Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A Cold, Clear, Happy Day

Yesterday was (not surprisingly) a cold one again here. I managed to sleep in until about 6:30 or so, which doesn't happen all that often. (This morning it is currently 4:30 as I type this. I would have thought I would have been a bit young for getting up through the night to go to the bathroom, but then again, it had been over five hours so I suppose I shouldn't complain.) It seems Grandpa always catches me before I'm out of the yurts and in action, which makes me feel pretty self conscious. In this case it was a laundry day so I spent 65 pulls getting the generator going before I could pile the chain saw, axe and loppers into the sled and head into the bush myself.

I came to the end of the trail, and, not seeing Grandpa anywhere, felt pretty smug as I began picking up tools and making my way into the bush. Imagine my disappointment at suddenly hearing another chainsaw from futher ahead. Normally Grandpa heads up our trail, via our property. Yesterday though, I think he set off to our secondary bush trail via his property. This is sensible, because the newest trail we are cutting in goes right up to his property line. Sigh, beaten again.

I proceeded to snip, cut and drag bush out of the way, making my way along what was still clearly an old logging road. It's humbling to work so hard to just clean up something that someone else must have done the real, initial labour at putting in. It's also satisfying work to think I'm somehow honouring those efforts by reviving them and acknowledging that their choice in pathway was the right one.

Then again, the truth of the matter may be that they used a big skidder and were motivated purely by profit. I just prefer to think about it more romantically, picturing some tough Finns and even tougher draught horses breaking through virgin forest.

After a few hours work, in which I abandoned my jacket in favour of my fleece, suddenly Grandpa burst through the forest to my left. He had come in around a high ridge that ran along the west side of our ravine. Apparently there was a good stand of large jackpine there, making it an area worth accessing by the tractor.

We exchanged greetings and observed how close to finishing the trail we were. A few moments later, we were standing side by side in the snow, with an open path extending off in both directions. It was a very satisfying feeling.

Grandpa declared that after lunch he wanted to level off sections of the trail he had just come through, but he didn't need any help doing that. With that, we headed back down my path towards the yurts, Grandpa leaving me nearly literally eating his snow/dust. By the time I got to the solar panels, he was already nowhere in sight. He sure is fast moving in his element!

After a lovely lunch with Donna and Kenny, I shut down the generator and watched with a bit of annoyance as my meter continued to show less than 60% charge. Of course, there was a little sun on the solar panels, causing them to be putting out a very slight current. It seems that the meter needs to see the batteries rest a bit before it can re-assess their condition. The sun continued to shine ever so slightly all afternoon, with the voltage reading over 12.8 and the meter stubbornly resting on 57% charge. Finally, with the sun below the horizon shortly before five, the meter suddenly shot up to 90%. Such is the way of things, and I suppose it simply means that I have to learn to adjust my expectations.

I got a warm bottle of water to take up to the sawmill. The blade on the mill uses a steady trickle of water to lubricate things while it cuts. Of course, this water froze in the hose, as a trickle of water isn't enough to overcome the air temperature.

Moments after starting up the mill, a loud bang had me jumping for the off switch! I hadn't even begun to cut!

Opening up the blade guard, it was easy to see that the blade had jumped off of the wheels.

With some effort, I managed to get it back on, and gave it a second try.

Bang, same thing.

This time I tried to look things over to see what the problem was. Lucky for me, my first guess and solution was the correct one. I noticed that the rubber grip on the unpowered wheel was looking really ratty, being covered in frozen, bumpy sawdust. I removed the belt from it, and twisted it up in my hands, causing the detritus to flake off in a very satisfying manner.

Replacing the rubber belt and blade made all the difference in the world, and I milled up two more beams for the sauna. I was a little disappointed that I was unable to mill a beam for the cabin, but I suppose my first logs were a bit small in diameter to hope for the larger beams we plan on using in the cabin (four by five, while for the sauna I am going to try to work with four by three).

I leveled off three skids near the yurts, and piled on my three beams. Even with one of the beams being a bit out of square, it still looked great, and I just had to change my expectations ;). I'm sure when I router a corner (to shed water), it will hide slight imperfections like that. And if it doesn't, well, that just adds this mysterious "character" that carpenters seem to talk about, I think...

Looking out from this vantage point lets me get a general idea of the view we will have from our cabin. It was so beautiful yesterday, with the sun low in the sky; the trees heavy with snow. I called Kenny to come out from the yurts to see, and he was all smiles and agreed with me about how wonderful a sight it was. He was amazed at the size of the snowflakes, able to easily see their six pointed shapes, and marveling at how complex they could be. It was such a great feeling, not just the immediacy of that emotion, but knowing that this place had the power to affect me so. Knowing that I can have ups and downs, and that the ups are there, if I just am patient for them, is likely one of the more important things to keep in mind on a project like this. Probably it's important to think that for any important venture in life.

Last night we all hit the sack early. This morning as I said, I am up early and as I fired up the stove, I had to laugh silently to myself about how things change in your head as you get use to them. I use to be terrified of the stove. Perhaps rightly so, as we were burning wood that was either excessively dry or excessively pitchy. Lately the wood has been much better quality, and so its burn characteristics are much more predictable. Predictable to the sense that now I'm actively seeking a hot fire to start the day! A few slabs from the summer's work with the sawmill does a great job of rapidly raising the temperature in the yurts and on the stove.

Only a few weeks ago I would have been scrambling to assemble my firefighting equipment and prepare evacuation routes if I had seen the chimney temperature approaching the red zone. Now I pour myself a tea and settle down to calmly enter a blog post. If I were so inclined, I likely wouldn't be against returning to bed, secure in the knowledge that my equipment has been tested far more sorely than this, and that all is well with the world. Besides, our stove can't maintain this heat for more than a few minutes anyway, generally to our chagrin.

 

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