Thursday, March 28, 2013

Lowering the (Final) Beam

I have to apologize for not writing much lately.

Late in January I was worried that I had another stress fracture in my left foot. It swelled up and was very painful to walk on, but I had been through that experience a year or two or three ago, and so I didn't worry unduly, nor seek any medical attention for it. I knew that in most cases, the only prescription was rest.

I rested it, and sure enough it improved rapidly after an initial period of pain and disability.

As it improved, my ankle instead began to ache. I attributed this to the fact that I was walking on it strangely all during the problem with my nearby foot.

My ankle didn't improve though. As February went on, I found myself continuing to limp, but now it was from pain in the ankle.

March marked it getting worse, and last week when Kenny and I flew back to Kitchener to visit, I found it very difficult to get around.

I still managed to visit my dojo, and was really tickled to see so many familiar faces on an unannounced, Saturday morning visit. V! was in great form, clearly ready for his yudansha test this Saturday. M!, K! and C! were giving him excellent guidance, and I could see that everyone managed to survive, and even thrive, with my absence.

It was a little disappointing that my Sensei wasn't there, having injured himself earlier in the morning in a freak weapons accident. Also, D! was working on nesting in a new home purchase, so I wasn't able to touch base there either.

I would have loved to have stepped on the mat, if not for the fact that I'd certainly be screaming with each step.

Meanwhile, back on the homestead, I still had a little over a dozen large logs lined up to process on the LT-10. Once the tractor had been dragged to the roadside, harvesting of new logs had obviously ceased. At the mill there were still many logs assembled, but I had managed to struggle through them before I left for the tropical south that is Kitchener-Waterloo.

These fourteen remaining logs were ones that I had piled up off to the side, and then, using a combination of the winch and brute force, dragged onto my skidway and alined with the sawmill.

The first day back from Kitchener, I managed to plough through eight of them. It was a bit slower going, as there were several logs in the 14" diameter range that I was able to cut down into multiple beams. I know that one should strive for a single beam per log, but I just don't have the time or willpower to cut down something that large into a single beam and a pile of boards and planks.

My ankle was on fire that evening.

The next day, I tried stuffing a sock into my instep to keep pressure off my heel. I think this helped a fair bit. The real help came in the form of Kenny and Donna. Kenny arrived to investigate my nearby snowbank, and Donna cut my milling time in half by grabbing the planks directly as they came off the mill, saving me a long walk to my pile and back.

With Donna's assistance, I was able to complete the beam pile and finish all my available logs. This was an awesome moment! Kenny helped to celebrate by climbing onto our stack. As always, the unsung photographer was there to capture the moment.

Now we will pick out the number and type of windows and doors for the cabin, and see if between those natural breaks in the walls, and my available beams, we have enough to complete the cabin to our specifications. If not, I suppose I will have to consult with some more local suppliers of logs and/or beams to gather a few more.

I'll try to keep everyone posted!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Grandpa Goes Above and Beyond!

So on Monday after compiling my woes, I did make a small effort to count my blessings. I moaned about having to purchase firewood now that I can't drive the tractor back into the bush.

You can only imagine the wash of feelings that came over me when I returned to the yurts last night to find a load of firewood piled neatly by the woodshed!

Grandpa had roundly showed me up by cutting up one of my trees in the morning, and then spending his afternoon hauling it out on a sled...

I really can't begin to express my thanks! But it certainly underlines my observation that this venture would not have been remotely as successful without the help of Grandpa and Mummu!

Now he's not just given me a load of wood, but shown me what else can be accomplished by just going out and doing it - rather than bemoaning your woes.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Disaster Strikes Our Yanmar 155D.

Sunday was one of those days I would generally describe as “craptacular”.

With our woodshed rapidly depleting, I had planned to make it a day for bringing in more firewood. It would be a real shame to have to purchase something that I have 160 acres of free for the taking!

I headed to the dojo tent and managed to get the Yanmar up and purring with minimal effort (we were hovering around 0 degrees). Then I headed back to the solar power bank to start up the generator. At first I was going to swap generators, but considering the path I’d have to drag the big generator through, I decided to just leave it where it was and use it to top up the batteries.

Returning to the Yanmar, I was able to get the hydraulics warmed up enough to disconnect the grader blade on the back, and replace it with my skidding bar. I set off into the bush.

Jouncing, bouncing, and clawing my way through snow that was past the axles, I first tried to get to the main part of the bush. This involved traversing the ravine on a diagonal – it was about double the distance as our straight-across path, and it suffered from not having been treated to a “brush mat” road before the snow flew.

