Friday, June 24, 2016

Skidding Logs With an ATV Log Arch - First Impressions of a Norwood SkidMate MK2

In the spring Grandpa and I hiked far into his bush and then cut across the property line to our property to examine a rather large tree that had come down.  It was definitely one of the larger ones we had ever taken into our heads to skid out to the sawmill.  Grandpa wasn't exactly sure how we would get it, but he figured if he cut it up into eight foot lengths, I could likely get most or all of the lumber I would need to the woodshed from that single tree.

I headed home and decided that a log arch was finally in the cards to help improve my ability to move trees around our property.

At first I stopped at the local metal fabricator and explained what I had in mind, hoping to give them the opportunity to craft something if they were interested.  They weren't, and told me that if there was an "off the shelf" option, I should take that.

I investigated a number of possible options online before settling on the Norwood SkidLite.  I called the Canadian distributor and was told that they had one left in stock and it would ship out the next day.

A week later I followed up with them as I was in town anyway, and thought perhaps it was waiting at the depot.  Instead, I learned that they were incorrect, and that it was a model being discontinued, and that they would still make one up for me shortly and send it out.

A few days later I called back, but they hadn't begun making it yet.  I suggested that maybe if they had a SkidMate in stock, I would be willing to upgrade to get it sooner.  This seemed to meet with some acceptance, although it still took another week or two of calls before it finally shipped.  This was a bit of a sour experience initially.

As an aside, the SkidLite is a slightly different setup for skidding logs, involving a smaller wheel base and not really an arch, more of a post with a winch mounted on the top that lifts logs off the ground where you lock them in place.

The SkidMate, on the other hand, is a true arch with beefier construction that can handle heavier, wider, longer logs.  It has a neat setup whereby the forward motion of the ATV is what causes the shackled end of the log to ride up the arch until it is lifted off of the ground.

Finally, one Friday morning, a Canpar van pulled up the driveway, which was interesting in itself, as no other courier is willing to drive as far up the road as we are located.  I helped him unload the two boxes that made up the arch, and braved the blackflies to begin assembling it.

Kenny helped out while Mama volunteered to take the occasional picture.

Kenny was a super eager helper!
It came with a 2" hitch, I've been okay with how it fits on my 1 7/8" ball.

Thankfully, no butt shot here!
You can see the roller and hook here that travel up this bar as you pull forward.
I managed to put it together in about an hour or so, with almost no missteps.  I did put the bolts on the wheels on in such a manner that the nuts are on the outside of the arch.  In hindsight I would probably have done it the other way around, as it would narrow the outside of the arch by an inch on each side, something that could actually be useful on narrow paths in the bush.  So far I haven't been compelled to switch them around, but I may consider it if required.

Nuts!  On the outside!
Grandpa popped by and saw that I had it ready to go.  I cut my teeth on a few very small logs that I had cut down near the driveway.
Seems to make Grandpa grin.
Then I moved on to some large ones that I had abandoned in the ravine in the fall when the ATV could no longer climb the slope while dragging them.
Coming back from the ravine with a long one!
After that, I was enthused enough to head deep into Grandpa's bush and begin bringing out the monster tree there.
Even willing to try two at once!
It went very smoothly.  Having two people is a bit of a help as backing up with the arch, it sometimes is easier to just manually lift and place it in position instead of fritzing around with back and forth manoeuvres.
Picture perfect!
By early afternoon I had my whole backlog of logs removed from the bush!  Amazing!
This is pretty big by my standards.
So far, I have to give the arch two fairly enthused thumbs up.  Hopefully it will be robust enough to continue to provide assistance in the future, and hopefully it was just a fluke that it took me so long to finally have it arrive.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Installing a Solar Power Fountain in our Pond

Soon after we first had the pond dug out, I purchased a tiny, floating solar panel and pump that were all in one unit, and did an interesting job of spritzing water into the air while the sun shone.

I can't fault this little gadget, we have left it in the pond every winter where it has frozen solid for a few months, and each spring, it has come back to perform its duties.  I have lifted it out from time to time to clean the filter, but by and large, it has been a reliable friend.

Unfortunately, the tiny spritzing that it does has failed to do much in the way of aerating the pond.  I was hoping that with a little circulation, the pond could become a bit clearer and less of a haven for mosquitoes.

