Monday, November 27, 2006

More on the Amazing Box o' Stuff

There's been a suprisingly large amount of interest in my Amazing Box o' Stuff. People have e-mailed me wanting to know what are it's dimensions, what all is in it, and will I post pictures of me in the nude next to it...

Sometimes the internet can be a very disturbing place.

Okay, no nude shots of me with the box (unless a large amount of money comes my way) but the other requests seemed reasonable. Without further ado, here be the Amazing Box o' Stuff! Click on the pictures to bring up larger views.

Here is the church:
Flat on its back, excluding the feet made of 2"x4"s, it's exterior dimensions are 34.5" long, 17.5" wide and 14.5" deep. It is made out of 3/4" plywood which I sanded and coated witha polyurethane varnish to make it weather resistant. it is held closed by a stainless steel which allows me to lock it while away from the camp. The thick manila rope is used as a handle when carrying the Amazing Box o' Stuff.

Here is its steeple:
Set up right getting ready for action. You can see the outer ("back") shelf in its stored/locked position. It is held closed with an "L" shaped hook. I have no idea how big the shelf is other than being 14" wide.

Open the church and here are the people:
Starting top shelf from left: Hatchet and tent stake mallet hanging from a hook. Behind them is a roll of paper towels. Next to hatchet/mallet are two Plexiglass wine goblets and a stainless steel camp mug. Then comes three heavy-duty plastic 'True-Latch" brand boxes (purchased from Gander Mountain fishing department). The contents of these three boxes will be detailed below. next to the boxes is a large cast iron frying pan wrapped in paper towels.
Lower shelf from left: A large, cast iron grill (hard to see in picture), then 24" marshmallow/hotdog roasting forks, black enamel camp coffee pot containing cylinder of propane, then another cylinder of propane. Just below the propane is a travel mug with lid. Below the the coffee pot and travel mug are an assortment of pots ranging from 1/2 quart up to 6 quarts. Below those pots are two more frying pans, one aluminum and the other blue enamel. A f-qt mixing bowl also stays with the assorted pots but I took it out so you could see the pots better. The pots are very vain and want everyone to have a clear look at them. Silly pots.
Last is the Coleman model 424 duel fuel stove. I also purchased this converter which allows me to use propane in this stove making it a tri-fuel stove. Sweet!

The shelf is 18.5" from the bottom floor of the box giving me about 1" of space between the shelf and the Coleman stove. The shelf is 13" deep on the right side and only 10" on the left. This allows me to store extra long stuff in the box.

The three plastic boxes (sorry, the children's rhyme stopped being funny to me):
Upper left: rope, Stanely "Snake light", assorted lighters, carbiners, trashbags, first aid guide, handles for grill, assorted other useful thingies.
Upper right: Cooking utensils, measuring cups, cutting board, tongs, pot lifters, wine knife, churchkey, and silverware.
Lower: Chain for back shelf, potholders, camp soap, small bottle of bleach, scrubbing pad, more lighters, heavy duty aluminum foil, assorted seasonings, cooking oil, matches and a cookbook.

Back shelf and paper towel holder:
The chain starts on the shelf's right hook, goes up through an "S" hook on the latch, down to the left hook, then under the shelf and through the paper towel tube back to the right hook. I think this is the coolest part of the Amazing Box o' Stuff.

It is much easier to move the Amazing Box o' Stuff if you have two people but I can manage it be myself. Originally I thought the whole thing weighed around 50 lbs. However it turns out it is more like 80+ pounds. Apparently carrying Miniwether for six blocks every night has made me stronger. Sweet!

Okay, that's a detailed look at and in the Amazing Box o' Stuff. Feel free to contact me for more information on it but remember, nude shots will cost you $$$$!

Adventure! Excitment! ABoS!

p.s. I forgot, there is also a large pair of leather "fireplace" gloves in th Amazing Box o' Stuff. I also plan on adding a Coleman propane lantern and a small shovel.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

11 miles in my backyard.

