Tuesday, another Tuesday, and the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville. This Tuesday, the OFs headed to Rensselaerville encountered some elevation fog. It was one of the types of fog that hung around the mountain; was not too deep, and, as the OFs drove to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, they drove into, then out of, the fog. This narrow band of fog wrapped itself around the mountain like a laurel wreath, indicating that weather is king.
The OFs talked about a real current event — the new toy drones. The OFs were not talking about drones used by the military but the ones that can be purchased from the hobby store. One OF mentioned a friend with a drone so large the OF claimed it was necessary to have a license to fly it.
Another OF mentioned how drones are becoming quite popular and can fly all over with cameras of exceptional quality. One OF thought they would be a great asset to farmers and police departments. Spotting marijuana growing illegally in farmers’ fields would be one use.
Another OF mentioned, if he spotted one flying over his property, he would shoot it down, because it would be an attempt to invade his privacy, or survey his property for a potential robbery. In other words, using this technology to “case the joint.”
Another OF said he thinks this has been done on a few occasions, and he would shoot it down too.
“Yeah,” one OF said, then the OF would be arrested “for discharging a firearm within the legally prescribed distance from a domicile.”
“Well, I would find some way to catch the thing,” the OF said. “Anyway, I live far enough from any other house that I could use a canon and not bother anyone.”
Then, the talk flipped backwards in time from drones, to wood bearings, and Babbitted bearings. Babbited bearings are thought to be an “old style” of bearing and they were. Wood bearings are still made and used today, but Babbitt-type bearings not so much. (The reason for the capital letter on the Babbitted bearing is because this style of bearing was invented in Taunton, Masschusetts, by Leon Babbitt and just like copiers are Xerox, and tissues are Kleenex, Babbitt is still Babbitt and is capitalized.)
Old Navy guys (and maybe not-so-old Navy guys) are quite familiar with Babbitted bearings; however, wood bearings were used way back when, and even today. The making of a wood bearing and a compatible wood shaft is still a high school shop class project. (That is, if shop is still taught in a particular school. Many schools have dropped this class, which is necessary for kids who do not want to go on to a higher education.)
This scribe sat between two OFs who were sitting at separate tables discussing the topic of bearings and one wore hearing aids, and the other, in this case, should. One was talking about wood bearings and their use and where some could be found today, and the other was talking about Babbitted bearings and where they were used and how he used to work with them aboard ship.
Each OF thought the other OF was talking about what he was talking about. This made for a lot of head scratching before the scribe figured out they were each talking about different things as if they were the same. This scribe’s wife wonders why this column doesn’t seem to make sense. Well, at times it doesn’t even make sense to this scribe.
The OF talking about the wooden bearings says that the old steam engine from Harts Mill in Berne now resides in the mill in Rensselaerville. At this point in time, this OF did not know if the engine runs or not. He only knows where it is.
The OF with the Babbitt bearings was probably still remembering his days on the Merrimac and throwing wet towels on the bearings to keep them cool.
(For those who want to check if these OFs have their bearings right, go to Goggle and type in “Babbitt bearings” or “wood bearings.” So much information — so little time.)
In passing, the OFs mentioned their gardens and how some OGs are picking peas. In this discussion, the OFs mentioned that this year, if anyone has brown spots on their lawn, he had better check for grubs or some other insect, or grass fungus or disease, because it sure isn’t due to lack of water.
“But,” as one OF said, “we still have the month of August to go.” Yet, to him, it doesn’t look like August is going to be much of a problem in this regard either.
This prompted another OG, and then another OF to comment on how much money they have spent on mowing their lawns so far. One OF said it cost him $25 in fuel to mow his lawn once, and another agreed but he didn’t spend quite that much.
This scribe referred these OGs to the column of last week (about the July 8 breakfast, published on July 17) and the OFs said all they are doing is mowing the lawn, nothing fancy.
