Thursday, December 29, 2011

I've Been Fired!

From the yard plowing job.  I get motion sickness at the drop of a hat, 'er snow blade.  I am alright on the road plowing stuff but zippity doing around the yard, back and forth - well I get barfy thinking about it.  We've had a little dump of snow and with a big wind behind it, snow drifts are appearing all around the yard.

Jo-Ann, tired of my whining decided she was going to do it.  Let's just say she did a better job than the last guy who did it!

Our cats really do know how to make the best of the Winter season.

Hope your making the best of yours.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Between Celebrations

I don't know what it is about vehicle repair.  Around here we only try and do it when its cold out, preferable with a gale force wind blowing snow at the parts to be replaced, banged, or sworn at.  Not necessarily in that order.

Who would make a thermostat housing out of plastic?  Some one who works for a company that believes consumers only consume, and therfore need to make parts so they will have a very limited lifespan..
 On the Garden front, we remembered that we had left some cabbages growing in the tire garden and lifted the lid on them to find, much to our surprise:  They are still soft and pliable but looked like they had been frozen and then thawed in the winter sun.  Non the less, the piggies appreciated the bit of greenery.  One tire was overgrown with Chick Weed, and they chowed down on that with grunts of delight!
 The Green house has calmed down.  One of these days I am going to rip out the tomato plants and put in some Brassicas and mixed greens.  Still an inviting place to sit and dream about the garden on a cold winters day.  A wonderful way to start the day!
 The puppies keep various Bothersome Bears, Wily Wolves, Conniving Coyotes, Deranged Deer, Mad Moose and of course the worst scourges: Batty birds and jet contrails,  from invading the place.  And they seem to have a lot of fun doing it.  They are doing such a good job we haven't seen a Bear since late Fall!

Hope your having a great time over the Christmas season. Peace to you and yours.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's That Time Of Year Again

I was supposed to be at the Coast today.  The Jeep continues to require new parts.  This time a distributer assembly which is making for hard starts and rough running.  Parts just came in today so here's hoping the mechanic can get it going.  If he does, and the weather looks like it will improve,  I might make the 1000 kilometer trip tomorrow.  The highways people are telling us to stay off the roads today, if possible.  Probably good advice.

The weather has been problematical:  several snow falls requiring plowing in the last couple of days,  freezing rain yesterday evening and this morning now turning to snow.  Cold days can make for some nice pics.

Of all the ways the weather can manifest,  the freezing rain crap is the worse.  Invariably it puts a film of water over the compact snow and ice.  We're talking curling rink.  Snow I can always plow,  and to see this stuff turn to the white stuff is a relief.

We have been spending days (weeks) cutting meat.

Easy to take apart, harder to get together..
 Got a hamburger ( dog food ) cow and a small Blue Beef one all comfortably ensconced in our freezer. The dog food cow was a gift from an organic Rancher in Vanderhoof, Whispering Winds Ranch  It had a bad foot, since healed, but was treated with antibiotics a year ago so he wouldn't sell it to his customers.  He sells all his beef, about 250 head a year via the internet and integrity is his byword.  I really admire that.

 Of course with the Jeep down we had to improvise transport to the shop.  Fortunately it was a calf:

We also discovered that half a cow in the trunk of a Ford Focus makes for dicey steering!

Working on a couple of computers for friends.  I am installing Linux Mint 12 on them.  I am trying to set up "Granny" Machines.  Simple trouble free set ups for people that don't want to fiddle with their sets, worry about virus's and can't afford to pay the Micro$oft tax.  I repair a lot of computers for people - well actually I spend 99% of my repair  time removing virus's and spyware from windows boxes.

The green house isn't doing well these days.  The problem I am having is regulating the temperature in the green house.  I know it sounds funny, especially nearing winter deep, but I heat it with wood and when the sun does come out, the temperature can soar.  I have an automatic fan installed but if it gets hot enough  (35c / 95 F)  to come on, it causes the fire to back draft, filling the place with smoke.  An installation of another fan in parallel at the other end of the green house should take care of that problem.  The other problem is the futility of trying to grow cold weather crops, spinach and Brassicas and tomatoes in the same building.  Vastly different heating requirements.  So, regretfully, that's the last of the tomatoes for a while.  Probably March or so.  By then it will be time to start the plantings for the outside mini green houses - the tire garden.

