Archive for September, 2009

Dreams for Driving

amywink September 29th, 2009

I’ve been watching Ken Burn’s documentary The National Parks: America’s Best Idea this week on PBS. This evening, Acadia National Park appeared in the 3rd episode, The Empire of Grandeur.

I want to go.

I want to drive in Acadia and cross those bridges, acknowledging this best idea with the sound of my horse’s hooves on the Rockefeller roads.

Some day.

I’ve been to more National Parks than I thought though there are more than I imagined. I do not think of myself as a traveler but when I looked at the maps, I remembered how many.

Alaska: Denali, Kenai Fjords

Arizona: The Grand Canyon

Colorado: Colorado National Monument, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, The Great Sand Dunes, and Mesa Verde.

Kansas: The Tall Grass Prairie Preserve in Chase County, Kansas

Montana: Little Bighorn Battlefield, Glacier National Park

New Mexico: White Sands, Bandelier, Capulin Volcano, Petroglyph, Pecos.

South Dakota: The Badlands National Park

Tennessee: The Great Smoky Mountains

Texas: Fort Davis, LBJ National Historic Park, Padre Island National Seashore, San Antonio National Missions Park

Utah: Arches

Washington DC

Virginia: Blue Ridge Parkway, Colonial Williamsburg

Wyoming: The Devil’s Tower

Seems like a pretty good idea, indeed, one of the best and for that, one of the best prayers I know. . . .

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

Seats Finished!

amywink September 28th, 2009

Though we’d planned to drive this Sunday, it turned out to be way too hot, 95+, so I spent my Sunday inside working on several projects, including my cart seats. And now they are finished!!!

Seats from the Back:
Passenger SeatDriver's Seat

Seats from the front:
Driver's Seat 2Passenger Seat 2

Spares Box:Spares Box
Passenger Seatback Closeup:
Passenger Seat Back

There was a lot involved in putting these seats together. I replaced all the wood, vinyl, and foam but kept the seat brackets, spares box, and the two pieces of oak that hold the passenger seat bottom together. I also replaced the piece of wood the passenger seat will rest on. These seats will be affixed to the shafts so I had to get all the holes drilled correctly and everything upholstered before we put the seats on the cart. I think these are the most complex part of the cart. All the other parts assemble fairly simply.

Next, I’ll put the dash assembly together.

Swap Drive Work Day

amywink September 27th, 2009

Yesterday, when summer began to reappear, Lisa and I headed down to Agarita Ranch for the Swap Drive Work Day–to prepare the place for the upcoming Swap Drive, October 17. The recent rains had really greened the place right up….and muddied it up as well. We spent our morning clipping mean, thorny things like what I think was Texas Buckthorn out of the arena and warmup area. There were several other thorny things too but no actual Agarita in the dressage field. Whew!!

We also marked off the main dressage arena into a 20×40 and 30×60 arenas for the training and intermediate area minis. The soft dirt made it easy for hammering in the stakes but I do hope the mini folks enjoy our work!

The Rainy Way Back to My Cart

amywink September 25th, 2009

This week has been rainy again and we are still thankful even if it delays driving for another day. We are also thankful to have found our farrier, who came out yesterday afternoon and trimmed everyone. It took some doing to find someone good to come out to the boonies and we were, of course, anxious to find someone who would pass muster, given our poor experiences with some farriers. We were more than pleased with Joe Salaman, a UK certified farrier, we found through another barefoot trimmer. All the horses look terrific and seem very pleased with his work. Lisa and I both enjoyed talking with him and learning so much about the work. I always enjoy listening to a skilled craftsman talk about his work and yesterday was no exception. Of course, as he started on Miss B, the rains began again and so no driving after he finished. The sound of rain on the barn’s tin roof was, however, almost equally enjoyable as the sound of horse’s hooves trotting down the road. We are still in drought but the steady light rains are making a dent.

Since the rains have started up and the weather has cooled down, I have gotten back to my cart rebuilding project. I had to put it aside this summer because the heat was so bad, it started to warp the wood I had varnished outside!! I still have the underside of my shafts to varnish and the underside of the shaft stabilizer. Of course, now that it’s raining, I can’t do that yet either. This week, I got back to painting my bolts brown and touching up the metal pieces for the seat platform. I’ve gotten one seat upholstered, except for the trim around the bottom, and we’ll be working on the driver’s seat shortly.

This morning, I scraped the dripped varnish off the dash with a razor and reapplied new varnish to smooth out the flaws. Once the seats are completed, I intend to put the dash assembly together, with the crossbar and the swingletree. I have the materials to create the trim pieces–the same marine vinyl I have for the seats and I think I have decided to make the loops from a set of synthetic reins I do not use. We’ll see if I stick to that decision on further reflection.

The varnishing and painting of the cart’s body is mostly complete aside from what I mentioned above and a few carriage bolt heads and corresponding nuts (which I am still considering how/when to paint) so the next Major Step are the wheels, which have been in my garage since last Christmas. I will be sanding and staining and painting the trim on those sometime this fall, as well as painting the axle and springs. I was very pleased this week to discover I could order “Spring Blocks” from Iowa Valley Carriage to replace the split ones I pulled off the cart.

