Tuesday, November 19

T Minus 10 Seconds and Counting..........

Haloed Moon

  This evening, as the halo of the moon kept my camera's and my focus, the Minotaur I satellite was priming for launch from the NASA Wallops Island facility.  Near Chincoteague, VA, the rocket sets a record of delivering 29 satellites (28 cubesats and 2 non-separating tertiary payloads) into LEO, or Low Earth Orbit.

Minotaur Ascends with Stage Separation

  The orange glow of the rockets illuminated through the trees and passed above the oak as we watched from ESO Mission Control.  As it followed a graceful arc, I could see the separation of the stages as they peeled away from the rocket, briefly illuminated by the fiery thrust.

Accelerating to the Heavens

   As the Orbital Sciences rocket accelerated out of view, I am reminded of a quote from Alan Shepard:

 "It's a very sobering feeling to be up in space and realize that one's safety was determined by the lowest bidder on a government contract""

Friday, November 8

Opening Day of Waterfowl Festival

Blues Skies

  After yesterday's rain and wind provided a cleaning to my town's colonial streets and brick structures, the sun came out in full brilliance to illuminate the first day of the three day Waterfowl Festival.

Layout at the Tidewater

  With my media pass and camera in hand, I set out to talk to local craftsmen and artists, conservationists and sporting industry reps. There is much to be seen and experienced. As I walked through town, I came across three bands filling the air with Celtic ballads, Blues and Folk music, and the aroma of cream of crab soup drifted momentarily before a gust of air pushed it out.

Laughter at the Academy

Rockin' the Strat

Outdoors at the Bartlett Pear Inn

  From the world's oldest industrial company, Beretta of Italy, over 500 hundred years old, to local world renowned duck and goose call maker, Sean Mann, many facets of the sporting life are here and the crowd is aa vibrant as the fall leaves overhead.

Beretta Mobile Showroom

Sean Mann Calls at Albright's

 With many venues across town and activities for 
all ages, this festival should be on the "bucket list" of any serious waterfowler, or purveyor of fine art, and of course, aficionado of crap soup...

Art at the Armory

Monday, November 4

The Third Time's A Charm

Where's Waldo? 

    “Do you have a yardstick?” I asked the young man behind the counter, as I look at the bolt of Wetlands camo burlap five feet tall.  He apologized for it not being out, explaining that he had just started at the hunting and fishing store on MD Route 50, a few miles from the Bay Bridge, gateway to the Eastern Shore. This must be an after school gig, I figured, as I eyed the cherubic lad. 

As he measured, I commented that a yard was 36” and not the 48” he had in hand. “Oh yeah, that’s right”, he responded, as he shortened his measurement. As we finished up, he tugged more off the bolt. “Here is some extra, in case you need it”, he said, as he scissored the coarse cloth.

As the Wildfowl Ninja and I carried all of our supplies across the field yesterday, I was pleased that the overnight rain had softened the ground, to provide advantage in pounding the metal stakes a foot into the ground. Our project was simple: build a screen blind for hunting geese in a plowed corn field. 

As we trudged across the field and the Ninja fell behind under the weight of the mason’s bag filled with hand sledge, a kukri and assorted hand tools, I continued my diatribe. “The first time you do something it takes three times longer; the second time twice as long , and the third time is a slam dunk”, I offered, repeating the phrase a colleague had made, while I was working at a global consulting firm. 

And this was our third screen blind, having built two last year on this property.

Insta-Blind: Just Add Elbow Grease!

Using three six foot metal fence stakes, 48” green vinyl perimeter fencing and camo burlap, we decided to set the blind on the edge of a plowed corn field. With our backs in a growth of tall grasses and small bushes, the blind would be facing north, and in front of us would be ample room to set up decoy spread scenarios.
All of our materials and tools at the ready, I measured the blind length.  We decided on close to eight feet, with it slightly convex at the center stake. In preparation, I had painted the stakes with three coats of Rust-Oleum Camouflage flat green and then another coat of alternating stripes of flat tan.  After pounding in the stakes, which came out to be ~53” high, I laid out the green fencing.

Slowly Taking Shape

Stretching the fencing, I used zip ties to attach about every 8” vertically along the stake, working from left to right. After completed, I allowed some fencing to overlap about 8” on either side, in case I wanted to add burlap to the sides at a later date. Finally, the Wildfowl Ninja snipped off the extra from each locked zip tie.

Center Post and Fencing Up - Bring On the Burlap!

With the camo burlap laying over the blind, I checked to see is there was a top/bottom to the pattern, and then I laid about 4” over the top of the blind and working right to left zip tied the burlap to the fencing. I attached the burlap to each stake and lightly stretched it across to the next and tied it at the same intervals as the fencing. My partner worked diligently smoothing out the burlap and keeping the flow of zip ties coming. We finished it off, by doubling it over the top and tying it through the fencing and both sides of fabric. This step visually “softened” the top edge of the blind.

Wildfowl Ninja Checks For Level

As we always aim to better the construction, we improved on our brushing technique this year. Last year, we had tied decoy cord across the stakes, to tuck grasses and flora against the front of the blind. It worked well, but between hunts, the cord would stretch under weather effects and we would re-tighten every time in the blind (and also re-brush, which is Standard Operating Practice to keep us hidden). 

This year, I decided to add a doubled over bungee cord to one side and passed it through a looped piece of camo paracord. When it loosened under strain, I could tie another loop essentially tightening the “brush cord”. Also, although the heavier paracord would stretch, it was stronger than the decoy line. There was one “brush cord” at 18” off the ground and another 12” from the top of the blind. Last year, I only used one.

Bungee Detail: Patent Pending

With the bungee in place, I now walked far off from the blind site and cut the grasses with the kukri. The kukri is a long handled machete popular in India and was used by the Ghurkas in WWII. It is very effective at cutting grasses, small saplings, as its wide blade allows good purchase on what you are cutting. Mine is made by Cold Steel and keeps a good edge and is easy to sharpen. 

Passing grass to my partner, he tucked in the grasses and continued further concealment efforts. We finished the brushing (though we need to add more) with small bushes on the end stakes.

Primary Brushing in Place

Pre Hot Plate Installation

The Land Of Pleasant Living

As we cleaned up the blind site and added final touches of brush, I guess that young man at the shop was right. I did need that extra burlap he measured for me. He may have been new to the shop, but was not new to building a blind.