Dwight's 2011 Blog Dwight

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Friday February 3, 2011, Cedars in the Swamp

Mic Harmon has been up several fridays now. It seems like he likes nothing better than to cut wood in the bush and how can I argue with that? The sawmill will be coming in the spring and we are busy cutting trees for lumber. There are quite a few big cedars down in the swamp so let's get them!!!

Zac has proven his worth so far. We can't actually drive into the swamp, so we have been using chains and towing the trees out. Cedar is light but it's still impressive how Zac can haul some of these 60 foot monsters through the snow and up the bank to the landing.

Last week we got out 4 cedars close to the road but that was as far as our chains reached. Now Mic is a bit of a pack rat as well as selling stuff at the flea market and this week he showed up with two 50 foot cables, four chains of various length, diameter and vintage and a box full of shackles and odds and ends. "Should be enough to get us clear across the swamp", he declared.

About 100 feet in there was a cluster of about 6 downed cedars and a few standing but leaning at quite an angle. With chainsaws blazing we quickly got them cut and ready to haul. Cut some more Mic asked? "Let's get these out first" I replied, and little did we know that was just about all we would get done for the day.

We had dropped a couple of trees towards the road so these were easy to pull out but once we got to the trees further in the swamp our tactics had to change but was pretty well the same from here on in. Mic would walk into the swamp with a choker chain dragging one cable while I would get Zac into position and then follow with a connecting chain and the second cable. Once we were all hooked up I would backtrack to Zac, hook the cable to another chain and back up. I could only go so far as the road which was right angles to the swamp with a hill behind but generally I would get one cable length in, drive back to the edge where Mic had arrived, take a cable out, hook the connector chain to Zac, drive back again, forward again, take the last cable out and drive back again pulling the tree up onto the road bank. Whewww!!!Then is was back to drag the tree to the side and lift it onto a pile with the forks of the tractor. Of course the tree would get stuck on other trees and stumps on the way so none of the hauls went easy. Also it is a swamp and our boots seemed to find every hole through the ice. Wet feet anyone?

Well by 4 PM we had our system down to an art and eight massive cedars were out and stacked for the mill. "Back next friday?" asked Mic. Of course I replied!

pic here -

Hauling Pine from the Cabin

On the day we finished moving the sauna up the hill I got Josh Dagg to cut the massive pine that was leaning over the lake. I had hoped to save the cedar it was leaning on but even with Josh's skilled cut and mypulling on the pine with a rope on the ATV we weren't successful and pine snapped the cedar on the way down. Oh well, another cedar log for the sawmill. I limbed the trees and pulled the cedar out easily, however the pine was another thing. I measured it off at about 58 feet. Two 16 foot logs at the butt end and 26 feet at the top, should be easy for the ATV to haul across the lake, up the road and over to te landing, right? Well the lake is snow covered ice and I managed to move the 26 footer about 4 feet before spinning. Even tracks don't work so well on ice. One judicious cut and I had two 14 and 12 foot logs that I got to the trailhead but just. Could I haul a 16 footer with a 24 inch butt? Doubtful. Maybe two 12's and an 8 footer? I hope so.

Last summer I had cut a pine up on the hill behind the cabin, not that I needed it for anything but it was just too close to the cabin and if and when it came down it would do some major damage. I had removed the bark and cut it in two, but left it there as I had no way of getting it down the hill. Now that winter was here I could try to slide it down onto the deck and then out. How to keep it from crashing into the deck or worse into the cabin as it slid down? I tied a rope to the end, wrapped it around a higher tree and holding the rope I used the cant hook to roll them back and forth until they came up onto the snow and then it was easy to slowly release the rope as they slid down. With a bit of foresight I hooked a sling through the skidding cone at the front while the butt was still in the air and then gently dragged them across the deck, across the lake and to the trailhead. A delicate operation but successfully done. As for the 32 feet of pine still on the lake? Well we have a few more weeks of winter to figure that one out.

Sammie the Sauna gets a Roof and Dr. Dave performs Heart Surgery on Zac the Tractor March 1, 2011

Last month we hauled Sammie up the hill, put him back together and Josh Dagg put up the insulated plywood roof. Next task was to put the shingles on. Lucy and I were going to tackle this project next week but by happen instead was that I met Jean at the neighbours and didn’t he have nothing to do that Saturday and sure, he’d do the roof for us. Jean and his brother had built most of Lone Wolf cabin after Josh Dagg had built the log structure so he was very familiar with working at the cabin. The best part was that I would graduate from rocks, roots and decks to roofs!

