Tarped Out

So after hours of fiddling and swearing and sewing and swearing more (swearing is one of my favorite pastimes, I consider myself a journeyman, closing in on mastery level swearing), my tarp is basically finished.

One thing that DIY teaches you is how shitty your current skill set is. Another thing it teaches you is that there’s always room to improve stuff, and somewhere along the way you can often apply what you lean to stuff you already have. Take these little beauties, for instance:

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The black thing is called a “line lock”. You thread the cord through it and tie a knot in one end so it can’t slip all the way back through. the other end of the cord has a little mitten hook on it (the same type of little plastic hooks that hold gloves together). So pull the line out, put it around a bush or little tree, and clip it to itself (or a tent stake). The pull the shorter end until it’s tight. When you are ready to go, flip the plastic thing up and the line goes loose. Brilliant little thing. I used them for tie outs, and was so happy with them that I immediately retrofitted my Hennessy Hex tarp with these. Tying off four tarp stakes seems to take forever, especially in the rain, and when you have to readjust them.

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Underneath you can see the view and how the thing turned out. I chose a seamless ridge line (top) so that there would be no leaky seams over my head in case I screwed up. Instead I have two shorter seams halfway down the side which can leak if I screwed up. Why the color choice? I chose a dark color for the top, because if you’ve never been in the woods and the damn full moon comes out when you’re trying to sleep, you don’t know the advantage of a dark roof over you. I put the red on the sides so it would be visible for a distance, in case I WANT someone to find my dumb ass lost or injured in the woods. Nothing says, “there he is!” to choppers like a HUGE swath of red in the green woods.

A few things I learned about 1 ounce calendared nylon:

The shit’s hard to sew. Try sewing a garbage bag to itself. A lawn and leaf bag… It just DOESNT act right in the machine. It wants to bunch up on the corners and go into the bottom pit of hell where the bobbin sits. Since this stuff is sort of made on the bias (little diamond shapes instead of squares when you look closely at it), it likes to stretch on the sides. So my seams came out a bit wonky. It’s hard to lay out straight, its hard to get long lengths to do what you want, and I had to fight it every step of the way.

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Unfortunately You can see the problems in the finished product. It should be a nice even smooth shape, and I have taught areas and loose areas, and then the one edge on the left that’s like… “what happened?”

But, I was happy with the outcome, mainly because I didn’t just have to give up and throw the whole thing in the trash. It’s not waterproofed yet, but while I was hang testing it, it started raining, and it seemed to do pretty well.

I’m less wise, now.

There’s no pictures this time. This is about a tender subject for most people.

Teeth.

No, not the movie. Seriously, if you have nothing to watch and want a seriously weird and twisted movie, hit up Teeth on netflix, but this is about my teeth, more specifically, Wisdom teeth.

It seems almost every adult has horror stories of their wisdom teeth. We should have evolved past them by this point, unless nature is a cruel mistress that has evolved to make us suffer at the hands of dentists for what we have done to the planet.

“Ha, pollute the lakes and rivers, will you? I’ll show you revenge through your last molars!”

So, anyway, onto my tale. My wife had to have hers out many many years ago. She went the expensive route, of course, because hers were seriously messed up. They put her in the hospital and put her to sleep, and cut hers out of her head. She got lots of good drugs and took a while to recover, but she was okay.

My first experience was getting the bottom two teeth out, by a maniacal demon sent to the surface in the form of a kindly older man who said, “Oh yours are fine, I could take them out in the office, no problem”. So he proceeded to. He numbed me up, gave me a valium or a xanax or something along those lines and set to drilling and pulling and yanking and finally, two and a half hours later he pronounced my bottom teeth removed. I was the only one in the office by then, I think my screams and swearing (it’s amazing how much you can swear while two people have their hands and various instruments at the back of your mouth) drove the rest of the patients and some of the hygienists out. He sent me home with instructions and gauze.

So the following day, a Saturday, while I’m still under the influence of the wonders of modern chemistry, the dentist calls.

