Tuesday, January 31, 2012

25-31 January, 2012 Snowshoes, Snowmobiles, Sleds and Birthday Parties

In case you haven't noticed, the winter routine is about the same week after week.  First thing in the morning brush the snow off the solar panels, write for a few hours (me), take care of Scott (Susan), feed the chickens, reload the wood box, etc. 

When Scott is up one of us has to watch him.  Sometimes we can both work if it's something that will keep him occupied as well (like washing dishes) or if we can put him in the backpack so he can watch what we're doing.  Often we just take shifts with him.  For example:  Susan watched him this morning while I was writing and I took over in the afternoon while she moved the VCR tapes to a new location.  Often, after supper, Scott will play with his toys in the living area while we watch a movie.  When he goes to bed at night (usually around 8:30 -9:00) we get some time on the computers and Internet.
Here's Susan and Scott brushing the night's accumulation of snow off the solar panels.  We usually do this as soon as it's light enough to see (about 1/2 hour before sunrise).

Susan made bread and buns.  Susan made Sloppy Joes the first day then I used some of the bread to make French Toast the next morning.  We used more of the buns for hamburgers that night.  The homemade bread tastes better than store bought but doesn't keep as long. 

I usually shovel the snow off the outbuildings but Susan does the U-haul's roof because she's lighter.  This is the first time we cleaned the snow off the U-haul.  It had about a foot of wet, heavy snow on it.

We took the snowmobiles out for a spin on Thursday.  Scott was in the backpack behind Susan.  He seemed to enjoy everything except the noise.  After we went back to put Scott down for a nap I took one out for about an hour of riding up in the deep snow on the State Land.  I don't really like using them in deep snow but figured I needed to at least know how.  The bad thing is that when you get off the snowmobile you plunge into snow up to your waist (or higher!).  You have to keep the throttle opened up too because if you slow down you get stuck.  Getting un-stuck is a chore when you're by yourself!  It's just not as much fun!

Last Friday's sunrise.  Actually, it will be about an hour before we catch the first glimpse of the sun.

We hang laundry indoors when we have the room.  Anything we don't have room for gets left outside to freeze (no mildew that way).   They look kind of funny when you first hang them on the line.

Scott likes to relax when he eats.  Susan put her feet up on the chair so Scott mimicked Susan by putting his feet on the table.

We went to Kalispell to celebrate our daughter's birthday.  Here Scott is helping his dad put together a coffee table they'd just bought.

Now he's teaching his mom how to cook.  It was Emily's 18th birthday but she made her own cake.

She also bought some presents for everyone.  She wanted a "reverse" birthday party in which she bought gifts for everyone else on her birthday.  These are some of Scott's presents.

Like most little kids, Scott was most impressed with the wrapping paper and took off with the decorative bag his presents had been in.

We did a little bit of snowshoeing on Monday.  I've been checking e trails for critter tracks and we set up a game camera at this location.  The snow was about a foot deep and very wet.  Definitely not the best snow for snowshoeing.  Earlier the same day we'd been out sledding. On the way back to the cabin we jumped a snowshoe rabbit.  They have nearly perfect camouflage in the winter.  He took off almost under our feet.  The dog gave chase but the rabbit prevailed.

Victor brought his Land Cruiser over today to check the front end out.  Everything was okay except for the drag link. It was adjustable so I tightened it up and sent him on his way.  I haven't had anything to do with an adjustable drag link in over 25 years.  I was glad I still had the socket needed to adjust it. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

19-24 January, 2012 Snowmobiles and Chicken Feed

We like to put Scott down for a nap around 5:30 PM.  That way he gets up around 7:30, plays for a couple of hours then goes to bed happy!  On the 18th he slept through and we didn't catch the time to wake him until it was late evening.  We decided to let him sleep, hoping he'd make it through until morning.  He did if you count 12:30 AM as morning.  That's why I have this photo of the new snow.  The temperature was below zero so the snow was cold and fluffy and sparkled when hit with light. The photo doesn't do it justice.

As long as we were up anyway, Susan made a batch of peanut butter cookies and we played with Scott until around 2:00 AM then we all went to bed ... again ... so we all slept late Thursday morning ...

But not too late!  We went to Eureka where our youngest son and his wife treated us to some bowling.  I haven't done much bowling in many, many years but managed to not embarrass myself too much.  We all had a great time and will hopefully do it again soon.

Scott couldn't quite understand why he wasn't allowed to bowl too but was content to play with his own bowling ball on the next (vacant) lane over.

One of his favorite times was when the balls came up the return chute.  For some reason he found gutter balls uproariously funny and would clap when they occurred.

We're parking away from our usual place in order to make it easier to get through with the snowmobiles.  We use a sled to bring groceries and water jugs from the car to the house.  The white bag has 50 lbs. of wheat in it.  We'll use it for chicken feed.

I picked up some things at the hardware store to repair my snow rake.  This is the part that broke.

I went with a slightly different set-up hoping it will be stronger.  Time will tell.
The handle for the "rake" in 1 in. PVC pipe.  The head part is a section of cedar fencing about two feet wide.  It does a fair job of cleaning snow off the roof.

