Monday, December 3, 2018

Things that go Thwap in the Night.

The first year or two that we were on the homestead, I was using the tractor to do all the ploughing.  Or shovels when the tractor was out of commission.

The steep banks alongside the driveway worried me.  The tractor was very narrow and tall, and not nearly as stable as my up-til-then exposure to full sized farm tractors had led me to believe.

While I never actually tipped the tractor over, there were several times that I consider "close calls" where it was up on two or three wheels.

To help alleviate some of my concerns about this possibility during the winter season when I couldn't see the banks, I purchased many reflective sticks, or posts with small reflectors at the top of them, which I lined the driveway with.

As I switched to the ATV and gained confidence in its entirely superior stability, I started to become less and less retentive about lining the driveway; in fact, last season I believe I skipped them entirely.  (I remove them in the spring).

With our new neighbour J!, who is willing to give us the occasional plough with his truck to keep the banks back nice and far, I felt it may be important to mark out landmarks that I'm very aware of, but that he may not be.  Several decorative (i.e. too heavy to move) boulders, the walkway to the sauna, a stump that I got as low as possible, but could still catch the bottom edge of a blade, etc, all received a marking.  I even put them at the bottom of the stairs and on the other side of the sauna walk to help with us walking around the homestead.

A few days ago, we visited with Mummu and Grandpa to deliver to them a futon which they had purchased, anticipating that we may have need of "crashing" at their place due to weather or other circumstances.  As a very much appreciated gesture, they sprang for some take away food, so we fellowshipped with them until it started to grow dark before heading back to the cabin.

Upon arriving back at the cabin, it was very dark and yet I knew that we also had very little power, so I wanted to run the generator for a little bit before retiring.  Donna and Kenny headed inside while I meandered towards the sauna.

It was overcast, and had snowed, so there was no light, and really no packed trail to help me stay on the straight and narrow towards the sauna.  As I approached the halfway mark between the cabin and the sauna, my right foot encountered a slight resistance, followed by a sharp release and "snap" that really capped off a lovely evening - a stinging pain that really only half of the population can appreciate.

My shriek was carried away on the wind, and I continued on bow-legged to the sauna, where I started the generator.  I usually let it warm up by walking around the deck of the sauna once or twice before turning off the choke, and by the time I did this, the indignity thrust upon me was mostly forgotten.  Besides, I did have a special beverage waiting for me inside.

The next morning I headed back outside to run the generator a little more, and the evidence from the night before was plain to see...

Ouch.

The footprints and groove in the snow tell the whole tale I'm sure.

The real path is just slightly to the left of the marker, as you can plainly see in the light.

I've since ordered some more solar lights to mount between the cabin and sauna.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Wildlife Update: 14 November 2018 (Deer)

This one is interesting - according to the time it was taken, it was just twenty minutes after we had gone for our nightly walk down the driveway!  We just missed it!

I know the date says the 13th, but I had set it incorrectly, it should be fixed going forward.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Wood Piling Helpers

It's always four times the fun piling wood when you have double the helpers!

A little dusting of the white stuff just makes it look nice

Love to see the smiles!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Oil, Chains, and a Trip to the Mechanic for the ATV

A couple of weeks ago my awesome neighbour J! offered to help me change out the oil in the ATV.  I thought that sounded reasonable and much easier than me loading it onto the truck and running it down to KC Auto again as I've done every previous year.  As well, I imagined that it would be a bit cheaper to do it yourself.

While there, the much more knowledgeable and wise J! suggested that my tires were looking a little worn, but not yet ready to replace.  He said a big help with ploughing and skidding would be to invest in some chains.  This resonated with me - Grandpa always had chains on his tractor and I had entertained the thought previously, but this latest advice was the precipitating factor for me to order them up.

Two more weeks passed before they arrived, and I rushed out to install them.

It took a bit of head scratching, and watching some Youtube videos, but I think I got them on correctly.

On Saturday I decided to try to bring in a large windfall I had noted on Thursday or Friday when I was last in the bush.  I brought out the ATV and hooked up the log arch.  Of course, it refused to start.  I spent some time turning it over to no avail.  Choke, no choke, gas, no gas.  Sigh.  Next I removed the spark plug and lightly sanded it and cleaned it off.  No go.  Then I added petrol (hmmm, this was much easier to do, perhaps I should have done that before the much more challenging spark plug removal?).  Still no go.

As our car was down at KC Auto anyway and needed to be picked up, I decided to load up the ATV into the back of the truck and take it down to swap vehicles.

Everything lined up.
Ramps in place, and as always, safety first!  Strap those ramps so they can't slide off the gate - I've seen it happen in Youtube videos, as well as in real life!  Very unnerving!
I ended up removing the chains before approaching the ramp, as I figured they wouldn't be good on my aluminum ramps or the truck bed.

