Tuesday, December 31, 2013

All systems go

We’ve been slowly starting up systems on the boat after its 6 month sleep.  A couple of days ago I finally got around to firing the main engines, which didn’t go completely smoothly.  The starboard side started right up but the port was a little stubborn.  I think it was probably related to the fact that both the generator and the Webasto heater draw off the port side close to the engine intake.  I probably should put a check valve in there somewhere to prevent the other users from pulling fuel back out of the engine.  It was no big deal but I had to bleed the pump a couple of times before it finally fired off and stayed running.  Both times the pump had fuel in it but there was a burst of bubbles came out when I cracked the front bleed screw.  I bled it once, cranked it and it fired off but wouldn’t rev up and died out quickly.  I bled it again and that time it took off and stayed running. Both times the “bleeding” consisted of opening the two bleed screws and pumping a couple of times on the primer so it wasn’t really much of an ordeal.

Yesterday I fired the genset – it took a bit of cranking to start but it stayed running.  Its always been a little more forgiving of air in the fuel line. 

This morning we untied all the extra lines.  When we’re gone I like to double up as many lines as possible.  After a quick lunch we took off and arrived in Chemainus around 4:00.  Everything worked well on the way.  Our new computer makes a wonderful nav system. 


The touch screen has a few “issues”.  It has nothing to do with the nav software – the “touch” part just goes away on its own fairly regularly.  I’ll have to dig into that but so far that has been the only real problem.  When we first hooked the computer up we were both a little sceptical.  I think we were just experiencing change.  I can’t see that Window 8 is a whole lot different than its predecessors but there’s enough differences to make our life difficult off the start.  Combine those differences with the touch screen issues I already mentioned and we weren’t certain we’d made the right decision.  A week later and we’re pretty comfortable with our new toy and pretty happy with how it works. 

Until today I wasn’t 100% sure that the link to the autopilot would work.  On the previous system I had an RS232 port which drove the serial cable to the autopilot.  The new computer doesn’t have anything as primitive as an RS232 port so I had to come up with a USB to RS232 adapter.  I’ve got one kicking around somewhere – actually I think its somewhere on the boat – but of course I couldn’t find it when I needed it.  Fortunately London Drug had one in Duncan but I was by no means certain it was going to work.  When we got down by Separation Point this afternoon I activated the route in OpenCPN and told the autopilot to start following it.  Wonder of wonders it not only followed the route, I think it followed it better than it has ever done in the past.  On the old system there were times when the boat would seem to lose its sense of direction for a while.  It was like the autopilot would stop getting a signal from the computer.  Not so today – I don’t think we drifted 100 feet away from my preset course, ever. 

Its not dead simple to drive a boat by computer – there’s all sorts of negotiations that the computer and the autopilot have to go through.  There’s lag built into the GPS position information, the vessel has momentum which delays the start of turns and prolongs the end of the turn, even the degree of the turn affects how the boat navigates the turn.  On a minor course correction the boat barely moves off its heading but on a serious turn it builds up some significant rotary momentum during the turn and somehow that energy has to be managed as the boat comes out of the turn.  In the same way that you have to lead the control input on an airplane, you have to lead the inputs for the boat both to initiate a turn and to cancel the turn.  When you’re driving manually all that integration of motion and control input happens naturally if the skipper has any feel for the boat.  Its probably the most important measure of a skipper – how he manages to integrate all that information and how much feel he develops for how the boat handles.  For two separate computer systems to sort that out seems nothing short of miraculous.

Tonight we have tickets to “A Wonderful Life” which is the dinner theatre presentation for New Year’s Eve.  We’re paid up for three nights here on the dock – after that we’ll figure it out. 

Friday, December 27, 2013


Its a long road back but we are (finally) on the mend.  In the end both of us got sick but fortunately we didn’t both hit bottom at the same time. 

Sick or no, we dragged our sorry asses into Victoria for a couple of days over Christmas.  It could have been more enjoyable but it likely did us both good to get away.  We rented a room at the same hotel that Mom & Dad always stayed at – the Embassy Inn which is just west of the BC legislature.  We won’t do that again.  I’m sure it was more than adequate for their purposes but it was nonetheless ……. underwhelming.  Which is what I told the lacklustre guest clerk at checkout when he half-heartedly asked how our stay had been.  He didn’t follow up my response and that was perfectly in character for the whole stay.  They never actually gave enough effort to accomplish “bad” service – just overall underwhelming service.

We did manage to make it to Don Mee’s for Dim Sum on Christmas Day and that was every bit as good as it always is.  Neither of us had much of an appetite but that just meant that our meal was less expensive.  In the afternoon we watched the Hobbit in 3D at a downtown theatre.  Part one was better but then part one is always better.  And part two was good enough to get us back in the door for part three so I guess that’s all they really wanted to accomplish anyway.

Now we are slowly starting to get ahead of the boat projects.  Not that there were all that many but we have created a few along the way.  On Boxing Day we stopped at Costco and came home with an all-in-one computer which is now sitting on the dash.  I have to figure out some way of holding it down in rough seas because it will do double duty as a TV screen and a nav computer.  Its taken a few years off my life getting all the nav software working on Windows 8 – and I’m not 100% certain I’ve got it all working yet.  But its close.  Getting the Canadian charts registered just about did me in.  I was so desperate that I even re-installed Fugawi in order to test whether it was the registration or OpenCPN that was giving me grief.  It turned out to be the registration, I guess – although I’m not 100% sure of that either.  It doesn’t matter – they are working and that’s good enough for me.

We got a burst of sunshine this afternoon and that prompted a flurry of dockside activity.  All along the dock everyone is out bustling around enjoying the sunshine.  I may even get motivated enough to fire up the pressure washer and clean some of the green grunge off the boat.  Marilyn made New Year’s reservations for us at the dinner theatre in Chemainus so I need to get us cleaned up.  It doesn’t take long for the green stuff to grow.  Right now I’m waiting for some glue to set up on the deck box that split open when I started putting it back together.  I had taken one of the boxes back to Buchanan to epoxy coat and varnish.  I guess I got too much epoxy in the screw holes because when  started putting it together I split a couple of rails. 

Marilyn had a somewhat jerky Skype visit with Karla this morning.  She’s back in Guasave for Christmas – I think she said she hadn’t spent Christmas there for 5 years.  Between the flaky wifi here at the marina and the Mexican internet the connection was on again off again and more often “off” than “on” but they managed to get caught up. 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Failure to heat

Its not as cold here as it is in Buchanan.  “Here” being Cowichan Bay.  But its still plenty cold, particularly without a furnace.  Which is the situation we found ourselves in last night when we arrived back at the boat around supper time. 

We put in two marathon days, leaving Buchanan at 6:00 Wednesday morning and Golden at 6:00 yesterday morning.  That got us to the Tsawassen Terminal at 2:00 (the silly bastards there thought it was only 12:00 but it was clearly 2:00)  There was 50% remaining on what they called the 1:00 boat to Swartz Bay so that’s what we bought because coming through Sidney makes it easy to stop at Costco on the way home. 

When we got back to the boat we found a couple of water leaks which didn’t turn out to be particularly serious.  The fresh water taps on the aft deck must have frozen up and the ice pushed the lines off where they connect under the sink.  There’s isolation valves there so I just closed the valves – I’ll deal with that one later.  We always leave the water turned off but I’ve never bothered to blow the lines – perhaps I should from now on.  The bigger issue was that the furnace wouldn’t light.

The batteries were dead in the thermostat so I changed them out and I think something about the sequence of how I turned on the furnace and then put the batteries into the thermostat confused the poor thing.  It absolutely refused to do anything.  Its got a little green light that is supposed to flash to tell me what its problem is but the light thought everything was A-OK.  A-OK but still no heat.

