Monday, December 29, 2014

Getting ready to head west


And not a minute too soon, judging by the thermometer.  Ours showed minus 35 this morning.  At that point its not material whether its minus 35 C or F.

A year ago now we were holed up in Victoria, both of us sick.  We went there for Christmas and to watch The Hobbit, Part II.  I don’t think we did much in January but we got real busy at the end of January.  That’s when we left for Seattle, followed by Vancouver and then Alaska. 

When we arrived back on the prairies we were both happy to be away from the boat but now we’re both pretty homesick for the ocean.  I brought the bow roller and anchor home with me, hung them up in the garage and more or less forgot about them.  “I’ve got lots 0f time – we’re not going back to the boat for at least 6 months” Well, that was 6 months ago and I’ve been scrambling to get that project wrapped up so I can start on the other project we brought back with us.  The lathe got a good workout again today when I used it to ream out some more holes on the new bracket as well as the pivot sleeve.  I think that project is complete which means I can start on the deck box.

We bought 2 looks-like-teak deck storage boxes when we bought Gray Hawk.  I brought one of them back with us a year ago so that I could epoxy coat and varnish it.  I brought the second one back this year but of course it sat forgotten in the little house until we dragged it over here about a week ago now.  In addition to the bow roller bracket and deck box I also brought out old stainless CQR anchor back.  My plan is to add an some steel and some weight to the point in the hope that will help it engage the bottom.  As it is its really just an ornament – I need to either make it useful as an anchor or find someone else who wants to own it because – in its current state – it just takes up space.

So I’ve got a lot of projects to wrap up before we head west again.  And the departure date is fast approaching.  Weather permitting we hope to leave on Jan 15.  We’ll take a more leisurely trip than we usually do so that we can visit some friends near Edmonton but we’ll be back on the boat 4 or 5 days after we leave Buchanan and maybe sooner.  We’ve done that trip in 2 days when the weather through the mountains cooperates.

We wouldn’t mind seeing The Hobbit, Part III sometime but we’re not as focused on that as we were on the first two in the series.  I expect we’ll find it in a remainder bin at WallyWorld and watch it at home.  It will make more sense in sequence after the first two anyway.  We won’t be dashing out to watch the stupid movie that makes fun of Kim Ill Ding Dong.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a movie that mocks the little clown but I doubt that movie is worth the price of a WallyMart DVD, let alone theatre pricing. 

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Nanny state run amok


If there’s any small “L” liberals out there who have stumbled into reading this you may want to move on. Reading this – and taking it to the polling booth – would be good for all of us but I’m not holding my breath.

Yesterday our neighbour stopped for a visit.  In the course of the visit he happened to mention that he had to get a set of winter tires installed.  Of course that sent me off on my standard rant about how stupid the whole winter tire marketing scam really is.  I’ll spare you the details except to say that we went through all this when we stopped using winter tires 30+ years ago.  All season tires work just fine and – if you want to get all enviro-friendly – 4 all season tires have a much lower environmental footprint than 8 tires swapped out twice annually.  Its nothing more nor less than a marketing scam on the part of tire manufacturers and governments are complicit in the scam.

Once I ran down on my first rant, Keith set me off again by telling me that winter tires were mandatory in BC.  I of course assured him that we have been driving out there for years and it simply wasn’t true.  After he left though I went online to check his claim and, sure enough, the idiot lawmakers in Victoria introduced a new law, effective October 2014 – winter tires are now mandatory for effectively every bloody inch of highway in BC.  They claim the requirement is limited to highways that cross a mountain but when you look at the coverage map its the whole bloody province.  So of course I had to first apologize to Keith and then I phoned my favourite tire shop in Preeceville.

Boycotting BC simply isn’t an option for us – at least not while Gray Hawk is moored on Vancouver Island.  I phoned a buddy in BC and unloaded on him about his idiot lawmakers.  He in turn assured me that nobody was paying a lot of attention to the law but I don’t believe that lack of attention will extend to out of province visitors.  I can easily imagine a checkstop at the Golden scale that simply watches for SK and AB license plates and then checks tires.  At $150 or $200 a pop for the tickets that could be a good revenue generator to help cure the provincial budget deficit.  Worse, the sons of bitches could tell me to turn around and go back to Calgary to buy new tires.

And before any of you try to tell me about the so-called advantages of winter tires let me assure you that I believe there is some measurable advantage to winter tires.  Just like the there’s a measurable advantage to 4WD, tire chains, studded tires, vehicle weights and any number of other DISCRETIONARY steps that I may take to make winter travel safer.  Of course the single most important step that any of us can take to make winter travel safer is to simply stay home when the roads are not fit for travel.  If a situation exists where the difference between winter and all season tires will be the difference between life and death then the drivers involved should have stayed home or the highway should have been closed.  Legislation can never make us completely safe.  As long as there’s idiots on the road my life is in greater danger from idiots than it is from whatever I choose to run for tires.  Chain up laws are no different – if the pass is so bad that trucks need chains to get over the top THEN PARK THE BLOODY TRUCK AND WAIT IT OUT. 

Our world is doomed as long as we have lawmakers who think they can legislate us into safety cocoons. 

Saturday, December 20, 2014


I’ve been building boat parts for the last week. 


The bottom piece with the rounded end is the teak bow pulpit, visible in the photo below.  The angle irons are new fabrication and the existing bow roller bracket is visible in the drawing and the photo.


I drew the area using Sketchup before we left the boat in July.  The final rendition is this one where I have scrubbed out the teak bow pulpit to leave only the stainless steel assembly which I need to now build. 


Some of you may have experience fabricating in stainless.  Its challenging.  Stainless is not that hard to cut, if you cut it the first time.  The problem is that it does something called “work hardening” which means that if your saw or drill misses even one opportunity to cut then the material becomes so hard that nothing will touch it.  A good example is my experience cutting 2 little tabs out of 2” x 3/16 bar yesterday.  On the first cut my reciprocating Dewalt cut through the bar with one blade.  On the second piece I clearly didn’t put enough pressure on the saw because I scrubbed the teeth off three blades before I finished the identical cut that had cost me one blade the first time.

My drill press turns out to be not even close to adequate for drilling stainless.  In order to keep it cutting you have to put serious pressure on the drill and my press simply doesn’t have enough rigidity and torque to handle the necessary forces.  Fortunately I was able to figure out how to do the drilling in the lathe.  Before I figured that out I spent a whole morning drilling one pilot hole in the press.  In the course of that fiasco I broke probably 6 or 8 bits.  Clearly that wasn’t going to work for a total of 14 holes in the entire project.  To make matters worse, most of those holes are 1/2” diameter but I broke all those bits on a 1/4” or possibly smaller pilot hole. 

I had to partially disassemble the lathe, removing the back plate and the guard but with those items out of the way I was able to clamp the parts to the cross slide and from there it was dead simple.  All morning to drill one pilot hole in the press versus roughly a day of drilling to do all the finished holes in the lathe.  Then I ran myself out of MIG wire welding everything together.  I almost got done before I ran out so it won’t take much to finish up and we were already planning to go to Saskatoon on Boxing Day. 


1/2” bit emerging through 2 x 2 x 1/4” 304 SS.

(The guard and backplate are still in place in this picture – I had to remove them in order to drill the holes closer to the centre of the long angle irons)

This project arose because our windlass won’t bring the anchor completely aboard.  If you look at that first photo above with the anchor chain leading straight down from the bow roller you can imagine what happens at the point when the anchor stock reaches the bow roller.  At that instant there is roughly 100 pounds of anchor hanging 2-1/2 feet below the bow roller with the chain bent at 90 degrees over the roller.  There’s no way in hell any reasonably sized windlass is going to pull the stock at that point because the entire weight of the anchor has to swing up and out.

