Have I mentioned I’m a suck for the cats?

It was a gorgeous afternoon and evening yesterday. Not only a pleasant temperature, but even the mosquitoes weren’t as bad. I didn’t want to go back inside when I was done what I needed to do!

One of the things I did was re-do the shelf shelter for the cats. I noticed that the little kittens have been climbing all the way to the top shelf, which was actually use to store stuff, and have been snoozing in a corner, where I’d stacked some smaller pieces of rigid insulation.

The insulation over the bottom two shelves were getting ratty, so I decided to empty the whole thing, give it – and some of the insulation pieces – a hose-down and redo it.

Including making a next in the corner of the top shelf for the kittens, even though it meant not being able to fit everything back in again!

The sheets of insulation lining the bottom shelves were used again, since they fit the best and, aside from a few edges, still intact. When covering the fronts, I left the openings wider than before. When startled, the cats would dash out, catching on the edges of the insulation, sometimes hitting them hard enough to pull them right off the nails holding them to the shelf. I decided to try reducing the height of the openings. I want it open enough for them to easily get in and out, but small enough to let less of the weather in. Hopefully, they won’t get ripped right out by a startled cat!

As for the top shelf, I tucked a small pedestal plant stand in the corner and used it to support two levels with the rigid insulation for the kittens to lie on. There’s more space in front with an insulated floor, and there is insulation along the side and back walls, too. An extra piece across the front, and the kittens have their own little cubby hole to settle in.

Now I just need to clean up and redo the outside of the shelf. It had been wrapped in plastic to protect the wood from snow and rain, with an extended “roof” of rigid insulation, but the wind tore the plastic to shreds, and the cats have broken up the insulation. I’d like to find something sturdier to replace them with.

After I had emptied, swept and hosed down the inside, I had to give it time to dry before continuing, so I started another project.

A new cover for the rain barrel.

A couple of years ago, we made covers for the rain barrels out of window screen mesh and hula hoops. One for the barrel at the corner by the sun room, and the other for the barrel we fill with the host, at the far corner of the garden. The covers were partly to keep debris out, but also to make sure no critters fell into the barrels.

After a couple of years, however, the plastic hula hoops became brittle and started to crack. The cover for the garden barrel had been stored in the old garden shed for the winter, and it looks like something chewed holes in the mesh, too.

The sun room barrel’s cover is held in place with a board weighed down with bricks. When the barrel is getting full enough that more rain would cause it to overflow, the board and bricks hold the rain diverter in place.

Not long ago, I found the cover and its mesh broken up. Something had jumped onto it or something. The mesh had torn, but thankfully whatever did it, did not end up trapped in the water. Then we heard a commotion one night, and I came out to find the board and its weights, and the rain diverter, all knocked off the barrel, and the cover damaged even further. I put the board and its weights back, then found some pieces of rigid insulation to cover the rest of the barrel, with weights to hold them in place, to ensure no critter could access the water, until a new cover could be made. Even that ended up being pusher around a bit, as if some critter was trying to get at the water below – even though we have several bowls of fresh water critters can drink from. A new cover had to be made quickly.

Which is what I did while the shelf shelter was drying.

The materials used are much sturdier!

I considered using some chicken wire, but the openings are too large and the wire too easily broken. I went with some half inch hardware cloth I had, instead. The hoop is the same PEXX tubing I used to make arches to support netting over the old kitchen garden beds you can see in the background.

I used the barrel itself to measure the size needed to make the hoop, then cut a square of the hardware cloth to size, removing excess mesh from the corners to make it closer to “round”. The hardware cloth is a lot stiffer than chicken wire, but the extra strength is, I think, well worth it being such a pain to wrap around the hoop. Definitely glad for gardening gloves! The last step was to use a hammer on the underside to get the mesh right up against the hoop as tightly as I could.

There was, however, one problem.

The top of the barrel is not round. It’s more of an oval shape, and a wonky oval at that. The old hula hoop I’d used before was quite a bit larger than the top of the barrel, so it didn’t matter, but this hoop was cut for a more snug fit. The less sticking out, the less likely a critter will knock it off, even with the weights. I thought I’d still made it large enough to fit over, but the barrel’s shape was just too wonky.

I ended up tying some paracord around it as tight as I could, then used a metal tent peg to twist the cord even tigher.

Yeah. That bend up piece of metal was a tent peg.

Between the paracord pulling the top of the barrel into a more round shape, and the hammering of the hardware cloth tight against the hoop, I was finally able to get it in place. The board and weights were added to support the diverter when we need it, and the extra brick at the back, just in case something knocks the board off again, so the whole thing doesn’t flip off.

I might still add window screen mesh to this, since things like small frogs or insects, as well as small debris, can get through the half inch mesh. As it is right now, a cat – or even a racoon – could jump onto the cover and it’ll hold their weight without issue. The PEXX tubing will also last a lot longer, too.

All in all, I think it worked out rather well for using stuff I got for other projects! 😁 It didn’t even take that long to do. It took long enough for the washed out shelf to dry, at least.

So we now have a shelf shelter for the cats all cleaned out and ready for winter – on the inside, at least – and a cat and other critter proof cover for the rain barrel.

Ah, the things I do for the kitties!

The Re-Farmer

Scrambling to catch up, and a court update

Today turned out to be a lovely day. Sunny, and at a high of 8C/46F, warmer than predicted. It made it very hard to believe that there is a storm and blizzard coming our way, starting tomorrow! While my phone’s weather app has been saying a blizzard was coming since yesterday, it was only until early this afternoon that my desktop app changed its forecast and began giving weather alerts.

After losing so much time yesterday, today was a day to scramble and get the essentials done. The rest will wait until spring.

Last night, the girls lifted the roof on the cat’s house, cleaned it out and replaced the old straw with fresh. Unfortunately, the heated water bowl had to be removed; the cord’s sheath had cracked, right where it contacted the bowl itself, exposing wire. That is unfortunate, as the heated water bowl made a huge difference last winter! So far, however, we are still expected to have mild temperatures, so we won’t need to plug in the electricity to the shelter. Which is good, because I forgot to buy a new 9V battery for the fire alarm we have in there. The ceramic terrarium bulb we have in there for warmth is well shielded, but we still want to have the alarm functional as a safety precaution.

