The Power of Nature

Welcome to the second half of June. The weather is now hot and humid and this is usually the best time of year for our most powerful thunderstorms. As an example, let me share with you the one from last Wednesday.

We had had some really cool weather up until recently and early last week was the last of it. Then it warmed up considerably and any time you have a rapid change in temperature, along with rising water vapor, you get some really powerful storms.

It was around 15:30 in the afternoon and the sky was getting darker and darker, but the clouds were moving faster and faster. As I was watching it from inside the trailer, the clouds were taking on a noticeable twisty-spirally kinda of form. This did not bode well. It had started to rain, and the wind was fairly stiff, but that was just the precursor.

There wasn’t much of a build-up, the major part of the storm just hit like baseball bat. In the space of about 10 or 15 seconds, I watched four large trees drop on our property. Let’s start with these ones.

It almost looks like it’s lying in the sawbuck, but it’s not. That one was a spruce and it took out a small maple sapling on it’s way down.

Walking around behind it, you see the second spruce that fell as well.

Continuing the to turn, you now see the first spruce from the back.

This was shortly after the storm had finished and the sky was still quite grey and roiling.

Going further down the driveway, there was a rather substantial poplar tree that dropped over the driveway. Here you can see me standing in front of it looking mighty impressed.

Later on, when we were clearing that one, Kat took this picture from the end where it broke off. You can see me in the distance with my hard hat on as I’m using the chainsaw to clear up the part on the driveway.

This one is a shot of the stump that was left after it broke off. It broke off around eye level.

Heading back to the trailer, you can now get a good look at the maple tree that wanted to reach-out-and-touch-someone, with that someone being our roof.

Here is a closer look.

Fortunately, there wasn’t any damage to the roof or chimney so we came out of that one unscathed.

This was another large poplar tree that had snapped off, but it didn’t cross the driveway.

Later on, Kat and I took a walk up the hill to find other victims. This was another poplar tree that had snapped off about 9m (30′) up and as laying across the pathway.

This one was a maple that was viewable from the pathway up the hill, but had just crashed in the forest.

As you can see, it was quite sizeable, but also had a rotten core. That was a common trait on all of the trees that came down. All of them had an unsound core and with the force of the wind that hit (90-100kph I was told, somewhere around 55-60mph), their inner flaws were what did them in.

On top of the wind, the rain was just pounding and we had hail too. Here is a picture of our garden bed afterwards.

Hail and shredded leaves. The hail wasn’t huge, maybe somewhere from the size of a green pea to a chickpea, but it came down in buckets, really fast. When the hail started, it was just like someone was up in the trees with a weed-wacker because it was also raining leaf parts. We were fortunate that it didn’t damage our new truck shelter as we had just replaced the one that didn’t survive the winter.

Here is a handful of hail I picked up out of the bed of the truck.

Needless to say, this was just what happened on our property. Downed trees were wide-spread and about 8000 people were without power. One person we talked to didn’t have their power back until Friday. Fortunately, being off-grid as we are, we never had a power outage.

Oh, and remember me mentioning the whole twisty-spirally clouds? Yeah, a tornado did touch down just a few km from us. Fortunately, it was short lived. The whole storm only lasted about five or ten minutes, but that was all it took to wreak some havoc.

So we came through this one alright. It could have been much worse. We are very grateful to the powers that be for that.

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June 2018

Yes, it’s June. I realize I haven’t posted in a month so I’m here now to work on that. This is going to be a mish-mash of several things.

So Dave, how is the Earthship coming? Unfortunately, the answer to that is not pleasing. The engineer we’re working with is now fully licensed and has his official engineer’s stamp now. The problem we have now is a financial one. My employer is in some dire straights, as it were, and I am owed a large amount of back pay that has yet to arrive. With this being a single income family, we don’t have a lot of extra funds for building projects and applying for building permits.

One might ask if I am doing anything about my lack of income and I can say “yes” to that. I have been in talks with the local college to possibly do some teaching for them. I now have two degrees to my name (one in Computer Science and one in Biotecture) and the range of topics I feel qualified to teach people covers some fair ground. The only bummer is it’s summer right now and there won’t be any teaching until the fall term starts.

