Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Storm Windows Again

Whelp, this year now that the cabin framing has been completed, I decided that even if they are scratched and dirty, I'll put the acrylic storm windows back up and see how well they work.  I put some of the thin film on the patio door, and it bulged in like a balloon right away!  I guess those patio doors are VERY leaky!

Because of the new trim and framing around the windows - the old pieces generally didn't fit without some tweaking.  I tried doing that with a combination of my circular saw and my band saw.  Maybe I shouldn't have sold my unopened, brand new table saw to the fellows who did the trim work!

I think my face says it all here.  Grrr.

Moved further from the saw, that helps.  Note the bright sun and light snow - the snow on the porch roof was melting and creating lots of ice-cold run off at that perimeter.
In any case, in spite of one chipped corner, and loud squeals, and tiny flying chips of acrylic, the cutting didn't go horrifyingly bad.

The tough parts are trying to install them in the upper windows of the main cabin - I really need to build a catwalk out to those areas in future I think.  I wonder...???

Capturing my best side.
Still a tight fit.  Using the old fist hammer to get it in place.
Something I tried previously, and went all-in on this year was putting Dollarama drapery tension rods in the window frames to help hold the acrylic in place - the tape sometimes was wanting when it came to the entire piece, especially when there was air pressure and dampness involved.

Taping the edges with painter's tape - I splurged on cream coloured tape this year rather than the cheap green stuff - So decadent!  Nota bene: the drip marks down my back from the ice water off the porch roof.
I'm going to order a few new pieces - during me bringing the old ones out of storage, several fell and broke - Kenny can attest to my near curses and cries of "no no NO NO!" as they fell like dominoes and shattered.

Hopefully I can come up with improvements each year.

Oh yeah, we're already 10% into our woodpile.

Cleaning the filthy panes on our bed - only a guy would do something like that, right?  At least if you look carefully, you can see old bath towels underneath!

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Pizza Topology

So we had a late Thanksgiving Dinner this year (late by Canadian Standards - it was the last weekend in October).  It was awesome.  Mummu and Grandpa and E! visited us, and we made mashed potatoes, turkey roll with stuffing, gravy, roasted turnip, rice, and rolls, and our guests brought cake and cheesecake for dessert.

A night or two later, I was ready for leftovers, but Kenny wanted pizza.  I compromised - pizza, but I get to put the leftovers on it!  Thanksgiving Pizza!  Outrageous!

Kenny wanted just plain pepperoni - I didn't want either of us to wait for our pizzas to be ready - but the pan clearly couldn't accommodate two pizzas at the same time - or could it?

Creative pre-cutting to the rescue!

Pretty much the whole deal, right here.

But now with mashed potatoes on one.

And turkey/stuffing just dumped on.

Donna wanted the turnip on a bit - she can have it.  Who am I?  Baldrick?


I am so smrt!


Saturday, November 2, 2019

No Hem Hem

So I wake up at midnight.  Bummer - can't get back to sleep.  It's still almost four am and here I am blogging.

At about one thirty, laying in bed, I'm thinking about insulating the windows and other window-related stuff, when it occurs to me that later today I'm to be at Mummu's and I had wanted to hem our "drapes" as for the past two or more years, the bottom has been dragging on the floor and the back of the chesterfield.

Roomba fodder - not to mention the rolling cart parks on it and it just looks untidy.
Suddenly, as only late night ideas do, it came to me out of the blue...

Perfecto!
Looks fine, maybe even good!  And no sewing required!

Did I just admit that it took me over two years to think of this?

Beauty!  I think there's even a name for this effect - a topper?  Ahhh, it's a cafe curtain with a faux valance.  There you go!

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Protecting Mama's Car


So this year we set up a much large quonset shelter for Mama to park her car in during the winter.  Of course, on one of her test parks with Kenny in the back seat, someone opened their door a bit too vigourously and banged it against the steel support posts of the shelter.

No harm was done, but we didn't look forward to future occurrences.  Mama suggested I pick up some pool noodles to wrap around the poles - an ever so clever idea!  Unfortunately, pool noodles are no longer in the dollar stores at this time of year.  They don't trot out the spring/summer merchandise until more towards the end of January.  (Not sure if I'm exaggerating or not on that point...)

