Surprise carpentry

I started this last weekend with two things on my mind, make a handle for a cheap hatchet that the fiberglass had become loose on and to paint a portion of the wagon from posts a couple of years back.

That sort of happened, I got a rough shape for the handle from a piece of bbq wood here’s a few pics

I flattened the wood in to stock with an angle grinder and a flap wheel
Mesquite is such a beautiful wood.
I used a rasp bit on a drill to take away a majority of the excess.

Anyway, this is as far as I got before my wife informed me a portion of our houses siding had been either busted through by a small animal or just fallen out due to rot.

I skipped right to where I tore out the rot, or majority. A chisel was used to clean up the rest of that corner.
I was lucky enough to find that old siding at one lumber yard and was able to make a lip for that 1×10 by ripping a picket to dimension, I added backer plates and flashing behind the siding
A two day process, but fixed for the most part. The rot on that widow casing is next.

I did manage to paint that wagon the next day, however, I felt like I didn’t quite get as much done with my other projects as I would have liked.

A little blast from the past for my soundtrack

This ordeal solidified two things for me. I still really love carpentry and that I might want to sell my house and move closer to town. Only time will tell how that works out, but I know that the work needed to keep this place up is getting to be constant

Here’s to a few less surprises, but completing the ones that we may come across. -AM-

A makeshift anvil

A few years ago I tried my hand at making a few knives. I dabbled mostly in stock removal but would create a make shift forge out of mesquite wood in my bbq pit and fanning the coals to a point of non magnetism before drenching my work.

My work would be satisfactory to me but a long process of grinding stock away with a 1×30 sander for hours. My dad gave me a piece of railroad tie that I could use as an anvil and stream line my process, do a bit a shaping rather than sanding. Well, I figured it was time to make that a possibility.

Until a few weeks ago I was on the search for a good tight grained stump to hang that anvil. I finally found a pecan tree that needed thinning and found my stump.

I’ve begun the process of bark removal and prep for what I hope will be a pretty hard and durable addition to my shop when all is said and done

I’ll soon be measuring and making a recess for the tie to bed down in. Here’s to having it done in a timely manner

Oh, almost forgot, my sound track:

Small thoughts on my own world

I’m well aware that I have never had a problem with a work-home life. I’ve never cared to be the top hand or go to guy. Work has always been a way to pay bills rather than a metric for self-worth. That doesn’t mean that I am lazy, but rather that I don’t take work home with me. I have no problem working hard for myself.

The struggle I tend to have is between my relationships and whatever hobbies or activities have captured my attention at the time. Sometimes I focus more on tasks I’ve given myself to complete than taking the time to focus on what others may want to do.

While I like to wander, I’m perfectly happy to find something useful to take up my time. This allows me to live in my own world and forget that others are not simply content to re-handle knives, sharpen tools, or work on a garden project.

I’m well aware that this sort of stems from my growing up back and forth between a rural existence and life in town.

I always enjoyed the rural existence more. Life is stripped and there is a forced intentionality that comes with it. There’s also an inherent “deal with it” about most things. The big one being: You’re bored? Deal with it.

It is a laborious existence, but you labor for yourself, and I already mentioned how I feel about that.

Today, I live in a town of less than three thousand. But there are times I feel the need to live ever farther out. I’ve always felt like it’s hard to have an imagination when buildings cage you in. You focus more on claustrophobia than creativity or being content.

I suppose I mention this all because growing up that way impacted me in that you’re forced to create your own entertainment rather than hope someone or something will do so for you. I internalized and accepted this from a young age, but it isn’t fair to assume everyone else has.

I don’t know that any one way is more desirable, just different. But all things have to be maintained, including relationships, and eventually, differences have to be resolved. I imagine this is my attempt to do both.

I suppose this means that I need to be more open to the views of others and their needs. I know it’s not realistic to hope my wife will be content turning fire wood in to lumber with a hatchet or that friends will want to just stay in and make a meal that takes all day because we already have abundance in the pantry.

Here’s to identifying problems, let’s see if we can fix them.


An observation in passing.

I was working on a post earlier last week about masculinity and what it means to me, what it is vs. what it is not. But with the shooting in Florida, I lost concentration and just dealt with the raw disgust of such a shitty thing.

While trying to collect my thoughts, between work and the gypsy wagon, I seemed to constantly come back to the idea, that things get done when you make them a priority.

I know this is obvious in theory, but it’s so much harder in practice. It’s the reason my plant starts will be a week late, but the same reason the wagon is actually coming along.