Those OFs who made it to the Hilltown Café in Rensselaerville, and who are going to watch the skies for drones (with shotguns at the ready) were: Jay Taylor, Jack Moss, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Harold Guest, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Dick Ogsbury, Karl Remmers, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, and Roger Fairchild. (This group of OFs were there waiting for the restaurant to open up.) Also: Miner Stevens, Roger Chapman, Bill Krause, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Glenn Patterson, George Aleseio, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Jack Norray, Joe Loubier, Duane Wagenbaugh, Rich Donnelly, Elwood Vanderbilt, Gill Zabel, Bob Lassome, Bob Donnelly, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Harold Grippen, Ted Willsey, and me.
On July 8, many of the Old Men of the Mountain made it to the Home Front Café in Altamont. The Assistant Proprietor was there, having his breakfast (does this indicate the Home Front is a good place to eat?) and he greeted the OFs as they came in.
Many OFs suggested that he should join the group, but the A.P. maintained he was too young and not eligible to join our nefarious group. He also said he did not live far enough up the mountain to be considered a mountain man anyway.
As usual, the OFs talked and complained, and some did not complain but still joined in the conversation on the new and fast-moving technologies — of computers, tablets, smartphones, and cars that talk to you.
One OF said that he can’t keep up with all new electronic gadgets.
“Heck,” he said, “I still jam my foot down on the clutch pedal in my car when putting on the brakes, and I haven’t had a manual shift car in 20 years or more. It took me quite awhile,” the OF continued, “to even accept automatic-shift cars. I thought they were a fad, and for lazy people, or people who didn’t know how to drive.”
“We know that,” another OF said. “You still call recorded music ‘records’ and say you are off to the picture show.”
“So,” the OF replied, “you know what I mean, don’t you?”
“Yeah, I do,” the other OF answered. “But some 12-year old will think you are from another planet and the kid will not have a clue as to what you are talking about. He will think records are in file cabinets, and a picture show is a collection of photos on a smartphone.”
Ponds under pressure
With this normal (?) but unusual summer, the ponds (at least on the Hill) are full — some to overflowing with all the storms. One OF said we have storms, and rain, but for some reason this summer the storms are OK, but the amount of rain they contain is different.
One OG said, when he hears a storm is headed his way, he takes his car out of the garage and puts it in the driveway. This OF said, “Some of these rains are harder than a car wash.”
It was mentioned that the high water in the ponds puts added pressure on the top of the pond’s wall and the spillways, or spill pipes can’t handle this pressure and some of the OFs are beefing up their ponds at this point.
One OF mentioned that the farmer up the road from him woke up one morning and his pond was empty. In checking out what had happened to his pond, the farmer said “muskrats.”
These varmints tunneled into the wall of the pond from the water side, like normal, but the end of the tunnel was so close to the back side of the dam, the water pressure finally burst through the rat’s tunnel, eventually draining the pond in one night.
Where have all the seeds gone?
The Home Front Café has the tables already set for the OFs when it is the café’s turn for the OF assault. Tuesday morning, they had plates with slices of watermelon, muskmelon, and oranges on them.
This display prompted the OFs to ponder if the producers keep on growing seedless watermelons and seedless oranges (and, according to one OF, there are even new seedless tomatoes), what is going to happen when there are no more seeds to produce these fruits? How long can you have seedless this and that before whatever is gone.
One OF said, “Are we getting too lazy to spit out watermelon seeds? That’s half the fun of eating watermelon.”
“Yeah,” one OG claimed, “what about watermelon seed-spitting contests? We need the seeds.”
An OF interjected that our planet is not infinite, it is finite; we can’t make any more water, or oil, or a lot of other things. Once we use them, they are gone.
What happens to old lawn tractors? The OF brought up how many of these things that have died are still on people’s lawns.
Lawn sculpture or laziness?
One OF said, apparently, when people have to go out and buy a new lawn tractor, they just mow around the old one that has been left there. Other OFs mentioned they have seen this modern phenomenon quite often.
One OF said that the other OFs were missing the point. This OF maintained this (leaving the old lawn tractor in the yard) is the new form of modern lawn sculpture. Why these lawn tractors can even be a new form of a worship symbol, that is, the owner bows down to the lawn god, and the lawn tractor represents the deity of this newfound religion.
The OF made the comment, rhetorically, how nowadays, if there is one blade of grass not cut on the overly manicured lawn, the homeowner runs in and grabs a pair of scissors and a ruler, runs back out, measures the wayward piece of grass to the proper height, and snips it with the scissors, and then breathes a heavy sigh of relief. Now all is right with the world.