It is good to have one's backyard touch the borderlands. The ability to step out and leave behind polite society keeps me sane (or at least helps me fake sanity).

So, Black Friday found Clark and I spending the day hiking in the borderlands. We'd walk for a while then spot a sweet sand bar just begging for a small campfire. Off would come the backpacks, out would come some snacks and a way to make requested fire. After 30-40 minutes of sniffing woodsmoke and searching for petrified wood we'd pack up and head off again.

Fire therapy.

More fire therapy.

Boiling water with woodgas.

We spent seven hours out there and walked over 11 miles according to my GPS unit. But the really great thing was we never got farther than two miles away from my house. We've been exploring this area for almost three years now and have yet to tread on a majority of the land or follow the same path. The Spring Creek borderlands stretch for miles in each direction uninhabited thanks to periodic flooding. It is the most amazingly wonderful backyard a person could have within 100 miles of Houston.

Our GPS track.

Spring Creek

All along the banks of Spring Creek were strange tracks like something dragged itself through the sand.
We are assuming turtles made the tracks though we have seen alligators along here. The tracks were usually 6"-12" across and would come out of the water, cross the sand and disappear into the woods.

Spring Creek is occasionaly turbulated by outcroppings of clay. These clay deposits are fairly hard but get carved into interesting features. They also allow for fairly dry crossings of the creek when it is running low.
Clay Clark

Back when we did the First Descent of Spring Creek we portaged Seeker's Fate over stuff like this. Walking under it is much easier.

We ended our walk at the Montgomery County Preserve. Having bushwacked for seven hours, we were tired. Rather than turn around and walk the two miles home we gave Clark's wife a call. A few minutes later we were driving home. A few minutes after that I fell asleep on Clark's couch. I just meant to sit for a bit. Walking the block to my house I caught Mini- and Misseswether as they made a drop stop from their Black Friday shopping excursions. Silly girls! Malls instead of sandbars? That's just plum insane.

Adventure! Excitement! Exploration!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Thank you George Washington Carver.

Ah, Thanksgiving. Is there any better holiday (excluding Halloween)? All the warm fuzzy cheer of Christmas, all the gluttony of every other holiday rolled into one. And to top it all off the thrill of cooking methods that can burn down your house!! Yep, it was time to fry a turkey!

I suppose I could be a bit flip and say don't try this at home, but really, who else's home would they let you. Actually in my case it was the home of my good beer-buddy, 3BTh. We went to grad school together ten years ago and by a strange twist of fate she and her family ended up moving down here about eight months ago.

The local bartenders have yet to stop celebrating this turn of events.

But back to the turkey. It was a beautiful 18-lb bird. The day before I had injected it all over with a mixture of butter, cajun spices and Dr. Pepper. Oh my dat's some good stuff!! We were also bringing a veggie plate and venison sausage to 3BTh's house, she was supplying everything else and had been cooking for days. It was going to be just like the feasts we used to have in grad school except that there'd actually be food at this one.

I got up early Thanksgiving morning to load the Honda. Proper turkey frying takes a lot of gear. I had just finished loading everything up when Misseswether called me upstairs to see Miniwether. More precisely, to see the flaming rash which had engulfed Miniwether's body.
This was not good. It really looked like chicken pox.

I called 3BTH and explained what was going on and that Misses/Mini-wether wouldn't be coming. I was a bit startled when she said she definately wanted Miniwether over. If it was chickenpox she wanted her young kids to get infected too.

Um, okay. Party was a go!

Enter GWC, godfather of all things peanuty. To do a turkey up right (or waffle-batter-soaked Twinkies!) you need a bunch of peanut oil heated up to about 400F. You slowly lower the bird into the hot oil (turn the flame off first!) then let it soak there for 3 minutes per pound. The oil will cool a bit when you put the bird in so adjust the flame to kept the oil at 350 during cooking. The higher intial temp sears the surface of the bird locking in the juices (aka Dr. Pepper) but you don't want it that hot to cook the whole turkey.

