Thursday, April 30, 2009

How to Build a Tire Cover

I have been making hexagon tire covers for our re-tired garden which we are expanding upwards from fifty tires. Well that's fifty tire planters as each planter uses three tires, two for soil and one as a spacer between the growing plants and the plastic. I use logging truck tires as they are a plentiful resource around here.

I make it with 1 X 2 pine, and the plastic is 8 mil vapour barrier left over from the shop reconstruction project. I suppose green house plastic would last longer. I decided to use octagons as they will fit the truck tires better than a hexagon. Future experiments will involve plastic conduit - like hula hoops. Theres a formula you can google to decide how big the sides need to be but I opted for a simpler method and just layed it out on a big piece of cardboard which works great as a turntable when assembling the parts. I use a simple jig on a miter saw to make a bunch of pieces that are all consistently the same size.
I just lay a piece of the puzzle down with one side glued and add another section until I close the octagon. I am using wood glue and have found that 9/16 staples, two to a corner hold the thing together enough that I can shoot three 1-1/2 18 gauge pins into each corner: The picture shows the wrong way to place my left hand as I shoot a nail. These things can curl when they hit a knot. Best to place any hands well away from where a nail can inadvertently shoot out..
In order to keep the light weight lids on the tires I initially used three small fence staples spaced around the perimeter. I have since switched to screws which goes faster and works better out in the garden. I just cut 1/2 inch pieces from old inner tubes and use it to bungee down the lids by looping it over the screw in the lid and ones I screw into the second tire down from the lid. It takes six screws, three in the lid and three in the tires. We get some high winds and it hasn't blown off a cover yet.
Once the octagon is put together I place a piece of plastic on it and flip the whole thing over so that I can wrap the plastic around the 1 x 2 and staple it down with 1/2 inch staples every two inches or so. Wrapping the plastic helps keep the weather off of the 1x2. On the corners I carefully fold the plastic and secure it with two staples, which help hold the octagons together. Once assembled, with the plastic stapled on, they are surprisingly strong.
I then trim the plastic away and start another one. A shop cat overseeing the operation and some classical music in the background is a practical necessity.

I have started to monitor the soil temperature under the covers. Yesterday it was 6c (42.80f) outside and 16c (60.80f)two inches down from the surface. A couple of more days the soil temperature should be getting close to ideal which is around room temperature or just a bit cooler. I use this site as a guide.

It is amazing how using covered tires expands our very short growing season. In effect I have all my garden growing in cold frames. Once it gets a little warmer, well ok, a lot warmer, after the plants are a foot high I will remove the covers during the day. I also line the top tire, which doesn't contain any soil, with aluminum foil to reflect light onto the plants. Thanks to an ex dope growing buddy for that tip. Another idea is simply to paint the inside of the tire white. But the tin foil is far more reflective.

Come on give it a try. Grow a turnip, or Spud, or whatever for food freedom.

You know you want to...

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Pussy Willows, Cat Tails...

With apologies to Gordon Lightfoot. I was nailing together octagon covers for the garden when I noticed that my shop foreman, Boose the cat, was not at her usual station. Unusual as she sticks pretty close to me when I am in the shop. It's an art to glue up octagons with a cat sitting on your lap. A check of the yard soon revealed her whereabouts. Cleo had chased her up the side of one of the sheds. Lacking a fire department in this part of the woods we had to call a local ladder company.

"Oh thanks Dad , I could have come down anytime I wanted to but that dogggggg was in here and I thought you needed the excercise."

As this seems to be one of her favorite refuges I think I will just leave the ladder up for now.

I had a serious talk with Cleo about chasing the cats, here's what she had to say:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Battle of the Octagon

Using tire sidewalls, the part left over from cutting the tires to use them as planters, had the downside of being heavy. They also cut back quite a bit of the light. Not that they didn't work. So we were looking at an alternative when I came up with this idea.
On the left about knee height is the old method using the tire sidewall to make the cover. The white material is ripped up garden wrap that has been stapled and glued down.

What I am placing is an "OctoCover" with the plastic wrapped around a circumference of 1 X 2 inch lumber. They are extremely light and need to be tied to the tire with three wire ties ( might use rubber cut from old bike tubes). This greatly increase the amount of sunlight entering the tire cold frames. The soil is still pretty wet and cold but yesterday the temperature two inches down was 18c. A couple of days of beautiful sunshine like were having and things should be drying up.
The reflective top tire ( the riser ) is achieved by gluing heavy duty aluminum wrap to the inside of the tires. They really increase the light in the tire. The black knob in the middle is the top of the 1/2 inch poly drip irrigation feed that is buried beneath all the tires. This year I am going to feed the water via a couple of 45 gallon drums painted black to heat the water a bit from it's cold spring temperatures.

