Sunday, December 30, 2007

Frost on the Pumpkins

We had some quick changing weather yesterday that made for some neat effects. It went from 0C to -21 in less than 12 hours. This picture is the view across the South valley from our place. The light is just breaking through the hoarfrost at the valley bottom.Such a rapid change in temperature causes the water vapour to crystallize out of the air. It covers everything giving it a wonderful winter land effect. You can see the crystals in the air, like millions of diamonds. From a distance it will look like fog, which I guess, it is - an ice-fog.
It was almost a shame to destroy this crystal garden by cleaning off the windsheild of the truck. It's really an interesting phenomenon. When Jo-Ann was taking these pictures she could actually see the ice crystals growing!
It has warmed up to -10 today. I will spend the day cleaning out the garage so that I can park the skid-steer and ATV's in it so I don't have to cover the skid-steer with tarps to keep the snow off.

Hope your having a wonderful holiday.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Moon Walk

Last night we had a clear -14 with a bright three quarters moon and a stunning Mars high above Orion so we decided to go for a walk around 10 pm. We had headlights and back up flashlights but didn't really need them until we got into the forest part of the trail. This is a picture Kevin took of Sara and I under the full moon. The moon is a lot bigger in person..

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

First Winter Ascent of Mt. James

It was a beautiful boxing day today so we decided to go snow shoeing.

What a lot of fun. We have a packed trail now so it will be easier to keep it open. We're thinking of trying to do a moon lit one tonight, that should be pretty spectacular. On the way back Sara and Kevin decided to do an ascent of Mt. James via the treacherous West face. Not only did they succeed but they set a new record, doing the ascent in One minute and 17 seconds.

And then the pace picked up as we went back to the house for tea, turkey salad, cookies and pie. Perhaps an afternoon nap... It's the tryptophan.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Hope you and yours are enjoying Christmas and having a great time.

My daughter Sara and husband Kevin made it up for Christmas and the adventure begins. 10 minutes after getting on the sled Kev's going over the "Gully"

We wanted to use the sled to go and get the Christmas tree. Unfortunately, the snow was just too soft so we used snow shoes. Our friend James, gave us a hand.Sara got the ski-do bug and Christmas day she will give it a try on the road and over the fields and through the trees.We were up late last night decorating the tree after the do at the Endako Hall. Fun for all.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Goose Eggs

The chucks seem to be in their prime. They are laying ten eggs a day from 10 chucks so that's pretty neat. The thing is they have been laying some gi-normous eggs. Have a look at this double yolker one. No Yolk!

Jo-Ann's theory is that the Ostriches down the road have been visiting. I guess it could happen.

Poor Xena managed to get into the compost tires ( cuz some one knocked them over with a skidsteer while path clearing ) and was muching on some old "T" bones. She got rid of a bunch on the living room carpet but she was having trouble at the other end. For four days. The poor thing. We took her to the vet in Burns who gave here some Xrays and found a 3" chunk of bone lodged vertically about three inches in. Some slightly messy work with a rubber glove out in the yard of the vets place and voila - one happy girl! Who is now taking some anti-biotics and feeling like a million bucks. The pressure is off.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

The "ReTired" Garden

My friend Carol was asking about the tire garden. Amazing considering we had a couple of weeks of -20c and below. I think the cold has killed off the greens but today when I opened up a couple of them I found that it was +10c and the greens were thawed out. The chucks sure love 'em.

In our other garden near the chicken run the cabbage seems to be doing quite nicely under the snow.

Surprisingly hardy is lettuce. I think a fall planting will keep us in greens well into October.

Another option I have considered is lighting and heating the tires. In effect miniature green houses. As soon as the snow goes we will be trenching for water and power to the rest of the tires we will be putting in. Around a hundred of them.

One of my favorite places is a bench on the South side of the red shed. Nice place to sit ( on a piece of closed cell foam..) and contemplate the view towards the south and highway 16.