Behold it's pale uncookedness.

One hour later, the perfect bird.

It just doesn't get much better than this.

p.s. It turns out the rash wasn't chicken pox. Our baby-doc thinks it's either some minor virus or maybe an allergic reaction.

Adventure! Excitment! Boiling oil!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Petrified wood doesn't burn.

The recent torrential rains here in Houston really churned up the local streams and rivers. The waters have receeded quite a bit so that means fossil hunting on gravel bars! Saturday was stunningly beautiful so Clark and I took Miniwether and the Clarkettes down to Panther Creek. All afternoon we played along the water collecting pretty rocks, digging in the sand, tossing sticks in the water and generally having a great time doing nothing productive. Paradise! We came home with our pockets full of petrified wood but no other fossils. I'm still hoping to find a nice shark's tooth there someday.

Saturday night I sent the family to bed then headed to the backyard for some fire therapy. Dancing flames, cedar smoke, and nine hours of Celtic music (mp3 players are THE BEST!!) makes for a wonderfully blissful night. I brought my sleeping bag and slept next to the fire. The actual plans was to watch the Leonids meteor shower but everything was so peaceful that I drifted off. I woke up around 1am but a fog had formed blocking out the stars.

I went back to sleep.

Adventure! Excitement! Boring for you, awesome for me!

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Kids and monsters

For some reason Miniwether has been pretending to be frightend a lot lately. A partial list of things she said scared her:
1. The green light on a smoke detector
2. a sunbeam
3. a booger (somewhat understandable, it was a very gross booger)
4. the smell of me cooking lunch
5. the letter "d"

On the other hand, here is some things that recently excited her:
1. the really big toad she caught.
2. slugs
3. a cow
4. a fake bleeding skull
5. anywhere dark

I don't understand it.

However, this topic did make a good excuse to bring up a cool book:
Matey and the Bogeyman!
I think the cover alone makes it worthwhile.

Adventure! Ecitement! Brave girl!

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Amazing Box o' Stuff

It was another on of those weekends NOT spent adventuring. True, Miniwether and I did get out to Mercer Arboretum & Botanical Gardens but while beautiful, it's not really an adventure to me. Miniwether had a different opinion of the morning and would shout out, "Hey look! They are adventurers just like us!". That got us a lot of strange looks but I got used to such looks decades ago. I've been an adventurer for a long, long time.

Adventure Girl!

The little spare time I had this weekend was spent finishing up my Amazing Box o' Stuff. Okay, this consisted of adding a small latch to the back/bottom shelf to keep it in place when the Amazing Box o' Stuf is sitting down. I also took these pictures of it so you can see just why it's called the Amazing Box o' Stuff.

Closed, looking fairly ordinary.
The rope works as a handle and it's also useful for knocking stuff out of trees like frisbees, apples or really annoying squirrels.

The Amazing Box o' Stuff starts showing why it is so named when you set it up on one end.
Not the shelf folded and latched down. The latch is very small.

And now, the amazing parts!
The side flips up and over to become a work surface, the shelf flips down to become, well, a shelf but with the added abillity to hang a roll of paper towels from it.

A view of the inside while still packed.
It holds my Colman tri-fuel stove, assorted pots, pans, cooking utensils, and useful other things (hatchet, fire-gloves, tent-stake mallet, flashlights, grill, etc...)

And even when completely packed I can easily lift it and carry it 10-20 feet.

Adventure! Excitement! Amazing Box o' Stuff!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Spending time in 1830 A.D.

As cool as it is to strap on a sword and pop back to the 16th century, there's something to be said about time periods after the invention of soap. So, this weekend Miniwether and I made the jump back to the 1800's Texas and spent the day with some Texians blacksmithing, woodworking, cooking, weaving, playing, shooting and making music.

Miniwether also got to ride a cow.

Daddy got to join her on the hayride.

