Wednesday, July 27, 2011

20-26 July, 2011 Cement, chainsaws, books and batteries ...

We're beginning to think we live in Washington state rather than Montana.  We've had more cloudy, drizzly days than I've ever seen in NW Montana.  It's been good for writing but bad for getting things done outside.

That being said, we did get the cement mixed and poured into the forms for the kid's cabin.  We decided to use cement pads because it was cheaper and also in case we wanted to move it later.  This was Victor's first time mixing concrete so after I did the first half he did the rest. 

We needed to go into Eureka to get some propane and other items so while there I checked some beaver sign near a public park.  They've been a little active but I don't know if they'll still be around this fall or not.  Once the river goes down they're going to lose a lot of water and they don't have a lot to begin with.

Susan and a neighbor went to a presentation by a woman who's traversed the US by horseback.  Her routes are shown on the map.  She had a lot to talk about!  The most difficult part of the journeys? ...  Mosquitoes and flies!  There's more on Susan's blog at

A moose looking things over on Dry Lake (outside of Fortine).

Part of the "foundation" for the cabin will be 8"X8"X16' timbers resting across the cement pads.  This is the tree that be used to make them.  It would have been better if it  had been cut last year and left to season but we didn't know we'd need it then so we may have to do some levelling and shimming later.

I cut the small patch of alfalfa in the garden earlier in the week.  Now I'm cutting the "wheat" in the old corral.  We planted wheat there a few years ago and it's been re-seeding itself since then.  Each year there was less wheat and more grass so I'm cutting it down to dry for hay or mulch and we'll till the ground up to start over next year.

We took a trip into Kalispell in our "Mexican Taxi."  There were six of us in the Cherokee so it was a little crowded.  Some of the kids wanted to go and offered to pay for the gas so we agreed.  We had several stops to make but ended up with another set of kids at Five Guys Burgers and Fries for supper.  By the time we added their family we needed to scoot three tables together to have enough room.

Of course we stopped at Borders to peruse their closeout sale.  I ended up with these two books and the others bought some of their own.  Overall it wasn't that great because Borders didn't have a lot of books we like to buy anyway.  I noticed that they had a very nice double-book featuring Barak and Michelle Obama marked down to $9.99 with ten percent more off that.  I checked the original price and it was $59.99.  I guess that at $9.99 minus 10% it was still overpriced.  All of the books I wanted were 20% percent off the regular price.  Not great but not bad either.

Last stop before going home was to fill gasoline cans. We bought nearly 40 gallons plus what was put in the Cherokee.  Gasoline has gone up 11 cents in the last week so we thought we'd stock up some.  Half will go in the pickup for wood cutting and the rest will go to generators and chainsaws.  We purchased new batteries for the solar panels at Costco along with some other stuff.  Batteries and gasoline came to over $700.00.  Now that we're out of money maybe we can stay home!

The goat gets tethered out every day but yesterday was not one of his good days.  He began with his horns stuck in the fence around his pen.  He was stuck pretty good and I had a difficult time getting him out.  I almost had to cut the wire.  He was making the most pitiful bleats I've ever heard from him.  Good thing there weren't any predators around.  He'd have been on their menu.  After he'd been tethered outside awhile I went to check on him and he'd tied his leg to the tree.  I'm not sure how he managed that but he was glad to see me.  He must have learned something by then because the rest of the day was uneventful. 

Victor has been busy peeling logs.  These are the three 16 footers we'll be cutting into timbers.  Just for your information, if you've never handled a green log before ... these things are very heavy!

It looks like it will be a good year for wild (Oregon) grapes.  The plants had lots of blossoms and are loaded with grapes.  They're larger than normal too.  I can already taste the grape juice and jelly Susan will make from these.  I'm trying to talk her into some grape syrup for pancakes.  I'll keep you updated on that one!

When it was time to shut the chickens in for the night I was missing one.  A quick search found it settled in on the hood of the Cherokee.  A picked her up and desite her indignant squaking, deposited her in the chicken house.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

13-19 July, 2011 Sawdust, Swimming Building Supplies and Bear Tracks

It's been a very busy week.  (But not all work either!)

We had a case of oranges we weren't going to be able to eat before they went bad so ...

Susan canned them.  If you've never peeled a case of oranges you should try it.  It's a little hard on the hands!  The peelings will be dried then powdered in the blender and used for flavoring in muffins, cupcakes, etc.

We had about 120 pounds of potatoes left in the root cellar so we brought them in and broke the sprouts off the eyes.  The sprouts will be composted.  We gave away some potatoes and those we won't be able to eat soon are being canned.  In this picture Susan is peeling spuds for the canner.  Our carrots have already received similar treatment.  

Susan made strawberry/rhubarb pie yesterday with strawberries and rhubarb from the garden.  I cut the and cut too much so we sliced the leftover rhubarb and are dehydrating it.  The pie was great! 

This is one of our empty potato bins.  The cat is checking it over because that's the kind of thing cats do.  ("Hmmm  ... There's gotta be a mouse in here somewhere!")

