Saturday, October 30, 2010

Buying boat stuff

We don’t have a boat yet but we’re starting to accumulate stuff for it.  When we unpacked the cube van Marilyn sorted out a set of Silver Birch dishes for eventual use on the boat and we also set aside whatever other kitchen wares we came across that seemed like they might be useful.  We’ve been watching ebay for silverware but so far haven’t pulled the trigger on a set.  The set we use now came from Quartzsite so maybe we’ll find another set there this year.

For some time now I’ve been looking for a set of radio headsets.  I wish we had bought them years ago because they would have made backing into tight spots a lot easier over the years.  At some point we’re going to have to communicate while docking and headsets sound like the class way to go.  The alternative seems to be a lot of yelling and waving of arms which doesn’t look good at the best of times and is particularly declassé onboard a fancy boat.  But most headset systems are bloody expensive and some of them are right out of this world expensive.  Then I stumbled onto a cruisers’ forum and got a whole bunch of good information off it, including a link to Cruising Solutions which is where I found the headsets.  We had to wait until we could get our mail forwarded and then we had to wait some more until we remembered to buy some 9 volt batteries but Marilyn came home with a pair of them today.  And they work pretty damn good.  They’re not perfect but they were only 70 bucks after all.  And no radio solution is going to be perfectly clear.  The inverter on the frenchy-bus throws a lot of static so the bus isn’t the best test but even on the bus they are more than useable. 

The cruisers’ forum also pointed me to something called OpenCPN which is an open source chart plotter. 

I’m more than a little skeptical about open source software.  I got talked into using the open source alternative to Microsloth Office a few years ago and it caused me no end of grief.  In fairness to that suite, if anyone else is inclined to use it, you could likely do reasonably well with it as long as you never had to collaborate with anybody using Microsoft Office.  As it was, going back and forth from Open Office to Microsoft Office, eventually my spreadsheet files got to the point where they were unusable in either software. 

OpenCPN appears to be a lot better software.  Of course my knowledge of chart plotter software is pretty limited so maybe its pure crap and I just don’t know it.  But in the meanwhile I’m having a lot of fun playing with it.  The US government supplies excellent charts for their entire coastline free of charge.  That is not the case in Canada.  In fact the charts are so expensive from the gummit of Canada that it may actually be cheaper to buy chart plotter software in order to get the charts.  Some of the US charts overlap Canada so for the time being I’m making do with them.  Since we don’t have a boat there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of urgency on acquiring a complete set of charts.

Pumping poop

Today I got our poop pump hooked up and pumped us out.  We had been draining our gray water out on the back lawn but of course when it got cold that stopped working.  And we’d been holding our black water for a really long time – ever since 16 West I guess.  We never actually backed the gray water up into the shower stall but we had to be getting close.  The black tank usually starts burping when it gets close and it hadn’t started that but it too had to be getting close.

I’m not sure what the code is for incoming poop lines on houses.  My guess is that the local bylaws never really anticipated that eventuality.  I decided poop on the bottom and water on the top was the safest way to avoid accidental contamination.  There was a convenient sweep Y into the main stack below the sink so I plumbed directly into that and it seemed to work well today.  There’s no trap in that line which may be outside code but the pipe terminates outside the hose and I have a plug in it so I think it’s safe enough.  I’ve got some nybraid hose that we have used for gray water drainage in the past but it is overkill for this job.  I’ll have to find some layflat discharge hose to carry with us because the nybraid is just too much of a pain to handle. 

It has been steadily warming up but it needs to.  Over here in the Ukrainian portion of Saskatchewan it looks like bloody winter.  The streets were just starting to clear yesterday and then we got another inch or so which turned them white again.  Today they more or less got back to where they were yesterday morning but it looks like the temperatures are heading in the right direction in the short term anyway.

We cleaned things up a bit around the yard today.  Marilyn got some raspberry plants when she was in Saskatoon.  They are in the ground now waiting for spring.  That’s about the only gardening I intend to do here.  We got the cube van running (with great difficulty) and I moved it up close to the garage for the winter.  I’ve got the battery charger on it now and tomorrow I’ll disconnect the batteries.  We’re pretty well ready to leave here whenever Gerry gets his shipping done.  I’d rather not travel when the highways are slushy because everything gets in such a mess so an extra day or two here won’t be all bad.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

My former premier

…. was on the news today proclaiming some new BC initiative designed mainly to bolster his failing ratings.  In the course of the news conference he committed to having all Grade 4 students actually meet the requirements for Grade 4 before they advance to Grade 5.  Presumably this will happen sometime in the future – I didn’t pay that close attention to know when this miraculous transformation is supposed to occur.