Yes. The dentist calls. Me. He calls ME, on a Saturday morning. A morning when most normal dentists are sleeping in, or doing dentist-y things like golfing or driving sports cars or waking up next to underwear models saying “look, I paid you, go home now, I’ve got to go to the country club and I have to wash the gold-digger off of me first!”

So this dentist calls my house and says, at nine in the morning, “Hey, are you busy?”

No, I’m not busy, I’m bleeding through my gauze and feel like you removed my teeth with a 3/8″ Dewalt Drill bit. What am I going to be doing? Playing Golf? Driving a Sports Car? Washing the Skank off after a night with a Percocet-addicted underwear model? “No, doc, I’m not”

“How about come on down to the office,” He says. So I go, because when the dentist calls you at 9am on a Saturday and says, “Come on down to the office”, you go. Why? Several things run through your mind:

  1. He fucked up.
  2. He has been thinking all night that he might have fucked up
  3. He has been thinking that he may have fucked up enough that he needs to see you to make sure he DIDN’T fuck up
  4. He’s concerned enough that he fucked up that he’s pushed back driving his sports car to the club to play golf, in order to open the office himself and see you on a Saturday morning
  5. The visit’s going to be free, because he called YOU, and not the other way around, so why not go on down there?

So I go, he looks me over, says, “Yep, I was a little concerned (see #3 above), but you are looking good, so go home and rest.”

Fast Forward Six Years or more later:

My top teeth are fully in, and have been since the bottom ones were removed. The maniacal demon that removed my bottom teeth had wanted to remove the top ones after I recovered, and I told him in no uncertain terms what he could go and do with himself.

My new dentist also expressed concerns, saying “You’re going to get cavities on those top wisdom teeth, because they aren’t chewing against other teeth, so if food gets on them, it doesn’t come off as fast.”

I saw an oral surgeon guy in October of 2014, and he said, “Oh I can pull those right here in the office.” I should have remembered my last wisdom-teeth-in-the-office experience, but that was years ago and this guy is a surgeon. He should know what he’s doing, and $250 to pull some teeth sounded a HELL of a lot better than what I would have to pay to have it done in a hospital. I’m a guy, I’m cheap, and I owed Minnie Mouse her Alimony once again. I’ll never get that bitch paid off. You’d think I had married her and she caught me on Ashley Madison or something.

So back in January I was to have the teeth out, but had to spend around $1000 on brain tests instead, so the teeth had to wait. It turns out that in fact, I DO have a brain, and dentist #2 was right. Late in July I was eating something and felt a crunch on my right wisdom tooth (#1 or #16, I don’t know… I never could read teeth charts), and the Grand Canyon of cavities opened up in the side of the thing. It was gross, to say the least. I could stick the side of my tongue into it. Which is a bad thing to do when theres a giant hole in your tooth, because sooner or later it starts hurting like hell, and usually sooner than later.

I called the oral surgeon guy again, and was told, “You need to come next week, bring $250, and someone to drive you home.”

Great. So I show up at my appointed time, and fill out the forms. They take me back at 8:40. All the way back. Like, as far away from the patient waiting area as you can get and still be in the same building, back. I’m thinking, “These guys know how to do it. No screams running off new patients here.” The nurse gets busy, tells me to sit in the chair (which I notice has straps on the arms. Why are there straps on the arms? I sat in the Electric Chair once*, that’s the only other chair I’ve ever sat in that had straps on the arms, and this isn’t a comforting feeling), and tilts me back. She jams two of those extra-long q-tips on wood sticks in my mouth with some type of topical painkiller on them that’s supposed to taste like cotton candy. Instead it tastes like burning gums and makes me salivate like Pavlov’s dogs. That was some nasty stuff.

She wanders out and leaves me in a pool of my own sweat and tears and drooling (not in a good way), and all I can hear is quiet, and Jesus music on the radio. As if the experience isn’t bad enough already, I have to listen to religious music while a guy comes at me with pliers. If Jesus is so good and gracious, why doesn’t he zap my teeth with his magic wand and make them fall out? Does he even have a magic wand? That would be cool…

So the dentist comes in a few minutes later. He looks at me and I update him on my medical changes, including what I’m now taking as a result of my $1000 brain tests. He gives me prescription for Percocet and an Antibiotic, then gets right to work. He comes at the side of my face with this needle/syringe combo that looks like something out of a 1920’s sci-fi/horror flick and says, “Big stick”. He puts it to the side of my gum on the outside of my wisdom tooth and I’m immediately struck by an odd sensation.

