Jasper rock tumbling with a Tumler tumbler: loading it up

So you like to wander around and pick up random rocks to bring home. But once you get them home what do you do with them? Or in my case my wife brings me rocks, and then I need to figure out what to do with them. Since our ancient Lortone tumbler motor went out and no one seems to have a replacement in stock I ventured out in the market for a new tumbler to do something with my endless supply of incoming random rocks. And yes I do add to the pile but mine are mainly just agate and jasper.

If you are ever in the market for a new rock tumbler there seems to be an endless amount by different brands out there available. The most common seem to be the small hobby models that hold about three pounds of rocks. For most people this would be the perfect size. But for us we would either need several of those or get a bigger one which is what I did. Thumbler Tumbler has a nice 15 pound model that while a bit spendy it is easy for find replacement parts for if anything wears out. Many of the smaller models are very hard to replace any worn out parts.

To polish rocks you really just need a couple things:

and really that is all you need. Put in rocks, add grit and water. Then plug it in and wait a week for stage two. For this one we are just doing the first stage only. The video below has the full process to load and go for this first stage of rock tumbling.

The model B is nice and sturdy and very quiet to run
My partial pile of jasper to tumble
Sliced and ready to go along with a bunch of smaller rocks

Adventures in lapidary – tile saw for rock cutting

My wife and I decided to branch out our skills for our small business and learn some lapidary skills. Both of us have alway loved to wander around and collect agates and then just run them through a rock tumbler to polish. Normally these tumbled rocks just end up in the bottom of the big fish tank or scattered around shrubs outside. But lately we realized that we have been finding some larger rocks then we can fit in the tumbler. Which brings us to the tile saw

If you look around there are tons of reviews and DIY options people have done all over the internet and forums. Depending on your budget you can get a nice oil cooled lapidary saw that can do some very large slabs on the high end or you can get a small tile saw for the smaller pieces on the low end. Since this is our first rock saw of any kind we decided to go with a 7 inch tile saw that can be used to cut rock, tile or ceramics up to two inches thick. Our local Harbor freight had one in stock that we picked up along with a continuous diamond edge saw blade to fit it.

Both of these two below are nearly identical to what we picked up and at nearly the same size: aka the cheaper route

If your budget allows there are some great reviewed rock saws out there. But they are not what I would call cheap. Or really I am cheap.

For the tile saw we picked up it has the same case, water cooling system, and tile fence on the one from Amazon as the one at harbor freight. So many of these kinds of things are made in the exact same factory and all they do is change a color and stick a different label on it.

These saws are very simple to set up and get going. Ours did not come with a blade installed but all it takes is removing 4 screws from the water guard below and then install the blade and tighten with the included two wrenches and then screw the water guard back on. Push the water tray back on and you are good to start up. From all the videos that I could find on it the preferred way to cut a rock is to turn the saw around and then pull the rock towards you as it cuts. This keeps the water from spraying all over you and if you do get a rock bound up in the blade it will toss it away from you. Also with using a continuous blade there is no chance of it cutting you like a wood blade with teeth would do. Using a continuous blade you might get a little skin rubbed off but nothing bad. I used a fresh pair of garden gloves to increase the grip on the rock and if it did slip and I hit the blade it would just rub off a bit of the rubber coating.

slow and steady. Always let the blade do the work and don’t try to push it through harder then it can grind.
Seam agate cut across into a long slender section
I am actually not sure what kind of rock this is but it may polish up nice
out of all we cut on the first time use this red jasper I found while fishing is my favorite. It is a little larger then the blade can do in a single pass so I had to spin it a bit to get it cut.

As a first try at cutting rocks we had fun seeing what was inside. Our next step is to run them through the rock tumbler with some other jasper and agates and see how that does to make them into suitable pieces to create jewelry out of. Once we get some out in a month of tumbling I will get some more pictures of the results.

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First attempt at grafting an apple tree

When we first moved into our house we had several small fruit trees already planted in our yard. of those two are apples, but only one of the apple trees had a tag on what it was. The second one was unlabeled and for the first couple years never put out a bloom which after some research led me to believe that it is a seedling. Possibly something the kids planted as an experiment from a store bought apple. Now sadly apple trees do not breed true. that means that any seed grown will not be the same variety as the apple it came from. The first year that we had some apples on it we tasted them and it was sorta like a red delicious but with less flavor. Yes I know that is hard to believe. So instead of cutting it down I am going to attempt to graft several varieties of apples to it.

