Wednesday, January 4, 2017

December 16-31, 2016 Winter life on the homestead.

Can you say, "snow, snow and more snow?" I'm not really complaining about it though.  The temperature has been cold enough that the snow is still useful for snowshoeing and sledding.  What we hate is when we get a bunch of snow then a few days later it warms up and turns to slush and/or ice.  Then it's a real mess to deal with.  The snow this year has been almost perfect.

That's my breakfast smiling up at me.

I bought wood from a neighbor who had a log truck load brought in.  It was much better than slogging through the snow to get it.  There's about a half-cord there. I've already unloaded part of it.

My two main chainsaws.  The Stihl is larger (24 in. bar vs. 20 in. bar on the Poulan) but due to the angle of the camera it looks smaller.  It's also about 16 years old now and isn't always reliable.  This will probably be it's last year.  I'm thinking seriously of getting a new one next spring.

Scott decided to give us a hand on shoveling snow.

But then he heard the trampoline calling ...

And decided to give it a whirl!

Our annual pilgrimage for a Christmas tree.  I thought the sled was pulling kind of hard.  I didn't think about Scott applying the brakes back there!

Snow has only one purpose when you're Scott's age ... It's for playing in!

Especially if you can do it while grandpa is cutting the tree.

Our icicles are in the formative stages in this photo.

Susan made us a pot pie for dinner.

We like the reflection in the window on this photo.

A deer came to look in the window while trying out our shoveled path to the outhouse.

More pie (strawberry!).

We have a bit of a cornice to knock down.  I used the snow rake to pull it off before it got any larger.

Scott playing on his tablet.

I went through my arrows to see which needed repairs.  The fletching is bad on these.

I have three sets of fletching jigs.  The lower fletching is helical, the upper is offset. Both will make the arrow rotate in flight for added stability.

I'm using a roof (snow) rake to pull the snow off the outbuilding roofs.  I bought this one at a yard sale in southern Nevada.  I paid about 1/4 the price for a new one.  I buy tire chains in yard sales down south too.  The snowbirds move south for retirement and after a couple of years decide they no longer need tire chains, snow rakes, etc. and you can pick them up cheap at yard sales.  I've bought several sets that were brand new.  They make good gifts and barter material in Montana!

Time to shovel the snow off of the shack roof.  It's about 20 to 24 inches deep.

When the snow lets up you can see the nearby mountain range from the roof.

The paved road going to our place.  We have three miles of mostly uphill road left to get home once we turn off this one.

One of the icicles hanging from the rain gutter.

It's time to make Christmas cookies.  Emily and Stephen are rolling out the dough and cutting out cookies.

Meanwhile, I'm clowning around.

Decorating time.  We use pans of colored frosting and toothpicks to decorate.  Theirs tend to be somewhat artistic.  The cookies I do have only one requirement ... the frosting must be equal to or greater than the thickness of the cookie.

Meanwhile, Scott and his little brother, Ben, are guarding the presents under the Christmas tree.

One of the cookies Emily is working on.

Finished cookies ...

and more finished cookies.  Since we are on a diet we send most of these with Stephen to share at work. (We filled about four trays.)

More snow!

Scott placed himself in charge of putting bows on the packages.  It was fun to listen to him as he evaluated each bow and it's appropriateness to the person the package was going to.

Potato soup and cornbread ... one of my favorites.

We kept some of the cookie dough to make more cookies later.  Here Scott is rolling it flat.  In the cookie sheet next to him you can see that we've already cut some out.

The view south of our cabin.

Christmas day at our cabin.

We had Christmas dinner at our youngest son's house.  He lives next to a golf course.  The Stonehenge monument is an exact (size and orientation) replica of the original in England.  They also have a museum filled with mostly WW 2 aircraft.  Some are very rare! 

The food line begins here!

Uncle Tristan entertaining his nephews.

One of our gifts was a game of Twister.  Scott in particular, loves it!

Our icicles get longer every day!

Pizza is one of our favorite foods!

My  breakfast cooking on the wood stove.

And another load of firewood.  My old Dodge, one-ton, holds about 1 1/3 cords when fully loaded.

