Monday, December 27, 2010

27 December, 2010 The year is almost over...

Been a busy week.   We've had the usual "chores" like washing dishes, clothes, feeding the goat, chickens and buffalo, bringing in wood, preparing meals, etc.  I've spent quite a few hours writing and Susan has been sewing a bunch.  We've been melting snow for water rather than drive to town when we don't have to.  We have plenty of free snow but gasoline gets expensive.  Besides, who wants to go get in the car when the high temperature is hovering around ten degrees (F)?

The cat helping me with dish washing.

We still have tomatos ripening that we picked green in the fall.  As we get enough for a couple of drying trays we slice and dehydrate them.  The pumpkins we picked green have also turned yellow.

One load of venison ready for the canner.  I finally moved one of the deer into the shack and ran the stove for a couple of days to thaw it out enough to skin and cut up.  They've been frozen solid since the day we shot them due to the cold temperatures.  This is the second time I've had this problem in Montana.  

We had someone who wanted hamburgers so he bought them and we cooked them up.  Susan made buns instead of buying them.  I made up the hamburger patties.

I should have used the griddle.  I could only fit half of them fit in our largest skillet.

The cat is supervising while Susan cuts material.

The finished product.

The cat and dog playing near the door.

The cat helping Susan run the hand sweeper.  These non-electric alternatives to a vacuum cleaner work pretty well on short carpet and rugs when used regularly.

I got the electric vacuum cleaner out for the thick carpet.  I had to run the generator to use it so Susan did some sewing with her electric machine.  The ear protection is because I was running the vacuum cleaner at the time.

Our oldest so and his wife came up Christmas Eve.  He broke a front spring coming in on our road.  (Have I ever mentioned that the road in is not vehicle friendly?)  The upper leaf spring broke right next to the plate on top of it.  The front end was sagging so we jacked the front up which took the pressure off the broken spring and clamped it down to the remaining spring then cut a short piece of chain and bolted it around to hold everything together so he could get back home.

This is the final repair.  He made it back to Kalispell without trouble.

About the time they left we had another set of kids show up with our newest grandchild.  I was still in my pajamas when they handed him to me. 

Now it's Grandma's turn to hold him.

The next day in his mother's lap. 

This is our third youngest grandchild.  On the way back home from Kalispell we met another set of kids at Taco Johns for dinner.  It's the first time I've eaten at one.  They have good food there.  The drive home was ineventful but slow.  The highway was snowy and icy so 45 mph was top speed.  Every time a vehicle passed going the other direction we were blind for the next several seconds from the snow they kicked up.  That isn't much fun when you live in a state where the whitetail deer is a common hood ornament.

Now we're back home.  We picked up some movies at a red box since our youngest son was going into town today and could return them so we watched movies today while we recovered from the holidays.

Monday, December 20, 2010

19 December, 2010 Cross-Country Skiing

  We decided to have some fun Sunday and go skiing so we headed to a couple of small lakes above Murphy Lake.  The temperature was about 20 degrees which is almost perfect.  The snow is cold enough for good skiing yet it's warm enough you don't freeze!

First step of preparing ... get your feet nice and warm by the wood stove while eating breakfast!

Susan made my gaiters out of the leg bottoms of an old pair of wool pants I had.  They had holes and tears above the knees in various places due to hard use so she cut the bottoms off, sewed in an elastic cuff at the bottom along with a zipper, tie string for under the boots and a hook on the front.  Then she put a drawstring on top to finish them off.  They work great and are as good as the $35.00 pair I was going to order.  She made a set for herself out of the arms on an old coat we found.

On the way to the trailhead.  Can you see the mountain peaks above the low, lying clouds?  We'll be skiing just below them.

At the trailhead.

This is Martin Lake in it solid state.  It's close to the trailhead and makes a nice short 1/2 mile hike in summer or ski trip in winter.


Me and the dog.  The pack contains a lightweight, fleece jacket for me, ham radio, GPS unit, extra batteries, 22 handgun and ammo, small hatchet, sheath knife, some food and drinks, cordage, Gerber multi-tool, compass and few other odds-n-ends.  We both carry basic materials like fire-starting stuff, pocket knife, etc. in our pockets.

Hagadone Lake.  Looks like someone drained it!  We've been going through several years of a drought cycle and a lot of the smaller lakes are dry now.

The dog in her usual mode of travel ... full speed.  When we got her at the animal shelter they said she'd been returned by the last couple because she was too hyper.  They'd tried to make an indoor dog out of her.  That'd be a very poor fit for her.  She just has too much energy and has to run it off every day.  Even around the house she'll suddenly take off running and make large loops outside to burn off energy.


You can just see the outline of the sun through the clouds in the upper center of the picture.

We went from Hagadone Lake on to an old logging road and followed it awhile.  After a couple of hours skiing we stopped to take a break.  The dog wanted to share my food so we played a game of catch.

This was actually taken on the trail to Hagadone Lake.  It just got placed in the wrong order.

On the way back to the trailhead now.  We travelled about five miles round trip.


Saturday, December 18, 2010

18 December, 2010 Three below zero (F) this morning.

It feels cold after our balmy weather in the 30's and 40's. The snow that got rained on and turned to slush so that when you drove on it the tires dug trenches is now frozen solid and become like upside down railroad tracks. When you fall into the ruts you can let go of your steering wheel for the next mile or so.

Been a busy week but not outside busy.  I've been doing a lot of writing this week.  I need to get one article in particular finished and submitted.  One thing about writing magazine articles is the lag time.  For print publications you need to be working six months to a year ahead on seasonal articles.  This one is about gardening which means I need to work from pictures taken last summer.  It makes it harder to get in the "spirit" writing about warm weather subjects when the temperature outside is below zero and everything is buried in snow!  I try to plan things out well ahead so I at least have the photos on hand.