In that light, I recently ordered a larger pump with separate solar panel.  It arrived about a week or so ago, and on the first sunny day, Kenny and I installed it.

I placed the pump underneath the dock Grandpa had made, so that it was well submerged, but not resting on the murky bottom.

Then I installed the solar panel at the base of one of our spruce trees overlooking the pond.  Finally I went in search of some sort of pipe to let the water run out of and fall into the pond.  I felt that falling water would do a better job of aeration.

Instead, I found a rusty piece of angle iron and had a "lightbulb" moment.  It looked much more in tune with nature than any sort of plastic or even metal pipe could have done.  I carried it down to the pond and pushed it into the softish soil around the tree roots.  Then I piled rocks around the base of it, using them to hold the outlet pipe in position above the groove of the angle iron.

Stepping out from the sun, I could see the water working its way up through the nylon hose until it reached the iron trough and ran into the pond.

Looks perfect!
It was music to my ears!  So much so that since then I have added a few goldfish, with plans to add a few more for visual interest as well as auditory.

My official Goldfish assistant
After letting them acclimatize, time to set them free.
Definitely enjoying the whole thing now!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Comparing a Charcoal Water Filter to a Paper Water Filter

After we have been using the paper water filter for about six weeks, I can't say that it is doing a very noticeable job at reducing the iron in the water.  This isn't exactly shocking, I would have been really surprised if it had.

Okay, everything looks normal down here.  Certainly easier to access!

Can't believe I got it this far without spilling any water!

Hard to deny that there is iron in the water.

And so, with some trepidation, I invested in a charcoal filter (which was interchangeable in the housing I had installed - certainly a bonus!) but at twice the price of paper.

HDX, the Rolls Royce of house brand products :).

It's a little sad that when Kenny saw me writing this, he pointed out that "Daddy, didn't you say it's ALWAYS lefty-loosey, righty-tight?"  I even said it to myself out loud before getting it wrong.
I only installed it a few days ago, but I think it has made a difference.  When I fill the sink, it no longer has a distinctive orange/brown hue to it after only a few inches.

Before picture for reference.

After photo looks pretty good!
The real proof will likely show up in the Berkey filter after about a months use.  I will see how much iron accumulates there.

In the meantime, one immediate side effect is that the pump takes twice as long to fill the water tank.  This gives me food for thought.  It must indicate that some effort is being expended to get the water through the filter and up to the tank.  That should be a good thing if I am thinking that the filter is working much harder at removing smaller particles.

Of course, I fear that it isn't enough, or that it will actually become clogged over time and force us to change out the filter on a very rapid scale, which would be untenable at the current costs of the filters.  If they can't last over a month or two, the economic calculation may be too much.

I'll continue to monitor, and try to check back.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Creating My Own Stone Circle.

Recently Kenny has taken a bit of an interest in Stonehenge and other megalithic type structures from around the world.  I have always shared that interest, and so it is fortuitous that we moved to a part of the province well known for growing rocks.

During initial phases of construction, Grandpa had done the time-honoured tradition of moving rocks out of the way and placing them as borders to mark off paths or zones.  The installation of the new well last fall created a zone that I also wanted to be well defined - a few feet all around the well casing that I wanted to be exclusively planted in grass, somehow I have in my head that a nice layer of solid grass around the well would be a better medium for rainwater to fall through and into my well.  I don't think it would contribute as much decomposing organics as some of the more prevalent plants in that area.

To mark out my "grass only" zone, this spring I ringed the well with many of the stones that had been exposed during its installation.  At the end closest to the cabin, it came quite close to a huge stone that had been split and laid out by the excavator.  After a day or two of thought, I expanded the circle to include this split stone, and that created a natural "entrance", accessed through the area we had been using as a fire pit.

Starting to clean up the "zen garden".
This immediately put it in contact with another stone line that Grandpa had set out from one edge of the fire pit down to the pond.  This increased the area encompassed a bit, and naturally led to me ringing the entire pond with a small line of rocks.  It became quite infectious.

On my own, I encountered a really large rock with a flat top.  I managed to lever it up out of the ground, but that was as far as I could do it by muscle power alone.  I tried using the comealong, but in this area, there weren't too many trees left between the cabin and the sauna, so I didn't really have any places to anchor to, and I wasn't about to use my porch posts!