Friday, December 14, 2007


Before I go to bed I check the thermometer, while waiting for Xena to go have a before bed whizbang. Warm wind blowing and up to -1c. Wow, a twenty degree rise in temperature in a day. We have had more snow and fortunately, another visit by YRB. We have a beautifuly flat, driveway now.

I went out the other day to get the Case Skidsteer running so I could clear out the yard. The ignition ring on the machine was loose, and when I reached down to tighten it up the key came out and fell through a slot on the right hand lever. No spare. A couple of hours later I have the skidsteer ripped apart so I can see the belly pan and hopefully, an errant key. No such luck. Plan "B", order a new ignition switch. That takes a day or so, and yesterday I get the thing back together and up and running. I whip out and start plowing what I can. I am getting faster with the machine and don't really have to think about what I am doing. Not the "which lever do I pull to make it ..." Well the down side is - I get motion sickness and after a couple of hours I am sitting in the house drinking ginger tea. What a woose.

One of the problems we have with our upper driveway is snow drifting. As the snow that is removed from the sides of the road build up it creates a low pressure area right over the road. That's where the snow drifts up. Today I am going to put the chains on the skidsteer and start making some snow berms a hundred feet on either side of the road to act as a snow fence.

While I was waiting for parts I insulated the windows on the south side. The windows in the house are pretty old. I have managed to seal the cracks around the side and the ones we look out of I put clear shrink plastic over the inside. It makes a huge difference in drafting.

The West side windows I cover with mylar insulating wrap and then two inches of pink styrofoam insulation. Then I duct tape all around the edges to keep any draft down.

If you notice in the picture you can see a round bulge on the top of the left hand side piece. Last year I didn't use the reflective mylar first and the sun shining through the window heated up the wire screen enough to melt the pink insulation. An amazing demonstration of solar heating. Hence the reflective mylar this year. We don't use these windows in the winter as not a lot of winter sun comes from that side so covering them makes a huge difference. We have heavy curtains that go over the windows so you don't see the insulation. Even when I replace the windows with some more thermally efficient ones I will still be covering them up. Windows, even high priced "efficient" ones just are not. But don't get me going...

Mean while Xena and her buddy Ewe (uass, in Carrier - which means snow) snuggle up and enjoy the draft free window ledge.

Ah, life is good

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Support Group..

If it looks like that big 'ol fir tree is growing through the shed, it is. There are actually two trees supporting the shed one at the front and back. The farmer built the shed around the trees so that he could use them for structural support. I will be taking the shed down and liberating the living fir. The dead one will end up as firewood this summer.

Xena was checking out something that was moving at the far end of the road. this is the top end of our 1km long driveway. We had about three inches of snow last night, about 8 cm for you metric folk. If I get enthusiastic, and get the skidsteer working I will give it a quick scrape.

The chickens winter chalet. Well actually the chickens summer and winter chalet. They are snug as a bug in a rug. There is an infrared lamp in the run, or the "tractor" part and a light and a ceramic heater in the "A" frame coop. They had stopped egg production when winter started but seem to be back in the saddle, er..nests.

Today I am doing some window insulating. More about that in a later blog.

Friday, December 07, 2007

In Memorium

December 7th, 1941.

May the service men killed on that day "that will live in infamy" rest in peace.

May we never forget the futility and cost to our world of attempting to placate tyrants.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Oh Tannenbaum ...

One thing this familly needs is a heated garage. Just spent about four hours at -20c putting in a block heater. And getting the air locks out so that the heater would work. Just no fun doing auto mechanicing in sub zero temperatures.

When the kids were up a while back we went to the Christmas tree field and picked out the tree and a couple of candidates for next year, and the year after.

Today Xena and I went for a trudge and snapped a photo of the tree.

Noticed that the moose are moving back in. We ran across tracks in the Christmas tree field and looking out the kitchen window we can see them criss crossing just below the Eastern tree line. Glad to have them back.

YRB to the rescue

Jollied me right up to see the big YRB grader coming up the driveway yesterday. You could land a 747 on the driveway now. No chains required to get in or out. I managed to get the skidsteer going yesterday and cleaned out the yard. Makes walking around and doing chores a lot easier. I finished just as it was getting dark and my feet, even in my -60C boots were starting to get a little chilly.

