June 30, 2005

A moving experience

As I mentioned in the earlier post, I rented a trailer to move some equipment.

I had rented it from the local U-Haul franchise in Bellingham but I had a very bad experience with them and will not be using them again in the future.

While I was returning the trailer yesterday, a wheel bearing on my truck failed. Five miles away from home everything was fine and then something started making noise. I tried limping along at 20 MPH but another couple of miles and it sounded like I was crushing gravel.

I called Jen to give her a heads up on what was happening and then called the U-Haul office to see what they could do.

It turns out that they had a tow truck and would be able to recover the trailer. (I have AAA for the truck but they would not deal with a truck and a trailer — I had to get the trailer off first.)

I asked how much it would be and the guy on the phone didn't know — he would have to figure it out (I was about 20 miles from their store). I asked if it would be more than $50 and was told no — it would not be that much.

About an hour later, the u-Haul truck shows up and then I have AAA tow the truck into a local garage for repair.

Jen comes into town to give me a ride back. We stop into the U-Haul office to make sure that everything is fine and we are told that the towing fee was $70 and that the tow truck driver told me that this was the cost.

Point One: The tow truck driver didn't say anything about the price. He was the same guy I spoke with on the phone who told me that it would be under $50.

Point Two: Had I known in advance that the charge would be $70, I would have had Jen borrow a truck from one of our neighbors. Worst case scenario, I would have had her drive me to Home Depot where I can rent a truck for $20 for four hours — she had to come into town anyway to pick me up.

Point Three: We have the most basic cheapest AAA membership and I had to pay for the truck to be towed into town. The charge for that was only $30

I have rented trailers from that U-Haul several times before for moving milk tanks and other equipment. I will not be renting from them ever again…

Posted by DaveH at 01:24 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

So I was reading the local classified advertisements...

…and I saw a listing for a free riding mower. We are looking for a riding mower for the orchard but as we have two perfectly good walk-behind mowers, there is no immediate justification for spending that money.

I called the number and although the mower had already been claimed, there was some other “farm equipment”. I inquired and was told that it was a complete apple packing line!

Needless to say, I grabbed a tape measure and some tools and was out of the house like a shot. Rented a trailer that following Monday and brought the line over to our farm. Here are some pictures:

Here is the beginning of the line — apples are dumped into one end of this and rows of brushes rotate and scrub off leaves and dirt. There is a pump and spray nozzles that were taken off — simple enough to replace. Obviously, this equipment has been sitting outside for several years and needs some work but all the moving parts turn and it should be a simple matter to sandblast and repaint with food-grade enamel.

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This is the middle of the line — apples come from the scrubber and are placed onto a white conveyor belt for visual sorting.

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Finally, after being sorted, the apples wind up here where the vanes gradually open up letting larger and larger fruit drop through. This machine grades the apples by size and separates them into six different groups.

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As I said, these units will require a good bit of work to refurbish but the price was right (who can argue with FREE!).

Since I will be disassembling them to clean, sand blast and paint, I am also planning to cut them in half lengthwise. The previous owner had blocked off half with pieces of wood but I am planning to actually cut the machines as we do not need the full 48” wide capacity. This will reduce the weight a lot too so I can mount them on casters and store them out of the way when not needed. The final sizer is not needed since we are only going to grind and press our fruit; the mechanical parts match the other two machines though so the sizer will become a parts resource for repairing / maintaining / modifying the other two machines.

Posted by DaveH at 01:00 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2005

All cooped up...

Now that we are officially up here (we started living here full-time June 12th 2004) we have started increasing our stock. Birds in this case…

I have written about our ten ducks before here, here and here. They are doing fine although one of them met up with our Husky and is now walking with a bit of a limp. She has been named George W. — Lame Duck and all… The Husky is being trained with an E-Collar so this should not be a problem in the future.

We have about 25 each of two other types of birds so I have been busy building coops. One is done and is being used by our Guinea Fowl. They are still under a brooding lamp. Our Chickens are still in the downstairs bathroom under a brooding lamp and will move out to their coop after I get a day or two free from rain so I can paint and roof it.

Here are some photos:

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This is the basic coop design — the Duck coop was 6*8, these two are 8*8 since we have more birds. I am building them on four-foot centers so I can use as many uncut sheets of plywood as possible. This design is fairly cheap to build — under $300 for something that will last a good ten years. The foundation is pressure-treated 2*6 on 2' centers, floor is 3/4” ply and everything else is basic 2*4 and 1/2” ply.

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This is the inside view. The walls are six feet tall on one side, eight feet tall on the other. Basic framing. Given good weather, it takes about two days to put one together but we have been having a lot of rain recently so I have been working on this one for about five days…

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This is the finished Guinea Coop. The plywood panels are covering ventilation openings. The Keets (baby Guinea Fowl) are still under the heat lamp so I only have one vent opening open. The one on the left side is actually a landing area. I have some rough-cut cedar planks that form a ledge and after about a month or so, we will be letting them fly out into the orchard. If you keep them in the coop and feed them there, they will learn to come back to the coop at night to rest. During the daytime, they will be our bug patrol in the orchard.