Cold work with bare hands!
Getting the front tires on the ramp.  I've also removed the power saw boot.  Note the cable hooked on the passenger side of the truck.
Decided to just guide it up, rather than ride it up.  I know, I'm a nervous Nelly.  (Apologies to the brave Nellys out there.)
Taking a load off the winch as it reaches the top of the ramp.
Pretty much done.  Just to get up and over the wheel wells.
It was a bit of a challenge getting the ATV loaded into the truck without being able to drive it up the ramps.  I first hooked up the winch and let the ATV pull itself up the ramp.  It was not a little exciting when the wire rope snapped just as the ATV reached the wheel wells, and I had to quickly switch to the brake and steering to lower it down the ramp again.

Even a well worn wire rope can break now and again.  Thankfully no one was injured!
I tied off a knot in the wire rope, and put two heavy duty straps across the bed of the truck.  The first time I had just put the winch hook on one side, but this time I was able to hook onto the centre of the straps so that I was pulling the ATV straight up into the back of the truck.

Lots of creaking and a straining winch, but it worked!

Worked this time!
And an extra strap at the back to make extra sure all was well.
Of course, now I get to let KC Auto look at the ATV again - and in hindsight, the time and cost of the oil change kit ended up costing me more than letting the pros look at it anyway.  That's something I've definitely learned here on the homestead - while it does give one a great sense of accomplishment to be able to do everything for one's self - it is often as not more expensive and inefficient, with results that can sometimes be better obtained from a professional.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Wildlife Update: 13 November 2018 (Fox)

Editor's note: Too frequent (and blurry) fox photos? Should we post every photo with an animal, or only those that are new or particularly remarkable?

Monday, November 19, 2018

Wildlife Update: 10 November 2018 (Human)


Saw this magnificent female who seemed really pre-occupied with the lynx scat on the driveway.  Looks like she even brought along her offspring and I think that's her mate peeking in on the far right.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Friday, November 16, 2018

Wildlife Update: 30 October 2018 (Fox)

Okay, now that we have the game cameras working on a regular basis, I'll try to post the pictures of what comes up and just tag them by date and perhaps what animal they are.  Not sure if this will be all that interesting or not?


Thursday, November 15, 2018

Wildlife Update: 21 October 2018 (Lynx)

This lynx appeared about 25 minutes after the grouse, following the same route.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Cold Morning in the Cabin!

I woke up early this morning, it felt later than it really was, but I decided it was a good time to start the woodstove.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

Security / Game Cameras

A couple weeks ago at Canadian Tire, I picked up a few game cameras after we witnessed the lynx following some grouse along our driveway.  This coincided with a recent uptick in traffic on the homestead while we are away.

I figured that the game cameras could double as security cameras as well.

Slightly annoyingly, we're sure that they've missed some critters, as we've seen tracks in front of the their field of view, but no pictures have materialized!

Similarly, there have been times that we know we drove past, but the camera has either been extremely slow in tripping and thus only shows the driveway, or it hasn't tripped at all.

On the plus side, there are multiple cameras, so we can assume that in most cases, if one camera misses something, another will catch it.

I had planned on owning one more SD card than cameras, so that I could swap out the cameras in succession each night when we go for our after supper walk.  Unfortunately, after the first swap, I could no longer find the spare SD card.  I searched through all the bins in the corner where I THOUGHT I would have left it.

I cleared off the countertop with our computers in the family room of the cabin.  Not there either.

I figured it was a sunk (lost) cost, and purchased a new card.  I opened up the new card and sat it beside the computer.  After supper, while getting ready to go for the walk, I put the new card in my pocket, and then sat briefly on the chesterfield.

My hand slipped (for what felt like the first time ever) between the side of the chesterfield and the first cushion.  It felt an edge of plastic.  I slipped my fingertips around it and pulled out the missing SD card - NOT SIXTY SECONDS AFTER I HAD PICKED UP ITS REPLACEMENT FROM THE COUNTER.

I guess that's another sunk cost, and at least I have a spare SD card, instead of just the memories of one.  Sigh.

Here are the first pictures of wildlife we've gained from the investment.




Saturday, November 10, 2018

Partially Enclosing the Porch with Poly

Last week we got treated to a cold, wet blow of snowy rain on our north and east sides here at the cabin.  On the north side of the cabin is where we store firewood briefly before it comes into the cabin (so we don't have to go all the way to the woodshed every time we run out of wood inside - we have a couple days' supply built up in deep Rubbermaid tubs.)  As long as the lids are on these tubs, it isn't really a big issue if the weather hits them, but in this particular case, it meant that every lid had a deep pool of freezing cold slush on it that had to be removed before we could bring in that wood.  I also don't like how the snow blows up to the logs of the cabin and then melts there when the temperatures rise again.

Wood and sawdust bins close by.  Note the soaking wet deck.
Even worse, on the east side of the cabin, we sometimes leave our boots outside when we come in.  We came home during this weather event to find our boots soaked with cold snowy water.  Ugh.

No protection for the front entrance either.
For $25, I picked up a roll of medium strength poly tarp and for a few dollars more, some squeeze type clamps.

Medium weight poly.
These type of clamps are surprisingly expensive!

