Beautiful contertop

Beautiful contertop

Nice dining room chair.

Nice dining room chair.

Axe handle stool

Axe handle stool

Axe Handle stools with swivel seats.

Axe Handle stools with swivel seats.

Nice milk pail stools.

Nice milk pail stools.

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A few months ago I was traveling through McKean County in Pennsylvania on my way back from a job. Years ago in McKean county there was an old railroad bridge that stretched across a great divide.

Here is a quick description from Wikipedia: ”

The Kinzua Bridge before its collapse. www.alleghenyratraid.com

The Kinzua Bridge before its collapse. http://www.alleghenyratraid.com

The Kinzua Bridge or the Kinzua Viaduct (/ˈkɪnz/[4] or /ˈkɪnz.ə/) was a railroad trestle that spanned Kinzua Creek in McKean Countyin the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Prior to its collapse in 2003, the bridge was 301 feet (92 m) tall and 2,052 feet (625 m) long.

The bridge was originally built from iron in 1882 and was billed as the “Eighth Wonder of the World“, holding the record as the tallest railroad bridge in the world for two years. In 1900, the bridge was dismantled and simultaneously rebuilt out of steel to allow it to accommodate heavier trains. It stayed in commercial service until 1959 and was sold to the Government of Pennsylvania in 1963, becoming the centerpiece of a state park. Restoration of the bridge began in 2002, but before it was finished, a tornado struck the bridge in 2003, causing a large portion of the bridge to collapse. Corroded anchor bolts holding the bridge to its foundations failed, contributing to the collapse.

Shortly after the tornado. www.bradfordera.com

Shortly after the tornado.
http://www.bradfordera.com

Before its collapse, the Kinzua Bridge was ranked as the fourth-tallest railway bridge in the United States.[5] It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark in 1982. The ruins of the Kinzua Bridge are inKinzua Bridge State Park off U.S. Route 6 near the borough of Mount Jewett, Pennsylvania.

Now, what’s left of the remaining bridge has been turned into a vista where you can walk out over the edge of the hill and have a scenic look at the remains and the surrounding hills. It really is a sight to see. I would encourage you all to make a trip to it whenever you can. It would be a great trip for the fall when the leaves on the trees are most beautiful.

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Scenery

The walk out to the edge.

The walk out to the edge.


I am not sure how many of you follow me on Facebook. If you do, then you know all about where I work.  Almost 2 years ago I left my position as Director for Tioga County GIS and joined the team over at Wildlife Specialists, LLC. My good friend, Merlin Benner, began the business in 2007 after leaving his position as a Biologist for Pennsylvania DCNR.

Wildlife Specialists, LLC was founded in 2007 to provide clients with comprehensive wildlife assessment, planning, and monitoring services. A lot of our work is with endangered, rare, or threatened species. We also provide nuisance white tailed deer and feral hog management.

Timber Rattlesnake tracked, tagged, and released via telemetry

Timber Rattlesnake tracked, tagged, and released via telemetry

Long story short, after talking with him, they asked if I would join them to help their GIS program and also their Nuisance Deer/Feral Hog Management program. After getting certified through the Game Commission as a Nuisance WIldlife/White Tailed Deer Agent, I joined them formally as their GIS manager in March of 2012. Since moving over, I have enjoyed a great many days in the field rather than in a stuffy office in front of a computer every day. I have gotten to learn so much about the various species and habitats that we work with.

I have had the chance to work on Timber Rattlesnake habitat surveys, Goshawk

Telemetry equipment picking up a transmitter frequency inside a rattlesnake.

Telemetry equipment picking up a transmitter frequency inside a rattlesnake.

surveys, wetland delineation, rare plant surveys, invasive plant studies and removal, rattlesnake telemetry studies, Allegheny Woodrat habitat improvement projects and so on. This is the kind of work I have always wanted to be doing.

Timber rattlesnake marked.

Timber rattlesnake marked.

Consequently, a lot of the work has come from the natural gas activity in the area. As that slows down, so does the work. We are still keeping relatively busy and hope that New York will soon open up for natural gas drilling. Pennsylvania has really benefited from all the survey work that has been done due to the gas industry. The records of what is really out there in the wilds is now more robust and better documented. And I am glad to be a part of it and see it all for myself out in the woods.