Last ditch effort to rebuild the polling numbers.

I can remember Grade 4.  I took it from Mrs. Lowell Simpson in the NW corner of the elementary school on main street in Shellbrook, several years ago now.  In Grade 4 there were just 2 classrooms.  By Grade 8 I remember that there were three classrooms and one of those was clearly labeled as 8C.  The “C” stood for more than just the fact that they were the 3rd group.  They were clearly the scholastic underachievers and everybody knew that.  But in Grade 4 there were only 2 rooms and we all knew that some of our companions weren’t going to advance to Grade 5.

That’s the problem today.  Nobody wants to admit that there are stupid people in our midst.  Everybody has to be accepted, regardless of how foolish, stupid or dangerous their views may be to the rest of us.  When a premier of a province thinks its newsworthy to aspire to having Grade 4 students meet Grade 4 standards then there is truly no hope for the rest of us.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Oh dear. What a difference a day makes.

The pictures pretty well sum it up. 

We’ve made an error in navigation again.  Clearly we should be somewhere else.  On the positive side it’s not really very cold.  “Cold” is of course relative and I would prefer it was more not cold than it is but our water line is lying on the ground and it hasn’t frozen.  Yet.

We’re still waiting on some freight that needs to get to southwestern Wyoming before we do.  It appears that the freight may get picked up today or tomorrow at the latest so our departure is imminent.  Our current plan is to wait this cold snap out until Monday when it is supposed to have warmed up again.  I doubt that Wyoming will be whole lot warmer but it shouldn’t be any worse.  We’re still not sure whether we are going to Edmonton after Wyoming.  For sure that won’t be any warmer and at the rate we’re going it will be a month later by the time we get there, if we get there.  After that – Arizona at a minimum and likely Mexico.  Anywhere south of the California border has to be better than this crap.

It is great to be back connected with my West System supplies.  I should have taken a before picture of that door but I didn’t.  It’s pretty easy to see where I filled a large rotten area with a paste made of West epoxy and wood flour.  I just built up all the rotten and damaged areas until they were well outside the door dimensions and then planed the whole mess down to match the door once the epoxy had set up.  I don’t have a proper mixing station with pumps yet but it’s really good to be able to use the system again.  Anybody who fancies themselves a wood butcher needs to get acquainted with West System epoxy.  The same resin can be mixed as a coating, glue or filler, depending on the hardener you choose.   By varying the fillers that you use you can vary the characteristics and quality of the filler or adhesive that you generate.  The door in the picture had a latch that didn’t work because the hole for the striker was so rotten that the striker couldn’t stay in place.  The door was being held shut by a hasp and padlock which in my books is pretty much the same as putting a sign on the house that says “C’mon in …. nobody is home right now!!”

Marilyn got home just ahead of the storm.  It sounds like the weekend was a success.  She claims that they didn’t drink much alcohol or consume any illicit substance but she also wants to go to some wonderful restaurant that they ate at.  One big problem – she hasn’t a clue what it was called or where is was located.  Doesn’t sound like a sober weekend to me.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Screw me once, shame on you ………..

………….. screw me twice, shame on me.

Marilyn left for Saskatoon this morning.  She and three of her high school girlfriends periodically get together for a drunken weekend in the city.  The last time they did this they went to Edmonton to see some singer whose name I don’t remember.  So its just me and George until Monday night.

Yesterday Marilyn and I went to Regina to pick up our mail and visit father.  We had a lot of mail, including a collection of things that I have bought off ebay over the last few weeks.  I’ve got a couple of upgrade projects planned for the bus and most of the necessary components were sitting at UPS in Regina.  Today I went to Yorkton to pick up the miscellaneous parts I need to install the stuff we picked up yesterday. 

The two major projects are to get a sewer macerator set up so we can pump our sewer into the drain in the house and to hook up a flat plate heat exchanger so we can heat our hot water off the engine coolant when we are travelling.  I’ve got some other minor projects to do in conjunction but those are the two major ones.  Today I mainly needed an assortment of plumbing fittings to hook up the sewer and water connections.

sb_push_fit_group Since buying the Buchanan house I have discovered “Sharkbite” PEX fittings.  And I love them.  I had used PEX occasionally in the past but the crimp fittings are kind of a pain and they are irreversible.  If you make a mistake there’s nothing to be done short of cutting them out and starting over.  The Sharkbites are expensive but they are a cut above any of the other reusable fittings that I have tried.  You need to buy the little tool to release them but once you have that its a pretty simple way to put water lines together and if you make a mistake or change your mind its a simple matter to change the plumbing too.  There’s some other reusable PEX systems but their fittings are huge clumsy cludges compared to the Sharkbite fittings.