I don’t know of the cats are happy with the clean up. I haven’t seen them in there, yet!

When I headed out this morning to do my rounds, I counted 20 cats.

But only Nosencrantz was willing to pause for a photo! 😀

One of the things I took care of while doing my rounds was to finally scatter some wildflower seeds.

I had two packages of wildflower seeds that were meant for the area outside the yard, in front of where the new sign is. Eventually, I want that entire strip to be filled with wildflowers for the pollinators – and so I don’t have to mow it anymore! I used a bulk sized spice shaker and some soil to scatter the seeds evenly.

This was something I expected to do in the middle of September, but it was just too warm. I didn’t want to risk the seeds germinating too early, and getting killed off when winter temperatures arrived. With the storm coming, these will get covered with snow and should be good to lie dormant until things melt in the spring.

Last night, the girls also used the insulated tarp we found in the garage a while back and used that to cover the septic tank, instead of straw. It’s large enough that it could be used, folded in half. It was full dark by then, so they just weighted it down with some fence posts. This morning, I shifted it a bit to get it right up against the house, then pegged it down.

As you can see by the two pegs on the right, I hit some rocks in the process!

By the time I pegged that down, I was done my rounds and headed inside to go through the trail cam files while eating breakfast. It was rather funny to see all the files of my mother and I, when I took pictures of her at the new sign. It feels so weird to see myself on video! 😀

By the afternoon, things had started to warm up nicely, so I headed outside.

The first thing I wanted to get done was scatter a different wildflower seed mix in the yard.

This one was an alternative lawn mix, for shade and partial shade, of flowers native to Western Canada. This double row of trees is really hard to tend, so I settled on this as the location for the seeds. Unlike the area in front of the sign, though, this one needed to be raked, first.

The first raking was to remove the leaves and debris, then it got raked again to loosen the soil surface a bit. There were some maple and willow suckers coming out of old stumps that needed to be pruned as well.

Then the packet – one larger packet of seeds – got added to the shaker with some soil and thoroughly mixed before being scattered on the raked ground.

Then, the leaves got raked back, as a mulch.
I look forward to seeing if this works in the spring!

One of the priorities on our to-do list was to finally repot our house plants. They’ve been hit with overnight frost, but amazingly, the aloe vera was still alive! They were overgrowing their post, though, so most of them ended up in the trench of the third low raised bed, to break down, except the biggest one that was too big to be buried in there, so it went to compost. I ended up transplanting 4 or 5 strong, healthy little aloe vera for the girls to bring inside later. The umbrella tree looked dead, but I pruned it back and repotted it, because it does actually seem to still have life to it! I would hate to have lost that thing. It had been doing so well, even with the cats constantly trying to get into it!

One of my daughters was working on commissions, so she could only come out to help briefly. My other daughter tried to help, but she was feeling sick and looked so horrible, I sent her inside. Poor thing felt so bad! She did, however, get the last hose put away for me, and was kind enough to run into the basement to shut off the water to the taps.

Once the water was shut off, I opened the back tap and put one of the new insulated hard covers for the taps on it, then finished putting up the rest of the insulation we put around the bottom of the house. This area had been left until we were done with using the taps, and the septic was covered. The front tap still needs its cover, but it is much more convenient to get at, so it can wait a bit.

Along with some other clean up, I did finally make it to the squash tunnel to prepare it for next year, but was only able to do one side before I had to go in for an expected phone call. The rain barrel was turned on its side and weighted down, the long tools and rolling seat went into the old garden shed, and the storage bin we kept to hold shorter tools and various other things we might find handy, went into the sun room. The things we have left undone are all things that will be okay if they wait until spring. It was just time to finally put the tools away!

Then I made a quick run into town to get a few things we thought we might run out of. The predicted storm is supposed to hit the south of our province, but it’s hard to know if we’ll get hit by it as well, or just catch the edges of it. At the very least, we expect to lose internet more often. That happens any time there is bad weather to the south of us. Though it is supposed to start with rain, we might get about a foot of snow, over two days, at which point we won’t be going anywhere for a while! I had already planned on tomorrow to be a baking day, and the last thing I wanted was to runout of ingredients in the middle of something!

Meanwhile…

I got an email from our vandal’s lawyer asking if I were available for the case management session on Monday. That went back and forth for a while. It turns out it will not be with just me, him and our vandal. It will be with the same judge that we’ve been in front of, this whole time.

My brother will not be able to make it, but we don’t want to delay this any more, so I took it. I feel more confident knowing that the judge will be there. The unfortunate thing is that it is going to be at 9am – in the big city, not the closer, small one we’ve been going to all this time. Worse; the court offices are downtown. So not only will I have to leave unfortunately early, just to make sure I have time to get lost among all those one way streets, but it’s going to cost more in fuel, and I’ll have to pay for parking. Minor things, but with costs going up, there just isn’t much wiggle room in the budget! Very annoying. But, it’s that, or wait a year for a trial. :-/

So that has been confirmed.

I am both looking forward to getting it done so quickly, and dreading it.

At least, by then, wherever snowfall we get from the storm will no longer be an issue. There will be plenty of time for any road clearing needed to be done by then!

As for our scramble to get stuff done, no, we weren’t able to finish it all, but the essentials are done, and the rest should be all right to wait until next year.

Speaking of next year, we’re made progress there, today, but that will be the topic of my next post! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Clean up and… there are no quick and easy jobs here!

Photo heavy post ahead! 😀

Today is supposed to be our last warmish day in quite some time, and we are very fortunate to have it. Just yesterday, a major system passed through. To the north of us, they had near blizzard conditions. To the south, it was rain instead of snow. Yet, there on the weather radar, was a clear spot in the system, passing over our area!

I am quite grateful for out continued mild weather! It gave me one last day to patch the other window in the pump shack.

Here is how it looked before I started.

In the forefront is an old forge my dad made. My brother told me he’d cobbled it together using an old blower that the tray of coals is attached to.

