You Gotta Have Hobbies 6 – Backpacking the AT in Massachusetts

Sorry for the lack of posting, but I’ve been out backpacking for a week in the Berkshires of Massachusetts. For those who have followed me, you know that one of the hobbies I pursue is backpacking, especially the Appalachian Trail in the Eastern US. It’s a 2,100+ mile trail that runs from Georgia to Maine. Over the last 15 years, through a series of weekend (and a few week-long) trips, I’ve managed to hike about 876 miles of it. Still a lot to go!

My hope is to be able to get close to 1,000 miles when I retire in 2020, and then complete the rest of it. I’ve managed to get about 160 miles done in GA/NC, and the middle section from Northern VA to CT done. Still a lot to go.

The AT usually has campsites or shelters (3-sided log structures) a day’s hike distance from each other (8-14 miles). Each shelter has a “privy” (a pit toilet) a reasonably secure water supply, and tent/hammock sites. It’s a good way to determine travel distance for the day. Along the way, you can see some great views, interact with nature, and enjoy some great exercise. However, it’s not for the faint of heart or the out-of-shape. Often you are going up & down 1,000 ft. climbs, with 30+ pounds on your back, while walking in inclement weather. I often tell folks to take their normal “hike” distance, and cut in in half or 2/3’s to get how much they can backpack.

We headed up to Massachusetts Saturday, June 16th (me and 4 other friends). Took about 4 hours to get there, and another 2 hours to “stage” the cars, where we left 2 at the end, 1 in the middle (so we could resupply halfway through the trip) and then took 2 cars to the end. By about 2pm, we were on the trail, hiking to our first campsite.

For the next seven days, we hiked 7-12 miles a day, usually starting around 7am, and getting done between noon and 3pm (depending on how fast folks hiked). There were things to do and see on the way, and at some of the shelters, so overall it was a great time. In the end, we left the trail a day early (on Friday) because the next day’s hike would be over 3 mountains above the tree line (i.e. there was no protection) and the weather called for thunderstorms. I don’t do this to get hit by lightning, so we got off the trail.

A lot of fun. Still need to work on cutting more weight from my pack.

Mr. 39 Months.

You gotta have hobbies – sticking mouldings!

I continue to pursue my woodworking hobby, with emphasis on using hand-tools to do a lot of the work. In some ways it is slower than using power tools (ex: when doing repetitive cuts of the same dimension on a table saw). However, for most of the “one-off” items or joinery, the hand tool solution often is faster. It takes a long time to set up a machine to make a cut (initial setup, test cut, adjust, test cut again, adjust…..). When you are doing a few items with one task, it’s often quicker to just pull out a chisel, hand plane or saw, and do it.

It’s often more fun and more quiet as well. I can do this at 6am on a Saturday, or 10pm on a weeknight. I get the thrill of producing something by hand, and being able to see it in my home constantly. I urge everyone to pick up a couple of hobbies so they can improve their skills and gainfully occupy their time – instead of just sitting in front of the TV.

Most homes have mouldings in place. These are the pieces of wood around doors, edges, or places where two planes meet (between ceiling and walls, floor and walls, etc.  They are mostly used to reduce damage and wear at key points in the house which might suffer too many dings and hits. For some home styles, like Victorians, the moulding/trim was quite extensive.

The way these are made nowadays, for the most part, is by running the wood pieces through a powered machine called a shaper, or in some instances on a router table (a less-powered version of the shaper). You can often buy large lengths of specific trim pieces at Home Depot/Lowes, or get special trim pieces made by a lumberyard/specialty shop. This makes sense, because once you set the machine up, you can run large amounts over the time, and get economies of scale.

Before the age of powered equipment, the way this trim was produced was with a “sticking board” and moulding planes – wooden planes with profiles ground into them to cut the trim the way you wanted it. The joiner/woodworker would start at one end and run the plane down the length, taking off some of the wood and then go back. As he continued to run it down, the profile would take shape until eventually it reached the final version. Some wooden planes had a built in “depth stop” on the plane, a section of the plane which would prevent it from cutting any deeper once the final shape had been reached. After that, the trim would be cut to size and installed, just like it is today.

Well, I’ve recently built my sticking board (some straight lengths of wood with screws on the end to hold the wood trim pieces) and had built a cove moulding plane (the light brown item you see) and tried it out. It was a lot of fun, and some good exercise. While not really great cardio, it certainly forced me to do some walking in the shop.