This same OF said that, just as sometimes it is possible to see old chairs, old toilets, or old bathtubs as flower planters, he thinks we will soon see old lawn tractors in the middle of the yard as planters. The OF said, maybe some might even have little candle shrines to the lawn gods placed around them.
The OFs who met at the Home Front Café in Altamont, and were not preparing to worship the lawn god any time soon, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Henry Witt, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Bill Krause, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Roger Fairchild, Harold Guest, John Rossmann, Frank Pauli, Roger Shafer, Steve Kelly, George Covey, Jim Heiser, Glenn Paterson, George Aleseio, Jack Norray, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Otis Lawyer, Mark Traver, Rich Donnelly, Bob Donnelly, Joe Loubier, Andy Tinning, Duane Wagenbaugh, Ted Willsey, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, and me. Phew.
Who is dumb, who smart?
On July 1, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown. The OFs have complained about the weather almost all winter and spring — rightfully so. However, the OFs have not had any complaints about the last two or three weekends, with one exception, that is, the ground is still wet.
One OF overheard part of a conversation at a mall where three people were discussing someone the three all seemed to know and, as far as the OF could ascertain, was a common friend. These three were commenting on how little he knew, and how stupid he was.
This prompted a conversation on stereotyping a person, which is earned by his actions, but has nothing to do with how smart he is or how dumb, and the definition of dumb and smart.
How about a plumber, or an electrician, who won’t have anything to do with cell phones, or computers? The computer-savvy person will comment that one or the other is as dumb as a post because they have no idea what a mouse is, or what a cursor is.
He thinks these guys think a mouse is something that skitters around the basement and has to be trapped, and a cursor is someone running around all day swearing.
Yet this same guy will stand and watch his toilet overflow while banging his head against the wall moaning, “What’ll do, what do I do?”
Which one is dumber?
One OF commented, “Well, he can call an OF.”
“Oh wait,” he added. “The OF is out on a job and not home to answer his phone. Dear, dear, what a pity.”
Then one OF just went with the flow and said, “Like me with my new TV. I had no idea how to get started. The (dumb) TV had all the instructions on the screen and I had no idea what it was trying to say.”
Whoops, now it is time to call the guy standing in the water with the overflowing toilet. The lexicon of dumb, and smart, has nothing to do with intelligence or education. The OFs in their wisdom have spoken. (Gee, that is smart).
Only rich can afford pets
The topic of social disparity cropped up, and this scribe thought we should add it after the above. This is because some of the OFs maintain that society is ruled by those that have — not how smart they are. The OFs had no idea the type of water they were getting themselves into, but with this discussion the OFs were just sticking their collective toes in the kiddy pool.
When many of the OFs were farming, when an animal became injured, or really sick, the OF at that time humanely disposed of the animal in pain and generally with a well-placed bullet, or, with a larger animal, stunned, and throat slit.
Many times, the OF would be in tears but he knew it was for the best, and it was the most humane thing to do, and as kids (this scribe can report from firsthand experience) we would be upset for weeks.
Nowadays, it is required that you have to take your animal to the vet and have it euthanized, which is not a bad idea, but not everybody has the money to see a vet. Many do not have money to spend on a cat that has cancer, or some other disability.
The OFs are not saying that vets are not necessary, and the vets do the best they can, but the underlying social problem is that only rich people can afford to have pets.
Many rules, regulations, and laws apply if you have the means to comply; if someone doesn’t have the means, then he is either out of luck and can’t enjoy some of the basic pleasures of life (like giving a kid a kitten to take care of) or he has to break the law.
One OF interjected that taking a sick animal to a vet is a very smart thing to do. What if the animal has a disease that is highly communicable and someone takes matters into his own hands and does not dispose of the animal properly and it makes other animals sick, then what? What, another Catch-22.
Continuing this discussion revealed that many places charge a fee to discard replaced tires, and to some people the fee charged to dispose of these tires is more than they can afford for used tires to put on their vehicles.
So what is left, the OF said, chuck the old tire on the side of the road along with the beer cans?
