Archive for November, 2010

Dock Part B

Friday, November 12th, 2010

Today started our warm, but mid-morning it started acting like proper November weather. I stayed inside until 9:30 or so getting the donations for FOLK done. I have to enter everything into a spreadsheet, make sure the donor’s expiration date gets added a year, print thank-yous and envelopes, sign, stuff, and stamp them. The checks need to be endorsed and gotten ready for deposit. Nothing is hard about all that, but it does take time and has to be done properly. Fortunately Franco is learning that I need some quiet time now and then and he gave it to me this morning.

After that we headed out to the woods and spent a couple of hours getting 3 more bundles of fir done. Then home for lunch and a nap, and then back outside for the Dock B project.

dockb.jpgThe parts of this dock are much heavier than the small dock I took out yesterday. In this picture you can see the final section has the pipes unscrewed from the pond mud, pulled up, and pinned in place. I’ve unhooked the connectors between the 2nd and 3rd sections, and tied the 3rd section to shore. The next step was to pull it to shore and then horse it up on shore the best I could. It is heavy, but I am strong (sounds like a country song.)

After that, I did the same to the other two sections of dock and hauled them on shore too. It was cold wet work, and I’m glad I have it done for the season. It will seem like the blink of an eye when I am out there putting the whole thing back together again.

magichour.jpgWalking back to the house along the berm of the front pond, I was struck by the “magic hour” light, so took this picture. The sun was behind me, and the clouds were dark behind the house making the whole picture pretty striking in my opinion.

Alice came home from work very tired, and fortunately I had supper mostly planned and executed. I just needed some help with the salad, which she added her magic to. That woman makes the best salads on the planet. We watched the last episode of season 1 of “Big Bang” while we ate. Then Franco and I did our walk. The entire family is looking forward to a restful weekend.

Our son Steve turned 31 today. Since he is in Pennsylvania, we had to wish him a long-distance birthday. Happy Birthday To You!

Dock Part 1

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It was another very nice day today, and Franco and I were outside almost all day. After breakfast we headed out to the woods and made 3 bundles of fir boughs. I started the chainsaw for the first time this project. There was one fir tree that was just too big to cut with the bow saw. It was a nice tree to boot, so I got a lot of nice greens out of it.

docka.jpgAfter that project, we went to work on the small dock in the front pond. This is the dock I built to make it easier to dip buckets into the pond for watering the greenhouse. It took quite a bit of time to get the pipes augered out of the mud, pulled up and pinned in place, and then towed behind the canoe to the place where I’m storing it for the winter. I had to brace the pipes with 2x2s so they don’t break off the sleeve fittings. Once that got done, I started in on the bigger back pond dock.

wrench.jpgThis picture shows me using my 24″ pipe wrench to back the augers out of the mud. I got one side mostly out and started on the other one when it became time to quit for the day. I hope the weather holds so I can get it finished tomorrow. We really enjoyed both docks this summer.

My finger is healing slowly. It still hurts when I hit it, even with the thick gauze bandage I’m keeping on it. This one is going to take a while to heal I’m afraid. It is hard to type with the big hunk of gauze I have on it, but I’m slowly adapting.

Trouble Typing

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

I’m having some trouble typing due to an injury I received this morning, and gave some thought to just forgetting the blog thing tonight. Then I thought about my anxious readers — vainly checking and finding nothing to read — chins quivering in grief, and I just had to tough it out.

Yesterday was my trip to town day. Among the errands I had on my list was “buy a new washing machine.” The old one is surely in its 20s, and has been a great machine for us all these years. It has started squealing lately, and the Michigan rebate for energy star machines was also compelling. I printed out Consumer Reports’ recommended machines and brought them to the store. I happened to find their top rated front loader in stock. Since I had parked my truck right in front of the store, the woman that waited on me noticed my Otter Lake Fire Department license plate, and said it entitled me to a 10% discount because of a special sale this week. That was the good news. The bad news was the Michigan Energy Rebate program ran out of money about 5 days ago.

I backed up to their loading dock and the big box went onto the back of the truck. I managed to get the new one inside the house ok with the help of my trusty appliance cart (get the ones with the strap!) I also barely managed to get the old one out of the basement myself, although I did ding up the pine paneling in a couple of places. I also got it loaded onto the truck for disposal in town next trip. Finally, a rare lightbulb went off above my head, and I called my young strong neighbor and asked if he’d like to make some money? He came over and between the two of us, we carried the new washer into the basement in about 5 minutes.

Then I worked through the installation instructions and tried my first load to make sure it was properly leveled. I was instructed to watch carefully during the spin cycle. All was well, so I read the manual to learn how to do my first real load of laundry. Now our old machine let you know when it was working. Pumps groaned, water sloshed around, and when it spun, the whole house knew about it. This new guy seems to treat the laundry like a portrait painter, delicately moving it this way and that, occasionally spritzing a bit of water here and there. Even the spin cycle is quiet and demure. I was anxious to do a real load since all I’d done is the test load without soap. Therein lay another problem.