I’m satisfied with the results. I intend to use it to build some frames for two posters I got on our vacation to the Redwoods and Crater Lake National Park. We’ll see what other things I can make with this setup in the future.

How have your hobbies gone?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Woodworking with a legend

Roy Underhill has been showing traditional woodworking on PBS for 37 years. He was a master carpenter and Woodwright for Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia before he started. He has concentrated on traditional 18th/19th century tools and woodcraft, and has been a prime mover for the rebirth of hand-tool woodworking in America. Roy has a definite, almost manic style of presentation, both on TV and in person. Always a joker, He keeps it light while helping to explain the intricacies of using a 19th century tool to come up with accurate results.

About ten years ago, he opened up a school for woodworking, where folks can come and attend classes, see and use the tools (he has a host of them available if folks don’t have their own) and purchase tools to take home if they’d like (there is a separate store, owned by Ed Lebetkin, upstairs). The schools is in a store front in the quaint town of Pittsboro, NC.

I’ve taken classes there on hand tool use, and a special one on wooden molding planes. Last week I took a class with Will Myers and Roy at his school, where we built a great “portable” workbench. This one is based on a bench that Will found in the Moravian museum in North Carolina, which they believe is a design built around 1800. As most woodworkers know, a good bench is strong, sturdy and heavy, so it can withstand the pounding without moving or breaking. This one breaks down into six major parts, the heaviest of which is the 4” think workbench top (around 100 lbs.). It’s fairly portable, but sturdy when you set it up.

There is something really enjoyable about doing all the work by hand. Every cut is hand-sawn, every hole is hand-drilled, and every joint is cut out and fitted. By the end of five days, we were able to take home a workbench that was 85%-90% complete, including a great front vise. The remaining work that needed to be done is relatively easy (I’ve already gotten about half of it done over the last 2-3 days, in the evenings).

I would greatly recommend to anyone that if they have hobbies, don’t wait till you retire early. Take the opportunity to explore them now, if only to confirm it is something that you’d like to do for a long time.

 

What new skill would you like to try out?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Frugal Tip – Bad Movie Night with Friends

A lot of folks are looking for things to do for fun that aren’t going to cost them an arm and a leg.  The amount typical Americans currently spend on dining out and entertainment  is something much talked about in the FIRE community, and many folks discuss ways to reduce their entertainment/dining out costs dramatically.

For Mrs. 39 Months and I, we just had a pot luck dinner at our friends house (we brought desert, others brought sides, and the host had the main course). Total cost for us was less than $10, the most was probably $15 for the hosts for the ingredients for the main course.

For entertainment, we all gathered round the TV and watched a pair of really bad movies. For many folks who are old enough, they remember a TV show called “Mystery Science Theater 3000” where a group of characters would play a bad movie, and snipe at it from the side. It was incredibly funny, and stayed on the air for many years (I think they may be trying to recreate it now).

The original team has re-united and has started a series called “Riff Tracs” where they pretty much do the same thing, on special nights. You’ve got to go to a movie theater to see it, but its very funny. You can also see it online a little later (Netflix I believe).

For last night’s viewing, we watched the Rifftrax take off on “Plan 9 from Outer Space” – one of Tim Wood’s movies and often considered the worst movie ever made (It makes Sharknado look like high cinema). After that, we watched “Amazon Women on the Moon” a movie similar to “Kentucky Fried Movie” and “the Goove Tube” – takeoffs on early 80s television shows & commercials, rater R with some nudity and adult situations.

In the end, it was a lot of fun, and a pretty cheap night out. I’d recommend it.

 

Mr 39 Months

 

Ya Gotta Have Hobbies! Part 4

I’ve talked before about hobbies, especially in terms of finding things to do once you achieve FI. One of my major interests in woodworking.

Most hobbies or interests, no matter what, have some sort of professional/amateur show, where folks who are interested can gather, take classes, purchase materials, etc. Heck, even the FI community has Camp Mustache, Chataqua, etc. For me, there is a show that travels the country called “the woodworking show” that goes throughout the US. It has about 100 different vendors, runs about 30 different classes, and enables you to be around, talk with, and generally mingle with your woodworking “tribe.”

As you come onto floor. Look at all the vendors!

Vendor selling a wide variety of materials (sanding paper, hand tools, etc.)

