Monthly Archives: May 2015


I just got home from a fun trip to Arcata. The Kinetic Sculpture race was on and my friends Michael and Chris were in it but not acing, taking it light. When I drove up the first day Saturday listening to the race on KHUM, arrived at the house for my Peon badge and headed for the Manila dunes, Dead Man’s Drop. The Peace Peddler, their rig, was parked at the exit as they skipped the sand. I walked in to watch the machines barrel down the steep slope and find them to no avail. I found an interesting piece of grass, tied it into a Turk’s head knot, hmm. After a few machines made it down I headed back to the rig past most of the huge mosquitoes. The wind helped keep them down, but so many people makes for a free lunch. I ran into Sean my old friend and scheduled a breakfast at 9:00. Michael, Chris and Landon showed up shortly pushing one of Landon’s bikes through the sand, Michael bearing a new beard since I last saw him, looks good. They headed for Eureka, me passing them on the bridge honking lightly, on to the finish line at Halverson Park. I parked at 2nd and L street one over from Michael’s truck, where he said it would be.
Inside the party was going on, as the Peace Peddlers cleared the gate with hurrahs and “This is what retirement is about!” from the announcer as Michael retired a couple weeks ago and loving it. After a while we headed home.
I took Landon and his bike back to McKinleyville then home for a fabulous asparagus prosciutto Parmesan stuffed chicken breast, garden broccoli and salad. Michael’s garden is amazing, all new raised beds with chips between and bountiful harvest. Such a good meal. I showed them the grass knot, it’s an invasive species, European sedge grass.
The next day is a full one. Sean and I went out for breakfast, I’ve known him nearly 35 years, good conversations of old friends. Time for me to work, I drive to the race, find Michael on bicycle at Halverson, the rig gone with Chris pilot to the starting ramp. Driving, I find a spot to park and walk quite a ways back to the line of sculptures waiting to go. I took pictures of all the machines waiting for the water on Michael’s camera, he’ll forward them, I hope he reduces them first. Michael called it on the rig in front of us, “It’s not stable”, sure enough they flipped into the bay, perhaps the “golden flipper” award if they were the first.
Chris takes the machine into the water, Splash!, and more than halfway as they switch to Michael to finish the water crossing. They passed a few machines, Jeno the former time keeper now in the race, “You are really fast on the water!”. April, Michael’s wife gets excellent movie footage of the start, between and water finish.
I leave my truck and take Michael’s as support vehicle. Tricky at first to learn it, OK, we’re off. Next stop Eureka Whole Foods with a free lunch for the pilots, we peons as customers make up for it but tasty. I meet April at the salad bar as we head out to the now here machine. We eat together, next stop the Park and Ride. I get there early, the local Ham club is parked next to my rig, I walk out. The time keeper needs the radio crew to get out here, I’ll let them know. Bounce comes along, a heavy machine with one guy, an offset wheel, he’s been in the race for years. Last year he got hurt at this crossing, down and up a short ravine and his pit crew is not here. Says I, “What’s that coming up the road?” to distract the willing time keeper as I help steer without pushing him up and over. “I know you’re the Bounce Gnome, what’s your name?”,  “Peter”, “I’m Dan”, and away he goes.
Shortly Peace Peddler arrives, next stop College of the Redwoods, it will take a while to get there.
Meanwhile, there is this grass growing, more of the same, tough, long and smooth. I pick a bunch of the thicker stuff then more as it’s taken over the whole swamp. As you pull it in small bunches the ends are lighter in color. I gather quite a bit.
A drive to CR and park, I start a basket I’ve studied on youtube, three and three middled at right angles, fold another piece in half, catch three, twist and catch the next three, twist, catch three, continuing square twisting tight around it. Do that twice or more, then twist each individual strand, separating them into rays. Find an open and nudge an odd additional piece in, temporarily knotted to not slip. Twist the weavers around a couple times to secure. Fold and add another piece as required and continue twisting around the spokes, then switch to a straight over under weave. Add more pieces around holding the last bit with the new. As the strands become secure to a decent base width, using a bodkin (my small Swiss card pen) to add lighter colored parts on either side of the rays and continuing the weave while binding the long rays together up to allow the basket sides to form with the continued weave. Enough, I wove the triple spokes to the side over and under, each one around, clipped to fit and finally through. I trimmed all the excess strands used while adding pieces.
I did all this while waiting for the guys to catch up, each station, something wonderful to do.
I finished my very first complete basket as we arrived back at the Crab park and headed home.
Mind this was an extraordinary effort on the guys to perform the whole second day course. Muscles twitching, heat and ice packs. Oh no, the machine has a front end problem as well. This year is all about fun, they call it a done deal. I gave the first kinetic basket to April.
Monday we took off, Michael repaired the sink faucets and drain as I worked on another larger basket about the size of a small soup bowl.
With a short visit to my old friend Debbi, it’s time to head for home. I stopped on the way at the park and ride exit and picked as much European sedge grass as I could in a short time, then again at the rock shop for some new sanding wheels for my sander. An uneventful trip home with the race on the radio as the riders made it in. A fine long weekend, with a memory for the soldiers that kept us free.


