Ready for Winter and a string of bad luck

These past few months have been full of various trials with our vehicles. Our cars have reached that age in which we have to choose to repair them or sell them. It seems like nothing is going right, but despite all that has happened, I am grateful for my wife, son, our homestead, and the life we have.

May you find some time today to enjoy the people and home you are thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Snow Plow Madness Continues…

Plow blade madness... The plow blade sits their disconnected from its mounts mocking me like Scut Farkus. The metal post out of its mount pictured here was discovered to have a fracture through half the steel bar.

Plow blade madness… The plow blade sits there disconnected from its mounts, mocking me like Scut Farkus. The metal post out of its mount pictured here was discovered to have a fracture and was close to being sheared off.

If it isn’t the truck, it’s the plow. If it isn’t the plow, it’s the truck. For the first few weeks of January, the truck has been running great and pushing snow like a champ, that is, until this past holiday weekend. With the three day weekend, I worked at moving heavy, slushy snow from the easement. One night as I worked, the plow truck became stuck in the slush on my driveway while in 4 wheel drive and tire chains on all 4 tires. I dug myself out and continued ignoring the omen. Within less than five minutes of my new found liberty, the plow blade fell off its mounts and into the snow. Six hundred pounds, an eight pound sledge, two small pieces of 2×4 wood, 2 ball pin hammers, flash light, a wife with extreme patience behind the wheel and at the plow joystick, the use of leverage, and the my mad mumblings similar to Ralphy on the Christmas Story; I managed to reinstate the plow blade back on its mounts and back into business. But, not without my plow blade being forever named Scut Farkus.

Temporarily equals 15 minutes... I was hoping the 1000 lb clamp would hold long enough to at least finish the driveway. Nope, the problem was more serious than I thought.

Temporarily equals 15 minutes… I was hoping the 1000 lb clamp would hold long enough to at least finish the driveway. Nope, the problem was more serious than I thought.

The next day I began to plow gain and proceeded to make headway removing the slush that is impassible for our PT Cruiser and almost so for our 4 wheel drive Suburban. That is until; the plow blade fell off into the slushy snow again. Same grunting, spitting madness to lift and reset the plow onto its mounts; this time it only took forty-five minutes verses the two hours the night before. I miss interpreted the problem and bought a $15 clamp to temporarily fix the plow and get it into action again. Fifteen minutes of plowing, the blade fell off its mounts again. At this point the third time is the charm to make me realize something is seriously wrong with this thing. Turns out the solid inch metal rod that holds the blade in place on one side had broke inside its mount. Each time I mounted the broken piece, it was blocked by the other broken half hidden up inside the mount far enough to not notice. I tried to drive the broken piece out of the mount, but it was mistakenly welded into the casing.

At this point, I know that stubbornness can get me only so far and that is mounting the plow blade a fourth time. Thinking about lifting that 600 lb. blade again gave me the humility required to raise the white flag and surrender. At this point, my extra day off was spent calling for a welder and planning to have the truck worked on by someone who has the ability to make this snow plow like new again.

Today, I am hunting for replacement parts for the welding shop. Now as I evaluate my snow plow truck, I am reconsidering the word investment and replacing it with the word nightmare. I am still at this time ahead of the economic curve if I had bought a newer plow truck by the time everything is fixed, but the headaches and back aches. My wife and I also had to acquiesce to hike the easement each morning for a week to leave the property for school and work. Our son has been a trooper about it and sees the adventure while I see the humor of trudging with computer bag in hand, dressed in rain gear over my work clothes just in case I have to crawl under the car to install the chains again. Our Suburban is now our shuttle service to the PT Cruiser as our driveway/easement requires the lift and 4 wheel drive to traverse the deep ruts made from the slushy snow.

When all else fails... Make a snowman.

When all else fails… Make a snowman. As a family there are times when no more work can be done, so we play and have some extra fun.

When it comes to nature, she makes a mockery of us all who want to live sustainably with her. Modern conveniences become not so convenient. Tools rust, wear, break, and need constant maintenance and replacing. The reason I name this blog living a sustainable dream was twofold. It was the satisfaction of living more sustainable and surviving in harmony with nature, but it was also the realization that to be totally sustainable in our world is as elusive as a dream. That doesn’t mean that I will stop trying; it just means I will have a few setbacks once in a while chasing our sustainable dream.

Merry “White” Christmas and a Happy New Year

Engine sputtering. Truck rattling. Snow falling... It's time to get the job done.

Engine sputtering. Truck rattling. Snow falling… It’s time to get the job done.

After the Thanksgiving  Holiday, my wife and I were beginning to look at the muddy ground and wondered if purchasing a snow plow truck was a wise decision.  It wasn’t until December 19th that I began to realize the extent that I would use our snow plow.  By the twenty-first, I was plowing the driveway, easement, and lower portion of our road at least once each day until Christmas Eve. It was a beautiful white Christmas.  The snow weighed down the bows of each tree, like a Currier and Ives Christmas card.  The full moon on Christmas lit the forest in a white reflective light so bright I thought the solar panels may wake from their sleep mode, sadly they didn’t.

DSCN5094

The beautiful finish… The view of the end of our quarter of a mile easement and driveway. Before the plow truck, I used to walk behind my 28″ Craftsman Snow Blower.