But I'm always happy to find new uses for old products - and what is a pool noodle other than a colourful version of regular pipe insulation?

Kenny and I bought three lengths, chopped it in half, and it was already pre-split down the side!  Perfect!  A few zip ties, and now we're slamming doors to our hearts content!

My awesome personal assistant!  He needs a raise!

Tie wraps work just perfect here.

Three sections should cover all possible car positions.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

Shoveling Manure - Keeping it Real.

So it's September, time to muck out the humanure hacienda!  This year it wasn't quite as overflowing as usual, so it hasn't been too bad (I haven't quite finished yet).

Of course, I'm only taking out one side of the enclosure - so it has had a year to decompose.  I can assure you that there's nothing scary there.  I can identify some eggshells, and the occasional bone, but all the turds have long since returned to dust.

The sawdust breaks down so slowly, that I've realized that it will be more like decades before this stuff could actually be useful as compost.  As such, I've spread it in a few different locations, but this year again, I found a lovely spot at the top of the ravine where I have been throwing brush.  I spread the sawdust on this area, and dream of a few hundred years from now when it could actually form a dam across the ravine, and bring back a lovely river!

Nice fresh trailer, ready to go!

Makes for a good chance to listen to a podcast.

Can you believe the pile was originally up over the top edge?  It really shrinks!

Trailer just about full!

And now dropping it on brush in the ravine.  Ashes to ashes...

It's going to be awhile before it reaches the bottom of the ravine, let alone crosses it!

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Late Quonset Intelligentsia

As you know, last year we tried purchasing a quonset shelter for Donna to park her car in during the winter months.  It worked really well in the sense of making the morning start to her workday much easier - no more sweeping off loads of snow and scraping windows.

As you also know, I didn't give any forethought to sizing it, so she could only pull in the front end of the car, and it was a bit of a gymnastics routine to slide into the driver's seat each morning to back out.

This year, I had been watching carefully for the sales to occur on a larger sized shelter.  When I saw a 12x20 on at half price, I decided to strike.

First off, we decided that last year's shelter should be relocated to the other side of our first "parking" area - and the new one should go where the old one was.  The new one, being twice as deep, would have stuck out uncomfortably into the actual driveway otherwise  As such, it fits in neat as button where it is.

After moving the original shelter, I pegged it down with some railway spikes, although the front corners I only managed a short bolt into the gravel, as the bedrock is only a couple inches below the surface there.

The new shelter went in just great.  I opted to leave off the front door altogether, as we'd never rolled down the original one, and the snow rarely blows in from the east.  Leaving off the door panel and "trim" around it made the entrance feel much larger and easier to navigate as well.

I pegged it down with railway spikes as well.  They aren't ideal, as they aren't threaded or anything, but they did work all last year.

So anyway, all was well with the homestead for a couple of weeks.  Then, the end of this past week we received weather warnings about the 50mm of rain to come.  And it did come.  During the night I even heard our chairs blow over and off the deck!

Well, taking my after supper walk with Kenny on Friday evening, I noted that the old quonset looked a little odd.  On further examination, I could see that there was a bicycle holding up the one side of it.  That wasn't in my original plans.

Something isn't quite right here.
Kenny helped as I extracted everything from inside.  At first I thought perhaps I had forgotten to peg it down, but no - there were nails dangling from the sides and corners; they had simply pulled out.

Fortunately it was the small one, and a bit of grunting and switching from side to side and corner to corner managed to reposition it satisfactorily.

I repegged the back corners and sides, but at the front, I found a serendipitous pair of half sized cinder blocks that worked just great!  It will have to be a real gale to move it around this time!

The blocks were an inspired choice!
I had to rethread the strap to tie it all together.
I also did the opposite side for symmetry.
Of course, now I have a slight worry about the one we're parking the car in...  Once the snow falls on the sides though, I'm sure it won't be going anywhere!

Reloaded, all is well with the world.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Gyoza Overflow!

I really, REALLY wanted to steam all the Japanese dumplings I bought, but the basket for our little rice steamer just couldn't contain them all.

Mmmm, Gyoza!