I’d already cut away the bigger saplings that had self sown in the area. Before I could start, I had to cut away some more, move the steel bars and that flat piece of metal with a slight curved shape to it (it turned out to be partly buried), out of the way.

I also pulled this out of the grass.

I don’t know what it is, but it’s in the pump shack now. My brother had said something about it in passing, but I just can’t remember. I understood that he felt it was worth salvaging and protecting, so that’s what I’m going.

After clearing things away, I was able to pick up all the broken pieces of glass.

As I looked more closely at the window itself, I realized it was just held in place with three bent nails. All I had to do was rotate them, and I could take out the whole thing!

So I did.

It’d hard to see, but each piece of glass has tiny little metal things holding the panes in place. They have pointed ends driven into the wood frame. The glass was then caulked to the frame, but most of that has long since fallen off, revealing those metal bits in the process.

I decided to use some rigid foam insulation to fill in the hole, as well as support the wooden pieces that were holding the remaining glass in place. I trimmed the inside edges of the insulation so it would fit more flush into the recesses of the wood.

Everything was very loose. Even the corner joins. Though the thickness of the piece of insulation would help keep things from moving around, there was still a pretty high chance other pieces of glass could fall out.

So, I got out the silicone caulking I had left and caulked it all, then put the window back in place.

It looks horrible, but it’ll do the job for now.

Here is how it looks from the inside.

Any work done on this building is just keeping it going as long as possible. It really needs to be replaced completely. Even the concrete floor is cracked and heaving. But it still keeps things inside dry, and it isn’t collapsing, like other buildings, so it’s worth it to keep patching things.

That done, I turned my attention to the old forge. Now that things were cleared away under the window, I wanted to move it next to the wall, for a bit more protection from the elements.

It had sunk into the ground and, as I was looking around to see what I had to work with, I found the plug for it! 😀

I tried lifting and shifting, and while I could move it a fair bit on one end, the end with the coal tray was much heavier. The tray itself has only two screws holding it to the metal, so I couldn’t even use that as a grip to lift.

I ended up grabbing one of the steel bars I’d set aside, using it as a lever. The ground was pretty soft, so I also tried using bricks, as well as another, shorter, bar I found in the grass, as support.

I was having a hard time getting things under it, though. There was something blocking me.

Did this thing have legs?

No!

Are those… wheels???

By now, I realized I would need to tip it over onto its side, because I just could not lever the heavy side out of the dirt and over the overgrown grass.

The coal tray had stuff on it, though, so I took that off.

It was asphalt shingles, covering the coal. The yellow metal piece was on top, but the round metal piece was something I found under the shingles, lying on top of the coal bits.

I then tried to use the bar to lever it around some more. There was really just one place solid enough to put the bar. The piece you can see under the coal tray is hollow, which I discovered when it started crumbling when I pushed the bar against it.

I did, eventually, manage to get it on its side.

Yup. Those were wheels! But they weren’t attached to the forge!

There was still some rotted wood attached. It was like a little wheeled scooter that the whole thing was resting on.

It wasn’t until I uploaded the pictures that I realized where the motor was. It is on the light end!

I kept trying to shift the forge, but the weight on one side made it very awkward to do anything.

I’d opened it before and saw someone had stuffed some inner tubes inside. Maybe I could take the blower pieces out or something, and lighten it?

There… is no blower in there.

What on earth was I seeing in there? Hidden away, under the inner tubes?!!

Dear Lord in Heaven.

It’s a grinding wheel.

Why on earth did someone put a grinding wheel in there?

Not that I mind too much. This might be the one I remember as I child. The log building it was in had been burned to the ground to get rid of it, and as far as I knew, none of the stuff inside had been removed, first. So I’m actually very happy to see this.

After moving it away, I started pulling other things out.

There was just so much stuff!!

I found 4 inner tubes, a gas can, a lawnmower blade, the throttle cable from a lawn mower, and even a spoon.

There are also blacksmith tongs, though one has the handle broken off. A couple of objects with lots of pivoting pieces on it. A couple of old metal legs, like off an old-style bathtub. Two ax heads, and more odds and ends

Two things in there really excited me. I don’t know what they are called, but from videos I’ve watched of people using carving benches, I recognize them. One end goes into a hole drilled into the carving bench, and the other holds the item being carved in place. It was something I realized I could really use, if I plan to extend my carving repertoire. I just had no idea where to find them – a hard thing to do when you don’t know the name of what you’re looking for – and some of the carvers whose videos I watched, commented on how expensive they are They’d made their own, instead.

Now I have two!

So I’m pretty excited about that!

Once empty, I was able to right the forge again.

After seeing the remains of the wheels it was on, I decided to take some of the glazed bricks I’ve been finding and put them under the forge.

Even empty, it was still hard to move! The light end, I could grasp and lift, but the heavy end was harder to get a grip on. I ended up using the bar to lever and shift that end, to get it onto the bricks.

I did finally get it in place!

You can see the bar I used to lever it.

The coal tray looked like it was cracked, but I think it was there for a purpose. The “crack” extends to some holes in the middle of the coal tray. Under the holes is the squared pipe. The air from the blower was directed under the coals through there.

I considered throwing away the wheels, but the frame they’re attached to looks like it might actually be salvageable, so I am keeping it for now. I just knocked the dirt and roots out of the spokes, first.

After that, it was time to clean up where the forge had been sitting.

I’d found a few metal bits and wires. Then some nails.

Then more nails. And screws.

And more nails!

I think a container full of nails, screws and other odd bits had spilled there. The last thing I wanted was for someone to step on them and get sepsis or something.

So I dug out what I think is the original lid for our septic tank, to use as a tray, and magnets.

Along with the nails, I found bits of spark plugs, a gas cap, the tooth of a hay mower, and miscellaneous other bits!

Once that was done, and my younger daughter helped me tuck the keepers I’d found into the pump shack, I enlisted her help to move the other thing I don’t know the name off. One of the pictures below is from when I first dug it out from beside the fuel tank, yesterday. This is another of those things my brother said was worth salvaging and protecting, so I wanted to move it into the pump shack.

In the older photo, you can see what looks like a completely sheered piece of steel, in the middle.

