Tuesday, August 28, 2012

21-27 August, 2012 - Laundry, Chainsaws, Camper mods., Vehicle Maintenance

Another week gone by.  Fall is on the way.  We had our first hard frost last week and we've fired up the stove a few mornings to take the chill out of the cabin.  Right now we're burning bark, pine cones, and other "junk fuel" to clean up around the wood shed and yard.  We only want the fire for a short time and this stuff works great.  It got down to 26 degrees and finished off the potatoes.  We still need to dig/store them but that can wait a while.  Most of what we have planted is potatoes, carrots, onions and peas, and the carrots, peas, and onions are frost hardy so they're still okay.  Susan is still harvesting raspberries although they are almost finished.  We haven't had the yellow jacket problem this summer which is nice.  Normally we have to fight with them over the raspberries.  We may get a few blackberries this year and maybe some apples too.

It's getting dry now and there are some forest fires burning south of us (far south of us which is good) so the air is a little hazy and you can smell smoke at times.  We should be getting some snow in the mountains in the next couple of weeks which will end the fire season.  They're short on wild land fire fighters this year.  We haven't had a bad fire season for several years so a lot of people who normally get certified in the spring didn't bother this year.  You make good money at it when you have fires to fight but for most of the people it's a temporary type thing and they get tired of paying for certification then not getting called out.  So they don't get certified.  Then we have a bad year and we're short on firefighters ...but life goes on...

Laundry is a fact of life even (especially?!) on the homestead.  Scott doesn't do well taking pictures and Susan was busy so I took this picture of Scott doing my laundry (some of his was in there too!)  We have lots of rainwater which makes laundry day a lot simpler and cheaper (since we don't have to drive out for water).  We have water in the swamp but we use it for the garden, not laundry.

I got Susan's shotgun out a couple of weeks ago to give it a workout shooting clay pigeons and found out it needed repairs.  I ordered the parts from Numrich arms and installed them when they arrived.

The screw and nut went in this hole and held the part in place that keeps the shells in the magazine.  I used lots of locktite to ensure that I don't need to do this again.  The shipping/handling was more than the parts.

We found a wig in one of our boxes (probably part of an old Halloween costume).  I put it on the floor by Scott and he freaked out.  It did look like some kind of animal so I don't blame him.  Once he got used to it we put it on him but he didn't like it and took it back off.  So I put it on and he thought that was hilarious!

It's time to get vehicles ready for winter.  I changed the oil and filter on the Cherokee and the big generator.  The U-Haul will be next.  The Dodge we use for hauling firewood only gets changed every three or four years since we put very few miles on it.

I got out all the chain saws and checked them over.  That means new fuel, sharpen and adjust chains, clean the air filters, etc.  We have five chain saws.  Susan's isn't used much since I do most of the cutting now.  There have been a couple of times when I've needed all five in order to get the winter's supply of wood cut.

The Stihl was giving me the same problems last year when I put it away.  I asked some neighbors what to check and they gave me some more ideas so I took the carb. off again and went through it. ... again!

This is the carburetor in pieces.  I gave it a good cleaning, checked everything over and put it back together.  I put new fuel in the saw and gave it a workout on some dead trees we have on the property waiting to be cut.  It worked flawlessly. I hope it continues to work flawlessly!

Susan dried some bell peppers.  We don't often need an entire pepper for many recipes so she dries the leftover pieces rather than store them in the fridge.  We do the same thing with mushrooms, onions and other vegetables.

These are Juniper berries.  They're actually bluish but the sun was bright and the colors got washed out.  You can burn the branches for insect repellent.  The needles are oily and burn hot and fast.  I've used them for starting fires when things are a little wet.  The berries can be used to aid digestion and stimulate appetite, sweating, urination and mucus secretion. 

The red berries and waxy looking plants on the bottom are Kinnikinnik (aka common bear berries).  The berries are edible but tasteless. Native Americans mixed them with grease or fish and/or added syrup or sugar to them. Extended use can lead to stomach or liver problems.  The leaves are high in tannin and were used to tan leather.  The leaves can be dried and used as a tobacco substitute.

The purple berries at the top are Oregon (wild) Grapes.  They make great tasting jelly or juice but you need to add sugar.  They're very "tart" without it.  Scott liked them the best because they're juicy and made his fingers purple when he squished them.
While I had the chainsaws out I decided to do some thinning.  This is the before picture.