The herd of tortises was very impresive.
It's a little known fact that early settlers to Texas used long teams of desert tortises to pull their wagons across the harsh Texas terrain. This was the basis for the famous Texas joke:
Texan: My ranch is so big that if I leave right after breakfast the sun will be down before I reach the end of my driveway!
Non-Texan: Yeah, I used to drive a Ford truck, too.

You see, the original joke went:
Texian: My ranch is so big that if I leave right after breakfast the sun will be down before I reach the edge!
Non-Texian: Still using tortises to pull the wagon, eh?

That's much funnier.

I learned a lot of useful tips to help me in camping or if we are ever knocked back to a non-electrified society. For instance, don't even bother trying to build a loom. These things were the 1800's version of Transformers.

Another tip came from the soapmaker. Apparently here in the 21st century lye has been quietly removed from the market. Along with making soap lye is a key ingrediant in making meth. Doesn't that just suck?

Pobably the best tip came from a booklet on homesteading I picked up there. It turns out that if one is using corncobs as toilet paper you must first soak them in water for several days. Alas, better late than never for that peice of information!

And now for my own "Make your life easier" tip of the week. If it's chilly outside and you want a warm meal but won't have the resources to cook/buy one while out and about try Thermos cooking! Simply pour a package of "just add boiling water" food into a wide-mouth thermos (preferable steel-lined rather than glass, it's tougher), add boiling water, seal it up and forget about it until you are ready to take the chill off a chilly day. Open the thermos, scoop out the food and enjoy!

Thursday, November 02, 2006


Be still my beating heart, China has sent our adoption referral!! "Microwether" is currently 9 months old and living in an orphange in Guangdong Province, China. She's a big, healthy baby girl who measured in at 16.8 lbs and 26 inches at 6 months (her last check-up).

I won't be posting any pictures of her on this blog until she legally becomes our daughter. This will happen when we travel to China to get her. However, I will e-mail her pictures to those who ask. Trust me though, if you can wait two months(!) you'll see TONS of pictures of her.

China!! China!! China!!

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

40% success rate!!

Girl: I love this house.
Candyman: So do I. That's why I killed the owner and took it.
Girl: Oh...

-Me to a trick-or-treater.

Ah, Halloween. It's like putting Christmas and Easter in a box then smashing into it with a car! What's not to love?

As usual, my goal was to have the scariest house in the neighborhood and it seems I was more successful than ever. Counting out the window and comparing notes with my neighbors it seems 40% of the kids refused to come up to house. One kid made it all the way on to the porch before chickening out and running back to his parents so I don't count him as a skipper. Several groups sent just the oldest/bravest kid up to get candy for everyone and in other cases parents dragged their screaming kids to the door. Gee, nice parenting technique there, eh? Still it warms my heart when people tell me they look forward to our house every year. They get extra candy!

So, to get a taste here are the pictures. The first ones are pretty much just for my friends and family in far off places. After the cute stuff is out of the way to uglies will follow...

Carving pumpkins.


Missewether only does cute, even on Halloween. She carved our family on the pumpkin (which is better than carving pumpkins on her family, eh?) You can't see it, but a long, thin line connects the family of three to a heart and then the line continues to the back of the pumpkin to a second small child.

Fairies ready to go.

Again, too much sugar.

The Clarkettes and Miniwether.

And now, let's get scary!

At Halloween I replace the inside lights with green lights to give the house that other-world glow.

The front door.
You can't see the strobe lights, skulls impaled on a dead tree, the demon in another tree, the black tentcles that reach out for people, the severed hand, the brain in a basket or the zombie.

So, here's the zombie. He's not wearing pants.

Basket o' bones!

Why playing in a large plastic bag is a bad idea.

Big Ugly, 7 feet of skull, claws and guaze!

And yet at bedtime Miniwether gives me a kiss and heads to bed for sweet dreams.

Bones! Blood! Screams!

p.s. Still no word from China.