Thursday, October 27, 2011

23-26 October, 2011 First Snow, Hunting Blinds, Firewood, Pizza and Projects.

This began as one of those "day in the life of ..." posts but I just didn't get it finished in one day.  So it's more like "four days in the life of ..."!
This is about 1/4 mile from the cabin looking over the top at Marl Lake.  It's overcast  (common for this time of year!) so you can't see the mountains in the distance.  I was out looking for some innocent buck minding his own business so I could shoot him, skin him, butcher him and eat him.

This is how our day usually begins.  We get the wood stove going nice and hot then lounge around it talking or reading (Susan) or doing Sudoku (me) while drinking our morning brew of French Vanilla coffee and hot cocoa mix. 

The cups are waiting patiently for the water on the wood stove to get hot!

We usually get an hour or so to ourselves before Scott wakes up.  The great thing is that he's almost always cheerful and very affectionate when he gets up.

I often spend some time on the computer writing on my book, an article or the blog in the mornings while it's still too cold or dark to get anything done outside.

We got our first snow of the season this week!!!  This is just the warning shot to get people prepared for what's yet to come!  About this time next week we won't care how much it snows because we'll have our wood cut (at least enough to get us through the winter) and wouldn't care if we get snowed in until spring.  We have a warm cabin, food, water (melted snow), snowmobiles, skis, snowshoes, sleds and warm clothes.  Let it snow!!!!

This is wood in that's been stored outside under a tarp since last summer.  The wind knocked down a couple of live Larch and Fir trees so we cut them up and let them cure over the last year.  The big rounds are Fir and the smaller stuff is Larch.  Both are excellent firewood for around here.

The Fir is stringy and when it's this size I need wedges to split it.

Once I have it down to a manageable size I can use a maul to finish the job.  This batch has a lot of resin in it.  It ignites easy and burns long and hot.  It's the best firewood I've ever had!  It's kind of a pain to split.  If that had been Larch it would have practically exploded if I hit it with a maul as hard as I did this chunk.

My sledge hammer handle broke.  I bought this one with the fiberglass handle and it's had some hard use.  The problem is that the eye is oversize due to the plastic sleeve so I'll have to modify a pick handle to re-handle it.  Otherwise I'd just epoxy the handle back in the head. 

Scott wants to play with the kitty but the cat's heading for the door.

"No, really, I've never pulled the kitty's tail!  I don't know why he doesn't want to play."

Victor and I took my truck out to cut another load of firewood.  He paid for the gas so we could use my truck.  It holds about three times the amount we can get in his.  This is the mountainside we're cutting on.  There's a dead Larch at the right side of the picture that we're going after.

The fog moved in and out the first hour we were cutting.  We were pretty high up and when our fog was gone we were still above the clouds below us.   We're only about three miles from the cabin but the low-lying fog never lifted up from the valley floor until mid-afternoon.

Fueling up the saws before we start up the mountain.  I take my tailgate off when cutting and loading the truck because I don't like bent tailgates (very common around here!) from people dropping log rounds on them.

We got back late in the evening so this is the next morning when Victor is unloading the truck.  This is very good firewood and should split easily.

We decided to build a ground blind near B&V's cabin.  It'll give him a place to hunt without having to travel far.  It's his first time hunting big game and he's anxious to get his first deer.

It's set up nicely.  The chair is comfortable, the visibility good and the cover excellent.  It will also provide some protection from the wind.  The deer like this meadow.

Susan made pizza yesterday.  She used a rising crust with cheese, pineapple, and ham for the topping.  It's every bit as good as it looks.

I'm going to modify one of my butcher knives into a shorter, skinning type blade.  I just drew it out last night so I'll keep you posted on it's progress.  I've got enough metal left to change it later if I don't like the first model.  The blade is five inches long at the top of the mark I made.  It'll have a rather blunt point so I don't have to worry so much about poking holes in the hides.

Monday, October 24, 2011

15-22 October, 2011 - Hunting Season, wood cutting, preparing for winter.

We're still trying to get caught up with outside tasks before the snow arrives. Susan's been busy outside whenever she gets a chance. She's put away the mowers and a bunch of other things that needed to be done before winter. The garden is almost ready for winter and we've been adding hot water to the wash and rinse water when we do the laundry outside. She's still found time to prepare meals and take care of the other domestic duties that need done.

Rifle season for big game opened on Saturday. I've been out several times and seen lots of deer but they've all been does and fawns. I'll eventually connect with a buck though. We have a five week gun season and there are lots of deer this year.
Scott loves being outdoors, especially when he's strapped to our back in his carrier. Baby backpacks are extremely hard to find around here for some reason. We took this one back because we didn't like it. Scott didn't seem to mind it but the way it's designed he's held very tightly against our back and we worry that he'll have difficulty breathing if he falls asleep in it. Becky (another daughter) loaned us one of hers (she had two) while we try to find one we like on ebay. I took Scott for a walk around the place to mark dead trees with orange tape (so we can tell which are dead and cut them during the winter if we run short of firewood). Susan was cleaning out the garage tent and it was easy for me to find and mark the trees with Scott along.
If there's one thing this boy adores it's water. If you look close you can see water drops in the air around him as he splashes around in his "tub." He's more comfortable taking a bath in the kettle than in a tub. He seems to feel more secure.