Walking around in the garden is like wearing snowshoes made out of mud. We are going to be opening up a new gravel pit and will put down some geo-textile and gravel to take care of that situation. As you can see I have an extra pair of helper legs grafted on to help deal with the situation.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Fee Fi Fro

We go through a lot of kindling as we heat the main house with wood. I tried a new method for me which utilizes a block of wood at the right height, a rubber tire to contain the cut blanks and a Fro to make them. From there the blanks are cut into kindling and stored in 20 liter ( five gallon) plastic pails. Just throw the kindling in, give it a good shake and it all gets standing up nice..

It really speeds up the process. Any parts that have larger knots in them get cut into small sticks about 1-2 inches in diameter. One thing that has made the process of heating with wood a lot easier is learning to make an upside down fire. Forget the teepee fire they taught you in boy scouts. An upside down fire is just that: start by laying down the big wood, then some smaller, then some kindling, twisted newspaper and some more kindling and set a match to it. Voila, no problem with drafts, the fire is loaded and away we go. Hours before it will need more wood, a great bed of coals. The embers from the kindling set off the sticks below, which set off the logs. It works inside or out. Try it you'll see what I mean.

It's been raining for the last couple of days. The driveway is holding up nicely thanks to the culverts we put in last year. Some of them are draining off a lot of water which previously cut across the road way. The snow is melting fast - off of all the fields and just at the Southern tree line. It is supposed to dry up a bit later this week which means I should be able to get in the garden.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Garden Dreams or Lettuce Begin...

Snow melt water is gurgling in the bottom creek near the lower cattle guard. I have been waiting a week for it to happen. This temporary brook was the one we got water from to fight the fire a neighbor had set last year. It carries quite a bit of water, draining the whole top side of the bottom eighty acres. It will continue until early summer, passing through a culvert across Savory road and down a steep grass and Poplar lined gully eventually ending up in the Pacific ocean via the Nechako and Fraser rivers.

The snow is rapidly disappearing around the yard revealing all the winter lost toys, bottles and other doggie strewn play paraphernalia. When It dries a little more we can get into the spring ritual. Cleaning up the yard.

I suspect Jo-Ann's Marmot is rising from it's winter bed to greet the Spring . Cleo was very interested in the burned out pile of fallen Poplar that was the Marmot's domicile. Much more attention than she would give a paltry vole.

The small upstairs heater is now keeping the place toasty. It's creaking and crackling melody a quiet soothing backdrop to the kitchen. No wonder the kitchen with its "electric table" has become our office of choice. It's been a couple of days since we started the big RSF wood furnace downstairs and then only for a small load or so to chase away the early morning chill. Turning on the electric furnace is akin to burning money and was only done this winter when we had the chimney repair project underway.

I was in the garden today. Looking at the tires and seeing what I have to do to get them in shape. Basically that consists of gluing tin foil to the risers- the top tire that has both ends cut out- to help reflect the sunshine and putting plastic on the lids. It was nice when the sun came out for a brief moment. I still needed to wear the big muck sucking gum boots when I used the hoe to clear the running snow melt into the ditch we dug last year. I turned the surface soil over in the tires to let the light get at the frozen innards. I suspect with any kind of luck and a bit of sun I can start some cold weather lettuce by the end of the month. I turned the re tired compost pile and scheduled it for another toss in two weeks time. Well the computer does the scheduling, I do the turning. With some help from the very curious dogs.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Weather or Not

RT & Family are going back to Prince Rupert Today. They picked a not so especially nice day to do it. There was a couple of inches of snow on the road when they left.

An hour later of course, the wind came up, the clouds lifted and everything was gone.

Oh well I am sure it will eventually stop and I still haven't taken the plow off of the skid steer so I am sure it isn't anything serious. A check of the web cams on Highway 16 shows that the snow is pretty localized.

Later in the day we loaded up the dogs into the van and started to make our way to Fraser Lake. I haven't been to the hardware for two days and they miss me. I said tried because the van had been parked between the house and the shop - right where all the run off from the garage roof goes.

Oh well, fire up the skid steer attach a 20 foot chain to the rear trailer hitch of the van and secure it to the skid steer:

And slick as mud were out and on our way. The snow blade is staying on for a few more days..

One more part of the yard that is going to get some drainage and gravel. Hopefully we will be able to start that project in a week or so. In parallel with starting up the garden.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

To the Birds

RT Rhoda and the Pack heading North on the hill.

