Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in pictures

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Heading north

(Monday) Tonight we’re in one of our regular campgrounds, Wallymart in Hillsboro, Texas.  We had planned to get on the road tomorrow morning but decided that we could save one night’s rent and get an earlier start on the day tomorrow if we got hooked up today.  I’d have kept going a little farther north but the post-Christmas traffic kept getting worse the closer we got to Dallas-Fort Worth so Hillsboro seemed like far enough. 

We’re all stocked up with Cherry Coke now.  Not that anyone in this household drinks the crap.  I can’t imagine what it might taste like and I’m damn sure not going to find out.  However a friend in Regina appears to live on the stuff and his stock is running low.  So tonight I bought all that the Hillsboro Walmart had which was three cases.  I expect their computer will lock up tonight trying to figure out how any single fool could buy three cases of the crap.

(Wednesday)  Dunno what happened to Tuesday.  We just mainly drove until we got to Lamar, Colorado.  By then it was damn cold out and there was way too much snow on the ground.  They got a blast about a week ago now and a lot of it is still hanging around.

Today we met up with Jim in the parking lot of the Hobby Lobby in Parker, Colorado.  I gave him the Growsafe tools plus a big pile of miscellaneous parts, some defective and some surplus.  Meanwhile Marilyn was in her new favorite store stocking up on paint and special brushes that she doesn’t think she can get at home.  Then we headed north up I-25 again.

When we got close to Fort Collins I started noticing wind warnings on the overhead digital signs and sure enough almost immediately the wind started picking up gusting out of the west.  The signs said that the highway was closed to “high profile vehicles” between Cheyenne and the Colorado border so my expectation was that when we got to the border there would be a trooper with one of those cute Smoky the Bear hats on turning us and the semi’s off the highway.  I tucked in behind a Werner Transport van and told Marilyn I’d do what he did.  As we got closer to the border we started seeing lines of semis sitting on the on-ramps but my guide (and a few other hardy souls) kept on going north so we did too. 

All of a sudden I realized that the mile markers had started over and therefore we were in Wyoming.  Somewhere about that point I tried to listen to the highway information channel on the radio but it was so faint as to be useless.  Next thing we knew we were passing Cheyenne and still no trooper had appeared to tell me I couldn’t keep on keeping on.  So I did.  It was definitely windy and the wind would occasionally try to boss the bus around.  But the bus is pretty heavy and it tracks like its on rails so most of the time I just drove, albeit a little slower than I might have otherwise.  Going around Cheyenne we were able to hear the radio warnings and it sounded like the worst of it was behind us but that we would see some wind for the next hour as we headed north.  And that’s about how it worked out. 

Two truckers did violate the cardinal rule of trucking - “keep the greasy side down.”  We saw one semi trailer lying on its side south of Cheyenne and a UPS trailer on its side north of Cheyenne but I’ve seen worse wind in Lethbridge and nobody thought anything of it.

Tonight we’re in the Walmart lot in Gillette, Wyoming where I got to do some troubleshooting on the Onan genset.  Its been so good up to this point but tonight it absolutely wouldn’t fire.  After a bit of cursing I figured out that the run solenoid isn’t retracting.  For tonight I’ve got it unscrewed from its bracket so when it comes time to shutdown the generator I’ll have to go outside and push the governor down.  I expect its either a dirty connection or a loose wire somewhere.  I tried briefly to jumper it but mainly I was interested in getting power for long enough so the electric blanket would warm up the bed so I opted for the simple solution tonight. 

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Three degrees of separation

Yesterday we toured the George H.W. Bush presidential library on the Texas A & M campus.  I’m not sure it was worth the $14 it cost us but it was informative nonetheless.  George the first certainly had a busy time of it on the federal scene.  I thought going in that he had served two terms as president but learned that he did all his stuff in just 4 years. 