Even though the days were filled with snow plowing, we also took the time to enjoy sledding the hill on the freshly plowed road, had a few snow ball fights, and warmed up in the house to the warm flame of the wood cook stove while having Apple Cider, Tom and Jerry’s with coffee, and watching the Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Listening to the sweet sounds of Christmas... Our iPod is connected to a single battery operated speaker that is portable throughout the home and even the radioless plow truck.

Listening to the sweet sounds of Christmas… Our iPod is connected to a single battery operated speaker that is portable throughout the home and even the radio-less plow truck.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we Skyped our parents and families.  We also went to the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at our church. During our in between moments, we took some  time and  enjoyed the Christmas music from the iPod on a new Vivitar battery powered speaker system we purchased from Staples.

On Christmas Day, we invited our neighbors over for homemade split pea soup, bread, salad, and some fellowship.  Our neighbors proceeded to tell us they  were without power for several hours earlier, being off grid this was news to us.  Also, a special thanks to our neighbor for teaching me how to even operate my snow plow truck.  It takes quite a bit  ingenuity and forethought than just pushing snow into a pile, and my neighbor provided a few lessons to get me started.

This New Year’s Eve morning we pull-started a stubborn generator to life  for the last charge of the year 2015.  The generator had to be coaxed with starting fluid sprayed directly into the carburetor.  It was 17 degrees Fahrenheit outside and a slow start for any motor.  The generator has been used a dozen times this year, the most it has ever been needed since the installation of the solar panels.  I would credit the extra usage to  several factors.  First, our small business, Pauper’s Candle Company has received many orders for the Holidays and many candles had to be made. Second, our well pump is fully automated and is turned on by a float switch.  I no longer have to open the cistern and look directly in to see how much water is available and when it needs to be filled.  The cistern is filled when the float switch drops to a certain level in the cistern; this means the well pump turns on more often than desired during a solar shortage. Lastly, we are now a family of three.  More demands are made upon the electrical system to accommodate us all.  When reviewing the increase use of the generator; it is not very sustainable.  However, all the reasons for an increase in power usage this year brings joy to my heart, so a few extra gallons of gas were used this year. Next year, we may have to invest in a few more panels or wind turbine to off set the increase usage, or purchase a more efficient generator, but until then, it is a happy new year.

Preparing for winter in July & August?

Just the icing on the truck... Snow blowing a quarter of a mile is something I don't want to do again unless it is required.

Just the icing on the truck… Snow blowing a quarter of a mile driveway is something I don’t want to do again, unless it is required.

One thing for certain is it is better to be prepared than to be caught unprepared.  On trips I am known to pack basic tools and car repair manuals with me in case of a breakdown.  I have replaced fuel pumps, alternators, fan belts, flat tires, power steering lines, radiator hoses, and headlights, on the side of the highway or freeway without needing a tow, just a hitch to the nearest supply store and back or I might use some spare parts I packed with me, just in case.  Most of the time, I do not have break downs, but the one in a 1,000 chance I am prepared.  Perhaps this is foolishness or too much zeal, but it has got me out of few jams with relative ease.

This mindset of being prepared has been a necessity on a homestead; especially, with the rumor on the wind that North Idaho may be due for a big snowfall this winter.  This past year we did not have much, and it has steadily decreased since we moved onto the property.  A big snow year could be a pack of 6 feet around the house that stays until spring thaw.  Two years ago, I invested in a snow blower to remove snow from the drive way and pertinent paths around our home.  It works great and continues to do so, but our easement/driveway is a quarter of a mile long and requires a minimum of 5 passes by the snow blower to clear it.  That is over one mile of snow blowing during the winter storms that can drop a foot of snow one day and two days later drop another foot. A four to six hour snow removal each time is brutal, which was before our generous neighbor bought a snow plow truck.

Getting through with a few scrapes... This plow truck should assist in scraping the snow out of the way this winter season with its Meyer's 7' snow plow.

Getting through with a few scrapes… This plow truck should assist in scraping the snow out of the way this winter season with its Meyer’s 7′ snow plow.

The first winter we moved here. I have been hoping to buy a snow plow truck.  This year my generous neighbor found a plow truck for the right price ,and I purchased it.  The truck needs some transmission work, but if it can’t be fixed for a reasonable price, I will most likely install the snow plow onto our other truck, Brother Red.  I am hoping that with this acquisition, I will be able to help out the neighbor who has helped me out the past few years.  I should be able to ease the work load of his volunteer service to the neighborhood with both our plow trucks on the road.

Already it is the end of July, and we are preparing for winter.  Currently, I have been working hard to cut, split, and stack 8 cords of wood for the winter season. As of writing this entry, I have successfully cut, split, and stacked 6 cords of wood for the winter and hope to reach my goal before the 1st of August. Update…As of last night, August 7, I have 8 cords stacked, but I still have 3 trees down that we will cut split and stack before the end of next week.

I have also prepared the generator and snow blower for the winter season.  They have had their oil checked, fuel stabilizer added to their full gas tanks  with non-ethanol gas.  I ran each motor for 5+ minutes to get the stabilized fuel through the carburetors and intake manifolds.  Both motors started right up and are prepared to be called upon this winter.  This winter; we will be warmed by a nice fire in the wood cook stove as we plan for next summer’s preparations for winter.