Saturday, May 26, 2012

21-25 May, 2012 - Soft shell eggs, Garden preps, Birthdays

We've had a lot of cool weather lately which means we use more wood.  It isn't a big deal since we have plenty.  It's just annoying!

If you keep chickens for eggs you've probably seen this before.  If not...?  Chickens sometimes have boo-boos when they make eggs.  In this case the hard, outer shell never formed so there's only a thin, membrane "holding everything in."  The eggs is still good to eat but you have to do it within a day or two because the membrane is somewhat porous and the egg will spoil after a few days.

The soft shell egg compared to one with a normal shell after breaking them open.

I had a couple of small stumps/root balls to remove so I got a some landscape timbers and made a tripod so I could use the cable hoist to pull them out.

The tops of the timbers were lashed together then, once I set it up, I looped a short chain around the top so that I could attach the hoist.  I keep a couple of short chains around for pulling stumps, posts, etc..  This one is about 2 feet long with a large ring on one end and a slip hook on the other.  The nice thing about it is that it will tighten up on whatever it's wrapped around when you apply a load.  In this instance however, I just looped it around the top to hook the hoist cable to it..

I have another short chain with a grab hook on one end and a slip hook on the other.  I made a couple of wraps around the stump and began pulling.

As it began pulling out of the ground I used a pick to knock the sod loose from around the roots.  I just kept applying pressure until it broke the roots loose and the stump was free.  I had one other to do after this one.  On it the roots were spread our over the surface more and the ground began to raise for about three feet around the tree.  It freaked to dog out and she began biting the stump as I pulled it.

Scot got up from his nap feeling hot and thirsty!  He'd emptied out his crib and taken off his clothes.  When he came downstairs he grabbed the new bottle but wasn't about to relinquish his old one!

Tristan (Susan's youngest son) and his wife (Krystina) met us in Eureka so that they could buy dinner for Susan for her birthday.  Scott was overjoyed to see them.  They're his favorite uncle and aunt.

The eggs the hen has been sitting on are hatching now.  She had two hatched and one more had broken through the shell by 6:30 this morning.  I moved her, the eggs and the two babies to floor level yesterday.  The little chicks need to be able to get water and food and they couldn't jump down and fly back up like the hen.  You can see the marks I put on the eggs to tell which ones we wanted to hatch out.  That way when I checked the eggs I knew the ones without the marks were new (and available for eating!).

So here's their new ground level home.

The other chickens and rooster aren't real happy about it.  They got moved out to the dog kennel.  I shut the doors on the hen house to keep the hen and chicks safe.  The last time she had chicks, one got out and the cat got it.  We could bring them in the cabin but they're noisy and it's a continual task to keep their box clean.  We decided to let momma hen do the hard stuff herself this time.

I got most of the garden tilled up and ready to plant.  We're still getting hard frosts nearly every night so we'll concentrate on planting peas and potatoes at first.

This patch will be planted in peas.  We have several patches tilled up because of all the stumps.  I get rid of a few every year but we had so many to begin with that I still have quite a few left. 

Emily and Stephen (Scott's mom and dad) were here yesterday.  We invited Barbara and Victor up for dinner with us and Victor, Emily, Stephen and me did some shooting.  We had a couple of 22 rifles, a 22 pistol, 45 cal. rifle and a 12 gauge shotgun so we burned up a few rounds in the hour or so we were shooting.  After that we grilled some steaks and had steaks, potatoes, gravy and corn for dinner.   It was a nice way to spend a Friday afternoon.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

17-20 May, 2012 Hunting, Cooking, Mower Repairs and Stove Making

The weather has cooled off a bit.  We've had a little rain the last few days but not enough to do any lasting good.  There's more coming though so maybe we can get enough to at least settle the dust.

Scott decided to try my desk out for a bit. Of course it became a game of "keep-away" because he expressed the greatest interest in the things he couldn't have.

Breakfast was fried rice and toast cooked on the wood stove.  Our "toaster" is a sheet of aluminum foil folded in half with the toast in the middle.  We tried making it several different ways but this works the best.  The fried rice was made using some fresh eggs from the chickens.  Once you get used to the deep yellow yolks and the flavor of home-grown eggs it's hard to go back to grocery store eggs.