The timbering gear that we carried up the mountains for woodrat habitat improvement.

The timbering gear that we carried up the mountains for woodrat habitat improvement.

Woodrat habitat improvement. Steep rocky terrain!

Woodrat habitat improvement. Steep rocky terrain!


If you have read through my blog you will see a few posts on cheap but effective ways to raise animals on your own small property. One of the posts talked about an egg mobile.

Egg-Mobile 1.0

Egg-Mobile 1.0

This contraption that I built I will call Egg Mobile 1.0. It was modified from it’s original design according to the material I had on hand. I used a lot of wood which made it heavier than desired. Though its design made it relatively easy to pull along the grass for myself, it was a little more difficult for my wife.

I recently tore it down to the pressure treated base frame. I went to tractor supply and bought 2 cattle panels that were 16′ long and about 3.5′ wide. They were $20 each. I attached the bottom of one to the inside side rail, then flexed the other end over to the other side rail board and attached it also, forming a sort of hoop house shape. I made sure that the bottom edges were attached just above the bottom edge of the boards so as to not catch on the dirt and grass while being drug. You can attach the panels in whatever way works best; large staples, screws screwed in on an angle, nails bent over…etc.

Cattle panels attached.

Cattle panels attached.

Then I attached the next panel right next to the first and joined the two in the middle with zipties about every other square to firm up the panels. Then on either end I added chicken wire, also along the sides because the panel holes are large enough for the chickens to get out if they wanted.

For a door, I had saved the one from the previous build (Egg Mobile 1.0). However,

I didn’t want to add more wood for installing the door. My wife had a great idea! She asked if I just couldn’t hinge the door sideways, on the bottom, on the wooden rail. So thats what I did. I really like the way it has turned out. The only issue is that with the door turned sideways, it is difficult to get the waterer and feeder in with ease as they are taller than the opening, and heavy when full.

I then put a tarp over the top, slightly favoring one side (the west), and slid small lengths of wood across the inside corners for perching.

Egg Mobile 2.0

Egg Mobile 2.0

Egg Mobile 2.0

Egg Mobile 2.0 


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The Nature Inn facing the lake

As stated in my last post about bikes, my wife and I spent one night at Bald Eagle State Park. I surprised her for our 11th anniversary with an overnight at their new Nature Inn.

In the past we have stayed a night at a bed and breakfast in Benezette, Pa called Winslow Hill B&B in the heart of Pennsylvania’s elk range. I will do a write up on that place too since its a great little bed and breakfast and the host is wonderful! However this year I decided to switch it up a little for a surprise.

ImageOn my way back and forth from a job in the Moshannon State Forest, I was passing Bald Eagle State Park. I never realized how large the reservoir was, nor that it even existed. So one day I drove in to have a look around. The camping spots were not my taste. Just about all of them are basically in a cleared field with a paved road making the loops to each one. They have a few newly planted trees around but thats it. I was unimpressed. Then I saw a sign pointing toward the Nature Inn. I followed the road back in towards and along the lake. There it sat by itself set up on a small rise overlooking the north end of the lake.

The structure itself is desirable to look at. Built with exposed timbers and riverstone, it really fits its location. Right away you know that it was built for a more luxurious stay, and its interior proves you to be right. The inside is decked with tan earth tones and light colored natural wood everywhere you look. The walls are dressed with many large windows for lots of natural light.

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View from our balcony

I reserved a room called the Robin. It was on the second story and faced the lake with a small balcony. Each room has a small balcony whether you face the lake or the woods in the back. I couldn’t reserve this kind of room and NOT face the lake. The room was spacious and very comfortable. In the morning we had a full hot breakfast served smorgasbord style.

The only things I would do different would be to reserve a second night, and bring a boat.

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Grills and fireplace available for the guests to use.

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Some interior decoration.

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View from our room.


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Raliegh USA M50

I recently updated my old free used mountain bike with another old used mountain bike. But I believe the upgrade was TRULY an upgrade. For one, the bike I had, was a cheaper brand, Murray. The new one is a Raleigh USA. Also, the parts on the newer bike are much better. The place I found it at was quite unlikely. My wife and I were in the State College area, on N. Atherton Street to be exact, when in the middle of new big block stores and trendy restaurants was a rundown trailer park where there were hundreds of bikes out on someones lawn with a spray painted plywood sign stating “Bikes For Sale”.