That cotton candy anesthetic stuff works about as good as it tastes. I think he’s trying to get to the inside of my nose with that needle. Its over in a couple of seconds, and then he comes at the same tooth from inside the roof of my mouth. “Little stick” he says.

First, to get a good measure of what this feels like, put your finger in your mouth. Tap the roof of your mouth. What does it feel like? Bone. Thats what it feels like. Solid bone, with a little piece of muscle or tissue covering it, less than the thickness of a slice of bacon. Don’t start thinking about bacon yet. Stay with me.

So he says, “little stick” and heads for the roof of my mouth. I’m thinking, “Where the hell is that thing going?” And I find out: He’s trying to scratch the back of my eyeball from inside my skull. It’s all over pretty quickly, too.

Then he does the other side. Oh yeah, We’re getting TWO teeth removed, on OPPOSITE sides of the mouth, so two more shots later, and he’s ready to begin the real work. The nurse comes at me with a green towel. I’m like, “Hey, what’s with the towel?”

“We don’t want to get anything into your eyes,” she says. Oh. I’m cool with that. Not getting stuff in my eyes is right up there with not having giant needles poked into my skull through my gums, and I already failed in that today. So, I relax and she tosses a towel over my eyes like I’m a parakeet. I seriously just think they don’t want me seeing whatever pliers they are coming at my teeth with, because if the patient saw them, they might need those straps on the chair.

So I’m laying in a chair with straps, with a towel over my eyes and the dentist tells me I’m going to feel a lot of tugging and twisting, like they are trying to pull my face off. It’s cool, I’ve had this done before. In my teen years I had to have two teeth pulled to make room for braces. The doctor didn’t get me quite numb enough and when he twisted there was a crack and I screamed bloody murder. He turned white, I told him to hurry up, and he snatched it out. I was hoping this would go better.

He comes at my Grand Canyon tooth first. I feel a lot of pressure, a little twist, and hear a very dull crunch in the background. All over in less than thirty seconds. Then he comes at my other tooth, and I figured he must have given up on the first one, possibly because of the cavity in the side, maybe he didn’t want to break it off. He grabs the left one: pull, twist, pressure, and the tooth drops onto my tongue.

“You’re finished,” he says, as nurse lady whips the towel off and jams cotton into my mouth. “that’s it?” I reply, thoroughly nonplussed. I point to the right side and he says, “yes, all done”. Then he runs out to get coffee, and my wife comes in. They give me all my instructions and send me home. Less than forty-five minutes in the office, including time to fill out the paperwork. Now that’s getting some teeth removed. Then I got to stay home from work for two days and take Percocet, which is a fun way to drunkenly pass the time while you spit blood for a few days around your mouth gauze that’s essentially just tooth-tampons.

*About the electric chair: In case you missed that entry and I’m too lazy to find it and link it here.

Yes, I really sat in the Electric Chair. It was in the Broad River Correctional Facility in Columbia, South Carolina sometime in 1994. I was on a prison tour with a corrections class in college as part of my major. We toured death row, and part of the experience was the actual “death house” where they carry out sentences in the electric chair. It was a very modern facility at the time, clean and well kept, washed and and painted. The chair was a wooden construction sitting on a 4″ rubber mat.

The woman giving the tour showed us everything, talked about the procedures and how it all worked. Right before leaving the room, she asked if we had any questions. I asked to sit in the chair. She gave me a strange look and said yes, and I sat in the state’s electric chair. The last person to sit in that chair and not get up was Pee Wee Gaskins, and the next person after me was Larry Gene Bell, both quite nasty people who deserved what they got. We didn’t joke about it, we treated the experience with the respect and morbidity it deserved, and I described what the chair felt like. It was a hard wooden chair with a leather seat, more comfortable than you would think it would be. When I was later asked why I would ask to sit there, I thought about it and said, “Really, how many people get to say they’ve sat in the electric chair?”