Somewhere onboard I’ve got a paper manual for the furnace and I think I actually know where that somewhere is but I didn’t bother even looking.  Mr. Google quickly came up with a couple of installation manuals, both of which are now safely stored on my laptop along with various other similar resources.  One of those manuals suggested that there was a very specific startup sequence that I might need to go through when it was behaving the way it was.  I had to disconnect the power to the furnace with the thermostat set to ON and then turn the thermostat to OFF while the furnace was powered down.  Then put the power back to the furnace and finally turn the thermostat back to ON.  Sure enough as soon as I did that I could hear the little ceramic glow plug start to crackle and then the pulse pump started pulsing slowly.  Its a neat process that it goes through when it is getting itself going and it took quite a while last night because everything was so cold.  The fuel was likely a little thick too because I assume we have summer fuel onboard.  Finally though the turbine started to wind up and we had heat coming out of the registers.

I managed to make myself sick by pushing too hard to get here.  I was feeling a little out of sorts when we left Buchanan and by Wednesday night in Golden I was pretty fucked up.  I managed to pull it together yesterday and get us here but today I’m taking the day off in bed with the electric blanket and the furnace turned on.  Meanwhile Marilyn is wrapping up Ag in the Classroom so she occasionally appears to ask me questions about GPS or breeding cows.  If anybody has a picture of a donor cow with multiple babies surrounding her I could really use that picture right now.

It was a little traumatic coming back to the boat last night because there were so many reminders of the god damn cat. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Trying to help Rob Ford

Like all Conservatives in the country I am quietly suffering through the ongoing train wreck in Toronto.  In the interest of easing the process for Rob, I propose the following solution: from now on when making your weekly apology, simply refer to the reason(s) by number.  This will speed the process for you and help the media keep track of why you are apologising.


  1. I was high on crack cocaine
  2. I was drunk
  3. I was high on crack cocaine and drunk
  4. She was in the way
  5. My brother Doug was:
    1. Under attack
    2. Away from home
    3. At home
    4. Drunk
  6. We saved the city:
    1. $10,000,000
    2. $10,000,000,000
    3. $10
  7. I was in the gym
  8. I was in the Dunkin’ Donuts
  9. My wife said it was OK

By the way, I still think he’ll get re-elected next fall.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Stuck in the deep freeze

Damn I hate cold weather.  Its hard on vehicles and its hard on me.  My arthritis flares up and my arms stiffen up in parallel with how my vehicles stiffen up on a cold morning.  So far we haven’t had any failures to start but we try not to go anywhere either.  I go for coffee about every other day but I walk to the store and I bring home the bare minimum of provisions when I come back so we don’t ever have to start a vehicle to go shopping.  We’re trying to empty the fridge in preparation for the return to the boat so we don’t want to buy any more groceries than we can eat in the next week or so.

On Friday I had an unavoidable trip to Saskatoon so I used the occasion to pick up the 5th wheel that we bought a while ago. It has been sitting in Warman where the previous owner had it stored.  It could just as easily have stayed there until spring but we’ll feel better having it stored here.  The bus’s days are numbered.  I’m still not sure how we are going to move it down the road – either a quick and dirty engine transplant or a salvage operation – but one way or the other we won’t be travelling in it again.  We made the decision before I killed the engine – the engine disaster just made it a little harder to implement.

We bought the 5th wheel from Neil-the-Ukrainian.  He and his wife had used it for trips to Arizona but stopped making those trips a couple of years ago for health reasons.  The trailer has been sitting since then; they finally talked themselves into selling it this year. 

We looked at several trailers with a very specific set of criteria – under 30 feet overall, single slideout, mid kitchen, fibreglass sides and a dinette.  That turned out to be a remarkably difficult spec to find, mainly because of the dinette.  The fibreglass sides tend to be on higher end units and those trailers in turn tend to have free standing dining tables.  No doubt the free standing table and chairs look nicer – we had them in our Savanna - but they’re just not as practical as a dinette. 

The big issue in a smaller 5th wheel is storage and the dinette is a great solution to kitchen storage.  Its also a good solution to a bed for short term guests but that really isn’t an issue for us.  We’ve always felt that our RVs should accommodate 6 for drinks and 4 for supper but sleep only 2.  This one will do that just fine.  A big bonus on the one we found is that Neil has removed the crappy RV couch and replaced it with two great honking big recliners.  We’ve both kind of got used to our recliners in the house so now we won’t have to live without them when we travel.

When I started putting together my trip for the end of last week it briefly appeared that the weather might warm up but of course that never materialized.  It was in fact effing bloody cold on Friday with some light snow falling.  Rather than buying a fifth wheel receiver for the truck (and thereby permanently losing the use of the truck bed) I bought a Mumby gooseneck adapter for the trailer.  So I had to install that on the trailer before I could even start hooking up.  The trailer was in about a foot of snow but I didn’t have any serious difficulty getting to it or getting the truck under the gooseneck once I got it installed.

Installing the gooseneck adapter wasn’t that big a deal and I was really impressed with how well built it is.


That’s what it looks like installed.  There’s a machined sleeve that fits around the pin and clamps in place.  Then the main portion of the extension fits over the sleeve and bolts up to it.  Finally the hitch casting bolts into the bottom of  the extension and the braces bolt back to the trailer pinbox.  It was unpleasant installing the adapter in –25 weather but that had nothing to do with the quality of construction.  The assembly is pretty heavy – probably close to 100# in total – so it held heat for a long time.  I had it lying on the floor on the passenger side of the truck where it got a direct hit from the heater so it was really warm when I started the install and it was still melting snow by the time I got done. 

I did have a bit of an adventure when I started actually hooking up because I allowed the “scoop” on the front of the hitch to get filled up with snow.  That in turn got jammed up inside the ball receiver and prevented it from seating completely on the ball which meant I couldn’t get the latch pin in.  By the time I finally figured out what I was doing wrong I had a major icepack in the receiver which I eventually had to chisel out while lying on my back in the snowbank.  All in all it was a very bad day for my arthritis and I paid dearly for my efforts yesterday.  This morning I can almost use my right arm to drink coffee again.  Almost but not quite.  We still haven’t unhooked the truck and we won’t until the promised warmer weather arrives either this afternoon or tomorrow morning.  “Warmer” in this case is extremely subjective but after the –25 to –32 bullshit we have been suffering through, even –10 or –12 will feel better.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Remembering Nelson Mandela

It would have been fun to listen in on the conversation onboard the Canadian Forces plane carrying Harper, Mulroney, Chretien, et al to South Africa.  According to CTV, nobody from the Canadian delegation will be speaking at the memorial tomorrow and perhaps that is typical for a Canadian delegation.  I’m sure O has demanded top billing and will be prancing on the stage in an attempt to deflect attention from his dismal domestic record. 

Canadians can rest quietly assured that when it really mattered Brian Mulroney was at the forefront of the beginning of the end of apartheid.  Mulroney was underappreciated by Canadians at the time and only recently has his reputation been rehabilitated at home but Mandela knew full well who he was.  It was no accident that Mandela’s first foreign visit was to Canada.  I’m not sure why Kim Campbell thought she should be on the plane today – most Canadians couldn’t tell you who she was then or now.  Jean the Cretin granted Mandela honorary Canadian citizenship so that explains his presence but in order to fly with Harper he had to swallow his condemnation of the plane they flew on.  Mulroney bought the plane which the cretin referred to as a “flying Taj Mahal” and subsequently refused to use.  When he boarded it yesterday I hope he felt at least a little sheepish.  

Its pretty easy to figure out why “I’m Adrienne and You’re Not” was on the plane – because she’s Adrienne and we’re not.  Michaelle Jean was GG when Mandela visited Canada and I expect they actually had a pretty good time together despite the fact that he must have seemed like a grandfather to her.  I hope they made Tom Mulcair sit in the back of the plane and I still haven’t heard why the Shiny Pony wasn’t on the plane but perhaps he was getting paid to attend a fundraiser somewhere.


Also onboard were Liberal MP Irwin Cotler who worked on Mandela’s legal team while he was imprisoned and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, who helped South Africa set up their post-apartheid judiciary.  As Canadians we can all be justly proud of our role in Mandela’s South Africa even if we don’t get to share the podium with the poseurs tomorrow.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Oh dear


There’s really only one cure for mornings like this.