Since I have never grafted anything before I searched the internet and a couple books to see what the basics are for doing a graft. From everything I could see it is really a fairly simple process. Cut a small branch from the tree you want and put a V cut in the bottom. Then find the same size branch on the tree you want it and cut another V fork in it for the graft to fit in. According to my uncle the more bark that touches the better the graft takes. Since I prefer not to cut myself and I know I would I went to amazon and found this handy grafting kit. https://amzn.to/3HsddLA

first cut your two pieces that you want to fit together
push your ends together and wrap it many times with the wrap that came with the kit. You want enough of it wrapped that it wont come apart.
to add some stability and support I also took a small branch and wrapped it also around the graft.
Since I had a cut off branch I also tried a different method where you peel back part of the bark and then insert a small piece into it.

I made a total of three grafts using the existing Fuji I have. Nice and sweet and crisp but not my favorite. I plan on getting some cuts from several old homestead apples to see if I can get them grafted to the seedling and maybe a couple others onto the existing Fuji. In a couple months I will see if the grafts took and write up another blog.

Short video on my grafting:

DC wiring a Hobie outback to run a watersnake trolling motor

I finally registered my kayak to be able to use the little Watersnake trolling motor I modified to fit into my mirage drive slot. So to make it easier it is time to wire through the hull so that I don’t have wires hanging all over that can get tangled up in a net or a fish. Which happened on my test trolling trip more then once.

Needed materials for the build

For this modification I wanted to make sure that when I am not using the motor that the system has plugs that have a waterproof cap on them. Or if I am using the motor in the rain or heavy swells that it has a tight connection. The best ones I could find were the SAE style of plugs and cables. This entire setup cost me less then $40 to order on Amazon.

My one word of warning on this is that before ever putting holes in a kayak for any reason always make sure that where you cut or drill is where you want them at. Once you cut the holes you cant change your mind to move it around unless you are good at hole patching. For my kayak I wanted a plug in the front that will keep the motor wires away from my feet.

For the first hole I put it up front just below the front hatch. This looked to be a good spot so that the connector from the motor went forward a short distance and should not be in the way to land any fish unless it was a salmon then nothing could be really be out of the way.

One huge thing to keep in mind on using the SAE plugs is to verify that the cord colors match. Going between the two in hull connectors will swap them unless you use an adaptor to swap it back. Which is actually included when you purchase the set of two socket ports.

The second hole that I needed I put just forward of the seat and pointed up. This plug will be used to plug the cable to my pulse modulator and then to my battery. For a watersnake motor it only comes in two speeds and both of those are to fast for trolling. For me high is about 4mph and low is 2mph. But by using a pulse modulator you can turn the motor into a variable speed motor. My original one I built works well, but with the sealed Plano box it is bulky and in the way. So I found one in a metal box that also has an amp meter on one side so you can see the draw coming through. This makes it handy to calculate how long your trolling battery can last. My only worry with the metal box is that it has the vents in the side to keep it cool but that also can let water in. The location I have it setup for is under my leg while fishing but it is something to keep in mind.

Next to find a day where the wind and rain are not to crazy to go out this fall.

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Kayaking Siltcoos river on the Oregon coast

Some places on the Oregon coast just have to be explored. Through the dense coastal forest or through the windswept dunes adventure always waits. For many of these places you can only see them from a kayak or a boat. Luckily Siltcoos river is one of those places and I have a kayak. The river meanders through the coastal forest and sand dunes for just over 4 miles to finally run into the Pacific ocean.

For todays journey I started at the boat ramp on the main lake to try my luck for some large mouth bass, but there was an algae bloom starting and all I had was just a couple bites. Normally the river section produces a few bass through out but it was such a quiet day I just enjoyed the view going through the trees. one of the best things about floating the river is that no matter how windy it is the river is still always calm and protected by trees and dunes.