The temperature has fallen again today. -22c here. All the trees are frosted over and it's overcast. Pretty in a cold looking sort of way.

I am off to my Brother Tom's to install a block heater in the Toyota. I had been plugging the truck in and it was still hard to start. Then I traced the plug wiring back and noticed that the last time they changed the engine they didn't put the block heater back in. If it gets much colder it can make it really hard to start. Some of the locals tell me about putting tarps over the vehicle and a pipe with a tiger torch under it to get things warmed up.

Xena seems impervious to the cold. She likes going after "mouseicles". She runs around out in the yard looking for and finding, field mice. Actually I think they are called Voles.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tip O' the Hat

Made it back from town. Just. Even with the chains on it was slip sliddin away coming up the hill.

Jo-Ann got some video of the run, er slide, but she is in the fingers poking in my eyes, coughing, sneezing, can't talk part of the cold/flu experience. And languishing on the couch with a Neo and a jug of Benylin. Her cat, Blackie, acting as a neck warmer.

Today I will try and get the skidsteer running and bash a trail down to Savory road so I don't have to put chains on. I visited the YRB office and they said they will try and plow the road if they don't have to put chains on. It just takes too long for them to do. Their primary job is to keep the roads open, and this time of year that keeps them pretty busy. They do the best job I have seen in that regard. The driveway job is a public service they do when and if they have the time. Even if they get to do it once it will be a big help as it will give me a nice flat wide base to work from.

I thought I would give an update with our office conversion to linux. Our main working machines use Fedora RedHat. The really cool thing was I managed to get an old 233 mhz system with 96 mbits of ram running as a print server. I tried some very cool distros, Puppy Linux, DSL ( damn small Linux) and setteled on a Canadian distro: Vector Linux. It is based on the venerable Slackware linux and we're thinking of making Vector Linux the main distro that we will use on our working machines. It really brought that old beater 233 mhz machine to a usefull life. An extremely robust and simple installation program.

We have to ( reluctantly ) purchase copies of Vista to use to test our software. We are in the process of updating our software so that it can be used with remote users and to clean up some of the bugs introduced by Vista. So far we only have one customer that uses Vista, and their IT support person is trying to talk them into going back to XP. But of course that would mean purchasing a half dozen copies of XP. Of course it is only a matter of time that other customers "switch" to Vista. The will go and get a new computer or two - and of course, it comes with Vista already pre-installed. What a deal! What a headache. Our code is ripped apart now getting it ready for Vista. Of course the deal with code is once you change one part your into a lot of different parts. Coding is kinda like sex: one mistake and your supporting it for the rest of your life.

I really am starting to enjoy the Mac vs. Windows commercials. I would even consider purchasing a Mac but I really enjoy the cost of open source software.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Snowed In

Its been coming down all night and this morning it is really coming down. Reminds me of last year when we had about four feet in two days.
Don't know if you can see from the pictures but it is practically a white out.

Fortunatly no wind so far. I am going to try and make it out in a bit just to help keep the road open. I will have to put the truck chains on.

We have 40 pounds of pepperoni and farmer sausage at the butchers to pick up also. Tonight I have a meeting in Fort Fraser, but if this keeps up it will be iffy.

The chickens are all snug a bug and so are we.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

-21 and Falling

"Now Kids, don't be jealous - the chickens need a heat lamp you have each other."

" Ah, I guess Dad was right...zzzzzzz"

Weird weather. It's -21c and falling. In town, Fraser Lake, it's only -18. Usually we're about six degrees warmer but some kind of weird temperature inversion is happening. It's snowing also which is really weird at this temperature. Small crystals- like its freezing out of the overcast. And thats weird too - having an overcast at this temperature. It's really time to put the ear flaps on my hat down when I go outside.

I was doing some work with the chicken tractor, adding a heat lamp, and I had to nip into the shop from time to time to thaw out the fingers. Hard to splice wiring with the gloves on.