Wrapped up in my favourite afghan in front of the TV, dreaming of global warming, listening to Mandela tributes.  14 more sleeps BTW.  For your reading enjoyment on this frosty morning I bring you a couple of links to sources normally friendly to the anointed one:



And finally one source that is almost never friendly to the anointed one but nonetheless accurate:


Friday, December 6, 2013

Winter in Buchanan

I’m pretty much ready to go back to the boat.  OK, I’m WAY past ready.  Buchanan is just a fine little town but ……… not much happens here.  I go for coffee in the afternoon, I take the garbage out on Tuesday morning and bring the cans back after Richard comes around.  Some days I walk to the other house for something that we forgot to move to the new house. 

Two weeks ago I was at NACS in Calgary for three days.  NACS stands for North American Consulting School which is an overblown name for what is really just a networking opportunity put on by some management consulting association.  Several years ago when it started, the NACS program content was pretty worthwhile, this year not so much.  At that point NACS was sponsored by CCAA (Canadian Consulting Agrologists Association) but that organization has disappeared, swallowed up into some new acronym based in eastern Canada.  Since the real reason to attend is to visit with whoever else attends, a mediocre program isn’t that big a problem --- the first time it happens.  If the program stays as average as it was this year though I don’t expect that the quality of the crowd will continue unabated.  So next year it might be a bit harder to motivate myself to pay the significant registration fee. 

Other than travelling to Calgary mostly what I’ve been doing is helping Marilyn wrap up her Ag in the Classroom project.  She still thinks that she’ll be done by Christmas so I’m counting the sleeps until we can head west again.  (the count is down to 15 today)  My Uruguayan adventure has been postponed until early January so I’ll fly from the coast whenever that actually happens. 

A couple of weeks ago now I ordered some epoxy supplies from eastern Canada.  I have difficulty believing that I can’t buy West System epoxy in Saskatchewan but I have never been able to find it anywhere this side of Kelowna.  The cans of epoxy showed up today so now I’ve got no excuse for not getting busy with the refinish on the deck box that we brought home with us.  When we bought Gray Hawk we got a pair of matching deck boxes at Costco and installed them on the aft deck.  They’re great boxes but they are starting to look pretty weathered.  We only brought one of them home with us but I’ll get it refinished and we can bring the 2nd one home next summer.  I doubt that I’ll get motivated to refinish it on the coast and it will be a lot easier to do here anyway – better tools and no weather worries if I do it indoors. 

I’m going to coat it with West System using 207 clear hardener and then apply urethane varnish while the epoxy is still green (not fully cured).  That’s what I did with the forehead trim that I refinished last spring and I think it came out well.  Epoxy doesn’t handle UV well but the urethane gives it UV protection and the epoxy coat gives the finish a much deeper  lustre than I can get unless I build a large number of coats of urethane.  The challenge on the coast is to find dry days to do the finishing because the epoxy will get an amine blush if it gets damp while it is curing.  The blush – which looks like a milky white layer just beneath the epoxy surface – usually comes out in sunlight but it takes time.  I shouldn’t have to worry about it when I do the coating in the basement.

The reason I want to put the urethane on before the epoxy cures fully is that I have been told it will chemically link to the epoxy if you do it that way.  I know that is true with successive layers of epoxy – if you apply additional coats of epoxy resin within roughly the first 24 hours the successive layers will chemically crosslink to the initial layers.  In effect you end up with a build up that is equivalent to a single layer but there are many advantages to doing the build in successive layers.  Too thick a layer of epoxy will often gas off inside the resin while it is curing, resulting in a porous layer.  Excessively thick layers are also susceptible to “going off” which is the nickname for an out of control curing reaction.  When that happens they can get hot enough to catch on fire. 

On old epoxy or when you wait too long after the cure then you get an inactive surface which needs to be roughed up so that the subsequent coat can mechanically adhere to the previous layer.  I know that is true for epoxy layers and I believe it is also true for polyurethane top coats.  I’m going to assume it is true and proceed on that assumption but that means I will have to start early in the morning with the epoxy so that I can add the polyurethane while the resin is still tacky, likely in the mid-afternoon.

(10 days later)

The polyurethane over epoxy appears to be successful.  I was pretty sure it would be because that is the way I did it on the boat last spring.  In the case of the deck boxes though I pushed the envelope by putting some of the urethane on while the epoxy was still borderline tacky.  I don’t think I’ll do that again because I got some roughness in the surface but that cleaned up with sanding so its not a huge problem.

Its been bitterly cold here the last couple of days.  We were in Saskatoon for a couple of days so Marilyn could wrap up some of her AITC stuff.  While we were there I picked up a Case garden tractor from a fool just south of the city.  I say “fool” simply because he was clearly a fool.  They had obviously moved out to “the country”, built a house that they couldn’t afford and started a shop that they couldn’t afford to finish.  Now they are trying to sell an acreage in the dead of winter with a half finished shop and a house that is too small for the neighbourhood.  Good luck with that plan. 

They did however have a Case 444 garden tractor.  Many years ago now I bought Lyle Black’s 224 Case from Norm Nickel’s Lakeside Power for $2500.  When we moved into Nipawin I sold that tractor and I believe I sold it for $1800 or possibly even more than that.  Today they trade for between $2000 and $4000 but not at this time of year.  We got a significant discount and I ground it deeper yesterday because it was just plain bloody cold out and I absolutely didn’t care whether we came home with the tractor unless it was a really good deal, which it turned out to be. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Miscellaneous living

Sometimes I look back over a week and think I was pretty busy but really don’t have much to show for myself.  This was one of those weeks. 

I did go to Agribition on Friday.  I haven’t been there for a long time.  In fact I may have taken father with me the last time I went which would make it a really long time since I’ve been there.  It hasn’t changed all that much.  I tracked down Lane & Paula and their girls in the Charolais barn where they were fitting cattle for their show.  They were pretty busy so I had a quick visit and tried to stay out of the way. 

The main purpose of my Agribition visit was to meet a guy from Uruguay.  I’ve got a trip to Uruguay in my future.  I traded a few emails with my contact down there early last week and then he suggested that we should meet in Regina.  It seemed like too good an opportunity to miss so I agreed. 

Agribition bills itself as an international meeting place but I was frankly distressed to see the condition of the show facilities.  Agribition brings 10’s if not 100’s of millions of dollars into Regina every year but their facilities are a disgrace.  I met the Uruguayans in the “International Business Lounge” which would more aptly be named the “dinghy attic over the old show ring.”

Quite aside from the crappy facilities the staff seemed totally unaware of any international aspect to the show.  I started out asking at one of their so-called “visitor information booths.”  It was manned by some old goof wearing Lions regalia.  He wanted to be helpful but clearly didn’t have a clue and he was more or less deaf.  He did offer to find the answer but that involved using his radio and he clearly didn’t do that very often.  Once he finally figured out how to turn it on he couldn’t actually understand what the person on the other end was saying.  Fortunately I could understand what they were saying which was essentially that the place I wanted to be was about as far away from where I was as it could be without actually being off the show grounds. 

So I traipsed through all the barns and finally got close to where I needed to be but still couldn’t find the “lounge”.  At that point I remembered that the Agribition office used to be fairly close to where I was so I found it and asked the receptionist where the International Business Lounge was.  Incredibly she didn’t have a clue either.  She did wander back into the bowels of the office to ask someone and finally came back with relatively good directions.  When I eventually found the lounge I couldn’t help thinking that perhaps the place is such a disgrace that it is best nobody knows where it is anyway.  I could go on about how clueless the attendant at the door to the lounge was but I think I’ve gone on long enough already.

My long search notwithstanding I had a good visit with the Uruguayans who spoke remarkably good English.  Fortunately their national language is Spanish so I won’t feel so completely isolated as I did in Finland.  I’ll be there are the hottest time of their summer so that may be a little unpleasant but the farm is close to the ocean so that should have a moderating influence on the temperature.  No matter how hot it is it will be an improvement over a Saskatchewan winter but I won’t likely be going from Saskatchewan.  I expect that by the time I leave for Uruguay we’ll have moved back onto the boat.