All the materials were already on site so Jean put up the drip edge, and then we put down the ice guard. Now Ice Guard is just a fancy name for tar paper (actually it’s heavy duty tar paper) and the first task was to get the roll up, roll it out the length of the roof, cut off a strip, flip it over, peel off the plastic layer and tack it down. When you do this in the heat of the summer you have to be very careful as it is extremely sticky and will stick to whatever it touches, including itself, and not let go. Think of a three foot wide by 18 foot long piece of scotch tape. In the winter though, it is easy to handle won’t stick at all. In fact Jean put down a few roofing nails to hold it in place. Instead of doing the whole roof we just laid down a few rows at a time so we could walk on the plywood while shingling.

Next Jean tacked down a row of shingles on the front and back roof edges and then laid out the chalk lines and put down the first row of starter shingles. After that it was my job to lay them down, left to right, up a row, right to left, overlapping and cutting at the roof edge all the way from the bottom to the top. Just overlap to the white line on the shingles and nail them down. Easy, nothing to it, I’m now a shingling pro (gotta do Owls Nest roof next year). We had to do an extra row at the peak as the gap over the top was 13 inches, just the width of a shingle and not enough overlap. Jean cut a bunch in half lengthwise and I nailed them down and then cut off the excess at the top to keep the vent clear.

The last step was to roll out the vent cloth, tack it down and then cut out single shingles (they come in a strip of three) and nail these down along the length of the peak. The vent cloth is about an inch thick and lets air flow out the roof at the peak. As Jean placed each shingle he predrilled the holes (so they would not crack in the cold, this was just done for the peak) and then nailed them down with the longer roofing nails supplied with the vent cloth. My job was to cut the singles out of the three pack and taper the bottom sides where they would be under the overlapping shingle. Like everything, it was simple once you knew what you were doing and after two days Sammie had his new roof on. Just in time as Monday we got 15 cm of snow!

sauna

Dr Dave Performs Heart Surgery

What are the signs of a stroke? Dizzyness, weakness, shortness of breath, confusion? For a person maybe but for a tractor? How about difficulty starting, loss of power, won’t run in cold weather?

Last year Zac started no problemo in the cold but this year he just got more and more difficult until he just wouldn’t start. Plugging him in and charging the battery just made him crank over longer without sputtering to life. Last week when the temp went above 0C he ran but below freezing he just wouldn’t go. I got some fuel conditioner from Dave and put a bottle of gas line antifreeze into the diesel (I would have tried it earlier but I didn’t know if I would screw up the fuel or not – Dave said it was okay). Dave dropped by last night and when Zac wouldn’t crank we plugged in the battery charger and opened up the hood to have a look. Now the fuel line runs up from the tank, across and around the tractor to the injector side and then up to the injectors, a pretty straight path. This path is interrupted by the fuel pump and the fuel line does a 90 degree turn to go into the bottom of the pump and then a 180 degree turn to exit and go back down and then around and up to the injectors. The first thing Dave noticed was that the exit line was pinched as it made the 180 degree turn. “There’s your problem” he said. With a little wiggling Dave pushed the fuel pump out of its holder and turned it sideways. “Try it now” he said as I heard the fuel pump whirl away. I jumped into Zac, turned the key and pushed the starter and after a few turns he roared into life, the sweetest sound I had ever heard. A few tie wraps secured the fuel pump into its new position and everything was fixed. Dr. Dave is a genius!@!!. “I wish every problem was so simple to fix” was his reply. The best I can figure is that above 0C there is enough pliability in the hose that the fuel pump can force the tube open and deliver fuel. Below freezing, the rubber is too stiff and no fuel could get through. So now if your tractor has a stroke or heart attack you know what to look for.

Dave and I headed inside to have dinner with Lucy. We drank three bottles of wine to celebrate Zac’s recovery. Now to find a cure for a hangover.

More Fun with Zac, March 10, 2011

I headed out with Zac to see if I could pull in a few more trees. Mick wasn’t with me so I tried it alone. I got all the cedars we had cut stacked on the landing but the snow was just too deep to go in cutting, so I decided to head back.