On the way out of the library I happened to read some of the names on the donor list.  They were arranged as they always are with the most generous donors in the most prominent location, their names displayed in larger font, with a fancy name – I believe “President’s Cabinet” in this case.  And midway down the most important list, there was Jimmy Pattison’s name.  That’s pretty high class company for a car salesman from western Canada, alongside the likes of the government of Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.  Now I don’t know Jimmy but as I read the list I was struck by the fact that if I ever needed an introduction to George H.W. then Jimmy would be the connection.  You see the father-in-law of one of Marilyn’s nieces is fond of dropping Jimmy’s name in conversation so I figure that, should I ever need an introduction to the 41st President, then Peter would be the starting point and Jimmy the intermediary.  I’m not sure whether that’s 2 or 3 degrees of separation but its pretty damn close as far as I’m concerned.

Today we’re watching the wet weather outside the window in the Navasota campground.  At 10 bux a night for 50 amp full hookups it will be hard to leave this place but that’s what we plan to do tomorrow.  I’ll make one last checkup on the two installations here and then, assuming they check out OK, we’ll start heading north.  The prairies are having an unbelievably warm winter so it won’t be any big hardship to go back.  I’ve seen winters where it never got above minus 30 the whole week ahead of Christmas which makes the thawing weather this past week pretty amazing.


This time last year we were still waiting for the doofus “Captain” we had contracted to teach us to run Gray Hawk to show up for even one of the many appointments he made with us.  Our first ever venture away from the dock came on 1/1/11 when we very bravely cast off and headed up the coast to Shilshole Marina.  We went that way because that was the way we had gone on our haulout so it seemed like familiar water.  Looking back now it seems silly that we thought it was such a big achievement but it was a major accomplishment getting out and back without damaging the boat or the dock.  Like I told R.J. afterward, the secret to docking a boat is to get the dock and the boat travelling at the same speed.  And somedays that’s easier said than done. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Hell of a deal on a campground

For the next week or so we’re paying $10 per night for 50 amp full hookup.  That’s an incredible deal on a transient rate.  It’s a pretty good deal even if we were paying a monthly rate.  For a single night rate, power included, its pretty well unheard of.  Our lifetime average per night is just north of $18.  For the last year we have averaged just under $9 per night but that includes many nights sitting for free on our Buchanan property.

This place isn’t fancy but we’ve stayed in a lot worse spots (and paid 2 or 3 times as much for the privilege of doing so).  Marilyn found it online.  Its run by the town of Navasota and I expected it to be full up but there were only 3 rigs here which left 7 sites open for us to pick from.  It might be a little windy if the Texas winds pick up but otherwise it’s a hard place to find fault with at any price.

On Friday the 2nd client down here got around to doing their second concrete pour.  That’s a great relief because I couldn’t do anything until it was complete.  I’m expecting that tomorrow they will either have already stripped the concrete forms or at the very least they will have them stripped during the day. 

The new facility at Sexing Technology is huge.  The open front shelter is 600 feet long, divided into 10 pens.  Their initial pour was the apron where the cattle will stand to feed.  The pour on Friday was the feed alley.  Eventually there will be another twin facility further to the east which will house more conventional feedlot systems.  The facility that they are working on right now is specifically designed to house the Growsafe feed intake monitoring equipment.

It looks now as though we’ll be here through Christmas and then leave for western Canada early the week between Christmas and New Years.  We’re still flexible on that though.  If the weather in the west goes completely to hell we’ll go up the left coast of the US instead.  There’s some really nice Thousand Trails parks all along that coast so we can work our way north at very little cost but if we do that we’ll have to figure out where to store the bus on the coast.  And we’ll have to fly back to Regina to see father and do a variety of tasks that we just can’t do remotely so our preference is to go back to the prairies unless the weather is absolutely impossible.

And now for something completely different:

I’m a regular reader of SmallDeadAnimals.  The owner of that website is a well known Saskatchewan conservative writer who has a knack for regularly poking a stick in puffery.  One of the tags on her website says she is just the voice of an ordinary Canadian yelling back at the radio “You don’t speak for me.”  A couple of days ago she posted a link to a Facebook page for Chiquita bananas whereon they were promoting Christmas recipes involving, naturally, bananas.  However the comments under one of those recipes were decided unrelated to baking. 