Tonight I’m getting organized for a trip to Calgary.  There’s something called the North American Consulting School there Wednesday and Thursday.  Its not so much a school as a networking opportunity for unemployed fools such as myself. 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Its a lot of work owning a house

(Sunday) We’ve been spoiled for a long time.  And in fairness to the house a lot of what we’re doing is more in the nature of “moving in” than “home ownership”.  Still, its a lot of work owning a house.

I wrote earlier that we moved the mattress from the bus into the house and put it on a bedframe that I built.  When I built the frame the priority was getting a place to sleep so I didn’t bother building the headboard.  But I really dislike sleeping with nothing behind my head and we can’t just push the frame up against the wall because I extended the rails to support the headboard.  So the past couple of days I’ve been finishing up the headboard.  Its pretty well ready for paint now. 


While I was gone to the US Marilyn got the satellite TV working.  It sounds like she got a nitwit for an installer because he was here half a day but he did eventually get everything working.  “Everything” being two receivers – a PVR in the bedroom and a regular receiver in the living room.  We’ve never had more than one receiver anywhere, let alone one with a PVR.  So far the TV in the bedroom is the former side scan sonar TV from Gray Hawk sitting on top of a cardboard box but that will soon change.  I’ve got a custom bracket built & stained with one coat of varnish hanging in the shop.  It should be ready to hang on the wall tomorrow night.  Once that’s done we’ll move the widescreen TV from the bus into the bedroom.

I’m very much enjoying having a shop again.  Its not much of a shop mind you – its a pretty small space – but its more than I’ve had for a long time.  And I’ve got big plans for the garage but they will have to wait for warmer weather.  For the time being the garage is not much more than a shelter to park the car under.  I’m formulating a plan to extend one wall and raise the roof but that will definitely be a next summer plan.  Its starting to look too much like winter here which means it is time to make plans to get back to the boat. 

(Monday) The small object hanging to the right of the photo is now stuck to the wall in the bedroom with the TV hanging on the front of it.  I’ve definitely inherited my father’s predisposition to carpentry as opposed to cabinetry.  From 100 yards in the daylight and probably 10 feet in the dark my little TV box looks more or less fine.  Hidden behind the widescreen TV it will hardly be noticed and it is in fact a vast improvement over the cardboard box that formerly held the TV.  Everything is relative. 

The new headboard for the bed is also visible in the photo.  It will be painted which should cover many of my carpentry sins.  I found a margarine tub sized container of wood filler that has been really useful for covering up some of my “measure once, cut twice” situations.

This morning we had a brief moment of insanity where we thought we should go to the fall supper in Theodore.  Once I made a trip to the bus in –22 degree weather we quickly rethought our plans to travel an hour on icy roads just to have supper.  Instead we’re staying inside and watching war movies – its Remembrance Day after all. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Long time … no write

I’ve been on a flying trip through Idaho and northern California for the past 10 days.  Today I’m finally catching up on some paperwork in the airport in Salt Lake City where I’m waiting for my flight to Calgary.  I’m really not looking forward to going back into the deep freeze after the shirtsleeve weather in northern California. 

On the way down I literally got waved through US Customs.  The silly bastards really should make up their minds – am I a threat or am I not?  Its not that I WANT them to harass me; I’d just have a lot more faith in the system if there was some semblance of consistency.  In their defence it was Calgary screening which has given me the least hassle of all the crossing points over the years but still – make up your minds.

This morning there was a horrendous line at the security screen checkpoint in SLC but the idiot greeter who checks to make sure you have a boarding pass sent me into the TSA Pre-Screen line.  Apparently they have the x-ray machine turned down so low in that line that pretty well anything can go through it.  The clown at the head of the line got on my case when I started emptying my pockets but it turned out I did need to empty them because I set off the alarm.  However, instead of getting immediately groped, the dude at the x-ray sent me back through to empty my pockets, all the while apologizing for his partner.  When I came through the second time, still with my shoes on, I fully expected to set the stupid thing off again but didn’t.  So instead of an hour long security ordeal I was through in under 5 minutes.  Go figure – am I or am I not a threat?

I’ll use all my airport time today to catch up on some projects that have been neglected while I ran around on Growsafe jobs.  I’m really looking forward to being at home this weekend.  We’re into the countdown until we go back to the boat around Christmas time.  Between now and then I’ve got to find some time to buy a truck because the Exploder’s days are numbered.  I’ve hated the little bitch for 8 years now and I’ve been looking hard for the last year.  Marilyn took it to the Russkie garage owner in Canora a week ago because it has started making a bad squeeking noise on the right front but of course when she got there it refused to make the noise so Sergie wasn’t able to diagnose the problem.  Its probably just a shock because she had the steering rebuilt last winter – AGAIN – but I’m taking it as a sign that its time for someone else to enjoy the unique pleasure that owning that particular piece of junk brings.  I think this fall is probably a great time to buy a used Ford diesel because of the super crop that just came off in Saskatchewan.  Farming in SK is full of uncertainty but there’s one absolute – when SK farmers have a good crop then the truck dealerships are going to have a good fall and winter.  I stopped in at Cypress Ford in Swift Current about 2 months ago now and they had 8 brand spanking new King Ranch diesels sitting in a line.  Those are 50 to 80 grand per each so obviously someone in Swift Current figures on having a good winter and more importantly, there will be some premium trades sitting on the lot shortly, if they’re not there already.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Simple pleasures

Its the little things that give the most pleasure.  Being able to flush the coffee grounds down the drain is no problem on the boat but it has always been a big no-no on the bus.  Its no problem now in the house.  Setting the dishwasher last night and waking up to clean dishes is another treat that we haven’t enjoyed for a long time.  My big new-to-me recliner chair feels great.  I really REALLY missed a recliner chair and a shop.  I still don’t have a shop but I’m getting closer and yesterday we picked up a leather recliner in Saskatoon - $80 off Kijiji and you can’t tell it from the $1300 ones we looked at in the Sears appliance store while they were jerking us around about our new dishwasher.

Marilyn had lined up several meetings in Saskatoon for Thursday and Friday so early Thursday morning we drove into the city.  We ended up with a bit of time on our hands Thursday afternoon and were right next door to the Sears appliance centre on Circle Drive so we stopped in and were delighted to find a portable dishwasher floor model on a deep discount.  SCORE.  So Marilyn bought the dishwasher but we didn’t want to load it in the truck on Thursday and then drag it all over the city for a day and a half.  “NO PROBLEM!” sez the nice Sears lady “You can pick it up tomorrow before you leave town.”  So Friday morning we were between meetings and relatively close to the north end of the city.  We pulled into the loading dock at the back of the Sears store and showed our invoice to the mope on the dock.  And then it all came off the rails.

First the mope wandered around the warehouse looking for the dishwasher.  Then he came back and asked us who had sold it to us.  “Some woman.”  So then he wandered around some more muttering loudly about how nobody told HIM about any dishwasher.  Another woman who appeared dressed to work in the warehouse but never actually seemed to do anything appeared and they had a long conversation which consisted mainly of blaming “Maggie” for not doing her paperwork right.  Then the mope disappeared into the store for a long time.  Finally he came back and announced that they couldn’t find the dishwasher.  Well duhhhhhh.  “So what are you going to do now?”  He didn’t have a clue.

Somebody suggested that we could show him where the dishwasher was on the showroom floor.  I thought that was a faint hope but we needed to do something so off we all traipsed across the showroom to where the dishwasher clearly wasn’t anymore.  There was a blank space on the floor so it was at least believable when Marilyn pointed to the space and said “that’s where it was” and everyone around agreed that “yep, there had been a dishwasher there.”  Then they had a long discussion about who had been working last night and who might have sold our dishwasher again and who might have loaded it but mostly they talked about blaming Maggie.  After a while the group had dispersed and there was just one guy with a hook nose and a bad suit plus the mope standing in the middle of the showroom blaming Maggie.  I had been biting my tongue to the bleeding point so I finally announced “We’ve got a meeting in 45 minutes so rather than standing here blaming Maggie you guys need to get doing something.  CHOP CHOP!!” (I thought punctuating the “chop chop” with a couple of loud handclaps was a nice touch but Marilyn mocked me about it afterwards – actually I thought I did really well to keep profanity out of it at that point.)

Mope 1 and Bad Suit then wandered through the warehouse yet again and not surprisingly still didn’t find our dishwasher.  By this point it seemed clear to me that someone else had sold it again.  Eventually Marilyn got escalated to a short round woman who called herself a manager and I left them alone to fill out paper.  I didn’t think the situation warranted any yelling at that point, no matter how much better it might make me feel.  I did return at the end of that conference to hear Marilyn say “OK, I’ll phone you at 1:00” to which the round woman nodded her head vigorously and agreed that would be good.  I thought, “right, I can see where this is headed” so I asked her roundness “will you actually be here at 1:00 or will you be gone for lunch?”  Sure enough, she had every intention of being gone until 1:30.  So then we went through another little discussion about how useful that information might be to us and got to meet someone younger and bitchier who would however be on duty at 1:00. 

The story wrapped up anticlimactically shortly after we left the store when Marilyn got a phone call saying they had found the errant dishwasher.  I expect they finally located the famous “Maggie” and she said something to the effect of “Oh for gawd’s sake it’s behind the ………..”  Of course when I returned to actually pick up the machine it was a whole new rodeo but on that visit I could be a lot ruder because Marilyn wasn’t with me. 

By the time we left the city we looked like the Clampetts arriving in Beverley Hills.  We had a dishwasher, my recliner, a very large flatscreen TV, Marilyn’s nice black leather office chair, a microwave, toaster oven, vice, bench grinder and a host of other miscellaneous household effects plus a grocery order.  The Exploder isn’t much more than a car with a parcel shelf on the back so we had stuff strapped on all over the place and the back seat was stuffed to the point where we couldn’t open the doors without something falling out.  A very large percentage of the “stuff” came from either the Thrift Store or Kijiji – ya gotta love recycling.

This morning I think Mother would be horrified to see a flatscreen TV bigger than her secretary’s desk sitting on top of the desk but it actually looks right at home there.  Someday we’ll mount it on the wall but for the time being it is sitting happily on the old oak desk.  We can’t really watch it – well I guess we can “watch” it but there’s not much happening because the Shaw installation crew hasn’t arrived yet.  If I was a better husband I’d install a dish myself but the crew is coming Monday and I’m leaving for Idaho Sunday night.  Between now and then we’ve got a lot of “stuff” to put away so TV will just have to wait.

Mostly this week we’re just rattling around in more space than we’ve had for a long time and frankly we’re both enjoying it more than we expected.  The house is roughly 4x the living area that we have in the bus and at least twice what we have on the boat so it feels huge.  Tonight I was trying to find a couple of suitcases that I was sure were in the house but there were just so many places where they could be.  That’s very much not the way our life has been for the last 5 years. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Moving day

Including a couple of moves before I was out of high school, I think I’ve moved 7 or 8 times now.  The move this week was about as painless as it could get.  The house that SWMBO bought is 4 blocks north of where the bus is parked.  We still haven’t slept in it but we ate all our meals in it starting on Monday. 

We met Dizi Dingbatski, the Ukrainian realtor at the house at 9:00 Monday.  She very kindly brought a bottle of cheap champagne along which we finally got around to opening tonight.  I was busy figuring out where we were going to put our meagre possessions while Marilyn very kindly pretended to listen to Dizi but it finally got to be too much for me when she started doing a “home tour”.  I pointed out that we had a long day ahead of us and mercifully she took the hint and buggered off.

The holdup on sleeping in the new house was that we decided to move the mattress from the bus into the house which meant I needed to build a base for it before the move.  We’ve got two really comfortable beds – I think the one on Gray Hawk is slightly better but they’re both pretty damn good beds.  Most beds in the world don’t fit me so I insist on a good bed when I’m at home.  The one on the bus is close to 8 feet long so building a base for it was no trivial matter but I got the base put together Monday afternoon & got one coat of paint on it.  That first coat took a long time to dry but Tuesday night I was able to sand it and put a second coat on.  That second coat dried much faster and I was able to get a third coat on this morning.  By supper time it was dry enough to finish the assembly and a few minutes ago we moved the mattress onto the frame.  It shouldn’t be noteworthy that the mattress fit but I have inherited my father’s abilities with regard to wood butchery – I am more of a carpenter than a craftsman and not that good of a carpenter either so when things work out it is cause for celebration.

Yesterday I got the bus drained and pumped antifreeze into all the lines so it is ready to freeze up whenever we get done sleeping there, which now looks to be tonight.  We have been slowly moving “stuff” from the house at 110 to the new house at 515.  Its really alarming how much “stuff” we have accumulated.  When we left Nipawin all our “stuff” fit either in the bus or in the cubevan.  Unfortunately I think we have grown our stock of “stuff” significantly since then and I fear that growth will now turn into an explosion.  On the other hand the move has allowed us to consolidate food and booze in a single location and that has turned up booze that we didn’t know we had.  Finding single malt that you didn’t know you had is like finding $50 bills in the pockets of a seldom worn jacket.

SWMBO says she needs a serger for her new sewing room.  I have agreed, on the condition that I can have a metal lathe.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with a lathe but I’ve always wanted one.  I’ve been watching Youtube videos to try to learn some of what I don’t know about lathes.  It turns out that there is a very long list of things I don’t know about lathes.  SWMBO is not sure what she’ll do with the serger either but she is more reluctant to admit that than I am to admit that I don’t know what I’ll do with a lathe.

20131023_173428 We didn’t stop to take any pictures in the midst of the move.  Mind you the whole affair didn’t really take long enough to be worthy of photography either.  The one above is from this afternoon after we got the mattress unloaded.  As you can see, most of our snow has melted.  Maybe we’ll have a green Hallowe’en after all. 

We’ve been very busy this week, all the more so because this little village is a beehive of activity.  The sign on the highway says that 220 people live here but they keep pretty active.  There was a fall supper here last Sunday and the Ukrainian Catholics next door to us are having another one this Sunday.  This week I discovered that some group puts on a Wednesday lunch every week in the community centre.  There’s coffee twice a day at the Co-op.  It was hard to fit in our move around all that community activity.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Thanksgiving in Buchanan

Its good to be home.  Going to Ruukki was about a 24 hour adventure but coming home was a 36 hour ordeal.  I left my hovel at MTT around 4:00 Friday morning their time which was really 7:00 Thursday evening. (to avoid further confusion all of the rest of the times will be real time)   My flight from Oulu to Helsinki left at 10:00 PM and arrived an hour later.  Then I sat around the Helsinki airport until 5:00 AM Friday morning waiting for my flight to London. 

I think Heathrow is a perpetual fuckup.  I used to think Toronto was the worst airport in the world but Heathrow changed all that.  Once they got us loaded in the tin can at Helsinki the pilot announced that we would get to sit at the gate for at least half an hour because he couldn’t get us a landing slot at Heathrow.  Apparently he couldn’t have figured that out before they loaded us.  Then when we got close to Heathrow we went into a holding pattern circling closer to the airport until we finally landed.  We went through the same nonsense on the way over but at that point I thought it might be an isolated incident.

Once we landed we were subjected to some bizarre British security BS.  At one point they had us in line and they were stopping the line every 10 or 12 passengers to give us a canned lecture about how we couldn’t bring liquids through security.  The clowns giving the lecture seemed to believe that none of us had ever been through security screening ever before.  I (and many others in line) couldn’t help wondering how they thought we had arrived in that particular line between customs and re-screening.  I think we were supposed to leave there about 11:00 AM Friday and of course they loaded us before admitting that we couldn’t leave on time.  It was after noon before we finally got airborne but we made good time.  On the way home we came much further south – more or less over Labrador, arriving in Calgary with a bit of time to spare for my Westjet connection back to Saskatoon. 

When I cleared Canadian customs in Calgary I had a young guy who said “Oh, I was in Finland twice” to which I responded “why the hell would you ever go more than once?”  He agreed with my assessment and then asked if I had any booze to declare.  I had a bottle of some kind of brandy that they had given me before I left.  The customs guy then went off on a rant about Finnish booze before he welcomed me back to Canada. 

