Blog #139



Opossum My Possum!


   Lots of critters help themselves to our vegetable gardens, berry bushes grape vines and apple trees.  Groundhogs eat the most but we also are regularly visited by deer, raccoons, rabbits, skunks, all kinds of birds and apparently opossum.  I have never seen opossum in our area, which makes sense since these reclusive marsupials are nocturnal.  The only opossums that I have seen have been road kill.  I bought a foldable cage at a garage sale for three dollars with plans to convert it to a live catch trap.  The local groundhog, who we suspect lives under our sheds, eats quite a bit of our garden.  The worst part is that he tends to eat plants before they've even started to produce.


   I affixed a spring to the cage to slam the door shut and also attached a latch to keep it closed.  A wooden dowel keeps the door open until it is pulled out of place by heavy fishing line that is connected to an apple suspended above the floor of the cage.  The system seemed to be pretty sensitive, but a critter managed to eat the apple on two different nights without tugging on the line that held it.  Two nights ago I added a junk pipe and faucet handle as an additional tripping mechanism.  Basically, the pipe stands on end next to the apple, but it is very tipsy and top heavy.  It is likely to be knocked over by anything that enters the cage.  When it does fall it jerks a line that pulls the door-holder-opener stick which, of course, allows thee door to slam shut.  Two nights ago we had no visitors. 


   Last night at 1:30, however, to a ferocious gnarly growl preceded by a slam sound.  Even though the trap was over 100 feet away from our open bedroom window, the sound was enough to wake Joan and I.  Although I wasn't sure it was the trap and a caught animal that woke us, I decided to check it out.  I expected to see a raccoon or groundhog, so when I saw this weird looking giant rat-thing it took me more than a few seconds to determine what I was looking at.  I was thinking opossum, but he was sitting on his rat tail which made it a bit harder for me. 


  Svea has been very excited and intrigued by the trap.  She has been checking it for groundhogs the first thing every morning and again throughout each day.  I decided to wake her up so that she could see the critter; I knew that she would be exhilarated.  When I told her that we had caught something she practically leapt out of bed.  I armed her with the flashlight and I took the camera.  As we headed outside she was talking about groundhogs.  I reminded her that we also have skunks, rabbits, raccoons and opossum in the area; we possibly could even catch a stray cat or dog.  As we rounded the shed she shined the light on the trap and immediately identified our catch as an opossum.  Then Svea began spewing out all kinds of opossum facts; I had no idea that she knew so much about them.  Here's the night picture:


   This morning Joan and I heard the children wake and their door open.  Svea was telling Brigitta about the opossum.  Then we heard the porch door open.  We saw Svea leading Britta to the trap.  Then they came back to get Annika.  Joan was concerned about a two year old being lead to a caged wild animal by her five and seven year old sisters but we figured that cautious Svea would keep little Annika at a safe distance.  Later this morning I drug the cage to the middle of the back yard.  I wanted to see him "run" a ways before he disappeared.  Papa opened the cage as I took a movie clip with the camera.  Bill had to poke the opossum a bit to get him to go, but he did.  Look for a clip on the movie page.  Below is a picture of our opossum caged in the back yard.  He had drug everything he could get his paws on into the cage; I don't know what he planned on doing with it all.

The girls named him "Opie".


Hall Family Website hallbuzz.com


Blog #138



I Made an Island Today


   I went back to the shallow spot again today in hope of making an island.  I brought an anchor and gloves.  Even though Joan and I visited the place yesterday and I took a picture, it took me a good ten minutes to find it.  There was enough of a breeze to make the water highly reflective which made it difficult to find.  The water also is murky and the reservoir bed is mostly the same mucky color as the water; I couldn't see it until I was right on top of it.  Once I found the place I anchored the boat and scouted the area.  The "knee-deep or less" area is perhaps 80 feet by 40 feet.  A good portion of that is only about 12 inches deep with several boulder tops much closer to the surface.   I waded around for at least an hour moving big rocks onto my pile-island.  Three or four of the boulders were too heavy to lift but I was able to roll them through the water to the base of the mound.  Most of the rocks I moved are under water, providing a base.  I figure I must have moved 1,000 ~ 2,000 pounds of rocks.  The biggest boulders that I had to roll must have weighed over 200 lbs each and there were many others that were difficult to carry.  I paid no attention to aesthetic appearance, I just went for mass. 

