Tuesday, August 19, 2014

20 August, 2014 - Bear Problems, Huckleberries, Cherries and Raspberries, Glacier National Park and Automatic Transmission Rebuilding

Well ...  I've had good intentions of making smaller posts more often but life just seems to be getting in the way!  Either I have no time to make some posts or I'm just too tired or lazy when I have time.  So be forewarned that I uploaded 36 photos so this is one of the longer posts I've made.  I also grouped the photos by category rather than sequential.  For example, the huckleberry picking took place before the visit to Glacier Park.

 
We have a friend who has family members that cannot tolerate gluten.  She (like us!) was very disappointed with the commercial, gluten free alternatives so she set about making her own.  She sent us a bag to try and it is absolutely great stuff.  It is the equal of any recipe that uses wheat.  She sold it to a "real" company to manufacture, package and market it.  If it isn't available at the places you shop then ask them why it isn't.  We never endorse anything that we haven't tried ourselves and this is by far the best gluten free baking mix we have ever had.

 
After a long day of picking huckleberries we headed home in one of the most impressive lightning/thunderstorms I've seen in Montana.  The wind and rain were intense but the lightning never let up for about 45 minutes.
 
It was about dusk when we headed into Fortine to pick up our mail and go on home.  We got about two miles out of town on our road and there was a tree down across the road.  Normally I'd have cut it out of the way or used the winch to drag it out of the way but it was also laying across the power lines.  We turned around and took an alternate route home that took us about 20 miles out of our way.  We came onto the road again about two mile past the first downed tree.  We went about another mile and saw two more large trees down on the road.  One we just drove over the top of it but the next one was more challenging.  I drove through the top of it, almost ripping my mirror off the passenger side door.  We made it though and turned up our gravel road for the last three miles to home.
 
That section was clear until we got within sight of our property line then this big guy was across the road.  All I had in the truck was an ax and large bow saw.  The winch probably wouldn't be much good on that one so we just walked the last 1/4 mile home and I returned with the chainsaw.  The Stihl made quick work out of the downed tree and I drove the pickup on to the cabin. 
 
Most of those on grid power in this part of the county were without power for several hours.  Our off-grid cabin had lots of power though!

 
Susan, Emily and Scott picked cherries while I was working on our transmission in Kalispell.  We have a couple of  cherry pitters but we usually use either a straw or hairpin.  This time I used the pitter at the bottom while Susan used a straw.  The pitter on top is the least likely to be used.  It just doesn't work as well.

 
The two bowls on the left are cherries from the tree in our daughter's yard.  The pan on the right is raspberries from our garden.

 
We usually do tasks like this together.  The work goes much faster with companionship.

 
Susan is preparing raspberries for canning.

 
The entire load (9 jars) sealed well.  She uses the water bath canner for raspberries and other fruits.

 
She used the remainder to make raspberry syrup!

 
If you've seen my posts on the Grit Magazine blogging site (Grit Blog Site) you'll already know about our neighborhood bear problems.  We have a grizzly causing problems in the area.  One neighbor lost all his chickens and another lost most of his turkeys when the bear ripped the sides off their poultry houses during the night.  Fish and Game tried to capture it using a culvert trap and snares but this bear is a veteran and avoided both (it actually played with the culvert trap a bit).  So we now have electric fencing around our chicken house.

 
We spent a couple of weeks in Kalispell while I was rebuilding the transmission in our Expedition and doing repairs on some of the kids' vehicles.  We just took our chickens (all 80 plus) to Kalispell and left them at a daughter's house.  They cared for them while we were there.  They get fed several times a day.  They are meat chickens and are virtual eating machines going from hatchlings to table ready in 60 days.
 
Anyway, while we were home to water the garden (once a week) I took the opportunity to clean out the chicken coop and put in new bedding.  It's a lot easier when you don't have a bunch of chickens inside! (Okay, usually we exile them to the outside run but then you have to listen to their endless peeping wanting back in!)

 
We're using an old electric fence charger I purchased at a yard sale for a dollar.  It runs on 110 volt AC so I had to run an extension cord from the cabin.  You can also see a game camera mounted tot he wall of the chicken coop.

 
Grinding chicken feed!  Scott loves to help so he's taking a run at grinding grain.  We ground up some sweet feed to give to the chickens.  It's easy to grind so Scott really had a blast.  He feels so grown up when he gets to help.

 
We took our oldest daughter and her kids to Glacier National Park this week.  We had one day (Monday the 18th) of sunshine in the forecast so we headed to the Park.

 
Scott had his binoculars and was getting close-up views of ... trees!  That's his cousins, Anna and Andrew to the right.

 
Near the top at Logan pass.  The long cut across the mountain is Going tot he Sun Road which we'd just come up.