A long reach with the comealong!
Lots of blocks underneath to make sure it doesn't roll back.
I brought in the ATV with it's new Warn winch and wire rope.  I didn't have any illusions that it could pull the rock in its default state, but I remembered that I had bought a large pulley the first winter we were here to allow me to perhaps winch logs around a corner out in the bush.  I never had a chance to use it in that manner, so the pulley had been relegated to a bin in the garage.  It did take me a good five or ten minutes to find, but I was excited when I did.

I wrapped a chain around the rock first, then attached the pulley to that, and then the wire rope around the pulley and back to the ATV, where I chained it to the front draw bar.  Now I had theoretically doubled the pulling ability of the ATV.  My "secure thought" was that if the rock was too heavy, the winch should have more than enough power to instead drag the ATV forward, long before it would break the rope or damage the winch.  As long as the ATV was on sandy, level ground, there shouldn't be any undue stresses put upon it.

In the right place, now to get the right position.
My pulley all hooked up, commence precision winching...
Nothing beats hands on adjustments though.
I was tickled pink at how smoothly the winch pulled in the rock.  With a few back and forths, I was able to get it into position near the fire pit, and then I used the winch again to lever it up into position.  Now I had the barest outline of a circle at the fire pit, with two huge boulders leading to the "zen garden" area around the well, and another flat topped rock that one could set a chair beside while at the fire pit.

Dusty, but looking really nice!
A frosty beverage would complete the picture - but careful, Doctor said I have to watch my potassium!
There was one large gap left to fill around the fire pit, but fortunately I could see a large rock nearby still exposed by the excavator.

This time I thought it would go easier if I were to lever it up and try to slide a scrap piece of plywood underneath.  I wrapped a strap around the rock and fastened a 2x6 from my wood pile to it.  This allowed me to lift it while Donna carefully jammed the plywood underneath.

Too bad you can't see all the hard work my photographer put into this project too!  Thanks Mama!
I repeated my same system with the ATV, and just as I got started, Grandpa and Mummu arrived to observe.  Grandpa pitched right in, using his tamping rod to help guide the rock across the ground to the fire pit.

Just in time to help guide her to her new home.
10,000 years in the same spot, and then I come along and shake things up!
I pulled it a bit past where I wanted it, and then we dug a shallow hole for the rounded end of it to fit.

Then we reattached the strap and 2x6, and I levered it up into position in the hole.

Archimedes, eat your heart out!
Wishing I hadn't put the strap on so well.
It was leaning quite a bit, and not very stable.  I pushed as hard as I could to get it in the position I wanted, and Grandpa packed stones and soil under and around the base until it was satisfactory.

Ahhh, gravity, my old foe...  We meet again!

We then backfilled it with clay, and a layer of sand.

I cleaned up the area, gave it a quick rake, and felt very pleased with the outcome.

I'm looking forward to another campfire, hopefully with guests, to really re-connect to my neolithic roots!

One can feel the reflective power of this space.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Adding Stone Wool / Roxul Insulation to the Attic.

Now that the ceiling in the cabin is complete everywhere, I got to thinking about how most homes insulate the highest point in the house by adding insulation to the floor of the attic space.  In our case, we had spray foam installed right to the peak of the cabin, and as such, I was reluctant to involve anything that could be construed as a second vapour barrier.

Of course, in our climate, it's also hard to discount any opportunity to add insulation that one can find.

We had insulated the sauna and floor of the cabin using Roxul insulation, so it was a natural choice in my mind.  It wasn't as itchy as fibreglass insulations could be, it apparently was a pest deterrent, and most importantly to me, it could breathe.  This would mean that humidity could pass between it and the attic.

I purchased a few batts and with some moaning and groaning, got them installed upstairs.  Two bundles had managed to do just slightly more than half of the attic space.

I reluctantly purchased two more batts, and then had the bright idea to cut the access to the attic large enough to accommodate them.

Got a good helper on this one.  He was careful to take a position where he could fall on soft Daddy and insulation in case of emergency.
Expanding the opening really pays dividends here!
Kenny wanted to check out the scope of the job.
Trying to take care of my lungs.
Halfway done!  Looking good :).
All done!  I wonder if this should be a private refuge...
It was a simple enough matter to finish off the remainder and the attic looks so nice and clean that I'm very reluctant to begin storing much stuff up there.