This is the "after" picture.  I still need to trim the branches on the trees that are left.  Next spring we hope to burn this off to get rid of the brush and get more grass growing.  I also took some trees out on the south side of the cabin before they got big enough to shade the solar panels.  Susan got the ladder out and trimmed branches from trees around the cabin.  We like to keep them trimmed about ten feet high to get more air circulation in summer.

Susan has been painting the U-Haul.  She finished the back and has been taping off windows on the rest of it.  We're doing the box the color you see here and the cab a darker shade of brown. 

She painted the propane tank rack black and will do the bumpers after the rest of the truck has been painted.

Part of the annual wood cutting preps include going over the Dodge.  It needed a tie rod end replaced so I got my tools out to take care of it.  Scott, of course, noticed the hammer first off (a natural born mechanic!) when he came over to see what I was up to. 

Anyway, I got the tie rod end replaced.  I still need to check the toe-in but I got the tires checked and inflated to 80 psi, oil and coolant checked, and all my wood cutting tools, chains, etc. loaded up.

Monday, August 20, 2012

13-20, August 2012 - Raspberries, Zoos, and Propane Tanks.

The last time I used my sleeping bag I noticed that it needed a few repairs so it was time to unbury my sewing machine.  Of course Scott thought he should get the first look at it.  I took the needle out and let him play with it a bit before I put it to work.  In this case I needed to sew up the compression sack with the machine but  had to use a needle and thread for the seam in the sleeping bag.
This old machine still sews a nice, tight stitch.  I wish it had a reverse though!  We keep a spare belt on hand.  They usually last many years but we have to order them from Lemans which sometimes takes awhile.

Scott's my little helper when doing things outside.  Here we are getting the big generator moved to where I need to do some welding.

My latest project on the camper is building a rack to mount the propane bottles outside.  I brought out the generator and welder.  The wheel barrow has tools in it like vise grips and clamps, tape measure and squares.  I do most of my steel cutting with a skil saw and metal cutting blade.  If you're going to cut metal be sure your saw has a steel blade guard.  The sparks will cut right through a plastic blade guard.

I have the frame welded to the truck.  Scott wanted to test it out so he climbed onto it to play.  At this point I still need to bolt it to the back wall and finish the framework.

The next step was to run the line for the propane through the bathroom to the stove.

Under the stove you can see the fitting and copper tubing that goes from the steel pipe to the stove.

This is the left rear corner.  I welded in a strap hinge to the upper rail.  There's a hasp and padlock on the other end.  You just take off the lock then the top rail swings up and over to give clearance to remove the tanks.

The tank hold-down was fabricated from some old angle iron and an extra trampoline spring.  It's attached by a loose bolt at the rear so that I can lift it up to release spring tension and remove the tank(s).  The front part is retained by the top rail.  There's a bolt welded to the underside of the rail that engages a hole in the tank hold-down (like a pin).  When you close the top rail it presses down on the retainer to keep spring tension on the tanks.

I used a hasp and padlock to secure everything.

This is what it looks like from a distance.

We went garage saling on Saturday morning and picked up a few things.  Scott's lawn chair was one of them.  It's quickly become a favorite.

The closest major zoo (Seattle, WA) is about 600 miles away. We traveled with our daughter and son-in-law (Scott's parents), spent a day getting there, a day there and a day coming home again.  We stayed in hotels for two nights and ate every meal out.  Scott did well for a little guy but he was sure happy to get home.

We just took him out of the car seat and put him in the stroller.  He wasn't too happy about that!

We took approximately 130 photos each.  Obviously I'm not posting them all here!  Susan is looking out over to where a giraffe is feeding.

The snow leopard taking his siesta.  In striving to present the critters in their "natural" environment they also made them difficult to find at times.  Especially for the little guys.  Some of the animals were so far away and so well hidden that Scott never saw them.  We didn't even see all of them.

We headed for home in late afternoon and got a refresher course on what we hate about cities!  Traffic jams!  Once we broke free we drove a couple of hundred miles before finding a hotel for the night.

We stopped at the Cabelas store in Spokane but didn't buy anything.  They didn't have the only items I had on my list and I don't go shopping at Cabelas unless I have a list!  Otherwise I spend way too much money! 

The garden is doing okay considering that we've kind of neglected it this year.  This is Mint that Susan is harvesting and drying for future use.