Now, backup a few days prior. My father in law took me and my kids on a bike trail in Philadelphia, the Schuylkill Bike Trail. I fell in love with the idea of biking any where you want or need to go. I don’t know what it was, I have ridden bikes for fun since I was a kid. But something just clicked that day.

So since I already had a bike of sorts, I decided to buy my wife a mountain bike for her birthday so that we could ride at our getaway a few days later for our anniversary.

Well during our anniversary getaway is when I saw all those bikes for sale. I traded in my old Murray and got the Raleigh for $50. The guy who sells these bikes really did a great job going over everything and replacing with quality parts.

After we got home, I got the urge to ride the bike to work. Now, where I live and work is no flat city street stroll. It’s in the northern mountains of Pennsylvania. THere is no such thing as flat. It was a 13.75 mile trek …and I made it! Not only once, but twice so far. It really is a pleasant ride with only some spots being on a “busy” road where there are curves with minimal road edge to ride on, Otherwise its passing farms and Hills Creek State Park.

I think I am hooked. Now I am thinking about better bikes and equipment…and riding MORE!


DSCF2563I have been thinking a while about some of the local businesses around here and how they really deserve a little recognition for their services to the community. Some are not well known and often do not advertise. Their reputation goes before them through their satisfied customers, and frankly, that’s really the best kind of advertising.

Today I would like to talk about A & A Metal Shop. This small business is run out of  the owners shop at 464 Collins Hill Rd, Ulysses, Pa. The owners name is Aaron and his son Amon, hence the A & A in the name. I happened upon them through a friend of mine and through Mapletrader.com,  as I was looking to purchase a maple syrup evaporator. I had found one in New Hampshire and my friend told me to check out A & A before I made a long trip. So after looking him up, I found a few threads mentioning his business on Mapletrader.com and they were all praising his work.

I decided to take a road trip one day after work since it was only about 40 minutes away.

Typical  Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

Typical Amish house. Picture credit: amishtrail.com

As I crossed into Potter County and on to Collins Hill Road I was entering an Amish community where Aaron lives. The homes are large, white , well kept, simple, and efficiently serve a purpose as they are spacious to large families. Out in front of Aarons home is his red metal shop with a small sign hanging on to the mailbox with the words “A & A Metal shop”.

I entered through the door and stepped into his little office. I could look through a doorway into the main shop and see all the men diligently working with metal in some way or another. You would think of a metal shop as loud and industrial like, but this was quiet other than the occasional sound of metal on metal and conversation in Pennsylvania Dutch. The shop was warmed by a wood stove. No electric lights, though the windows all around gave ample light by which to to work.

Inside the shop.

Inside the shop.

Aaron eventually came over and inquired as to what I needed. He was dressed in simple work clothes, and a caring face, kind of like a real nice Grampa. We talked about the different kinds of evaporators he made and their pricing. I had settled on their smallest model, the Hobby Model, which is actually a bit larger than the large manufacturers version. I didn’t measure it but it looked to be almost a 2X4. I was really impressed with all the options that came standard: a pre-heater pan, 8′ chimney stack, fire brick for the arch, and fire cloth. That set up came in UNDER $1000. I had ordered a tin tester cup ($12) so my total order was $987. I may order a steam hood which would be around $140.

Hobby Evaporator

Hobby Evaporator

The construction of their stainless pans is done without welding. He uses all 304, 24ga, B2 finish stainless steel. They still use soldering which some people frown upon due to the old kind of soldering which uses lead solder but all joints are crimped and are lead free soldered. He also does not use the shiny anealed stainless steel as it is hard to solder.

I am very glad I stopped in to visit his shop. If you want to order from him, you’ll have to either write a letter or stop by as he does not use a telephone. Its actually quite refreshing to see a business run the old fashioned way with a smile and a handshake instead of an impersonal email or long distance phone call.

Large evaporator ready to be shippped.

Large evaporator ready to be shipped.

Sugar Shack mailbox

Sugar Shack mailbox

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.

Large drop flue with pre-heater piping.