The birds are starting to arrive. This morning, on our walk down to Savory, on a dusting of snow, the Girls and I saw several strings of Snow Geese honking their way over the tops of the fir. Another wonderful sound filling the woods was bird song . My visiting naturalist, RT, proclaims them Varied Thrush. It's reassuring to hear their voices. Not the sweetest bird song we'll hear this season but one of the first to fulfill the promise that the snow will, eventually, all melt away. Yesterday we saw a Harrier Hawk undulating six feet over the eastern pastures, ground search radar on, scanning for an early dinner of mouse steaks. A Bald eagle spent a few minutes parked in the large fir not paying the slightest attention to Xena, who was loudly proclaiming who really is mistress of this joint, and the sky over it. Cleo spent ten minutes below the driveway parked at the base of a fir inviting a squirrel to come down and play. The invitation was declined with thanks. At least that's what I imagined the chatter to be.

We are learning how big Cleo's vocabulary is. For example, don't say the word "walk" unless we really mean it. The result is 100 lbs of muscular dog excitedly jumping up and down and pacing towards the door. We are working on sitting before going through a door and only with permission from a two legged member of the pack. She's picking it up eagerly. We are working on the cat obsession, and that will probably take a bit longer, but improvement is happening as she will lie down where the Cat ledge is, which does put the Kits at ease. Just don't run. The game is on then. She seems to be really enjoying being a member of the Xena, Tommy, Molly pack. As long as everyone knows she is the boss. They work it out. Life is good on the home front.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

And Yet Another Tool Holder

Our friends RT and Rhoda, and dogs Molly and Tommy are here for an Easter visit. Were having a great time. I pressed RT into helping me assemble my Brother Tom's Tool Cabinets. He's been hinting that he could use a couple so with any luck I just might get them finished in the next day or two.

It took the two of us ( Well the three of us counting foreman Boose) some whacking with the rubber mallet, some re cutting and planing but they did manage to come together. Now to split them apart on the table saw and add piano hinges and hardware.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

More Some Assembly Required..

I am building a couple of tool cabinets. With my experience with the last ones I want to build ones that use dado's and rabbets to fit the peg board. That way I don't have to use molding on the exposed edges and it gives more surface area for the buck. I will have to use birch edge banding and I bought a cheap iron for that. Routing all those little slots requires a router table so the project of the day was:

Always a challenge. The accompanying manual appeared to be for a similar, but not exactly the same unit. Of course it was written in a language that only approximated English. Jo-Ann read the instructions,( several times) I fudged the parts that seem to go here and here, we tightened a lot of 8mm nuts, and voila a cup of tea later:

Getting the thing adjusted took some head scratching but we were able to make a few slots that fit the pegboard perfectly. Construction continues.

It didn't freeze last night. As a matter of fact we were awoken by the sound of rain on the roof. A sure sign that mud season is upon us. We had a bit of Snog this morning which, as you can imagine, is a mix of snow and fog. But nothing stuck and it's clear all the way to the valley floor.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Spring is just around the Corner

But I just had a look around the corner and it appears it could be a month long.

When we got up this morning there was a dusting of snow and it was just below freezing. We just lit the small upstairs heater and not the big furnace downstairs. Porridge before the morning walk.

This is what I wrote last night at 8:30 P.M.

And it is still +5. Perhaps Spring is a little closer than I expected. We went to Prince George today to resupply and I didn't go on my Morning walk with the girls. So we went around four P.M when we got home. The ditches are running with water. Parts of the road that last year were mud pits are drying out in the sun. I just may try two walks this week, the Morning one, and and after noon one just to patrol the road with a hoe and making sure the water is kept running unobstructed in the ditches. The top road, without last years gravel, is pretty much a sea of mud. But even that with a little hoe work appears to be draining off

I picked up a load handler from Princess Auto. It's basically a tarp that sits in the bottom of a pick up bed and a roller that sits on a drop downed tail gate that takes up the tarp thus moving the load of gravel, sand, wood or whatever off the end of the truck. If it works it will certainly be a poor man's dump truck. Tom sold his five ton dump truck so I am going to have to look for alternatives to use for graveling the road and hauling sand. It will certainly take a lot longer - but the price is hard to beat. And this way I can do the work myself. Using the skidsteer to load the truck and level the road after the gravel is dumped.

I got a bit of a sticker shock today at Windsor plywood. I was looking for some Baltic Birch plywood to use for some shop cabinets I am building for some friends and it was 80 bucks a sheet. For a five by five sheet of nominal 3/4 inch plywood. Yikes. I settled on some 3/4" ( actually slightly less) birch like ply that came in standard 4 X 8 foot sheets for 40 bucks each. So we'll see how well it works tomorrow when I start making the cabinets.

