Wednesday, October 22, 2014

First fire of the season

After a couple of very nice days, Tuesday's weather brought cold air and rain.  A cool damp 55 degrees inside the house meant that for the first time this season I lit a fire in my wood stove. 

This evening the clouds are moving on and tomorrow looks to be a better day...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fruit tree fall colors

Transparent Apple Tree

Apricot Tree

Monday, October 13, 2014

Well completed

Another project that took forever to complete is my livestock well.  I am now done with it.  I finished work on the well the day before I left for my Washington vacation.

When I last blogged about the well I was waiting on a new pump as the old pump couldn't pump at full volume.  I bought a 1/2 HP Wayne brand pump from Amazon.  It works great.

It was a hassle to hook up the pump.  The pump wasn't the problem - the piping was.  First, the plastic hose that goes in the well casing had such a curl to it that it took finesse to get it into the well casing and then into the pitless adapter slot.  In the photo below the straight part is an old pipe whose use is to lower part of the pitless adapter (hole seen in the following photo) into the pitless adapter slot already installed in the well casing.

Then the union connection between the pitless adapter and the pump leaked.  Pipe thread tape didn't work but a silicon paste got the leak to stop.  Then I needed the right amount of piping to go from the pump to the hydrant attached to the concrete wall.  Those connections would leak.  Usually it would be the last section to be screwed together. Or the last section of pipe to be screwed together would not screw together due to some odd threading.

The blue tank is the pressure tank.  Not super big, but works.  I bought it for $5 at a garage sale.

The hydrant drains when turned off.  Since the hydrant usually is installed in the ground, it just drains out of a small hole into the ground.  I wanted the hydrant to drain back into the well.  Neither Home Depot or Lowes sold a fitting that screws into the hydrant hole with the other end being barbed so I could slip a plastic hose over it.  But Ace Hardware had the fitting.

The well casing is hard steel and my drills bits are getting duller so it took a long time to drill through the pipe.

I bought a carbide tipped concrete drill bit to fasten the hydrant to the concrete casing.  The first bit only drilled three holes before going dull.  I figured it was defective so I took it back and bought another brand's carbide drill bit.  This time I watered down the bit as I drilled to cool the bit and provide a little lubrication, and ended up drilling seven holes before this bit went dull.  Do these bits drill so few holes before going dull?

Then it was time to rebuild the fence around the well.  The new concrete casing is larger than the old casing and the fence needed to be moved in addition to being strengthened.  The move resulted in moving part of the old corral fence instead of merely adding a little bit to go around the concrete casing.  *sigh*

I also rebuilt the fence that divides the water trough.  And the gate and the post that held it.  A ripple effect.

The gate is now attached to a taller more solid post and no longer scrapes the ground when opened wide.  And I was able to drill new lag bolts into the post and have the bolts point to one another.  This prevents the gate from being lifted off the post unless one section of the gate's hinge is unbolted - something the livestock can't do.

Knowing how cattle rub on things, I placed the hydrant outside the corral and added wire to the fence to prevent the cattle from putting their heads through the fence to reach the hydrant - which is what they would try to do.  Trust me.

Because the horses rinse their mouths in the water trough, I am still using the small trough until they leave next month.

I hooked up a hose from the hydrant to the trough.  Everything tested and it all worked.  Then a day later I saw the white horse kick the empty water trough.  Huh?  The horses must have been thirsty.  I filled the trough quickly and went off to work on another project.  That evening the trough was empty again.  Well... the temperatures have been in the 80s. I filled the trough again and went off to work on other stuff.

Within a day the trough was empty again.  Strange, the horses never drink that much water.  I checked for leaks.  None.  Okay....

I filled the trough again to the top.  I checked after 20 minutes and the water was a few inches from the top.  Well, it was dark when I filled the trough so I may not have filled it to the top.

Before going to bed three hours later I checked the trough.


What?!  Did a herd of deer come in and drink all the water?  An alien spaceship?  Where is this water going?!!!!

So I stopped and thought about it.  Then it dawned on me.  When the hydrant drained it was siphoning the water from the trough back into the well.    All the times I tested the hydrant I pulled the hose from the trough.  These last times I filled the trough in a hurry and left the hose in the trough when I shut the hydrant off.

I found a short section of hose and fastened it to end near the top of the trough.  The mysterious draining stopped.

One of the last things is that I needed a cover for the well.  I got a strong thick piece of plywood and cut a round lid with a notch for the hydrant to come through.  But how to fasten it to the casing?  Then my uncle Curt suggested attaching a piece of Styrofoam to the lid.  The Styrofoam fits inside the casing preventing movement by the lid.  While the pump is almost 6 feet below the ground and should generally be protected from the cold temperatures, the Styrofoam provides extra insulation to the well and pump from the cold.