There was dirt and roots jamming one of the pieces sticking out the narrow side – in the first picture, it is completely hidden by grass. It now rotates freely again.

Between the two of us, we could not lift it! Not without risking injury, anyhow (and I think my daughter might have hurt her back trying, but isn’t telling me, so I won’t worry. 😦 ). I’m astounded by how heavy this thing is.

One thing we noticed after trying is that some ?oil? leaked out.

I ended up rolling and flipping it, end over end, until it was under the coal tray of the forge.

We could hear fluid sloshing inside!

So that’s tucked away as much as it can be, for now.

My goodness, what a lot more work there turned out to be! But it’s done now, and we don’t have to worry about this stuff as winter comes in.

The Re-Farmer

Clean Up and Winterizing: fixing the pump shack window

Today, my goal was to board up at least one of the broken windows in our old pump shack.

Which was not an easy job. (Photo heavy post ahead!)

You see, in order to fix the window, I needed to be able to reach the window.

In order to reach the window, I had to cut back some self-sown maples growing in the way.

To be able to reach the trees, I had to clean up this.

You can see part of an old freezer, over on the left. Next to the old furnace is a partially dismantled modern washing machine, next to part of an old wringer washer, and beyond that, a second fuel tank.

It’s hard to see in the above photo, but there is a black electrical cord coming out of a hole under the eaves, about in the middle.

This cord is eventually buried, and extends to the storage shed, which used to be my late brother’s workshop. Though the cord is plugged in inside the pump shack, it was actually easier to plug my extension cord into the other end of this cord, in the storage shed!

I… don’t know what this is.

I’d moved it aside, only to realize I needed to clean out the stuff I’d just put it on top of. It’s quite heavy, so I just moved it by the old freezer for now.

While following the cord until it was buried, I found all sorts of things. Including this old wiring, which I just put on top of the old furnace for now.

I went to move one of the tanks, and found another mystery item was propped against it. No clue what it is, but it says “Ohio” on it. 😀

I also discovered the electrical cable was not actually buried where I thought, and was still on the surface, under the tank!

The tanks were quite light, so I rolled them completely away, near the storage shed.

Under the big white tank labeled “purple gas”, I found this.

It was on top of those two tires flat on the ground, and propped up by the other stuff.

While cleaning up around the tires, I found the window pane! It had simply fallen out and didn’t break!

Once I moved the big tractor tire, I found a collection of seats from old farm equipment under it.

I ended up having to cut away that tree to get them out, because it had grown around some of the metal pieces.

I decided they could be salvaged and wanted to put them somewhere out of the elements. I decided the old chicken coop was the best bet for now.

I am not looking forward to cleaning this thing out! But, if we have any chance of salvaging the building, it has to be done. The beam across the doorway is sinking, and a board that used to be above the door is now over the door. There’s room enough I can move the door to one side, but it can no longer be closed fully.

Also, there is another maple at the corner that needs to be cleared away.

To get to the old coop door, I had to first clear away a forest of burrs with the loppers.

They attacked me.

Actually, just one of them. Once it caught on my sleeve, that was it. Before I knew it, I had burrs all over the front of my jacket, both sleeves, my pant legs, my butt, and even my hair!

I had to ask my daughters to help get the burrs out of my hair! The burrs did NOT want to let go!

That tractor in the background is another thing I need to clear. It has trees growing through it. 😦

As I was getting the old seats out, I found…

… a cast iron frying pan!

I ended up putting it in the pump shack. Where the wood burning stove used to be, there is a tiny electric stove (I doubt it works) that has only 2 elements on it. I just had to put the pan on it! 😀

There was one last seat I was struggling with. It was still attached to something, which was buried, and part of it was stuck in the tree I had to cut away, and other parts stretched out further.

I was eventually able to drag it all out.

I… have no idea what this is. Or was, I should say.

There was no way that was fitting through the old coop door, so it got set aside elsewhere.

Once it was cleared enough, I took a look at the old kitchen sink, leaning against the corner of the pump shack.

I love this thing!!! I have got to find some way to use it somewhere. 😀

For now, I just tucked it closer to the building. I don’t dare move it until I have someone to help. I don’t want to chance breaking it.

After clearing more stuff away, I found this bar sticking out of the ground.

I don’t know what it’s attached to underground, but it was not moving. It could turn a bit, and I could wobble it a bit, but that’s it. I could not pull it out,

No clue why it’s there.

I made my way to the old furnace, moved another tire and found and an old kettle! LOL Then I went to move the old steel… container of some sort, and found more stuff in it. It doesn’t show in the photo, but at the very bottom, there was a roaster lid.

Just the lid. 😀

As I pulled more stuff out from under the dirt and leaves behind the old furnace, I found some other odds and sots.

Score!!!!! Oh, I was so excited! That bar with a point at one end is solid steel and very heavy for its size. I could have used something like that in the past few years! There used to be a bar like this, except more like 4 or 5 feet long, but it is among the things that disappeared. This is a bit short, but it’ll still be very handy.

The other stuff joined the hub caps and other weird scraps on the junk pile.

This is as far as I could go, though. That metal is under the old furnace. I’ll have to, at the very least, tip the furnace to be able to get it out.

Not today.

This is as far as I got today!

Under the window, coming through the concrete, you can just see a pipe. That is a drain pipe. Back when we were still using the well under this shack, and had no running water in the house, we had a claw footed bath tub in here. We would heat water on the wood stove for our baths, and this is where the bath water would drain out. I have no memory if there was more pipe, so it wouldn’t drain right at the foundation.

There’s a bit of stump in the middle that I am leaving for now. My poor little reciprocating saw was really starting to struggle by this point!

I could finally fix the window!

The glass pane fit perfectly in a recess in the frame. It looks like it was held in place by a single nail at the top! The metal side, where a stove pipe used to go through, has about a dozen nails holding it!

As the cats go through that hole, I screwed scrap boards across both halves to hold them in place.

Also, I’m short. I found the cinder block by the storage shed to stand on, so I could reach the top of the window. When cleaning up later, it joined the 5 or 6 glazed bricks that I’d also uncovered by the old furnace.

