Archive for September, 2011

Apples

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

This is the final apples from those few I picked the other day. I got a batch of apple/pear fruit leather out of the dehydrator this morning, packaged it up and stuck that in the freezer. The batch on the stove right now is destined to become apple sauce, which I then hope to convert into apple butter. We made a test batch of it two years ago during our last good apple year, and it was really tasty. The only hard part about apple butter is that it takes 6-8 hours of baking in the oven, which means you kind of have to hang around and stir it now and then.

We hauled the dozer to the repair place on Monday. It looks pretty sharp sitting on the trailer, doesn’t it? I’m lucky that an expert in vintage Allis Chalmers bulldozers works just about 10 miles from here. I hired my neighbor and his truck and trailer for the trip there and the trip back once it is done.

It has several problems that need looking at, and since the firewood is finished (yay!) for the year, I can spare it for a time. One of its problems seems to be a broken final drive axle. On the plus side, I purchased 3 used axles in a batch of stuff some time ago, so may have saved myself some money. This time I drove the dozer onto and off from the trailer, which is a first for me. Driving off was the most interesting… it is like pointing yourself at the edge of a cliff, and then engaging the clutch. You just have to hope everything works properly (it did.)

Whew

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Finishing the woodpile, as I did last Wednesday, is the annual event that precipitates a collective sigh of relief in the household. Lots of equipment is required to get the job done, and if there is a failure, the outcome can be postponed. This would have been bad this year because I had already pushed it so late in the season.

The day after I finished the firewood, I headed into town for the weekly errands, which chewed up the morning. Mid day was spent packing, and around 6:30, my partner and I headed to Marquette for a 3-day EMS workshop. In this picture, we’re doing the practical part of a seminar called, “When Jumpkits Fail.” One member of our group (lying on the table) volunteered to be the victim, while the rest of us were given some cardboard, duct tape, magazines, bluejeans, and whatever else we happened have to save this woman’s life. Putting the bandage on her forehead with duct tape to fix a pretend laceration cause a few hair pulls after the assignment was over, but other than that she survived intact.

One other session I learned a great deal from was “Airways.” I didn’t know exactly what to expect. When I got there and sat down, the instructor put a pile of stuff on a document reader hooked to a projector, and showed us a pig airway. It is one thing to learn this stuff from pictures in a book, but quite another to watch the guys projecting it on a screen as he manipulated it. After the first hour, we broke up into teams of 2 and each got our own pig parts, and had some tasks including figuring out where the parts of this fellow’s heart were. We put a tube in his windpipe and used a bag to inflate the lungs. These guys also brought us the same setup but in a rabbit instead of a pig. The rabbit’s organs were supposed to be about the size of a newborn’s. It took a tiny amount of air from the bag to really inflate these little lungs. We’re told these things in training, but it is really neat to see it for real.

My last class on Sunday was about operating safely on the highway, and the instructor showed us this video. While it wasn’t technically relevant to the course, it sure impressed me with how far we’ve come to make cars safe to the passengers during a crash. The video footage inside the passenger compartment was especially interesting to me.

There are a lot of good apples this year, and tomorrow if the weather allows it, I’d like to start picking and processing apples. I’d like to make lots of cider, wine, apple sauce, and fruit leather again this year. The projects have piled up while the firewood was happening, and now I can finally get back to work on them.

Woodpile Finishline

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

I’ve been close enough to the finishline on the woodpile for the past few days, that I’ve spent pretty much all day out there. This morning I finished the load of logs on the trailer, and completed the second row all the way to the ceiling. I even had a few pieces to put on the floor for the last row. My last row of wood is narrower and shorter than the rest, so I figured that one more forkload of logs from the woods would just about do it. Instead of driving the Scout and trailer out there, Franco and I walked out with the chainsaw.