The new efficient front loader washing machines need a special soap called HE (for High Efficiency.) We didn’t happen to have any except the small sample of Tide that came with the machine. So I used that for the first real load, and gathered up the 3 boxes of old style powdered soap for our next trip to town. My idea was to exchange this soap with the kind we needed for this machine.

First thing after breakfast this morning, Franco and I headed out to the woods to make some more fir boughs. I had delivered the 11 bundles I’d made so far yesterday morning, so it was a sad empty building that greeted me when I walked in to the sugar shack this morning. I got my tools out as usual and started cutting down trees. I fell the trees with a bow saw, then limb them with a small (but sharp) hatchet. Then I pick up the branches one by one and using some hand clippers, cut them into the right sized lengths for use in the wreath making business. This project is getting kind of routine, which should have been a warning to me.

I was just starting on my second bundle, and was hatcheting the branches when I found myself staring at the tip of the index finger on my left hand. I have no idea what happened, but somehow the hatchet chopped my finger instead of the branch. I keep a first aid kit in the sugar shack, so I walked over there, cleaned things up as best as I could, installed 3 band aids, and went back to work. I finished the second bundle, and decided to call it a day. I came inside and cleaned the wound properly, and put on a better bandage. Now you know why I’m having some trouble with the keyboard.

I met Alice in town just before 5:00 so we could drive up to the junkyard together and drop off the old washer. I suppose I’m a sentimental fool, but I do feel a pang of regret when I drop off a faithful tool like that and just drive away. After that, we had a nice dinner, and then attended the pre-Thanksgiving meeting at Little Brothers in Hancock. It was a good meeting. I’ve been to a couple before, but Alice has never been to one. We both learned something new.

Then back home and a walk with the dog. I have to rebandage the wound, and then hit the hay. It the weather is good again tomorrow, I hope to make some more fir bundles. That is unless my hatchet misses the mark again. I’m thinking seriously about wearing gloves tomorrow.

Franco Got Skunked

Saturday, November 6th, 2010

It felt good to have nice fall weather and the energy to get some much needed things done around the homestead. It started out with Saturday morning pancakes, a family tradition. We’ve been making them with walnuts and our own blueberries, topped of course with maple syrup. They are so good we tend to overeat.

After breakfast I determined the winds were calm enough to chance taking down the greenhouse cover. It took time, but it got down safely, folded and rolled up, and stashed safely for next spring. The most time consuming part of that project is getting it folded into quarters the length (120′) of the plastic. Imagine folding a 120′ long sheet and you get the idea. There is just a lot of walking to get from one end of the thing to the other, along with the adjusting, fiddling, etc. Once folded into quarters, I fold it over lengthwise, and then roll it up. This bundle is placed on the wheelbarrow, and is wheeled to the green storage building where it waits out the winter.

After that project, Franco and I walked out to the maple operation and made some more fir bough bundles. We worked a couple of hours and got 3 more done. Then home for some lunch and a short nap. After that, I made a trip to the firehall to grab the ladders and then took them to a neighbor’s place that was having some chimney problems. The fire department had cleaned it once for these people, but it clogged, so I went there a couple of weeks ago and fixed the clog. The people had a couple of fires in the furnace, and it clogged again for some reason. This time I went up on the roof and ran the wire brush down the length of the chimney and emptied that out. Hopefully that will fix it.

When Alice and I got back to the hall, I removed a broken part from the pumper and brought it home. There is a broken bolt to be removed and replaced. Hopefully Monday during my errands I’ll be able to get the correct bolt to replace the broken on.

backack.jpgOnce back from that adventure, I washed my backpack. I need to send it back to Osprey because I noticed the support rods are wearing at the hip belt such that a failure seems eminent. I called the company and they guarantee their packs forever, and said they’d either repair it or replace it. I got the RA number, along with a request that I clean the pack before sending it to them… a not unreasonable request. I put some warm water and Tide in the bathtub, and attacked it with a scrub brush. By the time I was finished, the water was much more brown that it is in this picture. And the pack was clean.

After that we had some supper, and Franco and I took our walk. I’ve been using my headlamp throughout my walks this year for the first time. Other years, I’ve had some sort of flashlight along, but don’t use it unless I have to. I like to watch the stars during my walks, and allow my eyes to adjust to the darkness. Tonight we were about halfway along the walk when Franco bolted into the field. I called him and he came immediately, but when I shined the headlamp where he had been, there was a skunk with his tail fully deployed. The look on his face said, “you want some too, then come on tough guy!” Franco’s coming to me right away probably saved us some work.

skunk.jpgWe immediately came home and I put Franco in his outdoors kennel. Then came inside and told Alice the story. She went online and planned our strategy. We brought the dog inside the sauna where I had hooked up the shower. The web article she found said to first shampoo the affected area and rinse that. Then rub in some tomato juice, rinse that, and shampoo and rinse one more time. In the picture, we are at the tomato stage. I can tell you that thanks to quick thinking on Alice’s part, my ability to follow her instructions, and Franco’s willingness to go along with just about anything pulled us through. I’m hoping that one experience each with porcupine and skunk will be the last.

