstein6

    Outside the Toyota Center an old man was playing a sax for pocket change. I stopped and listened for a bit...the juxtaposition of he versus Rammstein was bizarre but somehow it worked, judging from the money in his hat.

    Adventure! Excitement! BOOM!!

    Sunday, April 15, 2012

    Making Butter!

    So, how does the Wetherhold obtain butter?

    They use a six year old, a quart of fresh cream, and a trampoline!
    Butter1

    It took about 15 minutes, but the end result was fantastic!
    Butter2

    As you can see, I'm still up to crazy stuff. Unfortunately I've been too busy to blog about it. A quasi-promotion at work has me working 50+ hours a week plus I've been working out in the evenings after the girls go to bed. I'm up to eight push-ups (if Misseswether is watching)! As I enter deeper into middle-age (hint: birthday real soon) the ratio of food consumed vs. enlargement of my gut keeps tipping farther and father away from my favor. :-(

    I had been teach foraging classes just about every weekend, but I'm cutting that back to just once a month. What good is it to feed others if it denies your family time with you? My backyard needs a lot of attention, too. I'm in the process of removing all the non-edible trees and replacing them with fruit and nut trees. I should have done that ten years ago when I started, but back then I had never hear of permaculture. Oh well, live and learn!

    Adventure! Excitement! Fresh Creamy Goodness!

    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    Lionhearted

    Hail and good tidings! Even with a time machine, I've been too mondo-busy to write up my latest adventures, experiments, and creations. However, said time machine did take us to too wonderful a place to not record...Sherwood Forest in the time of Robin Hood!

    This is the third year of Robin Hood's adventures, but our first time in seeking him. Alas, we never saw the fine scoundrel who spends so much time stealing money from the government and returns it to the people, as we were too busy having fun with whatever we stumbled across in his woodland home.

    For instance, a fox.
    Fox

    The Wethergirls love faire rides, but decided to just do the Big Swing...
    BigSwing

    ...and the Red Maze. They are in there somewhere.
    BigRedMaze

    Me? I love the music and discovered a great, new (to me) gypsy band, VaNa MaZi!
    VaNa_MaZi

    Of course, one of the best reasons to travel through time is for the food. I can very highly recommend the steak & lamb with hummus from the Jerusalem Cafe, while the girls prefer more traditional turkey legs, chicken gumbo in a bread bowl, and a big sausage on a stick.
    Drumstick

    SoupInBreadbowl

    Strewn along the trails were tons of glass "fairy stones" (glass marbles), which were a big hit with my princesses. Kids were encouraged to take a few home with them, though I limited my girls to two each...otherwise they would have taken them all.

    My princesses.
    Princesses

    My Empress.
    Misseswether

    The Seven Sisters sacred circle and location of the evening bonfire.
    7Sisters

    Similar to TRF, there is a free tea party for kids every afternoon. In Sherwood Forest fairies run this party rather than French and it is much more elaborate and entertaining.
    FairyTeaParty1

    FairyDance

    Mambowether and Missewether were THRILLED to discover the royal artist, Dan Marlowe. Rising booth prices drove him out of TRF and into the loving arms of Sherwood Forest. Of course, we had to do another painting under his expert instruction.
    This took a little over an hour, mainly because I kept screwing up the mountains. I still don't think they look right.
    MePainting
    MePainting2
    MiniwetherPainting
    MambowetherPainting
    MissiswetherPainting

    While Miniwether is the best drawer among the Wetherclan, Mambowether is the best painter. She did a majority of the work on this painting, just like last time. This did not satisfy her creative urge and so she also did a spin-art.
    SpinArt1

    Before spinning.
    SpinArt2

    After spinning.
    SpinArt3

    Speaking of spinning (neat segue, eh?) eventually night fell and everyone gathered by the bonfire in the center of the Seven Sisters rocks. From there a parade of fire artists led everyone out of the forest in a wild display of spinning fire!

