Saturday, September 24, 2011

17-24 September, 2011 Roofing, firewood cutting, and ???

Another busy week it seems like.  Susan and I finished the shingling on B&V's cabin.  We completed this side then about 90 percent of the other side before evening then finished the other side early the next morning.  Rain was in the forecast so we wanted to get it finished.
We kept Barbara and Victor busy running shingles up to us!

Our first crop of blackberries.  We planted these vines two years ago and finally they're bearing fruit.  Not much yet but they're going the right direction anyway.

The lawnmower hit a big clump of weeds and came to a sudden stop.  When it did the starter rope got jammed in the housing so I had to take it apart to repair it.  The rope was getting frayed anyway and I wanted to make some other changes as well. So ... 

I took the motor off it's original mower and installed it on another mower we had laying around.  The first mower had front drive but it was always causing problems.  It was a heavy beast to use so I switched it over to a lighter frame and the rear wheels wouldn't adjust to different heights.  Some of the internal baffles had come loose as well which meant it wouldn't throw the cut grass out like it should.

The green mower's engine did not have a power-take-off so I had to cut a place for the PTO shaft to clear the new frame.  A few minutes with a hacksaw and a couple of files did the job nicely.

I had to switch the upper handle over as well.  The engine stop cable is a different length and wouldn't function on the handle on the green mower. This frame is lighter and the wheels adjust making it easier to mow new areas.  Once the motor was mounted I took the top off and fixed the starter rope.  I needed to shorten it past the frayed area and re-wind the recoil spring.  As most thing do, it ended up taking longer than planned.

We spent an evening fishing on Marl Lake.  We didn't catch any fish but we did enjoy our time in the kayaks.  They're a fun, yet practical watercraft.

Ahh ... pancakes for breakfast.  One of the benefits of using the wood stove in the mornings is that we cook breakfast on it instead of using up propane.  A 100 lb. bottle of propane last us on average, six months.  We use most of it when canning.  Anytime we can do our cooking n the wood stove it gives us that much more time before we need to refill the propane tanks. 

Susan had a project going to organize our DVD and VCR collection.  We still have some stored in various places but our favorites are in the cabin on shelves.  We picked up some metal shelves the right size for DVDs and VCR tapes a couple of years ago with the intent of using them for that purpose at home.  We finally got time to make the switch.  Naturally we needed to modify them a bit which I'm in the process of doing here.  I'm pop-riveting the shelves back-to-back in this photo.  The electric drill is being run off the solar power system so we don't have to use the generator.

Kid's movies are on the bottom two shelves at kid height.

The adult sections (sorry, no "X" rated videos here!) occupy the rest of the shelves.  Susan organized them alphabetically except for some seasonal (Christmas, etc.) movies which have their own section.  It was quite a job getting it done.

Once we had the shingles all put on B&V's cabin the next step was to install the wood stove.  Barbara made a base out of filed stone and mortar and we installed the stove on it.  I don't like having the bend in the stove pipe.  It would take a lot of work to move the pipe now that the roof is finished (I offered before we shingled the roof) and they don't want to move the stove forward so they're going to try it like it is for now.

I had several things to do to get the truck ready for another season of wood cutting.  I made a frame for the back of the bed so that we wouldn't have to worry about wood falling out while traveling.  I used more old bed frame pieces welded together for the back frame.  I also cleaned battery posts and changed the oil and filter on the truck.  It gets driven very little (less than 200 miles a year) so an oil change is good for several years.

Victor took the topper off his truck and we made some sides for it so that he could haul more wood.  We used left-over roof sheathing and ripped down a 2X4 for the stake pockets.  They're just a tad high for his truck.  It's a half-ton and if we fill it to the top of the sides the truck will be overloaded weight-wise.

On this trip we got "poof wood." (You put a match to it and, "POOF," it's gone!)  It's wood that burns well but fast and doesn't put out as much heat as fir or larch.  The good thing is that it's easier to get to.  Since fir and larch are the most desirable woods people concentrate on them first.  We put the "poof wood" in either end of the wood shed to be burned in the fall and spring and have the fir and larch in the center of the wood shed so it's available in the coldest parts of winter.  I should have been cutting a month ago but with the cabin construction and my sprained ankle we're just now getting around to it.

