Thursday, October 23, 2014

23 October, 2014 - Fall work ...

We've been getting things put away for winter and finishing up some projects that needed done this week.  We took a trailer load of trash to the dumpsters and filled two of them up and we've done some tree trimming in addition to the normal daily routine.

One of the things that needed done was to cover the shack roof.  One look and you can see where the moniker came from.  This used to be home to some of the previous residents.  When we bought the land the roof was shredded, the outside covering was gone and sections of drywall and insulation hung inside like an old haunted house.  In it's day it was never much but it must have kept it's resident warm in winter and dry in summer at least (which, after all, is the purpose of a shelter).
It had seen better days when we bought the property though and some of our most memorable moments early on were the packrat shoots we had inside of it.  One of the most interesting was when a packrat was running along the top inner wall.  Susan had her 357 snubby out and took five shots.  All missed.  It was like gallery shoot.  He'd run around a rafter then on the wall then disappear around another rafter then back on top of the wall, etc. until she'd emptied all five rounds.  She tapped me once and I drew my 44 magnum (I was completely deaf at that point from her 357's muzzle blast ... it was incredibly loud inside the close quarters of the shack).  When the rat reappeared I fired once and missed then he stopped for just a second.  I squeezed the trigger and we finally had another pack rat down (at least we surmised that from the number of pieces we found).  Only about a hundred more to go!
Then there was the time we peeled off a section of drywall to uncover a whole nest of packrats ... but I'll save that story for later.

Anyway, we now use it for storing stuff.  We call the "valuables" stacked outside the shack our "parts department."  It's pretty well stocked too!
The roof is in bad shape but we hope to have it cleaned out next summer so we don't want to put any money into roofing.  (Ha, that's what we said last year too!!!)  So we are draping some tarps over it to protect the contents within.

I didn't have help last year so with Scott supervising us things took just a little longer to finish.  But it was a lot more fun!  (The wheel rim covers a hole for a stove pipe.)

Once the boss got tired of sleeping ... I mean, playing in the tarp we finished up. Then he swept some of the dirt off of it. (Which he dumped there when he upended my bag of baling twine.)

I tossed some tires from the parts department on the roof to help anchor the edges of the tarps.

I probably have enough dead trees on our twenty-acres to keep us supplied with firewood this winter.  There were two trees here that I dropped.  I used my pick-up as a skidder and with 30 feet of chain got it over the hill and out where I could cut it up and load it easier.

This tree is about 50 feet long and around 18 inches at the base.  The other one was a little shorter and thinner.  Combined they gave us about 3/4 of a cord of firewood.

The Larch are in full fall color now.  This is the view from the northeast corner of our property looking southeast over our land to the mountains beyond.  Our property goes to the point where the ground begins to rise.

This is the road on the north side of our property.  Home is just past where the road disappears in the photo (on the left side).

This is the dehydrated cottage cheese mentioned in my post on Grit magazine about our refrigerator quitting.  Life Without Refrigeration, Grit blog.

This is what it looked like when first spread out to dry.

We bought some hamburger and Susan has been canning it up for later use.  This is meatloaf ready to can.  She pokes the hole in the center to make it easier for the heat to penetrate clear through.

Hamburgers are browned before canning.

The meatloaf is in the three jars to the left.  Ground hamburger in the next two and hamburger patties in the next two.  The two jars on the far right are canned beans.  Susan often puts extra cans of something in the canner to fill up empty space.  You just have to remember to run the canner at the pressure and time needed to safely can whatever item takes the longest time and pressure.

She's been canning up other items as well.  These are Pinto beans.  We like having them on hand and ready to use for quick meals (like one of my favorites ... beans and dumplings).

The finished product!  These are much healthier because they don't have nearly the salt or other additives found in commercially canned beans.

Lots more going on but we didn't have the camera ready for some.  Yesterday afternoon we heard Scott yelling for help.  When we saw him he had managed to get himself trapped inside one of the high stools we use when washing dishes, canning, reloading or other times we work at a bench or counter.  He had it upside down and had wriggled his way to where his behind was sitting on the seat's underside with his legs splayed out through the side rungs on the stool's legs.  We could not get him free until I cut one of the rungs away.  Its' funny, normally we can't get those things to stay together and then this one wouldn't come apart!