I cut some one inch by two inch strapping to the same height as the outside opening of the porch roof (78 inches).  I wrapped up some of the poly tarp around this strap, and then clamped it to one of the posts on the cabin.

I zig zagged through the posts to give the poly a bit more support, and then did the same thing at the opposite end of the porch.

The view from inside the porch now.  Feels actually cozy.
And in front of the entrance.  Hopefully it will offer a bit of protection.

It was hard to see through, but on the north side of the cabin, we only have a bathroom window that we sometimes look out of - so no worries there.

On the east or entrance side of the cabin, I didn't enclose the whole porch, just in front of the door, so our view through the kitchen sink window is still unobstructed.

Fingers crossed!
I then wandered off to assemble our pop up garage, but returned shortly after to see this.

Doh!
I retightened everything and made a note to purchase some more clamps for extra strength.

One new, extra clamp

And an alternate angle, showing the wood slat.
I'll try to continue to report on how well it all works out.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

A Pop Up Garage

So Donna is still making the daily trek into the city for work, and now that temperatures have dropped below zero, she's starting to encounter frost and snow some mornings.

After a brief discussion about whether or not we could find a way to make the morning routine a bit easier, we green-lit the notion of a shelter for her to park in.

I consulted carefully with the Canadian Tire website, and opted for a rounded top ten by ten structure that seemed to fit the bill (ninja edit : it was on sale too, so the decision was swayed towards this particular size and model).  I think that in the future if the fabric does ever break down, I can easily (?) cover it with sheet steel and create something really solid!

Kenny and I spent the better part of the day assembling it in a very cold drizzle, but managed to not only get it put together according to specs, I even used some of the leftover railway spikes from constructing the cabin to hammer it into the gravel where we located it!

All set up, ready to accept a vehicle into it's loving embrace!
With great excitement, I lined up the Echo and backed carefully in.

Looks good!
Nice and tight against the back fabric.
Uh oh...
Yup, I should have bought the fifteen footer.  Sigh.  Maybe measuring the vehicles would have been prudent?

Enough room to get in and out on the side ;).
At least there was room to get in and out of the vehicle without having to slide along the side of it.

The even more glaring issue is that the Hyundai that Donna drives is even longer.

Well, for now we'll try having her just pull the front in, so she doesn't have to scrape her window.  If it doesn't work out, we do have need for a structure like this to park either the ATV or the bikes or things of that nature.

Bonus cold snek picture.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Reviewing Timber Tuff Skidding Tongs

Now with the sawmill no longer in the mix, I'm focused on trying to make my firewood production as simple as possible.  With that in mind, I tried to take to heart the parts of the job that are messiest, as well as most frustrating.  One of these annoyances occurs out in the bush, trying to thread a chain under the end of a log in the mud or brush before my log arch can pick it up.  To that end, I decided to try out a skidding tong.

Hitting up Amazon proved to be the most economical option, so I waited patiently for it to arrive.  Once it did, I at first tried to use a short chain between the tong's hook, and the hook on my arch.  The tong hangs down a fair distance though, so I realized that every change to shorten the chain would help in lifting the logs higher off the ground.  To that end, I eventually removed the hook from the arch, and simply bolted the chain directly to the roller on the arch.

One can see how low the hooks hang here.  In this photo I have already bolted the chain directly to the roller, and the tongs can be hooked on to the best position for the situation.
Since then, the tongs have worked in an acceptable manner.  They aren't quite as trouble free as I would have liked - small diameter logs don't easily get picked up by them, and require some nursing before I can drive off with confidence.

Occasionally, a log does shake free of the points - of course, this could happen with the chain too.

This is a pretty decent sized log for our property, and it fits onto the tongs well.
A fairly significant shortcoming is that it really can only carry a single log at a time.  I will perhaps try to experiment with ways of getting it to hold more, but for now, it seems a limitation.  Not a huge one, as I'm currently trying to bring in larger logs anyway - but it could be frustrating.  I may consider only using it for larger logs, and just chaining smaller ones together in my original manner.

I'm not sure if I would consider purchasing it in the future - perhaps once I see it pick up some nicer sized logs that I'd have had to muck about to retrieve, but for now, it's not a whole lot better than a simple chain and slip hook have been.

Lots of brush under this log, it would have been a mixed bag to thread a chain around it in the bush.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sealing the Outside Crawlspace Vents

As you may have read, I have changed up how I seal the crawlspace vents.  Now it was time to take the final step and cut and fit some foam to them.

At least I didn't need to put on the full kit it takes to go under the cabin.
From this for under the cabin...

...to this for under the porch.
This year I cheaped out and used some open cell polystyrene foam sheets that are really inexpensive.  Once I know that my concept works, I can switch it up with something more pricey.

Easy to cut, but also a bit messy.
The sheets were only an inch thick, so I inserted multiple sheets to build it up thick.
And the generally finished seal.
So far, it went well, and looks really good.  We'll check in again in the spring and see how it holds up over the winter.