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.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

19 May, 2014 - Gas Tank Repair

If you've been reading my blog you know we are working on a motorhome we purchased last fall to get it ready for a summer road trip.  So far everything's gone smoothly.  It needed a windshield wiper motor which I knew about before the purchase and I suspected the gas gauge didn't work.  The first major surprise came when we filled the gas tank.  It was leaking around the fuel gauge sender unit.  So ... I ended up removing the sender unit to do some repairs.

The first thing was to get the back elevated enough to work on the tank. The right rear tires are on high ground so I needed a way to get the left side up as well.

That was accomplished with my redneck ramp.  I used some sawmill slabs and 2X4's to build a ramp.  The center (bottom) 2X4 supports the weight of the vehicle.  I used a chink of split firewood as a wheel block.
The leak was a steady drip but it's spread so far from the source that it needed some cleaning to find the precise location.

Here's a closer view of the fuel sender unit.

There was a secondary leak at the fuel filler hose where it enters the tank.  I just needed to tighten the hose clamp to fix that.

I used my small Oxygen/Acetylene torch to solder the leak shut.  I purchased this for $60.00 at a pawn shop a few years ago.  It works great for small jobs but with the small tanks it will empty them in a hurry when using it for cutting jobs.
The previous owner obviously knew of the leak since they'd attempted to repair it using commercial gas tank sealer.  The steel tube is the fuel supply line that goes into the tank.  The fuel pump draws gasoline through this tube.  The tube is supposed to be a tight fit but it was loose, allowing gasoline to leak past where it enters the tank.

The two electrical connections (with the small nuts) go to the fuel gauge sender attached to the steel tube.  I apologize for not having a photo.  I tested the sender unit with an ohmmeter and it didn't work which meant it may have had some internal damage.  I thought maybe I could fix it if it survived soldering the tube back in place.

So I made my first attempt to solder the tube with the electrical connections intact. You can see the bottom of on connection in the photo (it's the orange disk behind the small tube).  The orange disk is a plastic insulator and I applied a steady drip of water to it while soldering the tube.  My attempts to keep it cool didn't work though and I melted enough of the plastic that it was loose in the housing.

So I drilled it out along with the ground connection then used a wire brush to clean up the rust.  I used a steel pop rivet to plug the small hole in the center of the round plate and used a small bolt and nut to seal the larger hole.  I then put a bunch of solder over both to seal them up and keep them from leaking.  I soldered the two tubes to the steel bracing shown to reinforce them as well.  I used silver solder on the joints because it is stronger than plain lead solder.  If I had known I couldn't save the sender connections I'd have brazed the joint.  Brazing gives a much stronger bond but it takes a lot more heat to do it.

I also applied the solder liberally to the outside surfaces to ensure there would be no leaks once it was installed.  I refilled the tank and the leak is fixed.  The fuel gauge still doesn't work but we can live with that for awhile by keeping track of the miles when we fill the tank.  I taped up the wires to the sender unit.  If we keep the motorhome we'll get a new sender unit when we get back from our road trip.  If do not keep it the next owner can replace the sender unit.  (I will, however, let them know what I've done and why it needs replaced!)
You can see a brass plug in the gas tank at about the seven-o'clock position below the fuel sender.  A previous owner drilled a hole in the tank to drain the fuel down below the fuel sender (I'm assuming to apply the sealer).  It sealed up okay with the plug but doing that isn't necessary when working on gas tanks that do not have the pump in the tank.  It's very easy to siphon the fuel from the tank using the fuel line itself.  Just remove the hose that goes to the fuel pump and install a siphon hose.  Now you can siphon fuel directly from the tank and into a suitable container.  It's a lot easier than trying to shove a hose down the tank filler neck.  (Especially when it's about four feet long as it is on the motorhome.)
I use hose and primer bulb designed for outboard boat motors.  It's safe with gasoline and long enough to fit to the bottom of most gas tanks and it works (unlike the cheap plastic siphon hoses sold at most discount stores).  Using the primer bulb to start the fuel flowing is much better than getting a mouth full of gasoline! 
Anyway, the leak is fixed and though I'm disappointed that I didn't get the gauge to work we can live with that for this trip.

