Friday, December 31, 2010

Illuminated Target Using EL Wire

Here is a fun project - creating an illuminated target for shooting.

The darkness of this time of year needs more illuminated projects. Now, rain or shine, darkness or grayness, we can go out back and shoot!

First, simply create a simple sillouette target on thin wood or cardboard.

We are using 2mm EL wire - some cool plastic coated phosphorous wire that lights up with power!

At one end of the target, punch a hole and feed all the EL wire through.

Now, we simply tape or stable the EL wire around the sillouette's outline.

Here is the target, completed.

Here is how it looks in the dark. Cool!

We put some LEDs behind the target, so when we hit the cardboard, we can see the holes light up.

EL wire is very cheap - we got some 7.5 feet long wire with the power converter on ebay for only $3. So many fun things to do with this stuff!

Next we might make a TRON suit for Grandma!

Rocket Camera!

One of us got a cool, simple air-powered rocket for Christmas...

So of course we had to attach a video camera to it and shoot it off!

Here is the simple rocket, with one of the cheap ($8) video cameras taped to it.

Here are the rocket scientists, ready to launch.
Of course, we didn't get dramatic heights, but we got some great footage.
Stay tuned - we'll post some of the video soon!

Working the Wood Pile

There aren't many fish running... and with all the good food and feasting, we spent alot of time splitting and stacking wood.

The kids are getting pretty good at it... usually...


Some of the crew are still feeling alittle barbaric.

Barbarian Feast in 2010

Christmas week is the time for our annual "Barbarian Feast", and the barbarians were ready and eager!

Rules are simple - no plates, no utensiles, no manners... but no food fights.

We used dry ice in the punch...

Mom put together a great meal of chicken and ribs - perfect fare for some barbaric folks.

The noodles were especially delicious.

Drinking out of bowls is always good.

Wait... is that a napkin??? Get that napkin outta here!

Some barbarians slept in their grog...

Banana cream pie was for dessert... and it went down fast!

Most of it made it into her mouth...

Everybody had a blast. While it only lasted 15 - 20 minutes, it is definitely one of the family's favorite traditions every year.

We are all barbaric at heart!

Afterwards, we all pitched in and cleaned up the mess, fast!

Fixing An Old Asteroids Game

Besides loosing the transmission, a friend's Asteroids game went out.

Its a real oldie - from about 1979.

So... we pulled it apart.

Here's the main logic PCB board. Pretty cool.

We didn't see any solder joint problems, and all the connectors looked good.

Looks like a screen/monitor problem. Only half of the screen is working.

Time to call in a professional...

Bring Me A New Transmission, Santa!

Barely made it home and then to the mechanics on the 2002 Bonneville's bad transmission. And it was bad!

Only 110k miles, but it looks like a bearing failed inside, and shredded EVERY transaxle, gear, planar, and burnt up all the clutches. Everything was hammered.

The fluid was black like motor oil, with piles of metal shavings and chunks.

Hmmm. At least we weren't stranded. We definitely got our money's worth out if it. Can't say the same about this Pontiac...

Plaster Casts of Animal Tracks

We put the goat right to work on the farm.

The younger boy had a chance to attend a Boy Scout Merit badge workshop for some of the old badges that BSA brought back for the 100th Anniversary... and he needed some plaster casts of animal tracks for the "Tracking" merit badge.

The goat wanted to help with the old corn.

We found a few good tracks to cast, but wanted to try for a few better ones.

So, we mixed up some mud, and led the goat through the soft stuff and got some great tracks.

Good job, Chewy!

It was cold outside, but the plaster mixed up quickly and started setting up immediately.

We used some old cardboard to wrap around the track, but didn't need it.

After an hour, the tracks setup well, and turned out great!

We got deer, crow, dog, coyote, and goat.

A New Member of Team NWPod

We got a new goat over the Christmas Holiday... and boy does she love holiday goodies.

Here she found the lemon bars out in the garage on a table.

She is very good natured, and loves to be a part of the group.

The best part? She LOVEs to eat blackberries! Yeah!

Its nice when the animals are as helpful as this.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Exploration in the Dark of Winter - Beaver Creek Falls

With some time on our hands a weekend or two back, we decided to explore some more of the area.

We had heard of Beaver Creek Falls, just west of Longview WA on Oregon's Hwy-30, but had never been there.

Here is the upper falls. Very nice, except for the 2 deer carcasses some local dumped there. At least you couldn't smell the 3 diapers we found... nasty.

Eventually we found the main falls... and it was very impressive!

Very dramatic as the river rolls on and then, out of no where, drops straight off a 130 foot cliff!

It was icy and slick, so we were careful. The numerous flowers and crosses along the fence also cautioned us - several people have died here slipping off the edge.

