Tag Archives: spring

Getting back outside

It’s the start of May now and things have warmed up considerably since my last post. April was all over the place in terms of the weather. The last you heard from us we had just had a big snow storm. I took those pictures on a Friday morning as we were clearing the fallen trees from our driveway.

The next day we woke up to full sunshine and it was quite warm. Everything started to melt. This is what it looked like in the morning.

By 16:00 that day, there wasn’t a tree left that had any snow on it. Sunday was nice a sunny too and by the end of that day, the driveway was clear of snow, though still mushy. The following day, on Monday, we hit 24C (75F) and it was really humid. We had a huge thunderstorm in the afternoon too, with some really loud thunder and close lightning strikes. So in the space of five days, we went from heavy snow fall to serious thunderstorm.

With all of that snow and rain, things have not been dry around here. In fact, all sources of water in the area have exceeded their banks and there is a lot of flooding. Fortunately, most of it is flooding the forest. There are a few cases of people who are near the York river who are having difficulties.

This reminds us of spring 2014 when we first came to look at the property. The other pond we have at the top of the hill was over flowing. Don’t remember the picture? Well, here is what it looked like back then.

As a way of comparison, here is what it looked like on April 26th.

That’s really close to the 2014 level. I should add that we just had a huge rain storm that lasted two days straight. We haven’t been back up to the top of the hill, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the upper pond has now exceeded the 2014 level. I say this because, despite having a drain pipe under the driveway for the pond we have beside it, we had enough rain to wash out part of our driveway.

The drain pipe couldn’t keep up fast enough and the water just rushed over the driveway. I’m sure there will be another load of gravel in our near future.

Going back a bit to April 18th, it had dropped below freezing the previous night and the pond beside the driveway had a thin layer of ice on it. It looked pretty spectacular so, of course, we had to take some pictures.

Needless to say, we have had some really nice weather, and some really wet weather in April. We have been trying to get out as much as we can to work on important projects outside before the bugs arrive. The project with the highest priority right now is firewood processing for next winter.

Last week we had a good run of clear weather so we were able to get out many days in a row. Unfortunately, a bunch of our time was spent clearing fallen saplings from the roadway up to the top of the hill. We did get some trees cut for firewood though.

We started off with that small pile. Anything big I buck up on site and the smaller branches we just haul back and use the saw buck I made last year to make it easier to cut. It sure saves the back using the saw buck.

Another day, and more wood. I split some of it by hand. The cherry is pretty easy, but I leave most of the elm as it is painful to split by hand. All of it is dead already, which makes splitting it much easier than if we were trying to split live wood by hand.

We cleared out the middle section of our wood storage at the back of the trailer and this is where we are piling the newly harvested wood.

It’s not a lot yet, but it’s better than nothing. We’re hoping that things will dry up this week so we can get back out and do some more.

When we aren’t processing firewood or working on other projects, Kat and I like to take walks down our road. Kat uses this opportunity to pick up all of the dang garbage that people throw out their vehicle windows. We live on a very quiet road, but that doesn’t seem to stop people from polluting it. We’ve gathered several large garbage bags worth of things people have tossed away, most of it is beer cans.

There are some nice things to see while we’re out walking too. Like some pussy willows we found growing beside the road.

You have to take advantage of pussy willows pretty quickly as they turn into fuzzy tree buds soon after they appear. Yes the buds are all out on the trees now and some are even starting to sprout a few tiny leaves.

Soon everything will be exploding with colours. The leaves will be out in full force and the flowers will be in bloom. Heck, even Kat is looking really awesome in her spring colours.

She doesn’t tweet as nicely as some of the birds we have hanging around our place, but she sure is nice to look at.

It’s always good to end with a smile 😀

Not so spring 2017

So the spring equinox was back on March 20th. By now I bet you figure we should be out planting our garden and enjoying some warmer weather.

Well, in many ways we have. The temperatures have warmed up. Most days are above freezing now. A lot of snow has melted and we were starting to get into the swing of spring, as it were.

That is until yesterday. Mother nature decided she wasn’t done with the snow and sent us a doozy.