Where there's a will (and a silicon bowl) there's a way!

Mmmm, tasty dumplings incoming!  Where's the soy sauce?

Thursday, August 22, 2019

A Tough Night For Bunny

Got some nice pictures of the Lynx on the camera!





But something tells me the bunny here isn't having the best time.


Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Kludgy USB Cable

The other day Donna pointed out that once again, the summer season represented the time when I go more than a month between blog posts.

It seems this is usually the time of year when we combine a trip south with activities that just don't feel quite as blogworthy.

And as such, here's a quick post to try to relieve some guilt.

For backing up our family photos and files, I have recently switched from Dropbox, which recently announced a nearly 30-50% increase in the yearly fee, to Resilio.

It hasn't been totally smooth, but it wasn't too bad once I understood how it worked better.

 In order to make it work more like a Dropbox, it did require an always-on computer in the mix.  I couldn't provide one with reasonably low power requirements for cheap, but then I came up with a pretty useful solution - an nVidia SHIELD android box.  I could run Resilio on it.  As a side benefit, I could also run Foldersync on it (for full Dropbox emulation for clients), and it acted as a Plex media server.  So I feel smug and clever that I have it using Foldersync to both sync with clients' Dropbox accounts, as well as my own online seedbox.

But alas, all was not to last.  nVidia, to their credit, released an update over the past month or so that kicked in while we were on vacation.  It updated the SHIELD to a newer version of Android, and that ended up borking all my sideloaded apps.

I tried resetting, but that only cleared my settings.  Adding back Foldersync and Resilio just caused the lockups to return.  Argh!

I should note at this point that these two apps are sideloaded, as they are not officially supported on the SHIELD.  It's a shame, as there is no reason for them not to run on it, and in fact, they expand its usefulness exponentially.

I finally settled on flashing the device back to the "7.2.3" firmware, rather than the latest "8.0.0" which caused me so much heartache.

First up, I had to go to the city to find a wired USB keyboard - I have several wireless ones, but they didn't seem to detect properly on the SHIELD.

Then I also had to come up with a USB A Male to USB A Male - I'd only seen one of these once ever on an old external drive enclosure.

I found none at Best Buy or Marnics, but then there was one at Staples for $40.  Steep!  I bought it, but then right away found a multi-adapter kit at Wal-Mart that included the A to A male fittings, so I returned the one from Staples.

Arriving home I got all the stuff assembled and hooked up, but alas - loads of errors while trying to flash!

Eventually I read a few troubleshooters suggesting that poor USB cables cause those sorts of transmission errors, and the Walmart kit sure had thin, thin wire.

At last I gave up, and cut down two cheap cables I already had, and wired them together.  The transmission went halfway before giving up due to errors - progress?

I then went all-in, and the half cable with the thinnest wire, I cut right down against the connector, so now it was a short (about 30cm) cable, but with the thickest wires I had available.  Hooking this beast up worked right away!

That's a weird lighting effect around the ends of the cable.  Yes, that's scotch tape protecting my solder job.
I now have my SHIELD back to 7.2.3 - and strangely enough, I didn't lose my user account settings, although everything else was reset.  Later today I'll get on sideloading my apps back.  This will be super-annoying if my problems persist.  Oh yes, I also turned off auto-updating of both apps and the system.

Hmmm, maybe this post really belongs on Weird Tales of IT?

Friday, June 14, 2019

Flett Tunnel

A peaceful, idyllic trip planned to an abandoned railway line.

A group of enthusiastic young homeschoolers, eager for a romp through nature, exploring and seeking out fun and interesting geocaches.

Moms and tots, Dad and preteens, sunny skies and (relatively) few flies.

The entire group of us either trotting briskly with dignity or running screaming from the tunnel as a lumbering behemoth approaches.


How did we get here?  It all began over one hundred years ago as the Grand Trunk Railroad grew eager to take advantage of the budding Canadian identity's requirement to be linked coast to coast.  Content at first to build up a network of rail lines around the Great Lakes, they realized that the Canadian Pacific's westward expansion was turning into a bigger deal than they had expected.  As such, they planned their own line linking Fort William with Winnipeg.  Unfortunately, as they worked their way westward, creating alphabetically organized nodes, Alba, Baird, Crest, Dorval (?), Ellis, they reached a barrier at "F"lett - a rock formation that couldn't be avoided on their way to Griff.

