Monday, December 20, 2010

The foibles of furnaces.

I have two mobile home furnaces heating my place. Both are ancient and have had no, and I mean no, maintenance in umpteen many years. One was barely running when I moved in and made unholy death noises every time it decided to come on. The other one was pretty quiet and reliable. Last night the good one got a lot quieter. Too quiet. And it started getting cold in the back half of the house which included the living room and two bedrooms. By the time I got home and started tearing things apart it was 5am. We were heating the house by overheating the front part with the other furnace and the gas stove and trying to move the warm air over into the back.
I found that the blower motor had locked up and wasn't allowing the fan to turn. I got the blower cage off and turned in for the night (well, morning). The next (well, same) morning, I tore the motor apart and found that the bushings that the armature turns in were tightly bound to the armature shaft. There are two bushings that need oiled and not only were they bone dry, the sponges that hold the oil had disintegrated into crumbles.
So I took apart the motor by driving the shaft out of the housing with a drift pin and emery clothed the shafts and bushings. Cleaned up the armature while I'm in there, and reassembled. Made some new sponge inserts, cleaned and greased and lubed and oiled the hell out of everything. Bolted the motor to the squirrelcage, stuck her back onto the furnace and fired that puppy up.


Wonder when the next one will go up? Maybe a little maintenance is in order.

Note to self:    Olive oil is a fine field-expedient lubricant. Not, however, suitable for high speed applications.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fun in the snow!

Son and Grandaughter playing with the twins, Chigger and Tick.

And 'tater biscuits an' apple butter fer breakfast!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Snow Alert! update...

See the ruler poking up out of the snow ?

  • Up to 11 inches of snow until tomorrow night. Another storm coming for next Sunday.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Note to self...

Do not drive thru two feet of water and expect your truck to do things when it's freezing cold the next day. 

Like start.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Yep, it's flooded!

This is a high spot where the creek loops around before it hits the bridge. I was actually pretty dumb by driving back there. The water was high enough that there was serious pucker factor going on. I got out of the truck to take this picture, but further on the water was just too high. I discovered that one of the drawbacks to an extended cab pickup is the inability to easily access the bed from the cab. Especially holding a camera.
So, it's still there. I'm collecting a little debris, but it's not bad. I think it'll hold fine thru most of our normal weather down here. I don't think it'll get much higher than this because once it crests it's banks, the creek spreads out over about 20 acres, so it takes a LOT of rain to make it go much higher.
I can see that I have a lot of work cut out for me to raise the driveway so it's accessible all the time. Even though the water will probably recede tonite,  and I've always considered it just a day to stay in, other peoples opinions apparently differ from mine.
I don't think I needed a bridge anyway. I always wanted a moat!





Well, It looks like a good first test for the bridge, I would have liked it better anchored in more on the far side, as well as a bit more ballast between the beams on the near side, but I guess we're gonna see if she holds. Yesterday, when they upped the potential rain amounts, I strapped the loose boards to the beams so they wouldn't float away just in case the water got that high.

The water was already running about a foot high from recent showers. With the steep mountains in this area, as well as the many springs, it doesn't take long to fill this little creek up.
The rain has changed over to snow, calling for 1-3 inches, so it's a good time to go over and see if it's still there.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Bridge over troublesome waters.... Part 3

Bridge... Part 1
Bridge... Part 2

So to bring everyone up to date, the beams are across the creek, and it's getting late in the year. Things are going to get a mite colder, wetter and generally harder to do. I've made a few compromises to the original design due to lack of time and money. I was originally going to weld the beams to 5 foot posts and sink them into the ground. This would have raised the bridge about 2 feet above ground level. This would have raised the bridge over any normal floods and kept the impact of the water minimal as the water would begin to spread over the rest of the land and not just channeled directly into the bridge by the creek banks. The drawback to this design, besides that I don't have the money to buy 6, 5-inch diameter, 5 foot long pieces of pipe, is that the ramp onto and off of the bridge would have to be very long in order for anything but a pickup be able to cross it because of the angle involved. So, plan "B" is to sink them into the ground about halfway, on a base with good drainage to minimize frost heave, packed in and around the beams with concrete waste. I'll then put oak 4x6's on top, lagged to another wooden beam running under the flange, effectively clamping the wood onto the beams, tying everything together.

