Ted’s essays

almost art

I’ve been laid low by my over-used lower back for most of a week now (wrenching on cars is a younger-man’s game). The last couple of days I found myself in my studio puttering with a paintbrush on my second-hand garden stakes. Years ago I used some rattle-can paint to dress up some cheap cut-steel garden stakes that were left behind at our Grangeville house, but this time I upped my game significantly. When I recently bought the little Testors enamel paint kit I was not sure I would use it enough to justify Blick’s modest $20 price for 8 jars of paint, but I have had plenty of fun – and have just begun, making almost no dent […]

solar power upgrade

When I set up my ham radio shack six years ago, I chose to go solar-powered 12-volt because amateur radio needs to work regardless of the grid up or grid down situation. Last year I upgraded to second and third deep-cycle lead-acid batteries. I added other uses to the system and last winter was frequently running low on stored energy. So I upgraded the panel and controller to modern, more powerful ones. The new panel overwhelmed the new controller. It should not have according to the specs on both, but there it was. Controller said, “Too much juice”. Readily admitting to my ignorance, I contacted a company with a long history of servicing the off-grid community and ordered a […]

Bitterroot Mother’s Day Tour

Long on my ‘should do’ agenda was to take the old road from Darby to Hamilton. The ONLY route before the “new” highway 93 replaced it… with a primary north-south artery that at several points is lower than the 100-year floodplain. I wanted to familiarize us with the alternate route if that 100-year-flood ever happened our way. Better still, it was a calm, beautiful trip with hardly another car on the road. See for yourself. Oh, but if you are considering relocating from any USofA socialist population center, be warned that the winters here are brutally cold, snow shoveling is overwhelming, the growing season is too short for radishes, throughout the summers forest fires take out most of the homes, […]

planting moon

The moon over Montana will be full on Thursday, March 7th. Bob Cannard, my organic gardening mentor encouraged us to plant on every full moon. He did not touch on whether or not he believed it cosmically favored the plants themselves. His expressed reasoning was that it organized us to do regular plantings whether that was seeds, starts, bare-root, or transplants. Get something started every full moon and you will always have a good garden. From long before there were computers, televisions and electric lights, people on nature-driven cycles have called the first full moon of May, “The Planting Moon”. Whereas in some environments planting and growing year-round is possible, here our growing season is short, but its days […]

pistol range opens for business

Closing in on three years in this homestead and I finally get around to establishing my pistol range. We have a lovely hillside that is safe, secure and convenient. I had previously carved out a flat area and merely needed to build some target stands. Missy’s birthday was my inspiration. Tradition has me gifting a firearm on her birthdays, but we were two behind in actually shooting them. I decided THAT was the big gift this year. We shot mostly her Buckmark .22 pistol, my old grandpa High Standard .22 , but also gave hers and my .38s a small outing. I prefer to force myself to focus on the fundamentals by shooting from 25 yards out. That didn’t work […]

dam story

We live on a year-round creek, but upstream of us are people who may lawfully divert as much of the water as they wish… OR let any fraction of the natural flow roll through our yard. It is one thing to accommodate what nature sends our way. It is another thing entirely to be at the downstream end of humans with unknown (likely tenuous) attachments to nature. Last year I had extended access to a backhoe. Among the projects I knocked out was to build a backwater so Beagle Brain (our beagle/lab cross) could no longer sneak out of the vulnerable spot where the containment fence crosses the creek. I even built a fish ladder in case jumping into […]

Ted Dunlap, STEE

You have-to have initials after your name to lend credibility to your projects and pronouncements. My latest creation inspired me to append “STEE” to my name. Further explanation will wreck the aura, but I’ll go ahead anyway. It stands for Shade Tree Electrical Engineer… similar to the Shade Tree Mechanic title I earned repeatedly with my auto/truck/motorcycle/tractor repair toolset. Running a ham radio shack requires steady, clean 12-volt electricity. Handheld transceivers, HTs, or walkie-talkies if you prefer, have their own batteries. Cheaper ones use AA or AAA, but most use rechargeables whose chargers plug into standard 120-volt household outlets. Our mobiles and base units all run on 12-volt direct current in our shacks, vehicles or deployed field stations. I […]

musical interlude

Mozart Piano Concerto No 3 in D major is a lovely piece, but to watch a 5-year-old smoke it out on a grand piano is an amazing treat. While 20 adult musicians read and play their parts off sheet music, the diminutive Russian holds it all in his head. More amazing is the power this little guy puts into the keyboard. His tone, articulation, rhythm, timing and feel are as good as any adult I can imagine playing this piece. And DO STAY for the encore. He is clearly enjoying this short piece. Observe the audience reaction. Were this in the USofA a handful of simpleton boys in man bodies would be dog whistling for minutes after this lovely, sensitive […]

honeydew

I enjoy my carnivorous plants a heckuva lot more than flypaper, to understate more than a little. The wonderful folks at California Carnivores provide insect control for me year after year. My honeydew from a couple years ago is still among the living – and presumably happy campers in my home. Officially known as drosera capensis, my honeydew is highly photogenic and wonderful for keeping little flying insects in check. Peter D’Amato, founder and principle at California Carnivores told me the little dewdrops at the end of the leaf hairs are ounce-for-ounce the stickiest substance known to man. Once an insect lands on one of these leaves it’s stuck. The leaf then curls up around, and digests the insect parts […]

table saw, router table upgrade

My OLD, second-hand Ryobi table saw was the weak link in my workshop. Since I use the heck out of it, and the safety, ergonomics and power were all marginal, I finally brought that tool up to my shop standard. That, of course, necessitated construction of a new stand. This time I wanted to integrate my router so I could quit having to bring it out to set up every time I wanted to use it – a diversionary task that often had me selecting a plane, files and lots of sanding rather than going through the router setup and take-down chores. Better still, rather than having my router clamped on top of my 900-pound 3/4″-thick steel metal-work table, […]

Montana spring wheelbarrow

Mid-April has given us a number of beautiful warm days that we celebrated with yard puttering. The wheelbarrow left behind from a clean-up project stands as a testament to the variegates Montana can send our way. Four inches of snow on the heels of a Tee-shirt weather week.

The Bitterroot Bugle Story

I began blogging, that is self-publishing Idaholiberty.com on the Internet in 2007. At the time, I was chairman of the Idaho Libertarian Party, growing it to its largest membership in 35 years, eventually twice a candidate for Idaho governor – very active politically, culturally, and doing my best to share knowledge. “The Blogosphere” seemed like a great tool … still does. In 2013 I found myself no longer tethered to Idaho’s Treasure Valley. Montana’s Bitterroot Valley had caught my interest long before. In March I found a cabin in Conner that was to become our foothold in this area and by June we had completed the move. You can see in my series Post Card From Conner, it is […]