Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Fired Up

It doesn't take long to heat the place up now. We have the downstairs RSF furnace and the new Osburn wood heater upstairs.

The animals have a new favorite place to lounge about. And my daughter, Sara, when she visits. I still have a bit of work to do around the chimney. Installing a collar around the pass through chimney and putting some polish on the Osburn, and painting the OSB that I leveled the floor with. Oh and installing a metal railing around the kitchen side of the stove. A future project is putting down a barn wood floor. I have enough old fir in the buildings that wrap around the trees and a couple of spare planer blades.

The wind was blowing hard from the East last night and I will have to unwrap the skidsteer and plow out the place. Then I plan on humping the deconstruction material over to the burn pile. A lot of the old pine wall covering will get turned into kindling.

And then we'll try and stay awake until midnight to toast in the New Year.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Yard clean Up

I managed to fire up the skid steer yesterday. I hadn't had it running since we put the rad back in so it was with some trepidation that I turned the key. Up it fired and a little voice in my head ( who said voices in our heads were bad ) suggested making a pass to the highway so we could get out if we had to. Once down to Savory I noticed hydraulic fluid as I backed up. Lots of it - not a good sign. I managed to make it back up to the turn and that was it. Inspection revealed a hydraulic return hose that was spraying fluid from around a misplaced clamp. As I had a path to Savory we went into town but the Autosense store was closed for the holidays. On the way back home we stopped at Tom's and he just happened to have a couple of spare 20 liter pails. Always a great thing to have around. My Niece Cindy and her daughter, Jamie, and her boyfriend Brian had dropped by for a visit. Brian is a mechanic and was quickly pressed into service. Soon we had the beast up and running and I managed to do the entire road. Until I started having an intermittent problem. The skidsteer would just stop running. Dead. If I waited until my toes got cold it would start again. I managed to limp home and spent the rest of the day shuttling Jamie and the hot pink sled, up and down the road - er refurbished Olympic sled run where she set a new personal best: all the way to the big bend without a wipe out.

This morning I got the thing running and it died after five minutes. I noticed some skanky looking connectors and replaced them and It ran for the next two hours without complaint or stall. Number one on the list for equipment projects when I get the shop heated up is redoing the entire wiring harness on the thing. Removing every single stake - on connector and changing them to proper soldered and heat shrink connections. As the skid steer is open to the elements I got to try one of my cool, er- warm, hand made presents from Jo-Ann: a knitted dickie. Just the thing for minus weather. At only -15c, I couldn't wear the hand knitted sweater under my army surplus winter jacket without suffering heat prostration.

Any way I managed to get the entire spread plowed, up to Grandmas, and all around the out buildings. It makes getting around a whole lot easier. Yard foreperson, Xena, was on the ball so to speak( the blue ball) and trying out all the runs.

One of the reasons we had for going to town was to pick up a package from Sara and Kevin. Christmas Goodies. I got some great stuff! Even some cheddar cheese flavored larva! No typo there folks: larva. Apparently very popular with avant-garde epicures. You can get yours directly from the bug store.

They're dead and toasted and crunchy and delicious. And all mine. Jo-Ann has professed no interest. I thinks she's just jealous. The gagging sounds are just for effect...

They also sent us a cool coffee maker that grinds the beans and makes a wonderful cup. Right now were enjoying a nice, fortifying brew of Starbucks.

Starbucks in Endako.

Isn't that something.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Chicken Dance

Lately going out to feed and water the chickens has turned out to be a bit of an adventure. I remember my dad telling me tales of Saskatchewan prairie life where ropes were strung between the house and the barn to prevent people inadvertently wandering off in a snow storm. Not so bad here - I have Xena who really seems to like the cold:

Heres a pic of a few days ago when we managed to finally remove the living room fire place. My brother, Tiny, suggested using it as an outdoor fire place. I think we'll go with that idea somewhere out near the re-tired garden and the pond. Stay tuned 'till summer for the pond project.

