Thursday, January 31, 2019

Wildlife Update: 17 January 2019 (Wolf)

Looking good!  Saw some large paw prints in the snow, so were curious what would be responsible.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Adding A 12V Socket To The ATV For Charging And Accessories

So as I outlined a week or so ago - the ATV has been having some charging issues with the battery.

The installation of the voltmeter has been a real blessing - after trickle charging the battery for a day or two, I then disconnected it and let it sit for a few more days, and we were able to watch the voltmeter descent from 13.1 slowly to 12.7, where it seemed to hold for a number of days - reinforcing my opinion that even though the meter was always on, it wasn't stressing the battery much at all.

Yesterday the cold spell finally broke and it warmed up to somewhere around ten below.  This was my cue to do some more of the electrical work.

I drilled out a hole on the back of the ATV where I inserted a 12V barrel socket.  Then I was able to hook a fused wired from the positive terminal of the battery to the centre of the socket.  With that in place, it was an easy job to hook another wire from the barrel of the socket to the frame of the ATV.

Looks stock!
I stripped the wires on another socket and just wired them directly to the garage battery.  I may try to clean that up in the summer, but for now it works just fine.

It's not pretty, but it works...

I had purchased a long, 12V male to male cable (also fused) and plugged it in - and low and behold!  The voltage jumped from 12 to 15V!  It works!

Looking good!
We'll see how it plays out in the long run, but for now, it's a nice way to ensure the ATV is always charged up (even after I replace the regulator), or even to recharge it if it does go low.

As well, it will open up the ability for me to use 12V (or even small 120V appliances with an inverter) out in the bush!

Monday, January 21, 2019

Kindling Splitter Review

So now that I don't have the mill providing me with loads of weird, thin slabs and offcuts, I have focused on making firewood cutting as easy and productive as possible.  I've purchased a couple of items that I had hoped would help and didn't really, but sometimes I get something that's pretty good.  A log arch is super, super helpful for bringing the logs in to buck up closer to home.
A timberjack is also great for getting logs off the ground when you want to cut them into stove lengths.
An electric log splitter is fantastic - makes it go so fast and uniform, you actually enjoy splitting!
For sure, one of my best investments was a set of log tongs for easily picking up logs to move to the splitter.  I think it's likely my best purchase!
And recently, my new fun toy - a kindling splitter!

Previously, I had just taken thin boards or slabs out front of the cabin where there was a pile of flat rocks stacked by Grandpa when the cabin was first raised.  I would take a small hatchet and an afternoon and just go to town.  At least twice I hit the webbing of my left hand and ended up quitting prematurely and in a crabby mood.

This year I ran out of kindling early, and was just splitting it with the same hatchet, but this time on a table that Kenny had built during our first year here on the homestead.  I didn't enjoy it, and didn't feel it was sustainable.  I was sure that eventually Kenny's table would give out, or my aim would.

I ordered up this kindling splitter, as the style appealed to me more than the ones where you hammer a log through a ring onto a wedge.

At first, I was shipped an arm for a three point hitch.  That was annoying.  Double annoying - they refused to ship the correct part until they received the incorrect one back first.

At least they paid the shipping, but still - I had to wait more than triple the normal time to receive the wrong part, ship back the wrong part, then receive the right part - when you account for my days to both realize the mistake and get to a post office to return it.  Thumbs down to Princess Auto on that count.

Ready to install!  Note Kenny's table underneath.
Otherwise though, it works really well with a slight caveat.  I screwed it to the corner of the woodshed, trying to actually keep it low so that I could use some bodyweight on the lever if needed.

Nice and secure on the outside of the shed.  Screws are some GRK I have been playing with.
Right away one notices that it is designed for short pieces of wood.  I usually cut about 40 cm, but ideal lengths for this machine would likely be half to two thirds that amount.

Commonsense leverage tells you that the angle between the wood and the cutting blade should ideally be 90 degrees.
The longer pieces I would just try to "pinch" from above, or hold from the side until the blade dug into them.  As soon as it digs in though, it is enormously satisfying to force through the grain.

