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.