Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Lunch of Champions

The package on the left was in my Christmas stocking. The can of "Energy Drink" came from a 7-11. The combination, priceless. Not taste tested yet.

Not so with this soup. It has been thoroughly taste tested. This was the famous, and utterly delicious, smoked meat soup - complete with home made, whole wheat buns.
I made a quick run to the coast with Kevin and Sara to make a friends Birthday Party. She was 34 - and I'm not talking age. The place was packed. It was great seeing friends I've missed having face to face with. Some I haven't seen in over 20 years.

On the way down to the Coast, moving at highway speeds, Kevin snapped this picture through the window of the car :
Here's one he did in the Woods back at Xanadu. It reminds me of a Bev Doolittle painting and I keep looking for hidden horses..
This size, reduced a 1000% for the web, doesn't do the original justice. I am going to try and get it printed on canvas in a 24" X 36" size, directly from the original RAW image.

I am up later today, well tomorrow actually, at 3 am for the run back to Endako so I can dance around naked in the front yard and bang pots and pans at the stroke of midnight in celebration of another year on this planet. It's a twelve hour drive and I do it so that I miss rush hour traffic at this end and when I get up North it is still light and I don't have to depend solely on my illegal ( don't get me started) off road lights to make Moose butts visible.

On another note entirely..

Sete sal tmi swdyt?sotmg

If you can read that( and comprehend it) I'll bet your thumb has an extra joint. You won't need to decipher it with a texting dictionary.

I was reading an interesting, and slightly scary, piece today about how the WWW is dumbing us down. It was titled, "Is Google Making Us Stupid". Interestingly, I had to concentrate on reading the whole article instead of skimming the highlights. I thought it was only me. I Am beginning to suspect It's bigger, by far, than just the space in my own head.

I believe the danger we face is looking at the world in Twitter size chunks. Trying to live our lives in 120 characters or less. Remember a guy by the name of Marshall McLuhan?

Hope your day is interesting, your soup nourishing, and you still hear the birds doing the original twitter.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Great Snow Adventure

Today we rolled out of bed late. Still feeling the tryptophan stupification from the smoked turkey supper yesterday.

It was a glorious thing. Not a large turkey only about 5 kilos, much larger wouldn't have fit in the smoker. Took about four hours. Well worth the effort. Kevin's secret turkey rub added a succulent finish to it.

We were anxious to try out our new inventions: Snot Dots, and Booger Bands. Snot dots are plush fabric circles that are strategically attached to the back of winter mitts with a Velcro patch.

They make clearing iced up glasses, or even, as the name suggests, iced up noses. Booger bands are the same idea but simply slip over winter mittens and can be rotated to find an un-used section as need be.

We didn't get the snow shoes strapped on and started out until about two p.m. Sara got some new shoes for Christmas and here's a photo of her making the first ascent of Mount Aras.

She ascended by the technically challenging West face rather than the somewhat less adventuresome East ridge line route. The Eastern route is typically used by Endako Mountain guides to ferry less active adventure tourists to the heights.

While the altimeter we used was uncalibrated the actual height above driveway had to be at least four feet. You can see the look of satisfaction on her face as she stands under the brilliant blue sky.

A little after two p.m. we struck out East along the daunting gas line route . Some what late in the day to complete the full seven kilometers.



It was wonderfully quiet. A silent jet flew overhead, twin contrails cleaving an azure sky

At one point we snowshoed by a small frozen over pond. As it was getting late and the temperature dropping a snow fog was settling over it
This picture of the trek team illustrates the use of the "Kevin Long Arm", photographic technique.

We elected to take the hounds with us on our winter adventure. While we did five kilometeres, the dogs must have zigzagged their way, noses to the snow, at least twice as far. They are exhausted now and all hunkered down around the house. Not a lot of noise coming from them. - except the occasional snore.

As we started out late darkness came over us around five o'clock and we decided, caution being the better part of valor, to call for an extraction. Jo-Ann met us at the Highway 16 and Savory junction with Sara and Kevin's 4X4 equipped Ford Escape just as the last of the light faded. She ferried the four of us, three dogs, four sets of snow shoes, ski poles and un-eaten snacks, back to the house for hot chocolate and marshmallows. The Christmas lights glowing like a beacon on the South Fence as the driveway came across the South Pasture.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas to you and yours.