   I couldn't help but to wonder how many props have been broken on these rocks.  Mogador Reservoir is a hand powered and electric motor only lake.  It's the largest non gas powered motor lake in Ohio.  I'm sure I broke a few laws doing this, but I think boating in this area will be a tiny bit safer because of this island. It provides a good warning of hard to see shallow water.  I think the birds may like it too.

   I'm not sure how long it will last, someone may decide to level it or storms may knock it down some.  If it makes it to winter I think the lake ice will give it a hard time.  Wind pushing a few acres of one inch ice can produce a lot of force.  Time will tell.  I labeled the pictures and Google Earth Placemark "June 26th Island".


June 26th Island


June 26th Island - The nearest shore is about 200 feet away.


June 26th Island from the south


June 26th Island from the north


Approximate location of June 26th Island in Google Earth.


Paste the following lat/long into Google Earth's search window to zoom the approximate spot and see more of Mogadore Reservoir.  I hope the island lasts until the next satellite picture!


41 03 54.91 N 81 21 22.81 W


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Blog #137



The Amazing Joan -She Walks On Water!!

   Joan and I went kayaking today and found a very shallow spot in the middle of one of the biggest areas of the reservoir.  We saw swans that appeared to be floating much higher than usual.  Figuring that they were standing on a submerged log, I went to investigate and found a shallow area that I have paddled right by dozens of times but never noticed.  In the picture below, Joan is standing in less than a foot of water.


Bubbles on Demand


   To keep the noise and electricity as far away from the bubble pool as possible, I've connected multiple vacuum cleaner hoses together.  Last year I put the fan in front of the house.  This year I put the fan in the basement and ran the power cords and hose through the wall just above the foundation.  Papa mounted a switch/outlet on the wall outside.  A flip of a switch and we have bubbles.  The fan is 99% muffled, it can't be heard over the bubbles themselves.  It's also out of the weather.  The picture below shows the fan, switch, hoses and series of manifolds as well as the bubble dispenser.  One of the biggest tricks is keeping the bubble dispenser submerged.  When air is pumped into it, it wants to float.  A pipe and a 15# steal ball (in a sock) keep it down.



The picture below shows bubble dispersion in non-soapy water.  Look for a bubble-pool time lapse in the next few days. 


German Family Society Old European Days


   The children dance in a gazebo that provides much shade but bright backlight which always results in terrible pictures.  I wasn't happy with any of the dancing pictures.  Here's Britta and Grace in the pre-dance parade, Jasmine and Svea's wrist can be seen in the back.


Annika doesn't like to be left out of anything.

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Little Anni Who

After removing ketchup from Annika's hair, I gave her a "do".  Isn't the fisheye lens fun!


This table really is straight and Joan's hand really isn't that big but the fisheye lens does not exaggerate how much Joan is enjoying this strudel. 


Svea, however, does have an unusually large hand.


Father and daughter - freaks


On the way home we stopped by a local farm/hayfield just to look at the rolls of hay and to take a few pictures. 


The Hall girls stroll

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Again in black and white -it makes the picture look more "Amish"


To another hay roll


1, 2, 3, Jump!   Go Brigitta Longstocking, go.

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Annika's timing is still a bit off.


Tongues out help you jump higher and look a bit more spastic 


Now Spin!


Mother and daughters

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1, 2, 3 Swing Anni!

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A Few More:


I bought this foldable cage at a garage sale for $3; I've turned it into a live-catch trap so that we can catch the groundhog that lives under our shed and makes a living off of our garden.  The girls though it was great and played all kinds of games with it.  They took turns being different animals and caretakers.


Svea swings at our neighbors, the Grimm's.


Brigitta and friends on the Grimm's hammock.


A few days ago Sara joined the gang for a Pipi Longstocking movie night.


Hall Family Website hallbuzz.com


Blog #136




Yak Fleet Dry-dock


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   I've been modifying and repairing the kayak fleet this week.  About two years ago I designed and built a rudder for the old white plastic boat.  Two days ago I pressure washed the grime out of the scratches and gouges that covered much of the boat.  As long as I can remember It's had a six inch crack on the top deck directly behind the hole/seat.  Papa helped me pop rivet an aluminum plate under the cracked section and I calked the crack.  I then scraped the tape/decal residue from the log-gone one inch wide red stripe that ran around the craft.  Since the stripe line was molded/inset into plastic, I followed it with masking tape and newspaper.  One can of neon green spray paint and this old kayak looks better than ever.  Weight: 38 pounds.


   The red plastic boat is my main summer ride.  On the good side: it's fast, unsinkable and in case  of capsize can be re-entered even in rough water.  I can also bend and stretch my legs as much as I need.  On the bad side, it's pretty tippy, a bit heavy and the paddler is always sitting in water.  The only thing that I've done to this boat was to lash a three sided dishpan onto the back-topside; this is Svea's seat.  It really raises the CG when she rides along, but we've yet to go for a swim.

Weight: 61 pounds.


   Pictures better describe the modifications to the blue three-hole kayak:


The vertical hinge support and handle is made of polycarbonate (Lexan) plastic and is crudely fiberglassed onto the hull.  The rudder is also made of polycarbonate and automatically folds back (inset) when it strikes anything shallow.


The rudder pedals are the original cotter-pin adjustable aluminum footrests that have been modified for rudder duty.  The rudder pedals in the white/green boat are pretty much the same.  I also added a vertical wooden support between each hole.  When entering and exiting the boat it's hard to not put weight on the center topside of the boat.


   Barbie as a old-sailing-ship's-bow-lady-figurehead/mermaid.  She's permanently fiberglassed on.  Note that the front hole is built up of sewn together flexible plastic and pipe-insulation foam.  In choppy water I've had water wash all the way to the main hole rim; I wanted this front hole to deflect any waves that it may encounter.  The only materials that were purchased for this project were several cans of spray paint.  Boat weight: 46 pounds.


Then there's the giant Moto-Yak:

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   They say a picture is worth 1,000 words; this one must be worth at least 1,049!  The challenge on this project was to take a regular small electric trolling motor and convert it to remote foot pedal steering and remote lifting without the paddler having to exit the rear hole.  I figured that remote motor lifting would be critical so the prop could be cleared of weeds and the motor could be lifted in shallow water.  It also would be nice to have it out of the water when paddling only.  Another complication was that the motor needs to be able to turn 90 degrees when in the full up position so the prop can be viewed from the rear hole and cleared of weeds with a three foot stick.  To solve this, I tied 1,000 pound fishing line to a big washer just above the motor.  An ordinary hose clamp keeps the washer from sliding up the main shaft but still allows the shaft to turn within the washer. 

  When considering how to fabricate rudder pedals with the least amount of effort I considered a few ideas that involved sliding some sort of a rod through a mounted guide, much like the pedals on the other boats.  None of the materials that I had on hand pointed to this option, however.  The other basic idea involved rope as a guide that would keep forward tension on the pedals.  In the end I went with a three foot section of bamboo through a chunk of high density foam rubber as the actual pedal.  The foam blocks have two pedal surfaces; one for a 6' tall paddler (me) and the other for a 5'6 paddler (Joan or Bill).  In just a few minutes I could modify the system to fit Svea or Brigitta.  Forward tension is achieved through a pulley near the bow.  The control lines basically make a loop from stern to bow and back; the boat could be steered left or right with only one pedal.  A final complication is that when the motor is raised both control lines move back to make up for the steeper angle of the control lines.  This was solved with a bungee cord that holds the front pulley; when the motor is raised, this bow bungee stretches. 

   Yes, the speed and forward/reverse control box is just a Tupperware container.  What can I say, it's light, semi-watertight, just the right size and on hand.  And yes, the rear motor mount is made from a block of wood and our old Colorado license plates.  Once again, cheap, light, strong but twistable and most importantly: available. 

   It all sounds and looks terribly convoluted but the entire modification used only found materials, went together fairly quickly and works remarkably well. 