When you start at the lake you will first go under a small bridge before hitting the main river section. Then after a short half mile you will pass under the highway 101 bridge. For the first mile and a half the river is actually a dammed section and the it is a true peaceful float. Throughout this sections there are several downed trees that you will need to navigate around or over if you can. As of the summer of 2021 they are doing some repair work on the highway 101 bridge but it is easy to navigate around their work.

Once you get to the dam on the river there is a portage area to move into the lower section with a canoe or kayak. Getting from your watercraft onto the dam is a bit tricky as all you have is a wooden bar on the cement and about three feet of water below. After you are on the dam you then pull your kayak across some plastic rails and onto a lined metal portage that you can sit down in and slide down into the lower river.

Not a very large dam, but it brings the level of the lake up quite a bit from historic levels. To the right side of the picture there is a fish ladder to allow Coho salmon and Steelhead over the dam

The lower part of the of the river is very shallow in many sections and you have to be careful of where you are paddling to so not to get stuck in soft mud just under the water level. Once I hit the lower section I saw a pod of otters playing in the downed trees. Surprisingly this is the second pod of otters I have seen this year. Nice to see them along the rivers. Now if only the beaver population would rebound back up. If you are looking for a nice easy float I do recommend floating on Siltcoos river. You can go all the way to the ocean but during the majority of the year the dune area is closed to getting out of the kayak due to Snowy Plover nesting in the area.

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Willamette river float from Hyak park to Albany for small mouth bass and agates

Some days during late summer nothing sounds as good as a float down a lazy river on a weekend. And of course fishing makes it better. The wife and I found a nice section close to home that looked promising on the map. Hyak park is along Highway 20 between Corvallis and Albany. Floating from Hyak towards Albany has three possible pull out locations. Bryant park and Takena park are both on opposite sides of the river at the northwest side of Albany. But since that was the shorter of the trips we picked the longer spot of Bowman park.

For the first mile it was flat and surprisingly not as deep as I expected. For most of this section I could see the bottom and none of it was over 10 feet deep according to my fish finder. Which made for some poor fishing since there was no structure in the area for any fish. I did have a bite at the ramp but it appeared to be a fairly small fish. Moving down stream there was a nice rock structure towards the middle of the river. As I floated past one side I finally caught my first fish using a swim bait.

By far not my largest smallmouth but it was a good fight and just the one fish was worth the float. Now for my wife this was not a fishing trip but more of an agate finding trip. She cruised the shallows and filled up her kayak with rocks for me to tumble. Most gravel bars along the upper Willamette (and maybe lower) are great places to find agates. My largest find so far over the years was a blood agate up towards Harrisburg that was nearly the size of my fist. From Albany upstream I have mostly found shades of red towards clear along the gravel bars. But from where the Calapooia river meets the Willamette there is a chance to find an agate called a holly blue agate.

For the rest of the trip until we made it to Albany the fishing was slow, but once we made it to the hwy 20 bridge down to Bowman boat launch the river deepened up and the bass were more active. The final count for the float was four small mouth all from 10″ to 14″ There are by far bigger in the river but since it was a float and not really a dedicated fishing trip I didn’t stop to fish as much as I could have. There were several spots by the bridges that I saw some very large carp swiming around. Soon I am going to go back out and attempt to catch one from teh kayak. I imagine it is like catching a salmon from a kayak and it will pull it around a bit. Should be some fun to do before summer ends.

Highway 20 bridge coming into Albany

I do need to try some other floats along the river. From Harrisburg down is a good location for trout and over the years I have caught some very large river rainbows from the bank in that area.

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Fishing beyond the road – Central Oregon’s Crescent creek

Some places just ask to be explored.  Be it the small headwaters of a stream or a remote stretch of a creek far from any roads.  Todays adventure is the later of the two.  For years I have heard my father talk about the canyon area of crescent creek, and the fish that he would catch.  This was my day for a solo adventure of fishing and hiking.  Little did I know what I was getting myself into.

For every trip I take like this I always have a checklist of things to bring with me. For anyone hiking remote areas you should always have a backup plan for emergency. The main three to always focus on are shelter, water, and food. And always in that order. There is no need to buy the fancy expensive hiking ones. But even something as simple as a life straw can mean the difference of being stranded and waiting for help and waiting for help and having any type of intestinal issues from drinking unpurified water.