This shows the bank that was filled in with about 8 ton of concrete waste. As you can see, it packed very nicely. Once the beams were laid in at the correct height and distance apart, and leveled to the other beams as well as straight, then they were backfilled.
This shows the setup used to lift one end of the beam. First, the trench was dug under the wooden support and the beam lifted off. The support was cut and removed, then lowered into position, leveled and checked for correct distance from the other beams.
Did I mention these things were heavy? And notice the absence of "what's his name"....
And here's a bad shot of the beams, placed and backfilled on this end. Only had the phone camera on me that day.

And the oak 4x6's that are going to be mounted on top. My generator took a dump while I was mounting the clamping structures on both side of the bridge, so I need to get another one. The idea is to run 2x6's under the flange of the beams and lag the 4x6's to the 2x6 to clamp them into place. Let me know if you have any other ideas on how to anchor the top beams to the bridge. This is the only thing I can come up with using limited resources.

 I have to get a couple more pictures of the clamp setup for each end. It's pretty stable right now and I'm not too afraid of any floods. Of course the big ones come in the spring and depending on how much snow pack there is, they can be mighty. Next steps are to finish the beams for the top so that I can back the truck in close enough so I can add ballast to the far side and start working on the ramp. The far side has a much bigger dropoff than the near side, and the driveway on that side needs to be moved closer to the mountain to get it out of the flood zone. It can get about 3 foot deep there after about 3 days rain.
As you saw in earlier pictures the footbridge was pretty much destroyed in pulling over the beams, and it was in the way of placing the last beam, so it had to be removed. It makes it fun walking across the creek on those beams.
O-Dark-Thirty. Hunting. Dressed like Sasquatch. Rifle in your arms and a tiny flashlight. Yea. Fun.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Bridge over troublesome waters.... Part 2

Click here to read part 1...

When last we encountered our intrepid homesteader he was yankin' massive steel beams across a fathomless gulf with his bare hands....

Not really. I had help. And tools.
My #5 son was pretty awesome about being there to help until he took off to get an actual job. Can you believe it? Me neither! Who would have thought he would have went and got himself a life while I wasn't lookin'? Anyway, my #4 son stepped up to the plate and has been helping me out since "what's his name" abandoned me.
These farm jacks are awesome tools. They push and pull, and have an incredible reach. Most of the time I used two of them on each beam to move them. Early in the game, I tried using metal pry bars and a 2-ton hydraulic floor jack. A slight miscalculation on my part sent me actually flying into the bushes as the beam reminded me of how heavy it really is. It's amazing how getting put on one's ass makes you re-evaluate what you are doing.
Ahhh... the good ol' days. Back when "He Who Has A Job Now" was around to help his dad...

Ok. So all the beams are across the creek. For about a half a minute I considered leaving them like this, but I'd be wasting the strength of those beams by leaving them this way. Sure, I think they would have handled a car or truck crossing them, but If I had a ton or so of weight on the truck it would have been iffy. No sense in going thru all this work to have "iffy" so I'm sitting them up so they'll handle anything that I'll be running across them. In the next exciting episode, I'll be bringing you up to the current condition of the bridge and the next steps.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Bridge over troublesome waters....