When we were researching various pest management solutions, people with Guinea Fowl said that they worked very well and were a fun (if noisy) bird to have around. Lice, flys, Apple Maggots, ticks — if it flys, creeps or crawls, the Guineas will find them and eat them.

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These are our Keets — very cute and loads of personality.
We have them in their coop but confined to a 4*4 space with a cardboard barricade so they don't stray too far from the heat lamp and get chilled. They should be fine without the heat lamp in about three-four weeks more.
Our chickens are also great fun — they will be moving into their new home as soon as I get two sunny days to paint and roof…

Posted by DaveH at 09:35 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

June 12, 2005

Deming Logging Show

One of the main industries up here is logging. This is a very rewarding work (more on this later) but it is very dangerous and people can get severely injured. Every year, there is a logging show for the benefit of Busted-Up Loggers. Jen and I went to The Deming Logging Show this year and it was a lot of fun. (Deming, WA is a small town about 15 miles from where we live)
Here are some pictures:

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There were many events — the first one was judging loads of timber when on the truck. These were the three winners.

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The events are based on actual work done in the field. This one is tree climbing. The spars are 95 feet tall — this guy was competing with another person (didn't get the names). What is fun is that these are the fastest two people in the world. The winner in today's event was able to climb to the top of the 95 foot spar and return to the ground in under twenty seconds… These people are in shape.

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It takes these people about 30 seconds (if that) to chop through a 14” log with a broadaxe.

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This event was double-bucking — two people on a crosscut saw.

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Another event is the Iron Man tournament — you need to do several things, set a choker, buck a log, chainsaw through another log. You signal that you are done by taking a nice refreshing dip in the pool.

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The pool is also used for another event — here is the Junior-Class Log Rolling. The guy on the left is not having a good day…

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The last event of the day was my favorite — the Hot Saws.
These are Unlimited Class Chainsaws — the engines for them come from trucks and motorcycles (there were two Harley saws there). The primary rule for this event is that you can bring anything you want, it just has to be hand-carried and operated by two people. Lots of noise, sawdust and fun.

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Of course, Binford Tools was well represented in this category.

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Gitter Done was another contender. They are sawing a 30 inch diameter log and the winner did it in 1.6 SECONDS!

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There were a lot of exhibits as well — gotta have the chainsaw bears!

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A lot of people brought antique equipment that they had restored into working and like-new condition. This is a drag saw — an early automated log bucker.

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This Truck was originally built in 1914 and gorgeously restored.

This is just a small taste of what is available at the show.
We will be back next year.

At the beginning of this post, I said:
This is a very rewarding work (more on this later) but it is very dangerous and people can get severely injured.
What Jen and I noticed was that there were a lot of family members there. In the competitions you would see a Grandfather, Father and Son competing in different events. Wifes and girlfriends were also competing in mixed and womens competitions. It says a lot about a business that a kid grows up seeing what Daddy and Mommy do and likes it so much that they want to do it themselves.
A lot of very good and real people here.
Posted by DaveH at 09:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

June 05, 2005

Bellingham Highland Games

Our winters are long and dark and wet. To compensate for this, there are lots of wonderful events during the rest of the year. Yesterday, Jen and I went to the annual Bellingham Highland Games. I have a good bit of Scot blood in me and love the culture.

I brought a camera — here are a few pictures:

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There were several performance running simultaneously through the day so it was impossible to see everything. Lots of dancing.

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There was a huge midway with vendor booths, a food area, a beer garden. There were easily over 200 vendors present. Lots of good stuff, some junk and some high-end sheer artistry. There were about 20 booths from various Clans so people could research their family history and talk to Clan members.

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Someone brought a feral Haggis family. Fortunately, they had the presence of mind to post warning signs — they can be vicious if startled.

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Lots of music — Pipe Bands, Harps, Folk Singing. A feast for the ears.

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Another Pipe Band

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Jen's and my favorite act were these people - Wicked Tinkers. Celtic music played on Highland Pipes, two Drums and a Celtic Didgeridoo. Many people consider the Didgeridoo to be an Australian instrument but it's origins are shrouded in history and…

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One of the Drummers is visiting the audience during a song.

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The event was held at the Hovander Homestead Park. This is a gorgeous setting. It was homesteaded in 1897 and remains a working farm to this day. Two of their draft horses helped shuttle people to and from the parking area.

When we were done with the Highland Games, we drove a few miles to a very small airfield to watch a Model Airplane meet. The Bell-Air Flyers have their own little airport up north near the town of Ferndale. The facility is complete with a small asphalt runway, clubhouse and several stations from which to run the aircraft. Their website BellAirFlyers is down now, probably a server glitch… Here are some of the planes:

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I only had my wide-angle lens with me so I don't have any photos of airplanes in flight but the ones we saw were amazing. Extremely aerobatic. Overall quality of workmanship in the models were very high — these people know what they are doing.

I find the level of technology fascinating — another area where computers and materials science have made huge inroads…

Posted by DaveH at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)