It’s been a great adventure, this cart, and I’m surprised by my interest in re-doing it and excited by what I’ve learned about the mechanics of it. As usual, Tom O’Carroll taught me a great deal about cart structure every time he looked at a cart and I have started to look at other carts with an eye to how they are put together. I have made a couple of changes to my cart as I have progressed after I noticed other designs that proved more durable and structurally sound. The true test, of course, will be what happens when we get it all back together–and perhaps “can we get it all back together!”

Here are a few photos of the cart before and during the rebuilding process. I’ve chosen Minwax Woodstain “Gunstock” and Cabot Gloss Spar Varnish (as per the recommendations everywhere) for the durable finish. The ironwork paint is Rustoleum Leather Brown. I suppose I should say that I bought this cart for $250 and proceeded to put about $600 and my own labor hours into the project to create what I hope will be a smashing presentation vehicle.

BEFORE:

img_1780.jpgimg_1782.jpgimg_1783.jpgimg_1784.jpg

DURING

I ended up replacing the seats entirely, rebuilding with new wood, reusing the brackets and oak pieces underneath, and the dash (because of the giant crack). The shafts were also replaced and the wheels because of their size. I did refinish the fenders and the floor, replacing only a couple of missing pieces, and the spares box under the driver’s seat. I also changed the dash brackets so the dash is attached to the front, with the metal on the “inside”. Now the dash and the seat backs have the same curve.img_2103.jpgimg_2067.jpgimg_2066.jpg

The metal bits are now brown, after sanding and filing with a Dremel: img_2110.jpgimg_2164.jpg

Now, this isn’t going to be an ordinary Meadowbrook cart but a Custom Meadowbrook cart, complete with a Custom Painted Design created by my mother, Winifred Wink. We were inspired by the idea of adding flames to carriages but wanted something that tied Will’s name (Frisco Creek Red Ranger, aka Will Scarlet) to his carriage. This is what we came up with. :-D

Check out the fenders, the spares box, and the dash and seatbacks.img_2093.jpg img_3194.jpgimg_3200.jpg

I also solved a problem on the seat bottoms and the seat backs with the delightful, and design-suitable Acorn Nut:
img_3209.jpgimg_3211.jpg

I still have work to do so the “After” shots will come later, upon assembly I think, but we’ve certainly come a long way since with our original cart! And, I think this is fairly good work for an English Major!

Hands: “On”

amywink September 21st, 2009

I spent my morning today in an “hands-on” workshop learning how to use the education software known as “Blackboard”. It’s not really very difficult if you are able to read instructions and click “okay” as needed. And I think it will be very helpful for my students when I get everything set up for my classes. It’s the kind of hands-on work I do every day, sitting at the computer, brain in charge, type-ity-type-type, click-ity-click-click.

After my workshop, I met up with a longtime friend, a fellow Southwestern graduate and colleague at Austin Community College, for lunch. We ran into, almost literally, each other last week, rounding a corner near the elevator, both of us rushing to get somewhere else. Over e-mail later, I sent him my blog and he sent me his and we entertained each other with our obsessions: carriage driving and knitting.

Who would have guessed?

These new hobbies befell us both about the same time, the magical age of 39, though I think it took longer for me to move my theory into practice. After reading his blog, Knitting Sweaters and Sitting Still, I looked forward to our lunch together and a discussion of how we’d both learned our “hands-on” hobbies.

I have a great deal of respect for what’s required in hand work like knitting, crochet, tatting, and lacework. I once tried to learn how to crochet. Dis-Mal Fail-Ure. My hands refused the instructions. I might as well have been trying to work with oven mitts on my hands. But I do collect antique linens–doilies, table linens, etc, etc–and have written about the appreciation I have for the hand-created items of our history. I have friends whose skill at this type handiwork is astounding to me but it is not work for my hands.

Or perhaps, I did not want to learn it enough. Because my hands have learned new work, without pen, without computer.

When I came to driving, I had long since decided I was not a very good “physical learner”. I had spent years in intellectual work, knowing my aptitude for physical dexterity was limited–though now I think that really just something I was telling myself because I couldn’t do it perfectly the first time. Perhaps knitting was something I just wanted to do, but not to actually learn. Driving, on the other hand, I wanted to learn. I wanted to drive and I wanted to drive well (sometimes too well, too soon!). It took my brain a few months to decide that I really did want to learn and perhaps it should open up some new neural pathways and turn those hands “on” instead of letting them flounder alone with the reins. I’m still working on those connections, getting my ‘good hands’ working well with my ‘good brain’.

Steve had similar story and now knits “continental” style, or left-handed, because his right-hand simply refused to learn the ropes–or yarns, I should say! har-har. We had a delightful lunch catching up, talking about our new handiwork and where it’s taking us. It’s the sign of a truly good hobby when it leads you to renew old friendships, find new ones, and head forward into unknown adventures of creation.

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