Alpaca farm

Daughter Xenia and I went to an alpaca farm today. Here are some of the pictures:



The two pictures below were taken at the same time. The one on the left by Xenia and the one on the right by me:

They have a variety of colors and some enjoy having their neck scratched (neck scratch photo by Xenia):

They have some very odd (to me) toes:

They are raised primarily for their fiber. It has some interesting characteristics (from Wikipedia):

Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.

Alpaca fleece is a lustrous and silky natural fiber. While similar to sheep’s wool, it is warmer, not prickly, and bears no lanolin, which makes it hypoallergenic. Without lanolin, it does not repel water. It is also soft and luxurious. In physical structure, alpaca fiber is somewhat akin to hair, being very glossy. The preparing, carding, spinning, weaving and finishing process of alpaca is very similar to the process used for wool. Alpaca fiber is also flame-resistant, and meets the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s standards.

Flame-resistant? Wow.

We saw people carding, spinning, and weaving the fiber:

Alpacas have been domesticated for thousands of years and I found them to be far more interesting than I expected.

Core sand

In restoring a couple of late nineteenth century cider mills, I’ve had to reproduce a number of iron castings. To produce a hollow space, or a flange, as part of a casting, a hardened sand “core” is placed inside the mold cavity.

A mold that uses one or more cores is a “core mold” and the form used to produce the core is a “core box”. There are different types of cores, but the sodium silicate or “water glass” core sands were very common at one time, and are still used. You just need a source of CO2 to harden the sand, and you see my make-shift CO2 generator in the background. It uses soda and vinegar. It’s what I had on-hand.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

Core boxes, cores and a makeshift CO2 generator.

The sand is mixed with about six percent by weight of sodium silicate, which acts as a binder. That makes a slightly “wet” sand that can be packed into the core box. Carbon dioxide is then pushed through the sand under pressure, it reacts with the sodium silicate and hardens it in seconds, resulting in what you might call a form of concrete. The now rigid core is placed in the sand mold, the mold is closed and the hot iron poured in. Once it cools the new part is shaken out of the sand, and the cores are readily broken out from inside the part.

In this case I’m making new bearings to support one of the rollers in the mill’s grinder box. I had a new restoration up and running last season, only to break that bearing because I’m an idiot and used an oak stick as a stomper to push some apples down into the machine. Oak; bad. It jammed the roller and the running, 40 pound flywheel popped the bearing in two. POW! We’ll see in a few days whether this new bearing works out.

Foundry is awesome.

Shaggy Mane!

Now that we’ve gotten a little rain, the wild mushrooms are coming out in force. Shaggy Manes aren’t common at my place, but they’re common enough you might want to know about them. They’re another edible mushroom likely to be found on laws and other locations similar to the habitat for the Meadow Mushrooms we’ve been using, or on roadsides in the back country. It’s called the Shaggy Mane for obvious reason. I found this one, solitary, on my lawn about fifteen yards from a nice fruiting of Meadow Mushrooms this afternoon. You’ll find them singularly, or in small groups.

This one is fairly small. They can be twice that size. Note the tall cap hanging down from its attachment point at the top inside of the cap, and the color fringe on the gills, which turn darker with age, and eventually melt into a black liquid. These are fragile mushrooms.

Still edible, but they're better before the cap has started to turn black at the bottom.

Still edible, but they’re better before the cap has started to turn black at the bottom.

Eventually the cap will turn into a black goo, so use them up right away.

Eventually the cap will turn into a black goo, so use them up right away.

They’re not as good eating as the Meadow Mushrooms, but they’re more than OK, and they’re easy to identify. They don’t store well, so use them up in a day or two. Don’t over-cook or else they become watery.

See if you can find some. They’re not as easy to spot because of their camouflage-like appearance among the fall leaves. Here’s some more information.


There was a bank robbery here in Moscow, ID this afternoon. Somedude with a big bushy black wig, black-face makeup and loose clothing walked out with an undisclosed about of cash and got away. No story at all on how he got someone at the bank to hand over the cash, as it is reported as unknown whether was armed.

I believe it would be good bank policy to immediately open fire on anyone who attempts to rob the place, no questions asked, but that’s just me.

Update to car burglary


The insurance company called and resolved the details of the claim. I should be getting my compensation any day now. Most of my replacement items are in hand already.


The responding officer replied to my email asking if the guy the caught on Thursday was involved in my case:

Hi Joe,

I believe the guys caught were not involved in your prowl and I have not heard of any of your property popping up yet but hopefully soon.

Side note:

Ry pointed out the stupidity of attempting to evade a police dog close on your tail:


Anyone who flees on foot when the cops have a dog is a god damned moron.