The theory of my modification is that the roller and the entire bracket that houses the roller will pivot at the critical moment.  By the time the anchor stock “emerges” it will have travelled through the pivoting bracket which will give the windlass roughly 7 inches of leverage to lift the anchor.  That should be more than adequate.  Currently I go forward and give the anchor a little tug with the boat hook while Marilyn works the windlass button.  It only takes a momentary lift to get the anchor past the sticking point so I don’t think it will take much help to get it home with only the windlass.  There are times when its not entirely convenient to climb out in the pulpit and lift the anchor, not to mention the challenge that single handing creates.  I’ve lifted the anchor alone but I actually can’t remember how I did it.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Learning new skills

Today I finished building a #2 Morse taper.  Which may not seem like all that great an achievement or it may seem like a major accomplishment, depending on your perspective. 

It turns out that tapers are a common means of attaching tooling to lathes or milling machines and there are a few common standards in use for what is essentially a piece of steel turned to a slightly conical shape.  The old boy that invented the Morse taper – presumably Mr. Morse – evidently was shooting for 5/8 of an inch per foot but his tooling wasn’t perfect.  So depending on the size of the taper – they’re numbered 1,2,3,4, etc – the taper ranges within 1000’s of an inch either side of 5/8” per foot.  All of which means jack shit when you actually cut one of the things.

Initially I tried setting the compound at 5/8” per foot, reasoning that for the accuracy I was likely to achieve, 5/8” per foot was close enough.  Officially a #2 Morse taper is .5994 inches per foot (0.625 would be an exact 5/8” per foot) so the old boy was way off on his spec for #2.  But like I said, that’s all pretty well moot when you get right down to cutting the taper.  When I set the compound at 5/8” per foot I neglected to take into account the fact that the compound should be set for exactly half of the total taper so when I set it at 5/16” for 6 inches I was setting it at twice the angle I should have been using.  That became immediately apparent when I tried my first effort in the tailstock – it was way loose at the tail. 

Next I tried narrowing the angle by eye which got me closer but there wasn’t a hope in hell that I was going to randomly arrive at exactly the right setting.  Time for Youtube and Google. 

My final and successful effort involved a dial gauge and an existing taper thus:


That’s my tailstock drill chuck in the headstock chuck with its #2 Morse taper extending.  Setting the compound was simply a matter of setting the runout on the taper to zero.  I say “simply” but it took a bit of fiddling, although not as much as I expected. With the compound thus set it was pretty straightforward. 

20141214_130702 After all that effort, this is the end result – not much to look at is it?  My initial goal was to build a spring loaded tailstock centre which would be very useful for starting taps in the lathe.  My taper ended up eating up too much of my stock to continue with my original design but the taper will come in handy at some point.  Next time I’m at a farm auction where they’re giving away broken tools I’ll be looking for a 1/2” (or larger) dead electric drill that I can cannibalize the chuck off of.  In the interim I learned a lot.

UPS Ripoff_1


If you zoom in on the image you will see that it is a UPS invoice charging me $34.41 in order to collect a total of $3.23 GST.  (for those of you that argue that the total GST is actually $4.71 when you include the GST on the usurious collection fees I say “PHOOEEY to you”).  This happens occasionally and it is the reason that I avoid using UPS as a delivery option for online purchases.  I actively avoid using suppliers that only offer UPS as a delivery option.  Occasionally though it is unavoidable, as it was in this situation.  Usually what happens is that the driver arrives and then holds my parcel hostage until I pay the blackmail.  This time for some reason the parcel slipped under their radar and I received it followed by this invoice.  Today I mailed a cheque for $8.23 accompanied by a letter outlining my concerns with their attempted blackmail.  I arrived at the sum of $8.23 by totalling the legitimate $3.23 GST and a more reasonable $5 service charge to collect that $3.23.  The reality is that this is simply an electronic transaction for UPS.  Banks generally charge fractions of a dollar for electronic transactions so I think my $5 allowance was more than generous.  I also sent the whole mess to CBC’s GoPublic.  I don’t suppose that will go anywhere but a quick search will confirm that I’m not the only one dealing with and detesting UPS’s attitude on this matter.


Other than minor skirmishes with UPS and learning to use my lathe this has been a pretty quiet week.  Marilyn has been completely occupied with recruiting her replacement at the village office.  She is extremely motivated in that regard because I have made it clear that I absolutely will go to the coast in the middle of January, with or without her.  After the Regina adventure she takes my threats seriously.  More importantly we have a commitment to deliver a lecture to our yacht club at the end of January.  Our topic is “Cruising Off-Season in BC and Alaska – What were we thinking?” 

Most of our fellow club members never untie their boats between the end of September and the middle of May so our winter cruising habits are a great source of entertainment.  Our experience however has been that there are great advantages to winter cruising.  At the risk of spoiling some of those advantages by encouraging others to clutter up the docks and marine parks, we agreed to do the lecture last spring before we came back to the prairies.  Now that the date is looming it is also providing a convenient deadline by which time the village absolutely needs to have a replacement for Marilyn in place.  If it wasn’t for that hard date I suspect we would be sticking around here for at least another month and likely right through to spring.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Not much happened this week

It went by quickly but when I look behind me I don’t see that I accomplished a hell of a lot.  Mind you, I lost three days out of the middle going to a time waster conference in Calgary so that only leaves 4 days and I’ve been sick the last 2 of those. 

Several years ago now the Canadian Consulting Agrologists Association (CCAA) put on a few really good PD seminars in Banff and then in Calgary.  Then the CCAA merged with some high falutin’ management consulting outfit from eastern Canada and they haven’t put on a decent conference since.  The one last week was really bad – there was hardly anyone there and the content sucked.  The only real reason left to attend the thing is for networking opportunities and if there’s no one there then there isn’t much opportunity to network.  So I won’t be going to the one next fall, assuming they actually try to hold one again.


SWMBO is alternating between answering the phone and collecting water bills for the village and making sanding dust in the house.  We’re nearly ready to paint the ceilings but we may postpone that until spring so that we can have the windows open.  We’re going to use oil based paint for the ceilings – it will likely stink pretty bad if the house is closed up when we do it.

I’d been postponing changing the plugs and coils in the Lincoln because I had heard so much bad about the job.  Apparently the plugs often strip out the heads and when they don’t do that they actually break off in the head.  They’re in the bottom of a really deep recess so I can imagine how they could be a problem.  They also have super long threads on the plugs which could help them get stuck in the heads.  I had all the parts before the Calgary fiasco but decided to put the project off until I got home just in case it went south on me.  As it turned out it wasn’t really a problem at all.  I blew the recesses out with compressed air and then pissed a bunch of my favorite weasel piss (3-in-one) in all the holes.  After that had sat for a couple of hours each plug came out easily.  It took a lot of torque to break most of them free but once they were free they spun out by hand.  Then I put a copious amount of never seize on the threads on the new plugs and carefully started them back in.  The whole project probably took 3 hours but that was only because I was being super careful and it included changing the headlamps as well.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Oh dear, this looks bad

And I’m not talking about the weather either.  Although, at minus 28 this morning with a minus 41 degree wind chill, it looks pretty ugly too. 