I cut this batch in 8 foot lengths to load the truck faster then I'm cutting it up at home.

The van is going to need more work than I'm willing to do right now so I began the process of getting the U-Haul camper going so that we can take it south soon.  It hasn't been running since August (?) of 2015.  The battery had been taken out for use in another vehicle so I put the battery out of the van in the U-Haul.  I primed it with starting fluid and it fired right up.  Then soon died!  I restarted it several times with the same effect.  I had Susan come out and start it while I ran gasoline into a jar to check the flow rate.  The flow was good but when I hooked everything back up the truck wouldn't start at all.  I finally figured out that the distributor cap had drawn moisture so I dried it out with a shot of WD-40.  It then fired right up but died every time I tried to rev the motor.  Turns out that the accelerator pump actuator rod is seized up in the housing.  I've also been suspicious that the power valve in the carburetor is leaking internally so I just ordered a carburetor rebuild kit and a new float.  The parts are in so I just have to go get them.  I've been stalling a couple of days due to the cold.  I don't really like travelling when the temperature is below zero.

I put the battery charger on it to recharge the battery.  Batteries can freeze when they are drawn too low in cold temperatures.  Since we've had several days of lows in the minus 20 range I thought it prudent to top it off with a good fast charge.  The generator needed a little shot of starting fluid to persuade it to run!  

I got the tag number off the carburetor but it was still kind of a pain to get the parts.  Seems like when a vehicle is as old as this one the parts get harder to come by (it's a 1977 with a commercial 330 ci. engine).  I've rebuilt literally hundreds of these carburetors over the years and could do this one with my eyes closed! I'm kind of looking forward to working on this one.

The last sunset of 2016!
Hope you all have a great 2017!

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 1-15, 2016 Fishing, going home and cold weather...

We began the month in Nevada and then made our way to Montana.  The question is, "where will we be at the end of December?"

I bought a Nevada non-resident fishing and small game hunting license this year and added another ten dollars to use a second fishing rod.  On this day the wind was howling out of the north so  it seemed like I could cast almost to Echo Bay!

Unfortunately it didn't do much good that day because after several hours I had caught nothing!  It was a beautiful day though as long as you were out of the wind.

Looks like Sunday!  Scott's dressed up for church.

Scott down for his morning snuggle time.  Normally it's Susan that he goes to but this morning it must have been my turn.  We all cherish these times because we know that all-to-soon he will grow up and not want to do things like this.

One of the problems of late November and December down south is that it gets kind of cold in the desert.  Not like sub-zero Montana but 30 degrees can feel pretty cold in a poorly insulated motor home!  We can fire up our little wood stove (and we do!) but the heat never travels far due to poor insulation and the long, narrow design of the motor home.  Scott's bed is in the very back of the Motor home so in the evenings and mornings (before sunrise) when it's cold he tends to bundle up.  Once the sun comes up in the morning we open the curtains and let the sun warm things up.  In the evenings, though, that's not an option!

We took a quick two day trip to Quartzsite.  We were a little early so many of the vendors weren't there yet.  There were still quite a few though and we found lots of things to buy.  I stocked up on small parts for my home inventory along with some tools.  We also bought a few Christmas gifts.

We picked up some inventory for a friend while we were there.  They have the credentials to get a really good wholesale price on these.

The wholesaler knew them and brought out a great selection for us to take back to them.

Some of our Christmas decorations in the motor home.  We also stocked up on case lot goods from the local grocery store. When you run out of regular storage room you just stuff it anywhere that's out of the way!

I caught a few fish but this was the best afternoon I had so far.  Not much happened until the last half-hour before sunset then I finally just reeled in one rod and fished with the other.  I lost several fish because they hit both rods at the same time.  Towards the end they were hitting the bait as it hit the water.  I used worms and anchovies.  Didn't seem to matter which since the fish hit them both equally fast.  I tossed the little ones back in.

One of the great things about Stewart's Point is riding our bicycles.  We try to ride to the highway and back every day.  It's three miles each way.  Mostly uphill going out but a really nice coast coming back down.