This year the mosquitoes are the worst we've ever seen them.  It makes it difficult to get things done outside.  We've tried every home repellent we've heard of and noting works well this year so we've resorted to commercial mosquito repellent just to be able to work outside.

We put the tower for the water tank up this week.  I've almost finished the bracing so we can (hopefully!) get the tank up next week.

We've had a smallish black bear in the neighborhood lately.  Susan found some well preserved tracks on the road and photographed them.  What two major differences between black bear and grizzly tracks show that these were made by a black bear?

We took one morning off to do a little fishing.  It was early and still a bit on the chilly side.  Kind of strange when hearing about the nationwide heat wave that we still use a jacket in the mornings.

I caught the first fish of the day.  This is a perch.  He's a bit on the small side but we'll keep him.

Susan caught a pike soon after and since it was getting late and we had enough for breakfast we headed home. I fileted them and we had fresh fish for a late breakfast.

We had a fuel leak on the Cherokee.  I cut out the part of the fuel hose that was leaking and spliced in a short piece of pipe so we could drive it to town and buy a new hose.  When we got home I put the new hose on then decided to fix the trailer wiring connection.  Last week the trailer lights weren't working with the Cherokee so we bought an adapter to fix them.  It takes the newer type turn signal/brake light systems and adapts them to the older style where the turn signals and brake lights use the same bulb.  I was going to put it on then found out I'd have to take the lens housing off to do it.  The rear hatch lock quit working a couple of weeks ago but more pressing matters kept me from fixing it. I need to get the hatch open in order to take the lense cover off so I took the inside cover off the rear hatch and manually opened the hatch lock.  It was rusted too bad to work with the key so I spent awhile (and a half a can of WD-40) getting everything freed up.  It grew up in Wisconsin so everything is rusted on it.  Once I got it working I wired in the adapter and finished the trailer light wiring. 

It still needs rear shocks but that can wait for another day.

Tristan has been having trouble with his truck so we made a trip into town to look at it.  It began as a leaking water pump but turned into a genuine nightmare.  The bolts were corrode into the timing cover housing so he had to replace it and the water pump.  A friend gave him a housing off an old car they had but it was the wrong one.  He didn't find out until he had it all together and the new water pump leaked.  When he put it all together and it didn't leak then the truck wouldn't start.  It turned out that while he was trying to get the water pump off the distributor module got damaged.  He has a new one coming today.  Hopefully that will fix the problem and he can drive it again.  He knows lots of new FORD jokes now. 

Once in town we spent the evening at Randy's house with his family.  Had a great meal and evening of conversation.  He went yard saling and got some really good bargains.

I've been welding up the framework for installing  four solar panels on our tower.  We had them mounted in the garden last winter.  I used old bed frames for the steel so I needed to cut the rivets off (chisel and hammer time!) them do the measuring, cutting and welding.  I use a skill saw with a metal cutting blade to cut them to length then weld them together.  It's kind of a tedious process but we have more time than money so that's the way we do things.  The only actual expense we'll have is for the wire used in the welder and gasoline for the generator.  It's ready for installation but we have some other things to get done before I can do the rest.  When it's time I'll have to take the other panels off the tower so we'll be without power for a day.  Since it's summer and we're running the refrigerator we'll have to use the generator which won't be a big problem because I'll have it running to power the welder.

Building supplies arrived Monday. This is part of the lumber they'll use to build their house.  It's great to have it delivered and unloaded.  The delivery fee was very reasonable and they have to load/unload it.

It was a blistering hot day so we went to Dickey Lake for the evening. We took turns in the kayaks and swimming until we got chilled and headed back home.  The water in Dickey Lake never gets what any sane person would call "warm."

On the way out we spotted three hen turkeys and their little ones.  You have to look close to see the little ones in the tall grass.

We stopped to take pictures a bull elk on the way home (we cheated, he's on an elk ranch).

On down the road was a bachelor group of whitetail bucks.  It was getting dark and the shutter speed was too slow for good pictures.  These two had the largest racks ... about five points to each side.  There were seven or eight in the group.  It was early evening and there were deer everywhere.  We probably saw between 20 to 30 on the last four miles home.

The cat would feel slighted if I didn't include some more photos of him  ...

Susan had a little fun and introduced him to a snake.   He's not real happy about the situation...

... and took it out on the snake!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

5-13 July 2011 Rain, kids, weeding, compost turning, burning.....

Been a busy week.  We've gone to Kalispell three times in the last week.  That's more often than we'd usually go in a month!  We've also had a couple of good, drenching, thunderstorms roll through.  It makes it difficult to get much done outside but it's sure good for the garden and to keep the fire danger down in the woods.   

We did take an afternoon off on the way home from Eureka to do a little swimming in Glen Lake.  Even in mid July the water is still pretty cold.  We were in about an hour before we had to get out and warm up. 