When I checked my bag in Helsinki they tagged it for Saskatoon but only gave me a boarding pass as far as Calgary.  Fortunately Westjet has a baggage counter just inside security so that wasn’t any big hassle.  And after enduring Heathrow security the Calgary flavour wasn’t so distasteful.

We spent Saturday in Saskatoon running errands and visiting Aunt Norma in St. Paul’s Hospital.  She was doing a lot better than we expected and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is home by now. 

We need to find a dishwasher for Marilyn’s new house & I’d like to find a good recliner so we spent some time looking for them.  We eventually struck out on both counts and came home to spend Thanksgiving in Buchanan.  I don’t remember a fall where there was such a variation in the tree colours.  We have trees in the yard that have completely lost their leaves and trees whose leaves are still green. 


This afternoon I went for a drive and took some photos for Marilyn’s project.  There’s still a little bit of harvest left to wrap up around Buchanan but its getting real hard to find crop left out.  I did find a truck line-up at the Pioneer elevator in Canora that brought back memories.  I can remember sitting in line-ups when the elevator “got cars”.  The line-ups looked similar but the trucks are a lot bigger now.  The elevators are a lot bigger too – and a lot farther apart.


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Serves me right for staying away so long

So I went away for a mere 2 weeks and SWMBO went and bought a whole house.  Sheeeeesh


We decided this summer that it was time to stop pretending that we are fulltime RV travellers.  Since we spend 4-6 months on the boat we are at best 1/2 time RVers.  And much of our RV time now is spent parked on the lot in Buchanan.  So we had a couple of options

  • We could fix up the hovel to make it liveable.  This is really only a theoretical option but I suppose if you threw unlimited money at the place then at some point it might become marginally liveable.  We never really intended it to be liveable so its not a great surprise that it in fact isn’t.
  • We could build new on the lot where the hovel currently sits.  This is actually a pretty attractive option and – despite our new current status – its by no means off the table.  We briefly toyed with the idea of moving something onto the property but unless you can find the perfect house somewhere close to town and then get it for free its really not a very practical option
  • We could buy something in town.  The problem with this option is of course that our choice is limited by what is on the market at the moment.  For a while last year the house directly across the street from us was on the market.  We should have moved on it at the time but Mac & Emily have since taken down the signs and we we don’t really know them well enough to ask whether they still want to sell.  We looked at a few places in town but most of what is on the market is only marginally better than what we already have, with the exception of one little bungalow 4 blocks down the street from us.

The little bungalow in question is about 1000 square feet with a fully finished basement and 3 bedrooms on the main floor.  Its your basic 1970’s vintage square box with absolutely no character unless you consider a Ukrainian paint job character.  The old girl that used to live there evidently died and the family just cleaned out the fridge and her personal effects and left all the furniture in place.  That’s not a big deal in monetary terms but it is definitely an advantage for us to buy a place that comes fully furnished.  It even has a pool table in the basement. 

When I left Buchanan we had ruled out the little house up the street, mainly because they wanted way more than we thought it was worth.  While I’ve been over here next door to Lapland Marilyn made a couple more visits to the house and compiled a list of what it would take to make it into a retirement home.  The list turned out to be shorter than she had expected.  Then she made a real stinker of an offer to the vendors who responded that the offer was so insultingly low that they wouldn’t counter offer.  That made me feel good because I think in any negotiation if you don’t initially get told to fuck off then you offered to0 much to start with.

A few days later the realtor phoned Marilyn back and at that time she made a slightly higher offer which was still significantly under the asking price.  She also made it 100% clear that the new offer wasn’t a negotiating point but rather a final offer.  The vendors initially rejected that offer too but a few days later the realtor phoned back and said that if we would sweeten the new offer by $2,500 the vendors would likely roll over.  Apparently there were two executors involved and one wanted to just get the sale over with while the other wanted to hold out longer.  Adding $2,500 to our offer still left us under our drop dead price so we agreed and this morning Marilyn signed the papers.  We both think we’ve bought the place low enough that, if we decide we would really still like to build new, we can get out of the place we just bought without getting hurt.  Its been on the market for close to a year but we are buying it for 2/3 of what it was listed at. 

We’ll close as fast as the liars lawyers can get the paper drawn up and with any luck that will get us moved in before the snow flies.  Since the place comes furnished we won’t have to arrive with much more than our suitcases.  The only pressing renovation prior to move-in is to rip the damn carpet out of the kitchen and lay some ceramic tile.  What the hell is wrong with people anyway?  Who puts carpet in their kitchen????

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

These are not nice guys

Don’t get too caught up in the chattering class cheerleading for the release of these two guys. 


Do your own research.  Personally I hope the Eqyptians keep the bastards. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Found boats


That’s the view out my hotel window as the sun rises over Oulu, Finland.  I’m taking the weekend off.  The project is going relatively well, normal clusterfuckery aside.  I expect to wrap up the end of next week and be back in Saskatoon on Westjet’s last flight from Calgary Friday night. 

I think I did very well choosing a hotel for my weekend excursion.  As always my choice was primarily based on price – I just can’t help myself.  However I did manage to land myself on water which connects fairly directly to the ocean.


I’ve heard about the European navaids being backwards c/w North America and yesterday I was able to confirm it within walking distance from my hotel.  The photo above looks out toward the ocean so, as the tide returns, that red marker is on the left.  In North America it is “red right returning” – over here it is clearly backwards.


That’s a fairly “shippy” looking boat tied to what appears to be transient moorage close to the central market here in Oulu.  I walked over close to it but didn’t bother taking any more pictures.  It looks to be a workboat conversion, probably 55 feet or so (OK – 16 metres), wooden planked and not in particularly good repair.  Kind of like any number of boats we might see tied up in Cow Bay – not as bad as the ones we typically see anchored in the Bay.  Actually this whole region kind of reminds me of an upscale version of Pender Harbour.  It has a bunch of interconnected bays and harbours with roads, bridges and walking paths traversing the various bays. 

The bike/walking paths is the big difference I notice everywhere here.  On the research facility where I am staying they have numerous older bikes scattered about for free use.  If you need to go somewhere you are just as likely to hop on a bike as to drive.  The difference I see here is that bikes are simply transportation.  On Vancouver Island bicycles are a lifestyle statement – they have to cost 1000’s of dollars and their riders have to wear high priced spandex outfits, and designer helmets of course.  Over here I see young workers and grannies alike riding to work or to buy groceries on utilitarian bicycles.  Many of them appear to be the bike that I learned to ride on – 26 inch balloon tires, single speed with coaster brakes.  I’ve ridden a couple of bikes at the farm – one had a pretty decent coaster brake – the other not so much – but both of them were otherwise in really good repair despite likely being probably more than half as old as me and possibly close to my age.  As I recall my first bicycle the coaster brake was the least reliable portion of it too.


Other than the abundance of bicycle paths and bicyclists the scenery could easily be northern Saskatchewan.  My host told me that the forests were all pine but I’m not 100% sure he knew what he was talking about.  There certainly appear to be pines but I think they also have fir and spruce.  There’s more birch than you would see in northern SK but from a distance its hard to tell the birch here from what would be predominantly poplar at home.  As I told my host, if I blindfolded and dropped him 20 miles north of  Prince Albert I’m not sure he’d know he wasn’t at home when we first took the blindfold off.

Last night I treated myself to a very expensive meal in the hotel restaurant.  My supper however may interfere with Santa Claus’s travel arrangements – I believe I ate Rudolph.  He was very tasty.  As soon as I saw reindeer wrapped in puff pastry on the menu I knew I had to try it. 

This morning I went down for the included breakfast.  Unlike the typical stale Cheerios and Special K that I would expect in North America I got treated to a buffet that would rival most hotel’s Sunday brunch menus – bacon and eggs, sausages, ham, baby spuds, salad bar, fruit bar, dessert bar, bread & sweets bar plus an amazing assortment of smoked/pickled fish and cheeses.  I was able to select a huge platter of protein which is always my breakfast goal.  They also make excellent coffee and tea. 

Right now I’m enjoying a leisurely morning in a comfortable (albeit very small) hotel room.  There’s not much selection on the TV menu and even less English language selection but its great to hear English news again.  I’ve been listening to CBC Regina over the internet at the farm but its just not the same as TV news.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The people who say neigh

…. or perhaps its “nay”. 