I keep finding those, absolutely everywhere! I would not be the least surprised if I move the old furnace, and find more of them under it.

One of these days, I need to remember to ask my brother if he knows where they all came from, and why my parents got them! Or maybe my mother might remember.

Now, what am I to do with all the tires I dragged out?

Why, drag them back again, of course. 😀

The stack on the left is covering that bar that’s sticking out of the ground, so no one will accidentally hurt themselves on it. Those tires all have rims. The others are by the window so the cats can still get in through the opening. The ones lying flat have no rims, so they can potentially provide critter shelter.

Yeah. I’m a suck.

I am keeping a fair bit of the maple I cut. I’m sure I will be able to find something I can make with them! 🙂

There is still a small window at the end of the shack that needs to be fixed. It’s made up of 4 squares of glass, framed by a + of wood in the middle. One of the three squares is gone, but I have yet to find it on the ground, so I don’t know if it has broken or not. I’m just assuming it’s broken, since I saw the cat that jumped through it.

Tomorrow is going to be our last warmish day for quite some time, so I’m hoping to be able to get that done. I might end up just boarding that one up completely. We’ll see.

That’s assuming my body is up to it. I’m feeling pretty sore right now! 😀

The Re-Farmer

Winterizing: clearing an old roof

One of the things I’ve been wanting to get done in the outer yard, was to clear some trees from what used to be a chicken coop, when I was a kid. Getting things done in the outer yard has now been pushed back another year, but the last wind storm we had left more damage to the roof. It’s a job that needed to get done sooner, rather than later!

Since this involved some rather larger trees, I figured I would finally use the chain saw I got repaired last year!

Of course, I had to test start it, first. It’s been a very long time since I’ve used a gas powered chain saw, so I appreciated that it has each step written out, right on the machine.

Oops.

Yeah. I pulled on the knob, and the whole piece broke off!

So much for using a chain saw.

This meant dragging out a 100 ft extension cord and the reciprocating saw, instead.

This is what it looked like before I started.

Someone went through all the effort to cover the original roof with corrugated steel, only to have so many pieces get torn off, because no one cut back the self-seeded maples.

This is not a small tree, either!

Yeah, I had to cut my way through burrs, first, just to reach it!

The other corner had tree problems, too.

You can see how both sections of tree are rubbing against the corrugated steel. On the side, it at least bent into a more rounded shape…

This one was growing around a sharp end!

I started off cutting the lower branch that was tearing the metal sheets off on the south side, then trimming it back, bit by bit, until I had to cut the trees from this side, to be able to reach the rest.

This is where they were rubbing against the roof.

Once the smaller ones were clear, I could reach more of the larger tree and get that one clear, too.

I had to move other things around, too. The sheet of metal is still buried somewhere; I could only lift and bend part of it to get access. I am not sure, but I think roots have grown over the buried end. !!

After I reached this point, I spent some time trimming branches and cleaning up.

This is where I stopped for the night. I might not take the rest of the trunk down. I haven’t decided, yet. Left alone, all of the stumps will start growing again, and I really want to prevent that. This log building is remarkably solid, and it’s the only log building left that isn’t collapsing outright, so we really want to protect it as much as we can, until we can possibly even restore it.

I don’t know what to do about this section of roof, though. We might have some sheets of metal roofing material large enough to use, lying about, but no safe way to get up there. I will have to consult with my brother. We likely can’t do anything until next year, but with the branches gone, it will at least not get ripped apart in high winds, anymore.

It’s hard to see, but in the tall grass are piles of smaller, thinner branches I trimmed off.

These larger branches have been set aside to be trimmed, and I will keep the larger pieces.

Some logs are already trimmed and set aside – including a pile of wonky shapes, in the back!

Maple is quite a heavy wood to drag around! That last, biggest piece of trunk was pretty awkward to move, too. It is, however, large enough that I might be able to get some long, shallow bowls out of it. I’ve ordered a gouge that I can use to carve deeper than with what I have now, and I hope to be able to carve some cups as well as small, deeper bowls. I might be able to do some small dishes, too.

I clear branches off differently now, compared when we were first clearing trees away. I no longer cut smaller branches right at the main branch. Now I leave longer pieces that may end up being the handles for ladles, or long handled spoons, with the crook of the branch being the bowl for ladle or spoon.

A lot of this wood, in a variety of sizes and shapes, will end up in the basement for potential future projects. Some pieces will join the apple wood by the fire pit, and what’s left will go into the piles for chipping.

I was losing light by this point, so I will continue tomorrow. By the time I put all the tools away, it was full dark – and only 5:30 by the time I got inside! It felt like 8 or 9. 😀

If all goes productively, I’ll be able to clear more, smaller, maples that are growing up against the pump shack, giving access to the windows the cats broke. Some of the mamas have had their kittens in there. One of the windows was only half a window. The other half had a board with a hole cut in it for a stove pipe. My brother took the stove itself away, because it was getting damaged. The cats had been jumping through the hole for the stove pipe, but over time, the stress of that finally broke the other side. Meanwhile, another window lost its pane when I walked into the pump shack, not knowing a cat was in there. The poor thing panicked and jumped through part of the window. 😦 At least it was an old, single pane window that was barely holding together already, so the cat was completely uninjured.

We’ll see what we can find to patch those up, tomorrow.

The Re-Farmer

Winterizing: window fix

I got a couple of bigger jobs done in preparation for winter. The smaller one was taking care of a window on one of the sheds. This is the one my brother and I had patched the roof of earlier in the year, and is one of the few sturdier sheds left.

My original intention had been to simply board it up, but the window is pretty much the only source of light in the shed, and I had a vague memory of seeing a window in the barn that was about the same side. So I took some measurements, then went looking around.

I found the window, and it turned out to be almost exactly the same dimensions!

And when I say “almost the exact dimension”, I mean the hole in the wall. The frame makes it just barely bit enough that it doesn’t just fall through!

It also looks like it came off of a storm door.

I grabbed a piece of salvaged wood and cut a new “frame” for the window.

