The World Outside The City

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What is the world like outside “the city?”

It depends where you are.

In the Rocky Mountains a person hears the wind sighing for her love through the leaves of the pines and aspens.  In the Mojave Desert that same wind moves oven heat across mesas and ancient ocean beds, scouring them clean of any living thing not strong enough to stand.  The sunlight reflecting in the heat waves above the highway tells your eyes your car should be splashing through mirages instead of rolling dryer than old bones.

In town it’s difficult to see the stars through the neon pollution of screaming commercialism.  In the suburbs, one can pick the major constellations out of the glow.  Man-made satellites are but an intellectual rumor.  But in those Rocky Mountains, in the Mojave Desert, at night those constellations are swallowed alive in the myriads of stars that explode and cascade across the draped black velvet of the night.  Away from the city, away from the suburbs, a person can sit outside on a calm night and scan the sky’s bowl for satellites, because they are, indeed, visible.  Sitting outside, watching the constellations wheel around Polaris stills the soul, it gives a person time to think.  One falls asleep watching those stars, and, waking, finds the Milky Way has twisted in the sky, no longer where it was as we drifted off.

It is quietly exciting to stand a stick in the earth and sight across its top at a constellation or major star and watch that constellation or its star, move up and counter-clockwise from the top of the stick.  It’s even more fun to watch the Moon entangle herself in the arms of an old oak tree, then shun his embrace to climb the night.

We drove from our home on its forested acres in the Ozark Mountain foothills to Dallas a fortnight ago.  My wife summed it up when she commented, “I can’t see the stars, and I can feel the wind on my face, but I can’t hear it.”

I miss the peace, the unlimited vista, the silence of the forest.

The conveniences of the city are not a fair trade.



Summer 2015 is coming . . .

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​Up to date as of 10 August 2014
Hey, y’all,

Thank you for checking in.

I retired from teaching High School Architecture, Engineering, and Robotics in June, and my wife and I moved to our forty-three acres in McDonald County, Missouri.  (WE DID IT!)

For the past ten weeks we have been finishing out the tiny house we’re living in out here, figuring out water and waste and power and mowing and cooking and where everything is everywhere.  There is no cellphone receptivity nor internet “down in the hollow” where we live . . . at least not so far with the technology we have.

Trying to plan for retiring, selling the house, and starting out here was more than my non-positronic brain could handle, but now I have the time and the intellectual space of not being pulled away by school-planning to work with.  We left Carrollton with warehouse(s) full of stuff – after chucking about a house-worth. Now that we’re up here, we’re still tossing stuff.  The kids are not in the house any more, and we just don’t need all the “stuff.”

The schedule below is the result of intense cogitation.  I feel like Winston Churchill . . . “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” . . . but it’s starting to come together.

Anyway, here’s the schedule.  
If there is any way to schedule brothers in different sessions that would be fabulous.  I have a kid brother whom I love dearly.  He and I were both in Scouts, but he focused on athletics in high school, and I signed up for ROTC.  We were individuals there, and we didn’t have to compete for anyone’s attention in those different activities.  If the guys are in different sessions, they will be “Joe Willy”, not “Jim Bob’s Brother”  That’s an incredible difference.  

Anyway . . . here’s the scheduled framework.  It’s not going to change.  Everybody’s getting ready for school right now (for the first time in two decades, I’m not . . . it’s really a strange sensation), and you’re not thinking about summer yet.  I’ll flesh these dates out with activities so you’ll know what you’re signing up for.

We have bought twelve-passenger bus, and it is terminally cool.  I’ll have the photos transferred out of the camera and from the Facebook page (WindWalkerCamp Texas) and put them up here. Hang with me till I figure out how . . . Here’s the framework.

June 7-13 Hardage Family Camp (kids and grandkids and cousins)
June 14-27 Middle School Boys Session ONE
June 28-July 11 Middle School Boys Session TWO
July 12-18 Teacher Workshop Session THREE
July 19-25 Teacher Workshop Session FOUR
July 26- August 8 Middle School Boys Session FIVE
August 9-August 22 Middle School Boys Session SIX
September 13-September 19 Bald Eagle Session SEVEN

More will follow as I cull the dream enough to fit it into the time actually available on this space-timeline.

Life is good, y’all.

Uncle Pat

Hard Root Beer

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  • Several months ago I discovered the joys of brewing root beer at home. It’s fun. It’s just gently technical enough to require paying attention to what one is doing. It doesn’t cost that much. You get to buy neat toys.

    It is slightly easier – and more cost-efficient – to brew root beer in the late fall and winter. It is flat-smooth necessary to refrigerate your batch the day after you brew/bottle it. Brewers’ yeast operates quickly and deliciously to turn water, sugar, and different formulae of root beer flavoring into a glorious beverage that only intoxicates the tongue . . . not the brain.

    I know that because I brewed a late batch in the Spring. Just before a heat wave. I had been storing my brew in the shop, but the shop was no longer the temperature of the primordial cave . . . now it was the temperature of the Texas attached two-car garage. Damn. Now, I like the flavor of brewed yeast (and malted hops), and the flavor of hard root beer is, well, interesting, but there’s so damn much foam, it’s hardly worth it. So, after a dozen or so bottles, I gave it up as a lost cause.

    Today Kathryn asked me to help move one of her tables from her project room upstairs to the ostensible dining room downstairs. I use that word, because that’s what it’s been titled on the house plans; I don’t know that we’ve actually dined in there. (We’ve dinned often, but I don’t remember dining.) Under the existing folding table were two and a half cases (as in 24 bottles each) of petrified root beer. Those had to move first.

    Well, what a terrific opportunity to empty them, wash them, get them ready for winter’s brewing season . . .

    So I set the wine-cellar-dusty cases on the island in the kitchen, set up a five-gallon bucket on a waist-high stool for ergonomic efficiency, rattled around in a kitchen drawer for the church key, held the first bottle pretty much in the bucket, and popped the cap.

    Holy crap! That sonofabitch hurt!

    The bullet from a .45 caliber pistol has a muzzle velocity of 550 feet per second; this cap departed the lip of the bottle only marginally more slowly. It seriously smacked into my palm, which I had positioned to prevent any spewing root beer from splashing into the kitchen. Actually it blasted my thumb with the bottle cap and rang my eardrums with the “pop” of an M-16 set to single-round fire. My palm was recoiled just right to redirect the spew into my face, covering my glasses and ricocheting onto half the kitchen floor. General Swartzkopf’s “shock and awe” were present in my kitchen.

    Well. Damn.


    So I repeated the exercise with the second bottle.

    And got the same results.

    And a mop to clean the floor before I tracked it all over the house.
    And I rinsed and dried my glasses.
    And I blotted the root beer from the dome of my head.

    On the back porch, I opened bottle number three . . . maybe if I open them slowly the pressure will bleed off and it won’t smack my hand.

    Actually the pressure bleeds off by ejecting thoroughly fermented root beer into and out of the bucket, and, again, into my face and all over my shirt. Not all that slowly, I might add.

    So, since it’s gonna be that way, I figure the best way is to hook the tang of the church key under the crimped edge of the cap and just flip it loose with a twist of the wrist. And that actually works pretty good. (I know, as an English teacher, it should be “rather well,” but I’m a Texan, and “pretty good” is as good as it’s going to get right here.) More than 90% of the root beer actually went into the bucket and stayed there.

    After a dozen or so shots, the yappy little dogs next door and across the alley start commenting on my activity. The hell with them. And the neighbors they leashed in with. About two dozen bottles at a time is all the root beer a five-gallon bucket can hold . . . did I mention the foam? Better than Barb-a-Sol. It dies down after ten minutes or so, and you can open more bottles.