We spent a Saturday afternoon at Becky's in-law's home for a birthday party for Becky and Hannah. If you ever got their clan and ours all together we'd have a big batch of people and kids! There were rug rats all over the place. This is Becky and her husband, Justin and Hannah (on Becky's lap).

Susan with Scott and Logan. Logan is Becky's second child. He's a couple of months younger than Scott. Becky's expecting her third one this spring.

Hannah helping me eat less. She loved all the fruit. The dip is strawberry flavored and tasted great!
Scott introducing himself to the baby chicken. We brought him in the house for the night because he got soaked by rain while we were gone to Kalispell. He's been moved to the garden until he gets big enough to defend himself. The big chickens still pick on him. Chickens are not nice animals. If they weighed 500 pounds we'd be an endangered species. Most animals are not nice. They function more like gangs, utterly ruthlessness and established, inviolate pecking orders. It would be great if more people realized that and quit trying to apply human traits like compassion and love to them.

This was a dump find (not Scott ... the toy farm!). Around here when people have something (toys, clothes, tools, furniture, etc.) that's in good shape they set it beside the dumpsters for others to take and use. The county, of course, tries to discourage it but it's been an established practice for years. When we have clothes or other items we no longer need yet they are still in good shape we do the same thing. It's kind of like a free yard sale with first come-first served! This area has a lot of poverty and it's one way the locals share with others. Someone packaged this up in a plastic bag and left it beside the dumpster. Scot has been thoroughly enthralled with it.

We ordered a new pump for our carpet shampooer awhile back. Barbara and Victor needed it to clean their carpet after they put it in the loft so Scott and I are replacing the parts. Scott likes my orange handled screwdriver and claimed it as his as soon as he spotted it. I take the steel parts out and let him play with the plastic handle portion. Susan gave me her screwdriver to use to fix the cleaner. It has a black handle.

I replaced the black part with the hoses going to it. It's a pump for the furniture attachment. This is the second time I've had to fix it. We think it doesn't drain properly after use then the water inside freezes during the winter and breaks it. I couldn't fix it with JB Weld this time so we had to get a new part. All I really needed was a valve attached to the pump. It's very easy to remove but of course the only way to get the valve is to buy the pump.

Wood cutting time again. Susan took this in the mirror of the Cherokee as our convoy headed out to the woods. We took two vehicles because we didn't know how long Scott would last and Susan needed to be home by 5:00 because one of our sons was coming to visit. The dog seemed to think she needed to sit on my lap.

We're in the process of carrying chunks of firewood down the mountainside to load them in the truck. Barbara is at the left edge of the photo. Victor is wearing the red shirt in the center, I'm walking over to Scott who is in the "walker" near my chainsaws and helmet. (Susan took the picture.) This is an old burn site, and most of the easy-to-get trees are gone.

If you look close near the bottom right side of the picture you'll see Victor (in the red shirt) standing near the tree I'm dropping. He's over six feet tall which will give you some idea of the size of the tree. I'm on the other side of the tree running the saw. We dropped two trees and got a little over two cords of wood. This is dead standing larch. The best firewood you can get around these parts. It burns hot and long and splits easy. I split and stacked about 1 1/3 cords the next morning in about four hours. I miss having Tristan around to split wood with. One time we got into a spitting contest and split about four cords in under four hours using mauls and wedges. I can split a little more than him but it's a close call. He has youth (21) on his side. I have experience (57) on mine. It's a good way to work up a sweat! (And when you get my age it's a good idea to have some aspirin on hand.)

The general rifle season for big game opened Saturday. Scott came in to wish me luck before I took off on opening morning. We (Victor and I) saw lots of does but no bucks during the day. We hunted a clear cut in the morning then did some walking in the afternoon. It was raining by then and we were soaked when we got back. We stopped to build a fire just for practice while we were out in the afternoon. Everything was soaked so it was a good test. A hand full of birch bark and small tinder and we had a roaring fire going in minutes. The paper-like pieces of birch bark will light instantly even when wet and burn with enough intensity to dry out the small tinder. Just keep adding tinder until you get it hot enough to dry out the larger wood you need to get a longer lasting fire. It try to build a fire every time I go out. The nastier the weather the better the test. Event though I have emergency supplies but I use natural materials found in the woods and save the home made "accelerants" for a real emergency. It's good practice and a hot fire is kind 'a nice on a cold snowy or rainy day.