Odie caught her own breakfast with this snowshoe hare in it's summer colors.

It's lawn mowing time for the first time this summer.  Scott likes riding in the backpack and supervising everything.

I've been out turkey hunting the last couple of days.  I used my muzzle loading shotgun this year.  It's a 12 gauge with interchangeable choke tubes from CVA.  I also have a 54 caliber rifle barrel for this firearm.  I've used the shotgun for grouse and quail but have never got a turkey with it yet.

I didn't find any turkeys the last couple of days but I did see a black bear cub yesterday (Saturday).  It was small (about 30 pounds) and I couldn't get a clear shot to take it's picture.  Momma bear was in the brush nearby and I think she saw me and called the cub because he split for the brush without ever looking my way.  I had my 44 magnum with me but the second to the last thing I wanted to do was shoot a black bear with cubs.  (The last thing I wanted to do was get mauled by a black bear so if she'd charged .....!)

The wild grapes (Oregon Grapes) and wild strawberries are both in full bloom.  That's good since we love both!

I watched a squirrel chowing down on the end of a blown down tree for awhile.  He was watching me too and eventually ran off.

I found my first Morel mushroom of the year.  I may take a walk up in the woods tomorrow to see if there are more of them ready.

We have three reel mowers and two of them needed work.  The roller on the old one (shown here) is wallowed out where the pins fit in the ends.

I took the roller off and filled the ends with epoxy then put the studs back in it.  It'll have to cure overnight then I can try it out tomorrow.

I thought I'd sharpen it while I had the chance.  I use valve lapping compound smeared on the stationary and the  moving blades.  I then spin the blade cage to lap the edges.  They cut great after a treatment like this.

I did the same to the new mower we bought.  It isn't exactly new.  We bought it used at a thrift store.  It needed sharpening as well so I did it after the first one pictured above.

It was having problems with the drive wheels slipping at times so I took it apart to see what was going on. I was a bit dismayed to see that the wheel and gear were both plastic. The ratchet mechanism was sticking so I cleaned it up and put it all back together again. It's really a cheaply made machine. Even after the "fix" it's hard to use. Often only one wheel is powering the reel. When that happens it pulls to one side so you're always fighting to keep it going straight. With no roller on the back it's more prone to scalping as well. (Especially on our uneven ground.) The lesson learned? If you want a reel type mower buy an old one at a yard sale or auction. I may give this one to one of our kids with a small yard who lives in Kalispell.

After putting Scott down for his nap Susan got some time in the camper to do some writing.  It makes a nice "office" because there are fewer distractions.

This is the charge controller for the solar panel on the U-Haul camper.  It's purpose is to shut off the power from the solar panel once the battery(ies) reach full charge. 

I'm making a wood burning heating stove (out of a couple of propane bottles) for the camper.  It'll be small enough to heat the place but still not take up too much room.  I got the idea from an article in the Jan/Feb 2007, issue of Backwoodsman magazine.  I'll post more pictures as I finish it.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

6-16 May, 2012 -Camping, Kayaking, Hiking, Bicycling, (and just a bit of work!).

We've been doing a little more to the U-Haul we've converted to a camper.  We got the solar panel mounted permanently and the charge controller, inverter and battery installed.  We also got the counter top and propane cook stove installed.  I still need to make the rack for the propane bottles yet though.  The improvements did make life a little easier when we were camped out.  We left on Sunday morning and came back on Wednesday afternoon.  We had some things to get caught up on before we left but they were mostly routine stuff we do daily anyway.

We're finished making Birch syrup.  I got a little over four pints of syrup from the sap we boiled down.  It takes a lot of sap to make a pint of syrup.  I've read anywhere from 70 to 1 up to 120 to 1 ratios.  In our case we were definitely in the 120 to 1 (or above) category!  The next time we do it we will make a few changes.  We could have begun earlier in the year than we did.  We'd also use a wider, shallower pan for boiling and maybe have a place set up outdoors for boiling the sap down.  It got very hot in the cabin the last couple of weeks.  The finished product tastes and smells kind of like sorghum molasses and I've read of people using it in place of molasses in their recipes.  It's strong flavored so you don't want to use a lot of it on pancakes. 