I'm grinding grain for the chickens.  We're mixing equal parts of wheat, barley, and oats along with smaller parts of corn and dried beans.  We set the grinder to a very coarse grind.  It takes several hours of grinding to do a hundred pounds of grain by hand.  Scott is in the backpack because Susan was washing diapers in the laundry room behind me.  I clamped the grain mill to the loft stairs.  This picture was taken on the 20th.

Scot is getting better and better at walking.  He seldom falls anymore and has learned that he can carry more when walking than crawling.  Here he's traipsing around with a lid off the kettle we use for melting snow.

Then he acquired a fly-swatter ... er, I mean a sword.  Now he has a sword and shield and is a Viking warrior.  Watch out cat!!!

Susan is collecting snow in the bucket to dump in the kettles on the wood stove.  We've filled up our 55 gallon water barrel and the twenty-gallon barrel we pump into the tank over the sink.  We use a lot more now than last year because Susan is now washing diapers and baby clothes in addition to our own clothes.

Now she's brushing snow off the solar panels.  The wind was out of the north so she and Scott got dusted with falling snow.  It was about 28 degrees at the time.

Tristan and his wife came for a visit and spent some time on the snowmobile.  Barbara watched Scott for awhile so that Susan and I had some time together to ride the snowmobiles.  It's been an adjustment having Scott here because one of us has to be with him at all times.  Makes it kinda' hard to do some things together. 

Barbara was right behind them on the other snowmobile.  They didn't go far, it was late afternoon and the temperature was dropping fast.

Here, I'm trying to finish up grinding the chicken food.  Susan was cleaning upstairs so I had Scott in the back pack.  He likes being where he can see what's going on and takes an interest in everything.

Well, at least he takes an interest until I bore him to sleep.  The rhythmic rocking as I turned the handle was too much and he fell asleep in the back pack.  We took him out and put him to bed but he woke up again.  He played with his toys in his crib until I finished about an hour later.  Susan went up and got him when he began to fuss a bit.  We shouldn't need to grind grain again for about three months.  It's a lot cheaper to buy grain and grind/mix it yourself than to buy the feed already mixed.
These two pictures were taken on the 22nd.

Sunrise this morning.  The picture was taken at 9:28 AM.  It's nice to see the days getting longer.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

14-18 January, 2012 Snow, Snow, Snow! ... Finally!

We finally got some snow!!!!  We may be the minority but we've been wanting a lot more snow than we currently have and we got some.  Of course, not as much as they promised but it's a good start!  Now we just need slightly warmer weather to have some fun in it!

This was taken the first part of the week before we got our first snow storm.  We had a little bit but not enough to do much with.  Note the lack of snow on the U-Haul's roof.  (Susan has just finished turning the solar panels into the sun.)

This was taken at ten PM the same day.  The snow has continued until today.

Here Susan is going up the ladder to brush snow off the skylights to let in a little more light.

I let the dog in and she hasn't even had time for the snow to melt from her fur before the cat attacked her ...  or did she attack the cat?

Susan made cinnamon rolls.  Scott wanted to try mine at which point it became his.  Note that he has a grip on my fingers rather than the roll and he wouldn't let go of either.  We finally got my fingers lose and let him have the roll all to himself.  
We need to get to town for more chicken food so I'm filling in with some of the corn that's been hanging on the center support beam.  These have been there for a couple of years and are very, very dry.  To shell them you grip the ear with a hand on each end and twist like you were opening a bottle.  The corn comes loose from the cob pretty easily.  If you're going to do a bunch of it wear gloves.  It's hard on your hands.

Scott wanted to watch and since putting him on a chair wasn't practical (he'd have been into everything!), I put him in the back pack carrier.  We found this one in a thrift store for $3.50 and prefer it over the one we used before.  It's more comfortable for us and for Scott. 

The finished product.  The cobs can be composted, burned or used for toilet paper.  Traditionally you took three (two red and one white) of them to the outhouse.  You used a red one first, then a white one to see if you needed to use another red one.   We'll compost ours!

Scott is walking more and more so we put a barricade around the front of the stove in case he falls that direction.  He's still a bit wobbly.

I transferred my sourdough mix to a wide mouth jar to make it easier to use.  This one is an old mayonnaise jar.  I didn't want to use a real canning jar for sourdough.  You have to prepare a day ahead when using sourdough because you have to add the flour to the sourdough the night before you need it.  When I'm making pancakes I'll add 2/3 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of water to the mix the night before.

Dirty diapers are a fact of life with toddlers and infants.  Susan rinses them before washing. It's nice having the wash tubs and wringer inside now but washing diapers is still a never-ending chore.

Scott would love to help if Susan would just let him.  Until then he's content with supervising.

Our snow came with some wind this time.   That's a bit unusual here.  The snow got into and onto everything including the porch.  Susan went out to get some firewood in her bare feet and we have the evidence to prove it.  (The other tracks were made by someone  - that'd be me - who was wearing shoes.)

Note the amount of snow on the camper now.  This was taken on the 17th at noon.  We have about twice that amount now.