But enough of that, let’s move on to other interesting things. As some of you know, I do quite a bit of cooking here. Our usual setup is I cook the meals and Kat does the dishes. It’s a good partnership.

I recently made my very first vegetable terrine.

The bottom layer was carrots, the middle was spinach and the top was parsnips. The sauce is parsley based. I found the recipe in one of the Canadian Living cookbooks we have. It was quite different to eat, but quite tasty. It was also more filling than I thought it would be.

Kat’s birthday was last Tuesday, and as per tradition around here, I made her a special birthday dessert.

That, my friends, is a chocolate brownie turtle cake. Here it is again from the side.

I didn’t cheap out and just buy the caramels for the gooey layer either; I made caramels. Well, it actually turned out to be more like toffee as it came out a little harder than it should have. Fortunately, if you melt it down and add a bit more cream, it softens up really nicely. It worked well for the cake too.

The main cake layer is just like it sounds: chocolate brownie. I put in some chocolate nibs and chopped pecans into it to add some excitement. Covering that is the caramel layer and then the chocolate ganache to cover it all. This is one of those cakes that you cut into 16ths because an 8th would cause you overload.

From food we move onto wood processing. Yeah, we’re still working on that. I did get my replacement chains for the chainsaw in and it’s been running smooth ever since. The wood pile at the back of the trailer is coming along really nicely. The basic process is to head up into the forest, cut down some dead elm and haul it back to the trailer. Often I just cut it into logs and do the rest of the processing down at the trailer using the saw buck.

Kat is my log loader and we can process quite a bit with one tank of gas. From there, we toss it into the to-be-split pile and then go at it with the axes. I say axes, but to be technically correct they’re splitting mauls, but I don’t like that word cause it conjures up images of large crowds of people moving from store to store expressing their blatant consumerism.

Some of the pieces of wood are easier to split than others. Take this one for instance.

I had buried two wedges in it trying to get that thing to split. It did, in the end, but it was a lot of work. I also broke the handle off one of our splitting axes today after I buried it in a similar piece and I couldn’t dislodge it. Yay, another thing to replace.

The spring time is a great time to be a bird watcher. We always have a huge amount of birdie activity at our feeder. Sometimes we get some unexpected visitors too.

That was a wild turkey that was hanging out under the feeder. She kept coming back for almost a week, but we stopped putting seed out near mid May and it didn’t take them long to clean the place out.

Which really aggravated this guy.

That is a rose breasted grosbeak. After the regular bird feeder ran out, he decided to try the hummingbird feeder. He was very determined, but just couldn’t figure out how to get his beak in those yellow plastic flowers while still holding on with his feet. He was a little big for it. Fortunately, he didn’t try that for too long.

I know I’ve posted a lot of pictures of autumn, winter and spring but I don’t know how many summer photos I have taken of our land. I do realize it’s not quite officially summer, but it sure seemed like it here today. It was bright and sunny and no clouds at all the whole day. This is what it looks like looking out from our trailer.

This one is a forest path that leads over to the neighbour’s place to the north.

Our pond is doing very well. It is full of life. You can’t see them in this picture, but there are a tonne of tadpoles swimming around. The spring peepers have quieted down so we’re on to the next stage of growing the new batch. You might say we’re working on creating our own plague of frogs.

This, of course, is the picture of the road heading up to the top of our hill. Yeah, it’s a lot grassier now.

This is a nice one showing the rest of the driveway heading down to the road and the beautiful blue sky we had today.

Green canopy shot with solid blue sky.

There are so many things we should be doing, but are put on hold due to funds. We’re also behind in our gardening, which we should get moving on. As soon as things change, I’ll be sure to let you all know.

Springtime 2018 Action

After April, we have been really looking forward to some warmer weather. Fortunately, spring has finally arrived and things are warming up quickly. The snow is all gone, the lakes and ponds are ice free, the trees are all in bud and the spring peepers are in full roar.

That means it’s time to take the plastic shield down. Here is a before picture.

We decided to make it easier on ourselves come winter and just roll it up so we don’t have to go through the whole pain of trying to reinstall the shield from scratch. This also means we didn’t have to find somewhere else to store it either.

It also made the job much easier and quicker too. Here it is all rolled up and bungied into place up at the top under the eaves.