If you look at the first photo, you can see the parts of the window that would have been used to slide it up. One of them is flush with the outer edge, the other is flush with the glass. The one flush with the outer edge will be resting on a piece of wood at the top.

This is the window opening. It is, literally, a hole cut in the wall, between two joists.

I also picked up as many pieces of the old window as I could, and some of the bigger pieces of glass. I couldn’t get all of it, though. They are too buried in the grass. This concerns me, as the renter’s cows could hurt themselves. I’ll have to do something about that.

Since I didn’t feel like fighting with an extension cord to the barn, I pre-drilled holes in the wood and put the screws partway through, before I brought everything over. I even cleaned the dirt off the glass, too! 😀

I forgot about the cladding creating gaps, though. I ended up having to replace the screws in the top and bottom pieces with longer ones. I didn’t bother changing the screws in the side pieces, since they don’t need to support anything; just cover any potential gaps from the uneven cut of the opening.

I ended up moving the side pieces in a bit, butting them up against the metal strip on top of the bottom piece. It made them a bit more secure.

There’s one screw at the top right hand corner I couldn’t screw in all the way. I think I hit something in the joist; probably a nail.

Speaking of nails, if you look around the window, you can see several bent nails. There’s two at the top, one on each side, and two at the bottom. I’m pretty sure they’re all that held the old window in place! Well, that and the board hammered onto the wall underneath. No wonder it fell off!

I’m rather happy with how this turned out – and very happy not to have to board it up.

Now I just have to board up some windows in the pump shack. I don’t think I’m going to luck out and find old windows to fit, like I did with this one! That, however, will wait for another day. For today, I had a much bigger job to move on to, and that one will get it’s own post! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

More winterizing done

Well, today blew away the predicted high, by a long shot! When I checked this morning, we were supposed to reach 8C/46F. As I write this, past 4pm, we are at 14C/57F! It was downright hot out there! 😀

One of my daughters added more mulch to where they planted the back-ordered tulips. The planting depth was 12-18 inches, including mulch, for them to be able to come back every year, and they definitely have that now. 🙂

While that was being done, my other daughter cleaned out the eaves troughs while I held the ladder for her. Not all of them were done. One corner is just too dangerous.

Also, we need new eaves troughs, along with a new roof. :-/

I was able to clean out the fire pit.

I sifted the ashes, putting the bits of wood and charcoal back in the pit, while the sifted ashes went into the compost pile. I then made use of what used to be the “roof” over the old basement window that broke off at the hinges. It’ll keep the snow out if we want to use the fire pit in the winter.

The modifications to the kibble house floor were done.

One sheet of insulation was enough. I had to trim the length to fit. There was no trimming of the width. I cut notches to fit into the sides as well.

After the wood floor boards were returned, I cut a piece of salvaged wood to length. I used some of the bits of insulation that were trimmed off as spacers for the height. We will be able to slide the floor boards straight out the front. The insulation under it is narrow enough that it can be lifted out from the inside.

After the cross piece was screwed in place, I returned the kibble containers and topped them up.

Obviously, the cats are quite content with it there.

Hopefully, the skunks will no longer be able to pull the containers down anymore.

Now that it’s daylight, I could check to see how the tarp was looking. This only needs to hold out for one winter. Next year, we’ll paint it from top to bottom, and the tarp will no longer be needed.

Wind is the big problem. This is the tarp we used last year, to try and create a shelter for the cats in front of a shelf outside the sun room. The winds kept tearing it apart, and one corner of the tarp is pretty badly damaged. That made tying it down from underneath a bit more difficult, since one of the grommets is torn off.

The shelf we’d used is now moved, but I turned the bottom two shelves into a critter cave.

The insulation on the bottom shelves were there from last year. As this shelf is not something we are trying to keep or preserve, I used some bits and pieces of insulation and nailed them in place, to create the cave-like shelter. The taller tops will keep the stuff in the top shelf from getting knocked out or blown around. This will be removed in the spring.

The top of the shelf has been losing layers of the … plywood? … that was on top. I’d put some larger pieces of insulation to cover it, but the wind kept blowing it around. Since the surface was so damp and coming off anyway, I removed the last of the warped bits.

I found the original surface, underneath! I wonder why it was covered?

I made a new “roof” of pieces of rigid insulation, covered in plastic. With the tarp, I’d used a staple gun to try and hold it in place, but the winds just tore it all loose.

This time, I just nailed it in place.

Because the top was still a bit damp, the “roof” has spacers under it. Between the overhangs and the plastic, no new moisture should be able to get under there any more.

So now, if there are any critters that can’t shelter in the cat’s house, they’ll have this to shelter in, if necessary.

They might have a spiffy new heated house, but the boys seem to miss the sun room!

I didn’t have to heard to chase them out after everything was cleaned up and put everything away. We’ll just have to remember to close up the sun room later on this evening! 🙂

The Re-Farmer

Got some things done

Today turned out to be a lovely day, indeed! Even now, as I write this at past 7pm, it’s still 8C/46F. Which is good, because I unexpectedly spent a couple of hours outside!

I’ll get to that in a bit…

First, a winky smile for you to enjoy!

Rolando Moon joined me as I was doing my morning rounds.

So did Creamsicle.

And Potato Beetle.

And Rosencrantz!

Even some kittens followed along, in the distance! It was quite a crowd! 😀

I think they were all enjoying the milder temperatures.

I headed out to town early, as I wanted to go through a car wash with the van before taking it in to the garage. I figured it would be nice for him to work under the van without months of gravel road dust. 😉

Today, however, is the first day a province wide mask mandate came into effect. Even though there hasn’t been a single person testing positive for the Wu Flu around, the city has seen a spike in PCR positives, and with the usual increases of people getting sick as we go into flu season – all in the city – our provincial government has put everyone under mandate. The usual exemptions still apply of course. One of the local hardware stores has a drive through car wash, so I went in to buy one. The cash desk is near the doors, so I didn’t even have to go far into the store, and I kept my distance. I was told by the cashier that they couldn’t serve me without a mask. I told them I understood about the mandate, and that I was medically exempt. She told me the whole province was under mandate. I said I knew that, but that there are several exemptions in the mandate, including medical, and I can’t wear a mask. I was told they couldn’t serve me without a mask. She did try to be polite about it, and a manager was called. I think she was ready to process the sale, too, after she asked how I intended to pay, and I said by debit. While we waited, she was apologetic, and I did mention that I understood retailers and employees were not being told about the exemptions.