Nor am I referring to my little Case tractor, despite the fact that it royally let me down yesterday.  First the steering wheel insisted on slipping on the steering shaft.  I’ve got a bad setup there.  The original “system” sucked a bit and my repair to it didn’t really improve the situation.  The original relied on a bakelite hub fitting tightly to about a 1-1/2” knurled shaft.  The two parts are held together by a nut but there isn’t enough taper on the knurled portion, there is no key and eventually the bakelite wheel broke into pieces.  I fixed that with epoxy and ended up with a wheel that looked like it would work but the epoxy isn’t hard enough to hold on the knurled shaft and over time it has just worn out the epoxy.  I’m going to have to go back to the drawing board but in the interim I have drilled the shaft and put a bolt through the steering wheel.  However, no sooner had I solved that problem than another much more serious problem appeared. 

When I started the engine the blade wouldn’t raise and I quickly realized it wasn’t going up because the little tractor was bleeding all it’s oil out.  Its not as serious as it might be – there’s a piece of 1” flex hose that connects the hard line return to the cooler which has failed.  I replaced it when I reconditioned the tractor but perhaps I used the wrong kind of hose – I used whatever I could find at hand which likely wasn’t the best way to select a piece of hydraulic hose.  Regardless of the reason, the tractor is hors de combat until I replace that hose again.  Fortunately all this happened in the relative comfort of my (unheated) shop. 



That’s the real reason for my heading.  My lathe finally arrived.  I ordered it several weeks ago after determining that whatever I was going to find for an affordable used lathe wasn’t likely to be significantly better than what I could buy a new Chinese lathe for.  The one I ordered was shipped from Toronto.  They wanted an absurd amount to ship it to Buchanan but only about $130 to ship to Regina.  I was planning to go to Agribition anyway so I told them to ship to Regina and hold it for me to pick up.  That turned into a bit of a fustercluck because they seemed incapable of providing the most basic order confirmation and their idea of tracking information consisted of a weblink saying “its shipped”.

Early last week I got a phone call from Ridsdale Transport in Yorkton.  Evidently my crate had been passing through the depot in Yorkton when the manager recognized my name.  My little skidsteer went through that depot so that must have been why he remembered me.  Perhaps there was some mention of Buchanan on the bill of lading despite the final destination of Regina.  Whatever the reason, he called me and asked if I really wanted to pick it up in Regina.  I agreed that coming to Yorkton would be preferable.  So I did and of course the excellent manager was away when I arrived and I had to deal with his idiot helper who I had a run in with when I picked up the skidsteer.  This time he was freaking out because I also had a desk in the back of the truck.  He started by asking “How are we going to load it on there?”  I was baffled by the question so I assumed he meant he didn’t have a forklift – the crate weighed around 400 pounds.  When I finally figured out that he was simply too stupid to understand that I could move the desk I told him to find something else to worry about.

The next challenge was getting the heavy crate from the truck to its destination in the basement.  The desk was easy and I was spared any idiot commentary from Ridsdale’s temporary help.  The lathe was a bigger problem and at one point I seriously wondered what I had got myself into.  The little skidsteer easily moved it to the porch and I was able to drag it to the head of the stairs with relatively few problems.  Once it was sitting at the top of the stairwell though the reality of moving 400# down the stairs without losing control of it set in.  I ended up entirely removing the crate except for the plywood base that the lathe was bolted to. That allowed me to remove all the loose parts in the crate as well as most of the weight of the crate and likely dropped the net weight to be moved to around 300# – still enough to get me in trouble but manageable.  Then we strapped it to the little 2 wheel cart which has served us through several moves and I slowly dropped it one step at a time into the basement. 

The next challenge was to get it raised onto the desk but that was anticlimactic.  I just screwed a couple of brackets onto two floor joists, stuck a 1” swing handle through them for a bar and used a nylon ratchet strap as a winch. 


Now I need to figure out how to use it which clearly will take 100s of times as many hours as putting it in place took.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Unfortunately its really winter now

….. fortunately my little Case started like a trooper.  I did have to fiddle fart around with the choke to keep it running.  We’ve got spoiled by computerized ignitions and fuel injection on gas vehicles.  When a diesel starts it generally just runs but a carbureted gas engine can be a temperamental bitch, as those of us of a certain age can well remember.  I can remember many frigid mornings bent over the open engine bay on one of father’s vehicles trying to coax it into life.  My earliest memory of that was when mother’s ‘58 wagon burned my eyebrows off after it coughed a fireball up through the carb.  I can also remember one bitterly cold day in Regina when the radiator in the ‘66 Montclair slushed up and we had to run it with a blanket over the hood until it generated enough heat to thaw itself out.  It had a 390 with an early automatic choke.  Those auto-chokes pretty well never worked.


Its remarkable what the little 446 will push, as this photo should attest ….


That was early going – as I got better at managing the controls I managed to push a lot higher.  I’ve got about 200 pounds of weight on, maybe a little more, plus the tire chains and it handles remarkably well.  I’ve driven full size tractors with blades that handled a lot worse.  Its sometimes a little light on the front end with the blade down but that’s normal too – with the blade on an angle it will tend to steer the tractor but its really quite manageable.  All in all I’m very impressed with how the project turned out.  The only incident this morning was minor.  At one point I started to lose steering control but it turned out that I had failed to tighten the steering wheel nut sufficiently.  It held together long enough to get me back to the garage where a couple of turns with a wrench solved the problem.

Other than last night’s snowfall our week was pretty uneventful.  We made a trip to Nipawin on Wed/Thurs so that I could attend a 3rd degree – actually a 3 candidate 3rd degree.  I haven’t sat in Lodge in Nipawin for years – we couldn’t remember exactly how long it had been.  The degree team from Grand Lodge was in attendance so that brought out a large crowd.  There were close to 30 of us showed up for supper prior to the meeting.  We worked in a visit with Grace and Al which ended up keeping Gracie up until after 2:00 AM.  I expect she was wishing we had stayed home by the quitting time the next day. 

Marilyn has been sanding up a storm getting ready for paint.  We had a good look at the Pinkney ceiling to confirm how we want to paint the ceiling here.  There was a guy in Nipawin who was (locally) famous for the effect he created on ceilings.  We had him do the ceiling on the 1st acreage as well as most of the house in town.  What he did was paint the ceiling with a high gloss oil paint and then, while the paint was still wet, he waved a coal oil lantern around over his head, turning the wick in and out as he did.  Those of you who have used a kerosene lamp know how much soot they can produce.  As that smoke comes out of the top of the chimney it creates a marble effect in the wet paint.  The paint stays glossy but absorbs the soot.  You end up with a very unique ceiling effect that is dead simple to keep clean.  We were pretty sure we wanted to do it again and seeing Pinkney’s ceiling just confirmed that.  Their ceiling is probably over 40 years old now and still looks wonderful.  If this one lasts even half that long it won’t matter to either of us anymore.  The biggest problem now is finding a decent oil based gloss white paint but its out there, we just have to buy it and put it on.  I bought a kerosene lamp off eBay.  We’ll be painting before Christmas.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Another project done

The noisy Onan wasn’t a whole lot of use to us in the backend of the frenchy-bus.  It was great when the bus was mobile but the last year, not so much. 


The thought of digging it out of the back of the bus was daunting but I finally got at it and it wasn’t really that bad.  I kept the costs to a minimum, using mostly old junk that I had lying around. 