If you look closely I think you might be able to see Grandma waving from an upstairs window. We see her from time to time. Peeking our from behind a window curtain. We'll snow shoe up later today and drop off a care package. I think she likes visitors..

The animals are all in their mangers.
Jack, our new kitten, is saying hello to guest Lucy. Jack is an amazing cat with no fear of dogs, that has changed how Cleo relates to the cats. He adopted Cleo and became her buddy which I think really helped Cleo with the other cats. Quite funny to see Jack hanging onto Cleo's leash. Cleo went "off Leash" in the house yesterday. That's a real mile stone in her integration to the house pack. As a matter of fact Kevin also taught her to shake a paw. Here's a picture just after she was boring in the snow for mice:
Lucy, Kevin and Sara's Coon Hound, has been having a lot of fun in an unfamiliar environment. Learning all the great squirrel spots.
Xena's got a new fur coat for Christmas. It's filled right out.
She has been having a lot of fun showing Lucy the winter wonderland.

I will post some pictures of the Christmas tree later. Time for me to make some breakfast burritos..

Hope your having fun today.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Tannenbaum

It warmed up to zero, two days later we had a foot of snow and temperatures went back down to the -30's with a daytime temp of -25. And it was time to get the Christmas tree. We didn't have one picked out this year but I had a path plowed out to the field and we "donned our gay apparel", layers of thermal underwear, wool underwear, down jackets, wool and leather mitts - with inner gloves, full face balaclavas and neoprene face masks. I'm still not having any luck with my glasses freezing up - even with a new mask I purchased at Mountain Equipment Co-op.


And then we had to pee. Mothers everywhere it gets cold, are familiar with that phenomenon. We found a few candidates and then a nice blue spruce.
After posing in front of a candidate tree and waiting for the resident and guest photogs to immortalize the moment we chopped down a nice one, trussed it up and towed it back to the path so we could skid it back up the driveway to the garage to season for the night. Tomorrow we will trim it and put it up.



Son-in-law Kevin smoked up a pile of beef brisket. An eight hour labour of gastronomical perfection. Not counting preparing the rub and sauces. Thanks to Mempis Blues restaurant for the recipes. It was so cold we had trouble maintaining a decent smoking temperature and had to resort to placing some metal wind shields around the smoker and covering that with insulation.

That did the trick and the beef came out superbly. A tender smokey flavored, fork tender, cut of local Blue Beef, served with baked beans, cold slaw and sweet potato baked fries. That repast has us all laying back in our chairs after supper.




Hope you had a great day and looking forward to tomorrows festivities.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Road Less Traveled.


Cuz it's -35 and getting colder. The chickens are laying frozen eggs.

I like the look on Cleo's face: Yikes! Dad are you going to wear that?
I guess it would give me a start too, if I wasn't expecting it.

Indeed I am. No problem keeping the core warm. Even the hands. A pair of light knit glove, then a wool glove then a thick lambswool insulated leather over-mitt. Toasty. The trick is to keep my glasses from icing over. When I wear a face mask to keep my schnozz from freezing I just can't seem to keep my glasses from freezing over.

When we spent a lot of time, a few years ago, winter camping we wore face masks with snow goggles. I still had them but when I went to put them on the foam lining had all deteriorated and just wouldn't work. I went into town but the local sports store doesn't have any so will have to wait until I get to a bigger centre in order to grab a pair.

In the mean time I got the brainiac idea to try a pair of safety goggles. Well they worked for about one kilometer and then back to ice over.
Now how's that for a face you'd like to meet some dark night? Not me.

I put an extra heater in the chicken run, plugged in the vehicles and now I think I will work on the emergency lighting project. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to fire the generator up and with the flick of a switch have lights, and computers, and T.V. during a power outage.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Compost

The Mark 2B model.