As I told the woman in the grocery store the other day, I’m a stranger in a strange land.  So far I have figured out two things.  The first is that these people say “neigh” (or possibly “nay”) a lot.  I have no idea what it means but it is the only sound I can reliably identify in the babble that passes for conversation around me.  Fortunately I have internet access which lets me play CBC and BBC.  Otherwise my ears might forget how to understand English.

The other thing I have learned is how to use the bizarre produce scale system they use in the grocery stores.  First you have to find the number on the price tag on the store shelf.  Then you take whatever it is that you plan to buy to the scale and pick that number off a large board beside the scale.  The scale will then spit out a price tag which you can put on your bag of fruit or vegetables.  Or, as it turns out, you can put the tag on your plastic wrapped English cucumber which inexplicably also requires this treatment.  I thought I had it all figured out tonight when I got a sticker for my oranges but it never occurred to me that my barcoded cucumber would also require a little paper sticky.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A long way from Buchanan

Right now I’m 9 hours difference in time from Buchanan. As usual when I travel I’ve left my watch on real time but its more difficult to stay focussed on real time when the daylight is all fucked up. 9 hours translates to 135 degrees of longitude so I’m not clear on the other side of the world but close. On Wednesday afternoon Marilyn put me on a plane in Saskatoon and many many many hours later I arrived in Oulu, Finland. That’s somewhere in the northwest corner of the country, at roughly 65 degrees latitude, which is more or less 4 degrees north of Anchorage. When we left Calgary we were headed almost directly north – I suppose we went over Santa Claus’s home but it was too dark to see.

Its all been a grand adventure which is only marred by the fact that Marilyn couldn’t come along. The project has been delayed repeatedly and it probably should have waited another month for me to arrive. In that case it might have worked for Marilyn to come along but right now she’s deep in the Ag in the Classroom project so it was out of the question for her to waste 2 weeks traipsing around northern Europe.

That's my rental car (a Skoda) sitting outside the little apartment where I'm staying on the farm.  Its pretty crude accomodation but adequate.
You can certainly see the effects of cradle to grave socialism in the progress of this project. Nobody is particularly concerned about getting things done in a timely manner. The employee parking lot is empty by 5:00 PM and fills up slowly in the morning. Working on the weekend is a novel concept and not for any religious reasons. I have booked myself in here for 2 weeks but right now I give myself roughly a 60% chance of achieving that departure date. The two days that I have been here already have been largely consumed by seemingly endless meetings to discuss construction details that should have been dealt with weeks if not months before I arrived. All the trades seem to have very specific boundaries which leads to endless delays. For example, the plumber who is installing the watering bowls knows how to hook their heating cable up but is prevented from doing that because he is not an electrician. The installation of those watering bowls has emerged as a barrier to the installation of my equipment because it has developed that the client would like a specific spacing from the watering bowls rather than from the more fixed portions of the building.

I was initially confused by all the pavement and concrete but evidently another beneficiary of cradle to grave socialism is the livestock.  They are housed entirely indoors.  The farm is obviously a dedicated livestock facility but I have yet to see one animal.
Today (Sunday) my host invited me to go hunting with him. I agreed to come along with my camera. When we arrived at the parking lot in the “forest” I was more than a little alarmed by the number of vehicles. Along the road on the way into the bush we saw several orange jacketed hunters with high power rifles obviously waiting for companions to push moose out of the bush. Well ….. actually it wasn’t obvious that they were waiting for moose but that is what Errkki told me they were waiting for and the swampy terrain supported that thesis.

Neither of us had a speck of blaze orange on our clothing. Not surprisingly I don’t generally travel with blaze orange garments but it seemed careless for my host to be similarly attired. When I asked him about this he said that accidents did happen every year. Fortunately one didn’t happen to us but its not hard to imagine how it could have. With multiple shooters in close quarters they wouldn’t even have to mistake us for a moose – which they easily could have – we could simply have been caught in the cross fire. When my host proposed a repeat engagement for next weekend I politely deferred.

Other than the fear of getting a 40 calibre hole in my heart it was an enjoyable morning. Errkki has some kind of long legged dog that vaguely reminded me of a golden retriever. The dog clearly knew where we were going because he was frantically pacing the car when I got in and almost immediately started howling. That continued for the 15 or 20 minute ride into the bush. As soon as he had his collar on and was released he disappeared into the woods and was gone for a very long time. We fussed around in the clearing. I put on some waterproof leggings that Errkki had thoughtfully provided as well as some oversized rubber boots complete with wool socks. Errkki showed me how his handheld GPS display showed both our position and the dog’s location as well as other dog-related data (like the frequency of his barking, how far away he was from us and how far he had travelled in total). After a while we could hear him barking and when Errkki checked his gadget it turned out he was close to a kilometer away.

Eventually the dog started getting closer and his barking became more frantic. We stood out near a trail and shortly spotted a bunny coming down the trail. The bunny didn’t look all that alarmed because at that point he was probably 2 or 300 yards ahead of the dog. He wasn’t far enough away to avoid Errkki’s shotgun blasts although he did zig zag into the parking lot at the last moment and I had a brief vision of a shot blasted vehicle. I trust Errkki had his background in mind but he came alarmingly close to holing his own car. About the time that Errkki got the rabbit gutted the dog came trotting into the clearing and quickly cleaned up the good bits from the rabbit innards.

We then spent about 3 hours tramping along trails through the swamp without any further rabbit deaths. On about 3 occasions we could hear the dog barking in the distance but he never brought us any more bunnies. Periodically the dog would rejoin us for a few minutes and then take off on another adventure. At one point we met up with another dog that vaguely resembled a Husky sled dog which Errkki said was the breed type used for rounding up mooses. That dog followed along with us for a while until we met up with his owner.

Our day finished up with a smoky campfire where we roasted some excellent sausages on wienie sticks.  A very pleasant ending to a pleasant day made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we didn't get shot.

Please accept my apologies if this post doesn't follow my normal format - Google seems thoroughly baffled by the fact that I routinely post from different locations so I have been forced to post this through Blogspot's web interface.  I find that astonishing in an era where travel is common - surely a company that can map the world realizes that their own staff are not the only people who ever venture afield?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

We’ve had better weeks


A week ago today we were parked on the north side of Horseshoe Lake with a herd of curious Charolais cattle surrounding us.  I think the last time I was at Horseshoe Lake was when Grandma & I drove out there one fall to take pictures and pick flowers.  Grandma has been dead for over 20 years now so it had been a long time. 

We left that idyllic spot and almost immediately the real world set in again.  Before we got 20 miles down the road to Davidson we noticed an increase in noise and heat from the big Detroit.  That turned out to be a piece of flex hose that had fallen off the exhaust.  As a result the port side exhaust was blowing directly out from the manifold.


I was worried that carrying on to Regina might result in setting the bus on fire although in hindsight I have to wonder at the wisdom of avoiding that potential outcome.  So we spent the night in a parking lot in Davidson and drove into Regina the next morning in the Exploder.  We both had meetings in Regina.  Once I got my visit out of the way I went up to Traction and picked up a short piece of flex exhaust and two step clamps.  When we got back to the bus it only took a few minutes to put everything back together and we were on our way again.  I immediately noticed that we had very little or no turbo boost.  I’ve noticed lately that we weren’t getting full boost and I knew that I should be getting the turbo rebuilt but I simply hadn’t got around to it.

Shortly after we left Davidson I said to Marilyn that when we got back to Buchanan I thought we should list the bus for some lowball price and get on with the next phase of our life.  We’re both getting increasingly frustrated with the seeming endless list of repairs that it demands.  Owning a bus is a great idea IF YOU TRAVEL CONSTANTLY, which we don’t anymore.  In the last couple of years we have become occasional travellers.  That means that the bus sits for extended periods and then we try to use it for short intense periods of time and that simply doesn’t work.  As it turned out, the bus made the decision for us.

