Wednesday, January 25, 2017

January 11-20, 2017 More winter, more snow, more fun!

You could probably say that I've had about enough quality time spent with my snow shovel for one year!  This winter has been a bit unusual with it's long, unbroken cold spell and loads of snow.  I've had to clear the roofs of outbuildings twice already when normally once is sufficient.  The drive has needed shoveling numerous times as well.  All told though, it's been a great winter in that we didn't have the constant freeze/thaw cycles that turn the snow to slush then to ice then we get more snow on top and the cycle continues.   

We were in a quandary regarding which vehicle we're taking back down south with us in the next week or so.  The van needed work and the U haul needed work.  So, I got the U Haul running by replacing the battery and rebuilding the carburetor.  I thought the carb. rebuild would cure it's extreme, cold-blooded problems but it didn't.  When the temperature plummets It's a real chore to keep it running until it will idle on it's own.  So I finished repairs on the van and it looks like it's the rig we'll be using.  The good thing was I could wait to work on them until the weather warmed up a bit.  The bad thing was that it was still barely in the double digits on the positive side of the thermometer!  Working on vehicles when the tools are freezing cold is not much fun but if it has to be done, it has to be done.  So...
Out came the carburetor on the U Haul.  It's the standard Ford 2 barrel of which I've conservatively done probably 500 or more rebuilds on.  I like these carburetors (my second favorite is the quadrajet) because they're simple and normally good carburetors. My third favorite was the Ford Variable Venturi carburetors.  They are very simple carburetors but most mechanics wouldn't work on them.  The key is having a good inches-of-water vacuum gauge and a handy little tool manufactured by Lisle for setting the jets on them.  When set up right they would really make a motor run great.  When set up wrong they were terrible.  A lot of them came from the factory set up wrong.

They don't have a lot of pieces in them either.  This one went well.  I put in a kit (which included a new needle and seat, accelerator pump, power valve and gaskets) and a float and cleaned it all up before reinstalling it on the truck.  I like working on carburetors.  It's interesting that the best teacher I ever had on carburetors was an engineer from Holley Carburetors.  He was brought in by a local parts store and the invitation to come was given to all of the repair shops in the area.  It was easy to see why he was on the road teaching.  He began the class drinking beer and it ended seven hours later (well after midnight) with him still drinking beer.  He ended up drunk as a skunk yet could still teach with clarity.  I will say that he knew his stuff and I came away with a greater understanding of how a carburetor works than I ever dreamed possible.  I thought I knew about carburetors before the class.  I didn't even know what I didn't know until that night.

Susan playing the piano under Scott's supervision! 

The road going by our cabin.  There is only one full time resident beyond us so we have very little traffic to contend with.  This was taken from our driveway looking east.  Our property ends at the top of the road in the distance.

Susan and I were shoveling out the driveway after another six inch snowfall.

This was taken from the upstairs bedroom window at 9:53 PM.  That's our garden area covered in snow.

The same place at 10:31 AM.

Scott asleep with his teddy bears standing guard.

Susan made banana splits using snow ice cream. (We have no shortage of snow!)

Yes, it was a good as it looks.

I bought a set of tire chains for the van at a thrift store in southern Nevada.  I paid $10.00 for them and they'd never been installed on a vehicle before.  I've bought several sets of tire chains and a snow (roof) rake at yard sales and thrift stores in Nevada for pennies on the dollar of their new price.  Lots of retirees move there for the warmer climate taking their winter gear with them.  Then they find out that they don't really do winter that far south and sell the stuff at yard sales ... cheap!

We started up our 4-wheelers to load them on the trailer for their trip down south.  Mine has a new battery and started right up (pretty impressive since they'd been sitting there over a month in below zero temperatures.  Susan's rig needed some help.  The battery was dead.  So I wheeled over our small, 2250 watt generator and the fast charger and jump started her ATV.  The can of starting fluid on the battery charger was used on the generator to start it.  The temperature was about -10 that day.  In our experience if a generator doesn't have an electric starter it won't start when it's that cold.  If I have starting fluid on hand that will usually get it going.  If I don't, I'll wheel it inside the cabin and warm it up by the stove.  Our generators with electric starters are larger and it takes a bit more effort to wheel them through the snow.