“I don’t know,” was a reply. “It just seems so many of the rules have a tendency to push people — people who have problems — down a little further.”
The OFs chatter away and quite often do not realize that, in many cases, the OGs are being quite profound and informative by relating their family relations and family history or discussing social problems from the kiddy pool.
At the Chuck Wagon, one OF came over to another table to answer a question that an OF asked about a mutual acquaintance. While this OF was at the table answering this question, another OF asked if he were related to anyone with his family name in Breakabeen, just southeast of Middleburgh, on Route 30.
The first OF said he thought he was a relative of the name in question and he started naming names of who was connected to whom going back four generations. The OF who asked the original question began to talk about some of his ancestors who had lived in that area, and there might be some connection between the two.
The OFs were having a little trouble connecting all the dots and so at this point no real conclusion was reached.
Then one OF, who is really up on the history of the Schoharie Valley and the families living in the county, asked if they were talking about the family with the same last name that fought in the Civil War. This OF reported that the father and two sons enlisted and the father spent considerable time in the hospital.
The other two OFs drew blanks, but thought the name being discussed was particular to the area and concluded they may have been talking about the same family line but really didn’t know.
If all this information could be knitted together like some crazy quilt then these two OFs would be related. “It’s A Small World After All” may be apropos.
Then came the typical after-40 lament, (maybe it is after-50 with all the vitamin supplements people now consume) when the OFs find it takes them longer to do the same things they used to do. What the OFs did in one hour now takes three.
But what the OF wants to know is: Why am I slowing down, but time is speeding up?
Those OFs attending the breakfast at the Chuck Wagon Diner in Princetown, not eating any more slowly than they usually do, were: Roger Chapman, Miner Stevens, Henry Witt, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Roger Shafer, Art Frament, George Covey, Harold Guest, Robie Osterman, John Rossmann, George Washburn, Frank Pauli, Bill Krause, Duncan Bellinger, Jim Heiser, George Aleseio, Mark Traver, Glenn Patterson, Lou Schenck, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Ted Willsey, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Bob Lassome, Duane Wagenbaugh, Mike Willsey, Harold Grippen (2X), Elwood Vanderbilt, Gerry Chartier, and me.
On Tuesday, June 24, the Duanesburg Diner hosted the Old Men of the Mountain. This scribe does not know if hosting is the right word; it was more like a hostile takeover.
No lives were lost, or dignity hurt, but some OFs had to shoo out some other OFs so they would have a place to sit. This was OK because some of the early birds were ready to leave anyway.
The Gas-Up held on June 14 was still a topic of conversation. The discussion was on safety, and how much of the old machinery was as safe as lighting a cigarette in dynamite shed. The dynamite was obviously dangerous even then, but the lighting of the cigarette we now find is even more dangerous.
The OFs mentioned all the spinning, unguarded flywheels; exposed gears; and shafts on various pieces of equipment whirling all over the place.
One OF mentioned that, many years ago, there were belt-driven buzz saws, with no guards at all on almost every farm, and belt-driven jack lines in many factories. At the Gas-Up, the running equipment with its “pit-cha-cha-cha, pit-cha-cha-cha” would give an OSHA (Occupational and Safety and Health Administration) representative nightmares.
Spinning the flywheel on much of the old engines was a way of starting them, even on some models of John Deere tractors; that is just the way it was then.
Another OF did mention that it was a fact we worked like that and to say no one got hurt was not true. Many a farmer and factory worker became hamburger from making a mistake around this equipment, and some of the OFs knew of people who made one of these mistakes, and you only had to make it once.
The “science” of burning wood
The next conversation seemed to follow the same line, but was much more current. Over and over, the OFs discuss burning wood and the “science” of burning wood.
The OFs said how stupid they are at times because many go into the woods alone with their trusty chain saw. It is a good idea to let someone know they are headed to the wood lot if they are going alone. That is the safety part.
There are a lot more safety considerations but this should be number one on the list of things to do before the OF even heads out. This is good advice for anyone to follow for that matter.
Then one OF said, “No matter what kind of wood is being burned it has the same BTUs per pound.” This scribe had not heard that about British Thermal Units, used to denote the amount of heat energy in fuels.