Over and over, what I put in my cross hairs, write down, talk about and focus on are things I get done. Not all the time, but most of the time.

I find that working things in to a routine helps tremendously as well. I’ll address this more in that masculinity post.

Here’s a recent pic of progress on the wagon.

It would also be weird for me to make a post absent of the music I have been listening to. So I recommend the new track by Beach House

Anyway, there’s snow on the ground, the house is warm and the week is almost over.

Here’s to a nice weekend


A constant game of catch up

As always, to address music.


This dropped this weekend. It’s refreshing to hear something new from Lord Huron. I especially like that they have decided to explore their electric side.

I spent last weekend camping, hiking and eating pizza. This weekend, however, was one of crossing off things on my list that I have been putting off for days, weeks and even years. But like any other day, I have to find a way to unpack my thoughts. So, I’ll begin with addressing the tequila I tried last week.


I picked this dude up for about 40 bucks, it was incredibly balanced. What stood out to me was the agave up front, low on the butter notes, but leaning on the white pepper, as well as a non-existent finish. It’s one I would drink neat. it mixes well, but almost to the point you lose it. I’m not a fan of the box it comes in or the excessive packaging and gearshift type topper, it just seems wasteful. A side note: do not use those disposable shot glasses as a measuring tool, apparently they are closer to a double. Our ignorance to disposable shot glasses led to this fine bottle mysteriously vanishing in one night. It also led to a pile of vomit near my brothers tent.

This would be a fine tequila to drink with a friend that may have been scarred by Cuervo and is looking at trying something more authentic but maybe is not ready for something like Cazadores.

I made my way out of the door this morning to do my weekly hike and drove past a house that takes me to the interstate. It was about 7-ish so most everyone was still in their house. I saw what I thought was a large cat on the roof of a house and was like…damn, he’s big. I then realized I was looking at the most magnificent raccoon. I tried to whistle at him so that he would look at me, he decided to climb in to the roof of this house instead. He is the ultimate badass.


I know it’s pixilated, but hey, let’s see you pull out your phone and get a perfectly focused pic of a raccoon when you’re excited.

The largest portion of my weekend was devoted to fixing this sheep herder wagon that we had purchased for camping a few years ago. I knew it needed work. And I put that off to travel and just pretty much do anything other than fix it.

I had some boards coming loose from the back, so, I originally thought I would just disassemble them, add some construction adhesive, caulk anything needing it on the inside, then screw the boards back in. This is not what happened. I began to take boards off to find a hodgepodge of stacked shit lumber, dry rot, wet rot, and silverfish. It was disgusting and irritating all in one.


I had obviously pulled out some of the rot and boards and this point. but you get an idea of the stupidity that was being handed to me.

The fact that these were stacked, and not snug to the roof was bad, but the set up was rotted due to a lack of sealing at the roof. A mere 6 dollars in material would have prevented this mess. So, I spent the weekend turning it in to this with a sawzall.


I decided to add a new bottom plate and to add columns that I will add blocking to this next weekend. I ended today with it looking like the next picture, minus the tarp covering it at the moment.


It’s hard to see from the picture, but I tied the rafters in to the columns and added construction adhesive anywhere I could. I plan to add a 1/8 in ply wood panel, tarp over it, then spray truck bed liner over the tarp to double water proof it, silicone the edges, then add the boards again. I will also be replacing those boards that are pointed near the window.

I have a really hard time figuring out how anyone would think it is structurally sound to hold boards on a trailer with finish brads, but I will be adding decking screws to the boards along with construction adhesive to alleviate this problem.

I usually love to listen to something when working, but prefer podcasts to music when I do these things. I used to love coast to coast am, but I got tired of it lending itself to far-right morons and it’s whole radio friendly AM format. I have since found the What If podcast, which reminds me of shooting the shit with my brother, outside of our tents, with a beer. So, if you dig paranormal stuff, usually think those talking about it are full of shit, but love the subject anyway, give these dudes a listen.


Lastly, I’m well aware that this post is all over the place, but then again, so is life.

I hope you guys get your footing on a few things you’ve been putting off.


The fine enough things in my life.


My abilities to showcase music I’ve been listening to has become much better with the wordpress app and my ability to upload pics from my phone.