I usually just run a couple of small heaters in the shop and it keeps it above freezing. This morning I decided to fire up the air tight and I think I will keep that going all day. I have to go down to the Endako Hall and make sure the pellet furnace is keeping the place warm.

Now Sara, if your reading this, don't panic. It's a dry cold. Anyway it doesn't count as cold until it's at least -30. Jo-Ann is still bringing the wood in with her blue crocs, shorts and a "T" shirt. For some reason, she has taken control of the furnace and doesn't want me to play with it...

The chickens are having a great time now. The "A" frame coop has a light and a heater in it, but I added an infrared lamp in the tractor at the end of the run.

You can just hear the chicken conversations: " OOOh Myrtyl, your getting some colour." "Yes, indeed Marge, do you think we might hit the green headed guy up for some sunblock?" " Oh Yes, and maybe a bucket of Pina Coladas.."

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Company's Coming

My daughter Sara and here husband Kevin came up from the Coast for a couple of days of R & R. If you count cutting up a cord of wood R & R.. We are checking out the carrots in the tire garden. Actually they have managed to form baby carrots. I wonder what would happen if I left them till spring. I suspect they won't last through the -30c tempertures tho..

Xena the wonder dog loves Kevin. It was Kevin that taught her the " food on the nose trick" Here she is snuggled up. She still thinks that she is a lap dog.
Sara likes to bring me "weird" items from the oriental food markets. Not a lot of choice up here. She replenished my hot sauce supply and brought these " chicken snacks". Actually they were not bad. Crunchy!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How does your garden grow..

Quite well thank you.It is -10C here today. It's mid November and I have been harvesting greens from the tire garden. I can't beleive how well these cold frames made from logging truck tires work. We planted in Mid September. Just as an experiment. Cabbages, Kale, Turnip, Radishes, Daikon, Carrots and Swiss chard. They grew like crazy. Straining at the plastic covers on the top tires! We arn't getting any rooting on the roota-veggies, theres just not enough light in the day but we sure have a great crop of greens. The chickens gobble them up.

We will start planting for this years crop in early May, maybe even a few test plantings in February. And we are going to add another 80 cold frames. I am very popular at the tire shops around here.

I was talking to a local gardener the other day and he's offered to supply me with some asparagus rootings in the spring. Cool. They take a couple of years to come up if I just use the from seed method.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Progress not Perfection

We were going great guns with the siding. Untill the starter motor packed it in. Managed to get a new one orderd from the local AutoSense store and will be able to get it back up and running today. Might even get the rest of the upstairs wall done. Could be my imagination but it even feels less draughty up there. Certainly less noisy in the wind with no metal shingle dangling in the breeze.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

A bit of a Lift

Honest, the roads fine. As long as you stay on it. If your a lowbed semitraier hauling a 17 ton man lift it's best to stay on the road. 'Cuz if you don't it is going to be an all day job digging you out. If your fortunate to have a hoe on the property. We had to take the man lift off of the semi trailor then drag it out to the road and then pull the tractor out. Pull the Man lift past the tractor ( it's only two wheel drive ) and then hook it all back together and back it a kilometre down the drive way to freedom.

Then we used the hoe to drag the manlift up the road and position it so I can start working on replacing the metal shingles.

While I am doing that I am going to change the 1/2 inch insulation ( actually I think it's just white styrofoam) with 1 1/2 inch Pink building insulation foam. It's the West weather wall so every little bit will help.

And I had help of course. Xena "the HOLMSTER" the wonderdog..