Scott's teaching mom and dad the finer points of sand, shovels, and dump trucks.

Now he's making sure I read the tape measure correctly when working on the counter in the U-Haul.

I use a circular saw with a metal cutting blade for cutting my steel to length.  It's a lot faster than a hacksaw.  In this case I'm running the saw off the inverter rather than the generator.

Once they were cut to the correct length I got the welder out and going!  This part is for mounting the solar panel.  I use a lot of old bed frames for my angle iron.  Mostly because they're cheap (Free!).

This is our campsite at the Upper Stillwater Lake.  We brought some toys for Scott to play with/on while we were here.  This is his first trip out in the camper so we expected some interesting times while he adjusted to the new lifestyle.

One of his favorite toys was the ramp at the back of the camper.  He had been rolling his trucks down it then got the idea to to ride his big truck down the ramp.  When the time came Susan was on one side and I was on the other to minimize any side trips he might take.

We took him out in the kayaks to explore the lake.  He went to sleep after about 20 minutes and slept until we got back to camp a few hours later.  Even with sunscreen (PF-50) he got a light sunburn.  Kind of the curse of having blond hair and blue eyes.

A shot of Upper Stillwater Lake looking north.  This is a fair size lake with trout, pike and perch.  Most people said the pike weren't biting but a camper next to us managed to bring in a few every day in the 24 to 36 inch range.

This is the outlet to the Upper Stillwater Lake.  I took my kayak down the channel to check it out.  This is taken from the lake side.  The natural spillway is jammed with old logs.  The water is clear, ice cold and a lot deeper than it looks.

This was taken below the spillway looking upstream toward the lake.

This was taken just below the log jam looking downstream.

We rode bicycles whenever we could.  Scott gets kind of heavy in a backpack but is easy to transport in the bike seat.  This is Lagoni Lake next to the Upper Stillwater Lake.  It's a fairly easy trail about 1 1/2 miles each way.  There were several blown down trees we had to lift the bikes over or go around but other than that the trail was level and wide.

This is on the Finger Lake/Hole in the Wall Lake trail.  They split on up the trail a bit farther.  It's narrow with a lot of roots and rocks to negotiate but is relatively level (by Montana standards) and a pleasant hike.  It's not good for bicycles though so I carried Scott in the backpack.  It's about 1 1/2 miles in to the lakes.  We couldn't go to the Hole in the Wall Lake because the trail goes through a bog which was just a bit deep this time of year.

The people from Oregon and Washington will laugh but this is a fairly large tree for around here.  There was a lot of old growth on the trail.

Here comes Odie down the trail.  Almost all of the trail was heavily wooded.  The shade was nice since it got into the low 80's during the day.  Unseasonably warm for around here.

There were some nice cliffs at the head of Finger Lake.  You can't tell by the photo but it's probably 50 feet down to the water. The lake is deep and loaded with fish, beaver, muskrats, and ducks.

Scott got to stretch his legs a bit after we got down to the lake level.

If you look at the picture with Susan you can see a narrow portion in the background.  We hiked on down the lake to take some more pictures and this one is looking back toward where the photo with Susan on the cliffs was taken.  The cliffs are barely visible at the head of the lake on the left.

This is from the same location in the previous photo only we're looking the other way.

This is on the way back out.  Someone has put a ladder against the cliff so that they can climb back up easier after diving off the cliff.  The cliff Susan was on in the first picture was about three times as high.

I finally bored Scott to sleep. 

This is a view of the cliff Susan was standing on in the first photo of the lake. The ladder was against the lowest step at the lower, right side.  This is one of the most beautiful lakes we've seen.  The pictures don't begin to do it justice.

We had some things scheduled for today so we packed everything up last night and headed home.  It was different being at a regular campground.  Most of the time we set up out in the woods someplace and see very few people.  We saw more people at the campground and boat launch than we normally see in a month or more.  It was nice to be back home where it's quiet!  We sometimes hear trucks on the highway 5 miles away or the ventilation fans on the train tunnel ten miles away but other than that the only sound we normally hear is from the wind and wildlife around us.