 
The ground squirrels were friendly at the visitor center of Logan Pass.  They freely accepted any kind of food handout.

 
The kids had a snowball fight at one of the few remaining patches of snow along the trail.

 
Nearing our destination on the walk.

 
A couple of marmots sunning themselves.

 
Two mountain goats and their young looking for shade!

 
We're almost at the overlook for Hidden Lake.  It's a short 1.5 mile uphill walk on pavement and boardwalks from the Logan Pass visitor center.

 
Another view of Hidden Lake.
 
We used the shuttles in the park and while I like the idea of park shuttles they really need to improve services.  We finally got on the third shuttle to head back down but there were 52 people still in line behind us.  The shuttles hold about 12 people and run about every 15 to 30 minutes.  We were in line over 30 minutes waiting our turn.  The people in the last of the line probably had to wait another one to over two hours for their shuttle.  At one time the park service wanted to close the road to private vehicles and rely on shuttles.  If they do that they'd better make some improvements on their shuttle services.

 
This is in the Tobacco River in a park at Eureka.  Tristan is Scott's favorite uncle mainly because he likes to play with Scott!  Here we're waiting for the farmer's market to open in the park.

 
Huckleberry time!  Susan, Odie and our oldest grandchild, Jonathan.

 
Me and the rest of the crew!

 
The berries were thick but small.  We picked several gallons over the few hours we were there.

 
Susan amongst the huckleberry vines!

 
After picking hucks we went to the lake to cool off.  This is a spring fed lake and it's ice cold even in August!  The Canadians like it and use it a lot since it's only a few miles inside the US border.

 
The transmission went out on our Expedition way back in Nevada.  Our oldest son brought another vehicle down for us to drive and brought the Expedition back to Kalispell to store it at his place until we could fix it this summer.  We took the transmission out and tore it down to see what the damage was.  I could put in a remanufactured unit for around $2,000.00 total or rebuild it for about $800.00.  I opted for rebuilding it.  This is the gear train inside the transmission.

 
The small pieces are what's left of a Torrington bearing.  The bearings are about $5.00 each but cause a lot of damage when they go bad.  This is secondary damage.  The first one that went was inside the gear case and wiped out the gear train.  You can see broken teeth on the gears.

 
This bearing was the original offender that caused the transmission's failure.  We found out after ordering parts that this is the most likely place for this transmission to fail.

 
Some of the clutches cleaned up and ready for re-assembly.

 
This is the disassembled pump along with the center support.

 
The valve body.
 
You've seen about 50 percent of the parts in these photos.  I also replaced the torque converter (must be done on every transmission rebuild), flushed the cooler, changed the engine oil and filter and replaced the front and rear driveline universal joints while I had them out.  The transmission is electronic and uses a semi-synthetic fluid.  The cost of the fluid only was around $75.00.  I had an extra quart but Scott found it and dumped it on the ground.  That was $5.00 gone!  It is really nice to have the Expedition back on the road again.

 
Scott making his own breakfast in the camper.  They began as "over easy" but his flipping skills aren't quite up to snuff yet so they became "hard" cooked.

 
Our son's pontoon boat with Scott as the pilot.  We spent a couple of weeks in Kalispell.  We got a new jetpack for the internet then it quit and we took it back then the second one quit and we took it back.  We're now on our third one.  Hopefully it will last longer.  We went swimming in one of the nearby lakes several times and went on lots of bike rides on trails around Kalsipell.   Scott got to personally evaluate several of the city's parks and playgrounds.  I also taught one of the kids how to change their own oil and we put a new fuel injection system in another son's Blazer.  Now we're ready to stay home a bit.
 
Things are hopefully settling down now.  We hope to go huckleberry picking in the next couple of days.  The wild grapes are almost ready to pick.  I hope to have enough to make some grape pancake syrup this year.  We've had enough rain that the fire danger is almost over.  When the woods dry out I'll begin cutting firewood for winter. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15, 2014 Home Again

We arrived home from our book trip on July 3rd.  Total mileage for the trip was over 7,630 miles.  A lot happened on it but I don't have a summary organized yet so it will have to wait.  This posting will be some of the things that have happened since we arrived home on the third.

We purchased fireworks on the way home.  We decided to have our celebration the 5th instead of the fourth to give us more time to get the place ready for company.  We were gone during the monsoon season so we expected the yard to be severely overgrown.  We were not disappointed!  The grass had all gone to seed and was waist high and thick.  We purchased a good power mower on the way through Kalispell just for cutting through the tall grass.  After a couple of long days working with the weed eater and mower we got the yard in good shape.  We had most of the kids over to begin the evening with a barbecue and games then shot off about $500.00 worth of fireworks in the evening.

It was a good show.  We plan on doubling our fireworks expenditures for next year.  We'll buy more things for the kids to shoot in the afternoon while waiting for it to get dark to light up the big stuff.