Last evening my cross the street neighbor with the willow tree was out. I asked him if I could have some branches for learning baskets, “Sure, when?”, “Tomorrow.”, “OK”. Today I went to Garret’s, bought some nice clippers for $10 and stuff for a big batch of beef stew at Safeway. I cooked up the stew, while it was cooking walked up the street. Yesterday they trimmed all the vines, hmm, I picked up a bunch stripped clean and brought them home. I did my best to make a flat basket base, it works OK, very crude, they break on the knuckles.
Next I walked up to the willow, trimmed it cleanly with the new clippers at the junctions so it won’t be noticed or hurt the tree. Big long wafts of branches, dragged the bundle home and stripped the leaves, sorting roughly, braiding a few. I made another base, much better stuff, still crude, broke one center and replaced it, try over. I got a good base using multiple strands, good fun.
When I tried to add a set of side branches, they snapped and wouldn’t stay up. I need to do more research on that technique. I’ll get it. But it’s fun. I have two flat platters of sticks. The rest of the branches will dry, then I’ll get them wet. That’s actually the proper way, dry them then soak as they shrink less. This is really fun and it smells good.
I got five, ate one, bowls of stew, in the fridge and freezer for lunches at work, better than Dinty Moore.
I think if I use fiber glass tape and epoxy to seal the tanks it will be fine.
Fun Sunday and laundry done.



Ah vardo day. We met at Bucky’s for coffee and walked over to the farmers market. Carrots for Raven, snow peas, more carrots, some mushrooms for a stir fry. Off to Shelton’s, ginger, green onions and a small zucchini. Raven gets coconut milk and rice syrup for a recipe she’s trying. To Garrett’s as Raven wants burgundy paint and walnut stain, then home.

I cook up a chicken stir fry, rice and an artichoke as Raven starts early painting the front of the vardo while there is still shade. Lunch is great with a late artichoke, special sauce of melted butter, mayonnaise, my curry powder and a dash of soy sauce. There’s enough left over for two containers of rice and stir fry, one each for lunches.

After lunch I break out the cushion and crawl under the vardo to get the tanks out, loosen the strap nuts and drop each tank. I get the hole saw kit out and match the 1 1/2″ manifold size. Stepping up the stairs to get a good angle I drill the tanks to accept the manifold as straight as I can make it. Still a slight angle and the second one has a bump I need to file out with the round surform. The drain tee has a direction shield I need to remove using a gouge and mallet in the vise, then filing it with the surform. I use a piece of bailing wire to hold the removed tubes in place around the thread plugs and glue them in place using PVC glue and let it dry. Dang this doesn’t work, they still move. I break out a batch of quick Epoxy and get a good seal, that should do it. I drill a couple holes opposite for the vent hoses a 16th small, they fit compressed just fine.