We're back to doing our Five A.M. rise time. That means were hitting the sack around 9 p.m. It is quite astounding how much more time I seem to have in the day. The thing is were just watching a whole lot less T.V. and that can't be a bad thing. My personal gripe is that advertising, particularly T.V. advertising is the bane of our existence.

Cleo and Xena did pretty great today. The first all day in the Van trip. When we got home they sure enjoyed the tromp down the driveway and back. And then they played with me for a couple of hours while I did some chores. "Yes Cleo - these chickens sure are interesting - they make those eggs you like, lets just leave 'em be.." A little at a time. What has your experience been with introducing a new dog to the animals. Any suggestions?

I am going to be doing some cabinet making over the next couple of days and then I will tackle getting the "big saw" reconditioned and put back together.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Electric Kitchen Table

Our kitchen table often gets used as a lap top base station. It's just nice to sit at the table and peruse the www while having breakfast or a lovely cup of tea. The problem we faced was only one outlet near the table and it was on the floor as they didn't drill the logs for wiring when they installed them. The problem is that using a power bar to make additional outlets just isn't that satisfactory. It sits on the floor getting underfoot, and we've even had one melt a bit after residing for a time on the heat register. The solution was to take the kitchen table into the shop and add a couple of outlet bars to the table itself and then just have one plug from the table to the outlet.

Neat. When our friends RT and Rhoda get here for some Easter celebrations we can all sit at the table and use our laptops with out getting knitted in the power cords.
Xena has a new sister now and were working on integration. It's sure going well. Cleo seems to be adapting to the Cats. Time will tell. Chickens and cows next - but a little at a time I am sure most dogs can be trained. Well, humans can be trained - dogs just work it out..

Friday, April 03, 2009

A tale of a Dog with no head and a one legged man

Here's some pics of Xena and me putting up a sign at our gate on Savory Road. It's reflective letters on Plastic. I want to carve one from a tree section but in the mean time..

Xena was so excited she lost her head..

And I apparently misplaced a limb.

In the mean time we'll just keep on Putting stuff away in the shop

And plowing ahead towards spring...

Just another day on the Hill..

Thursday, April 02, 2009

When a Snowflake falls in Endako..

Is there a Hawaiian beach with my bum print on it? Not yet. I went for the morning gambol down the driveway to Savory to check out the snow fall.

I've got at least four inches on the ground so I am going to take the bucket off the skid steer and put the snow plow back on and do a run. I want the road as dry as possible so it doesn't turn into a mud track. It will melt off in a day or so - even by the end of today but I don't want the water anywhere but in the ditches.

I was talking to an Old timer this morning. He's never seen weather like this in 40 years of living here. Last year at this time we were getting the garden ready for planting.

I see that the long range forecast is for a high of +16c this Wednesday. This I have to see. Jo-Ann will be stripped down to her shorts and bringing down the industrial fans to cool off.

We're looking forward to a Visit tomorrow with Viki & Ron and Cleo, who is going to check the joint out and see if she wants to join the whole fambamilly. We're in the adopting mood. And Xena is looking forward to some help in keeping those pesky crows and hawks away.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

April Fools

No Joke. This morning we woke to another snow fall. It's still pretty light but it's socked in and coming down steady. Yesterday the sun was out and managed to turn most of the driveway to brown. I don't know. I put the snow shoes away yesterday, maybe I angered Old Man Winter. I must admit I am getting a little tired of the snow and cold. I promise when, if, it ever gets to 33c here this year ( like it did for three days last year ) I won't hide in the house in my shorts. I will be out there soaking it up like it has to last for an entire six months of winter.

Not that it is all dreary of course. One of the things I really enjoy about the snow falling is how serene and quiet everything is. Very peaceful. It's a porridge morning.

My Son in law, Kevin, fixed me up with some tunes for the ride back from Vancouver. I mentioned that I didn't have a CD player in the shop. He reminded me that I did have one because he used it during a Christmas visit a few years ago. Lo and behold, Jo-Ann discovered it in the basement pile of boxes. It got set up in the shop - and we enjoyed "German Head Banger music" ( which is apparently called trans ) and some Van Morrison. The place rocked! We sat there, Jo-Ann on the chair with wheels, me on the kneeling stool, facing the music - on volume Max - the chickens don't mind, with big grins on our faces. Rocking forwards and backward like happy, spastic children. Drinking our lovely tea.

Life to the Max in Endako!