I left money at Canadian Tire, NAPA, Peavy Mart, Home Hardware and some privately owned plumbing shop in Yorkton.  I won’t ever be going back to the plumbing shop.  The Sharkbite elbows that I bought at Home Hardware were 7 bux but the plumbing shop thought they were worth $12.  I wouldn’t have bought them but I needed them and Home Hardware didn’t have enough.  But I won’t be back.  NAPA thought their heater hose was worth $5.70 per foot but I decided I had been done once today and I wasn’t really interested in repeating the experience.

And I walked away from the Canadian Tire parts counter in disgust.  The idiot there couldn’t figure out which brake shoes would fit the cube van despite the fact that she had big ones and little ones and we had already established that our van is the heavier of two GVWs produced for that model.  When I told her it would be the bigger ones and she told me that wasn’t necessarily true I realized that I was dealing with a complete idiot and simply walked away.

Friday, October 15, 2010

One hell of a mess

We’re back in Buchanan.  During the day we can hear the sound of a very large jackhammer woodpeckering away at the old concrete

IMG_3711 where the elevator used to be.  The summer after 1st year university I worked on the crew that built the Cargill elevator at Langbank.  I can’t really remember how big the one here was but I don’t think it was as big as the one we built.  We poured 275 yards of concrete in one continuous pour for the one at Langbank so even if this one was smaller there still is a lot of concrete to bust up in order to clean up the site.

The piles of grain appear to be mostly canola with some wheat mixed in.  That wouldn’t be hard to separate in a cleaning plant but I’m not sure what you’d do with the grain even if it was cleaned.  It certainly wouldn’t be saleable into the food chain.  The wheat might go to a hog barn I suppose or maybe into an ethanol plant.  I have no idea what you’d do with burnt canola – biodiesel maybe.

There’s some new rail lying in the weeds by the siding so CN must plan to replace the twisted rail.  There’s some kind of a plant further up the siding that I suppose is cut off from the rail right now.  It would get pretty exciting if a train went through there tonight.

It’s really amazing how much stuff we had in that little van.  The more so when we remember how much crap we got rid of before loading the van.  Now that the van is pretty well empty the next

IMG_3709step is to load up all the crap that the previous owners dumped on us when they moved out and make a trip to the dump.  Yesterday I got the water inlet winterized.  At least I hope I did.  We won’t really know until next spring when we come home to either a flooded or a no-problem house.  Our new shingles look really good and even better because we didn’t have to put them on the roof.  I’d still like to get a coat of paint on the place this fall but I seriously doubt that will happen.

Yesterday our neighbour came over with his tractor and worked up the weed patch that the previous owners called a garden.  I had dealt with it with Roundup and we had asked the town to mow it but evidently the message never got to Clarence (the mower guy).  It was a hell of a mess but now it is kind of blackened.  Maybe we’ll even get some raspberry canes stuck in there before freeze-up.

One of the first things I did when we started unpacking was to refresh my library.  I’ve now got a pile of boating books to work my way through and I still need to replenish my supply of novels. 

Our next destination is on the west side of Wyoming but your guess is as good as mine as to when we will head for that job. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rough roads ahead


As you enter Saskatchewan on 51 highway west of Kerrobert you go by the backside of one of those “Welcome to Alberta” billboards.  The only reason I noticed this one today is because some wag has scrawled “rough roads ahead” on the back of it so that you see the message as you enter Saskatchewan.

I should be offended by the stupid act of vandalism but today I wasn’t.  Partly because it’s the Alberta taxpayers who will ultimately have to pay to have the graffiti cleaned up but mostly because the message is unfortunately and uncomfortably true.  For too many years successive Saskatchewan (socialist) governments have ignored the province’s infrastructure in order to spend money on feel-good social programs.  Now the chickens are coming home to roost. 

The Wall government has been pouring money back into the highway system but it takes a long time to turn that boat around.  Nobody likes to run into construction delays when they travel and for years in Saskatchewan you never did.  Fortunately it’s now much more common to be stopped for construction and in the long run that’s a good thing.