I ended up springing for a couple of electrical boxes but otherwise I just used up junk that I already had on hand.  Last night I moved it out of the shop and set it beside the house.  I’ve got the two 8D start batteries out of the bus hooked up so I should have adequate start power.  I haven’t done it yet but I’ve got a battery tender that I will leave hooked up to them. I’m waiting for a call from the local electrician to get a quote on changing the house panel from 125 amp to 200 amp.  Assuming he isn’t stupidly expensive, I’ll add a sub panel into that project so that we can run a few critical circuits on a transfer switch off the genset.  At a minimum I’d like to have the furnace and the kitchen ready to go on the generator – the TV would be nice to have too.  I suppose now that we’re this well set up the power won’t go out but I guess you don’t buy insurance so you can watch your house burn down either. 


I’m coming to the end of my outdoor project list which is a good thing because its getting too cold to work outside – minus 20 this morning.  I’ve got some plexi-glass to install in the skidsteer and I need to build a door for it as well.  I’ve also got a little 12 volt heater that I should hook into the engine cooling loop but I may put that off until warmer weather.  I don’t really need to run the skidsteer in the winter – that’s what the little Onan in the Case garden tractor is for.  If Tasca Auto Parts ever gets done screwing up my order and ships the lower steering shaft for the Lincoln I’ll put that in but its not urgently needed.  I’ve been keeping the old one alive with a grease needle and its nowhere near the end of its life anyway.  I would like to get it done and I’ve paid the bastards for the part but they just seem incapable of getting it shipped.  Other than those two projects I’m pretty well caught up on outside projects.

Whenever I run out of outside project weather there is an expanding list of indoor projects waiting.  Marilyn has already stripped the peeling paint off the kitchen ceiling and patched a bunch of gyproc.  At a minimum we hope to get that painted and lay ceramic tile before we go back to the boat.  Mind you, if both of us stay unemployed, we might just hunker down on the prairies for the winter.  Boating is expensive.  So is renovating.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Cold, damn cold

The furnace is working overtime and I’ve been burning a lot of diesel to keep the little garage warm too.  I’ve got one of those construction heaters that is supposed to burn kerosene but works just fine on diesel fuel.  Recently I have discovered that I can get rid of waste oil by blending it off into the diesel.  I do have to concoct a bit of a witch’s brew in order to get it to burn.  Too much waste oil puts the furnace out and sometimes the smoke is a little intense but when I get the gasoline/oil blend just right it works well and I’m holding my own on the waste oil supply.  I just went through a big round of oil changes to get ready for winter so I’ve got a lot of oil sitting around.  We also brought back about 20 gallons of oil from the boat.  If I can figure out a higher analysis waste blend perhaps I can get rid of that over the winter as well. 

We spent most of the week in Saskatoon.  Ag in the Classroom launched Marilyn’s project with much fanfare at Prairieland and we were invited.  They had about 200 kids from Grade 7 schools around the city participating in the project plus as many more bussed in for the keynote speaker at noon.  The lunch speaker was Craig Kielburger, founder of Free the Children.  He’s a little full of himself but he has every reason to be proud of what he has accomplished.  He’s in his early 20’s now and heads up an organization that started with his dream – as a 12 year old – to make a difference.  Clearly he has made a difference in the world and he has a great ability to communicate with kids so he was an excellent choice for the session.  He’s also the founder of We Day which is a reward celebration for kids who have done some form of volunteer work in both the global and their local communities.  There was a We Day event in Saskatoon on Friday so Sara scheduled her Ag in the Classroom launch a day ahead of that in order to build on the media around We Day.  It worked well – the launch was exceptionally well done and we both had fun shepherding kids through the various learning activities.  Spending time with kids is great, particularly when you know you can send them home at the end of the day.


We used the Saskatoon trip for some visiting and to stock up at Costco.  I brought home some micro-tractor parts and of course I had to stop at Princess Auto.  As soon as the mayor heard I was going to the city I had a shopping list for Princess Auto and Marilyn had a Dollar Store shopping list.  The Dollar Store item was plastic tablecloths for the local hypnotist evening.  They do a celebration here called “Christmas in November”.  Its kind of a combination fall supper, village Christmas party, corporate Christmas party & dance evening.  The DJ for the dance was lame but they usually are.  Larry Christie is the only DJ I can think of who was ever any damn good.  Most times they just play music that they like to listen to which usually is no bloody good for dancing.  This time was no exception so we left before midnight. (which we probably would have done anyway I suppose)


The hypnotist was pretty much like any other hypnotist except that this one is a local lad.  When Wendy from the Co-op walked into the hall they had a big reunion because apparently she used to babysit the guy.  Marilyn spent a bunch of Friday and Saturday in the Community Centre helping prepare the evening meal.  They have a deal at the Plus 50 club here where the men pay a higher annual fee because the women are expected to help with the cooking.  It may not be sexually enlightened but it works for me. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

Little tractors, perverts and cold weather

20141013_110212 20141013_110237

The little Case has come a long way in a short space of time.  Its only about 3 weeks since it was lying in bits scattered around the backyard.  Now its substantially together and today I hung most of the decals on it.  I have to pick up a rattle can of clearcoat to keep the decal edges from lifting and I need a few more electrical bits to finish it up but its real close now. 




I spent a bunch of time this afternoon giving the Onan that came out of the little Case a gasoline bath.  I know you’re not supposed to do that anymore – maybe it never was a good idea – but its not the first engine rebuild that started out with a gas bath and it won’t be the last one either.  I’m not doing a rebuild by any stretch but I do want to clean it up a bit.  Right now I’m waiting for a new crankcase breather plate and then I’ll start bolting everything back together.  I pulled the heads this afternoon and scritched a bit of carbon off the deck and pistons.  I’m going to cheap out on replacing the head gaskets.  I’ve read in several places that I can coat the old ones with several layers of aluminum paint and slap them back on so that’s the way I’ll be doing it.  I’m not real sure what I’m going to do with the engine if I manage to get it running again but these little Onans are pretty rugged engines and they still bring a lot of money if they are running. 

Other than futzing with the tractor I haven’t cut a very wide swath this last week.  Of course we’ve been watching the Jian fiasco unfold and I am hoping that – since he seems to like rough sex – he’ll get a chance to experience rough sex in a prison environment.  I never liked the little SOB.  I can’t claim to have known anything about his sexual perversity but I just didn’t like him.  It always seemed to me that he had an unhealthy interest in interviewing perverts.  Pervs of a feather flock together.

About a week ago the mayor consulted me on the purchase of a fancy transfer switch to sit between his house panel and his generator.  I’m not sure what my authority is to speak about transfer switches but it got me thinking about our own generator and the fact that, when the power goes out in Buchanan, it generally stays out for a long time.  We got spoiled in Nipawin.  Sask Power makes most of the power for the whole province within 40 miles of Nipawin so, on those rare occasions when our power flickered, that usually was all it was, a flicker.  Buchanan, on the other hand, is at the end of a very long extension cord.  If that cord gets unplugged it can take a very very long time to get it all hooked up again.

We sat through a day long power outage here a few years ago in the bus.  At the time it really didn’t impact us because we could run the generator.  We still have the generator but it wasn’t a bunch of use 3 blocks away from us in the back end of a dead bus.  So early this week I started unbolting it and on Friday I pulled it out and loaded it in the back of the big white Ford.  Its pretty dirty so I thought I might as well take it with us to Saskatoon this week and give it a bath.  Then I’ll have to jury rig some kind of fuel supply and a battery but it should be relatively straight forward to get us a backup genset.  Gary bought his fancy transfer switch online so – whenever it arrives – I’ll have a look at it before I decide if there’s one of them in our future too.  The same switch is available in Canada for a mere 2 times the price that it sells for in the US.  So if we do buy one, it will be coming across the line as well.  The post office lady is getting used to me coming in to pick up parcels.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Simply obscene

And no, I’m not talking about what happened on Parliament Hill this week.  The topic of the day is Ford Stealerships and for that matter, stealerships in general.