I had stopped listening to country music after the election because I had equated it with the backwardness that was prevalent in songs about owning trucks in the suburbs and thinly veiled misogyny. However, I grew up listening to a lot of country music that had a ton of soul to it. I loved it.  But looking back there was always the awful, jingoistic, Lee Greenwood tracks that turned my stomach. I suppose it was just never as personal as it is now.

But the ones with soul, they killed it, some of my favorite tracks still come from the likes of Gary Stewart, Ronnie Millsap, Doug Sahm and Johnny Duncan.

My brother told me to check out Midland about a month ago, he said “you’ll dig this, it sort of mixes the Eagles, the Burrito Brothers and Ronnie Millsap all in to one”. This track definitely has some of that no getting over me in it. It sort of takes me back to rides with my Dad as a child, the vast barrenness of the Concho Valley and the crackle of half-tuned FM stations. I can smell the wastefulness of those old GM carburetors just thinking about it.

It’s with all this in mind that I return to country music, sifting though piles of shallow shit, to find something of substance.

Last weekend I had the pleasure of finally trying Tapatio Tequila. I had read from so many sources that it is a true old school bottle. The type of thing I can imagine my grandfather drinking. It’s not complex, but it is heavy on the butter notes as well as the pepper, and when mixed, a great deal of alcohol. Sort of makes me think that if Jimador had more flavor, it would taste like this. Drank straight, there’s that old school tongue numbing on the first one and palate adjustment for more to come, each one better than the last.

I love the marketing, it has an old school feel and lacks the bullshit hand blown bottle.

I can’t speak for the hangover because I completely over did it. But I can imagine that 8 of these would make for a morning that you don’t skip a beat. I’m sipping it as a type this and have no aversion to my previous bad decisions.

This is not Casamigos or Don Julio, so it should not be treated as such, but those are newer styles of consumption anyway. But a double on the rocks with a key lime is pretty damn tasty. 20180117_172819.jpg

Lastly, I’m doing my best to be consistent in all that I do, from writing to my to do list. As of now, I have done 5 of the 7 things on my list, not bad. I feel like I had a deeper point to make about a few other things, but they escape me.



An approach to continuity

I’m doing my best to keep the ball rolling, hoping that continual momentum may help keep me going with the writing, sort like my old ranger when the clutch would give out.  That leads to me being right here, behind this screen, sipping Vida Mezcal with a dash of lime twang. I do my best to enjoy the night, to ignore the tasks for the next day, forget the tasks of this one and try to find the agave buried in the smoke.

I think about meals to plan, finances to be met and a camping trip at the end of the week, to a close but dependable destination. I imagine mesquite camp fires, the smell of fallen juniper berries and the rustle of a raccoon or ringtail, perhaps the yips of distant coyotes. I think of night skies that look like shattered beer bottles. But most of all I think of the silence in the mornings, among the yuccas, brush and Mexican sage. Where sound tends to be just beyond the nopalitos and only the conejos care that you are there.

I think of past trips, maravillias on las montañas, a view from a summit, high bear activity signs and registers. This trip won’t have those, but it will have familiarity, and sometimes that helps to really put me at ease.

In short I look forward to a night of tequila soaked melodies, food cooked over fire and conversations with friends, that, while maybe not deep, are some of the conversations I miss the most.

To familiarity,


An explanation of absence

Music: Alejo Sierra – Los Pinguinos Del Norte

Last year I started writing about my experiences. I mostly wrote about simple living, minimalism, and debt reduction. However, last November, with the election of president shit hole, I was too angry all the time with the barrage of constant stupidity to write about anything other than politics. This would be great if I were writing a political blog, but I did my best to shy away from that realm since politics already consumes a large part of my life.

That being said, my politics have moved further left, I have decided to write about the subject when I feel it necessary and completely understand if I lose previous followers. Politics is not what you signed up for. I have also come to a point where I accept the political reality for what it is and would rather focus on things that better my life.

Since I have been gone-

I have took on a few new interests or pastimes since I last wrote and they will be mentioned as I deal with them. Among them are a years worth of actually trying to learn Spanish (estoy aprendiendo, pero algo es mejor que nada, que no?) This has entailed immersing myself in music, tv, reading and speaking. I will being doing a great deal of reviewing my experience in learning.

I’ve developed a love for Tequila, Mezcal and Sotol, I will be reviewing them but only puros that are also blancos or platas. I really like the agave taste, not wood. I can, however, dig the smoke in Mezcal.

I have also, made it a point to dive further in to my heritage as a Mexican American while still staying true to my worldview in terms of growing up in rural West Texas. Mexican culture has always been a large part of West Texas, so none of this is mutually exclusive, but rather a shift in focus.