Today is going to be "plow a road to Savory day." A test of the refurbished skid steer. It's still snowing but I don't want the drifts to get much higher than four feet or I will have to use the Cat.

But first a fortifying bowl of porridge.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Asset Collapse

One of our biggest assets collapsed over the night. I believe the fault, and I could easily slip into fault and blame right now, was probably gambling on the futures market . As in not piling our stack of winter wood, one of our biggest assets, with a view to future stability.

Oh well, unlike the financial markets, this asset can still be liquidated, er- burned up. Actually a lot of it was wood that was left over from last year so burning it now is probably a great idea. One of those little voices in my head from last summer. " Say-- I should re-pile that two year old wood so we use it this year".. Amazing' what can happen when I don't take care of things when they ask to be taken care of. First things first. The Chimney was the big little voice I didn't take care of. But what the heck it did all work out in the end.

It's -17C(1.4F) and according to the weather site, its light snow that's falling - not the force 9 Easterly white out gale that I see when I look out the window. Other than the sound of the wind, and even that is muffled by the snow, it is wonderfully quiet. Hushed, no sound discernible from the Mine site or highway sixteen.The snow is drifting over the road. I could probably make it out now but no guarantee I could make it back without putting chains on. Tomorrow will be snow plow day, if the snow stops.

It really is wonderful. Lots of left over brined turkey( Thanks R.T. for the recipe) and other Christmas goodies to tide us over. If the power goes out we have heat and water. And propane for the emergency stove and barbecue. And a fully winterized Boler to escape to if it get really bad. And a Camper for overflow visitor beds.

Don't know what a Boler with two adults, one dog and four cats would look like. Pretty cozy, I imagine. Of course we would have to do without the big screen T.V. Sacrifices must be made.

Life is good.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Through the Roof.

We finally got the chimney installed - without climbing up on the roof. It was an inside job. We would have been finished the day before but I had underestimated by one the number of chimney sections. So a quick trip to Vanderhoof and yesterday we broke through( well actually, tin snipped through) at 9 in the morning.

The chimney cap will have to wait until the snow gets off the roof. I went down to the basement to hook up the black pipe; the normal ( i.e. uninsulated) stove pipe that runs from the furnace a couple of feet to the chimney connections. Here's a hint: do that part before installing 500 lbs of chimney. So into Fraser lake to get a telescoping connection. They just sold the last one - so a trip to Burns lake 60 klicks to the West. Where fortunately they had one left. And some good advice about losing a damper that was in the old set up. Back home, fire up the air tight heater in the old shop ( Boose, the shop cat's, hide out ), some ineffectual work with a pair of tin snips, then a steel cut off saw and voila around 3:30 P.M.

The nice thing about the RSF furnace is that it can hold a 2 foot by 3 foot by 3 foot stack of wood. Capable of warming the joint up enough that doors get opened to cool it down. Now we can proceed with the fireplace removal - a power outage won't leave us cold. We're looking forward to a warm Christmas. Inside that is. Although it's warmed up to -17c (F) outside. Now if I get my act together I can remove the fireplace and exchange it for the wood stove.

Hope you are all doing wonderful this Christmas Eve. The best to you and yours from the gang at Xanadu. May the God of your understanding bless you and keep you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


It's still in the -30's here. When we got up this morning in Fraser Lake it was -38 with a windchill warning of -57. So were not taking the fireplace out until we have a replacement back up. My brother Tiny came up and we got the skidsteer running. Which involved a new fan belt, new exhaust manifold bolts, a replacement circulating water heater and a re-cored radiator install. While it was only -20 when we were working on it, there was a slight wind and it was cold. I had an electric heater under the tarp that kept blowing hot air on us as we worked which helped a lot. The Skid steer is sitting under the tarp now with a space heater, battery charger and block heater on. I don't want to run it unless I have to. Weird things happen to metal parts when they get this cold. So that left us some time to get on with the chimney replacement project.