This is some fresh bear scat we found. The knife is 4 5/8 inches long for size comparison. I've also found some large rotten logs and stumps torn apart as a bear looks for food. Last week I found some if this guy's tracks and he's a big bear for around here. Thankfully it's a black bear and not a grizzly (no little bells and the scat didn't smell like pepper spray!). Okay, seriously, it's easy to tell black bear a grizzly tracks apart if you know what to look for.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

10-14 Oct 2011 - Wood splitting and stacking, feed grinding, get'n ready for winter

As usual lately, the weather has been our biggest challenge to getting things done.  We had part of an afternoon where it looked like we'd have a couple of hours without rain so we took advantage of it ...

Feed of any kind has risen dramatically in price the last year due primarily to the government's subsidizing the alcohol added to our fuel.  It's been good for the farmers because they are finally getting some better prices for their crops but the prices of grain have skyrocketed for the rest of us.  We're grinding and mixing our own grain for the chickens this winter.  The mix will be (by volume) one part oats, one part dried beans, and two parts barley.  We wanted wheat too but the price is too high.  We mix it up as we grind it by adding a cup of barley, cup of beans, cup of oats then after grinding some of that to make more room in the hopper we add another cup of barley.  That's ground into a pan which is dumped in a feed sack and we do it over again.  We ground about fifty pounds of grain in approximately three hours using the hand mill set for a coarse grind.  It isn't the best combination but the chickens will do okay on it.  The dried beans are leftovers from Y2K.  A friend got rid of their stash of dried beans a couple of years ago ans wanted to know if we could use it.  The beans are actually still safe for consumption but as old as they are they'd need some extra cooking time.  We have plenty in storage already so we're using these for livestock feed.

Susan took a few turns grinding (pun intended!) with Scott supervising from her backpack.  He is curious about everything which is cute now but will probably cause some concern when he starts getting around more on his own.

The work doesn't stop just because Scott is here.  Susan put him in his stroller while she washes canning jars outside.  When she finished up I took him over with me to supervise the wood splitting.  After a bit he started fussing so we brought him in the house, fed him, and put him down for a nap. 

Susan has Rosemary planted in the pots and and basil drying on the rack along with ...

Rose Hips and Cilantro drying on some other racks.

Have I ever mentioned that I'm tired of working on chainsaws?  One in particular?  My Stihl is still giving me problems.  If it starts it runs great until you shut it off.  Then it won't start.  I'm assuming it has a fuel problem because I can dump a little gas in the combustion chamber and it will fire right up and it does have good spark even when it won't start.

So I took the carburetor off (again!) and went through it.  I can't see anything that should cause a problem.  I got some advice to replace the fuel line from someone else who had the same problem so I replaced the fuel line and filter.  Still having the same thing happening.  If anyone reading this has any ideas I'm very open t suggestions for fixing it.  Otherwise my next purchase is going to be a Husqvarna.

My Homelite 18 inch saw is working but was loosing lots of power the longer I ran it so I cleaned the air filter, modified the exhaust and adjusted the fuel mixture.  It's now running better than it ever did.  I've never trusted it because the chain brake broke the first week we used it and it has a penchant for fuel lines plugging up.  I haven't had any problems with it lately but it will take a lot of hours of reliable running to restore confidence in it.  I apparently got the fuel leak stopped on the Craftsman 18 inch saw and it's running well so I'm not out of saws ... yet! 

We gave Scott some Cheerios to eat then wondered if it was the first time he'd ever had them.  He seemed more curious than hungry.
Then he stuck his little hand on his hip and looked at us like Cheerios were some kind of bad joke we'd played on him.

Then he figured out what to do ... dump the cheerios and play with the wooden bowl!

It's been cool and cloudy lately which if you're a fly makes life especially difficult.  But a few of the resourceful ones found the solar panels a friendly environment.  The heat they collect probably felt pretty good ... to the flies anyway.

Humm ... no fish?  We put screens of grates over the water barrels to protect the cat from drowning.  We put a log in the large tanks so that if the cat (or other critters) falls in it'll be able to climb back out.

B&V found some cassette and video tapes at the green box site ...

We spent some enjoyable time going through them.  These are going back to the dump.

This is the wood box on the porch.  It holds enough to last us for 24 hours on average.  Obviously we'll use more on really cold days and less on warmer days.  It also depends on how much cooking we do on the wood stove.

Wednesday (I think?) I unloaded the truck and trailer.  I split about 2/3 of a cord and stacked it in the wood shed.  I stacked the rest in the pile on the left.  There's abut 1 1/2 cords in that pile.  The three rows on the left side are wood that's still a little green and has a high moisture content.  The two rows on the right are pine that doesn't put out a lot of heat.  I kept it out so that I could split and stack the cord of larch that's under the tarp on the right side of the wheel barrow.  I want to keep the hotter burning wood (Larch and Fir) in the center of the wood shed for use when the temperatures are coldest in December, January and February.  Once I have enough of it stacked in the center I'll split and stack the two rows of pine.

We covered our board pile with a tarp for winter.  It has some holes in that I covered with the dog food bag.

Susan washed a load of baby clothes in front of the wood stove this morning.  Scott found it interesting...

So he decided to help a bit stirring up the clothes.  After she was finished she put some dry clothes on him.