The lake in the center of the picture is Marl Lake.  It's about ten miles away as the crow flies. This was taken on the way home from cutting the firewood. 
This is the load we got.  I've already started unloading and splitting the back row.

That's me operating the splitting maul behind the blue tarp.  I actually enjoy splitting firewood.  You can work off a lot of aggression and stress with a stack of wood and an eight pound maul!

Axe handle repair time.  I have a difficult time keeping wood handles tight in any of our tools.  Our humidity is so low that the wood dries and shrinks and the axes, mauls, sledge hammers and other wood handled tools get smaller and smaller.  I usually end up replacing wood handles with plastic/fiberglass handles.  This axe was purchased like new at a yard sale for a very low price but the handle was loose so I'm replacing it with a fiberglass handle.  The epoxy bonding agent they send is never enough to fill the hole so I add BB's to take up space and add extra weight to the head.

This is another yard sale axe.  It already had the fiberglass handle but the epoxy at the head had come loose and fallen out.  I've used JB weld to repair these before but didn't have any this time.  I did have some general purpose epoxy (much cheaper!) so I tried it.  I'll keep you posted on how well it works.  I put a couple of scrap metal pieces in there to take up space and add more weight to the head.

Susan is putting roofing tar on suspected leak points on the roof.  We had high hopes for the metal roofing when we installed it but it's had a constant problems with leaks.  I've had several "real" builders look at it and we've tried everything they've suggested to fix it but we keep getting new leaks.  Susan found and fixed some problems this time that look like likely causes for the leaking.  Now we're waiting for the next rain to see if the repairs did the job.  If we can't get the problem taken care of we'll take the metal roofing off and go back to shingles.  We can always use the metal on outbuildings.

The cat and I decided to take a break from wood splitting.  It was up in the high 80's and we thought what was left would be better if tackled in the morning when it was still cool outside!  The nap was actually the cats idea but it wasn't hard to talk me into it!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Kayaking, Salmon Snagging and Shift Forks

More busy days.  I got started putting the shingles on B&V's cabin but they aren't finished yet.  I needed to give my ankle a rest.  Tristan came one night and got a few rows laid then had to leave.  Susan, Barbara and I will finish them up today (Saturday) ... we hope.  We took our anniversary off to do some kayaking then went scrounging (A.K.A - dumpster diving) and after that went to Fortine to shoot pool and eat dinner before heading home.

We went kayaking at Upper Stillwater Lake.  We wanted to explore up the river a bit but the water was either too shallow or to swift for the kayaks.  We finally came to a waterfall we couldn't get over so we got in the kayaks and floated back to the lake.  It was a fast trip back! 

Out on the lake we spotted this large beaver lodge.  It's hard to describe the size without being there to see it.

I got this shot while the water was quiet enough to act like a mirror.  Susan said I should turn it over to see if anyone could figure out which way was up.  I asked her how she knew I hadn't already done that.  The large bump on the left side is the beaver lodge in the previous photo.

One of the local residents.

Tristan is standing to the right of the sign.  This is the tribute the local fire department does every year on September 11.

I finally got around to taking apart my boat motor to see why the shifter didn't work.  It was in gear all the time which made it interesting when I started the motor up initially on the lake.

Six bolts and three nuts out and the halves separate.

This is the offending part.  The roll pin (center front) was loose in the shift fork and wouldn't disengage the gears.  There are supposed to be two but one was already gone and the other one was falling out.  I had roll pins the right size but the hole had worn too much to hold them in place so I improvised.  I found a nail the right diameter and cut it down to the lengths I needed.  I used the small C-clamp to press the new pins in the holes then used a file to clean up the saw marks.

Here I'm checking the gear for proper fit.  So far it's working great.

We learned the the salmon had started running in Eureka so we did some salmon snagging.  You can see the fish (orange/red) in the water.

Susan and Victor began out on the bridge ...

I found some eddies down below and began snagging salmon then Victor joined me for awhile.

We ended up with about 35 to 40 fish in all.