 
We use game cameras for security cams.  This one caught some good photos of a whitetail deer and her fawn.  Most of what I've seen has been deer and rabbits.  There are reports of a grizzly bear roaming the area so I may have photos of it on another camera.  Nothing is missing so I didn't expect to find much in the way of illegal activity.

 
I used the weed eater and mower to clear some of the grass that had grown up on the garden paths while we were gone.  I tilled up the planting sections before we left but there wasn't anything I could to stop the grass from growing on the pathways.  You can see a sample of the tall grass we are dealing with on the far side of the photo.


The gophers moved in while we were gone so I set out a bunch of traps.  I caught four of the little buggers one day and average two per day for the other days.  The tall grass gives them good cover and about the only way to get them now is by trapping them.

 
We used all the water in the main tank so I loaded up the barrels and we made a couple of water runs. I have seven, fifty-gallon barrels here so I can get about 350 gallons per trip.  We filled these up in Fortine since we were going there anyway.  Normally I either pump it out of the lake or go to a neighbor's house to fill them.

 
We purchased 84 meat chickens.  I called up the local feed supply store to see if they had any chicks left and he said they had about 60 Cornish Cross chicks to sell.  We told him we'd take them all and when the final count was made we had 84.  He was selling them for $1.00 each and they were two-weeks old so he'd already been feeding them awhile so we got a really good deal!  These little guys are eating machines.  We take the food away after 12 hours to keep them from overeating.  We'll be getting a lot of meals out of this batch and canning a bunch of them too.

 
The "run" outside the henhouse was overgrown with grass and raspberry vines.  Susan got inside and cut it all out with hand clippers so the chicks could get outside.  Note the grass outside the pen and how tall and thick it is.  It was the same inside the pen.

 
Another view of the chicken run.  This is too small for 84 chickens so we'll split them up into other pens as they get bigger to keep their stress levels down.

 
We've also done some brush clearing.  I cut this out with the brush blade on the weed-eater (used the chainsaw for the big stuff) to make it easier to get into and out of the driveway.  I also took out a small tree near the road.  I used the winch on the truck to remove the tree stump.  I used a snatch block to double the pulling power of the (12,000 lb.) winch.  The winch barely grunted in exertion but we had to put the tires of the truck up against another stump to hold the truck back.  It was sliding all four tires.  It's a good way to remove smallish sized stumps as long as you can chain the truck to a good anchor.

 
The water tank needed cleaned so after draining it to water the garden I let it dry for a day then scooped the gunk out of it.  There were also left-over fireworks in the tank.  The kids liked seeing stuff blow up underwater.

 
We've been reading grocery store labels more and have been shocked at the amounts of salt and sugar used in processed food.  We had a hankering for turkey and finally found some that weren't injected with astronomical amounts of salt and other seasonings.  They were pricey but we'll get a lot of meals out of this one.  We have neighbors raising turkeys this year so we'll probably do some trading of chickens for a turkey or two this fall.  I can also shoot one during hunting season.  They don't have as much meat as a domestic turkey but they're still good, organic meat. 
 
Here Susan is picking the meat from the bones for use later.  Nothing is wasted.

 
After the first meal Susan boiled down the leftovers for broth and meat.  We'll use it all eventually.  We're also going to grind some for canning in addition to the regular small chunks for stews, casseroles, etc.

 
When we got back from our second water run Susan heard air escaping from one of the tires.  It had a large screw in it.  The good thing is that it's in a place I can fix without removing the tire and rim from the truck.

 
I marked it well with a tire crayon.

 
I then unscrewed it from the tire.

 
Scott is holding it in his hand.  It's fairly large.

 
I'll use a plug to repair it.  The first step is to ream the hole out good.

 
Next you put a plug on the installation tool and generously lube the plug with rubber cement. (Use lots of rubber cement!)

 
Now you just shove the plug through the hole leaving a little of the plug showing above the hole.

 
Pull back on the installation tool and the plug stays in the tire.  Leak fixed!  I then fired up the compressor and pumped the tire up to 80 PSI.

 
Susan has been busy in the garden.  Even though we got a late start we still planted some potatoes, carrots and onions.  Scott is big enough to help some although his attention span is still pretty short.  At least he knows to not step on the new plants and how to distinguish the weeds from the plants.
 
There's a lot more going on that's not on here.  Susan has put in hours cleaning out outbuildings and sorting things in piles to give away and throw away.  We've done laundry and moved our tubs back outside.  Most meals are prepared from raw ingredients which takes extra time.  We finally took one hot afternoon off to paddle around Murphy Lake in the canoe and kayak.  The temperatures have been in the upper 80's and low 90's so we do most of our outside work early in the mornings before it gets too hot and before the mosquitoes awake.