Friday, October 26, 2007

Winterized Chicken Tractor

We've had a few snow falls so far. Nothing that stuck. But it was time to get the chicken operation battened down for winter. We put double heavy duty plastic over the tractor and covered in the run with some plywood I had kicking around.The "ladies" seem to like the new picture window in the run. I also installed a thermostatically controlled heater in the coop. It's insulated at the bottom so should stay pretty warm. The main thing I have found is that it needs to be dry. So we have six inches of straw in the floor and in the run. I haven't put any straw in the tractor part as we just moved the tractor to a new "port" and they seem to be enjoying the grass and seeds in a new bed. They have scratched the old bed down to the dirt. Almost ready to plant. I am not sure what the rotation should be but it won't be happening during the winter. I can change the straw, of course, and put some in the tractor if they get it down to earth but moving it will have to wait until spring. Or five months from now, whichever comes first. They sure seem to like the new digs. And me and a few select friends sure appreciate the fresh eggs.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Lumbering Along..

Spent most of yesterday building some lumber storage racks in the storage barn. It will make storing lumber a lot more efficient. Now I just put it in piles on pallets on the floor. And that takes up a lot of floor space. It will also make it a lot easier to get it when it's stacked. I have a lot of old barnwood and rough cut lumber that is sitting outside and I want to get it in and properly stacked so that it is out of the weather. And I can get at it without shoveling snow. I had to go to the hardware store in Fraser Lake to pick up 17 lbs of spikes. $70 bucks later.

Before I get going on the storage project today I am off to Tom's to get another load of wood. This time I am going to use the skid steer to load a dumping trailor. Should be a lot faster than hand loading my little trailor.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

I've got a few hangups

Of the Birch variety. Finished getting all the leaners down. This birch got hung up on a little fir.

Fortunatly I didn't have to cut the fir down. Kinda like being in a guilotine and pulling the rope on yourself. We managed to pull on the end and it came down so that I could cut it up and pack it off to the side of the road. I will be cutting that one up for firewood.

Another fall project done. Ready for the grader and winter when ever it decides to come in ernest.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Walk towards the Light

I love this picture Jo-Ann took. We've been having foggy foggy mornings lately and this is a great example of one.

It's Sunday. I am being lazy. It's 11:00 am and I am still drinking my morning coffee. But lately I have been feeling like a human doing rather than a human being. Just a little frenetic trying to get the pre winter chores done. Really when I step away from the "2do" list and look at what really needs to be done it isn't a lot. There just are not that many "A's" on my list. Just a lot of "B's" and I suspect most of them are "C's" in costume.

OK. One rant. We got some videos from the local outlet. Actually we have two. Combined the wouldn't make the first row at your average lower mainland outlet. Anyway I have noticed an annoying trend in the movie, or is it video industry. I picked up what I thought was a copy of the "Transformers", only to find out in about two minutes of watching that it was the "Transmorphers". It was the worlds crappiest vid and the cover was camouflaged to look like the real deal. Just out a week before the Transformers. What a scam. In Art's world such things would be punishable by making the producer watch it for six years..And the company that slips these in just before the real movies comes out has done it many times before. Unbelievable but true.

Anyway I'm off to grab some glass at one of my brothers rental places in Endako. ( Wonderful salvaged green house material). Oh and move an outbuilding here. ( possible meat chicken high rise) And cover a septic tank. 'Cuz you don't want to slip in that!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Logging In

Our Driveway. Spent yesterday cutting down all the "leaners" from last winter. They are the poplars and willows that were bent from the snows of last winter and haven't straightend out. Given any kind of snow this winter they will be back on the road so time to get them out of the way.

I want to get them cleared before the road gets graded. The easy part is cutting down the trees, the harder task is getting them off of the road. Fortunatly the skidsteer has a clamshell bucket and that makes lifting the trees and pushing them to the side of the road easier. The real pain is all the little pieces. Only one way to get them..

I had a couple of hundred feet of leaners down when Walter and Audrey showed up with a horse trailer. The were rounding up the last of the cows.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Snow Way!

Way! The day after we finished putting the silage up and covered it with a huge piece of plastic we watched as some ominous looking weather moved in from the West.

