The Monday State of Play

Schedules have been squishing around, here. Q was planning on showing up next week but was free now, so he arrived last night. I had a beer and he fried some fungus [chicken of the woods] he picked up in Moshannon state park and we schemed a bit. Having had the experience of nearly crapping myself to death after eating a wild mushroom, I had some heat and eat curry and rice while I watched him prepare his doom.

First, some unpleasantness. When I took the wok over to the shop to weld the safety bumps on, I left the MIG machine at the settings I usually use, which is for welding large billets of steel. The plasma arc instantly blew a great big hole right through the bottom of the pan, completely ruining it. You know the expression “my mind was a blank” – well, my mind was a blank. I just put everything away and pretended it hadn’t happened. Not the best response, I know, but it was a response. It wasn’t until later that might that my subconscious worked out that the handle is held on with 3 pan-head aluminum rivets, which can be drilled out and the handle can be moved to an entirely different wok. Now, I am waiting for the replacement wok and sourcing the right length rivets (which I do not keep in stock). The situation is salvageable so I am feeling a bit better.

Meanwhile, a few months ago, the phone company upgraded the poles that go down Deer Creek Rd, which is the front of my property, and they asked me if I wanted the old poles. Naturally, “Yes! Thank you!” What kid hasn’t always dreamed of having their own telephone pole collection? The neighbor swung by a couple days later and asked if I had plans for the poles, because he could sure use them – telephone poles make great anchor-poles at the corner of horse fences. I said he could have all but 2 if he’d do me a small favor. See, he’s got a back-hoe. And back-hoes are the original “get things done” implement around here. Everything was arranged and I put up some little neon flags where I wanted to poles installed. Out here, we get pretty good frost heave in the winter, so a pole or a rock should be 3′ down in the ground if you want it to stay put; otherwise they eventually pop right out in a most embarrassing way.

“If life gives you telephone poles, stick ’em upright in the ground,” that’s what I always say. In life, you’ve got to know how to spin on a dime. This is not what we planned to do, but the wok is not operational.

They look uneven because they were photographed with a very short focal-length lens and my phone was not level. One is a bit taller than the other, but that’s what the 12″ wood blade for the sawz-all is for.

So, our plan for the morning is to run to the lumber store and get some sheets of plywood (I have performed mystical calculations yielding the answer: “4”) and rip them up on the table-saw, then we’ve got some screwing and gluing and bandsawing and sawz-alling and hopefully, after that, some painting. I’ll be posting the progress here, with a bit of luck.

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I have also been experimenting with freeze-marinading pork spareribs to make char siu, a key ingredient in char siu bao. It occurs to me that I have a test subject who is so fearless that he eats weird fungus that grows on trees, maybe I can teach him the art of bao-making.

Now, it’s time to go out and thump on the side of the van (Q lives in a big black van covered with antennas and solar panels) and see if he survived the tree chicken mushrooms.


  1. kestrel says

    Oh that would be so heartbreaking… I have used that strategy (pretend it never happened and leave it lying on the floor right where it exploded) and it does help me to get some distance so that I can start to think instead of react, and try to come up with a strategy. If there is one; sometimes there is not.

    A telephone pole collection! Nice. I like the way you are displaying yours. They would require a **huge** shelf to display, otherwise… And with them upright like that, you won’t have as much dusting to do… :-)

  2. komarov says

    Things like your wok-desaster are the reason why I become increasingly reluctant to work on something the more work I’ve already put into it. When things go awry my reaction is pretty much the same: Put everything down, switch off the tools and just wander off somewhere, eyes wide open. I’m an amaot (amateur + idiot) hobbyist and won’t ever amount to much, but if I could just teach myself to quit as soon as I feel I’m having an off day – before its too late – that’d be grand. Not to mention useful, although it probably isn’t an effective excuse to get out of work early unless you’re a star surgeon or an applied rocket scientist.

  3. Jazzlet says

    Oh and the only thing work men have ever asked me if I wanted “because sorting it out was going to be a real pain” was a large pile of tangled up polypropyrene rope. Which when untangled proved to have “ball” around a foot and a half by a foot in the centre. That must have been around twenty years ago and we are still using it up, jolly useful stuff, but telephone poles would have been better.

  4. says

    @Pierce R. Butler:
    I like bats! My shop has big eaves – I bet it’d be great to build some bat house. I will research designs unless you have a recommended link.

  5. Pierce R. Butler says

    Marcus Ranum @ # 7 – my link goes to a range of bat house designs: I don’t have a clear favorite among them.

    I live a few miles from the Lubee Bat Conservancy, and the professional chiropteraphiles there sell and recommend The Bat House Builder’s Handbook by Melvin D. Tuttle & Donna L. Hensley, of Bat Conservation International (which for some reason does not include the book in their online store).

    Though, according to many bats, [cat-free] eaves do make viable bat habitat, BCI recommends:

    The bottom of bat houses should be located 10 feet off the ground. Twelve to 20 feet off the ground is even better.
    Bat houses should have 10-14 feet of clear space above any vegetation below the bat house
    Bat houses should be mounted 20 to 30 feet from the nearest trees.

    – thus necessitating aforementioned phone poles. (That last link in turn links to free bat house designs; note that they consider it a success when 52% of bat houses achieve occupancy.)

  6. Reginald Selkirk says

    I was curious; turns out it was probably legal.
    Mushroom Picking Rules & Regulations in PA

    Pennsylvania State Parks
    For personal harvesting from State parks the rules are fairly clear…
    (b) The following activities are permitted:
    Gathering edible fruits, nuts, berries and fungi, in reasonable amounts, for one’s own personal or family consumption…

    There are some things that should be learned only from experienced experts. Mushroom picking is one of them. Camping in bear country is another.

  7. says

    Pierce R. Butler@#8:
    [M]y link goes to a range of bat house designs: I don’t have a clear favorite among them.

    I’m adding “build a bat house”:to my todo list.

    The nice thing about the forge bulding is it’s steel: I can just screw the thing right into one of the beams, through the outer skin, and it’ll be done. The eaves are 4′, the building is away from trees and tall grass, there are no cats, and the eaves are 14′ up. It sounds perfect. I’ll build one and if it gets residents I’ll do another.

    That’ll be a fall project.

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