We are starting to get seed catalogues in the mail.  Jo-Ann refers to them as "Gardner Porn"!  And they do encourage some gardening fantasies!  Mmm, I can just about taste those new spuds.

Anyway I know my lucks improving: Here's proof, a piece of crispbread,  resplendent in butter and jam that fell from the counter and landed thusly - jammed side up.  How cool is that.

Hope your bread falls buttered side up!

Friday, December 02, 2011


I dispatched six pigs last Saturday and we turned them into chops, hams, bacon and sausage meat on Sunday.  I found Saturday to be very draining emotionally.  As well as a good deal of work.  Here no one scrapes the hide so we ended up skinning them.

I thought I was emotionally prepared for it.  I suppose I was in that I managed to dispatch all six.  We left two, from different, herds to breed.  Hope that works out.  I just don't like paying 85 bucks for weaner pigs.  I was as careful as I could be not to become emotionally attached to them.  No names.  Except for Lard Ass - the pig that sat to eat.  And Ms. Piggy the sow we kept.

The nice thing about being grown up is that we can eat all the ice-cream we want.  The downside is that responsibility comes with that freedom.

We do have an option, taking the pigs in a trailer for a 100 kilometer ride to a processing facility.  That's what most of our neighbors do.  They charge 40 dollars to dispatch them.  I just think it was quicker and less stressful for them to pass on to the great pig sty in familiar surroundings.  Eating apples.

It was quick for them - a lot slower for me.

But I don't really want to meet the person who enjoys that part of the process.. 

And have you heard of Australian Bacon.  1/2 inch strips slow cooked over the barbecue..

Saturday, November 19, 2011

It's That Time Of Year Again

Not that we were totally unprepared, but it sure got cold fast. Fortunately the winter garb was never far away.  It dropped from -5C (23F )to -21C (-5.8F) overnight a couple of nights ago and has stayed frozen since.  Which has given me a few opportunities to beef up the cold weather protection.  Job one this morning is to thaw out the Jeep which froze up on the side of highway 16 last night.  Poor or non existant anti-freeze, and as it turns out a crappy thermostat.  Anti-freeze fog in the distributer cap makes for no start.

The snow came pretty much on schedule and it was time to do the first plow.  By the time I had done some commercial accounts and my neighbors and my driveway and yard Four hours had passed and the ginger anti-motion pills had worn off!

Got out these "Thrum" mitts my Wife's Aunty knitted for me.  They're wonderful and I was glad to have them with me when the Jeep froze up and I waited a couple of hours for the tow truck to arrive from Burns Lake, 52 kilometeres West of where I broke down.. With out my cell phone.  Thankfully I was wearing my heavy duty surplus Canadian Armed Forces winter parka.

We are getting ready to harvest six hogs and 19 Roosters.  Tomorrow we'll be helping our butcher friend slice and dice a couple of cows and a lamb.  All good practice.

Now to thaw out the Jeep, which is languishing at my Brother Tom's place with a tarp over it and propane blower heater telling it Spring is here..

This is Maya, a friends of ours dog, who proclaimed my lap a perfect place to snuggle in while we watched the fire vision..  

Hope you have a warm lap to snuggle up in!

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Moving On..

Always a great idea to take to the butcher shop: Lunch and something else you just might need!

The fires are burning pretty steady now that the temperatures are hovering around freezing and below. Handy to have it just outside the basement door where we bring it in to split with an electric/hydraulic wood splitter.  Before you can say " Lickity Split" It's in split, piled and distributed to the three fires.

Jo-Ann was trying for a new worlds record, and assured me this wasn't even close to her personal best.

So far we are just burning wood in the house and green house.  In a week or so, after I do some chimney re-routing, I will be starting a night fire in the animal shed.

I don't think the animals really need a lot of heat.  Just enough to stay dry.  But I sure find it handy when I am doing barn chores!