Crescent creek is a tributary of the little Deschutes river that flows through an assortment of meadows, canyons, and old growth pine trees.  The area I am hiking through is part of the national wild and scenic rivers system. There are three species of trout that call this section of creek home.  The native rainbow trout, and the two non-native brook and brown trout.  From what I have seen the section of river from Highway 58 down to bridge by Crescent creek campground is primarily just rainbow trout.

Such a beautiful spot. I broke out my fly pole for this section of stream. It has been a long time since I have used it and really I should do more of it.

For the first half of my hike and fishing trip all was peaceful and relaxing.  The first two mile of the stream is through a meandering stream bordered by willow and alders. After the first half mile or so all trace of people disappears and you either have to create your own trail or just walk through the water.  For walking in any stream in Central Oregon I recommend tennis shoes and not any type of water sandals.  Most of the streams have pumice and other lava rocks in them and if they get under a strap you will get blisters and cuts from them.  I know this from experience sadly.  About halfway through the meadow I was changing lures and a family of river otters came out of the grass about 10 feet from me.  Once they saw me it was constant hissing from them until they swam upstream.  Cute to see but I am glad they didn’t come out closer to me.

Near where the otters popped out of the grass. Wish I could have gotten a good picture of them before they swam off.

And now for the canyon part of the hike.  Looking in from the edge of the meadow area looked nice and peaceful with a few rapids in view.  Oh, this was so deceptive and so not peaceful.  For the first 100 yards I caught a dozen fish or more and thought it was great.  And then the rocks got bigger and were nearly impossible to go from one to another safely.  No big deal I can just walk the edge around to each fishing hole.  Nope that was not a good idea.  The sides of the canyon are nearly strait up and the entire hillside has soft sandy dirt.  On the positive side it is beautiful with old growth ponderosa pines growing.  With the steep sides and no cell service my first thought was that if I fell and broke something that it would take days to find me.  And then as I was going over a fallen tree, I saw what looked like dried blood on branches and across the log.  What kind of hell did I get myself into?  About 50 feet after seeing the blood I found a pile of fairly fresh black bear droppings.  At least that gave me an idea of where the blood was from.  Possibly a deer that was wounded by the bear.

I loved the beauty of this area, but with all the swift water, Rocks and heavy brush this area is extremely difficult to fish. The areas I could get to the water had plenty of small fish at least.

Finishing up the canyon and getting to an old road was such a great feeling.  I don’t think I have been that tired in a long time.  This was a beautiful hike but really it is a hike for the young.  I am glad I did it once in my life.  But this is the one and only time I will ever hike through the canyon. 

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Fishing beyond the road – Salt creek

Oregon has so many rivers, creeks, and lakes that are just off any road or path and just waiting to be explored. This is the first in a series of hiking off the road, and into wild to find fish and adventures. Maybe this series will even include a float or two using the kayak’s and fishing major rivers.

Video journey through the wilds

The first stop on my journey is to Salt creek. Salt creek is one of many tributaries to the Willamette river. Salt creek can really be divided into two different sections that can be fished. the first section is below Oregon’s third highest waterfall. This steep canyon area has little to no access until the creek comes out miles below and borders the highway. The lower section contains mainly native rainbow trout. For this fishing trip I focused on the area above the waterfall which is mainly meandering meadow areas. I say meadow area but really it is brushy, horribly brushy. The headwaters of Salt creek is Gold lake. The creek outflows the lake, and meanders several miles until it flows under the highway and enters a meadow area that is extremely brushy and difficult to get through. This is the target I picked for the day. yes I know it is a bit crazy, but all the small Brook trout are fun to catch

After several scratch’s I was able to push my way through the brush and mosquitos to a nice tranquil creek. Now the fishing can begin. Salt creek is currently open for the use of bait, with no restriction on size or quantity of brook trout kept. Brook trout preproduce in such high numbers here that they really overwhelm the available food. There are also native rainbows in the stream, but I have rarely caught any due to the large quantity of Brook trout that inhabit this stretch of creek.

Nearly the entire section of stream has heavy Alder and Willow brush. Be prepared to get scratched walking through it.
This section of stream has some deeper holes with lot of fallen logs creating hiding places for the fish.
All the fish I have ever caught in this section are small brook trout.