I've been promisin' a post about the bridge for quite some time. I have to admit I've been procrastinatin' about it. I'm not sure why. I think it's because it's such a long story with no real way to make it short. The bridge has been an ongoing problem for years. Thought I had it purty well done at one point, then a massive flood came along and wiped her out. That one was all wood 4x6 beams, the supports doubled, everything lagged together and sittin' about 2 foot above the banks. Just to keep it above the spring floods. Right. If we would have had a "normal" flood that year, I think it would have been fine. But, we didn't. The water came up over 2 feet above the roof of the truck that was parked on the bank in front of the bridge. And guess what? Wood floats. And a big platform structure made of completely of wood floats really well. Kinda like a big raft. Whoda thunk it?
It's still there, just in a big tumbled heap about 40 yards downstream from where it's supposed to be and up over the bank.
So reboot, punt, and come up with a new plan.
My #5 son found some steel I-Beams. Big ones. Part of the problem was the span of 24 feet that is the width of the creek. The old original bridge was made of old locust logs, and was probably there 50 years. Once we moved over there and started using it on a daily basis, it started falling apart purty quickly. Hence the new wooden bridge fiasco. Anyway, back to the steel beams. 3 of them, 32 feet long. 20 inches wide at the web, 9 inches on the flange. 2600 pounds apiece! I won't go into here all the fun that was had during the delivery and trying to get them back to the creek. Maybe some other time. Once we had them to the creek, we had to figure out how to get them across. All we had was a footbridge that was put in with some of the remnants from the wrecked bridge. So we hooked a come-along to a tree and winched that beam across the footbridge while keeping our fingers and toes crossed that it wouldn't collapse before we had it across. We did end up shifting the bridge about 2 feet, but we got 'er done.
After that little bit of fun, it was just a matter of cleaning the beam (which I wasn't smart enough to do before I pulled it across) and flipping the other beams onto this one and running them across.
Ok, that's enough for now. Just going back thru all this is making me tired. More later...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Little bit o' weight on the truck today. Sure does handle funny with that much on it. Found a place that sells concrete washout (that's the stuff they clean out of the big conical cement mixer trucks at the end of the day) for 3 bucks a ton, and I can get about 5 bucks worth on the truck. Cheap enough, but it cost double that in gas to haul it home. There's a shortcut, but the road is too rough to drive with this kind of a load on. This is the ballast for the bridge I'm putting in over Sugar Creek. It packs really nice and firm. More pix on the bridge soon.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Venison vs Beef

(Shamelessly stolen from Rec.Hunting)

From the U.S. Venison Council:

Controversy has long raged about the relative quality and taste of 
venison and beef as gourmet foods. Some people say venison is tough, 
with a strong "wild" taste. Others insist venison's flavor is delicate. 
An independent food research group was retained by the Venison Council 
to conduct a taste test to determine the truth of these conflicting 
assertions once and for all.
First, a Grade A Choice Holstein steer was chased into a forest a mile 
and a half from a road and shot several times. After some of the 
entrails were removed, the carcass was dragged back over rocks and logs, 
and through mud and dust to the road. It was then thrown into the back 
of a pickup truck and driven through rain and snow for 100 miles before 
being hung out in the sun for a day.
It was then lugged into a garage where it was skinned and rolled around 
on the floor for a while. Strict sanitary precautions were observed 
throughout the test, within the limitations of the butchering 
environment. For instance, dogs and cats were allowed to sniff and lick 
the steer carcass, but most of the time were chased away when they 
attempted to bite chunks out of it.
Next, a sheet of plywood left from last year's butchering was set up in 
the basement on two saw horses. The pieces of dried blood, hair and fat 
left from last year were scraped off with a wire brush last used to 
clean out the grass stuck under the lawn mower.
The skinned carcass was then dragged down the steps into the basement 
where a half dozen inexperienced but enthusiastic and intoxicated men 
worked on it with meat saws, cleavers, hammers and dull knives. The 
result was 375 pounds of soup bones, four bushel baskets of meat scraps, 
and a couple of steaks that were an eighth of an inch thick on one edge 
and an inch and a half thick on the other edge.
The steaks were seared on a glowing red hot cast iron skillet to lock in 
the flavor. When the smoke cleared, rancid bacon grease was added, along 
with three pounds of onions, and the whole conglomeration was fried for 
two hours.
The meat was gently teased from the frying pan and served to three 
intoxicated and blindfolded taste panel volunteers. Every member of the 
panel thought it was venison. One volunteer even said it tasted exactly 
like the venison he has eaten in hunting camps for the past 27 years.
The results of this scientific test conclusively show that there is no 
difference between the taste of beef and venison... 

Saturday, November 6, 2010


We got just a little reminder that winter's comin'.