Wait, that's too far back.  How about just four months ago?

That's when the Music Workshop School decided to book the Waverley Library Auditorium for their end of year recitals - thus overriding the "tech club" and our usual Thursday afternoon booking for two consecutive weeks in June.

We bumped our bookings to the local Gameshelf/Bookshelf, but then there was further discussion of maybe mixing things up a bit.

Kenny and I had long discussed visiting this tunnel that we had read about in some local hiking blogs.  Once again, we hoisted the flag of Flett tunnel, and saw a couple of fellow homeschoolers willing to trust us to lead them to a new adventure - in the real world!  What a radical notion!

We met at the Emerald Greens Golf Course promptly at 1:20 - amazingly for homeschooling families of various sizes and ages, we were all there not just on time, but early - Kenny could hardly believe it, but I had had faith.

I reiterated our directions - head west on Dawson Road/102 until Sistonen's Corners, then follow the highway to the right and onto the 11/17/Trans Canada Highway.  Follow that until Finmark Road and then turn right there.  Follow that until we either turn onto Flett Road, or it becomes Flett Road (conflicting maps and directions made it hard to say for certain - as it turns out, it bears to the left a bit more significantly than to the right, and there is a sign marked "Flett Road" pointing straight through at that spot).

Continue a bit further, until you're certain that the road will soon peter out, and then if you're lucky, your Google Maps GPS will tell you to turn hard left onto the old rail bed - it's perfectly driveable for most any vehicle.  Kenny and I were in our 2WD Ranger, followed by three other crossover type vehicles, and the going was just fine.

Eventually the rail bed started to get a little more...  potholy?  And then the look of the trees up ahead became distinctly dark.  The GPS announced we had arrived, although there wasn't much to see other than an inky shadow on the road ahead.  I pulled off a bit to the side, shut off the engine, and hopped out of the truck.  Ahead on the road lay the maw of the tunnel - it was at once surreal, exciting, beautiful and, dare I say, cool!

So uhm, is that it?  Or just a really overgrown part of the rail bed?
Puddles are never NOT interesting!


We examined our surroundings, collected the various children and gear we wanted to carry, and proceeded the remaining few metres to the tunnel entrance.

Large pools of water awaited at the mouth of the tunnel, but along the sides were wide, dry sections of crushed gravel that made it very, very accessible.  No need to get my slippers wet here!

The bugs, even at this time of year, were either not too bad, or else the wonder and interest of the place made them entirely forgettable.

We headed straight through the tunnel for our first run.  The children were already completely at ease, and had reached the far end of the 300 metre tunnel just as the grown ups were entering it.  I give them credit - it was very dark in the centre area, but the light at each end made it quite tolerable and comfortable to be in.  No sense of being closed in in the least.

I'm just approaching it, the kids are already at the far end!
Who knows what they are plotting?

Needs more lens flare!  JJ Abrams?  Where are you?
Graffiti was not nearly as bad as it could have been, and the garbage wasn't terribly offensive.  There were a few plastic bottles, a few cans, and only one glass bottle - intact.  We planned on gathering it up before we left - but then, due to the incident...  Well, I get ahead of myself.

Emma, Stu, I hope your love is as strong as this rock.  💘💘💘💘💘
N! joked privately with me about how fun it would be to make a loud train sound and to see the reactions of everyone there - I knew that Kenny had an authentic train whistle somewhere - but of course, we never thought to bring it.

N!, clearly contemplating something dark, disturbing and nefarious.
...or else thinking of Calvin and Hobbes, it could go either way.
At the far end, I walked a short distance beyond the tunnel and discovered a marked trail off to the left that clearly circled back to the top of the cave.  I wasn't interested in mentioning that to the group - I would not have enjoyed the notion of all those kids running rampant up around the unprotected roof-edge of the tunnel.

