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hours “weeding” the layout to just sort of “zone-out” and get away from both. I like to tease her that most folks pull weeds, and here she is planting them! The stuffed animal routine is only one of many such methodologies she employs in weeding the layout. All in- volve white glue and hairspray. Jute twine or thin rope come in several ap- propriate colors and can make excellent weeds. Take two inches or so, and tie a knot in the middle to act as a grip. Cut the ends short, and fray out the ends with a toothbrush. Doing 30 to 50 at a time gives you many weeds. Put a drop of white glue down, cut the splayed out part of the rope off while pinched in your fingers, and plop (hi-tech weeding term) it into the glue. As with the animal fur,

spritz with hairspray and dust on some varying colors of ground foam. Don’t hesitate to use two or three colors on the same weed.

As with most aspects of this hobby, variety is the watchword. I (we) like to use scenic materials from all the manu- facturers, plus anything found at plac- es like Wal-Mart, Target, Hobby Lobby, Jo-Ann Fabrics, and the like. Keep your eyes open in these places, and you will find countless items that can be used far beyond expectations of the maker. A simple compartmented tray of some sort will serve to keep your weeding supplies in one spot. It can be carted around the layout to wherever needed with ease and keeps the stuff more or less organized. Mother Nature can also provide you

A segmented box works well for keeping your “weeding” ma- terials organized. Any of the craft stores carry a wide variety of these, and they can be used to store more than just weeds.

with “weeding” and groundcover materi- als. Some twigs make for great-looking “logs,” dirt makes great “dirt,” and dry leaves (in a blender, folks) make great “leaves.” A word of caution here: in some areas (most) of the country, watch where you walk and reach your hands. I do a lot of this kind of scenery scrounging in the Southwest and have encountered unpleasant serpents and spiders, most of whom were less than pleased at being disturbed. I am a grown man, but from my experience in Southeast Asia, I freely admit to a strong aversion to both spi- ders and serpents. While I’m giving sage advice about scenery gathering, keep one other thing in mind: there are small living things on and in a lot of this mate- rial that you do not want in your house. Placing the items on a cookie pan lined with aluminum foil in the oven on low for half an hour or so will kill whatever was in your latest find, keeping unpleas- ant surprises to a minimum.

As is my habit, I learned all this the

hard way. I brought home a large batch of sagebrush twigs, which I think are the absolute best starting point for de- ciduous tree armatures that I made into some great-looking trees. A couple of months later, I discovered some very fine webs on these “trees” and some objec- tionable fauna therein. Bug spray stunk up the basement for a while, but the in- sects were dispatched. Lesson learned. From then on, everything from Mother Nature was given the high-heat test. Oh, yes, one more bit of sound advice, which may save your life: do not use your wife’s blender. Buy your own. The story of how I acquired “my” blender can be left to an- other column.

Initial dismemberment of toy animals is at least PG- 13 and not done in the presence of small children.

If you are independently wealthy or model the Arizona desert, it is probably no problem to populate the layout with the many commercial trees out there. The rest of us will have to resort to mak- ing a few of our own. I strongly recom- mend commercial trees, but not by the thousands. I have numerous commercial trees on the layout, many prominently in the foreground. These very good-looking trees need to be up front. As much as I love the commercial trees, I have ten times as many that are handmade since I am not all that wealthy. I came to grips with making my own pines in my youth after reading articles in all the model


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