   I'm not happy with how the top and bottom parts of the fiberglass hull are held together.  Originally it was pop riveted together with a C-shaped plastic trim glued over the raw edges.  Many of the rivets have broken and the plastic trim no longer fits correctly in many places.  Bill added a few rivets which has helped much but the entire seam is pretty shoddy, even by my standards.  I'm contemplating sewing it together with a non corrosive wire and then glassing it over.  My gallon jug of resin is almost empty, however.  I may have to purchase more.

Boat weight: 81 pounds (without removable 16 pound lawn tractor battery).



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Blog #135




Happy Father's Day!

   I've been modifying some of the old kayaks this week.  Today we took two boats and three girls out.  The blue kayak (below) was my very first kayak.  I traded a VW Bug for it in 1985.  I wore the fiberglass hull down scraping along shallow creeks in Alaska.  I bought a plastic boat a few years later and only used it as a loaner boat; the plastic one is much tougher.  Around 1990 I re-glassed the hull and added shark dorsal fins.  Last year I hacked the fins off and added two holes.  This week I built the holes up, fabricated a clear polycarbonate plastic and fiberglass rudder and rear handle, re-glassed part of the hull, glassed a Barbie doll onto the bow and painted it blue. 

   Earlier this week I took it out with Svea and Brigitta in the bow and stern holes.  The rudder worked beautifully; with my feet off the pedals I had a heck of a time keeping it heading in a straight line and even spun out a few times.  With the rudder, however, it goes wherever the paddler wants.  After 15 minutes, my feet started falling asleep.  I can't bend my legs in this boat like I can in my old plastic white boat or the sit-on-top.  I've determined that I have either a nerve or circulation issue; that's another story, however.  Joan and I swapped boats and she took the girls for a spin.  Note the stern rudder support, with myself and the two older girls aboard it just touches the water.  With Joan and the two older girls aboard it's about and inch out of the water the water.

   Today only Annika wanted to ride with mommy.


It rides a bit bow-down with just Anni in the front.  Note that the clear plastic rudder is almost invisible.

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Anni enjoyed the ride.

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   Svea and Brigitta in the front hole of the motor-yak.  Last year I bought a little 12 pound thrust electric motor at a garage sale for $5.  I hacked it up, rigged foot peddle steering and attached it to the old super-wide two-hole flat bottom kayak-wana-be boat thing.  I'll explain more about it's construction later; it works remarkably well though. Here's Joan testing it out.


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Daddy on Father's Day.

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An Evening Row

A few days ago I took all three girls out for a row.  We had a lot of fun, made a lot of noise and even explored an island.



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On the way home we stopped for ice cream; I let them eat in the car.

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Papa's Old Home

Papa showed me a picture of his old childhood home.  I thought it was worth scanning.

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Hall Family Website hallbuzz.com


Blog #134



Summer Break is Here!

Svea and I finished school yesterday; summer is here.  Yesterday I put the red boat in the water for the first time this year and paddled about five miles.  I saw a deer at Mogadore Reservoir for the first time ever.  I came within 20 feet of him before we noticed each other.  The weather seems to have gone from cool to too hot in a matter of days. 


The Wedding Page is Finished

Click here to go to Luke's & Marian's wedding page.

(Link also available on our homepage)


Here are three of our favorite pictures from the wedding:




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Blog #133

David & Joan


Congratulations Luke & Marian Wilsterman!


Left Front: Harriette & Bill Wilsterman ~ Left Back: Jean & John Wilsterman

Center: Marian & Luke Wilsterman

Right Front: Ruth & Vernon Carter ~ Right Back: Janis & Kira Wilsterman

(Click picture to view in 1024x768 resolution)


   Joan's nephew, Luke, and his bride, Marian, were married this past Saturday in Decatur Georgia.  All seven of our Hall/Wilsterman household were able to attend this perfect wedding.  It was a very busy weekend for us.  Originally we planned on driving but Papa decided to spring for tickets which gave us much more time to spend with our dear Southern relatives.  After sorting through 300 pictures from Luke and Marian's picnic, wedding and reception Joan and I realized that we have too many pictures to publish in this blog; the Wilsterman wedding deserves it's own page which will appear once I crop and resize the best of them.  More to come...