What that means is that I dig what’s going on the West Coast  and the Califas Xicano thing, but I don’t live there, and their experience in life are different than mine. Likewise South Texas has their own culture, and I appreciate all of them. There just tends to become a little rivalry, I don’t want to be a part of that, or to tell anyone that their experience is any less real. Just know this is my take and my experiences, not better, just different.

I’m sure there is more to come, but this is brief explanation for my future posts and my leave of absence. Content is changing, but I will still be addressing my attempt at frugality, simple living, and anything from the past just through a different and more nuanced lens.

I hope all is well,


Daily Surprises

Music: Like Eating glass- Bloc Party

Today, much like any other workday, I spent my morning putting out the typical fires of switching back keys on laptops, answering emails and having conversations with students who were making no progress in self-paced courses. Around lunch time, things changed though, I had one of those experiences that truly leave you thankful that you’re a teacher.

I had a student ask if she could stay during lunch to finish a test that she had started online. I of course said sure and did my best to help her with the questions she had. She worked diligently, finished the exam and proceeded to ask about another assignment that was to be uploaded the next day. I walked her through the process and told her that the assignments for all the other modules were to be uploaded the same way.

She thanked me for my help and then asked me how her sister was doing in one of my other classes. I told her that she was doing well but that anything to spur more productivity would be appreciated. Here’s where the day changed, one of those unforgettable moments, where people lose their roles and simply become humans.

She told me that her and her sister hadn’t lived together for a few years. That her sister gets distracted easily. “She focuses on boys more than school. I wish she could see from my mistakes that it’s not worth it.” She proceeded to explain that her mother and father were divorced.

Her mother had tried to fight her and her sister sided with her, this had put a strain on their relationship. She told me she lived with her boyfriend because of the rift, but she regretted it and felt as though her boyfriend just used her for sex. She said that last spring she had had a miscarriage with him and that it had affected her school work.

She then explained that her father had just recently had a baby with another woman. Apparently there are 3 other siblings, all from different women. She said “I just wish he would focus on us rather than creating more children.”

I told her I didn’t have any quick fixes for such matters, but that there are resources in the community and I can help her find them. I told her that in my life I have had to distances myself from some family members and relationships due to their negative nature. That it hurts, but that being dragged in to more negativity is worse than the distance.

I told her that she can only focus on the next right move and that mistakes are merely another chance to learn from our own experiences.

I also told her that I too have a hard time dealing with my own problems, and that that in no way minimizes her situation, rather that she is more normal than she expects.

Lastly, I told her that I lack the resources to do much, however, that when she’s in my class that I’ll do all that I can to ensure her success. Small successes become large successes over time and that our habits become our lives, focus on what you can control.

She thanked me for listening to her and said that she was appreciative that I’m cool.

I’ve been left sort of in awe for a few reasons. I tell people regularly to endure, but until now realize that I usually only consider life from my point of view and with respect to my set of problems and circumstances. This is an unfair way to assess other.

I still advocate for people to pick up and do the tough tasks that are at hand, however, there has to be more of us listening (myself included) to each other. Up until a year ago I was a pretty awful listener. My goal was always to have something to reply with. As I have made the shift to actually listening I find that not everything one says needs a reply. But that anyone moved to genuinely voice their feelings needs to at the least say their piece, even if just as a verbal catharsis.

Furthermore, I’m saddened and proud all at once that there are young adults, of any gender, that can and do, put such issues aside and make such hard decisions daily and are committed and driven to truly make a go at life, despite the odds. (What’s more refreshing than to have a true protagonist?)

While reading today I thought about my debt as I was confronted with the idea of resistance as a motivator in life, a purpose, the reason we get up every morning. As of right now, debt is my resistance. I seem to function better when knowing or creating a purpose to struggle for.

For years I viewed the world from a political perspective–everything is a function of power struggle and since it is, the only difference is who is victorious. Perhaps this has something to do with my functioning as an adult? This young lady has identified her struggle and I hope she annihilates what needs to be in order to prevail.

Life, at times, is so incredibly sad, intense, beautiful, and beyond anything I could ever dream up–I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful for these types of moments that pull me out of my own personal stupor and force me to realize that we all have struggles. I recognize that we are all so busy and I ask that you guys do the best you can to be understanding and patient, it’s truly an uphill battle for us all.



Thoughts as of now.

