Friday, January 29, 2010

I've got a Problem

I can quit anytime I want to. I just don't want to.

O.K. I admit it. Ive got a problem. My daughter got us hooked on this sugar free sweetner from Starbucks. Cheesh - how very Yuppie. But I can't help myself, I am powerless. We've taken to limiting our drinks. Hiding bottles when company comes over.. Stretching the bottle out. I knew I should have bought a case.

And not a Starbucks for Two hundred kilometers..I see a road trip coming on..

Got the Skid-steer up and running. Finished the new "instrument" panel. Now it's just a switch to start it. And it starts when I want it to - without requiring prayer or pleading and promises of a nice warm garage afterwards.

I stuck on a bunch of reflective non-skid material where ever I was likely to step. Bare metal is a sure fired recipe for a slip. Glued on ensolite insulating foam to the engine cover that the back of my legs rest on - coupled with an insulated floor mat makes the plowing process a lot more comfortable. Just sitting surrounded by bare metal can be a butt and foot numbing experience even with -100c boots and thermal coveralls. Hmm maybe I can close in the cab. But first some lights and repairing the seat.
I think the pressure has been getting to Jo-Ann lately. Just little things. She's been leaving the toilet roles in quite the disarray. She's made some feeble excuses about Jack, our latest house addition, being the culprit- but really! He's only about six inches tall at the shoulders. I will be keeping a close watch.
Perhaps its sugarless hazelnut syrup withdrawal..

Trying to get a Neice's three laptops ( two Vista, one Xp) to wirelessly network and share a printer with an XP box. Sounds simple. After three attempts, one modem replacement, a re-install of a virus ridden Windoze box, I am still trying...

Just buy a Mac. Or try Linux. Our network has been running problem free for about six months now..

Hope your networking is problem free.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Wood (Lots)

I spent yesterday at a friends small scale logging operation, getting some dry pine for Sweat Lodge fires.

Here is a link to some representative pictures of Sweat Lodges.

The sweat wood is fairly long, about three feet, fairly heavy when a foot around. The wood needs to be the right size. Too short and the fire doesn't hold the heat, too long and the logs don't form the required tee-pee. After a couple of trailer loads cut up, loaded, and packed three to a wheel barrow, a hundred feet to the sweat lodge pile, my muscles felt like they had a work out.

I am going back today to get another load. I only go to the site on the weekends to avoid the logging trucks. This load will be firewood for our place. The weather has been really nice and I want to take the opportunity to re-stock the woodpile. We won't need it this year, hopefully, but it stores well under cover. Make firewood while the sun shines. And the wood is available.

Inevitably logging operations make for a lot of wood that isn't wanted by the mills. Too twisted, not long enough, not big enough. With the economic downturn and a whole province of bug killed pine up for the taking the mills can be really picky about what they take. Which means lot's of left over wood for the taking. It really is sad to see the piles of wood that will just be burnt out in the logging operations. And it costs the loggers money also. They are assessed on how much waste they have left over.

I don't know what the answer is. But I do have some suggestions and just don't believe we wouldn't do it. We need to develop on site chippers to convert the waste to wood chips, or even firewood, instead of just burning it up. But when the only tool we have is a hammer ( or a board mill) all our problems seem like ... well you get the drift.

Now If I wanted to get real serious about making firewood here's an attachement I am dreaming about for the skidsteer:

In the mean time I will do my part in making sure the waste is utilized. I know that some locals do make a meager living from cutting and delivering fire wood. But it doesn't even make a dent in the problem.

Hope your having a restful Sunday.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An Inside Job

Got the skid-steer running. Replaced the Coil, Distributer Cap, Rotor, Spark Plug wire and the beast sprang into new found vigor. After I got it running I plowed the snow banks back on the driveway and moved the skid-steer into the shop.
That's brother, Tiny, Explaining T.D.C. timing to the wall, as I wasn't getting it.

