Friday, September 5, 2014

5 September, 2014 Getting ready for winter.

Fall is here! And along with fall comes a whole slug of things needing our attention.  The garden is coming in strong now along with the attendant canning and drying.  Bow hunting season for big game - Deer, Elk and Bear - begins tomorrow morning (6 Sept.).  If successful it means more canning and butchering.  There's still wood to cut as well.  Overall though, fall is a great time of year.

We've been firing up the wood stove mornings and evenings for about a week now just to compensate for the dropping temperatures outside.  That also means we do more cooking on the wood stove.  As long as we're using it anyway we may as well save propane and cook on it too.

Susan had her violin out practicing.  When she put it down Scott decided to try his hand at it. He has a ways to go before he's ready for Carnegie Hall!

We showed our son and DIL the trail going into Martin Lake.  Scott, of course, takes his place on Uncle Tristan's shoulders.

Tristan is young and strong and Scott took advantage of it on the trail in.  The trail is short and easy by Montana standards.  It's only a half mile with only two small hills in between.

It is a gorgeous little lake though and not greatly used.

Krystina and Scott.  The mountains in the background rise about two-thousand feet above the lake level.  They are steep and heavily forested!

Scott gets a lot of clothes dirty and with the unusually rainy weather we've had lately, we were making too many trips to the laundry mat in Eureka.  Our oldest son had an extra automatic washer to give away so we took it home and hooked it up ... redneck style!

The pump drains the wash/rinse water into the black tub.  This thing uses 20 gallons of water each time it fills the washing chamber when on the "large load" setting.  We haul water and use captured rainwater for washing clothes and needed a way to conserve on the water supply.

I drilled a 3/4 inch hole at the base of the tub and screwed in a male hose fitting.  You don't need to thread the hole in the plastic.  Simply screwing in the brass fitting will make a seal that's leak free.

The drain hose from the washer runs into the top of the large plastic pipe going into the black tub.  The plastic pipe can pivot so we can take the tub out from under it as needed.

We have the drain hose to make it easier to drain the water away from the cabin and get it where it's needed (watering trees).  We use the wash water for watering trees then save the rinse water in the tub and use it for the next "wash" cycle.  That way we save and recycle at least some of the water

The water comes from our rain water tank.  We pump it out of the tank using the well pump we were given (it had a cracked housing so I had to fix it before putting it into service).  I personally like the old way we did wash better but the automatic washer has some good points too.  It's a lot easier on zippers in coats and jeans and gets the clothes dryer than the wringer does.  They don't have to spend as much time hanging on the line.  Of course we'll have to put some RV antifreeze in it soon or the water left in the pump will freeze.

Scott is helping Susan strip Thyme leaves off the stems after drying them. (She grows an assortment of spices in the garden.)  We've bought Thyme from the store where they just ground up the leaves and the stems.  It takes us longer to do it our way but we really don't like having the stems in our food.

Well, Scott was helping for awhile anyway!  He did pretty well for a three-year-old!

Some of the things Susan has been doing ... Cans of huckleberries, cherries and raspberries on front.  You can see the muffin pan to the right.  The corn muffins were made using home grown and ground sweet corn.  You can't get better corn flour or corn meal than that!  If you want to have some fun grow some different colored corn for different colored corn meal.  Our electric grain mill is on the towel above the canned food.  Susan had just finished grinding some wheat into flour.  The pan at the top right has scraps waiting for a trip to the compost pile.

Under the towel are cans of home made salsa in front of canned chicken and canned chicken broth.  We grew and butchered the chickens.

The fire danger is finally down low enough to burn some slash piles.  This one has so much green stuff in it that's it's being difficult to get it burning.  We've been clearing off more of the land.  If you don't keep at it the trees will keep coming up until everything is choked out.

We've been covering the less frost hardy plants in the garden at night this week.  The night time lows are about thirty-degrees.  If we can make it through a week or so we often get another month of warmer weather.  The blankets were salvaged from the dump.  We also purchased rolls of cloth on clearance.  Sometimes material that doesn't sell well is available for pennies per yard.  We bought several bolts of cloth a couple of years ago and use them to protect the crops from frost.

Onions were pulled and brought into the cabin to cure.  The tops will go in the compost pile.  We cut up our onions and dehydrate them.  We've never had any luck storing them long term unless we dry them.

Zucchini squash tucked in to bed for the night.

We stack boards of Styrofoam insulation around the bottom of the greenhouse and add cloth covering to help protect the plants.  One more month will make a lot of difference in the amount of food we harvest.
Now to get ready for hunting tomorrow!

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.