Classroom on floor

Wife knitting, while her husband was out having the time of his life. This is how Mrs. 39 Months would pass the time, if she had come.

It was a lot of fun, and I encourage everyone to seek out these sort of events for their particular interest. You will be amazed at how much you learn, and how much fun you will have.

 

Mr. 39 Months

Christmas Gift Hacking

A lot of folks in the FIRE community have talked about how they work hard to keep it a frugal holiday season – either cutting down amounts given, reducing gifts, or just eliminating them altogether. It’s a difficult task in this world of rampant consumerism, especially with kids.

 At the same time, many of us have hobbies that we greatly enjoy (otherwise we would go nuts now that we are financially independent retirees, or on the cusp). For those working on FIRE, hobbies are one of the things we seek out, knowing we will need to find ways to keep ourselves occupied once we retire – after we have spent the first 24 months doing all the travel and other activities we dreamed of doing.

 So one of the Christmas hacks you can do is to use your hobby to make gifts for folks. They don’t have to be extravagant (most people as they age don’t want a lot of extravagant gifts, because then they’ll feel they have to respond in kind). We have a friend who is an artist, so she does hand painted Christmas cards – which most of us end up framing and using in the house. My brother is an accomplished photographer (he did it for newspapers and for his business’ marketing efforts), and one of his gifts is to get photos together of the family over the past year and create a calendar for each of us with photos.

 Me, I’m an amateur woodworker. The woodworking websites and magazines are full, come around September, with easy gift ideas, and I’ve mined them for the last several years for ideas. Instead of spending $100s on family, I find that with $50 of materials I can create some nice stuff, and people appreciate the hand-made gifts more. This year, its oriental themed, desk frames for photographs. There are two-sided, so each frame shows two pictures. They are held in place with small dowels (the tops come off) so the photos can be replaced if necessary.

 

It’s a great chance to do something for those you love, which is personal, and I think more appreciated than something you just get off the shelf.

 What have you guys made for friends and family for Christmas?

 

Mr. 39 Months

 

Christmas Presents?

Many of us have skills and talents that we take for granted, hobbies that we have that bring us joy, just for the sake of doing. Mrs. 39 Months likes to knit and play the dulcimer. My younger brother has a CCR (computer controlled router) that lets him carve all sorts of things he can design on his computer. My older brother is an accomplished photographer, with an incredible gift to get beautiful pictures with limited, inexpensive equipment.

At a certain point in our lives, we stop needing “things” from other people, and its more the “thought that counts” when we are getting gifts. Often the gifts just sit there, unused, but we do remember that someone thought of us at the time. In that case, why not use your talent or interest to create a gift, instead of contributing to the consumer treadmill? It will save you money, and show folks you were willing to spend more than 5 minutes on them.

For me, I am an amateur woodworker, and I found a nice design for something small, but useful. I also had some old wood that has been sitting in the shop for several years, in the form of logs (my friend had a tree cut down, sawed up, and when he moved, he gave them to me).

So now I get to joint & plane the wood, cut it to size, create the joinery and complete the design. I should be able to get 8-10 presents out of this, which should satisfy us for most of the crew this year. It should take me about 4 weeks of off-and-on work to complete, so I have gotten started.

What do you guys do for presents? Anybody doing something really interesting this year that you would like to share?

 

Mr. 39 Months

Thinking about starting a You tube channel? Think Save Retire has a good post on it

Think Save Retire has an excellent post on what you need to start a YouTube Channel. It goes over how to set up, equipment, and content.

Want to start a YouTube channel? Here’s what you need to get started

 

He goes through all the equipment, the setup and the processes.

I’ve often thought about setting up a YouTube channel for financial advice to recent graduates. Not sure  how successful it would be, but it would be fun.

 

Mr. 39 months

You’ve got to have hobbies – part 3

Sorry for me not posting over the weekend. I was out again, hiking on the Appalachian Trail, this time in Connecticut.

As I’ve said before, I belong to a club that does outdoor events (kayaking, biking, etc.) and a group of seven of us went over the weekend to backpack the AT. It was a total of 12.5 miles (6.5 miles on Sat, 6 on Sun) with a stay at the shelter.

I really love taking these trips to the outdoors, and I look forward to the opportunity, once I hit my FI goal, to do more of this.

I hope everyone had a great weekend!

Mr.39 Months