To get the Styrofoam I bought a damaged piece of 4' by 8' insulation from Home Depot.  They gave me 70% off the price because it was damaged so I got the piece for around $5 instead of around $25.  The only sizes of insulation sold was 4' by 8' or 4' by 2'.  I needed a 3 ft diameter piece.

The last things to do was to chisel a groove in the top of the concrete to lay the electric cords.  This way the lid lies flat on the casing all around. I also added a light bulb.  Not for light.  For heat.  An old fashioned light bulb generates plenty of heat and that should be more than enough in case I need extra heat against very cold temperatures.

Below...condition of the well before the final push to complete it.  Once I got the pump and pipes done, Wyatt came over with his tractor and lifted the final concrete ring into place.  Poor Daisy... she doesn't have that ring to lay inside of anymore. It was one of her favorite places to lay.

Start of the final push.

The finished product.

Of course Daisy had to check it out. While she could stand on the ground to reach the water in a full water trough, it is easier for her to drink from the trough.

Cattle hide 'n seek

The day I got home from Washington State I let the cattle into the south pasture. Even if the photo and video doesn't show it, the south pasture has more green grass that the hayfield, especially down near the river.  Dan still hasn't made a decision on whether he will keep the three cows or sell them to me.  With the green grass it will be harder to get his cattle to the corral if he decides to keep them.

Here is short video of the cattle coming through the gate. The last cow was a little excited.

Today I noticed one cow in the middle pasture.  *sigh*   When I went out to the pasture I counted the herd.  Five were missing.  Four calves and one cow.  I walked the south pasture.  Nothing.  I walked the middle pasture.  Nothing.  I got my boots and walked through the pastures again on the way to the island.  Nothing.  On the island.  Nothing.  I walked through my neighbor's pasture and his forest.  Nothing.

When I came back to my south pasture the cattle were there.  What?!  Where they were hiding, I don't know.

I patched the fence where the one cow got through and then herded her back into the south pasture as the herd was now away from the gate.  The cow stood and watched me open the gate.  She didn't want to be herded and would back up or hop sideways each time I herded her.  She bellowed.  The rest of the cattle took notice and came running over.  I picked up the pace and got the cow through the gate before the herd reached the gate.

*whew*  No wonder it takes me so long to get anything else done.  Over the past two days I only got two hours of work done on the north barn feeder rebuild. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Pickup breakdown

Friday was the last beautiful weather day forecast for a while so I went on a hike to another lookout with Joyce and Kendra.  I drove.  After the eight mile hike, when we got back to my pickup it wouldn't start.

The pickup would turn over but would not start.  It was like it wasn't getting any fuel.  The fuel tank was a quarter full.  Or maybe something jarred loose on the rough and washboard North Fork Road that stopped working when I shut off the pickup.

We were way up the North Fork Road near Polebridge, Montana.  Then off on Forest Service Road 376 'Hay Creek'.  Then at the dead end of a side road: Moran Basin Forest Service Road 5241. We were six to seven miles from the North Fork Road which was over 30 miles to the next town, Columbia Falls.  The electricity-free community of Polebridge is mostly only the Polebridge Mercantile and the Northern Lights Saloon and Cafe.

We were way out in the middle of nowhere on a late Friday afternoon.  Cell service?  Forget it.  Hopes of another vehicle driving by?  Forget it.

Our choices were mostly:
  1. Walk almost seven miles to the North Fork Road where an occasional car would drive by,
  2. Spend the night and wait to be rescued (we still had a little food left),
  3. Be bear food.

Fortunately, I had turned around before shutting off the pickup.  The road was narrow at the dead end and I had to do a "Y" turn before finally getting turned around, something not possible with a dead pickup.

I didn't like our choices, and since the pickup was pointing downhill, I put the shifter into neutral and began to coast down the mountain. The pickup unfortunately is not a stick shift so I couldn't pop the clutch to start it.

I had the pickup's key turned on so the steering wheel would not lock.  No power steering or power brakes.  The narrow forest service road had a drop off on one side for a few miles.  It also had a few hairpin curves.  I had to use a lot of effort to safely steer and brake the pickup without losing momentum or going off the road.

After about three miles I reached the Hay Creek Road and turned on it.  It too mostly went downhill.

Often I had to ride the brakes to stop from going too fast as I could easily coast over 30 mph.  We had two instances where the road began to go uphill.  The first time I had plenty of momentum to get over the rise.  The second time was iffier.  We all held our breath that we would make it over the top.  I made plans to jump out and push while the pickup still rolled as once it stopped I wouldn't be able to push it uphill.  But we crested the hill at a little under 10 mph.