Here's some of my learning so far:
  • Number Four Spark plug wire was missing an end. ( explains the feeling it was only running on three cylinders..)
  • Number Three and One spark plugs were only hand tight ( Can't help the compression)
  • Pickup Coil had a mashed thread ( hard to maintain proper spacing)
  • Working in a heated shop, with Vivaldi playing, is way better than struggling with frozen or wet parts and tools, outside in the weather.
  • Panic and frustration rarely lead to the desired results.
  • Yelling at broken machinery might temporarily help me feel better but it doesn't get the machine working.
I am proceeding with removing the old wiring harness. I cut it all out yesterday for the rebuild.

As Mike Holmes says: " It's all gotta come down." It was a mish-mash of different wire sizes, loosely crimped splices, cut off ends, corroded, cobbled together connections, and non working gauges.

I am replacing this with seven conductor cabling, new wire, soldered connections, a simple gauge system and replacing the keyed ignition switch with a simple on/off switch. I started with a wiring diagram I made from the combination of what is in the machine and what is in the original schematics.

While It's in the shop I will also:

  • Replace the oil-soaked, frayed seat belt with a new Three point system
  • Fix the broken seat and bolt it down to the frame
  • Add an external post to make charging the system easier.
  • Add some driving and back up lights.
When I get that done and it running again I will have a mechanic adjust the carb and timing and the old girl should have a new lease on life.

This has been a good lesson in taking things one step at a time. Preparing for the job and not settling for "It'll work for now" thinking. That's what led to the hoogie balled wiring in the first place. Something cut off there - not a big thing. A gauge not working - who needs it. Just one little thing at a time. Until it all ends up being a piece of crap that's hard to keep running and makes maintenance difficult at best.

I think its a great metaphor for life. My life never goes to crap all at once. It's done a little at a time —over time. A decision to take the apparently easier way out. Not to do a thing to the best of my ability. Too much of a hassle to learn about something I need to know.

Doing things right the first time, just like my Daddy said, pays off big time.

Not that my life is crappy now. I have never felt better or been happier. But I know how to change that in a flash - one little thing at a time.

So I think I will spend the rest of the day metaphorically putting a little piece of my life back to running order. One connection at a time.
We've noticed a bunch of headless dogs roaming the territory. Maybe it's the warm weather making the field mice friskier. And no, Cleo—this picture doesn't make your butt look bigger:

Hope your weekend is a restful one. No butts about it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

West Wind

We are going through an amazing warming spell. Like lows of 0℃ highs of +6℃. I was talking to some long term residents and they told me they had never seen weather like this in their life time. Over sixty years and no has seen rain storms in January. Interesting weather.

But look at the bright side. Our wood pile is not shrinking at the same levels that were happening when it was -30c. And I got to witness that the crushed gravel I spread over the visitor parking and our front driveway had solved the gumbo problem at our doorstep.

Nice. Hoping for that and the fact that we have a berm around the whole North side of the house ( the House is downhill from 5o acres of snow slope) will keep the joint a whole lot drier come spring melt. Which is exactly what we are having right now.

Still no progress ( as defined by the thing working) with my skidsteer. I replaced the rotor, distributor cap, and coil but it still doesn't fire up. Mind you when I went to replace the cap I noticed that the pick up coil was trashed because the last hay wire mechanic to work on it crushed the screw holding it down. Made another call to the parts guy in Prince George and some more parts are on the way.

I find mechanical repairs frustrating. For one, I don't have a good enough knowledge of what a " known good" condition is. And I find the placement of parts puzzling - like they were put were they are in order to frustrate any repair efforts.

I have been taking the wiring harness apart and will eventually get it rewired correctly. That is— no crimp on connecters that are not soldered, and no taped together connections. That's what God made solder and shrink sleeve for.

The biggest problem is that I just don't know what I am doing. Mechanically wise. I have a great service manual - but of course that's written for a mechanic, not an electrician masquerading as one.

Any way back to One Step At A Time, with the skidsteer. I need to see it as a learning process, not as a trying ordeal. Jeez that sounds a lot like change. I am a big believer in the value of change—as long as it's you whose doing the changing..

