April Is April Appreciation Month

I haven’t posted in a long time because I haven’t done anything much write-down-word-worthy lately. But I felt like writing this morning and cranked out the following bit about the month of April here in the mountains of Panama, and I thought I’d show you a little project that I have been working on.

As I do many mornings, today I was on our roof deck sweeping away a few dry leaves and watering the plants. From the roof deck I can see the woodpeckers that, as they do every year in April, are making new nesting holes (in preparation for babies and for protection in the rainy season) in the trees in the next lot over from us. It’s quite a show.

Every day I put several bananas in the dead tree stump in our front garden. We’ve covered this stump in bromeliads and orchids, and nesting birds have made the tree a bird condominium. They have a wonderful time darting in and out of the plants on their way to and from the bananas. There are black birds, black and red birds, black and yellow, green, and even blue birds. Robins, and the woodpeckers, too, come for the bananas. Small reddish-brown doves peck in the freshly-tilled garden and finish off the banana peels that fall to the ground. The bird banana buffet gives Cynthia and me hours of enjoyment as we watch out the kitchen windows.

The tall trees in our front garden turn golden-crested in April, and the loudly-chirping hummingbirds work the blossoms all day long. Soon, bees will arrive to take the nectar that the hummingbirds leave behind; their buzzing is very loud and reaches a crescendo in the heat of mid-afternoons.

I also love April because now, after several very dry months, we are starting to receive several rain showers each night. They don’t last long, but come down in brief sheets, signaling that rain is on its way. The fragrance of freshly-dampened soil smells good and I go back to sleep.

The other day our gardener, Armando, pointed out a loudly singing bird that was “calling the water,” he said in Spanish. I’ve really enjoyed learning Spanish so I can pick up these bits of local knowledge – such as when the breezes that start in November and December are called “brisas de Navideña,” — the breezes that bring on Christmas. Many of the local workers here may not have a lot of book learning, but they know the wildlife and the subtle rhythms of the seasons.

With everything so dry, the birds enjoy the three birdbaths that we made for them; keeping the water refreshed is a pleasant part of my daily routine, too.

Recently we noticed that the mango trees are in full-bloom in our area; we should be picking mangos fresh off of the trees in late June and July. Because we are in a micro-climate zone, our mango schedule is quite different from down in town or just down the mountain road a few kilometers.

There are distinct seasons in Panama, not as dramatic as, say in New England, U.S.A., but they are distinct in their own subtle way. I love April; there is a lot to observe and to appreciate here.

P1030640-001

Walking to friends’ house this morning I picked this seed pod off the ground. Oropendula birds live in the tree and will pelt you with these pods when you walk under the tree. Pretty cool, huh?

P1030639-001

P1030638-001

In other news, the other day I got a call from a friend of ours. She has been taking care of the home of someone who had recently died, and she lost the keys! She asked me if I could get into the house. Of course I could, houses are my business, but locks, unfortunately, aren’t.

I did a survey of the exterior of the house and decided to remove the security bars on a small bathroom window (the window was small, and so was the bathroom, come to think about it). Fifteen-minutes with a hammer and chisel and I had the bars removed from the concrete block house. It would be minimal work to mortar the bars back in place. I climbed through the window, removed the screws from the two deadbolt locks, and opened the door. Our friend bought two new deadbolts and I installed them in just a few minutes.

But this got me thinking — how much easier it would have been on my senior citizen body if I could have just picked the locks and not had to mess with shoe-horning myself through the tiny window and making the high drop to the floor. YouTube to the rescue. Over the next couple of weeks, I watched a couple-hundred videos, maybe more, about lock picking. I now dream about picking locks.

So I thought that I would buy a set of lock picks. They can be had for twenty-bucks, or a high-quality set for under a hundred. But then again I thought, why not make them myself? There are lots of videos on YouTube showing how to make picks from hacksaw blades and the thin pieces of spring steel that sit under the rubber part of most windshield wiper blades.

Our car needed new wiper blades anyway, and a few bucks bought a handful of saw blades. A day or two later I had my very own homemade lock pick set (I still have a couple more picks to make…). I think they came out pretty well, all ground, sanded, and polished to a bright shine. Here are a few photos:

P1030634-001

I ground the teeth off the blades but left the notches that created the set of the saw teeth. It gives the handles a bit more grip.

P1030637-001

There are still a couple more picks that I want to make to more complete my set.

P1030632-001

I ground the hacksaw blades with my bench grinder, filed and then polished with emery paper. Some car polishing compound did the final polish.

So now it is time to see if I have what it takes. I have a pile of old padlocks that I am gearing up to practice on.

By the way, if you are the least bit interested in how insecure most of the locks that most of us use, here is a video by a man named bosnianbill. Locks are his hobby and he enjoys figuring out the puzzle of each lock he touches. Bosnianbill is part of an international group of people who consider lock picking a grand sport. They have competitions and swap locks and information among themselves, picking for the fun of it. Here is one of his 600-or-so videos:

Now, after a bit of practice, maybe I will be able to open a lock the next time I get a call from a panicked friend. I’ll “keep it legal” as these sport pickers say at the end of their videos.

That’s all for now. Thanks for stopping by.

16 thoughts on “April Is April Appreciation Month

  1. My first thought? I’d get stopped for a traffic infraction (license plate light out) asked by the pleasant officer if it is OK for him to look in my trunk. Of course.
    You may fill in the final sentences.

  2. Helllooooo Fred and Cynthia, So good to read a post from you again, and we feel bad that we have not yet visited…I to buy some of Cynthia’s non–Fusable glass and my husband and I to enjoy some of your wonderful work. And now we have run out of time and depart for USA tomorrow. While we certainly wish you lots of luck with finding the right buyers (those who will truly appreciate all you have achieved) we hope that if not sold imminently, we can make that visit when we return in six months! Now about your new hobby…again, as always, BEAUTIFUL tools…and a grand new skill!!!

  3. Locked myself out of the house once–that house had a deadbolt that would throw itself, unless you flipped a switch to lock it in place. Used my library card to get back in.

  4. Great to hear from you again, Fred and Cynthia. You have peaked an interest I have long had but little time to indulge. Thanks for the introductory. Any chance you will try to make an old time lock ? Haha. Great job as usual.

    Don

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *