Friday, July 24, 2015

On the road again

We’re back on the road – we’ve been away from Buchanan for just over a week now.  We started off with my Class of ‘79 reunion weekend in Saskatoon.  There’s a small group of us who have been getting together the weekend of the 3rd Saturday in July for a very long time now.  It was a smallish group this year but we had just as good a time as we always do.

We stuck around in Saskatoon until Wednesday morning so that I could attend the 1st ever Ag in Motion outdoor farm show.  I’m glad I went but I don’t know that I’d bother going again unless it gets a lot better.  I was surprised by the number of seed companies there that I had never heard of.  They had put a lot of work into their booths with most of them having seeded extensive plots of new varieties and – apparently – hauled water to them to keep them going through this summer’s drought.

The big disappointment to me at Ag in Motion was a combination of who WASN’T there as well as who WAS there.  Who WASN’T there was the bulk of the prairie equipment manufacturers including such notables as Bourgault, Morris and Seed Hawk.  Who WAS there was a plethora of tillage companies.  Tillage manufacturers ferchrisakes!! In a year where we flat out wouldn’t have a bloody crop if it wasn’t for the fact that we have largely given up on tillage for the past 10 years, the big new equipment event at the first ever outdoor show is effing bloody tandem disks.  I couldn’t believe it.  There I was waiting to see the latest seeding technology in action and instead what I got was a great bloody lineup of big 4WD tractors hooked to shiny new tandem disks.  WTF??  Mind you, the politically correct term now appears to be “vertical tillage”.  “Tandem disk and harrowing the crap out of land until its black and ready to blow away” sounds so yesterday after all.  If we have as little rain in the next 12 months as we have had in the last 12 I predict that none of those high tillage machines will be back for a third year, assuming the show itself survives that long.

From Saskatoon we moved down to Lucky Lake where they have a delightful little campground tucked in on the north side of town.  We’ve had the place completely to ourselves until tonight when a few other trailers have started to show up for a big wedding this weekend.  I bundled up the cutoffs from the garage project and brought them along so that SWMBO could have a bonfire and so far she’s had one each night we’ve been here.


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Of cats and trees and garages


That’s “Tweak” the cat who has been on our news ad nauseum today.  You know its a slow news day when a cat in a tree leads the news all day.  Tweak’s big accomplishment was spending 4 days in a tree.  I have some experience with cats in trees so pay attention to what I am about to say.  Cats dying of starvation from spending time in trees is not a huge issue in North America.  I’m not qualified to speak of other parts of the world but I suspect the principle may apply.  I point to the marked lack of cat skeletons in trees as evidence of the truth of my statement. 


That’s the only picture I was able to locate on short notice of George I.  Its not immediately obvious that there is a cat in that photo but look closely – he’s definitely there.  Its also appropriate that I should include a picture of my first garage build.  It was a pretty significant structure as well and it is still standing.  You may also note my previous use of raised chord trusses although at the time I didn’t know what they were called – they were just what I ended up building.  But I digress – today’s subject is cats in trees.

George I spent most of his life freely roaming outdoors including the time we lived in Saskatoon.  Nobody thought anything of it at the time – that’s just what cats did.  When we moved to Nipawin he discovered tall trees – jack pines to be precise.  If you know jack pines you’ll know that they typically don’t have many branches for the first 30 or 40 feet.  Occasionally we would notice that we hadn’t seen George for a few days.  Unfailingly this would happen after an extremely windy period.  For some reason when it was windy he would go up a tree and then forget how to get back down.  I’d go out in the forest in the evening when it was quiet and call him – he’d answer with his plaintive “I’m up a tree” yowl.

Unlike Tweak in the hyperlinked story above, I didn’t call the fire department or any professional tree climbers.  And I didn’t stuff him into any bag to get him out of the tree although I would pay good money to watch anyone stuff any cat into a bag high up in a tree. 

If I could find a long enough stick (think dead tree) I’d use that to poke George from the ground but usually I had to drag a ladder out to the bush and climb closer to him before starting to poke him.  He didn’t like being poked – surprise, surprise – but eventually he would lose his balance, fall a few feet and then remember how to climb down.  Usually he’d kind of fall and recover a few times until he got close enough to fall on my shoulders and then he’d ride down with me.  A fire hose would probably have worked better than a poking stick but I didn’t have one of them available.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Western Canada is burning up


We’ve been travelling back and forth through BC for a lot of years now.  Its probably 15 years since the mountain pine beetle first started devastating vast swaths of forest.  As we drove past thousands of acres of dead pine trees we always commented on how at some point those trees would have to go up in flames.  There were several mill fires when they cut that standing dead timber and then attempted to saw it.  The dead timber gave off a drier sawdust which, not surprisingly, was explosive and I think there were three mills lost to dust explosions over the last 4 or 5 years.  This summer may very well be the one we’ve been expecting when the whole forest goes up in flames from BC to Manitoba.

BC isn’t in as bad shape as Saskatchewan but its early going.  We’ve got at least 6 weeks of normally dry weather before we can expect general rains in western Canada. 

The dry weather is a blessing for my garage construction project but its balanced by the extreme heat which seriously cuts into the time I can tolerate.  My mid-afternoon productivity goes down dramatically in the heat.  Progress this week consisted of building 7 trusses, getting them placed and sheeted.  I’ll put my trusses up against any store bought ones.  In fact, mine are considerably better.  The store bought ones are fine as long as you keep them standing up but they literally fall apart if you stress them on their side.  I didn’t deliberately handle mine flat but if they happened to get sideways on me I didn’t worry about it either.


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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Movin’ on down the road

Mike and Diane hooked up yesterday morning, capping a busy week of building, visiting and sight seeing.  We took them to Yorkton on Friday to see the musical ride.  We had intended to stay to watch the pony chuckwagons but a couple of things interfered with that plan.  First off the Yorkton Ex grandstand seats were so bloody uncomfortable that I doubt we could have survived any more time in them.  More importantly though our three boys (and one almost daughter in law) showed up for a visit and to pick up the Malibu.


We’ve got a ton of happy memories of our Malibu Response (ski boat) and I think the boys share those memories.  But the boat has been sitting for four years now and it was time for us to move on.  Its damned expensive to own and operate any boat so I wasn’t sure whether I was blessing or cursing Michael when I phoned him to tell him we planned to give the Malibu to him.  He’s at least pretending its a pleasant gift but I’m sure he will quickly learn that a boat is just a hole in the water that you throw money into.  Regardless of what that future may look like, the three boys showed up to pick up the boat and Jenna came along to supervise.   We managed to get the boat loaded onto Michael’s trailer with a minimum of peril and drama although there were a couple of moments when it got exciting. 



Whenever the Malibu finally hits the water again it won’t be the first time Michael has been at the helm so I know its in good hands.  We elected not to try to put it in the water this weekend because it likely needs some shop time before it gets wet.  Its sad to see it go but it feels good to know its going to be used again.


Michael and RJ had a load on the trailer when they arrived.  They brought my new car hoist which turned out to be quite a bit more impressive than I had expected.  It was right at the limit of what my little Scat wanted to handle just lifting the individual posts.  I’ve now got a very heavy jig saw puzzle stored in the little barn at the back of 210.  It will likely be fall before I have the garage ready to receive the jig saw and I expect assembling it will be an adventure. 


Car lift 1

That’s my new hoist assembled in it’s former location, the Medicine Hat High shop.  The three major components (2 posts and a crossmember) are currently stuffed into our little barn.  Both posts are heavy but the one on the left is surprisingly so.

Friday, July 3, 2015

More garage pix

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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Too busy to post

I have literally been too busy to write.  Even now – at 5:30 in the AM – I feel like I shouldn’t be wasting time on the computer because there’s too many things waiting in the yard.




Marilyn has been the official project photographer and she still has most of the pictures on her camera.  Not surprisingly she is not out of bed yet so I can’t get any more pictures.  I was too busy during the pours to take pictures.  We split the concrete into two pours – actually three with one yet to do.  We poured the slab over the old garage floor first and then poured a pad at each end 2 days later.  That was finished and the forms stripped by the weekend.