Of course the idea behind having snow is to have fun.  Sledding is fun. Obviously I'm not a very good sled driver.

When the snow is this deep I like to clean it off the outside shed roofs.  If we got rain or some wet snow on top of this it would probably collapse the roof.  I'd just finished scooping the snow off the roof of the shack.  I have to shovel it off.

I broke my snow rake on the first shed.  We'll be going to Eureka tomorrow and I can get parts there so I got the snow blower out and running to clear paths to the car, wood shed and chicken house.  It broke too but it was late and I'll look at it tomorrow or Friday to see what's wrong.

We've been melting snow as fast as we can to fill the water storage barrels we have in the cabin.  They were getting a bit low after the weeks of not having any snow to melt and not going into town often.  You have to watch the mounds of snow because they don't always melt down evenly.  They've been known to topple sideways and that makes a big mess to clean up.

Friday, January 13, 2012

8-13 January, 2012 Cold weather and a trip to Kalispell

Seems like a short week this week and I guess it was in a way.  We had company (three of the seven kids with their spouses) most of Sunday and spent the day talking, eating and watched a movie our youngest daughter brought with her.  Susan had a meeting on Tuesday night (she's on the board for the volunteer fire department) then we spent most of Wednesday and all of Thursday in Kalispell.  In the meantime we had our regular chores and got in one walk in the woods with Scott.  So we only really had two days since the last post that could be considered "normal" for us.

Monday we did some hiking through the woods.  This is an old skidder trail through the woods near our house.  It's my normal trapping route but since they logged it a little farther up the trail and when house sitting it was too far away to keep up with the traps this is the first time we've been up it in awhile.  I brought the machete along and used it to cut through some small stuff blocking the trail.  The machete is a Cold Steel Kukri model.  I don't really like it.  A regular machete does a much better job IMO.  The kukri style puts too much weight too far back on the blade and you lose some of the momentum from your swing and the end also hangs up in any brush behind the object you're cutting.  So, if any one wants to do some trading for a regular type machete or a CS Trail Hawk let me know.

This is the downhill view from where I'm clearing the trail.  The snow is old and crunchy.  It's cold enough to keep it frozen.

We saw both old and new wolf tracks.  These are old, frozen tracks and probably from a single, large, wolf.  I took photos of the other tracks but they didn't come out well.  It was a bright, sunny day and there weren't enough shadows, (even using the flash to create some) to see the tracks clearly.  They were a set of one large and one that was smaller.  I've seen tracks from this pair before and don't know if it's a male, female combo or mother and pup.  In any case, comparing the tracks to those left by my dog the small one is probably around 70 to 80 lbs.  The large one is probably over 100 lbs.

Monday, when we took our hike, was a beautiful day.  It clouded up and began snowing on Tuesday so we didn't venture out into the woods.  Susan had the fire department meeting in the evening so I took the tire chains off the Cherokee.  She didn't want to mess with taking them off at the pavement and after the snow the road was driveable without chains so it was best to just remove them.

On Wednesday we headed for Kalispell in the afternoon.  We stopped at the library in Whitefish and checked out some books there.  They also had some for sale and we bought a few to add to our collection.  When we got to Kal. we checked prices in a couple of places then spent the night at our oldest son's place. We then spent most of the day with Scott's mom.  We headed home in the evening. 

The problem with leaving the cabin unattended in the winter is that it gets cold inside and takes awhile to heat back up.  We'd been gone about 36 hours and the temperature outside when we got home again was 13 degrees (F).  The temperature inside the cabin was 35 degrees.  Wood heat is not like forced air heat.  It takes about 15 minutes just to get the stove warm then the heat radiates outward from there.  We closed off all downstairs rooms and the upstairs in order to heat the downstairs.  We watched a movie while the living/dining/kitchen heated up and by the time the movie was over it was bearable inside.  Susan and Scott still slept near the wood stove.  We're getting the rest of the cabin warmed up today. 

Sourdough/huckleberry pancakes with huckleberry syrup.  I used home canned huckleberries and there was about a cup of juice left over in the jar so Susan used the leftover juice to make syrup.  She dumped the juice in a pan then added corn starch and sugar to it, heated it and stirred it until it got thick.  You can do the same thing with leftover pineapple juice, or any other fruit juice.  It was very good!  (So were the pancakes!)

Scott discovered the weights in my room and had to give it a shot.  He could roll them but that was about it.  Considering the dumbbell weighs twenty pounds and he weighs about 25 lbs. he's doing all right just to move it.

This is the newest addition to the homestead.  His name is "stud"  (or maybe that's his job!) and we got him from a neighbor.  They said take which one we wanted of the two they had.  I waited until they roosted early in the evening then grabbed him off the roost.  You carry them by the legs upside down.  They struggle briefly then just relax.  He was fairly tame to begin with so getting him in the cage for transport home was easy.  He quickly asserted his authority over the hen who used to be the boss.  That was a good deal since she was kind of vicious toward the other chickens.  He was her last chance to mellow out.  If she had stayed mean she'd have been transformed into the main ingredient for Chicken and Dumplings.