It was a really hot afternoon and it wasn’t long before the hot engine light came on so I backed out of the throttle a bit and everything seemed OK.  A while later the engine light came on again and again I backed out of the throttle.  The next time that happened when I backed out the engine died.  Not good and to make a long story short, the more I learned the worse it got.  The overflow tank on the rad was empty and after I had poured 6 gallons of water into it I pulled the dipstick to find the crankcase overflowing.  Really really not good.


Much later we came home to Buchanan on the back of this big guy.  And here we sit.

Initially we were just sickened by the experience and couldn’t really think straight.  Now I think I can probably salvage some value by stuffing a takeout engine into the bus and selling it for the lowball price we initially had in mind but that won’t happen quickly and neither of us cares anymore.  Sitting here beside the house in Buchanan the bus is just as good accommodation as it ever was.  So nothing has changed in that regard.  We know this house will never be a satisfactory place to live so we have been looking hard all summer and considering where we might like to land permanently.

We’ve been looking for an F250 Powerstroke to replace the Exploder so now we’ll also look for an older 5th wheel to go behind the big Ford.  That combination will be more than adequate for the summer weekend campers that we have become.  As it turns out this winter is a great time to buy a used pickup because there is a record crop coming off in SK right now.  One hard and fast rule for SK farmers is “when you take off a good crop you go buy a new truck.”  I stopped in at Cypress Ford in Swift Current last week and they had 8 new King Ranch diesels lined up side by side.  They run $60,000++ so it looks to me like at least that dealership is ready for a big sales season which means by Jan/Feb they’ll be trying to move some nice trade-ins.

We both really like Buchanan and wouldn’t mind dying here.  Don’t get me wrong – we’re neither of us in any rush to take that final step but in the meantime its a really friendly safe community.  We have paved streets, city water, low taxes, good neighbours and the town mows the grass when we’re not here so there’s a lot worse places to live.  We have been giving serious thoughts to demolishing the house we have and moving a house onto this property.  Another option is to buy a different property in town but there’s surprisingly few places for sale.  This may be a dying town but its a town that has survived years of NDP neglect in the province and its still here for the recovery.  There’s some really nice houses in town and relatively few real wrecks, despite the fact that the house we own is definitely in the wreck category. 

A third option is to buy a quarter or half section of farmland with a yardsite but we are reluctant to do that because then right away we’re back to maintaining a well and farm septic system.  Here all we have to do is turn on a tap and the (treated) water comes out.  Or we fire up the shit pump and the sewer runs away.  QED as father used to say.  SWMBO has a romantic memory of farm life but I clearly remember hauling the shit pump on Christmas Eve and fighting with iron bacteria in the well.

Stay tuned. 

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Well ……….. this is awkward


Not only are we not warming up as fast as the doom and gloomers would like you to believe, for the last 20 or so years we haven’t actually warmed up at all. 

I’m no expert but here’s a couple of people who clearly are:

Bjorn Lomborg

Judith Curry

I’m still in favour of global warming because of that Northwest Passage thing but its looking increasingly less likely that its going to work out in my lifetime.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My ain’t that purty


We’re parked on the north side of Horseshoe Lake, looking across the lake over the remains of a yardsite that dates back to the early 1900’s.  My grandfather and his brother settled 3 miles south of here close to 100 years ago.  Today there’s someone else in the grandpa’s yard and it is in fact almost unrecognizable as the yard I have so many happy memories of.  Uncle Ernie’s yard on the other hand, hasn’t changed a lot from what I remember.  Aunt Velma’s animal cutouts are gone from the front yard and there’s more and newer buildings in the yard but the basic layout is still the same. 

We didn’t plan this as a trip down memory lane but it certainly hit me that way this afternoon as I turned north off 15 highway “just before the big hill” and headed up past grandpa’s old yard to Marvin and Marilyn’s yard.  Mother used to say “I don’t know why he thinks one hill is any bigger than the rest of them” but all of the hills on 15 highway have been tamed by years of road construction and there’s more happening right now.  We had to chug through about 5 miles of construction just east of Kenaston where they are raising and widening the grade.  I briefly considered trying to go around the construction but decided that 10 extra miles of gravel would be worse than just grinding along in 3rd or 4th through the work zone.

Marilyn is going to interview Paula in the morning about livestock production and we will take some pictures of cows on pasture tonight.  Marvin’s boys are combining wheat behind the yard so I’ll go down there close to sunset and get some video footage just in case.  I thought the cows would have been over to check us out by now but I’m sure before the night is over they’ll have come round to see what we are doing.  We’ve got several fresh cowplops smeared on the tires so I know they’ve been this way today.

The lake in the picture above was the source of ice for the farm.  I think I can remember there being an icehouse at grandpa and grandma’s but I may be just remembering father’s stories about getting ice.  Either way I’m glad my refrigeration doesn’t depend on cutting blocks of ice out of the lake and storing them in sawdust so they last through the summer.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

What the f……?

OK – so I’ve been driving around Maryland for close to a week now & I keep seeing these license plates with “War of 1812” on them.  WTF is that all about????


In case you don’t know WE KICKED YOUR YANKEE ASSES IN 1812.  Not once, not twice but three times.  We chased your butts out of Canada two times and then just for good measure we burned your White House down.  Why in hell would you want to celebrate that?

I realize that in 2013 we may be a social welfare paradise with 4 submarines that won’t float let alone submerge and an army that hasn’t done much since Normandy but 200 years ago …. we kicked ass.  Yankee ass to be specific.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Bob’s excellent adventure

Well its been a while hasn’t it?  What can I say – we’ve been busy. 

We left Saskatoon and went down to a regional park just outside Weyburn for a couple of days.  Then we headed west and stayed a couple more nights in another obscure regional park which is more or less inside what remains of the village of Ponteix.  I cleaned up a bunch of my Palliser files along the way and Marilyn kept grinding away at the video script for Ag in the Classroom. 

We went out in the Exploder one night trying to find some photos or video footage for the AITC project and ended up having an inadvertent adventure.  We had been out for a couple of hours and it was getting close to sundown when we spotted a spray plane working about 5 miles NE of Ponteix.  We sat on a side road for a while watching the plane work until we got bored.  Rather than drive under his flight path I started to turn around at which point I realized that we had a flat tire.  Then we discovered that last fall when we cleaned the truck up to sell it we took the jack out of it and evidently never got around to putting it back in.  I was able to get the spare down from the stupid location up under the box but of course without a jack there was no way I was going any further. 

Marilyn walked about a half mile south to a yard that turned out to be vacant while I was messing with the spare tire.  When she got back she said there was a shop in the yard so I walked back to see if I could steal a jack.  I found a jack and walked back to the truck.  By that time it was getting dark so when I discovered that the wheel bolts were so tight that I couldn’t loosen them with my crossarm wrench and ended up walking back to the farmyard a second time it was pitch black out.  Of course that meant I had to turn the lights on in the shop to find a wrench and the lights attracted the owner of the yard who happened to be out looking at crops.  That turned out better than it could have and I ended up getting a ride back to the truck plus some assistance changing the tire, including headlights to light up the work. 

The next morning we hooked up and headed further west, to Airdrie this time.  Marilyn, Alison and Donna had cooked up a girlfriend weekend and the respective husbands were welcome to come along as long as we stayed out of the way.  Which we did.  We also drank a lot of beer and had a picnic in Banff.  Then we headed back to Saskatoon so that I could catch a plane to Maryland.  Which is where I am right now.

Due to circumstances completely under my client’s control I ended up being here longer than I had intended.  This morning I woke up with nothing to do other than wait until my parts show up tomorrow.  So after eating breakfast at Bob Evans restaurant I caught the subway into DC.  I didn’t really go anywhere in particular – I just kind of wandered around. There’s a few cities that I have visited where I’m perfectly happy to just wander aimlessly – Washington DC and New York are at the top of that list and there’s probably a couple more if I thought about it for a while.  I also ate some expensive seafood in a marginally decent restaurant. 

Tomorrow – if I’m lucky – UPS will arrive with the missing parts and I’ll get everything wrapped up so I can leave in good time on Tuesday.  Alternatively the parts won’t arrive until Tuesday morning in which case I’ll leave around noon in a panic.  Either way I’ll be home Tuesday night.