At that point, you can either go to prison, or go to the hospital and then go to prison. You’re not going to outrun any German Shepherd, and chasing and biting people is literally this specific dog’s favorite thing. Motherfucker loves to bite people. He’s probably spent most of his life, since he was a puppy, being trained to chase and bite motherfuckers. This shit is like the Super Bowl and Grad night all rolled together for him.


He does that every time, and his handler pretty much NEVER lets him do his thing. And now, this time, miraculously, he has. He’s let go of the harness, and now this majestic beast is at last fulfilling his purpose as a living missile, and my god is he ever thrilled about it.

And you, with your stumpy little human legs, overabundance of slow twitch muscle fibers, and soft, delicate skin, are going to try to run from this 80 lb mass of muscle and enthusiasm with a bear trap on the end? Good luck, you stupid, stupid asshole. I’ll see you in the Timothy Treadwell Memorial Ward for People Who Predictably Had Their Shit Ruined by Large Predators. Shine on, you idiotic diamond.

I laughed so hard my stomach hurt and there were tears running down my face. But maybe that is because for now I have a “special place” in my heart for people who steal things from cars.

I hope these are the guys

About two weeks ago my car was burgled.

Yesterday the police caught someone that could have been involved (see also the police news release):

One of two alleged burglars attempting to rob a home on 123rd Avenue N.E. was tracked down and apprehended by one of the Bellevue Police’s K-9 units early Thursday morning.

The suspect, a 25-year-old Bellevue resident, later admitted to committing a dozen different vehicle prowls in the area overnight.

After the suspect refused to surrender, Roc was sent in to apprehend him. The man was later treated for a dog bite received during his arrest.

A dozen in one night! I look forward the police finding the storage unit or wherever they have been stashing the stuff. There were some things I discovered missing after I sent in the insurance claim and the police report. Maybe I will get those back.

This is Roc:


I’d like to give Roc a doggy treat to thank him for chewing on the guy.

My car was burgled

I went out to the car (Ford Escape) to go to work this morning and noticed stuff from the console scattered all over the seats, the doors ajar, and a plastic bin I keep “car food” in on the ground behind the car. A quick check in back verified I had lost a bunch of stuff.

I called the police. They said someone would be there within an hour, I sent an email to work, and I sat down to wait.

The police officer was really nice and made a report of the things I had lost and was able to obtain a fingerprint off of the lift gate. It could be mine but there is a chance it was the bad guy. I went to work and was looking at the stuff on the seat. There were several things made of smooth plastic and metal that had been removed from the console. I sent the officer a email asking if he would like to attempt finding fingerprints on those items too. He came to the parking garage where I work and spent another 45 minutes or so with his fingerprint brush and making various things black with the dust. He found another print and took it for his report as well.

He told me that there were three car prowls in my neighborhood last night and eight a short distance away the night before. My hope is that with someone this active they will make a mistake or two and get caught soon. I’m been doing some things to increase the odds of a mistake leading to their apprehension. I want something or someone to trip them up.

My losses include:

There were some other things as well that brings the total loss up to about $1800. I didn’t realize how much stuff I kept in there. The back of the Escape was completely covered with a tarp too.

They didn’t break any windows but it’s possible it wasn’t locked. I always lock it when I leave but from my bedroom with my key in my pocket the remote key will sometimes lock (or unlock) the car when I bend over.

Miscellaneous stuff: The cop was wearing the same Surefire flashlight holster and a nearly identical flashlight to mine. He is part of the bomb squad and we talked about explosives some. I shot at the same match as someone he knows in his department a couple weeks ago in Marysville.

Sasquan post, obligatory

It’s been an interesting week and a half. School starts this Tuesday, but I didn’t have a job lined up yet as of ten days ago (and the spousal unit was getting worried about that fact). The septic system had a pump die, needing replacement. And Sasquan, the World Science Fiction Convention that was being held in Spokane this year was fast approaching. The latter normally wouldn’t mean much, except that this year I had been nominated for the John W. Campbell award for best new SF writer, and my publisher had encouraged me to go. Continue reading

Bainbridge Island Swamp Lake

Last Sunday Barb and I went for a hike on Bainbridge Island. We were meeting friends from the peninsula and as this is about halfway between our homes and them liking the outdoors as much as we did we decided to go on a short hike through the woods to Gazzam Lake.

We planned to leave at 8:30 AM to catch the 9:35 ferry but we were ready to go at 8:20 and left early. We arrived at the ferry dock, paid for our ticket, and were told we were going to be on the 8:45 ferry. Essentially we arrived just a few minutes before it was scheduled to leave and just had to drive onto the ferry and it took off. Excellent timing! The only problem was we were now 50 minutes early to meet our friends.

Continue reading

Grandson Bryce’s first hike in the woods

Since his parents don’t really care for hiking in the woods Barb and I took it upon ourselves to take Bryce on his first hike. It was a short walk, about 1.1 miles round trip. He walked the entire way except for when I carried him about 100 feet at the place the trail was very narrow with a steep drop off to sharp rocks on one side.