I’m likely a little more willing than the average consumer to buy online but, if I’m in the forefront of online purchasers, I believe there’s a tidal wave about to engulf conventional dealerships if they don’t wake up to the risk.  Yesterday I backed the Lincoln over a dirt ridge and ripped this thing open:


The “thing” in that picture is the evaporative emissions charcoal canister which some bozo/engineer thought it would be wise to locate under the trunk of the Ford panther series platform. Every manmade problem in this world can be traced to either an engineer or a lawyer …. but I digress.

The box that is now flopping loose below the trunk contains the evaporative emission control system.  I’ve had an encounter with it already so its operation is not entirely foreign to me.  And other than the colossally stupid location on this particular vehicle platform, I don’t really have any issue with the concept.  The way the system works – and its been on all gasoline vehicles since sometime in the 1990’s – is actually relatively simple.  The gasoline vapours which we used to smell every time we walked up to a vehicle on a hot day are now directed to a charcoal canister.  The fuel system is under a low pressure by means of a sealed fuel cap which effectively forces the vapours into the charcoal canister without letting them leak out into the environment.

If that was the extent of the system, eventually the charcoal would become saturated with fuel vapour and stop working.  So the rest of the system is a solenoid controlled by the engine control module (computer) which opens periodically to connect the charcoal filter to manifold vacuum.  All gasoline engines operate with relatively strong vacuum in the manifold which is what draws air and fuel into the engine.  When that vacuum is connected to the charcoal canister it purges the vapour which has collected in the canister and allows the charcoal to continue to do its work of absorbing fumes off the fuel tank.  Apparently fuel vapours were a major component of the city smog that those of us who are of a certain age can remember, not fondly.  All modern gasoline vehicles have had some variant of the above system for 20 years now so the fact that most of us don’t know anything about the system tells me that they are pretty reliable. 

The stupid location of the system on the Lincoln – did I mention it was designed by an engineer? – means that it gets full of dirt and assorted road crap.  That was why I even knew it existed.  Last summer it got plugged up with crap and the computer started throwing a check engine code.  Last fall I pulled it all apart and cleaned it up which got it working again and stopped the engine codes.  This time it has missing parts so, rather than just replace the necessary parts, I decided I would change out the entire assembly.

Tasca Parts online has the assembly for $231, plus freight of course.  I found it in various other places including eBay for about the same money with only the freight charges varying widely. 

canister The genuine FoMoCo photo, complete with Ford watermark. 

I also need a little connector which got ripped off in the incident.  It is ridiculously expensive – the best I found online was $32 which is just stupid considering its the size of a coke bottle top.  I expect it is manufactured in Taiwan and the original manufacturer gets something less than a dollar for it.


This morning I started phoning local Ford dealers to see if I could shop locally.  I phoned Preeceville first but they didn’t even have a message on their phone.  After about 10 rings I concluded that they likely weren’t open on weekends so I called Yorkton.  The nice man in parts took an incredibly long time to come up with a price considering that I gave him two genuine Ford part numbers.  Google or eBay will turn those part numbers into a price in less than 30 seconds but it took Dennis in Yorkton a couple of minutes before he came back with a price.  He wanted a mere $65 for the electrical connector.  And over $700 for the canister.  I asked him if those prices were negotiable and – while he did offer a slight discount – his idea of negotiable and my idea didn’t exactly mesh.

Now I don’t expect that local dealers will be equally priced with online retailers.  I’m perfectly willing to pay a premium to deal locally.  I’m not however willing to pay double and if the truth be known its not so much a percentage as an absolute amount that forms my barrier to dealing locally.  I’ll pay $50 to $100 for the “privilege” of dealing locally but no more and I’m not really sure why its worth any premium at all. 

If the local retailer stocked anything then I could justify paying extra for quick access to the parts.  The simple fact now is that nobody stocks jack shit locally.  So the online timeline may be the same or at worst only a few days longer than the local timeline.  There’s also the matter of professional advice and support but again, I’m not so sure the local person is better.  All too often I’ve gone up to parts counters and had the idiot on the other side of the counter tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about or that I didn’t actually want what I said I wanted.  Just yesterday I was forced into NAPA in Melfort where the old bat at the counter told me they didn’t have any panel mount volt meters.  I said “come on, you must have oil pressure gauges and voltage meters somewhere”.  She wandered over to the aisle that I hadn’t made it to yet and said “see, we don’t have one”.  I reached out and pulled the volt meter off the wall in front of her, pointed out where it clearly said “Volt Meter” on the packaging and then had to listen to her blather about how she thought I wanted something different.  That kind of experience happens all too often and I don’t appreciate having to work hard get around someone who presumably is there to help me.  So I’m not sure why I would willingly pay any premium at all for “local” access to parts.  The fact remains that I will pay more but increasingly I don’t.

Since I had an order coming from Tasca Parts I ordered the intermediate steering shaft at the same time.  There’s two u-joints in the steering column on the Lincoln, one up under your knees and the other exposed to the elements right next to the exhaust manifold.  Guess which one dries out and fails first?  I’ve squirted grease into it with a grease needle a couple of times now but that’s only postponing the inevitable.  It doesn’t sound like its very hard to change – one online mechanic says it took him less time than an oil change.  139 bux from Tasca – I wonder what the local stealerships would think it might be worth if I let them sell it to me and install it?

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The artist has returned.


It turns out there’s an art group in Buchanan.  Who knew?  They meet once a week to do art.  SWMBO has been attending and she has started painting again.  She also drew Gray Hawk anchored in a bay with crayons.  (she drew the picture with crayons – Gray Hawk was anchored with an anchor)

I’ve been painting too.


I got the little tractor tore apart and then hung it from the rafters in the garage.


When I was in Saskatoon last week I picked up a few quarts of Case tractor paint.  I bought a quart at Hergott’s in Humboldt for $21 and 2 quarts at Redhead in Saskatoon for $56 – evidently there’s a lot more overhead at the Redhead store.  For the vintage of my tractors I should be using Case Power Red (which is actually orange) and Desert Sand (which is kind of a shitty brownish yellow).  I wasn’t able to find Desert Sand so I settled for Power Tan which is actually the Case construction yellow but its a pretty close match to the original colour for my tractor.  The whole point of this repaint is to make the tractor look better than it did.  I have no illusions that I am doing a restoration quality paint job. 

Last night I buggered around with the welder trying to patch up the rust holes in the front of the hood.  It was kind of like trying to weld tin foil so I quickly gave up, mixed up some epoxy paste with colloidal filler and goobered the hood up with that.  That went WAY quicker and once its covered by paint no one will know the difference.  I did weld the broken hood hinge back on.

This morning I started squirting paint onto the various bits and pieces hanging from the roof. 



I’ve still got all my spraying equipment from the summer when I painted the bus.  I’ve also got a lot of odds and ends of paint leftover from that project so I had plenty of reducer.  It was moderately cold this morning – about 10C – so I threw in some additional hardener as well.  I don’t really know what I’m doing but it seemed like a good thing to do and the guys at Walker’s Auto Body Supply in Saskatoon thought it might help.  I had read online that adding hardener was a good idea but I thought it might just be internet bullshit so I checked with Walker’s when I was buying gunwash.  They said it wouldn’t hurt anything and might help in colder weather.