Music: My Kind of Woman- Mac Demarco

I finished Streets of Laredo by Larry McMurtry last week. I have been hesitating to write a review and instead have merely posted a few quotes that I really enjoyed, I say a few, because they continue on and on.

What I can say about the book, other than it is awesome and that I highly recommend it; is that for one, it takes place mostly in West Texas and Northern Mexico, and that it is almost an anti-western– it really kills all of the John Wayne archetypes associated with westerns. I can also appreciate a book where characters act out philosophical concepts rather than the work being an act of philosophy, to me it is just more believable. In short, read it.


“For one thing, he despised fancy gear. He rode a plain saddle, and all that he required in a weapon was that it was reliable and accurate.”

“The one thing he didn’t expect he would have to fear was a chill. The sky was not like the skies of home. It was vast, and instead of being blue, it was white, not with cloud but with heat.”

“In time, the great pig grew bolder. Sometimes it would walk through town, attended by a contingent of crows, who would flank it or walk ahead of it, cawing. When the pig stretched out to sleep in the hot sun, several crow would attend it, cleaning nits and ticks out of its hide. The poor people who worked in the sand hills feared the pig, they called it the devil pig. […] Sightings of the pig came from all points of the compass: from as far east as Abilene, as far north as Tascosa, and as far south as Piedras Negras. An old woman who lived near Boquillas claimed to have seen the pig go into a tunnel that led to hell.”

“’If he steals horses, then it’s better to eat them,” Billy said. He had always liked Joey. He thought that he was a good boy, but strange. Being strange was not something he could hold against anyone; after all, he himself was strange. ‘Life makes everybody strange, if you keep living long enough’”


“‘I don’t see it that way’, Goodnight said.

‘Well it wasn’t your ranch,” Call pointed out.

‘No, it wasn’t my ranch, but I hate to see you thinking like a banker,’ Goodnight said. ‘From a banker’s point of view, all of my ventures have been failures, including this one I’m venturing now, this Palo Duro ranch. The lawyers will take it away from me, before I’m dead. Lawyers and Bankers are like shit beetles. They’ll finally carry off everything I’ve built up, like they carried away your ranch up above the Yellowstone. […] ‘Bankers live by ledger sheets,’ Goodnight informed him. ‘They decide if you’re a failure if your balance hits zero, or you can’t pay your note. You’re a damn fool for thinking like a banker.’”


I finally finished the table, distressed, antiqued, and sanded and finished the top properly. This project took me much longer than anticipated but was completely worth the hassle. I’m debating on whether to post it for sale or wait to get a few pieces and get a space at an antique mall with my wife, time will tell.

Our mortgage is more than I would like to pay (not unmanageable, but why pay more, when you can pay less?) and since it is, I would like to move in to something smaller and more maintainable when the time is appropriate. However, one thing that hit me hard this last time we moved was how my shop has been in disarray for two years.

My solution, which is not a new idea, is portable infrastructure. All of my benches, large tools and tool stands are being converted to moveable pieces. The idea came from Joel Salatin and his mobile farming methods. He argues that infrastructure is the costly part of farming and that more options exist when small farmers can move to leased land and allow land to rest when becoming exhausted.

I can’t allow a shop to become more fertile by resting it, but it is definitely easier to clean and maintain this way, it also allows for quick on site set up, if the need ever arises.


With respect to debt and my never ending struggle to escape its chains I have developed a system where I pay at least 20 additional bucks each week to student loans on the principal. On the low end it looks like 160 bucks a month. I’m doing all I can to shrink this one as fast as possible.

I’m also contemplating selling one of my shotguns. I’m too afraid of scratching it,(see Call’s quote on gear) I have another that is more portable, does all the same tasks, and really I don’t feel that the pretty one serves a need anymore, but is now a liability.


I’m doing my best to get by with the least of everything. I read about purchasing only consumables and I’m really trying to stick to this idea. Basic necessities: toilet paper, soap, unprocessed food. But only what I need for the week and no impulses. I’ll write an update as time goes on.


In order to create a better blog and to also capture small moments of life that I appreciate I have decided to focus some on the quality of photos that I take. My phone takes awful photos and it sort of just seems lazy, these were taken with my wife’s Canon. I tried my hand during my weekly hike at the state park yesterday. The sky was so vibrant so it is kind of the theme of these. img_4713img_4715img_4668

The learning curve is steep with respect to understanding how to truly bring out the depth of objects in pictures. Hopefully this blog will be a testament to my development as an amateur photographer as time passes.