Hope your day goes well, one little thing at a time..

Stop to smell the oil. In what ever form your roses are.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Look What the Cat dragged in.

Got a mysterious parcel in the mail yesterday. It was from a Buddy of mine who lives in tropical Prince Rupert. Apparently he grew tired of me whining about my glasses fogging up and sent me this:

No Crap! It really works. I tried it out yesterday and wasn't able to get my glasses to fog up. It was only -5c so haven't been able to see how it works in the far below zero range when the fog freezes over. It has been weird weather. It is 0c outside and forecast for rain for the next five days. Just unheard of January weather for these parts. And this following a month of -20c temps that was causing the wood pile to melt. The wind has picked up and all the roof snow is sliding off.

We will try for a new trail today if we can get it in without putting on rain gear.

The parts for the Skid Steer came in yesterday so I can put that together and see what was causing the no start situation. At the end of this rain the snows will come.

Hope your staying dry today.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Just Parachuted in

I am still waiting for the parts to arrive to get the skidsteer up and running. Tomorrow the parts guy tells me. In the mean time a friend lent me a parachute. It drapes over the equipment and helps hold the heat in. Heat that gets generated by an electric heater or my propane one depending on where the break down is — and how cold it is.

It's been in the -25's for a week or so but last night it warmed up to-15 and there was a freezing rain. Just nasty. Of course on the way to town the wind sheild wipers on the Toyota decide to quit. Drive 5 K, scrape off the wind sheild. Repeat. Fortunatly I got them working on the return trip. And I was extremely grateful having four studded snow tires.

We went snowshoeing again today. Great exercise and more fun than running on a treadmill. We cut a new track over to the East fence line. To bad I can't get those out riders to go in a straight line..

Looking back along the track.

Couldn't get the snow on the over hang to fall on Jo-Ann, but you get the idea.

We went up "Butt Crunch Hill", along side the Western fence line. The freezing rain smoothed out the ice crystals but it is still a pretty route.

Finally back across the field to a nice cup of tea.

I managed to get a sliver and couldn't find the eye Loupe to dig the thing out so Jo-Ann lent me her magnifiers. You don't think they makes my face look fat do you?

Hope your on track for a great weekend.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Compo-Matic

One of problems we have with composting everything that we can is that its hard to get the action happening in subzero temperatures. Basically we were storing blocks of ice until it warms up. We decided to move the composting process downstairs to the relative warmth of the basement. Jo-Ann has been using a kitchen food processor to slice and dice the compost material. The idea is that it will compost faster. I got that tidbit from my Uncle Rick - a master gardener, who used a mulcher to reduce his garden waste of easily compostable bits. However the food processor is loud, doesn't handle the volume of compost material we produce, and it's a pain to clean it up after every use.

And having guacamole from the same machine as the compost is kind of, well, unappealing.

So on one of our walks the idea of the Compo-Matic was born. Basically it's a household garburator that empties into twenty liter plastic buckets. Quiet, fast, and it grinds everything into an easily compostable meal. As in ground grain, not something to enjoy at the table.

But what it produces adds magic to the Garden and what comes out of that is definitely table material. It's nice not to have to store the pre compost peelings etc - it just goes in the Compo-matic as it's produced. Efficiency par excellence.

We took a stainless steel bowl, that had a glass cover. Cut a hole in the bottom of it and cut a hole in the top of a plastic bucket.

The garburator mounts on the underside of the bucket and we extended the outlet pipe so that it fits through another lid mounted on the bottom of the bucket. Son in law Kevin's Brainiac modification.

Let's see Part A goes with Part B. Hmmmm. Stupid instructions...

Of course the foreman had her own ideas about how to decipher the instructions:

This keeps the garburator out of any compost and we just change the bottom bucket as required. 2o litres is a lot of compost. We empty the bottom pail into another bucket, layering it with soil, leaves etc.

We painted the bucket a nice green. Which seemed appropriate. I added a switched outlet to the kitchen island to plug the behemoth grindulator in.

