Day 10431

This post is another "little bit about everything over the past few weeks" kind of post.

Up at the bus back on Day 10431, Nakahla and I continued improving the outdoor field kitchen. Using some steel shelf wall hangers, a rebar rod, safety wire and some bungee S-hooks I made a pot and pan holder. The truck box counter was raised up on cinder blocks to a better working height. I'd still like a decent canvas over the top for protection from rain and sun.

Here's the picnic table I rebuilt a few weeks ago.

A lived-in housebus. With the sun shining I can keep it cool by running electric fans for "free."

I also had the largest gathering at the bus in a while when two carloads of family showed up, minutes after a curious neighbor pulled in to check out what they thought was a logging operation. No logging operation, neighbor; just a crazy veteran in a bus that has a chimney who wants to make his own food and built a house.

The little Case tractor has a Gremlin. I know I have mentioned them before, but I have to bring them up again. These mythical creatures were discovered by Royal Air Force personnel around the Battle of Britain. Gremlins were known to chew electrical wires, freeze up instruments, introduce air into hydraulic systems, deflate tires, etc. The RAF, in the midst of fending off the Nazis, struggled with them for some time before they realized how they operated.

A clear sign of having a Gremlin inhabiting a vehicle is when you fix one issue, another one manifests itself shortly after, because the Gremlin was forced elsewhere in the system. Case in point, now that the 3 point hitch has been rebuilt on the little Case 444, one of the solid steel drivelines has cracked; spraying fluid when I put the tractor in reverse. There really is no way of getting rid of a Gremlin; the best you can do is win their hearts and minds by tolerating minor issues where they are nesting, and posting first class postage stamps in your equipment (according to Roald Dahl, one of their favorite snacks.)

So the little tractor is effectively out of commission, right when I needed it to mow down some grass, and move that old trailer around with it's new drawbar. I'll need to get some stamps.

In order to keep more tools with me between the property up north, and working on projects down south during the week, I put common tools into a fat .50 cal ammo can. This took forever to pack and unpack, though, so I made a little box out of scraps for loose items. I was surprised with how much more I could fit in the can this way.

On Day 10439 we returned to observe the solar eclipse. We weren't up long enough to do too much else... I did get some wood split, though.

We observed the eclipse with a pinhole, which was pretty fascinating. My first instinct was that the shape of the hole in the tin foil made the crescent shape on the paper, but whichever way it was rotated the sunlight kept the same orientation. Cool.

Next I fashioned eclipse goggles. Knowing the sun is bright, and so is a welding arc, I figured my Shade 10 welding helmet would be dark enough to view the partial eclipse. Not so! After some Googling, I found that a Shade 14 is needed to observe the sun. Holding the cutting goggles in front of the viewplate of the welding helmet created a Shade 15 eclipse watching helmet!

Even with only half the sun blocked, it was noticeably dimmer up at the property. Like the sky looks when there is smoky haze in the air. Looking forward to April of 2024 for next great American eclipse!

The project to strip and rebuild the Case 446 parts machine continues. I'm not sure if I'm going to part this machine out, or repower it with a new engine. The machine is in good condition, and I'd enjoy the project. I'm not sure I need another vehicle to maintain, though. The Case 444 up North can do everything (you know, when it isn't broken.)

Removing and draining the hydraulic system's radiator.

I used my dad's tractor to lift the blown Kawasaki motor out.

Ready for the pressure washer.

For a quick morning project I Frankenstein'd my old laptop, with a dead battery, to run off a 12vdc to 19 vdc converter, and added an extra cooling fan. Why? Because most laptops run off of dc power. The bus stores dc power. Why invert that power, at a loss, to ac, only to convert through the power cord, at a loss, back to dc? I cut out the middleman (alternating current) and found a 10-17v to 19v converter online. The large range on the input will allow for variations while the bus is running without worrying about frying the computer.

I gathered the old laptop, an old spare charger with evidence of a cat having chewed on it, the converter, and a 12vdc fan. 

I hacked out a hole in one of the panels, and glued the fan in. This machine gets hot. Afghan dust and Guatemalan volcanic ash have contributed to the laptop's fan working intermittently.

Fan works!

Hang testing everything. The laptop us running off of the lawn tractor battery.

Everything soldered together, with a jack to plug into the bus's dc system. I added two screws as extended landing gear to keep the rear end elevated and exposed to cooling airflow. I'll bring this machine up to the bus to be the music player & weather station.

Lastly, I struck gold on craigslist twice this past week. I picked up a stakeside flatbed from a couple of dairy farmers out in Vermont. This will be the new dumpbed for the F350. Unloading would have been waaaay easier with my backhoe. This went about as smooth as you'd imagine... it was raining...

I also picked up a Honda generator which had refused to start. I sanded the spark plugs, cleaned out the carburetor of sandy, crystallized gasoline gunk, and it fired right up!

I won't need this for power up north, per se; I could use it as an block heater for the backhoe and the bus, if they are too cold to start. It is a loud and expensive quick fix. I still think I could make a solar radiator heater...

I feel like I haven't accomplished anything until I put a blog post together. Apparently I've been busy.