Sweet Georgia Airshow


   Before the evening wedding, John, Papa, William, Nan and I made a short visit to the Dekalb Peachtree Airshow.  It was small but just the right size for the time that we had available.  The highlight was Papa sitting in the cockpit of an AT-6.  This particular AT-6 is the only one that I have ever seen with a mounted flexible rear gun which is the variant that he flew in WWII.


Papa and his two sons, William and John in front of a B-25 (Papa flew one of these)


This heavy-duty typewriter stamps metal, specifically dog-tags


Navy SBD/Army A-24 Dive Bomber (Papa flew one of these)


Papa, John, Nan and an AT-6 with a flexible tail gun (Papa flew one of these)

In fact, his time in this type alone adds up to over one continuous month of airtime!

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When asked if he wanted to sit in the cockpit, Bill didn't hesitate

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It's been over 60 years since Bill has sat in the cockpit of a T-6

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The owner and Bill had a nice little chat


Lt. William J. Wilsterman

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Nakajima B5N "Kate" replica made from an AT-6 and a BT-13, both of which Papa flew

(So technically, Papa flew one of these, just not all at once)


B-17 (Papa flew one of these)

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An old Stearman trainer, obsolete before WWII started for the US (Papa NEVER flew one of these)


While the others attended the air show, Jean and Joan took the girls to a store for a kids' craft session and later let them play in the bubbles at John and Jean's.  They loved the fancy soaps, water jets and waterfall faucet.


Brigitta Clause


 The clouds on the flight home were gorgeous

(Click picture to view in 1024x768 resolution)


Hall Family Website hallbuzz.com


Blog #132



Snake in our Garage


   From the intensity of Svea's screams last Saturday evening we were afraid that something very terrible had happened; I expected to see a severed limb when I ran into the garage.  Instead I saw my oldest daughter (the one who wanted to be a veterinarian) standing completely intact, yet paralyzed, in the middle of the garage floor.  Her terror ridden face was screaming at a wee little snakes slithering away from her.  I'm sure he found her shrieks painfully loud and just wanted to get away.  I scooped him up and then put him in a clear glass vase.  We observed him and researched his type on the Internet.  Joan called her cousin, Park Ranger Dave, down the street.  He drove down to take a look and confirmed that we had a Fox Snake.  I'd say he was about 3/8 of an inch in diameter and about 10 inches long.  We watched him try to escape while we ate dinner and discussed the best place to let him go.  Although it had only been a matter of minutes since Svea had been screaming for her dear life in fear of being eaten by this micro reptile, she was now in tears at the thought of parting with her dear new "pet".  We explained that he belonged outside.  We explained to her how we would feel if aliens had kidnapped her and wanted to keep her as a pet simply because they thought she was cute.  Eventually she accepted the situation for what it was. 


Here he is inside the glass vase.


We let him go in the garden so that we could get a good look at him before he disappeared into the plant life.  In this picture, his tail can be seen at the bottom of the vase.


No, those really aren't giant blades of grass.  Note the forked tongue!


Just a fun random shot of Britta spazzing out...and why not spaz out on your first day of running through the sprinkler.  Temperatures dictated the afternoon cool down.


 Harry Potter - One Down - Six To Go


   Svea read "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" in exactly one week.  I knew that reading this book would improve her reading skills, but I wasn't sure how much.  I noted on the first day that she was reading at the rate of 12 pages an hour.  Last Saturday, when I saw that she was near the end I noted her rate again.  She had jumped to 24 pages an hour, exactly doubled in one week.  Part of her motivation for reading it was that she wanted to see the movie.  We told her before she started Kindergarten that she had to read the book before she saw the movie.  We figured that it would be a shame to spoil the plot of what is probably one of the best children's book ever written.  She watched the movie on Sunday and loved it.  Yesterday she started reading "The Tale of Despereaux: Being the Story of a Mouse, a Princess, Some Soup, and a Spool of Thread" and has really taken to it (this book won the 2004 Newbury Award).  On the ride home from school today she was telling me about the characters and the story.  It sounds like a such a great book that I think I'll have to read it when she's finished.  Below is Svea's impression of a logo showing the four houses of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.



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