    My back porch sounded for a while like a gun range backed up to a kennel.

    But it sure smelled good.

    Life is good, y’all.

Grown-up Friends and Families and Scouts . . .

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I have been busy with PineWoodDerbyWorkshop and School, and this week we have to move our beehives to Missouri.  Yeah, yeah, yeah.

But this is what I have in the oven for starting with people in the campsite . . . 45 incredibly beautiful, quiet acres in McDonald County, Missouri.

This is the listing I have at the website: http://www.windwalkercamp.com.  Click on over there and check it out.  This is for grown-ups.  Former students (college age or better), teaching buddies and their kids.  This thing will be free-form.

View Series - across the flying field from North to South . . .

View Series – across the flying field from North to South . . .





deck panorama 5

Uncle Pat’s First Primitive Do-It-Yourself Camp for Teaching Buddies, Former Students, and Scouting Friends
Come out; bring your friends; bring your kids. This is a camp for pretty much anybody I’ve taught with, taught at, or camped with and their kids. It’s a family camp that includes singles. Here’s how we charge and what we’re doing.
We charge $85/day for people over 12; $65 for 12’s and younger if you bring your own tent/trailer. If you would like to sleep in one of the tipis, we charge an additional $25/person/night. (We like to put six people in a tipi.) This includes meals and a wood deck whereon to pitch your own tent or a grassy spot to park your camping trailer. We serve family-style breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner, snack. Iced tea and iced water all day.
You can haul your family or group over to canoe trips at several outfitters on the three rivers within an hour or so of us. There are caverns within another hour. Or, heck, you can drive to Branson for the day, or over to Rocky Ridge Farm to see Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Mansfield, or to George Washington Carver’s farm right up the road in Diamond, or into Joplin to see Harry and Bess Truman’s home. Or you can sit on your cannister and not stir from the place and just listen to the wind hushabye through the trees.
You can bring your own .22 rifle (no pistols or larger calibers, please) and plink on the gun range. We have paper targets and tin can lids. If you want to start saving tin-can lids, by all means do; it’s very satisfying to plunk those things. You can use our long guns.
We will brew a little root beer (takes two days to fizz up right . . . and you HAVE TO KEEP IT COLD, or it tastes yeasty. We will crank out a little homemade ice cream. We will make s’mores from free-trade chocolate around a campfire or whatever works if there’s a burn ban.
Yes; we will have sardine-tasting parties and haiku slams.
Yes; there will be organized nature walks — with sketch/photo opportunities.
Yes; there will be opportunities for butterfly/bug collections and leaf collections.
And all kinds of Citizen Scientist stuff.
Rockets, engines, and ammunition are available from the camp store.
There’s more, but I have to leave a little to the imagination.

You don’t need to stay the whole week if you don’t have the time, but you are welcome to do so if you do.
I realize this is short notice, but, what the heck, why not go for the burn . . .

Respondez sil vous plait.

“Houston, We have root beer!

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“The clock is running!

My fellow Americans, the first batch of root beer has been brewed.  (Brewn?)  Know what?  It tastes like root beer!  And it’s goooood.  Nice dark, sweet flavor.  Sassafras tang sort of lingers a bit on the back of your tongue.

But it’s not so sweet that it’s cloying.  Has just the smallest hint of a bite to it.  I like it.  If it weren’t so doggone late right now, I would go taste test another bottle.  It’s all in the interests of science, right.

Since it is too late for root beer, and, of course, the blackberries were starting to be in the refrigerator too long, Kathryn and I decided to put them (the blackberries) out of their misery and have a half pint of them with a small bowl of blackberry ice cream . . . did I post here about blackberries frozen in homemade ice cream being like eating very delicious marbles?  Well, they’re good, but I’m going to whang the bee-hoopers out of ‘em next time.

Oh, mercy; there’s only tomorrow and Friday of Mid-Term tests before Christmas Break.  Then I can think and plan about and for WindWalkerCamp full time for two weeks!