We don't want to leave ourselves with out wood heat just in case we have a power outage. In any case it's needed to keep the chill off the place. The electric furnace by itself just doesn't do the job. We started re-structuring the basement joists to install the main furnace replacement chimney. The floor was warped around the fireplace and chimney hole as it wasn't correctly structured. The 400 lbs or so of chimney was resting on the plywood subfloor instead of two by 10 joists and stringers. That's all repaired with about 30 feet of two by 10's that we added after using a couple of screw jacks to level the joists in the basement.

You call that a saw! Let me show you a real saw.

My sawzall wouldn't fit so Tiny brought out his favorite power tool. We're keeping warm right now burning the off cuts. Finally we installed the connection to the black pipe from the furnace and installed a piece of chimney. It's the bright shiny cylinder next to the soon to disappear, old zero clearance fireplace.

Today the plan is to clean up the basement remove the aluminum flashing and start grinding the overhead logs that were hidden in the fireplace blocking.

Clearance reductions, once the new chimney is in, will make grinding difficult to do. Now how to keep the vitamin pine out of everything. My four inch grinder with a twenty grit, 5" sanding disk really raises a lot of sawdust. Blocking it off with plastic is problematical as the fire place is still burning.. but first some ham and eggs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's so cold..

The chickens are laying frozen eggs.

They huddle around the heat lamps to keep warm and the water has a warmer in it but the nests are about six feet from the lamps and it got cold enough to freeze the eggs. At least I hope that's what happened. Any way the addition of a 1500 watt heater took care of that problem. The girls are happy.

The stove replacement project progresses. I brought the wood heater we are going to use down from Grandmas yesterday. It's heavier than it looks. Even with the firebricks removed. Here it is along side the existing fireplace it is going to replace.
It will look pretty good with a new coat of stove polish. But I won't put that on until I have it in place. A burl is going to go where the steel jack posts are. Or a piece of poplar with the bark still on. Can't decide.

Don't know how I am going to move the old fireplace with a fire still in it...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Put another Log on the Fire

Sunrise at 8:00 am this morning.

Job one this morning: fire up the fireplace. It looks like the whole of Western Canada is under an Arctic freeze. Hard to find anti-global warming advocates around here. Maybe that's why it's now been modified to Rapid Climate Change..

We went to Prince yesterday to pick up the Radiator. No luck - they were able to patch it together but would not give me a guarantee longer than walking out the door. The fan had been throwing stones at the core and it was badly pitted. It was just too far damaged. So they are going to replace the whole core. Not much point in getting it home and having it blow up again.

It was a chilly trip to Prince. I guess a 100 kmh wind chill at -27 ( well lets see now that would be: well, -50c give or take) We went to Canada Tire and bought an electric butt warmer ( ahhh ) and a six foot piece of 2 inch foam. I cut the foam up to put along side of the door panels and under the seats. Much warmer trip back. And butt.

Xena thinks we're just being silly: It's not that cold. The remnants of the blue ball are rock hard. We notice "Screwy" (Ewe)still likes to sneak out but is right back in about 5 minutes looking pretty chilled at the window and asking to get back in. " I could stay out a lot longer, but I know you guys miss me.." Sure.

Today just might be a stay warm inside day.

And try and get rid of 21 different viruses on my Sisters laptop. Don't get me started there..

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Moon at -27

Went for a bit of a trundle into the East field to get some shots this morning. It was -27c when we got up.

And to see if I need snow shoes to walk down the gas pipeline to put up some no trespassing signs. A couple of local snowmobiles have decided to use the front of our property as a speed way. Nothing I find more annoying than a screaming engine as it cuts twenty feet in front of the house at 60 miles and hour. Closing gates optional. Well I guess fair is fair, they open them - rightfully I guess it is only fair for me to close them.