Susan's ATV loaded up nicely.  The tires must be a softer rubber because I've never had her's spin out on a steel ramp.

Mine, however, is a different story!

It made it over the side then all four tires began to spin.  The back tires began working the ramps to the side so instead of dumping it I shut it off and went to plan B.

Get out the come-along and a couple of tow chains and winch it on board!

Now all I have to do is strap them down.

We strapped down the ATV's, slid Scott's kayak underneath them and strapped my kayak on top of them then covered it all up with a tarp until we leave. (Susan's kayak is at the motor home down south in storage.)

We dug out one of these trays from our barn and Scott got all excited about another "Lego tray."  They're commercial baking pans we found in the dumpster years ago.  We use them for projects like when he gets out his play dough or Legos.  We don't have to put everything away. Instead we just put the tray up somewhere until he wants to use it again.  In this instance he got some Legos for Christmas and was putting them together.

Susan has been making cinnamon sticks when she makes pizza.  Scott, in particular, loves them. 

Our favorite pizza is ham and pineapple.  She;s been experimenting with different crusts and this one is a winner.

Our van is in the "staging" area and just waiting to take us south.  In the meantime it had warmed up above freezing so I cleared the snow from the roof to let it dry off.  The flat panel to my left is a 65 watt solar panel that we use to power the lights in the camper portion of the van.  It's a small panel and the oldest one we have.  I traded some car repair work for it many years ago.  The people I got it from put it on their camper prior to Y2K so it's at least 17 years-old and still works as good as the day it was made.  Those 65 watt panels when new sold for over $300.00.  The last two panels I ordered in December were 165 watts each and I paid a little over $300.00 for both.  Prices have come down a bunch over the years!

Susan sliced deeply into her thumb the other day.  We often joke about grabbing a camera before the bandaids but this time it was bandages first.  It took quite awhile to stop the bleeding!  This was taken a couple of days afterward.

The temperature finally warmed up enough to make snow balls.

I'm using Scott's "snowball maker."  I don't know what it is supposed to do but Scott saw it at a thrift store and in a delightfully happy voice said, "look, a snowball maker."  So we bought it for him.  It works great and you can make snowballs really fast with it.  Naturally he wanted it back as soon as he saw I had it!

We had about three feet of snow prior to the warm-up.  We got a little light rain and warmer temperatures and the snow packed wonderfully.  Scott and grandma made themselves a snowman.  Scott's finding out that the snow can get pretty heavy when the moisture content is high.

Their finished snowman.  I told Susan she should have used a carrot for the nose then I could set a game camera up to watch the deer eat it's nose!  We didn't set the camera up but the snowman was surrounded with deer tracks the next morning. 

More snow shoveling!  The second time for this building too!  The snow was not nearly as deep this time but it was wet and heavy.

Scott putting on a dance show in his spider costume.  The bear on the wall behind him was shot by me about a mile north of our cabin.  He squares 6.75 feet (7 feet across the tip of the claws to the tips of the claws across the front legs/feet and 6.5 feet from tip of the nose to the end of the tail).  By Montana measurements he's a big bear.  The taxidermist had to use a small grizzly form for it's head.

We heard an avalanche hitting the roof and went outside to find that the snow had slid off the upstairs roof.  It broke one of the rafter pieces on the front entryway roof.  We were happy that no one was standing under it when it let go.

So I got up on the porch and shoveled more snow!

That chunk of ice near the step is about six inches thick.

Scott came up to help shovel.  He's threatening to throw a snow ball at grandma who took this picture from the safety of the upstairs bedroom!

Scott put a snowball on the top of the flashlight.  It diffused the light to illuminate the entire snowball which looked kind'a cool.

Our mountains looking east from the paved road going into Fortine.