Back down under I fit the inner tank, top strap first loose then the middle strap, adjusting for new strap holes to allow a tighter connect this time. The bottom strap in place and tighten the top, it still moves a little, that’s good for now. Second tank mostly the same but I need to get the upper drain in place so the middle strap goes first loose and maneuver it into position. Tighten it all up with a little give to accept the manifold. As I install the manifold the back tank epoxy cracks a little, damn, I’ll need to reapply some more. It seems this drain tubing is not PVC and isn’t welding. The drain valve to hose connection breaks loose. I’m going to need to redo this. It looks good but is too low and it won’t hold.


I get the air vent hoses installed with difficulty as I need a little more hose in the aft tank hose. I forgot the Tee fitting and head for town, Harry doesn’t have it, back to Garrett’s for a 53 cent part. That works but metal strap shears to secure the hose are hidden, perhaps tomorrow.

Raven does a fine job of painting the front wall red again. It matches the back but the sides are also sun bleached, but it looks really good.

paintjob 5.16.15

She heads for home with stir fry as I put away the tools, a good day really.


Another interesting day. I went to town around noon, picked up 8 feet of black vinyl 1/2″ hose and a 1″ ID valve with enough meat to turn to fit the 1 1/2″ OD drain tubing. That, more basil and a black sesame plant. I hooked the valve to my machine lathe from the inside pressing out to hold it and bored it out with a small boring bar to 1 1/2″, a little off center with the valve handle, but round. The other side was more of a challenge as the thinner wall flexes and won’t stay on. I switched to the outside to get a centered grip, added a PVC tube, still wouldn’t stay on. I’m looking everywhere for a solid 1 1/2″ plug.
About then, Joe showed up, he had called. We went out back to the room with a view with water bottles to talk. He’s been building a new laundry shed, new french doors installed. He needs a hole saw for the door knob installation.
DING! That’s it, a hole saw will cut a plug! I break out my kit and find one a little bigger than 1 1/2″, drill a hole and save the center, put it on the rod we used to make the hook with pliers at an angle on the lapidary sander, bzzzsh, it’s round to fit tight, sawed to length on the band saw. This works in the valve on the lathe, a good grip. I turn it easily down, up really as it’s an inside cut, to 1 1/2″. It fit after a second trimming. I showed Joe the fire hose, a perfect fit with the hose clamp I also bought. He said it would be cool to have a fire hose nozzle, it would, maybe we can make one or order. But the manifold (Joe’s right word) for the grey water tanks is ready to install. Next week I’ll pull the tanks, drill and glue the end parts, mount the tanks and manifold. The 5/8″ vent holes will also be drilled on top for the tubing, perhaps a tee with one tube instead of two tubes up. Joe suggested a J bend so the overflow water goes down. My thought, if there is a water hose attached, you must have a drain supply, to the garden, sewer or where ever. You can’t allow the tanks to overflow without a drain.
So I dug out the door knob install kit with the jig to center the big holes and smaller one inch hole saw for the bolt. I found the hole saws to match.
We walked down to the river, the cane leaves weave well. Joe collected some flat rocks. I found one nearly round scull size, very cool. We brought them back to his truck for his garden. He liked the old rusty gas can Sky gave me, it’s chic, rusty stuff, take it and a bracelet Sky made. Joe’s truck is loaded with wood from my coworker Stewart in Healdsburg as he packs for home.
Another fine day, the drain system is ready to install with a good fitting valve. I’ll need to get a 1/2″ barbed tee for the vents. Fold the laundry, prepare a lunch and ready for work tomorrow.