Kat also took the pick-axe to the ice pile that was in front of our water cube and released it from its frozen prison. We now have access to it again and are actively collecting water to put in it.

With the snow having all melted, we were also able to take a few loads of tires that we had down by the trailer up to our master pile. You can’t do that during the winter unless you want to walk them up the hill wearing snow shoes. Yeah, not my cup of tea.

The other major project that we need to get moving on is firewood for next winter. We like to do this in April, but with Kat being away and the weather not cooperating we’re working on it now.

Here is me last Saturday wandering into the forest for our first set of trees.

This is what we managed to harvest that first day.

Since then, the usual routine is to get up in the morning and split what is ready to be split. After lunch we either go up and cut more trees or work on processing the logs down into reasonably sized pieces.

It was during this processing phase where we ran into a snag: the chain broke on my chainsaw. Here you can see it wrapped around the log I was cutting at the time.

No injuries were sustained, thankfully, but now I have a chainsaw without a chain. If you’ve never worked with a chainsaw, let me just say that there are a huge variety of sizes, cutting features, tooth frequency and brands. Figuring out what the specs are for your saw is the first step. Then you need to find somewhere where you can get it.

I looked online and finally found the one we needed at Amazon, but they only came in packs of 3. We drove into town yesterday to see if any of the local shops would carry the size we needed, but the local saw chain selection is mighty slim. I ended up ordering the pack of 3, but now we need to wait for it to arrive. Unfortunately, this means the black flies and mosquitoes will more than likely be out in force by the time it arrives.

In the mean time, we have split everything that was already processed except for three pieces that I can’t get the axe through. I have a splitting wedge somewhere around here, but I haven’t been able to locate it yet.

Here is a picture of the start of the new pile. This was after the second day, so it is not up-to-date.

Life does have it’s ups and downs. Fortunately this situation isn’t all that bad. I’m sure we’ll get our firewood finished eventually. In the mean time, we’ll just have to find other interesting things to keep ourselves occupied.

It’s April, Right?

We’re not really sure what month it is any more. The weather just keeps getting more erratic. In this case though, it allows me to provide a plethora of beautiful nature photos for all of you wonderful people.

Things have been falling out of the sky all weekend and when I woke up this morning, this is the view that greeted me.

Everything was covered in thick, heavy wet snow.

As you can imagine, many smaller trees suffer when this happens.

It does, however, provide some really awesome scenery and the chance to go out and spend time in the quiet of the forest.

We live in a fairly isolated spot to begin with. Once you cover everything with a large blanket of snow, it gets really quiet.

I think all of these trees have frosting on them 😛

With all of the noises muffled by the snow, your footsteps end up sounding extra loud. You have to stop often just to let the forest’s atmosphere sink in.

The snow didn’t seem to bother these two massive white pines.

Tunnel of snow silence.

It was overcast, but the pictures make it look ominous. It really wasn’t, it was fairly bright actually, not that we ever saw the sun today.

Back up at the pond at the top of the hill. There isn’t much of a difference in height to indicate where the pond actually starts. (It’s just in front of the bench).

Surrounded by balsam fir trees, the sounds of the outside world just disappear.

There was hardly a breath of wind, so you can imagine how quiet it was out in the forest. You’d think you’d hear more birds and there were some, but the vast majority of all of the tweetering going on was back at the trailer.

This next picture was taken just outside and you can see all of those little feathered forest denizens up in the tree.

Yeah, the ones in the tree were just waiting for their opportunity to head down and raid the bird feeder.

I caught a number of them in that picture, but a video would be better as they move in and out so fast and in so many numbers. In case you were wondering, we have golden finches, chickadees, dark-eyed junkos, purple finches, nut hatches, blue jays and a few variety of sparrows.

Unfortunately, the forest wasn’t the only thing to suffer damage from all of the heavy snow.

That is our truck shelter tent thing. The heavy snow made the canvas split. I put in an impromptu patch by working a tarp in under the metal rails. It’s not perfect, by far, but hopefully it will get us passed all of this snow.

In the mean time, when I’m not out trekking around the forest, I melt snow on the wood stove.

It comes in handy for washing hands and dishes.

Anyway, I need to run and rescue my socks as they are being attacked by a kitten right now.

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