In Praise of Danner Boots–Made in the US (sort of)

A Rouge’s Gallery

I will have to begin with a somewhat humorous story, about the time I walked two agents of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Commission into the ground, after I discovered a previously unknown population of wild brook trout. We were ready for a six mile hike, but as this was on the NC-TN state line, the Forest Service had randomly decided to lock off the access road on the top of a really big mountain into the Citico Creek Wilderness trailhead in the National Forest. Now we had to walk about thirteen miles.

The desk jockeys did not look pleased. I had various secret weapons–a one ounce fly rod, and two pairs of Danner USA union made boots. The ones on the left, which have been re-soled multiple times, and the wading boots with carbide spiked soles, on the right, were both there. I knew they were in for a world of hurt.

I caught them their trout, which increased the known wild brook trout territory in TN by more than one percent. Then we had to walk back up the mountain. I busted their butts, but had a reward waiting–a cooler full of really cold beer.

It was like Lazarus returning from the dead. They both snorted down a beer, and congratulated me on my discovery. All I did was go fly fishing, and have a really pleasant walk.

Danner Boot Company is based in Portland, and is famous for its quality. With one exception these are all US made boots. The second pair from the left is MJ’s hiking boots. The ones in the middle are my new Mountain Lights, a replacement for the ones on the far left. The next pair were called Rainer, but made in Italy, apparently by the Fabiano boot company. Fabio himself was not involved.

I accidentally started the best gripe session I have ever heard. I went to the outdoor retailer show in Salt Lake, wearing my Danner Boots, of course, and the Danner booth was almost all women. Union women rock. They saw my boots, and said, right, on.

Here was my mistake: I asked them if I could get some women’s Danner wading boots for MJ. I laughed for ten minutes as they launched into the finest tirade I have ever heard, about how all their workers were women who fly fished, and male management refused to let them make women’s wading boots. It was epic.

Danner is now now making wading boots for the Patagonia company! Still no women’s shoes, but they are making much smaller sizes. Go figure on that one as well.

111 Year Old South Carolina Woman Reveals the Secret to Living Past 110–Eat, Drink, and be Merry

Maria Aulenbacher is my new hero. She received her Covid vaccine, and while drinking a giant glass of red red wine, gave up her secret to long life to CNN, during an interview. It fits in perfectly with my lifestyle.

The secret? Drink lots of wine and beer, and eat the best food you can. That’s been my philosophy for years. I can hardly think of a better.

By the way, she also has a great German name. And get your shots, please. If a 111 year old will do it, so should everyone else.

Hardy Cyclamen

Goodbye, Winter

Temps in the sixties for most of next week, but the hardy Cyclamen are like Honey Badgers–they just don’t care. This has been blooming for the entire month of February, and it is the species coum. It is not as vigorous as the next one, which is in the process of spreading over our entire five acres.

Cyclamen hederifolium

That is one or two twenty year old tubers, and if you look closely enough, there are tiny seedlings all in amongst the leaves. It is fall blooming, and usually pink, though there are white varieties. It has spread up some concrete stairs, and across a concrete patio. Ants are suspected agents of the dissemination.

White Cloud

This is a fancy variety known as “White Cloud,” which is white flowered, and was developed in the UK, the country of “gardeners and shop keepers,” as Napoleon said. Too bad they kicked his butt.

Vols

Volunteer seedlings will come up anywhere, including in cracks of rocks. The white cloud seedlings will have some crazy leaf shapes. Go figure.

A gardening “expert” on the interwebs said these things could not stand hot summers. BWAHAHAHAHA. These species come from the Middle East and the Mediterranean. I hear it gets kinda hot there, as well as here. We just happen to be at almost the same latitude as Tripoli, Libya, and Beirut, Lebanon. Geography is a terrible thing to waste.

Snow!

Snow Birds

We hardly ever get snow, or temps in the teens, and today we have–BOTH. I saw this coming, so yesterday I bought 110 pounds of bird food. Half was for the wild birds, and half for the chicks. Birds don’t even care about how cold it is, except for how hungry it makes them.

Today we have been invaded by the biggest flocks of finches and sparrows that we have ever seen. Our three feeders, two tube feeders with squirrel guards, and a wooden feeder that I repaired after it was squashed by a tree during a tornado, will have to be refilled a couple of times.

We have, in addition to the resident cardinals, flocks of gold finches and purple finches. They can seriously knock down some sunflower seed. The chipping sparrow flock is probably the lergest of all, and they prefer smaller seeds. Good thing I bought both.

The living part of the chicken coop is completely frozen shut, and it will take a lever of some kind to get it open. We did get them out into the pen, but it will be screwdriver time to get the small coop doors open.

It’s still snowing, and it is a regular Hitchcock film just outside my window.

The Birds!

Four layers of Patagonia expedition weight fleece kept me quite warm, however, when I went to gather eggs. Having been in the outdoor industry has its perks.

Feeding the Asparagus

Feed the Veg

MJ thinks my cardboard mulch is tacky, but after I read a “gardening expert” on the interwebs who said that cardboard is impermeable to water, which is hilariously stupid, I had to try it. It killed all the weeds around our Asparagus bed.

So I planted my thirty new Asparagus crowns, and decided to give the whole bed a banquet of Chicken manure–composted, of course. You have to feed the veg if you want the veg to feed you.

The next layer was composted crushed egg shells–aka, calcium. The chickens just keep on giving.

Last of all was something that I actually had to purchase–pelletized lime. The good news is that it goes for about ten cents a pound.

Spargelzeit (Asparagus time) cannot get here fast enough.