Day 10416

Zeke and I slept in to 0630 on Day 10416; a foggy daybreak helped to sleep past the sunrise. We're still trying to figure out the best arrangement of blankets and the futon to stay warm all night. He ended up curled in one of the sheets, and I pulled an extra Army wool blanket over the top of us. Despite being late July, I imagine the woodstove will be needed at night soon.

We went outside and I fed him a breakfast of leftovers from dinner, which consisted of some tasty white rice with an egg and spinach, and some chicken that ended up fried in olive oil. I boiled some water to make coffee. We milled around the area, and walked up the field in one of the tire-mark paths.

Coming back to the housebus, we heard a rummaging in the treeline. I stopped, and Zeke perked up, silently, expecting a turkey or a deer to walk out, or perhaps a squirrel making more noise than his size would have you believe. A few twigs snapped. "What a loud deer... though the brush is pretty thick" I thought to myself. A branch went down, and I could see a khaki snout and a black face, which looked right at me, not more than fifty feet away.

"A Bear!" I won't type my lines, which were a string of expletives, but Zeke said; "ARROOOOOO!"

Not being very comfortable with this form of wildlife this close, and having seen "The Revenant," I bolted inside and grabbed the rifle and a magazine, all the while calling Zeke back, and feeling the adrenaline dump. The Ruger Mini-14 requires some finesse to slide the magazine in, and I didn't have it. Deep breath - lock the bolt back - magazine in - bolt release - one in the chamber - safety on. Zeke climbs up the bus stairs, and we wait for a few minutes at the low-ready. The bear, which seemed a little startled to see his new neighbors, sauntered out of the area.

Ironically, I had my comfy bear pajamas on.

In preperation for this weekend's trip, I did a few things to make life easier. One of my problems the weekend prior was lack of water. I used about two gallons, and imagine I would use mroe if I wasn't trying as hard to conserve. I remembered that I had two 5-gallon water cans stashed away; which would allow me to bring 10 gallons of drinking water up. That would last several days, and I could easily refill one at a time when I was out.

The issue I had was with handling. Pouring water out every time would get old; I wanted a faucet! After some googling, I came across a guy's post on Expedition Portal's forum who used a 1/2"x14 tap to thread the little pour spout, and then installed a hose bibb. I ordered parts immediately.

It was a ten minute project that would save me lots of strain in the woods.

Loading the truck for the journey; in the bed I have salvaged pallets and 4x4's, a toolbox, water and gasoline. In the cab I have my food. With my furry assistants I changed the oil.

The water jugs served me well. By opening the hose bibb and the breather port I can get a good half-gallon-per-minute stream (could this become a field shower?) Over two nights and three warm days, cooking several meals and many snacks, and staying hydrated, I used one 5-gallon jug. 

The tailgate is a convenient height for a field kitchen, but it's an awful working surface with the stamped channels; I can't get anything to set down level! I need a decent counter...

Walking through the woods, Zeke discovered a deposit of sheet metal ore. He walked over it, making a CLOMP CLOMP sound as he sniffed the leaves. I peeled away an inch of thin roots and leaves to find six sheet metal panels, all in decent condition!

What a good dog!

I dove into an old wood pile, which I found was almost entirely rotted. This piece still has treenails in it!

I pulled out the ancient trailer from behind the rotted wood pile, with my even more ancient backhoe. The serial number plate is long gone, but based on the engine serial number, I think the backhoe came from the early Cretaceous period. The trailer appears to be a homebuilt? Maybe an old boat trailer? The tires are flat, but I'm curious if they will hold air...

With pallets I made a hasty compost bin. The sunshine and airflow, with the addition of carbon from plant clippings and sawdust, will help keep everything from getting to funky.

I used the old F350's old toolbox as a kitchen counter, instead of a back step. Way better cook surface.

My Grandfather, who doubles as my contracting agent, made a deal with his friend Robby for a triaxle load of bank run gravel.

Robby backed his rig in as far as he could into the soft logging road.

And with adequate supervision, emptied a dozen yards onto the swampy driveway.

With the loader bucket of the 580, I dragged the pile to spread it evenly, filling in the soft spots. Add "grader" to the list of jobs you can do with a backhoe.

The bottom of the drive is probably the smoothest part, now! Finish work was done with a USA-made steel rake, gifted by Gavin. Thanks man! 

I believe I'll need a few more loads of gravel to keep the driveway dry and smooth.

Later, I was able to improvise a hydraulic breather plug, replacing the plug I lost in the mud last weekend, using odds and ends from the backhoe rebuild earlier this year.

An old picnic table from the Lake was donated to me; thanks Grandparents! The top boards were all rotten, but some other usable boards had been set aside to replace them.

This guy was pretty big. He helped.

All the boards were faded different colors, giving the tabletop some character. I trimmed them all down to shortest board using a skillsaw.

Wait, what? A skillsaw? That's right! I had the bus inverter running for 110v power. It being a bright sunny day, the battery bank was quickly recharged after each use by the solar panels. 

Then I centered the mounts, and threw in some fresh carriage bolts. I neglected to get a picture of the finished product! Next time I'm up.

More to come, as soon as I can get back.