I had had no trouble coming up the big Stanyar Road hill but coming back, about 1/3 of the way down, Zac started to pick up speed. I throttled down but we kept going faster and faster. I stomped on the brakes but that had no effect. I looked down at the back wheels and they were locked…. We were sliding down the hill with no traction!!!!! I steered ever so slightly towards the left bank and slowly drifted into the snowbank. This slowed down Zac just enough that I was able to get him stopped about of the way from the sharp curve at the bottom. Had I not been able to slow down I’m sure we would have gone straight into the lake!!! Even worse, I had my front forks straight out and I was praying no one would drive around the bend into our path.

Well I managed to get going but Zac stopped right beside the lake blocking the road. Damm, what was wrong now??? I ran home (just about 1/3 mile) got some tools and came back. Since we had put the steel fuel line in I couldn’t just disconnect the rubber line and blow back into the tank so I disconnected the line and added 2 feet of fuel line to the steel line and blew back. Just before connecting the rubber line I noticed something dark inside the steel line. I picked it out and saw it was rust. I had a rusty fuel tank! That is what had been causing my problems all along. Well I got Zac running and drove back to the house where I called Dr. Dave about the problem. His answer was to drain the tank, take it off, pour some gasoline in, put a chain in and swoosh it around. I did this six times until no more rust particles came out. I hooked the tank back up only to find the fuel gauge wasn’t working, took it back down, wiggled the wires, now it works and back together it went. I won’t be taking Zac out until the roads are clear so I don’t know if the problem is fixed yet but I do know that I can clear the lines and get Zac back running in under 2 minutes. What a pain@@@

Maple Syrple, Zac and general Goings On, April 11, 2011

Maple Syrup

The taps are pulled, the pails washed and everything is put away except for our boiling stove. We’ve finished our great maple syrup experiment with great success. I tapped about 30 trees and Lucy made 3 gallons of syrup from about 150 gallons of sap. Lots of boiling down to do but well worth it. We’ll do it again next year for sure!

Zac

Still having problems with Zac stalling. It’s definitely a fuel line plug from the tank, most probably scale from the tank clogging the intake line. I contacted the distributor and they can sell me a new tank for $579.00, discounted from $779.00 because it is so old. Ouch!!! The most novel idea is to get an outboard motor gas tank and convert it to a diesel tank. It isn’t as big but I don’t use that much fuel anyways. Probably work and only cost about $50. The other idea is to take the tank off, remove the plug holding the fuel lines (we think it is soldered in), cut down the intake line and put a rubber hose with a strainer on the end. This will keep any crap in the tank from clogging the fuel line. Cost, basically nothing but my time. We’ll try this one.

Yurt

I got the yurt platform at the cabin partially dismantled, the plywood floor and the insulation removed to the trailhead. I was going to dismantle the structure but I nailed it together, so pulling it apart will be hell. There are about 70 ends nailed together with 2 nails each so that makes a lot of work. Instead Lucy says we’ll move it back a bit, put a floor down and build a gazebo on top of it. Another project on the go and I’ll have to build a new yurt platform again …

Oh yes, we’ve found our new yurt site. It’s near the trailhead up the hill beside the dead birch (that I’ll cut up for firewood so what good is this description  ) I’ll take a few hemlocks down that I need for our new troll bridge across the creek and there she’ll be. We dragged the base for the kitchen from the cabin across the ice to what was going to be new yurt site a couple of weeks ago but now that the snow is mostly gone it’ll have to stay there until I can figure out how to move it again. We also dragged the outdoor shower stall from the cabin last week and got it stuck going up the hill at the new yurt site so it’s stuck on a trailer that has skis. I suppose I can jack everything up and put the wheels on in place. Just need to get those flats fixed. Then Zac could haul it up the hill, if only Zac wouldn’t stall every 5 minutes. Oh well, stuff to do.

Oh that old stock tank that I first make into a hot tub and then later we used it as a watering tank at the garden? Well we’ll be fixing up the Chofu stove that was damaged and setting it up at the yurt but Lucy wants to set it up beside the creek....she has some ideas. I guess my brilliant idea was brilliant, just before its time.

Troll Bridge

We’ve got lots of trails that don’t connect so we will be building an ATV/snowmobile/walking bridge at the creek at the edge of our property. We’re calling it the troll bridge because we were going to move Josh’s trailer there and he could be the troll but it now looks like we’ll be moving him onto Lac Letourneau nears Owls Nest. Or maybe not …

Ice

We are still crossing the lake by ATV as of last weekend, walked across on Saturday. I suspect with the hot weather (+18C today) and rain that the ice will be melted by next weekend.