Flakes in the Headlamp

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Franco and I just came in from our after supper walk. We saw definite snowflakes in the air in my headlamp beam… the first positive ID this year. Let it come.

Today I was inside almost all day cleaning the house and cooking for our PFLAG meeting. I decided to make tamales. I’ve only made them once before, but they were so good I decided to try them again. The first time I made them they took forever to do, mostly because they are so different from anything I’d ever made before. Today’s did not take quite so long, but it was still a busy day getting everything ready.

tamales.jpgThere are 4 distinct steps in preparing these tamales. You mix up the 1) masa mixture, which is the dough, 2) the filling, which in this case is squash, beans, and chilis, 3) prepare the corn husks by soaking them until pliable enough to hold the tamale together, and 4) steam them for about an hour. Last time I went the authentic route and tried to tie them together with thin strips of the corn husks. Today I used the alternative method of tiyng them with kitchen string. It was way easier using the string. In the picture you can see a corn husk on the table with a dab of masa mixture in the center of it. I spread this out with a spatula, add the filling, roll and tie the thing, and pop it in the large pot with about an inch of water in it and a steamer tray in the bottom. After an hour of steaming on the wood stove, they are done. If you’d like to see the recipe I used for these tamales, click HERE.

They were a hit! It was the usual pot luck with people bringing whatever they liked, and as usual it was a great time. The meeting was also good. We commented to each other after everyone left that it is refreshing to have it affirmed that there are a lot of nice people in the world.

Tomorrow, I’m back in the woods to work on the fir bough project again. Rain mixed with snow is predicted, which is more like what we’re used to out there.

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010

Today was my first day in the woods working on gathering fir boughs for Christmas wreaths for the folks at the Einerlei. I’ve been doing this for them for the past several years now, and am slowly getting the fir trees that are encroaching in my sugar maples under control. I’m creating an ever expanding circle around the sugar shack that is mostly free of these trees. I don’t want to give the impression that I don’t like fir trees. They are a royal pain when I’m gathering sap though. They grow so thick that I have to push through them in order to get my sap gathered. Branches and needles get into the gathering buckets, and sometimes a branch gets tangled up and threatens to spill an entire bucket. And I suspect they are robbing vitality from the maple trees.

So I cut the trees down, limb them with a hatchet, and then prune the fir boughs into my plastic wheelbarrow. I have some binder twine laying in the bottom of the barrow, and when I fill the barrow up with sweet smelling fir, I wrap the twine around the whole shebang, tie it tight, and lift it out. This makes one bundle, and it usually takes me about a half hour per bundle. The Einerlei uses a LOT of bundles each year.

fir.jpgSo what is wrong with this picture? Well, the time of year they want these things usually coincides with some pretty awful weather. There is often slushy snow on the ground, making things muddy and slippery. It is often quite cold too. Today was the first day of this season, and I did the work with NO jacket on, NO hat on, and NO gloves of any sort on my hands. That’s right. Franco did NOT get coated with mud from nose to tail while chasing his stick. I’m just not used to this kind of environment. I could get used to it though.

After we got back Ray came over and we picked out a log from the cedar pile and I sawed it up for him. He wants to do some carving with cedar, and wanted some thick (4-5″) slabs. We found a very nice log that provided some lovely lumber for him. I’m looking forward to the art he’ll be doing with this stuff. I’ve seen his work, and he is a first class artist. It will take this wood a while to season, so we may not see anything for years, but when we do, I hope to share some pictures with y’all.

Sunny But Not Warm

Monday, November 1st, 2010

It was a beautiful blue sky again today. I opened the greenhouse hoping things would dry out so I could take down the cover and put it away for the winter. It was just a tad too windy to get it done by myself today, though. It is funny how you can rationalize putting a project off that you really don’t want to do. Hopefully I’ll try again tomorrow. The sky was blue and I had a tiny bit more energy today than yesterday. I actually got out and got some things done. This headache cycle hasn’t ended with fireworks they way they sometimes do. When they go away overnight, I often wake up with kilotons of energy. Maybe that is in store for me tomorrow morning.

camper.jpgI did get out to the shop this afternoon and glued the first layer of plywood onto the framework for the camper. I used just about every clamp I own, which is saying something. I still have the rounded end to glue down, and then some 1″ styrofoam to glue into the spaces. After that all dries, I can install in in the camper and then can use the feet to raise and lower it. I plan to build a rack for my small utility trailer, and use that to back the camper into the garage. Yes, the poor pickup will have to spend some time outside again this winter. With the camper inside, I hope to get something done on it every day, thus moving this project forward. I really hope to get it operational enough that we can take a few vacations with it next summer as a shakedown, with the goal being a lengthy trip some future summer. I’ll keep you posted.