The Wooly Bears are all black so far:

Now I've been readin' a little about 'em, and it says that they start out that way and change before winter. Problem is... I ain't seen any that changed! So if the narrower the brown band, the rougher the winter, does no band mean we are really in for it???

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Food for Thought

Not too shabby. The Little One likes to call it "Soft Pretzel Bread". It's a little heavy and chewy, but he seems to like it. I'm trying to make it lighter, but at least we end up being able to eat all the trial loaves so far. Nuthin' like warm home made bread with butter and apple butter! Nom, nom, nom...

I've been working on the bridge on the "lower 40". It's been slow due to the purchase of this side of the mountain, and moving in and all that. I've had to make some compromises due to lack of money and help. Both seem to be in short supply, just when you need it most. The next couple days are supposed to be rainy, so I'll have time to post more about it, and hopefully bring the website up to speed.

Friday, October 29, 2010

We now resume our regularly scheduled Blog

Crap. Double Crap. Took the tractor apart, re-aligned what looked mis-aligned, put it back together, and...
it only goes backwards. So now it sits until I feel like trying it again, or I buy another transaxle. Or junk it.
On with other stuff.

Since the tractor was broke, I had to move the logs by hand to finish the border for the garden. Didn't come out too bad, and thankfully I had all of the logs I needed already pulled down from the gas well road when the tractor decided it had enough. And of course the kids like playing on it.
So now I'm waiting for some compost. I've got a promise of some well-rotted manure and hay, and there is cardboard available in town. Sure wish I knew someone with a supply of newspaper...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Technical Difficulties - Please stand by.

I guess the flat tire was a sign I was working the tractor too hard. I was getting plenty of traction and the log I was hauling was rather large so the hub spun within the tire, causing the flat. Well, I pumped it back up and proceeded to haul an even bigger log.....
Jeez... Look at all dem pieces! Found one broken gear and a slipped cam follower. Not sure if I can make it live again or not. Sure hope so, that's the only tractor I got.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Kitchen Garden

It's early to be thinking about a garden, but there is a patch of land right behind the trailer that is pretty much worthless right now and needs something done to it. It's rocky, full of clay, and not even grass has managed to take a foothold in it. I told everyone I was putting a garden there and they politely told me (well, not really politely, you don't know my family) "You're nuts!"

That's beside the point. There is a method of gardening that comes by various names, sometimes referred to as sheet gardening, layer gardening, no-till gardening or even lasagna gardening. What it basically means is that you build up a growing matrix on top of your existing soil. That means laying stuff down in layers to perform various functions. As it breaks down, you add more layers and eventually you end up with a nice garden plot. I've never seen it done, but it sounds interesting and the area I want to do is nice and accessible and would make a nice kitchen garden, so I'm gonna give it a shot.
 I'm hauling logs down from the gas well road to line the garden with to keep the hay and compost in place. Got quite a few down when I hit a little snag:
Darn it! Well, it was time to stop for lunch anyway.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ducks at Home

The ducks are starting to become accustomed to their new home. One design flaw that I discovered was that they didn't have enough traction on the ramp. While it was very amusing to watch them sliding down the ramp like little kids on the slide, I figured that they'd like it better not to have to work so hard getting in and out. My son Tory helped me out by cutting and gluing some old shingles onto the ramp. Plus he fit into the pen much better than I do.
They have traction now! One thing that surprised me was that the female was much more excited about the new house than the male was. She went right in while I have yet to see the male inside at all. Maybe it's the whole nesting thing. Or maybe he just likes camping out!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wrestlin' with the Monster

In the picture you see what is supposedly a gas furnace. As you can see it needs a little TLC. Well, maybe a lot. Anyway, this thing has come to the top of the Important Things To Do list since it's gettin' purty cold up here on the mountain. At first the fan would just come on at random times, but now that it's in actual use, it's cycling off and on. not the whole furnace, but just the fan. Since this is right next to my bedroom, it's gettin' purty rough to sleep when this thing runs 20 seconds, then shuts off, and does it maybe a dozen times in a row, all night long. It's gotten to the point that i either have to shut it off or just hook the fan up to run all night so I can get some sleep.