Saturday, September 29, 2012

14 - 25 September, 2012 - Silverwood, Harvest Time, Trip Preps

My book is in the computer at Paladin Press now.  For an overview and ordering information use the link below.  Thanks.

Creating the Low-Budget Homestead

We're 1500 miles from home today.  We left on Saturday (a week ago) to see people in Colorado, Kansas, Texas and then back to Colorado.  You'll note that this is being posted a few days after the last day of the blog coverage.  The only excuse is that we've been a little busy!

The 15th we went to Silverwood with some of the kids.  This is Scott on his first horse ride at Silverwood with his grandma beside him and his mother and aunt behind.  He was making motor sounds as he rode.

Now he's on the children's roller coaster.  We spent the entire day there and he was one tired little boy when we left for home.  The parents, aunt and uncle left for Kalispell in one car and Susan and I and Scott drove home in our Cherokee.  It was a long day but fun.  Of course us big kids did some riding too.

We had to do some work on the trailer before we left on our trip.  I needed to make a better tailgate for it so I got the welder and bed rails out and went to work.  The last time we had it on the highway the bar across the back fell off with our license plate attached.  We never did find it so we had to buy a replacement.  That cost us $20.00.  This time I bolted it to the left fender on the trailer and made a stronger tailgate for the trailer.  Susan painted it black after I finished.

The temperature gauge on the U-Haul keeps showing hotter and hotter the longer we drive it.  I've pulled over and tested the temperature with a thermometer and never found a problem so we finally just bought an aftermarket, mechanical gauge and I installed it.  I installed it in the thermostat housing just under the thermostats (it has two).  So far it looks like there is no overheating problem.  Most likely the sender for the factory gauge is malfunctioning. 

When it was time to refill the radiator I couldn't find my funnel so I made one out of the top of a two liter pop bottle.   It worked okay.

I also changed the oil and filter and greased it.  I added 3 pints of gear oil to the transmission to top it off but the rear differential was okay.  Getting the lights all working was a bit of a chore.  We had three clearance lights out and the right front turn signal/park light wasn't working right.  I had to replace the entire light assemblies on the clearance lights (I keep spares on hand).  I thought I had a bad ground on the park/turn signal light because when you turned on the headlights the right turn indicator light glowed dimly (a classic indicator of a bad ground wire).  I ended up being a bad ground on the light socket.  Those I don't keep on hand so I scrounged around on one of our "retired" vehicles and found a socket I could wire in.  That got the truck lights fixed.

Now the trailer lights needed attention.  None of them worked!  To make a long story shorter, the connectors in the trailer harness plug were loose and I had one bad bulb.  Susan already had the U-Haul packed and the trailer loaded so we were finally ready to hit the road the next morning.

I bought some blades for a disk at an estate sale awhile back.  I'd planned on using them for targets (gongs) and finally got the first one ready.  I hung it between a couple of trees and proceeded to give it a beating.  It's at 25 yards from the firing line and we use only 22's and handguns on it.   We wear safety glasses at all times (everyone on the line including spectators) in case of ricochets.  It's a lot more fun shooting when you don't have to stop and replace targets.

The garden is ready for harvest.  We've already dug some of the potatoes but hadn't gotten to the peas yet.  We let most of them dry on the vine.  Susan calls it the lazy man's way to get seed for next year and she's right!  The pods and seeds are dried so all you have to do is put the pods in a bucket and shell them when  you have time (probably during the winter while we're watching a movie on television).  We were a little late this year.  Some of the pods had burst open already.  We'll be seeing some volunteer peas in that area next year!  We should have several pounds of dried peas when we get them shelled.  That's plenty for planting next year even after eating our share.

It's nice that Scott is getting old enough to entertain himself for short times while we work in the garden.  He played on the tiller for quite awhile, making motor sounds as his imagination took him on trips across the garden.  He helps when we dig potatoes too.  We put them in a bucket then dump the bucket in the wheel barrow then he takes them out of the wheel barrow and puts them in our buckets.  We still have some training to do when it comes to potato harvesting.

Susan did her laundry just before we left (I did mine the day before) and Scott helped take the clean clothes off the line.  Getting in the basket and covering himself up was his idea.

On the way south we stopped at Paladin Press in Boulder, Colorado to meet the people who published my book. They gave us a tour of their facilities.  It was cool to meet the people who actually put my book together.

I have more pictures taken on the road but we're working with a jet pack and are limited to four gigs per month.  Since this is the first month using it we're being cautious about how fast we use up or allotment.  When we get home I may do one post of just travel pictures.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Thursday, September 13, 2012

5-13 September, 2012, Skunks in the henhouse, camper painting, wood cutting, new grandchildren

Right in the middle of catching up on the blog the dog began making a ruckus outside.  She'd been barking at something off to the south of the cabin last night and today but this time whatever it was was in the yard.  I grabbed the shotgun and went to investigate and found a skunk under the chicken house.  The chickens were gone (I hadn't shut them up for the night yet) so I hope they're roosting somewhere else.  I didn't see any excessive feathers strewn about so I don't think the skunk got them.  Anyway, I shot the skunk and have the bruised arm to prove it.  The shot was taken with me laying on the ground holding a flashlight in one hand and the shotgun in the other.  I lined the (12 gauge) shotgun up on the skunk and pulled the trigger.  The butt plate was resting against my biceps just above the elbow and I can sure feel it now!  I'll extract his smelly, mutilated body tomorrow when it's light out.  Hopefully the chickens are safe.  I put the dog in the house while this as going on so I wouldn't have to worry about the skunk spraying her.