The forecast is good out as far as they can be trusted so I hope to get the tractor back together while I can still remember where everything goes.  When I was in Saskatoon I also picked up my used Roper garden tractor complete with new Linamar (Onan) engine.  The tractor is a piece of shit but the engine runs like a charm.  I haven’t pulled anything apart yet but maybe by Tuesday I’ll be ready to do the transplant.   

Monday, October 13, 2014

Turkey, tractors and a football game

The mayor and I spent most of the week not fixing the grader.  In the end our problem was so simple I’m reluctant to admit I was too stupid to diagnose it.  We had a fitting on the hydraulic cylinder that lifts the wing which just barely touched a support when the wing was fully lifted.  Evidently it was touching hard enough to eventually break the fitting.  We never saw it touch so we stayed focussed on the problem being too much pressure.  Finally on Saturday we had a supervisory crowd of locals and one of them spotted the real problem.  So ---- finally ---- that project is fully behind us. 

I immediately launched into tearing the 2nd of my two little tractors completely apart.


You may recall that I bought the two tractors last fall, intending to use one while I fixed the other one.  I started out using this one but the mighty Onan had so much blowby that I eventually switched to the other tractor.  It wasn’t without its challenges either so the summer slipped by without any fixing getting done on either unit beyond what was absolutely necessary to get the lawns mowed regularly. There was only one time this whole summer where I drove a tractor to the other house, mowed the lawn and came home without incident.  That was the final mowing of the fall.  On every other occasion something happened during the mowing which necessitated returning home for repairs.  Neither of them ever made me walk home but it was a near thing a couple of times.

20141013_110225 These little Cases came with Kohlers or Onans with the Onan being the “big” engine.  The Kohlers were single cylinder, rated at 14 HP.  The Onans are twins rated at 16 or 18 HP.  Onan eventually licensed an outfit called Linamar to make a copy of the B43M which is the engine I had in the 446 Case.  Onan repair parts are stupid expensive but I was lucky enough to find a low hours Linamar that some guy in P.A bought new and stuffed into a piece of shit Roper lawn tractor.  He seemed astounded that I wanted to buy his lawn tractor so I could cannibalize the engine but that didn’t prevent us from making a deal.  Before I put the “new” engine in I’m going to slobber a bit of orange paint around the tractor frame.  It will by no means be a restoration paint job but once its covered with grass slime and oil slobber it should look OK from a hundred yards. 

Along with drooling some paint onto the frame I’ll replace the obvious things like worn out hydraulic hoses, worn out tie rod ends and boogy wiring.  I expect I’ll be able to cannibalize more than just the engine from the little Roper – the seat looks good as does the steering wheel.  My tractor is actually pretty tight, its just been neglected.  A simple cleaning along with replacing a few obvious parts, changing the fluids and adding some grease will go a long way to resurrecting it.  My goal isn’t a restoration – its a usable lawn tractor.  That shouldn’t be too hard to achieve.  I still haven’t figured out what to do about the tiller.  The tines on the ones I got are pretty well pooched and so far I haven’t been able to find jobber replacements.  We don’t have a garden so its not a big issue yet.

Today we had a few people over for Thanksgiving dinner and to watch the fiasco in Montreal.  That was a particularly forgettable experience.  We can only hope that Kerry Joseph injects some playoff life into the team.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Fall yardwork

Shortly after we moved in here at 515 I posted this picture of the house …….


… and Jim Vancha quickly commented that he expected there was a chainsaw in my future.  As it turned out a Dewalt reciprocating saw did the trick just fine.  There are a lot of advantages to the Dewalt solution: its lighter, much lighter, it starts immediately when you squeeze the trigger, it doesn’t stink, it doesn’t puke oil and when the blade gets dull you chuck it and put in a new sharp one.  I used to own a really nice Husky 266 with a 26 inch bar but the more I think about it the less I miss it.

ChipperChipping We’d been holding off on cutting the trees until Marilyn’s new toy showed up and it arrived yesterday.  I spent last night putting it together.  Its incredibly well built but the assembly instructions were equally incredibly poorly written. In spite of the instructions I got it together and we fired it up today.  It easily chewed through six inch branches.  The specs claim that it will handle eight inch diameter and I expect it would.  The challenge is to get the branches that stick out from the trunk to feed in so even a branch that is much smaller than the nominal capacity may jam up and not feed through.  All in all though it worked remarkably well and we reduced several relatively large trees to a surprisingly small pile of wood chips.

Neighbour Keith was having as much fun as we were.  As soon as I fired up the tractor he was right in the middle of the project. When we got done our trees we pruned several obnoxious branches off his trees and quickly reduced them to wood chips as well.  We were clearly dealing with our own trees on our own property but in Keith’s case we were mutilating the village’s trees.  I hope that doesn’t come back to haunt us.


Now we’ll have to paint the house because you can actually see it.  Once we got the trees out of the way I fired up the little Kubota and yanked out a couple of stumps.  It was a little spooky working that close to the house but I didn’t damage anything.  Apparently the plan is to allow the cedars by the front steps to regrow.  I don’t get to make the plans – I’m just the goof that helps to make them happen.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Giving back a little bit

We sure like this little village and they have been very welcoming to a couple of vagabonds who don’t spend a lot of time here.  We feel guilty – like we’re taking advantage of the community without ever contributing much.  So when I had a chance to help the mayor fix the grader I jumped at the opportunity.

Now you might wonder what I know about graders and that would be a valid thing to wonder about.  The answer is --- not a hell of a lot but maybe a little more than the mayor.  The second thing you might wonder is – what the hell is the mayor doing fixing the grader.  And the answer to that is that we weren’t so much fixing the grader as improving it. 

Last winter the town foreman moved on to greener pastures and his 2IC has been in charge ever since.  As Gary (the mayor) pointed out – all the work seems to be getting done with half the manpower and not only does Richard not book much overtime, he also takes off (unpaid) Friday afternoons to visit his girlfriend.  So things have worked out well.  But Richard would have been over his head doing to the grader what Gary and I did over the last week.  We may have been over our heads too but that never even slowed us down and certainly didn’t stop us.


This is the “new” grader in its bright yellow Champion livery (and not so bright front blade).

The town sold the old grader to my friend “little buddy” Arnold Mayrand in Canora.  Arnie will take his standard $1000 markup and sell it on to some other unsuspecting fool.  Over the years I bought a lot of stuff from Arnie and so did Rex.  One time after Rex had been down on a buying trip Arnie phoned me and said “you know, every time after that Rex leaves here I have to go to the hospital and get a blood transfusion.”  But I think Arnie did OK over the years and he was a lot of fun to deal with.  I bought a grader from him one time and he phoned a few weeks later to try to buy it back.  He was prepared to pay a significant premium too but we kind of liked it by then.  I think that’s the town grader in Arborfield now if I’m not mistaken. 

Anyway, Arnie bought Buchanan’s grader and Buchanan replaced it with a fairly new Champion 730A.  “Fairly new” in this case meaning less than 20 years old.  Unlike the city operators who seem to relish dropping a snow ridge across every driveway they come to, here in Buchanan when they plow snow they drop a wing to clear the driveways as they go by.  Evidently Arnie’s purchase didn’t include the wing because it was bolted to the new grader by the time I arrived on the scene.  The problem that Gary & I were addressing was the lack of an open hydraulic spool to control the wing.  Redhead was willing to install the hydraulics for $3200 but we’re frugal here in Buchanan.  Our budget was “as little as possible” and we likely came in around $600.  Gary had hit on the idea of splitting the circuit that controls the front wheel tilt and using it to control both the wheels and the wing. 