Still have some more projects to do but most of them can be done indoors because the snow is creeping down the mountains and we even had a skim of it last night.

 Moved the Garden tool shed over besides the East side of the green house and installed a deck.  With the addition of a ramp it will make a handy addition to the Green House set up.  We can store all the pots and potting paraphenalia in the storage shed clearing the green house for more plants.  The tomatoe's we planted last year are still growing and blooming.  Fascinating to see how long they will go before giving up the ghost.  One of the plants had really small fruit and it may be time to dig it up and start fresh.  We also have an assortment of flowers and herbs and Musclin and Spinach on the go.  A real nice place to hang out when the winter chill is about.
Of course the foremen, er - forgurls took all the credit for keeping the pesky crows from interfering with the project and waited patiently by to give the new deck a try out.

Notice the Red Neck recycled wood boxes? And those things on my feet.  Yup, time to bring them out.  This was the first day this season I wore them and a winter coat.  All the winter apparerel are making their way out of storage and onto the clothes hangers near the door.  Well except for the long johns - that would be unseemly..

Ah, nothing like a nap infront of a cozy fire to round out a day! Hope your day ended in a snuggle!

Friday, November 04, 2011

I Can See Clearly Now!

I've spent the last seven days either cutting up meat or wiring houses.  Odd combination.
Fortunately I was able to do one job at a time.  Now It feels wonderful to have a "day off" and catch up on some keyboarding and projects around the place.

Cutting up my own meat has been  on my list for quite a while.  To have a cow cut and wrapped around here costs over three hundred bucks so it's quite a savings to be able to do my own.  I am fortunate in having a complete private butcher shop available an hours drive away.  So I can hang and process there in an efficient, comfortable setting.

Before I took a two day course in beef cutting I took a course in knife sharpening - another handy skill that I have had a woe full need for.  After the beef course I took another one on wild game.  As it was hunting season there were only three students.  I presume the others were busy hunting.  With only three students and one instructor it was pretty hands on - the best way for me to learn.  We had a freezer full of meat and so I came back for another day as apprentice.  Great experience.  And then got to do a Moose and deer my Niece had got, all by myself.  Slower than molasses.  It took me a full Six hours to cut and wrap.  But Ive still got all my fingers.  My Grand niece has a lot less room in her freezer, and our doggies love the ground trim and sawed to gnaw size bones.

In a couple of weeks we'l be processing six pigs.  I am looking forward to making our own bacon, hams and hopefully, if time permits Mennonite sausage.

I lit a fire in the green house today as it got down to 11℃  (52 ℉) inside, freezing out side.  I could hear the plants going "Ahhh".

Working on making permanent temporary window inserts to cut down on the heat loss.  I used very light gauge heat shrinked window plastic last year but it damages easily. This will be a more permanent, and probably more thermally efficient with heavy duty clear plastic and foam trim all around the perimeter.

But first I need to go find the septic tank.  Time to get it pumped before winter freeze up starts.  The snow is just edging down the side of the mountain across the valley which means it is days before it is here.

Hope your week is going well.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Clean Sweep

Almost.  Still have to move a camper and truck out of a snow lane.  But close.  I have been re-wiring a house for brother Tom so a bit off schedule.  Not that I am ever "on schedule".  But it progresses.  This was the view from the green house a couple of days ago:
Yes, that white stuff is the cold white stuff! 
Past experience and a couple of light snow falls, coupled with predictions of a long cold snowy, el Nino, driven winter has added some impetus to the chores.  All the tools are put away.  Hoses coiled and stored in a heated basement - just in case of winter emergencies.  Fuel stocked up.  Chains checked and ready for mounting on the skid steer.  The gardens cleared and tilled.  Missing planting some Garlic.

I went to a local Art Knapps, a plant store, a week ago to buy some garlic and a few cold hardy seeds and walked into this:  
A whole two months before Christmas.  I just about freaked!  This was a plant store!  Full of artificial Christmas trees and Xmas doodads.   When I asked for garlic I was told they only had daffodils. and they were in the back. Well I know a Dutch fellow who had to subsist on them during the horrors of WW11,  but this is 2011.  Horrors!  Ah well, maybe some cloves from store bought garlic might work.  Or order online.  But by the time they get here the ground will be frozen.  Kinda like my brain when I walked into this place thinking I could peruse the seed packets for some over winter and  green house planting needs.