Give me strength.

Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, my friends.


What the hands learn, the mind cannot forget.

Root Beer, Campfire Onions, Family Camp

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The weather is staying cool enough that I can stash root beer in the woodshop.  Other people have a garage where they park the family cars . . . I have a woodshop where kids and I can build pinewood derby cars (www.pinewoodderebyworkshop.com).  I like my way better.   So I’m going to move a shelf into a corner of the shop over the weekend and stash fifty-three 12-ounce bottles of root beer out there after they have fermented for three days.  I’m wondering if I should rig up some kind of basin around the base to contain the overflow should any of them pop their tops.  Well I’m just going to have to figure that out.  Keep reading;  I’m never totally sure where tomorrow is going to wind up.

 That was prognostication.

 This two bits is history.  “Campfire Onions” is a really simple recipe for baking onions in aluminum foil in the embers of a fire or in your oven in the kitchen.  My Fellow Americans, this recipe works.  Delightfully so.  After forty-five minutes at 350 degrees, the onions came out just crunchy enough, not at all squishy.  And the flavor is sweet without the tang of a raw onion because of the brown sugar.  I’m not certain what the beer added (I use non- alcoholic) except, possibly, undertones to the brown sugar.  But this is a delightful addition to the family/camp cookbook.

 I’m still working on the mold for pewter-casting a spoon and a fork.  I will figure it out.

 I’m looking at the last week of WindWalkerCamp schedule this summer – 21-27 July—–

and I’m figuring out how to work this.  We’re going to have a ga- boodle of options.  I think we’re going to set it up so that each family has a tent . . . as opposed to camping kids away from parents . . . then having separate activities for moms, for dads, for kids, for moms and dads together.  It’ll be “interesting” to schedule, but it’ll be a good time.

 Thanks for reading.  Stay thirsty, My Friends.


 What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.


The Weather and the Woods

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It’s colder in Missouri . . . on the outside.

Right now the weather is 29 degrees at WindWalkerCamp outside Joplin, Missouri.  The wind chill has it down to 22.  Outside my bedroom office window in Carrollton, Texas, it’s a balmy 58 with a wind.  We’ve closed the windows tonight.

A few years ago we were family-camping out there, and it got down to 13 degrees.  Now, friends, that was cold.  I had ice on my pillow from the condensation of my breath.  It was not a whole lot of fun when I had to make a run for the outhouse.  I mean to say the seat was a whole new experience for me.

But the morning broke clear, and the day go up to forty-something, and we had a fire going, and it was kind of nice out of the wind.

. . . And we deep-fried a turkey.  It was a wonderful day, actually.  And a wonderful weekend overall.

That’s why we’re going to enclose the covered deck to make it the Lodge.

Lots of windows on the east side to overlook the flying field and to catch the morning sunrise.

A big fireplace built out of the stone from the place spang in the middle of the west side.

An indoor dining area either at the north or south end.  Right now it doesn’t really matter.

We’ve found a sawmill to slab-cut an oak or two from the hill behind us.  I haven’t heard back yet from the fellow who logs with a team of horses to skid it out of the woods.  The logs’ll go to the mill on a truck.  But as I write this, I’ve started to think, “Why not just hire a guy to set up a portable mill out here to saw it right on the place?”  That way we’d wind up with the timbers to frame out the sawmill we’re going to put down by the ford across the Gerald at the same time we got the siding for the lodge.  We’d just sticker the slabs up and let them dry in the shed we built of the wood at the center of their logs.

This is starting to get to be a better idea than it was originally.

I’ve been looking at all manner of architectural images for the last several years, and I really like “carven doors.”  I’ve been thinking about carving up something with lots of glass and maybe a dragon or a bear or a dinosaur . . . but now I’m also thinking about carving the door from our own trees.  It’s getting kind of exciting.

Thanks for reading.  Stay toasty my friends.


What the hands learn the mind cannot forget.





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