Years ago Roy Quinney poured the best concrete I have ever seen for our satellite at Ridgedale.  He put so much hardener in that slab that you could whack it with a sledge hammer and it would ring like a bell.  We don’t have that much hardener in our slab but its pretty good nonetheless.  Steve’s concrete finisher needed constant supervision but with me hovering over him I think he did a decent job in spite of himself.  I was a little annoyed with Steve’s lack of attention to detail on the first pour but I got right in their faces on the 2nd pour and I’m very happy with both those slabs.  As I told Steve when I hired him, I wasn’t hiring him because I didn’t know what I needed to do, I was hiring him because I didn’t want to do it myself. 



Mike and Diane showed up Sunday afternoon and we got them set up at the little house where the Frenchy-bus used to park.  Then I promptly put Mike to work building walls.  We’ve made significant progress in that regard but I don’t have any pictures to prove it.

We’ve also taken a few breaks to visit with Mike and Diane.  Yesterday we were helping to serve Canada Day pancakes at the village community centre.  Last night we went down to Goodspirit Lake in a fruitless search for fireworks and tomorrow we are going to Yorkton to watch the musical ride.  Other than those excursions though we’ve been pretty focussed on building garage.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Going up

I didn’t start cutting the studs on the garage until I saw the whites of the movers’ eyes but they finally showed up around 8:30 yesterday.  Then we settled into about a half hour of “negotiations”.  It didn’t seem to matter that I have spent close to 2 years thinking about the best way to do this in order to maintain as much structural integrity as possible in the old structure.  Two minutes after arriving on-site the mover had a better idea. 

I was patient.  Very patient.  But I didn’t stop discussing the matter and eventually he came around to – grudgingly – saying that probably my idea was equivalent to what he wanted to do.  So we did it my way.  To his credit at the end of the day he came up to me and said “Its a really good thing we did this your way because my way simply wouldn’t have worked.”  I resisted the urge to respond “I know”. 


Waiting for the movers


Putting in the cross beams.  At this point it was still a big mystery to me how this was going to proceed.


Sliding the main beams in.  The process becomes clearer to me.


Getting closer to the final height.


Final height with the first row of sheeting in place.  Now waiting for the movers to return and remove their beams and blocking.

The big debate was about what portion of the garage we would actually lift.  If you look close at the 2nd photo above you’ll see that I cut roughly 1 foot above the bottom plate.  That left stubs of the studs attached to the plate.  Once we got to height we levelled the building and then put cripple studs in alongside each existing stud.  Its not quite that simple because we couldn’t put studs where the beams stick through the building. And they had some wildass idea about starting with one end low and and slowly lowering the building from the other end.  Fortunately we ran out of day before they could entirely implement that nonsense.  As near as I could tell the only thing that accomplished was to make it nigh on impossible to figure out where to attach the cripple studs.  Once we got the building levelled at the right height it was dead simple to stand 12 foot 2x4s up alongside the existing studs and stick them together with the air framing nailer. 

There’s not much left of the old bottom plate.  Too many years sitting on damp concrete means that the nails or bolts or whatever originally held it to the concrete are, for the most part anyway, no longer with us.  My new highest priority is to get some concrete poured inside the existing building and out into the expansion areas.  That will help to anchor the old plate and the base of the studs.  I think I’ll figure out something to tie down the studs a little better at the same time.  I’m not sure exactly what that will be but something to tie them into the new concrete. 

I’ve settled on adding 12 feet onto the east side and an 8 foot lean-to on the west side.  Despite the fact that every garage save one on our lane is a full 20 feet or more east of the garage, I think the property line is actually about 14 or 16 feet east of the garage.  The fact that everyone else feels comfortable building on the lane easement doesn’t give me any confidence that we should do the same.  Even though I can’t do the 16 foot addition we’ll end up with a main building 38 x 22 and an 8 x 22 lean-to which will be a hell of a lot better than what we have now.  I had several looky-lous yesterday who asked me why we were making it so big.  Leaving aside the fact that I don’t consider that particularly large, my answer was the same to all of them.  “I’ve built a few shops and talked to lots of guys who have built shops but I have yet to meet one person who says ‘Damn it I wish I’d made mine smaller!’”

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