Maybe another day we'll climb the tree...

The biggest challenge seems to get down below the falls... at least it is a challenge if you don't want to just slip over.

Very picturesque.

It also reminded us alot of the falls up Eagle Creek in the Columbia River Gourge.

Two years ago, the entire falls froze over. We didn't see it, but the pictures were memorable!

The bank above and below the falls are quite steep.

We looked and worked hard to get down there without getting wet, but all we ended up doing is having a few close-calls, and got really muddy.

To get below, we'll need to bring waders to get across the river above the falls.

Here is a shot from above by the road.

We stopped by to see the falls this last sunday, after a church assignment in Rainier, OR.

Good thing we had our church clothes on, because in the sunny weather we were tempted for a hike!

"yeah right, Dad..."

The Pacific NorthWest is full of beautiful places that don't require much exploration.

Another Project for a Cold, Dark NorthWest - Maka-Feke

Here is another fun project. Back in 2006 April Conference, President Monson gave a great talk, warning about how deadly sin can lure us in, and used the Tongan Octopus lure, Maka-feke, as an illustration in his talk. (find it here:

The kids love fishing, and we found several good examples of the lure in Hawaii this year (Hawaiians call them Luhee), so we decided to put some together.

We gathered parts this year while on the islands.

First step was attach the shell to the stick.

Second step, lash the stone to the underside of the stick.

"Hey, this would make a good club!"

Try different lashings to see what works for you.

Here is the finished shell, stick, and rock.

We couldn't find any shark teeth on our last Hawaiian outing (thank goodness...), so are waiting for some to come via the ancient Hawaiian marketplace known as...


Here is another example from Hawaii. The grass skirt is a nice addition... maybe our 6-year old will spare some from her hula-skirt...

Another fun project. Next trip to the islands, we'll test it out!

Simple Junk Boot Dryer

Last month on the pheasant hunt, it became very clear the Gore-Tex lining on all of our old hunting boots is no longer in service...

The big boot dryers for sale are way too big to practically lug around... what we want is a small, portable set.

So... with some 1.5" and 1" PVC pipe pieces, we created our own.

The key is a dual-fan setup we pulled out of our old PC. These 1" fans run off 12V DC, so an old wall adapter easily can power these, providing positive air-flow into the boot via the 1.5" pipe.

The 1" pipe section will allow rapid air exiting from the boot - a key requirement for fast drying.

A couple of zip-ties and 1/4" bolts with wing-nuts (for quick break-down) are all it took to assemble.

Another quick-connect for the 12V power, and it is good to go!

Here is teh final assembly. We found we didn't need elbows on the bigger pipe - just alot of airflow in, and the smaller pipe with the top elbow draws the input air back out of the boot.

Simple, obviously cheap, and portable. All requirements met. they work best when the fan is near a wall heater or fireplace.

And with all the $ saved, we can buy new boots.

Christmas Project - Gourds

Lots of gourds laying around now that "Fall Decoration" season is over and we've started into "Chrismas Decoration".

We made pie out of most of the pumpkins, but what to do with the gourds? One project the kids had a good time with was making canteens, bowls, and containers out of the old gourds.

They loved the machete' part.

Scooping out the 'guts' was fun, too.

Most of the gourds emptied quickly to leave behind only the hard, outer shell.

Once again, the humble spoon was the tool of choice.

Here is an emptied gourd. This one will be a cup or bowl.

Many of them we will dry, add a long strap of leather, and give as gifts. Alot of friends asked for pumpkin seeds from the giant pumpkin, or we will put a bunch of the black Aztec corn seeds (heritage) in as gifts.

Or, just goof around and smash them when we are done. That is the nice thing about gourds - always giving entertainment.

Some of them turned out quite pretty.

Either way, it was a fun way to spend the afternoon playing with a spoon and the lucky machete'...

Friday, November 26, 2010

Enough of Hawaii... Back to the Pacific NW!

Back home, just in time for the left-over snow!


Oh well, Thanksgiving with snow just feels right - nothing makes it feel like the holidays like snow on the ground.

Or is that shaving cream on the ground? Time for our annual shaving cream fight! 12th Annual, that is... and these guys are ready!

She is smiling, even with a big glop in the face... that tells you something about how fun this event is!

One of our favorites in the year.

The little ones love it too... especially the whip cream we use at the beginning.

They quickly learn to sniff the glop before putting it in their mouth...

This is one of those fights that you have to take it as you dish it out.

After the fight is winding down, it is fun to cover yourself, too!

Especially stying your hair for pictures...

The dog has a good time with it too, and smells her best of the year.

The neighbor did get concerned and brought her back to our place when she left before we got her cleaned up!

Another great year kicking off a day of Thanksgiving for all we have and enjoy.