The manager came and just said, we can’t serve you without a mask. I said again, I am medically exempt, pointing out that a refusal was a violation of the Human Rights Act, and I could file a complaint. He said I could do that, but they won’t serve me without a mask.

So I left.

I stayed in my vehicle for a while, trying to find an email address I could use to send a note about what happened (there wasn’t one; once I got home, I used the email address to a manager I’d written to in the past, having sent compliments for excellent customer service) when a staff member came to my vehicle. She told me they remembered that they had a portable debit machine. If I still wanted the car wash, they could bring it out to me. I told her I would be satisfied with that, and she asked me to drive close to the doors, after finding out which level of car wash I wanted. I drove over, and it was the manager who came out with the debit machine. After I tapped to pay for it, he went back in and another staff member came out with an invoice printed out with the code, and my receipt. The first person and the manager acted a bit like I was a leper, but the guy who brought me my receipt didn’t, and I really appreciated that.

With two vehicles in front of me, I had just enough time to get the car wash before my appointment at the garage!

All that for a $16 purchase. :-/

When I did get a chance to send an email to the store manager, I did say I appreciated the efforts, and that I understood the mandates put retailers in a really horrible position, while not giving them the information they need. I also mentioned that I am “fortunate”, in that my medical exemption is for something physical. If it were related to trauma, being confronted like this could have triggered someone pretty badly. I know people who are terrified to go out anywhere right now, not because they are afraid of the virus, but out of fear of something like this happening to them. The same anxiety issues that cause panic attacks if they wear a mask is causing panic attacks over the possibility of being abused for not wearing a mask. 😦

The garage, on the other hand, was completely different. There weren’t even any signs anywhere, and the owner doesn’t wear a mask, himself. Physical distancing is easy, and he is very thorough about hygiene. As we were chatting, I mentioned what had just happened, and told him again how much I appreciate him!

I noticed, as I parked my van, that he had the most adorable little picnic table outside, just big enough for two. Being such a lovely day, that’s where I went after I left my keys with him. (It’s not like there are any coffee shops or the like, where I could just sit and wait! They are all take out, only.) I saw a few others going in and out, some with masks and some without, while I waited. It is clearly – and deservedly – a very popular garage.

Since I don’t have rims on my winter tires, it took a while for him to do the switch. I’m going to have to get a spare set of rims. This job would be done a lot faster, if I did! Mind you, tires without rims are a lot lighter and easier to manhandle out of the back of the van, to where they get stored in our garage! 😀

When he was done and I went in to pay, we started chatting again. He remembered a little bit about where we lived and had some questions.

After I double check with the renter to make sure cows aren’t on the other quarter section, I will be giving him permission to go deer hunting over there. 🙂

With the days being so short, once I was home, I grabbed a quick supper, then headed outside to putter about the yard while there was still light out.

I just had to go to the outer yard to get pictures of the sunset! It was stunning!

I always get a giggle out of seeing the cat paths! We have them all over, but this one is probably the most well worn! 😀

One of the things I wanted to get done was to cover the roof of the kibble house with a tarp. The rest will be fine until we can paint it next spring or summer, but the roof has screw holes from the boards we took off of it, and I don’t want moisture to get into them. I don’t have proper cordage right now, so I ended up using the cotton yarn I used to make a trellis for the cucamelons. I wanted to make sure it was secured as flat as possible, so nothing will catch and blow in the wind. The yarn isn’t particularly strong, so I was using a lot of it.

Unfortunately, by the time I was finishing up, it ended up a big tangled mass that the cats were just loving! I had to stop and untangle it, so I could finish the job.

About and hour or two later, the girls came out to check on me. 😀

By then, it was fully dark, and I was working by porch light. A pair of skunks had come out and pulled one of the kibble containers to the ground, so I chased them off, but they came back to each the kibble that spilled into the grass. I was too entangled to chase them off again, so one of my daughters did it for me. 🙂

Then she noticed where a cat had chewed through the yarn. LOL

My other daughter took over untangling the yarn while I went back to tying down the tarp on the kibble house. The cats had left me just enough to do it!

Well, at least a little bit got done outside before I got side tracked! My daughters’ tulips got a good layer of leaves to mulch them, though we will probably add more before we’re done. 🙂 The other bulbs should be fine; only the tulips need the extra effort.

If we have time, I hope to clean the ashes out of the fire pit, in case we want to use it over the winter. There isn’t a lot, but with the blocks to hold up the cooking grill, there isn’t as much room for ashes as there used to be.

I’m looking forward to getting back outside tomorrow! 🙂 I definitely plan to enjoy the mild weather, while I can!

The Re-Farmer

Winterizing the cat shelter

After working on the sun room door frame and the bird feeder, it was time to work on the cat house.

The first thing I needed to do, though, was adjust the counterweight.

I sacrificed another crate to hold the block, then retied it. I had doubled up the rope before and this time, rather than cut it, I folded it into thirds. There shouldn’t be a lot of friction from the block, but I figure the more cords there are, the less likely they’ll end up breaking and falling apart. Of course, the weight being supported by the crates will help prevent that, too.

I then added a couple of bricks into the openings of the block to add more weight before I tried opening the roof up.

It’s a Potato Beetle!

Nostrildamus was in there, too, but he ran off when I opened it up.

Potato Beetle didn’t move, the entire time I was working on things!

With the roof fully open, the brick is resting on the ground. This is exactly what I was hoping for!

I then screwed in the terrarium heater, then used the aluminum lid of a take out container as a heat shield, with washers as spacers to keep it from being directly against the wood.

I then plugged it in and let it heat up, sticking my hand under it every now and then. I’m happy to say that the aluminum didn’t even get warm in the entire time I was testing it, though I could certainly feel the heat off the ceramic bulb.

Which was a good time to install the smoke detector.