Since the large compost pile is frozen over and hard to move around with the blade on the skidsteer we resurrected the tire composter to handle the winters compost supply. Jo-Ann grinds all the compost material until it looks, well, like ground up processed food, like, well yes, that stuff. They idea is that it will break down a whole lot faster.

The tire composter is made of logging truck tires that have the sidewalls cut out. The top bulge is a small truck tire that has been turned inside out. The lid is made from a discarded plastic garbage can. We can add more rings to increase the volume but it probably won't be necessary. We keep dirt in the shop so that it doesn't freeze and put that between layers of ground up material.

The tires sit on top of a solid pallet so come spring, I can pick the whole thing up and move it over to the re-tired garden.

Of course not a lot of composting is going to happen at sub zero temperatures. I am having a look at how composting toilets work and thinking about building an inside composter for winter months.

According to the weather forcast were enjoying sunny weather today. According to the view out our kitchen window were enjoying a blizzard. Time to plug in the skidsteer. Today looks like a great on for inside projects. Like getting the emergency lighting project lit up.

This is the generator panel. The two breakers on the left feed the breaker bus. One breaker is fed from the House panel, the other from the generator. They are mechanically interlocked. Only one or the other power source can feed the circuits coming from this panel. This setup also ensures that the generator circuits are isolated from the Hydro lines. We don't want generator power being backfed through the transformers to a lineman working to get the power restored. It has happened before with jury rigged emergency systems. Some brainiac actually wired the generator directly to his house panel mains with predictable and disastrous results.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Electrifying News



Now don't try this at home folks. I'm a trained professional.

I'm installing an emergency power system so that when our power is out we can keep essential electrical equipment operating. Our grid power disappears at least half a dozen times a year, not counting minor outages. The longest outage we've had so far is about a week. Usually they happen right after snow storms. Essential systems for us are two freezers, a fridge, some CFL lighting and two laptops. We have a wireless internet connection that is beamed to us from a mountain about 15 kilometres away. It enabled us to reach the outside world during major outages. After a day or so the batteries in the local telephone exchange building run down so there is no land line service. Lighting isn't a big need as it is covered by flashlights and Coleman lamps. At least one readily available flashlight is strategically placed in each room. We have wood heating and gravity fed water so we can stay warm and flush the toilets. Large plastic tote boxes contain our power outage cooking system: a Coleman stove, coffee pot, kettle. We also use our propane barbecue year round. The end result is that power outages become an adventure and not a disaster.

On another note: I was working on my manifesto for world domination last night when Jo-Ann snapped this photo.

Typical lounging about at night, snuggle down gear. The flannel night shirt would do an Edwardian gentleman proud. Or an Al Qaeda terrorist. The Lucha Libre face mask, not strictly necessary, but does get me in the mood. Not shown in the picture are thick wool slippers with lambswool liners.

Hope your having a not too serious day.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Citizens of WhoVille

I love this tree. It would make a memorable Christmas Tree. I must have walked by it many times over the last four years but never noticed it. Of course it was growing but I thought I would have noticed its charming Who-ville like qualities.. This tree is in the "Christmas Tree Field". It is a couple of acres half way down our kilometer long driveway, that was cleared years ago and , the locals tell me, a prolific pasture . As near as I can tell it was around twenty years or so ago . Then the pasture was just left to let Mother Nature take over. It is now covered with Spruce, Pine, Balsam and Fir. Some of them three inches around and 15 feet high. Most of the pine trees seem to have missed the pine beetle scourge. Maybe because the trees were surrounded by Spruce and Balsam camouflage.

Or maybe when the pine beetles saw this tree they couldn't stop laughing enough to bore in.

I can see the same in fill process happening in all our fields. First Mom sends in the rose bushes as front line troops. Then the odd pine and aspen. Next Spring a local farmer that pastures his Belgian Blue herd on our land has offered to whack it all down with a tractor driven cutter to increase the grass yields.

The dogs like the path I plowed through the Christmas tree field, convinced It was built to speed them to the evil Squirrels that live on the far Eastern side, mocking them from the safety of their impregnable tree fortresses. Taunting the dogs with their squirrely chatter.. It's a God thing that dogs can't climb trees ( or squirrels aren't the size of dogs..