We have to watch our language a bit as well.  Small children just learning to talk well sometimes act like little recorders that occasionally play back key phrases.  Today he was in his car seat playing with an imaginary friend.  We could hear him talking back and forth using two different voices.  Finally he said to the "other" party that "I don't want to," then a slight pause and then we very clearly heard him say, "dumb a$$!"   I think I need to watch some of my comments about the idiots we share the road with!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

18 October, 2014 - Trailer Kits, Broken Refrigerators, Child's Play and more ...

A typical week in October for us would be ...?   I don't have a clue what typical is!  We do more cooking over the wood heating stove simply because it's in use more hours of the day and we run it hotter since the evenings and mornings are colder.  There's also an urgency on getting the wood in and putting the garden to bed.   But there is more to life as well.  We still take walks in the woods and do things for fun in addition to trying out new things on the homestead.  We also took a day "off" and drove down to the hot springs next to the Flathead Indian Reservation to soak in the pools there.  It's a natural hot spring that's been developed over the years and is now privately owned. They have three pools. The upper one is hottest.  You can't stay in it too long or you'll get overheated.  The second pool right under the first one is like a hot bath.  It's very comfortable even though it's on the hot side temperature wise.  Both of those pools have a strong sulfur smell.  The lower pool is a regular swimming pool with warm water.  That's the one Scott likes best.  He doesn't like the upper pools and says they're too hot and he doesn't want to get "cooked."  We finished the day with a meal at IHOP then headed for home.  It's nice to see gasoline prices edging back down a bit.

This week Susan tried out some baking rings.  These are supposed to be used for rolls, buns, biscuits, etc. to make them nice and round with smooth sides.  Our first experiment was with biscuits.

Fresh out of the oven now and it's too bad you can't transmit smells over the internet because these smell wonderful!  The rings worked okay but will probably be used more when Susan makes home made hamburger buns and English Muffins.

Scott needed a bath and like most three-year-old boys he likes playing in the water.  We combined the two for him one chilly morning.  This is an early photo.  As time passed there was more water being splashed out and more toys in the tub.  It sometimes takes little boys over an hour to take a bath in this manner.

Susan taking a break from writing.  The cold mornings give us a good excuse to get some morning writing time in.

We came home from town last week to find out that our refrigerator had quit.  So ... we had some things to get done in a hurry to save the contents.  Fortunately, in this instance, the cold nights helped.

You can get the full story on the broken fridge by going to my Grit Magazine blog at Steven Gregersen, Grit Blog or to Susan's Poverty Prepping Blog at Poverty Prepping (go to the post for October 13).

We try to get out for some decent exercise and woods roaming is good exercise!  This is on timber company land southwest of our cabin.  They logged it a couple of years ago.  We were planning on going up to where I was cutting firewood on state land but decided to postpone that since it was beginning to get dark.  We took a different (longer) route home.  We had the dog with us so we didn't see much in the way of wildlife.

This is the time of year for Shaggy Mane and Bolete mushrooms.  The woods are filled with Boletes but the Shaggy Manes (above) are a little less common.

We purchased a small trailer (kit?) from Harbor Freight Tools.  There are a lot of pieces in one of these!

The first step is assembling the frame for the front half. 

Next you put the tongue together and install it.  This is a tilt bed trailer.  I'll disable the "tilt" feature.  They weaken the trailer and rattle too much going down the road.

Both halves put together and the axle installed.

I had the trailer folded in half here.  Scott loved being a part of this.

He made the rounds ensuring that I had tightened all of the bolts and nuts!

Now he's getting ready to do some welding!  (Well, watch me do it anyway!)

I welded junctions where cross members were bolted to the frame.  It will make the frame a little stiffer and hopefully make it stronger and last longer.

After I finished it Scott was pretending to weld also.  Too bad a photo can't capture the welding sounds he was making.
This trailer is the folding model rated at 1195 pounds cargo weight. We would have preferred the trailer rated at 1720 pounds but they didn't have a complete one in stock.  We called the store and they said they had one but when we got there they couldn't find all of the parts.  We purchased this one then when we got home found out it was missing one box containing all of the bolts and stake pockets.  The store manager went above and beyond the call by Fed-Ex-ing the box to us at our home so we wouldn't have to make the trip back to the store (in Missoula - 180 miles each way). 
Susan is in the process of painting it black.  When she's finished I'll put the wheels and lights on it then we'll finish the bed portion.  This year it will just be a basic, open-topped, box.  We'll have to cover it's contents with a tarp.  While we're in Nevada this winter we'll put a top on it so that we can do away with the tarp and keep the contents more secure.