Victor and Susan moved over to the other side of the river.  I'd caught my limit so I went to the car to give my ankle a rest while they continued snagging.  Susan actually ran one of the fish down.  Tristan had caught it and was reeling it in when the line snapped.  Susan raced down the shore then into the water and caught it in her hands before it got away.  Ya' gotta be careful doing that because the hook was still sticking out of the fish!

The aren't real big but this early in the season are good eating.  Victor is getting his first lesson in filleting fish.

Now he's getting experience filleting fish!

We're almost finished!

Yesterday Susann and I took the kayaks to the Stillwater river to do some exploring.  She caught me wearing one of my "Duh!" looks!

Just some of the scenery along the river.

More scenery ... The water looks placid but it has some current going down stream.  Fortunately the kayaks work well in those situations.

Any guesses as to what kind of tracks are present?

There were several challenges along the river.  This one is a low foot bridge we had to go under.  I had to take my hat off but did have some advantage since my greater weight made my kayak sit lower in the water.

Another challenge.  We hit three beaver dams that spring flood waters had breached.  Each one had a spillway of sorts we had to paddle up.  It took us each two tries to make it through this one.

I made it through then it was Susan's turn ...

One of the problems is that the channel is just wide enough for the kayak so there isn't really much water to paddle against to propel yourself.  The sticks are too slick for the paddles to grip and too far away to grab with your hands ...  You can see the water coming off her paddle here.

Now she's through and into deeper water where the going is easier.

This area is marshy and low so there were few trees along the edge.  It's mostly willow brush.  Here we're almost back to the Cherokee to head for home.  We paddled three hours upstream and took three hours to get back.  We did some fishing on the way back which made that trip take longer.  Didn't catch any fish.

The sun was setting and we were both wet and cold so we headed home to a meal of venison pot pie, a hot wood stove and a movie.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

1-9 September, 2011 Solar Panels, Farmer's Markets, and Making Do

The last week has gone by quickly it seems.  There's been quite a bit going on but we haven't documented it well with photos.  The garden is winding down now so Susan is harvesting potatoes and other crops.  Our potatoes did very poorly this year.  It's a good thing we have so much dried and canned from previous years.  It was probably a combination of a late, cold and wet spring and a lack of moisture in the summer.  We didn't get our first frost until last week which is really late for us.  Usually we get our first frost around mid-August.  The raspberries are about done and the yellow jackets have arrived in force to finish off the rest of them.  I'm beginning to get my wood cutting gear set up so I can begin cutting firewood next week.  The problem is that the fire danger is high which limits the times I can cut wood.  It's going to be a busy fall.
The cat is at her post making sure the baby chicken stays in the pen.  We bring it into the house at night to protect it from the cold.

Here it's in the pen outside where it can soak up some sun and scratch around like a real chicken.

We got some more finished on Barbara and Victor's cabin.  I put the upstairs window in, closed off the upstairs door and put the new door in the lower floor.  They've been putting up the drywall.  I need to help on the stairs, install the chimey and wood burning stove, shingle the roof and install the soffit and trim boards then our part is finished.  The rest will be up to them.  The chimney support kit arrived yesterday so we can get the wood stove installed next week.

The dog and cat had a chipmunk cornered outside.  It zigged when it should have zagged and the dog ended up with it. 

This was the major project of the week.  Here I'm removing the last solar panel from the tower in preparation of expanding the system.  I backed the truck up to the tower and put a couple of sheets of plywood on the rack for scaffolding.  It worked great except the springs on the truck made things a bit wobbly at times.  It reminded me of working on ship back in my USMC days.

All of the panels are off and it's time to begin measuring and welding.

I've installed the extra framework and am now putting the first solar panel back on.  I'd already assembled the upper frame so I just had to place it and weld it.  I then had to add some bracing on the back.  We went from three, 130 watt panels and one 65 watt panel to four 135 watt panels and three 130 watt panels on this frame.  Our total maximum output is now around 40 amps.  We're using the old 100 watt panel on the camper and I'll put the 65 watt panel on my workshop.