Until SDA exposed it, I was unaware that Chiquita has publicly admitted supporting terrorism in Latin America.  They have not only supported terrorists, they have actually taken delivery of weapons and handed them over to terrorists.  So it seems just a tad hypocritical that they now are presuming to lecture Canada about our oilsands oil.  As I said to Marilyn earlier today, if they hadn’t succumbed to the feel good, eco-terrorist demands of the radical left, I would never have known about this part of their history.  And without Kate and her SDA website I still wouldn’t know about it.  Now you do too.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Thousand Trails maintenance

This campground system that we belong to has some maintenance “issues”.  Its not unusual for their hot tubs to be working but you sure don’t want to count on them.  Their streets and access roads are uniformly bad – the access road at Colorado River has been reverted to gravel from the nearly impassable pavement that was there two years ago.  Two days ago we realized that we didn’t have any water here at Lake Conroe. 

No water in an RV shouldn’t be a big problem if the residents were halfway prepared but in this case we weren’t.  For whatever reason we had let our main tank get down to nearly empty so that it only lasted a couple hours with no incoming water and then we were out.  Along with a lot of the other neighbours because apparently they weren’t prepared either.  And the management hadn’t bothered to give us any warning which they clearly could have.  As it turned out they had the water back on briefly yesterday morning and we happened to notice that it was on so we were able to get the main tank substantially full which left us relatively impervious to the painfully slow progress of the repairs. 

The water lines here are only buried about 2 feet.  I guess that’s about 22 inches deeper than a lot of Rick Wensley’s lines were buried at Noble’s Point but it seems a little shallow to me.  As I already mentioned, they’ve had a record setting drought here and they have some pretty heavy clay in this area so likely the clay shrank enough to pull a connection apart.  Whatever the cause it took them the best part of 4 hours to locate the break and then a couple hours of dewatering before they could glue everything back together again.

We like to go out for dinner about once a week so yesterday we found a local Mexican restaurant and ate dinner there with another couple from the campground.  We met Dan and Patsy at Lake Medina and have been stalking them ever since.  They left Medina on Friday for Colorado River and we followed them two days later.  Then they left Colorado River for Lake Conroe one day ahead of us so by the time we got here we felt like old friends.  That’s a skill you need to pick up with our nomadic lifestyle – how to meet people quickly.  Too often we end up meeting someone the day before one or the other of us leaves for parts unknown but this time we’ve had 4 weeks to get to know each other.  Today they left and we don’t plan to follow them this time but we got to know each other well enough that we’ll likely stay in touch.

I talked to my buddies at Navasota on Friday afternoon to confirm that they had actually finished with the concrete pour.  Based on my reconnoiter in the morning I didn’t think there was a chance in hell that they’d be done and sure enough they wouldn’t have been but the contractor evidently convinced them to bring in reinforcements and that got them finished up.  My guess is that their batch plant never did start working after I left and all the additional concrete came from somewhere else.

It was really good news that they were done because it means the concrete will have the whole weekend to cure.  I need to drive on it while I’m placing the nodes and then I need to put rock bolts into it so I really didn’t want to be doing that on green concrete.  Two and a half days isn’t overly long for a cure but it should be adequate to keep the rock bolts from pulling out when I tighten them.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dried up and rained out

We got moved over to Lake Conroe earlier this week.  The Growsafe client wasn’t ready – they actually got rained out last week.  They should have had their concrete poured a long time ago but they didn’t so they are now in the bizarre situation of being in the midst of a historic drought and unable to pour because its too wet. 

It’s the driest they have been here since they started keeping records sometime in the 1800’s.  All the lakes are low.  When we were at Lake Medina we could barely see the water in the distance from the boat launch.  This morning I stopped and took a couple of pictures of Lake Conroe.

This Growsafe client has some really neat technology.  They produce sexed semen.  And they do it for many more species than just cattle.  Apparently its really popular with hunt farms where they want to raise bucks – nobody wants to fly down from Chicago to shoot a big doe but they’ll pay big bucks for a big buck.  And in dairy they are exporting bred heifers as “two-fers” – you buy a bred heifer and they guarantee that there’s another heifer inside.  That’s pretty cool.