I played in the garden until Raven woke up and showered. We headed for town in my truck, coffee and shopping. The farmers market was nice, mushrooms, spring peas and carrots for a stir fry. Raven wants to get the drain plumbing in ASAP, OK, lets go to Restore. We head for Santa Rosa. I find a bunch of drain plastic parts that should work with more leftover parts at home. A stop around the corner to Harbor Freight to price a solar cell battery charger, $15 or $70. I pick up a set of 1/8″ letter number punches for the vardo VIN. Off to Trader Joe’s, Josie tangerines, bubble water, chocolate for work, some Italian bacon for pasta y fagioli soup, the basics quickly. I need gas so a stop across the street from Garret’s then there to price water valves, hmm, not sure yet. They don’t make a valve to turn off a drain, at least not here, research. We’re both hungry, home, skip Sally’s.

At home Raven asks to help, clean and string the peas as I go raid the garden. Pak choy is ready for a few small leaves and a few of my peas are looking ready, tarragon and thyme.  I start a batch of rice 2:1 water rice as Raven has prepped the carrots too. Chop it all fancy with onions, garlic, half the mushrooms and Rocky’s chicken breast. Back off the rice to low then off to sit as I break out the wok. On high fry in olive oil, onions first, mushrooms, add the chicken, garlic (two cloves fine), garden herbs, 5 spice, ginger powder (need to get some fresh), then carrots, pak choy stems, later the spring peas and pak choy leaves. A bit of corn starch with water when the veggies are near lightly done to thicken then off and add a good dose of oyster sauce, maybe more. It’s ready, served in the front vardo shade on the TV table as the back yard grape pump is loud. Ozzie’s bone yard music to drown out the pump. This stuff is excellent, seconds required.

Back to work, I piece together the grey water drain plumbing parts, will need a couple more V compression rings, off to Harry’s for 80 cents. I found the smaller hole saws buried under the wood wheel scraps, 1 1/2″ should do it. The flat fire hose fits perfect over the drain. I just need to find a good valve to hold it back and a hose clamp. I test glued a piece of PVC pipe to the scrap I cut from the tank inlet, it should work for a tight seal.


Raven is painting in black. She cleaned the front tongue of rust with the radial drill brush, sprayed.


We bought new chain a foot and a half and a screw link as we were short yesterday. She painted that to match. I removed the cut link with some difficulty, tried the vice and hammer, ultimately used the bolt cutter.


She painted the new wrought iron shutter hook,  masked and painted the front gas bottle rack.


With new chalk she worked on the sign board from last week, a good start.


I took off my truck ball hitch and added the new 2″ hitch. With Raven’s help I backed in and secured the vardo to the truck. We filled and back filled until the vardo is back in the right place. I can move it a bit with my truck, but it is over the safe limit for the road.

Next I’ll need to remove the grey water tanks, hole saw drill for the drain plumbing, glue that in sealed, cut holes for the air vents on top and attach 4 foot 1/2″ hoses up the side of the vardo for air venting. I need to find a 1 1/2″ drain valve in PVC. It’s very cool the fire hose will fit with a hose clamp.

A fine day working on a newly registered road legal vardo. That is so cool, we did it yesterday. Now we just need to get it finally ready as a vending rig, in process. Another fine day.



Quite the day for a Friday. I showed up to work a half hour early and cut my lunch hour to a half hour, bailed at a quarter to 3:00 as I helped Scott last night, fair. Kurk went home early with a mild cold, but he’ll meet me at home, I give him directions. Raven’s rig is there as I pull in to the yard, Kurk is jacking up the far tire to spin and wiggle it, tight enough. His truck is in the neighbor’s yard, that’s OK. A big Chevy diesel, he backs it in as I point at the hitch. Checks it and corrected close. He pushes it to place as I lower the jack, we’re on, clamped with the extra clip in place. The electric is secured with Kurk’s adapter. The chain is too short, damn. I go digging for a bolt as they perform a light check. I find the can with difficulty, we get it secured. Meanwhile Raven is anxious to get to DMV in time by 4:00, “OK , go.”