The first I knew of the plan was at coffee row where Gary was displaying a hydraulic block with 6 holes in it and an electric solenoid on one end.  The topic of conversation was “which holes are connected to which other holes?” and there were a lot of opinions -- A LOT OF OPINIONS.  Anyone who has ever participated in small town coffee row will appreciate that there were A LOT OF OPINIONS.  The valve had come from Princess Auto and I expect whoever sold it to Gary had explained which holes went together but somewhere along the way that information had escaped.  I suggested that I could likely find a diagram online and in fact did find one but there was then some further debate about whether we could believe that diagram. (I never doubted that we could believe it but there was some debate nevertheless.)  Finally I proposed that we simply blow through the ports to see where the air came out which is exactly what we did and, not surprisingly, the diagram turned out to be correct.


And this is the snow wing in the down or capture position.  Normally it would be raised for plowing and then whenever the operator comes to a driveway it would be dropped to hold the snow and save the homeowner from having to clean up a hard snow ridge.

The plan was to install the solenoid valve in the control circuit to the tilt on the front wheels.  We would install the valve so that the circuit would default to the wing but when the solenoid was energized the oil would still flow to the wheels.  And that’s exactly what we did.  It probably took us a day and a half in total and several trips to Canora for hydraulic supplies but this morning at 11:00 we buttoned up the instrument panel with big smiles on our faces and called the job done.


This is the genuine Princess Auto solenoid that diverts the oil from the front wheel tilt to the snow wing.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Good on ya, Scotland

Last week Marilyn and I agreed that neither of us thought the referendum would come down nearly as close as the polls were predicting.  But I was still anxious to hear the real numbers Friday morning.  Not that Scotland’s departure from Great Britain would have had any particular impact on me, or anyone else in North America – I just hate to see countries going down this increasingly popular Balkanization route.  Its sometimes hard to live together, as any married couple can attest, but the benefits vastly outweigh the costs.

I hold to a view that is uncommon in western Canada – I don’t want to see Quebec separate either.  Unlike the Liberal solution to separation, I also don’t believe that Canada needs to acquiesce to every stupid demand that Les Quebecois may make on the rest of the country.  I listened to some dewy-eyed Quebec youth babbling on before the Scottish referendum about how wonderful it was to be part of this historic undertaking and how much they were looking forward to the results of the vote.  I doubt they were nearly as enthusiastic the morning after.  In fact I suspect the flight home was very subdued.  I hope those youths got a good solid dose of reality and were forced to take a hard look at their own beliefs about Quebec.  And more particularly about Quebec’s and their place in confederation.

Meanwhile, on a completely different subject ….

I decided to put new tires on my little tractor after one of the rear rims split wide open and threatened to let the tube sneak out.  I was actually really lucky that it didn’t die somewhere on a Buchanan street between our two houses.  It took a while to round up a new rim but the internet came through.  Then I phoned the tire shop in Preeceville.  I had a price from Combine World at Allan but he kind of pissed me off because he said he was going to phone me back about a rim and I’m still waiting for that phone call.  I guess he’s been busy.  For the past two months.

The kid at the tire shop in Preeceville was really pleasant on the two occasions when I was looking for an oddball belt so I phoned him about tires.  Turns out his price wasn’t much different than Combine World so I asked him to order a couple of tires.  Then I asked if he wanted a credit card number to guarantee the order.  “No problem – it will take a couple of days for them to come in – you can pay me then.”  Sure enough in a couple of days he phoned to say the tires were in so I took the new rim up but I still had one tire on the tractor and it was full of fluid.  They mounted the tire and again I offered to pay but he said to just wait until they had done both tires.  So Tuesday, about 2 weeks after he initially ordered the tires, we finally got everything done, and I finally paid him.  Try that anywhere in a city.  Whenever we get annoyed by the fact that everyone in this small town knows everyone else’s business we need to remember that they also trust everyone.

The big news in Buchanan is that the woman who looks after the water treatment plant put too much chlorine in the water.  Rather than that turning into a big problem our mayor – very sensibly – thought that this would be a good opportunity to flush the lines.  Apparently they need to shock chlorinate the lines every few years anyway so they just took advantage of the mistake and got the shock treatment out of the way.  We noticed that the water was off briefly one night and the next morning there was a strong chlorine smell to the water.  Other than that I haven’t noticed anything but it is a big topic at coffee row. 

I spent today changing oil in various diesel engines and losing the keys to the truck.  I have a bad habit of absent-mindedly setting them down in some spot that seems logical in the moment but is in fact an incredibly stupid place.  Normally I am eventually able to retrace my tracks and find them but, as of now, they have me stumped.  Fortunately Marilyn has a set.  And – unlike me - she hasn’t lost hers.

The only other excitement in our lives is that I have put signs on some of my equipment and set up a primitive website for my digging equipment – I hesitate to call it a “business” but I suppose it may someday qualify for that appellation. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Prairie oasis and weird places

We spent the night before last at Cabri Regional Park.  We would have loved to stay longer but water and work kept us on the move.  Water was an issue because, despite the beauty of the park, their tap water is frankly disgusting.  We neglected to fill our tank before we arrived and refused to put their muddy brown solution in our lines.  Work beckoned as well because I’m hurrying to get my Assiniboia Farmland files wrapped up over the next couple of days.  So we only spent one night but we definitely will be back – with a full water tank next time.



A winding trail from the bald prairie northeast of Cabri leads to a little oasis on the bank of the south Saskatchewan River.

After we got set up at Cabri I went for a drive over toward Shackleton.  I was in that area in July but it was so damn wet that I couldn’t get to any of the places I wanted to go.  I even ended up in the ditch briefly on that trip and – horror of horrors – had to be drug out of the ditch by a Chebbie.  In my defence the idiot driving the Chebbie had forced me off the road to begin with but mercifully stuck around to pull me back onto the road.  Its not a whole lot drier now but it was enough drier that I could get to the places I wanted to go this time.  Some of the ruts I made a month ago were still evident.

20140912_152744Western Canada has a lot of really big things which some local welder/artist thought would be a good idea.  I’ve profiled some of them over the years but this one is about the most bizarre example of the genre.  Go ahead – guess what it is before you read the next caption.  You won’t get it right.  Guaranteed.


There …. I told you that you wouldn’t get it.  And, tempting as it was, I decided to give the museum a pass. 

We got a little rain overnight at the park.  It probably amounted to less than a 10th of an inch but it has been so wet down here that even that insignificant amount had an impact on the road.  The truck was just on the edge of spinning out all the way up the fairly steep hill as we left the park.  Then we chucked mud all over the undercarriage as we followed the gravel into Cabri.  I deliberately went slow and managed to keep the front of the rig clean but the undercarriage got blasted.  When we pulled into the Husky at Swift Current I discovered that we only had 3 shoes left.  Somewhere along the way the right front tire on the trailer had completely shredded.  Fortunately the rim was undamaged but all that remained of the tire was strings of rubber around the rim.  The night before I had looked at the tires and thought that they didn’t have much life left in them so we limped from the Husky to the Integra Tire store next door where we had 4 new shoes installed.  It was Saturday morning so there was only one guy on duty, answering the phone, manning the counter and installing tires.  Nonetheless he had us out the door with four new tires in under an hour and for just a shade over $600.   Two more of the tires were on the verge of separating so it was way past time anyway.