This is what it looked like outside this morning.

Yesterday, it started as some rain which turned into wet snow. Wet snow turned into freezing snow when nightfall arrived. If you are unfamiliar with freezing snow, it is wet snow that sticks and freezes immediately on contact. It does make for a pretty picture, but the trees certainly don’t do well.

Point in case.

If you look closely at that picture you can see two trees have snapped off. Actually, the broken part that you see is really the top of the trees that has fallen over and inverted themselves with the tops pointing at the ground.

Let’s take a look down the driveway.

Very white, with a lot of small trees (and a few big ones) all bent over.

Now we’ll move further down the driveway.

We had several instances of trees that had completely broken off and fallen onto the driveway.

Near the driveway entrance we came across quite a few trees that were overhanging it.

There was about 10cm (4″) of snow, but it was that really heavy wet snow that is awesome for building snowmen and snow forts. It’s also really good for doing maple taffy.

Alas, our maple syrup supply is carefully guarded and rationed out so no home-made maple taffy for us.

We’ll just sit cozy by the fire place in our very humble abode.

I should also mention that there were several communities that were without power today. Some friends of ours didn’t get their power back until 6pm, it having gone off at some point the previous evening. Fortunately for us, we’re not connected to the grid, so we really don’t care when the power goes out 😀

We were happy to find that the drain pipe that we had put in two springs ago is working well, even with all of this snow and the fact that the pond is still mostly frozen.

The part around the pipe is flowing so fast that it would take quite the drop in temperature, at this point, to freeze it. It now happily travels under the driveway and comes out to form a little stream on the other side.

Another sign of spring are the interesting tracks that have appeared around the trailer. We came home from March break to these little cute guys.

For those not familiar, that is a raccoon track. They really look like tiny human hands.

In other news, we finally finished redoing our spice rack. We had to shorten it a bit when we put in the cabinet over the counter last fall. Cutting it was easy, but we also planned to add another shelf to it, which involved more work. That got put to the wayside as winter came upon us.

Now that things have warmed up, I had the chance to steal some time in the workshop to add the new shelf. It then went to the staining department and sat there for a while, lost in the bureaucracy. Eventually, it was finished and now we can present it to you.

There it is installed, sans spices.

Once you add spices, it looks much better. As it turns out, not all of the spice jars will fit on the new bottom shelf. Some are just a few millimeters taller and the space is pretty tight. We seem to have managed though.

So after we get over this last batch of snow and things start to clear up outside (again), hopefully I’ll be able to get back to our other trailer building projects. We’re really looking forward to that new kitchen sink. Not having one is big pain the rump.

2017 Melting season is upon us

It has been quite some time since my last post. There hasn’t been anything interesting going on as far as building projects go. We’ve mainly been idling away the winter. We must say that this winter (our third in the trailer) has by far been the most pleasant. We’re well insulated now, we have working appliances and plenty of dry firewood. It’s a grand improvement over previous years.

We are one day away from the official start of spring and it is a fantabulous day here: bright and sunny, not a cloud in the sky. Yes, we still have plenty of snow on the ground, but it was warm enough today that we could go out with only a sweater or perhaps light jacket on.

Yes, we even have pictures.

As with every spring, our driveway gets all mucky. Hopefully this year it won’t be quite as bad as previously after we dropped that load of gravel on the driveway in the fall.

The squirrels are out in full force after discovering the huge pile of seeds under our bird feeder.

Generic forest picture.

And we have a shot of our humble abode, complete with overflowing compost pile in the foreground.

If you’d like a bit of perspective, here is what things looked like back in January.

Yeah, a bit snowy.

I took this picture standing on top of the smurf house (composting toilet room).

What was I doing on top of the smurf house, you ask? Well, that is where I stand to clean off the solar panels. I have a squeegee taped to the end of one of those extendo-painter’s poles.

It snowed quite a bit this winter, so that was a very regular task. It’s best done in the morning so you can get the most out of the daylight shining on your solar panels.