After arriving home, this scribe checked it out, and found the OF who mentioned this little fact was right. The scribe selected four types of wood from a list a mile long of different kinds of wood. Birch, red oak, white oak, and maple were the ones chosen:
— Birch, 3,145 pounds per cord, and 19.5 units of heat per cord;
— Red Oak, 3,570 pounds per cord, and 22.1 units of heat per cord;
— White Oak, 3,910 pounds per cord, and 24.2 units of heat per cord;
— Maple, 2,805 pounds per cord, and 17.4 units of heat per cord.
Divide units of heat into pounds per cord and each one gives l61 (plus a tad) heat units per pound. Son of a gun.
Another OF said that wood and leaves in the woods (fallen debris just lying there until they turn to dirt) give off the same chemicals into the atmosphere in their decomposing state as when they are burned, except in the woods the decomposing also produces methane.
When burning wood, the methane is what burns and the methane is not in the smoke. Some farms use the methane generated by manure piles by processing it through a methane generator and then use it for heat, and larger farms use the methane to power some pretty good sized generators.
To check this out, this scribe would have had to go back to school and take advanced chemistry. What the scribe discerned at the first glance is that all wood is made from the same stuff, only in varying amounts, and that is what makes pine different from ash.
And, looking at it again, this scribe scratched his bald head and muttered, hmm, this might not be right but it sure looks like it. Maybe there is some educated soul out there that could write The Enterprise and set the OFs right.
Anyway, the OF who mentioned the wood smoke and wood decomposing contends, if we breathe deeply on a walk through the woods, we are sucking in the same chemicals as contained in wood smoke. The walk in the woods is supposed to healthy for us, yet the wood smoke is a carcinogen.
None of the OFs had an answer for this. Maybe the heat alters the chemicals, or the heat has some of the chemicals combine into something else that makes a harmful compound. The OFs didn’t know.
This scribe thinks maybe the smell of smoke bothers some, and the smoke being a carcinogen is a “smoke screen” to control by the political process the burning of wood and burn barrels.
Unattended burning barrels can cause a problem with sparks. The fire departments are kept busy with wood stoves, but that has nothing to do with the chemicals in the wood.
As the OFs have said before, many of the products the OFs use are perfectly safe; it is the operator that works unsafely, and the product gets blamed. Another anthem of the OFs.
Those OFs who made it to the Duanesburg Diner in Duanesburg safely, and ate so heartily that much methane was generated were: Miner Stevens, and his guest Justin Stevens, Dave Williams, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Roger Chapman, Glenn Patterson, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, Jay Taylor, Herb Sawotka, Art Frament, Lou Schenck, Mace Porter, Bill Krause, Jack Norray, Ted Willsey, Bob Lassome, Joe Loubier, Rich Donnelly, Harold Grippen, Elwood Vanderbilt, and me.
On Tuesday, June 17, the Old Men of the Mountain met at the Blue Star Café in Schoharie where the OMOTM lamented that, at our breakfast the next Tuesday, the day will be shorter. The OFs complained how fast this came about, and many do not have all their gardens in yet.
Some plants and seeds are in — but not all. The corn to be “knee high by the fourth of July” will have to hustle. One OF said, “If we get a good stretch of warm days and warm nights, so the ground itself warms up, we might make it.”
Some of the OFs made it to the Gas-Up just outside of Gallupville, located off Route 443 towards Schoharie, on Drebitko Road. This event is held two weekends a year, the weekend before Father’s Day, and the weekend of Father’s Day.
The OFs that went on Saturday, June 14, froze. It felt like it was about to snow, the wind blew, and the clouds rolled dark and ominous, yet the event was well attended. Sunday was quite different, and, oddly enough, the weekend before was even better.
Some of the OFs had their equipment on display at the Gas-Up. The items at the Gas-Up are old and most of them run like new, only they look beat, just like the OFs who go there. However, the OFs look beat but they don’t run so well.
It is hard to put a new spark plug and fresh gas in an OF and improve his operation. Most of the OFs have to grind it out with what they have, and, like a hit-and-miss engine, the OFs miss more than they hit.
