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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Curtis Lumber - Hoosick

Last year, during our house refurbishment, Paul Lattan our Master Carpenter, needed some material. I offered to drive to Home Depot to pick it up and he responded, "Don't go there Bob, go to Curtis Lumber." After some 10 or so follow-on visits to Curtis  (just off the northeast tip of the Plateau), I realized how right he was. The small Mom & Pop hardware stores are gone, but Curtis Lumber -- at least in Hoosick -- reminds me of them. The service and support is phenomenal. Yesterday, for example, I went there to pick up some Watco Danish Oil to add another coat to my cherry rustic slab desk. I was studying the back of the container, and an employee came over to help me. Turns out he's a fine woodworker who was a fountain of information. Yet, one of the questions I peppered him with, he wasn't 100% sure of, so -- right then and there -- he phoned Watco Customer Service and got me the answer.

Oh, and one other thing -- Curtis is an underwriter for Vermont Public Radio. I like that.

4915 Route 7 - Hoosick

Sign on Rt 7 between the Hoosac School and All Saints Episcopal Church in Hoosick.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Creative Custom Woodcraft

5045 NY Rt 7 - Hoosick

I found the perfect chair for my new rustic cherry slab desk just a bit further east of Carpenter's Touch at Creative Custom Woodcraft in Hoosick. I had driven by this place on the left hand side of Route 7 on the way to Bennington countless times. Yet, when I finally stopped in,  I was blown away by the simple beauty of the furniture made and sold on premises.

And there it was.... the perfect cherry chair... a mission desk swivel chair.  I selected the finish and placed the order.

This desk converts to a bed in less than five seconds.

Watch furniture being made through this window in the showroom.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Rustic Cherry Slab Desk

Pictured above is the desk constructed from the slab of rustic cherry I purchased from Carpenter's Touch.  They cut it to my dimensions, added Cherry Danish Oil, and connected the left support with pegs and glue, and cut the "2x4" right support piece that I bolted to the wall.

Bolting this very heavy (2-inch thick) slab of cherry to the wall required careful measuring, leveling and drilling.  The wall is pine so stud location could be a challenge.  I started out with my trusty stud finder:

After wasting about an hour searching for ever so slight magnetic action, I realized it was time to invest in a new stud finder.  There's got to be something better.  There sure is. Enter the Zircon Multifunction i520 OneStep electronic stud finder. I call it the stud finder. At $50 it was quite the investment, but I must say it performed as advertised and is an amazing device. It accurately locates the center of studs up to 1-1/2" behind walls, and did so flawlessly through my pine.

Next up: In search of the right chair to go with this desk.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Carpenter's Touch

3205 NY Route 7
Just off the northeast tip of the Plateau in Pittstown, on the north side of Route 7 a tad west of Tibbits Forest in Johnsonville -- just before Potter Hill -- you'll find Carpenter's Touch.

The large cuts of lumber caught my eye while driving by a couple of weeks ago and I instantly knew -- here's the solution to the desk I'd been thinking of building!   I wanted to build a rustic slab cherry desk for my desk and had been pondering a source for the slab.

First Brandon showed me around the lot, then the furniture showroom.

Next I picked out my cherry slab and showed Brandon the dimensions and plan for my desk. It would fit into a corner of a room with one end held by a portion of the slab serving as a desk support and the corner portion held up by a piece of the slab cut 18"Lx4"W that I'd bolt into the wall.  We discussed finish and I decided to go with Cherry Danish Oil to penetrate the wood and enhance the natural look and feel of the wood.  It creates the rich, warm glow of a traditional hand-rubbed finish. We settled on a price and Brandon told me he'd call me in a day or two when the desk parts were ready to be picked up.

Before I left, I checked out some of Chuck Jennett's carvings.

Next up: The desk is installed.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Weather Station Moved

I moved the Rensselaer Plateau Weather Station from the top of our shed to the top of our new raised bed septic system.  At the previous location, too many hemlock needles would fall into the cone that funnels to a very tiny hole used by an internal micro-switch to count drops, and thus measuring rainfall.  It's painted green, so a bit hard to spot  -- but it's there in the middle of the raised bed in the above photo. 

The solar cells will receive a lot more sunlight now, although they always provided sufficient power in the past.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Northern Water Snake

Northern Water Snakes can be found in the lakes and ponds of the Rensselaer Plateau. They are active during the day and at night and are most often seen basking on rocks, stumps, or brush.  During the day, water snakes hunt among plants at the water's edge, looking for small fish, frogs, worms, leeches, crayfish, salamanders, young turtles, and small birds and mammals. At night, they concentrate on minnows and other small fish sleeping in shallow water.

Northern Water Snakes mate in April and June. They are live-bearers, which means they do not lay eggs like most snakes. Instead, they carry them inside their bodies and give birth to baby snakes, each one six to twelve inches long. A female may have as many as 30 young at a time. Babies are born between August and October.  They have many predators, including birds, raccoons, opossums, foxes, snapping turtles, bullfrogs, and other snakes.

There's a lot written on the Northern Water Snake, one of the better write-ups is from the Yale Peabody Museum webpage on it.  Note that "The species is not venomous, but will defend itself vigorously when cornered or captured. Defense may include defecation, spraying musk, biting repeatedly, and vomiting, but no venom. The species is generally very cautious and to avoid conflict will usually enter water on the approach of a human."'s entry is also pretty good, mentioning "Even though they are not venomous, watersnakes are considered an aggressive species and will bite if handled. If you do pick one up and get bitten, don't panic! Just treat the small wound like any other scrape or scratch (wash with soap, bandage if needed)."

Creepy -- no question -- but, they will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Thomas Tyning, Herpetologist, Massachusetts Audubon Society writes in his posting, THE NORTHERN WATER SNAKE ALONG THE CONNECTICUT RIVER, "Northern water snakes bite people just as often as chipmunks and bluebirds which is to say just about every time they are grabbed. With a large head, fairly massive jaw musculature, and a mouth filled with six rows of sharp, recurved teeth, water snakes can deliver an impressive defensive strike but only to those who lay hands upon them. And this isn't even true all of the time. I've been able slowly to approach some northern water snakes, carefully reach my open handbeneath their bodies,  and lift them into the air, all without the snake becoming agitated or me becoming the recipient of a surprisingly strong bite. Sometimes, however, this doesn't work! Rather, enjoy water snakes from a short distance, watching how they go about their daily activities."

Northern Water Snakes are extremely helpful to people. They control populations of smaller animals, such as mice. Unfortunately, they are sometimes mistaken for Copperheads and Cottonmouths (also called Water Moccasins, which don't even live in our area), and killed. In fact, there are only three species of poisonous snakes living in the wilds of New York: the timber rattlesnake, the massasauga, and the copperhead. All three are uncommon and they are not water snakes.

If you see a snake, it is best to leave it alone. Never kill a snake without good reason, since they are so important to our environment.  But... I think I won't grab them. 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Water Hemlock

Cicuta maculata
The most poisonous plant in North America.  A small mouthful can kill an adult. Good idea not to handle at all. The root contains the greatest concentration of toxin. People have died thinking it was wild carrot. It's what was used to assassinate Socrates.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Fragrant Water Lily

4th of July Parade - Berlin, NY

Sons & Daughters of Erin Pipe Band
Pastor & Mrs. Matthew Olson (Grand Marshall)

Berlin Central High School Mountaineers Band

Red Caps Marching Band

 Republican Firewood Raffle

Jared in his Rock Zombie
Duane Goodermote Contracting Hauling the Grand Prize