We had quite the winter for a while, up until about mid February. One person I talked to described it as living in a snow globe that someone kept shaking. It never snowed really hard, it was a constant gentle drift of falling snow all the time. There weren’t too many days that went by where we didn’t get any snow. I have heard it from others that this was a record year for snow fall.

Fortunately, come mid February, the weather broke and we had a warm spell. Here is another picture of the trailer on Feb 20th.

That was a really nice weekend up here. Kat and I took a walk through our property. The snow had melted and refrozen a few times so the top was hard enough we could just walk on it without using snow shoes.

That’s Kat sitting on top of the back rest of the bench that sits in front of the pond at the top of our hill. We had been up there earlier in snowy-er days and you couldn’t even see the top of the bench.

After all that snow, the top of the smurf house had quite the massive pile on it so Kat decided to get up there and clear it off. I managed to snap this shot of her looking quite gleeful in her snow removing activities.

That’s all of our winter weather related news.

There was one other interesting event that happened back at Valentine’s day. Our local cafe, The SunRun had a special event.

The SunRun usually only does breakfast and lunch, but they put on special dinner for Valentine’s day. As soon as we found out about it, we reserved a spot. Natalie, the woman who owns it and is the main chef, does amazing things with food and this is not an opportunity you want to miss.

So, Kat and I got dressed up for it.

I have to mention that this is the very first time Kat and I have ever done anything special for Valentine’s Day, seeing as both of us are not very into that mainly commercial event. The dinner, I have say was absolutely superb. I had jalapenos with mango wrapped in prosciutto for an appetizer, one of the most amazing pieces of beef I have ever eaten for the main course and chocolate brûlée for dessert. That was the first time I had ever had a brûlée, chocolate or otherwise. It was so good, we went back the next day and asked them if they had any left-overs.

They did. We ate them. We were very happy 😀

If you are ever in the Maynooth area, I cannot recommend The SunRun enough. The meals are simple, but everything is made fresh, mostly from local ingredients and it all tastes amazing. Unfortunately, they will be closed for the next eight weeks due to some renovations they are having done.

Sigh. We will miss you, SunRun, but we will also look forward to your re-opening in May with a great new and fresh look 😀

It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Why, you might ask, is this the most wonderful time of the year? Because it is warm enough to be outside in just a t-shirt and there are no bugs. It’s a great time to be outside doing things and we have not been slacking in this regard. This is largely why I haven’t updated the blog in over a month.

As you know from my previous post, we now have working appliances that have made our lives so much easier. Unfortunately, we haven’t done much more than that on the kitchen as outside activities have taken precedence. However, I did get the hood vent reinstalled. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just a matter of putting it back in the hole where it had been. If we had done that, it would have been way to close to the top of the new stove.

Here you can see a picture of the hole where the vent had been. The blue you see is the tarp covering the north side of the roof posts. You can also see the new hole above it.

HoodVent01

After some measuring and consulting the photos we took while we had the trailer stripped down, I figured out where to cut the new hole. It was pretty straightforward and the outside vent flap that was in the old spot worked fine in the new one.

I covered the old hole with some plywood and then filled the hole with spray foam. Here you can see the results with the new hood in place and the old hole filled.

HoodVent02

There is one downside to spring, and that is the part where your driveway turns into a mud hole. This is bad enough, but the propane delivery truck left some huge holes in our driveway while attempting to deliver propane. Unfortunately, we weren’t here when he came by or we could have warned him.

Here are some pictures.

MuckyDriveway01

In this one you can see the big, two-tire wide ruts with the water in it that the propane truck left.

MuckyDriveway02

On to other things.

What has been occupying most of our time is firewood processing. This is a great time of year to cut firewood for the next winter as it has a chance to dry out all summer. To help with this job, I built one of these.

FirewoodSpring2016_000

That’s a saw buck and I have to say, it has made this work a whole lot nicer. You don’t need to bend over all the time trying to cut logs on the ground and you save the wear and tear on your chainsaw by completely avoiding hitting the ground with it. As you can see from that picture, we had already put it to some use.