I ride with Kurk with Raven passing ahead. The rig is working, Kurk is worried about the shutters in front at 60 mph, but they’re OK. The hook I made is holding them shut, we’re good. On the bumps in the road, it’s alright. The vardo can handle the highway, wow, too cool, but as designed. We make the trip with no problems, arriving at the DMV at 4:03 as Raven walks out of the office. We’re on time and in the inspection line. The lady comes out with clip board in hand, checks us out, no problem. Goes in and comes back with a VIN number sticker attached to the tongue. We’re done with the inspection, never checked the lights or tires. Raven goes in for paper work as we park to wait, watching a raven pecking on the curb, appropriate. She comes out in a while with the new plate. We attach it with Kurk’s screw driver, wow.


We are hereby road legal. This is a major accomplishment, not petty. Four years in the making, this rig, this vardo handled the road, a highway at 60 mph no problem. Turned some tight corners at a good speed, no problem. Hit bumps in the road at full speed, no problem. She is road worthy, registered and legal. Yea! What’s more, she’s good registered for five years. Raven said the conversations inside about “that trailer” were interestingly good.

Arriving home, Kurk backs it in excellent!. Raven awards him with a bottle of Gypsy Caravan red wine and fuel money.

Kurk and I work on his fender he brought along, bent up. We clamp it to my bench and smack it into shape with my big hammer, using a piece of big wood as an anvil in places to get it straightened out and another clamp as leverage to twist it back into shape. This is good fun, as we get it aligned enough to work quite well with a few nudges once he gets it secured. He heads for home with a couple oranges and a jar of my lemon marmalade to fight his mild cold. I’ll be fine. What a great day, Major accomplishment, we are road legal.

Raven and I watch ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ as I break off to write this. Good movie, great day. Thanks Kurk.



We met for coffee, both a little early, picked out some BBQ sauce and a bag of charcoal. It’s the first farmers market of the season, lots of radishes, early garlic, asparagus and spring salads available. Ooh a basket of snow peas lets get some of them. Next stop Salvation Army, I found a screen roller I’ll need, a long handle spark lighter needs flint, a drill missing a plug and key. Raven got a book. We stopped in Geyserville, me to the mercantile for a plug and key for my drill, then met Raven across the street at the antique store where they have chalkboard paint. Basically water base paint with clay and chalk in it, would be easy to make as I have betonite clay powder for sand casting. To home.

I fired up the charcoal in the chimney starter, marinated the O chicken tenders in BBQ sauce, pulled the silk from the TJ’s corn leaving the husks on and wet, set up the steamer with the stringed snow peas. I hosed down the newly cut grass just in case, using Joe’s old grill I retrieved from Elliot’s after assembling his new gas Weber. Chicken and corn on, slathered BBQ sauce on the chicken, fire up the steamer peas. Set the table in the back yard room with a view, butter on a butter plate, salt, pepper, seasonings. It’s ready, so good, sweet corn dripping butter, moist done chicken tenders, and spring peas with nothing on them, perfect. So good, the cats even waited until after for pets.

Raven back to work on staining and painting the sandwich sign. I started turning more spokes for the last small wheel, figuring turning will make less dust to get in the paint. She found the masking tape and taped the birch plywood to stain the outer frame. I removed the A hinge so she could cover. Three sawhorses to hold the sign up in the middle, she stained the inside too, then finished the last spoke, touched up the ends of the few turned ones as needed. The chalkboard paint is strange stuff, thick gel (mud) and dries really fast. She used the same tape to mask the frame, already cut to length. Two or three coats, then using a pin to get into the edges with this thick stuff.


It will need to be primed with chalk, looks good. She darkened the top end grain cuts, even better. I used longer 1″ screws on the A hinge, picked up at Harry’s. I finally finished turning all the hub tenons, my legs tired from standing that long. I sanded one more fellow, enough for today. This is the last wheel, 80 spokes done now. Six more fellows to sand, then drill eight, weld a tire. It’s close.


Friday I talked to friend Kurk at work, he has a diesel truck and is willing to help us haul the vardo in to the DMV next Friday to register. This will be a big deal. Stay tuned.