Over the years that I have fished in this area I have never caught a fish over 10 inches in length. There may be some in there, but they are few and far between to catch. The best way to catch them is to use small spinners or a fly pole. Whichever method you use though the brush along the stream can cause a lot of trouble placing the lure/fly where you want. You can use worms or other bait in this section, but with brook trout they tend to just swallow any food and the mortality rate on release is very high.

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Aluminum roofing raised bed

As I get older I realize that my ability to rototill my garden is going to be harder and harder to do. So in an effort to make my future self not hurt as bad I decided to start making some raised beds that will replace my need to have to till the ground and also just be way easier to work with. After doing a quick measure of my garden I decided to make each bed three foot wide and eight foot long. I could have used the panels at their normal width of 26 inches but that is taller really then is needed. Using a carbide bit saw I cut the panels down to 18″

Step one complete. All of the metal has been cut to size and the 4″x4″ fir post has been cut as inside corner supports. In an ideal world I would have used cedar since it is a lot more rot resistant, but with the high price of cedar in our area I used fir instead.
Step two is to screw in the roofing into the corner supports. I had some left over metal screws from my trailer build that worked well to hold it in place.
Once the corners are in place I built the four outside support frames. The cross pieces are spaced every two feet. Once the frame is in place and all sides are screwed together this frame is strong enough to hold my weight. This should help with planting and harvesting it.
All completed and moved out of the way until I harvest my current years garden.
very very sturdy

Over all this build took right at about two hours from start to finish. I am going to need to make 7 more total and then fill them with soil before I can use them. This will be a good ongoing project and I should be able to have it all ready by next spring. The boards on the bottom are treated wood so they should last a good 10+ years. I made sure nothing on the inside had any chemicals that would leach into the soils and into the veggies. I don’t feel like shortening my life by using treated anything on the inside. With some of these beds I plan on experimenting with a couple different methods of mulch and water retention. But those will be a seperate blog. Below is a short video of the finished bed. I am going to make a video series of making some small beds for a friend entirely out of recycled materials.

Fishing Beyond the road – Central Oregon’s Odell Creek

There are so many great places to fish in central Oregon that it is hard to choose where to go. Luckily most of the small streams in the area are managed so that the native fish will not be depleted and people can enjoy to fish in them for years to come. Odell Creek is currently catch and release for all trout and limited to using fly or lures.

For every trip I take like this I always have a checklist of things to bring with me. For anyone hiking remote areas you should always have a backup plan for emergency. The main three to always focus on are shelter, water, and food. And always in that order. There is no need to buy the fancy expensive hiking ones. But even something as simple as a life straw can mean the difference of being stranded and waiting for help and waiting for help and having any type of intestinal issues from drinking unpurified water.

Odell creek is a small stream flowing from Odell Lake down through mostly thick timber down to Davis lake. In low water years like this year is turning out to be the upper end by Odell lake is very shallow with few places for fish. The lower end closer to Davis lake picks up some water and has some decent rainbow trout fishing. The size varies year to year depending on the water levels in the area. In early 2005 a fire swept through the area and the removed all the heavy timber in the last few miles of the stream going into Davis lake. No shade for fishing or to keep the water cooler. Still chilly even without the shade.

90+ temps but still fun
Towards the area outside of the fire burn.

Since I was a teen I have always enjoyed fishing this gem of a stream. In the really hot years once Davis lake gets warm the larger trout can swim up into some of the deep holes in the creek. Sadly the large fish in Davis are not what they used to be. Bass were illegally introduced in the mid 1990’s and that has hurt the trout population. For avid bass fisherman this is a great thing, but for those of us that love the trout it is a sad change. You can still find these bigger trout but since the fire I have noticed less of them going very far up into the creek.

At the edge of the old burn line the smaller brushy river alders are making a comeback
Closer to the lake the banks are still bare of any sized trees. There are a lot of smaller ones coming up now.
A larger native rainbow.

In my last couple of trips to the creek the average size has been around 6″-8″ with the occasional larger fish. I normally spin fish with lures but this is a great creek to fly fish in. Just lots of brush and logs in the water to make it a bit challenging.

Since It was a nice day this last time I also made a short fishing video. Not a lot of fish caught but it is a great hike along the creek.

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