Tuesday, May 30, 2017

5th Annual Smith Mill British Motorcycle Rally

A friend of mine invited me to a gathering of vintage British motorcycle enthusiasts that meet once a year at the site of the historic Smith Mill located in North East Ohio.

The day dawned cool and rainy.  I had to ride about twenty five miles to get to my friend's place where we planned to load up the bikes on a trailer and travel another fifty miles to the mill.  The rain did taper off and quit but after three miles I was soaked from the knees down from road spray. I seriously considered turning around and going home.  With some encouragement from my friend I persevered. After all what is a British motorcycle rally without some British style weather to go with it. 

The mill has a long and interesting history behind it.  An original mill was built on the site in 1820 by Daniel Slaker which operated as the first sawmill in Jackson township. Later the mill functioned as a gristmill and flourmill up through the mid 1800's.  The facility certainly played an important role in the area's commerce as it was just across the road from the Ohio & Erie Canal.

By the late 1800's the mill was converted to a brewery which supplied the nearby town of Massillon, Ohio until about 1910 when the brewery moved closer to town.  Shortly after that the original mill was destroyed by fire. 

In 1925 R.W. Smith constructed the present building using the old stone blocks from the original mill to build the foundation then completing the structure using post and beam construction under a brick exterior.  This is what gives the building a two-tone look with sandstone on the bottom and red brick for the upper stories. From 1925 to 1973 this new and improved Smith Mill produced apple cider with output sometimes reaching up to 200 gallons of cider a day.

The current owner of the property who also happened to be our gracious host for the day's event acquired the mill in the 1980's and has done an outstanding job preserving this unique piece of Ohio history.

After coffee and donuts and much mutual admiration of our fine British machines we saddled up for a relaxed 60 miles round trip tour through the countryside of north east Ohio.  Here's a sampling of a few of the bikes in attendance:

While not British this Moto Guzzi is a fine example of Italian engineering.

A cool Triumph done up in flat tracker style.

Another non-english bike: BMW

I was so busy immersing myself in the sights, sounds and smells of these vintage machines I almost forgot to take a photo of the Scrambler.  In the background an old iron bridge crossing the Tuscarawas River near the village of Zoar where we stopped for lunch.

In all we had 25 bikes in the group.  For me it was a new experience. I have never participated in a large group ride so I settled in near the back of the group so I could watch the column spread out as we took to the roads. Also from the rear I could best savor the mechanical music of those vintage twins.

Mill history:   http://oldmills.scificincinnati.com/index.html


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Recumbent Trikes with The RoadQueen

The RoadQueen's hot pink ICE Sprint 26"

 We finally took a break from farm chores and projects and spent a day on our recumbent trikes.  It has been a long time since we ventured out on our three wheelers so we thoroughly enjoyed a lazy Saturday on the B & O Trail in Richland County, Ohio. 

Temperatures were ideal at about 70 degrees and other than a late afternoon passing shower conditions were great along the greenways.

With the stability of three wheels camera work while underway is safe and easy.

Spring is one of my favorite times to be outside on a bike. The air smells clean and fresh and blossoming trees and wildflowers along the trail provide fragrance as well as great views.

Since owning and riding a recumbent trike I've discovered an attribute of this type of cycle that really makes the platform shine.  If I'm feeling like racing the clock or hammering out an intense workout my Catrike 700 is up to the task.  On the other hand if I want to spend the day at a relaxing 10 mph the trike does that with aplomb.

There are racks available to transport a pair of trikes on a car but since I have a pickup truck portaging to the trail is easy as pie.

B & O Trail
Ride Time:    2:59
Distance:    30.54 Miles
Average Speed:    10.22 mph

Friday, May 12, 2017

A Composting System for Small Horsefarms

This is one of the first projects the RoadQueen and I took on last year when we were getting our horse farm up and running.  While she is the equine expert I simply enjoy building things and being a gardener I can appreciate a system that yields wagons full of cured compost for my garden.

We found plans and theory of operation for this system from the Oklahoma Cooperative Extension and the Oklahoma State University. Here is the pdf. 

Some of the materials we already had on hand. These were panels of heavy stock fencing, T-posts and a pile of pea gravel to make a raised base to keep the manure pile up off the ground. To cover the gravel we laid heavy one inch thick rubber stall mats to make forking and shoveling easier.  I fabricated corner brackets to connect and stiffen the 2 x 12 frame from 1/16" aluminum.