The other client down here is Texas A & M.  That’s like Mecca for us Agro types so I’m looking forward to that part of the project.  They’re ready for the equipment but it hasn’t arrived yet so I’m in “hurry up and wait” mode this week. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The evil they do lives on after them

The evil that men do lives on after them, the good is oft interred with their bones.  Julius Caeser, Act 3, Scene 2.

Thirty years later western Canada is just starting to recover from the vindictive evil done to us by the three stooges – Jean Chretien, Marc Lalonde and Pierre Elliott Himself when they imposed the National Energy Plan on us.  Our courts are still controlled from beyond the grave by Pierre Trudeau working through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  So it is worthwhile for our American neighbours to consider seriously what may be the legacy and reach of the current occupant of the White House if the country is foolish enough to re-elect him.  Eight years of this man will fundamentally change the US and his impact will continue far into the future in ways we cannot even imagine now.

Clearly Obama is no brilliant intellect on the scale that Trudeau was.  Many of Obama’s impacts on the US economy could be argued to be incidental or accidental.  That doesn’t change the fact that if he runs the country into an economic disaster that it takes 50 or more years to recover from his impact on individual American lives will be fundamental and long lasting.

Friday, December 2, 2011

The artist is in

On one of our trips to San Antonio I discovered a cute little artist’s easel that folds up into a carrying box.  So on the way out of Lake Medina we stopped at Hobby Lobby and I bought Marilyn an early Christmas present.  She got it set up after we moved here to Colorado River and then spent the last couple of days varnishing it.  It’s a very complex little piece of equipment and it took a long time to coat all its various surfaces but today she pronounced it ready to use.  It wasn’t a really nice day out today so she is painting indoors tonight.  She needs one of those big floopy hats like artists wear and probably a sloppy shirt about 17 sizes too big but otherwise she is a artist.

We met a couple at Lake Medina who were planning to move here and then on to Lake Conroe.  Typically when we meet someone at a campground they move on or we move on and we don’t see each other again.  In this case they moved here the day before we did and today they moved on to Lake Conroe; we’ll follow them there on Sunday.  So we’re getting to know each other a bit and last night they dragged us along to a party night in the local town.  They called it Lady’s Night Out but there were lots of guys out too.  It was pretty hokey but we got a glass of wine and some bad hors d’oeuvres for $5 each so it wasn’t a completely wasted evening.  Its coming up to Christmas so every local crafting fool had a booth set up to sell whatever crap they think people should buy in the name of Christmas.  Its mind boggling what some people will spend their money on.  One guy had actually twisted barb wire in the shape of Christmas trees and then strung lights on them.  I think I heard him say he wanted $15 for the monstrosities but I didn’t get close enough that he might think I was interested.

Yesterday I got confirmation that my equipment should be in Navasota by Tuesday at the latest.  That means there’s a chance we’ll be out of here and maybe even back to the boat by Christmas.  For a while there I thought we might still be here for New Years so its good to be able to almost see the end of this project.  Not that I’m excited to get back to the prairie cold – this Texas winter is pretty easy to get used to.

Really good food science

It seems that pretty well every enviro-fool thinks they have some advice to offer about food production.  Here’s a news flash – just because you can find your cake hole to feed yourself doesn’t make you an authority on food production.  If you don’t understand why Haber-Bosch is fundamental to our lifestyle then you aren’t competent to comment on food production. 

Here’s an excellent video that talks about the importance of plant breeding.  When the seed goes in the ground the potential yield is limited only by the genetic potential of the seed.  After seeding there are a host of factors that influence yield – nutrition, moisture, parasites, disease and others – but at the time the seed goes in the ground the only limit on it’s potential yield is genetic.  You can think of genetic potential as an ultimate yield that is determined by the seed’s genetic makeup and then gets picked away at by all those other factors.  Without good breeding programs tailored to the local climate and management you can never have high yields.  And without high yields we all pay more and go to bed hungrier.

We have a plan