Once we came to the North Fork Road I pulled off to the side of the Hay Creek Road.  The North Fork Road was mostly level and I wouldn't get far with the momentum I had.  Certainly not the 30 plus miles back to the next town, Columbia Falls.

There are not many houses along the North Fork Road but there was one across the road.

No one home.

But as I walked back to the pickup a couple in an older Ford Bronco stopped.  No cell service here.  She got out and stayed with Joyce and Kendra while I rode with him to the pay phone in Polebridge.   Why didn't I ride with both of them?  There was no room in their backseat as it was filled with guns.  I didn't have change for the pay phone so she gave me $1.50 in quarters.

The pay phone at the "Merc" in Polebridge didn't work.  The woman behind the pastry counter let me use her phone.  Note: be sure to stop in at the Merc and have a roll or donut or other pastry as they are delicious!

I couldn't reach Wyatt so I called Kendra's daughter who said she would come and get us.

While we waited over an hour for Corrine to arrive, the home owner across the road came home.  He and I looked over my pickup some more but couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start.  He said there was no problem leaving my pickup overnight there as no one would touch it, and he would keep an eye on it for me.

To pass time Joyce, Kendra, and I played the "I went on a vacation and..." memory game.  Kendra won.

Finally Corrine arrived.  She had three young kids in the middle seats of her mini-van.  Joyce and I crawled in the back seats.  Two of the kids were boys aged 5 and 8.  They were typical boys and Joyce and I were 'entertained' by their wrestling and minor fighting to test who was stronger.  Typical boy behavior.

It was well past dark by the time we got to my house and Joyce's and Kendra's cars.   My pickup would wait until Saturday.

Wyatt must be away this weekend as he wasn't home Friday night or Saturday morning through noon.  I called Dan and he said he would go with me to my pickup and would tow it if necessary.   I had checked the pickup's owner's manual and found that, even though it was an automatic, it could be safely towed.  As a four wheel drive I could shift the transfer case to neutral to allow it to be towed without damaging the transmission.

*whew!*  Good, as having a tow truck come so far up the North Fork Road would be expensive.  I don't have Triple A.

Saturday afternoon after finishing up some fence work Dan drove over.

My vehicle still wouldn't start and again neither of us could figure out why.  So I connected the tow strap and we were off.

It took almost two hours to get my pickup home.  The North Fork Road is mostly gravel and and very washboard.  It began to rain and my windshield got muddy.  The wipers slowly worked but the washer did not.  Whenever a vehicle came up behind us I turned the flashers on.  Closer to Columbia Falls we had a long stretch before the vehicle behind us could pass.  The flashers were hard on the battery. It took a little while to regain power for my windshield wipers.  By the time we got through Columbia Falls the battery power was gone.  The wipers didn't work nor did the flashers.  Through the wet windshield I could still see Dan's pickup's taillights and some of the florescent yellow tow strap.

We mostly took back roads.  One time we had to stop for a herd of geese to slowly waddle across the road.

But we made it home safely.

My pickup may not run but it is reassuring to have it sit in my yard and not 50 miles away in the forest and mountains.

Never a dull moment.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Return home

Wen I got home from my Washington trip Daisy was very happy to see me.  She met me at the door and wanted attention.  I had to sit on the front step and pet her for 15 to 20 minutes before I could go inside the house and go to bed.  Daisy, having been inside the house over five days wanted to go outside, but wanted attention from me more.  Her meow was hoarse.  She must have been lonely when I was gone and was calling for me.  Poor kitty.

My first day home Daisy spent a little time on her outside patrols, but mainly hung around me going almost everywhere I went.

Her nose is still healing.  I can see the puncture marks so the injury was not from bumping her nose.  It must itch as it is healing as she moved her head once so I could lightly scratch her nose when I was scratching around her neck and face.

The cattle were also happy to see me.  Seeing me meant more apples.  I gave them several plastic bags full of apples and naturally they wanted more. It appears they all behaved when I was gone. And no reports of that little calf getting out in the neighbor's field.

I found a laundry basket of apples on my front step.  All day I asked people if they left the apples for my cattle.  Nope.  The next morning I talked with Dan and learned he left them.  He said when he dropped the apples off he gave the cattle some apples, and while he remembered me telling him the cattle loved apples, he was amazed at how much they liked the apples.  The herd came thundering over when he came to the fence with apples.  So many stuck their head through the fence to get more apples he was afraid the fence would break.  So he tossed the apples over the fence behind the cattle so they would stop crowding the fence.

Once I got my sleep it was this and that to get back into the groove of things.  By evening I finally began the tear down for a rebuild of the north side barn feeder.  That is when I took these sunset photos, and then the rising  full (blood) moon photo.