Today we left Lacombe sometime after noon and headed east.  The nitwit at the Petrocan in Lacombe was all alone so he couldn’t pump any propane for us but I found a station in Consort that had more than one employee on duty so we were able to get filled up with Alberta diesel fuel and propane.  Tonight we’re on the street in Kerrobert and tomorrow night we’ll likely be back in Buchanan.

There’s still a surprising amount of crop out, more so on the Alberta side of the border but even here there’s still the occasional field standing.  There were a lot of combines going today and you could see freshly harvested fields in every direction. 

As we were breaking camp in Lacombe I was thinking about how many Thanksgiving weekends I have spent keeping a skeleton crew going so that most of my staff could have the weekend off.  By this time of year we weren’t usually very busy but even in a year where the good guys were all cleaned up there would always be some fool who had to be last and had to go all Thanksgiving weekend.   There are some aspects of the business that I occasionally miss but being a slave to somebody else’s schedule isn’t one of them.  Particularly I don’t miss serving people who couldn’t get their work done on time and then tried to make their crisis my emergency.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Occasionally we stay in a real dump

………. but not very often and certainly not this week.  We started the week in Lethbridge at one of our Holiday Trails member parks and then moved mid-week to Lacombe.  As near as I can tell we’re in the town park.  Its called Roland Michener park and it includes a ball diamond, skate park and some Rotary park that I haven’t driven through yet.  This morning Marilyn walked over to the last farmers’ market of the season and came home with an armload of fresh vegetables and fruit.

So Lethbridge and Lacombe have been pretty pleasant.  Havre on the other hand was an out and out dump.  I enjoyed the guys at the North Ag Research Centre (NARC) and the NARC facility is a historic gem but the Havre campground was worse than forgettable.  North of the border the Lethbridge research station was everything that Havre campground was.  I don’t think its any accident that Lacombe is one of the shining lights in Ag Canada’s list of research stations and Lethbridge is a forgettable footnote.  I won’t say any more other than that I’m really enjoying the time I’m spending at Lacombe this week.

It looks like we’ll spend a couple more days here and then head east for Buchanan.  I’m waiting on parts right now but there’s a strong chance they will arrive tomorrow.  We’ve got a bit of a breather now before we go to Wyoming and then over to the left coast so we’ll use that time to get the house winterized.  We got new shingles on the south side of it last week so we should probably go home and inspect the work too.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sitting in the right hand seat

The wind finally let up and I got the equipment working at the Research Station so I’ve had a pretty mellow last few days.  I even managed to take an office day on Thursday to catch up on long overdue paperwork.  I didn’t realize how long overdue some of it was until I started balancing bank accounts from May. 

I’ve been trying to connet with the twins since July.  We were in Montana while they were still combining down there but it never worked out to get together.  Yesterday Marlan and I coordinated our schedules on BB messenger and we finally connected out in the middle of some irrigation pivots in southern Alberta. 

I knew I was in the right place when I arrived because there were four monstrous red combines rapidly chewing up the remains of a durum circle.  The cart was just taking a last dump as I arrived but there wasn’t a truck in sight.  It turned out that both of the twins were in the yard and the reason they were late was because they had to switch bins.  By the time Marlan showed up two of the combines had stopped and one was on it’s way to the edge of the field so it didn’t take long to fill Marlan’s trailer.

I made a trip to the yard with Marlan where we found Michael just finishing up.  By the time Marlan and I got back to the field he had orders to take over one of the combines so I climbed in with Michael for a visit on the way back to the yard. 

When the two of us got back to the field one of the combines was plugged.  I’ve seen lots of plugged combines over the years but never one this big.  The kind of combines I remember unplugging you opened up the front of the cylinder, stuck a crowbar between the rub bars and started hauling on the bar.  Then you stuck your arms in up to the elbows and pulled straw out of the cylinder until eventually you could turn it freely with the bar.  That process really hasn’t changed a whole lot.  The big difference with the newer ones is that they have enough power to break something expensive when you try to unplug them with power.  They only let the smoke out of the drive belt once yesterday and it didn’t fly apart so I guess they won that one, this time anyway.  I think it was New Holland used to have a program where they supplied separator drive belts at no charge.  We had customers who referred to their plugs by how many belts it took to clear one as in “that was a bad one – took 3 belts to clear it”.

While I was off visiting the twins Marilyn was reuniting with a woman she hadn’t seen since college.  Today we’re enjoying a quiet Sunday.  We’ll probably go out for lunch after we get done playing chase the mouse with the idiot cat.