Firewood

Well all the wood that is going to be cut and dragged in this winter is done. I’ve spent a few hours blocking and should be finished by weeks end. Then I’ll borrow a splitter, get it split and stacked and that’ll be it for next winters wood. I wonder if Josh wants to keep splitting by hand? I sure won’t say no.

That’s enough for now!!!

Spring Cleaning May 2, 2011

Now that most of the snow is gone we have lots to do getting things in shape. The grounds are raked at Owls Nest and the day lilies have shot their green shoots up.

We had a huge windstorm on Thursday. We lost power until Friday about 8 PM, the tent behind Owls Nest got blown over and a huge poplar tree came crashing down and landed right across the ATV. Lucy was able to cut if off and get the bike free with just superficial damage. I’m sure Lucy will write about that!

Zac and the Chipper

The tractor runs great now. I guess all it was was rust in the tank and a series of partial fixes that never resolved the problem. All I did was put the diesel hose back in place and no problemo.

I picked up the chipper last week and spent several days figuring out how to get the three point hitch set up and more mysteriously, how to get the Power Take Off (PTO) working.

It seems that the PTO uses the tractor transmission so how do you engage the clutch without driving the tractor? Well in between the hi and lo range is a nothing range and you have to be there so the tractor doesn’t try to drive away on you. Then you have to figure out which lever has to be pushed where (there seems to be two of them) in order to engage the PTO. Get it spinning at about 2200 rpm and she’s good to chip. Which I did on a trial basis last weekend and then last Wednesday. On Friday, feeling glum with the power outage and bashed up ATV I decided to have some fun chipping. I got into Zac, engaged the PTO and bang, a shear pin goes. Now I had broken a couple last weekend so I had bought a dozen bolts (that’s what they use) for spares. I replaced the bolt and slowly engaged the clutch. Instead of the chipper blade turning the whole chipper tried to turn. I reversed the gears trying to dislodge whatever was blocking the blades but the chipper just tried to turn in the opposite direction. I turned the power off, opened the chipper cover and had a look. Nothing obvious so I tried to turn the blades by hand. Nothing. Next I climbed up and jumped on the blades. They didn’t budge a bit. Talk about being bummed out again. I contacted the store where Ghislain (previous owner) had bought it and they said it probably was blown bearings. Double bummer, I just paid $2K for the chipper and it broke. I contacted Ghislain and he swore up and down that it wasn’t the bearings (and he turned out to be right).

Off to Cdn Tire for some massive wrenches and impact sockets and on Saturday I tore it down, used the pry bar to rock the blade assembly back and forth and suddenly it spun, revealing a big, fat wood chip stuck to the bottom blade. I reassembled it and hey, it works!!!

On Sunday I chipped a pile of brush at the garden and then at the trailhead. Later I took Zac up the steep hill (kinda nervous) where the yurt is going and hauled out two massive hemlocks for our troll bridge. I cut and blocked a few more maples and birch and hauled them out. One more hemlock to haul out, a mass of branches to chip and we’ll be ready for the backhoe.

Water Tank and Wood Splitter

I got the huge water tank positioned, a faucet on the front, courtesy of Dave Murphy, and started filling it with water on Saturday. By Sunday morning it was about full. I noticed the tank wasn’t quite level and after thinking about it a bit, decided to empty it, move it, dump a load of sand and properly level the site. Might as well do it right and we have lots of water flowing so it won’t take long. Lucy built a dam with hydraulic cement around a pipe so we won’t have to worry about sticking hoses in the rock anymore.

Marc Parent got my phone message and arrived Saturday with his splitter on the back of a trailer. We visited for an hour or so and he left with a bottle of our blackberry port. Hopefully he enjoys it. I hauled the splitter to the garden where I have about 15 cords of wood blocked. I hope to get it split before the black flies start!!!

The road is mostly dry except for one low spot about 100 feet in that is a mud bath. I’ve been digging ditches for the water but I hate driving through with the truck as it just gets churned up. Another job for the backhoe.

Oh yes, I’m taking the firearms course next weekend. Maybe I’ll be hunting deer this fall.

That’s all for now.

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