Memo to self.  Get the planting supplies before fall!

We were very relieved to see our chucks start laying.  With 14 less Roosters ( banished to the bachelor quarters - awaiting freezer weight ) the Hens are a whole lot calmer.  Not having to sit with their rear ends against the wall!  We've added a small 60 watt incandescent on a timer to give them 15 hours of light a day and that seems to help a whole lot.  Mind you, roosters crowing at 3 a.m. could take some getting used to!  12 laying hens and one old bitty will more than keep us in fresh eggs.

Looking forward to a wild game meat cutting course this weekend.  I don't hunt myself but all the local butchers have gone out of business so I've been lending a hand- and some sharp knives with the family hunters.

We've got six pigs coming up to butchering time, and they are going to be the honored guests at another course on pig butchering at the end of the month.  And I have a large calf to process in the next week or so.  Luckily I have access to a full featured meat cooler and processing place an hours drive away.  Local beef prices have gone way up with cows going for over a thousand bucks.  Great for the local farmers,  not so great for our doggies.  It will cut into their allowance for this year.  Perhaps time for us to raise a couple of cows next year.

Hope your winter prep is all complete, the snow hats and mittens at hand, and you have a great week.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

And the Walls Came Tumbling Down..

There was no trumpeting, just a low rumble.  About a cord of wood or more came spilling out of the space under the veranda.  We were counting on a row of wood placed two years ago to keep a pile of wooden roller bearings in place.  Bad counting.  First one side came down.

We moved the errant wood out of the way and added a large pallet to act as a wall.  Moved the wood back.  Everything hunky dory.  Then the second bay came down.

Enough.  Trying to do things the short cut way just leads to more work.  Next year we are building an extension to house the winters 16 cords of wood.  This year, with a hard frost on the morning ground, and snow possible at any time,  we will just make do with a bearing wall we can pile the wood up against and then every four feet or so use a cross brace piller to give the pile some strength.

The lesson for me is to be aware of the voice that says: "hmmm - that doesn't look right.."  To stick with the basics.  I know,  you would think that piling wood is a very simple procedure.  And it is. But it was also very easy for us to get it wrong. Without  and end wall or split wood piller to stabalize  the wood it's like trying to stack roller bearings!

One of the reasons for piling wood is to dry it out.  Not a problem for us as all the wood is from Pine trees that are standing dead and have been for several years.  However, piled wood takes up a lot less space.  We've tried just leaving it in a pile - that's certainly the easiest - but digging frozen wood out of a mound of snow can be more work than is readily imagined.  So we completed the wood wall and started re-piling.   Two days later here's the finished project. 17 1/2 cords of wood.  Braces and an end wall in place.  All the stacks inside the end one you see here have a cross piled pile every four feet.  Probably going to make this the warmest winter on record.

Using a tote to bring the wood from one pile to another really speeded up the transfer.

That's the last block of wood and it went straight to the blue shed to keep the animals warm when it gets chilly.  And the guy that shovels the crap..

And using a wood handlers secret weapon: the Pickeroon, really made it easier.  No bending over to pick up blocks of wood.

 The little one is my weapon of choice. A Stubai ( the people who make world renowned ice axes ) from Lee Valley.  The yellow handled one sorta works but isn't in the same league.  The point isn't hooked enough and isn't sharp enough to get a grip on a block of wood without a heavy swing.

On the Chicken front we finished the new and improved chicken nests and added a handy dandy ladder for the birds.  Now we can get eggs without going in the chicken pen.

Of course some of the older birds want to get their own IPhones to keep in touch with all their many friends.  They are pretty good with the hunt and peck method of typing.  But most of their posts are just a bunch of squawking! Like mine, actually.