Jo-Ann uses an old wooden spoon to jam the material down the spout into the Jaws of the Compomatic. If it's really dry she adds a bit of water. But with most wet stuff it's not necessary.

A lid goes on the bottom bucket after it's full and replaced with an empty bucket. It keep the Katz away and it goes into a nice warm part of the basement.

I expected that there might be a smell involved. There isn't. From what I have read, as long as it is composting correctly it doesn't smell. Hopefully we will have plenty of compost to get those early veggies sprouting under grow lamps. Ready for the Re-Tired garden come the earliest opportunity. Probably mid March.

Keep in mind this is only the prototype. The final, hand built by Endako Craftsmen, version will be available to cutting edge composteers for a very reasonable gazillion dollars. Or you could cobble together your own I suppose. Easy to follow plans with photos are available. Let's say two gazillion dollaronies.

On another note:

We discovered a new breakfast sensation: fried turkey sausage with shreddies. MMM the breakfast of champions..

Hope your daily grind is an easy one..

Monday, January 04, 2010

Walking Through A Field Of Diamonds.

Today was a perfect day for snow shoeing. A clear blue sky, -15 c, and a bright sun, low along the ridge line of the mountains to the South. Because it to rides just behind the ridge trees , the folds and valleys are painted with sun light, yellowing as the day got older. The shadows painted in blues and cold grays. An exquisite backdrop to the ice crystal lace covering the the branches that droop along side the trail. The path is covered with sparkles of light. Small branches sticking out of the snow look like they have ice roses on their tips.

Daughter Sara and Son in Law Kevin helped break the four kilometer trail which runs along our Western Southern and Eastern Fence lines.

Friends Barb and Mike had helped us clear it this summer. It’s a great route. Leaving from the house to the West fence line the trail crosses an undulating side hill. It is a relatively flat section, just right for warming up. The West section is mainly down hill. Some parts are very steep requiring balance, snow shoes with built in crampons, and the judicious use of both ski poles. We are interested in snow shoeing here. Skiing now is a snow shoe fail - usually completed on the rear of ones snow pants. This is a majestic part of the trail. The branches arch overhead forming a crystal ceiling. I feel like I am walking in one of Nature’s cathedrals.

The South leg of the trail runs along Savory road. Just high enough and far enough in the snow covered woods that anyone driving by wouldn’t notice the route. Not that Savory road gets a lot of traffic. This trip there was no one passing by that I could anonymously wave to. A stop to discuss the day’s events with the pack rats in the abandoned house, mandatory by the Dog’s reckoning. The South leg continues on crossing our driveway then uphill to the East fence line .

The East leg is uphill again until the gas line. It’s a high pressure natural gas line that cuts through our property. The company keeps it cleared for 50 meters over the line. A siren call to the snowmobile crowd, who find it hard to believe not everyone enjoys the sound of high powered, deafeningly loud, machines roaring past their front door at sixty miles an hour. After a discussion last year with a group of them about a right of way not being synonymous with public access, this year they haven’t crossed our land. I feel only slightly Scrooge like. Snow shoes and cross country skis are welcome. Even snowmobilers actually, If they would just slow down. And not wreck the snow shoe trails.

The gas line gives a welcome down hill section and then uphill again right to our driveway. A couple of hundred meters from our top gate. And that’s uphill too - the promise of a warm cup of tea at journeys end offering some encouragement.

I am having skid steer troubles again. Survey from a couple of Mechanic friends, says distributor cap and rotor needs replacing so I have ordered some parts from a supplier in Prince George. Hopefully I will have the parts in a couple of days and can get running. In the mean time I was using my brothers newer skidsteer but it crapped out also - bad fuel pump. Fortunately there was a service truck in the area and he dropped by to render the verdict: Not on warranty.

We're skid steer less in Endako. Not a great place to be. But so far the snow Gods have taken pity. It will be a race to see who can be the first to get up running. Bragging rights. Priceless.

Hope there were some diamonds on your trail today.