My nose was cold on our morning chunder down to Savory road. We were walking on diamonds with a low gray cloud cover overhead. Last night we had a Breath taking view from our balcony, the diffused light from a full moon shimmering across the snow covered fields. According to Xena she could still make out coyotes a full kilometer away. Her low growl sending them scurrying back to the cover of the darkened forest. I didn't see them of course. But perhaps I lack practice.

Maybe tonight, for practice, I will bay at the moon glow. And say hello to the neighbors dog in the valley below.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Snap



Last night we had a cold snap. It went from +2 to -21 over night and this morning when we got up it was -12. A snap like that does wonderful things to the trees making it look like it has just snowed when none fell. Just ice crystals sparkling on all the trees and fields.

I've heard predictions that Western Canada will be having a less cold than usual winter. Looking forward to evaluating the truth of that prediction.

In the meantime I've made sure all the machinery that I want to run has working block heaters and can be plugged into trickle chargers to keep the batteries in tip top shape. When it gets to about -20 or so the cold batteries just don't have a lot of power to turn over an engine - especially if it has cold oil.

When it get's to -30 I will cover the equipment with a tarp and plug in a heater to give it a chance at starting. Mind you at that temperature I have a hard time getting me started! But it just doesn't last these days. Not like a few decades ago when it would hit -40 ( centigrade or Fahrenheit) for weeks on end. The old timers tell stories of placing propane torches in stove pipes to thaw out recalcitrant engines. Sometimes with disastrous results - usually because they didn't bother with the stove pipe to contain the flame from the tiger torches.

It's a beautiful sunny day. Hope it's a beautiful day where you are - whatever the weather.

Monday, November 30, 2009

When One Door Closes

This time it means that the garden shed project is complete to lockup stage.
This project just seemed to carry on and on. Still trim to put up, items to move in. The trim and deck will just wait until spring. Moving in can happen anytime I get the inclination and other projects don't increase in priority. The last thing was waiting while the paint dried. Actually it wasn't paint but some new-fangled water born stain. Seems oil based stains are now phased out in our area and only water based stains are available. I put four coats of stain over two coats of primer sealer and it still could use some more. The instructions demand a 12 hour drying time before recoating. It sure doesn't cover like the solid oil based stains I am used to. Reminds me of a Hank Hill episode where he gets his dander up about low flush toilets - that actually took six times as much water to work.

Speaking of priorities. I was a long time proponent of classical project management. Prioritizing what needs to be done and then doing it. There in lies the rub. In the real world priorities change, depending on a multitude of factors: equipment availability, parts, wild fires, snow storms - you name it. Most plans, to borrow a military phrase, don't survive the first encounter with reality.

I have used all types of planning systems throughout my 33 years of civic service and other business ventures. If there is a computerized planning and organizing system out there I probably have tried it. I still end up going back to paper. It's just quicker and never runs out of power. Right now I use a Harvard Planner A5 size system augmented with my own designed and printed forms. If your interested in paper planning systems check out the D*I*Y Planner site.

I've decided to change the classical ABC prioritization schemes. Now in Art's world:

  • A = The place will burn down if I don't do this now
  • B = Useful Project I can do, and
  • C = No big deal if it doesn't get done. The possible addition is:
  • D = Jeez, what a great idea - maybe one day time and money permitting..
Now the furnace fan is making noises like it wants to be released into the wild. I guess I'll go take a look at this B item.

Hope your running your projects and not the other way around.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bolerites

We've cleaned out the yard so that I have plenty of room to stockpile snow at the Western edge of the house fence line. That should help the run off come spring. We don't want the water sluicing down the road where the house is, and the new gravel is laid. We cut a berm and ditch all around the North end of the House fence and that should divert all the water from the hill that is North of the house.

In order to keep the parking area as un cluttered as possible we moved the Boler between the Shop and Garden shed.