The new chickens should start laying any day now and we are looking forward to not having to buy eggs from the Super Value (not) in town.  I just about laid an egg myself when I saw a box of "Presidents Choice" free run eggs that were going for six bucks.  Wow!  If I could get six bucks for a dozen eggs we'ed be building fenced acreage for several hundred birds..

The Pigs are growing in leaps and bounds.  And they do leap and bound.  We were out last night under a half moon light moving a couple of old bitty hens into the main pen, a job we have learned that is way easier when the chooks are asleep.  We heard a grunt from just beyond the fence.  All the pigs were out gamboling in the moon light!  They have taken a particular fondness for windfall crab apples.  A couple of them will stand up when we enter the animal shed in hopes of receiving some treats by hand.

 Generally not a great idea, but they are very careful ( and we are too) and they pull the treats in with their front lips and happily and noisily crunch them up while keeping an eye on the next one - admonishing any other pig who gets too close to their treats!

We are getting hard frosts at night.  Early morning trips require some window scraping.

We installed a new wood heater in the living room.  Well new to us - it used to reside in Jo-Ann's parents house and I think it's major use there was to burn Christmas present wrapping paper.  With glass and brass cleaned with wood ash and newspaper and a coat of stove polish it looks great!  It works well, but I still have to tinker with the damping system.  I suspect something is clogged up on the air intake a bit.

Now that the woods in the next project is to get the garden harvest in.  Yesterday we dug up some spuds. Just not a crop to brag about!  Ah well we are grateful for what we did get.  Here's a sample of the three types we planted in tires:
Scab is a recurring problem.  Tho we noticed that some red spuds we planted in a mound of clay soil came out virtually scab free.  From top to bottom: Cariboo, Russian Blue, and Yukon Gold.  

Last night Cleo and I camped out on the balcony.  Enjoying the brisk fresh air and moonlight peeking through the clouds.   Cleo certainly enjoys it and remains happily ensconced in her own sleeping bag the whole night through, waking to the Rooster alarm clock as the Eastern sky lightens. Now to get her to stop snoring!

Hope where ever your camped this week is nice and cozy!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

How Much Wood...

It turns out the answer to that is 17 1/2 cords. Probably enough to see four fires through the winter.  Some of them don't take much wood.

 Loading it and delivering it to the house is fast.

It's the stacking that takes time.
All the wood isn't going to fit under cover so some will just get stacked and covered with a tarp.

 Next years Project list includes extending a shed roof under the veranda so it's all under cover.
 A few brisk days with overnight temps approaching freezing  have added some impetus to the effort.  We have had snow on the mountains across the valley by this time.  It is not far away.

 There is a certain sense of ease and comfort in knowing this winter's wood project is coming to an end.  Just in time because the electric furnace has been running, on and off, for quite some weeks now to take the morning chill off or warm up the evenings watch infront of the idiot box.

Here's the result of trying to stack too much wood into the trailer and not paying attention to the big bad stump.  Jo-Ann say's she was glad it was me driving.  What ever does she mean by that?

She didn't yell at me or anything! Well that will teach me to hurry!

This culprit is going to be the first to get burnt up in the downstairs furnace!

The Chickens have almost reached laying stage so today's project is to make some laying nests.  A day off from stacking wood.

And now to invent the WhizBang firewood picker upper bucket.  It uses tines so that sod doesn't get mixed in with the firewood rounds.  Ah, wait some ones already invented a rock bucket that looks like it would work for firewood.  Now to win the lottery..

Friday, September 09, 2011

At Logger Heads

The sunshine holds, barring several hours lost for trips to Burns Lake for chain saw parts, the Winter Wood project continues. After a new bar and a couple of back up chains we were back up at the pond.

Using the skidsteer to drag the logs out to a flat spot for limbing and then "chomping" the logs, moving them to a cutting area where they are held up at an easy cutting height has certainly increased the productivity of the process.

One problem we didn't realize we would have is the cows, and their insatiable curiosity. We have to be extremely cautious when falling.  Some of the younger calves follow the logs as they are skidded out.  Jo-Ann is not only in charge of the skidding operation but shooing the cows away.

Another couple of days or so and Winter warmth is ours.