We started adding to the bin right away from stall clean outs and paddock area.  The key is to continue to add to the pile mixing in fresh manure to the older stuff working towards the open end of the bin.  After 11 months we had the bin about three quarters full.

Over time microorganisms and bacteria worked their magic and now I am forking out beautiful black gold to fortify my garden soil.

Unfortunately we don't have a tractor with a front end loader yet so all the lifting is done by hand and I use a small garden tractor and cart to transport the compost to my garden.  While shoveling shit is not the least bit glamorous or fun I'll still take it over the boring repetition of lifting weights in a gym.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Spreading Manure

Today I spread some aged manure on the garden plot.  Living with horses has many advantages one of which is a nearly endless supply of very nutrient rich compost. 

The mowing crew.

My mother taught me gardening and the love of it has stuck with me all my life.  When I lived in the city I only had a small strip on the south side of my house where I could cultivate a small crop of tomatoes and maybe a few pepper plants.  The rest of the property had too much shade and not enough sunlight to support a vegetable garden.

Here is a few photos from previous years:

While I like to can, dry and freeze a lot of my harvest it is nice to eat fresh from the garden.  The above photo shows tomatoes, jalapeno and red chili peppers ready for a batch of homemade chili.

A feature I noticed right away when looking at the farm was a perfectly situated garden spot chosen by the former owner. I wasn't going to grow a garden last year because we had so much going on having just moved. In the end I threw a few plants in the ground anyways and we enjoyed this first garden on the farm.

Here is the garden about mid summer 2016:
From left: Sweetcorn, tomatoes, cabbage, bell, cayenne and jalapeno peppers.  

This year after some extensive soil building I'm looking forward to many hours spent working my little plot.  Back in the fall I covered the entire garden with leaves once they all fell and now I'll continue to cart loads of manure up and start tilling it in.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Springtime Flowers

The last time I was back in the woods the ground was covered in dead brown leaves. This weekend I took a walk back and discovered the renewal of spring in full bloom.

My knowledge of botany is limited so I have no idea of the name of this ground cover. In any case it sure is nice to see things greening up finally.

Friday, March 31, 2017

Double Crank for the Motobecane

After much consideration I decided to swap out the triple crank for a double on my titanium Motobecane. For years I've always liked the utility of a triple crank on my bikes but since moving to the farm I don't find myself with the time or the desire to head east to ride in the hill country. The roads around my area are very flat as can be seen in the photo so really a double is right at home. And let's face it the Motobecane is a performance bike and a double crank completes the look.

When I decided to make the change last fall I perused that online auction site and found a used Ultegra crankset with bottom bracket for fifty dollars.  The new to me double is from the same line as the triple I was using so shares the same classic looks.  I'm not a fan of the newer style big blocky looking cranks that are on the market today.  

The crank is not a compact model but I did replace the 53 tooth big ring with my existing 50 tooth. I'm not a strong rider by any stretch and the 53 just feels like too much gear to me.  I did leave the 34 on for low gears and it works fine on the very occasional rises I encounter on my rides.

Another positive outcome of the change was realized because the double runs on a slightly narrower bottom bracket than the triple. This moves the chain rings closer in towards the frame and the chain line now falls more in the middle of the cogset where I do most of my riding anyways.  Now the drive line feels noticeable smoother while underway and I'm not missing the triple at all.  

With the farm came an outstanding 40' X 60' pole barn which is quite a change from the single stall garage I had back in the city.  I now have more than adequate room for my collection of bikes, motorcycles and tractors. I don't have to push everything to one side when it comes time for maintenance.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life On The Farm - Forestry Project

Moving from the city about a year ago to a farm in the country has been a life changing event to say the least.  In the past I spent much of my free time with my bikes.  Living in the city with only a small lot to take care of left ample time for velo-related activities. Never one to shy away from some honest hard work I've found that the farm provides a plethora of projects to work on to keep me busy and fit.

Since I'm not so focused on the bike world I have decided to start a new topic on the blog and call it "Life On The Farm". Over the past year I continued to document my projects photographically and I'm going to make an attempt to get back to posting these endeavors here.

The back of our property is made up of a small three acre woodlot. We have Oaks, Maples, Hickory among other deciduous species.   A few weeks ago because of the lack of snow and the fact that the ground cover is dormant I decided to start cleaning up the area of downded branches and trees.  Our farm sat vacant for nearly ten years so there is lots of sticks to be picked up.