The sunsets there are almost always great.

We parked the motor home in storage on the 13th and left for home.  It's a lot cheaper to store it there than to drive it back and forth at roughly $750.00 each way!  It's getting some age on it so we'll probably replace it in a couple of more years.  So far our plans are to buy a school bus and convert it.  The factory manufactured rigs are great for camp grounds with water, sewer and electricity but we like to boondock camp where none of these are available. We want a rig that's tougher, better insulated, and can be self-sufficient for weeks at a time. Our U-Haul conversion is great but too small with Scott now.  

That project will have to wait because we have a lot lined up to do at the cabin this year.

Ah, yes ... home again ... well, within 400 miles anyway!

People ask how Scott does travelling.  He does pretty good but then he has a tablet, leap frog, small computer, and his DVD player with a bunch of movies to chose from (and Red Box rentals practically everywhere).  If those fail there's always something to do like make faces at grandpa.

Flathead Lake viewed from Polson.  Now we're getting somewhere but it's still about 100 miles to home.  The lake looks cold (and is!).

Our first stop was to see our youngest son.  He's been gathering up our mail for us.  We caught him in the act of working!

Home in the driveway.  A neighbor plowed the road and our driveway to welcome us home.

Temperatures had been dipping way below zero for a couple of weeks with highs barely in the teens or below most days.  We neglected to drain everything before leaving so we had a lot of frozen water jugs when we got home.  The son pictured above put some RV antifreeze in the drains and drained the overhead tank but the barrels and water jugs were frozen solid both inside and outside the cabin.  The kettle we keep on the stove was frozen solid!  

Scott adapted by covering up in sleeping bags, blankets and whatever else he could find and played his tablet while the cabin warmed up.  When everything inside is cold like this we must heat walls, furniture and everything else back up before it's comfortable inside again.  Scott and Susan slept in the living room so that she could keep the stove going all night long.  We burned through about two weeks worth of wood in the first three days getting the cabin warmed up.

We had plenty of wonderful cold snow outside though.  It was absolutely beautiful outside (but still pretty cold!).

The first thing was to sweep the snow off the solar panels.

Our son had shoveled paths to the wood shed and outhouse and my shop but we had to clear the fresh snow out of them when we got home.  We knew we'd have plenty to do so we spent the night before in a motel in Kalispell so we could get an early start and get home while we still had plenty of daylight left.  They also had a heated pool and hot tub there which made the decision to stay even easier!  It was around 5 below zero (f) when we got home.  That was our daytime high!

It was 26 degrees inside the cabin.  By sundown we had brought that up to about 35 degrees!

I ordered a new splitting maul before we left Nevada.  So far it's a good one although I wish they had designed the head a little differently.  This one has a concave cutting edge.  It has some advantages but if I was designing it I'd put a couple of  "diamond shaped" wedges on either side of the head.  The concave edge will bite deep and cut through knots in the wood but they can bind up if you don't make it all the way through on the first whack.  Put some wedges on the sides and it will spread the wood better making it easier to get the maul free for another swing. Overall though it's still good maul.

Scott's great-grandparents left a birthday package for him while we were gone.  It's a figure-eight race track with high, banked turns.  He played with it quite awhile once the cabin warmed up.

The frost build-up on the windows.  It only does this when the outside temperature is well below zero.

Scott found the selfie stick and shot up about three rolls of "film."  One of the technological marvels I really like are digital cameras (in this case a phone). It was expensive to use roll film and when writing magazine articles I took the photos, mailed in the film then waited to see if I needed to retake more photos if the first batch didn't come out right.  Digital cameras made it all so much easier, cheaper and faster!

He got grandma in the picture too!

Our Amazon order came in a huge box.  I often wonder if the packaging department is just angry at their bosses.  I've seen this happen lots of times and you'd suspect that this makes postage rates a lot higher ... or maybe not!  

The cabin finally warmed up nice after about three days and everything was back to normal.  Shoveling snow is kind of a daily routine because this time of year it just kind of snows lightly 24 hours a day/night.  At least it's good exercise to keep the paths cleared ... and the roofs as you'll see in the next installment!