Tucked away out of the snow plow line. For those that have never heard of a Boler, they are a '70's era fiberglass travel trailer that were transmogrified from septic tank. We spent months at a time camping in ours. The last two years we were at the coast we spent every weekend in the Boler, rain or shine snow or whatever. We once spent a long weekend on a sandbar near Agassiz with a strong wind and -20 temperatures. The train would honk at us, the engineer waving, as it passed by. Our Boler has been heavily modified for off-road, all weather use. It sits on a specially built frame that allowed us to raise the height for off road use and insert two inches of insullation under the floor. It has two heat sources, a regular forced air furnace and a propane thrifty, catalytic heater. I have slept in it when it's -30. It has solar panels on the roof that keep a couple of deep cycle gel cells powered up. We had planned to live in the Boler while we built our off grid hideaway of 10 acres of remote bush land. How plans change.

Since we've moved here we have only been camping in it once. It's almost like every day is a get away around here and the urge to escape in the Boler every weekend has left us. Every now and then Xena and I spend a night ensconced in the Boler, a make believe camping trip.

I may have found the culprit with the hard starting Skid Steer. My brother Tom mentioned that he had replaced the ignition system and was unable to get the correct harness but matched the impedance of the spark plug wiring. While he was here yesterday we were playing with the wiring and proved the problem was with the 12 volt connections to the coil. They were just huji-balled on with stake on connectors. I salvage a ford ignition coil connector and voila instant start every time.

Were in the middle of a snow storm right now, the snow pummeling down almost horizontal from the East. I just might get to try the Skid Steer out before the day is done.

Hope your having a great day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Snow Job

Managed to get the skidsteer up and running ( wire pulled out of coil connector) and got the gravel spread --

just before the Northern version of the Pine Apple express hit.

When I went to start up the beast to put chains on and bolt on the snow plow it refused. I guess it worked enough spreading the gravel so it wasn't ready for the next event. Whatever the case - I re fueled and put it on a charger. I will get to try and coax it to life again today. And remind myself that yelling at in-animate objects rarely achieves the desired outcomes. It's just a bafflement to me: Everything is running fine, turn machine off, refuses to start. Of course it could have something to do with the choke, I haven't been able to figure out how to set it up correctly.

A well, after talking gently to it and with a modicum a of pleading, and unplugging and plugging all the spark plug connectors it did fire up and I was able to get the joint plowed. The Snow Plow went by on Savory so that will be clear to Highway 16.

It is important to get a good base and make sure the snow gets pushed far enough off the roadway that I will have room for the seasons snow. Jo-Ann just thinks I am having fun. "I saw you plowing places y0u don't even go in the summer time", she opined. Obviously she doesn't understand the subtle nature of plowing snow. The forethought and planning that goes into it. Humph! Fun indeed.

Well, maybe a little..

I am off to a sweat and then I have a couple of meetings after that so the tidying up can wait until tomorrow. Hope your day goes well and you don't have any problems with in- animate objects.

Or animate for that matter.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Shovel Sixteen Tons and What Do You Get?

Well, twenty cubic yards anyway. About two yards or so per load.

Hopefully I won't have to spread it by hand. Yesterday I got a phone call and an offer of twenty yards of crushed gravel, a truck and a dumping trailer to haul it. Woo Hoo! It will certainly be nice, come the Spring melt, not to have to slog through mud at our entrance. There should be enough to cover the entire front yard. Great upgrade. The trick is that I have to get the Skid steer running. It crapped out yesterday, just after we changed from the bucket to forks. Just before we got the phone call and offer of free crushed gravel. I think it's an electrical problem so I will need to call in the electrician. Wait, I are one. It looks like it's going to snow again so I have a certain impetus to get it done soon. Hence the short post.

On the Garden shed front, progress is being made.

Windows are in, wall covering on, some trim has been applied, shelves built and tools put away. The door is still in the shop getting sanded, painted and cut for a large window. Seeing it's a South facing door I might as well get as much solar gain as I can.

Hope you weekend is restive. Which rhymes with festive, which reminds me of ...well don't get me going..