Solar panels are rated kind of odd.  The 135 watt panels only produce 97 watts at 15.5 vollts while the 65 watt panel produces 65 watts at 15.5 volts.  The difference is that the panels are rated maximum watts at maximum volts but in a 12 volt system the voltage must be limited to protect the batteries so you can't utilize all the power produced by the panels.  The maximum voltage of the 65 watt panel is 15.5 volts so it can use all the power it's capable of producing.  The maximum voltage of the 135 watt panels is 18.5 volts so the only way they'll ever produce the whole 135 watts of power is by going to a grid tie system or a different voltage/battery/inverter combination.  It's something to think about if you plan on going to solar power.

The next-to-the-last panel going up.

All seven panels in place and wired.

Note the re-inforcing done to the panel's framework.  I still need to build the bracing to keep the wind from toppling it over.

I use primarily old bed frames from the dump for my steel framework.  Here, while the generator is going, Victor is grinding off rivet heads so we can more easily disassemble the "feet" from the rails.

Because we increased the surface area by installing the two extra panels I decided to add some bracing to the ground to reinforce the main tower against high winds.  We didn't have any cement to anchor the legs so I cut an old propane bottle in half and used the pieces as "feet" for the bottom of the legs.  The idea being that they'd keep the legs from working deeper into the ground from a south or west wind and also function as anchors so that a north wind couldn't pull them out of the ground.  We'll see how it works!

I ran out of daylight before finishing so I covered the holes with plywood and the ladders and covered the mounds of dirt with the wheel barrows (to keep the dog and chickens from digging up the loose dirt).

Finally finished.  I still have more planned for the battery bank and inverters but the tower and panels are up and operational.

Susan rode her bicycle into Eureka for the farmer's market on Wednesday.  It's about twenty miles each way.  All except our three miles is on the pavement over rolling hills.

On the trailer she has her table, chair, table cloth, umbrella and a box with raspberry plants she's selling.  On the bike in her saddle bags she has more stuff including soap, hot-pads, and dried huckleberries.  People showed interest in the box but it's one out of our root cellar that we store potatoes and carrots in.  It wasn't for sale.

Everything you see there (except the youngster!) was carried in 20 miles on her bicycle!

Ah ... car repairs again.  We went to Kalispell to take care of some things and ended up helping one of the kids look for a car.  They bought it so Susan went back the next day to help them with the paperwork, licensing, etc.  Our car broke down  after she got there (the alternator quit working).  So ... she drove their second vehicle home and a couple of days later I went back with her to get our vehicle.  I charged up an extra battery then we charged up the battery in the Cherokee and we drove it home that afternoon.  I was pretty sure the brushes were shot in the alternator so I tapped on the alternator and it started charging again for the drive home.  It quit before we got home but we were close enough to drive in on battery power by then.  I took the alternator apart and our local NAPA store couldn't get just the brushes but they'd sell me a remanufactured alternator for $120.00.  I called the Car Quest parts store in town and they found a set of brushes for $22.00 plus $2.50 in postage.  Susan rode her bicycle back into Eureka to pick them up a couple of days later.  If they'd have been any higher I'd have found a way to solder in a set from another alternator I had laying around.  I'd have had to do some reshaping with a file but probably could have done it.  Anyway, the alternator is back together and charging like a champ ... until something else breaks!

Now since the picture above is a dimmer switch, not an alternator, some further explanations are in order.  The dimmer switch is off my one-ton Dodge pickup I use for hauling firewood.  The headlights haven't worked since I bought it so I finally remembered to check them out.  It was the dimmer switch as I suspected so rather than buy an new one I thought I'd try to fix the old one.  Many times when they go bad the plastice around the terminals is melted away but this one seemed to be in good shape so I thought I'd try to fix it.  The most likely place for problems when disassembling them is the aluminum housing where it's crimped around the plastic terminal insert.  I managed to spread the crimp out without breaking the aluminum and the rest was easy.  You can see in the photo the carboned terminals in the switch. ...

I used a piece of sandpaper to clean them up then put it back together again.

I got lucky again and the aluminum housing held together when I crimped everything back together.  It works great now although I had to clean up one of the terminals in the wiring connector to get a good connection.

When we were in Kalispell we took this picture of a squirrel teasing a dog.  The squirrel would run around the tree then hide when the dog hit the end of it's chain.  The quirrel was having a great time ... don't know if the dog was or not!