We could see it moving in from the tops of the western hills down the valley below and then up to our place. At one point it was snowing at Grandma's, just a few hundred feet above our house where it was sleeting. Fortunately, nothing stuck but it is sure a reminder that I had better get the place ready for snow. The hoses need to be drained and any extension cords need to be brought in. I ruined one I had left out last year when I plowed parts of the driveway with the skidsteer. I want to get the garage cleaned out so I can put the skidsteer in it. Last year when it got cold I had to put canvas over the skidsteer and put a heater inside before I could get it started. I also learned that leaving ladders on the slope side wall of the shed is a good way to ensure they will be unusable until spring. And then well into spring as the shed gets ten foot drifts on it's sides. Also reminds me to keep a couple of snow shovels in the house so I can use them to get into the shed if it snows heavy. Last year I had to tunnel my way in with a broken round mouth shovel.

It's rainy and overcast today. I am going to get the wood that's in the trailor stacked behind the workshop. We picked up a couple of loads of stair blanks from Tom's and I just couldn't bring myself to cut them up for fire wood. I want to make some rustic benches from some of them. I was going to get some more wood today but the driveway will be pretty muddy. I have YRB scheduled to grade the thing before it snows. Hope they make it. It's a lot less muddy than it was but it is very bumpy.

I also want to clear some of the hanging trees on our driveway. Once it snows they can make it a challange to get up the driveway. And last year the snowplows wouldn't do it.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Making Hay While The Sun Shines....'s not really raining much..
Actually it's silage, a chopped mixture of peas and Barley, or wheat in this case. The silage provides a high quality feed for the cattle in the winter months ( like the next five..) It takes a lot to keep them going. Walter, my neighbor, has a large silage pit that is lined with concrete blocks. It's about 50 by 100 feet. It's filled now and we're making another pile, no blocks and right on the ground. This takes a bit of finesse with the tractor.Yesterday when I pulled up to drop another load I noticed the tractor laying at a precarious angle on the side of the pile and Shannon, Walt's daughter, walking around. She had a stain on her pants that she attributed to spilled coffee. If it was me the stain wouldn't have been just coffee. No harm done tho, Walter came and pulled it out with a big 966 Loader that he has.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Chop Wood Carry Water

Chop Wood Carry Water, the title of a spiritual book I read some time ago that stressed simplicity. But we use a lot of wood and that's a lot of chopping so we went out and bought an electric wood splitter. Woo Hoo! It was just a little 4 ton capacity one, but it's not having any trouble reducing the big 14 and 16 inch pine rounds we have to fire and furnace wood.

It handles anything up to about 20 inches long, which is good for our furnace. We could use two foot rounds but they get quite heavy when they are off the 16 inch butt of a house building log. A fellow was commenting to me that if the wood's good it's just as quick to chop it with a maul. Maybe. And if you have a lot more energy than I do. I came home the other day and Jo had cut up half a cord of wood for the shop. And she sure can't handle the large splitting maul, or wedge and sledge hammer. Anyway it's sure made splitting the wood a lot easier. And we have another three or four cords to split up, to do us for the winter. We just got our Hydro bill and they still owe us a $167.00 from last winter. That reflects an equal billing plan and our change to primarily use the wood side of our electric/wood furnace. And of course the fireplace upstairs.

The trees have all changed colour. Most of the Aspen are yellow, some with a red tinge. It happens quickly after the first fall frosts. Quite a breathtaking fall view from the veranda.

After lunch I am off to haul silage for a neighbor of ours. Trying to get it in before the rain or worse, the snow, ruins it.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

UFO slighted!

An Ultimately Fun Object was spotted over our East pasture.

It was eerily quiet, with some sort of giggling sound in the background. After amazing the onlookers it attempted communication with the dominant intelligence in the crowd. Xena seemed to talk to it for a few minutes, although it seemed much longer, and then the saucer disappeared into our storage barn. And here's the weird part: it never came out! We checked inside as we were storing a new rock saw carriage but found nothing that looked like the flying saucer. But I suppose an advanced civilization capable of interstellar flight to an Endako field would pretty much have transmogrification powers at its command. The next time we get a clear night I am going to put a foamy outside in a field and spend the night, ensconced in eider down and with Xena the wonder watch dog, gazing up at the Milky Way and waiting for their return.