It's just one more reason why you don't wander around in the dark here without a gun of some kind and a flashlight with you.  It also shows why a dog is an asset on the homestead.

Now, about the rest of the week...

I dug some of the rocks up out of the yard.  The ground seems to grow them naturally.  Those that stick their heads above the surface get dug up. 

But then you have to fill the holes in with more dirt so we go to our dirt pile and fill the wheel barrow with dirt to fill in the holes where the rocks used to live.

We (Susan) are repainting the camper.  Here Susan is spraying the brown that goes on the cab and along the bottom of the  box.  We're using an airless paint gun which is having issues.  There's a lot of "orange peel" in the finished product.

The final look after we're done!

Okay, Susan is finished.  I still need to clean the paint gun up (with Scott's help).

Scott is helping change the memory card in the game camera.  I went three days with no critters at this site so I moved it to another location the next day.  At least I know where to not put a tree stand.

Scott and I went to the shack to get a few things and on the way back he wanted to play on the snowmobiles.  I uncovered one of them and he spent a little time in the land of imagination where two-year-olds like to go.

Scott's dad and mom were up so his dad and I did a little shooting with 22's. 

Susan, Scott and I took a break on the work one afternoon to play a game of horseshoes.  I won but only by one point.  Scott had a pair of plastic shoes he used.

We still wash dishes.  One of the problems with doing a blog like this is that there's only so much "new" stuff you can put on it after awhile, so ... you get some re-runs!  We had plenty of rain water so I used that for the wash water and "town" water for the rinse.  We had the kettle heating on the wood stove so I had some hot water to mix with it.

The mornings and some evenings have been cold enough to need some heat so we've fired up the wood stove  several times.  The side benefit of this is having hot water. (We keep a kettle of water on the wood stove.)  So ... I used hot water when I washed the dishes and laundry.  It was nice to have hot water instead of the cold water we normally use.

We also got the sourdough out of the refrigerator and began using it again.  These are sourdough pancakes and we love eating them.

Susan made cookies and we caught Scott in the act of helping himself to a few.  He's like a bird and eats a bite out of each one.  We caught him before he got too many though.

Scott has a new cousin.  This little guy's name is Tommy.  His mom had some complications so they induced labor.  She was in labor almost two days before she had him.  Mom and baby are both home again and doing well.

Of course Scott loved the hospital.  Tommy was born in the same room as Scott used a couple of years ago.  They moved mom and baby to a recovery room while we were visiting and Scott discovered the running water in the bathroom.  We stripped him down to his diaper and let him have some fun.  (With grandpa staying very close.)

Here Scott is helping grandma put the dried mint in jars for storage.

Susan has been harvesting garden crops this week beginning with the onions.  Next will be the potatoes and carrots.

There were two large trees blown down that I was cutting up for firewood.  This is the last of the second one.  I couldn't get them all in two loads so I had to make another trip for this batch.  It's green so it will go to the back of the wood shed to cure until spring.

The wood shed is almost half full now.  I was getting too tired to throw the large rounds of green logs up on the top tiers so I split some of them into quarters.

Scott got the idea to re-arrange his cabinets and decided that the oven would be a great place to store what had been in them.  Unfortunately grandma needed that space for cooking dinner tonight so they all went back into their original home.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Creating the Low-Budget Homestead

My book is printed up now and I recieved my ten copies from Paladin Press in the mail today.  They did a nice job on it.  The title is Creating the Low-Budget Homestead.  The retail price is $25.00.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

28 August - 4 September, 2012 - Camper Painting, Wood Cutting, Truck Repairs, and more...

It's been one of our more productive weeks.

The U-Haul got a new coat of paint this week. We decided to repaint the camper to a lighter color to make it a little cooler in the sun. Susan masked off the windows and lights and covered the cab with old blankets.

Then she began shooting the paint. 

We're using an airless paint gun which doesn't throw the best spray pattern but does okay considering the primitive conditions we're under.  The bad thing is that it takes a lot of cleaning to keep it functioning properly.

Susan finished the light color then we decided we didn't like it and bought some new paint to go over this coat.  It's nearly the same color but more glossy. More on that in the next blog!

We have a son-in-law who works at a grocery store and the store threw out a box of bananas because they were getting too ripe to sell.  He gave most of them to us and Susan peeled and froze them.  We bought some chocolate coating and after they're frozen they'll make great treats.  Take them out, dip them in chocolate and they'll taste great on these hot, 80 degree days, we've been having.  (Okay, 80 degrees is hot for around these parts!)