We had to fire up the old fireplace to take the chill off. So today is get firewood ready and get the stove down from Grandmas. And I have some butter tarts to bake.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cold Shoulder

And other parts too! When we got up this morning it was -20C( -4F) A lot colder with the windchill of 20 KPH (-30), Jo-Ann was wearing her blue mackinaw. In the house at the table! Better get that chimney in. But first things first, after a breakfast meeting in town I will drive Tom's skidsteer back and plow out the driveway which is drifting over pretty solid. I had some trouble getting up it last night in four low. But I didn't have to put the chains on.

I managed to get to Prince and find a radiator shop that is repairing the rad from the skidsteer. Hopefully it will get delivered to Toms's on Monday. Maybe I can get our skidsteer operating by Tuesday. It's looking a little forlorn..

In the meantime I will concentrate on getting the old fireplace out, the floor repaired, the new stove in, and then the new chimney. I don't want to put the new stove in until I get the old one out just in case I have to replace it's chimney. I hope I don't have to do that, and it looks pretty good from the outside but I want to have a peek up the chimney just to be sure.

All these projects have a tendency to make me plan er.. sleepy...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's Dead..

I was using the skid steer this morning to push a piece of the fireplace to the burn pile when the skidsteer stopped. So much coolant coming from the rad it flooded the distributor and alternator.

So spent the rest of the day removing the radiator. Well two radiators - one for the hydraulic circuit, one for the engine coolant. Hopefully tomorrow I can find a place to rebuild it. It has a foot long crack along the top that joins to the core assembly. I guess the good news was that if I hadn't removed the rad I never would have noticed how badly gunked up the core was.


It's Alive!

Well moving anyway. My brother Tiny came up yesterday and helped me get the skidsteer running. Turned out to be dead simple. Pun intended. The main distributer lead from the coil had come off. With the new choke cable its starts like a kitten. We put the new chains on I had purchased in Prince the other day. That involved removing a couple of cross links as they were made from truck chains and were too long. Now they fit like a glove and won't be coming off until spring. About four months away. Then we installed the new snow plow.

What a beauty. It does the driveway in two passes. It has double springs to hold it to the road and really does a great job. A certain sense of Ease and Comfort knowing we can have a nice plowed driveway an hour after the skid steer starts.

I was missing one of the side plates for the skidsteer. I had made a fundamental mistake and left it flat on the ground and then it snowed. It was close to the old shop and when I drove the plowe buy it dug it up. We'll put it on after breakfast this morning.

And then its get the stuff off the balcony so we can move there and continue with the fireplace removal.

As my friend Viki implied: one alligator down. The swamp draining would move along faster if I could only locate their nest..

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Wreckage of the Past

One little old partition comes down and suddenly no room on the balcony. What's up with that.

Oh well, after a cup of tea I am going to see if the "Betsy Ford" 4X4 will fire up and I can use it to shuttle the crap from the balcony and environs to the burn pile. Then I can see if I can get the old fireplace out to the balcony to that I can trade it with the one from Grandmas. Can't use the trailor because it's got a snow plow in it that is going back to the welders in Prince tomorrow.

Spent about 3 hours yesterday night with Tom's skidsteer and snowplow clearing out the driveway to Savory road and up to Grandma's and around the chicken coop and feed shed and - well any place that had snow that shouldn't have. The roadway was so slick we ended up putting full chains on. All four tires. What a difference. His Cat skidsteer has a lot more power than mine but it doesn't do any good if the wheels don't have any traction. Hopefully I can come back from Prince with a snow plow that will fit the my rig. I am also going to invest in a four wheel set of heavy duty spiked equiptment chains for it. I estimate that if I can get the blade on and new snow I can clear the whole joint in about an hour.

I was just putting on a new choke cable on the skidsteer. Simple enough job. Except that it was cleverly designed to not be simple. An air cleaner hose has to come off,
The carb had to be removed so that the screw that held the cable was accessible, The fuel line had to come off. Getting the carb off wasn't easy - it was only held on by two 9/16 bolts - but they were so close to the body that I couldn't use a socket. All told about two hour just to change a cable. Now I know for sure I am not a qualified mechanic but a few design changes would have made that so much easier. I don't know why stuff is built that is so hard to service - for no apparent reason. Why put the dipstick tube so close to the carb you can't get more than a two inch swing on a wrench. My theory: We are obsessed with making things to sale - we don't want them to be easily serviceable - if we did that, they wouldn't break down so we had to buy a new one and perpetuate the consumer cycle.