I’ll put a Hex on you.

So… last time I ordered fabric from ripstop by the roll to make a hammock chair, I thought of doing something else along with it. I have a nice rainfly tarp to cover my hammock but its heavy and bulky. I was hoping to improve on it.

The thing is, rainflies are expensive. Even the cheaper ones run over $75, and the Cuban Fiber tarps, look out… sure they’re light as air and fold up to nothing, but they cost over $250 and they don’t fend off punctures well.

So I figured why not try and roll my own. After all, 1 ounce calendared fabric isn’t that expensive, plus it would be a fun summer project while I’m stuck at home unable to hike.

First, I decided on a color. Why go with a single color? I’m going to have to sew it together anyway, I might as well sew together two different colors. Second, why would it have to be two pieces joined in the middle where the ridge line is? That’s where the seam always is. Why? it’s easy to make one seam vs two, but the seam is right over the ridge line, right in the middle where all the forces pulling on it are the worst. Rubbing along the ridge line, pulled from the ends attached to the trees, and pulled apart from the guy lines. No, I wanted something a little different.

So I went with red and deep purple. Red will help me be seen from the sides, but the purple I felt would help block out light directly overhead, from the moon on nights with a full moon. I chose 1 ounce hyper-d fabric, which is supposed to be pretty tough yet as light as nylon comes. I would have to treat it with silicone myself.

First I measured my hennessy hex tarp and found the length of the top line Vs. the length of the bottom line. It’s not a true Hexagon, in that all the sides are equal and all the angles are the same. Its six sided, but the two end angles are wider than normal. The ridge line section is close to 12 feet, and the bottom of the tarp was 84 inches. I decided to cut mine to 86, to provide a little room for rolling hems and finishing.

First I cleared a space and laid everything out on the floor. Scratch that, first I looked up how to make a decent seam on the thru-hiker fabric web site, and found what I needed to use is called a “felled seam”. Basically you sew two pieces together, then roll the short parts that stick out, over themselves and sew it back onto itself. It’s easier to look at the pictures and figure it out than to explain with words. I had to draw it out and label parts. Layout once, check five times, pin, check again, and sew. Because cutting off a 12 yard seam would piss anyone off.

The purple is bottom up, and the red is bottom down. I had to sew them together and then flip the purple out from under the red. Looks like a plastic garbage bag, doesn’t it? It feels and acts like one when you lay it on the floor. The slightest breeze or movement and the whole thing wants to move around.

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Here I’ve sewn both red bottoms to the black top. Everything is folded bottom to bottom, and I haven’t yet rolled the outer seam onto itself, so the red looks shorter than the purple along the long edge.

IMG_0898How many sewing projects require Duct tape and a steel tape measure? I don’t know… In this picture I’ve finished the seams and the tarp is laid out so you can see one side. The purple on the right would be the ridge line (the piece directly over my head). The red on the left side would be near the ground. I measured in from the ends, marked everything and cut the hex shape. The Duct tape kept the fabric in one place while I cut, and the tape measure is there for the obvious reason, measuring in 30-some-odd inches in from either end. Now – on to rolling a hem around the entire perimeter, and making attachments.
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I plan on making a few upgrades to my attachment and tie-out points. First, most tarps have some sort of tie-out rings, usually large plastic D’s or triangles. I chose smaller, 3/8 triangles, since the rope I’m using isn’t that big. It will be secured on the tarp with grosgrain. Rather than run a rope all the way down, I’m considering using the same grosgrain the length of the ridge line, tacked in place with the silicone waterproofing.

On the corners I will use the same guy line pockets that hennessy uses, because they are so convenient. Instead of rings for tying ropes to (which takes way too much time to set up right) I’m using line-locs. They’re little plastic things, when you pull a rope through them the rope locks, until you flip the plastic thing up, and then the rope releases. The other end of the rope will have little mitten hooks attached, for clipping to the stakes, or even better, around a bush, tree, or log, and back on the line itself.