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Shedding the Garden

Progress is progressing on the Garden shed front. Some friends of ours from the Coast have arrived and while the "women folk" are involved in a "Stitch and Bitch" vigil we're outside getting the shed covered and ready for some trim that we've painted in the shop. And installing windows. Oh and falling trees and other fun stuff. We are making sure any of the dead pine that is in danger of falling on our driveway is no longer a concern. The white blobs in the picture is some snow that, thankfully, didn't stick.

This is someone, who for anonymity purposes-cannot be identified- taking an outside stitching break from the inside stitching sessions. In summer it would be called, " taking a Bubba"

Wonderful weather. The snow is scheduled to begin this afternoon - hopefully I can get the door on the shed in the next little while.

Hope your life is keeping you in stitches. The fun kind! Not like my friend Carol's Kitty Kat.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

My Wife Is Sleeping With A 17 Year Old.

According to my Dr. After a recent physical he proclaimed that I had the blood pressure of a 17 year old. That's a big difference from five years ago when I was warned to lower my blood pressure or go on medicine that would do it for me. I'm a big fan of doing what I can to get healthy without the use of drugs. I've lost a lot of weight, exercise regularly and we are eating as well as we can with our own veggies and local beef. Soon local chicken. Nice to see that it pays off.

I have been making some progress on the Garden shed project. Hopefully, tomorrow, I can get all the siding on and the tarpaper and siding. One thing I know about my carpentry skills: My cutting is way better than my measuring.. I have been cutting sheets of plywood to fit the top part of the shed which has a barn style roof and several beams that stick out. And of course nothing is ever truly square, plumb or level. And somehow my perfectionism raises its non-useful head and tells me it has to fit a roof line that isn't straight. Of course I realize after the second sheet that I don't have to make it fit like a glove - that's why carpenters invented trim.
Perhaps tomorrow I will only have to make a half a dozen trips up and down the ladders..

We're waiting for some friend to arrive for a visit tomorrow. Always nice to have company. Oh and I do have a few projects in mind that I could use a hand with.

And in the Handy Hints Department:

Try using a chalkboard brush to clear the fog off the inside of windows. Works great, better than hiding rags under the seat. But here's the rub. Try and find one. I checked out two big box stationary stores and couldn't find one. Everyone uses white board today I suppose.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Garden Update

We've been working in between snow storms. The last one had me deciding to raise the priority on getting the studded snow tires on the Toyota, and the chains in the trunk. Also time to get the chains on the skidsteer. I went to town after about a foot of it had come down, prior to the snow plows making it down Savory road and it was touch and go with the all seasons on. Even tho they were relativly new, lots of tread, and I was in four by four mode.

We managed to dig out the last of the carrots which are now safely ensconced in sand filled rubber made containers in the cold storage fridge. We also dug out the parsnips, nothing to write home about there, but enough to sweeten up some winter time stews. Sweet potatoes were a bust - we simply planted them too late and left them in the ground too long. They like heat, and they weren't getting enough. We had some small ones but the cold had turned them to mush. Back to Rutabagas next year.

The tires are ready for next spring, or even the hint of it. We left some doubled lids on some of the tires as an experiment and put the rest away in the storage barn.

The chicken house and run got all buttoned down and insulated for the winter. Just in case I don't get the time to turn the blue shed into an expanded chicken factory. The box to the right is an old metal lined feed box that has been re-purposed to hold bedding straw.

Grandma's roof got a much needed hole patch where the wind had ripped out an old metal chimney. It isn't pretty but it won't leak. Next year I will fix the decking and put some new roofing on the flat parts and it's pretty much ready for your visit.

We've had heavy rains yesterday which has melted most of the snow except for some drifts here and there. I don't think we are going to get any more " snow and melts" before spring.

I just can't seem to get back to the garden shed project. Priorities have a way of switching, and there's only one of me. To day we plan on getting one more load of wood from the upper wood lot and putting chains on the equipment.

Hopefully sometime soon after the Garden Shed gets done I will be able to cut a hole in the end of the large shed closest to the house to use it as an equipment storage shed. This is a picture of the inside of the North side of the shed. Some re-structuring required.

Hope your good to go.