The consumer cycle. What's up with the recession/depression that suddenly came out of the blue. Oh well, let's just give 'em a bunch of money. Our "economy" demands it. So we can keep on doing the same old stuff. That's the answer. Not.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Mr. Gorbachev tear down this wall

Well whoever. The wall did have to come down.
As you can see we managed to get rid of the last portion of the the living room/ kitchen wall/fireplace surround.

Lessons learned:

1) There is never enough heavy duty garbage bags when you need them.
2) Milwaukee sawzall is a great boon to the home deconstructor
3) 240 acres and still not enough space to put construction crap

Next steps, re wire, refloor, reconnect to new heater. Install new Selkirk Chimney.

Friday, December 05, 2008

the Hole in the Wall Gang

Update on the kitchen/living room chimney deconstruct/install project. the short version: the Fireplace Follies. What fun we do have. This pic is looking at the kitchen from the living room.

And the reverse from the kitchen to the living room. Lo and behold, two screw jacks. I know a guy ( Tiny ) who just happens to have a nice burl that would fit right between those two jacks. Hopefully I'll get a family discount. The double log beam above the jacks goes from one side of the house to the other.

We went up to Grandmas yesterday before the snow storm to check out the replacement air tight wood stove, just making sure it wasn't a figment of my imagination. Here it is. Some stove polish and it will be a pretty warm addition, especially as the wall will be gone between the living room and kitchen. It had a couple of cracked fire bricks because the last guy who moved it didn't take them out before I strapped it to a furniture dolly and lugged it into Grandma's. O.K it was me. There, satisfied now that you've dragged it out of me..

Hopefully today I will be able to get the rest of the bulkhead and phoney brick down and start to rewire and restructure the floor joist opening for the new chimney.

Yesterday turned out to be a bust on the get the new snow blade on the skidsteer. They had made some connector steel that was 1 inch short. I had sent them a model to work from but they didn't use that instead went and took measurements from another skidsteer - but not the same model as mine. So back it goes. Tom and I grunted, swore, pushed, pulled and shouted the thing onto my trailer. Where it now sits-- because the roads are impassable because were in the middle of a snow storm. Well now isn't that peachy. I could have used the blade right about now. Slashing great mounds of snow with ease and comfort. Which was why I was trying to install it yesterday. Ah well that will have to wait until the snow plow trucks get moving. Maybe Monday or so.

Then with the skidsteer working I can beat a trail to Grandma's to pick up the new, old stove, so I can remove the fireplace.

Honest, all this messing around, and the universe not unfolding the way I wanted it to, could be enough to put a damper on the Christmas spirit.

Only kidding!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Take It All Down..

As my mentor, Mike Holmes , often says when confronted with the aftermath of a shady contractor.

I first cut a small entry hole in the kitchen/living room/fireplace wall. I was hoping that would be enough to be able to install the new Selkirk chimney.

Alas, once that was open it became readily apparent that more deconstruction was going to be necessary. The through ceiling fittings were installed first and then the studding was installed over them with a bunch of drywall and loose aluminum panels - presumably to act as a fire break. So I couldn't get the old stuff out. The old chimney wasn't framed in either - it was basically just hanging off of some 1/2 " plywood. Aluminum panels which were stapled onto gypsum board had fallen off. Don't know how good aluminum sheeting is as a fire break anyway. The way it was studded inside there wasn't the required clearances to the chimney. Some restructuring required.

So we decided to just get rid of the whole thing. Remove all the tacky brick, replacing the fireplace insert with a standalone unit. New these things go for $2800.oo, which would kinda put the December financing well out of budget. Fortunatly I have a "spare" one sitting up at Grandmas which will fill the bill nicely. And the price is right. Removing the structure should open up the space between the kitchen and living room.