The OFs wonder if the current generation would be able to get along if there happened to be a major catastrophe where all our power was interrupted for an extended period of time. There would be no Internet, no gas, no lights; the list goes on and on. One heck of an adjustment period would ensue.
One OF suggested people should make a list of what supplies they would need and how they would obtain them. Decades ago, before there were large cities, people got along on basically farmers’ markets, ice houses, and homespun clothes.
One OF said that either way with technology up the kazoo (or having no technology at all) the most important job on the whole planet is farming, and too many city people are forgetting that and driving the farmers off the land because, through a whole list of rigmarole, new governmental rules are making it quite hard to farm, and developers want the land. This topic seems to be a general theme with the OFs.
What if all the farmers got together and took care of only themselves and refused to deliver any goods to anyone else? The OFs bet things might change.
However, one OG said he didn’t think it would change anything at all. The big warehouses would just import more materials from China, Chili, Australia, and places like that. It is a Catch-22.
Another OF asked a rhetorical question, “What are we going to do with all the people as the Earth’s population keeps expanding? There is only so much water and so much land; we can’t make any more of either, but we do continue to make babies.”
An OF replied, “You are making my head hurt. To me, the world is full of old people. My problem right now is making it to tomorrow.”
Phew, enough of that! This scribe wants to move to another table. The scribe (as an OF) thinks that, in the not-to-distant future, humans will be scooting around space, like the rest of the universe.
Some like it hot
When is it time to shut down the furnace? Some of the OFs are still running theirs.
One OF said that he decided to shut his outside wood furnace down by letting it go out. So he did, and it got down to just a few embers.
Then along came last Saturday, and last Friday night, and the OF said he caught it just in time and started that sucker up again. Taking a shower when the bathroom is only 60 some degrees is not his idea of fun.
“Hey! It’s the middle of June, for crying out loud,” the OF said.
Some OFs added, “How about those apartment buildings where they automatically shut the heat off in May, and some even April 15th?”
“Then it is the time to invest in a good electric heater,” was a common-sense reply by another OF.
Those OFs who made it to the Blue Star Restaurant in Schoharie because, at one time, many years ago, they were a gleam in their father’s eye were: Jay Taylor, Bob Benac, Art Frament, Miner Stevens, Harold Guest, Frank Pauli, John Rossmann, Dave Williams, Bill Bartholomew, Karl Remmers, Dick Ogsbury, Glenn Patterson, Otis Lawyer, Jim Heiser, Mark Traver, Steve Kelly, Roger Shafer, George Washburn, Robie Osterman, Don Wood, Jack Norray, Mace Porter, Lou Schenck, Bob Lassome, Ted Willsey, Jim Rissacher, Joe Loubier, Mike Willsey, Elwood Vanderbilt, Mike Willsey, Gerry Chartier, Bill Krause, Roger Chapman, and me.
Hobbies are something you do in your free time for enjoyment or relaxation. When I was young, I thought as I got older I'd have time to get into hobbies, but I was totally wrong — the older I get, the busier I get.
Plus, as you age, your energy level decreases such that, sometimes, just resting is all you want to do. Still, hobbies are a wonderful pastime, and truly worth finding the time and resources to participate in if you can. Here are some hobbies I've tried and would love to do more of:
— Model Railroading: I've been interested in model trains since I was a kid. Back then, I had the time but not the space or funds to get into it — now I have those but not the time.
If you've never seen a great model railroad, you really should. There is a club layout in the basement at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that is truly a miniature world. They've modeled the Troy area in the 1940s, and it's not only beautiful but historically accurate as well. While I could never create something as amazing as that, I'd sure love to have something to work on and play with. Someday.
— Computer Programming: From the first moment I was exposed to computers in high school, where your programs were on paper tape and punch cards, I was hooked. I've made my career working with computers, and, of course, they are ubiquitous now, but there is still a big rush in getting a computer to do exactly what you want it to do.
If you have the bug for this (no pun intended), there are many programming languages to choose from, and, lucky for us, the best of these are free or "open source." Computers are great because, unlike people, there is no gray area with them — the program either works or it doesn't.