At the very least, if something goes wrong and a fire starts, any cats inside will be frightened off long before we hear the alarm from inside the house.

Once I was satisfied that the heat shield was adequate, the safety cage was put back. With the heater being slightly wider than a light bulb, I used washers as spacers to make sure nothing was touching it. I ended up using 5 washers at each screw. It’s a good thing that was enough, because any more, and there wouldn’t have been enough of the screw sticking out to secure the cage!

I also put in the timer, set to turn on/off at dusk/dawn. The sensor is facing the largest window, which is facing East. This will likely mean it will turn on before actual dusk but, in the winter especially, that will be just fine.

Then it was time to set up the waterproof case for the electrical cords. I still intend to pick up a longer extension cord, so that it can be tucked under the roof and out of the snow, but at least we can start using it now.

Once everything was done, the counterweight was as much a help with closing the roof as opening it. The hard part is near the end. There is a notch cut out that has to line up with the roof of the entry that was added on later. Without the counterweight, and two people lifting, the person on the window side of the entry has enough to grip, but the person holding the other side of the roof has nothing to grip without risking smashed fingers – and at that point, the roof drops pretty hard! With the counterweight, not only can I easily open it myself but, as I close it, I can do so gently enough to line up the notch to the entry roof, and let it close gently instead of dropping it.

The only thing left in here will be to plug in the heated water bowl, and that won’t be needed for a few more weeks, at least.

Tonight, the outside cats will have their first night with a heated shelter! It isn’t much; the terrarium heater may get very hot to the touch, but that’s a large space for a small heater. This is okay, though, as being too warm would have a whole different set of problems!

It should be interesting to see how many cats I will find taking advantage of the new warmth, in the morning!

The Re-Farmer

So many cords…

Today I did some work on my mother’s car, to help prepare it for winter.

For those less familiar with some of the things many of us Canadians need to do to our vehicles so they better survive our winters, most vehicles here have, at the very least, a block heater. That’s all our van has. This prevents the oil from freezing and cracking the engine block.

We actually had that happen to us. We were living in Victoria, BC, which is temperate rainforest. Getting snow there is a rarity, and temperatures below -20C/-4F even rarer. An unexpected windfall meant we could afford to drive out to be with family for Christmas. We had no car of our own, so we rented one. My husband called several places and, at each one, told them that where we were planning to drive and asked for a car with a block heater. The typical response was “what’s a block heater?” So we took what we could and headed out, stopping for the night along the way. That night, temperatures plummeted and wind chills reached -61C/-77F. Amazingly, the car started the next morning, but we barely got back on the highway when it started making noises, so we stopped. This was in the days before cell phones, so my husband started to walk back to town, getting a ride from someone (thank God!) along the way, to get help. Long story short, the engine block had cracked (also, a 6 pack of pop on the floor of the back seat exploded. 😀 ) and by the time all was said and done, it cost the company some $5000.

A few years later, when we went back to rent a car there again, we learned our story had become legend in the company. Also, the franchise owner replaced his entire fleet, and all their cars now had block heaters.

So… yeah. These are essential.

If you ever see a vehicle with Canadian plates, and the end of a cord hanging out the hood, now you know what it’s for. 😀

My mother’s car, however, also has a battery warmer and, because it was used so little, my brother added a trickle charger, too.

All of which need to be plugged in.

The plug and cord for the block heater in newer vehicles are different. They don’t need to be on constantly to do that job so, to save power, the cord itself is designed to shut itself off about about 20 minutes, then if the temperature of the lines drop below a certain point, it turns itself on again.

When my brother set things up, he used an extension cord they could all plug into, tucked neatly away.

I needed to replace the extension cord.

He also had a wire around the battery warmer to hold it in place. However, with my mom’s car having so much work done in recent years, things got moved around. After the battery died while sitting at the garage for so long, it was taken out to be charged, but I guess the wire that had been around the warmer was forgotten. I was going to use Zip Ties to hold it, but they kept breaking, so I used a Bungee cord; the red that you can see around the battery.

This is the plug for the trickle charger, after I pulled the rest of it loose. As you can see, there’s no way to plug in the block heater or the battery warmer. My mother didn’t drive the car in the winter and, until we took over taking care of it, my brother stored it here at the farm and took the battery into the house for the winter.

Remember how I mentioned the extension cord used to be neatly tucked in, until work was done on the car?

This is why the cord needs replacing.

I had noticed an odd sound a while back (this was before we had the serpentine belt and pulleys replaced) and found a loop of it hanging down, touching the belt. Thankfully, it didn’t get caught, but there was enough contact for the friction to wear right down to the wire. In another spot, it had been caught between something tight enough to cut through two layers of plastic.

We had the same type of extension cord set up in the garage for our own van, so I was going to just switch them out. I had gotten to the point of trying to figure out how to fit the end, with all three plugs in it, in place when I realized something.

Our cord was much longer than the one I’d just taken out! There was no way I could safely tuck away any excess.

Since I couldn’t leave everything half done like that, I made a quick run into town. Of the 2 hardware stores, one was already closed, and I had less than an hour to get into the second one!

Score!!

I have never seen an extension cord for block heaters before!

I could have done with shorter, but that was the shortest they had.

It took a fair amount of fiddling to find a way to lay the plugged in cords out.

More Zip Ties were used to keep things from slipping down, while the new extension cord was set up to exit at the other end.

At this point, I’m not bothering to hook up the trickle charger. It’s not needed right now.

The battery has nothing to indicate which side is positive and which is negative! Only by stretching to see the far side of the battery can I see which connector cable is red and which is black.

I’d used the slots for holding the battery cover in place for Zip Ties to hold the cord. Thankfully, that did not prevent me from being able to fasten the cover back into place.

I then dropped the hood a couple of times to make sure I could actually close it with the end of the extension cord sticking out.

For now, though, it’ll stay tucked away. When we get colder, I’ll hook up the trickle charger and leave the plug hanging out. A lot of public parking lots have outlets available, so an extension cord will be kept in the vehicle in case we want to plug it in while out and about, too.

Aside from that, my mother’s car is all set for winter. 🙂

The Re-Farmer