As always, Odie is keeping track of everyone and everything. 

Scott and grandma playing with trucks in the sand (around the tetherball).  This is Scott's favorite place to play.  He has a sand box but for some reason prefers it here.

More wood ready for splitting.  This was cut on our property so I didn't worry to much about stacking it tightly.  At the time of this writing I have most of this load split and stacked.
Susan is uploading another food preservation book.  This one covers vegetables, grains and beans.  It will join the other food preservation books she has published.  She will probably combine all three into one volume sometime in the near future.  There'll be more information on her Poverty Prepping Blog.  Her new book should be live on Kindle in the next 48 hours.  The print version takes a little longer to clear all the hurdles but should be available by the end of the week.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

8 October, 2014 - New Tires, Mushrooms, More Canning, Washing Clothes, Damaged Chains

We've had some of that beautiful fall weather that makes us wish it would stay this way all year long.  Nights have been in the upper thirties and low forties with sunshiny days in the sixties and seventies.

I mounted the new tires on the Expedition this week.  I finally got to try out my new electric impact gun.  It is heavier and doesn't have the power of my air powered impact guns but it did okay overall.  It's a lot easier to use an extension cord than an air hose so I'm happy with it so far.

The tires on the Expedition have 17 inch rims.  They're a little more than my little tire machine is designed for but it got the job done. I really had to crank on the bead remover though.  It took me about 90 minutes to do all four tires.  It would have cost me about $50.00 to have them done at a tire store.

Susan finished canning the apples and is almost finished canning carrots.  Now I need to fill my big game tags and she can get busy canning meat!  She's smiling at Scott being silly on the swing in front of her.

He uses his swing in about any position imaginable. Here he was being cute for the camera.

I hit a rock while cutting firewood last week.  I don't know if you've ever hit a rock with a chain saw but it really messes up the edges of the teeth.  If you look closely you can see that the front of the tooth is roughly beveled by the rock.

This tooth not only had the bevel but the rock chipped a section off the top of the tooth.  You have to do a lot of filing to get a chain in this condition sharp again.  The teeth are already worn so by the time this chain is sharp again it will be retired and saved for use when cutting tree stumps off close to the ground.

We winterized the automatic washer the last time we used it so we are now back to doing the wash by hand.  The wringer is from Lehman's as is the "rapid washer" in the wash tub.  The tubs were purchased at a yard sale many years ago. The frame everything sits on is an old ladder that's been nailed to the trees.  It works pretty good.

We went wood cutting again today and found some mushrooms in the woods. These are various kinds of Boletes.  We have tons of them in the woods this time of year.  We found some shaggy manes last time we were out.  They're very nice addition to many dishes.

It was a slow afternoon cutting firewood.  We only found a couple of trees within cable range of the road so we only cut about half a load this afternoon. We did a lot of walking looking for dead trees near the road.
Tomorrow I'll need to sharpen chains and get the saws ready for the next rip to the woods.  I'll also need to split and stack what we cut today.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

2 October, 2014 Canning, Firewood Cutting, Tires and Trailers, and Hunting

It's a busy time of year and time is running out! We still have things to can and firewood to cut and split and winter is fast approaching.  Bow season for big game ends in less than two weeks but we still have a few weeks of gun season coming.  The weather definitely has that "brisk" feeling of winter coming soon that makes the urge for a full wood shed and a pantry full of canned meat very strong!

This is the root cellar we dug by hand when we first moved here years ago.  It was put together with scrap lumber we had laying around the place.  It's still just as good as the day we made it.  We'll be filling it up this fall with canned goods.  We may have to dig another this fall to hold the excess.  (The old mattress is placed over the door in summer for better insulation from summer heat.)

Freshly baked French Bread!  Susan has been extra diligent about cooking our meals from raw ingredients lately.  This includes breads that she's tweaked the recipes on to use less sugar and salt than they originally called for.  The food has been very good with her modifications and is much healthier than the processed foods bought at the store.