He seemed pretty happy with the whole adventure. He did seem to think throwing rocks in the water was more interesting than looking at the waterfall though.

WP_20150808_10_34_18_ProPhoto by Barb

WP_20150808_11_16_27_ProHe switched things up a bit by throwing a stick too.

Photo by Barb



All indications are that he had a good time.

Lentils anyone?

While I was in Idaho weekend before last I helped my brothers just a little bit with the harvest. They were working on the lentils and I took a few pictures:


Want some lentils? How many tons would you like? There are probably about 15 tons in this picture.


This is one of the two nearly identical machines they use to harvest the crops on our land.

You know what looks cool?

Alder wood with Laurel Mountain Forge Cherry stain. The alder sucks up a ton of the stain, darkening it to a deep, deep maroon/black cherry color. The wood also soaks up the Watco Danish oil finish like crazy. The photo is after the first application, and it will take several more to achieve a good seal and a semi-gloss or high satin glow.

Three or four applications of Danish oil to go

Three or four applications of Danish oil to go

Continue reading

Better than a walk around the neighborhood

We weren’t in the mood for an all day adventure so we found a hike that was less than 10 miles away from home and less than three miles round trip with little elevation gain. We ended up selecting Around the Lake Trail.

Lakes are generally nice so there would be a view better than just the trail and the woods, right? Well… generally that is true. But this hiked ended up being, in the words of Barb, “notably non-memorable.”

It wasn’t bad in any way. It just wasn’t anything great.


One of the main attractions of this hike was a short branch of the trail called “Bus Trail”. This was the bus. I suspect its history is less interesting than all the bullet holes might suggest.

IMG_3684I’ve seen bigger and nicer ponds than this lake.

IMG_3692I’m sorry. This doesn’t qualify as a “lake”. This is a wet spot which should be drained and made into a meadow.

IMG_3691A fair amount of the trail was close to being a sidewalk.

IMG_3694Then there was the section of the trail that is fenced in.

IMG_3704This might be fun for kids of the appropriate age but we didn’t bother to check it out.

We did have fun with a short game of “Where’s Barb?”


There was some scenery that was pleasurable to look at and it was certainly better than a walk around the neighborhood.

Franklin Falls

It is very hot this weekend and Barb went looking for a hike that wasn’t too long and with very little elevation gain. Franklin Falls met our criteria.

It was crowded and it is easy to see why. The trail was mostly wide and smooth. The trail was shaded and while it was 90 F at home it was 72 F at the trail head. Only at the very end was it a little bit sketchy with a steep drop off on one side:


The actual falls were nice too:


The bridge you see in the upper left of the picture above is the west bound lanes of I-90 just west of Snoqualmie Pass. As Barb said, “I had no idea this was here.”

Ted Bundy: King of Hearts

Barb’s nephew, Tyler Brown, is a graduating senior at the University of Washington. As his thesis project he is making a short film about Ted Bundy. I’ve talked to him a couple times about the film. He’s been researching it for a couple years now and had some amazing stuff come together for it.

He was telling some other students about his project and one of them told him (paraphrased), “I live in the house Bundy used to live in. Would you like to film some scenes in it?”

Another person involved in the film has a VW Beetle of the correct color.

He discovered Bundy’s ex-girlfriend, who is extremely secretive, lives about a mile from where he lives. He visited her and gave her a copy of the script.

Bundy spent a lot of time at a bar in the University District and followed at least one victim from the bar. The bar is Dante’s. They still had the booth, in storage for 20 years, that Bundy frequently sat in. Tyler helped them get it out of storage and it is now back in service. Tyler will film part of the video in that booth*.

Tyler is raising money via Kickstarter to finish the film. See the trailer, learn more about the film, and donate.

* Although it was many years later Barb went to school at the U of W and spent time at Dante’s as well. She remembers the large L-shaped booth.

Summer brunch

Three kinds of lettuce, two kinds of basil, cilantro, chard, green onions, radishes and fresh raspberries, all harvested within minutes of serving, topped off with sliced eggs, some ground black pepper and a little balsamic vinegar.


Followed with the last of a batch of home-made rhubarb ice cream.

Needs a little more rhubarb

Needs a little more rhubarb

It isn’t “OMG, yum yum”, five start restaurant quality. Not by a long shot. For one thing, one of the lettuce varieties has been attacked by insects and has a lot of little holes in it, and the radishes are starting to get slightly pithy. The tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet, so no tomatoes either. Maybe next week. I should have added a little more rhubarb to the ice cream. Next time.

I have learned that the radishes should be planted in relatively small quantities about once per week, all season, so you always have nice, peak quality ones. I just haven’t actually done it that way yet. Similar deal with the lettuce.

So it’s nothing that would pass muster at any restaurant. It’s just good food though. Good for the body and the soul. Soul food.