We looked things over and determined that there were not quite enough trees down and bucked up for a forkload, so I took down one more tree, and cut up a couple of smaller ones that had fallen over. Then I fired up the dozer and drove to the site. I’m getting quite adept with the hookaroon now, and routinely stab the logs too big to carry with the pick, and drag them to the dozer bucket where I flip them onto the forks. Just about as soon as we got out there, it started raining, but it was gentle enough to mostly escape notice.

Once the forks were packed with all the logs left in the woods, we drove the dozer back home. Dozer driving over long distances is very relaxing. Although I’ve never done it, I feel I could jump off and walk alongside. The dozer cruises down the road at about the speed of a slow walk.

I’d positioned the Scout and trailer near the woodpile, and decided to dump the logs in the forks onto the trailer, and move that over to the woodpile. It is a nice working height for me, and for the past couple of years, have really gotten to like the way it works for me. This year especially, since I modified it to accept the logs lengthwise, rather than sideways.

As I pecked away at this load, the rain came on and off. I kept at it, because the pile was slowly but steadily rising to the finish. My saw ran out of gas a short distance from the end, so I carried it into the garage so I could sharpen and service it. About the time I got in the garage, Alice drove up from work. She said she could wait a while for supper, so I went back out to the garage and finished getting the saw ready, and tackled the log pile. About 45 minutes later, I put the last piece on the stack. Yay!

The weather made me pay for the finishline this year. The last stack of wood is just under the overhang of the garage. Each piece of wood I put on there forced me to stand in the concentrated stream of water pouring off the roof. I was pretty wet but undaunted when the last piece went on.

I thought about taking a picture of the completed pile for the blog, but honestly, it looks like a woodpile. A picture wouldn’t really convey any more information than that. I’ve surely taken pictures over the years… pictures of me putting the last piece on with a grin on my face. But when you’ve seen a few of them, you’ve seen them all.

Now that this project is done, I can think about the many projects that have been postponed while this one was in process. There are many to choose from, but it is nice to have a choice.

Swirling Temperature

Sunday, September 11th, 2011

This evening while Franco and I were doing our after-dinner walk, we encountered a seasonal struggle. As I was walking, I could feel a pocket of warm air one second, and then a much cooler pocket the next. This happened over and over on the walk. It was a warm day today, but the nights are really beginning to cool off. I think I happened upon that event as it was happening. There was no wind which is probably what made the phenomenon possible. It was very cool to experience.

I finished the last few logs on the trailer, and went into the woods and hauled back another batch. As I’m nearing the end of the project, I’m thinking I have more trees down and bucked up than I’ll need for this year’s project. I’ll have to decide whether to keep hauling logs so I can continue working on the firewood this winter, or, more likely, leave them in the woods until next season. Usually when I put that last piece of firewood in the rack, I put the tools away and whittle away at the numerous other projects that have piled up while the firewood was ongoing.

“The King and I” is going really well. I have about 5 drops I’m responsible for in the flyloft, but nothing too difficult at any one time. I get a couple of nice breaks too, which I usually spend by sitting in the nice recliner.

Blending

Friday, September 9th, 2011

Those of you that heat and cook with wood, and make your own firewood will likely understand how the project takes over your life. It almost has to if it is going to get done. During the time of year I work on firewood, I use tools that are seldom used other times of the year. I need to keep the tools working properly, available, and handy. Sledge hammer handles seem to be an annual causality. I’ve repaired both the 8# splitting maul handle, and the 4# hand sledge handles so far this year, and on my trip to town earlier this week, I picked up replacements for both anticipating their future demise.

The picture is of the trailer load that was hauled from the woods yesterday. As of this writing, I’ve processed most of the back half of this load, and the woodpile is rising nicely again. The smell of freshly split wood is really nice too.

As I said earlier, I try not to let anything interfere with the wood-making, but there is one exception. For about the last 15 years, I’ve been running the fly loft at the Calumet Theater for the fall musical that the Calumet Players put on. This theater has about 60′ from the floor of the stage to the grid. About half-way up is the fly loft, which is reached by a strange old iron ladder. Not everyone is comfortable with heights, and as such, are a little in awe of what goes on up there. This loft is what is known as a “hemp house,” meaning the flys are counter-weighted with sandbags. My job is to help hang the drops, counter-weight them, make sure everything is safe, and raise and lower the drops on cue from the stage manager.

