Tag Archives: firewood

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.

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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.

April Activities

So with Kat away for this month doing the Earthship Academy in Taos, NM, I’m left here at the trailer to maintain the fort, as it were. There is all of the regular things to do: cook, clean, feed the cats, melt snow for wash water, bring in fire wood, those sorts of things. However, with Kat away, I have also been tasked with feeding the horses.

We have our two Arabians currently boarded at a nearby facility, and they do get hay, but one of them especially needs a bit extra as he seems to lose weight otherwise. I have been out with Kat to do this numerous times, but this is the first time I had to do it by myself. Fortunately, the boys didn’t seem to mind.

They paused a bit when I showed up, probably wondering where Kat was. But as soon as I showed them the buckets, they wandered over and proceeded to eat their portions. Nothing too difficult to handle, they are very well behaved.

As you probably noticed in the above picture, the ground is looking mighty white. We did have quite a bit of bare ground, but that all changed Tuesday evening. First we had wet snow, then we had ice rain which switched to regular rain and then back to snow. After it was all done, we ended up with this inverted Oreo cookie type situation. That would be where you have two layers of frosting with the hard cookie part in between. Why someone hasn’t come out with cookies like that yet, I will never know.

In any event, it has made everything very white again, and quite crunchy too. Fortunately, it’s not all that cold and with the sun shining, it clears the roof pretty quick. Here you can see all the snow piled up in front of the trailer’s plastic shield that fell off the roof earlier.

These are also excellent conditions for spotting animal tracks.

That’s just a picture of our garden bed and most of it is squirrel tracks, though there is what seems to be cat tracks going through the middle of it.

With it being such a nice day today, I decided to take a wander through our forest. This is a great way to spot trees that we will be harvesting for firewood, the time for which is rapidly approaching. I did come across this interesting specimen.

I can’t say for 100% certainty, but it looks to me like a porcupine had a major noms festival on that tree. They are notorious for stripping trees down to their underwear, as it were.

Here is exhibit number 2.

This tree didn’t have as much of it’s bark stripped, but it was also a much smaller tree.

I wandered for a while and eventually came up to the pond at the top of our hill.

You can see by the far shoreline just how full the pond is. We’ve been fairly fortunate that we haven’t had a tonne of precipitation or otherwise we’d be facing a lot of flooding like last year.

Finally, here is a picture of some snowy spruce trees.

Things are pretty quiet here otherwise. Most days it’s above freezing so there is a fair amount of melting going on. Hopefully as that progresses I’ll be able to start the firewood harvesting.

Soggy spring

I would love to say that we have accomplished a whole lot in the last month since I posted, but unfortunately we haven’t. This is largely due to the weather. I think this past May has been the soggiest one on record. Rain is pretty common in May, but it has been rather severe this year.

Our area was pretty lucky in that the worst we had were a few basements where the sub-pump broke and they wet basement floors. Other parts of Ontario and Quebec had full blown evacuations and states of emergency. When you come back to your house after it all resides and find that the water was up to the level of your counter-top in your kitchen, you could say that we had a lot of rain.

My last post was on May 2nd and it wasn’t long after that when things started to get crazy. We had two days of severe rain, then this happened on the 7th.

Yeah, that’s right. It started snowing. This has been known to happen in May, so it wasn’t so much of a big deal, except for the fact that it didn’t stop. I bet you can guess when I took the following picture?

That wasn’t the end of it either. It just kept snowing, right through until the 9th.

You can see that there wasn’t a whole lot of accumulation, but still, three days of snow in May?

Someone needs to turn up the outdoor thermostat.

That wasn’t the end of it either. I think we had a day or two break and then we had two more solid days of rain. When I say solid, I mean around 60mm (2.5 inches) of rain. That number may seem small, but if I put that in equivalent snow terms that would be 60cm (2 feet) of snow. It rained A LOT!

Those were the two heaviest days, but we’ve had quite a few days where it rained since then. Not nearly as bad. On May 14th we had a severe thunder storm which included hail. I had just done my weekly trip to the dump and it started on my way back. I was pulling into the driveway when the hail started so I sat in the truck for a bit and snapped this picture of the hail building up on the windshield wipers.

Not only has it been wet, it hasn’t been particularly warm either. We’ve had a few days above 20C (68F) but not many. And on those days when it isn’t cold and raining, the bugs are bad enough to pick you up and carry you off if you aren’t careful. The black flies especially are having a bumper year. We’re hoping the dragon flies will show up soon and we have seen one or two, but the big swarms of them have yet to arrive. They help a lot with reducing the biting insects.

All of this wetness has put a big damper on our firewood harvest this year. Going out in the pouring rain to cut down a tree isn’t a great thing to do. It’s even more inadvisable if there is high wind. Don’t try cutting down a tree in high wind and expect it to drop where you want it. I avoid that at all costs.

In addition to this, because of all of the rain, there were times we couldn’t even get the truck up the hill for fear of burying it out of sight just because the ground was so saturated with water. We still can’t drive to the top of our hill because a lot of water is draining down the road and it’s very squishy.

Of course there is the bug factor as well. Once you do get a decent day to go cut wood, you have to deal with the bugs. So, needless to say, we are behind in our firewood harvesting.

Fortunately, we haven’t been completely idle. We did get started on installing a new sink and finishing the counter-top around it. Here you can see the cutting of the hole where the sink is going to go.

Slightly closer so you can see the sink outline in pencil.

There we have it, a hole for a sink.

We even have a sink to put in that hole too! We bought it at the Re-store which I have to say, is kind of a hit or miss in terms of whether it’s really worth it or not. The sink we bought didn’t have holes for faucets, nor did it have a strainer basket. We weren’t too concerned about the faucet holes as we aren’t likely to have any faucet for a while. A new strainer basket cost $20 for the cheap one. The sink cost us $45. I could have bought a brand new sink for $100 that included holes for the faucet and strainer basket. Add some tax in there and you start to wonder if it was really worth the savings. Things to think about if you ever go to the Re-store for building materials.

Now for the counter-top we decided to use a 19mm (3/4 inch) piece of plywood with red oak veneer. One sheet of that will set you back $85 so you don’t want to mess it up. I cut out the piece to size for the counter first.

I scribed the hole for the sink from underneath and then cut out the hole for the sink as well.

Voila! New counter-top. Well, almost. The counter then went out to the staining and finishing department. I can say that it has been stained and had two coats of varnish put on it. The next step is to put a thick coat of epoxy on it to make it durable and waterproof. We have the epoxy, but it is sensitive to temperature and humidity so that part has been put on hold until things dry up and warm up a bit.

So it’s been a slow start to the year. We haven’t planted anything in the garden yet either because it’s been so cold. Last night we had a low of 2C (36F). Yes, we had a fire. They say we should be safe for planting after the full moon in June, which is this Friday. We can only wait and see at this point.