Grasping from above - bare hand only for clarity, it was -30 when I was snapping these, and I wasn't in the mood to dawdle.
Slightly different angle.  I would probably be comfortable even holding the wood directly, as the blade moves very slowly.
I suspect you could even hold the wood directly under the moving blade, as it moves very slowly through the wood and with full control - my only fear would be if my feet were to somehow slip while applying excess force - not very likely I agree.

In any case, I often have so many shorter pieces of wood from bucking up the firewood that I believe I could easily dedicate it to kindling.  I'm excited to see how it fares on some of those.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Recipe For Using Up Leftover Pizza

So the other day Kenny and I were in the city until late.  Mama gave us permission to bring home pizza for supper, and I grabbed two "Hot N Ready" from "Little Seizures."

By the time we arrived home and were able to commence eating, it was revealed that our eyes were much larger than our stomachs, and we ended up with essentially a whole pizza uneaten.

Mama repackaged it neatly and put it in the fridge for future consideration.

I wasn't enthused with the notion of reheating this particular brand - the crust gets rock hard very quickly - moreso than its competitors.  So I came up with this solution.  It's essentially one of those "make-ahead" breakfast bakes.

I cut the pizza into ribbons and squares, and arranged it in a baking dish.  If we had a true casserole dish, I would totally have gone that route.

Just a jumble of Tetris pieces.
I like to make our own alfalfa sprouts, so I threw the last of them on.

Ewww, looks like fuzz!
We had some leftover spinach, so on it went too.  Also the last of the sliced cheese - not as much as I would have liked, but hey, we can't all win the Cooper's Hill Cheese.
Cheese makes everything better.
Then I scrambled nine eggs with nine tablespoons of milk (the perfect ratio for scrambled eggs, I must say.)

I like to put them into a mason jar, pop on the lid, and just a few shakes to scramble.
I poured the mixture on top of everything, and put it in the fridge for the day.

The eggs only fill up about half at this point, but they double in volume when baked.
Lid on, ready to soak for hours in the fridge.
Baked in the oven at - you guessed it: 375 degrees "Frankenstein" for 45 minutes (well, with a woodstove, you just bake stuff until it's done...)

Already gone through the first trench!  Smiles all around! [Dim evening light made photo fuzzy?]
It turned out really well!  I slathered mine with leftover french onion chip dip and barbeque sauce for so, and I was in flavour country!

Chip dip and pizza are a match made in tongue heaven!
Definitely a great way to use it up - especially if it's a bit stale!  The egg mixture rehydrates the bread nicely!

Friday, January 18, 2019

Electrical Shenanigans With The ATV

The last dump of snow was another fairly big one.  I was here though, and ready to get things moved with the ATV.

It was early in the morning when I began, before the sun had come up, so I opted to use a combination of the ATV lights and my headlamp to "get it done".

I managed to plough out the front driveway but it seemed to me that the winch was getting slower and slower as I went along, and the lights were dimming significantly as I utilized it.  Eventually, by the time I got to the cabin, the whole display board of the ATV was lighting up whenever I tried to raise or lower the snow blade.

Annoyingly, I stalled the ATV at this point, and the battery no longer had power to restart it.

I managed to restart the ATV using my battery booster box, but it couldn't raise the blade, so I dragged it back to the garage and let it idle there for ten or more minutes, hoping that the alternator would recharge the battery.  It's annoying - that's a very new battery, as I had replaced it during the summer after burning out the old one while using the winch.  It's an AGM battery, which I still believe is a superior battery technology, although my neighbour J! seems to have a rather poor opinion of them.

When I returned to the ATV, it could raise the blade but struggled mightily to do so.  I parked it, and then hooked it up to the solar batteries in the garage and let it charge up that way.  This isn't how they are suppose to work though!

Charging the battery via my solar power system.
And at the other end of the jumper cables - my "garage" battery.  I really need to get it into a box and looking more professional.  Another project for the summer.
A few days later, J! was gracious enough to look at it with me, and his opinion was that I had simply overwhelmed it with the use of lights AND winch.  I accepted his explanation, although in the back of my head, I did remember in the past using both without any problems, and that was with a very old, stock battery to boot!