— Woodworking and Metalworking: Woodworking and metalworking are terrific hobbies because you can make useful things. Though very similar in the creative sense, they are very different in real life, because metal is basically stable but wood shrinks and expands with temperature and humidity.
The kinds of tools you need are different as well (tools are like toys for big boys). I've made plenty of bookcases over the years, and I can hang shelves anywhere, but I really want to take my woodworking to the next level.
I'm also learning how to weld, and I have a really old metal lathe that I'd love to get working one of these days. Both of these hobbies reward practice and patience in so many ways it's fantastic.
— Ham Radio, Electronics, Audio: I've been a radio fan my whole life, so it was natural to get a ham radio license. Ham radio ties in nicely with electronics, too — there are so many gadgets to build.
Though ham radio is no longer on the cutting edge due to the Internet, it's still a great learning tool and can really come in handy during an emergency. Good quality stereo gear is awesome as well, and you can still build it yourself if you like. There is so much information out there in this area, much of it free, that you are truly limited only by your time and imagination.
— Fitness: It's always good to do something physical, even if it's just walking. Keeping the blood flowing keeps you feeling young.
Over the years I've tried everything — running, weight-lifting, bicycling, calisthenics — but I always come back to nice long walks to clear my head and make me feel good. I'd like to hike more as well, and someday I'd love to learn to swim, but the important thing is just doing something. A good sweat now and then is a great thing.
— Learning Another Language: Wouldn't it be fascinating to learn another tongue and then travel to places where that tongue is spoken? Maybe you won't be fluent, but it would still be helpful for sure.
My problem is there are so many places I want to go I can't decide on what language to learn. Not too long ago, I was at a campground late at night, sitting under the stars with my short-wave radio, and I picked up Radio China which was airing Mandarin lessons. That language is so different from our own, but for that one night, if a Chinese person showed up at the campground, I could have greeted him or her and then shown them to the bathroom!
— Entertaining: By “entertaining,” I mean cooking and sharing good times with family and friends. Every now and then, you go to a party where everything is right — the food, the mix of guests, and the weather if it's outside. It's hard to get it just right, and there are entire books on how to entertain.
My lovely wife is a big fan of potlucks, where everyone brings a dish to share. Then there's holiday entertaining, theme parties, sports events — I'm getting tired just thinking about it. Entertaining creatively and effectively is a skill in its own right and one worth getting better at.
— Traveling: You only have so much time, money, and strength to travel, yet there are so many places to go it's mindboggling. You name a city or landmark anywhere in the world and I'm sure I'd love to go there. How do you choose?
I know for my wife and I riding motorcycles in the Swiss Alps is definitely on our bucket list, as well as touring Italy and visiting Australia. Those would all be fantastic, but what about Peru, South Africa, Japan, and New Zealand, to say nothing of closer destinations like Key West, Alaska, and even the national parks? Will there be enough time, money, and health? I sure hope so for some of it at least.
— Reading and Writing: All my life, reading has been a dependable joy, the one activity that never fails to entertain and enlighten. Reading truly is a time and space machine, as you connect with writers from different eras and walks of life. Such a deal. In my case, reading led to creative writing, which I enjoy very much.
Even if I had all the money in the world, my favorite things would still be a good walk and a good book. Truly you don't need much more than that.
Note: though I'm an avid motorcyclist, I did not include motorcycling here because, while I do ride in my leisure time, I consider motorcycling more of a lifestyle choice than a hobby. For example, circumstances permitting, I'll always ride rather than drive, and, since driving is not generally considered a hobby, why should motorcycle riding be?
If you can ride to work — and I do whenever I can — then it's not a hobby.
Similarly, I've not included being a sports fan as a hobby. Just listen to some sports talk radio to hear how passionate sports fans can be and you realize we take it very seriously. Sports can be much more than a hobby, or even a lifestyle; watch a Bills game and see those bare-chested fans with their faces painted, wildly yelling and screaming, outdoors in freezing cold weather — the word “obsessed” comes to mind.
Gardening, stamp collecting, whatever — hobbies are great fun and worth doing if you have the time and resources. When I hear that people retire and then get bored, I simply have no idea how to relate. There is just so much to learn and do. Enjoy your hobbies!