We bought another hundred pounds of grain for the chickens but decided to save it for later.  Regular chicken feed has tripled in price in the last two years so we're getting more creative.  We bought a 50 lb. sack of cracked corn and another of mixed grain of corn and barley.  We'll mix them together when the time comes to feed them to the chickens but in the meantime we ground up another fifty or so pounds of outdated or rancid food stores.  (We've been rotating our stored supplies and feeding the old stuff to the chickens.)

Scott couldn't wait to help and is dumping old rice and beans into the hopper of the grinder.  You can't see them but the chickens are crowded under the table eating the rice that he spills.  It took about two hours of grinding to fill the 50 lb. sack.  We used rice, beans and old pasta for the most part.

The long, sunny days have given us an abundance of electricity so I've been running the case tumbler in the afternoons.  I've got about a thousand brass cases to run through the cleaner.  These are 30/06 and 270 brass.

Our youngest son "retired" his pickup.  He was given a newer car that gets much better gas mileage and he's giving this one to a sibling (we don't know which one yet).  He told us to take the tires (nearly new) which I'll put on the Cherokee later.

I dismounted his old tires and put some others back on that still had some life left in them.  Here I'm breaking the bead lose using my Harbor Freight tire machine.

Now I'm removing the tire from the rim using the same machine.  We got this one on sale a few years ago but they're still under $100.00 at Harbor Freight Tools.  We paid for this one the first time we used it.  I have an article coming out soon in Backwoods Home Magazine showing how to use it.
There are three, current issue, magazines on the news stands now with my articles in them.  They are Fur-Fish-Game, Back Home Magazine and Traditional Bowhunter Magazine.

The truck had a dead miss in it so I located which cylinder was cutting out then checked the compression.  It was about 125 pounds but the gauge leaked down before I could take the photo.  Anyway, that's plenty of compression for the cylinder to fire.

I checked the resistance in the plug wire and it checked out okay so ...

I checked the plug.  It's in serious need of replacement but the parts store is a ways off and I'll let whoever gets the truck buy new plugs for it so I opted for a temporary fix for now.

In case you aren't familiar with how spark plugs "wear," in the first photo you can see how the center electrode is rounded and burned down more on one side.  The rounded edges make it more difficult for the spark to jump the gap.  When the air in the cylinder is compressed as in the compression stroke it's even harder for the spark to jump the gap.  In the old days of point type ignition the spark plug would quite firing long before this.  The newer, electronic ignitions have a lot more juice (over 80,000 volts) though so it isn't uncommon to see plugs worn to this extent.  The problem is though, that when they get this bad it's sometime easier for the spark to go through the spark plug wire which burns the plug wire out.  Then you have to replace the wires and the plugs. So far the wires are okay.

Anyway, to "fix" the plug you can file the electrode flat again (as in the photo above).  You'll want a spark plug - AKA "ignition" or "point" - file (which you don't see many of today).   You can use an emery board (like those used in a manicure) in a pinch.  I put the plug in a vice and filed the electrode flat again then re-gapped the plug and the engine is running smooth again.  I'm sure the other plugs are worn as well so whoever gets it will need to replace them all.

We also siphoned the gasoline from the forward tank to use in the Dodge.  The tank switch valve hasn't worked on this truck since he got it two or three years ago so this fuel is getting some age on it.  We thought we'd better get it used up if it's still good.  (It was ... barely!)  The best siphon hose I've found is a hose and bulb for outboard boat motors.  The cheap ones don't work well and don't last long. I've used this one for several years.

I'd cut up a couple of small, dead trees back where the truck had been parked and loaded them into the back to bring to the wood shed.  It's the first wood cut for the season.

I knew where there were some recently blown down trees so I cut a couple of loads of them for firewood.  They're green yet so I'll stack them in the back of the wood shed to cure until we need them.

Because the wood was still green I didn't fill the truck quite as full due to the weight of the wood.  When the springs are flattened out I stop loading the truck.  I don't like replacing broken springs.  The first load is on the ground and the second load is still in the truck.  Only eight more loads to go!

I set my game camera up on a nearby trail to start taking inventory of the local deer passing through.  (You can see it on the tree in the center of the photo.)

When we (Scott and I) went to check it yesterday the cat came along.  There was a dead rabbit (snowshoe hare) in the trail.  It's unusual to see one like this.  Most of the time you just find some fur scattered about.

Scott wanted to check out the stump a bear ripped apart.  We put a bell on him to help keep track of him. 

When I got to my camera I saw that the lens to the flash was broken.  I had two pictures of the possible culprit.  The first was mostly fur as was the second.  I can't tell what kind of critter it was.  We have deer, elk, moose, bears (black and grizzly), wolves, coyotes, bobcats, lynx, mountain lions in addition to dogs and small game in the area.  Any ideas about what's in the picture?  I couldn't tell by the tracks in the area either.  It's a well-used trail.

Of course, the only clear photo I got of a deer is one where his head is behind a stump!

Noticing the angle of the sun it's entirely possible that the sun broke the lens out.  The flash's reflector may have focused the sunlight directly on the lens.  Anyone have any ideas or experiences with this?