Apples, apples and more apples.  Susan has been peeling apples for a couple of days.  This is the most recent batch.  We'll have over 40 pints of canned apples before she's finished.  That doesn't count what we've used already in pies, and cobblers.  She canned this last batch without adding water.  We may have to store them in the cabin this winter while we go south for a bit so she wanted the jars to be more freeze resistant.
You can get more details on her blog at:

The most recent offering of canned apple slices.

We made a trip to Missoula on Tuesday.  We wanted to purchase another small trailer because our last one died (bad wheel and axle) a couple of years ago.  You never know how much you use something until you no longer have it and that little trailer was used a lot!  We called ahead of time to be sure they had some in stock.  When we got there the computer showed that they had three but when they went looking for them they could only find all the parts for one trailer.  We bought it.

This is the second box of parts for the trailer.
The reason we drove all the way to Missoula (380 miles round trip) was because we needed tires for the Expedition too. Our new "Super Wal-Mart" does not have an auto center like our old (regular?) Wal-Mart had so we couldn't have the tires shipped site to store in Kalispell (58 miles one way).  We planned on having the trailer from Harbor Freight Tools shipped here since the cost was about the same as the cost of gasoline to go get it in Missoula and we wouldn't lose a day of work here.  But now that we couldn't order the tires to be shipped to Kalispell we just decided to have them shipped to Missoula and pick up the tires and the trailer there.  The Harbor Freight store in on the opposite corner from the Wal-Mart in Missoula which made the logistics simple.
Anyway, we got a good price on the tires and the trailer doing it this way.  I'll just mount the tires here and save another $50.00 (using a tire "machine" purchased at Harbor Freight Tools several years ago).

Scott emptied out one of the cabinets under the sink last night.  A neighbor was over when he did it and the neighbor asked him if he was going to put it all back when he was done.  Scott replied matter-of-factly saying "no."  It was okay with us since Susan had planned on going through that cabinet anyway.

We had a bunch of plastic containers we used for left-overs in it but over time it had gotten to where the containers and lids didn't match up anymore.  Susan sacked them up to be dumped.  One more project completed and crossed of the list!

I've been cutting firewood like a beaver with an overactive thyroid.

We're going to clean up the dead trees on our property but we'll still need to cut some on National Forest land.

A friend and I cut 1 1/2 cords yesterday in about three hours.  We're both getting up in years now so it took a little longer than it used to!  It seems as if the trees keep getting heavier, the mountains steeper, the chainsaws heavier, and the bed of the truck higher each passing year.  One neighbor recently went to using an electric chainsaw to cut his firewood.  They are much lighter and quieter.  His son cuts the trees down and skids them to the cabin then he (his dad) cuts them up to firewood length and stacks them.  He also lives on the grid now so he has unlimited electricity.  I wouldn't want an electric saw as my only saw but they make a nice addition to a larger saw.  The new electric chainsaws are a lot better than the early models were.

One of the trees scheduled to be cut.  The lichen hanging (out of reach) from the limbs is a favorite deer food.  They'll move in for a couple of nights after the tree is cut for a special treat.

As I've been thinning trees I've been adding to our slash piles.  Open burning season will soon be here and I can burn these piles or I may be able to get a burn permit since it's rained several days now.

I replaced the ropes on a couple of Scott's swings so he's been giving them a good workout.  (These swings are over twenty-five-years-old!)  One is outside while we put the other in the cabin.  We have a large, central beam that we screwed some hooks into so we can bring a swing inside. It gives a very active three-year-old another way to burn off energy on long, cold evenings.

Of course you don't just swing on swings, you also twist them so you can mount up and get a fast "merry-go-round" ride.
We may have a bad battery in our battery bank.  The batteries are going into the "caution" zone at nights now but we should have enough reserve to keep that from happening.  I'll need to get the load tester out and do some checking.  I check the batteries every six months to top off water levels and clean terminals but I didn't run any load tests last time.
I also need to find some steering parts for my truck.  It's an old  (1983) Dodge one-ton pickup that we seldom put five-hundred miles on in a year.  We use it for wood cutting and hauling heavy loads of sand or gravel as needed.  It's ugly and gets horrible gas mileage but with it's massive springs and 12 ply tires it will carry 1 1/2 cords of wood or 1 1/2 tons of gravel or sand with ease. 
One thing about life on a homestead is that you're never caught up ... ever!  There's always another project waiting for your attention.