Monday, May 19, 2014

18 May, 2014 Fix a flat on my wheel barrow.

We have two wheel barrows and we should be buying a third one.  No single item seems to get more use on our homestead.  So, when one's out of commission I get it fixed right away.  In this instance we are using one wheel barrow for firewood and the other for any other chores that need done.  When one developed a flat It got fixed immediately.  It's really easy to do and doesn't take many tools either.  Here's how:

Remove the tire and rim from the front of the wheel barrow.  This is a tube type tire so I used patches designed for bicycle inner tubes.  For a few dollars you can buy a kit that has patches and glue.  They should be available at any outlet that sells bicycle tires.  There are some better patches available at auto parts stores but they're overkill for something that goes as slow as a wheel barrow!

Remove the valve core (it's threaded so just unscrew it) from the valve stem.  Even though they seem flat, many tires still have residual air left in the tube.  That makes it more difficult to remove the tube when the time comes.  Taking the valve core out lets the last of the air out also.

Operation complete!  The valve core has been removed!  The tool for removing the valve core can be purchased at any auto parts store.

Squeeze the tire near the rim.  The bead should easily come loose from the rim.  Now pry one side of the tire off the rim.  They make special tools for doing this but I usually use whatever is handy.  In this case it was the wrenches I used to remove the wheel assembly.  A couple of large screwdrivers will work too.  Be careful that you do not tear the tube with the tool you use to pry the tire's bead from the rim.  Start at any point by inserting your tool under the bead on the tire and prying it over the rim.  Leave your tool in place to hold the bead over the rim.  Insert another pry tool a few inches from the first and pry the bead over the rim again.  At this point you can remove one tool and work your way around the rim until one side of the tire is free.

Once you have one side off reach in and remove the tube.  Now you'll need to pump it up (our grandson volunteered for that job!) to find the air leak.  Put just enough air in to find the hole.  With very small holes you may need to put the tube under water and watch for bubbles.

This tube has scuff marks where the tube has been pinched at some point in the past.  You can see a previous patch to the left of the circle.

The patch kit I have had a large patch that you could cut to the shape you need.  I cut a long patch to cover the scuffed area.

Be sure the tube is clean before applying the glue.  It helps to rough up the surface a little bit too.  Many tube kits have small metal tabs with a rough side for doing this.  Coarse sandpaper (my favorite) will work too.
Next take some glue (the rubber cement that came with the patch kit) and apply it to the area needing patched.  Be sure to make it large enough so that the patch will have glue under it's entire area.  I usually put a few drops on the inner tube then spread it with my finger.  I put it on a little thicker than necessary in this photo.
The patch will have glue on one side.  There's a protective plastic covering (blue in this instance) you'll have to peel back before putting the patch on.

Once the glue has dried apply the patch.  The tool I'm using has little serrated wheels that press the patch down into the glue.  It's available at any auto parts store.  A golf ball works well too as will any hard object you can "roll" over the patch.  Press firmly while rolling out the patch

With a good seal you can see the outline of the ribs in the tube.  All edges should be sealed down tight.

Inspect the inside of the tire for nails, thorns, etc. that might have been the cause of the flat tire.  Here you can see a lot of rust on the inside of the rim.  I used a wire brush to clean the rust out before re-installing the tube.

The tire is old and thin.  You can see holes in the tire itself in this photo.  I'll pick up a new tire and tube next time we're in town.
Just reverse the removal process to re-install the tube and tire.  Be very careful that you do not pinch or cut the tube while prying the bead back over the rim and watch that you don't pinch the tube between the tire's bead and the rim when you  air it up. 
Now just put the wheel assembly back on the wheel barrow.
When I put on the new tire I will use a wire wheel on my electric drill and clean all the rust from the inside of the rim then I'll paint the inside of the rim and let it dry thoroughly before installing the new tire and tube.  If you install the tire and tube while the paint is still wet you'll have a very difficult time removing either after the paint dries!

Friday, May 16, 2014

16 May, 2014 Home again ...

We're back home, for awhile at least.  We have another summer trip coming up so we've been working on getting the motorhome ready for the trip.  We have a third motorhome now.  This one was purchased just for this trip.  We may keep it or sell it afterwards depending upon  how we like it.   It's kind of a cross between our big motorhome in Nevada and the smaller one we made out of a U-Haul truck.  The major issues will be reliability and gas mileage.  But not everything we've been doing is related to the motorhome.  There've been some other things to take care of as well.