I've always enjoyed being in the woods whether mountain biking; hunting or simply sitting still watching the birds.  Even though the woods is only a meager three acres it doesn't seem to matter and I spend a lot of time being back there. And best of all I can call it my own. Well, maybe eventually I can when the bank is paid off.

A couple weeks ago we had a few days of very strong winds move through the area.  The fifty-plus mph gusts brought down a large Ash.  Years ago the woods was filled with many beautiful and tall Ash trees.  Unfortunately the Emerald Ash Borer moved in and decimated the Ash population.  Several of these trees are on the ground but many more are still standing dead waiting for the wind and gravity to have their way.

The first weekend after the wind storms I headed back and with the help of Wyatt and the RoadQueen we got busy converting this giant to firewood.  I'd rather have a forest full of healthy Ash trees but I suppose the one consolation is we won't have to buy firewood for quite some time.

When the Ash toppled it took out a couple smaller trees one of which it bent over fully and held there under tension.  Anyone who's been around woods and chainsaws knows this is a very dangerous situation.  After cutting as close as I dared to the area where the two trunks made contact I rigged up my winch to a thirty foot tow strap and eased the larger trunk off the smaller.  This way I was able to keep well clear of the danger area. The Ash slid off easily enough but I wasn't sure what the smaller tree under tension would do once freed from the weight of the Ash.  In the end it only whipped up a few feet.  Its base was splintered pretty bad at ground level.

The next day we sawed the massive trunk into managable pieces (see opening picture) ready for transport back to the woodshed.

Here's a shot of Wyatt tending the fire.  We're in the process of burning out an old stump using branches that are too wet or rotted to be burned in the indoor woodburner.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Frank Roberson Knife

My Inlaws Butch and Missy who are some of the nicest folks you could meet gifted me this Frank Roberson knife for Christmas this year. The blade is a small custom made full tang sheath knife that right away I knew would be a perfect addition to my flint lock kit.

Frank Roberson is a knife maker from Irving Texas who has been crafting blades since 1991. He used ATS-34 steel and favored sheephorn, ivory and other natural materials for handle scales.  The knife is not new but came from the collection of Missy's stepfather Hollis "Howdy" Howes who was a collector of knives and Native American artifacts who lived in Mineral Wells, Texas.

The tang of the knife has carving of a vine motif on the top and bottom. This embellishment I really like.

Here's the knife secure in it's new home:

Colonial riflemen often carried a small "patch" knife on a thong around their neck that was used to trim patch material from around the ball as they loaded their muzzle loading rifles.  A good patch knife has been missing from my rig and I am pleased to finally fill in the missing puzzle piece with this fine steel.  I lashed the sheath to the strap of my shooting bag with a couple leather laces to keep the knife handy and at the ready.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Ride With Wyatt

Veteran's Park - Butler, Ohio
Wow! time sure is a relentless rider.  My son is in the tenth grade now. Seems like just yesterday he was rocking the the twenty inch BMX.  He's become a fine young man and still rides his bike to school although now he rolls on 700c wheels.

Wyatt takes after his old man in that he's not of fan of ball sports but he does care deeply about his physical fitness.  When he noticed me messing about with my bicycle the other day he suggested that a nice long bike ride would be a great way to add some endurance training to his regular exercise routine.  He had my attention at "long bike ride"!  I said if your up to it let's ride the B&O.   

So we loaded up on a late Sunday morning and headed over to the trail.  Now I wouldn't think of riding a regular bike for 2+ hours without a pair of padded shorts and a jersey but Wyatt does not concern himself with the fredly trappings of a cyclist's kit.  His standard uniform of khaki pants and white tee shirt suited him fine.

He did make a great comment later after our ride: "Usually when we ride the rail trail we get passed by these groups of guys that look like you do with your serious bikes and a nod inferring to my stretchy clothes. But not this ride." 

I just let him set the pace for most of the ride and I think he was pretty pleased with himself that in 36 miles he was the one doing all the passing.  He's also learned how to meter out his power slowly and not burn up too soon.  

Foraging Whitetails

I felt pretty good also considering this was only my second time out.  The fact thatWyatt has become a good rider and can keep up a steady speed really helped to keep me spinning and lessening the pressure on the road bike saddle.

B & O Trail
Time:  2:42
Distance:  37.19 Miles
Average Speed:  13.73 mph