 

Tying one on

So I finished – almost – my first completely home made hammock chair. I took my light blue hammock chair apart, pulling out all the cords and laying it flat. Afterwards I washed it in the machine on hot and put it to dry, to get off any body oils or dirt. I found some generic dye for synthetics at JoAnn fabrics and bought two colors, green and purple.

Mixing the turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than I’m used to. I lined a bowl with heavy duty aluminum foil, and added the dye mix, and poured in hot water. It was a bit like trying to wet down peanut butter and make it a liquid, but with enough careful mushing and stirring I got it dissolved. The dye instructions say not to use anything that might be used with food, so everything has to be lined with foil or discarded after.

So, I would up my greenish sheet and put rubber bands on and carried my dye, now in squirt bottles, out onto the porch, and squirted dye onto the thing. Then I placed the whole mess into the oven on a cookie sheet (lined with foil) on 215 degrees for an hour. See – you’re supposed to boil the fabric in the dye bath for an hour, but since that would only mix all the colors up, putting it in the oven sets the ink without all the bothersome stirring and dye mixing all over into a brown sludge.

After the oven treatment the thing went into the washer, twice, for two loads set on hot. Some of the ink washed out, but overall I was generally pleased with the outcome. Anything was better than pure “robin egg blue”. The picture below was taken with an iPhone in the bathroom and came out wonky, but the basic pattern is there, even if the color is off.

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Next came re-assembly, I threaded my “dog bones” back through the end channels and tied them off. That left a hang loop for the chair. You can see the fabric color a lot better in the picture below.

The dog bones hold the chair up, and the whoopie sling below clips to them. The green color of the rope used to be pretty close to the original chair color. I made the slings and tree straps myself. I finally got a tool that makes forming the slings REALLY easy and fast. I like working with the rope now.

I made a little bag to sew to the side of the chair which will hold everything, but the bag is just a bit small and has no draw cord to hold it closed. I have just a bit of fabric left from my other project, I’ll sew up a new bag with a draw cord this week, and have a finished hammock chair to share on the trail.

 

Grow you big round bastards, grow

 

 

 

 

So I was at Myrtle Beach recently, and went to the Duplin Winery to look around and do a wine tasting. It’s cheap and fun and lets you kill an hour, and you get a wine glass to take home.

Our wine tasting host, Dave, told us some great stories between wine glasses, and kept us entertained. One of the funniest went something like this:

They entered a bottle of their wine in a competition in Calfornia. It was some fancy-pants highfalutin competition featuring wines from all over the world. Some of the traditional european vintners were a little peeved that they were even there. The muscadine, after all, is sort of the mutt in the wine world. A little known grape from the southeastern united states, mostly ignored by wine makers, it’s not something that usually stands against fancy european and even californian grapes.
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But here they were, beating out other wines, winning the best in their category, and coming out near the top in the entire competition. So finally one of the judges is talking to Dave and says something to the affect of “well, I’m really surprised, we never expected this from a small company that’s been around for a few years”. He was a bit taken aback by the fact that a wine made from this “trash grape” had made it so far and done so well. He asked how much the wine sold for. 11838630_10204921631177555_8393604999351534157_o

Dave tells the man, “Oh about seven”. The judge smiles and says, “Oh really? Well I don’t feel so bad now. Seven you say? Well that’s more like it. I would expect a wine that sells for Seven hundred dollars a bottle to place so high in this competition”. Dave, more than a bit shocked, tells the guy, “No, not seven hundred. Seven. Seven DOLLARS a bottle.”11828589_10204921630097528_1655565636118775977_n

Since they offended so many wine makers, the competition now has what is known unofficially as “the Duplin rule”. No wines sold for less than $50 a bottle are even allowed to enter the competition. 11781613_10204921622657342_1982704454001326153_nWhile I don’t think my wines would ever be as good as even the duplin wine, I’ve had fun learning about and growing my grapes. This year they are doing better than they have in a LONG time, and I have a huge crop so far. My older vines need a bit of tweaking along the middle, but on the ends they are heavy with grapes which more closely resemble european or table grapes. Muscadines often have little branches of two or three berries, but these are whole handfuls.

I’m looking forward to at least making them into jellies, if nothing else.