We're still attempting to get some writing time in here.  I finally have everything I need for a vehicle recovery book I'm working on so I can get more done on it.  I'm also working on a couple of other books:  one on simple solar power systems and the other on alternative weapons for self-sufficiency.

I've needed some of the things at home here to finish the books. 

The motorhome was purchased just before we left for the winter in Nevada.  We had assurances that everything but the furnace worked which we've found to be true so far.  Surprisingly it had a full tank of propane.  The auxiliary battery was dead as a doornail but a few hours on the fast charger got it functional again.  It passed a load test anyway.  I'm going to install another back-up battery before we leave on the trip.  We aren't going to put solar panels on this one because we plan on being on the road a lot and the vehicle's alternator can keep the batteries charged.  We do not plan on using a generator either. 

The furnace is not a big deal at this time.  If we keep the rig we'll do a lot more modifications and get everything up to snuff.  It has a three-way refrigerator.  It does not work on 120 volts but does work with propane.  I have not tried it on 12 volts yet.  It draws 240 watts which is a lot of power for operation on batteries.  If it goes bad we'll replace it with an energy efficient unit that runs on 120 volts.

I'm still getting to know it and will have updates later.

I still have to fix some marker lights but that shouldn't be a big issue.

We took our time coming home and visited a few national Park and Recreation Areas on the way back.  We camped out twice and had a few nights in motels also.  One of the things we forgot to pack were cooking utensils for the motels.  We pack food along but it often needs cooked before eating.  When camping we just made a fire or used the backpacking stove.  However, our steel cups wouldn't work in a microwave so I bought this at Wal Mart for about $4.00.  We had to take turns cooking with it but it got us by okay.

Scott likes to look out the window and he likes to climb.  Here he got to do both.
We we're all glad to be home.  One of the first things Scott did was stack the cups.  It's fun to see them growing up and improving their physical and communication skills.

I got out our 65 watt solar panel out to top off the battery in the motorhome.  It was low but would still crank the motor over.  The carburetor was dry though and I ran the battery down pumping gas into the float bowl and had to put the fast charger on to start the motor.  I ran it a few minutes then shut it off.  I put the solar panel on it for a few hours to top off the battery.
This is an old panel and the wiring is connected manually inside the "black box." 
We use this one as a portable unit.  I have battery clips to attach it to whatever battery we're charging.  The chain is to secure it to something so that it doesn't grow legs and walk off without a fight.  It's often in use in the far corners of our property (way out of our sight).

Here the panel is leaning against the front of the motorhome.

Battery clips attached to the battery ...

and security chain in place!

It was also time to change the solar array from the winter to the summer position.  That's pretty easy.

Unbolt the arm at the bottom on both sides ...

then reposition it at the summer setting.

When I  added the extra panels a couple last year it made the array top heavy.  I put a safety chain on to keep it from falling over backwards when changing it from the summer to winter positions.

It's now facing the sun more directly.

We purchased a couple of Harbor Freight Tool solar chargers.  One is a small unit for keeping cell phones, etc. functioning.  The other is a 13 watt, portable battery "maintainer."  It's basically a solar powered "trickle" charger putting out about one amp.  It won't really charge a dead battery but it will keep one topped off if it sits for weeks or months at a time between uses. It comes with cigarette lighter attachments in both male and female configurations and with battery clips.  It also has a clip for charging batteries for cordless drills, etc.  It's very portable, folding up like a suitcase, and seems to do it's intended job well.  It was purchased to evaluate for the book on simple solar power that I'm writing.

I have it attached to a deep cycle battery here.  I've also installed a small charge controller.  A lot of comments on the unit said it needed a charge controller.  I'm not so sure that is the case.  At less than one amp it would be very difficult to damage a battery using it without a controller.  At any rate, I actually purchased the charge controller for the 65 watt panel.

The 65 watt panel installed on the deep cycle battery.  I was doing some comparisons of the two.  Obviously the larger panel had more output.  You can actually recharge a battery with it.

Here the HF unit is hooked to the motorhome battery.

I was greeted with a summons to jury duty upon arriving home so we made the 90 mile trip to the county seat  (Libby) for that.  They had a huge pool of jurors and since my name was near the end of the list I was not chosen.  It sounded like an interesting (civil) case.

It's a beautiful drive along Lake Koocanusa.