We went to the company picnic today. Even though I have worked at this place for 11 years now (well… in August), this is the first picnic I have attended. It is also the first time they’ve ever held it on a Sunday. They moved it from Saturday to Sunday so that I could attend, which I did not ask them to do, but I did certainly appreciate it.

I brought a few things for the entertainment. Wayne had suggested that we have a solar-oven cookie bake-off. I did the research and found some plans for the ovens. I also bought the supplies for them and transported them here (except for the boxes). Supplies included aluminum foil, aluminum tape, oven/roaster bags, plexiglass, carton knives, cardboard boxes, and wire. Here are two of the resulting ovens:

Solar ovens, but no sun!

Solar ovens, but no sun!


The one Jonathan and I worked on is shown in the upper part of the photo above. Too bad the sun didn’t cooperate! Almost as soon as the ovens were finished and stoked with cookie dough, the clouds got pretty thick. It sprinkled a bit too. In spite of that, the ovens did reach temperatures of 110°F. I had brought an IR laser thermometer (we use them in our labs all the time). Soon the clouds got even thicker and the “oven” temperatures dropped to around 85°F. The grass also clocked in at… 85°F. We baked zero cookies.

Another item I brought was a pilot ladder I had made earlier this month. They have these at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, the difference being that you have to pay a buck to try climbing theirs. This one was free. In spite of the unlimited number of attempts, I was still not able to climb this contraption. David gave it a try too:

David on the pilot ladder

David on the pilot ladder


With the expected results:
David lying on the sand after falling off the pilor ladder

...but not for long

Some of the younger girls (about Beth’s age) finally did manage to reach the top without being thrown off. I awarded the first one to do this with a $10 gift card from Target. She was pleased.

There was also a swimming pool there which is where Beth spent most of her time. The whole family had a great time.

Today after work I decided to do a little more work on Beth’s log cabin. I stripped a log of bark with my drawknife and fitted four notches. I need to set two more short logs and then the cabin will be four logs high. A couple of weeks ago I dragged a couple of pallets to the cabin. I plan to use them as the floor. I have three of them from when I had insulation delivered to the house, and that should be sufficient.

I would like to put a thatch roof on this. The main reason I want to do that is so I can photograph the process and flesh out the Thatching honor in the answer book I’ve been working on since forever ago. My main obstacle is that I don’t have long grass to use. I could possibly use cattails, but I don’t have any of that either.

At the church we do have some long grass that I think I could use. It’s growing on the berm that separates our new playground from the wetland. There’s a narrow patch about 300 feet long I guess, and it’s about three feet high. That might do the trick. I just need to clear it with the church board and harvest it. Oh – and then figure out how to thatch a roof.

The other thing I worked on this evening was a game I’m putting together for the company picnic next month. It will take the form of a ladder with rope uprights and wooden rungs, and it will be strung between a tree and the ground at a 45 degree angle. Each end will be anchored at a single point so that the whole thing will twist and throw the climber to the ground if he loses his balance. The goal is to make it to the top and ring a bell (which I will need to procure). I am using some of the trees I thinned to light up the garden earlier this week. I cut them to 30″ lengths yesterday, and today I stripped three of them of their bark and smoothed off the knots with a hand plane. I need to get some rope and figure out how I want to attach it to the rungs.

I could either bore holes in each rung and pass the rope through them, knotting them in place, or I could gouge out some grooves to lay the rope in and tie it that way. Haven’t decided!