Once the drops are all hung and weighted, and I understand my cues, I can spend my downtime in the fly-loft chair. This chair belonged to our neighbors until recently. They donated it to the theater when they decided they no longer had room for it. This show is the first one I’ve been able to use it, and it is a very nice place to sit. The only downside I can see is when I’m comfortably settled in, I sometimes resent the cues from the stage manager.

Normally I’m well done with my firewood by the time the fall play comes around, but this year numerous delays have made them coincide. I’m doing my best to blend the two projects, and I think I’m succeeding.

People Stories

Sunday, September 4th, 2011

Last week I took a quick trip to Lansing for a visit. As usual, I rode the 600 miles on the Indian Trails Bus. I like the bus because it is more environmentally friendly than just “jumping in the car,” but more than that, I get thrown cheek-by-jowl into a mix of people I rarely encounter.

The first was a couple of women at a convenience store. They were ahead of me in line, so I was able to observe the encounter from close up. They’re ages could have made them mother and daughter. The youngest didn’t do much during the transaction but giggle at the clerk. The older woman handled things. Their shopping basked contained a few items including what looked to me like a quart of whiskey. The container was clear, but I doubt it was glass, if that gives you an idea of what quality we’re talking about here. I overheard the clerk say the cost would be $10 and some change. Both the women had swipe cards, which I assume were some sort of government assistance cards. Each swiped their card on the reader, and the total cash was about $3 shy of the purchase price. “I’ll have to run out to the car to see if I can find some more money,” the older woman said. The younger one grabbed the bottle and started to walk out too. The clerk said, “That will have to stay here.” She put it down and giggled.

What struck me about this transaction was these women were probably trying to buy whiskey with their last bit of food money until the next came through. Neither woman looked sick, but neither did they look healthy. One wonders how the human body can be denied reasonable sustenance on the one hand, and be fed the poison of distilled alcohol on the other, and continue to maintain the complicated chemistry necessary to keep life going. And at what point does the system succumb to the loss of raw materials coupled with the poisoning. And at what point do reasonable people take such an unreasonable course in life?

Another neat human contact happened at the bus station in Lansing where I was waiting for the return bus home. I happened to be sitting with my back toward the windows facing the parking area where the bus parks. I heard a man walk in and address the crowd of people seated facing the parking lot, “Are there any seats available?” I happened to glance over my shoulder, and saw a slight man with sunglasses standing just inside the door. He had a white cane. He stood there for several seconds apparently waiting for some sort of response. No one answered this poor blind man. He cleared his throat and said, “Anyone?” Still no answer.

I jumped up and walked over to him and asked if he was looking for some help. He told me he just needed somewhere to sit. “There are some empty seats right next to mine; just follow my voice,” I said. I started walking toward my seat, when he stated the obvious, “keep talking,” he said. “Duh,” I thought to myself. He sat next to me and we started a conversation. It turned out he would be riding the same bus as me, so I told him I’d see to it he got on the right bus. When it arrived, I helped him find a seat right behind mine, and we had a really nice talk. He was an experienced wine maker, and I am a novice at the same sport, so we discussed the finer points of the craft.

I’ve thought a lot about the numerous people that heard this man ask for help, and did not respond. I’m thinking it may be a combination of things. We’re so used to scams that we distrust anything we don’t fully understand, especially when it is thrust in front of us suddenly. I also think it takes someone pretty safe within their own skin to stand up in front of a group of strangers and potentially make a fool of themselves by offering to help. It is kind of like being the first one to laugh at a joke… you risk looking silly if you’ve misunderstood or mistimed, so you keep safely silent until someone else laughs.

My advice? Ride the bus, and make some new friends. It saves you some money and can rekindle your belief in the human race.