I'm in the process of "turning" a compost pile from last year.  We didn't use all of it and the weeds took over.  I cut the weeds off then shovel the dirt into a new pile.  Since I let the weeds take root I'll have to do it a couple more times to kill the weed's roots.  There's about a ton of compost in this pile.

We heard the dog bark outside and investigated.  She had a gopher (Columbian Ground Squirrel) cornered under the step.  I flushed it out with a broom stick and the dog killed it.  She was very proud of herself and we praised her lavishly.  The gophers are cute but do a lot of damage in the garden and around the house with their digging.  We don't want them near either the house or garden.

This deer ran across the road in front of us about a mile from the house then posed for pictures.

Another half mile down the road and we caught this one still in bed.

The last several times we've gone out this stump has been occupied with a gopher standing watch.  They don't often stay in one place long enough for pictures.

On one of the trips out I needed to stop at a daughter's house and check out her car.  It's been vibrating at around 65 MPH.  She had the tires balanced and rotated which changed the feel of the vibration but didn't fix it so I jacked the car up and we checked the tires.  She has a bent rim on the left front.  (I'm not sure why they didn't catch that when they balanced them.)  We loaded up the trailer with some of the stuff our kids left here when they left home and dropped it off at her house then re-loaded the stuff going to her brother's house.  Hanna decided to sit on the futon while I tied on the chair.

Here I'm running the tire up to speed so our daughter can see how it's bent.

One trip to Kalispell I needed to do some plumbing on another daughter's house.  The old drain pipe from the sink had collapsed internally so I had to replace it.  It took awhile to put in 40 feet of pipe and I was a dirty mess when I finished.  We stuffed my coveralls in the washer and I took a shower.  The grandkids are a fringe benefit of working on the plumbing!

We had one evening at a son's house for a family barbecue.  This is Hanna after she found the watermelon.

This is Anna peeking around a tree.

The guys shot a few boxes of shells at some clay pigeons after eating.

Another daughter sent some fertile duck eggs home with us to see if our hens could hatch them out.
After the barbecue we went to one of our son's homes to load up some stuff for his sister.  There we found out that the lights on the trailer weren't working so we loaded it up and took back roads to our daughter's house and dropped the loaded trailer off there.  We were back in a couple of days to put in an order at Lowes for the materials needed for our daughter and son-in-law's house here.  We brought the trailer back with us in the daytime.  I found the parts in WalMart that I needed to get the lights working on the trailer. 

We're still weeding sections of the garden.  This is the garlic patch.  A small section has been weeded to show the contrast with the part that hasn't been weeded yet.  It was like this all through the garden.  Fortunately we've got quite a bit of it done now.

Sunday was laundry day.  The big tank has lots of pollen in it so I siphoned water out of one of our covered barrels for washing my clothes.  I use a siphon hose and pump sold for outboard boat motors.  It works much better than the cheap siphon hoses and pumps sold in most places. 

Part of the laundry left over from Dirttime in California.

After I washed my clothes our daughter washed hers.

I had some welding to do on another project so I welded some handles to some shovel heads we had around.  One had a handle broken by one of the kids.  (He ran over it with his truck.) The other two were found in the dump.

The finished shovels.  The handles are tubular steel from an old garage tent frame and two of the shovel heads were found at the dump so we did pretty good on this batch of shovels.  The steel handles are about the right thickness to give plenty of strength yet still not weigh much.

Susan is having to cut the grass in the raspberry patch with her hand shears.  The pair she's used for years finally died so she bought some new ones while we were in town Monday. 

Yesterday we got permission to burn brush for one day.  Burn permits are usually for ten days but open burning has been baned the last couple of weeks due to the forest fire danger.  We had a big thunderstorm move through Monday night so I called the Ranger Station to see if I could get a one day permit to burn this pile.  They said okay (along with some specific instructions) so we burned it.  The brush was thorougly soaked and it took awhile to get it started.  (I used a 20 minute road flare.)  We finally had to pile juniper brush on it because that was the only thing that would burn when wet.  Once it got going good it had enough heat to dry the rest of the pile and burn it.

Our daughter is making soap.  We like the home made soap better than store bought and are fortunate to have two daughters that can make it.  We've used goat milk soap and oatmeal soap so this is a new type to try.

I have no idea what's going on here (I was still burning the brush pile) but nothing blew up so I'm assuming that this is what it's supposed ot look like at this stage.

As she stirred it the color changed until ...

It was time to pour it into the molds.  The molds are PVC pipe lined with waxed paper.

These are the onions Susan had drying.  She's getting ready to store them.

She was busy yeasterday peeling and washing and cutting up carrots to can them.  We need to start emptyng the root cellar to make room for this year's crop.  She's canning the leftover carrots.  This is the first crate and we have one more to go.  After that she'll do the potatoes the same way.  The carrots came out of the canner this morning and every jar sealed nicely.

We had another thunderstorm last night which filled up the main water tank so I had to pump some water out of it to the tanks in the garden. It's great to have plenty of water in mid-July.  We've had years when the woods were so dry this time of year that everything was in danger of burning up.