One thing we agreed on as a good idea, was a way to monitor the battery situation of the ATV while it was in use, so that if I was beginning to draw it down in a problematic way, I could at least park it before the battery went too flat.  I ordered up a small, digital voltmeter and only had to wait a few days before it arrived.

It was a very easy install - I removed a few bolts and plugs to pull off the plastic cover between my legs, and was able to unscrew and remove the rusted out remains of a 12V cigarette plug.  The wires to it were simply blade type connections that matched the voltmeter exactly, so it was only a second to connect the voltmeter in place, and its barrel tube matched the cigarette plug exactly so it looks like it was meant to be there!

Looks stock!  12.1V is not really that high for a 12V battery though.  12.7V is supposedly resting voltage.
Con: the plug is live at all times, it isn't keyed.  So the LED display is always on, even when the ATV is not in use.  I don't think this is a major issue; that battery should be able to power an LED display for weeks without a bit of worry.  It also means I can see if the ATV is having an issue without having to turn the key - I can just glance at it!

My next project is to install a NEW 12V plug near the rear of the ATV to make it easier to plug it into my solar system to charge up the battery or keep it on a "trickle" charge system.  I've already ordered the parts, so I'll outline that experiment when it warms up enough for me to fiddle with more electrical work there.  It will also mean that I have a plug on the ATV that I can use "in the field" for running 12V accessories.  Not sure what they will be, but the possibilities are interesting...

I did take the ATV for a test plough with the new voltmeter, and can see that the battery is not really charging much between winching - I'm back to suspecting that it isn't getting a charge from the ATV after all.  I've also learned that ATVs don't have alternators, they have voltage regulators - so I've ordered one from Amazon ($35) instead of our local Can-Am dealer ($215) to see if it makes a difference.  Even if that Amazon one is a cheap knockoff and fails within a year, it lets me know where the problem exists, and I can buy an expensive one that is still a fraction of the local price.  And don't get me wrong - I want to support the local guy, but those markups are just punishing.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Expensive Stovetop Thermometer Review (First Impressions)

So last Thursday I got the call from Purolator that a parcel had arrived from Condar Canada - unfortunately it came too late for me to drive to their depot to pick it up.

Condar is the company that imports the thermometer from the U.S., so I knew that's what it was.

Kenny and I had no excuses to return to the city until yesterday when I had to return to the hospital for a set of yearly tests.  We ran many errands, including visiting two of our rental houses, and then picked up not one, but TWO parcels at Purolator!  I'll let the other parcel be the subject of a hopefully near future review.

In any case, we got home last night and I plunked down the new thermometer alongside the old.  I'll let the pictures tell the tale:

"Not Fair!" you say?  Okay, I'll move them closer together...  (Golly, that kettle looks dusty!)

Note that the firebox is actually on the left side of the stove, so that thermometer is closer to the flames.
It's cool that they made one thermometer that works on both the flue, as well as the stovetop, and doesn't shackle us with the strange and demented system that is Fahrenheit.  It's quick and easy to read, and useful in multiple situations.  Kudos so far.  At that temperature, my non-contact gauge was reading just a shade over 350 - so it seems to be accurately calibrated to my mind.  I'd be melting my stovetop trying to get the Chinese thermometer to register as "Overheat".

Friday, January 11, 2019

Cheap Stovetop Thermometer Review

Living with a wood cookstove is a bit of an art, as well as a science.  For a nervous person like myself, it can also be a source of stress.

Two nights ago it was very windy outside, and I made the mistake of loading up the firebox and then closing it down airtight for the night.  For some reason, once or twice a year, the wind blows just so and creates a weird downdraught that pushes the smoke out into the cabin.  It was especially bad that night, and required two doses of Tullamore and some extra good snuggles from Kenny to help alleviate the worst of my anxiety.