Potato soup and cornbread ... one of my favorite meals.

Shoveling snow ... again!  This time it's the shack roof ... again!  The snow is wet and heavy.

Thanks for looking!

Saturday, January 21, 2017

January 1-10, 2017 Winter fun...

Winter can be a lot of fun but this year there was a definite chill in the air.  We were almost into the third week of January when we finally edged up above freezing for the first time in about five weeks. We've had cold snaps before but this is the longest one I remember.  But, we still found fun things to do.

This photo was taken about 13 years ago while we still lived outside of Columbia Falls, MT.  In those days we'd go camping several times in the winter and we did a lot of snowshoeing and cross country skiing as well (all out in the woods and not on groomed trails!).  We didn't use a tent.  We just put a tarp on the snow then threw out our sleeping bags and covered them with a tarp and slid into the bags.  There were times we greeted the morning with six inches of new snow on top of us!  For Susan and Tristan the snow was as soft as a feather bed.  For me it was a different story.  I'd usually wake up early in the morning feeling like my bed was filled with boulders.  I put out a lot of heat when I sleep which would melt the snow under the tarp into my form.  Then it would freeze and I was sleeping on a bed of ice.  The cold wasn't the problem.  The problem was that there was no give to the lumps and as the night wore on my bed became even lumpier!  We still had many good nights of camping back then and did it with a minimal amount of equipment.  One of our favorite camp outs was to have Susan and Tristan meet me at work below the Big Mountain ski area then we'd ski the back roads home after a night of wilderness camping.  It was about ten miles of skiing on untracked (gated) logging roads.

Scott liberated an ice cycle which them became a sword for slaying imaginary snow-drift dragons. 

Scott and Susan making donuts...

...with a slight twist!  They were purple!

But still some mighty good eating after cooking hem in the deep fryer.

The ice cycles finally stretched clear down to the ground on the west side.

Slumber party!

This was not an uncommon sight through most of December and on into January!

Susan made waffles using her cast iron waffle iron.

They came out pretty darn good!

Susan got a deep fryer you use on the stove top for Christmas and she's been giving it a workout!

This time it's home made barbecue burritos.

That's the deep fryer that needs no electricity.

And those are some good eating.

Scott working on school work.  He groans about doing it but really enjoys it once he gets going.

We decided to head for town for some fun at the bowling alley.
Notice that Scott's feet are up in the air as he bounced up and down like he was on an invisible pogo stick.

Susan's turn.

And my turn.

Scott always watched excitedly as the ball rolled toward it's objective.

This was the sky outside the bowling alley when we left.

From there we met Tristan at Jerry's in Fortine for dinner.

Where the road drops off in front of us is the northeast corner of our property.  There's about four inches of new snow since it was plowed last.

The view in my mirror as we travel south on Highway 93 on our way to Kalispell.

This is one of about a twenty piles of snow in the Walmart parking lot.

Scott seems happy with his donuts.  We ate some the day they were made and we kept the others outside (they were frozen) and had a few at a time until we ate them all.

One of our evening snow storms.

Scott trying out his sled on one of our snow piles (from shoveling snow off the driveway).

And, he made the turn at the bottom.  I had stomped out a trail for him with my snowshoes.

We took a little trek on his new snowshoes.  Mine are new too.  My Sherpas broke and my wooden frame traditional shoes had a bad place on the frame so I bought a pair of modern snow shoes for me too.

Scott breaking his own trail.  If you've never been on snowshoes on deep soft snow you still sink in quite a ways if you're the one breaking trail.  Each person behind you has it easier than the one in front of them.  If you don't rotate and take turns breaking trail you can really get worn out fast.  In this case Scott is just getting a feel for his new showshoes.

Susan cleaning snow off the roof of the U-Haul camper.  It's been a never-ending job this year as we clear the snow from five outbuildings (not counting the cabin!) and keep the driveway clear.

Scott "working."

Scott "meditating."  we have no idea where he got the idea for this!

Our garden is covered in a thick blanket of snow.