    Fire1

    Fire2

    Fire3

    It was a perfect day for the faire, partially cloudy with temperatures in the high 60s. It took a little over 2.5 hours to get there from the north side of Houston, but a empty roads, a large pile of bacon & cheese kolaches inside the time machine and beautiful roadside wildflowers outside made for a pleasant drive. Many TRF people, both patrons and entertainers, were there and so we ran into lots of old friends, which added to the pleasure.

    Sherwood Forest Faire has a much purer feel to it when compared to the Texas Renaissance Festival. Sherwood doesn't have bungie jumping or other anachronistic crud to ruin the fantasy and most of the visitors were in garb, which really made it awesome. Food and kid's rides prices were a little higher than TRF, but general shopping prices were the same or even a tad lower in some cases. Admission tickets are much cheaper and better yet, on Sundays tickets are buy one get one free!

    The grounds of Sherwood are spread through beautiful woods of oak and cedar, making it much, much prettier than TRF. In fact, it was by far the prettiest location for a renaissance festival I've ever seen (this includes faires in MN, IL, NY, and multiple TX faires). The only downsides to it (other than only being about 1/3 the size of TRF) were that the parking lot had no lighting (bring a flashlight), most of the merchants were not set up for credit cards (bring cash), and the parking lot was covered with tennis ball sized rocks that made walking through it in the dark somewhat treacherous. Much to my wife's and daughters' pleasure, there were flush potties but no drinking fountains so we couldn't refill our drink bottles and had to keep buying water.

    These minor negatives were VASTLY overwhelmed by the overall wonderfulness of Sherwood Forest Faire. We all had a great time and Mambo decided she liked it even better than TRF, though mostly because to the painting class. I still prefer the bigger selection of weapons, leather, and crafts at TRF, but I have no doubt Sherwood will quickly grow to match that!

    Adventure! Excitement! Faire!

    Sunday, January 15, 2012

    An Easy Day in McKinney Roughs

    Clark and I have a goal of one awesome adventure per month in 2012 and with that requirement we drove a few hours northwest of Houston to McKinney Roughs Nature Park. This park is part of the little-known, publicly-accessible wildernesses of the Lower Colorado River Authority.

    Clark and I left Clark's house in Cypress, Texas at 7am and were signing the McKinny Roughs visitor's logbook a little before 10am. This park has 18 miles of beautiful hiking and multi-use (mainly horseback, no motorized vehicles) trails. Clark and I managed to cover 13 miles of these trails before leaving at 5pm. Here are some of the highlights:

    Visitor's center, classrooms, and dorms.
    VisitorsCenter

    Inside the visitor's center were the usual displays of lizards, snakes, fish and bones.
    exhibits1

    fish

    snake

    A fake Native American lodge. It lacked the inner-sheath of a true lodge.
    lodge

    The trails ran down to the Colorado river and up to assorted bluff overlooking miles of farm and ranch land.

    path1

    Trail

    rocks

    bluff1

    bluff2

    The Colorado river.
    Colorado2

    bluff1

    Cook's Island.
    CooksIsland

    Clark on a bluff.
    ClarkBluff

    Clark at the Colorado river.
    Clark

    Me on the Colorado.
    Me

    A cool tree.
    Tree

    McKinny Roughs is a beautiful place and relatively close to Houston. It wasn't touched by the wildfires which ravaged the nearby Bastrop State Park. Camping did not seem to be allowed in the park but I'm not totally sure on that. Hunting isn't allowed (and we saw some incredible buck deer) so it's a good place to go during hunting season if you are concerned about that sort of thing. The trails did have a lot of change in elevation, I think something like 500-600 feet from river's edge to the higher bluffs and it definitely had Houston flat-land hikers like Clark and I complaining a bit on the longer up-hill runs. We were there on January 2nd and didn't see too many other hikers other than a local hiking meet-up group and 3-4 families near the visitor's center. There were a fair number of ladies riding horseback, though. Hmmm, now that I think of it we didn't see any guys on horseback. Weird.

    Anyway, Clark and I really liked it. If you are bored of the long, flat pine-tree trails around Houston this place is really worth the drive...assuming things don't go completely nutso over in the Middle East causing gas prices to leap up over $5 per gallon though that does seem more and more likely...

    Adventure! Excitement! Women on horseback!!