I will have to contend with the furnace chimney coming through the floor but it's doable. Probably by boxing it in which is what the building code demands. And the overhead double log beams are supported by a screw jack burried in the wall. One of the summer inhabitants of Endako, an Arizona snowbird, mentioned that he had lent a jack to the previous owner and it wasn't returned and suspected it was behind a wall. Well I can replace it with a burl which would look a lot nicer. And return the jack. About 20 years later, but a tool return is a tool return.

I also have an idea about installing a wood butler/elevator to bring firewood from the basement.

I will have to rewire the switches to the living room, kitchen and veranda lights. They were all installed in the fireplace surround. Ah well, I used to be an electrician in a former life. And the wiring wasn't done to code, jambed between flooring planks in places and a run of cabling wasn't stapled inside the encloseure and was touching the fireplace metal. Not Good. Now that the logs are exposed they will need to be ground down and refinished. Lots of vitamin Pine in the air..

I don't know how long this little project is going to take. But probably longer than I would estimate. O.K. - you forced me, I'd say a week. Check back to see.

On the garage/shop front, we picked up another 15 rolls of 24 inch R40 insullation ( about 12 " thick) in order to finish the ceiling insulation which will let me heat up the shop. That will be nice. And will make installing the vapour barrier and wall sheeting nicer. But it gets second priority now that the fireplace rebuild is in full swing.

Oh and I have to get the skidsteer plow enabled. Looks like snow out there.

Ah well did I mention I have power tools.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Some Assembly Required

We went to Vanderhoof yesterday and managed to stuff all the chimney bits and bobs into the back of the Toyota and bring it home. Any more stuff and we would have had to use the roof racks. Today I will start the installation.

Note the new shiny stainless steel length of chimney next to the old one with the creosote dripping down the side. Almost a shame to hide it in the wall. Like everything else that comes in the house it needs to be thoroughly inspected by the Cats...

Yesterday our heavy duty mechanic dropped by and managed to get the Skidsteer back together. We got it running and it appears pretty sweet. No bucking like a mad cow infected bronco. The carb needs some work, but with any luck I will be able to get that taken care of in the warmth of the new shop. But that's another project. I need to get to town to buy a couple of dozen 3/8ths bolts to secure all the guards but that shouldn't take too long. The main problem right now is getting the correct hydraulic fittings for the plow, so I can attach it to the skid steer without changing the fittings so that the four way bucket will still work. Plumbing was never one of my strong points. But hey, I can learn. And I have power tools.

One tiny rant about the skid steer in particular and mechanical devices in general. I heard a theory that the reason it is so hard to work on equipment is that a mechanical engineer came home one day and found a mechanic fooling around with this wife and decided, forever more, to make the mechanics life unbearable.

It's the little things. The skidsteer had grease nipple in the axles that could hardly be reached as they were buried to close to the rim. I wonder how often they got greased. I know I haven't done it in a year. A couple of bucks for grease nipple extenders and that's no problem. That kind of thing. Like making openings just big enough that parts barely fit through. Like having to practically disassemble an engine to replace a filter. It seems to be the way of our consumer world. Make the thing as cheaply as we can. We don't want the damn thing to be easilly servicable so that it can last a lot longer.

Let's give the auto industry billions of dollars so they can continue to do the same old same old. Innovation - no- except as it pertains to marketing.

When we got up this morning it was -18c in Fraser Lake. Only about -10 here, but that's colder than it's been in a while. Fortunately it's been sunny so today, hopefully, about the time I am ready to put on the roof components of the chimney, it will be dry and all the ice and snow will be gone. Makes walking on a 4/12 pitch roof a little safer.

Looking forward to firing up the furnace. There's something about wood heat that really appeals to me. And I am not just talking about saving hundreds of bucks a month.

It just feels nice.