After proceeding a few metres, the tractor simply could proceed any further. Snow was well above the axles, and it was all I could do to worry it in reverse back to the junction in my two paths.

This time I headed straight across the ravine, to much greater success. Of course, on the other side, the snow was too deep and slippery for the tractor to have any chance of climbing up the far side. Sigh.

I turned the tractor around somehow, and then set off through the waist-high drifts to the nearest dead tree I could see. I made short work of it with my Stihl (which, by the way, I had test-started back at the dojo tent before setting out – I learn sometimes, albeit slowly). Setting the tone for my day, it was rotten through and through. I struggled over to the next closest tree, same story. The third tree, a veritable sapling, same story. By this point I had gotten almost out of sight of the tractor and there were no other likely candidates to be seen.

Cursing the snow that had managed to climb up inside my snow pants and spill over into my boots, I mounted the tractor to make the “drive of shame” back to the yurts.

This took me the better part of another hour to cover maybe a hundred metres. Climbing out of the ravine on the near side was more than the tractor could do. I had to dismount, hook up the comealong and chains to a nearby tree, winch six inches, then drive six inches, then repeat... After about ten repeats of this cavorting, I managed to get onto level enough ground (packed snow really) that I was able to proceed by churning inches in four wheel drive back to the main path.

After lunch (truly, the high point of my weekend – Mummu had most generously invited us to share in her awesome meatloaf! I had more helpings than I care to admit.) I hooked up the grader blade to clear the driveway for work on Monday. Small blessings – I had done a single pass up and down, and had reversed the blade to push away some of the snow at the top of the driveway up onto the bank. As I turned around in my seat to move forward, I noticed that the left wheel was almost 90 degrees to the tractor and wedged in under the steering linkage and the front end loader. This wasn’t right. Especially with the right wheel still pointing 45 degrees to the right!

Further investigation revealed that the king pin had sheared completely off as if cut with a knife. Right under the steering linkage. I lifted her up with the front end loader (thank goodness for down pressure!) and the gearbox slid right out.

I managed to lasso Grandpa to line it back up as I lowered the tractor back down onto the remaining portion of the pin, and we lined up both wheels as parallel as possible. I pulled the tractor forward about six feet to get her out of the driveway. I suppose that’s another blessing. It happened right in front of the dojo tent, and not back in the bush.

We lifted her up again and dismantled everything we could. I still cannot get the top portion of the pin out of the steering linkage – not sure how to proceed with that just yet. I’m trying to see if I can source out a new king pin for the old girl – I’d hate to send her out to pasture just yet!

In the meantime, I think I’ll have to purchase some firewood after all. Yuck. At least this helps me focus – hit up the sawmill and cut beams for the next little while.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

Losing our Teeth. (Kenny vs. the LT10)

I'm really sorry I haven't written in some time. It seems that I have been sleeping in quite a bit lately when I'm not working, and I have also been working a fair bit off the homestead.

That's been nice. Howie's is a really good fit for me, and I hope that they are happy with what I have done for them - even if business is pretty slow at the moment.

Otherwise, on the homestead, it has mostly been about whittling away at the huge pile of logs I have on and around the skidway. I think this week (with me working again) I will still try to mill at least one log before the sun goes down after work each day. The sun is present for much longer already than it was even a month ago.

I'm still practising to get better and more consistent with my cuts. Sometimes it is difficult to look at the log and see the beam trapped inside. Last week I started cutting into a rather large beam from the narrow end, and soon found myself halfway into the log, cutting out a slab, and realizing that the slab was approaching three or four inches thick - a point where I could likely have cut a few boards out of it before getting to the beam at the centre.

Smart me, I decided to back up and raise the blade an inch or two, and then cut a slab off the top before continuing with this board. I've done this once or twice before without incident.

Today wasn't my day though. As I pulled the saw head back through my cut, I must have encountered some resistance somewhere that popped the still spinning blade off of the wheels.

I replaced the blade, finished the cut, and then shut things down to examine it closer. Imagine how thrilled I was to see that I had knocked the points off of at least two teeth. It's hard to see in the picture, they are a bit to the right of where I am pointing.

That was enough for that day. My beam pile had grown a bit anyway, so I put on one of my spare blades and closed things up.

By coincidence, about the same time Kenny's first wiggly tooth also finally fell free. He had no undue assistance from Daddy - he was careful to only let me wiggle it a bit when helping him floss, and it eventually just dropped out of its own accord. He's such a handsome lad!

Tomorrow it's back to work, where I can attempt to grind my blade back into some semblance of a cutting tool, and hopefully be back in the beam business full tilt!