Teenage me - wicked cool cliff!
Adult me - keep those kids away from there!
Am I...  Old?
The TeamKim family opened up their geocaching app and proceeded to tell us that there was a cache hidden somewhere in the tunnel!  I returned to the truck and retrieved my phone, and there were at least three of us with our phone flashlights on, picking our way along the sides of the tunnel, seeking out a small "treasure-box".

Everyone was in on the search!
Luckily, I overheard the matriarch of their team remark that the cache was hidden close to the "Jeep" - I knew where that was!  I had taken a photo of it not five minutes earlier!

Jeep?  What Jeep?  (True confession - at first I thought it said "BEER")
Rushing down, we quickly found the small box behind a rock.  S! opened it up while everyone gathered around.  C! and M! enumerated the contents as we all basked in the sense of discovery, adventure and satisfaction at having found a modern-day buried treasure.

Suddenly, in a scene reminiscent of Stand By Me (props to LA! for posting this clip to the group within the hour), shouts of "Truck!" reverberated down the tunnel - a fully laden logging truck was barreling down the abandoned rail line - directly towards us!


We headed back to our vehicles at a brisk pace - some at a run, some a brisk walk.  This was fairly unexpected - although in hindsight, I do recall seeing at least one small sign warning of something like "warning - truck traffic" - but I didn't think at the time that it could be a very likely occurrence - and certainly no transport truck would be on such a road and willing to travel through the tunnel!  How wrong I was.

I'll take "Things you don't expect to find in an abandoned train tunnel for $1000 Alex".
Getting back to the vehicles, it was obvious that we hadn't pulled over far enough for a truck to pass unimpeded.  We quickly decided that we had had enough adventure for that moment, and turned our vehicles around.

Kenny and I led the way back along the rail line, pulling over in a wide spot with lovely lilacs on one side of the bed, and huge mountains of creosoted ties on the other.  The truck passed us by and disappeared around the bend as we waited to be sure everyone was re-assembled.

Convoy once again in formation, we headed back along Flett and Finmark road until we came upon the truck and driver.  He had pulled over (with enough room for us to pass) and was conscientiously re-tightening his load.

As I passed by I rolled down my window and asked him how often he encounters surprised hikers blocking the way.

"Every single day." he replied patiently, with a tight-lipped smirk.



Ice?  In June?  Only in Thunder Bay!







Donna spotted a king's face in this picture - pareidolia at work?









Post Blog Blooper Reel:

Heading back down Highway 11/17, Gary Numan's Magnum Opus blaring on the truck speaker (more relevant to our modern world than ever, I must say.  I *DO* feel safest of all when I'm in my car, cut off from society), suddenly my bluetooth kicked in with a jarring 8-bit version of "Ride of the Valkyries" - someone was calling me?

You get what you pay for, and I had paid for a $25 bluetooth stereo from Walmart.  I could just make out the voice of TeamKim leader asking if Kenny and I were game to search out another nearby geocache at Sunshine.

"Heck Yeah!"  we replied (well, actually, we fumbled for five minutes to turn off the bluetooth on my phone and then Kenny mustered all his enthusiasm into "I guess so").  We're always looking to keep the party rollin'!

We pulled over at the Sunshine Loop cutoff and assessed.  Unfortunately, LM!, N! and S! had to pass the vehicle torch, so they were going to take a polite pass.  L! was able to inspire C! and M! to agree, and Kenny repeated his new mantra - "I'm willing to try new things" - as always, in an utterly convincing monotone voice.

We followed the GPS about a kilometer and a half north of the highway where we met up with our old nemesis - well, I guess not that old - it was the same rail bed we had left about twenty minutes earlier!  In fact, it was basically the Ellis node location!

There was a rust coloured gate hanging limply across the rail bed to keep interlocutors out (that is to say, people who TALK about being interlopers).

We swarmed all over it, but found nada, zilch, nothing, the big goose egg.  Luckily, an errant finger poking into the open end of a bar of square stock felt something more...  plastic than steel.

Sliding out a small magnetic hide-a-key, we knew we had triumphed yet again!  Score two for TeamKim!

I'm quite certain that everyone appreciated being able to claim two victories in the hunt for treasure in a single day.  Perhaps we will expand our group interests into the realm of geocaching?

But that, is another story...