Susan spent a couple of days in town with our youngest grandchild and his parents and also spent time with the other grandchildren and kids. I kept the fort at home here. In winter we have things that need to be done every day. We feed the buffalo (one mile round trip walking), feed our own critters (dog, cat, goat and chickens) and give them fresh water, bring in firewood and of course, meal preparation which we share. We also melt snow for water (as needed) in the two kettle on the wood stove. We leave a couple inches of water in the bottom of the kettle, get the water boiling hot then add snow. Depending ujpon how wet the snow is it might take anywhere from three to eight buckets of snow to fill each kettle. We then bring them to a boil again before using a half-gallon pitcher to dip the water out of the kettle and into the funnel and strainer on the water barrel. It can be time consuming. The other morning I had to wash dishes, melt enough snow to fill the barrel (about 15 gallons of water), and feed and water the critters. It took about four hours total. Fortunately it was a balmy 25 degrees outside.

Susan is pulverizing our home dehydrated eggs.  We'll add hot water and make French Toast with them.

It tastes as good as fresh eggs.  The bread is home made also.

Susan's making cloth Christmas ornaments for grandkids.  She cuts them out using the favorite colors of each kid for their ornament.  Then sews and stuffs them and sews loops to hang them on the tree.

This is what they look like when finished.

This is my home-made snow rake in action.  It's a ten foot section of 1 1/4 PVC pipe screwed into an adapter that's bolted to the 1/2 in. X 4 in. X 4 ft. board.  It costs a bunch less than a commercial rake and works just as well.  I can add more 1 1/4 pipe if I need to reach farther.  We don't usually have to rake this section but we had about a foot of snow then rain for a couple of days so I thought I'd get some of the snow load off in case it turned cold again.

This is our coffee maker.  It can be used as a percolator on the stove or you can dump hot water through it to make it like a "drip" type coffee maker.  We use it the second way.  We use coffee filters in the bttom chamber but it will work okay without them.  You put in the filter and add the correct amount of coffee.

Then put the bottom part on the canister (it has a groove to lock it in place).

You then set the works inside the coffee pot and dump the correct amount of hot water into the top chamber.  When the water has all drained through it's ready.  We got this froma couple who were "downsizing" and have never seen one like it anywhere else.

We went into town to help get the food bank set up to give away their Christmas "baskets."  The food is portioned out according to how many they have in the family.  Numbers varied from one up to seven in the families.  We've also helped cut, split and stack firewood on several occassions and helped pack and distribute Christmas and Thanksgiving food baskets and helped a few times on regular distribution days.  You meet some interesting people helping there. 

We stopped to fill a few water jugs on the way home.  Only three since we've been melting snow and didn't use much out of the jugs.

Susan had some requests for camo. hotpads so she's putting together an order for them.

She also had an order for pan handle covers.  This is one of the prototypes we're testing.

And back by popular demand ......... the cat!

"My toes are freezing! Hello, anyone there? I'm ready to come back in now!"

"Oh sure, they think this is cute and they're taking pictures,
but who's going to help put my hips back in their sockets?

"If I just had opposable thumbs I could hold a book and a latte!"

Monday, December 13, 2010

12 December, 2010 Fresh bread, boiling traps and rain ...

What do you get when you add rain to 18 inches of snow?  A slushy mess!  This is what we went through last winter ... snow, then rain, then cold (turning everything to ice), then another repeat of the cycle.  Yuch!

Breakfast Saturday - I made extras then re-heated the leftovers Sunday morning.  To re-heat them without a microwave and to keep them from turning to rubber we set them on a plate on the upside down kettle lid as shown in this picture then cover the plate and pancakes with a lid.  It takes about 15 minutes or more if the water in the ketttle is boiling hot but the pancakes don't dry out or turn to rubber this way. 

The little red berries are from asparagus plants.  Susan crushed them and picked the seeds out.  We'll save them for planting this spring.

I need to get some more traps into service so I spent Sunday afternoon in the shack melting water and derusting/coloring traps.  This is the stove I use for heating the shack.  It's a barrel stove kit in an old pressure tank designed for a well.  They have a thick rubber diaghram in them that must be removed.  I put the tank in one of our brush piles and lit the pile on fire.  The heat melted the rubber diaghram out of it so I could use the tank for a stove.  It's heavier steel than a barrel and should last longer.  It's also shorter than a barrel which is a little more convenient. I'm melting snow in the can and pan.

I put a pot of water with the dye on our outfitter's propane stove.  It would have taken too hot of a fire to keep it boiling on the wood stove and I spent about four hours doing it.  If the temperature had been -30 (F) that would have been okay but it was about 40 degrees outside yesterday.  I have about two hours more to do today to finish up.

A closer view.  The instructions said to keep it just below boiling but I like to have a little "roll' to the water to keep the sediment stirred up.  I have to add water periodically to replace what boils away.

One of the finished traps compared to one awaiting treatment.  These are #3 double-long-spring traps I use for bobcats and coyotes.

Susan was busy cooking Sunday afternoon.  Here are 1 1/2 loaves of fresh bread.  We ate the other half loaf!

Fresh, hot biscuits and pumpkin pie (made from summer squash and spaghetti squash.  You can't tell the difference between it and real pumpkin pie. 

Split pea and ham soup cooking on the stove.

The cat annoying Susan.  The only time he wants to lay on your lap is when you're doing something else.