Tuesday, December 18, 2012

More Firewood Cut and Split Just in Time

Yesterday I wasn't sure if the weather was going to be up to Grandpa's standards for any work in the bush. Apparently it was! Grandpa arrived just as I was pulling on my boots, and suggested that he was game to try to get both the tractor, and the trailer up onto the far side of the ravine. This was something exciting and new!

We hooked up our new ski-trailer, and I graciously suggested Grandpa could have dibs on being the first person up the hill. I took that opportunity to level off the new generator and start it up for Donna to do more laundry, and charge up our batteries again. It seems like we haven't had a sunny day here in Thunder Bay for two months now. I think that perhaps they need to let go of their title as one of the sunniest places in Canada.

When I caught up with Grandpa, he was already across the ravine, but couldn't climb the hill on the far side. The very first incline was the worst, and he was spinning all four tires madly with no effect. We disconnected the load (something that was to become familiar as the day progressed) and only then could the unladen tractor get past this sticking point. We hooked up the chain from the tractor to the trailer, and in this configuration were able to drag the trailer up afterwards. At the top of the hill we had piled the stove length deadwood from two days previous, so we disconnected the trailer, manhandled it upside down, sideways, and around to rest in the nearby trees, as Grandpa continued up the trail to a suitable turnaround for the tractor.

With the tractor now pointing downhill, it was just a matter of grunt work to hook up the trailer again and reload it. This time we opted only for a half load, knowing that there was also a slope on the far side of the ravine for the tractor to climb, this time with an even heavier load. Of course, we needn't have worried, with just a little bit of finessing it, Grandpa got the tractor back up on (mostly) high ground, and turned the keys over to me. I returned with that load to the yurts, quickly offloaded it, and checked the generator.

I thought it had died - no power was reading on the battery bank. I asked Donna to plug in a light so that she would be able to monitor the generator better, and surprisingly, a light came on - how could that be?

I actually walked to the generator, and realized that it was indeed still running. The battery charger plug had just slightly vibrated out. I bent the prongs a bit tighter, and reinserted it to great effect. That was certainly a relief.

As Donna loaded the generator with the washing machine, it was interesting to see the amperage rise and fall in rapid pulses in time with the washing machine agitation. But everything worked!

I returned to the ravine, where we once again had to disconnect the trailer and haul it up by chain from a more advantageous position.

Two loads of firewood was judged to be enough to get us into January and hopefully deeper, more frozen snow.

It was still early, but Grandpa retired for lunch. I hit up the woodpile, and with great satisfaction dispatched the larger logs using my new and improved tanren uchi. Protip: bolt the tires together rather than just stacking them or trying to rope them together. Only two opposing bolts are required. It is so easy to split wood in this fashion. I can carry two pieces of wood and it feels like I just throw one of them in the direction of the tanren and the tires guide it upright onto the stump below. Splitting goes like a charm, without having to chase down any pieces at all.

During lunch I configured our laser printer to have its own email address, so that we can email documents to be printed to it, and then, within 24 hours, plug it in and have them automatically print. That's cool. It will have to be seen if it works to our satisfaction. I noticed that the jobs can be rather delayed while the printer tries to connect to our proxy server. Our proxy is the biggest fly in our internet ointment, but I suppose I shouldn't complain; we are very, very fortunate to not have to rely on dialup or expensive broadband options.

Grandpa returned and wanted to get the big logs off the property line.

It's funny how relative things really can be. Compared to travelling on my (somewhat) groomed trails, driving through the field was a really fearsome event. But then it all was stepped up a huge notch by crossing the ravine and climbing the ridge at the back of it. With this experience fresh in my mind, suddenly going back to just driving through a rocky field was a breeze. I found myself whistling Christmas carols and wishing (as I often do) that my brother was here to participate in these sorts of adventures. I think he'd be able to appreciate them.

Grandpa and I hooked up the largest log we could easily reach, and I started back. This time we had much greater success - I was able to skid it completely off of his property and back onto ours, and didn't get stuck until we were halfway to the yurts. But were we ever stuck! The tractor dug deep, and suddenly even with the four wheel drive engaged, I couldn't climb forwards or backwards. And this was with the log set free!

Luckily I had reattached the winch, so we hooked up my spare battery, and used the winch to drag the tractor back out of the hole it had dug.

Grandpa used his axe and shovel to fill in the wheel pits I had dug, while I silently supervised. Then, abandoning the log for the time being, I climbed across this hazard, and extended a chain to drag the log across it. We chained up the log, and I dragged it a bit further so that it too cleared the soft spot. I backed up, we reattached the log to my three point hitch, and I proceeded another few feet before becoming trapped again.

This time, simply disconnecting the log was enough to let me climb over that problem. When we reconnected the chain, I just dragged the log back to the location of our future sauna. It was there that I had to climb a slight incline, and the tractor just wasn't up for that, especially with the log digging itself down into the snow in the valley. We worked in reverse; I backed up the tractor and attached the log in tight this time. With this arrangement, the extra weight on the tractor's back wheels worked in our favour, and I dragged this monster all the way back to the mill.

Grandpa felt we had time and need to try to get more out, so I put the tractor in high gear and headed back over the hills and through the woods to our log pile. While Grandpa shoveled more snow into the deepest wheel ruts, I managed to hook up another monster log and have it dragged almost back to the property line before he arrived. I was pretty proud of myself, but his expression didn't betray any exceptional look of approval. I suppose that's likely the fate of most son-in-laws, so I generally don't take a lack of praise too hard :).

This one went much better. I engaged the four wheel drive far in advance of any obstacles, using it almost the entire trip across the rocky field. I didn't need to do any finagling to get the log to the sawmill, where Grandpa decided to call it a day. This log was about 17-18 feet long, so I brought up my chainsaw and cut off a seven foot section where there was a bend in it. This will still be a great addition to my log pile, providing me with beams for the cabin finally. So far I have only been able to mill out smaller beams for the sauna.

Before leaving, Grandpa reminded me that he won't be helping out today, and that he was expecting that I'd spend my time skidding more logs out of the bush. I'm not too worried about it, but I have a feeling it will be slow going if I start getting stuck again. I'll just have to be patient, and we'll see where I get.

 

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