I'm always watching the stove, trying to keep it in that sweet prescribed temperature zone of 200 to 350 Celsius, where it's not producing creosote, but also not stressing the metal of the stove or stovepipe.  I suspect that with a stainless steel stovepipe, I probably should worry much less than I do.  I have a friend who seems to be unconcerned about having multiple chimney fires each year - I guess it cleans his pipe for him?  I would die of panic if I had even one.

Up until two years ago, I had a non-contact thermometer that I would constantly be using to monitor the surface of the stove and often the stovepipe as well.  Then I discovered the "Inferno" thermometer - it wasn't cheap, but I decided to try it anyway as it would be much, much more convenient than the non-contact one.  It was.  It was a great investment.  But then this fall, it stopped dropping back to zero when the stove wasn't in use.  Later it stopped moving smoothly, and instead would "jump" suddenly up and down in temperature, until finally it barely moved at all.

Cheapskate me thought that it was a simple device, so I hit up a Chinese retailer online and ordered two inexpensive versions of the same thermometer and duly waited three or four weeks for their arrival.

Looks great!
I was happy to see they began at zero, and so I put the first one on the stove and the second one aside for if and when the first one failed.  I didn't have to wait long.

After firing up the stove, I used my non-contact thermometer to calibrate the new stick-on one, and was slightly annoyed to find that it was reading 200, while the stove was actually 250.  I figured it was just lagging, but as the stove got warmer and warmer, it stubbornly refused to move.

I put the second thermometer alongside the first, and was even less impressed to see that they were consistently reading about 75 degrees differently.

I lived with it for the day, annoyed, but at least they moved. I figured I could just "get use" to the needle not pointing at actual numbers, but the fact that neither thermometer pointed much beyond 250 no matter how hot the stove was, weighed on my mind.

The next day I put on a good fire and sat down to do my paperwork.  After a few moments, I thought Mama's morning coffee was especially pungent.  Then I realized that it wasn't the regular "burnt" smell of coffee, but something more "painty" - I bolted to the stove and saw that the thermometers were finally reading about 300.  I checked with the non-contact thermometer which registered closer to 400.  Crapsicles!

I closed all the vents and used a fork to lift the thermometers off the stove.

Very, very annoyed with them now - and the paint had baked off to the point that I could barely see any of the markings anymore!

What the heck?  I need a camera flash to see the text!
I have subsequently ordered another thermometer that I believe is made by the same company as the original Inferno - the only difference I believe between the two is that the new one no longer has Fahrenheit markings on it, only the "sweet spot".

I'll report back if it disappointments me even a fraction as much as these cheapo thermometers.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Wildlife Update: 27 December 2018 (Hare)

The snow has weighed down the branches over most of the field of view - but just underneath you can see a cute little bunny doing bunny things.  I've removed the offending branches.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Happy New Year 2019!

We returned from a Christmas break to find the cabin a rather chilly -9.  It took two days before we got it back up above 20 (although we did return to the city to spend the night with Mummu and Grandpa).

Thankfully J! from next door kept our driveway clear while we were gone, and even shoveled the steps and deck so we could get inside easily.

There must be a dip in the water line between the tank and the bathroom - even though I drained the water lines, it seems the bathroom is frozen.  Hopefully it will thaw eventually now that we are keeping the cabin much warmer.

Note to self - even empty thunder box pails still smell.  I set one inside before we left, and the cabin had an off smell for the first day after we were back.  I won't do that again.

I think the intake valve on the washing machine may be damaged from a little bit of freezing - the cold water is a constant trickle, whether the machine is on or not.  That's not good.  I switched the line over to the hot intake and it still works good, but of course, only halfway through the load did we realize that it then switches over to a cold water rinse.  I'll perhaps try to dismantle part of the machine and see if it can be fixed.  This is an economy Chinese machine, so I really doubt if parts or repairs are very easily had.

The woodshed is now 2/3 full.  Not sure if I should be concerned or not.  We'll see how it progresses.  There is still a good amount of wood in the sauna shed, and the sauna is getting much less use than previous years thanks to my indoor "shower".

We're also closing on another house.  Exciting times!