That was fresh maple that we had cut. We usually don’t cut live trees, but in this case, we had some trees that are were the way of our sun view during the winter, so we removed them to improve that.

Any day where it has been sunny, we’ve been outside working on the firewood stock, in some form or another. Here you can see me selecting some more victims. We were cutting dead elm trees that day.

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We cut them into logs and then load them into the truck.

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Bring them back to our processing station and cut them down to size using the sawbuck.

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Kat and I have a pretty good system going with the sawbuck. She does the loading and holding and I do the chainsaw work. We can go through quite a few logs pretty quickly, depending on the type of wood and the diameter of the logs, obviously. It’s way easier to cut white pine (softwood) than it is to cut the elm (hardwood).

With all of this wood processing, we obviously need somewhere to put it. This is where we were lacking at this point last year. However, this year, we have the roof and large sections at the back that we made specifically for storing firewood. We have three, ten foot sections, separated by palette walls. Here is a picture of the middle one, that has the first row mostly complete and the second started.

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That was all hardwood in that picture. We have a section we created for softwood too. Here you can see it with its first row.

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Now some of you may be wondering why we are processing softwood. After all, isn’t hardwood supposed to be the optimal burner? That is correct, hardwood is optimal for long term burning during the cold months of the year. However, our only source of heat is the wood stove and it can push out a lot of heat which at this time of year, will bake you. You can always put a piece in and close the draft on the wood stove a lot so it doesn’t burn as hard, but if you do that, the chimney doesn’t heat up enough and you end up with creosote buildup.

We had this problem this year as we didn’t have any softwood processed and we ended up having to the replace the chimney cap because it was so encrusted with gooey tar. I have the cleaning brush for the chimney so we do that about every six weeks or so. This is how we discovered the state of the chimney cap.

To get around this problem, you can burn softwood, which burns fast and hot. It gives you a nice heat boost for a while, but it won’t cook you over the long term and it works better with the chimney in terms of the buildup.

So that’s why we have a section for softwood. It’s mostly poplar and white pine.

Move forward a little while and you can see how the middle section has increased.

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A little while later and we’ve completed both of the back two rows and we’re on the third.

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This is what the softwood section looks like now. That’s two full rows with a third started.

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We even built a boxed section out of some palettes and scrap wood so we have somewhere to put all of the bark and sticks that we get. Dead elm sticks are awesome for starting fires. They burn way longer than other stuff.

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Today was yet another nice day so we were out again. However, before most of the trees we cut down were fairly small. If you need to split it at all, it’s just a few of the bottom pieces. This is especially nice if you are dealing with elm as it is supremely difficult to split by hand.

Well, today I cut down probably one of the biggest trees I have dropped yet and it was a dead elm. How big was it? Well, I’m glad you asked.

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That may give you some indication. The tape measure says just under 56cm (22″). What makes it more interesting is my chainsaw only has a 46cm (18″) bar on it. There was a lot of work involved in getting this tree to drop and the saw was not happy about it either. There were a couple of times I had to let it rest and cool down before continuing.

Fortunately, I took my time and tried to do it as well as I could. It probably took me a good fifteen minutes to get through the base of that tree but it fell exactly where I wanted it and I didn’t have to fuss at all. It was a text book drop and I was pretty proud of myself for that one. I can’t say all of my lumberjacking has been that successful.

I went through two and half tanks of gas to buck up that tree and then we had to load it into the truck and take it back to the trailer. That one tree took us two loads in the truck to get it all. I had cut some others a day or so before and we have quite the pile of elm to be split going on.

FirewoodSpring2016_011

That would be a LOT of work to split by hand, but we’re hoping that a friend of ours who has access to a splitter will come by and give us a hand with it. That would save me several days of work. Unfortunately, Kat can’t split the elm so it would be just me working on that pile. However Kat did some great work splitting all of the white pine and poplar.

We do what we can. Hopefully we’ll get the pile processed before the bugs arrive in force. That won’t be too much longer though. There are a lot of trees that are ready to burst with leaves so we probably only have about ten days or so before they arrive.

Once we finish with the firewood, I can get back to working on the kitchen.