Ramble On

Friday, February 20, 2015

Revisiting the Bridge at Hoover Dam

Reviewing past posts, there are quite a few about construction and building topics.  I suppose that’s appropriate – these days I make my living as a construction executive after all, and I’ve done good time at a couple of major architecture and construction firms over the years.  Those facts put the little encounter I had yesterday at the office into perspective.

In 2013, Mary and I combined a work trip to Las Vegas with a drive up to the Grand Canyon.  On the way, we made a point of stopping at the Hoover Dam for the tour (see this post), and for a walk across the new bridge.  It turns out that one of my work colleagues (an engineer who works as a construction project manager) had some aerial photos that had been taken during the construction of the bridge, and he shared them, so I thought I’d make them the topic of today’s blog post.

If you’re familiar with the construction of many highway bridges in the west, they are often concrete arches, as is this one.  What I didn’t realize until now is that the concrete is cast in situ – forms are constructed and the concrete is poured into them at the job site in the position that it is to be used.  That makes for some fascinating process photos, as shown in the accompanying images…I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hop Yards in Snow

Snow was barreling in from the west on Monday night, and there were forecast of up to eight inches from the Valley right on to the coast in Northern Virginia.  As we battened down the hatches in Alexandria, I checked in on Facebook to see how everyone was settling in - it seemed that it was a storm that we would be able to take in stride.

We did get the snow, and it was inconvenient, but no more than is typical.  Plus, the forecast overestimated the totals, and things were already getting back to normal by late morning.

I sent David a little note in the morning asking if he wouldn't mind to take a couple of photos with the snow on the ground in the hop yards - that was on the hunch that he might head over there at sometime during the day.  There is rolling ground in this patch of land, good for sledding, so I just figured it might not be too inconvenient to get some snapshots.

The snow has a way of leveling things out so that you can see the lay of the land.  These two photos show pretty much the extent of where our trellising is going to run.  So much of the land is cleared and it is looking good.

I'm much obliged for the photos and the opportunity to check in.  I hope that there was sledding in the mix for the days activities and that these photos easily fit into the plan!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Beaver Pond Check-in

Last Saturday, after everything was said and done, Chris and I took a walk down to the road and then out into the lots across the way to check out the beaver pond.  The surface was frozen, and the areas where the water spills through the dam were full of icicles - it was quite a pretty scene.

I'm pretty sure there's a full acre of surface area now.  It's the largest I've seen it since we started coming here in 2007; this is the third time they've had a dam in this spot.

We were able to get very close while staying dry.  The dam is probably 7 to 8 feet tall in the area where it bridges the main stream - so there's a lot of water back in there - and it's deep!

As I'm writing this, Sunday afternoon, we've had some warm temps and the ice has thawed off of half the surface.  One of the beavers is out swimming around, I can just see the wake reflected in the golden light of the late afternoon.

You may just be able to make out the lodge, which is actually quite large, over to the left between the white "no hunting" sign and the tree that is just on the bank.  It's about four feet tall, and covered with brightly colored branches that have had all the bark stripped off.

Quite the view.  I'm getting my money's worth with that one.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Axmen of Hawksbill Hop Yards

With absolutely no tongue in cheek, David invited me out to help for a little while with clearing the hop yards.  Recognizing that the source of any value I am creating in society these days consists of being sure that there is no circular reference down there in Excel spreadsheet cell d43, or in pressing send on one of 30-odd emails a day, I was a little worried about this.

I let David know that I had never really used a maul or chainsaw before, and that the last time I had seriously used an ax (I do have one, by the way, out in the shed) was when I was certifying on woodsman skills for my tenderfoot rank in scouts.  Then I asked him if he would have ibuprofen handy in my preferred brand, Midol - he assured he would take care of that.

We agreed we'd work on this part of the project for a couple of hours, and I think we busted out about half of the trees he'd set aside to save for firewood (at least the ones that he had not already taken care of by the time we got there).  While I did pick up the maul eventually and learned how to use it, I decided the best value for my effort would be moving the logs he had chainsawed down to size over to the chopping area, and then picking up the firewood and putting it in the wagon, seen above with about a cord or so loaded up.