A Stropping Lad

No Pun Left Behind

Here we have two strops, one retail and one home made. The older I get, the more of a stropping lad I become.

The strop for carving tools on the left is still available from the excellent Flexcut tool company. It also comes with some super fancy stropping compound, and will eliminate the need for sharpening with a micro-abrasive, if used regularly. The back side has a flat surface covered in cork, and a wide curved groove to sharpen the backs of gouges. All around groovy!

The old school large strop is home made from scrap leather and scrap wood, and yes, have a scrap leather pile to go along with my scrap lumber pile. I just glued the leather on with Gorilla glue, and clamped it down with two large wooden Jorgenson clamps. The stropping compound is not as fine as the Flexcut compound, but it gets the job done. Great for everything from plane blades to kitchen knives. It results in a scary sharp edge.

Contrary to myth, a sharp edge is much safer than a dull one. And if you do cut yourself, it leaves a neater wound. The two walking staffs in the background were made by our local friendly beavers, who thoughtfully cut them exactly to the right length. The top one appears to be River Birch, and the bottom one with bright green bark is something I have never seen before. It must taste like yuck, because the beaver stopped gnawing on it about one-fourth of the way down. Which makes me wonder–do beavers strop their teeth?

Country Winter in the South

Snowed Under–Not

Today is my birthday, and its (irony alert) a frigid seventy degrees F here. So some landscape shots for you, from our little Appalachian river valley. That’s Garden City Mountain, on the other side of the river.

A River Runs Through It

Our little river can be seen upon close examination. According to popular myth, fishing becomes spectacular when the dogwoods bloom. Go trees!

Appalachian Spring

Crocus in Green Grass. Spring is practically Here.

With apologies to American master Aaron Copland for stealing his title, though I have read that dancer Martha Graham actually named it that, we will have a preview of Spring this week, with four days in the sixties F. My birthday in the middle of the week will be right at seventy degrees F. Time to really start planting.

First project–plant the thirty Asparagus crowns I just got from a seller on fleabay. Strangely enough, these one year crowns are larger than the alleged two year crowns I bought from Amazon last year. Bezos must be jealous of Elon Musk, to send such puny plants. Then the taters go into the ground, precious.

Next is seed starting, and I have plenty to do. Artichokes. which I usually kill by overwatering. and a real United Nations of peppers and tomatoes. I have seeds from several continents, and the total is this: fourteen pepper varieties and eighteen different tomatoes. Thankfully I have enough plastic pots and trays to cover an acre. Being an old farm boy has its advantages.

I’m going to have to make a list of the plants, as I have one seed package of saved seeds which just says “Funky Tomato.” I have to quote the great George Clinton from Pfunk, and my favorite song of his.

Old Uncle Sam, He had a Farm,

CIA-IO

And on the Farm He Grew Some Drugs,

CIA-IO

Then He Sold the Drugs and Bought Some Guns,

CIA-IO

George Clinton

Happy Black History month!

First Low Workbench

Old Sawing Bench gets New Life

This is my first effort at making a Roman style low bench, and it turned out great. It is a bit short in both height and length, but it will do until I get two more made. More on those plans later.

This was an old sawing bench made from scrap. All I did was add a 2×4, and drill some extra holes in the bench. The bench will still function as a sawing bench, but it is now a real multi tasker.

The V joint boards on the end are called “Doe’s Foots,” and are used as a planing stop. They allow you to plane a board in any direction, all while sitting down. They can be used with bench dogs, the little metal things on the bottom of the picture, or either of the two mechanical holders, which are a holdfast and a hold down.

The holdfast, which is the iron one, is an old Jorgensen. The mallet is used to whack it into place. The hold down, which is the one with the screw down end, is a Sjobergs, designed by the Swedish workbench company. I have one of their Swedish made benches, but this clever item was made in Taiwan, the source for many great bicycle parts (Along with Japan, Italy, and Switzerland. And don’t leave out Wald in Kentucky, which makes the best bike baskets.)

The spacing of the holes in the center is based on the Roman bench that was recreated by Christopher Schwarz. That allows this to be used as an edge planing bench as well, with some dowels, and those hornbeam wedges as holding devices.

I’ll make a proper bench eventually, but I have plans to make a PT wood outdoor bench first, which will live outside, and double as a garden bench. This is a real multi tasking idea.

New Fruit Trees

Arbequina Olive

 

It’s 40 degrees F here, and spitting snow, but spring planting has already commenced. Seeds are slowly accumulating, and I have three new fruit trees which have me fired up, to go along with my accidental three avocado seedlings. These next few years could be fruity.

All these are new to me, two figs and an olive. That’s right, an olive. It will stay in a container for a few years, but I will probably plant it out eventually. This, and a couple of other varieties, are said to be fully hardy here in hardiness Zone 8a

Fig “Olympian” sounds like a winner. It was found by a retired botanist in Olympia, Washington–hence the name. It is said to have YUGE figs on it. Good, as fig preserves are my favorite.

Fig “Violette du Bordeaux” is tres French (very French.) This one has the claim of the best tasting fig in the world. As I have never had a bad tasting fig, this should be a good one. Also said to be very hardy, as my so-called black turkey figs regularly get frozen back to the ground.

Olive “Arbequina” is the last one. Having never grown olives before, this is an experiment. I am already contemplating buying more plants of these Spanish olives, as we love both olives and olive oil.

Taters, precious, go into the ground starting this week. Heirloom tomatoes go into the flats in the basement this week. I’m going to be busy. I may even have to make a list.