Last night we stayed in Notukeu Regional Park on the outskirts of Ponteix.  I’ve got a couple of visits nearby so we’ll spend one more night here before we go back to Regina and then on to Buchanan.  My farming gig fell through – evidently they found another truck driver who was prepared to come immediately.  While I would have appreciated a call to tell me they had found another driver I was actually relieved.  There’s no way they would have paid me even a fraction of what I think I’m worth and I’ve just got too many things to do right now to be doing charity work for farmers.  Particularly so for farmers who can well afford to hire the help that they really need. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Home briefly

Last weekend I drove Marilyn to Saskatoon where she rented a car for a fast trip to the Okanagan.  She was pitching a training program to some grape growers association.  Her reunion in P.A. went well, wrapping up with a breakfast at the golf course on Sunday morning.  We left from the breakfast for Saskatoon.

While she was driving across half the country I finished up some Assiniboia files across the north of the province.  Then I came back to Buchanan via Bjorkdale so I could look at another skidsteer loader.  It was pretty tired and overpriced.  The guy who owned it wasn’t home so I told his wife he could call me when he got real on his expected price.  So far no phone calls.  The guy in Big River with the bastard Thomas loader, on the other hand, has already called me with a price reduction.  I may end up buying that one.  It seemed pretty tight – he obviously is negotiable on the price – and its a very simple machine.  Simple = good in my books.

Meanwhile I’ve been cleaning up the little Kubota.  I spent about an hour washing it yesterday.  Next I need to figure out why it has no working gauges and I need to replace the shutdown cable.  Right now when its time to shutdown I need to reach in behind the engine and feel blindly for the shutdown level.  Which is actually pretty simple now but my arm ends up really close to the muffler and its kind of a pain so it needs to be fixed.  The vendor had already bought the cable but hadn’t got around to installing it so he included it in the deal.

Marilyn came home with a bad cold so we’re taking a couple of days for her to recover and I’m happy to have the time to get things ready for winter.  Then we’ll make one final trip to wrap up the farm visits. 

A friend has asked me to help him with his harvest so that’s where I’ll likely end up by the end of next week.  Marilyn’s plans are still fluid.  There could very well be snow on the ground by the time I get back here again so yesterday and today I was busy getting my various antiques ready for winter.  I spent most of today dinging up the little Kubota.


Revere seems a little extreme but I’m certainly coming to appreciate how good a deal I appear to have made on the little Kubota.

I started the day with a new grease gun and by the end of the day the first tube was empty.  That likely means I have too many pieces of equipment.  Along the way I discovered that my Kubota does have glow plugs after all.  They weren’t connected to anything but when I did they clearly work because the little 3-banger fired on the first turn.  I was suspicious that my alternator wasn’t putting out so I tested it and sure enough, it wasn’t doing anything other than turning.  A few jumper wires later I had confirmed that there is nothing wrong with the alternator.  There’s a lot of boogy wiring to be cleaned up – I expect as I get further into cleaning up the wiring more of the bits and pieces will start to work again.  The defective shutdown cable turned out to be as simple as connecting the cable that was already in place so now I have a spare shutdown cable if I should ever need one.


Here’s a good example of boogy wiring – random wires going to nowhere, lots of black tape.


In the past I’ve always hired someone else to do my sandblasting and that was likely very wise.  However I have several projects coming up that will require sandblasting so I now own a genuine Princess Auto piece of crap sandblaster. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The tireman

We left Buchanan after lunch, headed west and then turned north at Watson.  I had planned to turn north at Wadena but we’ve gone to Saskatoon too many times so we were headed west out of Wadena before I realized what I was doing.  It didn’t really matter – our destination was Prince Albert so we had about 4 possible routes from Buchanan and they were all roughly the same distance.  I just haven’t been up that highway from Wadena through Archerwill and Tisdale for a long time. 

Instead of Archerwill we got to see the tireman at Daphne.  There’s not much left of Daphne.  Beyond the tireman, there’s really nothing left of Daphne.  The tireman on the other hand has been there as long as I can remember and we’re talking childhood memories now.  Early childhood.

20140828_150254 I think he’s been rebuilt a few times.  My recollection is that the version from my childhood had a body made of tires as well.  And the original tires weren’t painted.  He may very well be like your grandfather’s axe – 3 new handles and 1 new head but otherwise the same axe he cleared the homestead with.

Today the tireman stands guard over a roadside store.  They had signs out claiming that they had fresh produce for sale so we stopped in search of new potatoes.  I detoured to take a picture of tireman and Marilyn went into the store.  Evidently she missed the sign which caught my attention as I entered.  I’m paraphrasing now but it said something to the effect of:

We love our children dearly so that’s why we let every bug in christendom shit all over our produce which we then sell to you.  We also don’t believe in sustainable production so we constantly mine the ground that produces the food we sell.

Like I said, I’m paraphrasing – but we didn’t buy anything either. Instead we went on to Melfort and followed the signs to the farmers’ market on the Co-op parking lot.  There we found Steve Rudy from Nipawin selling produce out the side of a panel van.  I used to sell Steve liquid fertilizer so I asked him if his potatoes were organic.  I think Steve is losing it a bit – he clearly didn’t recognize me but he immediately assured me that his potatoes were in fact organic.  I of course challenged him and he immediately agreed that he did use some non-organic inputs.  Where he is growing potatoes if he didn’t at the very least use potash his spuds would be scabby diseased monsters.  And the ones we bought were on the contrary, very fine specimens of potatoes.  And they tasted wonderful when we boiled some of them for supper.

It struck me though how quick Steve was to claim organic status, as if it was automatically good.  Clearly he had been asked the question before and equally clearly the right answer was to claim organic status, no matter how conventional his production practices might be.  After a very few minutes of conversation Steve launched into an explanation of the superiority of his cabbage crop and how essential it was to use insecticides on cabbages.  Evidently his neighbours are constantly asking how he can grow cabbages while theirs get eaten up by worms.  The answer of course is to kill all the moths that lay the eggs that subsequently hatch into worms.  Its really sad that a man who has figured out how to grow premium vegetables on sandy marginal land finds it necessary to lie about how he grows those vegetables.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

A different kind of dirt

Its been pissing rain every day everywhere in southwest Saskatchewan. But the effect of that rain depends entirely on where you happen to be.

Two days ago I was wandering around near Cabri, Shackleton and Rush Lake.  They have the snottiest slimiest mud known to man.  I could scarcely move – two wheel drive or four wheel drive – it made no difference.  At one point I didn’t trust taking the truck down the road so I got out to walk and the road – which appeared dry on the surface – was too slimy to even walk on.  Another time I got sideways on a sideroad and spent over 15 minutes jockeying around in 4WD to get headed back the way I had come from.  That time I thought I was done for but I persevered and finally got out.

Yesterday I was in the Lucky Lake, Riverhurst, Outlook area and it was night and day different.  I actually drove through standing water several times.  Roads which looked too slimy to travel were easily handled in 2WD.  It is remarkable how different soil can be – if anything its wetter over here than it was by Swift Current.

Tonight we’re going to visit Jorgito’s new grandparents.  We haven’t heard from Glen and Cathy so we don’t know how he’s doing.  Obviously we hope for the best but I expect the little furball turned into coyote food sometime over the last year.  They weren’t at the summer reunion so Marilyn has been worried about the little bugger ever since.  Me too a little bit.

Other than worrying about the furball, we’re having a kind of down day, enjoying several espressos and listening to CBC’s Sunday morning programming (which is about the only thing left worth listening to on government radio).  We’re missing the big rain in southern Saskatchewan but only barely – its been dreary and drizzling here since we got up.