Chris also got in the act, so with all three of us contributing to the work (I'm not shy about this, David did the most and Chris did a heck of a lot more of it than I did) - we managed to get photos of everybody swinging an ax or maul.  Readers are invited to offer comments on the various techniques on display in the photos below:

Yes, part of the comparison is the respective piles of lumber around these workers as well.  In case that is not clear in the photos, it's four for me, about a dozen for Chris, and 90% of a cord for David.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Clearing the Hop Yard

David sent me a note last week letting me know that a full acre of the planned two acre hop yard had been cleared - he invited me out to help with cleaning up all the firewood-worthy felled trees, and promised not to make fun of me because I didn't know how to use an ax, maul, or chainsaw.  So I decided to join him on Saturday morning, and I talked my friend Chris into joining me.

The weather promised to be good enough for the weekend to start burning all the cleared brush as well.  It turned out that we arrived at the farm just in time to see him light the burn pile, with all the attendant drama, as shown in the first photo today.

We are starting the Hop Yards up in phases - this year we'll put in most of one acre's worth, and we'll phase in the second acre next year.  If all goes well and there's demand, we may even grow beyond that, either on David's farm or somewhere else...thus the name Hawksbill Hop Yards...it would be very cool if Page County ended up being the largest producer in the state, which really wouldn't take a whole lot of acreage.

I have enough photos and videos for a couple of posts, so I'll be publishing those during the rest of the week.

Here's a couple of short videos of some of the activities taking place during the day.

I'll leave the idea of expansion further into Page County for my dreams.  In the meantime, while I took one of my numerous breaks from whatever I was doing out there, I took a stroll around to check out the cleared land.  Here are photos from the northeast and northwest...the is the Blue Ridge in the background.  As a friend said, "Those hops are going to have a great view."

Monday, February 9, 2015

Accounting for the Barn Kittens

It's been a couple of years now - maybe even three - since we discovered two litters of four kittens wandering around the property at Hawksbill Cabin.  Eventually, we figured out who the mothers were, and once the kittens were old enough, we got help from Cats' Cradle to catch them and get them all fixed.

We also went to work trying to get as many adopted out as we could.  Inevitably two of them succumbed to the life of being a stray, but now all of the kittens have been adopted out except for one - we call him Little Guy, and he's shown in the photo attached.

We get other strays from time to time, most famously Buster Barncat, whom we adopted, but this guy has been the steady one around here.  He's domesticated enough to hang around the place in the little shelters Mary has set up.

I would like to see him rescued too, like the others, but I know that he'd be a little work.  He does come running up to us now whenever we're around, so I think he'd make a good pet.

Drop a line via the comments if you're interested in him and we'll see if we can work something out.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Twitter Fun with Boulevard Brewery

I've written recently about Hawksbill Hop Yards in Luray - the land I've rented to start growing hops on.  By March or so, we will build out the trellising needed to support 600 hills of hops - which will produce about 600 pounds of dried hops when the bines are mature in three years.

A coworker and I toured Boulevard Brewery in Kansas City last December (post here), and they are active on Twitter - we actually arranged our tour through that app while we were flying in from DC.  A tweet last night about their Smokestack Series caught my eye...I responded, and we had a good dialog, which follows.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Berlin Wall - "Time Lapse"

Sunday I was briefly surfing the internet when I came across a photo in one of the Berlin groups I follow on Facebook.  I've reprinted it above, along with a shot I had taken earlier - the location is an observation platform that was built in the Neukolln District of Berlin.

At first glance, I thought someone had taken an old photo of mine and made it into a black and white shot.  However, the person who posted this one (they did not know who the photographer was) mentioned the date as 1986. My photo was taken in 1984 during my "Bowie Quest" outing - I've posted on the events of that day a few times, including here and here, or you can click the label below for more info on the quest.

It is fascinating to compare the two photos and consider the changes that had taken place, visible on the East Berlin side, over those two years.  First, there is the guard tower that had been constructed, then the tank traps and barricades had been removed, and finally, the old advertisement on the side of the nearest building was painted over.  Even so, it looks like most of the graffiti was left unchanged!

I never made it back to that section of the Wall during my time remaining in Berlin - I left in April 1986 - so I didn't get to check out the changes personally.  However, this internet thing is catching on - who knows when something from your past is going to show up and enlighten you.