Susan is picking raspberries.  We got several gallons on the first picking.  It'll slow down just little bit now.  We also have peas ready to pick but we may just let them dry on the vine this year.

The raspberries are very good this year.  We've had a fairly wet and warm summer.  So far the yellow jackets haven't found them.

Two canner loads finished.  We've given some away and frozen others to can or eat later.

Our strawberry beds aren't doing well.  Several small beds died out last year and the big one is struggling.  When the grocery store put theirs on sale we bought five pounds.  We're dehydrating three pounds and we'll have the rest fresh.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

5-12 August, 2012 - More camper mods, Camping, bicycle riding, kids-n-grandkids.

We were gone most of the week camping at Red Meadow Lake north of Whitefish, Montana and at our favorite huckleberry spot.  Before we left we finished up more of the interior of the camper.

I put the panelling on the framework around the bed area.

Susan painted the new shelving and installed it on the side walls.  She also put better curtains over the food storage area and put some decorative trim around the top of the walls.  She's also packing to go camping.

This is the area around Red Meadow Lake.  There are a couple of marshes at the top.  This is looking west from our campsite.

This is Red Meadow Lake to our north.  It's a beautiful little lake at the top of the pass.

This is looking east from our campsite.  The treeless parts of the slopes are winter avalanche chutes.  There have been several snowmobilers killed when they triggered avalanches while "high-marking."  They attempt to take their snowmobiles to the very top but few have ever done it.  It takes a very powerful machine and skilled rider.  The slope is  lot steeper than it looks in this picture.

The last time we were there the snow was about fifteen feet deep where the camper is sitting.

Scott loves to climb so we always park the bicycles in such a way that they won't fall if he climbs up on them.  He's making "motor" sounds as he pretends to ride the bike.

Being a toddler he eats his peanut butter sandwiches from the peanut butter side first.  Maybe someday he'll get the idea of eating the bread too.

We took a bike ride toward Glacier Park (east).  These are some of the wild flowers along the road.

We went about 17 miles round trip with the way back all going up hill.  We took a break along the stream and the dog decided to cool off her feet a bit. 

This picture is in the wrong order.  It should be under the next one.  This was taken where we turned around to go back to camp.  The peaks are in Glacier National Park.

This is the view of GNP from where we began our ride.  The road goes through the valley.

This is part of Upper Whitefish Lake.  It's about 6 miles from here up to Red Meadow Lake.  This is a very popular lake for fishing.  All the best places were taken and it was only Wednesday. 

This is where we parked to pick huckleberries.  The road that direction leads to the fire lookout.

If you go this direction you'll end up at Highway 93.

Even though our parking spot was relatively level if the truck rolled back it was all downhill.  I blocked the tires then anchored the truck to a tree for a little added security.

The bushes you see are Thimbleberries.  They look like raspberries and have a mild raspberry flavor to them.  They were loaded with unripe berries.

The huckleberries were pretty sparse.  I forgot to take a camera with me and didn't feel like going back down (then back up!) just to take pictures.  We got enough for a fresh huckleberry pie which Susan made the first night.  We also had huckleberry pancakes with a few huckleberries left over. 

On our road home.  Montana is an open range state meaning that it's not required to fence in your cattle or other livestock so it's not unusual to see small herds on the road.  In this case the fences are to keep the cows out rather than in.

Two of the kids and their spouses came up Friday.  Of course Scott was ecstatic to have all the live entertainment.

Saturday morning I took a little time to shoot my Sharps replica (45/70).  I've never liked the sights on the rifle so I modified them slightly by filing the notch deeper.  It's much easier to acquire a good sight picture now.  I only had about 7 cartridges loaded up for it but I don't often shoot it much more than that at a single time anyway.  The recoil can get a little rough and I don't like developing bad habits like flinching.  I have the same rule with the 338 Win. Mag.

I found one of my mouse traps that I'd forgotten about.  Of course there wasn't a lot left of the mouse!

Had another daughter and her husband come on Saturday.  This is our youngest grandchild (for  now, we have another one due in September).

This is Hanna.  If you read our blog a couple of years ago when we were in Nevada you saw her there also.

This is Logan.  He's a couple of months younger than Scott.

After my shooting session I was going to load up some more 45/70 ammo until I found out that I needed to lube and size some more bullets.  I use Lee Liquid Alox lube and a Lee sizer die.  It works okay but is slow.  These are 405 grain flat nose bullets.  I cast using a Lee Bullet mold.